We have some other ideas for increasing interactivity among
Fan Club members, but it's a bit too early to be more
specific. Keep an eye on starwars.com and
for more news in the future. Actually, while I'm on the topic
of our own website, it's going to get a lot better this
summer. We recently hired a new web guy, Robert Head, who used
to work at Amazon. Rob has been working on a bunch of
under-the-hood stuff that will allow us to be more flexible
with future Fan Club product offerings, and will allow us to
provide a higher level of service to our subscribers. As soon
as he wraps that up, he'll be charged with increasing the
quality and quantity of information and interactivity on our
website. It'll take a few months to see a lot of the changes,
but we hope that we'll end up with a site that people will
want to visit at least a couple times a week. Keep in mind
that starwars.com is and always will be the main place to go
for Star Wars news and information, but we hope to
provide a better complement for our members.
JD: Would you explain again for those that don't
understand, the difference between the Fan Club and the Jawa
Trader (Wizards of the Coast) Store?
VW: Wizards of the Coast currently holds the license
to run the official e-commerce site, which is represented in
print through Insider's Jawa Trader section. Wizards makes all
of the decisions regarding what they offer on their site, and
what content they provide for the Jawa Trader. They no longer
run the Official Fan Club.
Paizo holds the license to publish Star Wars Insider
and run the Official Fan Club. Lucasfilm grants us one-shot
licenses to sell specific items to Fan Club Members - so far,
those items have included the IMAX theatrical poster and
banner, and the Jerry Vander Stelt Attack of the Clones
art print. We've also been allowed to distribute Hasbro's
Convention Exclusive action figure at the shows we attend this
year, and after the convention season, we'll sell the figure
to members-only on our website.
JD: There have been a number of very hard to find
figures over the years that have barely ever hit retail. Is
there any chance of the Fan Club picking up old stock of
these, or making new stock, and getting them out to all the
fans who may have missed out on them the first time around?
VW: For the most part, I plan on focusing on exclusive
products for our members. However, we've already seen that
Hasbro is re-issuing some of the older figures that many
collectors missed the first time around, so hopefully that
will solve everyone's needs.
JD: Met "the maker" (George) yet?
VW: Almost! I apparently just missed seeing him in
the hallway at Skywalker Ranch once. That's okay, though - I
have no idea what I could say to him that he hasn't already
heard a million times.
JD: How long have you been collecting Star Wars
items and what was your very first piece?
VW: I loved Star Wars as a child. I collected
all the trading cards, comic books, and action figures from
1977 through the early 80s. Since the Kenner figures didn't
come out until 1978, my first item was probably either a pack
of the first series of Topps cards, or the first issue of the
Marvel comic book. I stopped buying stuff around the time that
Jedi came out. When Bantam re-launched the fiction program
with Tim Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy, I picked the new books up,
along with the Dark Horse comics that followed, but I wouldn't
have called myself a collector at that point. I was excited
when I heard that Hasbro was re-launching the action figure
line in 1995, but the He-Man-style of the sculpting left me
disappointed, and I didn't bite. A few months later, my
partner, Paizo CEO and Fan Club President Lisa Stevens, who
had endured my endless prattling about how much I loved those
action figures when I was a kid, surprised me with an
orange-carded Boba Fett. Well, you know, Boba needed some
friends, of course... so within a month, I'd caught up with
all the figures I'd missed, and then Lisa and I went nuts from
JD: What is your most prized item? Rarest?
VW: Lisa and I have many one-of-a-kind items, but my
favorite is probably the original Greedo mask - the one worn
by Paul Blake in the cantina scenes that were shot in London.
Let that be a lesson - shoot at Han Solo, and your head might
just end up in my trophy case. :-)
JD: Many people can only imagine what it is like to have
such a large and fine assortment of Star Wars
collectibles and memorabilia. What does it feel like to have
one of the largest collections around?
VW: It's mostly fun, but it's a lot of pressure. I
feel like I have an obligation to share it with people, but
it's extremely difficult to display so many items, and it
makes me sad that I have great stuff that nobody but Lisa and
I will get to see. We're planning a website that will allow us
to share more of our collection with anybody who cares, but we
just don't have much time to put into it right now.
JD: What is your favorite Star Wars action figure
from both the vintage Kenner and the modern Hasbro lines?
VW: Well, I have to admit that the best figures from
the vintage line were made in the mid '80s, but because I had
stopped collecting by then, they don't have the level of
personal attachment for me that some of the earlier figures
do. That first Luke figure gave me an awful lot of happy
moments when I was a kid, and that's hard to beat. As for the
new line, they're doing some amazing work now, but the 300th
Boba Fett is probably the top in my book.
JD: Are there any "holy grail" collecting
pieces out there that you're still trying to get your hands
VW: Sure - but I learned from Steve Sansweet not to
say what they are, because as soon as you do, the price on
them goes up. ;-) I'll tell you about one we just got
recently, though. We finally filled the final hole in our
collection of coin-op games with a little-known Star Wars
pinball game that was manufactured in 1987 by Sonic, the
Spanish branch of Sega. It's a terrible, terrible pinball game
- the worst I've ever played - but now Lisa and I have every Star
Wars pinball and arcade game ever made, as well as a
German slot machine!
JD: Who holds the majority of the high scores on all the
cool Star Wars video games you two have at your house?
Do you have the games rigged for free, or do you have to
charge yourself a quarter to play each time?
VW: There are some games Lisa's better at, and some
I'm better at - and then there are some that so-called
"friends" have had the nerve to score higher on than
either of us. ;-) Most of the newer games are set up for free
play, but that's not an option for the Australian or Spanish
pinball machines, so you have to add credits on those via a
switch. You also have to put quarters in our Star Wars
Pepsi machine, but they drop back out the coin return. :-)
JD: Will the upcoming Silver Boba Fett Mexican
convention exclusive figure packaging be identical to that of
the Boba Fett that Hasbro will be selling through the Official
Star Wars Fan Club? Might there be subtle differences?
VW: Lucasfilm told us that the Mexican Fan Club will
*not* be doing any special packaging, so there should be no
difference between theirs, ours, and the ones you can get from
the other foreign Fan Clubs.
JD: Hoth Han: Brown or blue coat?
VW: I'm happy with the "both" answer
Hasbro has given us, but if I had to choose only one, I'd have
to go with blue, because that's the color my Han Hoth was 23
JD: Where do you stand on the great Expanded Universe (EU)
debate, which has two very vocal factions of people who either
love it or hate it?
VW: You already know that I bought all the Marvel
Comics, and the quality of EU work has improved significantly
since those days. Sure, there's some EU stuff out there that's
not so good, but there's some great stuff, too. To me, saying
you hate the EU because it isn't really Star Wars is
like saying you hate John Lennon's "Imagine" because
it isn't really the Beatles.
JD: What type of presence do you anticipate having at
Celebration III in a couple years? Any goodies we can look
forward to there? Were you at the previous two, and if so, how
would you describe your experience(s) there?
VW: We haven't finalized our role in Celebration III
yet, but we certainly hope that we can play a pretty big part
in it. It's far too early to be any more specific than that,
I did attend the previous two Celebrations. Celebration II
was a *much* better experience for me than Celebration I. Lisa
and I were running the collectibles panels, so I didn't get to
see as much as I wanted, but I loved everything I did get to
see. As a side note, one of the people who deserves a lot of
the credit for how well Celebration II went was Lucasfilm's
Mary Franklin - who is now working for Paizo.
JD: With Episode III marking the end of the Star Wars
saga on the big screen, do you think the fevered pitch of Star
Wars fandom will continue or decline? Have you thought
about how you are going to keep the franchise alive through
the Fan Club and Insider?
VW: From the very beginning, we approached the Fan
Club license as a long-term thing. It would be optimistic to
assume that the audience wouldn't shrink after the movies, but
we believe that Star Wars is timeless, and there will
be a large enough audience to sustain a Fan Club for years to
come. Given that Hasbro has recently extended its toy license
well into the future, it's obvious that they agree.
JD: Are there any plans to expand the Insider's
"collecting" coverage of action figures and other
such collectible focuses? If so, is there any information you
can give us regarding future editions?
VW: Generally, Paizo's management has left the
direction of Insider to Dave Gross, but the one thing Lisa and
I have encouraged him to do is increase the amount of
collectible coverage. We will be doing regular collectible
features like Pete Vilmur's article on Revenge of the Jedi
collectibles in Issue 67, and we've added a new Toybox
department featuring news from Andy@Hasbro starting with Issue
68. Expect that to expand to include LEGO and other toy
coverage in the near future. So, in addition to Steve
Sansweet's Scouting the Galaxy - one of our most popular
departments - you can expect a couple of articles per issue
targeted towards collectibles. And that really is a minimum -
Issue 71, for example, has collectibles as the main theme. I
also just received approval from Lucasfilm to add yet another
regular department that I think will make a lot of collectors
very happy, though it won't start for a few more issues. Keep
JD: Could you give us the details on the upcoming Star
Wars Weekends Fan Club breakfast at Disney World? Are
there any surprises in store for the attendees?
I think it'll be a great event. We've got Jeremy
Bulloch and Peter Mayhew, of course, and also Steve Sansweet from Lucasfilm and Paul
Palmer from Hasbro. Lisa Stevens, Mary Franklin, and I will
all be there from Paizo. And, of course, it'll be a good
opportunity to meet other Fan Club members from all over the
US - and even as far away as Ireland. Disney is very excited
about this event, and they're doing everything they can to
make it a special morning for participants. Lucasfilm, Hasbro,
and Paizo will also be contributing items to a special gift
bag that, well... I don't want to give away the contents
before the event, but let's just say I was very pleased with