"Star Wars" is coming home. Not at the movies, but in the comics.
On Jan. 14, Marvel released "Star Wars" No. 1, a new series set right after the first movie (the one released in 1977, which is now, chronologically, the fourth — and retitled "Star Wars IV: A New Hope"). So the book will feature Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, R2-D2 and the ragtag rebel fleet fresh off the destruction of the Death Star (the first one).
Longtime comics fans may have a sense of déjà vu, because this has happened before.
In 1977, Marvel Comics had only one licensed property in its stable, "Conan the Barbarian," brought to Marvel (and initially written by) comics legend Roy Thomas. "Conan" was selling pretty well at the time, so Thomas suggested another license, an adaptation of a sci-fi movie called "Star Wars" — which nobody had yet seen.
"Roy Thomas brought 'Star Wars' to Marvel, and he had to push a little bit to get them to do it," writer/editor Archie Goodwin said in "Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics," written by the late Les Daniels. "He met with George Lucas, and I guess their idea was to put out the comic book prior to the movie's opening to build some interest. Eventually they made a deal that was incredibly favorable to Marvel, because Lucas really wanted to get the promotion going."
"Favorable" is putting it mildly. "The 'Star Wars' people didn't ask for any money for the adaptation," Thomas told io9.com in 2011. "I went with it because it was free. They might have asked for money for the rights when they first approached Marvel and were turned down. By the time they came to me, money wasn't a big factor — they either wanted the book done (on our terms) or they were not going to get the book done."
Lucas' only stipulation, according to io9, was that the first two issues come out before the movie release. Given the lead time necessary for comics — generally about three months — Thomas, as writer, and artist Howard Chaykin were working from an advance script. That meant, happily, that the six-issue adaptation of the movie included scenes cut from the final film.
Even more happily, "Star Wars" No. 1 sold like vaporizers on Tatooine. If you include reprints and other accounting tricks, the issue sold more than a million copies. Faster than you can say "there is no try, there is only do," the six-issue adaptation of "Star Wars" the movie turned into the first six issues of "Star Wars" the ongoing monthly comic book. Lucas had some pretty big restrictions on what Marvel could do — no Darth Vader, for example — but "Star Wars" still went on to 107 issues.
Marvel's "Star Wars" ended in 1986, and only two years later Dark Horse Comics latched onto the "Star Wars" license. From 1988 through 2014, Dark Horse released a great many "Star Wars" comics, set in all periods of the franchise's timeline.
So what happened? The Walt Disney Co. bought both Marvel Entertainment Inc. (2009) and Lucasfilm (2012). As soon as Dark Horse's contract was up, the "Star Wars" comic-book franchise reverted to the House of Mouse, where Marvel Comics awaited.
And for the new "Star Wars" No. 1, Marvel is pulling out all the stops. There are reportedly more than 100 variant covers for the first issue. Now, most of those are specific to comic shops that buy more than 3,000 copies, according to bleedingcool.com, but at least a dozen will be in general release.
Also, Marvel sponsored launch parties Jan. 14 at participating comic shops. Needless to say, one of the perks of such a party is a variant cover — as it happens, one with a 6-foot-tall, anthropomorphic green rabbit. Other items in the "Star Wars Launch Party Kit" include invitational postcards, promotional pins, cake toppers and lithographs.
Obviously, Marvel is hoping lightning will strike again, and that "Star Wars" No. 1 redux will sell even better than its predecessor 38 years ago.
February will see the advent of "Darth Vader" No. 1, set in the same time period as "Star Wars." Written by Kieron Gillen with art by Salvador Larroca and a cover by Adi Granov, this book should give fans some insight on how the Rebel Alliance got chased away from their base on Yavin IV in "New Hope" to the ice planet Hoth, where they are at the beginning of "Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back," three years later.
Then in March, "Princess Leia" No. 1 launches, with popular veteran Mark Waid writing, and art by Terry Dodson. Also set in the post-"New Hope" time frame, "Princess Leia" is likely to explore the ramifications of the destruction of Alderaan.