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.