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During the height of the American space program, the Florida-based Kennedy Space Center was a crown jewel in the United States' quest to reach the stars. Naturally, this got the attention of the world, and in particular the attention of Russia and China, two of the United States' greatest opponents in the Cold War. However, there was one leader we never knew had their sights on Florida's historical spaceport: Darth Vader! You didn't know that Lord Vader was obsessed with the Kennedy Space Center? At least, he was according to a newly discovered Chinese comic adaptation of Star Wars, which rivals the comic adaptation of George Lucas' original concept for the title of the wildest re-imagination of the classic story.
Courtesy of the South China Morning Post, we have the first look that anyone's had at this "lianhuanhua" comic, consisting of one panel images loosely based on 1977's Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. Of course, seeing as this wasn't a licensed comic adaptation, there was a lot of poetic and visual license taken with the finished product.
There's no greater an example of the license used in bringing Xing Qiu Da Zhan (the Putonghua translation of Star Wars) to the page than in the look of the actual characters and vehicles. While the artists had no problem adapting Darth Vader, C-3PO, and R2D2 almost to a tee; the ships and human characters look wildly different from their theatrical counterparts. Above you'll see a rather interesting rendering of Princess Leia, which shows that the artists were ready to skip to the Slave Leia phase of the character without any of the innocent princess pretensions George Lucas had in the first film's costumes. An even more egregious change is displayed in the image below, which shows Rebel pilots in uniforms and ships that almost make this look like a piece of space-faring propaganda aimed at the Chinese people.
Then, of course, there's the infamous panel that inspired the headline, with Darth Vader overlooking his galactic radar map and musing about his obsession over Kennedy Space Center. Maybe he was inspired by the Kennedy family, and wanted to get some tips on how to make the Skywalkers the Kennedy's of the Galactic Empire. Someone should have told him that the Kennedy's didn't blow up the planets of the people they didn't like. It would have helped immensely.
So who do we thank for this treasure trove of cultural interpretations of popular culture? Well if it wasn't for assistant history professor Maggie Greene, a member of Montana State University's faculty, we wouldn't be looking at this comic at all. Professor Greene found the book at a fair in Shanghai and only needed to spend about a dollar to preserve it on the internet for all to see. In fact, thanks to the professor's efforts to share this long lost comic, there's a fan translation project being undertaken to show English speaking fans just what's going on. You can find Nick Stember's translation of Xing Qiu Da Zhan here. Unfortunately, we don't know if Mr. Stember will undertake any efforts to translate the other two entries in the series, which have also cropped up online in an online Star Wars forum. Try and read them here!