10 Questions With Jeffrey Brown

Mark: Most of our readers know you from Star Wars: Darth Vader and Son, and then the many successful books that followed, but how did you first get involved in writing Star Wars books?

Jeffrey: I grew up with Star Wars, and got my chance to draw for Lucasfilm through Google. I got a call from Ryan Germick, who runs the Google Doodle team,  and occasionally they have an outside artist contribute an image to use for the Google homepage image. Because he knew my previous autobiographical work about awkward everyday moments and my humorous sci fi comics, he thought I’d be a good artist for their idea to portray Vader and Luke in a normal life situation like shopping for groceries. My son was four years old at the time, so I made Luke four and put Vader in my shoes as a parent. Google liked my sketches, but decided to not use the concept. I took the pitch to Chronicle Books, who published my cat books, and also works with Lucasfilm. Chronicle took the project to them, and Lucasfilm liked it enough for us to turn it into that first book. 

M: What or Who was the main influence on your style, which is known around the world now?

J: I don’t think I could point to one influence – I think everything I read and see has some influence, so lots of newspaper comics, comic books, and graphic novels – but also music, movies, sketch comedy, and fine art. The biggest influence may be German expressionism, and artists like Charlotte Salomon. My style has become more refined over time but I try to keep that sense of feeling and emotion and immediacy in my drawing.

M: We ask this of everyone in this feature, what is your favorite Star Wars film?

J: The Empire Strikes Back is still my favorite, followed closely by A New Hope.

M: Have you ever had the chance to visit Skywalker Ranch or meet the man himself, George Lucas?

J: I hope to meet George Lucas someday, but haven’t had the opportunity so far. I have gotten to visit Skywalker Ranch a couple times, though. The last visit was especially  meaningful as I  was able to see the archives, and they happened to have a big stack of McQuarrie concept paintings out. Those paintings were one of my artistic inspirations, so having a chance to look at them up close and in person was amazing.

M: Rey and Pals comes out in a few weeks, we’ve been letting our fans know and the pre-orders on Amazon have been great. Do you have another book coming out soon about Star Wars?  We understand if you can’t say a name, but hopefully something in 2020?

J: I don’t have anything planned yet, but I loved Rogue One and Solo, and am looking forward to Rise of Skywalker, so I’m sure I’ll be back in a galaxy far, far away soon. In the meantime, I’m working on a new middle grade science fiction series about human and alien kids exploring the galaxy in a spaceship run by robots, the first book of which will be out next spring.

M: Your books are meant for children, but they are very popular with adult collectors, did that surprise you that so many adults would not only read your books, but collect them?

J: Actually, it was the opposite – I began writing Darth Vader and Son for people like me, who grew with Star Wars as kids and were now becoming parents themselves. I did want to keep the books kid friendly, so I didn’t make the jokes too mature, because I thought parents might show a page to their child. I didn’t expect just how much kids would love the books, and how much parents would complain that their son or daughter keeps taking the book for themself!

M: You have 2 of the most popular Gentle Giant LTD statues that sell for triple what they sold for and are highly collectible when they hit the market (which is not often), any chance we will see future statues from your books? We’d like to have one from Rey and Pals!

J: Gentle Giant did an amazing job with the two Vader statues. I can only hope we get one with Rey, BB-8, and Finn!

M: With Rey and Pals, we have the book and also the journal and postcards, which make a great set.  Did you ever think of offering an exclusive deluxe set that included all 3 items, limited edition to like 100 copies and signed by you?

J: It would be up to Chronicle and Lucasfilm, but I would love that! I’ve enjoyed having special editions like the exclusive books for Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess that came with the Gentle Giant maquettes, or the deluxe boxed sets of the four Vader and family books.

M: If you could write one dream book and have it published, on any subject, what would it be?

J: Drawing Star Wars was my biggest childhood dream, so being able to make all of these books was already a dream. The other thing I’d like to do is work with the works of Tolkien. As a kid I drew a lot of pictures based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so even if it was getting a chance to draw for the Tolkien calendar, it would be another dream come true. 

M:  Lastly, knowing you have so many adult fans, have you ever thought of writing or illustrating a Star Wars book meant for adults?

J: Sometimes I think about writing a Star Wars story that’s more adult, but I love humor and like making books that everyone can read. One of the great things about A New Hope is that it’s a movie for adults, but it’s also for kids – it has a sense of magic and wonder that is good for any age, and I like that.

Huge thanks to Jeffrey Brown for taking the time to talk with us, check out his new book, journal and postcards for pre-order at this link, coming out on 8/20/2019!

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10 Questions With Mark Von Ohlen (Part 2)

Yodasnews: Thank you again for taking the time to speak with us! Last time we did a QnA with you was back in July of 2016 (check that out at this link) when you were the Brand Manager of Entertainment for Topps, as we enter 2018, you have some exciting news to share about your new role with Topps?

Mark Von Ohlen: Wow has it been that long?! Time flies and in that time we’ve got two new movies, the end of Rebels, and new role for me at Topps. I’m now running our Star Wars Authentics business which includes official photos and autographs from across the saga. It’s been so exciting to dive into this new area, bringing in new autograph signers and developing new products for the website (www.StarWarsAuthentics.com).

Q: That’s awesome, Congrats! A lot of our readers collect autographs and I personally have been collecting for over 20 years, I recently got a framed 16×20 John Boyega from my family for the holidays from you guys and it is amazing! The packing was unreal, it took 15 minutes to get it out!  I am also part of a very large Facebook group called Star Wars Autograph Universe, so I reached out to them for some questions for you all about Star Wars Authentics!  Ready to hear some?

A: That’s fantastic! Yes, I’m ready for all the questions including how to unlock our incredibly tight packaging. We don’t want those frames to crack in shipping you know!

Q: One of the questions that came up a lot, was photo selection. Will there be an opportunity for fans to select photos they would like to purchase, both for unsigned photographs and signed?  The idea came up that we could do a poll of say 35-40 images and have a vote and maybe the top 10 you guys work on getting made for purchase? 

A: I’m so glad you started with photos because that is a key focus for us right now. We’ve got almost 700 photos on the site so far and more are on the way. We started stocking the site with images from the original six films and then expanded out to The Force Awakens, Rogue One and the animated shows. We actually just added over 80 images from The Last Jedi to the site and we expect to add more soon. We’re going to continually add photos to the site throughout the year and since it’s a print-on-demand business there’s no limit to what we can offer pending Lucasfilm approval. We can consider adding anything to the site that customers are looking for. The easiest way to make a request is to email customerservice@mail.starwarsauthentics.com. If we’re permitted to add the photo you want to the site, we’ll do it.

Q:  What are the chances of being able to select higher quality photos (In regards to paper quality, thicker stock, etc..)

A: It’s something we are exploring. We currently use Kodak professional and it’s very high gloss. If there’s a real demand for anything thicker than our current paper, or a matte finish, or anything else, we can definitely investigate it. If fans out there have something specific in mind they’re looking for, just email it to our customer service and we’ll investigate the options.  

Q: Are you planning any changes for the next SW Celebration Autograph Pavilion to reduce the wait time and have more uniform guidelines across all guests?

A: We certainly learned a lot in terms of organizing autographs and photo ops at Celebration 2017. For anyone who was there the entire weekend, you would have seen a huge difference between Thursday and Sunday. Those changes, along with other improvements, would certainly be implemented at the next show. There aren’t any plans announced for a Celebration in 2018 and we don’t have any visibility to what 2019 may have in store, but as soon as we know we’ll make an announcement so the fans can plan accordingly. 

Q:  Will SWA be offering a selection of Behind the Scenes photos at any point?

A: It’s definitely something we’ve discussed. If there are any behind the scenes shots we are permitted to use, we will certainly add them to the site. Again, if there are specific images people want to see, send a note to our customer service email.

Q: You once offered the 1:1 signs from Celebration for auction, if any were not bid on, do you plan to offer them again in the future for sale?  Can we get an update on that? Once the auction ended you could not see the page anymore.

A: We sold several of the Star Wars Celebration banners at the auction we ran late last year. The few remaining banners might go back on sale again, but I don’t have any concrete plans to announce on that yet. For anyone unaware of what we were selling, the banners were gigantic – 60” by 84” – that’s 5 feet by 7 feet in size! Makes for an awesome wall display if you have a wall that big.

Q:  How do they go about selecting photos?  Will you eventually get to iconic classic images as staples on the site?

A: We have a plan in place to consistently add photos to the site ongoing. We just added a ton of new images from Star Wars: The Last Jedi and we have more new images coming from Star Wars Rebels Seasons 3&4 as we get ready for the finale. We’ll also have images from Solo: A Star Wars Story in May and we’ll continue to add other new items as fans request them.

Q: What are your goals for the website in the immediate to long term future?

A: As with our trading card business, Topps is alsways looking to launch new products and bring on board new autograph signers. We have two new signers for Star Wars Authentics launching this month – James Arnold Taylor and Stephen Stanton! Plus we’ll have some returning signers autograph new photos from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. We’ve just added several new autographed photos of John Boyega from The Last Jedi a few of weeks ago. We also have new autographed wall art from Felicity Jones, the star of Rogue One. This year you can expect to see more new products, new photos added regularly, more autographed photos from your favorite signers and more new signers added to the site so keep checking back.

Q:  Will SWA be adding any non-character photos (e.g. Spaceships, vehicles, etc)? Previous vendors offered ‘generic’ photos that were ideal for multi-signed pieces. The community would really like to be able to purchase those.

A: You’re in luck! Among the 80+ new photos we just launched from The Last Jedi, we’ve got several vehicles and battle scenes that would be great to get signed by a wide range of people. We’re also going back to find some iconic classic scenes including vehicles for that very purpose. I know we’ve got some Death Star pictures in the works as well as space battles for all you pilot fans out there and large group photos perfect for multi-signing.

Q: Are you working on a UK/European outpost for purchasing official images? Shipping & customs makes it rather prohibitive to get from the US for those in the UK.

A: We’re actually looking at a few different options to help solve that very issue. We hear you and we’re actively tackling this. I don’t want shipping charges to be the reason people miss out on our great products so our focus on our international consumers is definitely a priority this year.   

Q: Do you plan to offer images with the white borders at some point?

A: That’s something we’re considering. No plans to announce yet.  

Q:  Are they planning to do more private signings with send-ins? Like what you did with Felicity Jones.

A: I would love to do more send-ins and expect that we’ll have a few coming up late in the year. Our focus in the first half of the year is the addition of new photos (The Last Jedi, Rebels Seasons 3&4, missing classic shots), new autographs being added (we just put up a wide range of new items from John Boyega and Felicity Jones), and photos from new signers (James Arnold Taylor, Stephen Stanton and more TBA) being added to the site. If we can schedule another send-in program with any of our signers later this year, we will definitely do it.

Q: Any chance we will get a Hayden/Ewan Dual Signed in the future from SWA?

A: We would have to get Ewan McGregor first now wouldn’t we!? And believe me, we are trying. As soon as we secure any new signer for the SWA site we’ll be sure to announce it on one of our channels – www.facebook.com/OfficialToppsStarWars or our Twitter @Topps handle. We’ll also be adding some new multi-signed items soon so keep a look out!   

Q: Can you share any news on upcoming Topps Star Wars trading cards including what you have planned for Solo?

A: We have another really exciting year planned for Topps Star Wars trading cards with some new brands that we are launching and some returning favorites. The year kicks off with a new brand – Star Wars Black & White A New Hope, a hobby exclusive featuring rare black & white photography from the film, autographs and sketch cards. Then in May we have the Han Solo Movie set which we can’t reveal any details around yet given the tight communication embargoes from LFL. Then in June we have Star Wars: The Last Jedi Series 2 which will tell the full story of the film and include at least two new signers – Laura Dern as Admiral Holdo and Amanda Lawrence as Commander D’Acy. Later in the year sees the return of Star Wars Galaxy, which features new artwork from Topps artists. That’s especially exciting as it will be the first Galaxy set done post-Disney. We’ve also got some surprises in store for the finale of Star Wars Rebels that we’ll be announcing soon and other returning favorite brands like Masterwork coming later in the year. As you know once we’re ready to release any announcements I’ll send it over to all the Yodasnews fans.

Q: Thanks for all this great info on Star Wars Authentics and Topps Star Wars trading cards! Anything you want to leave the fans with?

A: Yes, thanks to everyone out there who’s a fan of our products. We’re so excited about this year and hope you are as well. Follow us on social media – www.facebook.com/OfficialToppsStarWars or our Twitter @Topps handle if you guys have any other questions! May The Force Be With You!

10 Questions with Tom Spina

 
Tom Spina, from Tom Spina Designs and Regal Robot, was kind enough to sit down with us to discuss his work and his latest projects.
 
Mark:  Tom Spina Designs has created some amazing costumes and restored props, how did all of this get started?
 
Tom: In a way, it’s grown from my love for making and knack for fixing things. I was inspired by the films I watched as a kid (especially Star Wars and the cantina scene full of rubber monsters!) and I eventually learned how to sculpt and make masks and puppets and monsters. I got an internship with the Muppets and then worked in TV on the technical side of things for many years, but I always kept a hand in practical effects type work.  As original prop collecting took off over the last 2 decades, that presented the opportunity to help people care for and display these pieces of film history, which was a great little niche that helped launch Tom Spina Designs.
 
  
Mark:  Who are your customers? Can anyone request work from you?
 
Tom: Anyone indeed!  We try to be available to private clients as well as the big companies and offer people the style of work normally reserved for studios and museums.  Of course, we’ve been very lucky to work with bigger companies too, creating for Lucasfilm, The Lucasfilm Archives (now the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art), Disney Imagineering, Universal, 20th Century Fox, and many museums and such as well. 
 
 
Mark:  While, we know you work with many properties, you do a lot of work with Star Wars, what is your favorite piece you worked on?
 
Tom: For Star Wars projects, it’s a tie – the first Star Wars commercial we did, recreating cantina aliens for a Volkswagen Super Bowl commercial and restoring the original Muftak costume for my dear friends and movie historians Bob and Kathy Burns.  Not many people out there can say they’ve shampooed a Talz but our little crew can. Ha!
 
My favorite non-Star Wars restoration came from helping Bob and Kathy out as well, when I restored the original wolf from An American Werewolf in London for them, a movie monster that’s nearly as close to my heart as all these Star Wars aliens!
 
  
Mark:  Recently, you launched a new venture, Regal Robot, what can we expect to see from Regal Robot?
 
Tom: We did! Regal Robot is live right now and folks can learn all about it at www.RegalRobot.com.  Star Wars fans will notice that we’ve taken the idea of really highly themed pieces that we’ve been developing at TSD for so long (with things like the famous Han Solo in Carbonite Desk) and created this new company that’s now partnered with Lucasfilm to offer a full line of really cool Star Wars themed furniture, art and decorThere’s everything from smaller art pieces and directors chairs to really premium and over the top themed furniture.  We’re even offering custom work and that’s something I’m very excited about. 
 
 
Mark:  So Regal Robot is able to create custom made official Star Wars pieces? 
 
Tom: Yes. Right now, all of our licensed products are made in the US and a lot are made to order and by our artists right in our studio. With that in mind, I thought, why not offer people the chance to get something really unique?  So if someone has a very specific piece in mind, or commissions us to design something crazy just for them, and we can guide it through the Lucasfilm approval process, we can actually create that for them!  People can learn more or request their own custom furniture or decor here.
 
      

Mark:  Now that you have Regal Robot, will we still see Tom Spina Designs work on Star Wars designs?
 
Tom: Absolutely. While Regal Robot will focus on the licensed items and even custom furniture and decor, Tom Spina Designs will continue to do restoration work on original props and create costumes or other custom sculpture and theming work for a number of official clients.  We have a few things in the works right now though I’m afraid I can’t talk about those just yet.  But keep an eye on our social media accounts and we’ll share when we can!
 
Mark:  In the course of your work, have you had the opportunity to meet any Star Wars icons?  And if so Who?
 
Tom: For me, the icons were always the folks behind the camera making all that cool stuff. Those people were rock stars to me. I’ve been so fortunate to meet quite a few of my heroes along the way, such as Stuart and Kay Freeborn, Nick Maley, Kirk Thatcher, Jon Berg, Phil Tippett, Doug Beswick, and of course, Rick Baker.  All outstanding artists, with so much creative history (Star Wars and otherwise) among them!  Truly amazing people and I’m honored to have gotten to meet so many of my idols and even talk shop and learn! 
 
Mark:  Speaking of icons, we have to ask you about the Adam Savage Chewbacca mask project.
 
Tom: That was amazing. Adam’s someone I met online many years ago, we lost touch for a bit and it’s just so great that we’ve gotten to connect for this project. He wanted a new, articulated and hyper-accurate Chewbacca mask for his costume for an “Adam Incognito” appearance and I’m so thrilled we could help.  Plus, it gave us a chance to explore and obsess about one of Stuart Freeborn’s most enduring and effective creations. A lot of work by a lot of people went into that and folks can check out the Chewbacca mask page on our site to see more.
 
 
 
Mark:  What upcoming project are you most excited about? Is it Star Wars?
 
Tom: We’ve got some really cool new products in development for Regal Robot and that process is always exciting. It’s always interesting to see people’s reactions to what we’re making.  Watching hundreds of people come by at Star Wars Celebration and take photos with our Dewback Loveseat was absolutely awesome. It’s so fun to do something like that which no one’s really seen before. 
 
 
 
Mark: How big of a Star Wars fan are you and is your house filled with your own Star Wars designs?  
 
Tom: I’m a huge Star Wars fan, but especially the MAKING of the original trilogy. That fascinates me to no end.  My home’s got quite a bit of Star Wars memorabilia as well as Disney park memorabilia, as I’m a bit of a geek for that as well!  I’ve still got my old vintage Kenner Star Wars figures and most of those toys, and I do have a display of many of the Star Wars alien masks me and my crew have made, as well as a collection of original, screen used props from the cantina scene, which sort of takes things full circle for me.  🙂 
 
  
 A huge thank you goes out to Tom for taking the time to chat with us!
 
Be the first to hear about Tom’s latest projects – Sign up for his newsletter today!
 
Be sure to check out all of Tom’s work:
 
Official Site – www.TomSpinaDesigns.com   @TomSpinaDesigns on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
 
Official Site – www.RegalRobot.com  @RegalRobot on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
 

10 Questions with Mark Von Ohlen from Topps

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Mark P: First up, for those who may not know all that you do, you are the Brand Manager of Entertainment for a ton of awesome properties (Star Wars, Doctor Who, WWE, GPK, Mars Attacks, Walking Dead, and more) at Topps. How did you get started at Topps and get what most of us would call a dream job?

Mark: I’m incredibly fortunate to have a job that I really love. I started with Topps about a year and a half ago because I wanted to work on products that I was really passionate about. I’m a collector and a geek and have tons of action figures and trading cards in my personal collection. While I’ve spent a decade in marketing, primarily at Kraft/Nabisco working on snacks, I was ready for a change and found this position at Topps to be the perfect blending of my marketing skills and passion for all things geeky. I have a terrific portfolio already with Star Wars, Doctor Who, WWE, GPK, Wacky Packages, Mars Attacks, The Walking Dead, and Preacher, plus we’re always looking for new licenses and will have more to be announced before the end of the year!

MP: So from what I’ve seen, we have TFA Chrome next month (August); Rogue One Mission Briefing and 3D Widevision AOTC in October, followed up by Masterwork and SWCT in November and we finish out the year with High Tek & Rogue One Series 1 in December. 7 sets in 6 months, do you ever sleep?

MVO: That’s just the Star Wars calendar! We have almost 40 Entertainment products planned for 2016 across all our properties. Plus we have the new Topps Now program that just launched with Preacher and will be extending out into other brands before the end of the year. Then there are the conventions – we have oversized exclusive cards for Star Wars Celebration; oversized cards for Star Wars, Doctor Who, GPK and Wacky plus Preacher promo cards at SDCC and even more planned for NYCC. And in my personal time I’m consistently on the convention circuit meeting fans, artists, and actors. I go to about a dozen shows a year on top of the ones Topps sponsors so there’s never really a break for me, but that’s the way I like it.

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MP: Of those 7 sets, which one are you most excited about?

MVO: All of them are special for different reasons. Rogue One: Mission Briefing has the most eclectic autograph list we’ve ever done with a dozen new signers so that will be really fun. And fans can expect a fantastic autograph list with new signers for Masterwork and High Tek as well. But SWCT is the dark horse for 2016 product of the year. It’s going to be really fun with $2 packs with digital unlocks in every pack to get you exclusive cards in the SWCT app.

MP: Being such a fan of the properties as well as it being your 9-5 job, how hard is it to keep quiet when you know what 99.9% of population does not?

MVO: As a licensee we have lots of information and imagery before it goes public but it’s our responsibility to be good partners and protect that information to make sure we’re not releasing anything earlier than Lucasfilm intends to. My inner nerd is always very excited about learning the secrets ahead of time, but in full disclosure we don’t know everything before the film comes out so there are even surprises for us.

MP:  Collectors and kids have really latched on to Star Wars Galactic Connexions, what can we expect to see in the future?

MVO: Launching Galactic Connexions is something I’m incredibly proud of. It was one of my first projects at Topps and I can’t believe we’re now on Series 3! And in two aisles of Walmart – the card & collectable aisle plus the Toy Aisle. We’ve also had some incredible partners over the past year and a half – EA Battlefront, Subway, Hallmark cards, the soundtrack to TFA, and the Lego Star Wars video game. We can’t reveal much about what’s coming during the back half of this year yet but we have some interesting plans in the work including giveaways and a new sku coming in 2017. If you’re going to be at either Star Wars Celebration or SDCC, we’ll also have giveaways there as well.

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MP: You’ve had 100’s of signers come in the office over the years, and you share some great pics all the time on Twitter (follow Mark @DarthVonOhlen) – If you had to pick just 1 from the Star Wars world that really just made your week, who was it?

MVO: This is a tough one and I honestly can’t pick a favorite. This past year alone I racked up some great stories – I met Ashley Eckstein & Vanessa Marshall at Disney Star Wars Weekends 2015; I pretty much spent all of Rhode Island Comic Con hanging out with Daniel Logan, which BTW he is the most popular person at ANY party so that was a blast; I had an amazing dinner in Rhode Island with Erik Bauersfeld, Tim Rose, Daniel Logan and Jerome Blake; we had Taylor Gray and John Morton come to the Topps office for interview and autograph signing; I’ve met Ray Park at a few different conventions and he loves the Galactic Connexions discs so we sent him a bunch; and just last month I met Matthew Wood and he was nice enough to come to our office to sign autographs and then I went to his friend’s apartment in the city for a rooftop barbeque. It was surreal. Bonus item – the incredible Russell Tovey came to the office to sign autographs for our Doctor Who cards after I met him after his Broadway show A View From The Bridge. He’s my #1 pick to be the next Doctor.

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MP:  Do you know if anyone pulled a John Boyega autograph from Topps Star Wars Evolution yet?

MVO: Yes – I’ve seen a few on eBay. We had him do a special signing and even got him to sign some Evolution base cards. There’s actually more to this story but we can’t announce the surprise just yet. But I promise we’ll send you the info as soon as we go public.

MP: Will you guys every sell those oversized signed cards (like the one from Matthew Wood) or are they just for prizes? I want one!

MVO: Aren’t those fun?! Fans can expect that I continue to stalk, I mean MEET, more celebrities from Star Wars and Doctor Who, I will be asking them to sign some of these special items for giveaways. We don’t plan to sell anything like this at the moment, but believe me, more are coming in the giveaway / prize bucket. We still have the Russell Tovey signed poster from Doctor Who Timeless and another Matthew Wood signed poster for Masterwork coming. We’re hoping to have at least one for each upcoming set.

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MP:  We always like to ask this one, rank them! And you know what we mean!

MVO: I feel like this will be the thing that gets me in trouble.

Return Of The Jedi
The Force Awakens
A New Hope
Empire Strikes Back
Rebels
Clone Wars
Revenge Of The Sith
Attack Of The Clones
Phantom Menace
Holiday Special 😉

MP: I know Topps will be at Star Wars Celebration and SDCC this year. What do you guys have planned?

MVO: These shows are going to be so much fun! Our UK team is handling our activation at Star Wars Celebration and they have quite a bit planned. We have 7 oversized trading card sets – one from each film – with 10 cards each for $20 per set. We also have giveaways, we have a special surprise guest coming to the booth for photo ops and more to be announced! Follow our social handles – www.Facebook.com/MyTopps and Twitter @MyTopps for the UK team for all things Celebration. You can find us Booth N403.

For SDCC, we are thrilled to be returning to the Lucasfilm pavilion after a very successful adventure there last year! We’ll have 5 oversized card sets, all themed from The Force Awakens, plus giveaways of Galactic Connexions discs and photo ops with the 14kt gold disc! Topps will also have exclusive Doctor Who products at the BBC booth, GPK and Wacky Packages exclusives for sale at yet another booth, Preacher promo cards at the DC Comics booth and we’re participating in a ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ experience you’ll have to see to believe! Be sure to follow www.Facebook.com/OfficialToppsStarWars & www.Facebook.com/Topps & www.facebook.com/RealToppsEntertainment plus Twitter @Topps and @DarthVonOhlen for all your SDCC info!

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A huge thank you goes out to Mark for taking the time to chat with us. It was a blast!

10 Questions with Amy Ratcliffe

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Amy Ratcliffe is a leading lady in the Star Wars Community. She is a writer for Geek with Curves (personal blog), The Official Star Wars Blog, Star Wars Insider Magazine, IGN, Nerdist, Blastoff Comics to name a few.  Today she was kind enough to site down with Chris to answer a few questions for Yodasnews.com.

Chris: What was your first experience with Star Wars? How did that experience affect you?

Amy:  I came to Star Wars later than most people I talk to. I first experienced the saga with Episode IV when it was re-released in theaters ahead of the prequel trilogy. I was – and still am – impressed by how well the film holds up. The dialogue, the world, the costumes and sets – every piece takes you out of world and time somewhere else. That is not usually the reaction I have when I see films made in the ’70s. That someone could tell such a timeless story stuck with me.

At what point did you realize you wanted to be a writer? What do you like to write about most?

 I didn’t realize what I wanted to be when I grew up until my mid-late twenties. I liked writing fictional short stories for assignments in high school and college but struggled with writing anything long form. Eventually I stumbled into blogging and reporting and realized that was my home, so to speak. It will not surprise you to learn my favorite topic to write about is pop culture.

When you first starting to write seriously, did you have the desire to write for geek sites and publications? Or is that something you just eventually ended up writing about?

At first, I just wanted to write and get my words out there. I initially started by blogging about food, life, and travel, and though I enjoyed it, the subject wasn’t quite a home run for me. Then I had this very lightbulb turning on, aha moment and realized I should use writing as an outlet to discuss all the geeky things I love.

Once I started Geek with Curves, I intentionally wrote different type of posts (and always stayed professional with spelling and grammar) to build up a portfolio of sorts. I started connecting with fellow geeks and Star Wars fans on Twitter, and some of those pals ended up being editors and my writing career has developed from there.

I grew up with a twin sister who also loved Star Wars, not obsessed like me, but a big fan. So for me I always knew there were female fans out there. Did you ever have any problems growing up being a Star Wars fan? Being picked on or such things?

Since I didn’t find Star Wars until my teenage years, I wasn’t bullied on that topic. However, I was very much the girl alone in the corner with my nose buried in a book. You know the opening song in Beauty and the Beast where the townspeople think Belle is super weird because she likes to read? I felt like Belle in that regard. My appreciation for Star Trek wasn’t necessarily understood either.

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Being a strong female in the Star Wars community, do you feel an obligation to young female fans or want to show young female fans it’s okay to be a fan of what you love?

I make it a point to encourage everyone to embrace his or her fandom. No one should feel ashamed for loving the stories they love. That said, I will always go out of my way to interact with younger female fans. If I see a girl wearing a R2-D2 shirt at Disney, I compliment her on it. I saw a girl around 10 wearing a handmade Sabine Wren costume at a convention this year and stopped to talk to her about her cosplay – she was clearly in love with the character. I don’t think I’m necessarily making a difference, but I know that as a kid, if an adult who likes the things I like took a second to encourage me, I would have appreciated it and felt more at home. I want to do my part and contribute to a positive, welcoming environment that overruns gatekeepers and doesn’t use phrases like “true fan.”

You were part of several panels at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, which one was your favorite and what exclusive was a must have?

Celebration Anaheim was such a joyful blur. I was fortunate enough to sit on and attend several memorable panels, but it was hard to top The Force Awakens panel. It kicked off the convention, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the palpable energy present in that room or the incredible emotion of watching a new teaser with thousands of other fans. It was one of the highest highs I’ve experienced in my life.

As far as exclusives, the top item on my wish list was the singing Max Rebo plush. The lines for the Celebration store were always long, and my work schedule was such that I didn’t think I’d have enough time to wait. Thankfully, two friends picked one up for me when they shopped on the first day of the convention and now I can hear “Lapti Nek” whenever I want.

When you’re at conventions with friends, what do you like to do most?

Every convention is different and it can be hard to coordinate with friends because of schedules and crowds, but whenever I can, I like to just walk the exhibit hall with pals – especially the Artists’ Alley (if there is one). We can catch up, help with rationalizing purchases, and hold each other’s stuff while we take turns picking collectibles up or trying clothes on.

What kind of Star Wars items do you like to collect? Do you have a holy grail you are still looking for?

 My Star Wars collection is all over the map. I’m not a completist by any means and just buy what I like. I’m a fan of the behind the scenes and reference books, a total sucker for anything cute (those Star Tots collectibles at Celebration are perfect), and I really like the animated style maquettes. The Boushh animated maquette is a collectible I’ve been wanting for a while and will probably be my next purchase.

Who is your favorite Star Wars characters and your favorite movie?

I have two favorite characters in the galaxy far, far away: Han Solo and Ahsoka Tano. I love Han’s devil-may-care attitude, and his confident but casual approach to life is something I’d like to channel. I’m also impressed with how the character evolved over the original trilogy. And as a huge fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ahsoka just means a lot to me. She became so much more than just Anakin’s Padawan and really grew up and found her own path. I’m thrilled she’s back in Star Wars Rebels.

My favorite Star Wars film is The Empire Strikes Back, no question. The middle chapter is packed with so many moments important to the evolution of the saga and also, tauntauns.

I have two tattoos myself, have you added any new Star Wars Ink since your Rebel symbol?

My Rebel Alliance tattoo is my only Star Wars one at the moment, but I’m planning to add a X-wing silhouette to my left wrist next. I hope to have that in the next month. I’m also strongly considering the Star Wars Rebels phoenix symbol.

A huge thank you goes out to Amy for taking the time to chat with us. Click here to follow Amy on Twitter @amy_geek

Yodasnews Q and A with Chris 51 – Creator of Epic Ink

Chris 51 is the creator of A&E’s Epic Ink. Epic Ink centers around nerdy, geeky pop culture tattoos. We are happy to have this opportunity to ask him a few questions.

Yodasnews: How did you get involved in starting a tattoo tv show?

Chris: Well, I simply got motivated because I disliked what I was seeing on tv, and how tattoo artists were being portrayed. I can’t speak for all tattooers out there, but I know for certain that all of my artist friends and myself are not these macho fighting brutes. Let’s just say I saw a vision of turning Mos Eisley spaceport in to an Ewok village haha.

YN: Where did you get the concept for Epic ink?

C: I wanted to do something that was positive, drama free and funny. I had an idea I was working on for a while and a production company had a similar idea, when we got together it was fate, the force was strong with us. I then assembled a dream team of my best friends in the industry, told them my idea, and asked them to join me. I couldn’t do it myself. It was the perfect puzzle of personalities. I knew they were hard-working, intelligent and would make the sacrifice to get this project done the right way, not to mention the very best pop-culture artists I had ever seen in my life! We were already best of friends before this endeavor, but now we are family. I love each and every one of them.

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YN: When did you start your career as a tattoo artist?

C: I started many many parsecs ago…or about 11 years on the earth calendar

YN: What is your favorite part of being a tattoo artist?

C: Not having to be a plumber or carpenter like I use to lol. For reals though, any artist will tell you that if they can make a living and support their family by doing what they love, then your job is not a job, it’s a passion and way of life. I am truly blessed to be able to do what I was put on earth to do. Plus, I am my own boss. I can’t and won’t take orders from anybody, I am too much of an alpha-geek control freak.

YN: What is the best moment of your career so far?

C: It hasn’t happened yet. I am always striving to better myself and conquer the business world. If I settle on a defining moment, that will define me, and I will have no more room to grow as a man and businessman. I will reflect on it all when I retire.

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YN: What is most challenging about what you do?

C: Sleep deprivation. Seriously, my brain never shuts off. It’s always thinking of what business to pursue next, how to do the next tattoo differently than I’ve done before, what promotional items do I need, what conventions do I need to hit up, it goes on and on. Honestly what relaxes me most is putting in Star Wars, it’s the only escape for me that will engulf my mind so completely that I have no choice but to succumb to its force.

YN: What is on the horizon for you?

C: More than Sarlac’s pit can digest lol. Hopefully season two of Epic Ink firstly (so please tune in haha). I just started a new art supply company called Art 51 which caters to TODAYS artists; supplies for graffiti art, screen printers, air brushes, tattooers, etc. I am in talks with a couple toy companies. I am close to releasing my third book, this time a children’s book. I am working on a clothing line called Math & Science with my cousin/cast mate Jeff Wortham. I am going to ad a toy and collectible store inside my shop, Area 51 Tattoo. Teaching more business and motivational seminars. Attending many comic cons! And lastly, the Never-ending quest for the ultimate action figure collection

YN: What advice can you offer someone going into the field?

C: If you can’t out-talent them, out-work them. That has always been my motto. I have never claimed to have the most talent, but will always work harder than the competition, which really makes for no competition when it comes down to that philosophy. Work your ass off and build your own dynasty, never rely on others to get you ahead. Hit the streets, hand out coupons and flyers, grab a broom; never be too proud to sweat and do the hard work. That goes for any field.

YN: How would you describe your “art” in one word?

C: Unorthodox

YN: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Of course, we need to know what is your favorite Star Wars movie?

C: Empire Strikes Back, but with a couple asterisks.
*Mos Eisley Cantina scene from Star Wars was groundbreaking for science fiction. Never has such a collection of aliens, scum and villainy been assembled in one scene of one movie prior.
*Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi was by far the coolest place in the entire saga.
*Slave Leia in gold bikini…all that needs to be said on that.

Thank you again to Chris for talking with us. You can keep up with Chris on on his website:  www.chris51.com. The official website for Epic Ink:  www.aetv.com/epic-ink .

Don’t forget to watch Epic Ink on Wednesdays at 10:30/9:30c on A&E!

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Yodasnews Q&A with Josh Bodwell from Epic Ink

Josh Bodwell is a new tattoo artist on A&E’s Epic Ink.  Epic Ink centers around nerdy, geeky pop culture tattoos. Josh is a fellow sci-fi fan and Yodasnews reader.  We are happy to have this opportunity to ask him a few questions.

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Yodasnews: First off Josh, how did you get started in the tattoo industry and how long have you been working in it?

Josh Bodwell:  I’ve been tattooing for over 12 years now and I was really fortunate in having my friend and fellow tattooist Mike Ruocco at Funhouse Tattooing in Tannersville, PA (still my home base) give me a chance to apprentice. Prior to all that, I’ve been an artist as long as I can remember, mostly inspired by the comic book and fantasy art I grew up with.

YN:  Please tell us a little about your new show.  How did you get involved with Epic Ink?

 JB:   Epic Ink is a fun and lighthearted look at the quirky side of tattooing outside of all the drama and sob stories, its about getting the images of your favorite characters and thing on your skin simply because you are the biggest fan ever and being done by some amazing artists and having a few laughs along the way. The gang on Epic Ink are all my extended tattoo family, we’ve all known each other for years and have traveled around the world together. I hope viewers will appreciated our little nerdy family’s comradery!

YN:  What are your favorite kinds of tattoos to do?

JB:  I do a lot of color portraiture and realism so top of my list is any scifi or movie character portraits.

YN:  Of course, we need to know, how many Star Wars tattoos have you done?

JB:  Oh man, too many to count! Its hands down my favorite thing to tattoo. I’ve been lucky enough to tattoo at the past Star War Celebration and Celebration Europe 2 as one of the few Lucasfilms licensed tattoo artist. Aside from Epic Ink its probably one of my favorite tattooing moments! Having Carrie Fisher look through my portfolio?! Priceless!

YN:  What was your favorite or most unique Star Wars tattoo that you did?

JB:  I love when I get an opportunity to tattoo something from the EU, like Darth Bane or Admiral Thrawn

YN:  What was the best tattoo you ever did of?

JB:  I know it sounds like a cop out answer but really what ever the last few tattoos I’ve done are my favorite. I’m always working to improve and I work hard to make the next tattoo even better.

 YN:  What was the worst tattoo that you have been asked to do?

 JB:  haha probably the guy that came to the shop and wanted a tattoo that looked like a jail house tattoo.. so he could “impress” his friends I suppose!

YN:  Can you tell us about any Star Wars themed episodes that are upcoming?

 JB:  Well, I can tell you that throughout the season fellow Star Wars fans will spot tons of collectables, artwork and even costumes all around the shop! I’m also ecstatic that we even had Lucasfilms artist Steve Anderson (known for SW official prints and commercial artwork) create our official show artwork.

YN:  With all the tattoo ideas you have seen, do you have any suggestions for any readers that may be thinking of getting some ink?

JB:  Number one suggestion: Research your artist. Look at portfolios and seek out the artist you think will do the best job based on what you have seen from them. It also helps if you are going to get a Star Wars tattoo that they are a fan as well!

YN:  Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.  Before we go, what is your favorite Star wars movie?

JB:  I’m still torn because the adult viewer in me loves Empire for its tone and plot tension, but as a kid I was a big fan of Jedi and love me some Henson puppets! lol

Thank you again to Josh Bodwell for talking with us.  You can keep up with Josh on Twitter/IG: @joshbodwell or on his website:  joshbodwell.com.  The official website for Epic Ink: www.aetv.com/epic-ink .  Don’t forget to watch Epic Ink on Wednesdays at 10:30/9:30c on A&E!