Wednesday, 17 August 2016


A new breed of hero becomes a cover star to the new RETURN OF THE JEDI TOPPS book. Images: ABRAMS BOOKS and STARWARS.COM

Back in early April 1982, on the Elstree Studios set of the then titled REVENGE OF THE JEDI, Mark Hamill told the official fan newsletter Bantha Tracks that filming on this seemingly last adventure for the Original Trilogy characters felt like coming to the end of senior year in high school- getting ready to leave but also feeling nostalgic for what had come before. I think that such a potent feeling was similarly felt across the board by everybody then working on the ambitious wrap-up blockbuster, and especially beyond its studio home, via those serendipitous merchandisers who had the wisdom and the guts to get licenses on what many Hollywood moguls originally thought was going to be either a disaster or a flash in the pan. Certainly, the TOPPS card company were an early sign-on for STAR WARS, and would enjoy unprecedented success with their cards sets for the first two films back in 1977 and 1980, with the excitement yet also sadness of the trilogy's completion with the eventually renamed RETURN OF THE JEDI fast becoming a very palpable and exciting reality and experience for the series range editor Gary Gerani and the small team, whose work delivering colourful cards and exciting picture selections would become such a locked-in and beloved part of the lives of early generation STAR WARS fans. Gerani's opening history notes for the latest chapter in the collected card series tribute to the TOPPS range, RETURN OF THE JEDI: THE ORIGINAL TOPPS TRADING CARD SERIES - published by ABRAMS COMICARTS, are a wonderful time capsule for those final spirited two years of The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, dealing with an even more efficient and corporate-changed LUCASFILM, talking about the top secret script of which Gerani was one of the few to read it in its entirety, and his fun recollections of getting unique visual glimpses of all the new and striking sequences, worlds, aliens (Jabba the Hutt and his other gross creatures, plus the sweet Ewoks of Endor, who'd all become major selling points to the new run), and cool land and space vehicles that the TOPPS cards would soon so ably display, during a rousing finale period.

Blues and bubblegum! 
The diverse character series wrappers.
Rare shop box packaging.

All of the uniform features of the previous two TOPPS books are present and correct: reproductions of the front photos and back text/art of every card in this two-set series and its stickers (the first set having a bigger card concentration than the second- a deliberate choice in capturing the core audience in the film's primary release window, and the company expecting tail-off sales with the second), some great photos/scans of the individual bubble gum wrappers, boxes and other aspects of the marketing campaign, plus a commentary on selected images by Gernai. Sadly, alongside a few niggly errors, this latter aspect proves mildly disappointing this time out- unlike the previous books, the author's observations/notes accompanying the cards feels a little thin on the ground in places, with few behind the scenes anecdotes and snippets of info actually revealed- a shame, as there are many deleted scenes cards across this particular run whose details would have proved informative to appreciating fans old and new.

Free bonus cards are another welcome treat.

STAR WARS and George Lucas may have gone into a limbo of sorts after 1983, but the TOPPS universe would nonetheless remain a vital part of the franchise's success across the generations to come, celebrating the space fantasy's past and future with further creative ambitions and production drive heading into the nineties.

The saga, and the TOPPS saga alongside it, continues...

The first TOPPS saga is complete...

AFICIONADO RATING: A satisfying and colourful conclusion to this first era of TOPPS and Classic STAR WARS. 3 out of 5

Get hold of the book here: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Three (Topps Star Wars): Lucasfilm Ltd, The Topps Company, Gary Gerani: 9781419720925: Books

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