ISSUE #49: The Force is Strong
Welcome back, CBSI, to another new Cover Tunes. Spring has sprung here in Music City and with it, a bevy of new news. Rumors have been circulating around a new film (or trilogy of films) finally focusing on the Old Republic era of Star Wars by the creators of Game of Thrones. Fans have been clamoring for the exploration of that era since the 90’s and I’m pretty excited about the potential, there, as there is some fantastic material for a rich and riveting trilogy.
Over the 40+ years since ‘A New Hope,’ there have been quite a slew of various titles for Star Wars comics which began with Marvel’s run in the 70’s that took quite a bit of license (a gross understatement). For many years, Dark Horse picked up the mantle until, yet again, rights were turned back over to Marvel. As such, there is an avalanche of material to sift through.
It is impossible to imagine my childhood (and… well, my adulthood, too) without Star Wars and its surrounding buzz and pop culture influence. Many would tell you that watching “A New Hope” when it first was released was a near-religious experience: changing the way the world viewed what was possible in film (which is true). Special effects would certainly never be the same, that’s for sure. Others would focus on the monumental shaping of pop-culture that was all things Star Wars; from marketing to toys to soundtracks to everything one could think of that could sport a Star Wars logo (yes, there was even soap and a pair of roller skates). Movie lines, scenes and music from the original trilogy have become virtually idiomatic and common knowledge (despite many of them being misquoted… ahh, the Mandela effect is real, folks). It has been and is every bit a culture-changing franchise.
For me, however, Star Wars has always been something largely different; it has been much more. Milestones in my life, both positive and negative, have always been marked by a simultaneous “Star Wars Moment.” The last time I saw my Grandfather before he went into the hospital and passed away in 1982, for instance, he gave me the iconic Han Solo blaster toy (which I still have). Many of my most exciting life moments are linked to Star Wars such as working with Tom Spina Designs and acting alongside Billy Dee Williams as Lando in a Chris Hardwick/Nerdist spoof on the Cantina. It’s Karaoke night at the Cantina… silly stuff, but awfully fun. Look it up on youtube if you’re curious. I play Dr. Evazan. Mostly, though, the close relationship I have with my brother has consistently been surrounded by our mutual love and enjoyment of collecting Star Wars, talking about Star Wars, going to midnight releases (when there still was such a thing) and, among many other examples, attending Star Wars Celebrations (this year will mark our 3rd, together). I could go on forever, but suffice it to say, I hold Star Wars very near and dear. It is in my DNA and I bare it marked on my skin.
With Star Wars Celebration in Chicago looming (it takes place from April 11th through the 15th), the Disney Land/World ‘Galaxy’s Edge’ parks opening in May and August, respectively, and with the final film in the Skywalker legacy coming to us this coming holiday season, I thought it was high time to re-focus on some beautiful Star Wars covers from the past four decades. There will be a second part to this as we get closer to this year’s film, but let’s begin with these.
THE (late) 1970’s
Ahhh, the 1970’s; a time of velour and muscle cars, the birth of modern personal computing, arena rock and – with the launch of the Star Wars franchise – the changed face of special effects and science fiction in cinema. Marvel managed to snag the opportunity to publish the “extended” adventures of Lucas’ “used universe.” Inasmuch, these stories went from loose and fun to ridiculous to silly to downright cringy. The covers, for the most part, reflected the content inside and don’t provide the modern collector with much in the way of excellent art. They were every bit a product of their time, but there are one or two that deserve our attention. Here is one…
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – May, 1979
ARTIST: Carmine Infantino
Again, not a cover that blows the doors off of comics, but definitely one of the most dynamic covers from the time and classic Infantino. It wouldn’t be until the early-80’s where this series began to sport a few truly excellent pieces of art, but this one does the trick for me as an excellent representation of 70’s nostalgia. This and most of the 107 issue run, other than a few exceptions, can be found cheap.
The 1980’s are a time of insane marketing for Star Wars. With Empire Strikes Back to kick off the decade and Return of the Jedi to hit in 1983 all the way through 1984/1985 when Kenner Toys was still attempting to release new toys in their “Power of the Force” line, the first half of the decade was chock full of both awesomeness as well as nonsensical product.
Marvel was still publishing its questionable comics, but the comic and novelized adaptations of the actual films alongside soundtrack LP’s, picture books on tape, action figures, clothing and stationery products were among the marketing juggernaut of the franchise. Much of the material from this era is still highly collectable. Unfortunately, this is a “thin” time for great comic covers, but there are a few stand-outs. Here is one of the few…
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – Spring, 1983
ARTIST: Bill Sienkiewicz
Many Cover Tunes issues ago (Cover Tunes: Issue #4) I featured Bill’s work on Star Wars #92 and #98 from Marvel. Those two covers are both among my favorite covers from any artist. This ROTJ cover captures all of the action of the film in a poster-like image from one of the greats of the 1980’s. Somehow, it has just enough 80’s cheese to be nostalgic while simultaneously being a timeless masterpiece.
THE (early) 1990’s
The 90’s were the prime-time for new Star Wars material and there was a monumental amount of it. With a large gap in the films from 1983-1999, there was a ton of room for new storylines. Largely, many of the non-movie favorites exist during this time in the form of novels (mostly written by Timothy Zahn) and comics from Dark Horse. Unlike those of the previous decade, the stories were excellent, original and compelling.
In my (and many others’) opinion, some of these should have been adapted to film such as Heir to the Empire, Dark Empire, Tales of the Jedi, Shadows of the Empire novel/comics (which had a full complement of marketing such as toys and a soundtrack to go with it as if it were, in fact a film) and quite a few others. Luckily, along with great stories, these comics sport some incredible covers.
It’s tough to choose just one, but here are two prime examples, one from the early half of the decade and one from the later half…
PUBLISHED: Dark Horse Comics – April, 1992
ARTIST: Dave Dorman
No discussion about Star Wars comics would be complete without looking at at least one Dave Dorman cover. His Star Wars cover art IS Star Wars and has become synonymous with SW in the 90’s. This Dark Empire series is one of the greatest story arcs in Star Wars history – in or out of the cinema – and all of the covers are masterpieces. I have always gravitated toward this one as it has a certain horror element to it while still feeling Sci-Fi. I am also a huge fan of the color palette. With that said, all of the covers in this run are amazing.
Be aware that there is a second print that looks almost identical (see below). Prices are quite low, these days, but were once pretty high. $5-$10 should get you any of the issues. If this story arc ever sees the silver screen, however, these will shoot back up quickly as some of them are rather rare.
NOTE TO VARIANT HUNTERS – Be aware that there are second printings of these Dark Empire books that appear identical other than in the indicia. The first prints can be rather rare. There were also gold foil logo and platinum foil logo versions published in limited quantities.
THE (late) 1990’s
PUBLISHED: Dark Horse Comics – September, 1996
ARTIST: Hugh Fleming
An incredible and dynamic cover from an artist we just don’t talk about. Fleming had many great Star Wars covers, but this one sports by far the most intense piece from him. It has fantastic rendering, detail and depth and miles and miles of emotion (not to mention a fantastic likeness of Mark Hamill). A cheap get at cover price or less on this one, but if Shadows ever turns into a film (like it should have and seemed to be primed to do back when it was new), these Fleming covers will catch fire.
During the new flood of marketing for the prequel films, the marketing machine for Star Wars continued to churn on. MANY toys, MANY novels and the continuation of Dark Horse’s MANY comics were among the barrage. Here is a great cover from a coveted artist that not only screams Star Wars, but is a great (albeit tangential) example of the artist, as well…
PUBLISHED: Dark Horse Comics – March, 2006
ARTIST: Adam Hughes
An absolutely amazing and almost completely overlooked Adam Hughes cover. He had others on Star Wars titles like those from the Legacy subtitle, but this one blows them all away. It can still be had for $10-$12, but I assume people will eventually latch on to this one much as they have latched onto his other covers. Granted, there’s no girl in it, but this transcends beefcake (or whatever the kids are calling it, these days).
The onslaught of Marvel’s new Star Wars comics hit us in 2015 and has expanded widely since then. Many would say that up until Venom/Conan/Immortal Hulk, this is really all Marvel had going for it in the hyper-modern age. Many of the arcs are excellent, especially the main title and the various Darth Vader titles.
I am also a fan of the Lando minis. Highlighting covers from this modern era is easy to do since there are SO many great ones, but I want to remind the CBSI community of one that seems to have flown under the radar that is gorgeous. Here it is…
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – June, 2018
ARTIST: Ashley Witter
Just a magnificent cover that can still be had for cover price and even in dollar bins by overzealous shops. If this character ever sees the big screen, I expect this to be a cover that collectors gravitate back to. Hard to believe this wasn’t held back for use as a variant cover. I’m glad it wasn’t.
With that, dear readers, I leave you for yet another week. As I mentioned, above, there will be a second part to this as we approach the final Skywalker film, this Christmas. Also, after I return from Celebration, I’ll be doing a little write-up on how it went, so stay tuned for that. Until next time, be well, thanks for reading, happy hunting and may the force be with you, always.