Friday, February 13, 2015

365 Days of Star Wars Comics, Day 44: Star Wars Romance Week, Day 6: 01001100010011110101011001000101

Not all the entries for Star Wars Romance Week are about the galaxy's humans, of course. No, the strange aliens and other lifeforms of the Star Wars Universe, expanded or compacted, well deserve love, and in fact wasn't that what the Rebel Alliance was fighting for in the end? Yes, there are a billion love stories in the universe, and I've only shown you a handful (if you have a hand with five fingers on it, which not all beings in the universe do).

But I'm sparing you the (possibly fictional, but who knows with the Expanded Universe?) love stories of Greedo, Jabba the Hutt, or Yoda ("Just a boy am I, in front of a girl standing, to love him asking her.'" And this week we won't see (but we will eventually, because it is one of the finest Star Wars stories ever) the longing of George R. Binks for his lost love. Not even that time when Artoo had a rusty weekend on Zeltros with a automatic coffee machine.

Instead, please may I present the tale of the most selfless droid ever (with the possible exceptional Skippy the Jedi Droid, whose history you will also see here eventually): the droid who saved the Rebel Alliance, whose actions eventually led us to meet the Ewoks (please don't hold that against her), and who faced off (sorta) against Darth Vader himself. Please meet Ellie. She's Threepio's true unrequited love.

Cover of Star Wars (1977 series) #80 (February 1984), pencils by Ron Frenz, inks by Tom Palmer

Luke, Leia, and Threepio are on a secret mission to an Imperial outpost to contact Tay Vanis, carrying data tapes smuggled to him by spies in the Bothan system. "Ah ha!" you Star Wars-addicted trivia buffs may say, immediately understanding the reference, but don't spoil it for the more casual fans before the end of the post, won't you? That's where they encounter Ellie — technically known as LE914. And for somebody on the Rebel team, it's love at first ocular reception.

Panels from Star Wars (1977 series) #80 (February 1984), script by Jo Duffy, breakdowns by Ron Frenz, finishes by Tom Palmer, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Joe Rosen

Luke and Leia cautiously ask LE914 if she can locate Tay Vanis within the Imperial Base, while Threepio puts to use everything he learned from smooth, smooth Lando Calrissian.

Suddenly! An Imperial Stormtrooper! And wouldn't ya know it; he's the one Imperial Stormtrooper in this part of the galaxy who can shoot straight. Ellie pushes Threepio out of the line of fire in the electronic blink of an artificial eye and takes the laser hit herself, smack dab in the droid guts. Owww that's gotta hurt.

Curiouser and curiouser, as you might say if you'd managed to smuggle a copy of Alice in Wonderland into the Star Wars universe via the fabled and dangerous Dodgson run. Ellie's in a rare position as a data manager (really, just how odd is that?) and she's also armored like a battleship. If they had battleships in the Star Wars universe, which we've never seen, maybe because they don't seem to have oceans in the Star Wars universe. So that's two things they barely have ever invented: boats and wheels.

Luke and Leia discover a recording by Tay Vanis. Surprise! he doesn't have the secret data tapes anymore. He left them with his droid, just like Princess Leia did in the first five minutes of A New Hope. Geez, you people, has no one ever heard of email?

So go ahead, let's see if you can match wits and figure out where the important MacGuffin tapes are. They've been left with a droid, and we've met one new droid since the beginning of this story, so naturally Tay Vanis's droid must be...well, it coulda been any of a bajillion of 'em in the universe, but it does turn out to be Ellie 914. How very convenient.

Did you ever get the feeling that if Han or Luke or Leia just listened to what Threepio is trying to tell them once in a while, it'd cut down on their problems? No? Me either. Meanwhile: serious Leia is serious.

They discover Tay Vanis, who's already been caught, tortured, and left as a trap for the Rebels by Darth Vader, hence the "this scene actually does not occur in this comic but hey, it's pretty close" cover of the issue. Knowing he would be the rebel sent to retrieve the missing plans, Vader sends a pre-recorded, it's-not-live but-it's-Memorex holographic message directly to Luke: Skywalker has fallen into his trap, and now Vader will shut his trap.

Time's running out and the Imperials are closing in. Luke and company barely have time to escape themselves, let alone take the dying Tay Vanis with him. (geez, that boy is no good at dragging barely-alive people out of danger sistuations, is he?) But where are the secret data tapes? Vader don't get 'em, Ellie's got 'em/ Which, you probably knew all along but I just had too many misty tears in my eyes at this point to have predicted that sniffle

In fact, if you're not tearing up like a space baby without her space-bottle, then you're a better Wookiee than I am, Chewbacca-din.

I've poked some fun above in my usual way of talking about a story, but these next four panels are immensely affecting and powerful: Frenz, Palmer, and Oliver have all done a incredible job portraying Luke, Leia, and Threepio as they witness Ellie's self-destruction to protect her dying master and cover the trail of his secrets. The emotion in Luke and Leia's faces and bodies tells the story wordlessly. Threepio, of course, stands there, watching.

By now you probably have figured out that the eagerly-sought-after data tapes of this story were the schematics of the second Death Star being constructed in the Endor system. "Many Bothans died to bring us this information," Rebel leader Mon Mothma declares in Return of the Jedi, at the strategy meeting to take down that Death Star. She didn't mention the Rebel spy Tay Vanis. Nor did she mention the loss of a droid. But there are three Rebels — one in particular — who will never forget the sacafricie of LE-914.

To paraphrase Roy Thomas: "Even a 'droid can cry."


Chance said...

Wow, that is actually quite a well done story. Who wrote it?

Blam said...

// "Just a boy am I, in front of a girl standing, to love him asking her.'" //
I don't have time to read the whole entry on Earth-Lucas Mekanique right now, but that line deserves a standing ovation.

Bully said...

Chance: Jo Duffy!

Blam: Aw, gosh, thank you. (looks down, shuffles hoof on floor, smiles shyly)