May the Force of Others be with you…
Think I’ve got that wrong? You obviously don’t know your Star Wars lore, my friend!
Welcome to The Star Wars!
The iconic movie that launched the franchise, A New Hope is a true classic of the genre, and an increasing pool of material is available that shows the genesis of that film, from the Annotated Screenplays through to JW Rinzler’s epic The Making of Star Wars. However, all of these books tell us about the near-mythical procession of drafts that George Lucas wrote for the first movie, four tales that see most of the ideas and concepts that surface throughout the six films Lucas eventually made, but we have to turn to the internet for the actual screenplays if we want to read them for ourselves.
But no longer!
Dark Horse Comics adapted the Rough Draft as an eight-part comic series between September 2013 and May 2014. I won’t get into a massive discussion of this here, but the timeline of the various drafts was as follows:
Spring 1973: Lucas produces the Story Synopsis, eventually picked up by Fox.
May 1974: Lucas finishes the Rough Draft, which proved too long to film.
July 1974: Lucas writes the First Draft, largely changing names.
Early 1975: Lucas finishes the Second Draft, The Adventures of the Starkiller
April 1975: Lucas revises this into The Adventures of Luke Starkiller, which would become the film A New Hope.
The Rough Draft is a massive tale that effectively tells the story of the three films, episodes 4-6. Something that is particularly fun when reading this story is seeing how the kernels of the ideas – indeed, sometimes the entire sequence – develop into the finished movie. Sometimes it’s only a name that changes, sometimes it’s more.
Until the recent GREAT REBELLION, the JEDI BENDU were the most feared warriors in the universe. For one hundred thousand years, generations of JEDI perfected their art as the personal bodyguards of the emperor. They were the chief architects of the invincible IMPERIAL SPACE FORCE which expanded the EMPIRE across the galaxy, from the celestial equator to the farthest reaches of the GREAT RIFT.
Now these legendary warriors are all but extinct. One by one they have been hunted down and destroyed as enemies of the NEW EMPIRE by a ferocious and sinister rival warrior sect, THE KNIGHTS OF SITH.
The story starts with the opening crawl, of course. It’s interesting to see how certain characters sometimes perform entirely different roles than we’re used to, such as Darth Vader being a general in the Imperial army, with Prince Valorum the actual Sith Lord. (Yes, that’s right – Valorum). It’s also interesting seeing a lot of names that crop up “officially” on vastly different characters – not just Valorum of course, but also Biggs, Whitsun and Tarkin. Famously, Alderaan is the Imperial Homeworld, while Leia and her family live on Aquilae, a prototype Tatooine.
The Star Wars is a faithful adaptation of the Rough Draft by Rinzler, anyway, with the art of Mike Mayhew taking its cues from the original Ralph McQuarrie paintings (that were, in fact, done for the Second Draft, but anyway) and so leading to an often very close semblance to the finished film.
Something that immediately struck me was just how much Luke Skywalker, the grizzled old Jedi Bendu, looks like George Lucas. But, y’know, leaner. Other visual elements help to pull the comic in line with the film, such as Governor Hoedaack looking a lot like Grand Moff Tarkin, and Darth Vader, while shorn of his iconic helmet (though that does appear from the back in one panel), he retains his silver pectoral armour. Something that I thought startling was just how much Leia can look like Natalie Portman, and similarly, how the Jedi Bendu Clieg Whitsun looks like the young Ewan McGregor.
The story also has a lot more sci-fi in it that the eventual space opera we all know and love, I suppose partly because the Force hasn’t yet been developed into the mystical energy field that the Jedi (Bendu or otherwise) can manipulate. There is a lot of… well, not jargon per se, but the story has a very distinct feel to its language. The movie starts in media res, of course, and we have to assume quite a lot until we get to the central exposition, but this Rough Draft treatment just plunges us directly into a foreign galaxy, and we’re left more as observers than getting all that involved in the plot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, as the story has such an epic sweep that it succeeds in gathering us up regardless.
It’s got pretty much everything; from the fourth moon of Utapau to the thrown room of Aquilae, we’re taken on a wonderful ride. Long time Star Wars fans will no doubt delight in seeing a classic of the meta mythos being realised, while newcomers have a whole new take on the classic film.
At eight comics, though, we’re getting just over 180 pages of book here. On the one hand, we’re also getting a nice look at the original plan for the story, which eventually became a trilogy of films, but on the other, this is quite a bit longer than your average graphic novel. While I usually have no problem in spending my time reading through book after book in an afternoon, I did have to split this into two nights’ reading, as it can be a little too different at times – when it veers into the realms of hard sci-fi and I just need to take a break from it all! Might be worth bearing in mind, anyway.
But don’t let that put you off – grab a copy today!