Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume Two by Gary Gerani (book review).

May 12, 2016 | By | Reply More

Following on from Abrams’ collected Topps trading cards for both ‘Star Wars’ the original movie and the ‘Star Wars Galaxy’ art cards comes the second volume of cards from the 80s. This time around it’s the turn of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ to be given the ‘Original Topps Trading Card Series’ treatment.

Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back Topps

If you’re familiar with the two volumes above, you’ll know that every card from the series is presented in sequence, displayed both front and back and covers each successive wave of cards. In his introduction, Gary Gerani, a creative director in Topps’ New Product division reveals that since the launch of ‘Star Wars’, bubblegum cards had moved away from baseball and gone ‘POP’. Now movies such as ‘Alien’, ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’ and even ‘Mork And Mindy’ had their own card series. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ was therefore a huge opportunity.

© & TM 2016 LUCASFILM LTD. © 2016 The Topps Company Inc. All rights reserved

© & TM 2016 LUCASFILM LTD.
© 2016 The Topps Company Inc. All rights reserved

© & TM 2016 LUCASFILM LTD. © 2016 The Topps Company Inc. All rights reserved

© & TM 2016 LUCASFILM LTD.
© 2016 The Topps Company Inc. All rights reserved

This wasn’t though without its caveats. As Gerani explains, Lucasfilm had told Topps that a major plot point was being withheld from the publicity and it would only become apparent once you saw the movie. It wasn’t what you might think. As it turns out Lucasfilm were very keen to keep the character of Yoda under-wraps until the premiere. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ though had plenty of scope to keep Topps busy. Huge creatures and machines straight out of Ray Harryhausen, bounty hunters and snowtroopers and some all new spacecraft, too. Each element was lovingly detailed on a card.

As befits the work on the cards, the presentation of the book from Abrams is again exquisite. The wraparound cover of this A5 hardback befits the original bubblegum packs while, if you remove the cover there is a stick of bubblegum depicted on the front of the book ready to go. Actual cards are again included with this volume tucked into the back cover too. Everything from the waves that Topps released for the movie are included. This includes stickers and ‘large format’ photos, too, a format that wasn’t reused until a series depicting the ‘Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ came along. Concept art is also represented with ‘Space Paintings’ cards showing some of Ralph McQuarrie’s concept pieces for the film.

© & TM 2016 LUCASFILM LTD. © 2016 The Topps Company Inc. All rights reserved

© & TM 2016 LUCASFILM LTD.
© 2016 The Topps Company Inc. All rights reserved

© & TM 2016 LUCASFILM LTD. © 2016 The Topps Company Inc. All rights reserved

© & TM 2016 LUCASFILM LTD.
© 2016 The Topps Company Inc. All rights reserved

What’s also delightful to see is how the captions on the cards sometimes recall the old bubblegum cards sensationalism found in series such as ‘Mars Attacks’. For example, Vader standing at the end of the dining table on Cloud City is captioned with ‘HOST OF HORROR’ and Han’s freezing in carbonite is captioned with ‘END OF THE STAR WARRIORS?’ It is these juxtapositions of caption and image that present these familiar scenes in a new light.

It is difficult to fault this volume of the Topps Trading Cards series. Perhaps a little more background on why certain decisions were made would be nice to have with some of the cards, but considering the creative team are having to remember why certain cards were made some thirty-six years on, it is quite remarkable that there is any information at all. This is a beautifully presented volume that definitively captures one whole, huge area of merchandise from a beloved movie.

John Rivers

May 2016

(pub: Abrams Comicarts. 542 page hardback. Price: £15.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-41971-914-1)

check out websites: www.abramsbooks.com and http://abramscomicarts.com

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Category: Books, Star Wars

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