Any mention of comic book pioneer Alan Moore typically springs three words to mind: BEARD. BRILLIANT. BONKERS.
The man’s facial hair is the stuff of legend, much like his storytelling abilities. Among the most talented and influential writers our industry has ever seen, Alan Moore is also rather…odd. Downright bloody bonkers, if some people are to be believed.
But like any master of a given craft, there’s more to Moore than meets the eye. Not least a slew of scarce stories conceived and published during the (comparatively) unchartered dawn of his career. Among them...?
In a recent instance of Fanboy Fail, it was revealed to me that Alan Moore wrote five short Star Wars stories. A long-time fan of the man’s work (also, his beard), I was staggered to learn that a) these stories actually existed, and b) they'd somehow managed to elude my attention.
Published between ’81 and ’82, Moore’s contributions to the Star Wars universe first featured in the Marvel Star Wars UK comic books. It would be almost 15 years before they saw print in the United States, with Dark Horse Comics including them in 1996’s two-part collection, Classic Star Wars: Devilworlds. (Which is now available on Comixology.)
"The Pandora Effect" was the first tale to be released, tucked inside Empire Strikes Back Monthly #151 in November 1981. (Marvel UK’s series of Star Wars comics underwent multiple name changes during its 8-year run, offering original content along with reprints of American stories.)
Working with artist Alfonso Buylla, Moore thrusts Han Solo, Princess Leia and Chewbacca into the path of Vor Childermoss, captain of an otherworldly pirate ship. The plundering ne’er-do-well forces the Millennium Falcon into Hellhoop, a sinister spot of space from which no visitor has ever returned…
In typical Alan Moore fashion, the story takes a sharp detour from what readers of a 1981 Star Wars comic book would likely expect. Once stranded in the Hellhoop, both the Millennium Falcon and the pirates’ ship are devoured by another unidentified vessel. Both crews wake to find themselves at the mercy of The Five, a twisted religious cult dedicated to pain and suffering.
(And to think, while Alan Moore was pitting Han, Leia and Chewie against devout disciples of unthinkable anguish, Star Wars’ cinematic creative team was busy developing Return of the Jedi and its decidedly less barbarous drove of Ewoks…)
Vor Childermoss and his crew decide to attack their captors, which (unsurprisingly) doesn’t go down too well—The Five responds with a pitiless butchering. The heroes’ lives are spared, although they’re not safe yet—Chewbacca finds himself transported to an oddball creature-filled Menagerie, while Princess Leia comes under psychic attack by an ancient and all-powerful member of the savage cult.
Chewbacca, unimpressed with his newfound captivity, breaks out from the Menagerie along with an entity called Wutzek, who (by all accounts) is the “last known demon.” Enraged by centuries of incarceration, the supernatural powerhouse slaughters each and every member of The Five, leaving Han, Leia and Chewie to flee aboard the Millennium Falcon.
Star Wars comic book stories in 1981: Rather more outlandish than those published in 2015. Not least when Alan Moore is the man responsible for writing 'em…
Next up: Alan Moore's Star Wars Episode II: TILOTNY THROWS A SHAPE (In which a bedlam spirit accidentally teleports a clan of stormtroopers back through time. Yes, really.)