Archive for ‘Books and Comics’

The Star Wars Spy Game: SPIN Declassified

Greg Mitchell | December 12, 2013

Star Wars: The Glove of Darth Vader

In 1992, authors Paul and Hollace Davids released the first book in their Star Wars series of young adult novels: The Glove of Darth Vader. This six-book series featured the adventures of Jedi Prince Ken as he fought alongside Luke Skywalker and friends in a New Republic spy organization known as SPIN. Perhaps most famously, the Glove of Darth Vader series introduced the world to the Prophets of the Dark Side, not one but two three-eyed mutants rumored to be the son of Emperor Palpatine, Jabba the Hutt’s long-haired father Zorba and, of course, the titular indestructible Sith gauntlet. Since then, authors have integrated these children’s stories into the larger Star Wars tapestry. This article seeks to pull back the curtain on SPIN, to reveal its origins and place in the New Republic as well as its lasting legacy.


Star Wars Comics Preview: December 11, 2013 Team | December 11, 2013


It’s Wednesday, which means one thing: new comic books! Check out a preview of new Star Wars comics available today after the jump!


The Imperial Warlords: Despoilers of an Empire, Part 1

Imperial warlords Did the Rebels truly defeat Palpatine’s Empire at the Battle of Endor? The deep roots of the Star Wars mythos continue exploring that subject with tremendous zeal. In the literature of the galaxy far, far away, the conflict between the Alliance to restore the Republic and the crumbling Empire has played out in a multitude of wars for years beyond Return of the Jedi. Though the Galactic Civil War finally came to an end with the signing of a peace treaty almost two decades after the desolation of the second Death Star, this no-holds-barred primer profiles the most memorable and powerful Imperial renegades of those intervening years, the so-called “Warlords,” who fought valiantly, viciously, and fanatically for the scraps of the once-glorious first Galactic Empire and whose selfishness ultimately brought about its self-destruction.


Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare Author’s Cut, Part 3 – “Xim the Despot”

Jason Fry with Paul Urquhart | December 3, 2013

Welcome to the third of 12 articles revealing — for the first time ever — material cut from The Essential Guide to Warfare before its April 2012 publication. Each section will be preceded by brief comments discussing why the material wound up on the cutting-room floor.


Han Solo and the Lost Legacy

Jason Fry: I’ve been a huge fan of Xim the Despot ever since reading about this ancient galactic ruler in the pages of Brian Daley’s Han Solo and the Lost Legacy back in 1980. I’ve never missed a chance to fill in Xim’s backstory, starting with a write-up of the planet Desevro in Wizards of the Coast’s Geonosis and the Outer Rim Worlds and continuing in The Essential Atlas. The Atlas had barely reached bookstores before I started working up an online supplement about the Tion Hegemony, Xim’s old stomping grounds.

I continued this merry obsession in Warfare — among other things, that book features the first-ever look at Xim’s warships. But looking over the Warfare manuscript, I knew I’d gone way overboard –– this wasn’t The Essential Guide to Xim the Despot. I like this goofball mashup of Hamlet, “Ozymandias,” and snobby English 19th century travel narratives. But as was often true with Warfare’s “in-universe” essays, it was less important than the more straightforward writing about Xim we already had quite a lot of.


Star Wars in the UK: Read-Along Adventures

Mark Newbold | November 22, 2013
Being a proud member of the initial generation of Star Wars fans who marvelled at the first film back in 1977 it’s always nostalgic look back at the time, remembering those first releases of comics, books, novels, toys and audio.  One of the many Star Wars products to arrive in the late 70′s was the latest in an ongoing line of Read-Along Adventures, released by Buena Vista Records (known here in the UK as Rainbow), part of the Disney empire.
The format had been in existance since 1958, when Disneyland Records released their first large format record of Sleeping Beauty and soon a slew of Disney titles including Herbie and The Love Bug, Treasure Island, Frosty’s Adventures in Wonderland and Pirates of the Carribean (based on the ride of course, not the film) were released.  1977 arrived, bringing with it Star Wars and by 1979 and under the freshly monickered Buena Vista Records label the galaxy far, far away dropped into a million kids cassette decks and record players.
The format was simple.  A 24 page colour book came packaged with either a cassette or a 7″ vinyl record and once opened the adventures could begin.  Folks who listened to and read those early releases will fondly remember this introduction:
“This is the story of Star Wars.  You can read along with me in your book.  You will know it is time to turn the page when you hear Artoo-Deetoo beep like this…LET’S BEGIN NOW”
While those early releases had some wayward vocal performances other than Luke, which was by far the best) they evoked perfectly the spirit and romance of the blockbuster they were based upon and for kids in the late 70′s without access to the film anywhere but on the big screen this was a must-have.  In 1979, the year the first book was released, the video release was still three years away and the book gave a swift precis of the film as well as original sound effects, great stills, some airbrushed by the great Ralph McQuarrie himself and in it’s brief running time it promised  - and always delivered – a great adventure.
Just one year later and The Empire Strikes Back (151DC/BOW514) arrived, bringing a new story that once again sumarised the epic into 24 pages and 15 minutes.  This time out the audio was cleaner, the performances much sharper, especially an impressive Yoda and in it’s truncated format it swiftly became an essential part of the wider audio Star Wars story.
In 1983 Return of the Jedi (152DC/BOW517) completed the original Star Wars trilogy and once again sales were strong and the quality of the audio had improved.  With strong sales, Buena Vista knew they were onto a good thing and so they mined the then-popular Marvel Comics stories for fresh adventures.  The first in the Star Wars: The Further Adventures series, Droid World (153DC/BOW515) was adapted from issue 47 of Marvels run, originally released in February 1981 and written by the legendary Archie Goodwin.  This release was available in 7″, 33 1/3 RPM and cassette format, all coming with a 24 page book with artwork by Dick Foes.  The much-loved Planet of the Hoojibs (154DC/BOW516), taken from Marvels issue 55, Plif! written by David Michelinie, came next featuring lavish Greg Winters artwork and another great performance.
But expanding upon the wider Star Wars comics universe wasn’t all Buena Vista was about.  In 1983 it was clear that the Ewoks were a runaway hit, especially with the younger members of the audience, and so The Ewoks Join The Fight (160DC/BOW518) was released, adapting Random House’s childrens book release with art by Diana de Groat, telling the story of Return of the Jedi from the point of view of our diminutive and furry friends. And just one year later, to accompany the record breaking showing of The Ewok Adventure (467, aka Caravan of Courage) Buena Vista rolled out the Read-Along Adventure adaptation (in the States only, not in the UK) followed in 1985 by Ewoks: The Battle For Endor (470).  Filled with hard-to-find images, these two adaptations of the television movies are among the very best of the releases and tough to locate.
Star Wars audio stories were at an end by 1985, as the Dark Times were about to begin, but prior to that in 1984 two educational releases arrived in the USA.  Star Wars: Adventures In Colors & Shapes (180DC) and Star Wars: Adventures In ABC (181DC) both featured Artoo and Threepio and educated youngsters in the basics of reading, shapes and colours, continuing a series of releases since the 70′s that had used the two droids to impart information to young readers.
The success of this series launched a slew of other titles, including E.T, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Gremlins, Goonies and Tron.  Throughout the 80′s and right up to the release of two Dick Tracy books in 1990 they were an often-seen feature on shelves across the States and the UK, but by 1990 Buena Vista was no more, renamed once again, this time to Disney Audio Entertainment.  Major Disney releases continued to receive the Read-Along Adventure treatment, including Special Edition re-releases of the original trilogy and the first prequel The Phantom Menace.
With the swift turn-around of movies from screen to home video formats and downloads it’s likely that the days of the Read-Along Adventure are largely over, but like 7″ records, cassettes and 8-Tracks it’s a part of the fabric of Star Wars, a vessel that carried the spirit of the Star Wars universe and its inhabitant to the kids of the 70′s and 80′s.  The media is retired, but the adventure is far from over.



Being a proud member of the initial generation of Star Wars fans who marveled at the first film back in 1977, it’s always nostalgic look back at that time, remembering those first releases of comics, books, novels, toys, and audio. One of the many Star Wars products to arrive in the late ’70s was the latest in an ongoing line of Read-Along Adventures, released by Buena Vista Records (known here in the UK as Rainbow), which is part of Disney.

The format had been in existence since 1958, when Disneyland Records released their first large format record of Sleeping Beauty and soon a slew of Disney titles including Herbie and The Love Bug, Treasure Island, Frosty’s Adventures in Wonderland and Pirates of the Carribean (based on the ride of course, not the film) were released. 1977 arrived, bringing with it Star Wars, and by 1979 (under

the freshly monickered Buena Vista Records label) the galaxy far, far away dropped into a million kids’ cassette decks and record players.



Slugthrowers: An Overview of Popular Music and Musicians in a Galaxy Far, Far Away, Part 1

Ed Erdelac | November 21, 2013

In a galaxy of 400 billion stars, where sentient life emerged on some 20 million distinct worlds, music, one of the hallmarks of civilized culture, has evolved in an almost limitless variety.

Some styles remain planetary bound, their appreciation limited to their progenitors. Gamorrean opera and baka rock has mostly failed to find an appreciative audience in the galaxy at large, outside of expatriate Gamorreans, who tout its snorting and squealing as sublime. Likewise Verpine choral arrangements, whose members rub their legs together to produce their version of music, are not particularly well-regarded other than by insectoid species. In a pangalactic community of such varied biology and aural temperament, some sonic compositions even have negative physical effects which their creators are immune to. The deafening noise of Aridinian folk music famously causes human ears to bleed within the sounding of a few notes and has thus been strictly regulated outside of its native system. The smazzo percussion group Shluur was once escorted off the planet Clak’dor VII after it was found the music of its avant-garde composer Wurokk provoked violent aggression in the native Bith population and nearly leveled the capitol city of Weogar in destructive riots.

Yet other genres, such as the perennially popular jizz, seem to break orbit from their homeworlds and join the Galactic community at large, changing and in turn being changed by its interactions with other cultures. Symphonic classical composition has been a kind of neutral musical ground for the expression of heterogeneous cultures for millennia.  A few musical styles, such as the traditional music of the reptilian Tarasin of Cularin, achieve popularity because of the unique, pleasing effect they have on extraterrestrial species; in this case, inexplicably soothing the gills of aquatic peoples.

cathedralofwinds (Medium)

It is known that the Wookiees of Kashyyyk beat their tree drums in celebration of Life Day as early as 1,500,000 BBY, and early writings found in the Petrax Historic Quarter of Coruscant speak of attempts to duplicate with woodwind instruments the haunting moonsong that occurs when wind passes through the wingflutes of ringed moon shadowmoths. Millennia before the Battle of Yavin, the fragile-boned, flying reptilian Vors of Vortex in the Glythe sector were already performing their annual storm solstice Concert of the Winds, manipulating the passage of wind through the myriad tunnels and apertures of the mountainous, delicate crystalline Cathedral of Winds to produce complex, ethereal music unheard anywhere else in the galaxy.


Star Wars in the UK: Star Wars Comic Book Annuals

Mark Newbold | November 15, 2013
Back in the 70′s and 80′s the output of Marvel UK was one of the keystones in keeping the spirit of the Star Wars saga alight between the release of the  films, and every year during the festive period kids across the country would be treated to a tradition that’s run from the grandaddy of British comics The Beano in the 30′s right up to the releases of the present day – hardback Annuals.
In the States there were three Star Wars Annuals released in 1979, 1982 and 1983, but the UK was treated to 9 annuals between 1978 and 1985 as well as an Ewoks annual in 1988. Differing from their American cousins the UK Annuals were hardbacks in the traditional UK magazine size and were released by Marvel UK, in conjunction with other specialist companies. Marvel UK was started in 1972 after years of outsourcing the Marvel product to other companies. The success of these titles led to the establishment of Marvel UK, and a fast growing roster of titles incorporating major Marvel US titles and home grown stories by a group of up and coming writers and artists including Alan Davis and Alan Moore.
The first Star Wars annual, released in conjunction with Brown Watson, was a 63 page reprint of the classic adaptation of the first film, still known simply as Star Wars, by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin. Originally published in the first 12 issues of Star Wars Weekly the annual was a common gift across the country, being read and re-read numerous times by ravenous fans who had a limited amount of product to devour. In these days of weekly Dark Horse releases it’s hard to imagine reading and re-reading a title but, no slight to Dark Horse intended, back in ’78 we only had that 6 issue comic and the few issues that had been released afterwards consisting mostly of a controversial green Lepus carnivorus.  I know that when I got to the final page I would often go right back to the start and begin again.
1979′s second Star Wars annual, released by Grandreams was a reprint of Star Wars Weekly issues 25 and 26, which itself reprinted the US Marvel issue 13 “Day of the Dragon Lords” and Star Wars Weekly 27 and 28 which reprinted US issue 14 “The Sound of Armageddon”.  Written by the legendary Archie Goodwin and drawn by Star Wars stalwart Carmine Infantino, it saw out the decade on a wave of high adventure.
1980 brought not only the second chapter in the Star Wars saga, The Empire Strikes Back but also it’s comic adaptation, released by Marvel/Grandreams.  Released initially as issues 118 – 135 of Star Wars Weekly (which reprinted US Star Wars issues 39 – 44) the 63 page Annual, written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by two of George Lucas’ favourite artists Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon, brought not only the stunning story of the second Star Wars epic to the Annual format, but also some intriguing glimpses into an early, impish and purple version of Master Yoda before Stuart Freeborn had completed his magic and Williamson redrew the character for later versions of the adaptation. Wrapped behind a beautiful and distinctive Bob Larkin cover I have hugely fond memories of this annual as it was the last gift I’d recieve from my Grandmother, who passed away in late 1981.  As with many Star Wars releases of this era, they come with some very special attachments.
The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars were both honoured with Annuals in 1981, with the Empire Annual reprinting the J.M. DeMatteis and Carmine Infantino story “The Dreams of Cody Sunn-Childe” from issue 46 of the US Marvel run and issue 141 of the UK Empire Strikes Back Monthly along with Archie Goodwin, Al Williamson and Walt Simonsons “The Crimson Forever” from US issue 50 and printed in the UK for the first time.   Both quirky tales, they were complimented in ’81 by the return of the Star Wars Annual, which featured three stories.  ”The Third Law” from US Star Wars issue 48, “Death Probe” from US Issue 45 and the classic “Droid World” (which would soon be adapted into a Read-Along-Adventure by Buena Vista, as I discussed in my Read-Along-Adventures entry) from US Issue 47.
The stories were first printed in the UK in The Empire Strikes Back Weekly 136-139 and The Empire Strikes Back Monthlies 140 and 142.  Sitting behind a dazzling cover by Paul Neary (who among other achievements would go on to become editor-in-chief of Marvel UK in the 1990s) the annual would be the last before the final chapter in the second Star Wars trilogy arrived.
Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson would return to complete the saga after their stellar work on Empire and the weekly magazine strips with Return of the Jedi, reprinting the Marvel Super Special and 4 part Limited Series (one of Marvel US’s first) which had already been released in the UK in the first 8 issues of the renamed UK weekly, renumbered and renamed Return of the Jedi Weekly.  Released by Marvel/Grandreams and lying behind the same Bill Sienkiewicz cover that graced the Super Special, it was a big seller and along with the RCA soundtrack, Read-Along-Adventure and Futura novelisation it truly brought the grandeur of the final chapter home to UK fans in 1983.
1984 was a busy year for Star Wars, with the release of The Ewok Adventure on US television, arriving in the UK and Europe on the big screen as Caravan of Courage.  The 1984 Return of the Jedi Annual gave us a striking Glynis Wein cover collaging images from Jedi and collecting  ”Chanteuse of the Stars” from US Issue 77, “The Big Con” from Issue 79 and “Ellie” from US issue 80.  Printed here in the UK in Return of the Jedi Weekly between issues 20 – 43, the three stories all written by Mary Jo Duffy and drawn by Ron Frenz and Tom Palmer make up one of the strongest of the UK annuals, the heart-breaking “Ellie” particularly standing out as a strong tale.  The striking final panel of a tearful See Threepio stays long in the memory.
1984 also brought a collection behind a Jolly John Higgins cover that pulled together the adaptations of both Empire and Jedi.  Unique in that it was a Marks and Spencers exclusive it was tougher to find but a treat for fans of Goodwin and Williamson.
By 1985, while Star Wars was still in full swing with Ewoks and Droids both on air and a second Ewoks television movie released in the UK on video via MGM, the shadow of the Dark Times was near.  The Kenner line was rapidly fading into the bargain bins, the whole tone of the Star Wars line had become very much a young childs arena and with George Lucas putting the saga on ice to concentrate on other pursuits the Star Wars galaxy approaching a period of hibernation.  The 1985 Annual collected the first issue of Star Comics Ewoks title “The Rainbow Bridge” (written by David Manak and drawn by Warren Kremer) along with 1983′s US Annual #3 “The Apprentice” (written by long-time writer and editor Mary Jo Duffy and drawn by Klaus Janson).  Released by Marvel/Grandreams, it would be the last in an almost unbroken run of 9 annuals in 8 years, the last in the first age of Star Wars.  But not the last Annual by Marvel UK.
By 1988 we were deep in the midsts of The Dark Times.  In 1987 West End Games had launched The Roleplay Game to great acclaim by roleplayers but Return of the Jedi Weekly had ended with its 155th issue on 7th June 1986, relegating Star Wars to a back-up strip in Spider-Man and Zoids weekly.  Ewoks had continued as a title, capturing the kids market but by 1988 even that had ended.  This final Marvel UK Annual compiled two comic strip adventures “The Undwerwater Kingdom” from issue 9 of Star Comics run and “Rites of POwer” from issue 2 along with the prose tales “Chief Chirpa Kidnapped!”, “Return of the Great One!” and “The Ice Princess”.  It marked the end of a 10 year association between Star Wars and Marvel in the UK, a pairing that brought the magic of Star Wars to young UK fans every week and via these iconic Annuals made our Star Wars memories even more awesome.



Back in the ’70s and ’80s, Marvel UK was one of the keystones in keeping the spirit of the Star Wars saga alive between the release of the films. Once each year, comic book fans would be treated to even more Star Wars in the form of special over-sized releases: hardback annuals.


Drawing from the Imagination: Mythological Creatures in Star Wars, Part 2

Mythological creatures come in any shape and size, their appearance only limited by the boundaries of the human imagination. Earth’s history is full of mythological creatures and fabled monsters, some of which have found their way to the Star Wars universe, either in form or in name. In the first installment we talked about story inspirations and about names of mythological creatures that are used in the Star Wars universe. This time we’ll elaborate on the mythological creatures from Earth that have appeared in the Star Wars universe in some form or another.

Creature Feature

Angels and demons are found in a range of religions and mythologies. Angels are best known for their role in Abrahamic religions, where they are celestial beings that act as a connection between heaven and earth, often as guiding spirits. Their depiction in art usually has them resemble glowing humans with bird-like wings, dressed in flowing robes. The opposite of the benevolent guardians, demons are malevolent spirits and sometimes even fallen angels (like the biblical devil, Satan). The Diathim and Maelibi are mysterious species often referred to as Angels and Demons, respectively. The Diathim are glowing, winged sentients inhabiting the moons (the ‘heavens’) of Iego, while the Maelibi live under the surface of the planet (the “underworld”). The Diathim were considered to be the most beautiful creatures in the universe and part of numerous wild tales told by spacers at every local cantina. The skin of a Mealibus looked like it was formed from molten gold. Their large horns and sharp claws endorsed their demonic appearance. Maelibi used their songs to disrupt brainwaves and cause a hypnotic compulsion that would eventually lead to their prey being ensnared and eaten alive.

Mythology - Iego


The Death Star Plans Are Now In YOUR Hands!

Ryder Windham | November 5, 2013

Given everything that the Rebels had to go through to obtain data about the Imperial DS-1 Orbital Battle Station, you should consider yourself lucky. All you need to do is pick up a copy of the Death Star Owner’s Technical Manual!

Cover art for the US edition of the Death Star Owner's Technical Manual. The UK edition is titled Imperial Death Star Owner's Technical Manual.

Cover art for the US edition of the Death Star Owner's Technical Manual. The UK edition is titled Imperial Death Star Owner's Technical Manual.


Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare Author’s Cut, Part 2 – Ancient Coruscant

Jason Fry with Paul Urquhart | November 4, 2013

The Taungs from Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare.

Welcome to the second of 12 articles revealing — for the first time ever — material cut from The Essential Guide to Warfare before its April 2012 publication. Each section will be preceded by brief comments from Jason Fry and Del Rey editor Erich Schoeneweiss discussing why the material wound up on the cutting-room floor.