That's me, blue robe, half headed, Christmas morning 1977. Those are my brother's and my little sister all to the right. The reason I'm showing this uncropped photo isn't because of our '70s era good looks. It's because of what is dead center in the scene, that carded toy sticking out of my stocking. The person that took the photo (my mom based on the head chops) framed it like a foreshadowing of things to come...
That toy is an R5-D4 figure from Star Wars, a background player in the legendary film. Kinda like my siblings in the photo, I love em, but this isn't about them. They are just there to frame the little plastic droid. You see, R5-D4 started me on a journey. A journey that's brought me to this day, this moment...where I'm now surrounded by 100's of vintage Star Wars toys. I'm a Star Wars collector. I'm a Star Wars nerd.
I use the word "Nerd" in a good way of course. We all collect something, even if it's nothing (get your head around that if you have to). My love of toys and collecting started pretty early, in the form of hand-me-downs. My cousins gave me a box of '60s GI Joes and Major Matt Mason toys (more on them down the road) which I believe propelled me into a love of Science Fiction. I was hooked, and in those early days PSW (Pre Star Wars) I dined on Sunday afternoon television of '50s and '60s Sci-Fi and Monster movies. Black and white, goofy rubber suits, and spaceships on fishing line...I was as happy as a space clam. I would also watch the never ending supply of Sci-Fi TV shows, the original Star Trek, Land of the Giants, Lost in Space, and so on. I built models, read comics, played with my toys and time progressed.
Then in 1977 something happened, a movie came out that changed everything. It showed a universe of gleaming white spaceship hallways, and dusty broken down landspeeders. Evil hard suited faceless villains against innocent humans draped in robes. Droids and aliens mixed together on different worlds as naturally as New Yorkers do on the subway. It made something that always seemed distant and fake, real...like it really happened. They used their spaceships, things wore out and got dirty. An oppressive government (the Empire) was keeping the little guy down (the Rebels), and an unseen force seemed to be the link between everybody and everything. It created an entire mythos in 125 minutes, like we should know the history of all of it, but we hadn't been shown yet. Star Wars exploded across my mind like so much Death Star across the blackness of space. I was in awe.
I grew older and the sequels came out, years went on, but there was always Star Wars. A trusted friend, a shared pop culture phenomenon, and one of the most popular movies of all time. I always kept it close, never missed it on TV. Got excited when the re-releases came out, read the comics, and followed any news about it.
My collection took off about 15 years ago when I found some of my original figures in a box. There was my little R5-D4 wrapped in tissue. He reminded me of when I first felt the magic, way back in 1977. He took me back to the reasons why I fell in love with the movie in the first place, and he is why I decided to start collecting the related toys of that era in a more serious way. Even to this day he reminds me to cut through the hype, the negative internet chatter, the Lucas bashing, and the sequel hating. He sits on my desk now, dusty, a bit faded, but he is my most cherished Star Wars toy.
If you know the movie, you know R5-D4 wasn't a big player. He broke down suddenly when the Jawas were selling Luke's uncle some droids. Uncle Owen picked R2-D2 instead, and because of that, the fate of the universe was changed for the better.
You could say R5-D4 changed my fate as well...