China: Star Wars comic-book adaptation unearthed

  • 29 May 2014
Illustration from vintage Chinese Star Wars comic

An unusual Chinese comic-book adaptation of the original Star Wars film has been unearthed by a US academic, it is reported.

There is a vague Cold War feel about the comic book published in Guangzhou in 1980, while some of the characters are Chinese in appearance. The palm-sized picture book follows the plot of the 1977 George Lucas classic, but bears striking visual differences from it. The film was not actually shown in Chinese cinemas, so artists had to rely on their imagination or possibly promo materials to create the book.

At the time, China was still culturally isolated from the West, emerging from the Cultural Revolution that had just ended, says Maggie Greene, the assistant history professor at Montana State University who found the book. In a blog post, Greene says she stumbled across it at a book fair at a tranquil Confucian temple in Shanghai.

The book is in the format of a so-called lianhuanhua - small picture storybooks published in vast quantities in China in the 20th Century and often used for propaganda purposes by the Chinese government. "It was simply so incongruous I couldn't leave it behind. It also cost about a dollar," she writes.

Illustration from vintage Chinese Star Wars comic

Greene tells the South China Morning Post the book is a fanciful take on American or Western life. Parts of it look like a Cold War-era propaganda poster, especially portraits of female characters, she says. In some scenes Chewbacca appears to look more like an ape, while the actors are seen in Soviet looking space suits. And, did Darth Vader stand in front of a map showing the location of the Kennedy Space Center?

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