Saturday, May 24, 2014

TVAMD Episode 222: Things We learned on the Internet!

Sean, Greg, Andrew, and Lynn discuss things they read on the internet about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, the latest Battlestar galactica reboot, Bradley Cooper playing Indiana Jones, a Serenity reunion, The New Fantastic Four, and Ghostbusters 3.

With all the time they have left over they talk about the Knights of Badassdom, Star Wars 7, the Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Community, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Chronicle, How I Met Your Mother, Riddick, and the importance of proper grammar in internet articles.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Star Wars Expanded Universe: Doomworld!

Luke Skywalker put in cameo appearances for the first few issues of the Marvel Star Wars comic that followed the adaptation of the film, finally returning for his first full comic adventure in issue 12, Doomworld! [1]
But even with all the characters in play, there was still the question of what to do with them. The Empire was obviously the main threat, but they couldn’t feature Darth Vader as the main villain. Vader popped in and out for a while, usually by way of chasing after the Star Warriors in near miss encounters. It took a while for Vader to learn the names of the rebels who blew up the Death Star and shot down his TIE fighter, so at first he was more of a peripheral villain.
Even after Vader is specifically dedicated to chasing down Luke and to a lesser degree Han, he still is mostly a political threat, rarely facing off against our heroes in direct encounters. That leaves them a lot of time to wander around finding new trouble to get into. In the early days of the Marvel comic they mostly squared off against generic smuggler types and found themselves fighting aliens in gladiator pits (which happens so often in science fiction that it’s become a staple of the genre). Han and Chewie were put in a space gladiator pit in both the comic and later on in the newspaper comic strip, so they know more than anybody how often that sort of thing can happen.[2]
A couple of interesting stories to note would be issue 17: Crucible, by Archie Goodwin and Chris Claremont, and issue 24: Silent Drifting by Mary Jo Duffy. No matter what context can be applied in retrospect, these stories were awesome when I was a kid because any opportunity to get a glimpse of the Star Wars back story was exciting. Crucible was just a story about Luke’s past on Tatooine, which we already glimpsed in the comics adaptation and the novelization, so it wasn’t that new and different. Honestly speaking, Luke’s life on Tatooine was intended to be boring and uneventful, so it didn’t make for a riveting yarn.

Silent Drifting was much more exciting, especially if you’re like me and Obi-Wan Kenobi was your favorite Star Wars character. Because if Kenobi was your favorite character, you were dying to know what he was like back when he was a Jedi Knight. And that’s exactly what this story promised to deliver.
I was really excited about this story when I was a kid. Obi-Wan Kenobi was the first Star Wars action figure I can remember owning. My brother recently reminded me that I actually had Chewbacca first, but there’s a reason I don’t remember him as well. We lost him very early on to our universe’s version of the Death Star: My Dad’s lawnmower.
In the later days of the EU, stories like that were forbidden by Lucas Licensing so as not to interfere with the upcoming prequels, but in those days no one knew where Star Wars was headed. Stories could take you anywhere, and with no other properties to fill that void, the Marvel Star Wars comic was usually where those stories got told.

One interesting thing to note about Star Wars  in those days is not just how limited the stories were because of how little was actually known about the saga and its future, but also how strictly they adhered to the visual archetypes of the characters. Leia always wore white (mostly the same white gown as in the movie) with her hair in those awkward buns, Luke was either in his Tatooine farm boy outfit or an X-wing flight suit, Han always in a white shirt and black vest. The stories may as well have been acted out with Kenner action figures, because the characters almost never deviated from the costumes they had been given in the film. It wasn’t until The Empire Strikes Back later demonstrated that the characters did indeed make different hair and costume choices that the artists took license to stray from the iconic representations of the characters and give them a little more flexibility.
The strict adherence to the imagery of the first film wasn’t limited to the way the characters were drawn. Writer Archie Goodwin did his best to create stories that were new to the Star Wars universe but familiar within its framework. The rebel base on Yavin was a consistent backdrop for stories even though logic suggested the rebels would be forced to flee once the Empire had learned of its location at the end of the film. Many of the early stories revolved around the Empire’s efforts to blockade and eventually attack the fourth moon of Yavin, leading up to a final showdown in issue 25: The Siege at Yavin.

Besides being the final impetus for the rebels’ flight from Yavin, this story is important because it introduces one of the prominent villains of the frontier era: Baron Orman Tagge. Obsessed with avenging himself against Darth Vader for blinding him, Baron Tagge has a plan to use his company’s resources to end the rebellion and shame Vader, thus swaying the Emperor’s favor and leaving Vader out in the cold. This plan mostly revolved around freeze rays developed and tested on Tatooine, forcing Luke and Han to return to the desert world to stop them, but we'll go into that stuff a little bit later.

[1] Doomworld was also the name given to the first collected trade paperback that Dark Horse put out when they began reprinting the original series in the 90’s.

[2] Both of those stories were penned by comic series/comic strip scribe Archie Goodwin, so blame him.

Friday, May 16, 2014

TVAMD Episode 221: Breaking Bad, Part 4!

Sean, Andrew, and Gary finally finish breaking bad, and they’re so excited they go on to talk about other shows like Dexter, Lost, and True Detective.

The Greatest Space Fantasy of All!

Among the most prominent of the classic contributions to the early Star Wars Expanded Universe are the stories that were written by the likes of Roy Thomas and Archie Goodwin for the Star Wars series produced by Marvel Comics.
“ENTER: LUKE SKYWALKER!” the caption on the cover of Marvel’s first issue exclaims. “WILL HE SAVE THE GALAXY OR DESTROY IT?”
No one has ever mastered mindless hyperbole with the skill and artistry of the Marvel Comics editorial staff.
The Pizzazz strips followed Luke and Leia’s adventures right out of the gate, but the monthly comic followed some stricter guidelines in how it approached telling the continuing story of Star Wars. Roy Thomas, writer and editor of the Marvel Comics series, prefaced the letters column of Star Wars #7 with a statement that explained they would concentrate more on Han Solo and Chewbacca in order to give George Lucas “breathing space” to decide what he wanted to do with the film sequel.
In an interview in Back Issue magazine # 9, Thomas clarified that in the beginning he was not allowed to use Darth Vader as a villain or do anything related to the Clone Wars. He also couldn’t explore the relationship between Luke and Leia. That didn’t bother him as much. Despite the fact that he had written a story featuring Luke and Leia for the Pizzazz serial, he admitted in the Back Issue article that he didn’t care for Luke very much. He thought Han was more of a traditional space adventurer type of character, so stories starring Han and Chewie came more naturally.
As an aside, I encourage you to pick up Back Issue # 9 and read that entire ariticle. They do a very nice retrospective of the Marvel comic. I'm including links to the TwoMorrows Publishing web site because trying to find a back issue of a magazine called Back Issue magazine can be a little tricky.

It’s possible (but seems unlikely) that Lucas discouraged the comics creators from producing original stories about Luke and Leia to keep the comic stories from stepping on the release of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. The Pizazz stories, which were thematically and structurally identical to Alan Dean Foster’s novel, suggest that this was not the case. Even so, I do not believe this restriction had anything to do with the fact that Luke and Leia were siblings, as I do not believe that was a part of the story until they came up with it in Return of the Jedi.
Whatever the reason, the first original arc of the monthly comic series featured Han Solo and Chewbacca in a story of their own. This worked out rather nicely, considering their exclusion from Foster’s book and the Pizzazz serial.
The comics tie-in coincided almost exactly with the release of the first film, debuting in July 1977. The first six issues of the series adapted the story of the film, so it wasn’t until early 1978 that the creative team began telling original stories featuring the Star Wars characters. The first of these, as I mentioned earlier, revolved around Han Solo and Chewbacca. This four issue arc was more or less a goofy sci-fi take on The Magnificent Seven (or, if you want to pay homage to Lucas’ original influences, Kurasawa’s Seven Samurai).

This first foray into telling original EU Star Wars stories was definitely a bit awkward. In the second issue of the story, Eight For Aduba-3, Han recruits a crew of misfits to help him defend moisture farmers from the outlaw Arrogantus and his gang of Cloud-Riders. Among them are a familiar-looking farm boy named Jimm the Starkiller kid and his less than faithful droid companion, FE-9Q, a human hedgehog named Hedji, a sassy space babe named Amaiza, a quixotic Jedi wanna-be absurdly named Don-Wan Kihotay, and a giant green rabbit man named Jaxxon.

Stories like this one invite derision from purists who are only concerned with more legitimate EU works produced since 1991, but it’s a lot easier to contribute to an already rich mythology. At the time these stories were written Star Wars was still being fleshed out, even by Lucas, and no one knew where they could take it, even if they had creative license to do whatever they liked. Whatever the reason, the Marvel Star Wars series is often dismissed and is considered by Lucas Licensing to be secondary canon.

Lucas Licensing uses a pre-defined scale when determining the degree to which a Star Wars work counts as canon. To give you an idea as to the degrees of gradation used to classify various works, consider that G-canon is the absolute canon, including all works created by George Lucas and considered by him to be a part of the actual core story of Star Wars. This obviously would include the final theatrical film trilogies, but generally accepts the radio dramas and novelizations as absolute canon as well.
C-canon is the continuity established by works created for the Star Wars EU, almost exclusively applying to EU works created after the Expanded Universe was officially established in 1991. Because they were created before some of the formal boundaries of the EU continuity were established, a lot of early EU works, such as the Marvel Comics series, are classified as S-canon. S-canon is secondary canon, which includes pretty much any work created in the Star Wars universe that doesn’t necessarily have a place there. The concepts established in these stories are not off limits to other EU contributors, but the works themselves do not hold as high a station in the Star Wars canon as newer contributions to the Expanded Universe. It’s not as bad as it could be. There is also N-canon, a distinction reserved for works that are considered completely non-canonical.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

TV on the Throne: A Game of Thrones Podcast - S4E06 - "The Laws of Gods and Men"

Sean, Andrew, and Gary discuss the sixth episode of Game of Thrones Season 4.

Plus, near the end, they talk about Star Wars VII for just a couple of minutes. Couldn’t be helped.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

TVAMD minisode: The Amazing Spider-man 2!

Sean, Andrew, and Gary briefly discuss the Amazing Spider-man sequel and how it measures against other superhero misfires like Dark Knight Rises and even Batman and Robin.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Star Wars Expanded Universe: "Keeper's World"

While it was certainly the first Expanded Universe work to be produced, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye just barely missed out on the distinction of being the first original EU story ever to see print. It actually wasn’t even the second. The Marvel comic beat it out by about a month with the January 1978 printing of Star Wars #7: New Planets, New Perils!
But both of those stories were preceded by a serial that ran in Marvel’s pop culture magazine, Pizzazz. Pizzazz was Marvel’s short-lived effort to broker their Star Wars tie-in into an effort to corner the youth magazine market. That market was dominated at the time by similar periodicals like Dynamite magazine. Pizzazz lasted only 16 issues and then disappeared. The Star Wars stories published in the magazine have only been sparingly reprinted and mostly went unnoticed by everyone but super-fans and guys doing research to write a book about the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

The Keeper’s World serial was the first of these stories. It follows a similar storyline as Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (although I think the similarity is coincidental): Luke and Leia take the droids on an important mission, get jumped by Imperials, then are forced to land on a mysterious planet where they have mystical hijinks in an ancient ruin.
The imagery of the Massassi ruins on Yavin 4 was a big influence on the early EU. Not only did the rebels spend a lot of time there in the comic and comic strip, but in stories like Keeper’s World and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye they ended up exploring similar ruins on other planets. Even Lando Calrissian will end up exploring an ancient pyramid as he searches for the Mindharp of Sharu, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Despite those plot similarities, the story of Keeper’s World plays out more like a Jack Kirby comic than Foster’s novel. A living super computer builds a bunch of android children with elemental superpowers and they all end up helping Luke and Leia escape the Imperials.
The important thing to remember about Keeper’s World is that it’s the first original Star Wars story to appear outside the movie. The monthly comic was in publication first, but its first six issues were spent adapting the film. By the time Star Wars #7 was published, the Pizzazz serial had already begun.

Technically all of these stories ran concurrently. The Keeper’s World serial started first, but didn’t complete its run until the Summer of 1978. New Planets, New Perils! was published in January 1978, but it was the start of a storyline in the Marvel Star Wars comic that didn’t conclude until April of that year with the publication of Star Wars #10: The Behemoth from the World Below! While Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was published in February 1978, after both of those stories began their run, it was the first original Star Wars story to appear in its entirety. So the first writers to create Star Wars EU were Alan Dean Foster, Roy Thomas, Howard Chaykin, Donald F. Glut and Archie Goodwin. Foster has the singular credit of writing Splinter of the Mind’s Eye while Roy Thomas wrote most of the Keeper’s World serial and most of the story arc that ran from Star Wars #7 – 10. Howard Chaykin co-wrote many of the issues in that story arc and Donald F. Glut co-wrote the final issue of the story. Archie Goodwin gets a nod for writing the final chapter of the Keeper’s World serial. It should also be mentioned that Chaykin did most of the artwork for both the Marvel comic story and the Pizazz serial.
Keeper’s World also ran as a serial in the UK Star Wars Weekly magazine. Dark Horse reprinted the story as a Star Wars # 0 one-shot and then later in the Wild Space Omnibus. But beyond that it remains a fun footnote in the history of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

TV on the Throne: A Game of Thrones Podcast - S4E05 - "First of His Name"

Sean, Andrew, and Gary discuss the fifth episode of Game of Thrones Season 4.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

TVAMD minisode: Star Wars VII!

Sean, Andrew, and Gary take a few minutes to discuss the casting announcement for Star Wars VII and how the new movies may impact the Expanded Universe.

TV on the Throne: A Game of Thrones Podcast - S4E04 - "Oathkeeper"

Sean, Andrew, and Gary discuss the fourth episode of Game of Thrones Season 4.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

TVAMD Episode 220: Breaking Bad, Part 3!

Sean, Andrew, and Gary continue their Breaking Bad discussion and spend a few minutes talking about the conclusion of HBO’s True Detective.