A long time ago... Before the advent of home video, before the internet and the instant gratification that video streaming allows, one of a handful of ways a young genre fan could relive their favourite film or TV series was through trading cards. Beloved scenes and moments forever immortalised on palm sized pieces of cardboard were essential items of fandom for those of us who grew up in the 70's and 80's. The trading card company Topp's became synonymous with a generation for their collections of licensed properties with Star Trek, Superman: The Movie, Battlestar Galactica and, of course, Star Wars being amongst them. And every pack of cards was accompanied by a brittle, pale pink, wafer thin stick of gum that crumbled away to nothing in the mouth. Just what was that stuff made of? As with most treasured things from childhood we either outgrew such items or overzealous mums on mad cleaning sprees threw out our precious collections.
Fortunately Abrams ComicArts has collected the entire Star Wars saga trading card sets in three quality volumes. Volume One, naturally showcased all five series of cards, and as anyone who grew up in those heady days will remember, we in the UK could only get our hands on the blue bordered series one, and the red bordered series two sets. Who knew that there were green, yellow and orange bordered sets too?
Volume Two covered The Empire Strikes Back, which had a total of three series, but by 1980 trading cards were being usurped by sticker sets in the UK, so this card set never appeared in the local newsagents.
And now comes Volume Three, which covers The Return of the Jedi. Unlike the previous sets Jedi only had two series. As Gary Gerani, the original editor of the Topps series, explains in the books introduction this was because Topp's thought that once the fans had seen the film, knowing it was the final chapter in the trilogy, interest would quickly wain and wouldn't warrant further series'. This works in the books favour as, unlike the previous two volumes, each card, image on the front and text on the back, gets its own page so that you can view them side by side. The text on the backs of series one tells the story of Jedi, whilst series two is an all things Star Wars quiz. Interestingly the final card of the set mentions that George Lucas's next trilogy would focus on the Clone Wars, but fans would have a while to wait! Also included within these pages are the images of the stickers and wrappers for both series. And at the end of each section there are images of the completed puzzles that were created from the stickers backing card.
The images themselves vary in quality. This is not a fault of the book, but rather reflects the printing technology of the time. Gary Gerani provides brief factoids of varying interest for several of the cards throughout. Some of the facts presented will be well known to Star Wars fans but there are some that are specific to the production of the cards. For instance, one card depicts the Millennium Falcon flying through the Death Star's superstructure and Gary decided to present the image portrait fashion, rather than landscape, as he felt it had more impact.
As with the previous volumes, this one also includes a pack of replica cards and the book’s dust jacket is the same waxy paper that that used to contain the cards. It's a shame that the book doesn't smell of the weird bubble gum, but when you remove the dust jacket an image of the strange confectionary awaits to get your tastebuds watering, and the back cover shows a shattered stick of gum. Now that's attention to detail.
is a wonderfully produced book utilising quality paper stock and is superbly bound.
Most of all it is an outstanding homage to Star Wars and to the ageless hobby of
collecting trading cards. Indulge your inner child, add this volume to your bookshelf
and allow yourself to wallow in simpler, carefree times.
STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI - THE ORIGINAL TOPPS TRADING CARD SERIES - VOLUME 3 / PUBLUSHERS: ABRAMS BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: 16TH AUGUST