05 – The Star Wars

the-star-warsBook Title: The Star Wars
Author: George Lucas (original screenplay), J.W. Rinzler (adaptation), Mike Mayhew (illustrator), Rain Beredo (colors), Nick Runge (covers), Michael Heisler (lettering)
Style: Graphic Novel
Target Audience: Adults
Genres: Science Fiction
Page Count: 184
Reading time: 2 hours
Format: Hardcover collection (library)

My impressions: I’ve been waiting to read The Star Wars for awhile now – and in case you think I’ve just picked up a graphic novel adaptation of one of the most popular movies of all time, let me explain that this is actually a graphic novel adaptation of George Lucas’s original rough draft screenplay, not the story that eventually made it to film. Those steeped in the mythology of Star Wars know that the original story was much closer in some ways to The Phantom Menace than A New Hope, with a big Wookiee battle thrown in for good measure. This graphic novel series (originally published in 8 issues) deconstructs Star Wars and tries to ask, “What would this story have looked like if it’d been filmed using the rough draft script instead of the revision that became the film we all know today?”

The artists were pretty inventive, delving into the Lucasfilm archives and scouring every piece of concept art and pre-production planning they could find to nail the aesthetics and ideas George Lucas was originally going for. They relied heavily on Ralph McQuarrie’s excellent early concepts, but also had to take a number of cues from what the screenplay actually said and what Lucas described in early interviews as being aspects of his vision.

The end result is an extremely interesting adaptation of a story that… well, which is hard to imagine as Star Wars because it’s missing so many of the elements that we associate with that series today. In the original draft, Luke Skywalker is an old general and Annikin Starkiller becomes his padawaan disciple to learn the ways of the Jedi Bendu, users of the Force of the Others. The Knights of Sith show up as villains, but are more a rival clan than a truly evil force. Everyone is armed with lightsabers, including the stormtroopers, and there’s very little talk about the Force.

There are lots of other odd deviations as well, often with familiar names showing up in unexpected places or in very different contexts. Han Solo is present, but feels like an entirely different character not only because he’s an alien, but also because he lacks any charm or characterization (and also doesn’t have a special starship to fly). Princess Leia has a large role in the story, but her story arc is closer to Padme Amidala’s than the Leia of the films, and she (rather clunkily) develops feelings for Annikin. Darth Vader is just a lackey of the Emperor, and neither are force-users; they employ Valorum, a Sith lord, to hunt the Jedi, only to find him betraying them and setting Annikin free when he decides he doesn’t like Vader’s nasty tactics or obvious arrogance. And unlike the climactic Death Star trench run of the film where Luke learns to rely on the Force, the battle station in this story is blown up by a handful of Wookiees.

None of this is terribly surprising, because the script has been around for awhile – you can read it and the later drafts here. But what makes it all interesting is the graphic presentation of the original ideas, which Lucas himself signed off on and which were released just before Marvel took over the Star Wars comic book license and rendered all previous comics produced by Dark Horse unofficial and out of print. As such, this book offers a rare glimpse into the history of Star Wars back when it was still a LucasFilm property and not part of the Disney empire. It’s definitely worth reading, and even as cheesy as it is (it’s as groan-worthy as The Phantom Menace), it’s fascinating to see it presented in visual form.


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