Happy New Year!!!! I realize we’re nearly a full month into 2015, but this is the first chance I’ve had to wish you, dear reader, my salutations for a prosperous and pleasant trip around the sun. Ok, enough of that, time to get down to business.
Anyone who knows me knows that toys and Star Wars are two of my favorite things. The toys came first, but the Star Wars followed soon after. Then came the greatest combination in the history of recreational plastic: Star Wars TOYS!!!!! You’ve all heard the story (and if you haven’t here it is AGAIN): I got C-3PO on an Empire card, and the rest is history. My love of toys launched my podcast network, which you can find at www.MarvinDogMedia.com, and my love of Star Wars has informed just about every other area of my life, INCLUDING my newest podcast, Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show.
Ok, now that you’ve allowed me to plug all my various ventures, you’ve earned the right to an actual blog. My love of toys and Star Wars is easy to sate in this day and age, as both topics are readily available for research and discussion, and Star Wars toys seem to have their own corner of the world, what with documentaries like Plastic Galaxy and museums like Rancho Obi-Wan. There are also plenty of websites devoted to collecting, like www.theswca.com. Sometimes, though, you just want something you can put in your bag and take with you on a trip, or something to sit and read at home with no electronic interaction needed. This is where my latest geek-out begins.
Mark Bellomo may have my dream job. He writes books about toys. Lots of books. About lots of toys. His “research” is my “hobby” and I admit I’m a tiny bit jealous of him. Thanks to Dan and Cory of Coffee With Kenobi, Mark contacted me and provided me with a review copy of his latest book. When I reveal the name, you’ll understand why I currently feel like the King of the World. His latest book is called The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Star Wars Action Figures 1977-1985. Basically, he wrote a book about my childhood. With pictures. Lots of pictures. I like pictures.
So I dove into the book as soon as I received it, and I will say right from the start that I think Bellomo has sold the book short with the title, because It doesn’t stop at the action figures. You get a complete rundown on the vehicles and playsets that go along with the figures, INCLUDING the Droids and Ewoks lines, AND a complete section on the 12” action figures that were released with the first round of 3 ¾” figures.
The information here is exhaustive, but never exhausting. Mr. Bellomo’s, writing is very conversational, while still being informative and concise. What surprised me the most about the book is that the entry for each figures spends a great amount of time on the character represented. For example, we learn about Walrus Man’s back story, and that his people are known to be unpleasant and belligerent. The same is true of the vehicles, we learn all about the history of the Twin-Pod Cloud Car’s manufacturer, as well as how it operates and performs such agile banks and turns while in flight.
When I first started reading this information, my initial reaction was one of mild confusion. I was expecting a detailed breakdown of each toy from an aesthetic and manufacturing perspective, sort of a print version of the Action Figure Exclusive episodes of Talking Toys with Taylor and Jeff. I wondered what the intended audience might be for this book, since I would assume that most people who bought the book would already know most of this information from their perusal of Wookiepedia or many of the handbooks that have been published.
HOWEVER, the more I digested of the book, the more I realized the brilliance of Mr. Bellomo’s approach. By the time I got to the 4th or 5th instance of me thinking “huh, I didn’t know that,” I realized that he knows EXACTLY who his audience is. Reading a detailed discussion of one hunk of plastic after another would become tiresome and a bit boring after a time, but discussing the history of the character or vehicle or location provides endless opportunity for “Ah-ha” moments. For instance, in the entry about the Creature Cantina Action Playset, Bellomo provides us with the physical address of the Mos Eisley Cantina! My initial reaction was to Google the address, but then I remembered “oh yeah, this is all fictional.” Thank you, Mark Bellomo for reminding me how tenuous my grip on reality is.
My initial reaction aside, the book IS chock-full of interesting information about each toy. The vehicle sections especially give some great detail about the tooling and construction of the toys. It makes you appreciate the genius of the folks at Kenner back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, which is something that Taylor and I have tried to do with our Action Figure Exclusive podcasts, so this is right up my alley. Along with the paragraphs detailing the background of the items and the production techniques involved, Bellomo also provides us with the retail history of each item. We learn what cardback each figure premiered on, when each vehicle or playset appeared on shelves, as well as the original retail price of each toy! That information made me even MORE appreciative of the investment my parents made into my playtime as a child. We also get a detailed listing of variations of each toy, from changes in paint color to a listing of accessories that were included (or, in some cases, NOT included). As if all of that isn’t enough, we also get a well-researched listing of current prices for each toy, both in MOC (Mint-On-Card) or MISB (Mint-In-Sealed-Box) condition all the way to Loose, Complete condition. Obviously this information will be obsolete after a time, but as a time capsule of the book’s publication date, I find it extremely interesting.
If I have any complaints about the book (and if you know me, you know I’ll find SOMETHING), it’s that, for as exhaustive and inclusive as the book is, I still found myself wondering about the exclusion of the Die-Cast Vehicles line from the early days of the run. By including the “Large-Size Action Figures,” which were not a part of the 3 ¾” line, I fully expected to see a section on the smaller, metal versions of the Millennium Falcon, Slave-1, the Landspeeder, etc. Most people probably wouldn’t miss them, but I have a fondness for these toys, since they are hard-to-find, and I would like to know more about them. That is a VERY minor complaint, and one I hope to discuss with the author. I’ll be interviewing Mr. Bellomo before this blog posts, so I’ll ask him about it, but you will have to listen to that interview to find out the answer. Ain’t I a stinker? Check out Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show and Talking Toys with Taylor & Jeff on MarvinDog Media to listen to that discussion.
So, what’s the final word on the book, you may be wondering? Well, here is my verdict: BUY IT. BUY IT NOW. BUY IT TWICE TO MAKE SURE YOU ALWAYS HAVE A COPY HANDY. Ok, that last part MIGHT be a bit hyperbolic, but I would not blame anyone for obtaining multiple copies, since you never know how long books like this will be in print. At any rate, I do highly recommend The Ultimate Guide To Vintage Star Wars Action Figures 1977-1985. If you have even a passing interest in the Kenner Star Wars line, you will enjoy this book immensely, and if you just like pictures of toys, you’ll find plenty to peruse here as well. Mark Bellomo clearly knows what he’s doing, his years of experience are very evident, as is his love of the subject. That’s the best thing about the book, you can tell it’s a labor of love along with an academic look at the greatest toys ever made.
My thanks to Krause Publications and Mr. Bellomo for providing a review copy of this book. and thank YOU for reading.
For the record, I am claiming dibs on “Recreational Plastic” as a name for a band.
Marvin says hi.
Jeff can be heard weekly on Assembly of Geeks (www.assemblyofgeeks.com) and on his own podcast network, MarvinDog Media (www.MarvinDogMedia.com) where he hosts The Pilot Episode, Talking Toys with Taylor and Jeff, and Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show.
Email Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org
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