Ever wanted to ride shotgun with Luke Skywalker and pals Windy and Biggs as they bull’s-eyed womp rats from their T-16s in Beggar’s Canyon? A digital comic arrives today that re-tells the story of Star Wars: A New Hope from the point of view of the young Skywalker — and for the first time illustrates key moments from Luke’s youth on Tatooine.
Created by Korean artist Hong Jacga in close collaboration with Lucasfilm, the new comic, simply titled Star Wars and available for free via the Line Webtoon website or apps in Apple App Store and Google Play, begins with 7-year-old Luke taking in a meteor shower and dreaming about one day escaping his desert homeland, only to have his reverie interrupted by overprotective Uncle Owen Lars (appropriately resembling the younger version of the character as played by Joel Edgerton in Revenge of the Sith as opposed to Phil Brown’s more grizzled Uncle Owen in A New Hope).
Jacga says that he was inspired by young Luke’s exploits in the book A New Hope: The Life of Luke Skywalker, which was recommended to him by Lucasfilm. “As I was reading the book I became worried if I could interestingly portray the womp rat scene. However, when I actually got on my tablet, I was able to execute the scene with more joy and less difficulty. I was actually sad that I could not draw more of Luke’s childhood due to the given length of the webtoon.”
Over the next several strips, we see Luke grow up and encounter characters, creatures, vehicles, and places that have become touchstones in the galaxy far away, beyond those womp rats: the ill-fated Owen and Beru, Windy and Biggs, and the first meeting between Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi; dewbacks and krayt dragons; Luke’s skyhopper and landspeeder; Tosche Station and Beggar’s Canyon.
“The most difficult part of revisiting Luke was how I could present him as a round character, portray his fear and agony,” Jacga explains to Yahoo Movies. “I was troubled by the thought that I might portray him too flat… Fortunately, I was able to pull it through by including bits on his childhood and telling the story from his perspective.
“What better way to show complexity of a character than to have the readers directly experience the protagonist’s development in his own eyes?”
Jacga stays true to the cinematic elements but filters them through his own highly stylized aesthetic. His reconceived Star Wars, which debuted in his native Korea earlier this year before translated to English, will unfold in strips (with new ones appearing every Thursday and Sunday) and cover the events of the original movie trilogy.
The artist says he felt pressure to create a work that would satisfy the series’ passionate fanbase. “The thought of ‘we better not screw this up’ constantly creeps up at the back of my mind,” he says, laughing. “The big moments of ‘I really need to show my best’ were at the Battle of Yavin and Battle of Hoth. Those two scenes really symbolize the Star Wars series, and it is not an understatement to say that when I signed up for this project I visualized myself visualizing those scenes.”
While Jacga might have harbored some doubts, the brain trust at Lucasfilm had no such qualms. They trusted the artist would deliver. “There was no conscious decision or directive on the part of Lucasfilm as far as what to include and what not to,” says Jenn Heddle of Lucasfilm Story Group, the division responsible for keeping track of the entire Star Wars universe. “We felt it was important for Hong Jacga to follow his vision of how he wanted to portray Luke growing up, and what he came up with was wonderful and we fully embraced it. Everything he sent us was received with enthusiasm. He’s a singular talent.”
One of the most striking scenes in the early chapters is when our young protagonist is attacked by the fearsome krayt dragon, a carnivorous reptilian behemoth best known to movie fans in its skeletal form — those are krayt dragon bones that C-3PO shuffles by while wandering Tatooine’s Dune Sea in A New Hope.
Just before the beast enjoys some Skywalker carpaccio, Obi-Wan arrives to dispatch the dragon. It is the first time Luke meets his future mentor. “The beginning of the webtoon had to include the fact that Obi-Wan had been watching over Luke from a far during Luke’s childhood, and I needed to keep the scene of their first encounter intense,” says Jacga, who demurs when asked if his krayt dragon is the same that the protocol droid passes years later. “I can’t really say that the krayt dragon… is the same skeletal krayt dragon portrayed in A New Hope because no one knows exactly if there was only one krayt dragon on Tatooine during this period or if the skeletal krayt dragon in the movie had been dead for a very long period of time.”
While there are no immediate plans to extend the digital comic into the timeframe of The Force Awakens, Jacga says he is curious to see how his young hero has matured. “I would like to find out about Padawans he teaches — if there are any — and the type of [Jedi] Master he has become.”
In other words, he’s as anxious to see the new movie as we are.