Marvel Comics is known for so many things: great heroes, the best villains, excellent stories and daring ideas. Back in the 1980’s Marvel produced two licenses for George Lucas, a Star Wars comic and an Indiana Jones comic. When the licenses ran out Star Wars and Indiana Jones were picked up by Dark Horse Comics and were published through them for many, many years
There was also one thing that Marvel Comics had even when these titles left them. A great comic book called What If? What If? was not your typical Marvel Comic. It would take existing origins, or stories already told and ask the question What If? , which would then result in an extremely different take on ones origin or story. Such title examples can be found in the following comics: What If? Spider-man had Never Become a Crime Fighter?, What If? The Hulk had the Brain of Bruce Banner, What If? The Alien Costume had Possessed Spider-man?, What If? The World Knew that Daredevil was Blind?, or What If? Spider-man’s Uncle Ben had lived?
During Dark Horse’s run on Star Wars they used to put out a comic called Star Wars Tales, a comic that would tell several stories in the issue, each one different. Maybe they were too short to be a full comic, maybe they were stories that didn’t need to be told in their own title. Star Wars Tales would tell a Star Wars story from anywhere, any time in the Star Wars Universe. The best story ever was in Star Wars Tales #19 with Han Solo on the cover. It was released in 2004 and features a story in true Marvel Comics style that would have made a great What If? Star Wars story you never thought you would read.
The story? “Into the Great Unknown” written by Haden Blackman and art by Sean Murphy.
Like any good Star Wars story, this one begins with a caption box that reads, “A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy, Far, Far away….”
The story starts off much like a scene right out of The Empire Strikes Back with the Millennium Falcon pursued by TIE Fighters and Star Destroyers. Chewbacca and Han are in serious trouble, and with their navi-computer acting erratic, they have to make a blind-jump into hyperspace without any coordinates to get away.
As another caption box reads, “No Longer Far, Far Away…” the Falcon comes out of light speed. Han replies,” Well, the good news is that we didn’t smash into a star. The bad news is that I have no idea where we are…and we’re losing power.”
With the Falcon’s scanners not picking up any star port beacons and the planets around them showing no life form except for one, Han orders Chewie to, “Head toward that blue one.”
The Falcon begins to lose its rear repulsors and they head in towards the planet crashing through a forest of trees before finally crashing into a large one and stopping. Not knowing if the life forms on the planet are friendly or not, Han and Chewie go to try to find a settlement, blasters at the ready, just in case. With a passing comment Han says, “Great. This looks just like Endor.” As they walk on a fallen tree over a gorge, Han utters a common phrase in the Star Wars trilogy, “I have a bad feeling about this place.”
Not knowing they’re being watched by the planets natives, it’s as if on cue from Han’s words that an arrow flies threw the air and hits Han in the arm. Suddenly four natives rush at Chewbacca who stands poised ready for a fight. The native warriors attack with bow and arrows, spears and what looks like a tomahawk. Chewie has his crossbow and his Wookiee strength. As the warriors attack Chewbacca lets out an angry growl and throws one warrior out of the way. In a long shot panel in silhouette we see the warrior thrown from the tree falling into the gorge below, a warrior with a spear in him, and Chewbacca taking the final two by the neck and lifting them over his head and smashing their heads together. At the far end of the panel is Han with the arrow in his arm.
Chewie growls in anger but is cut short from a painful plea from Han, “Chewbacca…I’m not going to make it. Get me back to the ship.” Han has arrows in his leg, arm, stomach, and another through his chest and out his back. He’s bleeding heavily and has blood falling from his mouth.
Back in the falcon’s cockpit Han says how he always though Chewbacca would be the one to get killed first because of the Life Debt he swore to Han. “But I’m going first into the great unknown,” Han says, then dies in Chewbacca’s arms. Chewbacca lets out a howl full of sorrow and rage that can be heard from the Falcon and outside for miles in the forest. Two native warriors stop holding spears. “Sasquatch!” one says.
A caption box reads “126 Years Later…” and in this panel we see in silhouette three people, a guide, a man with a hat and something coiled in his hand, and a third unidentifiable person. The guide says, “This way, Doctor. For the past thirty years, the sightings have been concentrated on this ridge.” Then, in another panel he says, “Here, another foot print. We’re nearing his home.”
The next panel sheds a little more light on this doctor. The coiled thing he carries is a whip; he’s wearing a fedora and a leather jacket. The Doctor says,”Good. The museum isn’t paying for foot prints.”
As they begin to round a tree the guide says, “There must be a cave here or…” he’s cut off by the sight. In the next panel, hanging high above them, covered in moss and vines, wedged into the trees it crashed into, is something alien to them. The guide blurts, “This is no cave.”
With the last page things begin to make sense. The Falcon’s bay door is open and the Doctor helps the third person, now recognizable as a child, up.
“What is this place?” the child asks.
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it. Not even in Atlantis,” the doctor says. “But it’s all somehow familiar. Stay close, Shorty,” he says as he looks at Han Solo’s skeleton.
Now we know where Han and Chewie landed and who these people are. Planet Earth. Archeologist Indiana Jones and his side-kick Short Round.
“He looks human. Poor bastard,” Indy says as he touches the arrow.
“What now, Doctor Jones? We continue looking for this ‘monster’?”
“No,” Indy replies.
The last panel we see Chewbacca in a tree branch keeping watch over the Falcon and those who entered. Indiana Jones continues,” Let’s leave him as part of the great unknown.”
There you have it. One of the best Lucas franchise crossovers ever. Star Wars and Indiana Jones. The story is told in the only way one can merge these two worlds together, and the fact that they included Short Round with Indy is an added bonus and makes it special.
What is even more special is that they only needed 10 pages and 47 panels to tell the best What If? story ever.
Until Next time,