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R2, Where are You?

February 5, 2013

r2 1

To be honest with you, I can’t remember what, exactly, was my first ever Star Wars action figure, but R2-D2 may have been it. Luke Skywalker (in his Tatooine farmboy outfit and lightsaber that retracted into his arm) is another good candidate. I distinctly remember receiving C-3PO for Easter in lieu of chocolate (still can’t believe I managed to trick my parents into that), and Leia and Chewbacca were somewhere inbetween. I was never able to get the first Han Solo figure. I also remember that the original Solo doll was recalled, because they made the figure’s head too realistic a likeness to Harrison Ford without permission. My first Han figure was the Hoth arctic gear figure from Empire.

In 1977, I really dug the light saber. Seriously dug the light saber. I was all over light saber fighting. Han was cool, but not as cool as Luke. Luke was awesome. Luke blew up the Death Star. And Leia totally smooched him.

And then turned out to be his sister and secretly digging Han. But hey, we wouldn’t find that out for 5 more years. And I was 7 in ’77, so girls still had the cooties. Even the girl who lived next door, who had more Star Wars trading cards than I did. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was Nerd Hawt.

Me and that little droid have been through a lot together

The first vehicle I was able to own was the Land-Speeder. I had to use that as a stand-in for both the Millenium Falcon and the X-Wing…toys I neither had room for or my parents money to buy. I eventually ended up with a Fisher-Price boat that stood in for the Falcon. The tiny pistol they shipped with Leia slipped into a crack in the boat, and I had to have my father unassemble the entire toy to get it back.

In Canada, building the Death Star is easy. You just wait for the snow to pile up in the back yard. I packed snow from all over the yard into huge forts with all sorts of tunnels, playing out there for hours.

I even owned the Star Wars read-along book, with a 33′ single that read the book out loud. It had sound effects from the movie, and every time it wanted you to turn the page…R2 beeped! How freaking cool is that?

There have been many magazine stories over the last 10-15 years, with the rise of the “Maker” movement, detailing how hobbyists have built life-size replicas of the Star Wars droids, complete with sound effects, lights and working parts. During a Christmas party my father’s company held for employees and their families (in the 70’s!), a guy showed up with a remote-control R2! I almost lost control of my bladder. I think my parents had to slip me alcohol in the Kool-Aid to calm me down.

Star Wars was such a monumental moment of my childhood that almost all the memories that resonate involve that movie. Nerds were not cool in the 70’s, and I was mercilessly taunted for it. Star Wars, the X-Men, the Micronauts, Hot Wheels…even more Star Wars. I couldn’t get enough, and have seen the original movie in every theatrical release it ever had in Canada.

I’ve lost R2!

I don’t buy figures from the old days, because frankly, who has the money they command nowadays? I found this at the St. Lawrence Antique Show for ten clams. This is the original 1977 vintage R2, with the stickers in front and back, no third leg or periscope…just a tube of plastic with some blue and silver paint. (I’m not sure if I want to be quoted on that, though. My recollection is that the holes in their legs to attach them to dioramas was always circular, and this R2 has hexagonal ones.) They also had some 3PO’s and a vintage Land-Speeder, but they were a little pricey.

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By the time I had given away all my Star Wars figures to my nephews, my original Skywalker and R2 dolls were held together only by sheer force of will and multiple repairs by my father. He literally forced screws into the heads and limbs of the dolls and forced the pieces back on. The stickers from R2 had worn off, and I just painted on what I wanted him to look like.

Kids are fairly vunerable to collector’s mania, and I was constantly getting in trouble for wanting too many things. I had boxes of Star Wars, G.I. Joe, and Transformers figures. Of course, these were far too expensive for my family’s income level, and I was constantly howling for more. Mix comics into that, and you have one needy child. My mom wasn’t stupid. She bought what she could, and weaned me onto an allowance, which I mis-budgeted at first, but figured out how to make last, and save to buy my own toys.

But what I really wanted was superhero figures. By the time superhero figures came out in the 90’s, I was too old to really play with them the way a kid does. And damn, were they expensive. Were…they still are.

Even with all the toys I managed to have, I could never have enough. And, through my twenties and thirties, I responded to life with a “I want it all and damn the expense” attitude which I could never really afford.

I’m sure it’s perfectly safe for droids

I’ve taken my licks for that. And that’s all there really is to that. Ten bucks isn’t much to own a little piece of my childhood.

Holding R2 in my hand again, 36 years after receiving my first Star Wars action figure, is kinda cool. I won’t be reconstructing my collection. But one figure, if it’s the right one, is enough.

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