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Tag Archive: Return of the Jedi


A lot has been written about “comic book adaptations”—taking a comic book character and making it into a movie, as has now been done extensively in the theaters with Superman, Batman, the Avengers characters and X-Men, and to a lesser extent with Hellboy, Green Lantern, Fantastic Four, and on the small screen with Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and several others.  What hasn’t gotten as much attention is the art of successfully translating of a movie into comic book form.

For years, comic book publishers have teamed with movie studios to co-market a new film with a same-day or early release adaptation of the movie or to take advantage after the fact on the public’s desire to view the movie again later.  The recent term is the movie “tie-in”.  This has been done in fiction novelations as well, sometimes to positive effect and sometimes not.  A striking example is an early attempt to create a novelization for Ridley Scott’s movie Blade Runner, itself based on a Philip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  That didn’t fly for the original creator and the novel issued with the movie release was actually a re-issue of Dick’s original work.  This lent some confusion to viewers of both the book and movie because of the many changes made for the film.

In comic books, studios and publishers have been cross marketing movies extensively back at least to the early 1950s, with the Dell Four Color comic books series, which included movie adaptations of John Ford’s The Searchers, Moby Dick with Gregory Peck, and dozens of others, to the Gold Key series of the 1960s, which delivered the popular Star Trek and other TV series adaptations in addition to movies, to Marvel Comics in the 1970s with adaptations of Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Logan’s Run, and even into the 1980s with adaptations of films like The Last Starfighter.  For some movies, rights issues prevent a movie from making it into comic book form.  This is the case with the James Bond movies and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Getting a comic book adaptation right involves the same sensibilities as that required for a good novelization. Story must always remain the key focus, but with comics you get the added bonus of the visual re-presentation of the film.  Often the writers get advance looks at what the filmmakers are doing, but sometimes they don’t get to see as much as would be helpful for rounding out the adapted work.  In the 1977 Star Wars comic book adaptation, one page featured a first look at Jabba the Hutt, who we would later meet in the movie Return of the Jedi and find to be a giant slug.  In the original Star Wars adaptation he is a yellow, whiskered biped, a humanoid–an example of preparation and timing not allowing for an accurate translation of what ends up on screen.

In 35 years I still have not seen a comic book adaptation that was as well done as Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson’s The Empire Strikes Back, published by Marvel Comics (cover at the top of this article).  Where the Star Wars adaptation was a stylized sci-fi epic, Empire featured a stunningly drawn adaptation of characters, aliens and places, and even characters that looked like the actors playing the characters.  The Empire adaptation was released in a giant over-sized book in the same way the Star Wars adaptation had been released.  As a kid, I had repeatedly checked out the hard-bound library version of the Star Wars adaptation—to get that taste of the movie in the days when you had to wait years to see a movie re-released in the theater, long before video tapes.  So when I got the Empire version in the same format for my birthday, it became a well-worn companion that stuck by me until Return of the Jedi premiered.  Incredibly it is still available for sale on eBay and at Amazon.com.

Why did the Empire adaptation work?  Preparation clearly played a key role, with the writers and artists having full access to the complete director’s version of the film, including scenes that eventually were cut from the film.  An artist who stuck to the film and refrained from unwanted elaboration also helped.  Clearly, compared to the Star Wars adaptation that had been quickly drawn, the Empire adaptation benefitted from on artist who had the time to include great detail.  And just as Star Wars was issued in single issues over a period of four months, so was Empire, and the plotting and chapter divisions also reflected a film that was paced well, lending itself toward a good adaptation.  What followed suit would be years of similar high-quality adaptations, including a superb three-issue Marvel Comics series adapting Raiders of the Lost Ark, and later, a four-issue adaptation of Return of the Jedi.  From then on adaptations would stick closer to the films they were adapting.

A few recent comic book projects will be featured in the following days.  These works are not adaptations as much as science fiction movie tie-ins, but they are also some of the most creative and interesting bridging between movies and comic books to ever hit the shelves.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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Every sci-fi fan, and most certainly everyone who claims to be a diehard Star Wars fan, knows what you mean when you speak of “Blue Harvest,” the code name that Lucasfilm used to cloak its production shooting and top-secret plot information for Return of the Jedi.  For years, hats and shirts with Blue Harvest patches, which not-so secretly were printed in a familiar Empire Strikes Back font, as well as production memos and call sheets (with the intentionally-crafted “worst title and subtitle for a real film ever” of Blue Harvest: Horror Beyond Imagination reference) have surfaced, but not until this week has the mother lode of Blue Harvest reference material been revealed to the public, for free even.

This week, everyone’s favorite prop supply house, The Prop Store, posted on their website 38 photos taken during the Spring of 1982 in Buttercup Valley in the Southern California desert.  They were taken by one uber-fan named Mike Davis and a small band of mercenaries dead set on sneaking up on a real, live Star Wars trilogy production shoot.  Unlike a lot of paparazzi photos for any number of films you’ll find across the Web, and unlike other productions, the Lucasfilm crew let Davis & Co. shoot photos and hang out so long as they stayed out of the way.  It’s a scene straight out of Fanboys, the film with Veronica Mars star Kristen Bell about a group of Star Wars fans trying to get into Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch to get a sneak peek at Star Wars: The Phantom Menace before it premiered.  If you’ve never heard of this indie film, it’s a must-see along with the recent fanboy-themed release, Paul.

If you’re a Star Wars fan like me, you’ll find that you can lose two hours easy checking out every corner of these photos.  Highlights include:

  • Boba Fett, more than you see in the actual movie
  • The first look of Mark Hamill as a Jedi Knight
  • Every angle you’ve never seen before of Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge
  • Every angle you’ve never seen before of the sand skiffs
  • Strange bikes that will be familiar to you, but not on Tatooine
  • The actors and stunt actors performing in the desert skiff scene
  • Carrie Fisher on the set where she wore her famous slave girl outfit
  • Kenny Baker outside of his R2-D2 unit

OK, if you haven’t just jumped ahead and checked out the link for yourself, get on with it!  I particularly think any cosplayer working on a Boba Fett uniform will appreciate the several angles of this best version of the Mandalorian armor.  Boba Fett is no doubt the best background character-turned-icon of all time and I can’t get enough of him, despite him getting killed off in such a lame way in Return of the Jedi.  If you ever get to meet the man in the suit, Jeremy Bulloch, he shares a lot of great stories.  Here he is at a Con back in 2005 with yours truly and a member of the 501st Legion:

Enough already!  Here’s the link to the exclusive photos hosted by The Prop Store.  Mega “props” and thanks to Mike Davis for letting The Prop Store share this great experience with us that Davis lucked into more than 30 years ago.  Check out The Prop Store website for great entertainment memorabilia and this link for past stories here about the company.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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