Essential Seven Star Wars Collectibles from the Dark Time, 1984-1996

With George Lucas’ recent announcement that he is planning a 3-D release for both of the Star Wars trilogies, given Avatar’s success with the format, we here at Millionaire Playboy are becoming nostalgic for a time before multiple re-releases, special editions, endless waves of action figure variations, and disappointing prequels. Don’t get us wrong, we’re fans, but we feel like we’re beyond the point of over-saturation. And, as a result, we’re thinking about that period of time when Star Wars wasn’t considered cool anymore, when we combed flea markets for idiots selling entire shoeboxes of action figures for a buck, when the Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine slowly but surely morphed into the Star Wars Insider, and when any news from George Lucas about future projects and movies offered hope and excitement that Star Wars would eventually make a triumphant return. Basically, we were like Obi-Wan Kenobi, sitting around in a little hovel thinking about the past and waiting for something to happen. We’re talking about the Dark Time, the period that began after the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983 and extended to the release of the Star Wars Special Edition in 1997. Despite the absence of new movies and media hype, there were some cool collectibles (we’re using the term as all-encompassing to include books, videogames, and model kits, as well as toys), even if they were few and far between. So, here are the Essential Seven Star Wars Collectibles from the Dark Time!

7) Action Fleet: Tie Interceptor

Launched prior to the release of the Special Edition, the Action Fleet, from Micro-Machines, was an attempt to produce an infinitely more playable line of miniature vehicles than the short-lived Micro Collection from 1982. The ships were authentic replicas of movie vehicles with small, pose-able figures. The line was rare in that it focused on authenticity and detail over silly features, like firing missiles or battle damage. While many of the ships were cool, the tie interceptor was one of sleekest. The neatest feature was that one of the Imperial pilots had a removable helmet and featured a tiny likeness of George Lucas. With a beard and glasses, this was the first time the reclusive Star Wars creator was immortalized as an action figure.

6) Dark Empire and Classic Star Wars

When Dark Horse first took over the Star Wars license, they had two initial titles in the early 1990s that couldn’t have been more different. Dark Empire painted a grim picture of the Star Wars universe, as Luke delves deeply into the Dark Side. While Dave Dorman’s vibrant covers captured the look of the movies, Cam Kennedy’s interior art was more abstract (what’s with all the blue?). Classic Star Wars adapted  Al Williamson and Archie Goodwin’s classic comic strips from the 1970s and 80s into comic book form, recounting the events that transpired between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back over the course of twenty issues. While Luke awkwardly pines for Leia, the rebels flee the Yavin base for Hoth and Han battles a bounty hunter on Ord Montel. With the release of the prequels, numerous titles and series flooded the stands. However, these first two titles showed us the new and the familiar, and both were equally exciting.

5) Micro Machines

The Micro-Machines of the early 1990s featured some neat playsets, detailed miniature ships, and an entire population of finely-painted mini-figures. Before the line got bogged down with playsets that transformed into characters’ heads, some really epic playsets were produced, including the gigantic Millennium Falcon that turned into a rebel base. Complete with a Mynock and miniature Y-Wings, this set was inventive and allowed for an infinite number of scenarios.

4) THX VHS Editions (1995)

Arguably the best video release of the classic trilogy thus far. For several years before the Special Editions, this is how we watched Star Wars, and we were content.

3) Dark Forces

Star Wars meets Castle Wolfenstein, in this kick-ass first person shooter. As Kyle Katarn, rebel operative, every kid got to fulfill his dream of running down corridors and gunning down stormtroopers. The game also featured a cool storyline that involved stealing the plans to the Death Star. At the time, Dark Forces was the closet thing to the movies.

2) Yak Face

By 1985, the Kenner line of Star Wars action figures, the driving force behind the merchandise blitzkrieg, began to lose steam without the release of a new film. And let’s face it: the Ewoks and Droids cartoon series weren’t exactly lighting any new fires. However, the Power of the Force line, produced at the tail end, introduced some of the coolest figures, including the rare Yak Face. Never released in the United States, this interesting figure had a unique sculpt and appeared strangely out of sync with the other figures in the line, making it as coveted as the blue Snaggletooth and the missle-firing Boba Fett.

1) The Thrawn Trilogy

For years after the release of Return of the Jedi, rumors lingered that the trilogy was only the middle part of an epic nine-part series. Diehard and casual fans alike firmly believed that someday Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher would reprise their roles for Episodes 7, 8, and 9. With the publication of Timothy Zahn’s Heir of the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command in the early 1990s, it seemed like Lucas had a blueprint for the three later episodes depicting the period after the fall of the Empire. Alas, this was not to be (though, would it have killed Lucas to have Zahn help him develop decent titles for the prequels?) However, hundreds of Star Wars novels have been published since but none of them feel as authentic as these. Despite some goofy parts, such as Luke Skywalker drinking hot chocolate after a bout of insomnia (hot blue milk can put you right out), the books captured the pace and tone of the movies, in addition to introducing popular expanded universe characters, including Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn. And while the covers weren’t as scary or as iconic as the one for Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, the first SW novel published in 1978, they looked like convincing movie posters. These bestselling books not only jumpstarted the expanded universe with a bang, but also kept Star Wars in the public eye.

The Essential Seven is a weekly list of seven items that we at believe needs to be identified. Want our opinion on a topic for a future list? Email Lando Da Pimp. Don’t agree with our list? Then leave a comment. We will try not to laugh at your dumb opinion! ;-)

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