Recently I have posted and focussed on outer space a bit more through the unlikely figure of the ‘father of modern wargaming’ Donald Featherstone and the wargaming grandfather and science fiction writer H.G. Wells
The above image (Topps Trading Card No. 72) from Rogue One one of my favourites of the Star Wars films sums up how Star Wars has changed since I was a young boy watching the first film Star Wars IV A New Hope on its release c. 1977/78.
We didn’t see many films at the cinema growing up in the 70s. It remains the only film I have seen twice in the cinema – I still remember the awe of watching the opening moments of a huge Imperial star cruiser appearing to fly over your head across the top of the screen.
It changed the school playground overnight. Everything became space!
I have seen each of the films since in the cinema and Rogue One remains a favourite, being a stand alone prequel to the events of the first film in 1977 /78.
Now Disney have worked hard to make these movies as inclusive as they can be ranging from female X Wing Fighter pilots, young and old to a multiracial cast.
That gutsy feisty dark-haired space princess heroine of Princess Leia has been recreated many times in the subsequent films and stand alone films.
The Mandalorian Disney TV series continues this multiracial inclusive approach. Everyone should be able to see themselves reflected in this Star Wars universe somehow.
Thanks George Lucas and team for bringing us this interesting, inspiring, gritty and fantastical universe.
This is the set I wish I had bought – Star Wars Battle of Hoth set – with the tiny snow troopers and rebel snow figures.
Eventually 1:32 Star Wars figures – seen in my blog post In A Yarden Far Far Away – and MicroMachines type tiny Star Wars figures appeared from different makers. They have been good for the occasional duelling games.
Spot the Airfix Luftwaffe crewman – odd one out – for scale.
My Close Little Star Wars rules for the tabletop or garden
Even the recent gutsy female leads have an element or echo of Leia in the form of Rey lead character (Daisy Ridley) of the last three Star Wars films VII to IX and Jyn Erso in Rogue One (Felicity Jones), probably my favourite recent Star Wars standalone film.
Lots of space related postings over the last four very odd years including the gift of some 54mm plastic American Tim Mee Galaxy space figures from Alan Gruber which are now finally on my painting table.
Sad news that another of the original Star Wars cast has passed away, Peter Mayhew the very tall actor who played Chewbacca, announced on the eve of International Star Wars Day (May the 4th – be with you!)
In honour of the day and Peter Mayhew’s memory, here is a small parade of some my childhood Star Wars figures from the early films. Each represents a part of my mis-spent youth, literally, as if I spent no other pocket money I could scratch together in 1978 about one pound a month. That was what each Star Wars figure cost in the shops. Birthdays and Christmas might stretch to a spaceship or a playset.
By hiding the fiddly bits like guns away in a tin, I still have a few of them left, surprisingly as they have now been played with by several generations of the family over the last forty years.
The bases stopped them being quite as tippy, although lining them up for a photo, they were still fairly unbalanced. On their own they could not stand up well at all which made play a problem, but with no bases they could fit into vehicles or onto lugs on playset bases.
Star Wars remains one of my favourite films, one of the few films I have seen twice in the cinema as a child. It enlarged the scope of my imaginative games beyond soldiers, knights, cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians. Suddenly everything was space crazy again.
Collecting these figures put a serious dent in my pocket money, so the Airfix figures came second place for several years. Star Wars and action figures must have been a serious challenge for toy and model firms like Airfix and Britain’s.
Being Women’s History Month, many of the blog followers are exploring female authors, including cartoon or graphic novels.
I had thought that I would get back into Bronte reading mode and started off reading the first few chapters of Charlotte Brontes novel Shirley (1849), which has interesting potential gaming scenario material. Inspired by recent 1830s and 1840s Chartist riots but set during the late Napoleonic Wars episodes of Luddite machine breaking, there is an interesting attack and defence of a textile mill.
Alongside this, I had lined up in my bedside table for reading another Bronte book from their edited juvenilia High Life in Verdopolis, A Story from the GlassTown Saga edited by Christine Alexander. Unpublished for over a hundred and fifty years since being written in 1834, this edition also has quite Gothic or Romantic illustrations of the main male and female characters by Charlotte herself.
What I ended up reading by accident instead, having found the Bronte books hard to get into, were the first two Star Wars film paperback novelisations that I had not read since childhood and the 1978 Battlestar Galactica novelisation, all well thumbed paperbacks.
Arguably, despite the male authors, there is one attractively feisty female role model in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back in the form of no-nonsense Princess Leia.
Watching the Star Wars prequel stand-alone film Rogue One and sequels film Star Wars VII The Force Awakens and VIII The Last Jedi, I was pleased to see that in Disney’s version of the Star Wars franchise, outer space is now (alien races excepted) more multiracial and equal opportunities in its humanoids than it was in the 1970s Sci-fi days. More main female characters (Jyn Urso and Rey), more female fighter pilots of a mature age, more multiracial female role models, all this will hopefully attract a wider age range and demographic to these films, the sci-fi genre and potentially sci-fi and fantasy gaming.
It is a long time since as a child I saw bits and bobs of Battlestar Galactica on TV in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I completely missed the recent 2005 remake. The 1978 book and background scenario was surprisingly complex, including the metal clad robotic Cylon Warriors (Battlestar’s version of Star Wars storm troopers?). The Cylon villains regard the irrational, emotional nature of the human characters, along with the human imperialist or colonial expansion to other planets searching for resources, as a pest or threat to the peace of the rest of the galaxy. Interesting idea. I look forward to finishing this battered old paperback.
Being an American TV serial or movie like Star Trek, there are more black and female figures in the 1978 BattlestarGalactica than in Star Wars. The female characters in the book do get to pilot shuttles and analyse data but do seem more ‘eye candy’ than feisty. They often need rescuing. At least they get to do more than scream a lot at aliens like many of Doctor Who’s 1970s female companions. Some viewers may disagree.
These paperback novels (including the Star Wars Special Young Readers Edition that I think we bought cheaper through the school paperback book club) had not only the story and fairly accurate dialogue from the movie but x “pages of fabulous colour” pictures from the film. A bit of colour in the otherwise brown and orange 1970s colour palette.
In the late 1970s, before DVDs, videos, downloads and websites made film photos and footage easily available, this added feature of real colour movie photographs was really exciting. Alongside film still colour picture trading cards, I would have drawn these scenes many many times and used them to learn to draw the characters and spaceships.
These Cylon Warriors reminded me of some of the figures of the short lived 54mm / 1:32 Airfix Space Warriors.
The Airfix Space Warriors were only around in shop space in 1981 for a short while. I had one box. I missed these when reissued briefly in silver plastic 6 figure bags in 1995. Since then I have picked them up in ones and twos whenever seen and affordable.
Several more of the Airfix 1981 characters look as if they have a Flash Gordon (1980) Star Wars (1977) Battlestar Galactica (1978) Buck Rogers influence to this cloaked Starbuck / Apollo like space pilot figure.
These Space Warrior figures also contain the only fighting female 54mm figure made by Airfix, the Star Princess with space blaster. They are not often found second hand compared to the other figures. Maybe jealous sisters nicked them all?
I hope to get these figures painted and into action for the summer, added to pound store plastic ‘space warrior’ conversions, especially for future galactic garden games.