George Lucas has never been accused of being an eloquent wordsmith, nor Star Wars ever hailed as the 20th century equivalent of Hamlet (though the focal father-son dynamic does warrant a few comparisons). And though the Star Wars saga has been criticized for its stiff dialogue and awkward direction, it does stand as a one of the most popular and influential franchises in media history. But Star Wars was once very different from the enduring epic we all know and love, and not necessarily for the better. Thanks to J.W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew, we get a glimpse at what could have been in the first issue of Dark Horse’s comic adaptation of the first draft of The Star Wars.
The ability to write a good screenplay is insignificant next to the power of the Force. Surely, that’s what Lucas thought when he wrote The Star Wars. Its incoherence is matched only by its verbose exposition (and this is coming from someone who actually liked The Phantom Menace), bordering on a treatise on intergalactic foreign relations. Forget Palpatine; the real villain of the story is Darth Tedious.
It’s clear that Lucas hadn't yet matured as a writer by the time he finished the first draft (adapted to comic form by Rinzler) as it owes much to its Flash Gordon-inspired roots, feeling more like a nostalgic acid trip through Lucas’ childhood, instead of the mystical space opera it would come to be known.
Any casual fan of Star Wars would be taken aback by the vast differences between The Star Wars, and the more familiar Episode IV, some merely cosmetic, while others making for an entirely different experience than what was had in 1977.
None of the most well-known characters are present, at least not in any recognizable form. Luke Skywalker is now an aging Jedi general, and the story follows the young Padawan learner Annikin Starkiller. Gone is the menacing visage of Darth Vader, who lacks his iconic helmet and heavy breathing. And though he’s not in the first issue, readers may later be surprised by a certain green skinned alien named Han Solo.
Oh, and Princess Leia goes off to college, hair buns and all. It’s unknown if kissing a Wookie is part of pledge week.
Not all is lost, however. Mike Mayhew’s art is impressive. Most impressive. His realistic style borrows heavily from, and remains faithful to, the concept art of the late Ralph McQuarrie, bringing a new, yet strangely familiar, world to life, giving readers a rare opportunity to see Lucas’ lost vision. Whether you like Lucas’ first draft or not, it is Mayhew’s detailed and vibrant art which saves the book, elevating it from what could have easily been nothing more than a roughly sketched proof-of-concept.
George Lucas has always received a lot of criticism for constantly tinkering with his films, from the good (the updated celebration at the end of Return of the Jedi), to the bad (Han will always shoot first, no matter what Lucas says). However, had Lucas not changed his original vision for The Star Wars into the groundbreaking success first introduced to audiences 36 years ago, he’d never have had the courage to make a film like Willow.
TL;DR: Despite Mike Mayhew's impressive art, unless you’re one who thinks Tom Selleck would have been a better Indiana Jones, I’d stick with the movies.
The Star Wars is adapted for comics by J.W. Rinzler with art by Mike Mayhew. Published by Dark Horse comics, it's a new ongoing series based on George Lucas' original rough-draft screenplay. Ask for it at your local comic book shop. The artwork in our header is from the cover by Nick Runge.
A review PDF of The Star Wars was graciously provided to Spandexless by the publisher.
Nick Chidgey has been a regular contributor to Spandexless since the beginning but has yet to provide a more comprehensive bio. As such, he is a reviewer of mystery.