Throwback Thursday: Kenner’s first “Star Wars” toys in 1978

[Blog posts that are posted just past midnight on Thursday shall still be considered “Throwback Thursday” posts.  Thanks, THE MANAGEMENT.]

This is me hopping on the “Star Wars” bandwagon.  “Star Wars: the Forces Awakens” is almost exactly a month away today, but, more to the point, Christmas is in another five weeks.  I will always associate all of my action figures and vehicles with Christmas, as that is when I got most of them.  Seeing that little original Luke Skywalker (with his retractable lightsaber) will forever make me think of Christmas when I was six.

I had nearly all of these first Star Wars figures, because my parents were especially damned cool about being generous to a fault every December 25th.  (The only exceptions were the Death Star Commander and the Stormtrooper, and it never bothered me once.)  The Jawa was the movie adversary that most fascinated me, and the Tusken Raider was the one that actually managed to scared me a little.  I got doubles of those action figures in later years, but that was cool — both the Jawas and Tusken Raiders acted in groups.  (The latter travel single file to hide their numbers, you see.)

My parents’ largesse was especially impressive in light of what I learned from Wikipedia tonight.  These toys apparently were sometimes difficult for Santa to find, as Kenner drastically underestimated the demand for them.  (The company was wise enough to purchase the license after the strangely faux-sounding “Mego Corporation” turned it down.  I can only imagine that somebody, somewhere regretted that decision.)  What’s funny is that when Star Wars was a new cultural event, local retailers weren’t always 100 percent clear on the mythology upon which these toys were based.  I stumbled across an image of 1978 newspaper ad the other day in which Darth Vader somewhat confusingly addresses the readers as “EARTHLINGS.”  (Sorry — it isn’t the ad pictured below.)

The Star Wars vehicles I received in 1978 varied in quality.  Take a look at the “escape pod” below, poorly representing the vehicle in which C-3PO and R2-D2 absconded with Leia’s distress message early in the 1977 movie.  It’s … no more impressive than a simple tupperware cup.  In fact, it would fail as a tupperware cup because it had a hole in it.

The Landspeeder was a quality toy.  One nifty feature was that its well hidden wheels and suspension allowed it to capably mimic the hovercraft action of the film’s vehicle.  That was neat.  I can definitely remember shooting that thing across the floor.

But crowning ALL of my Star Wars toys on Christmas, 1978, was Darth Vader’s Imperial Tie Fighter.

Look at that thing.  Even as an adult, I think that thing looks fun as hell to play with.  And, for a six-year-old boy, it was PURE. UNADULTERATED.  JOY.

That black Tie Fighter was incredibly fun on a number of levels.  It was detailed.  It just LOOKED like an evil spacecraft.  Darth Vader (or any action figure, really) could fit inside the cockpit.  (If memory serves, some of my play scenarios involved having Darth getting his ride stolen by that plucky Chewbacca.)  If it was hit by Rebel scum in their X-Wing Fighters, a lever somewhere on the toy made its wings pop off dramatically.  But best of all was another button that made it fire.  The sound it made was frikkin’ FANTASTIC, and that red light in front lit UP.  The fun was amped up even further when the lights went out — I can still remember that sound and that red light reflected off the coffee table and the wrapping paper scattered around my family’s living room.

Click to enlarge:

 

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Ye olde Nolan

I’m becoming concerned …  I keep seeing more troubling signs that I am getting older.

I can’t eat pizza and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream all day without feeling yucky.  And I have gone shopping and DELIBERATELY looked for vegetables.

I bitch inwardly about the quality of America’s public education system all the time.  (Don’t even get me started.)  I actually begin some of my (admittedly peculiar) inner monologues with the words, “There was a time in this country when …”  I have also lamented that “things were different 20 years ago.”

It recently dawned on me that my longstanding idolization of Kevin Smith may be waning …  last year’s “Tusk” just didn’t do it for me, and his recent appearance on “The Talking Dead” just seemed to feature too much childish sex humor.  I cringed.  (Lengthy analogies about oral sex aren’t THAT hilarious, people.  I suggest they have a 10-second half life.)  I still think that Smith is brilliant; I just think maybe his particular style of humor might better appeal to a guy in his 20’s.

In the Marvel movies’ upcoming “Civil War” storyline entries, I’m firmly on the side of Captain America, and not Iron Man.  Yeah, Tony Stark has the wit and the charm and the girls and the cash.  But Cap has character and good American values, with an emphasis on civil liberties.  Cap would never subject black people to an unreasonable search and seizure.  He wouldn’t enter a private home without a warrant.  And he would uphold a legal wall of separation between church and state.  Dunno about Tony.

Tori Amos is still cool, but she sounds NUTS in her interviews.

I played with a friend’s little girl on the swings the other day … and I actually got DIZZY after donning a swing myself, and trying to swing as high as her.  THAT was disconcerting.

My doctor told me to knock off all the sugar, and I am totally taking her seriously.

My buddy shared a picture today of the original Star Wars cast in 1977.  When I was a tot, I looked up to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia.  When I was in fifth grade, “Return of the Jedi” Leia was my heart’s desire.  (I need not even mention in which outfit.)  Today, 1977 Carrie Fisher looks like a sweet girl who could be my college sophomore daughter.  (Seriously, she looks YOUNG, people.)  Harrison Ford looks like that older kid in our hometown with the camaro, who I need to keep away from her.  Mark Hamill looks like that sweet kid down the block who wants a date with her, but won’t get one.

My friends from Longwood High School are now teachers at Longwood High School.  The cognitive dissonance connected with that is significant.

And tonight it has dawned on me that (I can’t believe I am saying this) Depeche Mode is getting maybe a little played out for me.  Oh God, I can’t believe I just typed that.  I still love MODE, I swear it!  I just think that after “Violator” has been in my playlist for two decades, it’s maybe time to retire the lesser songs like “World In My Eyes” and find some more new music.

But not “Policy of Truth.”  THAT SONG WILL LIVE FOREVER.  (And never again is what you swore the time before.)

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