Am I a real Star Wars fan?
Honestly? I don’t think so. But it depends on what your definition of Star Wars fan is.
When I was a kid, between 1977 and 1982 or so, I really was. I loved Star Wars. I liked other things too, like WWII movies, comics and toys; superheroes; monsters and spooky stuff; any space type TV shows, but Star Wars had taken over. I wasn’t just someone who loved Star Wars and who had the toys and comics and books and went on and on and on about it and made a New Year’s Resolution with my pal John S to be “Even more mad about Star Wars in 1979″, no, I even drew a comic adaptation of it—a few times—over a 4 or 5 years. I loved it so much that I proclaimed my love of it—even in the face of ridicule. But when I got to secondary school, at about 12 years of age, I soon learned—but not soon enough—that I really should have kept quiet about it. I was the only arty kid in the class, and the only openly geeky one. Music and football were what you were supposed to be mad into.
But from day 1 in secondary school, I was drawing Star Wars on my copy books and textbook covers. Seeing this, the other kids in the class, especially the ones who ruled the roost, thought I was odd. The mob was group-thinking: Why would anyone be into stuff like that, at our age? The oldest kids in the school, in 5th year, were 18, and many of them looked like men and were into heavy metal bands. They’d outgrown things like Star Wars. Or if they hadn’t, they kept it to themselves. So that’s what the other 12 and 13 year old kids in my 1st year class aspired to be like. The tough guys in my class also wanted to be accepted by the 5th year guys, so they certainly weren’t going to talk to them about space films, comics or action figures.
But I was still into the world of the imagination and escapism and creativity. Soon, mainly because of the Star Wars thing, I was nicknamed ‘Spacer’. Now that would have had a certain caché if I was in college, but I instantly regretted being honest about my passions and interests. I started to keep it to myself, and continued drawing Star Wars and all those other things that I liked at home only, in my bedroom.
I tried to like football, like they did, but I wasn’t fooling anyone. I did genuinely get into Heavy Metal though, and by 4th year–when most of the arseholes had left school–I was one of the cool guys, because not only did I have long hair and a denim jacket covered in heavy metal band patches, but I actually played Heavy Metal too, on the electric guitar! Classmates Martin C and Alan L and I had a band of sorts.
Despite all of this coolness, it’s likely that I was still re-adapting Star Wars with newer, more accomplished looking comic pages when I was 15 or 16, but I know for a fact that by 1983, when Return of the Jedi was released, I didn’t even bother going to it. This kind of amazes me. I’m not sure why I didn’t go. Because my passion for it had waned? Or because I was trying to be more grown-up? Or was it because of the review that I heard about, that was on the radio, which said it wasn’t much good and it was full of Muppets? The review also said how disgraceful it was that Princess Leia was half-naked in it. Strangely enough, that didn’t entice me to overlook the prospect of Muppets in Star Wars. Considering my age—13 or 14—that too is remarkable.
I don’t know. But it was many many years before I saw that 3rd Star Wars film, and when I did I was fairly appalled by how low Star Wars had sunk. Bloody teddy bears?
So, I graduated from secondary school, went through 6 years of art college, grew up and got into more serious art, more mature comics and books, classical and contemporary music and didn’t really ever think about Star Wars for maybe 14 years, until the Special Editions were released in 1997. I quite enjoyed those, but it still didn’t rekindle my fandom. I saw the Prequel Trilogy, and it did nothing to revive my interest either. So many more years went by until one day, in 2009 I rediscovered my comic adaptation of ‘Star Wars’ (I refuse to call it by any other name), and I was astonished by it. There were dozens of other home-made comics too, but the Star Wars one was one of about 3 from when I was only 9 years old. It comprised about 200 pages; it was a patchwork of older and newer drawing because of the many revisions that I must have made to it over about 4 or 5 years; and it just really made me think about how passionate I was—not only about Star Wars—but also about creativity, storytelling, self-expression, and my dream of one day becoming a comics artist. I had completely forgotten that I once loved storytelling.
My own Star Wars comic got me looking at those films again and I realised that I still loved the first 2 of them, and the the first one especially still really connected with me, somewhere deep inside and way back. And I remembered the huge impact that they’d had on me. And I could appreciate how they’d affected my drawing ability which rapidly accelerated after I’d got into Star Wars when I was 9, and had started drawing it and copying the imagery wherever I could find it. I thought it was kind of funny that I’d pretty much forgotten about my childhood creative passions, and kind of sad. This was like a message from the past, from the young me, reminding me of what it was that I’d desperately wanted to do when I grew up. (though I hadn’t the first idea how that could happen, especially in Ireland)
These days I probably think about Star Wars… most days, even just fleetingly, and even then it might be because of this webcomic, and I love how it reminds me of my childhood. But am I a fan?
I can’t really say that I am. I don’t read any of the expanded universe comics or novels and I’ve no inclination to; the closest I got to that was reading the Marvel comics as a kid, and I’d like to read those again because I did when I was a kid. Nostalgia again. Time-travel. I’m not that interested in new Star Wars characters. And I’ll probably never watch the Prequels again. I’d prefer not to watch Return of the Jedi, because the final 3rd of it just depresses me. I don’t think I’ll ever cosplay, although I was thinking a few years ago that it might be fun to do it, masked, as part of Ireland’s Emerald Garrison—for charitable purposes. I also don’t have a Star Wars Room in my house. You know, with action figures and toys in display cases. I do have my 40 year old Star Wars toys and books from when I was a kid. They’re safely in my attic and it’s nice to look at them now and again and feel all nostalgic. (It gets me… right here). Best of all, Was when my son became a Star Wars fan when was 3, and I had the pleasure of seeing him play with those same toys. That’s one of the benefits of not being precious about collectibles. If you keep them unopened in their original boxes, they can’t ever be played with. I still have the packaging, but it’s battered and loved.
I was excited about The Force Awakens, but mostly because many of the main original cast were in it. And I re-watch it mostly because of Han Solo. I was quite looking forward to the latest Rogue One movie, but because it was going to recapture the style and feel of 1977’s ‘Star Wars’, and it does that successfully, for the most part if you overlook the relative lack of humour and fun. It also ties-in beautifully with the original film—which is thrilling in itself. To be honest though, if there was only the 1977 film, that’d be enough for me. I don’t need more and more Star Wars. It’s a nice bonus, but it’s not necessary for my continued happiness.
Maybe one of the tests is, “If you were stranded on a desert Island for the rest of your life, and you could only have 1 film to watch, which would you choose?” I’d think of 2001, Koyaanisqatsi, A Matter of Life and Death, but I’d probably say–after home movies of my family–I’d pick 1977’s ‘Star Wars’.
People sometimes say, “John, you’re a big Star Wars fan aren’t you?” I usually start to reply by saying something like, “Well, I really like the first 2 films, and when I was a kid I was a huge fan. They had a profound impact on me.” They might then say, “But you published your own Star Wars comic online.” And I’ll say, “Yes, that’s a really fun satisfying project, but in a way it’s kind of more about childhood and creativity than being about Star Wars–per se.”
So again, am I a real Star Wars fan? Or is it mostly about nostalgia and childhood and trying to relive some very happy times? Maybe you can tell me.