The Blockade Runner

Star Wars Is Forever


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Abrams ComicsArts Star Wars: Galaxy and The Empire Strikes Back Topps Cards Series Books

Abrams ComicsArt released the excellent Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series late last year (which I wrote about here).  Author Greg Garani has followed up that first book with collections covering the Topps cards for The Empire Strikes Back as well as the Star Wars Galaxy series from the 90s.

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Both books include an introductory essay from Garani chronicling the production of each series as well as hundreds of pages of images that faithfully every card from both. Like the first volume, the production quality of these books is excellent; they feature hardcover binding and thoughtfully crafted dust jackets (Galaxy’s is a shiny foil-style while Empire‘s emulates the waxy paper associated with trading card bubble gum) that result in a classy and collectible product. The included images of each card are often paired with captions from Garani that share trivia or anecdotes about the thought process behind design and marketing choices, and the books are just a joy to flip through in no small part due to the author’s obvious enthusiasm for the subject matter.

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I haven’t seen much chatter about these books in the fan community (which is a shame as they are exactly the type of archival collections I’d love to see more of from Lucasfilm and its partners). If you didn’t own or collect any of these trading cards in the past, these books act as an excellent method of affordably experiencing the sets without tracking down and storing the originals. Even if you do have some or all of the cards, these volumes are lovingly produced tributes to the series and act as great collectibles and convenient ways for experiencing the series all over again.

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The Return of the Jedi volume is slated for release in August and is up for pre-order now on Amazon. They come highly recommended and I’m looking forward to more collaboration from Lucasfilm and Abrams as these collections have left me thoroughly impressed. You can find links to the other books the companies have collaborated on at the Abrams site here.


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Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume One

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I recently picked up a copy of Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume One from Abrams ComicArts on Amazon after Ryan pointed it out to me on Twitter. I hadn’t heard anything about the book, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m super happy I grabbed it as it’s a great collectible and a convenient (an inexpensive) way to enjoy the Topps cards series without having to track them all down.

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The book opens with an essay by author Gregg Garani about the production of this first series of Topps Star Wars cards and it acts as a primer for viewing the volume’s primary content: images of every card from the original run for A New Hope. Garani also includes captions for many of the cards themselves and his commentary is thoughtful and informative as a result of his being part of the team at Topps that put the series together. He apparently also co-wrote Pumpkinhead, so it’s safe to say he rules!

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In addition to the hundreds of pages of images of the card series, there’s also an afterword that focuses on the Wonder Bread cards released alongside A New Hope and even some sealed bonus cards attached to the back cover (I opted not to remove/open them, so I can’t comment on their content).

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The care and quality with which the book was put together is what makes it an exciting product, at least for me. I liked the idea of a volume collecting the original Topps Star Wars cards, but I was a bit skeptical of how engaging the final product would really be, so I was happy to find that Abrams created a really special product here. The hardcover binding is excellent, each page features just one card in a simple, clean layout (one can imagine how the publisher could’ve easily opted for a more cluttered approach resulting in few pages, but also less class), and every choice from the images of gum sticks on the front and back of the book to the wax-like feel of the dust jacket indicate Abrams, Garani, and the rest of the book’s contributors took their time to create an excellent collectible.

Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume One has a list price of $24.95, which I would argue is a fair price, but it’s currently selling for about $16 on Amazon. At either price I’d strongly recommend it to fans of the original Topps cards or those looking for a quality Star Wars collectible. Amazon currently carries listings for volumes based on Empire and the Star Wars: Galaxy card series, so it appears this is the first in a number of books that will provide an exhaustive look at Topps’ Star Wars card series.

 

 


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There Is Another: Disney Store Exclusive Interactive BB-8 Impressions

Sphero’s app-enabled interactive BB-8 toy seems to be the most talked about and highly sought-after piece of Force Friday merchandise, and for good reason: it’s an incredibly enticing and desirable piece of tech. That being said, for many of us it’s difficult to wrap our heads around spending $150 on a small toy (even in an admittedly super-cool way) when there’s so much other great Star Wars merch available right now that could be had for that sum.

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Luckily there’s an alternative interactive BB-8 for those of us who are hesitant to spend the necessary credits on Sphero’s version. The Disney Store, first in the UK and now here in the US as well, has released Thinkway Toys’ larger but less technologically impressive interactive BB-8 for only $35. My son was lucky enough to receive one as a birthday gift last week (which means I’m lucky enough to have one in the house), and while it isn’t the high-tech wonder that the Sphero version is, it’s arguably the better choice for kids and an undeniably endearing toy.

When we opened the Thinkway BB-8, I was immediately struck by its size and weight; it’s a big and sturdy toy and it looks great from afar. We often leave her sitting next to our tv on the piece of furniture it rests on so that it’s both on display and ready to pull down and start patrolling the living room. On closer inspection there are buttons on the front and top of BB-8 that slightly detract from its authenticity, but for the most part it’s quite the toy and prop, especially for the price.

BB-8 moves via a wheel underneath her body, which is initially disappointing, but it’s mostly hidden and it isn’t too noticeable until she begins cruising. Even then her wheel is essentially out of sight, but as soon as Thinkway’s BB-8 becomes mobile, it’s obvious that a toy like this one was never going to feature the incredible movement of its film counterpart. Still, though her lower sphere is stationary as she rolls around, her head does swivel from side-to-side and she has a blue eye that lights up as well.

Movement is activated either by button (on top of her head) or apparently sound, though I’m not quite sure how that works. Unfortunately the instructions are limited to images and light text on the packaging, so I’m still not clear on how the voice activated mode really works. But whether activated by button or by sound, Thinkway’s BB-8 will roll around for a few feet or until she bumps into something insurmountable for her wheel to climb over (she’s pretty good at making the jump from my hardwood floor to an area rug though).

Though the sounds she makes are a nice touch (especially her super-cute shutdown beep), her motor and wheel are also louder than I expected and result in a fairly distracting amount of noise. And though she’s sturdy and seems like she’ll hold up even with a lot of play, her antennas are her one structural weak point. One of them broke within a day of use (she often bumps into walls and other objects), so I’d recommend keeping those packed away or closely monitoring her movements to keep her pristine.
I’m enjoying our BB-8 quite a bit; it’s a fun toy and it looks great when not in use. That being said, it isn’t a collector’s item designed for adults looking for a cool gadget or impressive technology like Sphero’s BB-8. While I’m hoping to get one of those as well, I’m happy to have an affordable alternative in the Disney Store/Thinkway BB-8 and I think it’s an excellent choice for families or for anyone who wants an interactive version of the new droid but can’t afford the pricier version. The Thinkway BB-8 is on shelves at Disney Stores now, but it’s also available on their site. I’ve noticed that the listing has been pulled from the site at least once since the toy was released, so if you’re interested keep checking back in the event it’s not currently available.