Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Steve Sansweet and the Tales of the Blue Snaggletooth

18 years ago, Steve Sansweet – who’s leaving his position at Lucasfilm next spring – validated a tiny, almost-forgotten piece of my childhood.

From Collect All 21!

During this second surge of Star Wars stuff, my family and I paid a visit to grandma over in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Among Upper Sandusky’s claims to fame are an old Wyandot Indian mill, a cemetery headstone recognized by Ripley’s Believe It or Not because it says “Feb. 31”, and being the home of a character in the Infocom text adventure “Leather Goddesses of Phobos” when those games were the computer geek rage in the 1980s.

My grandma was a librarian at the Carnegie Public Library in Upper, so I spent a lot of time there. Classic old brick building with narrow staircases and a basement that felt dark all the time. I can almost imagine into existence the wood and plaster and book-page smell of the place.

Up near the front door was a glass case where people would display collections of things, and on one visit, my grandma wanted me to see the collection of Star Wars toys in there. And that’s where I saw something that would confound me for years: an action figure that looked kind of like the short, red-suited Snaggletooth I had – same face, same hands, same belt buckle design – but this guy was tall and blue and had shiny silver moon boots.

I stared at this thing, trying to figure out what it was and where it had come from and why wasn’t it in any of the Kenner Star Wars catalog booklets and how, good God, could I get my hands on one?

I remember telling my friends about it, and none of them had seen or heard of one of these things either, and I probably sounded like that kid on my street talking about his supposed Grand Moff Tarkin toothbrush. It didn’t help that I never saw another Blue Snaggletooth as a kid.

I was eight or nine years old at the time. Fast-forward to 1992, when I’m 21 and in the middle of a difficult stretch of my life. Walking toward a Waldenbooks in a Toledo, Ohio mall, I see this staring out at me from a storefront display:

Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible by Stephen J. Sansweet.

Though it’s hard to remember, this was a time when there weren’t whole shelves full of Star Wars books and piles of Expanded Universe comics – so seeing this black-and-gold Darth Vader visage was a very cool sort of shock.

Inside is the incredibly detailed story of how the Kenner Star Wars guys I loved as a kid had come to life. And as I flipped through these pages, taken back years by the pictures of action figures and spaceships and sketches and models, here’s the one that had me giddy:

Because there it was: That BLUE Snaggletooth that I hadn’t seen or heard of in ages, and which part of me had maybe started to believe had been a figment of my imagination after all. It was REAL – and it had a HISTORY – and I wished somehow I could reach back through time to those incredulous looks I got from my friends when I was talking about this figure and point them to that page and say, “See? Seee?!?!”

I still think this is the best book Sansweet’s ever done, partly because it holds a special place in my memory, and partly because from a purely journalistic point of view, his writing and reporting roots shine through in the interviews and research and the level of work he put into in covering the early Star Wars merchandising history – work which hadn’t been done by anyone at that point. I think it’s fair to say a large part of the roots of vintage collecting archaeology trace back to this book, and I know it played a big role in re-igniting my own memories and fandom.

I got to meet Steve for the first time at Celebration V in August, and had him sign that very same and by now well-worn paperback. “Gee,” he wrote inside the cover, next to a smiley face, “can’t you afford a better condition book?”

Not one that would be worth as much to me as this one.

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October 20, 2010 Posted by | 1990s, Books, Current Affairs, Film, Games, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Of Mice and Clones

I met Sean Forney last summer at the Buckeye Comic Con and ran into him again at Screaming Tiki in October, when he showed me some designs he was working on for a possible Lucasfilm-licensed T-shirt. And a few months ago, he came to mind when I got a BGSU alumni newsletter mentioning him. (So, bonus points for being a fellow Ohioan and a Falcon!)

Click to enlarge.

Sean emailed me recently to share the final product, which he did for Disney’s Star Wars Weekends 2009 in conjunction with Blue Planet Gear, and though I can’t find any information on where these shirts may have been sold – I wonder if they were some sort of exclusives for the 501st or the Rebel Legion – I still think it’s awfully cool. (I particularly like the detail on the leftmost clone in the trio.)

Now that the shirt’s done, Sean, who grew up a Star Wars fan, told me a little bit more about the whole process in an email:

“I received an email from Bill at Blue Planet out of nowhere about doing a Stormtrooper shirt. The initial design was a Stormtrooper and two Clonetroopers for a shirt for the 501st. After that design I was asked to do a Mickey Mouse in Stormtrooper gear for the Star Wars Disney Hollywood Studios Weekends. I finished this design and Disney passed on the idea of Mickey as a Stormtrooper. So I was asked to re-do the first Stormtrooper design and it was approved for the Disney Hollywood Studios Star Wars Weekends.”

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

“The idea for the design came from Bill at Blue Planet, but I came up with the poses through a series of sketches. Blue Planet was in contact with Lucasfilm and had the license to do the shirts. The final product came out just like the original designs and there weren’t many revisions.”

“It was thrilling. I have to admit it was a little nerve-racking making sure all the details were correct on all the troopers but in the end it was definitely worth it.”

To me, one of the neater aspects of the “new” Star Wars era – which is actually pushing two decades old itself, if you put its birth around the time of Timothy Zahn’s “Heir to the Empire” release in 1991 – has been seeing this incredible array of artistic takes on the saga and its inhabitants, as compared to the relatively limited number of interpretations in the original trilogy era.

July 1, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, Fiction, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Of GeekDads and Star Wars and Girls and Duran Duran Trapper Keepers.


Last week, over at GeekDad, I reviewed Bonnie Burton’s book Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change. You should definitely click here to read the post – I’m not going to cover much of the same ground here, but I thought it was good and practical and insightful. And my daughter’s been very possessive of it since I brought it home from the library.

BurtonBookKelsey’s just wrapping up sixth grade – which has included its share of age-appropriate social drama – so Bonnie’s book came along at a good time for us. (And honestly, how impressive is it that someone who grew up in the 1980s like me can manage to write a book that somehow connects with both me and my daughter?)

And Bonnie – who writes and edits Lucasfilm’s StarWars.com and has done a ton of other writing you can find through her Grrl.com site –  was a ridiculously fun interview: We talked my office phone’s battery to death, for starters, and for my money, anytime you can look back at a conversation’s topic checklist and check off Duran Duran Trapper Keepers, Nine Inch Nails and Peter Murphy, Fringe, junior high angst, Star Wars, and Ranger Rick magazine, well, that talk is a keeper.

Also, she recently Tweeted that for instant pop culture taste improvement, “Journey is the bacon of music.” And how can you not get behind that?


May 25, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, geek, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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