Friday, April 25, 2014

Growing Up Nerdy

The boys travel back to 1999 as they line up for toys in anticipation of the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Mike: May 3, 1999 was one of the most fun nerdy days I have ever spent. That was the day of the Star Wars Episode I Toys ‘R’ Us midnight toy launch. This was when the toy line for the first new Star Wars film in 16 years was released, thus igniting nerdgasms all over the world.
At the time, Adam and I spent most of our time in Dreamland Comics in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. It was at Dreamland that Adam and I made friendships that last even today. Dreamland was run by our good friend Charlie. Then there’s our crazy buddy Matt. Words can’t describe Matt – he must be experienced. The four of us, with a few other like-minded geeks, camped out at our local Toys ‘R’ Us to get a glimpse of the first wave of Phantom Menace toys to hit shelves.

Being mere weeks away from the premiere of Episode I, we were ravenous for anything that might give us a glimpse into the prequels. At this point in time, we were stuck between not wanting to know any spoilers and WANTING TO KNOW EVERYTHING. The toys were a good way to quench our thirst without giving away too much.

Dreamland Comics closed at 5:00 pm that day. Charlie and I packed up our cars with lawn chairs and food and headed over to Toys ‘R’ Us to start waiting in line, to be joined by our friends soon after. We showed up to discover no one else was dumb enough to start lining up seven hours ahead of time. Suckers!

Charlie, Matt, Adam, myself and a few other friends were the first to line up and the only ones to line up for what felt like quite a while. We could care less. Being in that line, eating junk food and reading video game magazines was half the fun that night. Eventually the line to get in for the midnight release was wrapped around the store, so while we didn’t have to get there as early as we did, we were glad we had a leg up on people.

Once we were let in at midnight, it was mayhem. Luckily, we were smart enough to develop a system beforehand. Charlie was anchored in one of the aisles with a list of figures that we all wanted for our personal collections, as well as for the comic book store. Adam and I were the runners. Toys were on display throughout the store, so there were bodies everywhere. Charlie would bark to Adam and me which figures he needed and we would run off in search. We’d return with some and he’d have more instructions. “I need two Darth Mauls, two Jar-Jars, five Qui-Gon Jinns and three CommTech readers!” And off we went.

While this fits into a laundry list of stories Adam and I tell about us having to wait in long lines only to fight with other sweaty nerds over pieces of plastic, I promise it was worth it. We got out of there around 2:00 am and found a 24 hour Dunkin’ Donuts where we could sit and decompress. We brought in some of our new shiny toys and studied them like we did when we were 8 years old on Christmas morning.

On May 19, 1999, Star Wars Episode I opened. We were there at midnight. While it’s a flawed fucking movie to say the least, we had so much fun that night as well as the weeks and months leading up to it. It was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had.

Adam: See for yourselves!


  1. Vintage Mike and Adam - awesome! I have never camped out somewhere to get a good spot in line - I feel like I've missed out on an essential part of growing up nerdy.

    So when someone (Mike?) yelled, "May the Force be with you, Mindy!" did she not come running back to give you all blowjobs? I assume that part was cut?

    I briefly (and mostly regrettably) detoured from the nerd path in 1999 to the point where Episode 1 was a total non-event for me. In 1996 I was watching the movies regularly, playing the Star Wars RPG, the Star Wars collectible card game and every Star Wars video game I could get my hands on - in 1999 I watched The Phantom Menace for the first time in mid-July while coming down from a particularly intense acid trip (on the plus side it did seem pretty awesome). Glad to be back where I belong!

  2. Great article guys... ahh the Summer of '99. Twas a good one. My favorite movie-waiting-in-line story is when a group of freinds and I were in line for The Fellowship of the Ring. My good friend loudly (and jokingly) remarked: "So who wrote these Lord of the Ring books anyway, R.L. Stine or something?" The looks of outrage/disgust from the other LOTR superfans around us were priceless.

  3. Speaking of Lord of the Rings, Mike, how do you feel about the final title for the third Hobbit film?

    1. Sorry I didn't respond earlier, Heath. I don't love the new title. I was fine with 'There and Back Again', but I'm also not going to lose any sleep over it.

  4. Speaking of Star Wars, the cast photo released today just reminded me to go back in time and shit my pants - we've got Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Chewbacca back for a Star Wars Episode 7?! Am I the only one whose cynicism for this franchise was so thick they forgot to be super excited about that?

    Fool me once Star Wars, shame on you; fool me twice, goddamn I love Star Wars for some stupid reason!