Star Wars: Ringworld, 1981

Disclaimer: I’m sure the fine people at Lucasfilm can distinguish not-for-profit fanfic from copyright infringement. They’re pretty smart.

As homemade Star Wars comics of my early years go, this one is something special.

It represents a culmination of techniques I was developing, all coming together in my third longform graphic novel, written and drawn in the summer of ’81 after I turned 16.

At this point, I’d collected a LOT of reference material on both the existing movies, most importantly the Art of books, and was deeply in love with the work of Al Williamson. Before he drew The Empire Strikes Back for Marvel, I’d never heard of him. But his work was such a breath of refined perfection after the misery of the pre-Empire comics that he instantly became my favorite artist.

When he took over the newspaper strip in February ’81, I got a daily dose of Williamson Star Wars and it was pure heaven. It pushed me to up my game, thinking harder about every aspect of my craft from lettering to inking. Other favorites like Walter Simonson and Michael Golden also inspired me, and personal instruction from Michael Gustovich (the one and only comic book pro in my city) gave me even more to think about. He’s the one who got me thinking about how to make page layouts more interesting by choosing one panel to emphasize and building a whole page around it.

My figure drawing and scene composition still had miles to go, but I got a tutorial in facial construction from an unexpected source. There was a series of Empire coloring books with illustrations by comic artist Rick Hoberg, whose name I recognized from Marvel (he drew the final issue of their first Star Wars movie adaptation), and who I was destined to work with about 12 years later. His stripped-down drawings of the characters gave me a visual library to trace and study, and this was the first project where I applied that knowledge.

Re-reading the story now, I remember that the quality of my writing took a step up, too. There was the main action plot, but also a slow-brewing clash between imperial officers that had more nuance to it than anything I’d previously done. It feels like the first breath of where my writing would go in my adult career. As for the story title, yeah, it was lifted directly from a Larry Niven novel, but that’s irrelevant to the content.

In the end, it’s still the work of a 16-year old kid, but it was an important turning point for me; it would be the last comic I drew solely for myself. A couple months after finishing this, I stumbled into the world of amateur-press fanzines and finally started drawing for an audience.

That’s where this road will take us next. For now, sink into a 60-page mini-epic that occupied my full attention for most of a summer vacation.

These first three pieces were attached to the front and insides of my prized 3-ring binder. The staining is from rubber cement.

There’s a gap in the art between these two pages because they were originally stored in transparent sleeves in a 3-ring binder. I measured the space between the inner edges and left it out of the composition. I didn’t assume they would ever be displayed any other way. And until now, they weren’t.

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