Hey guys! How’s it going? I am doing very well. I hope you all had an awesome week. I did. The Orville was great this week, Adam Goldberg knocked it out of the park twice with this week’s episode of The Goldbergs AND the series premiere of the spin-off series, Schooled, starring AJ Michalka as Lainey Lewis so now every week I get to go back to my two favourite decades, the ’80s and the ’90s. But, that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. Right now I’m taking you on a different kind of journey in time as I revisit a magazine that, while still in publication today, doesn’t really offer anything that the internet offers in a much quicker fashion in terms of Star Wars news and updates on upcoming movies, books, comics, and video games. Let’s travel back to the 1990s and take a look at that era of the magazine known as, Star Wars Insider. But first, let’s go back to 1986 when Star Wars had disappeared and the fandom was quiet.
Following the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983, George Lucas decided to retire from filmmaking and focus on his family and his companies, Lucasfilm LTD, and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). He collaborated with Steven Spielberg on two more Indiana Jones films released in 1984 and 1989 respectively, and then collaborated with Ron Howard on Willow, released in 1988, but otherwise remained focused on his companies and his daughter, Amanda, and then later his other two children, Katie and Jett. Which meant he wasn’t planning on making anymore Star Wars movies.
By 1986 the Star Wars franchise was almost gone completely. Marvel Comics ended it’s comic book series based on the films, Kenner wasn’t producing any more toys, and even Del Rey had stopped publishing tie-in and spin-off novels having only published novelizations of the three movies, three novels starring Han Solo, three novels starring Lando Calrissian, and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, a sequel novel to Star Wars starring Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2, C-3PO, and Darth Vader, though they would continue to republish these 10 novels individually and as collections over the years. Both Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO and Ewoks ended their run in 1986 as well.
After having existed since 1978, the Official Star Wars Fan Club shut down, and their newsletter publication, Bantha Tracks, ended publication in January 1987 with issue #35. However something new was on it’s way.
Realizing that they were producing movies outside of the Star Wars saga, and that ILM was also producing the visual and audio effects for other studios, Lucasfilm launched the Official Lucasfilm Fan Club in 1987 as well as their new magazine publication, The Official Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine. The magazine covered everything going on at Lucasfilm, as well as anything that developed with Star Wars.
As the magazine continued publication, it’s focus began to switch back to Star Wars. Primarily because something interesting happened in 1991. Bantam Spectra Books published a novel by Timothy Zahn called Heir to the Empire and Dark Horse Comics published a six issue series called Dark Empire and suddenly, Star Wars was alive again and the fans were celebrating their beloved franchise’s return. By 1994, George Lucas had announced that he was going to be making a trilogy of prequels to tell the backstory of Darth Vader, how Anakin Skywalker turned to the Dark Side of the Force, and how the Old Republic had become the Empire.
Because Star Wars was in full swing with all the novels, comics and video games being made, as well as George Lucas being in full production on both the prequels and the Special Editions of the original trilogy, the Official Lucasfilm Fan Club once again became the Official Star Wars Fan Club and The Lucasfilm Fan Club became Star Wars Insider from then on. It’s also the second longest running genre based magazine and the only one of two that’s been in publication consistently. The other being Doctor Who Magazine. every other geeky magazine from the ’90s all stopped publication sometime in the last decade and a half. Star Trek Communicator, Star Trek: The Magazine, Starlog, Wizard, and Nintendo Power all ceased publication at some point between 2003 and 2012.
The world was a very different place in terms of Fandom in 1994. The internet, as we know it today, didn’t exist yet, and most franchises didn’t have websites yet. StarWars.com wouldn’t go live until 1996 and StarTrek.com wouldn’t go live for another year. As a result these magazines were the only way fans could get information on the prequels, the Special Editions and the merchandise being put out at a suddenly fast pace.
The very first issue that I ever got of Star Wars Insider was issue 43. This was a special issue as it was the final issue to be published before The Phantom Menace came out in theatres in 1999. It was also the issue where the novel series, Star Wars: The New Jedi Order was first announced. I ended up missing issues 44 and 45, then I got 46, 47, and 49 and then somehow I missed several issues until 57 and then after that missed every issue until 80 and from 86 onward I got pretty much every issue except for a few in the early 100s. But by issue 120 I was buying every issue and very rarely missed one, with a few exceptions due to me not getting them in time or because they weren’t available at a specific store I was buying the magazine at. Since 120 came out in 2010, which is when I got out of college, I’ve been able to get out there and pick the magazine up.
One of my favourite things to do when I go back to these old issues from the ’90s is read the letters columns. This was before the internet and this was the only way Star Wars fans had to complain about things and interact with each other. There’s a letter in issue 47 and in it the guy said that the magazine had destroyed his enjoyment of Attack of the Clones because in an update article, the trilogy’s producer, Rick McCallum, revealed that Padme was going to be the mother of Luke and Leia. This letter was written and published barely even a year after The Phantom Menace had come out, and a little more than two years before Attack of the Clones would come out. They hadn’t even announced that Hayden Christensen had been cast as the older Anakin in Episode II yet.
I thought it was amusing because we get people like that all the time in the online fan community, who complain about everything and claim that their enjoyment of a movie, that hasn’t even come out yet, is ruined because of a piece of information, that isn’t even a spoiler (George Lucas wanted us to know that Padme/Queen Amidala would be Luke and Leia’s mother), is revealed by the movie’s producer. I mean I had a discussion about it with some friends up at the cottage the summer Episode I came out so it wasn’t like it was a secret or anything. Especially since George Lucas had said in a few interviews before Episode I came out that Luke and Leia’s mother would be in the prequels.
Today that person’s letter would be a comment on Facebook or Twitter. So this magazine was the internet, before there was the internet. As were the other magazines like this. It was our way of interacting with other Star Wars fans, especially if we were in the Official Star Wars Fan Club or the Official Lucasfilm Fan Club, didn’t have any local comic book conventions, and couldn’t afford to travel anywhere that did have them. I wasn’t in either fan club, but, I could read the letters written by other fans and see what their thoughts on Star Wars were at the time.
So that’s a look back at Star Wars Insider, a magazine that is still being published today even though it’s almost redundant. The ’90s was the perfect time for magazines like this due to there not being the internet and things like social media or blogs like this that present news about your favourite movie, TV, video game, and comic book franchises. But now that we have all those things, these magazines just repeat everything we can find online so it’ll be interesting to see how much longer Star Wars Insider will be around for. Especially since it’s approaching it’s 200th issue, 32 years after it was first published as Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine.
Alright guys that is it for me for this week. I will be back next week with my review of the trade paperback Superman: The Death of Superman which contains the story arc that put Superman back on the map in 1992. So stay tuned for that coming up on Friday. In the mean time have a great evening and a great weekend and I will talk to all of you later. Take care.