It’s October, which as long time readers might know, means that we’re reading all things Star Wars. Stay with us every week as we talk about the newest reads and the most entertaining stories from a galaxy far, far away…
Today we’re talking about the three periods of comic book history for the Star Wars universe. Our local library plays host to multiple volumes from the different periods of comic production and you guys can bet that I check out a huge chunk of these during the month of October.
The first era of Star Wars comics starts with Marvel’s officially licensed comic adaptation of the film, told in a six-issue series. It’s fun, colorful, and definitely endeared tons of readers to the as of that time, unreleased film. Interestingly enough, I’m not a huge fan of Howard Chaykin’s art, but I get a kick out of flipping through these just because the comics are such a huge part of what made Star Wars popular. This period of Star Wars comics was continued even after the film’s release, with dozens of issues spanning the years in-between the then titled Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. One thing you can tell by reading comics from this period is how much content was going to get thrown away once George Lucas continued the trilogy. Han and Leia have no romantic interest at all – in fact, Luke and Leia share far more romantic tension than the later films would imply – and the Rebellion’s adventures range from zany to exciting. These comics stay much in the same camp as the infamous holiday special of ’78, appealing to a younger audience rather than one more varied in age (as the Dark Horse and Marvel comics seem to).
Around the same time the prequel trilogy (PT) came out and the original trilogy (OT) were dubbed with episode names, Dark Horse Comics introduced a brand new line of Star Wars comics. Like their Marvel counterparts, they started with issues focusing on the OT timeline, but slowly moved away from this to reach into the past of Star Wars, moving further beyond even the time of the prequel trilogy. Dark Horse gave us a massive amount of lore to wade through, with comics focusing on the Sith, the Jedi forefathers, the Old Republic’s beginnings, and more. These comics were excellent in balancing the feel of everything we loved about Star Wars without dabbling too far off the deep end – though some could make the argument that the further off in the timeline we got from the original trilogy, the more fantastic the stories got. I, personally, really enjoy this time period. The Star Wars fandom greatly benefited from Dark Horse comics, since these were pretty much all Star Wars fans had to entertain themselves before Disney’s acquisition of the franchise in 2012.
This leads us into the final era of Star Wars comics, with the licensing rights returning to Marvel once more. These rights were definitely made use of as Marvel has since expanded on the OT universe with their aptly named Star Wars comics, the Vader series, Doctor Aphra issues, and many single issues focusing on characters both old and new. Fan favorites like Chewbacca, Lando, Han Solo, and Princess Leia all receive their own comics delving into their past and present adventures; newcomers like Finn and even Captain Phasma were also explored in the Phasma and Poe Dameron comics. These stories tend to focus less on the timelines before or after the Skywalker Saga, as the episodic films have come to be known, instead putting more time into filling the gaps between the movies. While I really enjoy these comics, it’s definitely a far cry from the more imaginative leaps into the unknown given to us by Dark Horse, though an exception to that is the Obi Wan and Anakin comic. This six issue series not only shows us the relationship between the thirteen year old Anakin and his master, but also demonstrates just how clever the cunning Palpatine is. Honestly, even if the second Marvel era doesn’t expand upon the universe quite as much, it perfectly captures the tone of the films and is so focused on character that it is enjoyable no matter what timeline the plot revolves around.
All in all, I think the most recent Star Wars eras have been my favorite thus far, but I’ll always return to Howard Chaykin’s comics when I want to be transported to that time long ago in a galaxy far, far away when I was just discovering Star Wars in all its magnificence.
Chime Time! What is your favorite Star Wars comic series and why?