For some reason, I’ve never been a fan of film adaptations, much in the same way that I’m not a fan of videogames turned into comics, or TV series transformed into novels. In my opinion, comics should really thrive on their own, and they shouldn’t be subservient to a narrative process previously established in a different medium, whether it be a TV show or a film. Having explained that, I must say that I’ve never in my life, until now, paid attention to Star Wars comics. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Star Wars just as much as the next guy, but I like the movies, and that’s it.
However, in January 2015 I decided to bend the rules a little bit and try out the first issue of Star Wars. I knew it would sell well, but I had no idea it would actually break every record for the past 17 years. That’s right, in almost 2 decades no comic book in the American market has had stronger sales than Marvel’s Star Wars # 1. With over one million copies sold, the title grabbed a lot of headlines and captured the attention of industry analysts.
So what happened later? For some unexplainable reason, the second issue saw a huge loss of readership. In fact over 800,000 readers decided that this Star Wars relaunch wasn’t worth their hard-earned dollars and stopped buying it. Or, perhaps, there were only 200,000 readers to begin with, and mesmerized by the countless shiny variant covers Marvel put out for this new series, they decided to purchase every single variant out there. Either way, sales figures finally stabilized at roughly 170,000. Evidently, any title selling above the 100K mark is considered a resounding success in today’s market.
I’m sure Jason Aaron and John Cassaday must feel very proud about what they have accomplished with the Star Wars title. Marvel editors were quite clever when they decided to put two of their biggest names working on an even bigger franchise. Ever since 1977, Star Wars has been a massive pop culture phenomenon; and now, almost 40 years later, Marvel is reminding us why we’d rather live a galaxy far, far away, instead of being satisfied with the mundane reality around us.
Perhaps one of the reasons I never read movie adaptations is because the authors are always constrained by a pre-existing continuity, and that means they can never do anything meaningful and so they must resort to all sort of derivative formulas that become pointless in the long haul. So it requires a high level of ingenuity to come up with ideas that do not contradict the parameters set by George Lucas while trying to add a modicum of relevance to these new stories. I would say that, after facing this difficult task, Aaron successfully manages to capture the spirit of Star Wars. While reading “Skywalker Strikes”, one can almost hear (mentally) the voices of the actors, accompanied by the wonderful John Williams fanfare.
This 6-issue arc takes place between the first Star Wars movie and Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. Aaron focuses on young Luke Skywalker and his quest as a future Jedi apprentice, but of course we get to see plenty of the rest of the cast. Darth Vader has some memorable moments, and so does Bobba Fett. The romantic tension between Han Solo and Princess Leia reminds us of the original trilogy, and C-3PO and R2-D2 provide ample opportunities for jokes and laughter.
However, if I’m totally honest I must confess that I picked up this first arc just for one reason: John Cassaday. I’m such a huge fan of the artist that I decided I would buy Star Wars as soon as I saw his name attached to the project. Of course, Cassaday magnificently recreates the Star Wars universe. And that’s another interesting element of the equation. If what we admire the most in our favorite writers and artists is the act of true creation, then surely we shouldn’t be praising their ability for re-creation… or should we?
There is something else about the Star Wars comics that made me feel slightly uncomfortable. As we all know, back in 2009 Disney bought Marvel Comics for 4 billion dollars (…which was a bargain considering how much money they’ve been making in the past 5 years). The day they announced the news I was deeply saddened. Up to that point, Marvel was the only major publisher (of the “big two”) that was not associated to a multibillion dollar corporation (unlike DC Comics – Time Warner), and I felt that status gave them an independence and a unique charisma. After 2009, Marvel lost something, a certain freedom, perhaps a sense of autonomy… and now, instead of the House of Ideas Marvel was at risk of becoming the House of Franchises. In 2012, Disney bought LucasFilms, so it was now only a matter of time to see Marvel publishing Star Wars comics.
So in a brief period of time Disney ended up buying both Marvel Comics and LucasFilm, thus creating what I could call the beginning of a monopoly in the entertainment industry. Regardless of the year, the country or the industry, Monopolies have never been a good thing. A monopoly is something serious, dangerous even. So obviously I felt a little bit guilty for reading a Star Wars comic under these circumstances. Certainly, most readers couldn’t care less about who is producing the comics they enjoy (or how they’re being produced), but I think as an educated reader it is my duty to remember what is the origin of the product that I’m holding in my hands. Perhaps I’m exaggerating, but after the insanely high profits Disney will harvest from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I wonder what other company they will hunt down and acquire. Not all megacorporations are the equivalent of an evil empire, but in our world, the rebels have long been annihilated, and we’re now at the mercy of a Mickey Mouse that reminds us all too well of a Darth Vader (or maybe an Emperor Palpatine). May the Force be with us.