Sunday, July 20, 2008

Can't Forget A Classic

It’s apparently old news, but I’ve recently been told that the Dark Horse Classic Star Wars trades which reprint the Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson comic strips are out of print. A check on Dark Horse’s website confirms that they are no longer selling copies directly. also seems to no longer sell new copies. Although I know that the strips are available on the subscription service of, I think it is unfortunate that these specific editions are no longer available.

I was a rather big Star Wars fan when I was twelve, but I suppose most people my age were. This was, of course, before the prequel era and was thus before the currently saturated "Expanded Universe" kicked into high gear. Some may argue that point, but frankly I find it hard to believe that writers can do superb work while trying to awkwardly fit their creative muscles between the events of a hundred comic books, video games, novels, and cartoons. It seems to me that with much less product coming out in those “interim years,” the quality control was a lot better. Plus, with less published material there was more playroom in the universe, and unlike many of the Star Wars books that come out these days there is less focus on minutiae (leading to articles like this, which touts the newest video game as "Episode III and a half"). Early Star Wars material was not written with a strict canon and could therefore explore the developing universe on a more creative scale. A great example is the novel Splinter of a Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Forster, which came out before Empire Strikes Back was even in pre-production. The story: Luke and Leia chase after a cosmic artifact on a swamp planet – just classic, old-style science fiction with no attempt to tie it in with any history or continuity because, at that point, there was no continuity except for a single hit movie. Much of the Goodwin/Williamson strip is just that: fun sci-fi stories told by a writer who grew up reading EC Comics and an artist who grew up reading Flash Gordon. Williamson’s art is so far beyond anything you see in the comics section of a newspaper today (in part because most newspapers do not even bother to carry adventure strips) and Goodwin’s stories are, as always, full of imagination. Goodwin is one of those rare figures in comics whose work is universally praised, and he deserves every accolade that is thrown his way.

Dark Horse tried to do something different with the series rather than just paste the panels from the strip on pages and sell it as a comic book. The editors of the series reformed the panels, colored the artwork, and even had Williamson contribute new artwork to the layouts to expand the panels beyond the confining structure of a comic strip. Purists might be turned off, but as far as reprinting comic strips go it’s a unique and welcome approach. I would not suggest it for my treasured complete Popeye by E.C. Seger editions, but for an adventure strip filled with sci-fi action the approach really works. After all, this is Star Wars -- just like its film counterpart, it is supposed to be big.

If you are a Star Wars fan and never had the opportunity to pick up these editions, do so. Especially if you a fan of the original films and feel letdown about the prequels and the current unending stream of novels and comics, and particularly if you break out in sweats anytime you hear the word “midichlorians.” I hope that these collections will eventually make it back into print for those Stars Wars fans who might be a bit burned out on all the Jedi warfare. Scoop them up on Amazon or Ebay while you still can.

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