The early Marvel comics were a huge part of helping Star Wars become a success. 20th Century Fox’s reluctance to promote the film meant that Lucas had to do it himself. This included setting up comics to whet fans appetites for a new sci adventure that would change the face of film making in spite of Hollywood’s doubts. The first 2 issues of the comic adaptation came out even before the movie, in some cases using early concept art. The ‘Star Wars Corporation’ as it was called at the time did plan to execute creative control and while the Expanded Universe initially did not incorporate them, eventually they were added in by the loving attention of the young fans had grown into adult novelists and storytellers themselves. With the new announcement that a special issue is up for Marvel’s Star Wars anniversary its a good time to explore these stories and what they have to offer.
Even in these early days, Lucas’s company wanted to maintain some control over the story. The series ran from 1977 (the adaption beginning before the movie release) to 1986, so some ideas were derailed by the powers that be without Marvel knowing why, only to find out they were hitting into the next 2 movies territory. Years later Allen Kausch as continuity editor did not include the stories in his notebooks of the timeline as Dark Empire and Heir to the Empire powered up a full Expanded Universe. As Leland Chee created the datacron database, these stories were initially ignored relegated to S-Canon. Later authors began to incorporate these stories, characters and places into the main Expanded Universe. Wizards of the Coast RPG and their Gamer magazine in particular went to great lengths to fit it in.
Due to alternating artists, writers and editors these changed as did the quality of the story. The first story arc involved Han and Chewie, as Marvel as yet had no guidance. Even so the character of Jaxxon did not please Lucas who said no more of Jaxxon. He apparently was a bit too much like his inspiration Bugs Bunny. There was even an issue where he got beaten up by Dafi and Fud. Yet later, characters called Hoojibs were allowed in (basically intelligent, telepathic bunnies). For many issues Luke was relegated back to his ‘farm boy’ outfit. In fact, they hardly ever seem to change clothes or hair styles in early issues. Nor do the artists seem to have used photos of the actors.
Strong female characters and aliens?
They had them, even back then. It was common even at the time for their to be scantily clad females in the stories (occasionally even males – Crimson Jack had one bare leg and one not). Examples include Shira/Brie AKA Lumiya, who would go on to be involved in the Legacy of the Force novels. Dariel Angleworth is a moisture farmer, female, brigand hunter, Captain Cinda Tarheel an x wing pilot female as well as an unnamed female in charge of an major imperial databank. Then there are the fringe characters like Joli and Dani.
In addition, before there was Thrawn, there were various alien characters involved with the Empire. One was in charge of enslaving Mandaloreans, another with seeking out an ancient weapon.
Characters and Situations that were used in the main Expanded Universe canon:
The Wheel, a space station full of gambling and fringe sorts. Introduced early in Marvel, it is revisited in Republic comics more than once.
Senator Greyshade is introduced on the above mentioned wheel. He interacts with Anakin and Obi-Wan in the pre clone wars era. According to the visual guide, Anakin actually stole his speeder when Obi-Wan leaped out of Padme’s apartment window in order to catch him.
Human Replica Droid – the first we see is Viscount Tardi. This droid is programmed to imitate a real man and may not be sentient.
Yinchor – the Yinchorri are visited by Leia on a diplomatic mission. Earlier in history these people were tricked by Sidious into attacking the Jedi in Jedi Council: Acts of War.
Jedi Breath Control – first mention is in Jedi breath control – issue 75 Iskalon Effect
Stone Mite’s such as Han and Chewie encountered are mentioned in Clone Wars 28. appears in Coruscant Nights 1 Jedi Twilight, Republic 49 and 54 among others
Realistic looking prosthetics – Valance the cyborg may have hated what he was, but even before Luke lost a hand Valance showed no outward signs of injury before he was shot.
Gordion Reach first appeared in issue 25 Seige at Yavin. It later is mentioned in several sources including Star Wars the Old Republic and several Essential Guides.
Zeltron are a reddish skinned species with strong pheromones and passions. We are introduced through the fringe character Dani, who was part of a smuggling gang. They later appear in Coruscant Nights, the Knights of the Old Republic comics, Legacy comics, Knights of the Old Republic 2 (the game) and more.
Opportunities for explanations and further stories:
Leia’s mother (Breha who didn’t yet have a name) died when Alderaan destroyed. mentions Bail and her mother issue 53. This is fuzzy in other places in the Expanded Universe as well. Issue 91 has gundarks that bear no resemblance to later designs. they have four feet, long tongues a that behave more like nos monsters.
Luke still having a lightsaber after he loses his in TESB. Given that Don-Wan Khihotay had one, and years later in Young Jedi Knights Anja Gallandro appears with one, there are other ways for him to get a hold of a temporary replacement.
Y-Wings modified for more than 2 people into a full sized cockpit.
Issue 81 is soon after ROTJ. In this its shown that the jawas find a sand blasted ‘droid’ near the sarlaac that is really BobaFett. Leia and Han are there looking to retrieve credits Han left on Tatooine and chasing the jawas who stole R2. The sand crawler falls back into the sarlaac after its attacked by sand people. This predates the Bounty Hunter Trilogy story bringing him back by being found by Dengar, as well as Dark Horse comics Dark Empire.
Issue 85 post Endor mentions Bossk and IG-88 this is after all of the droid bodies were destroyed except one, that had uploaded its intelligence into the DS? Bossk had been captured at one point but also (maybe?) showed up later in other sources.
Then there are other characters like Bey, a young (very tall) man raised with Han, whose mother was Nagai and father was Corellian. What happened to them? To Dani, Kiro, Rik Duel and Chihdo? The possiblities of more stories about these characters is appealing. There is a gap regarding the foundation of the Alliance of the Federation Planets and it’s successor, the New Republic as well as potential tie ins to the many old Imperial holdouts. Some of these were detailed primarily in games. The hatred of cyborgs mentioned in these comics was never explained either.
Alterations that have been explained in later stories.
The early Mandaloreans along with Fenn Shysa work with the Rebels when they are enslaved by the Empire and the Nagai. A large structure, formed of the skeleton of an ancient beast was thought by these Imperials to be sacred to them. Karen Traviss’s Republic Commando series goes on to say that in reality it was part of an amusement park and the ‘sacred’ place idea was a scam the Imperials fell for.
The Long Hunt was one of the annuals. This story was later explained in the story ‘Skyewalkers’. That retconned that the second apprentice was Halagad Ventor, a name similar enough to explain the mistake.
The Bespin situation: Lando falls to the ‘surface’ of Bespin but there can be no surface on a gas planet issue 56-57. Later stories reveal that the Ugnaughts did some engineering and terraforming in order to have floating areas within the planet that resemble their original homeworld. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Ugnaught_Surface/Legends
“Jabba the Hut” the yellow skin version is later retconned into being Jabba’s accountant who used his name and was a stand in during certain events. His real name was Mosep Binneed and was first revealed in WOTC: Ultimate Alien Anthology.
The prequels era gets mentioned in advance in The Long Hunt, Silent Drifting, and Valance’s ‘The Hunter’ story arc. The Long Hunt’s story arc was retconned in Skyewalkers as mentioned earlier, and Valance’s hatred of droids ties in nicely with a man who served during Clone Wars fighting battle droids. Silent Drifting, is a stand alone story contradicts nothing and is merely a short adventure remembered by Leia as told to her by Bail Organa.
One story totally contradictory:
One story that is more a flop is the one suggesting Wedge knew Luke on Tatooine. In fact the story details suggest the writer mistook Wedge for Biggs Darklighter. Biggs was his best friend on Tatooine and the scene was cut from the final movie. This therefore was not a case of contradicting the Expanded Universe but rather contradicting Star Wars (now known as A New Hope) since Biggs was detailed in the novelization even after he was largely cut from the final film.
As for other contradictions, the primary is simply a matter of mistaken color choices ie blue eyes on a character with brown, misspelled planet names and so on. These are merely typos and editing errors.
Star Wars original Marvel comics have a great many fun adventures to offer and ties to the later Expanded Universe AKA Legends. You can buy original comics off Ebay and reprints were offered by Dark Horse comics during their tenure as the official publishers of Star Wars comics, and on the return to Marvel, in new Omnibuses. We shouldn’t miss the new anniversary issue #108 either!