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."

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