Monday, May 16, 2011

Star Wars/Nothing but Star Wars/Trying to forget/Those Star Wars of love...

My, what a crowded galaxy! It's stuffed to the rim with your Ahsoka Tanos and your Anakin Skywalkers (both Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christiansen variety), characters who seem deliberately designed with their insipid tweeness to drive us geeks insane with futile fan-rage. Ah, Star Wars! For every Boba Fett, a Watto, a Wicket W. Warrick.

Perhaps their purpose is to cull us from the Warsian fan-herd; after all, if you don't like Jar Jar Binks and his slapstick antics, perhaps the Star Wars universe isn't meant for you. You can't blame it all on George Lucas and the legendary decision he made to retain the merchandising rights to his cinematic creation. I doubt Lucas's involvement with the comic went much beyond cashing whatever checks Marvel sent his way, yet nowhere will you find a more impressive hive of fun and villainy than in these ancient comics as reprinted by Dark Horse in their Star Wars Omnibus A Long Time Ago.... Volume 1 collection.

Good lord, just typing that wore me out. Let's check out a few of the various Roy Thomas and Archie Goodwin contributions to the Star Wars cast.

He likes to wear Juliet Prowse's (no relation to Dave) used leotard he bought off Ebay.
Who are you to judge? Crimson Jack will beat you to death with his mighty lumberjack beard.

Crimson Jack (first appearance Star Wars #7): A red-haired, bearded bear of a man, a space pirate who struts about wearing what appears to be a dance leotard or some kind of body suit, plus folded down buccaneer boots. With his physique, his crew of hearty cutthroats and an entire Imperial Star Destroyer at his command, are you going to mock his sartorial choices? I'm sure not. When Han Solo leaves the Rebels to return to Tatooine and pay off Jabba the Hutt (remember that reward he got in the first movie-- a reward so large, he had to load it onto the Millenium Falcon in several crates?), it doesn't take Crimson Jack long to show up and rob Solo. What a humiliation. All that money, lost to a guy who wears Danskins.

Misandrist fashionista, somewhat competent space-pirate Jolli shows
Han Solo what the five fingers said to the face. All because she suddenly feels
sexual attraction for the first time after being raised by a pack of violent criminals

Jolli (first appearance Star Wars #7): Crimson Jack's right-hand woman, Jolli is equally as scantily clad. She favors a big green beret, a yellow choker and a red two-piece bikini. Plus a couple of blasters in yellow holsters strapped to her hips. With her quick temper and itchy trigger finger-- plus purple pageboy haircut-- Jolli makes a formidable foe for Princess Leia and Han Solo. At first eager to kill Han, Jolli finds herself conflicted between feelings of murderous rage towards the entire male gender and desire for that one roguish Corellian in particular thanks to an offhand remark by Leia regarding Solo's kissing prowess. This leads to an amazing scene where Crimson Jack has to stop Jolli from killing her fellow crewmembers, because as she says, "Just because a person talks about something doesn't mean she's ready to go at it!" Poor Jolli. Her sexual awakening comes surrounded by a bunch of crusty, unsympathetic space jerks and they're all she has to unburden herself to! She's so embarrassed explaining her outburst, she slaps Solo.

Overture, curtain, lights/This is it, the night o' nights/No more rehearsing and
nursing our parts/We know every part by heart... Han Solo enters the
Friz Freleng Zone.

Hedji (Star Wars #8): Solo's first recruit for his mission to save a small village from bandits is Hedji, a tall purple porcupine with buck-teeth. Hedji can shoot his quills with deadly accuracy, much like James Coburn and his switchblade in The Magnificent Seven. I remember when I was 9 years old, sitting in the darkened theater marveling at the science fantasy world unreeling before my wide eyes and thinking, "What this story needs are more anthropomorphic woodland creatures right out of Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies." Little did I know we'd get not one but two of them in short order, thanks to comic scripter Roy Thomas!

Jaxxon (Star Wars #8): A green bipedal bunny of the "lepus carnivorus" species. Others have already described him at length, so I don't need to go into him here except to note writer Archie Goodwin later gave him a couple of foils named Dafi and Fud.

Another strong yet scantily-clad female. You don't mess with Amaiza, who is so
obviously a Howard Chaykin-designed character.

Amaiza (Star Wars #8): It seems every woman in the Star Wars universe not named Leia goes around flashing flesh. Amaiza is the former leader of the Black Hole Gang and wears a red bra with pink fur shoulder trim and matching panties along with red thigh-high heeled boots. With a rose in her silver hair, Amaiza is another woman-- like Jolli and Leia-- with whom one definitely should not trifle. She wields twin blasters and a sharp tongue, the latter of which leads to one of the more memorable quips in the book, courtesy writer Thomas. When Solo asks her, "Did anybody ever tell you that you talk too much?" the wickedly witty Amaiza replies, "One guy... once. Last I heard, his widow was living it up on Bestine with his death benefits." And she apparently has cat eyes for some reason.

I'm just happy he's not brown and furry, named Don-Wan Coyote and enjoys catalog shopping for overly complex mechanical devices he uses in various failed attempts at catching a fast-moving avian creature.

Don-Wan Kihotay (Star Wars #8): Thomas loves to borrow stories and characters from other sources, many of which are actually appropriate to whatever story he's telling. Don-Wan Kihotay is an obvious swipe of Miguel de Cervantes's famous literary creation, plugged into the plot from Shichinin no Samurai by way of The Magnificent Seven. Thankfully, he's fully clothed, first in Jedi robes and later in what appears to be a suit of 15th century European jousting armor, complete with a lance. With his bald head, disheveled gray hair and long van dyke beard, he's the very image of classic portrayals of Don Quixote.

As you can see, Jimm is easy to mistake for Luke Skywalker. In fact, I made that
very mistake the first time I read
Star Wars #8 and #9 as a child... and it infuriated me!
Freckles? The wrong costume? No chin dimple? Who is this guy? Now I know. Adding
to the confusion, his real first appearance is in
Star Wars #7 where he's a middle-aged
Asian man wearing green monk's robes!

Jimm, the "Starkiller Kid" (Star Wars #7/#8): Jimm is a young farmer who looks like a freckle-faced Luke Skywalker wearing a bucket hat with goggles. He's even stolen Luke's farmboy outfit of a karate gi, trousers and puttees. Jimm has such a Luke Skywalker obsession, he's nicknamed himself after Luke's original surname. It's a good name, so Thomas must have figured he might as well get some use out of it. He's young and inexperienced and reminds me of the Schofield Kid from Clint Eastwood's masterful Western Unforgiven, but really the impetuous kid character is timeless. There's one in Shichinin no Samurai, and then there's Luke himself. In #10, Jimm drops the Luke-pants for a woman's white one-piece swimsuit with a wrap-around bodice and some matching motorcycle boots. Later arrested for impersonating Luke and defrauding a Manhattan art dealer and his wife out of thousands of dollars.

His name and appearance are based on Mad and Groo artist Sergio Aragones. With affectionate humor one would hope! And don't worry-- those stitches will be out and his scar completely healed by the very next issue.

Serji-X Arrogantus (Star Wars #8): The bandit leader Solo and his ragtag group must defeat in order to save Jimm's village. This is a guy with a luxurious mane of jet-black hair and a magnificent handlebar mustache. Plus stitches running in a nasty slashed line down the middle of his forehead, although those vanish by the time he makes his second appearance. The Arrogantuses were always known for their fast healing. As villainous as he is arrogant (hence his surname), Sergi-X sports a double-breasted leather jacket with puffy shoulders and a sunburst emblem on the chest. He also slings a couple of space six-shooters he keeps in a wide, double-holstered gunbelt. Then for some reason, he accessorizes with actual spurs on his cowboy boots. Despite looking like an escapee from a spaghetti western, Serji-X leads the Cloud Riders, a gang of vicious desperadoes. He provides some generic menace and survives about as long as he deserves.

Merri (Star Wars #9): A blond teenaged girl who-- because, once again, her name isn't Leia-- runs around her imperiled village wearing nothing more than a bikini swimsuit. Han, who is probably twice her age, acts more than a little creepy around Merri, gazing at her and declaring, "Maybe this is a place worth saving after all." Turns out she's Jimm's girlfriend, and views Solo as more or less a grandfatherly presence in her life. She does thank him for "[B]ringing out the man in the Star-Killer "Kid!" Han rides off on a bantha, moping but consoling himself for his near-miss at sex offender status by musing that he "got a little feeling of what it's like-- --to be a Jedi Knight!"

Governor Quarg (Star Wars #12): The obese ruler of a ship-dwelling society of scavengers on a water planet. He wears what appears to be a WWII-surplus army helmet complete with camo-netting, a ragged Napoleonic-era field marshal's jacket and an ermine-trimmed king's robe.

Valance (Star Wars #16): A bounty hunter with wavy brown hair going gray just above his ears and a weathered, lived-in looking face. He runs around in a bulky suit of blue armor emblazoned with a small white skull on the right chest. A nasty customer created by Archie Goodwin and illustrator Walt Simonson, Valance turns out to be a cyborg-- his secret revealed in in the final panel of his debut story, a gruesome portait of a man with torn skin hanging down over one of those T800 Terminator endoskeleton thingies. He's a tough guy, but he makes the same mistake a lot of readers probably did: at first glance, he mistakes Jimm the Starkiller Kid for Luke Skywalker. Only a true jerk would do such a thing!

Commander Strom (Star Wars #18): The Imperials were always very Nazi-like and Strom makes it official-- he's basically a refugee from a 1940s war movie, complete with a German word for a surname. He's got an Erich von Stroheim-type bald head and the stiff Prussian attitude of a true stereotype. But what more could you ask of your basic Imperial officer antagonist? All he has to do is show up, sneer a bit and strut around in his jackboots. Practically writes himself!

Senator Greyshade (Star Wars #18): An older, still quite virile-looking gentleman, his iron-gray hair cut and combed into 1970s winged style, with a pencil-thin mustache for extra sexiness. He likes to parade about in an orange space leisure-suit with a high-collared black vest. But instead of a disco medallion and an open-front tunic with chest hair spilling out, Senator Greyshade goes the more dignified route of donning simply a gold sunburst at his collar, which is alternately crew- or turtle-necked depending on which panel you're looking at on any given page. Make up your mind, Greyshade! Princess Leia's former senate rival, Greyshade now runs a giant orbiting gambling resort known as The Wheel. Since his casinos provide the Empire a great deal of revenue, Greyshade feels confident enough to insult Commander Strom openly, mocking him as a "military man... and a fool!"

Master-Com was known for frequently holding one-sided conversations with
his own conscience. He claimed it helped him "make decisions and work my way
through difficult thought problems. As opposed to drinking myself into a stupor like you
loser meatbags."

Master-Com (Star Wars #18): Senator Greyshade's personal assistant, a brawny-looking droid. Master-Com is the ambulatory control system of The Wheel itself. He and Greyshade are such good pals, it freaks out a bunch of stormtroopers and they react... violently. Doesn't much matter to Master-Com; he's got a lot of spare bodies lying around The Wheel.

Jorman Thoad
(Star Wars #25): A heavset bald man in a blue tunic and red cape and the personality of a flamboyant used car dealer-- fitting, since he's a used spaceship dealer. Different galaxy, same thing. He trades ships with Luke and Leia on the planet Centares, allowing them to ditch Senator Greyshade's yacht (something tells me the Senator won't be needing it anymore anyway), then tells them some important information. His most significant physical trait is that his head looks about to pop, like a big pink zit. Thoad really should have that checked out.

Baron Tagge (Star Wars #25): A wealthy galactic entrepreneur and asshole-for-all-seasons, Tagge (with his severe widow's peak hairstyle and triangular chin decoration-- a substitute for the goatee he can't grow?) loves to practice with a lightsaber. Why does he do this? Because Darth Vader blinded him. Now Tagge has to wear a pair of Devo glasses to hide his eerie iris-less eyes. When we first meet him, Tagge is using his mining operations as a cover for his combat strikes against the Rebel base on Yavin IV. And why does he do this? For the petty motivation of showing up Darth Vader. Well, maybe making a fool of the guy who took your sight isn't such a petty excuse for acting like a fascist goon. Just don't let Luke Skywalker anywhere near your-- TOO LATE!

Skinker (Star Wars #27): Yet another bald bad guy! I'm beginning to think Goodwin and Infantino have it in for us hair-impaired people. Perhaps jealousy because we are indeed quite sexy. Skinker is one of those guys who was either unfortunately and presciently named by his parents, or else came by his creepy handle after a lifetime of double-dealing and shady activities. But what he lacks up top, he's cultivated on his chin-- some kind of silver fringe that makes him look as if he's been eating the tinsel out of the Christmas decorations box. Skinker runs a scrap yard on a backwater planet, but also works for Valance. Every time Valance comes into a little money, he pops over to Skinker's, buys whatever droids the guy has lying around-- then blasts them. The man loves to blast droids, and Skinker doesn't seem to mind; Valance pays the going rate and it saves the junkman from having to fix them up. I call that win-win.

No comments: