New Zealand Woman’s Weekly Comics
Almost all Star Wars fans who were around between 1979 and 1984 will immediately recognise the particular shade of pink bordering the above images. For nearly a full five years, every seven days the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly magazine would bring a full-colour dose of your favourite characters in exciting new adventures – some definitely well-expanded beyond the canonical Star Wars Universe, but others very closely tied into the Original Trilogy of films. The characteristic pink border, unique to the New Zealand renditions of these comic strips, meant the reader could readily skip past the less relevant articles of the Womans’ Weekly (depending on your point of view) to the serialised Star Wars goodness.
The comics themselves, reprints syndicated by the Los Angeles Times newspaper (to over 214 other publications), were developed by ‘Black Falcon Ltd’, a short-lived Lucasfilm subsidiary that was involved in Star Wars merchandising from 1978–79. In the USA newspaper editions of the comic, brief, monochrome, daily strips (Monday-Saturday) initially recounted separate stories from the full-page colour strip each Sunday – later, the Sunday comics were integrated in to the stories of the dailies (sometimes summarising the events of the preceding week). It was this Sunday edition that the Woman’s Weekly used locally (occasionally reformatted from landscape orientation to profile orientation, as compared with some US versions). All of the stories, save “Planet of Kadril” have since been republished in collections by Dark Horse Comics, albeit often reformatted and re-edited (“Planet of Kadril” has been distributed online, via StarWars.com’s Hyperspace subscription service which progressively released these historic comics as “webstrips”). Later (2017–2019), a definitive 3-volume set was released by IDW Publishing. A total of 262 pages were released via the NZWW – a full set in good shape is a therefore worthy collection piece. Keeping track of the pages and their respective dates-of-release is not a trivial task: below is a checklist that may assist those of you who have these comics in your collection. The first 75 pages were enumerated, but thereafter, to sort the order, one needs to rely on the subtly printed date-of-US-release on each page. Insufficient numbers of the pages have the New Zealand release date on them to facilitate chronological sorting by this means alone.
The earliest stories, authored and drawn by the late, great Russ Manning, see C-3PO reciting adventures to the maternal and pedantic Mistress Mnemos, a vast computer located deep within a secret Rebel stronghold (Russ Manning worked with such long-lived classics as the Tarzan comics, from the 1960s onwards, and vintage Sci-Fi heroes like “Magnus, Robot Fighter”… a pre-Star Wars favourite of mine, but that’s another story). By means of this plot device, we shift between the adventures of Han, Luke, Leia and friends, as they visit the Wookiee planet Kashyyyk (then spelled “Kazhyyyk”), return to Tatooine, and narrowly escape many, varied Imperial encounters.
Once the comic was well established Russ Manning, who worked with the Star Wars characters and scenarios up until close to the time he passed away in 1981, a couple of further artists and writers helped out before the helm was passed to the well know duo of Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson.
Later, other memorable storylines include an adaptation of Brian Daley’s “Han Solo at Stars’ End”, Han and Luke’s brief entanglement with Boba Fett on the “Frozen World of Ota” (a story that came out at approximately the same time as The Empire Strikes Back), and an introduction to Admiral Ackbar and his Mon Calamari colleagues prior to their Return of the Jedi big-screen appearances. The selection of Hoth as a Rebel base is touched on in “Iceworld”, and “The Bounty Hunter of Ord Mantell” ties in directly to comments made by Han in The Empire Strikes Back, wherein he references his adventures on that planet.
Each installment, the text “continued next week” reassured us that we would be seeing more of Lucas’ far away galaxy… until the fifth page (on the 4th of June, 1984) of the unusually brief story “The Final Trap”, which failed to carry that promise. Without fanfare, the Star Wars weekly comics had run their course and were quietly retired from the Woman’s Weekly.
View our archive gallery of these comic strips here.
- #1 – #12 (20 Aug 1979) Intro booklet: The Constancia Affair, by Russ Manning.
- #13 (27 Aug 1979) – #18 The Constancia Affair continues (18 pages total).
- #19 (08 Oct 1979) – #27 The Kashyyyk Depths/Wookiee Life Day, by Russ Manning (9 pages).
- #28 (10 Dec 1979) – #35 Tatooine Soujourn, by Manning and Gerber (8 pages).
- #36 (04 Feb 1980) – #43 Princess Leia, Imperial Servant, by Manning and Helm (8 pages).
- #44 (31 Mar 1980) – #51 The Second Kessel Run, by Manning and Helm (8 pages).
- #52 (26 May 1980) – #59 Bring Me The Children, by Manning and Christensen (8 pages. Some misnumbering in the early couple of pages).
- #60 (21 Jul 1980) – #67 As Long As We Live, by Manning and Christensen (8 pages. #67 by Christensen, Stevens and Hoberg).
- #68 (15 Sep 1980) – #75 Frozen World of Ota, by Manning and Christensen (8 pages. Page #71 and page #72 printed in incorrect order. Page #71 includes error message. Page numbering stops at #75. A printing error in some issues means last page has yellow border).
- #76 (10 Nov 1980) – #83 Planet of Kadril, by Russ Helm and Alfredo Alcala (8 pages. “Star Wars” logo changed to angular variant).
- #84 (05 Jan 1981) – #101 Han Solo at Stars’ End, by Brian Daley, Archie Goodwin, Alfredo Alcala (18 pages. The first page is in black and white. Angular version of logo).
- #102 (11 May 1981) – #111 The Bounty Hunter of Ord Mantell, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (10 pages. “Star Wars” logo reverts to classic design).
- #112 (20 Jul 1981) – #125 Darth Vader Strikes, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (14 pages).
- #126 (26 Oct 1981) – #139 The Serpent Masters, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (14 pages. 9th page is black and white).
- #140 (01 Feb 1982) – #148 Deadly Reunion, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (9 pages).
- #149 (05 Apr 1982) – #157 Traitor’s Gambit, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (9 pages).
- #158 (07 Jun 1982) – #167 The Night Beast, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (10 pages).
- #168 (16 Aug 1982) – #177 The Return of Ben Kenobi, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (10 pages).
- #178 (25 Oct 1982) – #187 The Power Gem, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (10 pages. Last 2 pages in black and white).
- #188 (03 Jan 1983) – #193 Iceworld, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (6 pages. All in black and white).
- #194 (14 Feb 1983) – #203 Revenge of the Jedi (Ackbar’s Introduction), by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (10 pages).
- #204 (25 Apr 1983) – #215 Doom Mission, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (12 pages).
- #216 (18 Jul 1983) – #227 Race for Survival, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (12 pages).
- #228 (10 Oct 1983) – #239 The Paradise Detour, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (12 pages. Last page in black and white).
- #240 (02 Jan 1984) – #251 A New Beginning, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (12 pages. Pages 1-5, 7, and 9 are in black and white).
- #252 (26 Mar 1984) – #257 Showdown, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (6 pages).
- #258 (07 May 1984) – #262 (concludes 04 Jun 1984) The Final Trap, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (5 pages).
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