When our Literature Editor came to me asking if I’d mind doing an article for the 40th anniversary of Marvel Star Wars #1, I was slightly hesitant. Staring into the pixelated screen of my laptop, I slowly typed in the shocking truth… I had never actually read the weekly Marvel Comics. Trying to defend my position, I immediately followed up with my defence; I wasn’t even born in 1978! Maybe not the best plan, and probably more likely to aggravate than actually do any good, but it was all I had.
Now let me explain. I was born in 1985, too late for any of the original releases in the cinema. But at the age of five, I was transported by VHS (with adverts courtesy of ITV) to a galaxy far, far away. I even had the most loving Nan, who brought me all the old vintage toys second hand so I could play Star Wars in my bedroom. And oh my, what a time I had. The words Zahn, Anderson and Stackpole were unknown to me at that age, all I had was
my own imagination to dream up the further adventures of Luke Skywalker and what, after his triumphant defeat of the Emperor, he got up to in a galaxy full of possibilities. My only experience of Star Wars outside of this was radio recordings my dad had of the NPR Star Wars dramatization, which I would listen to in bed and let it send me to sleep (well until the Walkman clicked under my pillow and woke me back up).
As I grew up, I found a wealth of Star Wars literature waiting for me and I devoured anything I could get my hands on. But by that time the Marvel comics weren’t considered canon and I had enough to read without adding them to the list, so I never bothered finding them. I had to get my head around everything: knowing that Chewbacca died, that Han and Leia had three children that Luke got married. There was so much that my imagination was able to rest as almost every part of the timeline was filled with some book or another. I no longer needed to dream of what happened to my heroes, I just needed to read about it!
Which brings us up to now. The Last Jedi has been out for over a month and it has split fandom down the middle. Some fans love it, other fans think it is awful and then there are fans like me who are still trying to adjust to a new film, a new timeline, a new direction that are heroes have taken. I’ll be honest, when playing with my toys all those years ago, I never once imagined any of them dying! Yet that is what I see on the screen that is their fate. It has all got very serious, and why shouldn’t it? This is a franchise that has been with us for most of our lives. These things matter to us.
So with the baggage of a thirty-two year old fan, I pick up issue one of Star Wars and I begin to read. I see the big red letters of ‘Star Wars’ (in fact the red colouring that is prevalent everywhere!), the simplistic art style of the characters I love, the story, THE story that I fell in love with, and all that baggage disappears. I’m back to my five year old self. The story is wonderful. It’s not bogged down with canon or doing a who’s who in the universe, its main purpose is to tell the story. The extra bits placed in have me grinning from ear to ear. The deleted scenes from the film match the radio drama so much so that I know what’s going to be said before I even read it. This is a Star Wars that is filled with possibility that allows my imagination to think of what it once did. I finish the issue with the Tusken Raider attacking Luke and wonder how did it go by so quick? And more importantly how had I not read this sooner?
I can only imagine what it must have been like to have these issues in the late seventies, with extra details that would enhance the imagination for those reading. We can say how great it is to have so much Star Wars at the moment, but something at the back of my mind tells me we’re the ones missing out with too much choice, with too much of the universe mapped out. I think I would love just one Star wars comic being released and rushing to my friends to discuss it, to talk about our character’s futures because their fates hadn’t been decided, only limited by what tales we could conjure up. For all of those believing that the Last Jedi has robbed them of what made Star Wars special, look no further. We can’t control where Star Wars is heading, but we will always have that place from when we were children and part of it can be found in these Marvel comics. Even if you weren’t born then, these comics are precious to many fans, and even forty years on, they have instantly become precious to this reader. They transport you to a simpler time, when you didn’t need all the answers about what happened in a galaxy far, far way, where instead you could let your imagination run wild with possibilities, acting out with your action figures the continued adventures of Luke Skywalker. This is where we don’t need to be so serious but enjoy Star Wars for what it was always meant to be, fun!
So stop looking at what lays ahead, put on your Star Wars pyjamas, grab the first issue and celebrate the 40th anniversary of a series, that although ‘old’, demands to be read now more than ever…