Hello, Internet! To any of you who may have followed my column over at Ideal Comics, it is no surprise that I have a lot of comics. A lot. Now, I wouldn’t say I have an excessive amount or anything, but I do own several file cabinets whose only purpose is to hold comics–five of them, in fact.
There was a time when I had all my books bagged and boarded and sorted by title and publication date; and all the good stuff Gen-X-nerds were supposed to do. In my mid-20’s I got just a little bit prosperous, and signed up for a comic subscription service, then I got busy and then I got poor again; and before you could say “limited edition, foil-embossed cover” I had a problem. And that problem was a mess. It ended up that I had several boxes full of comics that I’d read, but not “put away.” Compound that by years of living and gift-receiving and quarter bin raiding, and I had amassed a rather large mass of unsorted books and something of an ‘untidy comic space,’ if I might be so gracious with myself.
And so this last fall, as I was working to create some order from this comic-book-chaos, I made a discovery. There, in an apple box full of comics, was a zip-lock bag, and in that bag was a plethora of books–old ones, too, relatively. All of these books were worn and beat-up and marvelous: Captain America, pre-Crisis Batman, The Mighty Thor–just a bevy of weird stuff, much of it as old as me! And among these, the pride of this grab-bag–a whole passel of first run Marvel Star Wars from the Seventies!
Now, I have no idea where these comics came from. Really, I don’t. I have some vague recollection of being given the bag some time in the last few years, but I have no detailed memory–not a one!
Out of this great stack of comics, allow me to pull out Star Wars 28. Now, this Star Wars series was largely written by Archie Goodwin of Manhunter fame.
The art was done by the incomparable Carmine Infantino. For those of you who may not know, Infantino was instrumental in the design of the Silver Age Flash. Kids, his style was a marriage between highly detailed realism and slick, stylized action. This was, of course, the perfect match for the Flash; but it was also wonderful for Star Wars. Between the brotherly-if-panicked banter between Han Solo and Chewie, the raw emotion invested in those faces, and the wheeling and reeling of action scenes and drama, Infantino’s art hit the nail on the head.
Issue 28, entitled “Whatever Happened with the Jabba the Hutt,” Goodwin drops us right into the middle of the action. Han Solo has secreted himself and the Millenium Falcon in a cave on the remote planet of Orleon. Waiting outside the cave, guns a-blazing, is Jabba the Hutt and his thugs. You remember Jabba the Hutt, right? No, no you do not.
It is important to note that the Star Wars series here (this issue dated Oct. 1979) was imagined to continue and to fill in the gaps in the Star Wars narrative following the end of A New Hope. This is before Empire (but after The Star Wars Holiday Special). This Jabba—this reptilian, ape-man Jabba—is the only Jabba anyone had access to!
Back to the story, Solo himself and Chewbacca the Wookie wait out the onslaught of Jabba’s men. They are running low on food and low on ammo, and thereby low on time. It all seems like a gunfire-laden waiting game until Han finds a Stone Mite!
Now this is a remarkable, little piece of the puzzle courtesy of Archie Goodwin. You see, stone mines were an engineered species that devour any kind of hard mineralized substance, and were developed as a weapon During the Clone Wars, a weapon that got out of control. Eating their way through rock and through space ships, these pests worked their way throughout the galaxy; and now Han and Chewie know that if they don’t get in the air, the Falcon is as good as dust, and they with it. What was once a waiting game turns into a race against time, with Jabba and company blasting from the outside, and the stone mites within.
All in all, Goodwin provides an entertaining, largely self-contained story that Infantino turns beautiful. Even on 38 year old newsprint, the art pops and sweeps with action and grandeur; and the parts combine to form an almost organic extension to A New Hope. I know that the chances of just happening upon this book around is rare, but if you can find it, I don’t think you will be disappointed.