Tagged: Star Wars

Tweeks Guide to Star Wars Bluffing

We won’t judge. It’s perfectly okay if the whole Star Wars fandom passed you by. We can’t all be into everything. Choices sometimes need to be made. Maybe you’ll come to it eventually, maybe it will be because of The Force Awakens, but until that time, you may feel really uncomfortable trying to follow everyone’s conversations.  So, this week, we are providing a service to those who need to bluff or  their way through conversations about the last six movies. We go through the major story arcs of six movies in 10 minutes stopping only for geeky nerd facts & a clip of Benedict Cumberbatch doing a Jar Jar Binks impression.  We know geek peer pressure can be hard, May the Force Be With You!


Dennis O’Neil: “Star Wars. Nothing But Star Wars…”


Yo, fellow geeks! Are we holding our breaths? Can we squirm with anticipation for another day or two? Because, as you well know, this is the week. The latest Star Wars flick is about to open and hey! I thought the fuss surrounding the release of the last Batman movie was a big honking deal, but that, compared to the Star Wars fuss, was a third grade talent show.

At what point will we see it (and be assured that, despite our extreme maturity, we will see it because under our wrinkles live, well, geeks.) Will we be waiting at the 21-plex when its cute little machines and pleasant humans begin ticket-selling on Friday morning? Or will we exercise a little self-restraint and avoid the mall for another little while until the dust settles and maybe there’s a few more parking spaces? (But who am I kidding? It’s the holiday season and there will never be enough parking spaces, at least not until January. Then maybe.)

Television commercials and magazine covers and news stories…

Yep, big honking deal, all right and a stark contrast to the release of the first Star Wars entertainment, way back in 1977. I saw that almost be accident. I was doing something or other in Los Angeles when I encountered David Gerrold, science fiction writer and editor who had, bless him, published an early sf story of mine in an anthology. David was going to a movie screening and had an extra ticket and was I interested and… why not? I knew virtually nothing about the movie but David was pleasant company and the screening was in a theater owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the Oscar awarders – which made it the toniest theater I’d ever visited. I was going to pass that up? Nope.

What followed was a great afternoon in the dark.

And Star Wars quickly became a hit (and helped spawn an interest in mythology) and, along with its sequels, has been in our heads ever since. All to the good? Shrug. I’m a pop culture guy – read: geek – and you’re not about to catch me knocking the stuff that’s given me so many good moments and, not incidentally, kept me warm and nourished for about a half century.

But I look at the news media and behold the shabby state of the world and wonder if, as a civilization, we aren’t paying too much attention to our amusements and not enough to matters that make us squirm, not with anticipation, but with dread. Global warming. Terrorism. Mass shootings. Mutating microorganisms. Racism. Education. You know. To find relief from the planet’s woes we engross ourselves in all things pop culture, and let’s include athletics and gossip in that category, and we neglect what’s genuinely important and when the world worsens from the neglect, we again run from the fear the neglect causes by seeking refuge in the trivia that, arguably, has been contributing to the worsening. Round and round and round…

But, you know? Maybe if we get to the mall early, before school lets out, we might find a parking space…

(The editor would like to thank Nick “Winters” for inspiring today’s headline. His Christmas special presently airs on Netflix.)

Mindy Newell: May The Force Be With Us


Hans Solo: C’mon, baby, don’t let me down. • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Five days and counting down.

Unless you live in France, where all new movies must open on Wednesdays. Or unless you live in the United Kingdom, where it premieres on Thursday, December 17. Or unless you live in Bayonne, NJ, where my local theater, Franks Cinema, is starting showings also on Thursday at 7 P.M. Which is weird because I haven’t seen anything, either on television or on the web, about the U.S. release date being moved up by one day.

Not that I’m complaining.

Of course I’m talking about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams’ newest baby, which he “adopted” from George Lucas when Disney bought Lucasfilm. To tell you the truth, I’m very nervous about the film, the saga having been tainted by the prequel trilogyalthough Return of the Sith was somewhat saved by the final light saber duel between Obi-Wan and Annakin. Still, Lawrence Kasdan is part of the writing team, and he is responsible, along with the late Leigh Brackett, for what I consider the best of the Star Wars saga, The Empire Strikes Back.

Aside: Once upon a time I sent Marvel editor Louise Simonson a story treatment for What If? – it was an alternate version of Empire’s ending, in which the twist was that Darth Vader got to Luke, hanging on that weather vane or radar apparatus or whatever it was, before the Millennium Falcon. She called me and told me that she loved it, but since Marvel’s Star Wars was a licensed property, I couldn’t do anything that reworked the canon. That was my first experience dealing with licensed properties. And by the way, I think it is a major sin that ComicMix’s own John Ostrander and his work on Star Wars for Dark Horse, who inherited the license from Marvel, was cut out of the “new, official” history.

Anyway, like many of us I have been bemused by what it seems to me to be an overdosed marketing campaign launched by Disney, although in an online story dated December 8 by Robert Hackett for Fortune magazine, he quotes Disney CEO Bob Eiger calling the publicity machine “extremely deliberate” and “carefully constructed” and specifically saying “We are managing this with great care.” The article goes on to say that Disney has spent only $17 million on public relations, against the usual $50 million that movie studios typically spend on “blockbuster” movies.

Of course that $17 million doesn’t count the seven marketing partners that are flooding the airwaves, including Fiat Chrysler. To be honest, I do find some of these ads very clever and amusing. I just saw an ad for Dodge, which the company titled “The Force Gathers.” With “The Imperial March” ominously playing, a black Dodge Viper – a stand-in for Darth Vader – leads an army of white Dodge Chargers, Challengers, and Durangos, i.e., “Stormtroopers,” down a major metropolitan street, passing scared pedestrians and heading towards two very nervous parking valets standing in front of a theatre playing The Force Awakens. The fun twist is the homage to another major film that changed movies forever, as one valet paraphrases to the other, “We’re gonna need more valets.”

Still, part of me is sad and misses those halcyon days when a sci-fi fantasy space opera made on the cheap exploded onto the world through simple word-of-mouth. Those days, I think, are pretty much gone forever.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens carries a huge monkey on its back.

I really hope it doesn’t let us down.

Thanks and a tip of the Dark Helmut to Nerdist.com for the awesome hunk of art atop this column.

John Ostrander: Idle Speculation in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

star_wars_wallpaper_4I can tell by the saturation of TV trailers that Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens is opening real, real soon in a theater near, near to you.

Of course I’m going to see it, probably around March when seats will become available. Pre-sales have been incredible. And I’ve been trying to avoid spoilers. Originally, I read the Star Wars novelization before the first movie (a.k.a. Episode IV) so I knew the plot twists and turns. I was determined to be spoiler-free for Empire Strikes Back but, at a Chicago Minicon I attended, a ten-year old boy came up while I was talking with Larry Charet, the event co-organizer, and asked him, “Do you know if the Star Wars comic adaptation is like the movie?” (The adaptation had come out ahead of the movie.) Larry didn’t know so the kid continued, “Because in the comic it says the Darth Vader is Luke’s father.”


Well, I didn’t kill the kid. (And no, you didn’t get a Spoiler Alert from me. If you don’t know that little item from the movie after all this time, you didn’t care anyway.) And J.J. Abrams and the folks at Disney are being very parsimonious with information other than what they want us to know.

Not knowing anything hasn’t kept fans from idle speculation, When has it ever? So I’m going to do a little idle speculation of my own. I don’t know anything more than any of you do but, since I wrote Star Wars comics for ten years, some people may think that I have an inside track on all this. I don’t. Anyway, here’s my big theory:

Han Solo is going to die in The Force Awakens.

I’m not the first person to speculate this. It’s been back and forth over the web but I have some reasons.

  • Harrison Ford is getting up there in years. He’s 73 right now. A really good looking 73, I’ll grant you. I wish I looked even half as good as he does. Star Wars Episode VIII isn’t due to come out until 2017 and it has just barely started filming. Episode IX won’t be out until 2019. Ford is getting ooooold, folks.
  • Ol’ Harrison is a tad bit reckless, my fellow fans. He crashed a plane recently. He walked away but he could’ve just as easily been killed. So maybe the Powers-That-Be (aka Disney) don’t want to take that chance.
  • Maybe the way they lured Ford back to the role (outside of a big paycheck) is to promise to do what Ford wanted them to do back in Episode III – kill off his character.
  • Star Wars consistently kills off characters. Death is a prominent feature in the films. Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Maul, Darth Sidious, Amidalalala, almost the whole freaking Jedi Order, Luke’s aunt and uncle, Obi-Wan Kenobi, everyone on the Death Star (both 1 and 2), Yoda, Emperor Palaptine, Anakin/Darth Vader – the list goes on and on. Han’s death would have a shock and a strong emotional impact for even the casual fan. If whoever kills him escapes, it provides a strong plot element for the next two films. The fans will want to see the killer brought to justice. Guaranteed continued high attendance.
  • It’s not like we’ll totally lose Han. A Young Han Solo film is scheduled for 2018. If it’s young Han Solo then it’s a guarantee that Harrison Ford won’t be playing him. He’s oooooold.

I’m standing by this one for now. Han Solo is going to take the dirt nap. If he doesn’t? Hey – that’s fine by me too. Just remember you heard it here first. Or second. Or forty-fifth. Let’s think of this as an experiment – will I become an anonymous source? Will anyone quote me? That would be a giggle.

Han Solo is going to die. For sure.

Unless he doesn’t.

Oh, and I forgot. Spoiler alert.

Marc Alan Fishman: To Love and Loathe Loot Crate

Doc Brown FuncoHello. My name is Marc Alan Fishman, and I am … a collector. I’ve attempted many times to stop. I thought getting married, having a mortgage, and a kid would get in the way. It didn’t. I even have another kid on the way, and yet, I can’t shake off my problem. Shiny toys, gadgets, and brick-a-brak litter my life like dumbass xenophobic one liners litter Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. I’d heard once that the first step to overcoming a bad habit was to admit you had a problem. Well, I’ll be honest: I don’t actually have a problem collecting stuff. But I do have a budding problem with the crate culture that’s being cultivated out and about in this age of the Interwebs.

For those still living in a cave, let me bring you up to speed. The Internet is a large interconnected web of sites that offer news, information, and yes, means to buy and sell objects and services of interest. Taking a page out of the subscription services of yore, Loot Crate, Nerd Block, and umpteen other startups have opened their digital doors in order to pair nerds with extra cash with stashes of objects of unknown origin. Or to be a little less cryptic, a combination of overstocked items, and cheaply-produced trinkets by manufacturers looking for quick turnaround.

I freely, and sadly, admit to succumbing to peer pressure when I bit the bullet two months ago. Loot Crate must have paid a fine fortune to market themselves in my Facebook feed several times a day. And there, in all his Doctorly glory, stood a static Peter Capaldi telling me that the month’s crate was Time themed. He beckoned to me in his notorious brogue. “C’mon, ya wee bugger. Why not see what you’ll get? Ye only need to part with a little of that wasted PayPal money you’ve got stashed away fer’ a rainy day. Certainly if they’re showing me pretty face here, I’ll be waiting fer’ you in the box!” And then they sealed the deal with a First Timers discount. Three dollars off bought my love, damnit.

When the crate arrived, I was elated. Loot Crate promised it’d be like Christmas morning. Being Jewish, I didn’t know exactly how that would feel, but my goyim friends always made it sound like a big deal. So, I cracked open the “crate,” which was a cardboard box. I got a limited edition fifth-scale authentic replica of the Back to the Future II Hoverboard, a Doc Brown Funco Pop™ toy, a Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure tee shirt, and a Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver spork. Oh… and a collectible button.

Is Christmas morning supposed to feel empty and hollow? Where I was shown promotional images that hinted at an item celebrating my favorite Doctor, I was gifted a plastic eating utensil – erected in the form of the previous Doctor’s iteration of the aforementioned Screwdriver. The shirt was nice. The Pop was cute. The Hoverboard was authentically replicated, and boxed in a nifty reflective package.

Had anyone in my life gifted these items to me otherwise, I’d be pleased as punch to have received them. Yet, upon unboxing, I felt no twinge of glee. Perhaps I simply was being too dismissive. I should wait another month, and see what new and lovely trinkets would arrive on my doorstep. What good is that twenty bucks doing in that Paypal account, anyways!?

And then Combat showed up on my doorstep. Inside? A pair of sunglasses with a bolted-on 2-D Shredder helmet from the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, a Vault Boy bobblehead from Fallout 4, a tiny plastic SD Blizzard villain figure, and a Loot Crate Exclusive Street Fighter II comic book. Again, I’d hoped for that unwieldy sense of joy at the box of goodies before me. Instead, I felt the pangs I often feel when I peruse the show floor at comic con.

I often find myself reflecting “All of these tchotchkes are cute, but really, do I need them?” And the answer has always been an abrupt No. While I admitted earlier to being a collector, that term comes with the weight of individualism behind it. As much as I’m a nerd-of-the-world – well-versed in the minutiae of Blizzard video games and Back to the Future – I’m also a finicky little fuck. Pardon my French.

The appeal of a random box of appropriately nerdy wares is certainly there. It’s the brown-paper bag stapled shut at the comic shop. It could contain an issue of The Atom that’s the bee’s knees! Of course it could contain Voodoo #1 from the New52 as well. The chance for something cool often sparks us to roll the dice. Loot Crate and their kin bank on this feeling. They hedge their bets by appealing to our shared culture of collectability – that even if we don’t personally love the items in the box, someone will, and will pay more for the item than we did. Suddenly Loot Crate is a micro-transaction investment! But nay, I say, my dear nerds.

Loot Crate is, at best, a great way to cultivate a collection of crap for someone who wants to be hip to nerd culture. For the well-versed dorks like myself, it’s the crib-note version of Crisis on Infinite Earths instead of the Absolute iteration. Good on the surface, but not much else.

Could I spend twenty bucks better? Probably. Will I? Maybe after next month’s box. While I’d love to cancel my subscription knowing full well two months has brought me little in the way of childish joy… the crate for December has a Star Wars collectible in it, and my wife called dibs.

No one ever said I wasn’t a hypocrite.

Interview: Gary Gerani & Robert V. Conte on Star Wars Cards

Cover On November 17th (the 37th anniversary of Life Day) Abrams ComicArts released Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One, the first in a series of books reprinting all of the Topps trading cards for your perusal. We sat down and talked with the authors, Gary Gerani and Robert V. Conte, over their love of collecting, the historical value of preserving memorabilia, and where they think Star Wars will head in the future.

ComicMix: How was your experience working with Topps and Abrams ComicArts on this book?

Gary Gerani: Fine. The editors at Abrams were terrific. Most of the people connected with the project were fans, people who wanted this book as much as buyers did.

Robert V. Conte: Abrams didn’t have much of the content needed for this first volume. Surprisingly, neither did Topps. Fortunately, I have a massive STAR WARS collection including the trading cards and related promotional materials. We struck a deal and here we are!

CM: Gary, what inspired you to seek employment at Topps back in the 1970s?

GG: I was embarking on a career as a freelance writer, so I took any jobs that were available and seemed interesting. Being a Brooklyn kid, I grew up with Topps products, and knew the company was located in nearby Bush Terminal. It was Len (MARS ATTACKS) Brown of Topps that invited me into the fold. It turned out to be a lifelong professional relationship, great for both sides… I get my pension in a couple of years!

RConte face on card BCM: What inspired your love for Topps trading cards?

RVC: From childhood, I’ve collected trading cards, comic books and records. Topps was mostly known for baseball, football and other sports cards. Fortunately, the company offered a variety of non-sport subjects including KING KONG, JAWS 2, SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE and others that I just loved. Hence, I couldn’t resist the chance to be involved with this project!

CM: Did you collect the cards when they were first released?

RVC: Absolutely! I had seen STAR WARS in Summer of 1977 shortly before starting second grade. Several kids at my school traded their doubles of the first (blue border) and second (yellow border) series of cards. One kid was the only girl in the bunch, so I developed an immense crush and started buying the cards to impress her. It didn’t work!

CM: What is your favorite card or sticker in each of the five series and why?

GG: Don’t know if I really have favorites, to be honest. Certainly the infamous Threepio card (Series 4, Card #207) has nostalgia value for me…

*NOTE* The first printing of this card shows an unsuitable “appendage” below C-3PO’s torso that, once discovered, was removed and the entire series was reprinted. The revised card is actually more scarce than the original!

RVC: For me, my absolute favorite image is Series 1, Sticker #7 — “Lord Darth Vader.” It was the first one when I intentionally collected multiple copies of to place them anywhere including my schoolbooks!

CM: So who made the decision to color Chewbacca’s eyes blue on the first series of stickers?

GGerani face on cardGG: That would be the late, great Topps Art Director, Ben Solomon. He loved doing stuff like that, despite our protests.

CM: Did you like the bubble gum in the packs?

GG: Sure. I grew up chomping on those frequently stale slabs of pink.

RVC: I loathed Topps gum because it was too thin and dry. Donruss offered softer, thicker and yummier gum with its trading cards. Sorry, Topps!

CM: What sales figures were considered “excellent” back in 1977?

GG: I forget how many cases constituted a hit. STAR WARS went through the roof instantly, I can tell you that.

CM: To your knowledge, did other non-sport cards outsell STAR WARS?

GG: Amusingly, the only other movie/TV property that came close during this era was CHARLIE’S ANGELS. We did five series, just as we did five series of the original STAR WARS in ’77/’78.

RVC: I am completely shocked to learn this. Never underestimate the power of beautiful women!

CM: After sales of STAR WARS trading cards skyrocketed, did Topps create other card sets in the same genre to meet or exceed those sales figures?

GG: The success of STAR WARS did ignite a number of sci-fi properties, such as STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. You can add SUPERMAN, THE BLACK HOLE, and ALIEN to that list. In many cases, we didn’t expect these films to outsell STAR WARS, which was king of the hill. E.T. did amazingly well for us, as I recall. But we had problems getting material for additional series, so there’s only the one.

RVC: Funny, I remember vividly coming home with a few packs of ALIEN cards in 1979. My mother couldn’t believe that a “bubble-gum card company” would market an “R”-rated film to children. They went into the garbage before I had a chance to eat the gum!

CM: Why do you think trading cards cross into many different fandoms (for example, geek fans and sports fans)?

RVC: Trading cards were once the ultimate platform for photo sharing. Before the digital age, they were the most inexpensive way to amass dozens of images that were not published anywhere else. For collectors, seeking a set of tangible photos with behind-the-scenes text and story remains appealing as ever.

GG: To some degree that’s true. A card set really is like owning a collection of mini- photographs.

CM: In 1977, Wonder Bread released its trading cards independently, via grocery stores and supermarkets, to millions of American homes. Did those cards impact sales of the Topps cards?

GG: Made very little difference, really. No envy factor here. One product seemed to help another back then.

RVC: From a then-child’s point of view, the Wonder Bread cards were basically a preview set for the upcoming Topps cards. Fortunately, I successfully persuaded the publisher to reprint them inside the book. Collecting those 16 images had fans hunger for more… and the five series of Topps’s STAR WARS cards fed that demand.

CM: If either of you wrote the STAR WARS cards for the first time today, what would you change?

GG: I’d get rid of the puzzle backs and add more text.

RVC: As a devout fan, I would hope for more varied images; some pics in the five series were too similar and I recall being slightly disappointed.

CM: What is the most exciting thing about this book?

RVC: For me, it’s the opportunity to share with my family and friends a book that was mostly compiled from cards, wrappers, boxes, and promotional materials that I amassed between seven and nine-years-old. I’m approaching 50 now so it’s completely surreal!

GG: There’s always a place for pocket-size Americana. Entertainment cards are still widely categorized as “non-sports cards,” since the classic baseball card is what people think of first. It’s just a fun format, something we fondly associate with our childhood.

CM: Gary, you have been involved in many STAR WARS Topps projects. What has been your favorite part of working with Topps?

GG: The ability to create wonderful products, and the opportunity to art direct some of the greatest illustrators of our time.

CM: Of the card sets you wrote for Topps, which were your favorites?

GG: I’d say the STAR WARS WIDEVISION sets and the first few STAR WARS GALAXY. I created and named the Widevision format, and Greg Goldstein (now president of IDW) was key in nailing the technical process we used to digitally select the wide frames directly from film prints. That interesting process happened at the Telecine Research Center, right near Universal Studios in Los Angeles, CA.

CM: Do you still write card sets for Topps?

GG: Even as we speak I’m finishing up a set based on the new WARCRAFT movie, along with a new STAR WARS EVOLUTION series. THE FORCE AWAKENS is obviously due for a card set treatment, and I’m on standby for a trip to San Francisco for material gathering. Companies with a license for the new film have been forced to be very, very patient.

CM: Who has Augie Napoli’s original art used on the boxes and promotional material?

GG: Augie’s family. It’s hanging in their living room, on Staten Island.

CM: How do you share your geeky enthusiasm for pop culture with your kids/friends/family?GG: They see it when they just look around at my surroundings! I collect original art, movie posters, the works. Always have and always will.

RVC: My children think I am the ultimate hoarder of everything. If they ask me about anything related to Pop Culture, I usually have the answer. Impressive to some. Scary for others!

CM: As professional creators, you both have been lucky enough to be involved with multiple pop-culture franchises. Which current franchise, if any, is your dream job today?

GG: I’ll think we’ve been talking about it. Nothing beats STAR WARS. I’m a huge fan of classic horror movies, so doing sets like UNIVERSAL MONSTERS ILLUSTRATED was a genuine treat.

RVC: I’ve had opportunity to contribute to the legacies of some of the most iconic intellectual properties on the planet. GODZILLA, JAMES BOND 007, KISS, and SESAME STREET included. At this point, BATMAN, SPIDER-MAN and MICKEY MOUSE are on my shortlist. Fingers crossed!

CM: What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment in the pop culture world to date?GG: In 1977 I wrote FANTASTIC TELEVISION, the first book to deal with sci-fi, horror, and fantasy on the small screen. It was very well received. Later, in 1988, I co-wrote the screenplay to Stan Winston’s supernatural thriller PUMPKINHEAD, which has become a cult movie admired by people like Stephen King and Anne Rice… not to mention Woody Allen. And, for what it’s worth, I guess I’m still the Card King, having written, edited and art directed more trading card sets than anyone else. Hundreds of ’em!

RVC: Most of my fans come from the heavy-metal music community. During KISS’s 1996-97 reunion tour, I helped remaster and repackage over twenty albums by restoring the original elements, track listings, cover art, etc. I also consulted on two compilation albums and designed merchandise including lunch boxes, books and — you guessed it — trading cards! Most of my contributions are still in-print and, seeing my name in over a dozen languages worldwide today, is overwhelming. Sharing that with my kids is the greatest gift ever.

CM: What are your current projects?

GG: I’ve got six books coming out next year (three of them Abrams SW related), and a John Travolta racing car movie I co-wrote will be shooting in 2016 as well, right after he finishes GOTTI. I’m also doing a documentary about Steven Spielberg’s original TV composer Billy Goldenberg (DUEL, among others), not to mention various card sets for Topps. So yeah, I keep myself busy.

RVC: I’ve contributed my collection for the next three volumes of STAR WARS: THE ORIGINAL TOPPS TRADING CARD SERIES including THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, RETURN OF THE JEDI and STAR WARS GALAXY. I’m also writing a graphic novel — a memoir influenced on my life. I’m scheduled to co-author another book focused on arguably once of the most revolutionary forms of entertainment in history. I consult for companies that specialize in classic intellectual properties. Throw in an upcoming crowdfunding project and I think that’s a good start for 2016.

Marc Alan Fishman: #DarkSideMatters

han solo star wars episode 7

By the time you read this, there will only be 46 days, 5 hours, 29 minutes, and 7 seconds until Star Wars: The Force, Black to the Future debuts. OK, I’m not even sure if that time calculation is right. I mean, who knows when you actually read my article, right? The point should not be missed though: the hype train is in full force for the next installment in Mickey Mouse’s epic empire. And boy howdy, could I give two poops less about it all.

Forgive me, Star Wars fans. The force is so very, very weak with me. My generation didn’t grow up with Star Wars, unless we had older brothers or sisters. Return of the Jedi debuted when I was two. And by the time I was old enough to even absorb any of the original trilogy, video rental was still only a rare occasion in my household, although Voltron was the singular entity that was a must. When Lucas re-released A New Hope and its brethren, I was deep within the heart of my own adolescence; so I eventually came to understand and appreciate the fandom. I won’t lie: I bought myself a lightsaber. I owned more than a few of the franchise video games, X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter being the crown jewel. I even spent a summer enjoying the collectible card game. But all of this was at an arm’s length.

When Phantom Menace debuted, I recall the insanity that swept the nation. Star Wars permeated every available licensing opportunity in every retail establishment as far as the eye could see. And then the movie actually came out. I remember the apologists extremely well. Sure, look past the overused CGI. Ignore the banal plot circling around trade negotiations. Pay no attention to Jar Jar Binks, Watoo, or any of the other obvious stereotypes that apparently caused no undue stress for the focus groups. But we all knew it. As good as the original movies were, the next generation of Star Wars felt hollow. When they made A New Hope, you could feel the … well… hope. By the time we’d reached Jedi, Star Wars was more machine than man. The prequels never had a chance.

Time heals all wounds … and J.J. Abrams heals all franchises. At least enough to please Disney and Lucas to pass the reigns over to him. And well they should. I happened to catch his Star Trek on basic cable the other night (I’d seen it in theater, but not since), and truly it held up. Not that any previous Trek movies were ever Star Wars in terms of mass appeal and profit, but the concept remains the same: Abrams is handed the keys to the castle, and is left to accentuate what we love, and maybe shine it up a little bit. But mark my words, we’ll be one misplaced lens flare away from instant satire.

But that isn’t why I’m ranting today.

Amidst the ramp up for The Force Awakens a few tidbits have permeated my news feed. Amongst them was the odd rise of a few bad apples calling to #BoycottStarWarsVII, via a Twitter campaign. Their argument: the new lead, John Boyega, is black. No, I couldn’t believe it either. I mean, sure, boycott Star Wars because Phantom really was that bad. Boycott it because the Hateful Eight will be coming out close to it and Tarantino has never steered us wrong.

To have a few trolls even insinuate that the placement of a black actor, or female in the lead of a major franchise was reason to save one’s shekels is laughable to me. So much so, that upon seeing it being mentioned on my news feed made me initially believe it to be the brainchild of a viral marketing campaign. Want to fight social injustice? See Star Wars. Tell me it’s not brilliant. But alas… there truly are still openly racist idiots throwing stones at an impenetrable fortress, in hopes of toppling a giant they can’t even comprehend. I’d like to think the franchise got it’s fill of minstrel tap dancing after Episode III ran final credits.

Far more disturbing to me than a few errant racists with Twitter accounts are the baby boomers with Facebook. I’ve seen more than a handful of reposts already calling for the “Spoiler Free” sharing of elation for one week after the film debuts. Because people aren’t capable of just avoiding Facebook until they see the movie. Or just as scary, the celebration of Star Wars Day at K-Mart (or Toys R Us, or Target, I think), wherein fans waited in line for hours for the opportunity to buy some toys. Or frightening me down to my core… the news that Fandango and AMC crashed like the Titanic over people preordering their tickets to opening night. That night well over a month and half away. I couldn’t even get a show time next week for Trumbo without consternation. Egads.

Look. I get it. Star Wars is to many of us, the literal gateway to our eventual geekdom. It’s what lay-people and nerdlingers can unite in mutual love for. The gentle hum of a lightsaber brings men to their knees, and boys to their feet. And to know that Han, Chewie, Luke, and Leia will once again be in our lives? Well the only thing that could make that better is if a soccer ball was a droid. Wait. It is?! Great googly-moogly, kiddos…

How can we just sit here and wait? Oh yeah! Patiently. At the end of the day, it’s only a movie. Even if it turns out to be as amazing as we’ll all hope (note: it won’t be, but it’ll be great), Episode VII will always miss the crucial ingredient that A New Hope had a long time ago. In a galaxy far away, The Force Awakens won’t have the magic of being something we haven’t seen before.


Dennis O’Neil: What Is Star Wars?

Heinlein_Waldo&MagicIncWe ended last week’s dissertation by asking if superhero stories are science fiction. You remember? Good. I cherish your acuity. And, acute citizen that you are, you have already broadened the question to include pulp stories and entertainments like the Star Wars franchise.

Let’s focus on that, for surely we are all familiar with it. The Star Wars saga has spaceships, ray guns, bizarre aliens and even a girl who is clad in a harem costume for no other reason, apparently, than that she’s awfully cute: all stuff that used to be staples of science fiction, especially the pulpy kind. But I don’t recall those words – science fiction – being used to describe anything Star Warsian. And the stories themselves contain no references to real world (universe) science or extrapolation from current reality. In fact, the storytellers go out of their way to deny any such connections: the first movie begins with the words “Long, long ago in a galaxy far away…” In other words, dear moviegoer, you can hunker back in your seat and forget about measuring what’s happening on the screen against what’s possible. Dammit, just enjoy!

But here a conundrum puts us in mud. If something looks like science fiction and acts like science fiction, don’t those qualities, in fact, make it science fiction? You’re asking me? (Perhaps I should have tried harder not to doze during those eight a.m. philosophy classes, though I don’t know if Thomas Aquinas’s metaphysics would contribute much to our discourse.) As noted above, a conundrum, and one with no ready solution.

We know that civilization would be well-nigh impossible without classification, codification, grouping the chores that absorbed Linneaus and Aristotle and their ilk. We have to know what things are and we have to have names for them if we want to talk about them, which we do. Let us unequivocally approve of calling things names and giving those names precise meanings. None of which tells us what Star Wars is.

I’m hardly the first to address this problem. A few decades ago, around 1940, well before Star Wars, someone coined the term “science fantasy” for Robert Heinlein’s novel Magic Inc. Maybe that’s as close as we can come, right now. As the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction tells us, “science fantasy” has never been clearly defined. So maybe we’re stuck with it.

But...bleech! Generally I feel kindly toward oxymorons and that’s what I believe this is, but something about it irritates me. It’s clunky, right? Can’t we do better by Star Wars? Find a new classification? Or… hmmmm maybe we’re in the process of evolving past our need to classify. And wouldn’t that be interesting, and significant, and just possibly scary?

Maybe they’ve already done it, those inhabitants of a long ago in a galaxy far away.

Ed Catto: Household Brand Shows Its Geek

Campbells AdCampbell’s Soup has a winner with their latest campaign: Made for Real, Real Life. In one TV spot, two dads and their son have fun with classic Star Wars dialog as the family dines together. You can watch it here. It’s heartfelt and authentic, and after all those horrible Progresso TV ads, I think we’re all ready for some good soup commercials.

Campbell’s has been getting some flack for showing a family with two dads. That’s troublesome, but they aren’t caving. Good for them. And beyond the same sex couple aspect, I’m also thrilled that Campbell’s is flying its Geek flag high.

I’m encouraged that we’re getting to the point where a family with two same-sex parents is just “a family.” And while it’s not quite as big a deal, it’s still encouraging to me when brands also understand that Geek Culture is everyday culture. So many brands know that now is a great time to authentically engage in a little Geek Culture fun with consumers.

Everyone knows Star Wars, and everyone knows Darth Vader. But does everyone know the signature lines from the movies? I know that Campbell’s couldn’t have used this approach to sell to soup to my mom back when the Star Wars franchise was starting. And we were eating a lot of soup back then too. But today, it makes all the sense in the world.

New Jersey Ad Club Ed SpeakingI was invited to be a speaker for the New Jersey Ad Club’s Wake Up Call Seminar Series. Each month, experts on different subjects share information that’s important for marketing professionals to know. And for my presentation, called Pop Culture Marketing to the Passionate Fan Community, the attendees were eager to learn more about Geek Culture.

They wanted to know about comic conventions and comic retail shops. They wanted to understand the standard marketing opportunities available for their brands and the innovative opportunities that can be created. They wanted to know more about what Kentucky Fried Chicken did at the San Diego Comic-Con, how Guinness connected with fans at the Harvey Awards and why TNT spends a part of their marketing budget in comic shops nationwide.

Recently I saw a comic shop email newsletter that boastfully joked, “We were geek before geek was cool!” That strikes a chord with a lot of what’s going on at conventions, in retail shops, and with brands’ promotional campaigns. And especially during this TV season, with a plethora of new shows based on comics and graphic novels (after a summer of movies based on comics and graphic novels). The marketing community is essentially saying, “Wait, wait, we need to understand this better. This is important to our consumers so it’s important to us.”

No one wants to be late to a party. Besides, it’s all so fun.  Like so many geeks, I’m often the go-to guy for new fans as they begin to engage. For example, one suburban neighbor texts me Batman questions during Fox’s Gotham TV Show, my wife enjoys iZombie as appointment viewing, and a third neighbor just asked for tips about attending New York Comic Con. Geek Culture is a vibrant thread in the fabric of everyday life.

John Ostrander’s Big Coming Attractions


Having written last week about the movies I saw this last summer and really enjoyed, I might as well this week talk about what’s coming up in the movie theaters between now and the end of the year. Which ones look interesting and which ones I’m really looking forward to.

The latter is the easiest to identify – Star Wars Episode VII, The Force Awakens – and the next entry in the James Bond saga, Spectre.

Star Wars is a gimme. I’ve been a Star Wars fans for a loooooong time and I labored in George Lucas’s vineyard for about ten years, doing a passel of comics. Yes, those are now in the process of being taken out of continuity but, OTOH, they were never A Canon, which meant Lucas could disregard them at any moment.

The Force Awakens is going to do what I really wanted after Episode VI came out – it’s going to tell me what happened next. When I really like a story, that’s always what I want – what happened next. GL decided to go back and do a prequel about how we got to the start of Star Wars. Okay, that’s what interested him but not me so much.

Oh, and he dicked around with the whole “Did Han shoot first?” question. It was never a question until Lucas dicked around with it: Han shot first. Why he needed to dick around with that, I don’t know. His first answer was the correct one. However, I’m wandering off topic.

How interested I will continue to be with the Star Wars franchise will depend on this next movie, but there is no question I’m going to see Episode VII.

The other big film in the fall season is the next James Bond movie, Spectre. I’ve become a big fan of Daniel Craig as Bond; in fact, I will go so far as to speak heresy and say he is now my favorite Bond. (I hereby apologize to my buddy, Kevin Hatch, but there it is.) The last Bond film, Skyfall, cemented that for me. The director on that, Sam Mendes, is back with Craig for Spectre which evokes the organization that was Bond’s usual Big Bad. This might be Craig’s last outing as Bond and, if so, will make it all bittersweet but also something I absolutely must see.

There are other films that have attracted my attention for one reason or another. None of them are anticipated with quite the same fervor for me of the Star Wars and the Bond entries but they have caught my eye. The ads for The Intern look interesting. Anne Hathaway with Robert De Niro as a widower/retiree who becomes her intern on her company. The two seem to play together well and it looks entertaining.

Black Mass looks as if Johnny Depp has remembered he can act instead of just messing around and that interests me. The Martian has Ridley Scott doing sci/fi again with Matt Damon as his lead. That’s a combination I find attractive. Likewise, Bridge Of Spies has Steven Spielberg directing Tom Hanks in a spy story. I could go for that.

Carol, with Todd Haynes directing Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mare, in a 1950s piece by Patricia Highsmith about a lesbian romance. Doesn’t sound like my usual cup of tea but the combination of story and artists makes it intriguing. I wish I could say I was chomping at the bit to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 but I haven’t seen Part 1 yet so it’s not high on my must-see list. Trumbo, on the other hand, is about the famed screenwriter blacklisted in the 50s for (allegedly) being a Communist sympathizer and that one I do want to see. There’s also a version of Frankenstein coming out with James McEvoy and Daniel Radcliffe that seems to be calling to me. Maybe. I want to see some reviews first.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are doing Sisters and the title and those two actresses are enough to catch my attention. Oliver Stone is directing Jason Gordon-Levitt in Snowden, the story of the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Could be interesting.

And that brings us to the end of the year and the dawn of 2016 and the film I really want to see next year is, of course, Suicide Squad. However, I’ll try not to get ahead of myself.

There may be other films that I discover as we go along. Some I won’t need to see on the big screen; some will work just as well on my TV. Some will be disappointments, some will be surprises. And your list may vary.

In the meantime, I’m popping the popcorn.