One of my favourite Star Wars blogs is a fairly new entry, YASWB - Yet Another Star Wars blog. The blog is accurately subtitled, “A Retrospection on Vintage Star Wars with Modern Action Figures”. The blogger behind YASWB is a collector of modern Hasbro Star Wars action figures with a love of Kenner’s original collection. His blog is an evocative mix of modern-day action figures, chosen and photographed to recall Kenner’s photography and marketing of its vintage figures, and amusing anecdotes about the figures themselves and his memories of them. In this guest blog post, the YASWB blogger (who prefers to remain anonymous) explains how he came back to Star Wars action figure collecting.
It was Hasbro’s latest Star Wars action figure line, The Vintage Collection (2010 to 2013), that brought me back to the obscure hobby of collecting action figures. The Vintage Collection’s packaging just had to catch every middle-aged Star Wars fan of old. It hit the weak spot—with no mercy.
But first things first: How did my collecting of Kenner plastic come to an end some two and a half decades ago? A year or two after the Return of the Jedi's release, when the Kenner line seemed to slow down, it didn’t take very long before I got tired of my Star Wars plastic. My last big Kenner toy for Christmas was the Ewok Village. The B-Wing Fighter wouldn't have been big enough for Christmas, the Imperial Shuttle was too big for everything—especially for my parents' budget. It felt strange already to put the Ewok Village on the wishlist. After collecting Star Wars for half of my young life I guess it was a natural thing to do, yet the question, whether I would "play" with the new plastic, slowly gained importance.
The turning point came during the summer holidays in 1985, when I saw a new “Mini Rig” on the shelves. It probably was the "Security Scout" from the "Power of the Force" line. (It was actually described as a "Body Rig"!) The toy intrigued me solely for being the first new Star Wars toy in a long time, but otherwise put me off for its apparent flimsiness, its unoriginality, its questionable canonicity, and its package design. The package design of the original Kenner line was the real deal. They could even sell Ewok Hang Gliders with it. The POTF design however looked cheap and un-Star Wars-ish. The toy looked more like a Mattel’s Master of the Universe toy than a Kenner Star Wars product. It seemed to me that there was no juice left in Star Wars. No more movies, no more cool Kenner stuff.
I stood there holding that new Star Wars toy in my hands with ambivalent feelings. Years before, I would have lost sleep over new Kenner plastic. But this time I thought (to quote this blog’s byline) “I’m getting too old for this sort of thing”. So the new POTF toy was the first Star Wars item that I put back on the shelf—although with trembling hands. This marked the end of an era for me.
Shortly afterwards I banished all my Star Wars toys and figures from my room. They went straight into our basement where they soon were forgotten. Then I wanted to buy things for other new hobbies, like pen and paper roleplaying books, comics, and other nerd stuff. I started getting sick of the old toys. So in about 1986 or 1987 I sold all the Star Wars plastic I had at once, for about the price of a mid-range HiFi amplifier. (I believe that’s what I actually did with the money.) The lot consisted of:
- All 93 figures, including Yak Face. Some doubles. Some weapons of older figures were missing, some figures were in bad condition but most, even the old ones, weren’t. All newer figures (since The Empire Strikes Back) were complete and in perfect condition.
- AT-AT (chin guns missing, otherwise complete and perfect condition)
- Millennium Falcon (ramp broken off, otherwise everything in perfect condition, even the training ball for Luke was still there!)
- Rebel Transport (complete, perfect condition)
- Snowspeeder (complete)
- Two Tauntauns (both versions, one with the soft belly, one without. The older Tauntaun’s saddle was broken and glued to the Tauntaun)
- Hoth Wampa (slightly discoloured, otherwise perfect)
- Twin-Pod Cloud Car (perfect)
- Two X-Wing Fighters (one with missing pieces and partly glued, the other one in good condition, with battle damage decals)
- TIE Fighter (with broken off and glued wings)
- Landspeeder (perfect condition)
- Imperial Troop Transport (with sounds still working, complete)
- AT-ST Walker (complete)
- Slave I (complete)
- Speeder Bike (complete)
- Y-Wing Fighter (complete)
- All nine Mini Rigs, plus Tripod Cannon and Maintenance Energizer (complete!)
- Jabba the Hutt Playset (complete)
- Max Rebo Band (complete)
- Ewok Catapult and Hang Glider (both complete)
- Ewok Village! (The inlay piece for C-3PO’s throne was missing from the beginning—Kenner did not care, for once—otherwise complete)
- Some of the die cast models, including Slave I and the Landspeeder
(Side note: the list comes from the back of my mind, of course with the help of checklists found on the internet. I am amazed about how clearly I remember my old toys even though I haven't seen them for decades—and never ever will again.)
So, as stated, I never had the Imperial Shuttle or the B-Wing Fighter. I also never owned the Dewback, the Rancor or any of the other playsets like the Death Star or Hoth bases, and of course not the "Sears Exclusive" stuff that according to my knowledge was never available in my area, anyway.
Also, I had no original packaging for the vehicles, which always was thrown away immediately after unpacking and assembly. I kept the figures’ cardbacks though. However they went missing one by one and the final leftovers (probably all Ewok figures' cardbacks) were just thrown away, too.
When this all was gone I did not miss a thing. However, years later, every once in a while I was haunted by dreams, where I would visit the toy aisles again and browse through imaginary Kenner packaging and cardbacks to find new figures and vehicles. These dreams never stopped, even though I wasn’t interested in Star Wars anymore. Star Wars no longer took any role in my life. In fact I was so out of touch with Star Wars that I took absolutely no notice of the release of the first two prequels. Yet I had these dreams.
So after years of Star Wars absence, every once in a while I snuck into a comic store or some such nerdy place and had a secret look at the current Star Wars figures. They never impressed me much. Starting with the POTF2 line with its super-muscular figures, the only thing that made my fingers itch were the Stormtrooper and Chewbacca figures, which apparently now could turn their heads—finally, like a dream come true. Unfortunately too late. And while all the other figures were way too athletic, I felt it was okay for Chewbacca and Darth Vader to be more on the bulky side. Also, the idea to finally release figures like the Sandtrooper (likewise with turning head) or a Luke figure in Dagobah training outfit intrigued me somehow. I guess it found its way into my subconscious mind and nurtured my dreams even more. I never bought them though. I was still too old for this sort of thing.
When the first real Vintage revival figures (namely the Vintage Saga Collection and Vintage Original Trilogy Collection lines) came out, I gave in and bought my first figures in a long time. But not from these lines, which I found to be way too expensive. Instead I bought a C-3PO and a R2-D2 figure with a middle leg (finally!) from a cheaper line. At the time I was a part-time student of computer science and thus justified these purchases to myself as examples of artificial intelligence that could decorate my desk. Yet, back home, unpacking the two figures was a strange experience. It felt wrong. Later I bought the 30th Anniversary Collection Boba Fett figure and that was that. These figures stood around deserted for years, first on one of my stereo loudspeakers, later on an electric meter box—never on my desk. And still I had these recurring dreams.
Finally, when The Vintage Collection was seen everywhere (well not everywhere like in the 1980s, but still at various places I occasionally frequented), it caught my attention. So many different figures in that all too familiar packaging. After some back and forth I could resist no longer and finally gave in and bought a Luke Skywalker (Dagobah Landing) figure on eBay—thus sparing myself an embarrassing situation at the store’s cashier, I thought. Somehow my interest in these figures was back again—to some extent.
Since I made the decision to allow my inner child to buy these figures again, the dreams have stopped. I guess with all the research necessary to get the right figures among the vast amount that have been produced in the meantime, I finally solved every secret about Star Wars figures that concerned me in my youth. There is no mystery left, no riddle to solve. Thus the dreams, that were there to make me try wrapping my head around my unsolved childhood Star Wars riddles, have ended.
A curse has lifted—and been replaced by a new curse: buying new Star Wars action figures. But even this will not go on forever. I feel I have nearly completed my new collection. The limit is set by the original trilogy. I still am interested in the obscurest cantina alien or bounty hunter that can hardly be seen in the original movies but was produced as figure. However I do not care for the umpteenth Jedi Knight that gets killed in the prequels. So, thankfully, my lust for figures is limited by the appearances of characters in the original movies and only slightly beyond that. Also, with the Vintage Collection having reached its end, there is not much exciting happening anymore on the market—at least not for the oldschool Star Wars action figure enthusiasts. So who knows, maybe my new Star Wars plastic collection will be soon forgotten, locked in the basement, and sold like the old one was. Or maybe with the new movies coming up, there will be a new golden era for Star Wars action figures. But I think it highly unlikely that the new movies will inspire me to buy more figures. By 2015 I will surely be too old for this sort of thing—or will I?
Yesterday I followed someone new on Twitter called I'm a stormtrooper (@akmd65). She kindly followed me back. This morning on the train I had a look at her blog. It's wonderful! Her Twitter bio explains,
Relativity normal single mom with an obsession for Star Wars, roller coasters, 80s movies and ice cream. I speak fluent sarcasm and fight autism like a superhero.
Her blog is a delightful, touching mix of funny things her autistic daughter Maymay says, Maymay's movie reviews, and random thoughts from mum. I especially enjoyed Maymay's review of The Legend of Hercules, which can be summed up by this perfect sentence, "The movie made me mad because it was completely wrong." Also mum's blog post, "More reasons to love Mr. Rogers", which will make you want to go watch Mr. Rogers' six-minute presentation before the US Senate so I'll just embed it here:
I also enjoyed this bit of dating advice from Maymay to mum.
Besides all this charming content, the blog is decorated with funny photographs of stormtrooper action figures (etc.) in unlikely situations. You've seen that sort of thing before, of course, but it's very nicely done here.
So congratulations to I'm a stormtrooper for a lovely little blog (which by the way is more proof--as if more were needed--that Star Wars isn't just for boys). I'll be visiting again soon.
Andrew David Barker, author of The Electric and ardent supporter of A Long Time Ago (thank you thank you), has published an interview with me on his blog. In his introduction, Andy is nice enough to say:
Gib Van Ert’s memoir is a beautifully written book – touching, and very funny; for anyone whose childhood was shaped by George Lucas. It will bring back many happy memories for any fan of the original Star Wars films, and have you saying, ‘Oh, I remember that!’ over and over again. It is also about how childhood can slip through our fingers, and with it the obsessions of that shimmering age.
If you're interested in Star Wars and self-publishing (as Andy and I both are), I think you'll enjoy this interview.
NESN (New England Sports Network) reports that the US national under-18 boys hockey team will be wearing these Darth Vader sweaters in their tilt against the Waterloo Black Hawks on 18 January in Ann Arbor, Michigan in yet another Star Wars/sports team tie-in. Says NESN:
For one game in January, the U.S National U-18 Team will become the Galactic Empire.
The team, which plays in the USHL as part of the National Team Development Program, will be hosting its third annual Star Wars Night when the Waterloo Black Hawks visit the Ann Arbor Ice Cube on Jan. 18.
“This is the third straight season we’ve held this fantastic promotion,” Scott Monaghan, senior director of operations with the NTDP, said in a press release. “Each year this night has grown and it’s now one of the most popular games on the schedule.”
The event will feature a variety of promotions based on George Lucas‘ iconic films, but the centerpiece will be the team’s jerseys, which will feature the Star Wars logo and a oversized, wraparound image of a menacing Darth Vader. The jerseys will then be auctioned after the game, with all proceeds benefiting the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich.
High-level junior leagues like the USHL usually remain above the absurd gimmicks that minor league hockey is known for, but promotions like this show that these teams still know how to have some fun.
Personally I prefer the Vader sweaters worn by my buddy Dave's team.
The Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York is currently showing an exhibit by Seattle artist Michael Leavitt entitled Empire Peaks. The artworks are being described around the internet as action figure mashups. But there is more to them than that. From the gallery's web site:
In this exhibition, Leavitt pairs the traits of his recognizable subjects with characters from Star Wars, juxtaposing the classic archetypal roles found in Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and the rest of the famed cast with pop-culture personas. Through these clever mash-ups, the artist explores themes of coveting mass-produced collectibles as well as idol worship throughout human history—examining the recurring patterns of our civilization and its shared compulsive needs for heroes and villains or rebels and tyrants, rising and falling or celebrated then overthrown, repeatedly over time.
The gallery's web site has a great collection of photos of the sculptures. Here are a few but there are many more. Go have a look!
Loathe as I am to turn this into a Star Wars burlesque blog (see my last post), I can't help but note that a burlesque outfit in New York City called Hotsy Totsy is mounting a tribute to the Star Wars Holiday Special. Sez Hotsy Totsy:
It is the holiday season and time once again at The Home For Wayward Girls and Fallen Women for the annual viewing of Cherry’s favorite TV show: The Star Wars Holiday Special! Join us for a night of Star Wars themed burlesque acts and clips from the actual 1978 fiasco. George Lucas has reportedly said: "If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it." We are so proud to own a copy!
If you have not seen The Star Wars Holiday Special, then you have not seen special guest star Bea Arthur sing and dance with the space alien bar patrons from the Tatooine Cantina. The Star Wars Holiday Special was quite possibly the worst holiday special ever conceived. It is literally Star Wars meets The Carol Burnett Show as it stars the cast of the original Star Wars trilogy Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher & Harrison Ford (they were under contract and couldn’t get out of it) and was written by the staff writers of the Carol Burnett show, featuring special guest stars Harvey Korman, Bea Arthur, Art Carney, The Jefferson Starship and a cast of fur suited character actors as Chewbacca’s family. It is chock full of WTF moments, such as Carrie Fisher singing an intergalactic holiday carol to the tune of the Star Wars theme song and even includes Wookie-porn. We promise to show you the best (we mean the worst) bits.
Hosted by Cherry Pitz and Handsome Brad with performances by Brief Sweat, Clara Coquette, Hard Corey, Ivory Fox, Jenny C'est Quoi and Rosey La Rouge. Kittening by Tiger Bay and gogo entertainment by Erika Rodgers.
Vancouver geek collective Geekenders are mounting an encore performance of their recent burlesque, Star Wars: A Nude Hope. From the blurb:
Been looking for love in Alderaan places?
We invite you to enter a galaxy a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away with acclaimed fandom theatre troupe Geekenders, who are concentrating their usual pop culture theatre, comedy and burlesque into a randy two-act reboot of a sci-fi classic.
Featuring a cast of twenty-five of Geekenders all-star nerdlesque performers, the event and theatre troupe is pulling out all the stops to ensure a memorable, sexy, nerd-herding night for geeks of all types.
The encore takes place at 8 pm (doors at 7) on 14 December 2013 at the Rio Theatre. Tickets are $20 in advance at https://riotheatretickets.ca/ or $25 at the door. 19+ only. You're invited to come in costume but I wouldn't recommend it.
For photos from the previous show, click here (probably NSFW).
My friend (and A Long Time Ago proofreader) Dave (aka Darth Daver) plays hockey in Vancouver with a team called Dark Side. Check out their new kit.
I especially like the shoulder flashes. I'm told even their socks have the Vader image on them, which may be a step too far...