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May The Fourth Be With You: My ‘Star Wars’ Favorites

International Star Wars Day is celebrated on May 4th. Why? Because everyone loves a pun. “May The Fourth Be With You.” It’s alright to groan at that. We Star Wars fans do. But we also celebrate it. Star Wars is pop-culture osmosis at its finest – even if a person has never seen the films, they are aware of the basic concepts of Star Wars. People instinctively understand what is meant when you say “May the Force be with you” even if they shake their heads with disbelief when you say it. But they know what it means.

I’ve been a Star Wars fan since … actually, that’s a little tricky to define. I’ve always liked Star Wars since I first saw A New Hope in the early eighties. But a fan? That probably didn’t kick in until the mid-to-late nineties due to a combination of novels (I’m looking at you Thrawn Trilogy), West End Games‘ RPG, and the release of the Star Wars Special Editions. As I write this, I realize its been around twenty years since those fateful years that have in no small degree shaped a large part of my life.

Since then, I’ve collected Star Wars merchandise. I’ve never been the kind of collector to buy something just because it has Star Wars emblazoned on it but as long as I liked it and thought it was cool I would generally fork over some cash for it. Books and comics that continued the story of the Star Wars universe were my first choice for purchases, followed by anything that contained in-universe lore or information. Video games were bought if I had the capacity on which to play them, and I have a smattering of Star Wars figures here and there (including a Grand Admiral Thrawn). And, of course, over the years I’ve developed some favorites among the collection.

X-Wing: Starfighters of Adumar

XWStarfightersOfAdumar
X-Wing: Starfighters of Adumar - quite possibly the only Star Wars book to include a joke about toilets.

Let’s start this off with a book, since they comprise the bulk of my collection. Choosing a favorite book is tough – depending on the criteria for choosing a favorite, the answer is sometimes different. Fiction vs non-fiction, for example. Non-fiction would go to the superb The Essential Atlas.  But having to choose a favorite book from an interconnected series like X-Wing? Even tougher. But one stands above the rest in my opinion and that is Aaron Allston‘s X-Wing: Starfighters of Adumar. Despite being part of the X-Wing series, Starfighters of Adumar is a standalone novel with a small cast that focuses on the core members of Rogue SquadronWedge Antilles, Tycho Celchu, Wes Janson, and Derek “Hobbie” Klivian. The plot revolves around a single planet choosing to ally itself with either the New Republic or the Galactic Empire where both sides are forced to use pilots as diplomats due to Adumar’s reverence of fliers and combat. What makes Starfighters of Adumar my favorite book is the humor – Allston infused his Star Wars books with a sense of levity and laugh-out-loud moments that were basically ratcheted up to eleven in Starfighters of Adumar. The characterization of the four main New Republic pilots shines through the novel and its focus on a smaller crisis is welcome after reading about galaxy-spanning campaigns with high stakes. Starfighters of Adumar is sheer fun from start to finish.

Star Wars Customizable Card Game

CCG
Star Wars Customizable Card Game - specifically, cards from the Endor expansion.

In 1995, Decipher produced the first (I believe – feel free to correct me) Star Wars trading card game, the Star Wars Customizable Card Game. The CCG was a revelation – giving background characters from the films names and histories, and even tying them into other aspects of the Star Wars universe by referencing material from the books, comics and RPG. Later expansions even included popular Expanded Universe characters such as Mara Jade (modeled by Shannon McRandle who would become the “official face” of Mara), Thrawn, Corran Horn, and Talon Karrde. Buying individual cards for the CCG is probably the first time I realized the kind of money I was willing to spend on Star Wars. I dropped an obscene (for me at the time) amount of money on a Millennium Falcon card that I needed/wanted and shortly after realized that I had basically spent a lot of money to buy a small piece of printed, laminated, card. And the realization that followed was I didn’t care. I’m still looking to complete a full set of cards to this day.

Star Wars Adventure Journals

Adventure Journals
The Star Wars Adventure Journals guarded by mini-LEGO vehicles.

Anyone reading any of my articles can not have failed to notice my love for a particular aspect of Star Wars publishing – West End Games’ roleplaying game. And of all the products they released over the years, the finest were the Star Wars Adventure Journals. Published quarterly, they were each nearly 300 pages long and stuffed with articles, roleplaying adventures, and original short fiction set in the Star Wars universe. For a long time while collecting West End Games’ products, it seemed I had missed out on my chance to own the Adventure Journals since I failed to buy them the first time they were available and my only resort was second-hand. Individual books were being sold for more that I could afford at the time, and eBay auctions were generally high-bidding affairs that I inevitably lost or gave up on. Until one auction that was selling fourteen of them (there were only fifteen Adventure Journals) in a Buy It Now for a ridiculously cheap price. I snapped them up and in one fell swoop had almost the entire set. Only Adventure Journal 5 eluded me for several years becoming my “Holy Grail” of Star Wars collecting until another eBay Buy It Now auction allowed me to complete the collection.

Star Wars : Rogue Squadron

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Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. One of the many reasons for late nights at college.

Growing up, I was a Nintendo kid – NES, SNES, N64. I’d played Star Wars games before, but opportunities were limited to titles like Super Star Wars on consoles and although I got the rare chance to play games like X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and Dark Forces, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron was the first Star Wars game I truly loved. Even now, in an age where my N64 is gathering dust in an attic or being the object of worship to the squirrels I’m sure live there, I have a copy of Rogue Squadron‘s PC version on hand for nostalgia purposes. The sheer playability of the game drew me to it, and the chance to pilot a variety of different Star Wars starfighters had me hooked from the beginning. After beating the game, the goal of attaining Gold Medals and the rank of Supreme Allied Commander kept the game’s replay value alive. I thought hitting those goals would be the end of the game’s attraction, but I was wrong and I kept finding new ways to keep it interesting – mainly by using a Y-wing for every mission.

LEGO Super Star Destroyer

Lego SSD

I love me some LEGO. I loved it as a kid, loved it as a teenager, and I love it now. Even before LEGO started releasing official Star Wars sets I would use my collection to build X-wings and TIE fighters. So it should be no surprise that LEGO Star Wars sets began creeping into my collection. The first was a Snowspeeder, back when the mini figures still had the yellow-colored faces. I don’t buy every set – I really have to like the set to buy it – but I’ve got a Millennium Falcon, several starfighters, and minisets gratefully “donated” by friends and family as presents. At the center of my collection is my pride and joy – the Super Star Destroyer Executor. It is four-feet long and stretches across the top of my chest of drawers. It took me around a week to build on and off allowing for work and it is a beautiful piece of LEGO engineering. Completing the build was one of the best sense of achievements I’ve had in a long while. It also looks amazingly cool.

So that’s my favorite Star Wars products picked from what I own. What are yours?


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