Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Never Ending Battle...

    I’ve been a sci-fi/fantasy geek since I was really little and first saw a little indie film called “Star Wars”. For me, Star Wars was always my first love. There was always sci-fi shows–Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, Star Trek, The Black Hole, etc, etc. and then there was Star Wars. It was simply the gold standard in my mind. There was Star Wars and all other things.
    My first exposure to Star Wars was when I was three years old. My parents and I went to the now-defunct Zellers store at Kingsway and I got a C3P0 toy. I also remember seeing lots of promotional material for Star Wars–catalogues, collector cards that came with gum, posters, picture books, records with books, etc. I also remember going to the theater and seeing a trailer for something called The Empire Strikes Back and having my mind blown.
    I’m pretty sure I saw ESB first in the theater and later on, seeing ANH on TV. In those days, VCRs were scant. If you wanted to see a movie again, you had to wait and hope it played on TV or it got re-released in theaters (Back in the day, Star Wars and its sequels got re-released a lot). VCRs were for rich, progressive people (those first units were damn expensive. Also, my parents were cheap and backward when it came to new technological marvels–but that’s a story for another time).
    By the time Return of the Jedi came around, my memory was more developed and I can still remember what an awesome time it was (I was seven, btw). Luke had a cool new green light saber. I also remember all the colors–red guards for the Emperor; green rebel commandoes, the black and grey sterile look of the Death Star II... I recall the looong line outside Londonderry Famous Players theater as my mom and I awaited for the movie. I remember going to West Edmonton Mall and seeing it again later (I used the excuse that my sisters hadn’t seen it yet as justification. That same trip, I bought a copy of one of the issues of the ROTJ mini-series from Marvel Comics and recall seeing another kid and his father as they’d just purchased one of those cool miniature die-cast Star Wars toy sets that existed at the time. They were sitting on a bench fiddling with it as my mom and I furiously tried to find our way back to the theater and the rest of the family in the behemoth mall).
    About a year later, in 1984, Star Wars was over and I discovered something else called Star Trek. I’d always been aware of its existence, of course, but never gotten into it until then. It also blew my mind (what can I say? I was a kid! Everything’s exciting at that age). Of course, Star Wars was still the ultimate gold standard but Star Trek rocked too (and, truth be told, was better constructed overall).
    I was always a toy collector (in the kiddie sense. I’d buy them, open them, play with them, lose parts and/or have toys break or get lost). I collected everything. Star Wars, the scant few Star Trek toys I could ever find. Masters of the Universe. Go-Bots. G.I.JOE. Transformers. Etc, etc.
    This also lead me into comics. I started with scant issues of this or that and eventually went full-on collector with G.I.JOE, Transformers and myriad other comics–Avengers, X-Men, X-Factor, Captain America, Spider-Man...I sampled much of the output of the time and mostly enjoyed it.
    As you grow older, tastes change. So do writers, artists and the like on comics, TV shows, etc. You’re supposed to grow up, discover the opposite sex, get a job, move out and so on. The toys, comics, etc. are supposed to be put behind you as become an adult and become respectable.
    Of course, many of us still love this junk anyway. And that’s okay. There’s no law against it and, really, some of us have the spare time and want to keep up with it. Everyone needs a hobby right?
    Sometimes, though, I wish some of these money making franchises would just end, like chapters in everyone’s lives. Star Wars ended in 1983 with ROTJ. After that, we had the Ewoks and Droids cartoons. Then nothing for about five years....finally, Tim Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy hit stores shelves, followed by eight million books and comics of varying quality. Several new movies and TV shows and way, way more toys. As I write this, Star Wars Rebels is about to debut on TV and Episode 7 is coming out next year...
    Star Trek had a Next Generation then Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise.... TNG movies, a reboot with a new Kirk and crew and a sequel to that... also, a bazillion books and comics too.
    Everything old is new again. Battlestar Galactica came back re-imagined. Transformers and G.I.JOE never really went away... those Marvel and DC comics? Still grinding them out. Some are awesome while many are also terrible
    For me, new Star Trek just isn’t the same as the classic series. It’s still characters with the same names but they just don’t do it for me anymore. I’ve actually reached a point where I’m burned out on Star Wars. I really don’t think I care about the new trilogy... it can’t possibly match people’s expectations any more then the prequel trilogy could (it will likely be better but can anything match the memory of the first trilogy in people’s minds?)
    Marvel and DC have restarted, retconned, killed and resurrected, and everything in-between so much that none of the characters are the ones I grew up with. Fundamentally, they’re the same archetypes, of course, but the history and characters are gone. The people who worked so hard to maintain it are long gone. Retired, fired, dead... in their place are new blood who don’t always understand just what it is they have in their charge.
    So, you say, we should just end it all because one blogger is sick and tired of what’s out there. Abandon years of creativity and scorch the earth? Yes and no.
    I’m not opposed to new concepts, new characters and new stories. Back in the day, that’s what kept my personal odyssey going after all. After Star Wars, I moved onto Star Trek. Later on, Babylon 5... He-Man beget G.I.JOE which beget Transformers and so on. After Marvel/DC, I discovered Darkhorse and Image... The Avengers gave way to Watchmen and Miracleman (which is old but I actually only discovered recently).
    Sometimes, though, I wish we could truly retire some of the tried and tested things. Star Wars only exists now to make money for Disney. They even said they intend to release a new film every year! Paramount keeps churning out Star Trek movie after movie... Marvel’s going full steam on their superhero movies while DC tries to play catch-up. (There’s nothing inherently bad about Marvel’s movies, at the least, but how many super powered escapist films do we need per year before the general public gets burned out?)
    I wish these corporate money machines would risk more on new properties and concepts. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time out but it would be nice to let some stuff die–or at least rest a while (absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all) instead of constantly going back to the well for more. Of course, lately every time Disney does risk money on something we get a flop like John Carter or a project that doesn’t perform as well as expected, like Tron Legacy (okay, that was a sequel but at least it hadn’t been beaten into the ground in the intervening years).
    In the end, though, we’re powerless to stop the cycle. Only when people start voting en masse with their wallets will things truly change. Until then, each and every fan must be choosey about what they love and will accept–and what they will not. If you love a comic/book/show/movie/toy, support it if it’s good (and you want to, of course). But don’t just accept everything with a familiar brand just because... if you do, the people making it will just churn any old crap to satisfy their quota and the whole will suffer. Nobody needs that...