Blue Milk Special – ****

Blue Milk Special
By Leanne and Rod Hannah

* * * *

Star Wars came out when I was in First grade. Other than having a squirt gun for a blaster and a whiffle bat for lightsabre, there was actually very little of the movie that I remembered. I did have a decent collection of Star Wars toys, but I was vague on the plot points themselves (there’s a George Lucas joke in there somewhere…) This was a time before even VCRs, let alone DVD’s or the Internets; a time also known as 99.9999% of all human history- but I digress. The point being that there was no way to see the movie again, so my fading memory of it was simply that it was awesome and I loved it.

Then, one fateful Saturday morning whilst watching cartoons, my brother and I saw a commercial for The Empire Strikes back. I vividly remember asteroids, TIE Fighters, and us racing outside screaming at our parents in excitement. Blessedly a showing of The Empire Strikes Back necessitated a re-showing of Star Wars, and this time I remembered things. I was a little surprised at the things I had forgotten, like the Jawa’s Sandcrawler. I remember them because I distinctly remember trying to draw them after the movie.

Soon enough Return of the Jedi came along and the Trilogy came to a nice clean end, never to be explored again. OK, so that’s not exactly true. But for most of us who grew up with Star Wars, such was the way of life until the late 90’s. During that time I would watch and rewatch the trilogy courtesy of VHS. I never got into the Expanded Universe though, and I never watched the movies with “growed up” eyes. It was always for the fun and nostalgia that came with the experience more than the viewing.

Well, now that I am slightly older, there are an awful lot of blemishes that become ever more clear on the beloved trilogy. As a writer, I have to acknowledge the influences that have shaped me, and I think its necessary to really explore them, to understand how they influenced. Some of these influences should probably be explored in their own post (*cough* Buck Rogers *cough*), but Star Wars was definitely a huge, early influence.

The question then became, how do you balance exploring the work in what it meant to you, whilst simultaneously understanding its shortcomings. And, how do you do so in a way so its is neither a thrashing of your childhood enjoyment, nor mere apologizing for things that not just ought to have been better, but readily could have been better. How do you accomplish that in a way which is simultaneously positive, reverent, and critically insightful? Besides booking a ticket on the Mutual Exclusivity Express that is.

You read Blue Milk Special. Duh!

It turns out that Rod and Leanne Hannah have already done this in comic form. Even as you laugh, you remember the nostalgia and sheer enjoyment of the movie from your childhood. Many of Rod’s blog posts which accompany the comic detail aspects of the movie from a story-telling point of view, as well as incorporating the odd bit of trivia and deleted scenes.

Particularly compelling is Rod’s discussion of Leia. As an homage to Carrie Fisher, and the demons she carried with her during these times, Blue Milk Special (BMS) takes to drawing Leia as always smoking. It seems just a sight gag until you understand their reverence for the duality of Leia and Carrie. Leia takes great pains to comfort Luke over the loss of Obi-Wan, even though she just lost her entire planet! A huge emotional tragedy that is never given much chance of exploration. So the BMS Leia smokes because she has turned to it as a way of easing her pain, a la Carrie’s in real life struggles, of which she has been deeply honest.

There is more of course, and even as they close in on 700 comics, they are not yet through Return of the Jedi. That is partly because they chose to also cover some of the ground laid down by the Expanded Universe such as Splinter of the Minds Eye, a novel betwixt Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back. I had never heard of it before, but after seeing the BMS treatment of it, I recently checked it out in Graphic Novel format for perusing.

Whether your fandom is limited to getting, “It’s a trap!” references or encompasses the millions of words filling the Expanded Universe like the Midichlorians at a Jedi picnic, BMS has something for you. Due to the nature of copyrights Rod and Leanne can only do BMS as a labor of love, fitting it in amongst their paid works. But the key word is love, and it shows throughout the strips. I would highly recommend you not only check out BMS, but also the personal websites for Leanne and Rod which highlight their talents.

You won’t be sorry.

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