Once upon a time at a desk, George Lucas wrote an initial draft of a film called “The Star Wars.” It was probably on that famous yellow paper he used.
It featured an old Jedi General called Luke and a green alien called Han Solo. Eventually, this draft became simply “Star Wars” and Luke was just a boy and Han a mere man.
And that's how it stayed for some 30-odd years until comics writer J.W. Rinzler managed to convince George Lucas to let him turn that draft into a graphic novel, The Star Wars.
Rinzler said on the novel's release:
“It took years actually,” he admitted. “I was writing The Making of Star Wars and I read all the drafts, and when I saw the first rough draft I thought, ‘This is amazing, and so different from what the film was.’ Each of the very early drafts is very different from the final film, and I thought, it would be nice if this was somehow made into a comic book. It felt like a very natural idea. I mentioned it to George once or twice, and he was a bit hesitant, wasn’t very sure if it was a good idea or not.”
Years later, after he discovered that Dark Horse had also asked to adapt the draft into a comic book, Rinzler came up with an idea to convince the reticent Lucas. “We’d recently done a book about his favorite Star Wars comic book art. He said to me while doing that, a few times, how much he loves seeing comic books without the word balloons – that he loves seeing the art tell the story. I said to Dark Horse, ‘if you want George to sign off on this, you need to hire an artist, I’ll adapt a few scenes, and then I’ll show it to George.' It took a few months, but when I showed the pages to George, sure enough, he approved the project.”
“It’s totally different, and although the characters are still there, they’re also totally different. Luke Skywalker isn’t an eighteen-year-old kid. He’s an old Jedi general with decades of experience. Leia is a princess, but she’s not related to Luke; she has a different mother and father. Han Solo is there, but he’s a giant green alien. A lot of the relationships are all there, they’re all percolating.”
The series, which is illustrated by Mike Mayhew, finally brought the near-mythical earliest draft of one of the most successful science fiction franchises of all time to an audience that had been patiently waiting for it for decades. According to Rinzler – who also works as an executive editor at LucasBooks – convincing George Lucas that it was a good idea to let everyone see his first draft wasn’t easy.
Although he wasn’t drawn on plot details, Rinzler said that “In some ways, the original draft is closer to Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon in tone, and it’s also closer to Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress – In fact, there even is a hidden fortress in the rough draft.”
The writer’s excitement about the project is clear when he talks about the series and the story. “It’s great fun to make this available to the world,” he said. “This was George’s blue sky version of the film at the time, something he knew wouldn’t be filmable. This is all of his imagination just with no tethers attached. It’s a great story by one of the greatest storytellers of this generation.”