Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
A long, long time ago in a decade known as the 1980s, fans didn’t easily have the option to rewatch their beloved Star Wars trilogy over and over again. It was a big deal to watch a bootleg copy of Empire Strikes Back on Beta (if you don’t know what Beta is, don’t ask). The action figures were the primary means to re-enact your favourite movie scenes and there was the Marvel Comics’ Star Wars series.
I can’t exactly recall why I never picked up the Star Wars comic book, but it might have had something to do with so many other great comics on the shelf in 1984. Reading through some of these issues, the first thing that struck me was how many great creators worked on this book. The creative teams on licensed books tend to be weak because of the expensive licensing fees, but this book enjoyed work by Walt Simonson, Al Williamson, Howard Chaykin, Tom Palmer, and Ron Frenz.
The name Randy Stradley might seem familiar to some of you. While Star Wars #86 was his first and last issue on a Marvel Comics’ Star Wars comic, he eventually moved over to Dark Horse Comics and became their Star Wars brand editor when they won the comic book rights in the early 1990s.
From his introduction to Star Wars Trade Paperback Volume #6:
“The characters in the Star Wars films are well-defined, but fairly one-dimensional. They perfectly fulfill the dramatic tasks required of them by the story in the films, but they don’t exactly exhibit subtleties of character that cry out for further exploration. I knew that if I wanted my story to pack any emotional punch whatsoever, I’d have to play off of something that was already established as mattering to the characters.”
And that’s exactly what he did with “The Alderaan Factor”. Star Wars #86 was a stand-alone issue that focused on Princess Leia. She found herself stranded on a hostile planet and her only ally was a Stormtrooper who was tasked with taking her prisoner. However, Stradley took the helmet off this particular Stormtrooper and gave him a human face. Not only was he a person, but he was actually from Leia’s homeworld, Alderaan, which was destroyed in Star Wars: A New Hope. Both characters symbolically represented the factions that were battling for control of their galaxy. They each argued for their own side and the Stormtrooper, who actually never got named, presented a convincing argument in the favour of the Empire.
Tom Palmer’s inking style can only be described as embellishment. His finished art and lavish inks completed the overall artistic effort. His inks created the mood and added to the overall panel flow.
On Bob McLeod’s Facebook page, you’ll find several examples of this issue’s art, highlighting the “before” pencils and the “after” inks. To be fair to Bob McLeod, the inker, Tom Palmer actually requested that Bob only provide the breakdowns rather than the full pencils. Here’s a fine example:
Jason Shayer has recently joined the Biff Bam Pop! writing team. He’s been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.