Courtesy of author Kurt Vonn Gutzman, Fantha Tracks are proud to share exclusive access of his book: Collect Them All! Confessions of a Recovering Action Figure Thief.
Readers are transported back to the magical era of the original Star Wars trilogy and vintage figure collecting, punctuating the very personal life experiences of the authors childhood.
The book will be released through a serialised format over the coming weeks, so please enjoy this first chapter and remember to return for the next instalment.
If you enjoy but can’t wait for the next chapter, you can support the author and enable future projects by purchasing his book in paperback or kindle format on Amazon.
To my brother Jay, my lifelong Star Wars Buddy. To my late Dad, Mom & Stepmom; special thanks for always getting the right figures. To my friends and Star Wars fans alike, but especially to the man who made this whole story possible, George Lucas.
Throughout this composition, references shall be made to George Lucas’ masterpiece; “The Star Wars Saga” as well as the toy companies Kenner & Hasbro in relation to their lovely Star Wars merchandise. Trivia and factoids in this piece were gathered over the years from multiple sources. I’d like to thank the Almighty Internet for helping me track down reference photos for all the figures in my original illustrations associated with this publication.
May 25th, 1977, thirty-five years ago today as I write these very words, a movie was released that would shake the foundations of Earth itself in its cinematic grandeur. Oh the majesty that was “Star Wars!” A huge leap forward in science-fiction-fantasy filmmaking with special visual effects so cutting-edge, they were invented just to make this movie. It was sensational to all who beheld it. It was a singular historical event never to be matched.
Unless you want to be a total dick about it, Star Wars is universally regarded as a fun, imaginative, science-fiction-fantasy classic that stands the test of time. It had an undeniable charm that gave you no choice but to love it. Ranked #13 on American Film Institute’s top 100 movies of all time, it also won 7 Oscars and the collective hearts, minds and imaginations of millions, both young and old. Perpetuated by re-releases and shared by one generation with the next, the saga is ensconced as an enduring treasure of entertainment.
Huge sets, heavy production all around; pre-to-post in every department, cast and crew of hundreds, all with a modest budget and some groans of concern from the studio, Star Wars had a lot riding on its success. When you get down to the core of it, however, it was the brilliant vision, a clever, imaginative script and a handful of virtually unknown actors bringing extraordinary life to the innocent farmboy, the cocky trucker and the sassy rich girl characters. Harrison Ford’s Han Solo was and always will be my hero. Okay, slight “man crush”. Shut up.
A dark theater. The previews have ended, the 20th Century Fox fanfare has passed and upon the black screen the blue words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” appear. The Star Wars theme blares. People clap and cheer. Me and my 8 –year-old, red-haired big brother Jay have the childhood equivalent of orgasms when we finally behold the miracle called “Star Wars” blazing onto the giant movie screen. Astonishing. To a seven year old like myself, seeing Star Wars was a near-religious experience. There’s nothing else I can compare it to. Life-changing. It blew our little minds. It was unlike anything we, or anyone, had ever seen.
The movie came at a good time to cheer us up. Our Mom, who was an art major, died of Pancreatitis in March of 1977. We moved out of the house in the woods of northwest Wisconsin that our Dad and Uncle built, where we lived from 1974 to 1977. Dad, a WWII Navy Vet-turned computer programmer, said he didn’t want to be reminded every day of Mom being gone.
We moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where Dad worked at a hospital doing 1970’s-style computer stuff. We had a nice house in a lovely neighborhood. With Dunkin Donuts just about four blocks away. We had a really hot “nanny” who’d be there in the mornings and when we got home from Catholic school. Michelle. Looked like a younger, hotter Jaclyn Smith. I remember one morning she gave us baths before school and we were shy about her seeing our little wieners. “Don’t worry,” she reassured us with a giggle, “it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.” Even as young as we were, we took that the wrong way.
Jay and I found our culture absolutely consumed by Star Wars. It was everywhere. The movie played for months in the theaters and was then probably re-released once more. You’d see cameos of characters on tv shows, the Marvel comic book adaptation, images plastered all over every magazine cover in the newsstand, the disco version of the theme music, Star Wars t-shirts on every chest and of course, the trading cards with the nasty, powdery stick of bubble gum. Oh, and Darth Vader appearing for autographs at J.C. Penny’s. The magnificent fantasy realm of Star Wars was manifesting itself in our very own universe in the form of merchandising. And we ate it up.
To date, of the estimated $33 billion dollars the Star Wars franchise has taken in, nearly 50% of it was generated by toy sales alone. Being the visionary that he is, George Lucas had the foresight to hold onto the merchandising rights and would soon become rich beyond his wildest dreams. Part of what the following tale is all about.
Of course, collecting Kenner’s Star Wars figures started off in 1977 as some kind of mail-in thing or something. The “Early Bird” offer. You would go to the store and buy this cardboard Voucher that pictured paintings of the original twelve figures and photos of the first 4 due in January of 1978; Luke, Leia, Chewie and R2, which you’d receive when they became available. I, being all of seven years old, was baffled by this concept. It was in the toy section of the store but there were no toys inside of this package. Betrayal. I believe some have called it, “The Empty Christmas Present”. Imagine getting a voucher under the tree, kids! Death to Santa!
Regardless, the lovely paintings of the characters, which of course ultimately looked much better than the figures ever would, bewitched Jay and I. So we commenced whining and crying, hoping our Dad would buckle and pay for the voucher. Alas, our pleas fell on the deaf ears of a forty-something, recently-widowed programmer who probably just wanted to get his shopping done and go home.
While his initial refusal disappointed us, in the long run, Dad would see to it that his boys would get their toys. He is one with the Force now, and he left behind two sons who’d eventually realize how much he really did for them and how much he cared.
In the meantime, as we awaited the creation of Star Wars figures, we collected the cool posters and glasses offered at the fast-food joint “Burger Chef”. I don’t know if they’re around anymore, but they, of all people, landed the Star Wars promotion. McDonalds and Burger King passed, from what I understand. “Too risky,” they said. To many, including a vocal few at 20th Century Fox, there was a concern that Star Wars was poised to be the next “Plan 9 from Outer Space.” Burger Chef likely made a killing on the promotion, and deservedly so; had some good burgers.
We also had a knock-off “Light Sword” which was a flashlight handle and an illuminated single 3’x 2” tube of translucent plastic, which you could only really see in pitch black conditions. You could put red or blue gels over the light to change the color too. We also had a Darth Vader kids’ vinyl Halloween costume and mask on the rubber band. Odd. I wonder what the corresponding brother’s costume was? I certainly wasn’t Star Wars related or I’d remember. Jay doesn’t know either, by the way.
Prior to Star Wars figures, our toys were mostly a couple of teddy bears, Mego Superheros and a Cornelius Planet of the Apes doll, Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise Bridge play set, Big Jim and his camper, Stretch Armstrong, The Six-Million-Dollar Man & Woman, Steve Austin’s enemy “Maskatron”, a “Space: 1999” gun with lights & sounds, the Lone Ranger & Silver and a couple of Evel Knievels with a crank-up motorcycle and rocket car with a parachute.
Our poor toys’ torture knew no end. Spock’s head ended up on top of the barn, his nose sheared off. Lone Ranger’s horse Silver broke a leg after attempting to jump down the stairs using Evel Knievel’s parachute. He had to be “put down” (into the bottom of the toy bin). Good ‘ol Stretch bled out after a rough visit to my 1st grade show-and-tell. This kid who got held back bit Stretch’s chest like he wanted to nurse from him or something. Boo-Boo the teddy bear’s face caught on fire from a spotlight held too close. Our A&W Root Bear got his feet torn off by our dog Cotton. These early years of barbaric treatment of toys would come to an abrupt end very soon as our little hands would touch an intricately-sculpted, carefully-painted, pretty much perfectly awesome 3.75” Star Wars Action Figure for the first time.
Amid the sustained fever pitch of Star Wars mania, our first two figures came home in early 1978. Darth Vader and Princess Leia. A strange pairing to be sure, but back then, the odds of getting a weird coupling of figures was much greater. I can still vividly see Vader and Leia riding in the Landspeeder through the lush grass of our back yard, then cruising upon spring-loaded wheels onto the concrete patio. Off to the Father – Daughter Catillion, I suppose.
I stared at Vader’s face for what seemed like hours. I loved that figure. Him and that “reservoir tip” lightsaber of his. I never understood that. I guess there was a variation where the tip telescoped. We didn’t have that kind.
While on the subject, by the end of Return of the Jedi, there ended up being about 20 figures who had “variants” where a paint color was changed or something of that nature was done. I’m pleased to say that we somehow always owned the originally-released versions.
Both Vader and Leia went without their delicate plastic capes most frequently but that didn’t keep them from ripping anyway. Such fragile things, those capes. While the capes didn’t last, a testament to our new toy handling policy was evident as Princess Leia’s microscopic pistol remained in our collection until the bitter end. Residing first in the front trunk of the Landspeeder, then later in a turquoise plastic Avon soap box, where all weapons were kept.
Life was pretty good back then in ‘78. Dad was dating an ex-nun named Janine. We took one of those “pop-up” trailers and camped out by a waterfall somewhere for a couple of days. I remember one night hearing Dad whispering to her, “I’m gonna show you what nature’s all about.” Hilarious. Another funny memory from the trip was when I fell and skinned my knee and Jay helped me limp back to the camper to lie down. I feared I was near death, so we recited the only prayer we knew: the dinner blessing. Spoiler alert: I did not die. Felt kinda hungry for some reason.
We had this other woman looking after us, middle-aged, kinda portly, but I don’t remember her name. Martha? She took us to Long John Silvers and we locked her in the basement as a joke once. The password was “Bubble Butt”. We made her say the password 3 times before we let her out. I think she was crying.
As the year progressed, Dad continued to date, Jay & I were busy with Catholic Elementary School and we saw the additions of Luke Skywalker & “Ben” Obi-Wan Kenobi, followed by R2-D2 & Chewbacca, then the Imperial Stormtrooper. C3-Po was in there somewhere as well, but I don’t know when he came. God he was a shimmering sight to behold. So detailed, too. Amazing.
When opening a new figure, we were very careful to not damage the card. We removed the clear plastic “bubble” from the front and began to store the cards in a shoebox, nice and neat. We somehow knew what we had was special.
Not wanting to be left out of the fun, our Dad soon found a “second fiancé action figure” for himself in Ruby Fritz, a nurse from Detroit visiting the hospital. She was a forty-something, African-American single mother of an adult son who was stationed in Germany with the US Army. Because of a tough childhood, she grew up to be a domineering, sarcastic, emotionally and verbally abusive bitch (~Sniffle. I’m not crying!). Any time we went out to eat, she’d like ALWAYS send her food back with a look of utter disgust upon her face. So embarrassing. She was a real negative person to have to grow up around.
To win us over on her first visit, we went to Toys R Us and Ruby got me a Sesame Street Bert puppet and Jay got Kermit with Velcro on his hands and feet for posing. Bert was made from a molded plastic that made manipulating his mouth a form of exercise.
After our Christian homework was done, Obi-Wan and Vader’s retractable light sabers clashed on the dining room table in fierce combat, Chewbacca would hide from the Stormtrooper in the tree out back and R2 would slide along the carpet, heading for the secret Rebel base under the recliner.
The Giant Shogun Warriors Raydeen and Dragun from Christmas 1977 loomed over the proceedings, sometimes taking sides, sometimes standing still as statues. One got his head used as a space ship.
At 23 ½ inches tall, the two toddler-size warriors rolled on wheels under their feet and wielded arsenals of devastating weapons. Raydeen had delta wing fliers that shot from his chest and a launching gauntlet with ax blades on either side. Dragun could toss battle axes and had a wrist-mounted gun that shot plastic throwing star – type things.
We actually spotted the two giant boxes on a high shelf in our basement laundry room. We were told to forget what we saw. This was October. Torture.
Along with the Shogun Warriors, we did have a nice little Micronauts collection going about this same time. Emphasis on “little”. They were these little sci-fi fantasy action figures, some with die-cast metal parts, others molded in clear, colorful plastic, with shimmering silver heads, dainty white hands and usually a spiffy accessory. We had Time Traveler, who had a cool missile-launching cannon he could hold or wear on his back, and Space Glider, made of metal, had a helmet and a jet backpack with spring-loaded wings that would pop out. We also had the very cool Acroyear, and the battery-powered Microtron with his interchangeable parts…like his head, for example. Oh my god – we had Baron Karza too. He was like the Darth Vader of Micronauts. He was much bigger than our other figures and his limbs and head all rotated on ball-bearing-and-magnet joints, so you could put his leg in his arm socket if you were so inclined. There was an accessory companion Attack Horse sculpted in the same style as Karza and you could remove his head and neck, attach Baron Karza’s torso and viola: a scary centaur! He had spring-loaded fists that he could launch, plus two cone-shaped missiles on launchers upon his back as well as a tiny abdominal missile which we lost pretty quickly.
This was one of those tiny “bite-size” missiles that dumb little kids were going to eventually choke on and change “choking hazard” standards for toys. Thanks, dummies!
Another “hobby” that came along with our Star Wars obsession was pretending to be Luke and Han having our own stupid adventures, running around the house like idiots and firing at invisible Stormtroopers. We’d fight over which of us gets to kiss an invisible Princess Leia. We didn’t know she was Luke’s sister back then. Hell, Lucas didn’t know back then. But yeah, we would continue to play out our Star Wars adventures in real life for many years to come, often aided by barns, bikes, sheds, broken-down cars, bales of hay and tractors as our ships and bases. That Darth Vader Halloween mask came into play from time to time as well. That “lightsaber” broke long ago, though. Tree branches or lathe would suffice.
When it came to starting the collection, sometimes figures would just be brought home, sometimes we were able to grab them ourselves from the shelves. Over the years to come, no matter where we went, Jay and I always headed straight for the toy section to check for the latest.
Hey – I stole a really cool Star Wars folder from a kid at school. I…I knew what I was doing was wrong but I did it anyway. I got away with it. I was the Phantom Menace.
This wasn’t the first time one of the Gutzman brothers stole. Back in Wisconsin when Jay was 4, he got out of the house and rode a tricycle out of a drug store a few blocks away. When I was 5 I stole baking sprinkles from the supermarket, got caught and had to take them back and apologize. When we lived in Des Moines, we were both stealing little alien & insect erasers from Toys R Us. The seeds of evil and greed were already sprouting within our little souls. The path to the Dark Side of the Force.
Dad took a job in Redfield, Iowa and we moved to a “Ranch” outside the tiny town. Three Arabian horses came with the house with a big, dusty Tatooine-esque pasture to graze in. Many a summer afternoon was spent out in the arid wastelands, big Bull Snakes slithering unseen nearby, as Jay and I would take the figures on dangerous missions. This was likely the time where the Stormtrooper started to become discolored. R2’s sticker wrap became dirty-looking. Okay, I guess that’s damage too. C’mon! We were just kids!
During a shopping trip into Des Moines, I stole a die-cast Shogun Warrior mini-figure of Mazinga. I thought he’d be a cool new bad guy for the Rebels to face. I had to boast and get busted, though. I showed him to Dad and Ruby, saying I found it out in the woods behind the house. They figured out I was lying and Dad took me to the store and forced me to apologize. I guess he paid for the toy then too. Plus I still got to keep it. Lesson learned: if you want a toy but are afraid to ask, steal it and your cost is merely an apology. You can pretend to feel “guilty”, right? Sure.
Along with the move to Redfield, shortly thereafter came a great tremor in the Force for us kids as Dad married Ruby, the Darth Vader to our Luke and Han. I was Han.
The ceremony was held at our place, I was the Ring Barer and Jay was the Flower Child. We were supposed to call her “Mom”, which didn’t sit right with us but God help you if you said otherwise. Plus, to add to her already-delightful personality, she was now the only black person in a sixty-mile-radius. She got stared at a lot by little kids, at whom she’d then scowl and stick out her tongue. Charming woman; doing so much to improve race relations in desolate regions of Iowa.
One of the odd rules we had to follow, because the downstairs bathroom was adjoined to the master bedroom and Dad & Ruby wanted their privacy, we kids had to pee and dump in a metal “chamber pot” kept in the hallway upstairs and were tasked with emptying it out every morning before school, after feeding the horses. We wagered Luke Skywalker never had this chore back home on Tatooine. Han Solo would’ve blasted the chamber pot and jumped out a window.
Grotesque. One of the reasons Dad and Ruby wanted their privacy is because they were swingers. I assume she got Dad into it. From time to time, they would have guests over, some middle-aged couple. We didn’t think anything of it until we found…the photo album. Full of polaroids. Again, grotesque.
Hey Jay – remember a few times we ended up hanging around with a couple of kids we’d never see again? Yeah. Grotesque.
The Marvel Star Wars comic series continued, telling really odd tales from that galaxy far, far away. One storyline Han and Chewie were in featured a green-haired, 6-foot tall humanoid rabbit named Jaxxon, “Jax” for short. I guess he’s not looked back on fondly. The “Jar-Jar” of his time. Regardless, it was great to see our heroes off on all-new adventures – inspiring us to play even more, delving into the now-expanding Star Wars universe.
Another huge event for science fiction fans everywhere was the launch of the television series Battlestar Galactica in July of 1978. I swear I recall the pilot episode being shown in theaters before it was on tv. It was fun and imaginative and best of all, it reminded us of Star Wars on a weekly basis.
We did manage to collect 3 items from the Galactica “Smaller Ships” line. We had 2 Cylon Raiders with wings that would open out to reveal matching missile launchers. Of course, in the era of safety, the missiles were locked into the launchers so kids wouldn’t launch ‘em straight down their throats. The other thing we got was a Colonial Stellar Probe. The ship was modular and interchangeable; the nose and cockpit of the toy was identical to the nose of a Colonial Viper. There was a long cylindrical tube to which the nose attached and at the other end was a thruster module which could be joined with the nose to form a fighter in an alternate configuration. Thanks to 2 more accessories, a cone nose and a thruster / satellite segment, the cylinder became the body of a rocket. What both of us loved about these toys was the scale. The ships were fairly small and the figures were tiny. Maybe 1-1.5” tall. There was a line of regular size figures and vehicles as well, but we never managed to collect a single one of them.
I recall we were able to find the Tusken Raider “Sandperson” and Star Destroyer Commander at a local hardware store’s toy aisle. Han Solo arrived as well. Solo.
The first Han Solo figure came out and had a small head. Well, to be more accurate, the entire figure sculpt was too small. The head was proportionate to the small body. Han was smaller than Luke and it bugged somebody important. Kenner came out with a variant that had a larger head and slightly more tousled hair but they kept the same body sculpt. The new Han had a huge head and looked awful. We count our blessings that we got the original “small head” Han.
Thinking about getting Han reminded me of all the wondrous candies of the era. In particular, Black Jack licorice chewing gum, as it seemed like Han’s legs were made out of it. He had that awesome “new figure smell” too. Anyway, some of my other favorites were Watermellon Hubba Bubba, Big League Chew Bubble Gum, Ring Pops, Pop-Rock Candies. Oh yeah, and “Freshen Up” gum debuted. It was blast liquid flavour in your mouth when you bit down on it.
November 17th, 1978, our little hearts raced as we sat before the tv watching the magic that was the Star Wars Holiday Special. Disowned by George Lucas, loved for its quirky kitsch by fans, this awful “Wookie Holiday” took us to Kashyyyk, Chewbacca’s home planet. While Luke, Leia, Han & Chewie, R2 & Threepio were relegated to mainly brief cameos, Chewie’s wife, son and Father took center stage, grunting and roaring with no subtitles to help us Earthling viewers understand them. Luke looked like he was wearing eye liner and Leia came across as kind of a bitch at one point, asking Chewie’s wife on the communicator, “Malla, is there anyone there who speaks English?”
Silly though it was, it was a serious Star Wars “fix” for us little fans. With a hologram performance by Jefferson Airplane, co-starring Art Carney, Harvey Korman, Bea Arthur and Paul Lynde as an Imperial Officer. Nice to know the Empire doesn’t support “don’t ask don’t tell”. It was a hoot, closed out by Carrie Fisher singing some song a-la kum ba yah style with the whole cast, arm in arm. Heartwarming. Happy “Life Day”, each and every one!
But the real pay-off came in the form of a short animated feature voiced by the actual Star Wars cast where our heroes cross paths with a mysterious character named Boba Fett, who turns out to be in league with Darth Vader. It was indeed the humble beginning of one of the most idolized characters in the saga.
One of the banner Christmases of my childhood was that of 1978. After this year, Christmas began to become “iffy” due to Dad losing his jobs and periodically not working. I think part of it was his alcoholism.
Christmas 1978 had to have brought us Star Wars figures. It just had to. But I can’t remember which ones for sure. What I do remember was getting the Micronaut Battle Cruiser. So wicked. It was battery-powered, remote-controlled (with a cord attached), attack vehicle that could hold up to like 3-4 action figures and its component parts could split off and re-assemble into different smaller battle craft. Needless to say, with our lack of Star Wars vehicles at this point, the Battle Cruiser and its many permutations brought our figures a whole new dimension to play in; aerial combat.
We also got the wireless remote-controlled robot called “Tobor”. He was maybe a foot tall and rolled around smooth floors. I don’t recall what else he did. He was commandeered by Darth Vader and became a deadly tool of the Empire. Poor Tobor.
I think this was the Christmas we got the “Jaws” game where you fish out garbage from Plastic Jaws’ mouth before it snaps shut on your ass. Obviously, he was a scary creature that terrorized the figures from time to time as well.
The next wave of nine figures came out before we even completed collecting the initial twelve. If I remember correctly, we got two of the new ones, Luke X-Wing Pilot and Death Star Droid pretty quickly. X-Wing Luke was one of two figures at that time which had hands that wrapped completely around the handle of their gun. Luke’s thumb hymen broke pretty quick. One of the few real “damages” made to the collection ever.
As 1979 continued, we collected Walrus Man & R5-D4 and I think Greedo & Power Droid came in matching Easter Baskets. Jay and I differ on who came in the Easter Baskets. Jay says Hammerhead was in the basket, I say we picked him up when Ruby took us on a summertime shopping visit to Sioux City, but I could be wrong.
I know what you’re thinking: the second wave didn’t come out until May of 1979. How could any of these been in Easter Baskets in April? I don’t know, but they were.
I remember playing with figures among stacks of cinderblocks, a structure with all these little sub-chambers for them to climb into.
We now had the original twelve plus seven of the new set of eight. We lacked Snaggletooth. The short red one, not the tall blue one. We didn’t even know about the tall blue one until we saw him in a thick Sears catalog’s toy section. He was an exclusive figure that came with the Sears special edition “Cantina Adventure Set”, which was just an illustrated backdrop and floor but this guy came with it. He was actually the result of Sears not getting complete instructions from Kenner about the design of the character.
I’ll tell you right now, we never collected the tall blue one. That would be the only figure we didn’t get from the first movie. But seriously, guys, he wasn’t available like a normal figure. Nowadays, he’s pulling down at least $100 on eBay, more if he has the “toe dent” imperfection.
One of those bad things that happens to a lot of kids happened to us too. We were in Cub Scouts and believe it or not, Ruby became a Den Mother. Go figure. But anyways, Dad and Ruby probably had a hot swingin’ date lined up because they talked a fellow Den leader into babysitting us one Friday night through Saturday morning. Turned out that the Scouts had a child molester in their midst. Yeah. It could have been much worse; turned out the guy just liked the taste of Lil’ Smokies. Weirdo.
That reminds me: Ruby got kicked out of the Cub Scout Order when she was suspected of red-headed step-child abuse. Someone saw her scolding Jay for trying to walk into oncoming traffic. Social Worker came out to the ranch to find two delightful spoiled little boys sucking on peppermint sticks laughing and talking about how delightful Ruby was.
I believe this was when the two Jawas happened to arrive too. To sweeten the deal. Cloth hoodie Jawas, mind you. Ah! I just contradicted myself! Earlier I said we always had the original of any figure that had a variant. That is simply not true. I should go back and edit that. We had the variant Jawa with the luxurious cloth hoodie as opposed to the original which only had one of those flimsy plastic capes. But I digress.
At last, the initial set of twelve figures was assembled in all their glory!
Something happened with Dad’s job in Redfield, so he found a different job in a small town in southeast South Dakota called Elk Point, a few hours NW of Sioux City. We moved to a remote farm there with our 3 horses loaded into a trailer for the three-hour-long trip. This farm was more like the lush Yavin to Redfield’s Tatooine for our continued Star Wars adventures. Outside or in, Jay and I would play for hours with the plastic icons of our heroes.
The “Mail-in Offer for Boba Fett” became known by a sticker upon a figure’s carded package. Send in five “Proof of Purchase” seals from your figure backer cards and you’ll get the cool new “rocket-firing” Boba Fett action figure from the upcoming, wildly-anticipated follow-up to Star Wars, “The Empire Strikes Back”.
Waiting for Boba Fett to come was the longest 4-to-6 weeks ever. So many fevered bike rides down our quarter-mile-driveway in the mid-day summer sun, speeding through a gauntlet of flying grasshoppers bounding across the dirt path only to find bills and the occasional Jet or Ebony magazine in the searing aluminum mailbox.
One fine day, a 4” long, 2” thick white box lay atop the weekly supermarket flyers. Boba Fett had arrived.
Of course, as you probably know, Boba came with a note saying that his rocket-firing mechanism was discontinued as a choking hazard and that his missile was permanently attached inside his backpack. A slight disappointment, sure, now that I think back on it, but it was far outweighed by the coolness of having a character from the next movie.
There were a couple non-Star Wars figures out there we wanted to get to add some flavor to our collection. There was a generic Race Car driver we wanted to put into the role of Bounty Hunter and I wanted to get a “Lion Man” figure from the Filmation “Flash Gordon” cartoon. He needed to put some clothes on, but he was a cool alien.
Another big deal for science-fiction fans came to be in 1979. The tv series “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”. Awesome show for kids, especially. It wasn’t as good as Star Wars but it had it’s moments. We almost bought a “Twiki” figure to add to our “droid” line-up but it didn’t pan out.
In our Star Wars “role-playing” action, we built a kick-ass staggered two-level cockpit configuration out of hay bales in the barn where Jay and I could sit piloting the “barn-sized vessel”, fighting off imaginary Imperial forces. Shoved a rake or something down between the bales and made a “yoke” to fly the ship. Then we’d crash and we’d have a gun battle with imaginary Stormtroopers outside as we tried to escape to “The House”; an awaiting Rebel transport. Talking about it now makes me want to go do it. I’d probably get mugged if I went outside this time of night in my neighborhood. The Force ain’t wit’ me like dat, now.
Story and Art by Kurt Vonn Gutzman © 2012
Any resemblance to characters in Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Saga or Kenner’s toys is purely coincidental and/or protected under fair use as a “satire” or whatever. Then the Lucasfilm LTD. Lawyer says, “Well, yeah but that defense only works if its funny.” Then I start crying because the Lawyer hurt my feelings.