Brief timeline recounting. I went to New York for the Toy Fair in Feb. 1976 and tried to cold call Stan Lee at Marvel for a meeting. Failing, I met with Roy Thomas, who arranged a meeting. Stan Lee and I came to an agreement for MARVEL to do the STAR WARS COMICS which would come out before the film (5-25-77). Howard Chaykin would do the art, and it would be written by Roy.
In July 77, after Roy, Howard and I did a presentation at Comic Con, we had a meeting with George to discuss the project. Everything seemed like it was GO!
This next section, PART 3, is of an interview with Steve Leialoha.
Steve Leialoha accidentally ran into Howard Chaykin in Dec. 77. They had both had work published in STAR REACH #4, which had a release date of 3-76. howard had the cover with THE RETURN OF CODY STARBUCK, and Steve had a story inside he wrote and drew, MARGINAL INCIDENT.
Interview between Charles Lippincott (CL) & Steve Leialoha (SL)
CL: How did you hear of Star Wars?
SL: I think it was at the SD Con of '76. I was (and still am) in San Francisco and had friends who worked at American Zoetrope so I got to see THX1138 being worked on. The bay Area was pretty small when it came to major film work. After THX I was hoping George would continue on in the same vein so when news got around he was working on a SciFi project I followed it. At the SD Con I bought the Chaykin poster from Carol Titleman(?) who later helped me at the Universal office when I wanted to get more reference. Everyone was very nice. It has always been like that in this business...
CL: Had Howard finished the Dominic Fortune when you met him?
SL: I had to look that one up.... As a comics fan I followed all that stuff so by the time I first met Howard the first of those had come out. I started working for Marvel in April "75 and first met Howard at the San Diego Con that summer. Prior to his working on SW my favorite of his was Monark Starstalker 77 (Marvel). All of the books he wrote and drew had that same vibe: Iron-Wolf '73, the Scorpion '75, Cody Starbuck '74, Monark Starstalker '76, Dominic Fortune '75. Not sure what you're trying to pin down but glad to help!
CL: How did you get involved with the Star Wars comic?
ST: Charlie, glad to help however I can... My involvement came about when I was in NY, which was before X-Mas of 1976. I was visiting Neal Adams' Continuity studios which had become a sort of hang out for artists. Leaving, I shared the elevator out with Howard. I had also picked up the novelization and read it befor running into Howard. Just making conversation he said that the deadlines had been moved up and he no longer had time to both pencil and ink the book. So he planned to ink the first issue but need an inker for the rest. I said I'd ink it and he said OK. He had to run it past Roy, of course, but that started it off for me.
CL: I think I had heard from Roy Thomas after Issue #2 that Chaykin was not going to be inking his work on the Marvel Star Wars comics, which pissed me off. I wasn't happy with him leaving like that, but was very happy with you jumped in like that to finish the comic books. It looked great. I think I was told Howie was leaving because he got this two part book deal which was a novel adaptation. Do you remember what book Chaykin had signed on to do?
SL: Whether Howard pulled back from SW due to other commitments--- I don't know. He was always juggling lots of projects but he didn't mention anything specific. He did stay on SW as penciller for several issues beyond 6 so who knows? Roy always liked tighter inks than Howard was giving him so he may have encouraged Howard doing this. Anyway, that's just speculation on my part.
I should also mention my appreciation for your help. As the new guy on the "team" I had no reference at all so I just cold called 20th (you never know) and you answered the phone. You supplied me with everything I needed at the rough cut screening in Marin in February. I still have all that stuff. And finishing out the comics connection -- I remember being impressed that George knew his comics. In his office at the production house he had a couple of Prince Valiant originals and a Frazetta painting on the wall. Not to mention, a stack of Spirit magazines! Then I got to see the rough cut. All rather heady stuff for a young comics artist!
CL: What did I give you at the rough cut?
SL: At the rough cut screening you gave me a photo album of b&w prints and the 20 page SW promo boklet that went out in Variety(?). You gave me Alan Ladd's copy as it was the only one available at the time! I still have it though it's quite used and marked up... I later got some more reference from the nice ladies running the office in Burbank. Ran into Harrison Ford there and showed him Howard's pages that I had with me. I think it was the first time he saw himself as a comic book character as nothing had come out yet.
CL: You got what's called The Glory Book. Terrible name, but that's what fans called it. They were made up as Cast& Crew gifts in London by Stanley Bilecki and I. The unsigned ones are even rarer because they were only given out to folks who needed them, like you, after the end of production. Which screening was this?
SL: This was at a rough cut screening Feb 14 76. I remember because it was Valentines Day. This was at a Ranch House in Marin. It was where he did American Graffiti. I got there and there was a 3 hour delay from foggy LA until you guys showed up. There were only about thirty people there. As I remember, George had spent his budget and was asking for more. He wanted to show them (Ladd?) that it was worth it. I think that's what you told me at the time. I also remember he was unsure about the Cantina music and we (w/Tom, our letterer) gave our thumbs up for the temp music he had in there. Benny Goodman I think... I had never been to a rough cut screening before so it was quite an education for me.
CL: Yeah, I just dropped a line to Roy because Howie's wikipedia gives him 10 issues and there are rumors to the cotnrary. My recollection is that Howie stopped inking after the 2nd issue. Did he pencil in all the 2-10 issues, and you inked them?
SL: I must admit, after Roy unceremoniously took me off the book (I didn't find out about it until I was at the San Diego Con that year and saw Rudy Nebres inking a panel- 30 years later I mentioned it to Rudy and he hadn't remembered inking SW!) Anyway, I decided not to go to Roy for more work and the Green Rabbit convinced me I had made the right choice.
CL: Wait a minute -- so Roy took you off after 5/6?
SL: I inked the "middle" issues 2 thru 5. Issue 6 was a many hands job, so to speak. I remember Dave Stevens inked a couple of panels (the ones with the most accurate likenesses) and so on.
SL: Tom Palmer inked the rest of Howard's run, (SW #6 was a many hands job because Roy didn't think I could ink it in the two weeks we had left on that particular deadline.
CL: Roy took you off without saying anything to you, but Howie got you involved, right?
SL: Yes! That chance meeting in NY, Howard knew my work and I was already familiar with the project he was working on. Howard decides things quickly.
CL: When did you start working on it? Do you remember anything about the dates? I'm a little confused about Howie claiming there was a rush.
SL: That may have been what set the inking panic in motion... I ran into Howard in NY around the middle of December '76. Howard said he had just heard and was peaved... miffed? However, I didn't start working on issue #2 until the end of Feb '77. I think. I remember I had two weeks to ink the book (and we had to work in mailing time) As I was the only one who had actually seen the film I did most of the coloring as well. The books usually needed a three week lead time until the printing/release and everything was geared around issue #3 coming out, more or less around May 25th. Your idea, I believe. I still think it was one of the smartest ideas for a comic book tie-in ever! Just saying...
CL: HOWARD JUST HEARD!!!! He had known since Feb. 76. We announced the comics at ComicCon 76... GRRRR... that Howard!!! Chasing women and partying... yes...
SL: He was always very good at that!
CL: Well, on the up side, it gave you a chance to be involved
SL: So he was supposedly working on it since at least the summer of 76, and he was half-way through issue #1 by X-Mas? That is classic Howard! And. Yes. I'm glad I was around to pick up the slack.
CL: Do you remember the delivery dates you had on the inking & coloring (?) for issues 2-5? you said you stared 2 after 2/14, then delivered it the end of Feb. 77. Do you remember how much time you had on the other issues between receiving them and their getting sent back to Marvel. Or did they go to Marvel? I would assume the lettering had to be done after you did the inking.
SL: In my memory I had about two weeks to ink the pencilled pages, including the inking and coloring. The usual Marvel scheduling had us delivering finished books to the office about 6 weeks ahead of print date. 4 weeks was really cutting it close. Howard was in NY and Roy in LA. We managed to letter, ink and color the whole thing in San Francisco so we could save time. Lettering came first with Tom, in Berkeley, who would letter a few pages then get them to me so I could start while he finished up. Meanwhile, as I finished pages I would get photocopies (not easy in those days) and give them to the colorist who lived a few blocks from me. Actually, I did a lot of the coloring for issues 2 and 3 since I was the only one who had seen it. Again, my memory is hazy, but I think I made a quick trip to LA in April to get some photo reference from the SW office on the Universal lot. Harrison Ford happened to be there so I showed him the pages for issue 5 I had just picked up from Roy. So I think I had finished up though issue #5 by the time of the official release. If I can get the times more accurately from Tom I'll let you know.
CL: I hope you don't mind my asking, but did you get paid a regular inker's rate or did they sluff off a newbie rate on you?
SL: I had had a reasonable "finished art" rate for SW, as what Howard was turning in was considered breakdowns. There have never been royalties. Now that they're gearing up for another round of films I am wondering if they will be giving out royalties- now that Marvel and Star Wars are the the same company. I suspect not.
CL: Howard now says that he regrets he didn't give the Star Wars comics his all -- probably because Star Wars has lasted far longer than Nick Fury or Delaney. The book he did with Delaney is all but forgotten, where as he is still remembered for Star Wars. Chaykin also put me in a weird position because I really pushed for him to do the comics, much to my regret. I think now it must have affected my credibility with George.
SL: I always tried to stay clear of any office politics. I knew Howard wasn't giving SW his full attention. He even had assistants helping out. I tried to take up the slack. Ah, well....
CL: Glen Mullaly wrote on my timelines, "SL's coming in to help on Star Wars #2... I know Steve (a little tiny bit). A quote his good friend and mine Ken Steacy attributes to him, regarding crazy tight inking deadlines, goes something like "Just get a line around everything. Then if you have time go back fill in all the details"."
SL: Learning in the trenches! Do what you can with the time you've got. Years later Ken and I collaborated on a Marvel's SW comic. Ken did a lot of really nice work for various SW projects.
CL: Thought you'd be amused by that
SL: Yes. Thanks!
Facebook is not the greatest place to post long text but I felt like since I will be contesting the established history of MARVEL STAR WARS COMICS, I had to get all my ducks in a row and lay them out for you guys to see.
When I started this history, I had originally believed the MARVEL COMICS were initially designed to build STAR WARS's audience. That was my intention. After going through weeks and weeks of investigation, I've come to the conclusion that when STAR WARS opened, we were lucky to have the comics at all. A lot of bullshit was going on at Marvel, with Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin.
After STAR WARS opened, MARVEL used STAR WARS as a gravy train.
It's established history that STAR WARS saved MARVEL. After this article - which most of you won't read because there's too much text -- I hope you will understand that STAR WARS did save MARVEL because MARVEL was going under with CONAN and their other superheros. STAR WARS saved them, not only with their US sales, but also because they were able to license the comics internationally. That's not even talking about their crummy teen magazine, PIZZAZZ, which kids bought for STAR WARS.
I'd also say this -- if George wanted to be pissed at a merchandising deal, rather than Kenner, he should have been pissed at MARVEL because we got taken for a ride. At least Kenner delivered great toys.
I know, I know. I keep saying I'm pissed at George over my profit sharing and George is pissed at me because of the Kenner deal and Marc Pevers, but that doesn't change the fact that I take pride in my work! Not to mention that I also stuck my neck out to push for Howard Chaykin. George agreed with my choice. And I don't think going with DC would have been any better -- look how they screwed JUDGE DREDD! But the shenanigans of Roy, Howie and Marvel really pisses me off.
Oct 76, Marvel releases this page in SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN for their SOLOMON KANE comic which will be coming out... Oct.76... gee, that places the date when? Before our meeting with Stan when we contracted to do STAR WARS, or after? If it takes 6 months before the date, 4 at the shortest... Hmmm... doesn't it seem like a major coincidence after we tell them we want to use Chaykin because of Cody, Marvel does this? I mean, do you notice the similarity between SOLOMON KANE and CODY STARBUCK? Now who is editor of Marvel's Conan series? Roy Thomas.
In Steve Leialoha's interview, he talks about meeting Howard at a 1976 Xmas party. Howard has only done part of Issue #1... In the post Comic Con meeting July 27,1976, do you remember what Howard says -- he hopes to have all 6 issues done by Dec. 76... So why is it he's in an elevator, and is not finished inking the first issue? At our meeting following Comic Con, Roy Thomas says he's mailed 5-6 pages and they're waiting for Howard in New York. Did you read the transcription of the meeting like I did? The pages waiting in NY are for Star Wars, right? WRONG!!!!
This is only a partial list of the work Howard and Roy were doing.
Monark Starstalker came out 10-76.
Nick Fury came out 12-76
The Mark of Kane 33 came out 12-76
The Mark of Kane 34 came out 2-77
Savage Sword of Conan 18 came out 4-77
Is it a big deal? Freelance artist typically work on multiple projects at the same time.
It's only a big deal when you can't finish a job you're on and can't man up to it enough so we coulda hired someone else. But here it gets complicated. Look at who was writing these books -- how many are Roy's? Then read Roy's interview in the next section.