Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My First Star Wars

Back in the late 1970s, the DC Implosion happened. It was a radical reduction of the comic book line to so few comics, even a person of modest means such as myself had more comic book money than actual comic books to spend that money on.  So I started thumbing through Marvel books which led to a remarkable discovery. Some of my favorite creators that had disappeared from DC were over at Marvel, specifically inkers.

Terry Austin who did fantastic work over Marshall Rogers on Batman was now inking John Byrne on X-Men.

Bob Layton who I regarded as a perfect inker for Joe Staton on the Justice Society was providing finished art over John Romita Jr on Iron-Man.

Inside the pages of Marvel’s Star Wars comic, I found a double surprise. First of all the name of Bob Wiacek. Over at DC, he came to prominence inking Mike Grell on Legion of Super Heroes. If Grell couldn’t ink himself, then Wiacek was just fine. But while Mike Grell was still at DC writing and penciling The Warlord, Wiacek was missing from the credits of DC Comics. But there he was and look who he was inking: Carmine Infantino.

Just a few short years prior, Carmine Infantino was not just working for DC, he was the publisher! Prior to that, Carmine was known for his groundbreaking work on The Flash, Batman and Adam Strange among other features. He was an artist for DC back in the 1940s. And here he was, drawing for Marvel.

I should note something about this particular comic, Star Wars#22. It was my introduction to the world of Star Wars. I kid you not. I had not actually seen the movie when I first read this issue. But I knew enough that the title intrigued me and picked up the issue off the spinner rack. And when I saw DC guys like Infantino and Wiacek could be found in those pages, it made me wonder who else from DC was now working at Marvel. It was the discovery of Terry Austin in X-Men and Bob Layton in Iron-Man that prompted me to get those books.  While I didn’t get into the Star Wars comic book series, the issue did serve to launch me into reading more Marvel.

Which means Star Wars did what it was supposed to.

Many credit Star Wars with saving Marvel Comics. The entire comic book industry was struggling. Traditional models for obtaining success in the business were no longer effective as sales continued to decrease. So publishers were looking to whatever they could hang a hat on to keep the doors open. Then along came Star Wars and Marvel almost missed it.

George Lucas was looking to generate some additional awareness of this little science fiction movie he was working on and approached Marvel Comics writer/editor Roy Thomas about producing a comic book based on Star Wars. Thomas is a major player in the comics business, earning his bonafides by succeeding the main man himself, Stan Lee, on  several Marvel titles including Avengers and X-Men. Thomas also secured the rights to produce comics based on Conan the Barbarian. Getting Marvel on board to produce a Conan comic book was not easy but eventually Thomas carried the day and Conan became a big hit for Marvel.

Still, getting Marvel on board to produce a Star Wars comic book was not easy, despite Thomas’s track record. But once the comic was up and running, it was an instant and big seller. Star Wars success as a movie pushed interest in the comic book which in turn pushed interest in other Marvel titles which boosted sales.

Well, it worked with me even if it was for an odd reason (so that’s where Bob Wiacek got to) in an unusual time line (I would not get to see the first Star Wars movie until after I read this issue). Because of Star Wars#22, I began to read more Marvel.


Tomorrow: More Star Wars stuff as I review… Rogue One.

Until next time, remember to be good to one another. 

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