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The Empire Strikes Back: A Marvel Super Special Magazine
Author: Archie Goodwin, words; Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon, art
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Representative Quote: “You have all the breeding of a Bantha…but not as much class!”
The biggest thing that George Lucas forgot in the 1990s and ’00s? That moviemaking is intensely collaborative, and that the more power one writer/director/producer grips the more quality slips through his or her fingers. As the ’70s ended, Lucas wasn’t gripping too hard, yet, and he and his team put together The Empire Strikes Back, the finest and most beautiful fantasy film of the blockbuster era. But good lord were those collaborators key to it, as we can see from this Marvel comics adaptation of Empire.
Archie Goodwin and his team weren’t exactly adapting the film that hit theaters in 1980. It didn’t exist yet. Instead, like the authors of novelizations, they worked from early scripts and still photos — and they ran with moments that, on set, the actors and director improved.
Consider this key exchange from the Cloud City carbon-freeze chamber:
Famously, David Prowse, the actor in the Darth Vader suit, did not know during filming that Vader would turn out to be Luke’s father. The Sith Lord’s dialogue was dubbed in by James Earl Jones later. And judging by the emphasis on the line in this panel, it appears that nobody at Marvel actually heard it, either:
“Seriously. I am, Luke! Really! I mean it!”
In 1997, Lucas released his “Special Editions” of the original Star Wars films. In one dopey way, he actually made the movie of The Empire Strikes Back more like the comic:
The art throughout the comic is fantastic, often extending the visions that film only suggested. (Glynis Wein handled the four-color coloring, working some miracles.)
But I’m not sure what Young Snowbilly Lucas was doing hanging around the elegant spires of Bespin:
The most revealing thing in Marvel’s adaptation is just how fortunate we are that director Irvin Kershner and stars Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford didn’t always honor the script (by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan).
Han and Leia’s screwball sniping in the film’s first act is better acted than it is written — but could any performers have sold the dialogue that Goodwin and company had to work with?
Here, Han reveals the angry-bro prickishness that might explain how he got the name “Solo”:
Moments later, Han tries the cheapest move of all: calling the woman who won’t swoon for him frigid.
What is it with Lucas’s men comparing women to the geological features of whatever planet they’re on? You’re like ice, you’re not like sand.
But we can’t blame all of the adaptation’s occasional backwardness on Lucas and his screenwriters. Check out Goodwin’s narration describing Leia’s impulsive decision in the rebel base’s medical bay:
Smooching your brother to prove a point to the guy who negs you? That’s just what leaders do!