You’ve likely heard that there’s a new Star Wars movie coming out this week. And if you’re into Star Wars fandom, you may have been hunting down some of the merchandise surrounding the movie—the video games, the clothes, the comics… Like many of you, many webcomic creators are Star Wars fans, too, and you may have noticed some Star Wars themes popping up. Heck, several webcomics do nothing but Star Wars material. Some, like Blue Milk Special, take a more comedic approach by parodying the existing movies and others, like Star Wars Destinies, examine the characters more seriously, suggesting some alternative possibilities to the official canon.
But you might not be familiar with the official Star Wars webcomic. Hong Jacga was hired to do a retelling of the original trilogy, specifically from Luke Skywalker’s perspective. The strip originated in Korea, but it’s being translated into English and published online by LINE Webtoon as new chapters are available. (Full disclosure: FreakSugar co-founder Tom Akel is the Head of Content for LINE Webtoon.) As of this writing, the English version is most of the way through retelling The Empire Strikes Back.
The webcomic version actually starts when Luke is only seven years old. We see him again at 13 and 17 before we catch up to him and his Uncle Owen buying C-3PO and R2-D2 from the Jawas. The story then follows the plot of the movies, but focuses almost entirely on Luke. We see little of Darth Vader or the Empire outside of Luke’s direct interactions with them; Princess Leia isn’t seen in person until Luke opens her cell door.
Of course, it’s also designed specifically as a webcomic. Shots are composed vertically instead of horizontally, and Hong makes excellent use of some long, scrolling panels that carry a lot of visual impact as a user is sliding down the page. It’s most effective on cell phones, which have a more vertical screen in the first place, but shows a lot of consideration given to the medium. While Hong does adhere closely to the designs within the Star Wars universe—the ships, the costumes, etc.—he takes much greater liberties with the designs of the film, directing how the audience’s eyes track across the screen in a very different manner than directors George Lucas and Irvin Kershner did.
I think there’s a great lesson to be learned in reading this webcomic. Whether you like anything about them or not, the original Star Wars movies are very well-known and accessible. By taking those same stories and adapting them so expertly to a webcomic format, readers can see how handling the same scene requires different techniques in different media. What works on a movie screen might not work for a webcomic, or it might just work better if it’s handled differently. Using the perspective of Luke here is just a means to keep old fans from seeing precisely the same story they already know; it’s really in the more closely replicated scenes where the comic becomes interesting for people studying the art form because that’s where you can really pinpoint exactly what Hong does differently and figure out why he made those stylistic choices. And understanding that leads to a better understanding of the webcomics on the whole!