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Tag Archive: The Empire Strikes Back


Review by C.J. Bunce

The 800-page, two-volume hardcover book set Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie, published last year by Abrams (still in print and available here at Amazon), has been celebrated by fans as one of the best looks behind the scenes of Star Wars ever created.  The exhaustive, comprehensive collection of the concept art Ralph McQuarrie created for the original Star Wars trilogy will enlighten even the biggest fans of the franchise.  You may have known how closely McQuarrie worked with George Lucas to bring Lucas’s story to life visually, but only after stepping scene by scene through these images do you realize that when you close your eyes and think Star Wars, what you’re seeing was drawn or painted by Ralph McQuarrie.

Compiled by Brandon Alinger, Wade Lageose, and David Mandel, Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie takes readers chronologically through the films, and tie-in specials, documenting not only the familiar final visual McQuarrie created, but copies of retained interim designs that McQuarrie painted over.  So if your only familiarity is The Illustrated Star Wars Universe or the original portfolio reprints many of us had as kids, then this monumental volume is for you.  But this book set may not be in most readers’ budgets, listing at $250 and even on sale it can be priced at greater than $150.  Star Wars and Ralph McQuarrie fans now have a second opportunity to obtain a more affordable look at McQuarrie’s artwork.

Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie: 100 Postcards is Abrams’ latest bookshelf keepsake in the style of the successful Star Wars: Frames: 100 Postcards series reviewed previously here at borg.com back in 2015.  Selected from Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie, these panoramic postcards are a celebration of Star Wars as a masterpiece of design and world-building.  The deluxe full-color package also functions as a display frame: the box features a die-cut window, so fans can rotate their favorite production design paintings into view.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you had a time machine and your goal was to find someone to give a master class in storytelling–a master class in worldbuilding–and bringing an idea to reality, would there be a better choice than Jim Henson?  Henson will be forever known first for his Sesame Street character Ernie and Muppets Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Teeth, Waldorf, The Swedish Chef, and more.  The Muppet Movie and The Muppet Show are beloved by generations.  He made the unreal seem real, and fantasy as close to reality as we may ever see it.  Yet he was perhaps proudest of the creation of the first full-length, live-action motion picture where the stars were all creatures, The Dark Crystal, yet another of the unforgettable films from 1982 we’re celebrating this year here at borg.com.  The Henson family and The Jim Henson Company have opened their archive and published the remarkable story of the film from idea to the film’s release in The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History, available this month from Insight Editions.

Writer Caseen Gaines’ new chronicle of The Dark Crystal is not a typical “visual companion.”  The story told in the text provides a most intriguing account of Henson, a behind the scenes look at the man from his family and all those who worked with him, as he talked through the idea for a darker story while delayed on a chance cancelled flight with his daughter, as he cast a team of puppet builders, creative performance artists, artisans, costumers, and concept design artists, as he leveraged the success of The Muppet Movie, and strategically negotiated his way to gain investment dollars to make a film that stands alone in the history of fantasy film.  As daughter Cheryl Henson states in the book, “I don’t think my father ever tried to hide how something was done, because how it’s done is often as interesting as the final product”–and that proves true in The Ultimate Visual History.  She provides a foreword to the book and an introduction is provided by film creators Brian and Wendy Froud.

Gaines includes tipped-in replica memorabilia from the Jim Henson archives, which she integrates into the narrative to illustrate the five years of Henson’s concept to screen process.  Readers gain new appreciation for Henson as we witness his own hand-written notebook pages of ideas for the characters that would transform into the dualism of the Skeksis and Mystics, Brian Froud’s original concept book created to sell the idea to investors, outlines, story treatments, hand-drawn sketches, scene memos, and a concept art pitch book by Froud for a planned sequel.  Photographs document a chronological preparation of characters looking at first nothing like their final on-screen personas and the difficult process of creating the mechanics for each type of character, for Gelflings Jen and Kira, the exiled Skeksis Chamberlain, Jen’s dying Mystic master, a room full of potato-headed Podlings, the wise goddess/prophet Aughra, the majestic Landstriders, the giant beetle-like Garthim, and the cute and toothy fuzzy Fizzgig.  The new fantasy world had its roots in myths and folklore, yet Henson created something singular with all these magicians that was akin to Tolkien’s fantasy realm.

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For more than six years we at borg.com have been covering entertainment memorabilia auctions–sales of not merely replicas or mass-produced collectibles, but the real objects seen on film–rare or even one-of-a-kind costumes created by award-winning Hollywood costume designers, detailed props created by production crew, model vehicles created by special effects departments like Industrial Light and Magic, prosthetics created by famous makeup artists, set decoration, concept art, and much more.  Amassing a wide variety of artifacts from classic and more recent film and television history, London and Los Angeles-based Prop Store is hosting its annual auction later this month.  Known for its consignment of some of the most well-known and iconic screen-used props and costumes, Prop Store’s ultimate museum collectibles auction will be open for bidding from anyone, and items will be available at estimates for both beginning collectors and those with deeper pockets.

The Prop Store Live Auction: Treasures from Film and Television will be auctioning off approximately 600 items.  You’ll find the following movies and TV shows represented and more:  3:10 to Yuma (2007), 300, Aliens, Back to the Future films, Blade Runner, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Chronicles of Narnia films, Elysium, Enemy Mine, Excalibur, The Fifth Element, Gladiator, The Goonies, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Jason and the Argonauts, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the Indiana Jones films, Iron Man, the James Bond films, Judge Dredd (1995), the Jurassic Park films, Kick-Ass 2, Kingsman: the Secret Service, Lifeforce, Looper, The Lost Boys, The Martian, The Matrix, Men in Black III, Mission: Impossible (1996), The Mummy (1999), Patton, Pirates of the Caribbean series, Predators, the Rocky films, Saving Private Ryan, Scarface, Serenity, Shaun of the Dead, Shawshank Redemption, Sherlock Holmes (2009), Star Trek franchise, Star Wars franchise, Starship Troopers, Superman films, Terminator films, The Three Musketeers (1993), Tropic Thunder, Troy, True Grit, Underworld: Evolution, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Willow, The Wolfman (2010), World War Z, and the X-Men films.

You can flip through the auction house’s hefty 360-page catalog, or start with a look at what we selected as the best 50 of the lots–what we predict as the most sought-after by collectors and those that represent some of fandom’s favorite sci-fi and fantasy classics and modern favorites.

  • Industrial Light and Magic 17 3/4-inch Rebel Y-Wing filming model from Return of the Jedi
  • Sark (David Warner) Grid costume from the original Tron (1982)
  • Julie Newmar’s Catwoman costume and Burgess Meredith Penguin hat from the classic Batman TV series
  • Buttercup (Robin Wright) Fire Swamp red dress from The Princess Bride
  • Chekov (Walter Koenig) “nuclear wessels” costume, Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) costume, and Sulu (George Takei) double shirt from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • Full crew set of costumes (Malcolm, Zoe, Wash, Jayne, Inara, Kaylee, River, Book, and Simon) from Serenity (sold as individual costume lots)
  • Jack Nicholson purple Joker costume, plus separate coat and hat, from Batman (1989)
  • Enterprise-D 48-inch “pyro” model from Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Will Munny (Clint Eastwood) stunt shotgun from Unforgiven
  • Star-lord helmet from Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Thor (Chris Hemsworth) Mjolnir hammer from Thor

  • Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II jumpsuits made for Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman
  • Witch-king of Angmar crown from The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
  • Val Kilmer Batman suit and cowl from Batman Forever
  • Maverick (Tom Cruise) flight suit from Top Gun
  • Geoffrey Rush Captain Barbossa costume from the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, Curse of the Black Pearl

And there are so many more.  Like…

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The latest volume from the partnership of Abrams ComicArts and Topps Trading Cards as they document some of the greatest non-sports trading cards ever released is now available.  Star Wars: Return of the Jedi–The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume Three reproduces–for the first time–all 220 cards and 55 stickers in a single deluxe hardcover volume.  And like the first two volumes in the series, it includes the image of the classic bubble gum stick inside the classic wax pack style cover jacket.

It’s the next book in the now long line of great trading card books from Abrams.  It includes four bonus trading cards made exclusively for this edition, including both title cards for the two Return of the Jedi card series, and is similar in design to the previous trading card reference books Bazooka Joe and His Gang reviewed here at borg.com, Mars Attacks 50th Anniversary Collection reviewed here, and Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series reviewed here.  Abrams ComicArts and Topps released the first compilation of Star Wars trading cards last December–Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One, reviewed here at borg.com, and this April we reviewed the second volume, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two, here.

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Star Wars insider and trading card editor Gary Gerani returns to give fascinating insight and a behind-the-scenes look at Topps as it coordinated with Lucasfilm to create and market these licensed images.  Gerani was the original editor of the three Star Wars Topps series who worked with Lucasfilm to select the photographs for the card sets and wrote the card titles.

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Alamo Drafthouse announced it will be bringing the original Star Wars trilogy to cities across the country this August with an epic “Return of the Trilogy” theatrical event.

The original Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi will screen back-to-back-to-back as one triple feature.

While many dates and locations are still to be announced, “Return of the Trilogy” screenings will take place at venues in more than 20 cities throughout the month of August.  All three of the films will be presented in their 1997 re-release format. Tickets for most markets will go on sale at ReturnOfTheTrilogy.com on May 4th, otherwise known as Star Wars Day: May the 4th Be With You.

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More than just an epic triple-feature, each “Return of the Trilogy” show will be in its own unique celebratory event, featuring specially curated video content before and between films, contests, props to bring the power of the Force to life, and other special surprises.  And coming dressed as your favorite Jedi, scoundrel pilot, or rebel scum will be very much encouraged.

Here is the initial list of cities:

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Topps Empire Strikes Back Abrams

Coming next week is the latest volume from the partnership of Abrams ComicArts and Topps Trading Cards as they document some of the greatest non-sports trading cards ever released.  Complete with a photo of the famous stick of bubble gum on the cover, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back–The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume Two reproduces–for the first time–all 352 cards and 88 stickers in a single deluxe hardcover volume.

It’s the next book in the now long line of great trading card books from Abrams.  It includes four bonus trading cards made exclusively for this edition, and a wax pack-style book jacket like the similar excellent releases Bazooka Joe and His Gang reviewed here at borg.com, Mars Attacks 50th Anniversary Collection reviewed here, and Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series reviewed here.  Abrams ComicArts and Topps released the first compilation of Star Wars trading cards just last year–Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One, reviewed here at borg.com.  An introduction and commentary throughout Volume Two is provided by Gary Gerani, the original editor of the Star Wars Topps series who worked with Lucasfilm to select the photographs for the sets and wrote the card titles for The Empire Strikes Back series, too.

Yoda Topps card    ESB Topps title 2 card

Gerani recounts reading the script for Empire in advance of the release, and learning the real #1 secret that Lucasfilm was trying to keep under wraps.  And it wasn’t about Luke Skywalker’s parentage or a bounty hunter with little actual screentime.  Hint: It may be related to a certain spectacular new “muppet from space”.

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empire-strikes-back AT-Ats

Whether you’re a fan of the all-terrain armored transports of AT-ATs from their first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back or you’re new to the Star Wars universe and your only contact is the damaged AT-AT turned Rey’s desert planet home in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you can now build your own thanks to 3D printing technology.  Designer Kirby Downey has uploaded his own plans to build a fully-articulated 1:75 scale model.  And it definitely looks like the real thing.

As completed the model is about one foot tall.  All you need is a 3D printer, 560 grams of Formfutura light grey PLA filament, and about 65 hours to print the 70 component parts with minimal support required.  Although you can build it without glue, Downey uses glue in his YouTube video as well as a metal rod for more support.

3D AT-AT model

The final piece has 15 points of articulation.  Check out Downey’s video of the build here:

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Wizard World Des Moines

Convention planner Wizard World will hold its first pop culture convention in Iowa this June–one of dozens of Cons it is holding across the country this year.  Wizard World Comic Con will introduce Des Moines to sci-fi icon William Shatner (Star Trek), horror icon Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Billy Dee Williams (The Empire Strikes Back), and Jewel Staite (Firefly), plus Emily Kinney and Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead), and a giant roster of other celebrity guests from film and TV, past and present.

Arrow Manu Bennett

Arrow’s Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, actor Manu Bennett.

Other familiar genre actors scheduled to attend include Manu Bennett (Arrow, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), Dean Cain (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), J. August Richards (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Angel), Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville), Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, Psych), Cassandra Peterson (Elvira, Mistress of the Dark), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), and both Sean Patrick Flanery and David Della Rocco from Boondock Saints.

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Dean Cain, from Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

Several well-known comic book writers and artists will be featured in Wizard World’s Artist Alley: Des Moines’s own Ant Lucia (DC Comics “Bombshell” covers and posters), Neal Adams (Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow), Mike Zeck (Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars), Iowa-based artist Phil Hester (Green Arrow, The Flash), Michael Golden (Star Wars, The ‘Nam), and many others.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Like Star Wars or the first of any good trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was almost a standalone story, to be watched over and over again.  And like The Empire Strikes Back, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug jumps rights into the adventure and doesn’t relent until the final cliffhanger at film’s end.  The Desolation of Smaug’s triumph may be a sweeping and epic inclusion of more fantastical settings and strange, new worlds than any film before it, some beautiful in their colorful grandeur, others in their dark creepiness.  And more story and subplots are fit in to keep viewers on the edge of their seats for the whole two hours and forty minute tour.

Dwarves The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug

It’s hard to say if this installment of The Hobbit is better than the first.  It’s a wondrous tale in the same way as the Harry Potter series included the stand-out episode Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Sure, it needs to be seen in the context of what comes before it, but wow, what a great ride in and of itself, almost literally.  We’d seen previews of the great dwarf barrel escape scene, but director Peter Jackson didn’t just squeeze in river ride as an afterthought.  It’s full of good humor and action, something like what we imagine George Lucas intended in his pod race scene, but this effort is successful, focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of dwarves and elves alike, as they dodge the grotesque and foul Orcs under the leadership of two particularly nasty fellows, Azog (Manu Bennett) and Bolg (Lawrence Makoare).  Most of the action is over-the-top, but if you’re in for a penny you’re in for a pound, and the arrows flying and dragon fire ablazing are what any fantasy fan could hope for.

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Smaug Dwarves

Not since the first trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has Peter Jackson released a more enticing movie trailer for his Middle Earth films.  This full-length “sneak peek” for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at three minutes includes so many characters, so many locations, so many great sets and costumes, that the waiting until December 13 for its release is going to be… well, the hardest part.

Smaug epic quest

So much action and destinations on this epic journey of Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo Baggins, and Thorin Oakenshield and his band of Dwarves, makes us wonder whether this could possibly be the sequel of sequels in Peter Jackson’s arsenal.  We of course loved both The Lord of the Rings installments of The Two Towers and The Return of the King.  But like The Empire Strikes Back was for George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy, will this be the grand opus for Peter Jackson?

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