Philip Reed’s ‘Universe Expanded’ kickstarter campaign is approaching it’s final week and I had a chance to ask him a few questions about this project, Star Wars’ Expanded Universe and the appeal and longevity of books. Phil’s previous books have been fantastic and with this campaign having met it’s funding goal – it’s a sure deal. If you’re a fan of ‘Shadows of the Empire’ and Kenner’s Expanded Universe line, you can’t miss this chance to pick these books up. Check his kickstarter out here and keep reading for our interview.
ATB: This is your 5th kickstarter for an action figure book, and this is something you discussed in on your site, but for readers here, what is it about the format that keeps bringing you back?
PR: I have always — for as many years as I can remember — had a fascination with books. Thebinding, the paper, the holding of, and just the feel of flipping through a book excites me. I have the same insane attachment to office supplies, so maybe there’s something very wrong at my core.
The internet is an amazing thing, but in the end I still believe nothing beats a book for documenting and exploring things like toys, games, art, comics . . . anything. With these books I am more confident that I’ll have access to the information decades from now.
ATB: This time around you’re focused on the 1998 Kenner Star Wars sub-line “Expanded Universe”, what is it about these toys that inspired you to write this book?
PR: Too many hours reading magazines from the nineties. It was while going through Lee’s, Tomart’s, ToyFare, and Wizard magazines from the nineties that I was reminded of just how exciting a time it was for Star Wars fans (including myself). Kenner’s launch of new Star Wars action figures in 1995 started a bizarre age of success for Star Wars; no new movies until 1999 and it’s possible the toys were more popular before the first prequel movie than after.
It was specifically those magazine articles that made me say: “Hey, I should make a book about the Kenner Star Wars action figures of the nineties.” It was deeper research that made me narrow the focus to one small and easily forgotten subline.
ATB: Part of the artwork you’ll have for this book are original unedited photos of Expanded Universe toys by ‘The Man Who Shot Luke Skywalker’. Am I correct that this book will be the debut for these photos in their original form? How great was it to have access to this art?
PR: I think this might be the first time the unedited photos are being shared; in my own diggings I’ve not seen these photos before. How excited was I? Well, it was access to the photos that pushed my brain into the decision about including a second book as part of the project.
ATB: Yea, let’s talk about that 2nd book focused on the 1996 ‘Shadows of the Empire’ line. This was a fun time for Star Wars fans, how excited were you in 1996 to get an “official” peek between movies?
PR: Way, way too excited. The Power of the Force line of the nineties was still very new, my memories of the Marvel Star Wars comics set between Empire and Jedi were as strong as ever, and seeing this multi-media event happen generated those chills of excitement that I thought only kids ever got. I recently picked up the Secrets of Shadows of the Empire book (replacing an older copy that I lost long ago) and reading it sparked those same feelings. Lucasfilm and their partners of the time did a great job with the idea.
ATB: The mid- to late-90s were an amazing time to be an action figure collector, weren’t they? What do you miss most from this era of toys?
PR: Magazines. Websites are fun, but magazines were so very important to discovering news and information that I miss the joy of reading the latest issue. The articles, the photos, the ads — especially the ads — are all things I miss and I wish that someone had the resources to launch a new toy magazine and make it successful in today’s market.
ATB: Finally….any teases about your next project?
PR: A magazine? No. I’ve gotta resist that. I have the next third party Transformers book in the works, and I also am piecing together the ideas for a retrospective about the Car Wars game of the eighties. One other idea is a continuation of Each Sold Separately and Action Figures Not Included, only the new volume would go into the marketing tactics toymakers use to sell new lines to retailers. After all, if the retailers turn down a line then the kids never get a chance to buy the toys.
ATB: Thanks again for taking the time…glad to see you’re so successful with these books!
PR: Thank you! I couldn’t make this happen without support and encouragement, and that includes the getting chance to talk about these projects and try to explain why I create these books.