It is Spaceship Month here at 20 Sided Designs, so I want to talk to you all about my earliest memory of a spaceship. Oddly enough, it also happens to be my earliest memory of anything. Not a parent’s face, not a pivotal moment in my family’s history, not a particular toy or picture on the wall of my childhood bedroom.
Instead, the one instance of Baby Chris X’s life that is etched into my brain permanently is the iconic scene that opens Star Wars: A New Hope. Flashback to 1979. Star Wars has been a worldwide phenomenon for the past two years, having originally taken the world by storm in May 1977. Interest in it was so high and unrelenting that it actually garnered a theatrical re-release in August of 1979. I was a month shy of three years old. I was taken to see Star Wars in the theater (I generally want to shoot people who bring babies into movie theaters, but apparently I was a well behaved kid) We don’t usually carry many memories with us throughout life of our experiences at this age, but for some reason, THIS has resonated with me since 1979:
I may not have known it at the time, but that Star Destroyer flying overhead, chasing down Princess Leia in the Tantive IV set my life on course. I blame this particular moment for shaping the direction of my entire life from that point forward. I spent my young childhood years devouring anything and everything Star Wars. The action figures and toys, trading cards, coloring books, Underoos, a ceramic Max Rebo Band music box, you name it. I recall seeing The Empire Strikes Back in the theater and then discussing Luke getting his hand cut off with my friend who lived across the street while playing with his tauntaun toy (I never had the tauntaun as far as mounted beasts of burden go, but I did have a Dewback and I always thought they were infinitely cooler) I remember seeing Return of the Jedi early on in its initial run as well, TWICE (the first time, the marquee still read “Revenge of the Jedi”; the Orleans 8 clearly hadn’t gotten the memo and had not changed it since putting it up months in advance) The thrill of getting new action figures, and the smell of vinyl upon opening them. I distinctly recall the taste of C-3POs breakfast cereal (they were really good) and cutting the cardboard Threepio, Luke, and Stormtrooper masks off the back of the box. Getting all but one of the entire collection of the first series (red back) of Return of the Jedi trading cards, then going nuts when they released series two(blue back) before I could track down that elusive last card. Being absolutely elated every month picking up new issues of the Marvel Star Wars comic book at 7-11, knowing I could read about my favorite characters’ further adventures beyond the movies. Having a Star Wars themed party for my 7th birthday (including an R2-D2 cake and “pin the lightsaber on Luke” game)
A few years after Return of the Jedi was released, the madness died down a little, and while the Holy Trilogy remained the most popular film franchise of all time, there was not much in the way of new content being produced. Sure, we had The Ewok Adventure and The Battle For Endor TV movies, though the less said about those, the better(I still watched them dozens of times). But come 1986-87 or so, the Marvel comic had run it’s course, Kenner stopped coming out with new action figures and playsets, and it just wasn’t the cool new fad for the kids of the time. Sure, I loved Transformers, Voltron, GI Joe, Thundercats, He-Man, and all those other cool cartoons/toys of the day(still do), but I attribute Star Wars to me being into all of those. Those two starships flying overhead and everything that came after instilled in me a love for things fantastic in nature. I was henceforth always attracted to things sci-fi and fantasy related, whether it was the types of cartoons and movies I watched, the types of board games and Atari 2600 cartridges I played, and the kinds of books and comics I read. I was not the kind of boy who was into sports or cars or any of that. No sir, give me spaceships, dragons, monsters, and/or robots.
So while I delved into other fandoms, and found immense enjoyment in many of them, I never gave up on Star Wars. Even during those post-ROTJ Dark Ages where virtually no new content was produced for nearly a decade, I kept the fire burning. I watched the VHS tapes daily. I continued to listen to the “read along cassette” adaptations of all three movies on an almost nightly basis. I still read the novelizations, hardcover storybooks, and comics regularly, over and over again to the point of dog-earing them. My little brothers were born in 1985 and ’87, and I took it upon myself to do my big brotherly duty and indoctrinate them into the cult of the Holy Trilogy as soon as they were old enough to be aware of their surroundings. I soon found myself playing with all my Star Wars toys and watching the movies every day with them, even though I was 9 and 11 years older. No shame here, by that point in my life I’d began feeling detached from most kids my own age anyway(something that has never subsided), and would rather have been playing with my Han and Chewie figures aboard the Millennium Falcon with a 3 year old than playing football with kids from school or whatever other dumb bullshit they were into.
Then the early ’90s happened. I entered high school, and socially and emotionally, it was all downhill from there. The one saving grace, was a revival of sorts in interest in Star Wars from the public at large. For the first time in years, new Star Wars stuff began to hit the shelves. Dark Horse put out the Dark Empire comics, and Timothy Zahn released the Thrawn Trilogy. My obsession suddenly was no longer limited to my own imagination or reliving the same experience over again for the umpteenth time. There were whole new worlds to explore! Suddenly, eras of Star Wars universe history that were only hinted at were being explored, both future and past! Han and Leia were having kids! I was learning about Jedi from thousands of years before the movies! Good God, life was worth living after all! The Star Wars Insider magazine began coming out monthly and I devoured every issue. Hasbro bought Kenner and began releasing new toys! I made friends with a guy who worked at KB Toys and began directly paying him instead of the store to get whatever toys I wanted on the cheap. I spent virtually every day after school haunting my local comic shop til they closed, grabbing every issue of every mini-series Dark Horse put out, and making two lifelong friends along the way(one of whom is a regular contributor to this very website!) I went to my first convention and bought a bootleg VHS tape of the Star Wars Holiday Special (I know, I know. Just wait til next month here on 20SidedDesigns.com for a special look at that from yours truly) and met the late, great artist Al Williamson, who signed my trade paperback collection of his old Star Wars comic strip. I spent my teen years absorbing every bit of Star Wars related info I could.
1997. The Special Editions. A chance to not only experience the films on the big screen again (which I had not done since 1983, obviously), but there was NEW FOOTAGE ADDED!!?!?! Be still my beating heart. OK, we all know how the majority of that footage affected the movies (FUCK YOU GEORGE, HAN SHOT FIRST), but at the time… I distinctly remember the details of each trip. The night before A New Hope, I had broken up with the terrible girl I was dating. Leave it to Star Wars to make me feel better and save my then-broken heart the following morning. That alone speaks volumes. For Empire the following month, I saw it with, uh, that terrible girl, who I had foolishly gotten back together with. For Jedi, a train ride out to the burbs with two friends to catch the first showing of the morning. I recall peeing in an iced tea bottle at my seat so as not to miss even a second of the action. I would then go stand 4 hours in the pouring rain to meet Ric Flair that day. I regret nothing.
The biggest news after the Special Editions premiered (along with the immense amounts of merch that hit the shelves along with it, all of which I happily collected) of course, was the impending new trilogy that would be released starting with The Phantom Menace in May of 1999. Well, that to me was what I imagine the announcement of the Second Coming would be like for a Christian. Exactly one week before the film’s release, the tickets would go on sale. Myself and a group of friends, several of whom now make up the backbone of this very website, trudged up to the movie theater at Franklin Mills Mall the night before the onsale, intent on spending the night on the ground outside the box office. It remains, to this day, one of the most fun nights and fondest memories of my life. Hanging out all night, stealing electricity from the mall to play the soundtracks on the CD player someone had bought, playing Star Wars Trivial Pursuit with the two hilarious drunk dudes who were the only ones ahead of us in line, to just watching throughout the night as more and more fans piled into the line, excitement and anticipation shooting to the stars, catching a few minutes of sleep after the sun came up, to the thrill of actually purchasing the tickets (we sprung for the midnight showing obviously, as well as a prime time 8pm show on opening night – a couple of us also grabbed seats for a matinee directly before that one) The absolute elation of seeing that movie for the first time, something I had never imagined in my life would ever be possible, was a feeling I can’t even begin to describe. A lot can be said about Episode I, and it certainly has its faults (if yousa knowin’ what meesa means), but I would not trade that experience back for anything, and it remains a pivotal day in my life.
I remember some jackass in full Darth Maul costume challenging the entire theater to a duel at the 8pm show, then sheepishly returning to his seat as I yelled “sit down, you only have four lines in the film!” at him. I would go back to the theater and see it several more times during it’s theatrical run.
The fanfare was not as fanatic come time for Attack of the Clones, as technology and the times had made waiting in lines all but obsolete(which is rather unfortunate, it was always quite an experience doing so for concerts and other events, though none moreso than the aforementioned Phantom Menace party), but I still caught it SIX TIMES on opening day.(the midnight show, then every show from 9am til the theater closed) A few years later, I would see Revenge of the Sith only five times on opening day. Yeah, only five. I’m such a fairweather fan. I assumed I’d be able to make six screenings, but the timing of the theater I saw it at only allowed for a maximum of five including the midnight show. Oh well.
Things have not slowed down at all in the years since regarding Star Wars, either in my life, or in the world at large. New books and comics are released monthly, and I read them all. The awesome Clone Wars cartoon is now in it’s 5th season. The Star Wars name can be found on all sorts of items for fans of all ages, and chances are if I am in a store and walk by one of them that I do not already own, I will leave with it. I am a 36 year old grown ass man, and I sleep on a bed covered in Star Wars sheets and a stuffed Ewok (read: reasons Chris X is single) A sizeable portion of my wardrobe is Star Wars t-shirts (and boxers. YES, I HAVE DARTH VADER UNDERWEAR, FIGHT ME) I forget most of the two years of Spanish I took in high school, but am fluent in or know a variety of phrases in Huttese, Ewok, Jawa, Gungan, Bocce (for communicating with moisture vaporators), and Zabraki. My only goal in life is to own a Corellian Stock Light Freighter and travel the galaxy having my way with a bevy of Twi’lek babes. I would seriously rather live in the Star Wars universe than the real world, and the amount of time I have spent fantasizing and daydreaming about such is probably pretty embarrassing. All this because I watched a spaceship fly over a screen when I was a toddler.
“The Force will be with you…always.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi