The Power of the Patch

By Wes Middleton

Rancho Obi-Wan Original Gold PatchThe Star Wars collector community knows no bounds. People collect everything from action figures to autographs, art prints to coins, but my favorite of all the collecting genre is patches. If you weren’t a patch collector before reading this, I hope that by the time you’re through you might want to snag your first. After all, patch traders are nothing without people to trade with. So what is it about patches? Well, it’s not just one thing, it’s many. Continue reading “The Power of the Patch”

How Star Wars, and illness, changed my life

By Wes Middleton
WP_20160315_017I was born after the release of Episode VI, Return of the Jedi, which, for all intents and purposes, means that I’ve been a Star Wars fan my entire life. I still have my late grandfather’s original VHS copies of the trilogy, which I would watch every time I was home sick from school, and I had to stay home a lot. That wasn’t because I preferred Star Wars to going to school (well, at least that wasn’t my motivation); rather, it was due to having had asthma since I was two years old. As a young child, it was pretty severe, so there were a lot of sick days.

While asthma is undeniably a terrible disease, and certainly my couple of near-death experiences aren’t anything I’d want to relive, I’m actually grateful for the ways that the situation changed my life for the better. During one of my early hospital stays, a family friend brought me my first two comic books, which I still own and cherish: Punisher and Ghost Rider. I read them over and over until I knew every panel. That one event set me on a path to comic book fanaticism an I haven’t strayed since. In addition, there were those sick days spent resting on the couch watching Star Wars. Of course little boys want to run around, but when the doctors’ orders are simply to rest, this was the best way to go about it, because I could, and did, lay there for hours watching and re-watching the original trilogy. I was a kid who needed an escape, and I couldn’t dream of a better one.

My love of the franchise only grew. Now, as an (arguable) adult, a room in my house is dedicated to Star Wars art, I’m a proud member of the 501st Legion’s Golden Gate Garrison, I have a growing number of Star Wars tattoos, and I’ve been featured in both Star Wars Insider and on starwars.com. So it was when a longtime friend and fellow fanboy asked if I wanted to volunteer at a place called Rancho Obi-Wan for its grand opening, I had to say yes. After all, he told me that it was the world’s largest privately-owned Star Wars collection. That was five years ago, and even now, after having returned so many times, I’m still swept away by the same awe I experienced the first time I beheld the wonderland that is Rancho Obi-Wan. For a Star Wars fan, it is a place beyond words.

I’ve loved reading since I can remember. As that love grew, so too did my desire to write. I now have several comic book projects in the works, I’ve helped start a writer’s group at Brian’s Comics in downtown Petaluma, and write comic book reviews for whysoblu.com. I’ll be working closely with Rancho Obi-Wan in an effort to maintain the blog and social media outlets with the help of Steve Sansweet, Anne Neumann, and Consetta Parker. The museum, of course, houses memorabilia, but as important it’s the home of stories, passion, and inspiration. It’s a one-of-a-kind place that needs to be shared with the world, and I am excited to do just that.

Star Wars represents so much to so many. It’s more than the merchandise, it’s more than the community, and it’s more than the film franchise itself–although it is very much all of those things as well. Star Wars is inspiring, and it’s expansive beyond belief. People from all walks of life with all types of ambitions can find a home under the Star Wars umbrella, and Rancho Obi-Wan captures that massive potential. Within its hallowed halls one can find so much history, so much love, and so much creativity. It was being in a place like that that drove me to volunteer time and again, and that continues to drive me every day to create and to contribute.

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You Can Read This Blog with Me; Move Along When You Hear R2-D2 Beep!

By Jamie Greene

Maybe I can listen along with R2-D2
Maybe I can listen along with R2-D2

This is my Star Wars blog. You can read along with me in your book. You’ll know it is time to turn the page when you hear R2-D2 beep like this.

Let’s begin now.

For anyone who had Read-Along Book and Records in the 1970s and 1980s, these words should be familiar. Distributed by Buena Vista Records (Disneyland Records), the titles ran the gamut from traditional children’s stories to Disney animation to some of the best geek films of the 1980s. They were an indelible part of my childhood, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

Surprisingly, some of them survived the years and became integral to my daughter’s life as well.

Zoey is 5. Since she was old enough to understand the stories presented to her, my daughter has been weaned on a diet of various geek pleasures: comics, Studio Ghibli films, cheesy 1980s animation, and of course Star Wars.

Despite having not seen the movies (bear with me), she’s a huge Star Wars fan. She can narrate the entire original trilogy, beat for beat. She’s dueled Darth Vader with lightsabers. She’s reading (and loving) the original Marvel comics run. Like many kids, she has a few picture book versions of the original trilogy, but what really fanned the flame of her imagination was rather unlikely.

Zoey and her Read-Along books
Zoey and her Read-Along books

At 3, she became obsessed with the Read-Along Adventures stories that I had ripped from my original, childhood vinyl copies. The stories played on infinite loop whenever we were in the car, and chief among her favorites was—are you ready?—Droid World. She might be the only kid in the world who equally equates Kligson and Han Solo with Star Wars!

Thankfully, her fascination didn’t end with Droid World: Star Wars, Empire, Jedi, Ewoks Join the Fight, Colors and Shapes…even Ewok Adventure and Planet of the Hoojibs. She adored them all.

It’s easy to write off these stories as cheesy imitations of the originals. The acting might not be the best; the stories might not be prize-worthy. But they were Zoey’s entry point into the Star Wars universe and genre fandom in general. They therefore have a special place of honor in our house.

Even though she had access to forms of media that provide more “instant gratification,” such as iPad apps and Netflix (both within limits), she kept returning to this somewhat old-school form of storytelling. It sparked her imagination in a way I never could have predicted.

What's a record, Dad?
What’s a record, Dad?

I call it “old-school” and have often likened it to radio, but listening to these stories is really not much different from listening to an audiobook. And listening to stories read aloud has repeatedly been shown to strengthen creativity and support literacy in kids. Zoey has since become a huge fan of audiobooks in general and listens to them constantly. But no other story she’s listened to has stoked a fandom quite like Star Wars.

So, what is it about the Star Wars universe that endures? What is it that compels people to become such rabid fans? Beyond the obvious marketing juggernaut, why does this story continue to inspire a third generation of fans? I know that this is not a new question (nor one I have a solid answer for).

Our oldest myths and legends survived the millennia thanks to their ability to undergo continuous oral storytelling. They were relatively simple stories that conveyed timeless truths. They described the human experience in a way everyone could understand. So does Star Wars.

When you consider that George Lucas was inspired by some of these same timeless folktales, it should come as no surprise that the mythos of Star Wars could succeed on its own as a vital piece of the oral tradition.

I’m a little nervous to sit down and watch the movies with Zoey. Star Wars is firmly ingrained within her, but I’m reluctant to overrule the story she’s built up in her imagination with the concrete and “definitive” images, faces, and representations from the films.

In their own way, the Read-Aloud Adventures strip away not only the special effects but also the entire visual component of the films. When you listen to a story told aloud, your imagination is free to run wild. And if you’re like Zoey, who’s never even seen that source material? If you have no visual frame of reference at all? It’s pure magic. We should all be so fortunate.


Jamie Greene is a professional editor, educator, traveler, and GeekDad. He primarily works in educational publishing, developing textbooks and teacher resources. He also runs The Roarbots website, which focuses on awesome geeky stuff that happens to be kid-friendly. It’s also where he’s blogging a complete read-through of the entire 107-issue Marvel Star Wars run with his 5-year-old daughter. With two little ones and a vast Star Wars collection at home, he’s done the unthinkable: allowed them full access to most of his treasure from the past 30 years, opening and playing with whatever they want (pre-1983 items excluded). Jamie lives just outside Washington, DC, with his wife and aforementioned ragamuffins.

Treasures from the Cantina: Collecting Scum & Villainy!

By Gus Lopez
Bith
The Mos Eisley Cantina was one of George Lucas’ most ground-breaking visions in the 1977 release of Star Wars. This seedy bar of outlaws was a nod to the saloon scenes from Westerns, but populated with a wide range of alien species to set it in a galaxy far, far away. The cantina scenes were originally shot at Elstree Studios outside of London, but Lucas was dissatisfied with the original shoot and the limited range of characters, so the cantina was reshot in Los Angeles in early 1977; footage from both shoots was seamlessly combined in the version we see onscreen.

Many of the masks used in the cantina came from other productions, and creature makers Stuart Freeborn’s and Rick Baker’s teams added many aliens to the mix. Because of the extreme time pressure to complete the cantina scenes, many of the alien masks were one-of-a-kind and incredibly detailed, requiring many days of work to build from scratch, yet dropping the standard production practice of creating backup masks.

Snakehead

Surprisingly, quite of few of the original cantina masks still exist today and have made it into the hands of collectors. Most are in great condition despite being made of materials (like foam and latex) that decompose with age. But the one-of-a-kind nature of the cantina shoot makes collecting original cantina pieces exceptionally difficult.

Famed animator Phil Tippett was hired to help create the Star Wars cantina creatures on a rushed schedule. Several years ago, Tippett sold a few of his cantina pieces at a Profiles in History auction. My favorite piece from the Tippett collection is the Dice Ibegon (or Snake Head) puppet. The Snake Head character was actually not a mask but a large hand puppet. As a puppet, it could achieve the desired scale relative to other characters and have goo oozing from its mouth through tubes.

Yamnose

One of other cantina pieces kept by Tippett was the M’iiyoom Onith mask (also known as Nightlily or Yam Nose). Her character is seated next to Feltipern Trevagg (Gotal) at the same table. The Yam Nose mask has many details such as pimples and round disks on the surface, green eyes, horns, hair along the surface of the mask, and a long nose used to sip drinks. Although I was disappointed to miss out on the Dice Ibegon and M’iiyoom Onith screen-used pieces at auction, I was able to purchase them from a fellow collector years later. That serves as a great reminder of the important role that friends play in helping out fellow collectors.

Skullhead

Seated on the other side of the table next to Feltipern Trevagg is Elis Helrot (aka Skull Head). Helrot was another Rick Baker mask for the Los Angeles reshoot based on a Ralph McQuarrie’s design for the species. Star Wars fans touring Rancho Obi-Wan can see Steve’s Elis Helrot mask on display in one of the cases near the front of the museum.

Duros

Rancho Obi-Wan also has another production-made cantina mask on display, one of the Duros aliens. A pair of Duros characters are seen chatting away at the cantina at another table. The Duros species appears in other Star Wars stories such as the bounty hunter Cad Bane from the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Greedo Hand

Other cantina pieces to surface include alien hands such as this Rodian hand which was made of a simple rubber glove with elongated fingers and suction cups at the end. This simple design served its purpose in close-up shots of Greedo reaching for his blaster. For the Star Wars prequels, Rodian characters had much more elaborate detail in their prop hands. Another cantina character with a prominent hand is Kabe, the short rat-like creature seen reaching for a drink at the bar. The piece shown here is Kabe’s left hand with fingernails and lots of hair. These examples are just small selection of the masks and props from the Star Wars cantina that are now sitting in private collections, preserved by collectors who showcase these timeless pieces.


Gus Lopez, a preeminent Star Wars collector, created The Star Wars Collectors Archive in 1994, the first Star Wars collecting site on the Internet and a virtual museum of the rarest and most unusual Star Wars collectibles. Gus is a frequent speaker at conventions and has led the collecting track for every Star Wars Celebration convention. He has co-authored four books: Gus and Duncan’s Comprehensive Guide to Star Wars Collectibles, Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Prototypes, Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Cast & Crew Items, and Star Wars: Year by Year.

I Lost My Chewie

By Stephane Faucourt

IMG_0357

I was 5 years old in 1977, a bit too young (especially at that time) to see Star Wars in theaters – but like many 5-year-old boys, I was instantly hooked. When the toys hit the market I became the luckiest kid on earth when my parents bought me the complete set of 12 four-inch-tall action figures at the nearby superstore. Among these original figures, Chewbacca was my favorite – not because I had a preference for his role in the movie, but for the toy itself.

The Chewbacca action figure was quite different. He was taller than the other figures, very well detailed, had a neat weapon, and had the cool name “Chiktabba” or “Chiquetaba” (literally “Chew Tobacco” in French). At some point during 1980, my Chewie must have fallen out of the bag I kept my figures in, because I couldn’t find him anywhere. I was so disappointed that when my uncle asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I told him the only thing I wanted was Chewbacca – yes, just a single small action figure for my birthday.

When that day finally came my uncle brought me a large wrapped package which I knew right away was too big for an action figure. I was quite confused when I tore the gift paper off and found a 12-inch scale Chewbacca action figure doll. It wasn’t what I had asked for, but my uncle had found this Chewbacca, a much better gift than a tiny action figure! Although I never really played with it, I’ve grown quite fond of this large Chewie, which has remained in my collection ever since.

Oh, and I did manage to get a replacement small Chewie action figure, too.

IMG_0368

Even though I’ve been collecting for nearly two decades and don’t consider myself a “Chewbacca focus collector,” this action figure always meant something special. Each time I had to make a choice when buying a particular figure in its original packaging, I always picked Chewbacca when possible. As a result, I’ve been able to assemble various Chewbacca action figures over the years, representing different lines sold in various countries. It’s a great character which was available in many different packaging styles, with some challenging variants too.

“I chose Chewbacca when I was asked to sponsor a pewter medallion for Celebration Europe in 2007, where I also printed up reproductions of French Chewbacca packaging samples and a rare French diorama.”
“I chose Chewbacca when I was asked to sponsor a pewter medallion for Celebration Europe in 2007, where I also printed up reproductions of French Chewbacca packaging samples and a rare French diorama.”

Stephane Faucourt grew up in France in the 1970s and was part of the first generation of Star Wars fans. In the mid-1990s, he started to collect vintage Star Wars related toys and other merchandise that was marketed in France and across Europe between 1978 and 1986. In 2006, he wrote and published his first book, From Meccano to Trilogo, about the action figure toys released in France from 1978 to 1986. This was followed by La French Touch in 2013, which showcases Star Wars press coverage, merchandising and advertising from France during the original trilogy era.