I have a passion for collecting vintage Star Wars merchandise from the late 70's. Action figures, comics, trading cards etc - anything related to the first Star Wars movie. But why only until 1980? It's not that I don't love The Empire Strikes Back and beyond (I really do), but there is something about that first wave of Star Wars mania that really grips me, back when it was all fresh and exciting...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Marvel #16 - The Hunter

I hope everybody had a nice Christmas or whatever you celebrate (if anything at all). It's been a busy time so I haven't really done much to the blog recently but I thought I'd take advantage of this odd, quiet bit between Christmas and New Year to do a quick post. So, let's take a look back at October 1978...

Here is the first of the one shot issues. Up until this point we had been given the six-part adaptation of the movie, a four-part arc that saw Han and Chewie running into trouble on Aduba-3 and a five-part arc that had Luke and Leia team up with them on a watery planet in the Drexel System. Now it's time for some evil skulduggery in the form of Valance 'The Hunter'; a brand new villain dreamed up by Marvel to fill the void left by Vader...

This was the first issue that did not feature any of the regular gang (other than in a brief flashback) and instead opens with a gang of mercenaries led by blue armour-wearing baddie 'Valance'. Raiding a medical station, these chaps have not come for loot but merely to destroy everything and Valance seems to have a burning hatred for all droids blasting any that cross him to smithereens.

In a sick bay they come across old Don-Wan Kihotay - the Jedi wannabe (or perhaps he really was, who knows?) who teamed up with Han in the earlier issues. Mumbling in his delirium, the old duffer babbles about his adventures with Han Solo and a gang of Star-hoppers including a young farmboy. Valance is mightily pleased by this revelation, mistaking the 'farmboy' for the one desperately wanted by the Empire for destroying the Death Star.

With dollar signs in his eyes, Valance sets off to track down the Star-hoppers and claim the bounty on the farmboy's head. Poor old Jaxxon (remember the giant green rabbit?) is the first to be pinned and is tortured before being saved by Amazia who blasts all but one of Valance's men sent to do the job. The sole survivor overhears them discussing Aduba-3 and heads off to tell his boss.

Fleeing to Aduba-3, Jaxx and Amazia manage to warn Jimm (the farmboy) that his pleasant farm life is about to be disrupted. They lead Valance and his men into an ambush. Stampeding Banthas ensue and wipe out most of Valance's gang but the blue-suited bounty hunter himself is enraged beyond belief to discover that the farmboy he has been chasing in no way resembles the farmboy on the Death Star security tapes. In a fit of rage, he blasts the Star-hoppers with a gun that seems to replace his hand for a brief instant before taking off in his ship alone. In the comfort of his cockpit, he begins to absently claw at his face to reveal...

An ad for the third 'Bad News Bears' movie here, a series which I've never seen. I love these Marvel toys. There seems to be no end to them. How many different cars do you think Spider-Man ended up with?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Marvel Annual 1979

As I've finished going through the various Marvel story arcs and with only a handful of one-shot issues to go, I thought it was time I took a look at the only Star Wars annual Marvel did in the pre-Empire Strikes Back era. Coincidentally, this 33-page annual was released this month 31 years ago!

So, what's the story? Well with a thicker format to work with (this comic even has a spine!) there was plenty more room to fill with an all new tale of Luke, Han and Leia getting into yet another intergalactic scrape. This time the villain is Kharys, the Magestrix of Skye, a green-skinned winged warrior woman who goes around with a posse of 'Catumen' warriors. She bumps into Leia (deliberately, incidentally) whilst Luke and the Princess are mooching around the planet of Tirahnn, setting off a brawl and a back-street chase between our heroes and the 'Cats'.

Luke and Leia make it back to the Falcon where Han has hooked up with yet another old flame, this time in the shape of superfly, seventies-chick Katya M'Buele. I'll take this time to mention that the artistic team-up of penciller Mike Vosburg and inker Steve Leialoha is superb here and they really capture the likeness of the characters which, to be fair, has been pretty spotty throughout the Marvel series so far.

Upon the relation of their tale, Katya recognises the description of Kharys. And Han knows her too, having severely ticked her off during his smuggling days.

Later on, a strange being enters the Falcon whilst all are asleep; some sort of fire elemental. It kills Katya, making her a totally throwaway character, before trying to take on Luke who dispatches the entity with his trusty old lightsaber. The gang then set off for Skye for a showdown with Kharys but upon arrival are shot down by a squadron of Imperial TIE fighters. Luke and Leia escape in a pod while Han and Chewie carry on in the Falcon and are presumably killed.

Captured by the Highland Clans, Luke and Leia are dragged before the winged council on charges of trespassing. Luke is recognised as an enemy of the Empire (who the people of Skye are subservient to) but his lightsaber is also recognised as having belonged to their 'wingless brother' and the Highland Clans decide to help them rescue Han and Chewie who are alive and being held in the Imperial stronghold.

So begins an aerial assault on the sky-lair of Kharys who has an army of stormtroopers at her command. Leia gets into the palace and blasts her way to the torture chamber where Han is experiencing Kharys' hospitality. Kharys reveals that it was she who sent the 'smoke demon' onto the Falcon and is very interested in handing Luke and Leia over to Darth Vader who she serves. Leia busts in and rescues her comrades. Luke meanwhile tackles the stormtroopers below and soon finds himself up against Kharys herself who also possesses a lightsaber and is very good at using it...

Luke eventually kills Kharys and fulfills a prophecy that states that the 'one' would come and free Skye from Imperial tyranny. He is told that years ago during the Clone Wars, a Jedi called Obi-Wan Kenobi and his two pupils saved Skye from destruction. A few years later, one of the pupils - Darth Vader - returned to say that he had killed Kenobi and the Jedi Knights and the Skye was now under Imperial rule. And the other Jedi pupil? Why, Luke wears his 'saber...

I love it when Marvel incorrectly fills in the gaps like this. Something about the idea of Kenobi gallivanting around the galaxy with TWO pupils, one being Luke's father and the other Darth Vader just amuses me. Also any mention of the Clone Wars in something over 30 years old just tickles my nerd-bone.

The only advert I saw in the annual that I haven't covered before was this Mego Superhero Dolls one. And the last few pages are dedicated to the extra artwork readers in the UK got as the comic was printed weekly there thus requiring extra cover art.