The Force is strong with Topps Trading Cards.
Remember collecting the company’s baseball cards, movie photo cards, and Wacky Packages stickers as a kid?
Seems like a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, doesn’t it?
If you’re like us (a geek somewhere north of 40) maybe you too wowed over the majesty of Star Wars in 1977 and scooped up every toy, book, and magazine based on the space epic. Heck, anything with the movie title stamped on it became a coveted item back then, and would probably fetch a small fortune on eBay today.
And crowning the treasure trove of late ‘70s memorabilia related to the magical George Lucas movie were Topps’ run of Star Wars bubblegum trading cards (and Kenner’s cool action figures). First published in 1977 and 1978, the cards proved so successful amongst young Force fans that Topps followed the first series of cards (blue border with white flecks) with four more (red, yellow, green, and orange)…leading right up to the 1980 release of the hotly-anticipated Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back.
Incidentally, the movie titles didn’t reference the episodes back then: That conceit came later, when the prequel trilogy hit theaters. It was just Star Wars—not Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope.
Likewise, each trading card series (66 cards and 11 stickers per) only referenced characters and scenes from that momentous first installment, which proved a surprise hit for 20th Century Fox. None of the other potential Star Wars chapters that might’ve been flitting about in Lucas’ skull concerning the before-and-after events in the life of the galaxy’s most dysfunctional family were guaranteed to ever see light of day, much less the neon of a cinema marquee.
Perhaps, like us, you scrounged for the Topps cards at your local Rexall or Walgreens, where they retailed as 15¢ wax packs, in 36-count boxes. And just maybe (unlike us) you even managed to salvage some of the cards from your youth, safeguarding them plastic sleeves and long boxes and secreting them away in the attic or basement.
If so, the Force is strong with you, too.
Wouldn’t it be great to scan some of those cards into a computer? You know, for posterity?
Sure, but don’t bother: Topps already has you covered.
Now available from Abrams books, Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series is a 500-page brick of a book wherein the fronts and backs of every card from each series is faithfully reprinted for your aesthetic edification (that’s 330 cards and 55 stickers if you’re counting).
Hell, we couldn’t have wanted for a better memento (or The Force Awakens appetizer) than this baby.
The book (designated Volume One in what will be a three-part series) effectively recreates all the sense memories you associated with collecting Star Wars cards: The dust jacket is wax—just like the old wrappers, and there’s a lone pink stick of gum printed on the yellow cover beneath.
The only thing missing, really, is that powdered sugar factory smell.
Each card series has its own chapter, with the face and reverse sides of every single card reprinted (one image per page) in slightly larger-than-original scale on an otherwise white page, uncrowded and uncluttered.
These are the shots and scenes you fetished over, kiddies.
Screenwriter / Topps guru Gary Gerani takes us inside the wheeling-and-dealing behind the cards, whose run was initially rejected by then-Topps president Arthur Shorin. But Gerani and fellow champion Len Brown argued for product to coincide with the Lucas film—particularly after rival publisher Donruss passed. We learn how the cards were printed (from 35mm slides) at Topps headquarters in Brooklyn, and how designers dreamed up the graphics, captions, and numbering scheme.
The author also takes us inside the “Story Summary” and “Movie Facts” information on the cards’ flipsides: Lucasfilm mouthpiece Charlie Lippincott relayed pertinent data about the movie characters, plotline, and behind-the-scenes production process, and how overall look of the cards took on “a unique, almost homemade flavor.”
About half the images are captioned, with Gerani providing noteworthy information on retouches, airbrushing mistakes, and textual faux pas. For example, he gives the inside scoop on the funny flange protruding from C-3PO’s body on card #207—whose corrected version is even rarer than the botched original—and explains how several on-set “unit shots” not appearing in the finished film had some theatergoers convinced they’d missed something on the big screen. Gerani also guides us through the cards’ evolution throughout subsequent runs, and out the hows and whys underlying the switch from solid red sticker borders to black (and later red) “sprocket” borders.
There’s Luke and Leia, and “scruffy-looking nerf-herder” Han Solo with his “walking carpet” Wookie companion, Chewbacca (pictured with his unused crossbow). There’s Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, a Tusken Raider (with his pronged “gaffi” stick), and wily Greedo at Mos Eisley. And here are the Stormtroopers, the scavenger Jawas, and the Modal Nodes cantina band. Significant spaceships like the Millennium Falcon, X-Wings, and TIE fighters are also featured, and with series five we get our first dose of Star Wars on-set photography (e.g., an image of the cast toasting Sir Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan) on the actor’s 62nd birthday).
The book also profiles artist Augie Napoli, who came up with original four-toned color artwork for the wax packs and store boxes. All five wrappers are imaged, and readers can finally see what all those gigantic puzzles were supposed to look like once they assembled all the proper card backs. The tome’s final thick, glossy pages pay homage to the short-lived (but equally awesome) line of Star Wars cards contained in specially-marked loaves of Wonderbread, and pop culture consultant adds an auspicious afterword. Abrams even includes a packet of four exclusive bonus cards (affixed to the inside back cover).
Brimming with nostalgia, this book will a splendid stocking-stuffer for the middle-aged Jedi master or aspiring young Padawan in your life.
Volume Two (featuring cards from The Empire Strikes Back) is due out in April 2016.
Talk about a cliffhanger!
Imprint: Abrams ComicArts
Publication Date: November 17, 2015
Trim Size: 5 1⁄2 x 7 1⁄8
Page Count: 548
Illustrations: 500+ color illustrations
Format: Hardcover (+ trading cards & wax jacket)
Rights: US/CAN/AUS/NZ/UK English
Star Wars: Topps Trading Cards at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Star-Wars-Original-Trading-Series/dp/1419711725