Throughout their long history – from their first appearance in LEGO Mania (United States) and Bricks N Pieces (United Kingdom) in 1999 to the latest issue of the LEGO Star Wars Magazine, the cartoon artistry of the official LEGO Star Wars comics has been popular with children and adults alike.
From the earliest days of the Star Wars license, LEGO has used cartoon imagery to help tell the story of the line by retelling scenes from the movies and encourage children to create their own Star Wars models. For the most part, the Star Wars comic strips built on the mythology of the Star Wars universe and told non-canon stories that tied in with larger campaigns to help promote the license, new sets, or upcoming Star Wars movies.
Finding a home in five different publications, three different mediums and a number of special delivery mechanisms over the course of the last two decades, the story of LEGO Star Wars comics is convoluted as it is colorful.
The Early Years
Just like the release of the first LEGO Star Wars sets in March 1999, the first Star Wars comics produced by LEGO were also from the Original Trilogy era. The very first story – Trouble on Tatooine – was published in both the LEGO Club members only March-April issues of the US LEGO Mania Magazine and UK Bricks and Pieces Magazine. This was a photo-comic style story depicting a fun romp through the Tatooine desert whilst at the same time being a four-page advert for the upcoming LEGO Star Wars sets.
It wasn’t until the May release of The Phantom Menace that LEGO began publishing comic stories based on the new generation of Star Wars movies, and accordingly, they helped support the newly available sets.
With the arrival of the first Original Trilogy and Prequel Trilogy sets came more comics hidden at the back of the instruction manuals of the original eight LEGO sets released in 1999 were hand-drawn cartoons. Conceived by art director Christian Faber, these dialogue-free stories were intended to encourage children to construct alternate versions of their new sets. With each frame roughly the size of a matchbox and no instructions provided there was very little chance of replicating the builds depicted.
Over the next few years, the LEGO Mania magazine featured periodic photo-comic strips that included the homegrown character Zack the LEGO Maniac. The two simple photo-comics- The Adventures of LEGO Maniac and Danger in the Desert – were linked to new set releases and were tied in to promote each new addition to the licensed theme. Lacking any new source material they were somewhat contrived.
A shift came in early 2002 when, rather than using sets in simple dioramas, the LEGO art department began to use rendered graphics to pitch two new Return of the Jedi sets in Ewoks to the Resque [sic].
The Movie Tie-Ins
However, by 2002 and with the impending release of The Attack of the Clones, LEGO had plenty of new sets in the pipeline and more than enough new material to weave into their photo stories to entice fans. The rebranded LEGO Magazine published new computer-rendered photo-comics in the May/June and September/October issues that highlighted sets from the chase sequence through the asteroid belt over Geonosis and the bounty hunter pursuit through Coruscant.
The three-year gap between the second and third Prequel movies only saw one new comic – Snowspeeder Showdown. Published in the March/April 2004 issue of LEGO Magazine it was used to remind fans of 4483 AT-AT and 4500 Rebel Snowspeeder (both released the previous year). Its one original feature was the inclusion of a set of instructions to build a Rebel Medium Transport, the cargo hauler that ensured the Rebels could evacuate Echo Base swiftly, from elements in the second series of Mini-Scale sets, which had only just come out.
The lead-up to the 2005 movie – Revenge of the Sith – was unique as the third season of the original Clone Wars cartoon series was coming to a close just a few weeks before the movie was released. Produced and released between 2002 and 2005, the 25-episode series bridged the timeline between the second and third Prequel movies by exploring the Clone Wars and setting up the opening sequence of the Revenge of the Sith.
Printed in the March/April 2005 edition of LEGO Magazine, the photo-comic – using elements from 7283 Ultimate Space Battle – depicted the Battle of Coruscant before departing from the canon storyline set. The second part of the comic strip was to be found in the following LEGO Magazine issue (May/June) and picked up the action on Kashyyk and featured 7258 Wookiee Attack, 7260 Wookiee Catamaran, and 7261 Clone Turbo Tank as seen in the concluding battle of the final movie.
Despite the ongoing release of new Star Wars sets, a six-month hiatus followed and it wasn’t until the start of 2006 when LEGO began to issue new photo-comics in the LEGO Magazine. Dubbed the “Your Power Builds with Every Brick” series, this four-page series was spread across two issues (January/February and March/April) and was nothing more than an advertisement for the latest additions to the LEGO Star Wars theme.
Continuing with the premise that the majority of LEGO Star Wars fans opened their sets, built, and played with them the July/August issue of LEGO Magazine was a single page with a three-pane photo comic, called Complete The Saga, that promoted an upcoming online campaign called Complete-A-Comic.
Be part of LEGO Star Wars history! Starting on August 1st, use your LEGO collection to create endings for our online comics and you’ll earn unique LEGO Star Wars downloads. With new downloads added all the time, the more creative comics you make, the more great rewards you’ll unlock.
Following on from the LEGO Magazine’s content, in August 2006 the LEGO Star Wars mini-website new-media team used a concept that was an entirely unique delivery technique and tapped into a new Internet fad: crowdsourcing. By choosing from four different four-pane Complete-A-Comic strips the reader was encouraged to create the fifth pane and conclude the story by uploading a photograph of a scene made from their own LEGO Star Wars sets.
Like the advercomics that were running in the LEGO Magazine, Complete-A-Comic focussed on the year’s new sets – 6208 B-wing Fighter, 6209 Slave I, and 6210 Jabba’s Sail Barge, as well as 6211 Imperial Star Destroyer which the magazine failed to include in its series, and ran four photo-caption categories:
Each comic strip page had a “Yoda’s pick of the week!” section showing a number of submissions as inspiration. There was no winner’s prize but there was the promise of special Star Wars participation rewards. What these rewards were has been lost.
Contained within the September/October issue of LEGO Magazine was the first hand-drawn Star Wars comic since 1999 – Sail Barge Break Out showed a LEGO-ized reenactment of the Great Pit of Carkoon where Han and Luke nearly met their end in the belly of the sarlacc monster.
The next three issues of LEGO Magazine were devoid of any Star Wars comicry, and it wasn’t until the May/June issue when The Great Golden C-3PO Hunt – tie-in with the Star Wars 30th anniversary sweepstakes to win a sold gold C-3PO minifigure.
Advancing The Clone Wars
Another long gap in Star Wars comics followed when LEGO held out until the March/April issue of their magazine before they included a new Star Wars comic. It contained a two-page spread entitled Ambush! (which was – coincidentally? – the name of the debut episode of The Clone Wars animated TV series that aired six months later). Its stand-out feature was the portrayal of minifigure faces in the same cartoonish style that LEGO had adopted for the printed faces in the new sets.
Coinciding with the launch of The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network in October 2008, the Star Wars theme moved from a mini-site under the main LEGO.com domain and got its own subdomain. As inconsequential as this sounds, its significance is that LEGO expected more Internet traffic as The Clone Wars cartoons and associated collection of LEGO sets drew fans to the website.
At the same time, a shift towards online content was realized when LEGO transferred the traditional comic strips to a series of 18 animated webcomics. Hosted under the Play Zone banner on the newly minted LEGO Star Wars subdomain, this section of the site is now defunct with the termination of Flash Player support – however, these have been archived on our Youtube channel, where all of the CGI strips (along with a growing collection of preserved commercials, mini-movies, designer videos, and featurettes) can be viewed.
The style was that of a comic with a single pane with characters and ships moving within it. Full sound effects and a musical score were included but the dialogue was not, and all narrative and speech were contained within text boxes and bubbles in order to preserve the comic strip presentation.
With new episodes released every few weeks – each comic continuing the story from the previous episode – these were the first example of LEGO creating a continuous Star Wars story arc. They weren’t the last, because in January 2009 an even more impressive strategy began – The Quest For R2-D2, a multimedia promotional campaign that incorporated print, online video, and an Internet game.
Running the full length of the year, the bi-monthly sign-up-for-free LEGO Club magazine printed six consecutive comic strips entitled The Hunt for R2-D2, an officially approved (but not canon) story arc that was set parallel to The Clone Wars episodes Downfall of a Droid and Duel of the Droids.
The second phase of The Quest For R2-D2 began in March when the ongoing web-comic series, which had started in September 2008, began in March with an eight-part strip that followed a group of clone troopers ordered to find the missing astromech.
Even though The Hunt For R2-D2 concluded at the end of the year, the pace didn’t abate and LEGO continued producing comics to support their Clone Wars collection, a subsection of the Star Wars theme that accounted for over 50% of the Star Wars sets released in 2008.
What followed was three years of unabashed favoritism towards the Star Wars theme, with the LEGO Club magazine hosting an unbroken run of multi-page comic stories that covered all the new sets and kept up to date with the ongoing The Clone Wars series.
The Era Of New Media
This arc jumped over to Youtube at the end of 2011 where the storyline, which was held together by a mysterious holocron, was brought forward to the Original Trilogy era. With the LEGO comic artists released from their conscription to document the Clone Wars, they were able to move on and tell a number of timeline spanning Tales from the Holocron throughout 2012, as well as co-develop a number of short-lived projects.
First of which was Comic Builder, a short-lived online browser tool that was released during the Summer. Within the app there were 15 background scenes, 16 ships, 22 poseable characters, 7 variations of text boxes, additional planets, and multiple word effects and weapons that could be added to one of the six-page layouts to make a unique comic book.
Note: the original Comic Creator tool still survives on the WayBack Machine but is non-functional due to the deprecation of Flash, and even an old browser won’t get this gem running.
Only available to members of the LEGO Club (membership was free and the application process uncomplicated), the finished product could be saved as a PDF or printed out.
As well as accessing special sections of the LEGO website – including the Comic Builder – the main point of being a Club member was getting the LEGO Club magazine, with its games, puzzles, product advertorials and comics. Wanting to increase the amount of interest in the Star Wars site on LEGO.com, where new content could be hosted for a fraction of the cost of publishing a bi-monthly magazine, LEGO came out with the innovation ClubCode perk.
By including an incomplete comic story in the LEGO Club magazine, subscribers received a ClubCode word hidden in the issue which could be used to access the concluding pane via the LEGO Club website. As with so much digital content from the LEGO Star Wars website, these conclusion stories are long gone.
Though this member’s perk had been running since the start of 2011, it was only in the November/December 2012 issue of the Club magazine that the Star Wars theme was included.
Chronicling Yoda’s Adventures
The consistency of LEGO Star Wars comics was hit and miss during the next few years, with only three LEGO Club magazines (July/August, September/October and November/December) offering content in 2013, while 2014 only saw one issue (September/October) including any Star Wars comic material.
It turned out that LEGO hadn’t turned its back on Star Wars, but had instead doubled down and developed a whole new multimedia spectacle of TV shorts, short video features, children’s books, a couple of sets and a string of supplemental mini-magazines.
All of this revolved around The Yoda Chronicles, a series of animated specials developed by LEGO – with approval from Lucasfilm – that saw Yoda trying to prevent Count Dooku from developing a new superweapon: a Force-enabled clone trooper.
Contributing to this original story line was a series of supplemental mini-magazines that were included with the LEGO Club Magazine, with the first two installments of The Yoda Chronicles arriving in the March/April (Nobody Likes a Bully) and May/June (Clone Conspiracy) issues. The story continued in the July/August (Training Day, which only had its final page revealed when the reader used the “stealth” ClubCode on the LEGO website), September/October (Jedi Under Siege!) and November/December (The Dooku Gambit!) issues.
The first issue (January/February) of 2014 lacked any Star Wars comic content, but The Yoda Chronicles resumed in March/April with the third supplemental mini-magazine – featuring Clash on Kashyyyk! – included in the LEGO Club Magazine. The following LEGO Club Magazine issue (May/June) contained Vader’s Story, a strip that only had a weak attachment to The Yoda Chronicles.
The final comic in The Yoda Chronicles storyline was a San Diego Comic-Con exclusive mini-magazine that was only available at the LEGO booth during the four-day event.
The Quiet Years
The rest of the year passed by quietly, with only one Star Wars comic (One Battle…Two Sides!) appearing in the LEGO Club Magazine, and casually slipping into 2015, it wasn’t until March/April that the next Star Wars comic (The Best Defense) made an appearance.
The year’s San Diego Comic-Con saw another exclusive mini-magazine, a promotional comic book titled Rise of the Rebels that was given away at the LEGO booth. It contained Rebel Ruse, a four-page comic that promoted the Rebels collection of sets.
The next LEGO Club Magazine (July/August) after San Diego Comic-Con saw two different stories: the hand-drawn Mission: Outrun! with a ClubCode that revealed the final page and the computer-generated Battle for the Galaxy!.
Another significant hiatus followed, with a three-issue gap before another Star Wars comic appeared and it was in the March/April 2016 issue that Escape Pod For Sale debuted three lost characters from A New Hope: Biggs Darklighter, Camie and Fixer.
This story acted as a prequel to Droid Tales, the five-part TV mini-series that premiered on Disney XD in July 2015, a practice that was repeated in the May/June issue with Resistance to the Rescue, a prompt to direct fans towards to the five-episode Resistance Rises computer-animated series that aired from February to May 2016.
By the end of 2016 the trickle of Star Wars comics had almost dried up, with new strips in July/August (Double Dilemma!), an Australian exclusive in the quarterly LEGO Club Magazine in October/December (Rogue Mission), while 2017 only had one comic (Operation: Bunker Bust!) which appeared in the January/February issue.
The final two Star Wars comics, which were printed in the newly renamed LEGO Life Magazine, came in July/August (The Falcon Gambit!) and September/October (Who’s Hungry?) in 2018. Since then there have been no Star Wars comics printed in any LEGO promotional magazines.
Epoch Of The Newsagent
Compared to the inundation of content between 2009 and 2012, the years that followed were largely a vacuum of original Star Wars comic content – and for a very good reason: the official LEGO Star Wars Magazine, published by Blue Ocean Entertainment in Europe/Egmont Publishing in the UK, arrived in July 2015. Its license largely meant that it had the monopoly on Star Wars comics.
Making its debut in Germany, the official LEGO Star Wars Magazine soon spread across Europe with translations in multiple languages, including French, Spanish, English, Italian and Russian. Each of the monthly magazines came with a cover-mounted foil bag that contained either a mini-build or a minifigure, as well as a pair of comics, a poster, and a couple of puzzles within the cover pages.
To date there have been 75 official magazines released to date and both Blue Ocean and Immediate Media (who picked up the UK distribution license in 2020) state there are no plans to stop any time soon!
San Diego Comic Creator
Completely out of the blue, LEGO announced that as part of its celebration of 20 years of the Star Wars license those who visited the LEGO booth at San Diego Comic-Con in 2019 could create a personalized comic for themselves. Choosing from one of three IPs – Star Wars, Spiderman and Batman – participants used the bespoke comic creator app to craft a unique printed comic that was mailed to their registered address.
With so many events canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, LEGO once again ran the very same Comic Creator event (albeit without the 20th-anniversary logo but this time – because it was solely online – anyone, anywhere could take part. International participants could get a near-instant PDF e-mailed to them while those with an US postal address were able to have a physical copy in the mail.
The fun was repeated in 2021 with LEGO pulling the dust sheets off their Comic Creator website and providing a whole new experience (albeit using the same three IPs) for those attending SDCC@Home.
With the 140+ comics in this monthly magazine on top of the 60+ from the members-only LEGO Magazine, there are now over 200+ different (we checked) stories to read. Likewise, the LEGO mini-movies/animated comics also number well over 200+ so there is currently enough LEGO Star Wars comic content to keep the most dedicated LEGO Star Wars comic fan entertained for a very long time.
You can check out our Library section, where we are adding new comics on a regular basis as part of our continuing effort to preserve as many aspects of the LEGO Star Wars license as possible.
A LEGO fan for over half a century and a Star Wars fan since 1977, Russ built one of the earliest ever LEGO Star Wars MOC’s – Luke’s Landspeeder – that summer. Though a previous contributor to a number of retro Star Wars video game preservation sites and forums, he didn’t discover LEGO Star Wars until 2011 and is now making up for lost time.