Welcome to the three hundredth and ninety-first in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, in honor of Lucasfilm being purchased by Disney, every legend this week will be about the Star Wars comic books that Marvel Comics (also purchased by Disney) made during the 1970s and 1980s. Did George Lucas really have a problem with a specific character introduced in the Marvel Star Wars comic? Did Walter Simonson and David Michelinie really independently come up with a major plot point of Return of the Jedi during their run on Star Wars? Plus, are there really six unpublished issues of the Marvel Star Wars series?
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and ninety.
COMIC LEGEND: George Lucas personally took issue with the character Jaxxon.
STATUS: I’m Going With True
Awhile back, JK Parkin (of our awesome sister blog, Robot 6) asked me about the short-lived Star Wars character Jaxxon and whether the rumors were true that George Lucas personally had a problem with the character.
Jaxxon appeared in the first new storyline in the Marvel Star Wars series after Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin finished adapting the first Star Wars film. Since writer Roy Thomas was told that he should not really use Luke and Leia too much, he decided to focus the next storyline on Han Solo and Chewbacca. Thomas decided to do a Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven riff using Han and Chewy.
Thomas was clearly having some fun with these new characters, including a wacky old Jedi Knight with a punderful name…
And, of course, a riff on Bugs Bunny with Jaxxon, a tall green rabbit-looking alien. Here’s his introduction…
Thomas’ run on Star Wars ended with issue #10, and while there were a number of different reasons why Thomas left the title (including slight irritation over the fact that the comic creators were not making very much from the massive financial success of the Marvel adaptation of Star Wars), one thing he noted in his article about the Marvel adaptation of Star Wars in Alter Ego #68 was that Lucas had some issues with the story (although it had been pre-approved before Thomas started on it) and he particularly disliked Jaxxon.
George particularly disliked one of the Seven being a six-foot alien who resembled a green Bugs Bunny in space gear. In the latter instance, I had been “inspired” in part by seeing a Porky Piglooking alien in the Cantina sequence, either in the rough cut or on some production sketches at some early point. (I don’t remember if that alien appears in the finished movie, since that part of the film contained several 11th-hour inserts of other, more colorful aliens sitting in dark corners, and something may have been cut to make room for them.) I had figured my “green rabbit” Jaxxon wasn’t really much weirder than a Wookiee, but obviously George, as the creator of the Star Wars mythos, felt differently.
As you might imagine, the whole endeavor just wasn’t worth Thomas’ time anymore, so he left the book and returned to Conan (as Thomas amusingly noted, Robert Howard was not around to complain about the stories). Archie Goodwin took over the book.
Thomas also amusingly noted that he felt some measure of relief when Lucas later introduced the much more maligned Jar Jar Binks…
Thanks to JK Parkin for the question (there was a second part to JK’s question that I’ll get to in the future) and thanks to Roy Thomas for the info! His piece about Marvel’s Star Wars comic is a wonderful read. You can buy an online copy of Alter Ego #68 right now for just three bucks! Check it out here.
COMIC LEGEND: Walter Simonson and David Michelinie accidentally came up with a major plot point for Return of the Jedi before the film came out.
Reader Ed wrote in awhile back to ask:
Here’s a suggestion – in the original Marvel Comics run of Star Wars, there was a story (by David Michelinie and Walt Simonson?) where the Empire made a battle station called The Tarkin. This was between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I heard somewhere that the original storyline was to build a second Death Star, but when Lucasfilm saw the script they nixed it because it was too similar to RotJ. I’d love to know if there’s any truth to that!
That’s pretty much EXACTLY what happened, Ed.
Here’s Walter Simonson himself explaining it from Modern Masters Volume 8:
We began finding out what would be in the third movie, accidentally. We didn’t do it deliberately. David’s first story after the second movie: the Empire’s building a new Death Star. Lucasfilm said: ‘Sorry, you can’t do that.’ Why not? ‘We can’t tell you.’ So, we said okay, how about if we do a giant cannon floating in space, with no circular shell? ‘Okay, fine, no problem.’ So we called it the Tarkin, wrote exactly the same story with the same gizmo, and nobody cared.
The story appeared in Star Wars #51-52.
And as we noted on the previous legend, Lucasfilm paid a lot of attention to the Marvel Comics.
Thanks to Ed for the question and Walter Simonson and Modern Masters for the info (thanks to Matt P. for identifying where the quote came from!).
On the next page, are there six issues of Marve’s Star Wars that have never been released in the United States?
COMIC LEGEND: There are six issues of Marvel’s Star Wars that have never been released in the United States.
STATUS: False, but close.
Reader turtletrekker wrote in awhile back to ask:
I have read that there are six issues of Marvel’s old Star Wars comics that have never been released in the U.S. Truth?
What I presume turtletrekker is referring to is Marvel UK’s Star Wars Weekly stories. As you may or may not know, the comic book format in the United Kingdom is weekly rather than monthly (the stories are short and serialized), so there are often some notable adjustments to be made when you adapt monthly U.S. comic books to the U.K. Obviously, you have to do back-ups of unrelated comic books to fill out the book (Star Wars Weekly tried to get science fiction related Marvel comics as the back-ups, so Micronauts, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star-Lord, Deathlok, etc.) but you can’t avoid having a Star Wars lead feature if the name of your comic IS Star Wars Weekly. You can split a monthly comic book up into parts, but you’re not going to have enough to fill up an entire month. So the way that Marvel handled it was to create brand-new Star Wars stories that would appear in the British Star Wars Weekly.
The first story that appeared in the UK that did not appear in the United States was in Star Wars Weekly #60.
The issue reprinted the final part of the serialized story that appeared in the Marvel magazine Pizzazz (the magazine was canceled before the story finished). I did a legend awhile back about the Star Wars stories in Pizzazz. You can check it out here.
The first story ORIGINAL to the United Kingdom, though, was in Star Wars Weekly #94, the first part of the three-part “Way of the Wookiee”…
So it would seem as though turtletrekker is right about Star Wars comics not appearing in the United States, right?
However, Marvel did not leave all of these Star Wars stories unused.
A good chunk of them were reprinted in two Marvel Illustrated books…
That still left a number of comics from the later issues of the Marvel UK Star Wars titles unreprinted, though.
However, in 1996, Dark Horse reprinted almost all of them in their Classic Star Wars: Devilworlds mini-series…
As of now, only one Marvel UK Star Wars comic has never been reprinted in the United States, Empire Strikes Back Weekly #149’s lead story, “Death Masque,” by Steve Moore, John Stokes and Howard Chaykin.
Hopefully it gets reprinted soon! I’ve never read it myself. If anyone has a copy that they’d be willing to scan a page or two just to show folks, I’d appreciate it (you can send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thanks for the question, turtletrekker!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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