It may be difficult for some to believe, but there was a time where the only place Star Wars existed outside of the original trilogy was in Marvel comics. No animated series, no regularly published novel series, no video games, no prequels, no new movies, nothing but the monthly adventures that Marvel published between 1977 and 1986 to whet fans appetites. It was a long wait between movies and the comics were the one thing we could look forward to. Of course after Return of the Jedi came out and it became clear that there wouldn’t be any other movies to follow (at least not for another 16 years), the Star Wars comics from Marvel were all we had, as our beloved movie series seemed to fade towards a quiet, sad death. (Yes folks, believe it or not, but there was a time in the late 80s where Star Wars, for all intents and purposes, died in pop culture.) But of course now Star Wars is more popular than ever. With production on Episode VII moving forward and the announcement that most of those novels, comics, video games and the like released over the last 20 odd years don’t really count, it seemed a good time to go back and review Marvel’s work on the original Expanded Universe. While I’m sure fans all have their favourites from the comic series, what follows is this writer’s take on the best of the bunch. Punch it, Chewie!
10. Ellie (Issue #80)
Writer: Jo Duffy Art: Ron Frenz & Tom Palmer Over the previous year, the Rebels had been searching for a missing Bothan spy named Tay Vanis. That scene in Jedi where Mon Mothma mentions many Bothans had died getting the plans to the new Death Star? Well, here you go. Luke, Leia, and C-3PO track Vanis last location to a remote planet run by Imperials. There they meet Vanis droid LE-914 (hence, Ellie), a female droid who seems to have a much closer relationship with her owner than we had previously seen in Star Wars. She tells them Vanis had left the data tapes containing the plans with her but she destroyed them per his orders when it appeared no Rebel help was coming. With Ellie’s assistance they are able to find Vanis, but he has been tortured and left in a vegetative state. After viewing a holographic message left by Vader where he reveals that he had set up the search for Vanis as a ruse to keep the Rebels occupied and out of his way, Ellie discloses she could not follow her owner’s last order and still has the tapes. After turning them over, she chooses to stay with Vanis and triggers a self-destruct mechanism, killing them both. What really comes across in this issue through Frenz and Palmer’s artwork are the emotions imbedded in Jo Duffy’s script. You really do get the sense that Ellie is in love with Vanis, and has basically been living with a broken heart. The tapes represented a last link with him, something she cherished. Destroying them would have been that final act of letting go. In fact she keeps them inside her chest literally where her heart would be. The final panel of C-3PO standing in the rain with tears rolling down his face sums the whole story up in one image. This is one of the best examples of taking the world of Star Wars and pumping it full of some real human emotion, something that the franchise as a whole has sometimes been accused of falling short of.