A long time ago in a galaxy far far away , well 40 years to be exact, a little film called Star Wars premiered in theatres on May 25 1977. The film would forever change the science fiction genre with its plot and endearing characters including the menacing Darth Vader. It has survived a horrendous holiday special , three lacklustre prequel films and being bought by Disney in 2012. It still continues to this day with new movies being released yearly, an animated series on Disney XD, a large convention of its own and new comics being published by Marvel monthly.
For the occasion, Marvel and IDW have once again teamed up with The Library of American Comics to bring us another series of newspaper comic strip collections, this time, instead of a superhero, its the original Star Wars newspaper strip which ran from 1977 to 1984. The first book contains all the stories made by Russ Manning until his untimely death in 1981. Alfredo Algala would take over the strip until its end.
The comic strip follows its own continuity thanks to Lucasfilm giving Manning complete creative freedom under the condition that none of the main characters could die. We shall dive in to small synopsis of the included storylines. Its a book worth collecting for die hard Star Wars fans who wish to see the further adventures of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie and the villainous Darth Vader.
The first story of the collection focuses on Luke and Leia trying to stop Empire operated casinos from funding the Emperor’s plans any further. Luke catches the gambling bug using his Force powers to win, Leia warns him to stop before the staff gets suspicious. They do not know however that Vader had planted a mole in the Rebel base to monitor all their plans.
The Sunday strips however followed a different story for its first year, it dealt with C-3PO helping out on missions recounting them to a Rebel computer. This was done so sections of the daily story wouldn’t be missing if the newspaper only ran one or the other instead of both. Both stories got named in reprints going under the names THE CONSTANCIA AFFAIR and THE KASHYYK DEPTHS
Starting with the second story, however, both dailies and Sundays combined into one singular story, this story was called TATOOINE SOJOURN, It deals with Luke returning to his home planet of Tatooine against his wishes having spent 20 years trying to get off the planet. They need to search for a crashed spacecraft with vital info for the Rebels which had fallen in the hands of the Jawas. It turns out there is a dangerous spread of a disease called Bledsoe’s that is spreading throughout different planets in the galaxy and a woman smuggler had called Luke to help her put a stop to it.
The next story is called PRINCESS LEIA: IMPERIAL SERVANT, Princess Leia and a rebel pilot called Hume are on a Rebel ship which is running out of fuel in space ruled by the Galactic Empire. Darth Vader, who is on an Imperial-class Star Destroyer nearby sends out a TIE Fighter to investigate the ship. In order to protect Leia, Hume knocks her out, because she wouldn’t leave him. Hume puts Leia in the Gossamer glider which is jettisoned from the ship. Hume then destroys his own ship to get the Imperials away from the Glider.
Leia goes undercover as a servant to rescue some Imperial prisoners who are forced to mine out Megonites from a nearby mine. She must also avoid the suspicions of the persons in charge of the operation , one of which is the widow of Grand Admiral Tarkin from the first Star Wars film and Darth Vader himself who is hot on her trail.
The next story is a more action packed one, titled THE SECOND KRESSEL RUN, it deals with a inventor on the planet of Zerm, a professor invents a machine to make good weather for the planet and rid it of its famous storms. However the Empire breaks in , intent on using the machine to destroy Rebel planets. The Imperial commander, Born kidnaps the professor’s daughter as ransom. Unknown to them, Mira escapes from the Stormtroopers and escapes into the nearby Millennium Falcon which was getting ready for a spice run for Jabba the Hutt.
Meanwhile, the Empire turns the rebel planet Rion from a tropical paradise to a snowy desert using the stolen device . After arriving on Rion, Han gives some of his spice to the refugees who are starving. One refugee turns Mira over to the stormtroopers for food, but with the help of the other Rebels, she manages to escape. During her escape she learns that Bzorn’s next target is going to be Kessel, her home planet.
In our next story titled BRING ME THE CHILDREN we find Luke Skywalker delivering some books from the pre-Empire days to a school on the planet Harix when Tie Fighters begin to chase him. He lands, but then finds stormtroopers kidnapping students from the school. In charge of the troopers is a lizard man named Major Rahz. He takes most of the students and the teacher, Myoris.
Meanwhile, Myoris’ son, Berd, escapes with Luke in order to begin plans to rescue his mother and her class . Darth Vader says the kidnapping is bait for the Rebels. Berd convinces Luke and Leia to lead a rescue mission, but they need to get Han Solo first. In the middle of a bar fight, Han says he’s not in the rescue business, but Chewbacca convinces him to go along with the plan. Seeing that Han’s going to take part and not wanting to be outdone, the other brawlers agree to sign on as well.
AS LONG AS WE LIVE begins with Luke Skywalker and two other Rebel pilots visiting Tun Wala, the largest city on the planet Arda-2, to talk with Exec Temora about how the Galactic Empire TIE/LN starfighter’s weapons were able to track X-wings by a device his company manufactures and sells to either side. Temora denies any wrongdoing as Arda-2 is neutral in the conflict. Luke finally threatens to bring Princess Leia in on the discussion, at which point Mag Doum, who was listening in on the conversation, decides he must act. He had been purchasing parts from Temora’s factory and secretly selling them to the Empire. He sends Kiros Zorad and Zon Zorad to kidnap the Princess and keep her from visiting Tun Wala.
The next story THE FROZEN WORLD OF OTA would be the last to have direct involvement from Russ Manning who left the strip halfway through due to poor health from years of stress from working on the Tarzan newspaper strip and Star Wars due to meeting deadlines. This also features the second appearance of the bounty hunter Bobba Feat who was also in the Star Wars Holiday Special.
Our story starts with Luke chasing a damaged TIE fighter, which crashes on the frozen planet of Ota. The pilot of the damaged fighter was Boba Fett. Their battle is interrupted by the Snogars, the locals of the planet who kidnap both of them because they need smart outworlders to fix their city’s generator before they freeze. In order to get away, however, Boba causes the generator to blow up. Luke would rather have reasoned with the Snogars, but now the Snogars are chasing both of them because of Boba’s action.
The rest of the arc involves our heroes teaming up with the bounty hunter to get themselves away from the Snowgars. Boba reveals the reason why he was on his mission, he was after the Mole from the first story of this collection who had recently abandoned the Empire.
In our final story THE PLANET OF KADRIL, we discover the origin of the stones used in lightsabers, the fabled Kunda stones are harvested on Kadril. One side wishes to use them for protection while the villianous Darth Vader wishes to use them to develop a gas that could reveal the weaknesses of whoever absorbs it. He uses the gas to brainwash one of the leaders of the planet to get all the stones for himself.
With a vast collection of stories bridging the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, this hardcover is the perfect gift for any Star Wars fan young and old wishing to experience the further adventures of Luke, Leia, Han , Chewie as well as the nefarious Darth Vader and his army of Stormtroopers. Featuring gorgeous art and dramatic writing, this collection of Star Wars newspaper comic strips is not to be missed.