We’ve all seen, or at least heard of, those cheap knock offs of popular American movies, like Turkish Star Wars, though I personally prefer Turkish Indiana Jones. In the early 1980s, when Star Wars mania was sweeping across the globe, several Chinese publishers put out their own comic book versions of the property. According to some newly unearthed copies of one of these obscure pieces of Star Wars lore, Darth Vader had what seems to be an unhealthy fascination with the state of Florida. Who knew?
These images come from the South China Daily Post, and there is a great deal of creative license with the story, which explains why the scariest Sith lord of all time happens to be obsessed with the destruction of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. You can see it on featured prominently on the map of places he intends to vaporize. Why, well, that’s the question of the day. Unless I missed that part in A New Hope, which is possible I guess, I’ve only seen the movie a couple dozen times, it’s possible that little tidbit slipped by me.
These pocket-sized lianhuanhua comics feature single images followed by a short description of the action they depict. The form was often used for propaganda purposes and often showed Chinese history, but in this instance they were coopted for a different purpose. In this case, they were used to ride the wave of Star Wars pandemonium without obtaining permission. This sort of adaptation was a kind of precursor to bootlegging newly released movies.
Most of the iconic moments from the film are present and accounted for, like Darth Vader attacking the rebels…
…the hologram of Princess Leia appearing to Luke Skywalker…
…and of course, C-3PO and R2-D2 hanging out with Luke.
But then there are some small, very minor differences as well. Like the fact that R2-D2 rides in the cockpit with Luke, and that the X-Wing fighters look nothing like their movie counterparts.
Montana State University assistant history professor Maggie Greene is responsible for the preservation of these comics. She came across them at a fair in Shanghai and lucky for all of us she was willing to spend the massive amount of cash it took to collect these. It cost her about a dollar. She and her compatriots are currently undertaking a project to translate the long lost comics so those of us who don’t read Chinese can enjoy them for ourselves.