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Cosmic Treadmill: A Look at ‘Classic Star Wars – A New Hope’

I wonder if Jedi before me woke up with a light saber in their bed like I did today.

Of course mine is a Halloween prop from years ago, I dug it our to do a pose for a project I’m working on.

Also, to the chagrin of my girlfriend, when she isn’t staying over, her side of the bed is filled with comics, toys, guitar picks, my backpack and whatever else I decide to leave there. Right now it’s my well-deserved booty from Boston Comic Con, where I raided the $5 trade paperback bins to expand my collection of classic must read comics on the cheap. My favorite score from the Con?

Classic Star Wars: A New Hope by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin.

This six issue series are the first Star Wars comics to exist, written by former Marvel Editor-In-Chief Roy Thomas in an unusual deal for Lucasfilm.

The rights were offered for free to Marvel so long as the first two issues hit the stand to raise awareness of the movie. No one knew the comic or the movie would be successful of course!

Thomas and Chaykin used the original movie script, concept art and stills to come up with their six issues, collected here and also in Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago… Vol. 1 (Dark Horse). What we get are main moments of the film, dialogue familiar but not exactly spot on to those of us able to recite lines, and amazingly detailed spaceships, creatures and spectacular acting on the page from master Howard Chaykin.

Here, Thomas and Chaykin regretfully reflect that one day this picture will show up again

I couldn’t imagine writing a critique of a movie without being able to pause, rewind and review these days, let alone write and draw a six-issue limited series based on a movie I haven’t seen yet!

It should be noted that Roy Thomas is a name you’ve seen but don’t think about often. He was also responsible for a great Conan run at Marvel, he created android Avenger The Vision, and unfortunately gets passed over when you think of the pantheon of Marvel creator gods like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Mr. Thomas is alive and well, editing Alter Ego Magazine for Two Morrows publishing.

Howard Chaykin is currently working on Satellite Sam over at Image and continues to spark constant debate over his artistry. Satellite Sam is being toted as his comeback as a heavy hitter, with lots of Zip-A-Tone black and white  textures to go along with the theme of a black and white television sci-fi show from the 1950s.

The differences are minor, in the grand scheme of Star Wars, and thankfully sit right with the original, not remastered or reconfigured vision of the 1977 movie (this Cantina scene is just the right length, Han Shoots First!).

When you get right down to it, what better story for a comic book anyway? All of Lucas’ limitations on budget and effects mean nothing to a comic book artist—the Galaxy of Star Wars is ripe for the page.

The likenesses of the actors are that in-between being photo-accurate and being the essence of the character, and a favorite attribute of Chaykin’s work here. It doesn’t look like Harrison Ford, per se, but goddamn it, that is Han Solo.

This book also includes the Pre-Special Edition scene where Jabba shakes down Solo for his money.

Skipping the Han Solo walking over Jabba’s squeeky toy tail in Mos Eisley, we are settled in with a more practical, but still ugly dude claiming to be Jabba the Hutt. This Falkor looking business man looks more like a stock broker crunching numbers than having a Rancor below his dinner table and is a delightful variant from the one stuck in our heads from Return of the Jedi.

The brother-sister kisses (two) are still gross, as is the trash compactor scene. As with the movies, The Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio serve as the chorus and unsung heroes of the story, capturing Princess Leia’s message and getting it to crazy Uncle Ben.

The story goes along just as you expect it too. Chaykin’s art carries the action in a heart-thumping manner as we go to explode his amazingly detailed Jack Kirby-esque Death Star. Luke and Wedge get the job done, of course, losing friends and dodging Vader’s TIE Advanced x 1. He mush have worn out the edge of at least one ruler drawing all of those X-Wing Fighters!

Next month, Dark Horse takes a similar bent to creating a somewhat parallel approach to A New Hope comics. An Eight-Issue series based on George Lucas’ original first draft screenplay called The Star Wars. Starring Annakin Skykiller as the hero, Luke Skywalker as Jedi general and Han Solo as a bad ass wookie-sized alien, this is a very different Star Wars indeed.

Both the upcoming miniseries and the classic Marvel run are must-reads for Star Wars fans.

Rumors are spreading this week about Star Wars: Episode VII starts filming principal photography as early as January of next year.

In a world of set pictures being leaked by directors (looking at you, Bryan Singer) I wonder how much of new Star Wars can exist in a vacuum?

The new series of comics based on VII might have the artists on set or watching dailies with Abrams…

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