In Tales from the Longbox, Jason Shayer highlights 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 few months ago, Disney announced that Marvel Comics would take over the Star Wars licensing rights in 2015. I thought I’d look back at Marvel Comics’ first go at the series in the late 1970s. Star Wars #38 is seen by fans as one of the best stand-alone comic stories of that series. This fill-in issue was published just before Star Wars #39-44 adapted Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
Editor Archie Goodwin does double-duty as writer in this issue with a plot assist from artist Michael Golden. In an interview with TheForce.Net, Golden recalled:
“I told Archie this story that I wanted to do and he loved it, so I sat down and drew it and Terry Austin inked it. After I had sat down to the drawing it, Archie actually called me and said they were actually going to use the story right away, so I finished up the pencils and it went off to Terry Austin to ink. I was originally supposed to write it as well, but because they needed it right away, Archie sat down and wrote it based on my notes.”
A desperate hyperspace jump strands Luke and Leia somewhere far beyond their galaxy. In the darkness of the void, they encounter a strange organic ship that rescues them, but then suddenly attacks them, trying to assess who and what they are. While they prove up to the challenges, the consciousness within the ship seems mad, and as they make their way deeper into the ship, they find the pilot. He turns out to be the last survivor of two long dead races that mutually destroyed themselves and has merged his consciousness with the ship’s controls.
It returns them to their galaxy where it engages an Imperial Star Destroyer, believing it to be part of a constructed reality the computer is creating for its amusement. When the Star Destroyer fights back and hurts it, the organic ship makes quick work of it and realizes that it isn’t much fun anymore. Dropping off Luke and Leia, the mad ship retreats into the void where it belongs and resumes playing its computer-generated games.
As a stand alone issue, it does what it’s meant to do. For a comic book series that’s constantly struggling with making any kind of changes to their cast, this issue turns the point of view around and giving this living ship some character moments. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change despite the climax of the story, the ship realizes it wants nothing to do with this reality and fades back into the void and the comfort of its artificial reality.
However, Michael Golden’s art is simply lovely and stands out as a high watermark in the world of licensed comic books. The detailed inks by Terry Austin add another layer of beauty, providing very clean, very crisp lines. Golden’s art never looked so good.
Jason Shayer has 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.