Tag Archives: Star Wars

“I Paint So That I Don’t Have to Talk”: The Art of Drew Struzan

Back in December when we were reflecting on all the Star Wars-related materials the Library has, I briefly touched on the majestic music of John Williams. Today I want to talk about another artist who was first introduced to me via Star Wars–Drew Struzan.

If that name doesn’t ring a bell, what about names like Indiana Jones, John Rambo or Harry Potter? Now there’s probably so much bell-ringing in your ears you should make an appointment with an audiologist. You might not recognize Drew Struzan’s name, but you’ve certainly seen his work, whether it’s in the form of an album cover, a book jacket or one of his over-150 movie posters.

Some of his most famous movie posters are collected in Drew Struzan: Oeuvre and The Art of Drew Struzan. From Hook to Hellboy, The Thing to The Walking Dead, Blade Runner to Batkid Begins, Struzan’s work is instantly recognizable and unquestionably beautiful. The books also include some of his studio work, like portraits of his grandchildren and his own interpretation of Baba Yaga. I’m someone who can barely draw stick figures, so I admire an artist like Struzan—his drawings and paintings almost look like photographs.

For more on Struzan beyond the art, I highly recommend the 2013 documentary Drew: The Man Behind the Poster. It reveals a placid, taciturn family man, like the sweet grandfather everyone wants. While the details of his early life are fascinating, hearing him talk about his work is the most interesting aspect of the documentary. Regarding movie posters, he says how important it is for a poster to not only sell the movie’s premise but also evoke the feeling or emotion of the movie. In a world where most movie posters consist of awful photoshopped giant heads, Struzan’s work has a classiness to it that harkens back to a golden age of cinema, when the multiplex was a portal to another world of imagination and wonder. Often imitated, but seldom replicated, you can look at a movie poster by Struzan and know exactly what kind of movie you’re going to see.

If you’re a fan of Steven Spielberg or Star Wars (read: everyone), or if you just like good art, you should check him out.



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The Force Awakens!

starwarsStar Wars is a perfect example of what happens when a movie expands far beyond the screens onto which it was first projected. From its iconic music, memorable production design and ground-breaking special effects, it has transcended cinemas and inspired countless artists, filmmakers, authors and other creative types in its wake—from books about the philosophy and religion of Star Wars to Star Wars-themed cookbooks and craft books. As we reflect on our own memories of Star Wars and wait with taut anticipation for J. J. Abrams’ contribution—Star Wars: The Force Awakens—check out some of these materials from your Library, the place that brings a galaxy far, far away a little bit closer to home.

I remember going to see the midnight premier of The Phantom Menace at the drive-in back in 1999. My mother, brother and I arrived early, parked in a prime spot and then, with nothing to do until the film began, we decided to take a nap. I was worried that we’d sleep through the whole thing—it was a school night, after all. I’m not sure whose idea it was, but we decided that we’d tune the radio to the proper channel and crank the volume as high as it would go. There would be no way, we thought, that we’d sleep through John Williams‘ world-renowned theme. So with the radio set, we reclined our seats and drifted off to sleep. After what seemed like several hours of unconsciousness, I heard a violent near-speaker-shattering explosion of sound: Williams’ triumphant, orchestral onslaught yanking me from my slumber. In my delusional, disjointed state, I threw open the door and was about to make an aimless run for it when I suddenly realized where I was and slowly began piecing things together. It was still hours away from midnight, the movie screen was still blank, but the music was spilling out of every car around me. The drive-inn had just decided to play samples from the soundtrack to pass the time. My breath finally catching up with me, I got back in the car where I found my mother and five-year-old brother laughing their heads off.


Pictured: My actual brother … and he’s the pretty one.
© Disney/Lucasfilm

Anyway, an almost-heart-attack and sixteen years later, the wonder and awe of seeing a new Star Wars movie hadn’t really hit me until I bought my tickets (yes, it might suck, but I’m trying to remain cautiously optimistic). Since then, Williams’ cues have been playing on an endless loop in my mind. Listening to the music has reminded me of something mentioned in the commentaries and bonus features on the Star Wars Blu-rays and DVDs (nerd alert)—the music tells the story. The dialogue and sound effects could be taken away and Williams’ score would still be able to provide the necessary emotional beats. That’s kind of wonderful, isn’t it? That the music Williams has crafted is so emotive on its own that other means of storytelling fall by the wayside. Listen for yourself. Download some tracks from Freegal or give each film’s soundtrack a listen. We’ve got them all, along with his other works.

Now, if we could only get another Star Wars parody from “Weird Al” Yankovic



SW-OmMy deepest love for the Star Wars franchise lies with the expanded universe—that vast collection of novels, graphic novels, RPGs, toys and other stuff that grew out of the first trilogy. In many ways Mr. Lucas and Co. invented movie marketing and product tie-ins. Enter Marvel Comics circa 1977 – 1978. They licensed Star Wars and produced some amazing comics for it. Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago collects the first twenty-six issues of that series, including the amazing “Eight Against A World” from issue #8. This incredible story features a takeoff on the classic Seven Samurai Magnificent Seven story line, where a small band of ragtag heroes must overcome a much larger force of marauders. This collection will deliver loads of Star Wars nostalgia.

-Scott P.



I was 11 years old when Star Wars (Episode IV, A New Hope) came out. My family went to see it on opening day. There was a huge line, and we didn’t get in to the show. My step-father convinced us to stay and wait for the next showing, saying something like “Don’t worry, you’ll like it, I promise!” We didn’t get in to the next showing either, and my sister and I were beside ourselves. “You’ll like it! YOU WILL LIKE IT!” We finally got into the theater and I remember my step-father afterwards looking at me with triumph in his eyes. “Well?” Yes, yes, he was right, we were floored. We had never seen anything like it before.

Thirty-eight years later, my whole family is set to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening day. It happens to fall on the date of my daughter’s 13th birthday. We are ridiculously excited. Just in case you were wondering, I showed my kids the movies in the “correct order,” starting with A New Hope. What good would the big reveal be if you didn’t watch it in the order that the movies came out?

bookcover My children (and I) loved the hilarious book The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. An oddball sixth grader has created a prognosticating Yoda finger puppet, who delivers curiously sage advise to the rest of the class. Is Origami Yoda real? It’s up to the detective work of the rest of the class to decide. I guess you can say that this is not part of the canon.


marajadeEven though Disney wiped out the old Star Wars canon (I discuss that decision and the new canon in this post here), my favorite character has always been (and probably always will be) Mara Jade. Originally introduced in the 1991 book Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, Mara Jade became an instant fan favorite, especially among women, who had precious few Star Wars characters in which to see themselves (remember, this was pre-prequels, pre-Disney reboot, pre-almost everything except the original trilogy and very few comics—see Scott’s post above—and novels). Mara Jade starts off as a “dark” Jedi who serves as the Emperor’s Hand. Her last mission is to kill Luke Skywalker, and even though the Emperor is dead, she feels compelled to complete it. The three books commonly known as the Thrawn Trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command) chronicle her attempts to carry out that mission, and what comes of it.

Mara is a capable fighter, tough and a powerful Jedi. She’s the kind of woman who can stick up for herself and knows she’s awesome, and doesn’t take any crap. As a teenager, I wanted to be Mara (so I did what any self-respecting fangirl would do and made myself a Mara Jade costume). A few years ago, I was able to meet Timothy Zahn and thank him for creating a character I could look up to at a time when there weren’t as many of those as there should have been. The copy of Heir to the Empire and By the Emperor’s Hand he signed for me are two of my favorite things (and for me, meeting Zahn equaled meeting Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill—this character is that important to me).

I’m excited for The Force Awakens and the new canon, but Mara will always be first in my Star-Wars-loving heart.


Do you have tickets for tonight’s premiere of The Force Awakens? What’s your favorite Star Wars memory, toy or other piece of memorabilia? Let us know in the comments!

-Team Eleventh Stack


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Four Times OverDrive Saved the Day


Star Wars Heir to the JediI was waiting in line to see Carrie Fisher’s panel at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2015 (remember how I’m a big Star Wars geek?). I did not have a book with me, because I didn’t want the extra weight in my backpack, which I knew I would slowly fill with merchandise over the course of the day. Longingly I thought of the book sitting in my hotel room.

Then I remembered I had also put an eBook copy of that book–Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi–on hold through OverDrive. And it had come in, and been automatically checked out.

I whipped out my phone, opened the OverDrive app, and downloaded the book. In about ten seconds, it loaded, and all I had to do was find my place and start reading.

(Unfortunately, Heir to the Jedi was a disappointment. It’s written in first person from Luke Skywalker’s perspective, and mostly he runs from planet to planet and almost gets eaten by monsters. It was also horribly predictable. I don’t mind a bit of predictability in books like this, but I’d like to at least pretend I don’t know what’s going to happen. With Heir to the Jedi, that was impossible.)


Fifty Shades of GreyDuring the height of the Fifty Shades of Grey mania, my husband and I were eating breakfast for dinner at a diner. He told me about his coworker’s obsession with the book, and how she said it had changed her life and opened her eyes.

Giggling, I pulled out my phone and found an eBook copy on OverDrive. When it finished downloading (again, in about ten seconds), I read out loud in my best fake serious narrator voice.

For the next few days we read segments out loud to each other, making toilet sounds every time the main character “flushes” (which is about every other sentence).

All right, all right, that last example wasn’t exactly a “pinch.” But thanks for the fun, OverDrive!

(It’s not the kink that I find funny, but the repetitive writing style. I recommend Leigh Anne’s post “Fifty Shades Better” for well-written kinky romance recommendations.)


The Non NonprofitAn actual pinch came after the time I found this awesome book in the Nonprofit Resource Center called The Non Nonprofit. It is full of fantastically challenging exercises that get you to think about your nonprofit’s mission, goals, and strategies. I was working through them when the book’s due date reared up, and of course someone had a hold on it.

But not to worry! The ebook copy was available, and before I even returned the print book I had the ebook on my tablet, ready to guide me through the world of effective nonprofit leadership.


On Becoming an ArtistThat same thing happened to me with On Becoming an Artist, which I didn’t start reading until it was overdue, because I forgot to return it and wasn’t about to make an extra trip to the Library just to avoid a thirty-cent fine.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you view it), I fell in love with the book and the author before I had finished the first chapter. Once again, OverDrive came to the rescue–there was a long line of holds on the print copy, but the ebook copy was there, waiting for me to download it.

I’m not a die-hard ebook fan, but I do love having another option for finding a book, especially when it means I don’t have to wait. The next time the book you want RIGHT NOW isn’t available, check OverDrive (and/or our eBook collection through Ebsco), because it just might be sitting there, waiting for you to love it.



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Exploring the New Star Wars Canon

A New DawnAs a person who has spent a disproportionately large chunk of her childhood (and adulthood) reading Star Wars novels, guidebooks and comics, I was, let’s say, apprehensive when Disney announced they would reset the canon and relabel the “old” novels, comics, video games and other non-movie ephemera as “Legends.”

The purpose of doing this, Disney says, is to ensure that all Star Wars content from here on out will be consistent.

The first novel in this new canon, Star Wars: A New Dawn, came out in the beginning of September. I bought it, like I’ve bought every other Star Wars novel that’s come out since forever, with few exceptions (example: I wasn’t alive in the 1970s when the first Expanded Universe novel, Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, came out, and I was only six in the early 1990s when the Expanded Universe began in earnest with the release of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire).

A New Dawn sat on my nightstand for weeks while I looked at it, picked it up, flipped through it and read the jacket copy. I could not bring myself to read it for fear of being horribly disappointed.

When I finally did force myself to begin, I didn’t find some strange and unfamiliar new world, but the same worn-in universe in which I’ve been letting my imagination roam free for, well, most of my life.

Spark of RebellionAs a tie-in to the new animated show Star Wars Rebels, A New Dawn tells the story of how TV show characters Kanan Jarrus, a former Jedi apprentice now wandering from one dangerous job to another, and Hera, an agitator for rebellion, meet and deal a significant blow against the Empire.

Written by frequent Star Wars novel and comic author John Jackson Miller, a majority of the tale takes place on a newly-introduced planet named Gorse, which has a moon rich in a substance essential to star ship manufacturing. The Emperor’s efficiency expert Count Vidian is sent to increase production of the substance.

Hera has come to Gorse to learn more about how the Empire is spying on its citizens and to get a closer look at Count Vidian. Kanan is flying mining explosives from Gorse to the moon every day. They meet when a disaffected Clone Wars veteran, Skelly, tries to demonstrate that the moon will be destroyed utterly if mining continues, to disastrous results.

While I wouldn’t call this, or any Star Wars novel, high literature, it is an excellent Star Wars novel and an excellent adventure novel. Its short chapters always end in cliffhangers, pulling you along. The characters feel like real people instead of the caricatures (the hero, the sidekick, the romantic interest, etc.) that sometimes appear in franchise writing.

We learn more of Kanan’s background than Hera’s, but I imagine this will be addressed in either future Rebels tie-in novels or, more likely, the show itself. The novel’s cast is also evenly divided between women and men, with one of the prominent characters even being a woman of color (this kind of equality has been more present in Star Wars novels and comics than Star Wars movies, but I’m still glad to see it continued here).

Star Wars: TarkinThe era between episodes three and four has rarely been touched upon by the Expanded Universe, so Miller’s job in writing this book must have been relatively easy canon-wise. While my opinion of the new canon is rosy so far, none of my favorite “Legends” characters have been written over yet. The next test will be Star Wars: Tarkin, which came out last week. The biggest test, of course, will be Episode VII, the title of which was recently revealed to be Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

So with cautious optimism, I await the next chapter in this new, but strangely familiar, Star Wars universe.



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The Extended, the Unrated, and the Re-cut


Nowadays, there are so many different editions of movies being released, or re-released, that it can be hard to know which one to pick. Unfortunately, not all editions are created the same. I’m a firm believer that editing can make or break a movie, and just as an author should not be allowed to edit their own book, sometimes a director also needs an outside pair of eyes to point out blind spots, excesses, or troubles with pacing.

Which is why I say, beware the extended, unrated, or re-cut DVD. In some cases the difference is relatively minor, but in others, a recut version completely destroys an entire movie.

Here are a couple DVDs I would recommend avoiding:

Apocalypse Now (Redux)

Now with nearly 45 extra minutes—as though the original did not have enough apocalypse.

Cinema Paradiso: The New Version

I have not actually experienced this 2002 re-issue of this Academy Award-winning 1988 film, largely due to the fact that numerous people have warned me that it ruins the magic of the original. It is also nearly an hour longer, clocking in at 170 minutes.

Knocked Up (Unrated and Extended)

I remember enjoying this movie when it came out in theaters—I was surprised by its mixture of sweetness and crude dude-humor. Later I accidentally took home the unrated and extended edition to watch on DVD, and it completely ruined the movie for me. Having extended scenes where many of the movie’s comedians improv off each other can be fun to watch in an outtakes reel, but completely ruins the pacing of the movie.

Bad Santa: Badder Santa

Similar to Knocked Up, some of the extended scenes really make the movie drag on and on.  And honestly, the original was rude and crude enough—it did not need to be made any “badder.”

Dawn of the Dead (Extended Director’s Cut)

Die-hard horror fans may not agree with me, but I still think the original U.S. theatrical release is the best version of this zombie classic (filmed at the Monroeville mall, just in case you didn’t know). If you check out the Ultimate Edition though, you will get both the 119-minute International edition and the 126-minute U.S. theatrical version—as well as the bloated 139-minute “extended” cut.

Star Wars trilogy (Special Edition)

Remember when George Lucas made a big to-do about the 1997 re-release of the Star Wars trilogy in a new “Special Edition?” George Lucas spent millions of dollars retouching  A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return Of the Jedi, adding completely unnecessary details. Personally I prefer to believe that both this “special edition” and the prequels never existed.

Of course, I also realize that sometimes movies can be improved by being re-cut, and I for one will probably never watch the Hobbit movies until they are edited down into one movie, preferably less than three hours long.

How about you? Do you have any favorite (or least favorite) versions of films?



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May The 4th Be With You!

Today (May 4th) marks Star Wars Day! Yes, a while back some ardent fans got together and decided that this clever play on words would make an excellent day upon which to honor the seminal works of George Lucas. Many people hold very strong opinions on Mr. Lucas’ prequel trilogy films, and I am among them, but in the interest of civility on this august day, I will simply state that they were not to my liking and move on.

   The Star Wars marketing juggernaut has spawned a host of side stories and products in dozens of different formats. Check them out in the catalog here. I am quite partial to the Dark Horse Omnibus edition that collects the first twenty-seven issues of the old Marvel Comics Star Wars series.  This post may jog your memory and cause you to dig out some of your old Star Wars stuff.  If so you might also want to check out Stephen Sansweet’s excellent book  entitled Star Wars : 1,000 Collectibles : Memorabilia And Stories From A Galaxy Far, Far Away.

Setting all feelings of Nerd Rage on the prequels aside, sci-fi fans do owe Mr. Lucas and his formidable franchise a huge thank you for so many years of amazing entertainment.  I’ve come a long way from the halcyon days of 1978 and standing in line outside of old Mt. Oliver Theater waiting for my chance to see movie magic.  I’ve consumed a lot of Star Wars product during that time, and while not all of it was great, much of it was, and it served to stoke the fires of my imagination and make me the sci-fi fan I am today.

So if you’ve got any Star Wars favorites please share them in the comments section!  And may the 4th, er, the Force, be with you!



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SilverDocs Part 2: A Galaxy Far, Far Away

This is the second in a series of three posts exploring library resources related to documentary films I saw this past June at the SilverDocs Film Festival.  The first highlighted the circus arts, this one journeys to a galaxy far, far away.

The People vs. George Lucas explores the questions of who owns a creative work once it is released into the world, and what obligation the owner has to the fans of the work.  With the release of the original Star Wars in 1977, George Lucas created a dedicated and lifelong fan base (see Star Wars Uncut for a representation of just how remarkably invested Star Wars fans can be).  Then he altered the original, angering many fans and initiating a torrential and varied response.

See a trailer of the documentary here:

One of the essential changes to the film involves a scene in which Han Solo is sitting across from Greedo in the Cantina.  In the original, when Greedo confronts him at the table, Han Solo shoots him and walks away.  In the revised version, Greedo shoots at Han first, misses, and Han shoots him in self-defense.  This seemingly minor change has a big impact on the development of Han’s character.  Is he a selfish smuggler only looking out for himself until he is reluctantly drawn into doing the right thing, or is he honorable from the start?

See another trailer of the documentary, one that touches on this issue specifically,  here:

Following the screening at SilverDocs, the director, Alexandre O. Phillipe, and Dale Pollock, author of the definitive biography of George Lucas, Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas, took the stage for a 45-minute back-and-forth.  Perhaps one of the most interesting, if distressing, topics of conversation revolved around Lucas’s claim that an original negative of Star Wars: A New Hope no longer exists.  This adds to the ire and sense of betrayal of those who were angered by the Cantina scene and other changes he made.  (Interestingly, The People vs. George Lucas reveals that in the 1980s George Lucas testified before Congress in opposition to Ted Turner’s colorization of some classic films such as Casablanca.  He argued that those films were too culturally significant to be altered.)

While you’re waiting for The People vs. George Lucas to become available at the library, why not check out some of our other Star Wars-related materials?  Of course we have the films (live action and animated), along with the series fiction, but there are countless other options including:

  • Fanboys, a film in which four buddies take a road trip to break into Skywalker Ranch and steal a copy of Episode I before it’s released.
  • A Galaxy Far Far Away, a documentary exploring the Star Wars phenomenon.
  • The instantly recognizable John Williams music from the Star Wars movies, in both music score and CD formats.
  • Star Wars inspired cookbooks with recipes such as Boba Fett-uccine.
  • Star Wars memorabilia price guides to assess the value of all your old action figures.
  • Carrie Fisher’s memoir Wishful Drinking, in which she “chronicles [her] all too eventful and by necessity amusing, Leia-laden life” (p. 15).


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Lando Calrissian Is 72? No Way!

And yet he is. Happy Birthday, Billy Dee Williams! To celebrate, you can visit Wookieepedia and read over some of his finest Lando quotes.

Billy Dee is no stranger on the convention circuit, visiting science fiction shows, anime cons, toy shows, and gaming gatherings all over the country and the world, and he has at times remarked that one of the coolest things about being in Star Wars were all of the different action figure versions of himself Kenner and Hasbro created.

If you want to commemorate Billy Dee’s 72nd birthday in style, why not check out one of the many DVDs we have that feature his impressive talents? Also, you may want to check out some books by Billy Dee.

Personally I plan on placing my own Lando action figure in the pilot’s seat of the Millenium Falcon to honor the occasion.


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