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A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Exploring Star Wars Comics Paperback – December 4, 2016
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This is an excellent summary of the Marvel, Dark Horse, and Classic Star Wars comics. We get a lot of interesting insights into how they were made, who made them, and their plots. There's two glaring holes in the absence of any commentary on the Knights of the Old Republic comics as well as almost no information on the Republic comics along with Quinlan Vos' story. Despite this, this is one of the most enjoyable nonfiction books I've read in a long time.
My favorite part of the book is the lengthy discussion of Tom Veitch's work on Dark Empire as well as a discussion of how Ulic Qel Droma's redemption was supposed to go.
...a young comic book and science fiction fan went to the movies one night with family and friends and was enthralled by what he saw. The film, "Star Wars," by writer and director George Lucas, opened his imagination to a wondrous galaxy of adventure, and he wanted to discover more about this "galaxy far, far away." Comics would provide that opportunity. At first, they would struggle to entertain at the same quality and larger than life level as the amazing motion picture that inspired them. But soon, the "Star Wars" Saga would become an "expanded universe" of exciting tales of brave heroes and dark villains told in the magical medium of comic art. The book, "A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Exploring Star Wars Comics" is an informative and entertaining look into the origins and evolution of this unique part of the "Star Wars" phenomenon.
"Exploring the Galaxy" collects a series of essays covering such topics as: "First Steps and Missteps: The Pre-Empire Strikes Back Era of Marvel Comics," detailing the early days of "Star Wars'" development into comic form; "The Star Wars Newspaper Strip and its Position in the History of Comics," in which this more obscure but no less wonderful comic art interpretation of the Saga is examined; "Mapping the British Invasion: Marvel UK's (or United Kingdom's) Star Wars Comics," discussing "Star Wars" comics created for the fan audience in England; and "Comic Bookends of the Expanded Universe: From Dawn of the Jedi to Legacy," a look at "Star Wars" comic series that delved into the ancient past and not too distant future of the Saga's vast mythology. These writings and more provide the reader with insight into the creation of decades of "Star Wars" comic continuity produced since the 1977 premiere of the classic film that became "Episode IV" of an ongoing space fantasy saga.
Publishing a monthly comic book inspired by an especially popular movies series was no easy endeavor. From the outset the comics had to play a supporting or subordinate role to the growing cinematic chronicle of good versus evil told on a grand scale. Just consider this creative quandary Marvel Comics faced in 1980:
"Imagine an ongoing comic-book series in which the main hero can never come face to face with the main villain; that same hero can never become romantically involved with the female lead, who also just happens to be the only female in the cast; one of the most popular supporting characters is rendered off-limits for years; and the immensely talented writer-editor who has been at the helm for most of the run decides to leave. You might think that series would be doomed, and in many cases, you'd be right."
Such was the dilemma confronted by Marvel, described at the beginning of the book's chapter entitled, "Exploring the Galaxy's Side Streets: Marvel Comics Goes Beyond the Empire Strikes Back." This is just one of the challenges, as well as the creative opportunities, that would help "Star Wars" comics come to flourish through the years.
While the Saga's comic adventures did suffer "dark times" of inactivity in the mid to late 1980's similar to the franchise as a whole, they were reborn under the publishing vision of Dark Horse Comics, starting with its 1991-1992 publication of "Star Wars: Dark Empire," a seminal 6 part comic mini-series by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy. The extremely popular reception of this comic epic helped herald the rebirth of "Star Wars" in the public consciousness and an explosion of ambitious further tales in the "Star Wars Expanded Universe." As revealed in "Exploring Star Wars Comics'" various entries, which feature story synopses of many select comic series, historical perspectives and behind the scenes anec dotes, the tale of "Star Wars"comics has a rich history all its own.
Within the pages 331 pages of this paperback volume, the reader will discover and/or rediscover why "Star Wars," be it a grand movie extravaganza or a more intimate comic reading experience, has continued to prosper over the decades. In this "expanded universe" first imagined by George Lucas, the creative mind is set free, free to explore "a galaxy far, far away."
This book comes very recommended.
For me, the most entertaining and useful essays are at the front, breaking Marvel Comics' original "SW" series from 1977-1986 into three eras: the pre-"Empire Strikes Back" era, the post-"ESB" era, and the era after "Return of the Jedi." The second essay describes how Marvel's creators worked around restrictions Lucasfilm placed on the title after "ESB," mostly regarding Luke Skywalker's character development, and the third chronicles how the book floundered creatively after "ROTJ," when Lucasfilm was uncertain if any additional "SW" films would ever be made, and Marvel was equally unsure about how to continue a good guys-bad guys saga in the wake of the latter's defeat.
The two essays which lowered the book's rating-for me, at least-were a discussion of how Marvel's British SW comics brought complex literary themes into George Lucas' universe that I suspect would be tough going for anyone not possessing a college degree in English literature (though it does make clear the singular talent of Alan Moore, who wrote for British SW before making his mark in the States with both "Swamp Thing" and "Watchmen") and a tedious, uncritical recapitulation of "Dawn of the Jedi" and "Legacy," two late-era Dark Horse Comics series which take the SW universe into its distant past and its far future, respectively. Those who enjoy such stories may not find a discussion of them-even one lacking in analysis and insight-so, but my preference in "SW" fiction is for stories of Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca, and the droids.
Flaws aside, "A Galaxy Far, Far Away" is both entertaining reading for SW fans who may have ignored its comics spinoffs and a useful reference for comics collectors seeking insight on what SW comics to collect and why.
Star Wars comics is an unending topic, and here's hoping that there is another volume in the future to cover the missing Dark Horse series and tackle the new canon back at Marvel.