The search for R2-D2 begins in this comic page from sometime in 1978, when I was 9 or 10 years old – so it’s one of my favourites. I suppose it’s impossible to convey the magical sense of nostalgia I feel when I see these earliest pages.

Background Notes

I’m reminded of the excitement of something like Star Wars in a grey, depressing and depressed Ireland of the late ’70s. This is the place that Star Wars hit in 1977 – without much of a ripple for most ordinary country folk.

barrack street and catholic church ballymore eustace

Ballymore Eustace 1966: Catholic Church centre, Davis’ shop would be left – where we bought SW bubble gum cards. The oft-mentioned ‘Maguire’s’ newsagent was further up the road.

It was a small country village into which I was suddenly dropped from Scotland. I went to what was – at that time – a dreary, smelly little local ‘National School’. It was in total contrast to my previous award-winning non-fee-paying Robert Douglas Memorial School in Scone, Perthshire. That one was grand and interesting. At RDMS we moved from room to room during the day, depending on the activities; faced each other at hexagonally arranged desks in some sort of progressive fashion; enjoyed a large gym with drama, dance, crafts, projected films and even – gasp – ART and Craft classes. But that was in Scotland.

an irish national school, much like the one on Ballymore Eustace

Typical old Irish National School. Our one had a tall tower beside it that we imagined was a torture building – or guard tower with MG-55 machine gun. I featured this in my Between * Wars comic! »

The one in Ireland was a Dickensian, row-upon-row of oak desks arrangement. The classroom sometimes smelled like vomit, was dirty, and you stayed in the same room – all day. Maybe it smelled of vomit because of all the oak furniture and floors (or maybe it was just vomit). The big old radiators were on full blast on the hottest summer days, with the sun roasting us through the huge windows. In winter the heating broke down and we froze, having to go outside and do teacher-led star jumps to warm up. The emphasis was on teaching Irish children the skills to get get jobs: Reading, Riting and Rithmetic, along with Irish, Geography, History and Religion. NO Art class, NO crafts, no gym. Sod all.

No wonder Niall and I dedicated so much time and effort drawing all over those oak desks.

Art Notes

luke and threepio search for R2-D2

Figure drawing for beginners

Some Shockingly bad but charming drawing opens this chapter. I can’t believe the lack of effort that went into that night sky in the top panel!

Threepio is either doing that ‘Shielding the eyes’ gesture that people do when trying to spot something – or scratching his head in puzzlement. Either way, they’re nice human touches.

Luke has the Kirk Douglas style dimple in the chin. In my young drawings, chin dimples always featured – by default. I think there might have been a fashion for them in the ’70s when comic artists drew heroic types, and when TV and movie people cast them. After Star Wars, I certainly wished I had one. In olden times you could buy a device that clamped around your head, and by means of a thumb-screw it would press a dimple into the chin! I’ve also added the scars to Luke’s face.

The discovery of Artoo here is pretty comical looking. Luke, hands on hips, taps his foot in irritation. Note the way the ground obligingly dips to accommodate the landspeeder engine in the composition. Sir Anthony Blunt said something similarly sarcastic about a painting by Fra Angelico (I think it was…)

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NOTES

(* We moved from Scotland in 1977 and stayed in Bessbrook, Northern Ireland for a few months before moving down to the South when I was to start in my new school. But we had to live for a time in a Gate-Lodge near the ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village’ of Sallins, County Kildare; while we waited for our very own cowboy-builder to finish our new house.

The Gate lodge was creepy. In a dark wood, in the middle of nowhere – odd things happened while we were there. Later we discovered the whole area was notoriously haunted!)

↓ Transcript
PANEL 1
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(Wide-shot of the Lars Homestead, at night. Luke and Threepio are scanning the horizon for Artoo Detoo)
"No sign of him" sighs Luke, peering through his macrobinoculars. "We'll have to go tomorrow."

PANEL 2
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'So next day--'
We see the tail-end of Luke's landspeeder exiting the scene of the Lars Homestead and the twin Tatooine suns.

PANEL 3
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(Close-up shot of Luke's face)
"Hey!" he calls to Threepio, as he spots something.

PANEL 4
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(Wider shot of the parked landspeeder, 3PO, Luke and R2)
"Hmmph!" sounds Threepio as he looks in irritation at Artoo. Luke taps his foot, hands on hips and says to Artoo, "So R2... we've (...)"

(Continues on next page)