George Lucas and Comic Books: An Early Link

J.W. Rinzler | February 21, 2013

So I’m writing another blog. What have I been up to? Well, I’ve had a series of long conversations with Edward (Ed) Summer, which are being published in interview form in the next three issues of Star Wars Insider. Most fans have never heard of Summer, though he’s in at least one photo in the book The Cinema of George Lucas. I first met Summer at the Barney Greengrass deli on the Upper West Side of New York City while doing research for that book. As a result, he allowed us to publish from his collection a photo of George Lucas and Frank Frazetta, outside the latter’s home, probably the only photo of them together (with Summer in it, too).

Many years later, a thought came to me one early morning that Summer was really the only link to an important part of the early development of Star Wars: Summer was Lucas’ link to the world of comic books. It was Summer who enabled Lucas to study the original artwork of Alex Raymond; together they discussed the merits of comic book artists, such as Frazetta, Al Williamson, Howard Chaykin, Carl Barks, and others; Summer interviewed Lucas for a documentary (The Men Who Made the Comics) he was doing on a National Endowment for the Arts grant, circa 1974–76 (Summer is now trying to find that interview; if he finds it, and he says he will, we’ll publish it in Insider). Moreover, Lucas became co-owner of Summer’s pioneering gallery in NYC: Supersnipe Comic Art Gallery (named after a comic book character: the kid who had the most comic books in America, Koppy McFad, who appeared in a very popular series in the 1940s; Summer licensed the name from Condé Nast for many years).

“The Supersnipe Comic Book Euphorium pre-existed my meeting George by several years (about 1970),” Summer says. “It was the second incarnation of that store (at 1617 2nd Avenue) that George and Gary Kurtz used to visit. (The first was on East 83rd Street between 2nd and 3rd Ave.) The idea of an art gallery evolved in conversations and it was incorporated (about 1974?) as a business that both George and I owned together. After it was dissolved, I retained the name and operated it as an adjunct of the original Supersnipe. (The sub-title of The Supersnipe Comic Book Euphorium, which was totally owned by me, not in partnership with George, was “The Store With The Most Comic Books in America.” That was actually true for many years.)”

Summer was also simply one of Lucas’ friends who was an avid supporter of the making of George’s “crazy” space fantasy film — one of the few who got what Lucas was trying to do, who understood where Lucas was coming from. Indeed the other day I got an email from Summer saying that he’d woken up remembering a single comic book panel that George had said was a key inspiration for Star Wars (see upcoming issue #141 of Insider, which comes out in a couple of months). Summer was also friends with the young Turks of the New York City film world, such as Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma, went to parties at Carrie Fisher’s apartment, knew all the comic book artists of his era and before — and even produced films, such as the original Conan the Barbarian — all of which made him an amico simpatico for George.

You can read more about the details in upcoming installments of Insider.

Next time: No fun for pandas.

Lucasfilm executive editor J. W. Rinzler is the author of The Making of Star Wars and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones. He is now writing The Making of Return of the Jedi (and really looking forward to finishing it) for a fall 2013 release. You can visit jwrinzler.com for more info.

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