it’s truly an unfair comparison to gauge how well Marvel Comics originally adapted the classic trilogy films against how Japanese artists did the same. The deck is definitely stacked in manga’s favor. For the Marvel adaptations, produced during each film’s post-production period, the artists had not seen the films—they were working merely from the script, with some key photography and maybe some concept art. Also, they had to conform to the page and printing standards of newsstand comics from 1977-1983. This meant that all the action of a Star Wars film had to be crammed into six issues (or, in the case of Return of the Jedi, a mere four).
What quickly becomes apparent, however, is that the manga adaptation had far more going for it than just a long, long lead time and flexible format. The manga also didn’t have to deal with the Comics Code Authority, resulting in a much freer style with some of the more violent moments of the Star Wars saga. Where a piece of machinery conveniently covers the action in the Code-approved American adaptation, the manga depicts Luke’s hand being cut off with brutality and finality. Where Luke and Vader’s cave confrontation is toned down severely in the American adaptation, the manga version depicts it perhaps even better than the original film.
The open manga style also lends itself better to capturing the spirit of the film in general. While the Marvel adaptations feature painstakingly detailed artwork, the cartoon style of the manga allows it to better capture the comic relief of the series, while also lending itself to true hardcore pulp moments like Leia’s revenge on Jabba the Hutt.
So perhaps it is truly unfair to compare the two adaptations – as is usually the case with Japanese and American comics, it’s a case of apples to oranges. But it certainly is interestingto compare them. And it’s even more interesting to me to see this kind of side-by-side comparison published by the licensing company itself.