Inside the ancient tree on Ahch-To, Luke Skywalker protected a rare and powerful treasure – the ancient Jedi scriptures, relics of a forgotten time when wisdom was committed to printed paper.
In our own galaxy, even before Star Wars: A New Hope hit theaters, readers were discovering the adventures of Luke and the Rebel Alliance in a novelization based on the soon-to-be-released motion picture.
Soon, a new line from the “all things bookish” brand Out of Print Clothing will resurrect these iconic first-edition covers in time for May the Fourth, with an exclusive line of T-shirts for adults and children created in homage to posters from the American Library Association available now.
StarWars.com recently caught up with Todd Lawton, who co-founded the company with his childhood friend, Jeff LeBlanc (who, we must note, once told his mother he wanted to be R2-D2 when he grew up,) to talk about how Star Wars films and books both made him a fan, and why he wants to inspire readers during National Library Week and all year long.
Growing up Star Wars
For Lawton, his earliest movie-going memory was crawling in the back of his parents’ Toyota station wagon to see the original Star Wars at a drive-in. “My parents thought that I would just go to sleep, but it was Star Wars.” The film so captured his imagination that Lawton kept peeking out until he was finally “invited up to the front seat for a better view.”
At home, Star Wars books kept the story going. Before he could read, Lawton remembers owning Star Wars pop-up books. “I was flipping through these books and R2-D2 and C-3PO would pop out. You’d pull a tab and a sand person would do something. I definitely experienced Star Wars through books that way.”
There were books with records complete with voices and sound effects and a larger picture book when Star Wars: Return of the Jedi came around that had pictures of scenes from the movies. “So Star Wars, for me, was definitely cinematic but also a very tactile experience and books delivered that. The toys delivered it. It was a pretty big part of my upbringing.”
If you were a kid around the era of the original trilogy, you may remember back in 1983, when a poster showing Yoda holding a red book in one arm was part of a library series intended to get children interested in literature with the help of pop culture characters and contemporary celebrities.
“Star Wars is a vehicle to help support and excite young readers,” Lawton says. “That’s perfectly in line with our mission and we feel that the world’s a better place if people are reading more books. So when you see a character like Yoda or Darth Vader presented in a way that’s supporting this love of reading and the importance of reading, we want to show that and celebrate that as well.”
For the new line, Lawton and his team resurrected the original artwork of Yoda and Darth Vader from actual posters that plastered library walls. They’ve also created an all-new image in the same style — featuring Princess Leia.
“We love how the library has been able to use these pop culture icons to get kids excited,” Lawton says, and he hopes taking the art off the wall and emblazoning it onto shirts will start a lot of conversations about Star Wars and books.
An Out of Print designer also reimagined the line for a new line of stylized socks, which will be released later this year. “Readers love socks,” Lawton says. “Something that if your pant leg is creeping up, it’s a great opportunity to shout how cool you are.”
Long before the original “Read” line, in the days leading up to the release of the first film, readers were able to get a sneak peek at the epic story on the pages of a then Ballantine (now Del Rey) book.
Kicking off a long and wonderful tradition of exploring and expanding the Star Wars galaxy through books, the novelizations of the original trilogy invited readers to imagine the galaxy for themselves before seeing it on screen.
A new line of Out of Print T-shirts will showcase these original, first-edition covers, down to authentic details like back-cover synopses and the callout “soon to be a major motion picture.”
The shirt for Return of the Jedi matches the paperback Lawton still owns from his youth. “I still have, at my parents’ house, the Return of the Jedi paperback that is the same cover that we’re featuring. I read that one when I got to the point where I could read an adult book. I think that was probably my first real Star Wars novel experience.”
In the years since that first series, “there are so many different novels that have been created that have taken the tremendous story in different directions.”
But readers, and Star Wars fans, never forget taking their first steps into the larger world. “It’s nice to see where Star Wars has grown and how many lives it’s affected, but then also get back to its origin and still discover things that are, for fans or readers, interesting to know.”
And Lawton promises more characters and more product categories to come. After all, when your business partner always had an affinity for heroic astromechs, it only makes sense to try to get them into the line. Plus, there are at least two more Star Wars “Read” posters in the archives, featuring C-3PO and Chewbacca, and an endless supply of other inspiring characters.
Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.