I understand there's a movie coming out this weekend that lots of people are excited for. Since I'm never one to let a tie-in opportunity pass me by, I thought this would be the best time ever to look back at all the comics to feature Ferdinand, the bull.
Well... I'm serious that there's a movie about a bull named Ferdinand that's not based on Disney's Oscar winning short. Nobody knows it exists, though, and the thing will be lucky to make $10 million this weekend.
Instead, let's talk "Star Wars."
In An Anthology Far Far Away...
Long before Marvel took over the license from Dark Horse and reinvigorated the property with big name comic creators, Dark Horse had an anthology featuring big name comic creators working with the license in shorter forms. It was a fun serious, because you never knew what you were going to get from month to month, and there was always something interesting in there.
They've all been collected in trades and are available digitally now, as well.
This is "Star Wars Tales" I'm talking about.
I just happened to find a couple spare issues in a longbox the other day and thought I'd highlight some of the fun in there. And there is some major fun in those stories.
This is the best part about anthologies. They don't ever sell very well in the America when they first come out. Many years later, isolated issues become items of fascination for the talent that worked on them. Some budding artist or writer in their embryonic stages did work that's interesting to us now, 13 years later, because they've broken onto a much larger stage. Or, maybe the thrill is just in seeing how much better an artist we liked back then has gotten.
I see both of those things in the two issues I have at hand there. We're going to focus, though, on issue #19 and two stories in there. If you'd like to play along, the issue is available at Comixology.
"The Rebel Club"
This is the story of the main cast of the original Star Wars movies doing a riff on "The Breakfast Club." Don't take it seriously. Your brain will hurt if you try to figure out the continuity of the story, and you'll also miss the whole point.
Picture Darth Vader as the principal keeping the kids for detention. Then, imagine Han Solo as the wise-cracking bad boy in the room, Whiney Luke as the naive innocent, Princess Leia as the negotiator and voice of reason, and Chewbacca as, well, Chewbacca.
It's eight pages long, so it never wears out its welcome. Scott ("PvP") Kurtz is the writer and artist of the story, and it's all in his specific style. It looks great, and feels right in a nine panel grid, which basically is three comic strips stacked on top of each other per page. Kurtz sprinkles very specific call backs to dialogue from "A New Hope," as well as situations and characters of the era.
It's just fun.
Oh, and Obi-Wan is the janitor who makes a well-timed entrance.
Here's where it gets more interesting: The coloring in the story is great. It has a muted tone to it, with Darth Vader's outlines knocked out with a blue-gray color. It doesn't try too hard, with simple shadows and a few shiny highlights on Vader being the most Photoshoppy it gets.
The colorist at the time was working behind the scenes in comics while doing some cartooning on his own and some coloring at Udon Studios. He's the upcoming writer of "The Avengers" and the internet's favorite comic writing business blogger, Jim Zubkavich.
The letterer of the piece is a sadder story. When you think about "The Walking Dead," you might remember the early exit of Tony Moore from the series.
You might forget, though, that Rus Wooton was not the original letterer of the book. The original letterer of the comic was also the letterer of this "Star Wars" short. He even lettered the early issues of "Invincible."
After being replaced by Wooton, though, that letterer pretty much left the lettering world, never opening Illustrator again.
Thankfully, ace letterer Robert Kirkman continued to apply his talents elsewhere and stayed busy with writing. He hasn't borrowed from John Workman's lettering style for any other projects since.
In 2004, this was a scrappy case of up-and-coming cartoonists working together. Today, it's like an all star comic professional jam piece. That's why anthologies are so cool a decade or more after the fact.
That Explains a Lot
In the same issue, Haden Blackman concocts a tale of Han Solo and Chewbacca's fateful last flight, including a twist ending that will either have you laughing/cheering, or groaning at how much it violates the sanctity of something or other.
Personally, I loved it.
Before I talk more about it, I need to mention who the young pup artist is on the ten page story: Sean Gordon Murphy. It's distinctively his style, just a little less refined. It pushed a little harder on the character designs and cartooniness, but the life and energy are on those pages.
Given how much care and attention and detail he gives the vehicles in his art these days, I'd also love to see him draw the Millennium Falcon again. This stuff is good, but picture what he'd do today. That would be cool.
If you've already dug up his Oni graphic novel, "Off Road," know that Dark Horse published this story the year before Oni had the original graphic novel. Given the timing of it all, he probably drew both things at roughly the same time.
Now, I don't normally do spoilers here, but since this story is 13 years and fairly obscure, I'm giving myself this one. If you plan on buying the issue or the trade collecting it, you can safely skip the rest of the column. See you next week!
Thar Be Spoilers Here
The story of "Into the Great Unknown" brings the Millennium Falcon crash landing to earth. Han and Chewie are attacked by a Native tribe carrying spears.
Han Solo does not survive this. It's almost a less shocking ending than what happened in the movies.
But, wait, there's more! Chewbacca goes on to live in the forest by himself, likely inspiring all sorts of "Bigfoot" sightings.
An explorer chances on Han Solo's body. It's a heavily shadowed Indiana Jones. Then the shadows move away:
That's a nice bit of cross-pollination. Obviously, it's completely out of canon now, but I think that was part of the idea even at the time...
Go Get 'Em
Like most anthologies, "Star Wars Tales" had its ups and downs, but this one was pretty up there. I don't have the space to break down all the stories, but there is even one in there from Greg Tocchini, of "Low" fame with Rick Remender. Ramon Bachs draws the longest story of the issue.
There's also a hilarious two page gag that's only tangentially a "Star Wars" story from Ken Lizzi and Lucas Marangon with the awesome title, "The Value of Proper Intelligence to Any Successful Military Campaign Is Not To Be Underestimated".
Check out the available trades or digital issues, and give one a chance this week. It seems like the right time to do it.