George Lucas slowly came to what we now know as Star Wars. It all began as a short story called The Journal of the Whills and from there grew into something larger. That larger thing was called Adventures of Luke Starkiller, as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars, then eventually The Star Wars and finally, just Star Wars.
The earliest Star Wars material is dense and weird and a little more self-serious and a little less pulpy. It's absolutely fascinating to read through, and there's always been this sense of 'what if' attached to the earliest drafts. Now that 'what if' is being answered, sort of - Dark Horse is adapting the rough draft of The Star Wars into an 8 issue comic book mini-series.
Now, I'm not sure exactly what that means - there are a bunch of evolutionary drafts along the way, some being more recognizably Star Wars than others. But this quote from longtime Star Wars editor Randy Stradley sheds light:
“I’m not sure where I first read about The Star Wars—it was years and years ago—but the idea of Luke Skywalker being an older Jedi General, and Han Solo being a six-foot-tall lizard, turned my Star Wars fan brain on its side... I always assumed this would be one of those stories that would be ‘lost to history,’ so getting to work on bringing it to life is kinda like a dream come true.”
Which means it's the 1974 version, whose plot is thus:
The Jedi-Bendu warriors served the Empire for many millennia, before rebelling against the new corrupted emperor. Hunted down and killed by the Knights of Sith (a sinister rival sect), the Jedi are now all but extinct and a New Galactic Empire has arisen.
Kane Starkiller, a Jedi-Bendu master, is in hiding on the Fourth Moon of Utapau with his two sons Annikin and Deak, when a Sith warrior finds them and Deak is killed. The surviving Starkillers head to the Aquilae system, where they are met by Kane’s old Jedi friend, General Luke Skywalker. Kane, whose war-battered body is a concoction of artificial limbs, knows that he is dying, and persuades Luke to become Annikin’s Jedi teacher. He then travels to the city of Gordon, leaving his son with Skywalker and the King of Aquilae. Clieg Whitsun, a rebel spy on the emperor’s planet of Alderaan, has learned that an Imperial fleet, led by General Darth Vader and Governor Crispin Hoedaack, is about to conquer Aquilae with a “death star” space fortress. Rebel fighters are sent out to stop the attack, but the Aquilaean king is killed, and instead of Princess Leia (the rightful heir), a corrupt senator takes over, surrendering the planet to the Empire. Annikin, Luke and Whitsun, joined by Artwo Detwo and See Threepio (two bickering robots who have escaped from the space fortress), bring Leia and her two younger brothers to the spaceport at Gordon, from where they can reach safety. After a fight at a cantina, where Skywalker uses his “lasersword” to kill his antagonists, the group meet up with Kane and his alien friend Han Solo who have arranged transport to a friendly planet. They need a power unit for suspended animation in order to get past Imperial scanners, and Kane heroically rips one from his body, causing his death. After avoiding a trap set by Vader and Prince Valorum (the black Knight of the Sith), the rebels are pursued into space, where the arguing Leia and Annikin realize that they love each other. Their craft is damaged in an asteroid field and Whitsun dies as it explodes, but the others abandon ship in time and land on the jungle planet of Yavin, where Leia is captured by alien trappers. Annikin tries to rescue her, but only succeeds in freeing five “Wookees” (huge, grey and furry beasts), and Leia eventually ends up in the hands of the Empire. After a tip from two anthropologists, the rebels and the Wookee tribe (including Prince Chewbacca) attack an Imperial outpost, and a forest battle ensues. When he learns that Leia is held captive aboard the space fortress, General Skywalker starts training the Wookees to fly fighter ships in order to conquer the death star. Annikin is sceptical of the plan and gets onto the fortress (together with Artwo) on a mission of his own, dressed as an Imperial “skyraider”, but he is soon captured and tortured by General Vader. Valorum sees this and realizes that the Imperials are completely without honour and codes, and that he has more in common with the young Jedi than with the emperor. Turning his back on the Empire, he frees both Annikin and Leia, and they escape down a garbage chute. After almost being crushed in the garbage receptacle, Valorum, Leia, Annikin, and Artwo manage to abandon the station just before the Wookees destroy it, killing both Vader and Governor Hoedaack. Back in her throne room, Queen Leia honours the heroes (including Valorum), and Annikin is appointed new Lord Protector of Aquilae.
JW Rinzler, who Star Wars fans know from his extraordinary Making Of books for the original trilogy, is adapting the rough draft. The art by Mike Mayhew which you can see above, looks very, very heavily infuenced by Ralph McQuarrie's earliest designs.
Nobody's as sick of Star Wars as I am, but this is a pretty exciting project. Anybody who is interested in alternate versions of well-known stories will see how absolutely fascinating The Star Wars might be.