Carl Roberts gets to indulge his love for the galaxy’s misfiring army in this essential volume by Ryder Windham and Adam Bray
I love stormtroopers. There, I’ve said it. From the clones in Episode II, through their incarnations in The Clone Wars series right up to the First Order versions in the sequel trilogy, they are just my kind of characters. Forget the jokes made about their shot accuracy, these guys hit the spot every time.
Star Wars Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor by Ryder Windham and Adam Bray is a comprehensive guide to all things stormtrooper. Full colour photographs adorn every page, fun facts and stories encompass the book’s length, and secrets are revealed. It’s a fantastic, must have guide for every fan.
Putting on the Armor
John Boyega himself has written the forward. His personal and heartfelt recollections leap out at you from the off. His introduction into Star Wars, along with his insights into Finn and his world as both a First Order stormtrooper and then a reluctant Resistance hero are a joy to read. Having met the man himself, it’s no surprise that every word he writes is genuine and from the heart. He really communicates his excitement at putting on the armor. His recollection of seeing the trailer for The Force Awakens standing behind a fan and the look on her face when she realised who was behind her is great! These kind of moments are rare and something we, as fans, long for.
The book then heads right into the wonderful world of stormtroopers. A photo of the legendary 501st UK Garrison on the Millennium Bridge in London greets us. There have been many occasions when, somewhere in the world, a legion walk down a street, leading and following Darth Vader to the strings of the classic Imperial March. Having witnessed this on several occasions, it is definitely a sight to behold. Goosebumps always hit me with a pleasant spine tingling shiver. The book shows several behind the scenes photos of the army in their white armor, as well as their toy counterparts waiting to be bought and taken home for miniature army building.
Getting into the Costumes
The early part of the book covers the period between 1973 and 1976, detailing the creation of stormtroopers for the screen. George Lucas’s ideas for them are accompanied by illustrations by Ralph McQuarrie, showing the stormtroopers as they were originally supposed to look (a lightsaber wielding stormtrooper?), along with their changing design. The first published image was of the back of a TIE pilot shooting at a Y-wing. Photographs of art department members Brian Muir and Liz Moore from 1976 introduce us to the two people who sculpted the original stormtrooper armor and helmet.
Other illustrations include the designs for all the various stormtroopers seen in A New Hope. Descriptions of the various guises that appeared are represented in depth. Also included are behind the scenes shots of actors Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford being fitted with their helmets, standing around in between takes on the Death Star set and in the trash compactor. These are fantastic to see. They bring the reader into the process that went into the making of the film and the labours that went into getting into the costumes.
A New Hope was released and became a world-beating cultural phenomenon. Perhaps even more surprising was that toy store tills rang up phenomenal sales of figures and vehicles, which was unheard of at the time. Ryder Windham and Adam Bray show us various toy incarnations of the stormtroopers and their vehicles. The original TIE fighter release, the Imperial troop transporter and the original release figures are lovingly showcased.
The book goes on to detail the various stormtrooper merchandise launched alongside the film: posters, t-shirts, pin badges and the like. Also referred to and visually represented are the head concealing rubber masks created by the legendary Don Post. The now infamous Holiday Special is also referenced due to it showcasing the first ever Star Wars cartoon. This of course led to various animated shows like Droids and Ewoks through to the current Star Wars Rebels.
The Marvel comic book adaptations and the continuing comic books of Star Wars are covered in detail too. I remember collecting the comics every week as a child, enjoying seeing the full colour drawings of my beloved stormtroopers in various adventures.
A Welcome Reminder of Days Gone By
The remainder of the book encompasses everything to do with our beloved misfiring army from 1980 on. From their appearances in Return of the Jedi through The Clone Wars cartoon series and Star Wars Rebels right up to their “rebirth” in The Force Awakens and the resurrection of the classic stormtrooper in Rogue One, nothing is missed. In depth research has gone into this book and it is all the richer for it.
Also referenced and written about are the various games, books and tie-ins related to stormtroopers, including the classic Death Troopers book, a departure that no one would have imagined. (Stormtrooper zombies? Count me in!) Captain Phasma is discussed in detail too, her armor and her design are revealed in an engrossing piece. This is my kind of book, no stone is left unturned and I discovered secrets about the characters with glee.
Fold outs appear liberally throughout and are all welcome additions. However, inside the back cover we are rewarded with the mother lode. Enclosed is a representation of the original stormtrooper backing card for the figure released in 1978, a reproduction of a 1979 comic strip written by Russ Manning and Steve Gerber that appeared in the Los Angeles times, a reproduction of a storyboard from Return of the Jedi depicting biker scouts, a reproduction of the stormtrooper mask that came on the back of Kellogg’s C-3PO cereal in 1984, and an early concept sketch of a trooper with a kilt. This concept shows a death trooper wearing white armor instead of the black armor that appeared in Rogue One. It’s a welcome reminder of days gone by and a great way to reminisce about childhood.
Star Wars Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor is everything and more to a fan like myself and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The love and research that has gone into it make it incredibly rewarding. Grab yourself a copy, put on your helmet and dive head first into the world of the stormtrooper. This is not a book you can miss.
Until next time……
May The Force Be With You Always.
Star Wars Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor by Ryder Windham and Adam Bray is published by Harper Design and is available now. © & TM 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.