STAR WARS and STARBURST MAGAZINE came out in the UK at around the same time in late 1977 early 1978, and both share unique blood ties. Each was revolutionary in their own way-STAR WARS as a film-‘nuff said- whilst STARBURST would soon become one of the first and best British glossy magazines to cover science fiction in all its medias-of which , at that time, only the US STARLOG (at first only available every two months) was superior with regards to its written and photographic content. Like STARLOG, STARBURST, with its great array of dedicated film expert film writers and columnists (like John Brosnan (the writer you loved to hate!!) and entertainment news-man Tony Crawley), soon managed to get the same kinds of contacts within the film, TV industries to make a worthy rival title for at least the first eight years of it’s life (though it did border a bit too much on the shlock horror front for a while (I’ve never been able to go near their horrific Zombie flash eaters issue, even to this day!!)). By around 1986, however, STARBURST’s sales were sadly floundering and science fiction in general was undergoing a period of metamorphosing, especially with the major loss, albeit temporary (thirteen years, if you call that temporary!!) for the Prequels. When MARVEL sold off the title, the then fledgling VISUAL IMAGINATION GROUP (a company set up by long time DOCTOR WHO fans who wanted to get involved in the magazine industry) took over, with some of the brand name columnists carrying on working for the newly revamped title for a while, though it was soon clear that the magazines best days were well and truly over with its Editorial policies. By the time of the upcoming release of THE PHANTOM MENACE, the era where exclusive material would become available for use was long beginning to dry up, and the age of the superstars and their ego swelling publicists were starting to take over the world’s media. The dreaded film company embargo's and their stringently controlled publicity machines, with the frenzy of the summer box office now gone into overdrive, had also taken their toll and the magazine was no longer as lavish and pioneering independent as it used to be. With everybody covering the making of PHANTOM, the first new STAR WARS in YEARS!!!, in the run up to its release, it presumes to me, as someone who works in the magazine industry, looking at their issue number 246, covering the making of this event movie, that they weren’t able to get hold of any publicity/ free stills photography before their stringent go to press printing date-instead relying of the rehashing of material from the STAR WARS SPECIAL EDITION on the feature pages whenever they needed to talk about CGI or the return of some of the series beloved characters. For it’s cover, I get the feeling that, in desperation, they literally had no choice, with no photographic material available from LUCASFILM or FOX at that time (or the possibility that all the best stuff had gone to higher circulated magazine rivals like EMPIRE and TOTAL FILM) that poor old STARBURST had nothing to utilize, resulting in the cover and the majority of the inside feature using, what I feel, is some of the poorest artwork to represent a STAR WAR film that I have ever seen. From what I can gather, no one from the VISUAL IMAGINATION GROUPs main publishers at that time, who I’ve met and are all extremely nice chaps, were really all that keen on the saga anyway (check out their anniversary celebration issue from last May-the same old pics used again and again and the films themselves gets very little enthusiasm from the magazine staff when asked whether they think they are any good), but knew that having STAR WARS on the cover would always have a stronger chance of flying off the shelf quicker than anything that would have had HIGHLANDER: THE RAVEN on it!!
I suppose their “it’ll have to do” policy regarding the art accompanying the inside (which actually is a pretty good feature by David Bassom) was fine for that issue, though the inside article illustrations are also pretty bad, with likenesses of Anakin, Obi-Wan, even Yoda and the Emperor!!, that look nothing like them. Indeed, it’s pretty funny when you check out the editorial from it’s then Editor, David Richardson, who, I presume with a straight face in order to try and cover up the fact that they have no EPISODE ONE shots apart from the then released Anakin in the desert poster image, amazingly compares, in a totally positive way, their new issue cover deliberately hearkening back to a style similar to their original first issue STAR WARS cover which launched the magazine in 1977/78. Sorry, David, there’s no comparison-the art on he seventies one may have been typically MARVEL COMICS cover style, and the likeness of Luke may not be as realistic, but it still is really rather superb, even thirty one years on!! Fortunately, the next edition the following month was positively flowing with photographic material from EPISODE ONE now that the press embargo's had been lifted and, over time, the artist who illustrated the EPISODE ONE cover, Grant Kempster has greatly improved no end-some of his work for the DOCTOR WHO range (digitally mixing his own art with photographic images) has been very impressive. But if the time comes for STARBURST ever to do a future important STAR WARS cover, lets hope that a situation like this, presumably hoisted onto them from the film company rather than LUCASFILM, doesn’t happen again..