Star Wars: My Beginnings

Okay, if I'm gonna be blasting Star Wars and Star Wars culture, I should probably fess up to what my own Star Wars culture actually was. It's all rather murky, to tell you the truth, but I know that the first SW film I saw was The Empire Strikes Back. In the theater, with a parent more or less filling us in on what we'd missed, and translating some of the more complicated dialog. It was 1980, I would have been all of 9, and would have started learning English in school only the year before. A lot of its images stuck with me, and when I have a vivid memory of Empire, it really is from that first viewing.

I only ever owned one Star Wars toy, though I remember also admiring a friend's Y-Wing. It was Kenner's Droid Factory, which was on sale in '79-'80. Maybe THAT was my first actually Wars contact.
Looks like quite the playset, but it doesn't actually have all those action figures. The only name droid it does come from is R2-D2. See?
The R2 in this thing could be disassembled, and was all rubbery, as were most pieces (especially the droid limbs). You could make vehicle-like "droids", and robots you might imagine in auto plants, but aside from R2, nothing you'd recognize as a droid from the films, I don't think. I don't know what happened to it either. Was it lost, trashed or sold off like so many other toys? Or did I end up giving it or selling it to my friend in high school who had a near-complete collection of Star Wars figures? You'd think I'd have at least kept the R2. I know some of the rubber joints from the set were sometimes found at the bottom of our toy chest, but it's a mystery to what happened to the factory. Ah well.

Skip to 5th grade, 1981, and I read a classroom copy of the Star Wars novelization, in French. At this point, I have no idea when I actually saw the first film for the first time. I'd seen it by the time I graduated high school, but I have no independent recollection. Return of the Jedi came out in 1983 and in was re-released in 1986. I can't tell you which one I actually saw. Looks like the films themselves are a bit of a blind spot, eh? But I know that by the time I was 12 or 13, I'd signed up with Columbia Books' Science Fiction Book Club, and among my first purchases were three Han Solo novels:
THIS is how you do prequels! I still have them, but haven't read them since my teens, but I bet Han is a lot cooler in these than he actually is in the films. He's all attitude in the movies, but the dialog is never as clever as I would like it. The wisecracks aren't all that "wise" or "crackly". But the books? Maybe my idea of Han mostly comes from there. At around the same time, I also got a couple of Lando books:
AND, as pictured here, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, a sequel to Star Wars already, by my reckoning, contradicted by Empire. No matter, all of these were pretty cool. If Extended Universe stuff had been made available to me right then and there, maybe it would have fired up my fandom. But I don't remember the book club offering me anything more until I quit it when I left for college. Going to my first comic book store in the "big city", I didn't have any interest in Dark Horse's Star Wars comics, didn't go see the Special Editions when they came out, nor the prequels, though I have all that stuff on DVD. More recently, I did read Dark Horse's last SW series by Brian Wood (I've forgotten everything about it already), and took an interest in the first issues of several of the new Marvel series, which have some nice writers attached.

Conclusion? I seem to be at once too old and too young to have become a rabid Star Wars fan the way I became a Trekkie and a Whovian. If I'd been older, I'd have seen the first film in theaters and understanding the language. If I'd been younger, the Extended Universe stuff might have hit at the exact right time for me to get in deep on that side of things. As is, I don't even have a Star Wars RPG product in here (which seems a glaring omission when you see the game collection's wide range), and I'm on a blog having fun taking the first film down a peg...

Feel free to share your early Star Wars experiences. I wonder if anyone's mirrors mine, or how far off I am from the typical fan.


Anonymous said...

I had the Droid Factory too, though all I have left is the blueprint book. I also had an X-Wing, a Twin Pod Cloud Car, a Tattooine playset, a Scout Walker, and the Death Star set. All sadly gone now, though I do still have quite a few action figures.

Like you, I saw Empire Strikes Back first (at a drive-in, which tells you how long ago that was), then watched Star Wars later on VHS; I was definitely *aware* of Star Wars before I saw the movie though...I had some of the action figures in the late 70s.

Mike W.

Siskoid said...

I'm also guessing R2-D2 and the gang were ubiquitous even if you never saw the films.

As for drive-ins, that's where I saw the Tim Burton Batman, and if that medium was around in '89-90, there's really nothing wrong about seeing Empire that way a decade before.

Brendoon said...

Mine began with books and comic serials... the local "Woman's Weekly" had the Russ Manning and then the Al Williamson/Archie Goodwin serials, which I collected. I collected the clippings from the newpaper and "the Listener" in a scrapbook. I pestered mum for the Donald Glut novelisation of Empire SB but didn't see the movies til' about '81/83 or so. Never Liked ROTJ, after seeing the photo stills it was disappointing in motion! I managed to collect the entire bubble gum card set without buying a single pack! At school home baking had a high exchange rate and netted a few high demand cards which got me started....
I still mean to read the Brian Daley books, the cartoon serial adaptation seemed to be missing too much to make any sense. THAT was enough to enjoy and form a firm opinion about what's right and wrong within the Jediverse, didn't need to read a lot of EU to know when someone was getting it totally wrong or if they had it spot on.

Green Luthor said...

I was 4 (almost 5) when Star Wars originally came out, and so saw it then. (Also at a drive-in, not that it matters.) And... that was that; lifelong fan ever since. Picked up the Marvel comic series, got a lot of the toys, read the books... nothing out of the ordinary, really (for a Star Wars fan, that is). When Lucasfilm started reviving the property with the Zahn novels, I started reading the new EU books (although I didn't get too many of the Dark Horse comics; but then, their initial offering, Dark Empire, really wasn't very good) until they got to the point where I just didn't care for the storyline any more. (Friggin' Yuuzhan Vong.)

When I started college in 1990, it became something of a "generational divide" between us "older" students and the ones who started later; we were the last ones who could remember seeing Star Wars in the theaters during the initial run, while the young'uns couldn't. (Not that it made a big difference, really, it was just one of those things.)

And on a completely irrelevant note: there's a town about 20 minutes from where I live (but in the next state) that *still* has a drive-in theater!

Toby'c said...

I started with The Phantom Menace, at a cinema in Perth in August 1999, with my Dad and my sister. I enjoyed it, despite finding a lot of the story hard to follow, and I still do. A few months later I borrowed the videos of the originals (or the 1997 versions) from my uncle and watched them.

I remember reading a few of the EU books while waiting for Attack of the Clones, including the Jedi Academy books about Han and Leia's kids, and the Jedi Apprentice books about Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's early relationship. Also a few of the Galaxy of Fear books.

Siskoid said...

Oh sure, Luthor. Same here. They're less ubiquitous than they were though.

JDJarvis said...

Saw the Movie in the theater in first run, and in second run dubbed in Greek (for some odd reason a local theater had really cheap Greek dubs on weekends, i saw a lot of kung-fu movies in Greek also, don't speak the language but a movie for 50 cents was a movie for 50 cents). Read 4 of the books you have covers of when I was a youngster. I've enjoyed Star Wars over the years but never been a fanboy.

Man of Nerdology said...

The Han Solo Trilogy is one of my favorite pieces of the Star Wars side universe of the era. I am pretty sure it was a school or public library copy of the series I read and I loved it. With the prequels being so Jedi-centric, it is nice to be reminded how bad ass none Force users are that aren't Boba Fett. Also Han and Chewie on adventures in the Millenium Falcon is the 70's buddy anti-cop show I would have loved to see.


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