Professor finds strange unauthorized Chinese Star Wars comic from 1980

You've never seen Star Wars quite like this.

While reorganizing her books recently, Maggie Greene -- a Chinese historian and assistant history professor at Montana State University -- came across part of her collection of lianhuanhua (a type of Chinese picture book featuring images with short text descriptions beneath them) books that she'd picked up while researching her dissertation in China a few years ago, and among them was Xing Qiu Da Zhan, a book published in 1980 that retells the story of the first Star Wars film for a Chinese audience, probably without any authorization from Twentieth Century Fox or Lucasfilm.

The more than 140-page book pretty much gets the plot of Star Wars right. Darth Vader captures Princess Leia, R2-D2 and C-3PO land on Tatooine and are purchased by Uncle Owen, Luke meets Obi-Wan, then Han and Chewie, they journey to the Death Star, and so on. What makes the book a particularly fascinating bootleg relic is the art, which takes a number of interesting and at times bizarre departures from the look of Star Wars.

"The actual lianhuanhua is a fascinating document, with weird bits sticking out here and there; but it’s also a fanciful imagining (I think) 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," Greene wrote on her blog. "The artist also makes some amusing flubs – Chewbacca appears in some scenes in a relatively credible way, in others looking like an outtake from Planet of the Apes. It also often looks like something out of a Cold War-era propaganda poster, at least where the details are concerned. Were the actors really garbed in Soviet looking space suits? Was Darth Vader really pacing before a map bearing the location of the Kennedy Space Center?"

Yes, everything Greene describes above really is in the book. Chewbacca looks very apelike in several panels, and Kennedy Space Center really is listed on a map Darth Vader is viewing. Apart from a few key examples -- an Imperial Star Destroyer, for example -- the book also liberally changes the appearance of almost every character and location. The Droids and Vader look pretty much the same, but none of the other main characters resemble the actors from the film much, and some stormtroopers are wearing Boba Fett helmets. Plus, the Millennium Falcon looks nothing like its iconic movie shape. It's a fascinating re-imagining of a galaxy far, far away, and an intriguing look at how bootlegs worked in the days before stealthily filming something with your phone and then uploading a torrent.

You can see the entire book HERE, but I've placed a few of my favorite panels -- including an image of a younger Obi-Wan in Jedi Knight regalia on a space motorcycle -- in the gallery below.

(Maggie Greene via THR)

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