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Starkiller Lights Up His Lazersword in J.W. Rinzler’s “The Star Wars”

by  in Comic News Comment

No great work emerges into the world fully formed, springing forth from its creator’s head like Athena from the head of Zeus. The creative process is fraught with false starts and half-formed ideas. In 1974, before producing the paradigm-shift that would be “Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope,” George Lucas drafted an early precursor screenplay: “The Star Wars.” Now, that screenplay will come to life in the eight-issue miniseries from Dark Horse Comics, “The Stars Wars,” written by J.W. Rinzler, executive editor at LucasBooks, and featuring art by Mike Mayhew. The first issue, featuring regular, variant and ultravariant covers, blasts into stores September 4.

“The Star Wars” contains many of the seeds that would grow to become the “Star Wars” universe fans know and love, though much remains slightly askew — the screenplay is like a parallel universe, in which the hero is Annikin Starkiller, and Luke Skywalker is an older, wiser Jedi General. Series writer J.W. Rinzler spoke with Comic Book Resources about the process of adapting Lucas’ original screenplay into comic form and bringing a new cast of characters — and a new story — to life.

In composing his early draft, Lucas wasn’t concerned with the nitty-gritty details of the world or the characters he was creating, but focused on getting the story down in some form. That story would continue to evolve and develop between the writing of the draft in 1974 and the release of the first film in 1977.

“It’s true that whenever you adapt one media to another alterations have to be made for obvious reasons,” said Rinzler. “Also George was writing a rough draft — he wasn’t polishing it afterward — so there are teeny plot holes once in a while or character inconsistencies. He was more interested in developing his big picture, the general flow, to his new worlds and drama. And that’s what makes it so much fun: the grand sweep of the saga, the Empire vs. a — sort of — rebel planet; a Padawan being mentored by a wise Jedi; a primitive culture overcoming a technological one; the mixture of genres — fantasy and samurai cum Western film — and so on.”

That mix of genres is part of what lends the world of “Star Wars” its iconic and lasting appeal: Lucas acted as a sponge at the time, absorbing and recombining genre tropes from fantasy, pulp science-fiction, westerns and samurai films to generate a sensibility that was unique and somehow familiar.

“The biggest single influence is Kurosawa’s ‘Hidden Fortress,'” said Rinzler. “The main ingredients in this cocktail are a tale of samurai gun fighters, a princess and peasants shaken up in a fantasy Flash Gordon world — and spiced up with George’s ideas on the Vietnam War and his anthropology and history studies. It’s a potent combo!”

“The Star Wars” is populated by a wide-ranging cast of characters, spanning generations and worlds. At the core of the story are Annikin Starkiller, General Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. As Rinzler takes each issue of the miniseries through its three-draft writing cycle, he’s coming to know his characters well.

“Jedi General Luke Skywalker is the mastermind, the only one who always sees the big picture — and who is not afraid to get his hands dirty and light up his lazersword,” said Rinzler. “Annikin Starkiller is the brash youth, whose heart is in the right place, but who’s a little rough around the edges and not above flirting with the general’s female aides — until he meets Princess Leia. The droids are a little bit more like the peasants in Kurosawa’s ‘Hidden Fortress,’ in that both of them speak and squabble, so we have a more literal idea of what’s going on in [R2D2]’s mind. Together, by about the mid-point in the series, they constitute a kind of dirty dozen team: Jedi, princess (and princes), droids, rebels…as they rise up to fight the Empire’s bloody invasion of their planet — and a dark Sith Knight.”