Friday, January 12, 2007

I mourn for Jolli

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I have the coolest in-laws in the known universe. As supporting evidence I will offer up the fact that my brother-in-law and his wife got me a Star Wars trade paperback for Christmas. I've been interested in Dark Horse's A Long Time Ago... line since they came out in '02. In seven volumes this series collects the entire run of the old Marvel Star Wars comic from back in the day. The first volume, Doomworld, collates the first 20 issues. Issues 1 through 6 of the original Star Wars comic were a fabulous adaptation of the film. The remaining 14 issues in this book are something special. Basically, it's some guys over at Marvel going apeshit making up stories using just the stuff from A New Hope and their own imaginations. It's glorious. There are no worries about following canon, no heavy-handed Lucas oversight, just rocking adventure tales set after the Battle of Yavin and before Episode V was anything but some half-baked notes in a file folder.

Nearly every story features Chewie totally kicking the crap out of alien goons.In addition to being made of solid awesomite, this volume also solved a personal childhood mystery of mine. For years I've had a gap in the memory of my early childhood: what was my first comic? Most comic fans can tell you without hesitation, but for the longest time I couldn't remember. Well, cast your gaze to the right to see the cover of the first comic I owned: Star Wars #7, the first post-movie adventure. When I saw the cover it all came back to me in a flash. I got this comic off the magazine rack at Bart's Market, the only grocery store in Flanagan, Illinois (population 1000). I grew up on a farm about 3 miles outside Flanagan and Bart's was the nearest source of comical funnybooks. When they had any.

Looking back I kinda understand why my memory was clouded for so long. First of all, I was only four years old when this comic came out in early 1978 and I can barely remember some things that happened to me in my twenties. But more importantly, this comic has long been filed in the Star Wars bin in my brain, which apparently is nowhere near the conceptual space wherein I keep my memories of comics. Growing up a nerd in the late seventies and eighties, that Star Wars bin is pretty crowded. I had action figures to keep track of and stuff.

Star Wars #7 is hella cool, by the way. For starters it stars the coolest guy in outer space and his big hairy pal. Other features include an alien priest trying to bury a dead cyborg, a 'Sikurdian' battle-axe wielded by a dude with purple tentacles for arms, disco Cantina babes, and space pirates. Boy, howdy, does this issue have space pirates. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Crimson Jack and his girl Friday, Jolli:

Being an infamous space pirate means never having to wear pants.
Despite my dodgy memory those panels taught me a few things I will never forget. First, space pirates are awesome. This lesson would be confirmed later in '78 with the original broadcast of tLightcutlass versus heat vision!he Superfriends episode "Sinbad and the Space Pirates". Unlike Crimson Jack, Sinbad the Space Pirate wears pants. And a cool hat. Another thing I took away from this comic is that Crimson Jack is a fabulous name for a pirate captain. Seriously, you'll be hard-pressed to come up with a better pirate name. But Crimson Jack pales beside the sheer awesome-ness that is Jolli. She is both stone cold and smokin' hot.

I know in this modern era of anime and Lara Croft knockoffs and whatnot that busty ball-breakers with weird hair colors are old hat, but back in '78 I had never seen anything like Jolli. She was wicked cool. And that beret is just perfect. I wouldn't lay my hands on another Star Wars comic until issue #13, "Day of the Dragonlords". And amazingly enough, Jolli is in it! Since last I had seen her it seemed that she has developed some feelings for a certain Captain Solo. Also, we get to see her gams.

Jolli remembered to put on her gold dominatrix choker between these two panels.
That was the last issue of Star Wars I would read for a long time. But in the Doomworld trade I discovered that Jolli got a complete character arc of sorts. In her last appearance we find out that Jolli was the daughter of a space pirate. The old scallywag abandoned her and her mother when the Imperial forces came looking for him. Mom died in the resulting carnage, orphaning Jolli. So what does Jolli do? She grows up to become a man-hating space pirate and finds a substitute father-figure in the form of Crimson Jack. Sheesh. Genre stories are chock full of female characters with daddy issues, but this one takes the cake.

Jolli may have been a stock type , but it's worth noting by that point in the comic she has a more fleshed-out character history than either Han Solo or Leia Organa. More importantly, unresolved feelings about one's father are an important motif in the larger Star Wars story. Just as the House of Skywalker eventually laid Anakin's sins to rest, Jolli ends up with a sort of redemption. She rejects Crimson Jack and saves Han Solo, at the cost of her own life.

Seriously, this broke my heart a little.
Now I won't disagree if you point out that picking one man's affections over another is not the most fufilling way to track Jolli's self-actualization. But the important thing here might simply be that Jolli made a choice. And when push came to shove she chose the possibility of a scoundrel's love over the domination of an authority figure. When I first encountered Jolli in 1978 she was a titillating but two-dimensional character, but somewhere along the way she became something a little bit more.

Rest in peace, Jolli.

On a completey unrelated note, remember how awesome it was the first time you saw the Falcon jump into hyperspace in Episode IV? In the comic version that moment is almost better.
Awesome!The use of color here is fan-frickin'-tastic. Until I saw this panel I would have told you that Fantastic Four #290 was the coolest comic portrayal of FTL travel I had ever seen.