Isn’t it great when the stars align and the people creating new entertainment are in sync with your view of the world? Like taking your all-time favorite genre franchise and mixing it with your current favorite artist?
To quote Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “This is just… neat.”
The comic book licensee to the Star Wars universe, Dark Horse Comics has announced one of the coolest ideas you could put together. Go back to George Lucas’s original take on Star Wars–before the edits and revisions and treatments and full-blown screenplays. Take that original story and re-imagine the Star Wars universe as if the original vision was Star Wars. That’s exactly what long-time Lucasfilm executive editor J.W. Rinzler and current The Bionic Man cover artist Mike Mayhew have up their sleeves. Coming in September 2013 is an eight-issue mini-series, titled The Star Wars, the title of Lucas’s 1974 version of the Star Wars saga.
The images above and below are Mike Mayhew’s first released panel art from The Star Wars.
Dark Horse Comics has a new series in play called Star Wars, which recounts the alternate adventures of Luke, Leia, Han and the gang between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a bunch of fun. The Star Wars will do something different–something that my pals as a kid and I used to chat about in the lunchroom–something niggling at Star Wars trivia buffs for years. What the heck is The Journal of the Whills? Will we ever see it?
The Journal of the Whills was once only publicly referenced in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, that strange interim work by Alan Dean Foster, released after Star Wars but before The Empire Strikes Back. But after decades went by and Star Wars became the biggest blockbuster franchise ever, Star Wars became something more than a summer blockbuster movie, and folks like Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers revealed Star Wars as a serious target for intellectual study. Folks like J.W. Rinzler, working at Lucasfilm, dug in and unearthed original writings of Lucas, pages of script on yellow lined notebook paper. Rinzler, writer of the key fan library fixtures The Making of Star Wars, The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones, discussed these original treatments with George Lucas, who was initially disinclined to do anything else with these archive pieces.
Dark Horse quotes Rinzler’s reaction to the source material in this week’s release: “While researching in the Lucasfilm Archives I’ve found many treasures—-but one which truly astounded me was George’s rough draft for The Star Wars. His first complete imaginings were hallucinating to read-—mind blowing.”
Lucas’s original hero, as conveyed to original storyboard artist Ralph McQuarrie, looked like Lucas. And it doesn’t take a genius to see how he came up with Luke as the short form of his own last name. Lucas’s hero was a reflection of himself, as seen in this early image from McQuarrie, who passed away last year:
Through research in the Lucasfilm archives it was revealed that the original two-page story treatment was called The Journal of the Whills, a 1973 document that apparently was rejected by Universal Studios, with whom Lucas had a two-picture deal for American Graffiti and Star Wars. Lucas originally wanted to film his version of Flash Gordon but could not secure the rights. The Journal of the Whills recounted the training of Jedi-Bendu apprentice C.J. Thorpe, a student under the tutelage of a space commando named Mace Windy. From there, Lucas created a 13-page synopsis that was based on Akira Kurasawa’s film Hidden Fortress. The draft 1974 screenplay grew from that, keeping plot devices and story elements from the past pieces but expanding the story into a full-blown space opera and space fantasy, inspired by Flash Gordon and an amalgamation of mythic themes from classic storytelling. Obviously many elements for what would be Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader’s backstory in the Star Wars prequels came from these early ideas.
Rinzler and Mayhew’s The Star Wars will follow Jedi Annikin Starkiller and General Luke Skywalker, a six-foot tall lizard alien named Han Solo, and the evil Sith Knights. And it’s interesting seeing Mayhew keep the Lucas look in his characterization in the top photo above.
We’ve been raving over Mike Mayhew’s art here at borg.com for months. Click here to check out our past coverage. He’s drawn our own favorite properties, from Green Arrow to The Bionic Man, not to mention superhero works everyone loves, like The Avengers and X-Men. His style conveys superheroes as visibly powerful, visibly heroic. His detail is on par with the pencil work of Michael Turner and Mauro Cascioli. His covers rival mega-cover artist Alex Ross. Just looking at his first images for The Star Wars you can see imagery with the vibe of Ralph McQuarrie, the earliest professional Star Wars artist. In short, Mike Mayhew is the perfect artist for Dark Horse to select to draw The Star Wars.
And we can’t wait to see more.