I saw Star Wars in the movie theater in 1977, the summer before I turned six. Then I saw it again, and again, and again. Pace Joseph Campbell, the mythology of my childhood was structured around the movie, rather than vice versa. So my parents’ attic ended up with a lot of Star Wars toys in it.
12. Hoth rebel base
The big gun was OK, but in the absence of any AT-ATs, there wasn’t much to do besides flip a switch to knock down the ice bridge.
11. Imperial guard
I didn’t ever consciously decide that I was getting too old for action figures when Return of the Jedi came out. And I did get the red-robed imperial guard. But I never bothered buying an Ewok.
10. TIE fighter pilot
Kenner didn’t put out a TIE pilot figure till it was almost time for Return of the Jedi, so long before that I just took one of the stormtroopers and colored all over it with a black permanent marker. You can’t not have a TIE fighter pilot.
Bossk definitely belonged to my brother. I liked him because he had a fantastic blaster shaped like a sawed-off shotgun. More importantly, till Return of the Jedi came out, nobody knew what Jabba the Hutt even looked like, so Bossk filled the part. I still think he’s a better space gangster than the giant slug was.
This was the first Star Wars vehicle anybody brought to school in first grade and also the first one I had. The wheels on the undercarriage demanded a little too much suspension of disbelief, but the super-bouncy floating suspension mostly made up for that.
7. Slave I
The Millennium Falcon was outside our price range, so Boba Fett’s Slave I was the most imposing ship in our armada. Its cargo capacity was unbelievable; we could jam it full of action figures indefinitely. My kid was playing with the swinging pilot seat and dislodged a Jawa that had been hidden up there for 30 years.
The guns had clear tubes in them that lit up, and the rear-facing second seat was exactly right.
5. Han Solo blaster
I was blond and younger so I was always Luke to my brother’s Han, but somehow I was the one who ended up with the blaster. Obviously Greedo never got the chance to shoot first.
Tiny action figures were the greatest action figures.
3. Boba Fett
In a routine elementary-school gift swap before The Empire Strikes Back, I reached in the grab bag and came away with Boba Fett. At the time, he was a mail-away figure. It was like finding the golden ticket in a Wonka Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight. I still don’t know how it ever got in there.
2. X-wing fighter
I was born the day after Labor Day, so my birthday always floated around the first day of school. I have a bitter and vivid memory, so clear it might be fabricated, of sitting in the back row of second grade in a new school, thinking miserably about my new X-wing sitting at home not being played with.
1. TIE fighter
I would not have thought the TIE fighter was the greatest Star Wars toy I had ever known, but when I dug one out of the attic and opened those little doors on top, it hit with unimaginable Proustian power, and 35 years disappeared instantly.
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