Return of the Jedi: The Original Topps Trading Card Series (Volume Three) edited by Gary Gerani (2016)
The third installment of Abrams’ Star Wars trading card books focuses on the third (now sixth) movie in the franchise, Return of the Jedi. As with the first two books, product designer Gary Gerani recounts the process of reading the screenplay and selecting photos from LucasFilm’s library for use on the cards. It is clear from his writing that by the time they were readying this product for release, he had become quite a fan of George Lucas’ space opera.
Each Return of the Jedi Topps card is reproduced in this volume, with the front and back of each receiving its own page. This is a change from the Empire Strikes Back book, in which the horizontal cards were shown with the front and back on a single page. Gerani occasionally writes a sentence or two about specific cards, but for the most part they are allowed to stand on their own. As with the previous two volumes, bonus cards are again included with this third volume.
I was not even ten years old when Return of the Jedi was originally released, and while I have a handful of the vintage cards from this series, I never came close to completing the entire set. To have all of the cards presented here in one volume, in a much more affordable format than tracking down the originals, is a fantastic way to relive my formative collecting years without breaking the bank.
Star Wars Art: Posters
Few pop culture institutions have inspired as much creativity as George Lucas’ Star Wars. The universe is so expansive with diverse lifeforms, artists could spend years creating new paintings to depict them all. Star Wars Art: Posters features a collection of artwork from the very beginning through today. Concept artwork, promotional pieces, paintings for novelizations are some of the many highlights found within the pages of this 10.5 x 12.5 book.
If you are fanatical about Star Wars artwork, you will certainly recognize some of the artists’ names, such as Tom Jung, Roger Kastel, and Drew Struzan. Even if you are not familiar with those wielding their paintbrushes, you will be familiar with their stunning work, presented for the most part without logos. There are also several modern pieces featured, including Mondo and Acme posters by Tyler Stout, Steve Thomas, Mark Daniels and Mark Steele.
Star Wars Art: Posters is truly a fantastic book, covering the cinematic universe from A New Hope through Revenge of the Sith, television programs such as The Battle for Endor and Clone Wars, and video games like Knights of the Old Republic and The Force Unleashed.
If you need a last-minute Christmas gift for a Star Wars fan, you can’t go wrong here.
The Simpsons Family History
by Matt Groening
After two and a half decades on television, the Simpsons have become extended family to many Americans. Children can relate to Bart and Lisa, while parents can relate to Homer and Marge. They are far from perfect, just as we are. And perhaps that is the reason the show has lasted and remained fresh over a 25-year span.
But that’s not what this book is about. Nor is it about getting the show on the air, or the trials of writing and animating a weekly program. Rather, The Simpsons Family History by Matt Groening is, literally, the history of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, purportedly before the show begins. Using images that were presented as flashbacks on the cartoon, Groening looks chronologically at the family from shortly before Homer’s birth, through his formative adolescent years, to the courtship of Marge, to the birth of their three children. The book ends with Homer pitching the idea of a realistic television show based on his family to Fox, concluding with “…and the rest is history.” There are a handful of words per page to explain the illustrations.
The Simpsons Family History is a neat book, but there is nothing new or revelatory here for long-time fans. It is not a biography of Groening, but an illustrated bio of Homer Simpson, treated as a real and factual account.
Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy
edited by J.W. Rinzler
Star Wars is and always will be pure gold, despite the travesty of Jar Jar Binks. When materials from the original trilogy are made available, fans devour it. Some of those materials are of questionable quality, but Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy is a top-notch book showing what the movie looked like in the minds of those creating it, along with commentary from the artists.
The art from A New Hope is perhaps the most interesting, showing some of Ralph McQuarrie’s original concepts for the characters. Fans who are not familiar with storyboarding need to keep in mind that this is not a graphic novel sort of book, but sketches to give the directors something to go by before they start rolling the cameras. A storyboard is like a blueprint for movie making. Some of the sketches are rough and unfinished, with few details. Some of the art inside is simple black and white, but there are nice splashes of color throughout as well.
There is little doubt that Star Wars fans across the galaxies will love Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy, a glimpse inside the making of the greatest space opera of all time.