Happy birthday, Star Wars!

You’ve seen it. Your parents have seen it, and they remember when it was all the rage. And, guess what? It’ll still be popular when your kids are old enough to see it, which they’ll want to.

You’ve seen it. Your parents have seen it, and they remember when it was all the rage. And, guess what? It’ll still be popular when your kids are old enough to see it, which they’ll want to. The Star Wars saga, the brainchild of writer/director George Lucas, has been a part of our cinema and popular culture unceasingly for the last three decades, and this month the 30-year-old film that started it all is celebrating a birthday.

The original film, Star Wars: A New Hope, was first released in theaters on May 25, 1977, and has since yielded five additional films (two sequels, three prequels); several hundred books of fiction, nonfiction and graphic novels; multiple cartoon series; more than a hundred video games; 15 PEZ dispensers; tons of Halloween costume ideas; and millions of dollars in merchandise beyond that. Star Wars is without much debate the most iconic film of all time.

Powell’s Books in Beaverton kicked off the month in Star Wars style, welcoming over 150 people into the store for a sci-fi extravaganza Tuesday night. Authors Timothy Zahn and Steve Perry, comic artist Dustin Weaver and Dark Horse Comics editor Jeremy Barlow made up an expert panel that attracted 5-year-olds and 50-year-olds alike.

Zahn and Perry write Star Wars novels, and Waver and Barlow create Star Wars comics, all which fit within the Star Wars universe, meaning everything these men write and draw is a further development on what George Lucas created so many years ago. The whole industry of films, books and comics are deeply intertwined in a way that they fit within the same chronology; characters remain the same through all of them, with the same back stories, traits and everything. Barlow described Star Wars as a collective effort, with a lot of things being pieced together over time.

“Every stage of production we go through with comics has to be approved by Lucasfilms. As long as we don’t try to do something that is counter to the spirit of Star Wars, we’re usually fine,” Barlow explained. He later added, “We want to leave a dangling thread for an author five years from now to continue the story. We’re really trying to think ahead of the franchise and keep it around as long as possible.”

A daunting task at first to become immersed in the pre-established history of Star Wars, the authors and artists have all rummaged their way through stories that span thousands of years in Star Wars time. Perry remembered his first obstacle: learning about the galaxy.

“When I first started to write my first Star Wars novel, I asked if there was a map of the planets,” he said. “They laughed me out of the building.”

Later though, a friend sent Perry a list of all the Star Wars planets and a map of the galaxy was created. Perry said he and some of his colleagues still use the map today.

Weaver, the newest of the four to the Star Wars creative team, beamed about how much he loves his job. “I get to draw light sabers and space ships and make up aliens.”

The other panelist expressed similar attitudes about working within the great Star Wars storyline. “[As a kid] my Christmases were all about Star Wars. I’ve always been a Star Wars fan but never planned on making a living out of it,” said Barlow, who first saw the original film at a drive-in theater.

Both Weaver and Barlow, younger than their fellow panelists, remember that the first Star Wars films were already in existence when they were children. Zahn, on the other hand, remembers seeing the first movie the day after it came out in theaters. “I knew it was going to be something good when that star destroyer appeared overhead,” he said.

Now that Star Wars is as accessible as ever, especially to children through television shows, action figures and games, the panel ruminated on the way that the Star Wars experience has changed over time. “I find it really interesting that younger generations are experiencing Star Wars differently than we did. For better or for worse, it’s interesting,” Barlow said.

As part of the night’s festivities, six storm troopers crashed the event, as well as a costumed Princess Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vader and Boba Fett. Additionally, audience members were encouraged to dress up. The costume contest, judged by the esteemed panel, was won by a little kid dressed as a Jawa (which is a one-meter tall inhabitant of Tatooine that keeps its face hidden under a brown, sandy robe). Honorable mentions include an Ewok (very cute) and Luke Skywalker in his X-wing fighter pilot attire (classic).

To make the month all that more Star Wars-y, The Making of Star Wars, a new book by J. W. Rinzler, went on sale yesterday. The book includes never-before-published interviews, photographs, and production notes on the making of the first film. Also, Lucasfilms is throwing a birthday bash for the movie saga in Los Angeles at the end of the month. The party will happen over five days, from May 24-28, at the L.A. convention center.

Said Barlow about the films, “I think it’s pretty amazing that Lucas had this passion to tell a story and it connected to so many people. I think that’s why we all do what we do, to connect to other people, it just happens to be through Star Wars.”