Star Wars, Dark Phoenix, Teen Titans, comics of 1980.

Posted: April 28, 2020 in Uncategorized
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Star Wars obviously had a huge effect on the world of comic books, and the property itself had a Marvel Comics series. In fact, the first time the general public would see any Star Wars content was on April 12th 1977, over a full month before the movie premiered, (the second issue would was on stands on May 10th, about two weeks before the film’s premiere.) The first six issues of the series adapted the film, and after that featured original material. The series would run until 1986,

 

The first Star Wars comic of 1980 (issue #34) wrapped up a story about an Empire super weapon called the Omega Frost, which could freeze anything. The February issue had Darth Vader learning who destroyed the Death Star, then proceeding to seek his revenge. Subsequent issues feature Vader and Luke Skywalker in the Crystal Valley per mechanizations of the comic book series villain Domina Tagge. Issue #37 ends with Jabba the Hut, later ret-conned to be the Hut’s accountant Nimbanel. Issue #38 was to begin the adaptation of Empire Strikes Back, but due to distribution issues it was a one off story where Luke and Lea encounter an organic ship.

 

The next issue begins the Empire adaption, but unlike Star Wars, it came out about a month after the film’s premiere. No references are made to previous Marvel Comics stories, nothing of Tagge, the Crystal Valley or the Omega frost. Instead the Rebels are abruptly on the ice planet Hoth. Also noteworthy is the price of this issue went up a dime to fifty cents. One interesting note in the adaptation is that Marvel was not allowed to show the giant space slug from the film, as Lucasfilm wanted it to be a surprise. The final Star Wars issue of 1980 takes place immediately after the film, and features Luke battling an Empire droid.

 

Marvel comics themselves would have their own famous saga that took them to the stars in X-men’s Dark Phoenix Saga. The X-men debuted in 1963, and were created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Originally not a big success, the title was relaunched in 1975 and has been popular since. The original team were teenagers who were born with special powers that revealed themselves at puberty. By 1980 the cast are now grown adults, something that at the outset causes a rift between Professor Xavier, the psychic wheelchair bound founder of the team, and Cyclops, original team member and field commander.

 

Running from June to September of 1980 and written by Chris Claremont, the Dark Phoenix Saga does not get to outer space until the end. A majority of the story features the Hellfire Club, a secret aristocratic organization with mutants at it’s inner circle (And inspired by a British spy TV show called the Avengers). The Hellfire club attempts to corrupt and control original X-men member Jean Grey, who has previously come into possession of the Phoenix force, making her near godlike in power. During the course of the adventures two new characters, the popular Kitty Pryde, and the disco based Dazzler, make their debut.

 

Jean loses control of her powers and becomes Dark Phoenix. Soaring off to another solar system, she consumes a star which causes the destruction of a planet and the death of 5 billion aliens known as D’Bari, and also the destruction of a spaceship from the Shi’ar empire. (At the time the population of Earth was about five billion.) The Shi’ar, meeting with other alien races, conclude that the Phoenix Force must be stopped. Interestingly, among the aliens is a creature resembling H.R. Giger’s Alien, who debuted in film a year prior. The X-men would face a very similar alien, known as the Brood, two years later.

 

Dark Phoenix’s saga concludes with the Shi’ar abducting the X-men in an attempt to make Jean pay for her crimes. Trial by combat is held on the moon. Facing overwhelming odds, Jean unleashes her Phoenix force, but, knowing her power is too dangerous for the universe, sacrifices herself in front of her lover Cyclops. 

 

The original ending had an interplanetary council conduct a scientific like exorcism on Jean, safely removing the Phoenix Force, and Jean returning safely home. Marvel Editor Jim Shooter told X-men editor Jim Salicrup “there had to be moral consequences.” When making this suggestion, the finale was already drawn, but changes were made. (Daniels 186) The original ending would see print in 1984’s “Phoenix: The Untold Story.” Since then Dark Phoenix has been adapted or referenced in several animated shows, the X-men film franchise, is now considered a classic. 

 

As succesful as the X-men were, they were no longer teenagers, nor was Spiderman as he was when he first debuted. Fans who wanted a teenage superhero kick would get it at the end of 1980. Debuting a month after Jean’s death, and edited by Len Wien, co-creator of the X-men’s Wolverine and the new X-men, the New TeenTitans would become a much needed success for DC comics. 

 

Written by Marv Wolfman, teen titans was a concept that had been tried before. Wolfman himself actually wrote a teen titans story in the late 60s. Prior to teen titans Marv was writing team up stories and one off stories for Brave in the Bold and World’s Finest. Wishing to write a different type of story, he would write the New Teen Titans in a run lasting 16 years. Teen titans would thrive on young vs old, parent/child differences, as well as the time honored tradition of inter-team bickering. Wolfman envisioned a triangular conflict between the outlooks of the boys men and three girls on the team. Robin, the team leader, had lost his parents, Cyborg conflicted with his dad who’s experiments made him what he is, and Changeling (formerly Beast Boy) didn’t know his family. For the females, Donna Troy, Raven, and Stargirl ran the gamut on beliefs between war, peace, and pacifism. (From the Teen Titans introduction by Marv Wolfman)

 

The New Teen Titans debuted in a special preview of DC Comics Presents #26, which featured a Jim Starlin story of Superman fighting the intergalactic villain Mogul. The first proper issue of the New Teen Titans opened with a scene straight out of Star Wars, with the alien Stargirl escaping in her space ship, the Star Slider, from an alien empire. Jumping to light speed was referred to as Space Sliding, which allowed Stargirl to get to Earth, where later Changeling would call Cyborg a Star Wars reject. 

 

Danels, Les. Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics, Harry N Abrams, Inc, Publishers, New York 1991

 

Wolfman, Marv, Teen Titans Volume One, DC Comics, New York 2014

 

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