I have a passion for collecting vintage Star Wars merchandise from the late 70's. Action figures, comics, trading cards etc - anything related to the first Star Wars movie. But why only until 1980? It's not that I don't love The Empire Strikes Back and beyond (I really do), but there is something about that first wave of Star Wars mania that really grips me, back when it was all fresh and exciting...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Star Wars Halloween

Well, Happy Halloween, folks! Couldn't really think of much to do for a Star Wars Halloween post, but I recently came across this ad in the December 1978 issue of Marvel's comic featuring a bunch of Ben Cooper stuff and put it aside especially. I don't know why this was printed in December. Either the ad was left over from 1978's season, or this is mightily early promotion for 1979.

Ben Cooper Inc. pretty much had a monopoly on Halloween costumes in the 70s. Ultra cheap to produce, the costumes usually consisted of a plastic mask and some sort of vinyl smock. Licensed characters including superheroes, movie monsters and film and TV personalities were popular. Rather than faithfully recreating the outfits of these pop icons, Ben Cooper costumes famously had the name (and sometimes the image) of the character printed on the front of them, presumably to make sure people knew exactly who they were looking at.

I don't have any of the stuff featured on the advertisement, but I managed to pinch a few pics from the net. Later, more characters were added to the line (like Leia and R2).

Here are some prime examples of the 'mask and smock' combo that one could expect from Ben Cooper Inc.

Another variation for that year was the 'poncho' look.

The Chewbacca 'disguise kit' looks intriguing. I've seen those teeth many times since used as parts of vampire costumes, but I wonder what the wig looked like.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Marvel Comics Barcodes

I thought I'd do a short post about an issue that used to really bug me and I know I'm not alone among collectors about this: the issue of barcodes on Marvel comics and whether or not different variations indicate a reprint.

Shortly after I started collecting Star Wars comics, I began noticing that certain comics would either have their barcode struck out, blanked out or replaced by a little Spider-Man head as shown below.

These comics also have a different design around the price and issue number. Instead of these details being surrounded by two separate boxes (below left), the special barcode comics have a black diamond surrounding them (below right).

As the same comic seemed to come with either one design or the other, I suddenly got a horrible feeling that I had been buying reprints at the full price of originals. In a rage I started trawling forums and websites seeking confirmation. What I found out put my mind at rest and I thought I'd now share this with other collectors, or at least my general understanding of the issue.

Comics with the special barcodes and black diamonds are not reprints. They are genuine issues that were sold alongside the regular ones. The only difference is that the two types of comics were sold to different purchasers and are now considered to fall into two categories: Newstand Editions and Direct Market Editions. The deal with newstands (who only wanted to stock current issues) was that they could return any unsold comics to the companies they bought them from and recuperate their money. But these companies also sold directly to comic book stores. As these stores specialised in hoarding back issues, Marvel wasn't about to start paying them for all their old stuff. To make sure none of these Direct Market editions made their way back to the Marvel warehouse, alterations were made to the covers (i.e. the barcodes and issue numbers) to distinguish them from the Newstand editions.

So, all fears can be laid aside: comics featuring the weird barcodes are just as genuine as the normal looking ones. Personally I prefer the Newstand editions as I just think they look better, but there should be no difference in price for us collectors.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Topps Trading Cards: Series 1

Until now, I've held out on collecting sets of Star Wars trading cards, deeming them beyond my budget. But it does appear that complete sets can be picked up on EBay for good prices. If condition isn't too high on your list of priorities. Admittedly, this set is a little tatty, but I prefer to consider it 'well-loved'. Mint condition cards are the ones that were never carried around in some young fan's pocket circa 1977, doing the rounds on the playground.

What I have here is the complete 66 cards that comprised Series 1. Each series had a different colour border (series one being blue). The images on the fronts range from scenes from the movie or promotional 'portraits' showing the characters. Stickers were also released within the packs, but these are often sold separately to the cards themselves nowadays.

Several of the cards had bits of a puzzle on their reverse and formed two large pictures shown below (sorry about the glare).

Other cards either had 'Story Summaries' or 'Movie Facts'.