Issue #6 of Star Wars Weekly has a very special meaning for me and my Star Wars journey. As a six-year-old, I was well aware of the approach of Star Wars and — as far as I can remember — even though I’d not yet seen the film, my friends were buzzing about it. As a voracious reader I’d chew through anything I could get my hands on, so bless Mom’s best friend Marilyn for buying me my very first Star Wars comic: issue 6 of the UK Star Wars Weekly. To this day I remind her it’s all her fault…
But enough about me. What was happening in the world the week of 15th March 1978? There was trouble in the Lebanon, Kate Bush was still topping the charts with “Wuthering Heights,” as was ABBA with “Take A Chance On Me.” Somalia and Ethiopia signed a truce to end the war, while in the States, Return From Witch Mountain was the number one film and Leigh Brackett completed her draft of The Empire Strikes Back before dying of cancer on 18th March. On Wednesday 15th March our heroes burst from the front page of issue #6 under the headline “CAN LUKE AND HIS ALLIES DEFEAT – WARRIORS OF THE DEATH STAR?” Could they? For just 10p we were about to find out…
Opening with the now ubiquitous and classic Who’s Who in Star Wars and the brief list of main cast and crew, we dived head first into our summary of the story so far. We see Luke and Ben meet, Han Solo blast his way out of Mos Eisley and Docking Bay 94, watch the cataclysmic destruction of Alderaan, view the Falcon in the Death Star hangar, and watch a very pumped up Chewie slap the salt out of a hapless Imperial officer. Turn the page and we were off as Han, Luke, Chewie, Artoo, and Threepio attempted to rescue the Princess. Page 12 saw the end of that particular chapter of the story, promising us that “YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET! NEXT: ‘GRUESOME TRAPS OF THE DEATH STAR!’”
Tony DeZuniga was a fixture in the early UK Star Wars Weekly issues, bringing his classic style to the many Star Wars Collector’s Pin-Ups that adorned the pages of the comic. Here we had a most unusual collage of characters and ships, indicative of the dearth of images available to artists of the time. Remember, even though this was 1978 and the film had been out for almost a year in the States, in the UK it was very much a new release. Plus, much of the art had been completed many months before, drawing on the limited photos and artworks available. Hence we see a version of the McQuarrie Death Star attack painting, which was almost always shown upside down as a Y-wing divebombs a Death Star that is very much an early version of the battle station (and inspiration for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ own planet killer). Han Solo fires off a shot on what looks like the boarding ramp of the Millennium Falcon while the eyes of Darth Vader gaze down beneath Threepio, Leia, and Luke. And check out the stubby-winged, Star Wars Rebels-style TIE fighters and the split-engine X-wings, which look far more like the T-70’s of The Force Awakens than the T-65’s of the original trilogy.
Marvel’s own Official Collector’s Edition provided a wealth of information for the pages of the regular weekly. In this week’s glance behind the scenes of Star Wars, we looked at the actor behind the role of Han Solo, Harrison Ford. We learned that Ford was born in Wisconsin, had been acting for 13 years, came to L.A. on the flip of a coin, got a break in American Graffiti, and even then had issue with some of George Lucas’ lines. Apparently, “He was so depressed by the triteness of certain lines, such as when he is talking to Luke on the Millennium Falcon: ‘I’ve been from one end of the galaxy to the other, kid’ that he threatened to tie up director/writer George Lucas and make him repeat his own lines!” All super information for kids to soak up.
Previous issues had given competition entrants the chance to win reels of film, or buy the various colour, sound or black and white versions. This issue gave you the chance to win a 20-minute color version of the film, worth over £30 with the runner up winning a shorter color and sound version, and two third-prize winners getting the color silent film. A further three runners up got the black and white silent version and every prize winner won the soundtrack LP. And all they had to do was find a small insignia and count how many times it appeared in the magazine.
The next page advertised the aforementioned Official Collector’s Edition before giving us the latest instalment of Tales of the Galaxy, “Man Gods From Beyond The Stars.” What could possibly be more bombastic than this reprint of the Marvel Preview story from February 1975 by Roy Thomas, Doug Moench, and Alex Nino? Only another Tales of the Galaxy, “Alas, The Seeds Of Man” by Bill Mantlo, Ed Hannigan, Craig Russell, and Rick Bryant. Almost certainly chosen as backup strips for their catch-all title, Tales of the Galaxy nevertheless were engrossing.
It’s not Star Wars, but for kids of the era and during those early days of Lucasfilm and ILM, it might as well have been. As much as Indiana Jones is very much a part of the Star Wars story, so is Close Encounters. It shared many of the same special effects crew, was directed by Lucas’ great friend Steven Spielberg, and carried a mesmerizing soundtrack by John Williams.
Every kid wanted to get their hands on Star Wars figures and take them to school to show off to their friends. Issue #7 promised to give us the chance to win “MODELS, GAMES, AND OTHER STAR WARS GOODIES GALORE!” We got the tease of a feral looking Chewbacca, a panicked Princess, and a fast moving Han Solo as young Luke is about to be pulled underwater by the dianoga. How could we resist?
The issue closed with a back page poster of Luke and Han escorting Chewbacca through the Death Star. “CHEWBACCA, THE WOOKEE (note the spelling. You would often see ‘wookee’, ‘wookey’, ‘wookie’ but rarely ‘wookiee’) IS ESCORTED BY LUKE AND HAN, DISGUISED IN STORMTROOPERS UNIFORMS, AFTER THEIR ARRIVAL IN THE DEATH STAR. THEIR MISSION – TO RESCUE PRINCESS LEIA!”As if the Princess needed rescuing! But of course, UK kids of the time didn’t know that…yet.
Check back next time for issue 7 as we go deeper into detention Block AA-23 and attempt to find the Princess.
Mark has contributed to Star Wars Insider for almost a decade, is the owner of Jedi News, writes for DeAgostini’s Build The Millennium Falcon partwork magazine and co-hosts RADIO 1138. He’s a Rebel Legion UK supporter, an honorary member of the UK Garrison and a friend of the Rebel Legion and when he’s not talking, tweeting or writing about Star Wars he can usually be found sleeping where he’ll most likely be dreaming about Star Wars.