Holiday reading: A few old (and new!) favorites.

When I was a kid, this time of year usually meant a slew of Christmas specials on TV. Charlie Brown, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and the Grinch to name just a few folks who stared out from the family television all through the month of December. Nowadays, you can’t go a single day of the month without running into some channel airing something holiday related, and that’s without considering streaming/on-demand options or the really hard core folks who break out a Blu-ray, DVD, VHS or Beta tape, or LaserDisc.

(If you’ve got How the Grinch Stole Christmas! on LaserDisc, you are a holiday binge watching beast.)

Know what else is good to do this time of year? Curl up with a good book. Make it a holiday-themed book if you really want to be so sweet you break out with spontaneous diabetes. Would I ever write such a book? Sure, if I was able to conjure an idea. I thought I had the makings of a pretty decent one several years ago, but it turns out I wasn’t the only one with that same notion, and they beat me to the punch. Take a guess.

Until then, there are several books, old and new, I consider favorites for this time of year, each of them written by an author more capable than myself.

Continue reading “Holiday reading: A few old (and new!) favorites.”

Happy 45th Birthday, Star Wars!


A long time ago, in a theater far, far away….

I was just shy of my 10th birthday in the summer of 1977, when some friends and I went to see Star Wars because out of the movies playing at my neighborhood 4-screen theater, it looked the most interesting. Typical boy stuff, right? Just hang out in a darkened theater for a couple of hours on a hot Florida day, and then on to something else, right?


Like a lot of kids that summer, I watched the film (no “Episode” number! no subtitle! BAH!) with unrestrained glee. It was the first time I could remember enjoying myself so thoroughly at something I was watching on a movie screen. It was all Star Wars all the time that year as, along with all the other 9 and 10-year-olds, I devoured the action figures and other toys, read the comics, built the models, and on and on and on….


(This photo was everywhere, that summer.)

All these years later, I still love the original Star Wars. After all, there’s  plenty there to enjoy, no matter your age. Its sequels are fun, The Empire Strikes Back being its own bit of superb, of course, though I’m not as enamored with the “prequel trilogy.” Still, the music from all of the films is in my regular rotation for when I’m writing, and I’ve continued to keep up with various books and comics and whatnot over the years.

This effort was aided in no small part by my kids, who’ve enjoyed various bits of the larger Star Wars universe. They watched the Rebels cartoon and played with Star Wars toys, and because of them I got to act a little like that 9-year old all over again. For them, it was just cool characters and space ships, which in its own way is completely, spectacularly awesome. More recently, we’ve enjoyed The Mandalorian together and Grogu/”Baby Yoda” was a predictably huge hit.

Of course, things elevated to a whole new level of cool in December 2015: I’d been waiting to take our kids to see a new Star Wars movie since the instant it was announced. Sure, we’d watched the other films together, at home, but that could never compare to watching a Star Wars movie on the big screen, the way it’s meant to be seen.

As we sat there in the theater, waiting for the lights to go down so we could watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens, my oldest kid was the same age I was on that magical summer day in 1977. So, on some level it was a moment nearly forty years in the making. Since then, we’ve seen the other new films, of course, along with all the new offerings on Disney+.

But for now? Happy Birthday to the first, original Star Wars.


(This one was everywhere, too.)

Happy 40th Anniversary to the Star Wars Holiday Special!

In the annals of television history, there have been those rare occasions when something has been conceived, developed, produced, and aired without anyone along the way thinking better of the whole thing. KISS Meets the Phantom of the ParkSupertrain. Cop Rock. Legends of the Superheroes. That Lebron James thing. Galactica 1980. The Tuesday Night Book Club. You get the idea.

No such list is complete without the Star Wars Holiday Special on it, if not capping it.

Sorry, fellow Star Wars fans. We have to own this one.

It was on Friday, November 17, 1978 that this singular entry in the Star Wars mythos premiered to audiences tuning into CBS that evening. For those of us who saw Star Wars first-run in theaters, this was a highly anticipated moment. I begged and pleaded for my parents to let me watch it on “the big TV” in the living room rather than the dinky one they let me have in my bedroom. There I was, lying on the living room floor, all of 11 years old, while my mother read a book and my father managed to avoid voicing his contempt at all things space-y or science fiction-y, ready to behold an all-new adventure from that galaxy far, far away….

In hindsight, weed would’ve helped.

Following the events of the original Star Wars film (yeah, yeah. “Episode IV: New Hope“), Han Solo and Chewbacca are cruising back to Chewie’s home planet so he can be with his family to celebrate “Life Day,” but they’re being chased by the Galactic Empire who of course is still pissed about that whole Death Star thing and is hunting anyone connected to the Rebel Alliance.

Sounds good, right?

One has to wonder what would have happened if social media had existed that evening, with millions of Star Wars fans live-tweeting or posting reaction videos on YouTube. I think it’s a safe bet that the entire internet would’ve melted to slag before this thing’s first commercial break. Part Star Wars and part variety show, it succeeds at being neither, yet does so in a manner from which it’s impossible to look away. It is a glorious dumpster fire, if in fact one can use such a term in a complimentary fashion.

As it unspools to our ever-increasing horror, we catch up with pretty much everyone who survived the events of the first film, and we also meet a few new characters. Some, like Boba Fett – introduced as he is in a kind of Heavy Metal -like diversion into animation for reasons that I maintain are firmly rooted in mood-altering substances – would go on to make numerous appearances and contributions to Star Wars lore. Others, like Bea Arthur’s Ackmena (a personal favorite) and Harvey Korman’s Krelman, are perhaps best left in the trash compactor of Star Wars history. We do get to see Chewie’s home planet and his family, though even that can’t escape ridicule thanks to the names given to Chewie’s father and son: Itchy and Lumpy.

They’re Wookiees, 1970s TV execs. Not dwarves.

The decision to make it a sort of variety show/musical hybrid means calling upon a literal all-star cast of entertainers of the day. Along with the aforementioned Bea Arthur and Harvey Korman, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll, and the band Jefferson Starship are on hand trying to lend an air of dignity and much-needed humor to the proceedings. The music segments are like acid trips (or antacid trips, as the case may be) and watching Korman struggle to find the funny in the material he’s given is painful. Only Bea Arthur comes out relatively unscathed, because Bea Arthur could do no wrong (Fight me). If the entire thing had been delivered with the same tone and sensibility – and maybe add some Muppets or strippers or something – those of us who watched it during its original broadcast would likely still have scars, but they might not be so deep and lingering.

And yet, I admit to having something of a soft spot for it. When I was 11 and Star Wars was everywhere and everything, as I read the monthly comic from Marvel or the novelization or Splinter of the Mind’s Eye over and over again, this helped scratch the Star Wars itch, even in an admittedly inept way.

Derided by critics and fans alike, the Star Wars Holiday Special has nevertheless achieved a weird flavor of cult-like status. How they convinced the main Star Wars cast to participate in this has to rank as one of the most epic cocktail party “They had embarrassing photos of me” stories ever. It was never broadcast after its single airing and has never been officially released on home video in any format. You can find links to it here and there, though, and the best April Fool’s gag ever would be for the whole thing to receive a total remastering for 4K Blu-ray.

George Lucas has fervently denied having any connection to its production, and cast members like Harrison Ford insist they’ve never seen it. Carrie Fisher, in her usual style, seemed to take the whole thing in stride, joking in an interview with The New York Times that she made Lucas give her a copy of the special so that she could have something to play at parties when she wanted everyone to leave. Damn, I miss her.

For better or worse, the Star Wars Holiday Special is a thing that exists, and it’s now 40 years old. I’m gonna go and cry in my blue milk, now.

Happy Life Day, Wookiees!

Talking Rogue One at the SciFi Diner!


So, hey! It’s me, again.



And so it was last week or so that I sat down (virtually speaking, of course) to hang with Scott, Miles, and M at the fabulous SciFi Diner. It’s been a while since I last made it over to their neck of the woods for an actual chat. Earlier in December, they asked if I might be interested in chatting about Rogue One, the new Star Wars flick that’s tearing up movie screens across the country, around the world, and maybe even kicking its way into other dimensions and universes.

SciFi Diner Podcast – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Movie Review

Though we may pick a few nits here and there, I think we all agreed the new film is a very fun ride, particularly for old-school Star Wars fans like me, who went in wondering how well Rogue One slots in as it’s intended to, acting as a true prequel to the original Star Wars movie (aka, “Episode IV: A New Hope” for you youngsters). What’s that, you say? You’re one of the precious few who still doesn’t get where this new flick fits in with the larger Star Wars saga? Well, then here; let me help you:


Boom. Done.

The highlight of the evening may have come from Scott’s son, Kiefer, who’s about the same age as my oldest daughter and like her knew precisely where Rogue One fits into the Star Wars mythos, and explained with authority just how kick-ass this new movie is, and why everybody should go and see it at least three times while it’s still in theaters.

Can the rest of us clear the bar set by Kiefer and his analysis? You’ll have to listen in to find out.

SciFi Diner Podcast – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Movie Review


Thanks very much to Scott, Miles, M, and Kiefer for inviting me to talk Star Wars for a bit. It’s always fun hanging with that bunch, and here’s hoping we can do it again soon.

Talking ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ with the SciFi Diner!

Hey, it happens. Occasionally, I’m invited to come and sit with friends who are of the Geek Body and we talk about this or that, and someone sees fit to record the resulting conversation and make it available to the unsuspecting masses.

This time, it’s the SciFi Diner Podcast!

In the run up to the release of the latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, the Diner has been revisiting the earlier movies and devoting an episode to each “installment.” Hosts M.Sieiro Garcia, Scott Herzog, and Miles McLoughlin invited me to sit down and have a chat a we discuss The Empire Strikes Back.

Nostalgia and geekery were in vast supply that evening as we recalled our first experiences with the film and our love for everything Star Wars. Favorite scenes, this movie’s place in the overall saga, trivia challenges, and other bits pepper the conversation, and a fun time was had by all.

Have a listen, whydontcha:

The SciFi Diner Podcast #266 – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Many thanks to M., Scott, and Miles for having me on the show again. It’s been a while since my last visit to the Diner, and I have to admit I missed the joint. 🙂


A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe: It’s really a real book! Today!

SW1Because why not have a blog post title takes up the better part of two lines, amirite?

Though I knew this book was coming (hopefully) to capitalize on the Star Wars insanity which has gripped the known universe, what with The Force Awakens just over a month away from release, I didn’t know exactly when it might see publication. Well, BAM! Here it is. The Sequart Organization has announced that this bad boy is a real, honest to goodness book, and anyone and everyone who might want to check out their very own copy or perhaps buy eighteen or twenty of them for their friends and family are in luck, because it’s alive in the wild as of today.

Hey, don’t take my word for it, doubters. Check out Sequart’s official press release:

Sequart Releases A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe

I don’t want to steal too much of Sequart’s thunder, but I will go so far as to offer up the contributors to this latest Tome of Awesomeness. You may recognize at least a few names on this particular perp list:

Joseph F. Berenato, Jean-Francois Boivin, Joe Bongiorno, Nathan Butler, Julian Darius, Ian Dawe, Keith DeCandido, Kevin Dilmore, Rich Handley, Zaki Hasan, Rocko Jerome, Alex Newborn, David Pipgras, Matthew Sunrich, Lou Tambone, Steven H. Wilson.

Oh, and me.

For reasons that continue to surpass understanding, Sequart keeps inviting me back. I figure they’ll learn, sooner or later, but hopefully not before I can make off with some office supplies, or something. My contribution to this collection is titled, “Surrounding and Binding Us Together: Star Wars Across the Generations.” The essay was inspired by the fun I’ve been having with my daughters, the oldest of whom is just about the same age I was when I saw the first Star Wars film in 1977. We’re very much anticipating The Force Awakens, and this dad is particularly jazzed about taking his kids to see a brand new Star Wars movie the way it was meant to be seen.


A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe is now available from the usual haunts like, and your local Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or independent book store can also order you a copy. In fact, go that latter route. Make an indie bookseller’s day, all right?

As always, special thanks to editors Rich Handley and Joe Berenato for inviting me along to play one more time. I’d have warned them about the dangers of continuing to include me in these things, but they’d already signed me for yet another essay by that point.

Suckers. 😀

Topps Star Wars trading card goodness…in book form!

Oh be still, my fanboy heart.

When I was a kid, “non-sports” trading cards were all the rage. Yes, they’re still a thing these days, but way back when? They were special. Long before the internet or home video, a set of trading cards might help you relive a film one glorious frame at a time, or page through images from a favorite TV series.

I had boxes of these things. Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Superman, The Six Million Dollar Man, and on and on.

Oh, and Star Wars, of course.

Holy shit. Star Wars cards. Out. The. Ass.

Topps, the company responsible for most of the card sets I was collecting back in those days, kinda sorta lost its damned mind for a while there, starting in the summer of 1977. Okay, not really, because they opted to release not one, not two, and not even three but five separate sets of supremely awesome trading cards and accompanying stickers, snarfed up a few at a time by me and legions of eager kids, along with a sticker and a piece of that wretchedly tasty bubble gum. You know what I’m talking about. The blue set. The red set. The yellow set. The green set. The orange set.

They never stopped. I had boxes of the damned things. I was able to complete the first three sets, but I ended up with gaps in the latter collections. Curse you, trading card gods!

Of course, all those are lost to time. I don’t remember whatever became of them. However, a suitable substitute is coming. Behold, yo:

Topps-StarWars01 (Click on the pic for more info.)

Abrams ComicArts is on the case once again! Coming our way later this fall will be a new book showcasing the art/photos from all five sets of cards and their stickers. Even the dust jackets are made from the same wax paper as the original wrappers. And they’re including all-new bonus cards? Are you kidding me? This is a total instabuy.

What? There’s more? Check it:

Topps-EmpireStrikesBack01 Topps-StarWarsGalaxy01
(Yep. Clicky click.)

For The Empire Strikes Back, Topps ended up releasing three different sets of trading cards, and Abrams will also be releasing a volume devoted to those. As for the Star Wars Galaxy cards, I never collected those as they came out much later and long after I stopped chasing such things (I’ve resisted that sort of thing at numerous points over the years, you understand).

I’ll probably end up buying it along with the other two books, because…you know…Star Wars. Besides, they’ll look great on the shelf next to my copies of these other books Abrams published that celebrate two of my other favorite card series:

(Again, click click click away.)

Anyway, if you’re an old-school fan like me and either don’t have the cards or your collection got tossed eons ago, these books are the perfect antidote. Yeah, I’m buying ’em.

And hey! Abrams ComicArts people! If you’re reading this, I hope you might consider a similar tome for the Star Trek: The Motion Picture cards you did back in the day. Or, if you really want to tickle my fanboy funny bone, you’ll think about these bad boys:

Topps-PlanetApesMovie Topps-PlanetApesTV

Oh, and did I mention I write and stuff? Just puttin’ that out there.

Cover art for Sequart’s trio of upcoming Star Wars essay books!

I think the title pretty much says it all, right?

The Sequart Organization has been keeping friends Rich Handley and Joe Berenato busy of late. In turn, they have been keeping freelance word pushers like myself out of trouble by giving us things to do. You may recall that Mr. B edited an anthology last year, New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, which took a deep dive at–wait for it–Star Trek comics in all their various forms. For reasons surpassing understanding, Joe invited me to contribute an essay to that collection.

Despite my best efforts to show him how he’d made a tragic mistake, Joe along with co-editor Rich called me back not once but twice for two different essays dealing with different aspects of Planet of the Apes. The first of these, The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes, was just published, while a follow-up, Bright Eyes, Ape City: Examining the Planet of the Apes Mythos, is due out next year and will take a look at the entire Apes franchise.

And now, they’ve done called me back. Again.

This time, Rich and Joe really went off the deep end, commissioning not one and not two but three–three, I tell you–new collections of essays all focusing on Star Wars. Hey! As it happens, there’s a new movie coming out later this year, and more in the pipeline, so now seems like the perfect time to do some analyzing and ruminating about various people and things in that galaxy far, far away.

SW1Rich and Joe have assembled–conservatively speaking–six hundred million different writers (I could be off by a few dozen) to contribute essays to the three books. Deciding quite correctly that a little bit of me goes a long way, they’ve contained my pollution of this monstrous undertaking to an essay for the first volume, A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe.

Whereas this first book will be covering Star Wars on multiple fronts, the second and third volumes will be dialing in on specific aspects of the franchise. A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Exploring Star Wars Comics will do just what you think it’s going to do, while A More Civilized Age: Exploring the Star Wars Expanded Universe takes a look at novels, games, comics, and all sorts of other tie-in products that serve to expand and enhance the Star Wars mythos.


So far as I know, publication dates for the three books have not yet been finalized.

Rich is also staying busy on a number of fronts with his own publishing company, Hasslein Books. You can read more about all of that as well as these latest Sequart offerings by moseying on over to the Hasslein Blog:

From Planet of the Apes to Star Wars: New Anthologies Bookin’ Your Way

Many thanks to Rich and Joe for continuing to invite me into the Sequart sandbox. I figure one of you will learn your lesson one of these days.

Or, you know…not.

Happy 35th Anniversary, The Empire Strikes Back!

It is a dark time for the
Rebellion. Although the Death
Star has been destroyed,
Imperial troops have driven the
Rebel forces from their hidden
base and pursued them across
the galaxy.

Evading the dreaded Imperial
Starfleet, a group of freedom
fighters led by Luke Skywalker
has established a new secret
base on the remote ice world
of Hoth.

The evil lord Darth Vader,
obsessed with finding young
Skywalker, has dispatched
thousands of remote probes into
the far reaches of space….

It was a hot day in Tampa (aren’t they all?) on May 21st, 1980, when a couple of friends and I, after standing for four hours in the hot Florida sun finally were able to make our way into a theater that no longer exists, soaking up as much air conditioning, Coke, and popcorn as our bodies could absorb when after three long years of anticipation, these familiar words finally appeared on the screen….

And the audience went nuts.

Released 35 years ago today, The Empire Strikes Back (or, “Episode V” as some people insist on calling it) was that rare sequel that proceeded to top its predecessor. Working from a script by Leigh Brackett and the incomparable Lawrence Kasdan, director Irvin Kershner pulls and stretches on the mythology created by George Lucas. Empire amps up by several notches everything we loved about the original Star Wars while adding new characters and revelations as the journey of Luke Skywalker from backwater farm boy to potential savior of the rebellion against the Galactic Empire begins to take a darker turn.

We’ve got the evil emperor, who we see is the real power pulling Darth Vader’s strings. Then there’s that whole business with Han Solo and Princess Leia, and Boba Fett the super cool bounty hunter coming after Solo. And what about that conniving prick Lando Calrissian, or Yoda the annoying Jedi master? Oh, and did we mention that whole knowledge bomb Vader drops on Luke right after he chops off the dude’s hand?


Those who have only experienced “the original trilogy” via home video or (:: gasp! ::) after discovering Star Wars via one of the more recent films do have one thing going for them: they were spared the “agony” of having to wait three more years to see what would come next. On the other hand, I feel that those who’ve only watched the (at present) six Star Wars films in their “episode order” have been denied the true impact of the surprise twists presented in Empire (and later, Return of the Jedi).

Now that I’m a parent and once my kids started getting into Star Wars, I made sure to show them the films in their original release order. My oldest had been watching the Clone Wars cartoons, but the truth of Anakin Skywalker wasn’t revealed to her until we watched Empire and Return together, and I still laugh at the sounds she made when it all became clear to her.

(Proper indoctrination of offspring into Star Wars? Achievement Unlocked.)

For my money, The Empire Strikes Back remains the best of the Star Wars films, at least to date. Can The Force Awakens unseat it from the top of my heap? I was about to say, “It’s welcome to try,” but as Yoda would say: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Anyway, my kids and I will be there in December, ready to see for ourselves.

In the meantime? Happy 35th, Empire. You’re not scruffy-looking, at all.


Writing about Apes and Star Wars for Sequart!

Not together, you understand. I mean, that’d just be weird.

Those of you who follow this space with any regularity know that the good folks over at the Sequart Organization have seen fit to invite me into their fold here and there, so that I might contribute an essay or two on various pop culture topics of interest. Last year, it was New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, edited by Joseph F. Berenato. Coming later this summer is The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes, edited by Joe and Rich Handley.

Having not learned their lesson so far as what happens when you allow me to come over and puke in your punch bowl, Rich and Joe have taken complete leave of their senses and called upon me to contribute to not one but two more collections of Sequart essays.

(Overheard from the audience: “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?”)

Continue reading “Writing about Apes and Star Wars for Sequart!”