Posts Tagged ‘Empire Strikes Back’

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

 

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

This is the first of a new series I am planning about the movies, comics, toys, etc of the 1980s. In this entry I will briefly cover four genre films of 1980, Mad Max, Empire Strikes Back, Superman II, and Flash Gordon.

American science fiction started off bleak in the new decade with the release of the dystopian film Mad Max. Origionally released in Australia in 1979, Mad Max first played in American theaters on February 15th of the following year.

Written and directed by George Miller, a young Mel Gibson plays “Mad” Max Rockatansky, who drives a supercharged V8 powered Black Pursuit special through a dystopian Australia. He is a highway patrol cop who comes into conflict with a motorcycle gang (played by real bikers) led by a character named Nightrider.

Miller was inspired by his time working as a Dr. in Sydney where he saw many patients from car accidents, as well as witnessing car wrecks as a child. (1) The film was also inspired by the 1973 oil crisis which effected car owners both in Australia and around the world. His film would inspire (to date) three sequels, and made over $100 million world wide.

The dark trend would continue with what would be the highest grossing film of the year, The Empire Strikes Back. Released on May 17th. Empire was the sequel to the 1977 surprise smash hit Star Wars, which launched the first modern multi-media franchise that inspired everything in it’s wake.

Based on a story by Star Wars creator George Lucas, Empire was directed by Irvin Kershner with a screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan. Set three years after Star Wars, this film has the heroic rebels on the run from the evil Empire. Famous for ending with the villains on top, Han Solo gets captured, and in one of the great twists in film history, Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke Skywalker’s father. (When filming that famous scene, actor David Prowse, who played Vader, read the fake line “Obi-Wan killed your father.”)

As first film, Empire had an extensive action figure line that ran until 1982 (In 1983 the toyline shifted to that year’s Return of the Jedi film.) It is noteworthy that toy company Kenner also tried a new minature die cast toy line in 1982 called the Micro collection, which included vehicles and playsets. While the traditional action figures were succesful, Kenner lost money on the Micro collection.

Initially having mixed reviews, Empire is now considered the best Star Wars film. During it’s initial run it grossed $547 million worldwide.

Another film that was a part II would be released just about a month later in Superman II. Based on the DC comcis character, its predecessor was released in two years prior, but the studio actually filmed both movies back to back. Richard Donner directed the first film, and was fired from II with around 75% of the film completed. Richard Lester would finish it, his work included a new beginning set in Paris and a new ending.

Banished to the Phantom Zone in the beginning of the first film by Superman’s father Jor-El, Superman II has General Zod, Ursa, and Non accidentally freed to wreak havoc on Earth. Unlike the first film, where he fought Lex Luthor, Superman now faces villains his physical equal, all the while wishing to become an ordinary man and settle down with Lois Lane.

Lex Luthor appears in this film as well, assisting the Kryptonian villains in their conquet of the planet, on the condition that Luthor would rule Australia.

Superman II premiered in America on June 19th, though it was previously released overseas. It would make $190 million at the box office.

Also of note is that over 25 years later, in 2006, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released on DVD. This version has a new beginning which cuts the Paris scene, a different ending where Superman reverses time again (as he did in the first film) and footage of Marlon Brando returning as Superman’s Kryptonian father Jor-El.

The last science fiction film of 1980 was an old character that inspired a lot of science fiction, but their own film was not nearly as succesful. Flash Gordon was origionally a character created for newspaper comic strips and debuted on January 7th, 1934. Drawn by Alex Raymond, it was created partly to compete with the already popular Buck Rogers strip. Buck Rogers, coincidentally, was in its second season of his own three year run on American television in 1980.

Flash Gordon features the titular character, a quarterback for the New York Jets, unwittingly sent into outspace along with travel agent Dale Arden and scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov. In space they encounter Ming the Merciless, played by Max Von Sydow, who plans to destroy Earth, apparantly out of bordeom.

Interstingly enough, George Lucas himself attempted to do a Flash Gordon movie in the late 70s, but was unable to acquire the rights. Failing this, Lucas would go on to create Star Wars. Flash is one of the myriad influences Lucas had in making his franchise, specifically regarding Empire, an ice planet and a floating city.

Mike Hodges would go on to direct Flash, which was co-written by Michael Allin and Lorenzo Semple Jr. Semple helped develop the 1966 Batman TV show, which was known for its campy style, a similar style would be used for this movie.

Flash made $27 million in its North American release. While it is now a cult classic and fondly remembered for its soundtrack by Queen, it is the only movie of the four sci-fi movies of 1980 to not get a sequel. Flash would go onto appear in a handful of cartoons and TV shows, but this film would be the last high profile moment of this science fiction icon.

1: Scott Murray and Peter Beilby, “George Miller: Director”, Cinema Papers, May-June 1979 p369-371