Montana State University assistant history professor Maggie Greene recently uploaded and shared images of a rare 1980 Chinese “comic book” reinterpretation of the original 1977 Star Wars movie, which she remarkably snagged at a Shanghai fair for only a dollar.
Lianhuanhua, the ancestor of modern comics, typically only feature stories taken from Chinese history, but what’s even more incredible is the fact that a press in Guangzhou had decided to publish the Chinese version (named Xing Qiu Da Zhan, Putonghua for Star Wars) when “China was culturally isolated (from Hollywood, at least) in a way it hadn’t been in, say, the 1930s,” Greene said on her blog.
“Likely created without any input from George Lucas, the Xing Qiu Da Zhan comic gets the basic structure of the original 1977 Star Wars movie correct. All major characters are accounted for, and the general plot of Luke Skywalker rescuing Princess Leia from the clutches of Darth Vader is mostly intact,” reports SCMP. The following drawings show a Darth Vader that looks exactly like in Lucas’ movie and depict the attack of the Death Star.
Other features of this interpretation are a bit off, suggesting that the guys who made it might not have seen the movie. Chewbacca looks more like he comes out of the Planet of the Apes and the other characters only slightly resemble their movie counterparts.
On top of that, the Soviet-looking space ships and suits give a Cold-War space race twist to the Chinese plot, Greene points out.
One drawing in particular seems to baffle everyone: why is Vader standing in front of a map targeting the Kennedy Space Center?
Greene believes that the Xing Qiu Da Zhan comic is “a fanciful imagining […] of American – or generalized Western – life, especially evident in the dinner scene where a duck (?) is being stuck into a toaster oven (!) & the table has not only a little hot plate, but a crockpot (or rice cooker) there, too.”
In thirty years time, historians might rediscover the YouTube video depicting a Star Wars Chinese New Year Greeting. We can only wonder what their analysis will be.
(You can access the entire comic on Greene’s blog in both Chinese and English version).
By Aliaume Leroy
[Image via SCMP]