Thursday, 27 March 2014

Looking back at Star Wars Weekly – issue 5

'Win the cast of Star Wars': the cover of Star Wars Weekly issue five

"Win the cast of Star Wars – great contest inside!"

So ran a strapline on the front of Star Wars Weekly issue 5 in the UK, on March 8 1978.  Win the cast of Star Wars? That really did sound like a hell of a competition.

In fact, the competition was about the arrival of Star Wars action figures in the UKAs discussed in this post, American manufacturer Kenner had not been able to get Star Wars action figures into the shops in time for Christmas 1977. They were not quite in the shops in the UK, either, but they were on the way.

A double page spread in Star Wars Weekly 5 showed us that the action figures were part of the new range of Star Wars toys from Palitoy.  Some of the toys pictured were already in the shops; others were promised as coming soon.

The Palitoy ad for Star Wars toys and games from Star Wars Weekly issue five
"Already you can joint he rebels in their fight against the evil Darth Vader in the Escape from Death Star game, and colour your own Star Wars posters with the Poster Art Set," said the advertising copy. "Soon there'll be painting sets, masks and kites, and Star Wars figures ready for action."

The action figures would be "accurate in every detail – even down to Obi Wan Kenobi's laser sword", we were told.  And as well as those masks, we were promised the Star Wars Play-Doh modelling set after Easter.

Further back in the comic, we came to that competition to "win the cast of Star Wars in miniature".  The prizes were 25 sets of Palitoy's Star Wars figures, each set worth £11.88 in the shops. Compare that against average pocket money in the 1970s (I think mine may have been 10p a week; certainly it would not have been more than 20p) and you get an idea just how steep the prices of the action figures were.

The average child of 1978 would have been so excited about all these toys that it would be easy to skip over the comic strips.  The film adaptation this week began with this impressive full-page panel:
The opening page of the film adaptation in Star Wars Weekly 5

This frame is, of course, leading up to the impressively-drawn destruction of Alderaan, and then to  the arrival at the Death Star, which is depicted in another striking panel taking up a full page:

The Falcon is drawn into the Death Star in some striking
Howard Chaykin/Steve Leialoha art for Star Wars Weekly issue five

The film adaptation stops as soon as our heroes were aboard the Death Star, which is pretty frustrating.  After that, we have the by now obligatory downbeat SF reprint – part two of 'War Toy', which, as mentioned in this post, was clearly never going anywhere cheerful.  And finally, a departure: 'stave 1' of a sword and sorcery tale called 'The Sword and the Star' which is so incredibly wordy that I can scarcely imagine a child ever getting through it.  I suspect just about every reader went straight back to page eighteen and entered that competition.  The missing bit of the page in my copy proves that I did exactly that.


John I. White said...

Oh - nothing can describe the excitement of seeing those action figures! Even if they did look a bit - silly. Accurate in every detail? Pah! Yes, like today, Star Wars stuff was ridiculously over-priced and of dubious quality.

But by God - I couldn't wait. but wait I did, until the following Christmas - 9 months later.

Until then, I tried to make my other actioon figures into Star wars ones. Maskatron's white shirt had Han Solo's Waistcoat permanent-black-markered onto it. The Action Man German helmet became Darth Vaders [more marker] and blonde action man who was once named Paul Newman - became a crew-cutted Luke!

The long wait also made me create a cardboard landspeeder, TIE Fighter and X-Wing which brought me innumerable hours of joy!

Darren Slade said...

Thanks John. Like you, I was used to Action Man and other 12-inch action figures. (Remember the Lone Ranger and Tonto and their incredibly well produced and articulated horses?) So the Star Wars figures were disappointing to me and I was never especially keen to get hold of them. This shows what an eye I have for an investment.
I would love to see your home-made vehicles and modified Action Men. Do they, or any pictures of them, survive?

John I. White said...

I'm not sure what I have. The alterations were minimal. The imagination did the rest Darren.
Oh yes, the Lone Ranger and Tonto toys looked fantastic in those catalogues.