Monday, July 15, 2013

The Star Wars Daily Strips - The Adventure Strip of the Decade #2

Today's bonus content was provided by faithful reader Edward Reed!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Star Wars Daily Strips - The Adventure Strip of the Decade #1

Today's content was provided by faithful reader Edward Reed!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Star Wars Daily Strips - Star Wars in the Comics

The following is an article that was first published in Amazing Heroes #13 in July of 1982.
Star Wars in the Comics
by J. Collier
Writing and drawing comic strips and comic books about established characters is not an easy job. With their own characters, writers and artists can let their imaginations soar on pinions free and allow the stories to go where they will. But when the characters are owned by someone else and are hot merchandising properties to boot, the restrictions on creative freedom of action mount alarmingly.
Possibly the most challenging of all "outside" strips to produce are the Star Wars adaptations. There the creators are obligated to abide by the somewhat scanty background data of the two movies so far released and to do nothing that will contradict whatever will be in the third movie—even though Lucasfilms can't tell them what is in the third movie. So it's by guess and by God and play it by ear, but the creative people we talked to who are involved with the Star Wars adaptations are all seasoned professionals, and they have learned to work within the tight parameters, producing stories of unfailing high quality.
What is it like to adapt a contemporary legend into comics form? We spoke with some of the writers and artists doing just that, and they were kind enough to share many of their thoughts and observations with us.


The current writer-artist team on the Star Wars comic strip, as AMAZING HEROES readers should know by now, is Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson. What many readers might not know, however, is that Star Wars is not the first project the two have worked on together. In fact, Goodwin and Williamson have collaborated on so many projects in the past that their venture into a galaxy far, far away is only the capper on a long and distinguished partnership that reaches as far back as the early days of Warren magazines.
Moreover, although few people know it, Goodwin and Williamson were involved with Star Wars comics adaptations from the very beginning. When the Star Wars strip was being considered by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Williamson and Goodwin were contacted about writing and drawing it. Together, the two cooked up two weeks of samples, adapting the opening scenes of the film. (When the strip eventually began under another artist, the syndicate decided against beginning with an adaptation and commissioned an original story instead.)
Williamson, however, had to turn down the assignment because of his commitment to another strip he had been carrying for many years, King Features' Secret Agent X-9. Although some artists can handle more than one strip on a regular basis, Williamson didn't feel he was among them. (His collaborator on the X-9 strip, incidentally, was a gentleman named Archie Goodwin.)
So how did Williamson wind up at the artistic helm of Star Wars? Well, the Syndicate kept hunting for an artist and eventually settled on Russ Manning, the acclaimed Tarzan and Magnus, Robot Fighter artist. Manning, seconded by various writers (such as Steve Gerber, fresh from his stint at Marvel) and aided by his assistants, Rick Hoberg and Dave Stevens (yup, that Dave Stevens—the one who draws The Rocketeer for Pacific Comics), ably produced the strip until failing health and a desire to run for public office forced him to give it up.
In the meantime, Williamson's situation had changed considerably. He and Goodwin had dropped X-9 (which was taken over by EC alumnus George Evans), and Williamson had accepted a couple of movie adaptation jobs for the comic books: Flash Gordon for Western Publishing and The Empire Strikes Back for Marvel Comics—the former of which, amazingly enough, was not written by Archie Goodwin. Williamson enjoyed working on the Star Wars material, George Lucas enjoyed the results, and the proposition was put once more to the team. This time, they agreed.
There was one final hitch. At the time Manning retired from the strip, Williamson was committed to finishing up the Flash Gordon adaptation. So the Syndicate called in Alfredo Alcala to bridge the gap between the end of the Manning reign and the beginning of the Williamson era. Alcala, incidentally, was helped out by "Russ Helm," a pseudonym for—you guessed it—Archie Goodwin.
At any rate, on February 9, 1981, newspapers across the country printed the first of many hundreds of Star Wars strips with the signatures of Goodwin and Williamson. They've just passed their 500th strip, and show no sign of slacking off.


Compared to the newspaper strips's tangled history, the changes that the Star Wars comic book has gone through are simple —at least according to the ubiquitous Archie Goodwin. Roy Thomas originally brought the saga to Marvel (at the time, the editor-in-chief was Archie Goodwin), and proceeded to adapt the movie in the first six issues of the comic book. These issues went on to become Marvel's bestselling titles ever. Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin hung on for a couple of issues beyond the adaptation. but they ultimately decided they didn't feel comfortable with the strip and went their separate ways.
Guess who stepped in.
"I was editor-in-chief at the time," Archie Goodwin remembers. "Roy was giving up the book and I knew we had to find somebody." Because Marvel had so many titles at that point, it was tough to find a writer to take over the strip. "What I thought," Goodwin said, "was, 'Well. I'll write a few issues 'til we can settle on some other team.' I got Carmine [Infantino] to draw it and I got Terry Austin to ink it, and we just sort of kept doing it." Indeed they did. Although Austin soon left and was replaced by a string of inkers, Goodwin and lnfantino stuck with the title for three years, until Goodwin's Epic schedule (no pun intended) forced him to relinquish the book.
Enter David Michelinie.
Michelinie had just left The Avengers and was writing Iron Man, a title that had gained him a strong measure of fan popularity. Looking for work, he had mentioned to various Marvel editors that he was interested in picking up another book. "I hadn't even thought of Star Wars," he remembers, "because Archie had been writing it for three years and it seemed he would write it forever." Nevertheless, Louise Jones, then the editor of the title, soon called up Michelinie and asked him to write it. As a special surprise bonus, he found himself teamed with Walt Simonson, the popular artist who had risen to fame with his work on the "Manhunter" series in Detective Comics (written by Archie Goodwin) and the Alien adaptation for Heavy Metal (also written by Archie Goodwin).


Star Wars is different from many other licensed products in that not only do the creators of the comics have an inviolable base from which they must start, but the continuity is also limited by what is yet to come—i.e., the as yet unreleased third (or sixth, depending on how you count them) movie, Revenge of the Jedi. While Goodwin has mainly worked "between" the movies both in his comics and his strip work, Michelinie must explore the vast unknown beyond The Empire Strikes Back—without having any idea of what will take place in Revenge!
Goodwin admitted that before Empire came out, it was a little tough working on the material, but now that he and Williamson know not only where the characters have been but where they're going, they find it much easier.
"It isn't that bad," Goodwin mused. "My interest is generally a little more toward plotting than character, anyway. So it doesn't bother me not having control over the characters. Actually, I sometimes even find it kind of a relief in a way, because it sometimes seems to me that on a regular book you become so involved in the characters' lives that maybe you become a little boring."
Michelinie is in a rougher spot. "There are a lot of special problems in Star Wars," he explained, "not only from what's been but what's to come. As far as what's been, we can't really change anything from the end of Empire. We can't have Han Solo located and then have him frozen for the next movie."
"I've had a couple of things," Michelinie continued, "that the film people have asked that I change because they're similar to something that's going to occur in Jedi. At first, I was thinking in terms of plots utilizing Star Wars mythology, and after I got away from that and Walt and I started doing our own stories with our own characters, we had very few problems contradicting."
Michelinie is also constrained by the fact that next year he has to lead into the adaptation of Revenge of the Jedi, which must fit into the continuity of the comic. "We have to have a finite storyline," he said. "There are five more issues I've got to plot before the adaptation, at which point everything will change. People might die, other people might be reborn. So I can't just start a storyline and let it resolve itself. I have to plan and five issues from now, these things have to be resolved." As a result, Michelinie has had to curtail a plot involving Shira Brie, an Imperial Agent whom Luke almost killed and now, apparently, has developed genuine feelings for Luke. She may turn up again after Revenge, but...
Michelinie is a little apprehensive about what the third part of the trilogy might do to the cast of characters. "Someone is bound to die," he said. "Can you imagine if Luke and Vader both fight and die... I mean, going on without your main hero and your main villain? 'The Adventures of See-Threepio.' It's gonna be interesting," he chuckled.
Both Michelinie and Goodwin plan to lead into Jedi—Michelinie with a transition issue between his continuity and the movie, Goodwin by introducing a new character in the strip that will reappear in the movie.


One thing Michelinie does miss is Han Solo. "He would quite possibly be my favorite character if I could write him," he laughed. Ever resourceful, though, Michelinie has managed to integrate Solo into this year's Star Wars Annual, which features an extended flashback involving the Harrison Ford character. When we suggested that he might have Han back after Revenge of the Jedi, Michelinie was skeptical. "We'll see," he said. "I may have no one. It might be Yoda Comics and Stories.”
Apart from Solo, Michelinie doesn't really have any favorites. "Most of the regular cast I have equal feelings and affections for." He did admit that he enjoyed writing the humorous characters, like See-Threepio. Artoo-Detoo, and Chewbacca, although unfortunately only one of them spoke English, limiting their roles somewhat.
Goodwin also listed Solo as his favorite character, along with Obi-Wan Kenobi. (It seems the writers are particularly fond of those characters they can't use.) But generally he likes all of them too: "Lucas really created a lot of nice archetypes," he said, "and they're all basically fun to write. Han is a little funnier and off the wall. Luke is a little bit more of a problem to write, just because you don't know where he's going to wind up; it gets a little trickier."
Williamson for his part enjoyed working with all the characters equally, although he found them hard to draw. "I wish I could do them a little bit better—in fact, quite a bit better—but they haven't complained yet," he concluded with the modesty of a born perfectionist.


One noteworthy thing about both teams is how closely they work together. Goodwin and Williamson, of course, have worked together before and Williamson often comes up with visual ideas, bits of business that Goodwin integrates into the stories. (The flying serpents that appear in this issue, for instance, are vintage Williamson.)
Michelinie explained his working relationship with Walt Simonson: "I like working with the artists—the penciller specifically, both artists if possible. The main advantage to that—especially in Walt's case—is that he has a lot more enthusiasm, puts a lot more into it, has a lot more fun doing it, than if I just handed him a plot and said, "Do this." As a result his art's a lot more fun and I can have a lot more fun writing it and I can put more energy into it."
Generally, Michelinie explained, he, Simonson, and editor Louise Jones would get together for dinner. (Simonson and Jones are married, making these get-togethers more convenient than they might otherwise be.) "We'd talk over the storylines of the next couple of issues. Other times l would just go into Marvel and Walt and I would find a quiet corner someplace—I know that's hard to believe at Marvel, but we'd ferret one out occasionally."
"One of us will come up with an idea," he continued, "we will take it through logical events to a conclusion, put in the character scenes, having them act and react consistent with their background and their characterization in the movies.
"I worked with Bob Layton co-plotting on Iron Man for a long time. and I worked with Walt for a year and half on Star Wars. It's good when you get two people who are compatible and get along with each other as human beings."


We asked Michelinie what his plans were for upcoming issues of Star Wars. "It's difficult to say at this point because Walt's dropped the strip, and because of deadline problems we've had two fill-in issues stuck in," he sighed. Although one of the stories was written and drawn by Michelinie and Simonson and has been fit into the continuity, the other is entirely out of sync and features artwork by Joe Brozowski and Vince Colletta.
Aside from that, though, "I have started a storyline that basically involves a search for Han Solo. The rebels have discovered that one of the other bounty hunters was with Boba Fett but was cut out of the deal when Fett got Han Solo. They've narrowed it down to three, and we're splitting up our characters in couples to find these bounty hunters and try to find if that one knows where the rendezvous site for Jabba the Hut and Boba Fett is supposed to be. And then hopefully they will go there and there will be some sort of story where they don't get Han Solo back, because we can't do that.
"That's that storyline. And the way I've got it worked out, we'll have worked up to one issue before the adaptation which will give me one issue to tie things together and hopefully to where Revenge begins."
As for Goodwin and Williamson's Star Wars strip—keep on reading!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Star Wars Daily Strips - County Artist Creates Comic Strip

January 5th marked what would have been Russ Manning's 83rd birthday. To honor the occasion lets look back at another article with Russ heralding the arrival of the strip. The following was first published in the Los Angeles Times on March 17th, 1979.
County Artist Creates Comic Strip
By Craig Turner
CARTOONIST ‒ Russ Manning uses a model to
achieve fine detail in his "Star Wars" comic strip.
Russ Manning inhabits an unpretentious ranch-style house secluded in a remote canyon in east Orange County. The building, partly screened by a stand of trees, is reached by a meandering road too narrow to qualify as a driveway in most communities.
On this morning, Manning is at work in his studio, which was once a two-car garage. Outside, the only sign of life is a black and white cat perched smugly on the roof of the family station wagon.
So much for details about Manning's residence; he has this uneasiness, he explains, that if his exact whereabouts are disclosed, he may become the object of curiosity seekers and souvenir hunters.
The reason is that Manning is the artist behind the new "Star Wars" comic strip, which was launched Sunday in 215 North American newspapers ‒ an exceptionally large number for a new strip. And while he is grateful for his piece of the multimillion-dollar media empire born of the motion picture, Manning does not want the serenity of his canyon shattered by hordes of Darth Vader devotees rattling their light sabers.
That may sound like paranoia, but one shouldn't underestimate the doggedness of "Star Wars" buffs, even though it has been nearly two years since the picture's release and several months since it was shown commercially.
Nor should one underestimate Manning's persistence in protecting the privacy and rural nature of the canyon community where he has lived since 1959. His innumerable appearances before public agencies and his immersion in land planning for the area attest to that.
At age 50, the solidly built, white-haired Manning shows little of the panache exhibited by his adventurous comic characters, who also include Tarzan. Instead, he is something of a pillar of the community in the sparsely populated, close-knit neighborhood. He is a volunteer fireman, director of the Santiago Canyon Water District and chairman of the Foothill Corridor Planning Committee, a county government-created body that oversees development of the area.
But Manning was a natural candidate last summer when George Lucas, 35, the Hollywood writer-director who created "Star Wars," went looking for a comic strip artist. A no-nonsense professional with 27 years' experience, Manning has drawn the Sunday "Tarzan" strip since 1967. In addition he is an admitted "science fiction nut" who saw "Star Wars" three times before he was ever considered for the comic job and who created his own intergalactic fantasy for Dell Comics in 1963 called, "Magnus the Robot Fighter."
Moreover, Manning is one of the few still in the comic book industry who write the stories in addition to drawing the panels. Manning does have an assistant, Mike Royer of Whittier, who helps with inking and lettering.
"I got tired of drawing what other people were writing, especially when they didn't know what they were doing," Manning says by way of explanation.
"They'd want too many actions in a panel, or put 31 characters in the same panel. Writers are word oriented and they don't always know an artist's limits. The classic example is the cowboy who is supposed to shoot the bad guy, kiss the girl and jump on his horse all in the same panel."
His interest in professional art began at Santa Maria Union High School and led to a stint at the Los Angeles County Art Institute. After serving in the Army during the Korean War, Manning got his first comic book job in 1952, writing back-of-the-book stories ("Brothers of the Spear") for Dell, the only comic book publisher headquartered on the West Coast.
He also drew cover stories for some television spinoff comics, including "77 Sunset Strip" and "Dale Evans." After years as an understudy, he began drawing "Tarzan" comics in the 1960s.
As the comic book industry went into decline, Manning shifted exclusively to newspaper comics, although he continued to do some occasional commercial art such as book covers. His Sunday "Tarzan" strip (the daily versions are recycled strips from the 1950s) is carried in more than 50 U.S. newspapers, according to United Features Syndicate.
Manning laughs off comic collectors and archivists who pour over back issues of Spiderman as if they were medieval illuminated manuscripts, but he makes no apology for his profession.
"The comic book artist is still the low man on the totem pole in the art field," he says, "but at least you can make a living at it."
Manning has no creative rights over "Star Wars," although he writes the stories himself and the strip carries his byline. That's not the case with "Tarzan." Manning writes the strip but it carries the byline of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who originated the character in a series of 25 novels. Burroughs died in 1950.
Manning's "Star Wars" contract contains some limits. He cannot, for example, kill off any of the main characters and he has to stay away from events that might touch on the motion picture sequel, now being filmed in Europe. Lucas personally reviews in advance all the stories and pencil renderings.
Finished panels are turned over to the Los Angeles Times syndicate, which markets the strip, 10 weeks before publication. In order to insure enough lead time, Luke Skywalker and friends first appeared on Manning's drawing boards last September.
Manning clearly is taken by his new subject. He talks about how eager he is to try out new story lines and he has decorated his studio with calenders, posters and models from the film. (The models also serve another purpose: they provide him with three-dimensional figures to draw from.)
The challenge, he adds, is that virtually everything he draws ‒ except the characters taken from the movie ‒ comes straight from his imagination. "If I want to draw a policeman, his uniform, right down to the buttons, comes from me. Everything is different: telephones, buildings, glasses, food," he notes.
That sets it apart from "Tarzan" somewhat, although Manning admits that the hero of that strip lives in a "fantasy Africa."
"It's the Africa that never existed, but we wish had existed," Manning explains. "You can't do Tarzan in the real Africa of today. The problems there aren't the kind you should try to solve with a guy in a loincloth, and a white man at that. They are serious problems, and they are not adventure story problems, but sociological ones."

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Star Wars Daily Strips - Legacy of 'Star Wars'

The following was first published in George Lucas' hometown paper the Modesto Bee on March 11, 1979.
Legacy of 'Star Wars' . . . Comic strip will continue successful theme
By Brian Clark
"Star Wars," the science fiction comic strip which starts in the Bee today, is only one part of the growing legacy of George Lucas' phenomenally successful film.
After the movie proved a box-office smash, Lucas incorporated and split his organization into several subsidiaries, one of which was given the task of creating and producing the strip, industry sources said.
George Lucas Jr
But Lucas, the Modestan who soared to fame with his films, including "American Graffiti" was unavailable to talk about the comic strip. He is now on a London set filming "The Empire Strikes Back," a Star Wars sequel.
In fact, as a company spokesman pointedly told a reporter in what must be an oft-repeated refrain, "Mr. Lucas does not give interviews. He is a film maker, not a celebrity. He does not talk to the press."
But Russ Manning, the strip's artist and writer, said Lucas' organization and been planning the strip for more than 18 months.
Although Manning said there have been "innumerable ripoffs" from the Star Wars movie, such as the television series "Battlestar Galactica," only the new film and the comic strip are part of the Lucas organization.
Manning, a 49-year-old California native who began copying cartoons while a Santa Maria high school student, is a writer and illustrator with nearly 30 years of experience.
And although Lucas has editorial and artistic control over Manning's work, the artist, who has been working on the strip for more than seven months, has yet to meet with Lucas.
Manning said he deals with Carol Titelman, an editor for Black Falcon Limited, a subsidiary of the main Lucas company.
Manning said he was recruited by Falcon representatives last September when spokesmen said they were looking for someone to "do the strip who had the ability to come up with an adventure series true to the theme, yet not like the coming film."
Lucas was also concerned that another company might sweep up the idea and come out with a Star Wars imitation, Manning said.
The artist, who draws and writes the strip from his Orange County studio, said Falcon had been negotiating with two other artists, but when those deals fell through, he was picked to handle the strip.
Although many comic strips are written by one person and drawn by another, Manning said he "didn't like to do things that way."
"I'm a good illustrator and I can write as well as the best writers, so it is better for me to do it all," said Manning, who also colors the strip.
"I had done the writing and drawing of the Tarzan comic strip for many years," he said, "and was able to convince them I didn't like to have the work split up."
Manning said he submits his story ideas and drawings to Titelman who discusses them with him and sends them on to Lucas for his comments.
"I block things out week by week and we go over them from 'Day 1 to the end of the story, which might be 10 weeks.' And although I've never talked to Lucas, I assume some of the comments are his," said Manning.
The Santa Maria native will include all of the Star Wars characters — who charmed millions of movie-goers — in his daily strip.
Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia will become involved in space adventures. The evil Darth Vader will also be spinning his web of intrigue and the affable robots, Artoo and Threepio will be doing their best to thwart him.
Han the pilot and his aide, Chewie, will be allied with the forces of good to keep the galaxies on an even course.
And, to make things more exciting, Manning will be adding new heroes and villains to the strip.
The artist, who said he has seen the movie more than five times admitted he had never seen any of Lucas' other films.
"I wouldn't say I am a Lucas fan, but I certainly am a 'Star Wars' fan," he said. "But my family has seen American Graffiti and they think Lucas is great."
"I am a Sci-Fi fan, and I didn't think anything like that could be done well, but they spent the money and he did a super job," Manning said.
Manning said he had to go back to the film "several times to do research on the star ships and other sorts of equipment so I would get it right," he said.
"But things are going well and I'm convinced that this is going to be a success. It has a lot of things going for it."

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Star Wars Daily Strips - Archie Goodwin Interview #2

As we continue along lets take a look at some excerpts from another interview with Archie Goodwin about his collaboration with Al Williamson. This one was conducted in October 1982 by Steve Ringgenberg and originally published in issue #78 of the Comics Journal.
RINGGENBERG: What did you do for Stan Drake?
GOODWIN: For Stan Drake, nothing. For Leonard Starr, I helped him with writing the On Stage strip. I got involved in this through Al Williamson who's been like...well, he's largely responsible for getting me into comics. It was through Al that I wrote my first published comic book script.
GOODWIN: Yeah. And I did that while I was at art school. Al had seen some of the stuff I had done for class and thought I could write. And it's been one of the few flaws in Al's career for quite a while. He keeps thinking I can write.
RINGGENBERG: Evidently he's thought it for about 17 years.
GOODWIN: Yeah, well, I keep fooling everyone. [laughter] But never myself.
RINGGENBERG: How did you and Al start working together?
GOODWIN: A friend of mine in art school named Larry Ivie was also a big EC fan, and a big cartooning fan. He later published and edited a magazine called Monsters and Heroes, which I think predated Castle of Frankenstein and a lot of the fantasy/comic book oriented magazines. Larry was a lot less shy about trying to get in touch with people than I was and somehow through a mutual friend got Williamson's home phone number and called him up and said "I'm an EC fan, and admirer of yours, and I'd like to meet you." Al thought he was kidding. Back then very few people working in comics knew that there were fans; they were like a novelty then. So instead of hanging up the phone, he invited Larry out to see him.
Eventually, Larry got around to bringing Al around to the apartment building where he and I and a lot of other guys who went to school at Visual Arts, were all living. And Larry is a fairly secretive guy, would never let anybody know what he was doing. I came home from school one day and he was sitting out front. And I said, "What are you doing, Larry?" And he said "Well, I'm waiting for a friend of mine." "Oh, is it another comics fan?" And Larry said, "Well, I guess you could say that." "Oh, who is it? Is it somebody I know from school?" "No, he used to go to this school." "What's the guy's name?" "Oh, it's Al." "Well, if you feel like it drop by, if you want to sit around and talk comics." So a little bit later he drops up with this guy and he says "Hello, Archie, this is Al." I figure this guy's a comics fan, let's kid around with him a little. I said, [sarcastically] "Oh, Williamson?" And he said "Yes." And I went, "oublublub." And that's how I met Al. And we've been sort of friendly ever since.
As a result of knowing us, Al got kind of interested in pushing Larry and me to do stuff. He was working for Harvey then and unhappy with his scripts. I guess they weren't paying much for scripts then. But they offered to let Al come up with his own scripts, so Al suggested we try writing some. And the story "Hermit" that I wrote eventually was, I think, drawn by Reed Crandall and Williamson inked it. That was my first published story.
RINGGENBERG: Was this before or after you went to work for Redbook?
GOODWIN: Oh, this was before. And then, after I got out of school, when I quit for lack of funds, I was just desperate to get some kind of work. Through the school I heard that Redbook was looking for someone to do paste-up and mechanicals. I went up and got the job, which was just going to be a temporary job, but after working with them for a couple of months as a temporary, they decided to hire me. So I started out at Redbook, doing paste-ups and mechanicals, and worked up to doing layout and design for them. In the meantime, while I was working at Redbook, I was still friendly with Al and he began working with John Prentice on Rip Kirby. John shared a studio with Leonard Starr. Leonard happened to mention one day that he would like to get someone to help him with the writing on the strip. And Al said, "Hey, I have a friend who writes."
And Al showed him some stuff I had written and Leonard said "This will do." And so I started working for him on On Stage.
RINGGENBERG: How do you cope with what I assume must be a heavy workload—Epic, working with Al on the Star Wars strip...
GOODWIN: Very badly. I cope with it very badly. I'm a little disorganized, and I'm probably a little bit later than I should be on some of the stuff. And that's generally kind of the way I cope with it. I keep plugging at it until I get it done.
RINGGENBERG: Well, what's your work schedule like?
GOODWIN: I try to save writing the strip for weekends. In a good time, I should be able to sit down and write a week's worth of continuities for the strip in...say, three to five hours. If for some reason I'm having problems with it, which sometimes happens, I'll start seeing little plot complications that when I thought of the story hadn't occurred to me. "Oh, yeah, he should have explained that more." Or I may get stuck on something—a tricky escape or exact character-revealing bit—in which case if I won't get it done over the weekend, I'll get up early in the morning and work on it. Same way if I'm doing some kind of comics project, I'll get up early and start on the stuff and then come in from nine to five and do the Epic stuff.
RINGGENBERG: Can you describe how you work with Al, how you break down the work on the newspaper strip?
GOODWIN: With Al I'm doing essentially full script. Since we've worked together for a long time, I don't do a lot of thumbnails or anything like that, and I don't do a lot of panel descriptions. He knows the characters and is pretty good at coming up with backgrounds so I don't have to worry about that. Or giving him really intricate descriptions. If it's on a new planet, I'll offer some suggestions as to what the planet should look like. Stuff like that. But it's actually pretty much straight script.
RINGGENBERG: How much freedom does Lucasfilm give you on the Star Wars strip?
GOODWIN: I think a good deal of freedom. I try to check out the story line with them in advance and let them know vaguely what we are going to be doing. But they don't really sit over each thing. I send them a copy of my script when I'm done with it. But they've been really good about it.
RINGGENBERG: They're not really censorious the way Disney was?
GOODWIN: I think if they felt that we were doing anything really outlandish or wrong with their characters that they would complain. But on the other hand, I don't think that either Al or I are interested in doing something weird with any of the Star Wars characters.
RINGGENBERG: Do you have any idea what Lucas thinks of your stuff? Do you ever hear from him?
GOODWIN: On Empire, when we finished that, I got a letter from him just saying that he liked it and thought it was a nice job, and I think once that Al may have gotten a phone call from him. On the Blade Runner thing, Ridley Scott phoned Al, to thank him for the job he did on Blade Runner. But just that one letter is all I've gotten from Lucas. What kind of amazes me is that he even has time to see this stuff.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Star Wars Daily Strips - Archie Goodwin Interview #1

The following is a vintage interview conducted by James Van Hise with Archie Goodwin circa 1983.
VH: How long have you known Al?
Goodwin: From about the fall of 1956. I first actually worked with him about two or three years after that. It was while I was still in art school. Al was working for Harvey Comics. He had read some of the stuff that I wrote for school projects—comic-type stuff. He then said, "Why don't you try writing some scripts for the stuff I'm doing?" So I wrote a script for him, and he took it to the editor at Harvey, and they gave him the go-ahead to do it. Actually, Al pencilled it and Reed Crandall inked it ("Hermit," in Alarming Tales #1, 1962) . Then they didn't print it for about four years.
VH: Did you do any other writing for Al prior to the work at Warren?
Goodwin: I don't think I did any other writing for Al before Creepy, but he was going to try to sell King Features on the idea of doing a daily Jungle Jim strip drawn by Reed Crandall, and he asked me to write some continuity on that.
VH: Then the next writing you did for Al after Warren was for the King Flash Gordon comics?
Goodwin: Yes, that would be right, because Secret Agent Corrigan came after that, and Al got that more or less on the strength of the Secret Agent X-9 he did in the Flash Gordon comic. Then I wrote Corrigan for the whole time we did it.
VH: Then, when Al began doing Star Wars, you transferred over to that strip with him?
Goodwin: Well, actually they had me doing some stuff before, for Alfredo Alcala, in order to give Al a running start, but basically when Al decided to do the strip is when I came on it as writer. Some other early comic-strip writing I did through Al was when he got me a job with Leonard Starr writing On Stage based on the work I'd done in "Hermit" and the Jungle Jim presentation continuity.
VH: When I spoke with Ray Bradbury, he expressed the opinion that Star Wars wasn't really suited for a newspaper strip under the size limitations the strips suffer from now.
Goodwin: Yeah, the fact of the reduced size certainly hurts, and unless you get some of the pictorial sweep that Star Wars has, you're not really getting Star Wars. But that's definitely a problem. I know that Al's had a lot of problems with fighting back and forth with the syndicate about reproduction. The syndicate's solution is always, "Simplify the art and make the lines heavier," rather than try to find a way to produce a beautiful product beautifully.
VH: Why is it that newspapers don't use the full-page comic strip any more?
Goodwin: I don't think they feel that strips sell tomorrow's newspaper the way they used to.
VH: When did you first encounter Al's work?
Goodwin: Oh, I guess when I was thirteen or fourteen. I was an EC fan. A budding comics fan. I suppose I discovered his work even before it appeared at EC, like the stuff at Toby Press and ACG, such as Adventures into the Unknown and Forbidden Worlds. It's always a pleasure to get a story of mine that he's done and see that he's realized it in a really terrific fashion. As long as I've worked with Al, even though I think I know what he's going to do, I'm still pleasantly surprised and delighted by what he does. Al really loves his work, and believes in it, and I think it shows.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Star Wars Daily Strips - Fan Club Petition

It was sometime around January 1981 when the Los Angeles Times made a decision to discontinue running the strip in their paper, citing lack of interest. To combat this the official Star Wars Fan Club launched a letter-writing campaign and successfully saved the strip. Here is a transcript of the letter that made a million voices suddenly cry out and were not silenced:

January 12, 1981

Dear Fan Club Member:

We want you to be aware that the Los Angeles Times has suspended publication of the STAR WARS comic strip. We believe that there is great interest among many area residents in seeing the strip continue to run in the Times, as it does in hundreds of other papers.

Last month, when the L.A. Times suspended another strip, B.C., readers responded with letters and phone calls of protest and the paper reinstated B.C.

If you are a reader of the Times, and want to continue following STAR WARS, you can write or telephone the newspaper and let them know your wishes. The address is:

Los Angeles Times
Times Mirror Square
Los Angeles, CA 90053

(213) 972-7000
Maureen Garrett
Director, STAR WARS Fan Club
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Star Wars Daily Strips - Russ Manning Interview

The following is an interview conducted by John May for the February 1979 issue of the Star Wars Official Poster Monthly.
SWM: I'd be interested to know how you got into comics in the first place. Were you always interested in drawing?
RM: Yes. I grew up at the time during World War II when comic books were very popular and I began drawing by copying comic books. The ones I really liked were Prince Valiant, Tarzan and Flash Gordon.
SWM: And who was drawing those at that time?
RM: Flash Gordon was still by the originator Alex Raymond and Tarzan was by Burt Hogarth, who is the man chiefly responsible for the style that everyone uses in comic books now, that flashy, very stylized, lots of action bit. Everybody uses it. In comic books like the Star Wars book and in my style, there's about 75 percent illustration and 25 percent cartooning. The difference being cartoonists always draw ears, eyes, nose, and mouth the same way - like Mickey Mouse. The illustrator, if he were drawing Mickey Mouse, would draw a real mouse.
SWM: How do you work on a comic strip?
RM: Well, to go straight through it, I block out the story, this is sent to the Star Wars offices, it's reviewed and changed or suggestions are made. Then, when I know that the total 12-week storyline is approved, I break it down into weekly segments. I'll write that whole week out and start drawing it, working right through the six dailies, which I then hand to Mike who does the inking and lettering. The same formula all the way through is handled with the Sundays, except that when Mike is through inking, he comes back to me and I do the coloring.
SWM: How do you decide on a color scheme for a color comic?
RM: We're trying to move now in comics towards a more painterly style. Prior to this time all comics were drawn and colored unrealistically Mickey Mouse and Peanuts are colored in an entirely arbitrary manner, but illustrational strips we try to color realistically. Flash Gordon, for example, will always have that flesh tone. But we're thinking now that maybe readers are sophisticated enough, and it's so much more fun, to do a panel that has a painted look. A very crude example would be if it's a sunset - everybody is golden colored. Little panels filled in with variations of gold whether it's skin or metal or sand or the robots. They all became gold because the light has hit them differently.
SWM: What was the first strip that really inspired you to have a go yourself?
RM: That has to be Flash Gordon. The people were so dynamic and great. The men were so big and strong and the women so gorgeous looking that it just inspired you to want to do that kind of artwork. The same with Tarzan. He always has been a very dynamic, positive, successful figure and that's what kids want to be. They don't want to be down and miserable and failures.
SWM: Did you have to go to college or did you work at other things for a while?
RM: I took art courses in High School and then went to work for a year at the Union Oil Company in the Water Department to earn enough money to buy a car. Then I took art classes at Junior College and transferred from there to an art school in Southern California. I think really that I felt I was good enough an artist that I could probably make a living at it, but I didn't know any artists. I grew up in a small town in central California, that's oil and farming, so there weren't any successful artists that I could use as a guide model - but I was at least as good as any other kid in my school at art. While I was in art school another fellow and I saw an ad in the paper for an artist to join a small film company who put out their own projector and wanted some films done for it. That company went under because the projectors were cheapies with plastic lenses and the lamps were so hot they melted the lenses. At that time I met the man who was drawing the Tarzan comic book, Jesse Marsh, and he introduced me to the comic book company. I was doing samples for them when the Korean War came along. I was in the National Guard so I went to Japan. After leaving the army, I got to working with this Whitman Publishing doing the little stories at the back of the Tarzan comics and from then I moved to doing the Tarzan strip, which I'm still doing, and into Star Wars.
SWM: How did you personally react to Star Wars when you saw it?
RM: I think the second night it was on in a theater in Orange County my family and I went to see it. I just couldn't even let go of the seat it was so incredible. Just the amount of sound that was coming out of the screen and what we were seeing was beyond anything we'd ever seen in films before.
SWM: What sort of adventures are the Star Wars characters going to get up to in the strip?
RM: I think it will be a blend between the film and the science fiction that I grew up with. It's going to be fun doing the alien worlds, the different cultures, the different mechanisms. It's got some terrible restrictions in that if you allow your imagination just to run loose, the reader hasn't got anything to identify with. You've got to be really controlled.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Star Wars Daily Strips - Honoring a Legend

Al Williamson has just passed away recently. He was undoubtedly one of the finest artists to ever grace Star Wars and the first outside of Ralph McQuarrie to ever capture the feel of that galaxy, far, far away in drawing. He will be missed.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Star Wars Daily Strips - Unpublished Strips #2

Today I have something extra special for you. Before the Star Wars daily strip was launched by Russ Manning, someone else had tried their hand at starting the strip. This someone was Al Williamson. Known mostly for his Flash Gordon work in the 60's, he was Lucas' first choice to do the strip. And so to test the waters he did two weeks worth of strips and started an adaptation of Star Wars.

Unfortunately for whatever reason he was not able to carry on with the strip and Russ Manning took over. If you really enjoy his work however, don't fret. He later returned to the Star Wars strip following the departure of Russ Manning and did the full Marvel comic adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. So without further ado I present to you what the start of the strip could have been like:

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Star Wars Daily Strips - Unpublished Strips #1

Today we have some deleted scenes that never made it into the strip:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Welcome to Daily Star Wars

2009 marks the 30th anniversary of the original Star Wars daily strip that was published in newspapers by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. In honor of that I've decided to start this blog to celebrate some of the best Star Wars storytelling of all time. These strips were some of the earliest Star Wars stories being told outside of the films and generally had a more serious tone than their Marvel cousin.