If you're looking for original, unique, attractive, one-of-a-kind funny Star Wars shirts for men, women and children, you've come to the right place. Our chief designer and creative force has been a Star Wars dork for decades, and it's reflected here in some of his humorous, satirical designs for the genre.
But wait, as they say, there's more! Yes, Mann has more such work soon to be available. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy what you see here, and like it enough to share it and even buy it (hint, hint).
A Long Time Ago, In A Movie Theater Far, Far Away… or, How It All Began for Mann.
Our resident artist was a lucky kid. Even though his parents worked in more or less mainstream professions, he had friends whose parents were employed in Tinsel Town. Through these connections, he sometimes got advance information on upcoming movies, and even the chance to see them before anybody else.
That same year, he heard about Star Wars through another young friend whose mother worked in “the biz.” He was able to see advance press materials on it, and even got his hands on a limited edition full color promotion package, which he cherished for years and which would probably be worth some very nice coin today, if it still existed (sadly, it was lost long ago). Later, he heard more from another kid whose father worked on Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and who saw to it that our young artist got to tour the production offices (an experience so powerful and formative, it may well have changed Mann's life and career path (and arguably, not for the better)).
To our young artist, Close Encounters looked pretty cool… but nothing, seemingly, could compare to Star Wars. And then, somewhere along the way, seeing one movie or another, Mann experienced the first trailer for what would become his favorite movie of all time (at least for many years), and that was that! Star Wars was the film by which all others would be measured. Mind blown, for the young man interested in both movie making and stories of wonder, the wait for the film's arrival was excruciating torment, exacerbated by growing media interest and endless teasers, of one form or another, showing up everywhere.
The young Mann was among the first owners of Star Wars shirts in all of Los Angeles, including one with the old, disused early-version logo and another with the infamous Brothers Hildebrandt poster, long since fallen away to dust.
More importantly, however, Mann was lucky enough to see George Lucas' epic at the world famous Mann's Chinese Theater during it's opening week in… OMG… wait for it… May of 1977! Yeah, like we said: A long time ago…
To be clear, the Mann theater operation had absolutely nothing to do with the young artist who would later be known by that same moniker (though he wished then and still does that it did). It was, in retrospect, just a strange coincidence. And it didn't help in any way with obtaining tickets! 🙁
The Night After Opening Night…
Mann had to stand in line just like everybody else. The only saving grace was that the line standing began on a weekday afternoon when demand, while still high, did not necessarily require camping out. For those unfamiliar with such ancient rites, in those days of yore, weeks worth of showings were not sold out in minutes online. Once upon a time, you actually had to and could show up at the box office, wait your turn and secure some tickets. People who were willing to put in the time and burn a little shoe leather (or tennis shoe rubber, as the case may be), actually had the advantage back then. Imagine that.
Unfortunately, Mann didn't get to see Star Wars opening night. Snif. But he did almost as well. School was winding down and the parents of friends who understood the nearly out of control excitement of their son and his friends (Mann among them) arranged to take the group for a showing on day two of it's run. Mann was just a young kid then (as opposed to an old one now), and otherwise pretty mature for his age. But leaving the burbs and going to Hollywood to see the film on a big screen with great sound – the day after the big premiere, no less – was almost more than he could stand. The entire experience left an indelible mark on his psyche, soul and sanity which impacts him to this day.
Within a few months, by the summer of 1977, the movie was playing widely across all of Southern California, and you didn't have to go far to see it. For example, it was running continuously at a shopping mall not far from Mann and his friends, which made it possible for them to see it over and over and over again…
It's hard for a lot of people to imagine today, but Star Wars played theatrically across most of North America for OVER A YEAR! It was unprecedented at the time, and still represents a phenomena which will almost certainly never be duplicated – if for no other reason than we live in a time wherein movies are available for view weeks after release.
It's really amazing when you think about it. Even six months after it's premiere, you could say: “Hey, I wanna go see Star Wars,” and it was not impossible. You could get in your car – or, if you were Mann and his friends, hop the bus or deploy the ten speeds – and go to the not-too-distant metroplex. Odds were it was still playing in the main cinema, too. And if you were particularly sneaky, you could even figure out a way to see it several times on the same day. Not that we're saying Mann did such a thing – just that it was theoretically possible! There was one constant though, for many months: you didn't go on a Friday or Saturday night, because of the damn lines!
During that long, hot summer of '77, Mann would drag everyone he knew to see the movie, including his “very boring, conservative parents,” who didn't quite know what to make of the film or, it became increasingly clear, of him. His father, he later learned, had at least some basis for understanding the film, having read the pulps as a kid. But as for his poor sainted mother… well, let's just say she thought The Wizard of Oz a bit too bizarre. By comparison, Star Wars was a personal affront and attack on all that was sacred and holy and… well… just… normal.
One Star Wars T-shirt Which Led to A Lifetime of Funny Star Wars Shirts…
To say that Star Wars was an international hit and global cultural phenomena would be the understatement of all time. It was so big, it spawned everything from the obligatory Star Wars tshirts and posters, to toys, lunch boxes, collector cards, comic books, calendars, etc., etc., etc.. Like many of us, Mann wishes he'd A) kept his memorabilia, and B) kept it in primo shape. It would be worth a small fortune today.
Mann's first “movie t-shirt” was also his first official piece of Star Wars merch. It was the now world-famous painting by the great Brothers Hildebrandt, who would later go onto much fame, fortune and glory, and serve as ongoing artistic inspirations for the young Mann. Their shirt was only the first of many Star Wars shirts, but by far not the last.
Now, for the kids out there, if you didn't know already, this was an era (gasp) some years before video tape, a decade before CDs and decades before movies on demand. There was no Blockbuster or Netflix. The way it worked back in those days was (gasp) – when a movie closed, that was it! Period. It was gone, for all intents and purposes, forever. You might… I say, might… pick it up at a film festival or possible revival some years in the future. You couldn't realistically expect a mega-hit like Star Wars to be on TV any time soon. I mean, we're talking years. So…
Disney (which would later buy out George Lucas and end up owning not just one but two of the greatest movie franchises of all time (Star Wars and Indiana Jones)) was known, in those days, for doing what other studios generally did not do. That being, re-releasing their classics every five years or so, so that every age group would have fond memories of Cinderella and Bambi, and be sure to bring the next generation a few iterations down the road.
Mann remembers sobbing, as a young boy, during one such re-release of Bambi. And it was all damn smart marketing, of course. But nobody had any expectation that 20th Century Fox would do the same with Star Wars, so it was imperative for the devoted fan to see it as many times as possible during it's initial (and likely only) run.
Formative Life Experiences: Girls, Cars and Star Wars (Not Necessarily In That Order)
For one movie to be readily viewable at the local theater for an entire year, when most movies were gone in, at best, a month or two, was quite the thing. Two years earlier, another one of Mann's formative favorites, Jaws, had had crowds lined up around the block too. It was, for a few short years, the biggest blockbuster of all time, and the one by which everything else was measured. In fact, the term “blockbuster” was put into common use by the long, box office busting run of Jaws. But the lines and showings faded out within a few months. Star Wars seemed to go on forever and ever and ever…
My friends and I joked that Star Wars would be the first movie in history to be showing somewhere in every big town, on continuous loop, forever…
The ubiquity of the film meant young dorks like our insane genius could see Star Wars multiple times over a period of many months. Being a teenager then, he was old enough that he didn't have to drag anyone along with him, either. Young Mann saw Star Wars over 30 times – quite a few times by himself – during that year long period. It got to the point where he could recite entire sections from memory! And he would have seen it more but, sigh… allowance only went so far.
Most of his family, of course, thought he was absolutely insane – an opinion that many still hold. And perhaps he was. He had no inkling back then, as a budding artist, that his “insanity” would hold him in good stead, and that one day he'd work on Lucasfilm projects as a professional, or design funny Star Wars tshirts for other fans decades later.
Despite it all, Mann's final watch tally paled in comparison to that of other even more hard core devotees (i.e. other young lunatics). He later had a frenemy who bragged about seeing Star Wars over 100 times during that same period. Now that, Mann commented recently, tongue in cheek, “seemed a tad bit obsessive.” But given the time, it was understandable too. If you were a dork in those days, you knew you might never see Star Wars again till your kids were in college, and all you would have to go by was your old, worn-out Star Wars shirts and fond recollections. It was best to top off the memories as much as possible, as they were all you would have for many years to come.
Well, market forces and technology changed everything in the ensuing years. By the time of the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983 (a shocking six years after Star Wars; it was originally going to be called “Revenge of the Jedi” and released in 1980), video tape was making it's impact all across America. People were theoretically able to own their own copies of Star Wars movies and watch it whenever they wanted, in the comfort of their own homes!
Of course, this was pragmatically impossible for most, as actually buying commercially recorded movies in those days was prohibitively expensive. Getting your hands on movies was what the local video store was for.
Parenthetically, this was a time of great panic for the movie business, as it was believed that “home viewing” would kill theaters. The same fears were floated (even more so) when DVD arrived. Ironically, overall, the new technologies actually increased public interest, gave the studios a means to monetize their enormous back catalogues (which had never really existed before), and in general, made the studios more money, and more consistent money, too. Instead of living and dying by their latest films, the big, well-known studios had a source of ongoing revenue. Who knew that video tape would force them to change their business model – kicking and screaming the entire way – to something even better?
The relentless march of technological progress would continuously bring the price of actually owning a movie down. The arrival of video disks, followed by DVDs and then Blu-Ray, made it possible. But streaming services and ultimately, video on demand, have made owning a movie unnecessary. Taken together, it all ultimately spelled the end of that long-time staple of American life, the video store, for good. Yes, kids, another whole business category time and technology has wiped out.
For Mann, the “Star Wars experience,” such as some have characterized it, was profound. Luckily or unluckily, our artist came of age when George Lucas' fervid imagination and blockbuster films were a powerful force on both the culture and the collective imagination. For a guy like Mann, it's all inextricably tied to seminal life events, like graduations and girlfriends, first jobs and cars, the early phases of adulthood and the departure from childish things. To some extent, anyway.
The girlfriends, the cars, the jobs – even most of the buddies are vanished to the mists of time – but the love of Star Wars lingers on. It probably always will…
Some Guys Get “The Force” – Other's Get “The Farce” – And It Is With Them, Always…
Mann shudders when recounting all the different ways he has “bought the whole farm, manure and all” more than once, and is sure the evil genius behind it all, George Lucas, has laughed all the way to the bank – repeatedly! There were the innumerable versions and editions of the Star Wars saga, on tape, video disk, DVD, Blu-ray… not to mention all the other related memorabilia… many thousands of dollars worth, at least…
Today, Mann's enthusiasm for Star Wars has waned considerably; the inevitable result of the distance of years, decades of life experience and, as Mann is pained to say, what he would consider very bad creative choices made by Lucasfilm over the course of time.
Many highly personal Star Wars-related memories, good and bad, which we've only touched on here, don't change his fundamental love for the pastiche science-fantasy universe of George Lucas.
Yes, it's difficult to feel great affection when still smarting, decades later, over the existential and unforgivable threats of so-cute-I-might-puke ewoks and an entire race of Rastafarian gungans, or forgive such transgressions. It may even explain his “The Farce” series of tees, and other somewhat caustic, satirical Star Wars-inspired designs. But despite it all, the unrequited love lives on…
Or maybe Mann's just fixated on getting back at George Lucas for “the slight” all those years ago. But that's a long Seinfeldian tale of bitter Hollywood resentment and revenge, better left for another time…
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