The second reason May 25th holds special significance for me: today is the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars.

Think about how different the Star Wars experience was in those days. There was so much still to wonder about. Would Luke get revenge on Darth Vader for killing his father? Would Princess Leia (and our 7-year-old selves could never remember if it was LAY-uh or LEE-uh) choose Luke or Han? We all knew that Star Wars 2 would be coming soon; would it be Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye, or Han Solo at Star’s End?

And most importantly, who had the most Star Wars toys?

If your parents were really cool, you had all the figures (or as we called them, “Star Wars Men”), including Luke with the lightsaber that telescoped out of his arm, and you had a bunch of stormtrooper figures, and you kept them all in the Darth Vader carrying case, with the stickers for each figure, and the separate compartment for the guns, which would get lost anyway.this is where I keep my Star Wars men!

Me, I had a handful of figures, a couple of the diecast vehicles (not the gigantuous Millennium Falcon), and a big pile of non-posable, generic plastic spaceman figures that came in a clear plastic bag for a buck from Kmart.

I lived way out in the boonies back then, in envy of the people I would hear about who would go see the movie hundreds of times. In those pre-video days, that was possible because films stayed in theaters a lot longer, and indeed one theater in Tacoma played the movie continuously for over a year.

Without the interwebs, or the endless Expanded Universe novels and reference books, without home video, we had to get our fix in other ways, through the figures, or storybooks, or little film viewers that you hand-crank as you squint through a tiny eyehole and you would get to watch thirty seconds of the film.

But the absolute best way to get any information beyond the movies? Marvel’s Star Wars comics.

that's BLATANT false advertising!

Marvel spent a full six issues adapting the movie; to put that in perspective, on the rare occasions these days when a movie is adapted in comics form, you’re lucky if they manage to cram the whole thing into forty-eight pages. The final edit hadn’t been locked in yet, so the adaptation included deleted scenes, including the legendary apocryphal arc of Luke’s friend Biggs Darklighter. Afterwards, the series flourished under writer Archie Goodwin, taking us across a galaxy vastly different from the one portrayed today. Goodwin presented characters and settings that seemed somehow perfectly in tune with the movie; the cyborg bounty hunter Valance, racing against Darth Vader with his own agenda for Luke Skywalker. The ambitious Orman Tagge, wealthy spice baron who took full advantage of having a high-ranking Imperial official for a brother. I still get a rush from the first page of issue 35, the moment things got a lot more intense. A closeup of Darth Vader, saying four words: “Tell me his name.” Followed by a tortured Rebel, off-panel, responding, “Luke Skywalker.” Vader had just learned the name of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, and the next few issues were spent building to what we thought would be the first encounter between Luke and Vader – which turned out to be a big fakeout, priming readers for the real thing in The Empire Strikes Back.

Due to the lack of reference from Lucasfilm, and of any advance knowledge of the storyline, Marvel did get some things wrong. There were a few no-so-innocent kisses between Luke and Leia. There was a story where Luke learned that the planet he was visiting had previously been saved by three Jedi knights: Ben Kenobi, Darth Vader, and a young apprentice named Skywalker. Well, who knew? Oh, and then there was Jabba the Hutt:

Kinda close, right? At the time the adaptation was drawn, Jabba hadn’t been designed yet, and since the scene was scrapped, Jabba wouldn’t be conceptualized until Return Of the Jedi. So Marvel picked a reference photo of a background alien from the cantina scene, and that became Jabba. This version even reappeared in a later issue.

Understand, that I’m not a Lucas-basher. I didn’t hate Episode 1, and I think Jar Jar Binks is a valid character, just poorly executed. But Star Wars c. 1977-78, compared to today, is a very different experience, heavy with infinite possibilities, that burrowed into our imaginations to an unprecedented degree. Look, we were hooked at six years old; compared to the imagination of a six-year old, can anything that came after help but be a disappointment?


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