It’s the collector’s universal dilemma: No matter how much stuff you amass, there’s always something left to find, always one more cool item you didn’t know about. When it comes to Star Wars comics, that’s certainly true.
More than 800 Star Wars comics have been released over the past 35 years, from Marvel, Dark Horse, and the L.A. Times Syndicate. But even if you’ve managed to track down everything from those publishers, there’s still a wide variety of comics you may have overlooked, from Star Wars 3-D, Star Wars Kids, Pizzazz and Contemporary Motivators to Kenner’s Imperial Troop Transporter comic, Rocket’s Blast Comicollector #139, Hasbro Italy’s exclusive comic, Golden Books’ An Ewok Adventure coloring comic and more. No matter how hard you’ve tried to be complete, the chances are good that you’re missing something.
If you didn’t live in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and early ’80s, that something could be a handful of advertisements created by British toy company Palitoy. Now defunct (ever since Hasbro purchased and closed down the factory in the early ’90s), Palitoy distributed Kenner’s licensed Star Wars action figures overseas during the era of the original film trilogy.
Unlike other toy companies, Palitoy didn’t merely market its products via footage of the toys themselves — it created comic strips for the task, targeted at young readers and narrated by C-3PO and R2-D2, which were published in 1979 in the pages of Look-In magazine and other British publications.
One such comic advertised Palitoy’s Cantina, Droid Factory and Land of the Jawas playsets, with illustrated versions of Threepio and Artoo introducing the new products to readers. Despite being aware of their status as Star Wars toys, C-3PO remained humorously in character, fretting fearfully just as he had on film.
Palitoy also presented a “Draw a Droid” contest that year, with a grand-prize winner chosen to visit Elstree Studios during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back, as well as runners-up receiving Palitoy Star Wars products. Artoo’s self-portrait proved that despite his being a droid of many talents, illustrating was apparently not among them. Amusingly, Threepio referred to Greedo by the rather redundant name of “Green Greedo” (a cousin, perhaps, of Blue Snaggletooth).
Another comic ad featured a single panel in which the droids, seemingly floating in space, introduced readers to Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter and Luke Skywalker’s X-wing as the vessels clashed in a deadly space battle. Who won the fight? In Threepio’s words: “Only you can create your own Star Wars! Oh, my!”
Luke Skywalker himself took over narration duties in another single-panel comic, in which Luke, clad in his X-wing pilot garb, warned fans that a quartet of aliens (Green Greedo, Snaggletooth, Walrus Man, and Hammerhead) were “as mean as they look.” Expanded Universe fans, of course, know that the individual dubbed “Hammerhead” by Kenner/Palitoy — later named Momaw Nadon — was actually quite peaceful. Ironically, Luke’s mention of his “droid buddies” included the Death Star Droid, which worked for the Empire.
As Return of the Jedi was being filmed four years later, Palitoy offered another contest, this time advertised in a four-page leaflet containing a comic strip in which Luke returned to Tatooine, only to be attacked by Stormtroopers. Quickly dispatching the soldiers with his lightsaber, Luke was startled to hear someone call out his name — someone with a powerful voice and yellowish fingers. Those entering the contest were tasked with imagining the mysterious speaker’s identity and drawing him or her on a sheet of paper (in retrospect, it’s rather obvious that this person was intended to be Emperor Palpatine). The grand prize: a special viewing of Jedi.
Obviously, none of these strips should be viewed as actually occurring in-universe, given Threepio’s direct addressing of the audience, as well as his references to Palitoy’s products, the Star Wars brand name, and the planet Earth. Still, for the most devoted of Star Wars comics enthusiasts, they can be a great addition to any fan’s otherwise complete collection.
Photo credit: Star Wars Collectors Archive
Rich Handley is the editor and co-founder of Hasslein Books, the managing editor of RFID Journal, the author of three books (Timeline of the Planet of the Apes, Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes and The Back to the Future Lexicon) and a frequent writer for Bleeding Cool magazine and TrekWeb.com. He has written numerous articles and short stories for starwars.com and the licensed Star Wars universe, and was a columnist and reporter for Star Trek Communicator magazine for several years.