Back during the warm summer months Carrie and I and a couple of our friends went to Ocean Shores for a night. I wrote an article about it which you can read here. One thing we alwasy do when we go to Ocean Shores is shop around, mainly becuase you can only walk around freezing Washington State beaches for so long before you realize just how ugly they are.
We hit several antique shops on our rounds this time, and there was one in particular that impressed me. It was in an old house, and each of the rooms had been converted into kind of a theme. There were clothes in the bedroom upstairs, books and vinyl records in one of the downstairs bedrooms, all that kind of things. There was one room, I think it might have been a foyer or something, that was full of sci-fi type stuff. It was this room that caught my eye. It had an entire bookshelf full of comics like Battlestar Galactica and The Mighty Thor and other classics from the early 80s including, to my surprise, several issues of the Star Wars comic series. You know, the comic series that introduced a giant talking green rabbit to the Star Wars mythos?
I was seriously considering buying a handful of the comics when I saw this:
It was "The Mixed-Up Droid," which was not only a comic (albeit a mini one), but also an audio cassette! It had a high price of $6 on it, which was quite a deterrent. I learned quickly though that this antique store was having a half-off sale on most of its stuff, which would include this little package. I still wasn't sure if I should get it until a friend I had made earlier in the day gave me some advice:
That's a pretty good recommendation coming from The Ocean Shores Pirate! He doesn't just say anything is bonafide! I still wasn't convinced until I actually picked up the package and turned it around.
Not only does it have this delightful pictures of C-3PO with curliques coming out of his head accompanied by the words "Boing" "Bleep" and "Squack" (not Squak), but it's very obviously the C-3PO from the start of Episode IV, where he's all beat-up and dirty and still has the slave bolt still on him. Does this mean that this entire story somehow takes place before Luke finds him and cleans him up and works out that whole slave bolt thing? That can't be, because the story had Princess Leia in it, and Luke doesn't meet her until the Death Star.
This was certainly very intruiging. But then I looked at the little blurb in the bottom right corner that explained the plot of this adventure, and I was sold immeditaly. It wouldn't have mattered if this tape had cost twenty bucks, I would have gladly slapped down a bill on the counter to bring this baby home. In case you can't read the small print, here it is blown up:
Yes, that's right. The plot of "The Mixed-Up Droid" is trying to save C-3PO from embarrassment. Not save the world or the Alliance (or maybe New Republic), but save C-3PO from his ultimate fear: being embarrassed. Needless to say, I brought this puppy home and displayed it proudly on my coffee table for a while.
While it brought me no end of joy to come into my living room every day and see the package there, it somehow left me a little hollow as well. I felt that I was doing a disservice to "The Mixed-Up Droid" by having it be just a decorative centerpiece. It was designed to be looked at, sure, but also read and listened to. The time had come. I had to open the package.
Despite the fact that Fantastico had grown quite attached to "The Mixed-Up Droid" I knew there was only one thing to do. See, for some reason it was packaged in one of those plastic cases that has no seams or seals or anything, so there was only one way to open it.
Fantastico was so worried that she had to leave the room while I performed delicate surgery. And there you have it: the two components that together make up "The Mixed-Up Droid." This left me with kind of a moral quandry. I wanted to enjoy C-3PO's attempts to avoid Embarrassment as much as possible. So how should I go about it? Should I read the graphic novelization of the story or listen to the audio cassette first? Would being exposed to one first make the other less enjoyable?
I finally made a decision, and my logic went like this: Which is the definitive versioin of Star Wars, the movies or the comics? I figured that since the comics were based on the movies, then this comic must be based on the audio cassette. Therefore I should treat the audio cassette as the definitive version and the comic as supplemental or accompanying material. Makes sense, huh?
Anyway, I listened to the cassette first. It's 22 minutes long, but for the life of me I don't know how that could be. I swear that only like six or seven minutes of stuff actually happened, but somehow when the tape ended 22 minutes had passed. Missing time or something. I don't know. The story is absurdly simple: A new planet wants to join the New Republic (this takes place after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi), but they love technology so they want C-3PO to come and induct them into the Replublic. On the way Falcon on the way there they are jumped by a Star Destroyer and some TIE Fighters. The Falcon gets hit before it escapes and there is a power surge or something that shocks C-3PO, damaging his language center and turning him into an insulting asshole. They can't very well have him meet important dignitaries like this, so they stop off at a planet so Han can find a new voicebox for him. In the dumbest move ever made in the history of Star Wars since Luke thought it would be "amusing" to shave cuss words into Chewy's fur, Han leaves C-3PO and R2-D2 alone in a cantina while he goes and looks for the replacement parts. Threepio immediately insults a smuggler who tries to kill the two droids. They escape by stealing a skiff and killing the smugglers after a chase scene by crashing them into bridges and buildings and stuff. Then Han comes back with the replacement part, only all this action has caught the attention of the leftover Empire and they come to try to caputure the Falcon et al. They call demanding surrender, and Leia puts Threepio on the phone, who basically confuses the hell out of the imperials with his insanity. The imperials hesitate because they're so confused, allowing the Falcon to escape. Han fixes Threepio, and then they meet the newest additions to the New Republic.
Well, I guess that might take 22 minutes to tell, but it sure didn't seem like anything was happening while I was listening. Since obviousy none of the original cast would be caught dead anywhere near this deal they had to get other voice actors to play all the parts except Artoo, who was just samples. Han sounds pretty good, and Threepio sounds pretty good too, but all you really have to do is find a prissy-sounding brit and put some robot effect on the voice and you're pretty close. Leia sounds absolutely nothing like Carrie Fisher. So much so in fact that it made me wonder if the voice actress had ever heard Carrie Fisher talk.
But the best thing about the tape by far is that it ends with one of those laughing-during-fadeout bits, where Han makes a joke and then he and Leia laugh as the sound fades out. It's simply the most unconvincing laugh-out I've ever heard. Leia even gives a little contented sigh during the end of it. It made me laugh, that's for sure.
So, tape out of the way, I turned to the supplemental comic.
They managed to compress 22 minutes of tape into 12 pages of comics, with like two or three frames per page at the most. Therefore there are many things that the comic kind of just glosses over, such as how characters get on and off the Falcon. At one point it just says, "Soon, the Droids were back on the Falcon..." But as I said, this is supplemental. The tape is the mashed potatoes; the comic is just gravy. Or butter and sour cream if you don't like gravy. Or just butter if you don't like sour cream. Maybe some bacon bits and chives? Barbeque sauce?
The artwork is a lot better than you'd expect from a comic where they could probably only afford to pay the artist, Bill Hughes, $1.75 per page. It kinda has the charm of those comics drawn in the mid-80s that all looked the same. You know, all of them? Most of the characters, particularly the droids, look like themselves. Bill even does a really good job with Han Solo, getting Harrison Ford's crooked nose and crooked mouth just right, especially in closeups.
He doesn't do quite as well on the long shots, but this comic is only like three inches square, so I'm not expecting M.C. Escher detail in every shot.
However, much like the actress who voiced Leia, Bill Hughes seems never to have seen a picture of Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia looks absolutely nothing like herself in this comic. This is the best picture I could find.
I guess after the rigors of leading a rebellion to topple a mighty empire, she splurged on herself and got plastic surgery to look like her hero Linda Hamilton from The Terminator movies. She even starts talking like her! Look:
Don't worry, Ms. Hamilton! Arnold Schwarzenegger and/or Robert Patrick won't be able to get past Indiana Jones!
I'd say this was definitely worth the $3 I shelled out to purchase it, even if Princess Leia is played by Linda Hamilton instead of Carrie Fisher. I wish the plot had more to do with C-3PO being deathly afraid of embarrassing himself, because that's the height of comedy as we all know. As it is, it's just kind of a standard story. But I now can rest easy knowing that the New Republic is in good hands. But most importantly, thanks to a wire that goes from my tape player to my computer, I now have this masterpiece of a story on permanent digital record. And now you can, too!
But that's not all! I also have a wire going from my scanner to my computer, and I now have this masterpiece of a comic on permanent digital record. And now you can, too!
And remember... ENJOY!