Monday 8 June 2015


From June 1986: MARVEL UK's long-running (all the way back to the beginning of February 1978) STAR WARS franchise finally runs out of steam with the finale of RETURN OF THE JEDI weekly.  

Like pretty much everyone else, I'd drifted away from the 'Wars by this point (although it turned out to be only a short-lived departure... the 10th anniversary issue of STARLOG and the SW RPG SOURCE BOOK... although not the game itself... lured me back into the fold a year later) but, when I heard of the impending merger with SPIDER-MAN AND ZOIDS, I felt a pang of teen nostalgia and made sure I grabbed a copy of this final edition.  

The British Bullpen must have known that the writing was on the wall for a while.  The franchise was all-but-dead at this point with no new films to fuel interest.  Even the once ubiquitous toys were gathering dust on the racks.  Oh to have snapped them up at clearance prices.  

Marvel had obviously been chasing a younger readership for several years with ROTJ.  Perhaps the assumption was that as older fans drifted away, a new generation of younger readers would discover the saga through TV and VHS (and the Ewok teleflicks) and keep things solvent as long as possible.

Unfortunately for them, the US Bullpen hadn't read the memo and, trapped in approvals hell with Lucasfilm, shifted the emphasis away from the core Star Warriors and onto sundry supporting characters and new alien races to try and keep things interesting and simultaneously honoring Lucas' wish to "do nothing" whilst he pondered the future of his cash machine.  

The UK edition was finally, after years of running behind, finally all but neck-and-neck with the American edition.  So the decision to cut the frequency of the monthly to bi-monthly created new headaches for Cyril and team.  For a while they alternated one serialized contemporary new adventure with one archive tale.  But that stop-start approach was hardly satisfying.  So they ditched the US continuity entirely after issue 147 (wrapping up, appropriately enough, The Party's Over from US 105) in favor of rerunning the RETURN OF THE JEDI adaptation (148-155) last seen in 1983.

That left the final two US issues unpublished in the UK.  Post-merger, SPIDER-MAN AND ZOIDS ran the (fairly) self-contained third US annual rather than pick-up the dangling continuity threads.  

The 'second-feature' was a reprint of Fool's Bounty which, coincidentally, also the in-continuity strip from ROTJ issue 1 in 1983.  The weekly had come full circle and bowed out as it arrived. 

Rerunning the adaptation finally gave M-UK the chance to use the cover art from the four-part US ROTJ limited series, originally dropped in favor of photo-covers back in '83.

The real oddity was the long-running Power Pack back-up.  With nowhere to shuffle the strip, ROTJ readers were left on an unfortunate cliffhanger (or chasm plunge) with the vague instruction that Jedi's young readership should track down the US edition to find out what happened next.  Conveniently overlooking that imported copies of the US edition had come and gone from newsagents several months earlier and - reflecting the fact that the US book had just switched to Direct Sales Only, had been dropped from British bundles.  Even that information was printed so poorly that it was virtually impossible to read.  

1 comment:

  1. lizard and horse faced aliens..?. .what a strange story. And what a shoddy way to end this title's long run. They were in total ' recycle mode ' by this stage. I must confess that RETURN OF THE JEDI WEEKLY pretty much passed me by back then as my local shops stopped getting it. So even though I would see the occasional ad in other m-uk titles, it wasn't something I thought about much. I also remember being puzzled by the ad in the usa marvels heralding the arrival of the Nagai. Truly a strange period for the franchise. Of course in more recent times, I've managed to acquire most issues of this title but sadly not this final one. The cover art is striking but also puzzling. Is it just me or is luke ' palming ' his lightsabre instead of gripping it at the hilt ? That's a pretty strange way for a jedi to hold such a dangerous weapon methinks !


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