Marvel Comics: Rolling Back the Years With True Believers

Second and third printings of modern era comics have become a regular occurrence and, in some cases, fourth and fifth printings have been known. But recently we’ve seen Marvel Comics reprinting and reproducing classic comics from the past.

Following on from the release of True Believers Star Wars (1977) #107 earlier this year, we got Star Wars #108, the comic that nearly never was. This week among the offered again titles was Star Wars (1977) #1 Facsimile Edition. In my opinion, the greatest comic of my lifetime and to see it with all the original advertisements is a delight for me, but also a great opportunity for those who do not own an original copy. This certainly is a trip down memory lane for me and although I own these comics in multiple formats, they always seem to be a must buy item. Also, with the close of the Skywalker saga in cinemas next week, the timing of it’s release makes good sense.

This week also saw the release of another wave of True Believers Star Wars comics. With 5 issues in total, 1 issue from the recently concluded 2015 comic timeline reset series and 4 issues from the original 1977 run and all available for a bargain cover price of $1 each. Unlike the verbatim Facsimile Editions, these are just reprints of the original panels with up to date advertisements within.

But it was the selection of the 4 older True Believers that really interested me. I took some time out to sit down with the latest batch and reminisce, but then I started dig deeper into each issue. I then had to ask myself the question; Is this just a nostalgia trip for fans or have these titles been rereleased to link up with any of the current Star Wars series from Marvel Comics?

True Believers – Star Wars: The Hunter #1 [Star Wars (1977) #16]

Now, no one can deny that this issue does have a connection to the current release of Target: Vader penned by Robbie Thompson that concludes with issue 6 this coming week. With today’s announcement of Star Wars: Bounty Hunters coming in March 2020, Beilert Valance is now being brought back into canon in a big way and the former Imperial Officer is still hell bent on avenging his own downfall and that is not far at all from the mark of where we see Valance in Star Wars (1977) #16.

Early in the creation of the expanded universe Darth Vader seemed to have no match. Then there was Valance, a former Imperial and now renegade bounty hunter, gunning for our heroes and any droid that moves.

I do need to mention one thing. The humour that is in the sequence when Jaxxon is captured. If you’ve never heard of Jaxxon, he is a 6-foot-tall (excluding his ears) green furred carnivorous rabbit like biped. When he is strung up and being questioned, 2 of his captors are called Fud and Dafi. While not parallels to Marvel Comics, for me a distinct hark to Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes cartoons.

But back to Valance. He wants to destroy his past, but why? The big reveal in the end is his cyborg implants, much like Vader. Hence his loathing for anything mechanical and droids in particular. The one panel that really stands out is the one pager halfway through that shows the Rebel heroes and explains his driving forces. The reason I love this page so much, is due to the art and the way it explains so much.

It’s quite a complex story and really does fit nicely with where Robbie Thompson has taken us recently. It’s great to see Jaxxon and Amaiza in action and thanks to Cavan Scott and Star Wars Adventures from IDW Publishing, this pair are now back in canon too, but will they ever make it back to the pages of a Marvel comic, you never know who might just turn up!

True Believers – Star Wars: Death Probe #1 [Star Wars (1977) #45]

As the Star Wars (2015) main title goes to its second series in January 2020, this issue will make a brilliant comparison to what Charles Soule has in store for us. This was the first story arc after the conclusion of The Empire Strikes Back adaptation in 1980. Set with Luke out on patrol and sparring for the chance to test how well he has recovered from his duel on Cloud City with Darth Vader.

Luke comes across mental and physical tests as a Rebel corvette is taken over by an augmented probe droid. Interestingly one thing we have yet to see in a movie is how an X-Wing pilot survives when they eject from their fighter. This issue addresses that quite early on when Luke and Artoo eject just as a missile from the commandeered corvette takes out his fighter.

I really liked the use of the probe droid as it links the story with The Empire Strikes Back. Luke uses Artoo to help him fight the probe droid and pulls a master stoke in the way he uses it to take down an Imperial Star destroyer.

So, other than when the story itself is set, I can’t say if there is a direct comparison to the modern day run.

True Believers – Star Wars: Vader vs. Leia #1 [Star Wars (1977) #48]

The is an interesting selection. So much has been said about female heroes in film, TV and comics, but here we are looking at a comic released in 1980 where the greatest villain of all time is being confronted by our Princess!

We have seen throughout Star Wars literature many battles with Darth Vader. These at times are physical like with Chewbacca and Vader in Star Wars (2015) #74 & #75 and the cat and mouse manoeuvring with Doctor Aphra, but it is rare that he gets pitted against Leia directly.

I remember reading and rereading this issue when it was released. Unfortunately, the portrayal of Vader feels more like a pantomime or even Scooby-Doo villain rather than Dark Lord of the Sith reading it today. It’s really weird to have Leia and Vader posturing over loans from the neutral banking planet Aragau in public.

What association does this have to where we are now? For Leia it is very poignant. Even back in the early 80’s she was seen as a strong character able to take on Vader.

True Believers – Star Wars: According to the Droids #1 [Star Wars: Droids (1986) #6]

Originally released in 1986, this issue follows our favourite pair of droids during the events of A New Hope. This series was predominantly set in the time period pre-A New Hope and published to supplement the events of the animated TV series.

I must admit, I’d never read this comic before and found it slightly bizarre! As I’ve said, it follows our intrepid droids, but extra scenes have been added to their story. In a way it’s more like a director’s cut, pre-George Lucas’s commissioning the Special Editions.

In fairness, these are tales as told by the Droids, so they may have happened, right? It’s an overly exaggerated sequence of events and takes us into the territory of the 2017 novel release of From a Certain Point of View for the 40th anniversary of the release of A New Hope.

This issue doesn’t have much bearing apart from it’s a good comparison piece to the Star Wars (1977) #1 Facsimile Edition.

We have now entered an age where we have 11 movies, animated TV series, live action TV series, hundreds of books and thousands of comics to refer to and there are umpteen more projects in the pipeline. We have to remember that at the time these were created, we had 1 or 2 movies and 5 or 6 tie-in novels.

When you sit down with these comics you realise that the talent that was employed to create these issues, like today, Marvel Comics were using the great talents of the time. Infantino, Simonson, Wiacek, Colón, Hama and Shooter to name a few. This is in parallel to today’s releases where we have seen the likes of Soule, Noto, Pak, Ross, Level, Gillen and Camuncoli. Now before anyone says anything; I apologise for not name checking all the other great artists, writers, pencillers, colourists, letterers, inkers and editors that have worked on any Star Wars title past or present!

These reprints are of a different time, that is evident not just in the art, but the language used, some of the dialogue is too ‘real world’ at times. Society, technology and creative method has evolved so much in the 30 or 40 years since their original releases and you can feel the age behind them. It is also very obvious that they were not aimed at a ‘Teen’ rated audience like many of today’s titles.

Regardless of the foibles and their relativity to the current timeline, these are well worth picking up at only $1 each, especially if you’ve never read them before.

Steve Galloway
Steve was 5 years old when he saw Star Wars for the first time during its first UK cinema release. He considers himself a first generation Star Wars fan and in his own words is a ‘Child of 77’.