Book Review: ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series – Volume Two’

(C) 2015 Abrams ComicsArt and Lucasfilm Ltd (LFL) 

On April 16, 2016, Abrams ComicsArt, an imprint of Abrams Books, published Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Cards – Volume Two. Edited by Gary Gerani, this follow-up to Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Cards tells the story of how Gerani and his team of artists and designers created three “basic” cards series, as well as the larger format Photo Card series and other special issues. 

In addition, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Cards – Volume Two features every single card (352 in all)  and sticker (88 of them) in beautiful full color, including views of the front and reverse side of the trading cards. 

In 1980, following the success of Star Wars (1977) and five tie-in trading card series based on the blockbuster film, Topps released three new series of collectible bubble gum cards to coincide with the release of The Empire Strikes Back. Now, for the first time, all 352 cards and 88 stickers are reprinted in a single deluxe volume. Reproducing the fronts and backs of each card, this collection includes character pro­files, story cards, movie facts, quotes, trivia, and puzzles featuring beloved characters and scenes from The Empire Strikes Back. Also included are four bonus trading cards, the Photo Card series, rare promotional images, and an introduction and commentary by Gary Gerani, the original editor of Topps’s Star Wars series. 

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series – Volume Two
The front of the Yoda trading card. (C) 1980 Topps Chewing Gum Company and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Cards – Volume Two is, like the previous book in the series, a compact yet sturdy hardcover book. It is not oversized like many coffee table books published by Abrams, but at 548 pages and a weight of 2.2 pounds, it’s not a lightweight volume, either. 

It is, however, the best way to own the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back trading cards without spending a fortune seeking actual cards in mint or near-mint condition in, as I like to say, “the wild.”  

The illustrations reveal the cards and stickers that Gerani admits are far better than the 1977-1979 Star Wars sets. He gives credit not only to improved equipment and graphic design at the Topps end of things, but also to Lucasfilm, which provided the Brooklyn-based trading card maker with all the photos and character information needed to make the series visually appealing and informative without giving away any important plot points George Lucas didn’t want fans to know till after they saw the movie.  

The design of the book mimics details from the Topps trading card packaging. The dust jacket that comes with the book looks like the wrapper of the Series One cards, and it is made from paper that looks and feels like the ones the company uses in the wrappers. The font and illustrations also are done in the same style.

And, if you remove the dust jacket, the artwork on the book cover is a “stick” of bubble gum, rendered in the traditional Topps pink!

All in all, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Cards – Volume Two is a treasure trove of information about one of the most popular tie-in products made during the Classic Trilogy era. It’s a worthy addition to any Star Wars fan’s library. It’s also a window into the wonderful world of trading cards and the role they play in recording American pop culture. 

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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