TRANSMISSIONS FROM A GALAXY FAR, FAR, AWAY:

EPISODE XXI

This is the 21st column in a weekly series from The Rock Father James Zahn. Check back Fridays for the latest in what’s happening in the galaxy far, far away, or read them all here.

Look at just how far we’ve come. Many years ago, long before “cosplay” became a legitimate hobby (and profession) for some, rocking the look of your favorite fictional character was something firmly reserved for kids “playing dress-up” or for everyone to do just once a year come Halloween.

In a lot of ways, the success of Star Wars in 1977 helped usher in the era of cosplay by forcing kids and grown-ups alike to create their own costumes thanks to a first-year shortage of officially-licensed merch. Unlike the toy aisles, which were famously bare of Star Wars toys for Christmas of 1977 (see: the famed Kenner mail-in), at least Ben Cooper had the foresight to actually get some costumes into seasonal departments in-time for Halloween—there just weren’t enough of them. But Star Wars remained so popular for the next six years that those Ben Cooper costumes (and Don Post costumes for a more “premium” look) would become a seasonal staple offered year after year.

For me, it was all about Darth Vader, and I had the classic outfit—essentially a plastic (vinyl) bag with Vader printed on it topped off with a vacu-formed plastic mask. These things came in a small cardboard box and were sold at stores like K-mart, WoolCo, and Zayre. We accessorized my costume with a black plastic cape and by 1983 I carried Luke Skywalker’s green Return of the Jedi lightsaber. It wasn’t screen accurate or “canon,” but the adventures were many as I wore that Vader costume for a few years in a row, despite having the cape viciously ripped by some older kid at school that would eventually move into the house across the street from me and become a friend.

Star Wars and Halloween have always been a perfect match, and in hindsight there may be no better representation of that than E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial. In fact, a fan theory that surfaced not long ago via Film School Rejects points out that the famous scene in which E.T. (dressed as a ghost) encounters a trick-or-treater dressed as Jedi Master Yoda could now be considered a definitive link between the 1982 film and the entire Star Wars Saga. After creatures of E.T.’s race were introduced into the Galactic Senate during George Lucas’ prequel era films, seeing the beloved alien recognize Yoda and approach him saying “home” takes on a whole new connotation.

This year, as the trick-or-treaters hit the streets, we’ll no doubt encounter a barrage of families that are showing their passion for The Force as they knock on doors in costumes representing over four decades of fun. From homemade to high-end and everything in-between, it’s always great to see it all come together… but there is one character that always seems to be a problem when it comes to getting things right: Chewbacca.

After writing about seven terrible Chewbacca costumes that were on the market last Halloween, I decided to take another look seeing as Solo has been shining some new light on the Wookiee. There are some new costumes out there, and while they take advantage of some new accessories like goggles and a double-bandolier, do they look any better? Nope.

Happy Halloween!


Further Transmissions

  • In the latest episode of Our Star Wars Stories, we learn how one man found that it’s OK to be yourself, and that was a lesson learned through Star Wars. And his dad made him an awesome custom Dagobah Darth Vader figure back in the day, too!
  • How about The Mandalorian? We don’t even know when we’re gonna get to see the series, or what the Disney streaming platform will even be called, but the little bit of info coming from the set has got the internet hyped. This past week, series showrunner Jon Favreau had a special visitor on set… the maker himself, George Lucas. The man responsible for it all stopped by for Favreau’s birthday and to spend some time with first episode director, Dave Filoni. Shots from that can be seen in this week’s edition of The Star Wars Show.
  • Beware the leaks (especially when they’re not real at all): As production continues on J.J. Abrams Episode IX, numerous sources have emerged citing leaks and set photos. The big problem? One of the most widely-shared wasn’t even a photo from the production, but a still from a 2012 behind-the-scenes featurette about the making of a Pirates of the Caribbean film. Use caution with those likes and shares!