Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Charles Nicholas Stayed Busy After Charlton, Part 2--"Star Wars" (1978)!

My copy of Pendulum Press' Star Wars adaptation (Contemporary Motivators, 1978) must have been a big hit at Jefferson Middle School's Reading Department in Meriden, Connecticut--the worn front and back covers attest to as much.  Of course, for the following photo, I software-restored the front-cover border to something like its original state.  I cheated, in other words:

The well-loved original, before retouching:

A 31-page Star Wars comic book adaptation may sound like an impossible task, and maybe it is, but illustrator Charles Nicholas and adapter Linda A. Cadrain pretty nearly pulled it off.  The chief issue, besides the drastically compressed narrative?  Too many panels describing action instead of showing it--e.g., "Quickly Leia blasted open a small grate in the wall," and "Moving in on the target, Luke fired, then shot up and away from the Death Star."

Then again, the whole point of these Pendulum comics was to encourage kids to read, so maybe such measures were for the best.  But what's Star Wars without all the zaps, blasts, and explosions?  (Actually, a lot better, in my opinion--I hate the movie's sound effects!)  Even the Kenobi/Vader duel gets three measly panels, all close-ups.  But at least we get a nice Nicholas rendering of the Death Star explosion.  Better than the original, really, which looked like stock footage from Lost in Space:


And we get these other above-average panels to make up for the adaptation's lost opportunities.  Here, as at Charlton, Nicholas was no slouch in the space-art department:


Of the core characters, "Ben" is especially well-drawn:


Ditto for the droids:

Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker are adequately rendered, and Darth Vader is terrific:

Chewbacca is nicely done.  Han Solo, on the other hand, looks like a moonlighting Reggie from Archie Comics:

Can't win 'em all, I guess.  Anyway, minus the talents involved, this drastically compressed version of Star Wars would likely have been told with a lot less (pun alert) force, if much of any.  Too bad Cadrain and Nicholas weren't given more space--this might have aspired to a Classics Illustrated level.  But, all format limitations considered, this is a very competent and diverting adaptation.  Just ask the patrons of Jefferson Middle School's Reading Department. 


1 comment:

  1. Lee,

    Charles Nicholas on Star Wars! Who'd have guessed? I love when surprises like this are discovered and I really like the art here. Nicholas did a fine job on the space setting and characters, and I basically agree with you assessments. I'm glad to see Nicholas continued to work past Charlton. It's too bad nobody ever thought of interviewing him. I'm sure his take in working in comics would have been quite interesting.