Star Wars returns to the hallowed halls of Marvel Comics this week, so it’s time to look back at the Marvel era from a long time ago. Some amazing comic creators like Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Mary Jo Duffy, Walt Simonson, and Howard Chaykin all helped build the earliest expanded universe stories, continuing and adding to the film that captivated so many. It was Marvel that kept the lightsabers lit in the long years between films, giving fans their only taste of the Star Wars universe as they waited for the next installments. Here are some of the memorable characters that graced the pages of Marvel’s Star Wars comics that we hope to see return in some form.
But before we begin, we would like to express our respect for the twenty plus years that Dark Horse published some of the most amazing science fiction comics ever. The time of Star Wars at Dark Horse will forever be remembered as one of the most brilliantly creative and fertile eras of storytelling in Star Wars history. You can read about 13 of our favorite Dark Horse Comics Star Wars stories right here!
First Appearance: Star Wars #7 (1977)
Writers: Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin
Artist: Howard Chaykin
Crimson Jack (or “Redbeard” as Han Solo dubbed him) has the distinction of being Star Wars’ first expanded universe villain and created one of the first continuity conundrums between films. The first six issues of Marvel’s Star Wars were adaptations of A New Hope, but after issue six, Marvel turned to original stories from the minds of Howard Chaykin and Roy Thomas to feed fans’ need for all things Star Wars. Han and Chewie first encountered Crimson Jack when the pirate hijacked the Falcon and stole the reward Han received for the rescue of Princess Leia and his participation in the Battle of Yavin. From there, Jack became a recurring threat to Han and the Rebellion.
One memorable encounter saw Han saving Jabba the Hut (the walrus looking one in yellow that predated his official slug-like screen debut) from Jack, thus earning Jabba’s gratitude which caused the crime lord to forgive Han’s debt and remove the bounty from his head. This posed a problem for Marvel come Empire Strikes Back because, as all fans know, Han began the film with the price still firmly on his head. Marvel had to get creative and had to come up for a reason for Jabba to once again get mightily pissed at Solo right before Empire premiered.
First appearance: Star Wars #8 (1977)
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Howard Chaykin
What classic sci-fi saga is complete without a badass rabbit? Before Bucky O’Hare, before Usagi Yojimbo, before Captain Carrot, there was Jaxxon. Jaxxon is often cited as one of the sillier characters in Marvel’s Star Wars run, but looking at it all from a modern perspective, Jaxxon was pretty awesome. It was up to Marvel’s writers too populate Lucas’ galaxy with characters and creatures of all shapes and sizes, so why not a spacefaring rabbit?
Jaxxon was a grizzled space vet, a brave warrior and a capable pilot who fought side by side with the Rebels in the earliest days of Marvel’s Star Wars series. Jaxxon was quickly removed from the comic after a few appearances sparking a legend that George Lucas himself demanded the removal as he found the character too silly. Of course, the creation of Jar Jar Binks proved that George Lucas does not have a silly threshold so the reasons behind Jaxxon’s dismissal from the book remain a mystery. Whatever the case, Jaxxon added an anything goes element to the early Star Wars stories. If Marvel wants to honor their roots, perhaps it is time that Jaxxon (and his ship: The Rabbit’s Foot) fly again.
(update: Marvel have at least put Jaxxon on one of their variant covers for the new Star Wars series.)
Baron Orman Tagge
First Appearance: Star Wars #25 (1979)
Writer: Archie Goodwin
Artist: Carmine Infantino
Baron Tagge was first non-film character to wield a lightsaber. Tagge’s other noteworthy contribution to Star Wars lore was that he was an adversary to both Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, little knowing of course, that his enemies were actually father and son. Tagge was a pragmatic and ruthless businessman who had nothing but contempt for old world religions and superstitions (like his more famous brother Cassio Tagge), thus he dismissed the Force and thought he was more suitable to be the Emperor’s strong right hand than Vader. After Vader’s disgrace when the first Death Star was destroyed, Tagge started making a play for Darth Vader’s position.
Tagge was a powerful business and military leader and brought all his resources into play to take down Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion in order to prove his superiority over Vader. Vader was having none of it and after a complex series of events, forced Tagge to duel Luke Skywalker. Vader used the force to make Luke see Tagge as Darth Vader.
When Luke killed Tagge, Vader dropped his illusion and enjoyed his two-fold victory. One, he had defeated Tagge, a man who swore to bring Vader down, and two he secured Tagge’s loyalists as allies against Skywalker. Tagge held most of the galaxy in contempt but loved his sister and tried to keep her pure. When Luke killed Tagge, Tagge’s sister, Domina, became a sworn enemy of the Rebellion, a tragic dynamic that Marvel can also revisit.
First appearance: Star Wars #55 (1981)
Writer: David Michelinie
Artist: Walt Simonson
Plif may look like a rejected Berkeley Breathed character, but one would be hard pressed to find a more loyal ally to the Rebellion. Plif was the leader of a telepathic race of errr, things, called the Hoojibs. After Plif and his people helped Princess Leia and a band of Rebels defeat an aggressive alien incursion, the Hoojibs became an important part of the Rebel Alliance.
After Plif first appeared, it was rare to see an issue of Star Wars without a Hoojib on one of the heroes’ shoulders. These fuzzballs weren’t just cute; they were master strategists and fearless allies. They weren’t cloyingly sweet but a constant and important part of Marvel’s landscape. Any Star Wars comic from Marvel would seem a little bit empty without brave Plif or at least one Hoojib around.
First appearance: Star Wars #56 (1981)
Writers: Writers David Michelinie, Walter Simonson, and Louise Jones
Artist: Walter Simonson
The story of Lumiya was one of the most riveting and surprising characters arcs of Marvel’s entire run, so much so that Lumiya, the Dark Lady was one of the few Marvel characters that Dark Horse fully utilized during their years of Star Wars publication. Fans first knew Lumiya as Shira Elan Colla Brie, a brave rebel pilot, ally and possible love interest to Luke Skywalker. Secretly, Brie was the Emperor and Vader’s secret weapon against the Alliance, a cunning infiltrator ready to strike and destroy the Rebellion from within.
Brie fought side by side with the Rebels for a long period of time while secretly reporting back to Vader. When Brie made her move and attempted to shoot down Luke Skywalker, Luke, guided by the force, shot down Brie. When he found out the Force told him to fire on his comrade, Luke actually doubted the Force for the first time. Vader found the profoundly injured Brie and remade her into Lumiya, the Dark Lady.
Complete with a lightwhip, (you hear that Abrams? LIGHT…WHIP…film it!) Lumiya was meant to be the major antagonist in the post Return of the Jedi era of Marvel’s Star Wars comics. Lumiya is killed in the rushed final issue of Marvel’s Star Wars (#107) but would later return because Dark Horse understood just how awesome this mysteriously shrouded woman was. Lumiya represents the next generation of Sith and let’s hope Marvel recognizes her potential for future use. Hell, let’s hope Disney considers her filmworthy, because, as any fan of old school Marvel will tell you, Lumiya was truly one of Star Wars’ greatest and most complex villains.
First appearance: Star Wars #67 (1982)
Writer: David Michelinie
Artist: Ron Frenz
The Darker was like a Dementor stuck right into the Star Wars Universe decades before the ghostly fear demons tormented Harry Potter. It was rare to find a villain or creature in the Star Wars galaxy not connected somehow to the Emperor or at least to Jabba the Hutt. The Darker was composed of the negative energies of his people, the Arban. After the debacle on Hoth, the Rebels were searching for a new base and ran afoul of the Darker in a hidden cavern.
The Darker is a pretty cool sci-fi concept, all the rage and base impulses of a race locked up waiting for unsuspecting travelers it could devour. The Darker was a memorable foe who was finally defeated by Chewbacca, C-3P0, and R2-D2, but it was only used once in the pages of old school Marvel. Marvel should be aware that the concept of the Darker is just too cool to keep buried forever.
Tobbi Dala and Fenn Shysa
First Appearance: Star Wars #68 (1982)
Artist: Gene Day
No doubt, Boba Fett was one of the most intriguing characters from the original trilogy. Boba defined badassness with cool armor and a Man With No Name like demeanor that fascinated film goers from the moment Vader briefed Fett and the other Bounty Hunters on the bridge of the Star Destroyer Executor. In 1982, fans had only caught a few fleeting glimpses of Fett’s sheer coolness in The Empire Strikes Back, so when Fenn and Tobbi were introduced in the pages of Marvel’s Star Wars, fans were thrilled at the chance to see a little glimpse into Fett’s background and see more Mandalorians in action. Fenn was the leader of an elite group of Mandalorians that helped the Rebels battle the Empire while Tobbi sacrificed himself to save Leia and his own people.
Their backstory revealed that Boba Fett once fought side by side with the Mandalorians before he became a bounty hunter and that Tobbi and Fenn represented the honored tradition that Fett turned his back on. Fenn stuck around as a supporting character, each appearance offering fans a rare glimpse into Fett’s history.
Of course, all of Fenn’s appearances were removed from canon because of the revelation in Attack of the Clones that Boba Fett was a clone of Jango Fett, but this does not lessen the impact of these early Marvel glimpses into Mandalorian history as Marvel’s great creators tried to shed some light on the mystery that was Fett. Maybe Marvel can figure out a way to once again weave Fenn and Tobbi into current Star Wars continuity.
First Appearance: Star Wars #70 (1983)
Writer: Mary Jo Duffy
Artists: Kerry Gammill and Tom Palmer
Before the prequels era and the arrival of Padme Amidala, Padme’s myriad handmaidens, and Asoka, the Star Wars Galaxy had a dearth of female characters that creators could use to enrich the Expanded Universe. Marvel’s Star Wars introduced a wide array of interesting and multi-faceted females picking up the slack in a world where the only X chromosome belonged to Princess Leia. Dani was one of the more fascinating females to enrich Marvel’s corner of the Star Wars Galaxy.
Dani’s alien appearance would have made her right at home in Captain Kirk’s bed. Her scantily clad pink figure stood out against the usually sexless (until Leia put on the bikini) world of Star Wars. She was from a race that valued pleasure and sensuality above all else, and when she was first introduced, Dani was used as a foil for the still rather innocent Luke Skywalker.
Dani soon became a staunch ally to the rebel alliance bravely taking many missions besides Luke and company in the later years of Marvel’s title. Dani joined Luke and the Rebellion after the Battle of Endor and was one of the first characters to confront the greatest post-Rebel threat to the heroes, Lumiya, the Dark Lady. There, she lost her true love Chihdo and fell into a deep depression, a state that is counterintuitive to her race’s constant quest for sensual pleasure. Chihdo was not truly dead, but writer Mary Jo Duffy never got to wrap up this plot thread as Marvel’s Star Wars was abruptly cancelled in 1986.
Fans have been waiting decades to see Dani reunite with her lost love, a plot thread that Marvel might want to revisit in the present day. Dani would be an interesting character to bring back if modern Marvel would do a bridge series between Jedi and the upcoming Episode VII, she adds a much needed element of femininity to the era, and has a certain Flash Gordon-like appeal that could create a classic dynamic for any new Marvel series.
First appearance: Star Wars #70 (1983)
Writer: Mary Jo Duffy
Artists: Kerry Gammill and Tom Palmer
Rik Duel was an unrepentant scoundrel, a handsome smuggler who lived for adventure and the big pay day. He was everything Han Solo could have been if Solo had not found love and morality in a galactic rebellion against the Empire. Duel was a figure from Solo’s past, a troublemaker and confidant who helped Solo during many ill-conceived excursions. In the present, he was a reminder of Solo’s past misdeeds and a temptation for Solo to abandon his responsibilities and again live a life of free-wheeling profiteering.
There was a sense of honor in Duel who helped save Lando and Dani from the clutches of IG-88 and Bossk in one of Marvel’s best storylines, but he was also the man who began looting abandoned Imperial planets after the battle of Endor. Duel would be a great character for Marvel to revisit because he is an echo of Solo’s past, a man who never found love within a heroic band of rebels. Duel was an early Expanded Universe peek into the underbelly of the galaxy, a world of smugglers, pirates, and nonstop adventure.
Tippett the Ewok
First Appearance: Star Wars #94 (1985)
Writer: Jo Duffy
Artist: Cynthia Martin
Tippett was a brave Ewok warrior and betrothed to an Ewok princess, and he bravely battled a Lahsbee warrior who morphed into a powerful monster for the honor of the Ewoks. When Tippett realized the Ewoks and the Lahsbee had both been manipulated by the evil Hiromi Empire (who looked like beret wearing beatnik insects, GET ON THAT HASBRO!), Tippett proved himself to be a skilled ambassador by brokering a peace between his people and the stubbornly proud Lahsbee. Tippett seemed to be on the verge of becoming an important character in Marvel’s Star Wars Universe by becoming a post Return of the Jedi focus as the voice of the Rebellion’s new found allies, the Ewoks.
If there were to be further Endor adventures for Marvel (and there seemed to be a few set up before Star Wars’ untimely cancellation) it was Tippett that was to be a central figure of those stories. Maybe current Marvel could pick up where 1985 Marvel left off by allowing Tippett time to be the comic book face of the Ewoks. No one tell Wicket, please.
BONUS ENTRY! Yes, while this version of Jabba isn’t canon and can’t/won’t return in any new incarnation of Marvel’s Star Wars, he’s still a perfect example of how important Marvel was to the early days of the Star Wars expanded universe!
Jabba the Hut
First Appearance: Star Wars #2
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Howard Chaykin
Before the premiere of Return of the Jedi in 1984, legions of Star Wars fans’ only exposure to Jabba the Hutt, the vilest crime lord in the galaxy, came courtesy of Marvel Comics. In the second of a six part adaptation of A New Hope, readers got to see Jabba the Hutt, (or “Hut” as Marvel spelled it) for the first time, and he wasn’t the corpulent slug fans have grown to love. Marvel’s Hut was a yellow skinned alien walrus looking dude with tufts of hair on his face. Y’see, in the original script of Star Wars there was a scene where Han Solo meets with Jabba in order to establish Solo’s status as a criminal on the run from his past.
Lucas even filmed the sequence with a pudgy actor in a fur coat standing in for Jabba. Lucas intended to add a stop motion puppet later but decided to cut the scene for various cost cutting and pacing reasons finally inserting the Jabba (via questionable CGI effects in the Special Edition). Marvel did not abandon the sequence and used one of the random Cantina aliens (Mosep Binneed to be exact…the line forms to the left, ladies) as their de facto Jabba. For the newly minted Star Wars fan, this was the only representation of Jabba until Return of the Jedi. The original run of Marvel’s Star Wars comics were often contradicted by a future film, but old time fans will never forget the seven years that, in their imaginations, Jabba was a bipedal walrus looking humanoid. This version of Jabba would return in Star Wars #28 and Star Wars #37 becoming one of the series’ early recurring villains.
* a version of this article originally appeared in January of 2014. *