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“Deck Officer! Deck Officer!”: An Autobiographical Journey Through Star Wars Toys, Part 2

“Sir, your tauntaun will freeze before you get to the end of this blog post…”

“Then I’ll see you in hell!”

 Yes, I was a slight latecomer to the Star Wars universe. I was a child of The Empire Strikes Back, but I was keenly aware Empire was a sequel. I knew I had missed the boat on the original (which I referred to simply as “Old Star Wars”) and ached to see it. The gap was filled somewhat by my Star Wars storybook, which told the story of the first film through lots of lavish photographs and fairly advanced and detailed text for a young reader. (The book-and-cassette read-along version helped, too, as I dutifully turned the page when I heard the chimes.) The storybook also contained some material that was cut from the final film, including the famous lost Luke-Biggs dialogue scene.

This was my only reference point for the original Star Wars

This was my only reference point for the original Star Wars

storybook3

I distinctly remember the Empire illustrated storybook had its publication delayed for some reason, and my mom had to special order it from the mysterious “Random House,” which I pictured as a literal house full of storybooks. That Empire storybook and the excellent Marvel comics adaptation helped keep the plot and visuals fresh in my mind once Empire left theaters. The things we had to resort to in those dark days before home video…

The Marvel comics adaptation served as my "home version" of Empire

The Marvel comics adaptation served as my “home version” of Empire

The collecting fire was fueled by the TV commercials, which were in constant rotation during after-school and Saturday morning shows. They usually featured a pair of bowl-haired kids in 70s turtlenecks playing on a perfectly landscaped “backyard” set, making up atrocious dialogue (I still say “look both ways, dewback!” to myself as I approach intersections to this day), and failing to pull off C-3PO’s British accent.

“Playing Star Wars” was a common activity — but you could go down one of two paths, which we called “Real Life” or “Action Figures.” “Real Life” meant pretending to be the characters and acting things out. Actually, we were not the real characters, but rather the real characters’ kids. This was at my insistence. I could pretend to be in a galaxy far, far away, but I could not pretend to be any age other than my own. I was a peculiar child. (Or was I prophetic? This was years ahead of the “babyfication” fad that swept pop culture later in the decade.) Characters were assigned to my neighborhood crew based on age, gender and hair color. I was dark-haired so I got to be Han, Jr., Isaac had kind of dirty blonde hair, so he was Luke, Jr., Susie was a girl, so she was Lil’ Leia, and Mikey was three-and-a-half, so he played whatever he was damn well told, usually something demeaning. Continue reading

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