Besides newspaper comic strips of the '80s and '90s like Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes, one of the most memorable diversions of my adolescent life was reading the vivid Star Wars comic strips than ran in papers distributed by the Los Angeles Times newspaper empire from 1979 to 1984. In addition to the monthly Marvel Star Wars comics I gorged on, another way to get my Star Wars fix was to open the ink-soaked pages of my daily and Sunday paper and follow the space opera heroes and villains in a series of swashbuckling sci-fi missions.
Written by a revolving roster of writers and artists, these evocative, pulpy strips featured the main cast of characters from the original trilogy, plus some curious new aliens and creatures gathered from the distant corners of the galaxy far, far away. The first strip debuted on Nov. 22, 1979, and was boldly written and drawn by the legendary Eisner Award-winning Russ Manning (Magnus, Robot Fighter, Tarzan).
Other notable creative contributors captained this colorful comic strip after Manning was forced to retire due to mounting health issues, including Russ Helm, Archie Goodwin, Al Williamson and the amazing Alfredo Alcala, a personal favorite of mine for his brilliant, detailed horror art for DC and Marvel.
These Star Wars strips were presented in 54 newspapers in 44 countries and read by an estimated 66 million fans throughout their impressive run. The cosmic adventures of Darth Vader, Luke , Leia, Han, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian ventured into canonical territory but also launched into its own exploits on a host of other planets, asteroids and star systems, becoming a major component of the Expanded Universe.
Some excellent anthology paperbacks exist from Russ Cochran Publishing and Dark Horse Comics that celebrate the fantastic run of Star Wars newspaper strips, edited, colored, and reprinted in two comic-book series: Goodwin and Williamson's strips titled Classic Star Wars and Helm and Manning's works in Classic Star Wars: The Early Adventures. In an era of dwindling newspaper publication, it's a nostalgic treat to reflect back to a time when daily and weekly papers blanketed the world and Star Wars was stretching its stellar legs across the galaxy. I now know precisely where my stash of fresh Christmas cash can be put to fine use!