Al Williamson “The Empire Strikes Back”…Artist Edition

al-williamson-flash-gordonI’ll just warn you right up front! This article is gushing praise for Al Williamson’s “The Empire Strikes Back” Artist Edition! Now I have been a huge fan of Al Williamson, all the way back to Flash Gordon as well as his work in the early Warren magazines. As I grew older and learned more about him, I was led to his earlier Golden Age work for EC. And as I learned more about him I was led to Alex Raymond and Flash Gordon, Rip Kirby and Agent Corrigan, all of which Williamson was hugely influenced by and worked on.

marvel-super-special-16-interiorYou can see it in his design as well as attention to detail, particularly in the styles of clothing his characters wore and depending on the work he was doing, especially the styles of women’s clothing and hair. It was pretty obvious he picked that up from Alex Raymond as he was widely acknowledged as the master. Al worked with Raymond on Flash Gordon, Rip Kirby and Secret Agent X-9 which became Agent Corrigan and Williamson took over this strip for many years after Alex Raymond’s untimely death in September of 1956 car crash.

Al Williamson's Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back Artist's Edition Preview 2Now in 1980 Marvel had Williamson adapt “The Empire Strikes Back” in comics form. Williamson was the choice of George Lucas and it is widely agreed that the look of Star Wars and Indiana Jones is a direct result of Al Williamson’s earlier work.The adaptation was run in the Star Wars comic, in issues # 39-44, and also in Marvel Comics Super Special #16 and then again in a Treasury Edition format. Battlestar Galactica was the only other book that had this 4 issue treatment.

I had and still do have a nice copy of the Super Special and always had been disappointed by the reproduction of the artwork.The line work was terrible and the colour was terrible. In short, it was terrible. So when I heard that the Artist Edition was coming out I knew this was going to be good. Real good!

williamson-empire-strikes-back-1I was not disappointed! Now Al Williamson had about 3 months to do 104 pages and knew he couldn’t get it done alone, so he enlisted Carlos Garzon to ink backgrounds and hardware. Al did all of the figures. There are so many panels that you just have to stop…and be amazed at what he put down. The artist edition features an incredibly clean look and the extras are exceptional. Covers and character pinups as well as a complete other story from Star Wars # 98 which Al Williamson did both pencils and inks! Again a sight to behold.

This is truly the way to see Al Williamson work! Oversize and cleanly reproduced, to show the nuance and brilliance of his design. If you are at all a fan of sequential art storytelling this is a special book to pick up.

Hopefully it will lead you to the great body of work he did as he was not just the guy who inked a ton of Marvel work right until his passing in June of 2010.

Heres hoping Al Williamson’s estate has the original artwork to Return of the Jedi as well!

Continued Happy Collecting!

Al Williamson's Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back Artist's Edition cover prelim

Dennis De Pues
Dennis De Pues

Dennis is an admitted "Son of the Silver Age", having grown up with the influences of Silver Age greats: Kirby, Colan, Romita and Buscema.Three decades later, he is the creator of Crash!! and Galloway Park. More is definitely on the way.

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Mike Huddleston
7 years ago

Hey Dennis – Agree it is beautiful looking work. I used to pee & moan about the price of these Artist Editions too ( a lot) but I don’t anymore. I only have three but for what you get they seem like a bargain compared to many of the comics I buy. I am not sure they are a great monetary investment ( I do think they will at least hold their value), but the pleasure you get leafing through these Artist Editions is hard to beat.

I am waiting for Scott to come up with a line of attractive storage cases for these Artist Editions to make them easier to explain to my wife space wise ^-^!

Dennis De Pues
7 years ago

When you work out that explanation Mike, you will have to share it with the rest of fans of Artist Editions,I am sure everyone would appreciate it!
As far as monetary value, I would hope they at least hold their relative value.They aren’t inexpensive but they are beautiful as a rule and like you say , with the amount of money it takes to buy a single monthly title it is an easier pill to swallow.