Due to the huge moderate success of the first part of this series — in which I explored the appearances of Star Wars-related material in the legendary British science fiction anthology comic 2000AD — I decided that I would, after all, finish compiling my carefully-researched and luckily-stumbled-upon material into a second, and probably final, part.
A note in advance of before we begin to start to get going: the new version of Eagle comic was launched in March 1982 and aimed at more or less the same readership as 2000AD. Given that Eagle featured a version of Dan Dare, and reprinted several 2000AD strips (Ant Wars, M.A.C.H. One, M.A.C.H. Zero and at least one Future Shock), I’d definitely consider it a “companion” title to 2000AD, in the manner of its predecessors Starlord and Tornado, so I figured that any references to Star Wars that appeared in Eagle should be included here… but I don’t have a complete collection of Eagle (I own 411 copies of the regular comic out of a total of 505, and none of the specials or annuals), so for now we’re going to have to make do with the references from the issues I do have. If I’ve missed anything important because of that (or because of my own ineptitude, or for any other reason), do please let me know!
Unky Rusty’s Incomprehensive Guide to Star Wars in 2000AD
Episode two: I’ve Done These Bits Too
The Flash Gordon movie is reviewed by Ro-Jaws in 2000AD prog 194 (10 Jan 1981) and naturally it earns a comparison with Star Wars.
Reader’s profiles in prog 198 (7 Feb 1981) from Lance Harrington and Kinnon Paterson both list Star Wars Weekly among the other comics they collect.
Star Wars gets a mention in a half-page ad in prog 204 (21 Mar 1981) for Trebor’s Space Fings sweets. Same ad appears in progs 205 and 206.
Prog 207 (11 Apr 1981) sees another Palitoy Star Wars send-away-for-a-bounty-hunter offer, this time for the character called Dengar. My inner twelve-year-old is clamouring for me to tell you that Dengar is an anagram of Danger. My inner fifteen-year-old is smugly pointing out that it’s also an anagram of Garden, Gander, Ranged and Grande. My inner twenty-five-year-old is calling them both nerds and telling them to shut up. (If you don’t remember this fan-favourite character, re-watch The Empire Strikes Back very carefully: you can see him out-of-focus in the background of one shot for about ten seconds.)
Prog 209 (25 Apr 1981) features more readers’ profiles: two of them — Sam Dale and Simon Tarr — also read Star Wars Weekly.
Typical. Nothing Star Wars-related for ages, then three come along all at once… Prog 223 (1 Aug 1981) gives us another Palitoy ad. I don’t remember ever seeing one of these cases in real life, but even though I didn’t care for the Palitoy figures, I really wanted the case!
Prog 224 (8 Apr 1981) has a review of Raiders of the Lost Ark in which Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back get a mention.
The review of Clash of the Titans in prog 225 (15 Apr 1981) compares the movie’s mechanical owl to Star Wars’ R2-D2.
Top Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog Writer Alan Grant is interviewed in 2000AD Annual 1982, and says he quite enjoyed Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, though they are “just totally vapid pieces of escapist entertainment.” Awwww! Well, we still love you, Alan! (Alan also mentions Alfred Bester and John Sladek as two of his favourite writers, so he gets a million bonus points there!) Later that same annual, Star Wars, C-3PO and R2-D2 are mentioned in a quiz.
Over in Starlord Annual 1982, a behind-the-scenes feature on science fiction TV shows mentions Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.
First mention of the year is in 2000AD prog 251 (13 Feb 1982) in an ad for Airfix model kits. Same ad appears on the back of prog 255.
Another Palitoy competition ad in prog 252 (20 Feb 1982), and this time there’s a chance to meet the stars on the set of the upcoming third Star Wars movie Revenge of the Jedi. Note that the illustration shows not only that heroes are running away from the baddie, but R2-D2 is crushing Luke’s foot. Tch.
Eagle #3 (10 Apr 1982) reports that ITV will be showing Star Wars on TV later in the year. That’s how long it used to take for movies to show up on TV in those days, kids. And most of the big movie TV premiers happened around Christmas: you just wouldn’t believe how exciting it used to be going through the Christmas TV guides and seeing all those movies listed!
Fun fact: I remember that showing, because it was only the second time I saw Star Wars. I recorded it on a couple of audio cassettes by holding a microphone up to the TV’s speaker. I still have one of those cassettes, too, and it still plays! Here it is, complete with a Star Wars logo cropped from a newspaper or comic (the paper’s not of good enough quality to be from a magazine) and carefully taped to Side A:
2000AD prog 266 and Eagle #10 (both 29 May 1982) give us a double-dose of Star Warsy goodness. There’s a half-page ad for the Star Wars / Empire Strikes Back double-bill in the cinemas…
And a very nice ad for an Airfix Star Wars competition. But — shock! — there are two versions of the Airfix ad! A neatly-drawn version in 2000AD, and a photographed version in Eagle:It’s a safe bet that this is because 2000AD‘s newsprint paper wasn’t great with photos.
Eagle #11 (5 June 1982) features a competition to win The Making of Star Wars on VHS.
Another Palitoy offer appears in 2000AD prog 268 (12 Jun 1982) and Eagle #13 (19 Jun 1982). Eagle #13 also features a reprise of the Airfix AT-AT ad (above).
Prog 270 (26 Jun 1982) references Star Wars in the new movie news column Cinefax, plus we get a repeat of the latest Palitoy ad (above), and a new Airfix ad on the back. That same week, Eagle #14 also features the new Airfix ad, and once again the 2000AD version has been hand-drawn while the Eagle version has been photographed:
Eagle #15 (3 Jul 1982) reprised the latest Palitoy ad.
2000AD prog 277 (14 Aug 1982) has a film review of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Wars gets a mention in reference to the special effects by Industrial Light and Magic.
Prog 280 (4 Sep 1982) again has a mention of Revenge of the Jedi on the Cinefax column… We now know that the fake title of the movie was Blue Harvest. (Blue Thunder was a thriller about a high-tech helicopter.)Note that they’re still referring to the third movie as Star Wars 3 and not Star Wars 6 or Star Wars VI, even though it’s been two years since The Empire Strikes Back was released with its “Episode V” tag (the first movie didn’t get its episode number and subtitle until its 1981 re-release).
Prog 287 (23 Oct 1982) — a competition to win a Robo-Hunter poster poses this question, among others: “Which robot met Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back?” (The answers appear in prog 307.)
In the Mega-Sounds music column in prog 289 (6 Nov 1982), Star Wars gets a mention.
Eagle #33 (6 Nov 1982) feature some news about Revenge of the Jedi and the winners of the Making of Star Wars VHS competition.
2000AD prog 292 (26 Nov 1982): A letter from reader D. Cuiffe seeks clarification from Tharg regarding a rumour he’s heard about the Star Wars franchise…
In prog 294 (11 Dec 1982), reader Joel Collins has drawn Tharg as Darth Vader. Later in that issue, Ro-Jaws’ review of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial says it’s the most popular movie in the US since Star Wars, and later there’s praise for the special effects which were “thanks to the folks who provided the effects for Star Wars.”
Prog 295 (18 Dec 1982) features a review of the Empire Strikes Back video game cartridge for the Atari VCS in the comic’s new Action Video column.
Revenge of the Jedi (Star Wars 3) is named in prog 297 (1 Jan 1983) as one of the upcoming movies to watch out for.
The Star Wars AT-AT is mentioned in Eagle #42 (8 Jan 1983) in an unusual hybrid ad for both Airfix models and Boots the chemist. (The same ad reappears in Eagle #43)
Eagle #47 (12 Feb 1983) has an ad for the Airfix Modellers Club in which Star Wars is mentioned. The ad is repeated in #48.
2000AD prog 304 (19 Feb 1983): in the Action Video column, Jedi Arena and Revenge of the Jedi are listed as two of the upcoming video game cartridges from Parker.
Cinefax in prog 308 (19 Mar 1983) reveals the new title for the third Star Wars movie to be Return of the Jedi. And elsewhere in the same column, it’s mentioned that E.T. has overtaken Star Wars as the highest-earning movie of all time.
The Star Wars: Jedi Arena video game is mentioned again in the Action Video column in prog 310 (2 Apr 1983).
Eagle #54 (2 Apr 1983) features a new two-page Palitoy Star Wars ad…
The same ad shows up a week later in 2000AD prog 311 (9 Apr 1983), but the lower-quality printing process on newsprint paper washes out all the colours…You might also notice that the layout has been tweaked to fit the comics’ different aspect ratios. Eagle at this time had A4-sized pages, whereas 2000AD‘s pages were about the same height but wider. Eagle switches to 2000AD‘s cheaper format with issue #79 (24 Sep 1983).
Eagle #57 (23 Apr 1983) has an interview with Stephen Spielberg in which Star Wars gets a couple of mentions.
2000AD prog 314 (30 Apr 1983) features a review of the Star Wars: Jedi Arena video game in the Action Video column.
The Empire Strikes Back video game gets a mention in the Action Video column in prog 319 (3 Jun 1983), plus there’s an ad for the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special 1983 which features a photo-review of Return of the Jedi, and a preview of the next prog, which contains a Return of the Jedi competition.
Eagle #63 (4 Jun 1983) announces that the next issue will feature a Return of the Jedi preview and an offer of freebies…
2000AD prog 320 (11 Jun 1983) delivers on the promise of its predecessor, plus it throws in a mention of the movie in Tharg’s Nerve Centre. (The results of the competition appear in prog 347).
Fun Fact: This was around the time I saw the movie. As with The Empire Strikes Back three years earlier, none of my friends were interested so I went on my own… Sad, but true. Still, at least my first viewing of RotJ was a better experience than my first viewing of Empire: for that one, there was a girl in the row behind me who loudly and excitedly announced to her friends that Mark Hamill looked like her cousin every time he was on the screen. No kidding: every single time. “He looks like my cousin! Doesn’t he look like my cousin? He does! He looks like my cousin!” Thankfully, she stopped doing that about half-way through the movie after I turned around and politely yelled at her to shut up.
The cover of issue #64 of Eagle (11 Jun 1983) tells of an offer Return of the Jedi freebies within…
… and inside, we get the Return of the Jedi profile promised last issue, along with a chance to win some Palitoy toys.
An article on The Neverending Story in the Cinefax colmn in 2000AD prog 323 (2 Jul 1983) features a mention of The Empire Strikes Back with regard to the special effects.
Eagle #66 (25 Jun 1983) has a new ad for Airfix Return of the Jedi model kits (the same ad shows up again two weeks later).
2000AD prog 325 (16 Jul 1983) sees Ro-Jaws reviewing Return of the Jedi, and that wrap-around cover features a familiar-looking logo…
And here’s the announcement in Eagle #75 (27 Aug 1983):
2000AD prog 332 (3 Sep 1983) features a new Palitoy ad, plus the Nerve Centre mentions the upcoming free Return of the Jedi sticker album and stickers and there’s an ad for them on the inside back cover.
Issue #76 of Eagle published in the same week also mentions the upcoming sticker album…
You know, I actually can’t remember whether I did receive the sticker album with my copy of 2000AD prog 333 (10 Sep 1983). I probably did, but if so, I must have lost it because I haven’t seen it in the past few decades. Anyway… the album receives another mention in this prog’s Nerve Centre, where we’re also reminded that we’ll be getting eight more stickers free next week, plus there’s a half-page announcement:
Culled from the web, here’s how the album was packaged with Eagle #77 (10 Sep 1983):
Inside, the album gets a mention in the editorial, plus later in the issue there’s a second announcement about extra free stickers coming next week:
In case you were wondering: Eagle‘s “Important News for All Readers” was not — as such things usually were — an omen of an impending merger. It was actually advance notice of the change in format I mentioned earlier. No longer would Eagle be printed on nice paper with lots of colours and trimmed edges — from #79 (24 Sep 1983) it’d be printed on untrimmed cheap newsprint, just like 2000AD! By way of consolation, it gained four extra pages, but it meant less colour, and photostories were no longer feasible.
2000AD prog 334 (17 Sep 1983) mentions the free Return of the Jedi stickers, and again we get a half-page announcement about them, plus there’s a reprise of the Palitoy ad from prog 332.
The Nerve Centre in 2000AD prog 337 (8 Oct 1983) has a reader’s interpretation of Tharg as Jabba the Hutt, and another appearance of the latest Palitoy ad.
Eagle #78 (17 Sep 1983) — last issue before the format change — also mentions its second set of free Return of the Jedi stickers (and as a special bonus, the one on the right is the relevant note from the same week’s issue of Buster):
Eagle #78 also features the Palitoy Chewbacca ad, which shows up again in issues #80 and #84.
2000AD Annual 1983 features a three-page interview with Billy Dee Williams, plus a movie quiz later in the annual has several Star Wars-related questions.
Prog 346 (10 Dec 1983) features a letter from a reader pointing out an “error” in the Billy Dee Williams interview where the interviewer refers to the movie Revenge of the Jedi. The issue also features an offer for a Return of the Jedi duvet set.
Eagle #90 (10 Dec 1983) also features a Return of the Jedi duvet offer:
2000AD prog 347 (17 Dec 1983) has the results of the Return of the Jedi competition from prog 320.
In prog 348 (24 Dec 1983), Ro-Jaws names Return of the Jedi as his film of the year, with the runners-up being War Games, Superman III, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. (ROTJ‘s win is also mentioned in the very next issue when Tharg does his review of the year.)
Eagle #98 (4 Feb 1984) features another Palitoy Star Wars promo. (It also appears in issue #101, #103 and 2000AD progs 356, 357 and 361.)
The back cover of the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special 1984 features an ad for Forbidden Planet stores in which Star Wars is listed among the items in which the store specialises.
Eagle #123 (28 Jul 1984) has yet another Palitoy ad, this one for a painting competition. It’s repeated in #124 and #126:
Eagle #128 (1 Sep 1984) has Palitoy at it again. Repeated in #130 and #132.Fun fact: this is the sixteenth Palitoy Star Wars ad included in this feature!
2000AD Annual 1985 (published around September 1984) features an article by comics legend Lew Stringer on pre-2000AD British comic heroes, and Star Wars gets a mention in the closing paragraph. Star Wars-related clues appear in the annual’s puzzles section, in a word search and a crossword.
2000AD prog 393 (4 Nov 1984) features the first episode of The Stainless Steel Rat for President, the 2000AD adaptation of the fifth of Harry Harrison’s SSR novels. No direct connection with Star Wars here, but it was important to me, plus it was around this time that I learned that George Lucas was a Harry Harrison fan. In an interview with Stephen Zito published in American Film in April 1977, Lucas said, “As a kid, I read a lot of science fiction. But instead of reading technical, hard-science writers like Isaac Asimov, I was interested in Harry Harrison and a fantastic, surreal approach to the genre. I grew up on it.”
Eagle #151 (9 Feb 1985) includes Darth Vader on the second part of a pull-out-and-assemble-it-yourself poster, Doomlord’s Alien Datafile:… And two weeks later, the rest of Vader is included on the last part of the poster.
The Forbidden Planet ad from the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special 1984 shows up again in this year’s special.
The Future Shock in 2000AD prog 434 (7 Sep 1985)…
Eagle #197 (28 Dec 1985) features Darth Vader in a villains line-up on the puzzle page:
Eagle #200 (18 Jan 1986) includes the first four pages of “Project 200” — an assemble-it-yourself booklet of “fascinating facts” — actually just lists of different types of real and fictional heroes presented by characters from the comic. In this part, Boba Fett appears.
Eagle #202 (1 Feb 1986) repeats the first four pages of the “Project 200” booklet and presents the next four.
Eagle #203 (8 Feb 1986) includes Mark Hamill in the “Project 200” pages:
Another repeat of the Forbidden Planet advert appears in the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special 1986. (A couple of years later, in 1988, Forbidden Planet runs another, different, ad in the Sci-Fi special. This one mentions a lot of 2000AD stuff, plus Star Trek, Dr. Who, Marvel and DC comics… but no mention of Star Wars.)
The Future Shock in 2000AD prog 517 (11 Apr 1987) is called “The Star Warriors” — though other than the title there’s no connection with Star Wars — not even the logo. (The story does, however, feature a character very clearly modelled on Sylvester Stallone, who went on to star in the Judge Dredd movie in 1995, and one of the producers of that movie was Charles Lippencott, who worked on Star Wars in the role of advertising/publicity supervisor. There are lots of other crossovers between the Judge Dredd and Star Wars films — such as actor Angus MacInness appearing in both franchises’ first movies — but that’s a bit outside the scope of this article!)
Prog 550 (28 Nov 1987) — in the first instalment of a new movie column, Flix, John Brosnan informs us that word has reached him that George Lucas plans to film the second Star Wars trilogy at Elstree Studios, filming all three movies back-to-back. Before the paragraph is out, however, Mr Brosnan sews the seeds of doubt on the veracity of that rumour.
Fun fact: We now know for sure that rumour was inaccurate, but back then it did seem feasible. One of my bosses at the time knew some high-ups at Elstree and he told me — in confidence, but it’s been over three decades now so I doubt I’ll get in trouble — that they’d approached him about providing handheld computers to be used in the new movies, along with relevant software, which would be written by me. Clearly, that never came to pass, but that’s as close as I’ve managed to get to being involved in the creative side of Star Wars.
I’ve reached 2000AD prog 615, cover-dated 25 Feb 1989 — the twelfth anniversary issue. Haven’t spotted a single Star Wars reference since prog 550, fifteen months earlier. And not a peep in Eagle for over two years. Time to call time on this one. I think.
It’s a little to believe now, but this dearth of SW references highlights how things were back in the mid-to-late 80s: Star Wars was effectively over. Luke had become a Jedi knight and defeated the emperor: the story had been told and there was nothing more to say. For the most part, the cartoons, TV movies, novels and comics had run dry, and most of them had often felt more like fan-fiction than essential Star Wars material. They served to filled in gaps that few people had noticed, let alone cared about. (Honestly, folks, giving a name and a back-story to every single element of a movie franchise doesn’t make it better: it just dilutes and diminishes the real story.)
Though 2000AD had been sparked into life by the imminent arrival of Star Wars, it had long since demonstrated that it wasn’t riding on the movie’s coat-tails and was more than able to carry its own weight. It soldiered on into the 80s and 90s even as the rest of the British comic-book industry collapsed around it, and it’s still going strong today.
Eagle became a monthly title in 1991 and lasted for another few years before calling it a day in January 1994. Throughout its almost-twelve years of life it absorbed five other titles — Scream!, Tiger, Battle, Mask and Wildcat — and in fact was the final title in a chain that began with The Marvel, a story-paper launched in 1893. More info on that can be found in the Eagle family tree.
As for Star Wars, it wasn’t until the early 90s that interest in the franchise really began to pick up again. First with the mega-selling novel Heir to the Empire (1991) by Timothy Zahn, then the six-issue comic-book series Dark Empire (1991) by Tom Veitch and 2000AD‘s own Cam Kennedy. Suddenly, the property was looking interesting and fun again. Murmurings of the prequels began to increase in volume, and before long the intention had always been that Star Wars would be a six-movie series. (I’m cutting myself off there, because my rantings about Star Wars revisionism can take some time to play out if I really get going.)
Though I stopped searching through the comics after February 1989, I know that there are of course more Star Wars-related thingies to be found in subsequent issues of 2000AD. The Star Wars prequels naturally garner a few mentions — there were free Phantom Menace stickers with prog 1153 (21 Jul 1999), for instance — plus there are other references, homages, parodies, “borrowings” and so on. Some of them I was already aware of, so I figure I might as well highlight them here…
First, there’s the tagline on the cover of prog 946 (20 Jun 1995)…
The cover of prog 1183 (8 Mar 2000) is a personal favourite…
Fun Fact: Prog 1183 also has a second, unintentional almost-reference: the prog number is an anagram of 1138, a number that crops up in a lot of George Lucas’ creations including Star Wars.
Cliff Robinson’s classic homage to the teaser poster for The Phantom Menace features on the cover of prog 1187 (5 Apr 2000)…
And let’s not forget the massively talented 2000AD creators who have gone on to work on Star Wars movies and comics… but that’s a story for another time, maybe!
Thank you for coming along for the ride, folks… and of course equal thanks to all the creators involved, and extra-special tastier and fluffier thanks to The Mighty One for gracing our planet with his awesome comic for all these years!
I shall leave you with another homage, Ian Gibson’s absolutely gorgeous reinterpretation of the original Star Wars poster…