With J.J. Abrams currently directing a new Star Wars sequel, it’s a fitting time to examine the sci-fi drama’s legacy – even the obscure parts. As The Hollywood Reporter reports, Montana State University assistant history professor Maggie Greene has stumbled upon a Chinese comic book adaptation of the original 1977 film classic, filled with intriguing visual differences – like a chimpanzee version of Chewbacca.
Greene shared her full story about the discovery last week in a lengthy blog post, explaining that she purchased this hidden gem (titled Xing Qui Da Zhan, the Chinese translation for “Star Wars”) for roughly one American dollar at a Shanghai book fair – held within a Confucian temple – while researching her dissertation between 2010 and 2011. The comic, which dates to 1980 (two years after A New Hope hit theaters in Hong Kong), features drawings and short descriptions. It’s modeled after the style of Chinese lianhuanhua picture books, which were often used for propaganda or to import stories from Western culture in the 20th century.
— Nick Stember (@beckminster) May 28, 2014
Throughout her detailed blog post, Greene notes that the comic stays consistent with the plot from George Lucas’ original 1977 blockbuster. But the visual disparities are frequent, with unconventional depictions of spacecraft and bizarre character renderings. “It’s also a fanciful imagining (I think) of American – or generalized Western – life,” she writes, “especially evident in the dinner scene where a duck (?) is being stuck into a toaster oven (!)”
“The artist also makes some amusing flubs,” she continues. “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?”
Greene believes that, given the strange visual choices, the artists “weren’t always working from an actual film, or really much at all,” most likely without any involvement from Lucas. She also touches on the intellectural property in Chinese culture and marvels at “how quickly culture circulated before the Internet.” It’s a fascinating read, worth exploring in full.