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The stage was set at Dragon Con 2004 for the 501st to step out of the background and pull the fans into an adventure. Tens of thousands of attendees poured into the Hyatt and Marriott hotels in downtown Atlanta. All of them wanted a thrill. Little did they know they’d soon be joining a galactic battle against the Empire itself.

The Droid Hunt Deployment Team: Who would say no to them?

The Droid Hunt Deployment Team.

Early Thursday morning, I had my team of lovely ladies deploying 1,000 faithful astromech droids into the population. The droids’ mission: evade all Imperials. They were, in fact, laminated cards but symbolically they were ambassadors of the good guys. On one side, a cute illustration of R2-D2 greeted you. On the other side were the complete rules of engagement: wear the droid in plain sight, run from stormtroopers if spotted, hand the droid over if a stormtrooper utters the phrase “How long have you had these droids?”. But winning wouldn’t be the aim of the game. Captured droids meant a raffle ticket promising prizes galore. No, playing the game was the fun of it. For one weekend, fans were the heroes fighting the good fight.

By Friday morning all the droids were deployed and a throng of armored stormtroopers marched up to the 501st table. The word had gone out and 200+ soldiers stood ready to do Vader’s bidding. They came from all over the country: Garrisons from Florida to New England, from New York to California. Kathy and her staff unveiled the score board. A cheer went up as the teams rallied, donned their buckets, and began barking orders. Within minutes Imperials were fanning out to cover the six square blocks of Dragon Con to search lobbies, sidewalks, escalators, and more than 100 event rooms.

Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!

Reports started coming in almost immediately. Stormtroopers bearing handfuls of captured droids ran up to the table to log their bounty before rushing off to find more. Armored soldiers could be seen bolting up and down hallways in pursuit of quarry. Officers, still technically in costume, used their unimpaired vision to scout ahead and deploy the troopers to deadly effect. Fans, now aware the hunt was on, could be heard running and laughing as they evaded capture. Some made the ill-fated mistake of trying to find refuge near the 501st table, only to find out too late it was the hub of Imperial activity.

The competition heated up early. The Florida Garrison, bolstered by large numbers, took an early commanding lead. Not to be out-done, Carolina troopers deployed to the escalators, hoping to pick off unwary Rebel sympathizers fleeing the lobbies. California troopers, banding together from three Garrisons, rallied near the panel rooms. The Midwestern Garrisons joined up in two groups: Bloodfin from Indiana on one side and Ohio and Carida Garrisons on another, both of them racking up impressive numbers.

But it was one trooper in particular who distinguished himself for his superhuman efforts. Leon Clarence, hailing from the UK, was there to represent the ECG. Living in New York at the time, Leon had gotten into the 501st from partying with the Empire City Garrison and had in fact trained to run marathons in armor. Midway through the day the Droid Hunt witnessed an incredible feat as Leon single-handedly raced over three floors of the Hyatt and captured more than 100 droids on his own! The word was out: hunting season was in full effect and one stormtrooper was going to try and win it solo!

Leon The Brit managed to score second over-all by himself!

Leon “The Brit” managed to score second over-all by himself!

Little did the troopers know that the Rebels had a secret weapon. Trooper Groupies, ladies bedecked in all-white in support of the Legion, were schemed as a way to add a wrinkle to the game. If they found a trooper carrying droid badges before they got to the table, they could clean the poor soldier out! Even some ladies dressed as Slave Leia got into the act. Soon the Imperials learned: the hunters could become the prey within seconds!

Another trooper falls prey to the Repo Team

Another trooper falls prey to the Repo Team

No area was safe from the carnage. Cheralyn Lambeth, a member of Carolina Garrison, was moderating a Star Trek panel in the afternoon while still wearing her Biker Scout armor. Once the attendees were seated, she plunked on her helmet and ordered everyone in the room to turn over all their droids. Down the hall, actors Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk were the guests of honor at a Firefly panel. When a stormtrooper appeared, a fast-acting Fillion bolted from the room, screaming “You’ll never catch me alive!” In true Han Solo fashion, he turned the corner into the waiting arms of five more stormtroopers outside.




As the sun set on Saturday, the tallies were wrapped up. A surprise surge toward the end put the Carolina Garrison on top to win it all. CO Sean Dudley had deployed his members in key spots to collect an unprecedented total. At the 501st Mixer that night, the golden droid trophy was held aloft among a throng of cheers.

Carolina Garrison CO Sean Dudley and the Golden Droid

Carolina Garrison CO Sean Dudley and the Golden Droid.

The first Legion Droid Hunt had been a rousing success. More than 500 con goers gathered around the 501st table on Sunday and eagerly collected their raffle prizes. Faithful Star Wars fans even donated to Make-A-Wish to buy the first ever Droid Hunt badges as collectibles. Peter and Angie Mayhew awarded the valiant efforts of the 501st members in a number of categories including “Fastest Hunter,” “Most Droids Captured by an Individual” (the Brit, of course), and “Best Trooper Groupie Repo-Team Member.”

Peter Mayhew holds up one of the Droid Hunt awards at the 501st Mixer

Peter Mayhew holds up one of the Droid Hunt awards at the 501st Mixer.

Stories buzzed among the Dragon Con attendees of the adventures they’d had safeguarding their droids and the lengths they went to avoiding capture. What had started out as a crazy idea had achieved its ultimate goal: to relive the excitement of the Star Wars universe and make the magic real to fans who still believe. After all, what good is costuming if you can’t live the magic?

Albin Johnson was a lowly stormtrooper on Detention Block 2551 before Lord Vader lost a bet and allowed him to found the 501st Legion “Vader’s Fist”. He’s also man-servant to R2-KT “the pink Imperial droid with the heart of gold.” You can learn more at and or follow Albin’s off-duty antics

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For this Star Wars Celebration, coming April 16-19 to the Anaheim Convention Center, the competition to be a part of the Celebration Art Show was fierce. Talented Star Wars artists — many more than for any previous Celebration — sent in original concepts for consideration. In order to be in competition for the show, the artists must have already created Star Wars work for Lucasfilm or for a Lucasfilm licensee. Each was well-established in the Star Wars art world, but to keep the Art Show at Celebration within reasonable numbers, we had to select a much smaller number than applied.

To answer the challenge of selecting a limited number of artists from a large, capable field, Lucasfilm’s Celebration team brought together an A-list of Lucasfilm talent to do the judging.

From Industrial Light Magic Art Department:

  • John Bell — Sr. VFX Art Director
  • Alex Jeager — Sr. VFX Art Director
  • Christian Alzmann — r. VFX Art Director
  • Aaron McBride — Sr. VFX Art Director
  • David Nakabayashi — Creative Director

From Lucasfilm Animation:

  • Kilian Plunkett — Art Director
  • Amy Beth Christianson — Sr. Concept Artist

From Disney Consumer Products:

  • Troy Alders — Art Director

From Disney Interactive:

  • Hez Chorba — Creative Director
  • Shereen Von Trapp — Graphic Designer

We rounded out the list of judges with experts in Star Wars characters and continuity, like Pablo Hidalgo, Leland Chee, Pete Vilmur, and Brian Merten. Concepts were identified by number, so our judges made their selections based on the concepts alone, without knowing the names of the artists.

Congratulations to These Celebration Art Show Artists!

  • Steve Anderson
  • Drew Baker
  • Lin Zy Busch
  • Matt Busch
  • Jeff Carlisle
  • Jason Christman
  • Jeff Confer
  • Katie Cook
  • Joe Corroney
  • Doug Cowan
  • Mark Daniels
  • Chris Dee
  • Terry Dodson
  • Grant Gould
  • Karen Hallion
  • Scott Harben
  • Stephen Hayford
  • Jessica Hickman
  • Adam Hughes
  • Brandon Kenney
  • Brian Kesinger
  • Lee Kohse
  • Ken Lashley
  • Erik Maell
  • Randy Martinez
  • Brian Miller
  • Jake Murray
  • William O’Neill
  • Jason Palmer
  • Brian Rood
  • Alex Ross
  • Tsuneo Sanda
  • Cat Staggs
  • Shea Standefer
  • Chris Trevas
  • Malcom Tween
  • Jerry Vanderstelt
  • Russell Walks
  • Marc Wolfe
  • Brent Woodside

Look for these artists, and for their work created exclusively for Star Wars Celebration, in the Art Show presented by ACME Archives, and in their own booths on the Celebration Experience Show Floor. First looks of their artwork for the show will be posted on and starting in February.


In more art-related news, we are very proud to introduce the Star Wars Celebration Anaheim key art by artist Craig Drake.


Originally from Detroit, Craig moved to San Francisco in 1998 to work as an animation and freelance designer, later moving on to Electronic Arts. He started working for Lucasfilm in 2006 where he created his first limited-edition Princess Leia print. Since then, he has participated in numerous poster art shows with Mondo, Hero Complex Gallery, Gauntlet Gallery, and LTD Gallery.  He continues to produce illustrations for Lucasfilm.

Finally, our new Celebration sizzle is live! I love it – get ready to tweet @SW_Celebration!

Learn more about Star Wars Celebration at!


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As the new animated series Star Wars Rebels takes its opening salvo at televisions, tablets, and smartphones, so do several new spinoff books take aim at readers, including the first companion novelization The Rebellion Begins by Michael Kogge. In that vein, this milestone seems perfect for paying homage to a pair of extraordinary forefathers.

In the mid-1980s, after one successful made-for-television Ewoks movie — and one notorious “holiday special” — the Star Wars universe plunged into its first regular television programming: Ewoks and Droids (sometimes billed as the Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour). These animated series ran from 1985 to 1986, with Droids airing for one season and Ewoks for two. Many English-speaking fans know that these cartoons also spun off many storybooks and comics of their own, chiefly published by Random House and Marvel Comics. What many fans do not know is that they also spun off original licensed storybooks and comics in other countries, never published in the English-speaking world.

In 2013, Rich Handley reported for on several Ewoks and Droids comics that were published exclusively in Spain (and subsequently translated into English by myself). Now, new investigative (and very fun) research shows that this particular rabbit hole goes much deeper.

Knowledge of two exclusive Star Wars novelizations published in Spain has surfaced. Simply titled Ewoks and Droids, these 45-page hardcover picture books, measuring 23 cm x 29.5 cm x 1 cm (9” x 11.5” x .33”), were published in 1986 by Plaza Joven, which was an imprint of the well-known Spanish publisher Plaza Janés Editores (now owned by Penguin Random House).

As is frequently the case with picture books aimed at younger readers, the authors of these Star Wars titles are unlisted, and they remain unknown. While that is quite unfortunate, the content of the books offers a treasure trove of entertainment, nostalgia, and secrets for Star Wars fans. If you happen to speak Spanish, that is.

But now, these storybooks are presented here for the first time in English translation via

Each book is a loose novelization covering general events of the Ewoks and Droids television series, though predominantly focusing on one episode. This reiterative storytelling doesn’t mean there aren’t more than a few surprises, however. As most novelizations conventionally tend to be (such as the prose adaptations of the Star Wars films Episodes I-VI and The Clone Wars), these storybooks are more than likely adapted from scripts rather than the televised Ewoks and Droids episodes themselves.

In that tradition, these Plaza Joven storybooks introduce more scenes and background details than the cartoon storylines—and at times completely alternative particulars. But it’s one of the strange facts of converting a narrative from one language to another that it’s not only true, as the saying goes, that meanings are frequently lost in translation, but sometimes new ones are also gained.

A New Droid Order

The plot of the Droids novelization is very simple. After being dumped on the inhospitable planet Ingo by a disreputable owner, See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo reminisce about their exploits with their past masters Jann Tosh and Mungo Baobab before getting swept up in the adventure that makes up the main substance of the book: joining the racing team of their new masters Thall and Jord while sabotaging the plans of the upstart gangster Tig Fromm.

The artwork on the cover of Plaza Jovens Droids novelization (1986).

The artwork on the cover of Plaza Joven’s Droids novelization (1986).

At this point, longtime fans of the Droids series may be saying to themselves, “Hold on just a minute. That’s not how it goes.” And that assertion comes with some justification. Just like this Spanish storybook, when we first meet Threepio and Artoo in the television series, the galaxy’s most famous pair of synthetic beings is indeed stranded on Ingo, where they encounter the speed fanatics Thall and Jord. But unlike this storybook, it isn’t until much later episodes that we are introduced to the droids’ adventures with the aspiring pilot Jann Tosh and the intrepid treasure hunter Mungo Baobab. For decades, it has been assumed that that the proper chronology of these events was the linear one implied by the order in which the episodes first aired.

However, Padmé’s ironic quip to Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace may be appropriate here: “You assume too much.” After all, for an argument in favor of the alternative chronological sequence sketched by this Droids novelization, one need look no further than a recent popular television program — Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This animated series was marked by a blatant nonlinear chronology, with episodes airing in an order often completely out of sync with the actual intended sequence of events. It isn’t difficult to imagine analogous anachronisms relating to the valid ordering of the events depicted in the Droids animated series — such as the structure presented in this Plaza Joven storybook.

But this intriguing observation is merely skin deep. Let’s get to some real meat.

The Case of Sonko

It’s often the case in novelizations that information included in the scripts upon which they are based makes it into their book adaptations but is omitted from the final versions of the corresponding television episode or film. This lore can be in the form of background details — such as when Darth Vader was revealed as an “awesome, seven-foot-tall Dark Lord of the Sith” way back in the original screenplay for A New Hope (and consequently described in the 1976 novelization), long before the term “Sith” became a household word in 1999 thanks to The Phantom Menace. Or these lacunae can also take the form of entire sequences — such as the infamous cut scenes of Han Solo and “Jabba the Hut [sic]” meeting at Docking Bay 94 (which appeared in a number of the early adaptations of A New Hope) or Yoda’s revelation that it was the little green Jedi himself who coerced Obi-Wan not to tell Luke that Vader was his father (as first divulged in James Kahn’s 1983 novelization of Return of the Jedi).

A case such as these may be that of poor Sonko.

In Plaza Joven’s Droids storybook, the dapper thug Vlix recalls to himself the story of an upper-echelon gangster, named Sonko, as an example of his boss Sise Fromm’s ruthlessness. Sise’s longtime right-hand man, Sonko was entrusted with robbing a transport carrying a cargo of immense value. With a cunning ruse, he seemed to pull off the job and get away scot-free after dispatching the victimized transport’s crew. But in his haste, Sonko failed to realize that the transport’s cameras had recorded the entire heist. The authorities recovered the evidence and incarcerated him on a planet called Umax. But it wasn’t long before the crimelord Sise learned of Sonko’s fate and ordered an attack on the prison to free his trusted ally.

Then, to reward his lieutenant’s incompetence, Sise locked him away in his own palace’s deepest dungeon…from which, it is said, Sonko’s suffering lamentations can still be heard.

This dark tale of space-mafia justice never appeared in any of the episodes of the Droids animated series — but it may have had its source in the original teleplays. Or it may very well have been invented wholesale by the unknown author of the Plaza Joven Droids storybook. Such imaginative addenda are not uncommon in novelizations. One of the most cherished of these is a scene in the Return of the Jedi novelization, in which the feisty Wicket convinces the Ewok village elders to join the Rebellion’s cause with a stirring speech that appeals to pride, spirituality and honor.

And speaking of Ewoks, let’s explore some of the treasures — or trash talk, as it were — from that novelization.

Dulokese: The Vulgar Tongue

The structure of the Plaza Joven Ewoks storybook is similar to that of its Droids counterpart, albeit without the overt reshuffling of chronological events introduced by the latter. The book of course focuses on the small bear-like Ewoks of Endor as well as their perennial arch nemeses the Duloks — the green, gangly, crude, and dirty cousins of the Ewoks. The meandering narrative begins by introducing the Ewok village and its noble inhabitants before recounting the disappearance (and recovery) of the tribal leader Chief Chirpa’s eldest daughter Asha as well as the quest of the young Wicket and his brothers to obtain rare ingredients to administer a cure to their ailing father. At this point the bulk of the story commences, in which the Ewok Latara naïvely steals away with a band of wandering entertainers, the Travelling Jindas, in order to showcase her flute-playing skills. What she does not know is that the Duloks intend to capture and force her into a life of perpetual servitude and unimaginable horror…babysitting Dulok younglings.

The artwork on the cover of Plaza Jovens Ewoks storybook (1986).

The artwork on the cover of Plaza Joven’s Ewoks storybook (1986).

And the reader finds throughout the novelization that, at almost every opportunity, the foul-mouthed Duloks lambaste one another with botanically based slurs.

Tarugos! Calabaza! Cabezas de árbol!

That’s what Dulok curses look like in Spanish, at any rate. In English, these translate to: “Blockheads!” “Gourd-head!” and “Tree-heads!”

These insults may seem ridiculous, and indeed not only are they, but they seem to be so by design. The first cousin to these childish taunts (appearing in the Ewoks episode upon which this portion of the novelization is based, “The Travelling Jindas”) is “root-heads”: one of the preferred put-downs of the Dulok chieftain, King Gorneesh. It is often challenging to properly translate the obscenities of one language into another — especially made up, fantasy obscenities for a children’s book — and the instances noted above are no exceptions. Perhaps “gourd-head” offers the best example. The Spanish insult calabaza can simply translate to as mild a malediction as “dolt,” but it’s more literal meaning is the equivalent of “pumpkin” or “gourd.” And so, when contextually used as an insult, an Americanism like “pumpkin head” — for a person of dull wit — seems like a natural choice of translation. But because the dim-witted Duloks seem to favor obtuse insults (like the aforementioned “root-head”), “gourd-head” seems an even more appropriately silly translation. (And, in case you’re wondering, gourds do in fact exist on Endor.)

Approximation, Interpolation, or Mistranslation?

One of the strangest phenomena of translation would seem, on the surface, to be something very simple: what things are called. Yet, it happens to be the case that when familiar proper nouns are translated from English to Spanish in the Plaza Joven novelizations, many times the spellings of the names are changed. “Kea Moll,” for instance, becomes “Ca Mol”; “Sise Fromm” becomes “Sais From”; “Gorneesh” delicately mutates into “Gornés” and his wife “Urgah” to “Urga.” These changes seem easy enough to understand, based in a desire to tailor a foreign-sounding name to the familiar phonetics of a Spanish-speaking readership. By comparison, more intriguing are the modifications of the droids’ names. “Threepio” becomes “Trespeó” while “Artoo” becomes “Erredós.” These seem like very significant alterations not just in spelling but pronunciation.

But, in fact, these conversions are logical to a fault. The droids’ nicknames, after all, are drawn from their alphanumerical designations: “Threepio” is just a written form of “3PO,” while “Artoo” is simply “R2.” In Spanish, these numbers and letters obviously still exist but, just as obviously, they are also pronounced differently. Thus, the droids’ names have only been rewritten in a form corresponding to the enunciation of those letters and numbers in español: “Tres-Pe-O” (3-P-O) and “Erre-Dos” (R-2).

However, some morpheme metamorphoses are more perplexing.

In the Plaza Joven Ewoks storybook, the villainous witch Morag makes a brief cameo. She is identified as the enemy of the Ewok shaman Logray, a rivalry that is known to most old-school viewers of the series. However, whereas the animated series generally called her a “Tulgah witch,” this book states that she is “a witch of the Gulas.” It might be thought that this is another modification for the sake of phonetic simplicity, such as the examples mentioned previously. But this seems a degree more drastic if so. After all, the name “Tulga” already exists in Iberian history and pronunciation (it is the name of a Visigothic king of would-be Spain) and, as noted, the similarly sounding “Urgah” simply dropped its comparably terminating “h” when converted to Spanish. (“Gula,” it should also be noted, is the Spanish word for “gluttony.”)


Morag, witch of the Gulas

“Morag, witch of the Gulas.”

At best, one may speculate that the unknown author of the Plaza Joven Ewoks picture book dropped both the “t” and “h” in “Tulgah” and then presumably scrambled up the letters to form a new designation for Morag. But in light of the aforementioned considerations, this seems egregious if not outright unlikely. By contrast, it’s not impossible that the scripts from which this story was adapted originally identified Morag as a “Gulah witch” before some change occurred when the voice actors were recorded. A third, and equally likely possibility, is that perhaps the author just felt like making up something new. At any rate, this abnormality has been preserved in translation. The “Gulas” may be a sub-sect of witches among the Tulgah (which is the name of the shriveled species to which Morag belongs), much like the Nightsisters are a specific kind of Dathomiri witch. Who knows: The Gulas may be a class of evil sorceresses who, like Palpatine, are gluttons for unlimited power. Let the fan speculation begin. 

Come back later this week for part two!

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November 17 isn’t like any other day on the calendar. Today is Life Day. The celebration of life, family, and friends was introduced in the Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978. Life Day originated on Kashyyyk, and Wookiees have a few customs on the momentous day. They don red robes, carry Life Day orbs, and visit the great Tree of Life to honor all of their relatives — alive and deceased.

Though we may not live anywhere near Kashyyyk or the Inner Rim planets, we can still celebrate Life Day today and throughout the months of November and December. Pretend your Christmas tree is the Tree of Life, wear red Snuggies while you watch the holiday special, and make a festive and rustic Life Day wreath to hang on your front door.

I have a couple of wreath designs for you to try and both of them can be completed in just a few hours. You can find all the supplies at your local craft store; be sure to gather everything you need before beginning.

Life Day Wreath 1 finished

Wookiee Life Day Wreath – inspired by Star Wars Galaxies

Heart-shaped grapevine wreath
Twig garland
Hemp or twine
Hot glue gun and glue
Red beads or painted rocks
Red, lighted LED ribbon garland or any red LEDs

Life Day Wreath 1 supplies

Working with grapevine is messy so don’t do what I did and craft on your living room rug. Stick with a floor that’s easy to sweep. That caution out of the way, the first task is to break off the point of the heart so that the wreath has more of a teardrop shape. Unwind the grapevine wrapped around the point (use scissors when necessary), and carefully break off the parts of the wreath that curve in. Go slowly and break the wreath away from you. Put on safety goggles and thick gloves if it will make you feel more comfortable. You can score thicker pieces of vine with your scissors before you break them. If you have access to power tools, you can use those to cut off the point of the heart.

Life Day Wreath 1 twigs

With the point of the heart gone, it’s time to wrap the bottom together to get that teardrop-ish shape. Add about six-seven inches of twig garland to fill the bottom of the wreath out and wrap it all together with hemp or twine. Tie off the hemp or twine with a knot and secure the knot with hot glue. You can see the difference in the wreath in above picture. Use two short bunches of twig garland on either side of the wreath to fill it out (see above right photo). Glue the base of each twig bunch together and hot glue the bunches to the wreath. When the glue is completely dry, gently fan out the twigs to add width.

Life Day Wreath 1 rocks

Hang red beads or painted rocks from the bottom of the wreath with hemp or twine. Plastic red beads that look like rocks work well but painted rocks (as long as they aren’t too heavy) or even ones made from polymer clay would also do the trick. Tie hemp or twine around the middle of the rocks and add glue to secure it. Then tie the rocks to the wreath. Again, secure your knots with hot glue.

Life Day Wreath 1 finished on door-resized

This Life Day wreath needs red LEDs. Whether you find a strand of red LEDs or do what I did and strip the strand from lighted ribbon, carefully wind the LEDs around the wreath. Remember you will need to have a place for the battery pack once you hang the wreath. I’ve found using a piece of double-sided tape to attach the battery pack to the door works well.

Life Day Wreath 2 finished-resized

Life Day Wreath II, The Wreath Strikes Back

12” round grapevine wreath
Twig garland
2” clear plastic ornament that you can open
Sheer blue ribbon
Red ribbon
Hemp or twine
Hot glue gun and glue

Life Day Wreath 2 Supplies

Every Life Day wreath needs a Life Day orb. Remove the metal top of the ornament and insert sheer blue ribbon. Adjust the placement of the ribbon with a pen. Replace the metal top. Since silver metal doesn’t scream rustic, apply hot glue to the metal top and wrap hemp or twine around it to cover it. Set your Life Day orb aside. Bonus: if you can find mini blue or white LEDs to fit inside your orb, go for it.

Life Day Wreath 2 Life Day Orb

Add some Wookiee touches to your wreath by making three bundles from the twig garland. Break off three small sections, wrap them around the middle with hemp or twine (as always, glue your knots to secure them), and glue the bunches of twigs at different angles wherever you’d like on the wreath. I think they’re reminiscent of Wookiee fur.

Life Day Wreath 2 branches and ribbons-resized

Wrap red ribbon around your wreath to symbolize the red robes. Start at the bottom of the wreath and glue one end into place. Wind the ribbon around the entire wreath and glue the other end.

Pick up your Life Day orb and tie it to the top of the wreath with hemp or twine. Remember, hot glue is your friend.

Happy Life Day! Head to the comments and let me know how you plan on celebrating this holiday. If you make wreaths, be sure to post links to photos or send them to me on Twitter.

Amy Ratcliffe is a writer obsessed with all things Star Wars, Disney, and coffee. You can follow her on Twitter at @amy_geek and keep up with all things geeky at her blog.

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Original artwork for the 1980 Empire Day event

Original artwork for the 1980 Empire Day event.

With today’s launch of the Star Wars Rebels episode “Empire Day,” it seems fitting to serve up a little piece of forgotten Star Wars history associated with this specific term. Back in 1980, when The Empire Strikes Back was set to open with a royal premiere in London on May 20, someone on the promotional team at Lucasfilm or 20th Century Fox was inspired to resurrect the British “Empire Day” holiday, which had been observed by members of the British Empire between 1902 and 1958 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday on May 24. Though the “Empire Day” name would later change to British Commonwealth Day and finally to Commonwealth Day in 1966, the promoters were betting that there would still be enough cultural memory to make the “Empire Day” moniker resonate with the public for Empire’s launch.

Jeeps hauling a legion of Stormtroopers must have been quite a site for Londoners during the premiere of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980

Jeeps hauling a legion of Stormtroopers must have been quite a sight for Londoners during the premiere of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980.

Photo-ops for press were staged throughout London for the royal premiere of The Empire Strikes Back.

Photo-ops for press were staged throughout London for the royal premiere of The Empire Strikes Back.

And resonate it did — on May 20, legions of stormtroopers were released throughout London’s mainline and Underground stations to hand out buttons reading “Happy Empire Day” and to stage whimsical photo-ops throughout the city for syndication in the region’s newspapers and magazines. T-shirts, posters, and buttons bearing the “Empire Day” logo still survive today in various collections, although most folks in the states scarcely know what the phrase is in reference to. Until today, that is — Happy Empire Day (and Life Day)!!

Empire Day made the front page of the May 20, 1980 issue of the London Evening News and depicted the Empire cast giving the captain of the Concorde jet that flew them from the states the gift of a miniature Millennium Falcon.

Empire Day made the front page of the May 20, 1980, issue of the London Evening News and depicted the Empire cast giving the captain of the Concorde jet that flew them from the states the gift of a miniature Millennium Falcon.

Thanks to Bob Miller for providing the scan of the Evening News and to Jonathan Rinzler’s The Making of The Empire Strikes Back for the Empire Day photos

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In the winter of 1979-1980 I was 10 years old and living in suburban Long Island, where I filled my time being depressed about the New York Mets and eagerly awaiting the next Star Wars movie.

(How is my life different 35 years later? Not at all, it turns out.)

Back then, the movie on deck was The Empire Strikes Back — the cultural earthquake that would change Star Wars from a story into a saga, from a thrilling Flash Gordon homage to a family saga with mythological overtones. But my friends and I didn’t know any of that. All we had were rumors that had filtered down to us, supplemented by our own wild imaginings and a tiny amount of actual information.

Back then the Internet barely existed; the Star Wars-mad children of Long Island got their information from reading Starlog and Famous Monsters in the drug store until the guy behind the counter yelled that he wasn’t running a lending library, at which point you’d ask your mom to buy the magazine and she’d say no. So a lot of the intelligence we received was from classmates who’d snuck a peek at a magazine…or claimed they had. More on that in a minute.

There were bits of real information, of course. There was the theatrical trailer, with tantalizing glimpses of probots, TIE fighters, Cloud City, and other goodies, including the debut of Lando Calrissian. (I completely missed that the trailer was narrated by Harrison Ford, hamming it up shamelessly.) I’m certain I recall a production still of Luke on a tauntaun that we pored over for hours, as if the weave of its fur might reveal the entire story.

A clue to what lie ahead came from Kenner action figures. We knew about “fearsome interplanetary bounty hunter” Boba Fett. He’d shown up in the cartoon that was the only good thing about the infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special (though with VCRs in their infancy none of us could watch the segment again), and a year later we’d sent off our Kenner proof of purchases and eventually received our Fett action figures, none of which came with the rocket-firing jetpack we’d been promised.

But people forget there was another preview figure for Empire — Bossk, originally billed as a secret Star Wars action figure.

We knew enough about Fett to make semi-informed guesses about his role in the story — we looked up what a bounty hunter was and Kenner told us Fett was a particular danger to Han Solo. But Bossk was a mystery — a big lizard with a cool rifle but no shoes. So we had to use our imaginations, which inevitably gave Bossk a much bigger role in The Empire Strikes Back than curling a toe and trash-talking Admiral Piett.

The run-up to Empire also taught me a valuable lesson. I had a friend who lived on the next cul-de-sac over who was one of those kids who always had to know more than you did. One day he said he’d flipped through an Empire Strikes Back book at the mall, and proceeded to explain Bossk’s role to the rest of us. I was skeptical, to say the least — this was early 1980 at the latest, and I was pretty sure that no such book was available — but then as now it was devilishly hard to prove a negative.

But then I got an idea for how to do just that.

“Did the book have a lot to say about Han Solo’s marriage to the Red Queen?” I asked, trying to sound casual.

My friend looked momentarily panicked, then went poker-faced. “A little bit,” he said. I didn’t confront him. I just nodded, thanked him…and never listened to anything he said again.

(By the way, Empire’s big secret held, at least among my friends — until I bought the Donald F. Glut novelization about two weeks before the movie came out. There it was, right on page 198, ruining everything.)

I don’t recall the same frenzy of expectation around Return of the Jedi, though we did argue quite a bit about the identity of the “other hope” noted by Yoda. (Everyone pretty much agreed it was Leia — no great deduction since the only clue pointed right at her.) A few of us got mailaway figures of Admiral Ackbar, memorable because he came armed with what looked like a banister from a staircase — a baffling accessory later reimagined by The Clone Wars team as a Mon Calamari battle baton.

By the time rumors were flying about The Phantom Menace, I was in my late twenties and most movie speculation had moved to the web and its oddball elder brother, Usenet newsgroups. I was dumbfounded by talk that, say, Obi-Wan Kenobi and friends would be seen flying the Millennium Falcon and have to fight hordes of assassin droids similar to IG-88. (Through the rumor mill’s funhouse mirror you can see a germ of truth there.)

My biggest regret about the run-up to Episode I? It’s that I dragged my wife to see Meet Joe Black because the Episode I trailer was shown before it and then again afterwards. (“Did you know?” she asked me, which still makes us laugh.) About 90 percent of the audience was there for the trailer; when Meet Joe Black’s credits finally rolled someone exclaimed “thank God that’s over” and the entire audience cheered.

After getting my early fill of rumors I tried to stay spoiler-free for Episode I, teasing myself by reading the Terry Brooks novelization but stopping at the chapter I heard began the movie. But my efforts were wrecked by the track listing for the film’s soundtrack, of all things. If you’re the person who saw nothing wrong with titling a track “Qui-Gon’s Noble End,” I’m still mad at you.

These days things are different — as someone who writes Star Wars books I generally can’t stay spoiler-free. But the fan furor over Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been a fun reminder of how things used to be. I know next to nothing about the new movie, so when I see and hear things I’m guessing about what’s accurate, what’s laughably off the mark, and what’s a distorted account of something true. Take away the leaks (which these days I find more disheartening than fun) and you’re left with a digital version of what you assembled from a peek at the new Starlog, a breathless schoolyard report from someone claiming to know someone who knows something, and something in the background of a production still. All we need is a secret mail-away action figure and my personal circle will be complete.

Jason Fry is the author of The Clone Wars Episode Guide and more than twenty other Star Wars books and short stories. He is also the author of The Jupiter Pirates young-adult series, which begins in December.

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This year marks the 15th anniversary of LEGO Star Wars, and to celebrate, LEGO UK launched a competition asking children to design their own dream LEGO Star Wars-themed bedroom. Kicked off in the March issue of Star Wars Comic magazine, the grand prize was a once in a lifetime transformation of the winner’s bedroom based on their own submitted designs/ideas, and built by LEGO in collaboration with Bright Bricks (a professionally certified LEGO building company).


After hundreds of entries, the winner was unveiled on May the 4th: Milun Simpson, 5, from Knebworth in Hertfordshire was the winner and he his design took inspiration from the Ewok Village on Endor from his favorite Star Wars film. Milun entered the contest after his grandparents bought him the comic as a gift following a holiday to India.

LEGO Star Wars UK brand manager Eloise Kurtis said, “To celebrate 15 years of LEGO Star Wars, we thought what better way to do this than to launch a competition that would capture our fans’ imaginations and give one lucky child the bedroom of their dreams. The certified LEGO builders have been building day and night to bring his fantastic bedroom transformation to life which will bring hours of endless playtime for Milun. Congratulations to Milun!”

Milun’s father, Matt Simpson said, “He loves drawing, he’s always drawing Star Wars characters and making up his own comics and making up his own characters.” When introducing his son to the saga, Simpson took a traditional approach. “He watched the older films first,” Simpson said — who is also envious of his son’s room. “I’m just really jealous. I wish I’d had it when I was a kid. I was a big Star Wars fan as well so I think I was probably as excited, if not more than him, when he won.”


The winning design features: –

  • LEGO Star Wars Ewok Village Tree House Bed
  • Four meter long LEGO mural featuring a large 3D Millennium Falcon and a life-size Yoda
  • Yoda’s House with hidden drawers
  • AT-AT Desk
  • Death Star Lamp
  • Large R2-D2 Model and lots of other LEGO Star Wars sets.


Kevin Cooper from Bright Bricks, who turned Milun’s winning design from paper to reality, said, “You can see here [from the drawing] that he’s obviously got the tree trunks coming up the side of his bed, so he’s thought about his bed being the main focal point within his bedroom. I would say there’s about 50 – 60,000 bricks used, because we know there’s 40,000 just in the mosaic itself which obviously spans the length of the room. So the mosaic is about four meters long in total.”


When Milun was asked what he wanted to be when he was older, he replied, “I want to be a Jedi or an author when I grow up so now I can start training here.” Milun ranks the room a 10 out of 10, and it’s hard to disagree. Everything is awesome about Milun’s LEGO Star Wars bedroom.

For those that didn’t win, you’ll have another chance to win some fantastic LEGO Star Wars prizes in a new LEGO Star Wars UK competition that launches in September — stay tuned for more information!


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In my last blog, I talked about what a deep well of story possibilities the stormtrooper was. Some of them stand out in my memory as some of the most intriguing, and not all of them would come to mind if you had to guess. Over the years, some of the Empire’s faithful have been featured in books, comics, and animated films where they get a lot more time for development than a feature film can offer. Here are a few of the ones that stick out in my mind for one reason or another, but all of whom have contributed to my own personal passion for troopers.

Davin Felth


Trooper with a conscience? Unheard of!

Imagine “Joker” from the movie Full Metal Jacket, then add a little ingenuity for advancement and self-preservation, and you have Davin Felth. Bright-eyed and optimistic when he enlisted in the Empire, he quickly learned how to survive the Empire’s grueling training regimen. But he adapted quickly, learning how to survive while still nurturing something unheard of in the Empire: a conscience. Created by author Doug Beason in the 1995 Star Wars anthology Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, Felth was one of the sandtroopers on the scene during the search for R2-D2 and C-3P0 on Tatooine. Yep, he’s the guy who holds up the metal ring and utters the line “Look sir, droids.” But you probably didn’t know he later went on to “frag” his commanding officer, Captain Mod Terrik. And before that, he proved himself a natural at piloting an AT-AT and even tried to warn General Veers that an AT-AT in standing position could be brought down by a low-flying fighter with a tow cable. Veers didn’t listen, and Luke Skywalker was probably glad of that on Hoth. So how did Veers reward Davin? Why, ship him off to the desert, of course! Branded trooper 1023 while in armor, Davin wasn’t too fond of the slaughtering of Jawas or the Lars family. So when he sees Han Solo fighting off the stormtroopers in Docking Bay 94, Felth did what anyone sick of his homicidal boss would do: blast him in the back and blame it on cross-fire. Okay, maybe he wasn’t the poster boy for Imperial teamwork, but Davin Felth reminds us even a stormtrooper can have an interesting character development arc.


Dancing Stormtrooper

Don’t pretend you don’t remember this stormtrooper. Odds are, if you’ve been on the Internet in the last 10 years you’ve seen him, grinding in armor and bringing grins to fans worldwide. Just as the 501st Legion were gaining traction in fandom, this dude typified the fun we were all having with the stormtrooper icon. Playful, funny, and totally irreverent: reminds me of me! Who was he? Not actually 501st, I’m sorry to say, but a bloke at an airsoft tournament in Portsmouth, UK, named Steve McGarry. Legend has it that it was dress-up day at the tournament and some buddies improvised some fun on the spot. The clip went on to fame starting in 2004. It ranks the 52nd most discussed video in YouTube history and spawned scads of tributes. Rock on, Steve! You can learn more about this urban legend at Know Your Meme:

Kneeling Trooper


Never leave a man behind, especially if he owes you money.

Clocking in at only 4:33 into the very first Star Wars film, and fresh off the amazing introduction of stormtroopers breaking into the Tantive IV, we see a brief glimpse of something out of place. Just as Vader is entering the room a trooper leans over to check on his fallen comrade. What’s this? A few seconds earlier our only impression of these guys is that of shock-and-awe. Then one of them shows some compassion? Or was he just checking for money the guy owed him? Or maybe he wanted to upgrade to the cool new model of helmet and that guy had one. Who knows? I’m not sure how it worked into the script or if it was improvised, but the image stuck with me as a kid. I wanted to know all about these soldiers. So I pondered this image a lot. Maybe these guys could be terrifying and still have a heart? It’s the stuff of great storytelling to get you thinking. Star Wars has always had images and details in it that give the viewer something to think about, little bits that worked in the background subtly to convey a sense of things. That’s why it’s timeless. I’m still scratching my head over this one, and that’s enough to put this stormtrooper into my list of favorites.



“You won’t find a finer or more loyal trooper anywhere.” ―Anakin Skywalker

No article about stormtroopers would be complete without Captain Rex. The face of Star Wars merchandising for a time, he was _the_ trooper for a new generation of young fans. In the Clone Wars series Dave Filoni took advantage of a rich opportunity to tell the tales of the faceless soldiers. Through Rex we saw a wide arc of character development, from unthinking clone automaton to loyal and thought-provoking individual in his own right. Granted his own name by ARC Trooper Alpha 17, Rex faithfully served Anakin Skywalker and his Padawan, Ahsoka, throughout the war. He was rugged, aggressive, a skilled tactician, and while he put on a stern face in front of his men, he cared for their well-being like the consummate leader that he was. What made him especially intriguing as a trooper in my mind? Maybe it was the scar on his chin that hearkened to Harrison Ford, or the way he groused about the clone trooper upgrades and insisted on welding on pieces from his original suit, or the fact that he took command of the 501st Legion itself? There’s too much about the character to do him justice here, but I loved the guy at first sight. In 2007 I was hanging out back stage at Celebration Japan with Dave Filoni shortly after he previewed footage of the upcoming series. Filoni talked about how he’d always loved stormtroopers too and that this would be a way to finally tell the story of these fighting men. Much like the series Band of Brothers, it would show their loyalty to one another and their courage. I have to say, I was profoundly honored to have the unit I created brought to life in The Clone Wars and led by someone as epic as Rex. Maybe they noticed my bald head and thought it would look great on a trooper? Nah, I’ll just write that one off as coincidence. Maybe…

Anthony Forrest

Rock-and-Roll Trooper

Rock-and-roll trooper.

You remember him as the sandtrooper who stopped Luke’s land speeder and harassed him about his droids, only to be befuddled by that crazy old wizard’s mind trick. Fans worldwide know him as a laid-back, world-traveling musician always ready to chat like a longtime friend. Cast by George Lucas to play Fixer in A New Hope, Anthony Forrest was all set to woo Camie and torment Luke at Toschi Station but unfortunately the scene was cut. Thankfully, Lucas asked Forrest to play a trooper and he got the chance to act opposite screen legend Alec Guinness. The few times I’ve gotten a chance to chat him up, he’s always ready with his summer camp stories: horseback riding with the cast, goofing around with Mark Hamill off the set, George Lucas himself dressing his armor with more and more and more dirt. He almost fell over the first time they put the trooper backpack on him. As many times as I’ve suffered in stormtrooper armor, Forrest was one of the guys doing it in an actual desert! So here’s to Anthony Forrest for setting the bar high on what it takes to be a real stormtrooper — maybe he dropped the ball on finding those pesky droids but, like most of my own trooping memories, he made sure to have plenty fun out-of-armor to justify the experience. Rock on, trooper brother!

Albin Johnson was a lowly stormtrooper on Detention Block 2551 before Lord Vader lost a bet and allowed him to found the 501st Legion, “Vader’s Fist.” He’s also man-servant to R2-KT, “the pink Imperial droid with the heart of gold.” You can learn more at and or follow Albin’s off-duty antics at



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Marvel Entertainment announced today the release of an oversized dose of a galaxy far, far, away — Star Wars comics are coming to Marvel’s prestigious Epic Collection format — Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Empire Vol. 1 TPB.

Let the dark times begin! Marvel welcomes Star Wars to the Epic Collection program, with this first volume of a series focusing on the years that follow Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith! After the end of the Clone Wars, the Republic has fallen and Palpatine exerts his ruthless grip on his new Galactic Empire. Now, the few Jedi that remain must decide whether to hold true to their faith, or abandon it completely in the face of a brutal purge — one carried out by the new Dark Lord of the Sith. Rise, Darth Vader!

“We’re thrilled to be bringing our innovative Epic Collections to a galaxy far, far away,” says Marvel SVP sales marketing David Gabriel. “We’ll be bouncing around to different periods of Star Wars history with each Epic Collection, constructing one huge tapestry, collecting full unbroken runs of all the greatest Star Wars comics from the past 35 years.”

Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Empire Vol. 1 TPBwill offer a new way for fans to collect and read iconic Star Wars stories across the past 35 years of published titles. These oversized, self-contained color collections will bring the adventures of the Rebellion, the Galactic Empire and more to the masses with exciting new Epic Collections. Get a first look at the special collection’s cover art below!

Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Empire Vol. 1 TPB





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It’s Wednesday, which means one thing: new comic books! Check out a preview of Star Wars: Legacy #18, available today!

32 pages

Ania Solo and her friends find themselves fighting alongside the Imperial Knights and the Empress herself against a legion of Sith! While the others fight for control of the galaxy, Ania fights to save her friend — Imperial Knight Jao Assam, who has been enslaved by the dark side!

Star Wars: Legacy is essential reading for any Star Wars fan, and it’s one of the best tie-in comics on shelves at the moment. Highly recommended.” — All-Comic

Writer: Corinna Bechko, Gabriel Hardman
Artist: Gabriel Hardman, Brian Albert Thies
Colorist: Jordan Boyd
Cover Artist: Agustin Alessio

Star Wars Legacy #18 cover

Star Wars Legacy #18, page 1

Star Wars Legacy #18, page 2

Star Wars Legacy #18, page 3


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