Solar Salutations, fellow humans! It’s time once again to splice the hatches and batten down the mainbrace and settle in for a long meander down retrospect river, because Unky Rusty has wrangled his trained pedantosaur out of its pen (actually, it’s more of a paddock than a pen) and taken it foraging for juicy and nutritious info-nuggets. Yes, here’s another lengthy and esoteric feature of the sort that triggers reactions like “Haven’t you got anything better to do?” and “You’ve got too much time on your hands!” from people who really ought to be attending classes in topics such as “How to Know When You’re Being Rude” and “You Have Heard of the Internet Before, Right?”
It’s well documented that the imminent arrival of Star Wars and the expected consequent boom in science fiction popularity was one of the key elements that inspired 2000AD. What’s not so well documented is the surprisingly high volume of Star Wars references that actually appeared in 2000AD. A few months ago while searching through my back-issues I became aware of how often Star Wars was mentioned in the comic and decided to start compiling a list. While there’s a good chance that I’ve missed one or two references, I think I’ve caught all the good ones.
This first part only covers the first 190 issues (or “progs” — short for programme) of 2000AD, which takes us up to the end of 1980. If this feature proves to be popular enough, I might do a follow-up. (Update: I did indeed do a second part — you’ll find the link at the end of this one!)
So with that, I give you…
Unky Rusty’s Incomprehensive Guide to Star Wars in 2000AD
Episode one: The Bits I’ve Already Done
The first mention of the movie appears in the letters page in prog 8 (16 Apr 1977). This would have been my first exposure to the title “Star Wars” — but I don’t remember it. Fun fact: prog 8 was the first issue to print readers’ letters.
The cover of prog 10 (30 Apr 1977) features a card for the Dan Dare story within… Given the reply to Mr Olsen’s letter two issues earlier, yeah, I’d say that’s very much not a coincidence.
Prog 15 (4 Jun 1977): Dan Dare’s alien pal Rok first uses his “Lazer Sword” (Dear other pedants: yes, I know, but that’s how it’s spelled in the comic). Did the writer of this story — the much-missed Steve Moore — know that Star Wars would feature laser swords? Probably. Although this issue appeared over six months before the movie’s UK release, the light sabres feature prominently in the Star Wars trailer which was released in mid-1976.
Prog 19 (2 Jul 1977): First ad for the 2000AD Summer Special Supercomic. It’s hard to see in black-and-white on the ad, but the cover mentions a feature on Star Wars.
And here’s the 2000AD Summer Special Supercomic (end of June-ish, 1977) cover in colour. But what’s that weapon the smaller character is using? Looks like some kind of sword that’s also a laser… Yes, it is indeed, according to the story within.
The Star Wars feature in the Summer Special provided the first photos of Star Wars I ever saw. Keen-eyed readers will spot that the photo of Han Solo and Chewbacca is captioned “Luke Skywalker takes a break with one of his friends.” Upon seeing this, Unky Rusty and his friends assumed that the human character was Luke Skywalker, which — now that I’m older and potentially wiser — strikes me as rather biased.Fun fact: This was the only 2000AD Summer Special Supercomic — every subsequent edition of the 2000AD summer special was called a “Sci-Fi Special”
Next up is prog 24 (8 Aug 1977), and a letter from reader R. Tucker in which he mentions that his father played a small role in Star Wars so they got to see a preview of the film. Lucky kid — that was waaaay before I saw it!
The only Tucker listed on the IMDb for Star Wars is Burnell Tucker, uncredited, who played a character called Del Goren, so there’s a strong chance that’s R.’s father. Because every single thing that ever appeared in Star Wars has garnered a backstory, several comics and a ton of fan-fiction, much of which contradicts the rest, naturally Del Goren has a page on the Wookieepedia. As for Burnell Tucker… the guy’s an absolute legend: he’s appeared in Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, UFO, Rollerball, The Omen, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Superman, Superman II, The Martian Chronicles, The Shining, Flash Gordon, Lifeforce, Space Precinct and Doctor Who.
In prog 31 (24 Sep 1977) we get the sixth part of “Futurefocus” an assemble-it-yourself poster that required one to snip the back page off their comic. This one features “Star Warriors.” No idea where the artist got the inspiration.
The Dan Dare story in prog 33 (8 Oct 1977) features space pirates armed with laser-swords…
… then in prog 43, several episodes into the multi-part Dan Dare story “Star Slayer,” we get even more laser swords. Clearly, such weapons were the height of fashion back in the future of the 1970s!
The very next issue, prog 44 (24 Dec 1977) has a two-page photo feature on Star Wars. Sadly the printing process used by 2000AD at this time was not good with photos. In fact, they look terrible. Some manual touch-up work was done to bring out the highlights, but that’s just made them worse. Still, we get a nicely drawn X-Wing and Tie-Fighter on the cover, as well as Darth Vader’s helmet and C-3PO’s head.
An announcement of the upcoming Star Wars LP competition appears in prog 45 (31 Dec 1977), the last issue of 2000AD‘s first year. (For the benefit of any younglings reading: An “LP” is a “Long-playing” record. A “record” is a large vinyl disc upon which sounds can be stored — or “recorded,” hence the name — for later playback.)
… And prog 46 (7 Jan 1978) features that very LP competition, with an announcement across the top of the cover.
Fun Fact: Prog 46 is also the first time 2000AD featured the first page of a story on the cover rather than the usual full-page illustration or montage. This experiment lasted only until prog 58 (1 Apr 1978), but I liked it. Humour comics traditionally ran their first strip on the cover, but it was unusual for adventure comics of the era. It not only gave the readers an extra page of comic goodness, but it was in colour, too A few years later, the relaunched Eagle did the same thing with its version of Dan Dare.
The LP competition itself appears on page 8: we have to count the number of X-Wing fighters hidden throughout the comic… and we have to do the same for next week’s issue, too.
(Off topic: The Star Wars soundtrack album was released over here before the movie was, and one of my friends was absolutely convinced that there were songs in the movie because one of the tracks is titled “Princess Leia’s Theme.” No amount of “But that doesn’t make any sense!” could persuade him otherwise. Later, after he actually saw the movie, he denied ever mentioning anything about songs in Star Wars.)
Prog 47 (14 Jan 1978) also announces the competition at the top of the cover, and features it on page 13:
If you’re interested, and I know that you are, here’s where you can find all those X-Wings (or, at least all the ones that I’ve found):Fun fact: The X-Wings added to the artwork in the Dan Dare and Judge Dredd episodes are still there in subsequent reprints — that’s got to be confusing for readers who weren’t around for the competition.
Prog 49 (28 Jan 1978): The “Ground Attack Craft” that appears as part of the cut-out-and-collect Supernova card game is somewhat very reminiscent of the Jawa’s Sandcrawler from Star Wars…
Next mention of Star Wars is in prog 54 (4 Mar 1978), with the KP Outer Spacers Star Wars Kite offer, which regular readers might well know has been featured previously on this blog. The kite offer advert appears again in progs 60 and 65.
Prog 57 (25 Mar 1978) lists the 100 winners of the Star Wars LP competition, but doesn’t actually give the answer to the number of X-Wings. I still reckon it’s just the nine I’ve listed above.
An ad for Treborland sweets (note: my inner twelve-year-old is insisting I mention that “Trebor” is “Robert” spelled backwards) appears on the back page of prog 62 (29 Apr 1978), and among the sweets listed is “Star Wars.”I’ve no memory of Trebor releasing any Star Wars sweets, so I did a little searching on-line and found a few pics of Star Wars Chews wrappers, and even the box from which they were sold. These photos triggered absolutely zero memories. Strange, that. The same ad shows up in progs 63 and 64, too.
Over in the very first issue of 2000AD‘s companion comic Starlord (13 May 1978), the announcement for issue #2 features a suspiciously familiar-looking logo for the new series Mind Wars…
A half-page ad for Shreddies breakfast cereal appears in 2000AD prog 66 (27 May 1978), promoting their Star Wars rub-down transfers. I seem to remember that there were ads for these on TV, too.Fun Fact: Even though the film was released in Ireland around Christmas 1977, I first saw Star Wars the day after this issue’s cover-date: Sunday 28th May 1978. My older sister got to see it within the first few days of release when a friend’s parents brought a bunch of them. My envy at that was nothing compared to how I felt when my parents went to see the movie a couple of months later… before I did. I was devastated! Anyway… The Shreddies rub-down transfers ad reappears in 2000AD progs 68 and 70, and in Starlord #6 (17 Jun 1978) and #7 (24 Jun 1978).
2000AD prog 67 (3 Jun 1978), and Star Wars gets a mention in a reader’s letter: Cathal O’Hare from Castlewellan liked the Star Wars LP competition and wants another. And further along in the same prog is the first full-page ad for the Palitoy Star Wars action figures. The same ad appears in Starlord #4, published the same week.Fun fact: I was a huge Star Wars fan (well now, there’s a surprise) but I have never owned even a single one of those action figures (surprise again, but a genuine one this time, not a sarcastic one). That’s completely true, folks. I never owned any of those Palitoy Star Wars figures because a couple of years before they were launched I received some Mego Star Trek figures for Christmas. These were twice as tall as the Star Wars figures (8″ versus 3½”), featured proper cloth uniforms, and were actually posable: you could bend their elbows, wrists, knees and in some cases their ankles, too! Those little Star Wars guys seemed rubbish in comparison, and a complete rip-off. Forty-whatever years later, I’m still right about that.
The back cover of prog 72 (8 July 1978) features an ad for being careful on the roads, featuring the Green Cross Code Man. Not Star Wars, you say? Fie, say I! The Green Cross Code Man was played on TV by David Prowse, the physical presence of Darth Vader. Plus the ad was drawn by top Dan Dare artist Dave Gibbons, who also drew the highly-regarded Vader’s Quest four-part comic series. So there.
A reader’s letter in Starlord #10 (15 Jul 1978) mentions the “Starwars” comic. He could be very young: we’ll forgive him for that, especially since it’s been forty years since Starlord was launched and I still don’t know whether it should be “Star Lord” or “Starlord.” (No connection with the character of Peter Quill from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, by the way. He has a hyphen and a capital L in his name. And though he predates the IPC comic by a couple of years, he wasn’t a well-known character at the time: it’s likely that the IPC folks had never heard of him. Coincidentallyish, prog 81 of 2000AD features Dan Dare on the cover with the tag-line “Guardian of the Galaxy.”)
2000AD prog 76 (5 Aug 1978), and the classic series Robo-Hunter is introduced. There’s no way you’re telling me that ship’s not — ahem — an “homage” to an Imperial Star Destroyer…
And only three issues later (prog 79, 26 Aug 1978), the Imperial Star Destroyer shows up again in an ad for Staedtler pens. Absolutely unmistakeable this time, too: that’s a blatant rip-off. The ad reappears in prog 91.
We’re back to homage territory in the Dan Dare story “The Doomsday Machine” in prog 80 (2 Sep 1978). Dare’s Space Fort has been pulled inside a very, very large space vehicle where there are lots of old trapped spaceships, including the USS Enterprise from Star Trek, an Eagle transporter from Space 1999, Thunderbird 3 from Thunderbirds, Dare’s old Anastasia ship from his 1950s Eagle stories, a Biog ship from Dare’s first 2000AD adventure… and that’s definitely an X-Wing just about visible in the bottom-left of the page.
Two pages later, we see one that looks very much like it might be the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon…
…and two further pages later, Dare and his colleagues are hiding out in Darth Vader’s Tie-Fighter.
In the next episode of that Dan Dare story (prog 81, 9 Sep 1978) we see Vader’s Tie-Fighter again…
and the (possible) Millennium Falcon again…
…as well as what looks like it might be the corner of a Jawa Sandcrawler.
Star Wars gets an unwarranted mention in prog 83 (23 Sep 1978) in Tharg’s reply to reader J.F. Garner pointing out the similarities between the long-running Judge Dredd saga “The Cursed Earth” and Roger Zelazny’s novel Damnation Alley: after offhandedly dismissing the reader’s legitimate concerns, Tharg mentions that a Damnation Alley movie has been made by the same studio that made Star Wars. Off topic, this brings to mind the cover of the Damnation Alley movie tie-in paperback published in the UK: Everyone wanted a slice of that Star Wars success!
Prog 86 (14 Oct 1978) features a new ad for Trebor sweets — actually, it’s a competition to win a stereo music centre (for the benefit of younglings: a “music centre” is a device upon which one can play back the recordings from an “LP” “record”: see above) — on the back cover, and again there’s a mention of their Star Wars Chews. The stereo competition ad also appears on prog 87. I still don’t remember those sweets from the 1970s, but then at my age it’s a nice surprise to find that I can remember them from earlier in this article.
Fun Fact: This milestone prog brings 2000AD and Starlord together — a classic combination, and the first of only two such mergers in 2000AD‘s history. Henceforth until further notice, the comic is called 2000AD and Starlord.
Prog 108 (14 Apr 1979) features the absolute king of Star Wars appearances in 2000AD so far: a full-page ad for Palitoy toys that’s also a competition: one lucky participant could win a day at the filming of The Empire Strikes Back! Now, who wouldn’t want that? Plus the ad was drawn by Brian Bolland, famed Judge Dredd artist! The ad shows up again in prog 109.
The 2000AD Sci-Fi Special 1979 features an interview with “John Howard” (pseudonym of John Wagner, co-creator of Judge Dredd) in which he expresses a liking for Star Wars. Also in that issue, the word-search puzzle has “Star Wars” as its final answer.
The canyon fight in The Angry Planet in issue #10 of Tornado (another short-lived 2000AD “companion” comic, soon to be merged) was pretty clearly inspired by the Death Star trench in Star Wars…
2000AD prog 116 (9 Jun 1979) features yet another laser sword in the Future Shock story “Colin’s Dream” — though this one is in a dream sequence so maybe we’ll forgive it.
The back page of Prog 120 (7 Jul 1979) is part of “Ro-Jaws & Hammerstein’s Book of Robots”, a cut-out-and-assemble-it-yourself booklet, and here we have the first of two pages about the robots of Star Wars (the second page appears in the following issue).Fun Fact: The print quality for these issues is rather better than usual because for a few weeks 2000AD switched to a different printing process. Nicer paper, sharper colours, and… trimmed edges! Lovely stuff! Sadly, it was not to last and we were soon back to newsprint.
The Empire Strikes Back gets a mention in Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Review in prog 123 (28 Jul 1979).
In prog 124 (4 Aug 1979), reader Paul Dickinson is featured in the responses to the readers’ survey, and he mentions that he also reads Star Wars Weekly.
Prog 125 (11 Aug 1979) not only features another Palitoy Star Wars ad drawn by Brian Bolland, but also another Green Cross Code Man ad for not getting run over (not drawn by Dave Gibbons this time, though).
The 2000AD Annual 1980 features an article on home video technology, which was very new back then. It speculates on the future use of such tech…
A quiz in Starlord Annual 1980 has “Star Wars” as one of the answers.
Prog 132 (29 Sep 1979) has another full-page ad for Palitoy’s Star Wars range, again drawn by Brian Bolland. Also appears in prog 136.
Fun fact: The comic is now 2000AD and Tornado, having merged with that comic in prog 127 (25 Aug 1979).
The brief news section of Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Review in prog 135 (20 Oct 1979) makes another mention of The Empire Strikes Back.
A competition to win Star Trek: The Motion Picture toys in prog 140 (24 Nov 1979) makes a mention of recent SF blockbuster movies, including Star Wars.
Fun fact: This issue of 2000AD is a personal land-mark for me because it also features the first episode of The Stainless Steel Rat, adapted from the novel by Harry Harrison. Harry would go on to become my all-time favourite writer, as well as a good friend, and my inspiration. If not for 2000AD, Harry and The Stainless Steel Rat, a large chunk of my life would be very different!
The fourth Brian Bolland Palitoy Star Wars ad appears in prog 141 (1 Dec 1979).
The “Future Attractions” notice in prog 146 (5 Jan 1980) mentions that Star Wars will be featured in an upcoming article on 2000AD‘s Top Ten Science Fiction Movies.
Prog 147 (12 Jan 1980) has an interview with model maker Mat Irvine in which Star Wars model kits get a mention.
Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader get a mention in Mek-Quake’s Puzzle Corner in prog 151 (9 Feb 1980).
Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Feature column in prog 155 (8 Mar 1980) reviews the Disney movie The Black Hole, which is described as “A solid space-action adventure in the good ole Star Wars tradition.”
Prog 160 (12 Apr 1980) features a full-page promo for a send-away Palitoy Boba Fett figure… I do like that the laser rifle is noted as being non-functioning!
Prog 161 (19 Apr 1980) features Star Wars as the tenth and final movie in the Top Ten Science Fiction Movies article, as prophesied all the way back in prog 146.
Prog 165 (14 Jun 1980) has a double-page feature on The Empire Strikes Back, and it’s mentioned on the cover as Star Wars 2 (right).
This is a nice little reminder that the first Star Wars movie didn’t receive its “Episode IV” subtitle until long after it was released. (Which in turn is a reminder that there was no overall plan for Star Wars and they were making it up as they went along… And they still are, folks!)
Prog 166 (21-28 Jun 1980) features a striking Star Wars cover by Brian Bolland, topped with a mention of The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World which starts in this issue. Inside, the first part of a competition to win a Star Wars Electronic Battle Command game or a large Star Wars action figure. 2000AD, Star Wars and The Stainless Steel Rat all in one publication: I swear, they made this issue just for me!
Prog 167 (5 Jul 1980) features the second part of the Star Wars competition…
2000AD Sci-Fi Special 1980 features a double-page spread of photos from The Empire Strikes Back. (It also features an article on Harry Harrison… These were golden days for young Rusty!)
Prog 173 (16 Aug 1980) has a letter from reader Keith Veness who points out an error in the prog 165 article on The Empire Strikes Back. Later that same issue, the movie is covered in Ro-Jaws’ Film Review (alongside The Final Countdown and The Day Time Ended)…
A letter from reader Andrew Mahamat in prog 174 (23 Aug 1980) relays a rumour that Darth Vader is stronger than Tharg (he’s not: Tharg is Mighty!). The issue also contains an ad for the 1980 2000AD Sci-Fi Special that lists the Empire Strikes Back feature (see above).
2000AD Annual 1981 features an article on movie special effects, and naturally Star Wars is referenced a few times, plus there’s a photo of an Imperial Stormtrooper, and another of Chewbacca that appears next to the section on make-up that doesn’t mention him. Later, in a puzzle page, “Luke Skywalker” is the answer to “The human hero of Star Wars” and “George Lucas” is answer to the question of who wrote the novelisation of Star Wars. As many fans will know, this is incorrect: Alan Dean Foster ghost-wrote the book.
Yet another full-page Palitoy figures ad appears in prog 178 (20 Sep 1980). Sadly the artist is not Brian Bolland this time, but it’s still pretty nice. The ad appears next to a ⅓-page ad for the send-away Boba Fett offer.
And in that same issue, the first episode of the one-page humour strip Dash Decent features a cameo from Darth Vader’s Tie-Fighter…
Fun fact: 2000AD prog 178 was a landmark issue in that for the first time since prog 3 it included a free gift — a Judge Dredd badge. Usually, British comics of the era gave away stuff whenever sales needed a quick boost, so the absence of freebies is a testament to the comic’s popularity.
Other fun fact: From prog 178 the “and Tornado” part of the title has been dropped, and the comic is now once again just 2000AD, though there is a “Featuring Judge Dredd” tagline that sticks around until prog 841 (26 Jun 1993).
In prog 183 (25 Oct 1980) reader John Lughlin from Belfast mentions the coincidence of buying 2000AD on the way home from seeing The Empire Strikes Back in the cinema, only to find the movie reviewed in that issue.
In prog 187 (22 Nov 1980) Tharg promises that the results of the Star Wars Electronic Battle Command Game competition from progs 166 and 167 will be published in the next issue, and he’s correct: they are!
Prog 190 (30 Dec 1980) features another reader’s letter: Matthew Brooks happened to have his 2000AD Sci-Fi Special on-hand when he bumped into Boba Fett in a local toyshop: Mr Fett kindly signed his photo in special.
… and that’s yer lot for today, chums! All the Star Wars references I could find in 2000AD between its launch in 1977 and the end of 1980. I could have carried on, but of late my scanner’s started to make new and interesting grinding noises that put me in mind of a planet-sized robo-mega-demon clearing its throat in preparation for announcing the apocalypse, so let’s leave it there for the moment. I do hope this article has been of some use to you, but I honestly can’t imagine how that might be.