Eightiesologo continues with a look at the centerpiece of the banner image, the Han Solo action figure. To this day, Solo remains one of my favorite fictional characters and this figure captures the character in my favorite setting from the Star Wars movies, the snow planet of Hoth!
Star Wars has become a periodic cycle of nostalgia as the last 10+ years have been filled with buzz regarding the prequel films and now as Lucasfilm embarks on animated and live-action television endeavors. But the core of Star Wars nostalgia resides in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, wrapped around the release of the original trilogy of films. And at the center of what became a merchandising empire was the release of action figures based on almost every character from the films. These action figures also happened to be the first of their kind for our generation, triggering a genre that lives on to this day.
Because the first Star Wars film was released when I was three years old, my affinity for that film really only happened in retrospect via rereleases and televised airings. The Empire Strikes Back though was really the preeminent film of the series and perhaps even the entire decade. Despite arriving in the first year of the ‘80s, the movie was so immensely popular that its influence and popularity virtually extended through the release of the last of the trilogy (Return of the Jedi) and beyond, until Star Wars gave way to its successors in genre entertainment and collecting. G.I. Joe and Transformers, as well as a host of other popular franchises (such as Thundercats, He-Man, M.A.S.K., etc.), climbed their way to the top of our collective conscience, and slowly nudged Star Wars toys to the periphery.
But Star Wars action figures, made by Kenner, had a mighty heyday. Perhaps our female audience may not relate to this post but so much of the appeal of action figures has to do with their connection to moving pictures. Whether it’s an animated television show or a live-action film, you’re now able to project your own adventures through this tiny piece of plastic based on an existing fictional character. With Han Solo, this became extra relevant because when our neighborhood was hit with a large amount of snow, the Assumption schoolyard had its snow plowed into piles lining the fence. This created our own Hoth to build tunnels and snow forts on. I could be Han Solo myself.
Archive for the ‘Eightiesologo’ Category
The latest in our series of features on the origin of the Eightiesology banner takes its cue from the baseball pennant race and connects to one of the Eightiesologist’s greatest hobbies, baseball card collecting.
I can see myself on my bedroom floor, in the canyon between my bed and my bookshelf. The old television is on Channel 9 tuned into the Mets. I’m flipping through my baseball cards, alternately dividing the cards by team or in checklist order. I’ve likely just scored myself a pack of new cards from the local stationery, discarding doubles to their respective pile and inserting the new cards into their particular categories. The smell of stale bubblegum permeates the air. The Mets are on the march to the playoffs. All is right in my little world.
It’s the Fall of 1986, the beginning of a jubilant run of sports in my life as the Mets would go on to win the World Series in exciting fashion and the Giants would kick off their triumphant Super Bowl championship season. I’m 12 years old in a time that would turn out to be a collector’s heaven. My room is surrounded by tons of items (sports memorabilia, toys, music) that now sit in storage. But for the moment, it’s all about the source of that bubblegum smell.
I don’t recall exactly the moment I got into collecting baseball cards as I had a pretty decent collection of Topps ’85 cards. I don’t recall having completed my ’86 collection either but I was in full swing by then, integrating myself into this new hobby. By 1987, I was aspiring towards full sets and branching beyond Topps, the flagship baseball card company, and into competitors’ collections. But the Topps 1987 baseball card is sort of the turning point for me when collecting became serious.
The ’87 cards were in anticipation of the ’87 baseball season but reflective of the previous season so the extra oomph of my championship team gave the set even more weight. But the design of the card was a real nice step upward for the industry, infusing it with both a retro wood trim background and a savvy move forward in design and photography (also assisted by the sports’ own modernization of logos and uniforms). Somehow it all came together and clicked, a major step forward in baseball cards from the previous year which had been charming though largely uncreative.
In honor of the kickoff of the new football season and the quest to defend the Super Bowl Championship for the New York football Giants, to latest volume of Eightiesologo will cover the Super Bowl XXI souvenir program.
It had been 17 long years since one of my sports teams won a championship (excluding the Devils since hockey just never invoked the same passion in me as football, baseball and basketball). My teams certainly had championship opportunities in their grasp or, in Charles Smith’s case, had opportunities in their grasp four consecutive times. But that ultimate elation of victory had eluded me for 17 years. Until this past February when the New York Giants won one of the most spectacular championship games ever played, completing an improbable run at Super Bowl XLII.
The Giants victory in Super Bowl XXI, their first such victory, will always be sweet for me too. As an adult, you have a clearer memory and more informed appreciation of the relevance and significance of the events on the field. But as a child, it fits into an almost mythological existence. Thus stories, events, and souvenirs took on an added importance. You had to create your own memorabilia. This year, I had a picture of Eli Manning pumping his fists on my MySpace page a few minutes after the game ended. The next morning I read every journalist’s take on the victory. But in 1987, all I had was the local newspapers and a Super Bowl program.
These souvenir programs are typically a glossy promotional affair, filled with nods to Super Bowls past, ads for beer and trucks, and lots of large color pictures. There’s always that cool feature of “how the team was built,” tracing the origins of the entire time. And just being able to really identify the men behind the masks. When you’re team is gearing up for the big game, you’ll gobble up everything you can—NFC championship pennants, t-shirts, newspaper clippings, etc.
I could never get enough of sports memorabilia at that age. This is where you really form an allegiance to your team. As a Met fan, it was tough. My team had just won a championship in the previous Fall but I was surrounded by bitter Yankee fans. But I was surrounded by a much larger Giant base, having grown up a few minutes from Giants Stadium. We still had to contend with antagonistic Cowboy fans, of which there was a bizarre proliferation of in our school. But I never had to worry about being teased for rooting for Big Blue. We lived in the heart of Giant territory and we were proud.
The Giants went on to win another Super Bowl a few years later, spoiling me with 2 championships in four years. And then it went dark for 17 long years. This year was a revelation for me. None of my friends who are Yankee fans could quite understand it, having had a dynasty provide them that elation four times in a five year span. When Eli connected with Plaxico and the victory was virtually sealed, I felt like I could jump out of my skin. Hours of nail biting anxiety had come to this shocking end and I could finally recall that jubilant feeling rooting for a champion. I could be a kid again.
I still have the Super Bowl XXI program. It’s buried in storage somewhere with the rest of my memorabilia. I don’t pay much mind to the monetary value of my sports cards or other collector’s items. The value to me is in how they can trigger the memory of a dynamic moment of my life. That’s something I could never let anyone take away from me or ever think to sell.
This is the first in a series of posts analyzing the different souvenirs that make up the Eightiesology image. My friends Christian and Amy recently returned from Walt Disney World, which, if you know them, isn’t exactly a shocker. However, this trip was particularly special as it was their baby Hailey’s first trip there and by all indications she responded magically. In honor of Hailey’s first trip, I start off with the Magic Kingdom Guide Book. Eightiesology will have plenty of posts about Disney World, a place which I visited four times in the 80s, as well as twice in the early 90s. However, today we focus on the ubiquitous guide map.
For those of you who know Disney, you know that an important part of your visit to one of their theme parks is the guide books that accompany your trip around each individual park within Walt Disney World. But they not only acted as a map and guide for your vacation, but also as a souvenir that not only ended up offering short term nostalgia but took on added value with the constant evolution of those parks.
For the uninitiated, these guide books or maps included a layout of the land with notations of where each ride, attraction, store, eatery, parade route and other entertainment were located and for some, a brief description. This helped add to the sense of adventure of going to the theme park. You plotted out your path towards those attractions you most wanted to see but also so that the foot travel between them could be minimized (such is life in the Florida heat). But these guides also used to sell the attraction to you. Again, no internet or planning DVDs so all you had was some print material describing the quirky Jungle Cruise or thrilling Big Thunder Mountain.