There’s nothing quite like a big new Star Wars film with all its associated merchandise to make the inner child in all of us yearn for simpler times, and while it may be paradoxically true that nostalgia isn’t what is used to be, it’s always nice to sit back and bask in the golden glow of bygone times and remind ourselves of the fan frenzy that occurred back in 1980, when The Empire Strikes Back was released.
Author Gary Gerani has followed up his book about the Star Wars Topps trading cards that were released in 1977-78 with the inevitable sequel. Volume 2 covers the three series of cards that tied in with Empire, providing the reader with an authoritative and keen insight into the trading card business from his position as the editor of this series of Topps cards.
One might be forgiven, I suppose, for dismissing this volume as a mere picture book, but the meat is not only in the quality of the presentation of the cards on these pages – both front and back of each of the 352 cards, including the hard to find chase cards (their rarity being the bane of every serious collector’s life) – but also Gerani’s own commentary and recollections from 36 years ago.
Of particular interest is the first series of cards, and Gerani’s anecdotes about the veil of secrecy Lucasfilm built about the plot. Several key plot points couldn’t be relayed to Gerani and the Topps team, despite their obvious need for every detail about the film as they were recounting the story in the card set. It’s a strange realisation that trading cards were the equivalent of internet spoilers back in the day.
So, while the initial series featured on-set photos of C3PO interacting with an all-white counterpart from a scene set on Hoth, and there is a shot of a medical droid examining a dead Tauntaun, both from scenes that were shot but ultimately cut from the finished release, there are no scenes showing the Wampa and more importantly, absolutely no mention of Vader being Luke’s father. The card for that scene has a bit of made up dialogue from Gerani reading “Hate me, Luke. Destroy me!” (Oddly echoing the Emperor’s taunt in Return of the Jedi.) The first that Gerani and his team learned of THAT all-important game changing plot point was actually while watching the film in the cinema.
Even Yoda’s dialogue is missing it’s odd back to front structure, as Gerani hadn’t heard it yet and had to make some up on the spot.
Other cards on display in the book are a wealth of behind the scenes photos, production shots, concept artwork and biographical cards of the main characters. Again, the bio cards give a wealth of information that is no longer considered canon, or has been expanded upon or since rewritten, such as C3PO’s origin being “unknown”.
All in all, the book is an appealing slice of pop culture history, attractively packaged with Gerani’s notes providing the cherry on top. It deserves a place on the discerning Star Wars fan’s shelf.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – THE ORIGINAL TOPPS TRADING CARD SERIES / AUTHOR: GARY GERANI / PUBLISHER: ABRAMS COMIC ART / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW