I have a passion for collecting vintage Star Wars merchandise from the late 70's. Action figures, comics, trading cards etc - anything related to the first Star Wars movie. But why only until 1980? It's not that I don't love The Empire Strikes Back and beyond (I really do), but there is something about that first wave of Star Wars mania that really grips me, back when it was all fresh and exciting...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Artoo Detoo's Activity Book

Random House put out a bunch of these activity books in 1979 filled with the usual word searches, puzzles as well as a few oddities like Star Wars based recipes and ideas for things to make. Although this one is called 'R2-D2's Activity book' it really belongs to C-3PO too and is mainly based around their Tatooine adventures.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Marvel #38 - Riders in the Void

We come now to the final issue of Marvel's Star Wars comic book before it began its 'The Empire Strikes Back' adaptation. This issue from August 1980 is known for both its superb and fantastically weird artwork from the hand of Michael Golden and the story line which runs into deeper sci-fi than the usual swashbuckling action Star Wars is known for. This was the issue that should have been part 1 of The Empire Strikes Back, but due to a reshuffling in Marvel, fans got this off-beat one-shot while the long awaited Empire #1 was postponed til the following month.

While on a mission for the Rebels, Luke and Leia are attacked by an Imperial Star Destroyer and narrowly escape into hyperspace with their crippled craft. Dropping out, they discover that they have gone beyond the borders of their own galaxy and are drifting in a starless void. Sucked up by a large alien ship which appears to be more organically grown than constructed, they find the ship deserted and soon are up against the games of its supercomputer which views them as part of a training simulation.

Luke first goes up against a lightsaber wielding robot which he defeats but both he and Leia soon find themselves being sucked out of the ship. Upon witnessing their compassion for each other, the ship lets them live and tells them its story. Once a humanoid, the ship's pilot fled his home world which was destroyed by war and after drifting for so long in the void, pilot, computer and ship became fused as one. Luke and Leia have reminded him what compassion is and he agrees to take them back to their own galaxy.

Upon arrival they find the Star Destroyer that caused all the trouble and the alien ship blasts it with anti-matter pods, letting Luke and Leia ago free in their newly repaired ship.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Kenner 3-3/4" Action Figures - The Droids 2

Kicking off Kenner's second wave of action figures from 1979 here with three droids. Pretty much the whole second wave consisted of background characters (other than Luke in his X-wing gear and Greedo) which gave Kenner the excuse to make a whole bunch of weird aliens and robots much to the delight of young fans who were hungry for more Star Wars figures.

Probably one of the cuter Star Wars action figures, the Power Droid (or 'Gonk' droid as he came to be known) can be seen wandering around in the background of the movie supplying power to ships like some kind of walking battery.

He's quite a simple action figure with the feet being the only movable parts. Like R2, his stickers have a tendency to wear off over time and there are a couple of patches of orange paint that can also get worn.

The Death Star droid is often assumed to be wrongly named as this droid can clearly be seen in the Jawa's sandcrawler. In fact there is one on the Death Star (just when Luke, Han and Chewie head into the elevators) so he's something of a generic droid seen throughout the Star Wars galaxy.

Very similar to the C-3PO figure, the stiff joints quickly become extremely loose and his silver paint job is tricky to find in good condition. In fact he's pretty much a silver version of the 3PO figure with some different details on the head and torso.

Poor old R5-D4. If his motivator hadn't blown at a critical moment, Star Wars would have been a very different film. Denied his moment of fame, R5 was relegated to being little more than a background character.

Essentially this is R2-D2 with red markings and a different head. Still, quite a nice addition to a growing collection and the Jawas are hardly complete without some droids to sell.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

MAD Magazine: January 1978

Some say that parody is the highest form of flattery. If this is true then Mad magazine must have really been kissing Star Wars' butt in its January 1978 issue. Their 7-page ribbing of the previous year's biggest blockbuster entitled 'Star Roars' makes all the gags you might expect (and have probably seen since countless times in the last 30+ years) and a few that you might not. I had actually never considered that if a starship can fly beyond the speed of light, and has lasers that travel at a bit less than the speed of light, would it be possible for a starship to shoot itself down? A few other things tickled me too like the sign on R2-D2's body that says '25c to see what the butler saw'.

Anyway, the artwork is superb and really gets the actors spot on. Mad isn't for everyone but you can't deny the cultural factor here. It's been around since 1952 and, like Star Wars, it is a part of American culture. In those early days of 1978, Star Wars had no chance of escaping the eventual Mad treatment.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Marvel #30 - A Princess Alone

Issue #30 (from December 1979) was kind of a special one dedicated solely to Princess Leia. In it she travels to an industrial planet called Metalorn which is essentially a slave labor camp run by the Empire. Here she hopes to contact Arn Horada - her old tutor and inform him that the Imperial news broadcast that Alderaan was destroyed by a meteor shower was false and that the planet was in fact destroyed by the Empire.

Donning a funky one-piece, Leia infiltrates the workforce and steals a Stormtrooper's rifle before going on the run through the factory complex. Baron Orman Tagge makes another appearance as a visiting Imperial authority and shows his exasperation at the bungling governor's failure to capture the rebel princess.

Leia hooks up with Arn in the cafeteria and passes on her message. Tagge turns up with his lightsaber to finish her off, but she is able to escape thanks to the help of Arn and a young girl.

As Leia's ship takes off into hyperspace, her pilot expresses his concern that the mission was a failure, but Leia reminds him that the message of hope to the planet's inhabitants is a more valuable victory.

Here we have an ad for Kenner's Millennium Falcon - probably one of the coolest toys ever made - iron-on transfers featuring the stars of yesteryear and a bunch of ads promoting Saturday morning TV.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Gang's All Here...

Well, the first twelve of them at least.

Recently I completed a small collecting dream of mine - to bring together a complete set of the original twelve Kenner figures. Not a particularly impressive feat in this age of Ebay, but I've been wanting to get my hands on the first line of Star Wars figures since I started collecting way back in my teens. It's taken me so long because I've often been distracted by the temptation of other collectibles and haven't always had a steady job to afford to indulge my little pleasures.

They're not in mint condition, but pretty good shape nonetheless. All are complete with original accessories. Now to make a start on the '79 wave!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Marvel #29 - Dark Encounter

Issue #29 from November 1979 opens with a scene on a Star Destroyer and this cracking shot of Vader interrogating some poor sap. From this unfortunate, the Dark Lord of the Sith learns the name of Tyler Lucian; a rebel deserter who knows the identity of the one who destroyed the Death Star.

At the same time, our old friend Valance aka The Hunter is searching for that very same person on the planet Centares. After blasting his way out of a cantina not unlike a certain establishment on Tatooine, he makes his way to Rubyflame Lake, a body of acidic liquid heated by deep lava beds. In this lake is a towering citadel where we find Tyler Lucian (who looks a bit like Luke Skywalker with three-day-old stubble) hiding out and contemplating suicide. Valance approaches him and Lucian flees into his tower at the sight of Vader's approaching TIE Fighter.

What follows is an almighty showdown between the cyborg bounty hunter and the Sith lord. Valance manages to knock Vader down but is soon diced up by the red lightsaber. As he walks away, Vader's ankle is gripped by the wounded Valance and the two of them nearly tumble into the corrosive waters below. Vader finally dispatches him once and for all and makes for the tower.

Having witnessed the altercation from a high window, Lucian finally summons some courage and takes the plunge, plummeting down to his death leaving Vader fuming and contemplating the continuing hunt...

There's a lot of nostalgia for the Saturday morning cartoons of yesteryear so I hope you enjoy the glimpse of what NBC had scheduled circa 1979 here. I remember watching most of these cartoons. More Marvel superhero goodies. Do kids today still have licensed lunchboxes? And a pretty large collection of Shogun Warriors follows...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kenner 3-3/4" Action Figures - Luke and Leia

The hero and heroine of Star Wars! Oddly enough these two were the last of the original 12 I picked up mainly due to their being a bit more pricey than their plastic companions. Don't know why the major players from the movie should be the hardest to come by in action figure form, but there it is.

I have never found an explanation as to why Luke came with a yellow lightsaber. It's not like Kenner didn't have that colour plastic as Obi-wan came with the correct blue variety. Just one of those little oddities that make the Kenner Star Wars figures so charming.

In comparison to the weird and wonderful figures Kenner put out in this and subsequent lines, the Luke figure is a pretty bland affair, most notably the face. Now I know in this age of 'laser-imaging' to get good character likenesses on action figures, it's easy to be overly critical of efforts in bygone eras, but even for the 70s, this is pretty bad. I don't know if its the bright yellow hair or the generic 'plastic-man' face that bears no resemblance to Mark Hamil whatsoever, but this figure has all the identity of a Lego man.

Princess Leia, for some reason has been the most difficult (and expensive) figure for me to track down from the original 12. I would have thought that the slightly rare figures like the Jawa would cost me a few bits but not one of the major characters. I'm guessing that Leia figures are quite rare today because it was mostly boys buying these things back in their hey-day and not too many boys are willing to tread that thin line between action figures and 'dolls'.

This is quite a nice figure with good attention to detail on the hair. She comes with a fairly unique blaster of the small slim 'ladylike' variety. As with other white figures, Leia has a tendency to discolour over time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Marvel #28 - Whatever Happened to Jabba the Hut?

No, that's not a typo in the title, Jabba the 'Hut' was how it was spelled back then. And check out how he looks!

This was the vile gangster's physical appearance in the early days, long before it was decided that he would be the giant slug we would see in Return of the Jedi.

This issue lets us know what Han and Chewie get up to after our heroes are split up in the aftermath of the whole 'Wheel Saga'. Setting down on a rainy planet called Orleon, they hide out in a cave which appears to have a few leaks. Jabba and his cronies soon arrive, keen on killing our heroes and taking their ship. During a firefight, Han and Chewie make the frightening discovery that their cave is infested with 'stone-mites' - a species created during the Clone Wars as a form of biological warfare. These critters secrete an acid that could eat through the hull of the Falcon.

Han has the great idea of burning the creatures off with some sort of 'de-icer' force field. Eventually, they blast through the rock which is little more than a shell now after the stone mites have devoured half of it and soar away to freedom.

Encountering Jabba's space-cruiser in orbit, Han and Chewie learn that their arch enemy is in a spot of bother. One of his crew members inadvertently brought some of the infernal creatures aboard and now the irate Hut has a hole in his hull. Escaping in a spacesuit, he begs entry aboard the Falcon and receives it only after agreeing to cancel Han's debt to him.

Meanwhile in the adverts... Marvel underoos! And a few other superhero goodies. A gold Cylon commander from Battlestar Galactica and a slightly odd ad for Chiquita Banana walkie-talkies and compasses.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kenner 3-3/4" Action Figures - The Droids

C-3Po came with no accessories and other than his dazzling gold finish, the figure might seem a bit of a poor effort. But really, what else does old Goldenrod need to do other than stand around looking pretty?

This is probably the figure that ages the worst starting right from the point of being taken out of his plastic bubble. He is made of a much more rigid plastic than the other figures and his stiff joints loosen up at an alarming rate so much so that most of the figures these days are floppy and limp as wet lettuce. The other point is his gold paint which flakes off very easily. This example looks Ok from a distance but up close he is as patchy and mottled as he is in the film. An that is unintentional of course.

R2-D2 on the other hand rarely has problems with his joints in that he only has two of them and to be honest, they rarely get used much whatever pose you put him in. His shiny golden dome suffers much the same problem as his counterpart's golden finish and is often found faded by sunlight. The only other thing that can really age the figure is the sticker on his midsection which, after spending many years in toy boxes clattering around with other figures, is often faded, scratched and worn.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Marvel #27 - Return of the Hunter

A popular villain returns in this issue, namely Valance aka The Hunter. We last saw him tracking down the Starhoppers (Han's buddies who he believed to be the rebels who destroyed the Death Star) and we know a couple of facts about him. 1 - he is part cyborg after a nasty accident. 2 - he has a deep hatred of droids and is disgusted by the idea that Luke Skywalker treats them as equals.

Since his disappearing act in the last issue that featured him, Valance has been hanging out on a world called Feriae Junction, gunning down two-bit hoodlums in seedy cantinas. One of his employers pays him in droids which Valance promptly blasts into smithereens. Part of this may be some sort of twisted therapy for his self-loathing at being a cyborg, but part of it is due to his desire to destroy the two droids that Luke treats as his friends.

Meanwhile, Luke and 3PO are scouting out an Imperial blockade and narrowly avoid destruction by a Star Destroyer. They hop into hyperspace and make for Junction where they plan to pick up parts for repairing R2 units. Valance is alerted to their presence and makes to intercept them, but stops to quickly dispose of an imperial spy who has been keeping tabs on him.

The showdown between Luke and Valance goes down in a scrapyard and after a shot from his blaster is deflected by Luke's lightsaber, Valance takes it in the face and his cybernetics are revealed. This doesn't stop him from disarming Luke and things look bad for our intergalactic farmboy until 3PO steps between the two of them, prepared to die for his master. This totally blows Valance's mind as he cannot comprehend the reasoning a droid might have to sacrifice itself for a human. He lets Luke and 3PO go on their merry way while he presumably rethinks his life...