Lit A Look Back at Dark Horse Star Wars, Year By Year: Now Discussing 1998 [WARNING: IMAGE INTENSE]

Discussion in 'Literature' started by The2ndQuest, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth

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    [IMG]
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    This was something I had been thinking about doing, and with the recent news of the comics license transferring to Marvel, now seems as good a time as any.

    Here we're going to look back, year by year, at the DHC SW releases, give us a chance to reflect on some of the comic books that have probably been overshadowed or forgotten (sometimes with good reason ;)) in the wake of more recent titans like KOTOR, Legacy and Dark Times (though we'll be getting to them eventually too!), maybe highlight favorite moments, panels or covers.

    (I'm going to refrain from embedding every cover, to prevent these posts from getting unwieldy to navigate. A shame we don't have the image thumbnail option we had on the old boards- that made threads like this and the old TPB Resource Threads more visually effective)

    As we start catching up to the more recent decade, I'll integrate links to the original discussion threads here as well.

    I'm trying to be as comprehensive as possible with the release dates, but it's likely something may slip through the cracks, so feel free to point out any omissions.

    It may be a little awkward to discuss partial storyarcs given that the majority here likely only have access to these stories in TPB or Omni form, but I'm approaching it that way just to give a better idea of where things were when they first came out. But don't feel obligated to restrict your comments to just a portion of a story arc- you're free to discuss the story as a whole, in other words.

    Updates for the thread will hopefully be every week or two, allowing this to run throughout the "Year of the Horse".

    To launch, we'll be covering 1991-1992. Why two years? Because only one issue was released in 1991, so it'd be a pretty abbreviated note to kick things off on ;).

    1991- 1992
    December 1991
    Dark Empire #1 (of 6): The Destiny of a Jedi Cover

    February 1992
    Dark Empire #2 (of 6): Devastator of Worlds Cover

    April 1992
    Dark Empire #3 (of 6): The Battle for Calamari Cover

    June 1992
    Dark Empire #4 (of 6): Confrontation on the Smugglers' Moon Cover

    August 1992
    Dark Empire #5 (of 6): Emperor Reborn Cover
    Classic Star Wars #1 Cover

    September 1992
    Classic Star Wars #2 Cover

    October 1992
    Dark Empire #6 (of 6): The Fate of a Galaxy Cover
    Classic Star Wars #3 Cover

    November 1992
    Classic Star Wars #4 Cover

    December 1992
    Classic Star Wars #5 Cover

    Obviously, when we talk about the beginning of DHC's run of Star Wars comics, we're not talking about a story that has been overshadowed by anything (if anything, Palpatine's musings and newfound desire to seek eternal life introduced in Episode III only strengthened said story's interest), and was the most notable beacon signaling a unified continuity between comics and novels of the "new EU"- the one that left readers for over a decade wondering "where did Luke fall to the darkside and fight a Palpatine clone?".

    Dark Empire.

    Just at first glance, having never owned DE1 in issue form, I notice that I don't think I've ever read the individual issue titles for this series before- or, if I have, I definitely do not remember having done so. "Confrontation on the Smugglers' Moon" is just such a great title evoking the RPG material at the time- only fitting, given the beginnings of continuity being stirred about at this point in time.

    Obviously Dorman's covers here are a HUGE contribution to the SW franchise- easily amongst the most iconic images ever created for the saga. And while the overall "vertical fire/wall/door crack" motif of the covers is great, I think it's safe to say DE1 #2's cover made a dent in the Star Wars universe.

    [IMG]

    Luke in Vader's uniform would probably be the key visual of the series (the fact that it graces the cover of the DE1 TPB collections furthers that claim).

    Another key cover, IMO, would be DE1 #4's:

    [IMG]

    As it is closely associated with the return of Fett (for obvious reasons). And, let's face it, the return of Fett contributed significantly to the character's popularity and eventual ties to the clones and Mandalorians. Plus, again, that clever vertical motif's implementation

    Cam Kennedy's art style is divisive, but I dearly love it. It evokes the perfect mood and tone for the series, being both simultaneously starkly high contrast and crazily detailed. It's like if Star Wars was given a radically different DP for a sequel.

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    I mean, LOOK AT THAT!

    I get the impression that Classic Star Wars was almost a "Crap, we have a massive hit on our hands and no other Star Wars stories in the pipeline- we need to put out something!" reaction to DE's success.

    Granted, it wasn't just a simple reprint, as it needed to be reformatted, colored and have some additional art panels made by Williamson, but one would assume it was quicker to produce and print than a 6 issue miniseries from scratch. However, one must appreciate what it shows of DHC- few publishers would go to the lengths of reformatting a daily strip into a comic book layout alongside new art as opposed to just doing a straight reprint.

    I totally skipped over the whole Classic SW line back in the day (finite comics budget in the age of early/mid 90's X-Men did not grant much in the way of diverse purchase options ;). That and there was the stigma of "old" material not being a part of the new continuity.

    Since then, I've come to appreciate them (much more than the Marvel series)- and I love some of the panels-turned-recolored-covers the series used.

    [IMG]

    I mean, how much more awesome can you fit in a single cover/panel? ;)
    Last edited by The2ndQuest, Jan 13, 2014
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  2. SWpants Force Ghost

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    I think this is a spectacular idea.

    The artwork really was great. I have some of the Classics and O amile while reading them. They really capture the story well
  3. Force Smuggler Chosen One

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  4. HEDGESMFG Force Ghost

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    I still find the concept of Dark Empire to be controversial, much like TCW's revival of Maul.

    But in exactly the same way, I enjoy it for its execution of an otherwise borderline offensive concept.

    As a character arc for Luke and Leia, I think it's a great piece. And it DID add much to Palpatine's character as well, controversial or not.
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  5. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    I think Dark Empire is really good for both Luke and Leia, and having just read the Return of the Jedi novelization it really enhances my appreciation just based on what was available at the time. Couple that with Shadows of Mindor and... what a great three stories to go together.
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  6. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    I'm not psychologically prepared for this thread.
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  7. The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth

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    Cheer up. Just think of it as 11.5 months of happiness followed 2 weeks of an utter sadness that will never end.

    Back to DE- though this point might be better served once we bring DE2 into the picture, but I've always wondered what if they had basically just redone the last 2 pages or so of the series so as not to have destroyed Eclipse or Palpatine (but still in defeat), thus allowing a more natural flow into DE2 and avoid the "sequel retread reset" of having another Eclipse and another clone.

    It might have served the series as a whole better, but DE1 itself wouldn't have stood alone so well and, thus, would potentially be lesser for it. Ignoring the abbreviated problems of EE, I wonder if that would have been a tradeoff worth making or not? I'm torn there.
    Last edited by The2ndQuest, Jan 13, 2014
  8. patchworkz7 Force Ghost

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    Mar 26, 2004
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    I can remember picking this up in singles and just being blown away that there was new SW stuff coming out.

    My memory is really...really hazy as this was high school, but I'm pretty sure I only knew about this because of a preview in another DH book, or maybe the LCS had a poster up, idk.

    I remember not knowing what to think about the art but now I think it looks awesome, especially that two page spread.
  9. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    Great thread idea -- though the whole "look back" part of it already has me rather out of sorts. :(
  10. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    For some reason, the "another Eclipse" doesn't phase me in the slightest anymore than "another Death Star" or "another Imperial Star Destroyer" -- it's completely inconsequential to the story so its presence doesn't bother me at all because it's just another class of warship, and he has more than one so I think the latter is a better comparison than the former, so if anything it's less egregious than ROTJ in that regard. And the only thing I would really say makes the clone thing worth mention is that Luke seemed to destroy all the vats in DE #5. I don't necessarily have a problem with Dark Empire ending like it did, because it concluded the story in a way that can function as a standalone like the original Star Wars did with the Death Star, and yet the story had already set the parameters to allow for Palpatine to return -- it's not outside the realm of possibility that he has another secret lab with more clones as a contingency, but if they don't make a sequel then he didn't and he's dead.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Jan 13, 2014
  11. TrandoJedi Force Ghost

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    May 4, 2011
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    I was born in 91! Which makes me all the more sad that DH is leaving the license. It's been on list for ages, but I've never read Dark Empire! That and the Crimson Empire Saga in addition to other hardcover collections I put to the last of the list while I get Omnibuses and trades....
  12. The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth

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    It is very odd when something you associate with the beginning and very essence of a franchise within a particular medium concludes or is changed. I'm not sure if I was aware of any Star Wars comics prior to hearing about Dark Empire (probably on one of the famed Steve Sansweet QVC Star Wars specials [the closest thing to a Star Wars event in the early 90's, heh).

    And while I can't speak for any DE1 ads, I do know there were print ads in comics and magazines for DE2. I'd have to do some serious digging through my stuff but I remember one being a shot of an ISD or three (though probably the more beefy sovereign SDs?) with the DE2 "coming soon" tag (or something to that effect).

    Speaking of DE influence and posters, there is also Matt Busch's Dark Empire poster done in the style of the SE's and prequels that he gave away at Celebration VI. Man, was that hard to acquire at the con but I'm glad I missed some panels to get one (and, no, you can't have it-it's not for sale!).

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    Last edited by The2ndQuest, Jan 13, 2014
  13. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    NOOOOOOOOO
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  14. Gorefiend Chosen One

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    Ah Dark Empire.... I still hate it with a passion, though I admit that at least Dark Empire 1 works for what it is trying to do, though the art is still just nauseating beyond believe. Classic Star Wars though should be picked up by everyone as the art is just gorgeous and the stories often take surprising directions and ideas. The Return of Ben Kenobi is still one of my favorite SW stories of all time, as is the whole birth of the Executor arc.
  15. Darth_Garak Force Ghost

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    Personally I loved Dark Empire and it's art. Even DEII was fine by me since it made sense to me that Luke didn't manage to kill all the clones, so of course Palps will be back. It's just to bad EE was rushed and we got a mess, it had some potential.
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  16. Blur Force Ghost

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    Great nostalgic thread, with some amazing scans. I have never seen the one with MB artwork - incredible; Thanks for posting this.

    The rest of this post is an edited version of one I recently made on the DH website:

    I still remember the call I got in very early '92 from a friend telling me that there was a new Star Wars comic out; I was amazed since I hadn't known about this. So, that very day, I went out & bought Dark Empire #1, and the rest is history. DE (and the first HTTE novel) got me back into Star Wars & comic collecting in general after a long hiatus. I still remember the long, grueling wait between issues with this bi-monthly DE series :D

    One of my favorite sequences in DE was the return of Boba Fett. It's worth noting that this was the second time the character returned in the EU; the first was his short-lived return in Marvel Star Wars #81 (the first issue to chronologically take place after ROTJ).

    Also liked the Emperor's guards in the series; they weren't the Red Guards from ROTJ, but were atually concept drawings of guards that had initially been seen in the The Art of ROTJ (1983). I thought it was cool that DH used this concept art, and as far as I know it's one of few times this type of thing was done in the comics...

    Also was really into the Williamson/Goodwin newspaper reprints in the Classic Star Wars series. It was excellent that DH took the time to bother to reprint & re-color these. The stories & art were superb, and it was the first time I had ever read these. I still think Al Willimason is the definitive SW comic artist - not only was his work on this strip incredible, but I also enjoyed his ESB & ROTJ adaptations, as well as #50 & #98 of the Marvel series...
    Last edited by Blur, Jan 14, 2014
  17. Zorrixor Chosen One

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    Not much time to post right now, so I will simply say...
    This.
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  18. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    I simultaneously enjoy and despise Dark Empire. It's weird.
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  19. BoromirsFan Jedi Grand Master

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    I think I liked Dark Empire a lot more as a kid than I do now. Looking back on in it now it sort of reeks of "90"s and seems kinda cheesy. But ROTS made it much more relevant and it is an important foundation in the grand scheme of EU.


    Perhaps I would think more highly of DE if Empires End was longer and better fleshed out. Perhaps that doesn't really matter here as this is about DE I.
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  20. The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth

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    I think it goes without saying that cutting down a 6 issue series finale to your flagship saga down to 2 issues with inferior art is a terrible idea that reflects poorly back on the earlier works in the series. Same way a bad (or, at best, controversial) series finale can reflect poorly upon an acclaimed TV series like Lost or BSG.
    Last edited by The2ndQuest, Jan 14, 2014
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  21. RC-1991 Force Ghost

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    Or an atrocious entire last season.

    Dexter and X-Files, I'm giving you the death glare.
  22. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    X-Files has survived its final season for me much better than BSG or Lost. I've started rewatching it again, but TBH I don't have much interest in watching BSG or Lost again.

    But I don't think Empire's End was necessarily bad, just rushed.
  23. Jedi Ben Chosen One

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    Jul 19, 1999
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    I'm going to throw in a few points here.

    1. DE was a bi-monthly series! Yup, 1 issue every 2 months! You can't imagine that now unless you've been reasing Dark Times!

    2. Several things made DHC's SW comics stand out from the pack, especially DE:
    • Cardstock and painted covers - this was unusual
    • No ads in the story pages! DHC clustered the ads in the back. Every comic had ads, they abandoned this eventually, but it was a great move.
    • Opening scroll page was a neat little nod to the films.
    • For all that people go on about the colouring it was a step up from the usual superhero art and colouring, to wit:
    [IMG]

    And not forgetting story pages like this:

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    When that's the standard art, DE's stuff is going to blast your eyes in ways unexpected and likely get you to buy it!

    Classic Star Wars too did the opening scroll plus no ads double hit and, while it didn't have Dorman painted covers, it had something as good - Al Williamson covers!

    Whatever else you say about DHC SW books, you can't say they didn't go hell for leather straight from the off!
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  24. Darth_Henning Force Ghost

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    I'm afraid I'm one who's never particularly liked the art style of the DE series, but the plot, much maligned as it may be by many, is a very logical epilogue to Palpatine's reign, and as mentioned above, fits even better now that we know about both Plagueis and Palpatine's obsession with life extension.It also did serve as a good introduction to an expanded universe, both including all the character we were used to, while introducing a bunch of new ones, and putting them into situations we'd never seen them before.

    And though it was never explicitly done at the time, it fit together well with Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy that was being published at the same time.

    Classic Star Wars was an ambitious project, but for different reasons. Taking another company's material (or author, I'm not sure how the rights would have worked for that), and reprinting it in collected form was, and still is, rather uncommon. And for most fans, those issues and their subsequent collections are the only way we have access to that material.

    I think that is what was the first to establish that the people who work for Dark Horse were a much Star Wars fans as business-people. And that's something I think we're all going to miss in the future when its lost.
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  25. Jedi Ben Chosen One

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    Regardless of whether it is to your personal liking DH - you can't deny it had an edge over the glut of 90s superhero art!

    Also, very important!

    Classic Star Wars is - now - available digitally! People ought to buy it while it is going!
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