Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (2015 Remastered Edition)
Based on a screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, and on the story by George Lucas
Writer/Editor: Archie Goodwin
Artists: Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon
Editor-in-Chief: James Shooter
Cover Artist (2015): Adi Granov
As the countdown to the release of Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens nears the four-month mark, Marvel Worldwide (which is also owned by the Walt Disney Company) continues the “remastering” of its Classic Trilogy comic book adaptations with Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Published in hardcover on August 11, this oversized graphic novel (OGN) follows the publication of Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope by three months. In November, Marvel will complete its remastering of the saga when it publishes Star Wars – Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
As the Imperial forces regroup from the Death Star’s destruction, they target the new Rebel base on the ice planet Hoth. Will Darth Vader’s troops find Luke Skywalker, or will a wampa get Luke first? Meanwhile, feelings run high in the galaxy’s greatest love triangle as bounty hunters target Han Solo. Luke seeks out the great Jedi Master Yoda on swampy Dagobah, but the Emperor has designs on turning the young Rebel hero. As the battle begins for Skywalker’s soul, will his fear lead to anger, hate and the dark side? It’s all heading to one of the greatest confrontations of all time. Prepare for a grave disturbance in the Force! – Publisher’s blurb, Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Comics – Then and Now
When Lucasfilm gave Marvel the go-ahead to adapt the screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas requested that the comic’s publication be delayed to preserve the element of surprise prior to Empire’s release on May 21, 1980. Marvel agreed, and the first issue (Star Wars #39) was not available until after the movie was in theaters. (This was in sharp contrast to Marvel’s release of Star Wars #1, which was released several weeks before Star Wars premiered on May 25, 1977.)
As was the case with Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin’s 1977 Star Wars adaptation, Goodwin and artists Al Williamson and Carlos Garza didn’t have director Irvin Kershner’s finished film to based their work on. Instead, Lucasfilm’s Diana Attias gave the Marvel trio one of the drafts of the Brackett-Kasdan script and access to pre-production paintings by Ralph McQuarrie and still photographs taken during principal photography in London’s Elstree Studios and on location in Finse, Norway.
According to Goodwin’s 1980 behind-the-scenes essay, Lucasfilm was extremely cooperative during the three months’ of prep time for Marvel’s six-issue adaptation. Attias and her staff would send Goodwin the latest available changes to Empire’s shooting script. In addition when Yoda made the transition from Ralph McQuarrie’s initial design to makeup artist Stuart Freeborn’s finished puppet, Lucasfilm provided Marvel with top-secret photos of the diminutive Jedi Master.
As Goodwin wrote 35 years ago, sometimes the updates reached Marvel’s New York office a bit late:
Our original concept of Yoda was based on one Ralph McQuarrie painting (all that was available at the time). Sometime after Al and Carlos had turned in the pages involving the little Jedi Master, photos of the way he’d finally look in the finished movie reached Diana; she raced the new version to us. The paperback book, which had the earliest publication date, had already gone to press, but Al and Carlos were able to make adjustments in the character for the super special and the 50₵ comic version. And honest, folks… We didn’t come up with this just to drive collectors into buying more than one version.
Because of the inherent limits of adapting one medium (motion pictures) to another (comic books), Goodwin’s version is not a frame-by-frame reproduction of Kershner’s 129-minute long movie. The Battle of Hoth, a set-piece sequence that pits Darth Vader’s force of Imperial All-Terrain Armored Transports (AT-ATs) and snowtroopers against Rebel snowspeeders and ground troops, is depicted in a handful of pages distributed among issues #40 and #41 (Chapters Two and Three of this book).
On a similar vein, due to on-the-set changes in the shooting script, there are differences between the finished film and Marvel’s comic adaptation. These include:
- An abridged version of Vader’s discussion with the Emperor (whose holographic rendition is not clearly shown in the comic) about the “son of Skywalker”
- The scenes of Luke’s training with Yoda include material which was not in the final film, especially a sequence in which the Jedi trainee undergoes lightsaber training with remotes
- Some scenes with Han Solo and Princess Leia, especially those set in Bespin’s Cloud City, feature dialogue and scenes that were changed or even deleted during the film’s production
- Events are compressed, and some of the more humorous scenes involving R2-D2 and C-3PO are absent
As is the case with Marvel’s May 2015 remastered edition of Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope, colorist Carl Gafford’s 1980 pastel-style coloring has been redone by New York’s SotoColor studio. Purists who liked Gafford’s original work, as well as that of Glynis Oliver’s coloring in later reissues, may not like SotoColor’s revisionist style. However, other Star Wars fans and younger comics aficionados might embrace the remastered inking, which reflects a 21st Century sensibility and adds visual unity and coherence to the book.
Following the format of the Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope remastered edition, Empire is divided into six chapters, each of which corresponds to the following original issues:
- Star Wars 39: The Empire Strikes Back: Beginning
- Star Wars 40: The Empire Strikes Back: Battleground Hoth
- Star Wars 41: The Empire Strikes Back: Imperial Pursuit
- Star Wars 42: The Empire Strikes Back: To Be a Jedi
- Star Wars 43: The Empire Strikes Back: Betrayal at Bespin
- Star Wars 44: The Empire Strikes Back: Duel a Dark Lord
Each chapter is marked by a reproduction of its corresponding issue’s original cover art. As is the case with the 1977 comic book covers, the 1980 adaptation’s cover art is often fanciful and only reflects the theme of the story, not its content.
In addition to an introduction by actor Billy Dee Williams, Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back includes a section devoted to pinup art created by various Marvel artists and guest contributors. Some of the art is done by Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon, but other in-house artists featured in this section include Joe Jusko (The Hulk), Bob Layton (Iron Man), Marshall Rogers (Daughters of the Dragon Marvel Preview) and humorist-comic artist Fred Hembeck.
The book also features a section devoted to covers of Marvel’s British weekly edition, which split the U.S. monthly edition into two issues each. This necessitated the creation of extra cover art, which was drawn by Carmine Infantino and inked by Gene Day and Dan Green. The pinup art section at the end of Star Wars-Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back closes with a selection of art from the original pre-colored draft of Star Wars #39 and covers for various Marvel and Dark Horse Comics reissues. The book also comes with a code for digital copies for Apple iOS and Android devices.
As is the case with Marvel’s earlier remastered version of Star Wars, the 2015 reissue of The Empire Strikes Back is a nifty addition to any Classic Trilogy fans’ book collection. As mentioned earlier, the new coloring scheme by Chris Sotomayor’s New York studio may displease purists, but Marvel did a nice job with this collectible slim hardcover.
• Series: Star Wars
• Hardcover: 144 pages
• Publisher: Marvel (August 11, 2015)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0785193677
• ISBN-13: 978-0785193678
• Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.7 x 10.9 inches