Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Review: 'Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series'

In the wake of Timothy Zahn’s bestselling sequel novels and the first rumblings that George Lucas would be creating prequels for the big screen, Star Wars mania was once again in full force in the early nineties. While the world waited to see the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” again at the cinema, easier to produce (and frankly, less disappointing) classic-style Star Wars properties filled the gap. That means new figures and vehicles were being hawked at Toys R’ Us stores and new Topps trading cards were being peddled at candy and stationary shops.

The new line of cards was known as Star Wars Galaxy, and instead of offering grainy, blurry movie stills like the original Topps series did, this new line largely featured original art in a wide variety of styles and mediums. The work might mimic classic movie poster art or Marvel’s popular comic series or even the California Raisins, as one ingenious clay rendering of Jabba the Hutt and Salacious Crumb proved. Artists included such big names as Sergio Aragonés of Mad Magazine, poster artist Drew Struzan, and legendary comics artists Jacks Davis and Kirby.

Star Wars Galaxy got really interesting when the artists rocketed their imaginations beyond the familiar film frames to imagine Han Solo and Boba Fett trying to kill each other on Dagobah, an army of probots trying to nuke Luke and his tauntaun, Lando losing the Millennium Falcon to Han in a card game, Boba Fett pulling off his mask to reveal a scarred face, or Princess Leia going for a Dewback ride in her infamous bikini (hyper-sexualized images of bikini Leia were a real favorite of these horny artists).

As it has already done with Topps’ original Star Wars cards (and will soon do with the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi runs), Abrams Books is collecting Star Wars Galaxy into a new volume. I praised the Star Wars cards less for their quality—once again, they were usually blurry and grainy and accompanied by goofy text—and more for their scrumptious nostalgia value and the witty and informative annotations by original trading-card mastermind Gary Gerani.

Perhaps out of respect for the artists collected in Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Gerani keeps his sarcasm in check to mostly just describe each artwork and state the name of the artist. In his introduction, Gerani suggests that the original cards included images of Marvel comic art, promotional art, production art, and other previously issued pieces and nothing like that is included in this book. The back of each original card also contained text by Gerani and professional Star Wars geek Steven Sansweet, and none of that is here either. This makes it a considerably less fun read than Abrams’ first collection of Star Wars cards. Visually, it’s a lot more interesting than volume one because of its high-quality reproductions of some very cool artworks.
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