This week's cover story about the upcoming addition to the Star Wars movie universe—and the franchise's larger place in our culture today—keeps TIME seven-for-seven on featuring the films inside the red borders.
Well, kind of.
Though A New Hope did merit significant coverage when it was released in 1977—read more here: 5 Surprising Star Wars Facts Straight from 1977—the magazine's editors couldn't have yet known that it would be cover-story material. It wasn't until the following year, in a story about the new role of computers in society, that a very familiar droid face showed up. By 1980, however, there was no question that the series was cover material. Darth Vader repped The Empire Strikes Back in 1980; George Lucas showed up to "wrap up" the series with Return of the Jedi; and Vader, Yoda and a trio of Jedis appeared for episodes one through three. (For some reason, the Asia edition of the magazine got a villain for The Phanton Menace instead of the good guys.) There were even bonuses in the middle, when the prequel trilogy was announced, though we'll forget about the tiny Jar Jar Binks who once showed up as an inset.
"TIME and Star Wars have both been a part of the American culture, and its great that the movies have been prominently featured inside the red border since the very beginning of the franchise," says TIME Creative Director D.W. Pine. "And the cover styles have evolved along with it – from artist Marshall Arisman's classic Darth Vader painting to a 3-D rendered portrait of Vader to this week's stunning photographs of droids past and present."
The difference between those two Vader covers tracks not only the character's decades-long cultural influence and the progression of artistic trends, but also changes in movie-making technology and even the arc of the story. And this week continues that link between design and history. It is, Pine says, the first time the magazine has offered two cover options—R2-D2 and BB-8—for all editions, a decision that reflects the global impact of the new Star Wars movie.
Read this week's cover story on TIME.com