(NOTE: no spoilers, but I will be discussing The Force Awakens in general terms that you may not want to read if you want to go into the film completely cold.)
So a few years back, given that Douglas Adams had managed to avoid producing a new installment in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by being conveniently deceased, it was decided that the sixth novel would be handed off to another author. That book, as it turned out, while being entertaining enough, sure felt like someone took elements from the previous novels, threw ’em into a blender, and printed the results. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it all sure felt familiar.
Which brings me to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Okay, now hold on for just a moment, before you get a bunch of ants in your Corellian Bloodstriped pants and come after me with your torches and lightsaber pitchforks. I really really liked the film. It felt like classic Star Wars, with plenty of action and just enough genuine emotion because one actually cares about the characters.
But that said, I’m certainly not going to be the first person to point out that there are a whole lot of very familiar settings and plot points and character types and so on between The Force Awakens and the Original Trilogy. You can do some one-to-one mapping if you so desired…here’s one of those scenes, here’s that battle, here’s another character like that guy. And so on.
It’s not quite as bad as all that, though. Yes, there are a lot of familiar elements, but it’s what is done with them that’s important, and that we’re given a handful of new characters that we immediately sympathize with certainly helps carry the story. Sure, we’ve seen some of these sorts of scenes before, but we haven’t seen how our new friends deal with them, and that’s enough to grab our interest. Plus, we’ve got our old friends back, too — a bit older, but still pretty much how we remember them — and that sure doesn’t hurt.
I hope I’m not making it sound like it’s nothing but “Star Wars Remix” — there’s plenty of new stuff, too, particularly in character motivations and interactions, and…well, I’m beginning to see the downside of trying to be as spoiler-free as possible. I’d love to shout “CAN YOU BELIEVE _______ DID _______ AND THEN ________” but that’ll have to wait for any eventual spoiler-full review I might do. Suffice to say, even if you do sit through the film ticking off the parallels that exist, it’s its own movie with its own story to tell.
Some of the background aliens are going to make some awesome action figures, too. …Look, I’m only human.
One of the odder responses I had to this film is having to deal with the fact that this is the post-Return of the Jedi continuity now. All that Expanded Universe stuff I’ve been reading for the last 25 years (if you start with Heir to the Empire, or longer if you include the Marvel comics or Splinter of the Mind’s Eye) is now relegated to the Star Wars of Earth-2, never to be seen again until the eventual Crisis of Infinite Star Wars. I mean, not that I was sitting there thinking “but what about Mara Jade?” or anything like that, but there was that small fanboy tickle at the back of my mind reminding me that Things Are Different Now, and as Yoda says:
Another topic that came up in talking with some friends is in regards to The Force Awakens tie-in comics. Unlike A New Hope, which left things up in the air enough to allow for some funnybook adventures to kill time ’til Star Wars II, as we all were calling it, was released, The Force Awakens…well, doesn’t. I expect we’ll see a whole lot of “prequel to the sequel” comics over the next year or two.
But that’s neither here nor there. Today’s topic is the film, and the film is just dandy. It certainly feels very much in line with the Original Trilogy, as well as giving us new characters to enjoy and mysteries that will keep us hanging ’til the next film comes out in a couple of years. Why, y’all have it easy that you only have to wait two years for the next episode, instead of the three like in ye olden times. Of course, the sad part is at my age, those two years will go by like nuthin’.
The good part is that the film made me forget that I am at my age.
…and I thought it was a lot of fun. All killer, no filler, and contained some actual emotion instead of that pretend emotion from the prequels.
I’ve got more to say, but it’s late as I write this and I didn’t want to let another Monday go by without a post. Check back Tuesday…I plan on having some spoiler-free (or, at the very most, spoiler-lite) discussion about it.
If you’ve got spoiler-heavy comments about the film, go ahead and leave ’em on this post, so anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, consider yourself forewarned. I may do a more spoiler-heavy post in the future if I feel the need to respond in excess to what you have to say (and gee, when do I ever do that?).
You may have noticed the reduced schedule this week…a combination of still-recovering-from-illness and prepping-for-Christmas has brought about a dearth of content here, which…well, What Can You Do? But it’s almost a moot point anyway, since everyone is out Star Wars-ing it up and not doing dumb stuff like reading blogs or anything.
Speaking of which: I am pleased to see that reaction from pals of mine upon the Twitter seems to be generally positive to The Force Awakens. I mean, let’s be honest, even if everyone said “hoo boy, what a stinker,” I’d still go because Star Wars got a firm hold in my heart and my brain when I was eight years old and hasn’t let go yet, though the grasp loosed just a tad as I watched Anakin and Padmé roll around in the grassy fields on Naboo in Attack of the Clones. But, people seemed to like it, which makes me anxious to see it even more.
I said on the Twitters that I felt like I was somehow betraying younger me because I wasn’t going to be immediately at a theater the second the film entered general release. Alas, adult responsibility and just plain ol’ scheduling is probably keeping me from catching the film until early next week. In the meantime, the big keywords on social media right now is “NO SPOILERS!” and most decent folks seem to be adhering to that pretty strongly. I, of course, am in the prime danger zone for spoilage, what with running a funnybook store an’ all, but a few times in the recent past customers were discussing other movies, TV shows or comics or whatever that could have involved spoilers were usually preceded by inquiries as to whether or not I would be spoiled by their discussions. So, you know, that’s good. I’d hate to have to do what one store did and ban for life anyone spoiling the film.
The big point of discussion right now is “when are you seeing it?” assuming of course “it” doesn’t refer to the new Alvin and the Chimpmunks flick. I am curious if I’m going to see a “Star Wars dip” in my sales over the weekend, if enough of my clientele decide to head to a local Googol-plex and catch a viewing on one of its twenty-two screens featuring The Force Awakens. The other thing that one or two people asked about is if I think the Star Wars comics are going to hit the same sales wall that other comics with movie adaptations do once the film is actually in release. Like, when, say, Sin City sold really well until the film came out, and then it took years to start approaching its old sales levels again. In the case of Star Wars, I don’t think it’s going to go like that…I’m not the only one Star Wars got its grip on, and Star Wars is more of a widespread cultural thing anyway, not some niche item in which the masses briefly find interest until the film’s come and gone.
If there’s a danger of the Star Wars comics significantly dropping in sales, it’s going to come from oversaturation in the comics marketplace. And hey, when’s Marvel ever done that?
Sorry for missing Monday again…I’m still recovering from a cold, and decided “turning in early” was the better strategy for Sunday evening than “generating website content.” Write in for your refunds, etc. etc. …But seriously, while I’ve been at the reduced schedule on this site for a few years now, I always like to have a Monday post, but sometimes it just can’t happen. Thanks for your patience!
In other news:
Last week I was interviewed about the 1977 Star Wars Early Bird Kit for an article that appeared yesterday over at Yahoo! Movies. For those of you who don’t know what the Early Bird Kit was, it’s explained thoroughly in the article, but in short, it was a gussied-up coupon for the first batch of Star Wars action figures that parents could put under the Christmas tree since Kenner wasn’t going to have the figures themselves ready for the first gift-giving season after the film’s release.
As the article states, I was the recipient of one of these kits, and while I’m sure modern kids would think that would have been a completely ridiculous thing to receive in place of actual toys, I assure you, I was quite thrilled with it. I filled out that coupon and mailed it in right away, and probably not so patiently awaited the several months for the toys themselves to arrive.
I mentioned this in my interview, but it didn’t make the article, so I’ll go ahead and share it here: the batch of figures was supposed to be Luke, Leia, R2-D2 and Chewbacca. However, when my package of Early Bird figures finally arrived, there was sadly an R2-shaped hole in my particular assortment. The plucky little astromech was accidentally left out of my box!
Well, 8-or-possibly-at-this-point-9-year-old me wasn’t thrilled at this turn of events, as you might imagine. At my parents’ encouragement, I wrote a letter to Kenner apprising them of the situation, requesting a replacement R2 unit. I even drew a picture (or, ahem, three or four) of R2-D2 in my letter, just to make sure the folks at the toy company knew exactly which Star Wars figure I was specifically referencing.
Eventually, Kenner did send me a replacement R2-D2. It took a while, or at least what passes in the head of a 8-or-9-year-old as “a while,” and while I was waiting, during a Star Wars-oriented visit to the local toy emporium, I had gone ahead and purchased another R2, among several other figures. Which of course meant that when that replacement from Kenner arrived, I had R2-D2 and R2-D2 starring in The ‘Droid Trap or whatever sort of Star Wars toy playing I was doing at the time.
Sadly, several decades later many of my Star Wars toys are long gone, including both R2s. I do have a few figures left, including that original old Early Bird Chewbacca, and I currently have my original one of these sitting on top of my desk even as I type this, staring at me with its single eye.
Sigh. Not that I need more stuff in my house, but I do still wish I had all my Star Wars figures. I have one of those books that has nice big color photos of every figure from the line, but it’s not quite the same.
This week’s Question Time over at Trouble with Comics was “name a favorite book by a creator new to comics this decade.” There are several good answers over there, including one or a dozen I wish I’d thought of, but I think my response isn’t a bad one.
Bully the Little Computerless Bull now has a new magic counting box in his barn so he’s back to busily tapping his little hooves on his keyboard generating content just for you! However, pal Andrew of Armagideon-Time fame stepped in for a number of guest-posts while Bully was down-and-out, and did his usual excellent job filling in with some great entries celebrating the fun of comics.
In one of those odd-if-minor retailing coincidences, I had someone on Saturday asking about the Marvel Star Wars treasury editions from the 1970s, adapting the original film…and then an hour after that customer left, someone came in with a collection containing a couple of those treasuries. As 1970s treasury comics go, Star Wars seem to be the most common, at least given how often we’ve seen them at our shop (the Howard the Duck treasury being a close second).
Now, that first person was asking about the Star Wars treasuries because he had the copies he owned from his childhood framed and displayed on his son’s bedroom walls. Specifically, he was wondering if he was inadvertently sitting on a vast fortune of rare comics, slowly depreciating as sunlight cascading through the windows gradually turned the covers a pale blue. He did relate, in a rare case of someone not familiar with the hobby recognizing that there is such a thing as “condition,” that his copies were well-read and worn, so I assured him that, in all likelihood, his copies probably weren’t worth a whole lot. It’s my feeling that the Star Wars treasuries exist in such large numbers, most of which read to death by 1970s-era children (some of whom may have even used markers to color-correct the lightsabers…not naming names, but that child’s initials may have stood for “Mike Sterling”), that actual mint or near-mint copies will command premiums, but anything less than that is much, much cheaper.
I also shared with him my old story about, a couple of decades back, we had full cases of the Star Wars treasuries that we’d been stuck with, and we ended up blowing out copies for a quarter apiece. We were glad to get that much, since of course at that time Star Wars was dead, dead, dead and it was never coming back, not ever again. And, as I related that story, it occurred to me that surely we weren’t the only shops to have cases of unopened copies of these treasuries, and some may yet remain unopened still, stowed away in some dusty corners of rarely-visited storage units, awaiting the day they are uncovered and dumped onto the marketplace, unleashing an ÜberStraße Götterdämmerung of plummeting price guide values.
And then after that fellow left, the person with the comic collection for sale dropped by, where I obtained the first Star Wars treasury, along with the seemingly more rare (well, relatively speaking) third treasury, which was a collection of the first two, effectively putting the entire movie under one cover. I remember seeing this in the wild back when it was originally released, being excited that, hey, there was a new Star Wars treasury that was different than the ones I’d already had, read a million times, and perhaps colored in though I admit nothing. Once I discovered that is was simply reprinting the other comics, I was disappointed and passed on buying it (or, rather, didn’t try to talk my parents into buying it), and I’m guessing this was a common experience. Oh, I’m sure some people bought it to maintain a complete collection, or replace the previous books they’d read to pieces, or just straight up bought it without realizing it was something they already had. But if I had to guess, I’m sure the print run on #3 was far less than #1 or #2.
In this case, it didn’t really matter since both were beat to hell and we’re probably not selling them for much more than a couple of bucks each anyway. However, the third Star Wars treasury remains a rare enough sight that I can’t help but still remember that small bit of excitement seeing it when I was a kid and thinking it was brand new Star Wars material.
Speaking of Star Wars comics, I mentioned a while back I was going to discuss the new Marvel titles announced at Comic Con, and, well, now that I look, I don’t really have much to say. This article has a good overview of what’s coming, and it looks like at least one series is essentially replacing the current Brian Wood series at Dark Horse for the “between Episodes IV and V” period. I was expecting something a little more Episode VII-prologue-y, but maybe it’s still too soon for that.
Then again, since Han, Luke and Leia are appearing in the forthcoming movie, maybe in a way these comics featuring the Original Trilogy characters are lead-ins to Ep. VII in a way. I wonder if any elements in the forthcoming film will pop up in these books? You know, like Admiral Ackbar appeared in the Star Wars comic strip before Return of the Jedi? (“WHO IS THIS MYSTERIOUS CHARACTER? Find out next year…or, like, 25 years later in story time, in Star Wars Episode VII: Lobots on Parade!”)
Well, okay, technically this isn’t from the back room, but rather from a recently acquired collection of stuff, things, items and doodads, but man, I had no idea this even existed:
The Chewbacca Bandolier Strap from 1983, where you can, I don’t know, strap it to your body and act out some weird Star Wars-ian twist on Dr. Shrinker with Peter Mayhew in the place of Jay Robinson?
Here’s a closer look at the picture on the box, with the victims your Star Wars pals in place:
Chewie looks a little freaked out there, understandably so since he’s trapped in a giant version of his own sole piece of clothing.
I dared to open the box, seeing as it was barely being held shut by dried-out masking tape and not exactly “mint,” and here’s what I found inside:
In case you’re wondering, yes, I did briefly contemplate donning this item and posing for pictures for the site, but 1) this bandolier is darned small, and I’m not even sure it would have fit around my neck, much less my torso, and 2) surely there are enough terrible pictures of me on the Internet already. Oh, and 3)
…those little foam packing pieces wedged into the belt are thirty years old and have become surprisingly flaky and sticky and not something I want coming in contact with my fancy dress shirts. Or my bare chest, not that I thought about taking Chewbacca bandolier photos like that. At all.
Anyway, here’s a better look at the bandolier in action:
Chewbacca’s the one on the right.
Here’s everything else in the box…a catalog, the two pouches, and a decal sheet with stickers for said pouches:
There’s probably a bra joke there, but I’m not going to make it.
“…and definitely not weed. Do not put your weed in the pouches!”
“IT’S A SNAP!”
In case you need an adult-sized Chewbacca bandolier, well, a quick Googling reveals lots of people making and selling replicas, but of course you can always just make your own.
..as represented by the single greatest thing an eight-or-so-year-old Mike could have seen after having gone to the movies to see Star Wars for the fourth time:
“ALL NEW STORIES NOT SEEN IN THE MOVIE!” Three whole new comic books, in one package? For 99 cents? For new Star Wars adventures? Sweet jumpin’ Judas on a pogo stick, if I didn’t get my paws on those comics that very second, surely I would have dropped dead in that aisle right then and there.
And yes, I absolutely loved these comics…reading them and rereading them and just about committing them to memory. And I continued to follow the New Adventures of the Star Warsians, both in the three-packs and in regular monthly installments purchased from the newsstands* as opportunity allowed. I stuck with the series ’til about issue 25 or 26 or so, and I’m not entirely sure why I stopped buying them on a regular basis. I did return to the series off and on over the years, buying a few monthly issues in sequence or buying the occasional annual or special issue. It wasn’t until well after the series reached its 107th and final issue, and during those Star Wars doldrums when no new movies were coming out, and the whole thing seemed like it was good and finished, that I finally filled out my run of the series out of quarter boxes. Well, mostly filled, as I skipped the issues adapting the movies, as I owned those in treasury edition, paperback**, or Marvel Super Special*** form.
That eight-year-old I used to be, and is still rattling around in my head somewhere, is excited to hear about the return of Star Wars to Marvel Comics out of purely nostalgic reasons. The part of me that sells these things for a living is interested to see if this will pull the comic spin-offs out of their mostly moribund sales (though I suspect the impending Episode VII would have given the comics a kick in the pants, regardless of publisher…and the forthcoming Brian Wood series looks like it’ll be fun as well).
Anyway, one of those three-packs turned up in a collection at the shop recently, still sealed, reminding me of my absolutely sincere and overwhelming excitement all those years ago that such a thing even existed. It’s probably my enjoyment of those early comics that makes me brook no negativity about my favorite new-to-comics Star Wars character. Hey, maybe Marvel will bring him back!
* I remember spotting a new issue on the racks at a local bookstore/newsstand, and being so excited I grabbed it off the rack and dashed outside with it to ask my grandmother to buy it for me. …That I didn’t do a nickel up the river for shoplifting is something of a miracle…or that the bookseller didn’t mistake my youthful exuberance for criminal intent, at least. I did quickly return with my grandmother, who bought the comic. I suspect there was a comment or two about not leaving a store with unpaid-for merchandise even for a moment or by accident, but man, I was too busy reading my Star Wars comic to care.
** A childhood friend of mine made lots of fun about the fact that Yoda’s appearance in this specific edition of the comic was way off from his appearance in the movie. If only I’d known enough to be able to explain “lead times” and “artist only having access to production art, and not the final product,” I could have put that kid in his place.
*** This adaptation was released to newsstands about a week or two before the actual release of the film, much to Lucas’ chagrin. Of course I bought it right away and happily spoiled everything for myself…which didn’t curb my enjoyment of the movie one bit.
So as a young Mikester in the late ’70s, I found this particular Star Wars trading card to be of interest:
…as it gave us one of the few really good glimpses as to what the Jawas looked like under their hoods:
The official (or semi-official, or “canon,” or whatever) explanation is that the Jawas are “rodent-like,” and that what we’re supposedly seeing there isn’t a Jawa’s actual face, but just more protective covering with gemstone eyepieces. But I think it’s this specific image that has me associating Jawas with more insectoid characteristics than rodential. I mean, look at it…it’s like a giant ant under there. That’s completely creepier than a rodent.
By contrast, this Battlestar Galactica sticker featuring the Cylons’ Imperious Leader could’ve used a little more mystery:
The Cockeyed Space Tyrant is puckering up…for you.
AAAAAAAH! “Can’t sleep, Peter Cushing will get me.”
Here, let’s balance things out a bit:
Ah, yes, very dashing indeed. “I dashed the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” “Why, that is quite dashing!”