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Star Wars 1983: Jabba's Friends

Continuing my tribute to Kenner Toys, Star Wars action figures. Okay now, as an adult, I recognize that on every level of filmmaking, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is inarguably the best-made, most finely crafted episode in the Star Wars saga. ...But... "THE BEST" and "YOUR FAVORITE" are not always the same thing. And in May 1983 when RETURN OF THE JEDI came out, I was 11 (going on 12) and all I cared about was, "WOW!!! LOOK at ALL THOSE COOL ALIENS!!!!". And to this day RETURN OF THE JEDI is still my favorite Star Wars movie. It might have certain flaws but they are vastly outweighed by all the stuff in this movie that satisfies my personal interest and fires up my imagination.

Here's a childhood memory for you. It was the spring of 1983. My uncle asked me to do a couple drawings for a class project he was working on. A few days later he came over to our house to visit my dad and casually handed me a new Star Wars figure as "thanks" for doing those drawings. He said, "I saw this in the store, I think it's one of the new ones..."
Being a rabid Star Wars kid, I had been following news about Return of the Jedi but the movie was still weeks away from release. And I had no idea the new figures were even out yet.
So it was a totally unexpected shock to suddenly be holding a brand new figure of the "Biker Scout" (which I'd never seen or heard of before) in my hands.
...And to then turn the card over and see tiny pictures of all the other new figures in the first wave of Return of the Jedi toys. And to read their strange names.
Of course seeing Luke in his black Jedi outfit and the stunning red Emperor's Royal Guard were super cool - but I was ten times more delighted by so many crazy looking new aliens: SQUID HEAD, REE-YEES, WEEQUAY, KLAATU... And BEST of all: GAMORREAN GUARD, which blew my mind because it looked like an Orc from the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual. What the hell was a D&D Orc doing in Star Wars? It might not sound strange today, but in 1983 when all we had to go on was the first two movies this seemed like an insane choice and I LOVED the absurdity of it. I couldn't imagine what such creatures would do in the movie, but was now more excited than ever to find out... And needless to say, the movie did not disappoint.

This piece was drawn traditionally with inks on bristol board and colored in Photoshop.
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© 2020 - 2021 BryanBaugh
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Scholarly-Cimmerian's avatar

Outstanding conclusion to this little series. :XD: The Gamorrean guard in particular is a real treat, that piggy face and drooling tusk-filled mouth are wonderfully ugly, haha!

Return of the Jedi was my favorite Star Wars movie as a kid. I've not seen it in over a decade... I should remedy that sometime. My father likes it too, even though he grumbles sometimes about the weird aliens in Jabba's palace. (To him, the Max Rebo band are too Muppet-like for him to take seriously.)

wondermanrules's avatar

I love that you did it like the old toy packaging. Great job on all of them, nice to see Squid Head getting some love.

I was lucky enough to see Return of the Jedi in theaters when I was 7 or 8. I loved all the crazy ass aliens and thought Jabba's pet Salacious B. Crumb was fucking hilarious. I mostly remember the B’omarr Monk, Bib Fortuna and the Rancor scaring the shit out of me at the palace.

dusty-abell's avatar

Love these toy centric versions!

BryanBaugh's avatar

Thanks so much, Dusty!!

DavidWFisher's avatar

Almost sounds like we had the same childhood. I was 12 when Return came out. I still love Empire the most. It reminds me of my Dad taking me to see it and buying me the super sized comic adaptation from Marvel.

BryanBaugh's avatar

I had that oversized Marvel comic!!! Looked at it to death.

DavidWFisher's avatar

They were selling it in the cinema at the snack stand. I remember trying to resist the temptation of browsing through before the film started. Yes, mine was certainly in a rather tattered state by the close of 1980.

screamsinthevoid's avatar
ctdsnark's avatar
wildpegasus13's avatar

I just love that three of Jabba's goons were named Klaatu, Barada, and Nikto.

BryanBaugh's avatar

Yep, a classic reference to The Day The Earth Stood Still. :)

Day the Earth Stood Still
Aetostheronin's avatar
So was the Rancor scene the best scene to you or was it the sarlacc pit?
BryanBaugh's avatar

Great question!:) The entire first half of ROTJ - basically EVERYTHING in Jabba's Palace and the Sarlacc Pit/Sail Barge battle... is my favorite part. That whole section is a smorgasbord of stuff I love, and my happiest of happy places, in the entire Star Wars saga.

Aetostheronin's avatar
I feel the same towards ESB. I admire a good battle in the snow and the scene with the Wampa when I first watched it was tense. Additionally, seeing the Snow troopers and the AT-ATs was amazing too.
BryanBaugh's avatar

Oh yeah, I'm right there with you. ESB came out during my prime childhood years and perhaps made the deepest impression on me, of all the SW films. The Hoth stuff in ESB is my other favorite SW comfort zone. Seeing the Imperial Walkers on the big screen in 1980 was mindblowing for an 8 year old, let me tell you. The Walkers are still my favorite SW vehicle and hell yes the Snowtroopers are my favorite troopers.

The only reason I love the Jabba stuff slightly more (and only by inches) is because the Jabba scenes are more overloaded with stuff that connects with my personal interests (monsters, monsters, monsters!!)

Aetostheronin's avatar
It's funny that Star Wars has so much aliens and strange creatures, but they never really did much with them. Safe for three episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars 3D animated show. They made one episode that felt genuinely like a zombie movie, another similar to John Carpenter's The Thing and the last that comes to mind that is just like a giant monster movie with my personal favorite creature called a Zillo Beast.
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