"The Geek Menace Part II: The Merchandising Empire Strikes Back"

Back in December, I waxed nostalgic about the first of the Star Wars trailers, which totally captured my attention and started firing up my geekometer. Well, I'm in full-on Star Wars geek mode now, and probably won't disengage until I see the movie (or the wedding, if I don't get to see the movie first.) The reason for this being that the Lucasfilm publicity machine and the merchandising blitz has worked its magic on me.

See, I'm a toy lover by nature. I've got two racks hung on my wall with Star Wars, X-Files, Babylon 5 and assorted comics figures. This comes, most likely, from all the Star Wars figures I played with when I was a kid. So it was that I greeted the news of the early release of the new Episode I toys with sheer glee. And, since there's a Toys R Us about five minutes from my house, I went at 12:01 Monday (okay, Sunday night, really) to partake in the sheer chaos that was the unveiling of the toys. It was great. The forward portion of the Toys R Us was stuffed with a crowd, and you had to slowly push your way through to where they had filled four kiddie pools with figures, micromachines and COMMtech chip readers. I dove in, desperately hoping to find a Darth Maul and Mace Windu (aka Jedi Bad Mother-F*cker), and basically grabbing one of every figure I came across. When I came up, I had ten toys (no Maul, no Mace) and a chip reader, despite being unsure of the gimmick.

When I first heard of the COMMtech thing, I thought, "Oh, that's kind of lame." You run the figure across the reader and he or she says lines from the movie. Sounded corny and weird. But when I came home, practically bouncing with glee at having these treasures, I got great joy from scanning each figure across the reader and hearing lines from the Phantom Menace.

The next day (well, same day, much later) I was completely unable to resist the urge to go diving for more toys, so I headed out to Target with my fiancee in tow (having woken her up at 12:15 last night to show her all the toys) and grabbed three more, plus the Trade Federation Droid fighters and a diecast version of the Princess' Ship. I love this sleek, silver looking thing, have since I saw it in the preview. Now it's sitting on the left speaker, whereas the rest of my figures and the fighters are on yet another rack. The Droid fighters are probably my favorite, three of them with firing missiles (I'm so glad these are back, I remember when I was young how pissed I was that the Battlestar Galactica toys and the Boba Fett toys had the missiles changed to non-firing because of that *stupid* kid who choked himself) and linked by a little handpiece so you can make them fly in formation. Which I have. I feel like I'm twelve years old again. It's great.

Today, I ran to Best Buy during lunch and bought the soundtrack. Terrific stuff. And while I will not be one of the people who stands in line for a week to get tickets, I do think it's kind of a shame that they have become everyone's target. It's really sad to me that so many comics fans are taking shots at these people for getting in line to show their love for a movie. Sure, it's time most of us don't have. Sure, it's "weird" and not the normal thing for society. Sure, it's a lot of effort to put into something that's "just a movie." Hey, if they've got that much time, they should devote it to a worthier cause, like a charity.

Let me ask you this...how normal is reading comics? How much money do you spend on comics? I could probably give $100 a month to any charity without feeling the loss if I gave up comics. I could get a lot done if I didn't take three days off work to go to a comic book convention. But if I thought purely in terms of how important everything was, and never took time to do something that others might consider frivolous, life wouldn't be much fun at all.

Randy W. Lander

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