Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Retro Foreign: German Star Wars (1999) #1

Dino Verlag published Star Wars comics in Germany from June 1999 until it was acquired by Panini Comics in 2003.  The Dino name continued to be used on the Star Wars comics until January 2007 and afterwards the Panini name is used.  The main Star Wars title ran for 125 issue from June 1999 to September 2015.  It contains a variety of Dark Horse titles translated for German readers.

Dino Verlag's Star Wars (1999) #1 contains German translations of Dark Horse's Star Wars: Vader's Quest #1 and Star Wars (1998) #1.

Star Wars #1a - Dino Verlag, Germany (June 1999)
The cover used is from Star Wars: Vader's Quest #1.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Classic Cover Comparison: Star Wars #80 and Titans #81

The last issue before the events in the Return of the Jedi, Star Wars #80 delivers a gut-wrenching end to our heroes pursuit of Tay Vanis, the Rebel operator who had gone missing with Bothan tapes vital to the Alliance.  The story Ellie starts with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and C-3PO posing as traders in an Imperial installation on an unnamed planet.  Realizing Tay Vanis is not there, they ask a manifest droid, LE914 or Ellie, about Tay Vanis' next destination.  Ellie searches the computers which triggers an alarm, attracting Imperial Stormtroopers.  Luke, Leia, C-3PO, and Ellie escape a firefight and flee outside into the rain, leave the area aboard the Millennium Falcon.  Ellie directs Luke and Leia to a castle that belong to the previous inhabitants of the planet before the Empire wiped them out.  On the way to the castle, they discover Vanis' crashed X-Wing and hear a recording left by him explaining he is being pursued by Imperials and has instructed his long time companion, Ellie, to destroy the tapes if he does not return.  While the Rebels were watching the recording, Ellie has fled.  Surprised by Ellie's disappearance, Luke and Leia decide to infiltrate the castle to find Vanis.  Inside, they capture an Imperial officer who directs them to Tay Vanis' cell.  Upon opening the cell door, a holographic recording left by Darth Vader for Luke explains he had captured Vanis and he knew Luke would be the one to follow the path.  Inside the cell, Tay Vanis is alive, but a broken man.  Distraught, Luke and Leia discuss their next course of action:

Princess Leia: All this time, while we've search for him... not even the Empire knowing where he was... Vader had him... and was doing... this.
Luke Skywalker: Vader... that's it.  Forget the mission.  We cannot leave Vanis here like this.  He's still... he's still a person.  Maybe... maybe with medical attention... if we bring him back to the fleet...  Just so we... get him out of here...

Just then, Ellie enters the cell and makes the decision for them:

Ellie: Look at... what is left of him.  Do you think that saving his life would be a kindness?  He was... a very great trouble to the Empire, many times.  Do you think Darth Vader left him alive... as a kindness?

As she finishes, Ellie hands the tapes to C-3PO.  Luke, Leia, and C-3PO depart the cell at Ellie's request and cradling Vanis' broken body, Ellie self-destructs.  Luke and Leia blow up the castle and contact Admiral Ackbar letting him know they have recovered the tapes.  The final panel shows C-3PO standing in the rain looking like he is crying.

The story is powerful, showing just how evil the Empire is and how cruel Vader can be.  These types of stories are essential to reaffirming the Rebels as heroes and not a group of terrorist.  After Vader's horrible treatment of Vanis, it is hard to believe Luke feels he can redeem him in Return of the Jedi!

The Bothan tapes Luke and Leia recover are for the second Death Star.  Later on, the Expanded Universe tells a different story about how the tapes were obtained and eventually both stories are reconciled as occurring in continuity.

Star Wars #80b - Marvel Comics, U.S. (February 1984)
The scene on the cover for Star Wars #80 combines two elements of the story, the holographic image of Darth Vader and Ellie holding Tay Vanis.  It is one of my favorite covers of the original Star Wars run.  The positioning of Vader over a portion of the title makes it look like he is wearing a Nazi helmet with the spike on top.

Titans #81a - Editions Lug, France (October 1985)
Star Wars #80
The cover for Titans #81 does not match the story inside.  On the cover, Luke is wearing his Bespin fatigues and Leia is dressed in her A New Hope gown.  Inside the comic, both are wearing the green outfits they wear on Endor.  The main movie characters from the story are all present on the cover and in the story Luke does strike down several Stormtroopers with his lightsaber.  Also, Leia has her hair in buns on the cover and inside, something that rarely occurs in the comics after The Empire Strikes Back.

The Titans #81 cover art does not capture the emotional impact of the story and I could not recognize the story from this artwork.  Additionally, the painted work is decent, but not nearly as nice as some of the other French covers.  On the other hand, the U.S. cover captures the essence of the story.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: Invasion #0

Bantam Spectra published Star Wars books from 1991 to 1999, starting with Heir to the Empire, the book that helped revive Star Wars and kick off the Expanded Universe.  Del Rey won back the license with plans to shaking up the status quo.  Bantam mainly published stories that involved the New Republic battling the remnants of the Empire.  Del Rey's first publishing efforts after The Phantom Menace adaptation was a massive nineteen book story called the New Jedi Order.  Involving multiple authors, the story centers around the original trilogy characters as well as characters introduced during the Bantam era.  The story introduces the Yuuzhan Vong, an alien race from another galaxy, intent on taking over the galaxy the New Republic had consolidated and was stabilizing.  During the course of the story, both Chewbacca and Anakin Solo are killed off.  The novels sold extremely well, although the story is not embraced by some fans who feel it sways too much from a traditional Star Wars story.

Interestingly, the invasion story was suggested by Randy Stradley, Vice President of Publishing at Dark Horse.  Despite Dark Horse's initial involvement in shaping the story, Dark Horse chose not to publish any comics pertaining to it during the 4 years the novels were being released although they did seed the invasion by introducing Nom Anor in the Crimson Empire II mini-series.  Nom Anor is an advance scout of the Yuuzhan Vong, intent on sowing discontent in the galaxy.

Six years after the final book, The Unifying Force, was published, Dark Horse released a 6 issue mini-series titled Star Wars: Invasion.  The first issue of the mini-series, #0, tells the story of two explorers at the edge of the galaxy who intercept a transmission from the first planet in the galaxy attacked by the Yuuzhan Vong invasion force.  They successfully warn the nearest planet Artorias of the approaching armada before making the decision to ram their spacecraft into one of the Vong ships, killing both explorers.  Afterwards, there is a brief one page introduction to the royal family of Artorias who become the focal point for the remainder of the series.  We also learn it is a strategically placed Yuuzhan Vong advance scout that received the message and the planet's inhabitants will not be warned of the approaching fleet.

Star Wars: Invasion #0a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (October 2009)
Star Wars: Invasion #0b - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (October 2009)
An exclusive cover was given to retailers at the Diamond 2009 Retailer Summit in Baltimore.  The artwork was modified to have a solid white background behind the Yuuzhan Vong.  Additionally, the logo and other cover artifacts are changed from green to red.  Below the title is text that reads 2009 Diamond Retailer Exclusive.  Finally, the price has been replace with text that reads 1 of 1,000 copies.

At one time, despite being limited to 1,000 copies, this comic was frequently seen on eBay for $20 - $25.  These days, with the renewed interest in Star Wars due to Disney releasing new movies yearly and Marvel owning the comic license, many of the Dark Horse variants and exclusives have become scarcer on eBay and prices have been going up.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rogue One One-Shot in August

The official Star Wars site has another exclusive to report.  Marvel is publishing the one-shot titled Star Wars: Rogue One - Cassian & K-2SO.  The story will show how Cassian Andor and K-2SO met.

You can read more over at the official Star Wars site in the article CASSIAN MEETS K-2SO IN ROGUE ONE PREQUEL COMIC – EXCLUSIVE!.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Rogue One Launches Into Low Orbit In April

The Comics Chronicles released the April 2017 estimated sales last week.  The top selling book on Diamonds Top 300 chart was Marvel's summer event kickoff book, Secret Empire #0.  Five issues sold over 100,000 units, an improvement over only two issues in February and two in March.  The main Star Wars title continues to impress.  Again, in April, it was in the top 10 in 8th place and it remains Marvel's top selling ongoing title.

TitleIssueMonthly RankEstimated SalesLast Estimated SalesPercent Change
Star Wars30870,17572,017-2.56%
Star Wars: Rogue One11364,518N/AN/A
Darth Maul32354,94960,415-9.05%
Doctor Aphra64740,45842,465-4.73%
Poe Dameron135236,99438,696-4.40%

The main Star Wars title saw a standard downward drift in units sold.  With this title participating in the Screaming Citadel crossover event next month, I expect a decent jump in sales.  This title saw an increase of almost 17,000 units for the Vader Down event back in November 2015.  It is not unreasonable to expect an increase of 10,000 to 15,000 units.

Both Doctor Aphra and Poe Dameron saw a significant slip of around 4.5% in units sold.  These numbers for Doctor Aphra have to be disappointing for Marvel and this is only the sixth issue!  Doctor Aphra will be saved, at least for a while, by the Screaming Citadel crossover event next month.  It will be interesting to see how big of an increase it will receive.  While Poe Dameron #13 is not the lowest selling issue for an ongoing series, it is very close.

The Rogue One adaptation debuted with over 64,500 units sold.  In comparison, The Force Awakens #1 sold over 79,500 units or roughly 15,000 more units.  Regardless, Rogue One still took 13th place on the charts whereas The Force Awakens was in 20th place.

As mentioned for the past few months, Darth Maul is selling roughly the same numbers as the Obi-Wan and Anakin mini-series.  Nothing has changed this month.

Next month, we get the debut of the Screaming Citadel event!

There have been a number of articles in the past month concerning Marvel's lagging sales compared to a year ago.  All of the attention has been on the superhero titles and the causes and remedies needed bring those numbers back up.  It is plain to see that the Star Wars line of comics has also suffered from whatever is ailing Marvel and, to a certain extent, the entire industry, which is why I'm not entirely sure some of the remedies being bandied about are going to really have a long term effect on sales.  Marvel has a new series this summer titled Generations which will lead to them bringing back their classic heroes and original numbering in an event titled Marvel Legacy.  I could be wrong, but to me this feels like more of the same; a Marvel event followed by renumbering a large number of titles in their line, except this time they are going to number the titles to where they would be if they hadn't kept rebooting the numbering over the years.  No doubt this will give Marvel another reason to reboot titles in the future with a new #1.  Naturally, this event will boost Marvel's superhero line, but for how long?

I cannot be the only Star Wars collector who is feeling burnt out on the number of ratio'd variants Marvel publishes for these titles.  Marvel, please stop the ratio'd variants!  Publish variants, but don't limit them and give every fan a chance to buy them.  If you want to sell more books to fans, why make it hard for them to buy your product?  Additionally, at least for the main Star Wars title, the recent Yoda story arc was dull.  To be honest, I also think Doctor Aphra's first story arc was weak, but I know this character has a lot of fans who are willing to give the title a chance.  We need to see a return to some decent stories like the main title had up through the Rebel Jail story.  Everything after that has been lackluster with a few exceptions.

One thing that the Star Wars line has that Marvel's superhero line does not is mini-series.  Marvel has recently said the Star Wars line is the only place the mini-series format sells.  I'm glad to hear this as most of these mini-series have been pretty good.  The Lando, Han Solo, and Darth Maul mini-series are some of the best stories to come out of this era of Star Wars comics.

The following table shows the total number of Star Wars units sold per month since January 2015 along with the average number of sales per issue.

Month/YearTotal Estimated Sales# IssuesAverage Sale per Issue
January 2015985,9761985,976
February 2015526,4513175,484
March 2015596,2994149,075
April 2015537,8124134,453
May 2015324,8353108,278
June 2015396,931499,232
July 2015597,0235119,404
August 2015430,241586,048
September 2015551,8805110,376
October 2015953,2891095,329
November 20151,003,9548125,494
December 2015507,545684,591
January 2016465,698593,139
February 2016288,355472,088
March 2016355,554571,110
April 2016533,9765106,795
May 2016299,189474,797
June 2016545,833690,972
July 2016359,166571,833
August 2016322,499564,500
September 2016174,420358,140
October 2016339,778567,956
November 2016269,975553,995
December 2016303,886475,972
January 2017161,014353,671
February 2017262,889465,722
March 2017214,603453,650
April 2017274,262554,852

The average sale per issue of 54,852 would rank 23rd on the top 300 chart for the month of April.  Star Wars trade paperbacks, reprint titles, and reorders are not accounted for with these numbers.  The Star Wars trade paperbacks are strong sellers.

Take a look at the Star Wars Sales Estimate Chart and please read the blog posting April 2017 comics sales estimates: Beyond Marvel's slow start, rest of industry growing.

Mace Windu Is Coming In August

The official Star Wars site is reporting that Marvel will publish a 5-issue mini-series titled Star Wars: Jedi of the Republic — Mace Windu starting in August 2017.  Recently Marvel has been delving into the prequel era and the current Darth Maul mini-series is shaping up to be one of their best stories yet.  A Mace Windu led story during the pivotal Clone Wars has a lot of potential.

You can read more over at the official Star Wars site in the article MACE WINDU GOES SOLO IN NEW MARVEL COMIC – EXCLUSIVE!.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Star Wars Titles are Steady in March

The Comics Chronicles released the March 2017 estimated sales back on April 10th.  The top selling book on Diamonds Top 300 chart was Amazing Spider-Man #25.  What makes it noteworthy is the retail price of $9.99 for 96 pages.  Due to the success of that book, expect to see more Marvel comics priced at $9.99.  Star Wars placed in the Top 10 in 7th place with 72,017 units sold.  Like February, only two comics shipped over 100,000 units.

TitleIssueMonthly RankEstimated SalesLast Estimated SalesPercent Change
Star Wars29772,01774,002-2.68%
Darth Maul21360,415105,177-42.56%
Doctor Aphra54342,46543,475-2.32%
Poe Dameron125238,69640,235-3.83%

This months numbers are fairly standard.  The three ongoing Star Wars titles saw a standard drift downward in the number of units sold compared to last month.  The main Star Wars title is the best selling of the titles.  A year ago, Star Wars #17 sold over 107,000 copies; Star Wars #29 sold one third fewer copies in comparison.  The Doctor Aphra title did not drop as much as last month, so hopefully this title has stopped the bleeding.  A year ago, Darth Vader #18 sold over 80,000 copies, so Doctor Aphra #5 sold almost half as much.  It does not surprise me Marvel is relaunching the Darth Vader title since this spin-off title has sputtered out of the gate.  I expect Doctor Aphra to get a huge boost from the Screaming Citadel event, but whether or not the title can hold onto the gains it will receive is anyone's guess.  Poe Dameron is now selling around the same numbers that the Kanan title had when it was cancelled.

As expected, Darth Maul #2 had roughly the equivalent numbers to the Obi-Wan and Anakin mini-series for its second issue.  Since it appears to be following the same trajectory, the final issue of this mini-series should finish around 50,000 units.

Next month, the Rogue One movie adaptation debuts.

The following table shows the total number of Star Wars units sold per month since January 2015 along with the average number of sales per issue.

Month/YearTotal Estimated Sales# IssuesAverage Sale per Issue
January 2015985,9761985,976
February 2015526,4513175,484
March 2015596,2994149,075
April 2015537,8124134,453
May 2015324,8353108,278
June 2015396,931499,232
July 2015597,0235119,404
August 2015430,241586,048
September 2015551,8805110,376
October 2015953,2891095,329
November 20151,003,9548125,494
December 2015507,545684,591
January 2016465,698593,139
February 2016288,355472,088
March 2016355,554571,110
April 2016533,9765106,795
May 2016299,189474,797
June 2016545,833690,972
July 2016359,166571,833
August 2016322,499564,500
September 2016174,420358,140
October 2016339,778567,956
November 2016269,975553,995
December 2016303,886475,972
January 2017161,014353,671
February 2017262,889465,722
March 2017214,603453,650

The average sale per issue of 53,650 would rank 21st on the top 300 chart for the month of March.  That is a very respectable number, especially when you consider Marvel only had 5 issues sell more than this in March.  Star Wars trade paperbacks, reprint titles, and reorders are not accounted for with these numbers.  The Star Wars trade paperbacks are strong sellers.

Take a look at the Star Wars Sales Estimate Chart and please read the blog posting Retailers order 114,000 Amazing Spider-Man #25s, most expensive comic ever to top charts.