Every Wednesday, Joe Ash and Travis Andes head to Rubber Mallet Comics to talk comics.
Last week, they had some of the biggest breaking news in science fiction to discuss.
The Walt Disney Co. had just bought Lucasfilm Ltd., the film company founded by "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, for about $4 billion. Lucas plans to donate most of his profits to charity. With the purchase, Disney acquired the rights to Lucas' fictional empire, his successful special effects studios, as well as an entire universe of movies, comic books, toys and memories.
Some of those memories belong to Ash, Andes and other fans of the franchise. News of the acquisition came with the revelation that in three years, a new chapter of the cinematic series will be in theaters.
The saga began in 1977 with the release of "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope." The last movie installment came in 2005, completing the prequels that told the story of Anakin Skywalker's development into Darth Vader. Now, Disney will finish the story.
Opinions at Rubber Mallet were mixed.
Most customers who have mentioned the purchase are taking a "wait and see" attitude toward the development, said owner Chuck Rowles, although he mentioned that one of his friends was so broken up about the buy that he absolutely refused to discuss the matter. But for most fans, whether they view the development with excitement or apprehension, will definitely go see a new "Star Wars" film, he said.
Including Ash, whose own feelings are as convoluted as Lando Calrissian's when Darth Vader and the Empire blackmailed the former Cloud City baron administrator.
"You're looking at a fan who's wanted to see all nine movies since 1980. I'm thrilled somebody's doing it, I just don't want it to be Disney," said Ash, 39, of Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday night. "I feel more or less, how would I put it, disgusted that it's Disney. I do not want to see rodents, Mickey Mouse things. I want 'Star Wars' to be what it was, an epic saga."
On the other hand, Andes, 24, of Wilkes-Barre was "totally thrilled" when an equally excited co-worker told him the news last week.
"I like all the Marvel movies," he said, referring to recent movies starring Marvel superheroes, which also became the property of Disney, in 2009. "Disney let Marvel do its thing with the Marvel movies. I think they'll do the same for 'Star Wars.'"
Between now and 2015, when Disney will release "Episode VII," fans have plenty of time to discuss the future of the story and who should be responsible for telling it.
Ash said he wants the original actors -- Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa, Harrison Ford as Han Solo -- to return for the next movie. As for director, he'd love to see sci-fi master Ridley Scott or "The Dark Knight Rises" helmer Christopher Nolan. Rowles favors Joss Whedon, creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and director of "Marvel's The Avengers," a recent Disney vehicle. Andes just wants someone who knows the franchise.
"It's 'Star Wars.' It has to be good," Andes said.
"I hope," said Rowles.
The series is obviously important to its many fans, and the movies are a piece of American cultural history. King's College Assistant Professor Noreen O'Connor said students in her Introduction to Film Studies sometimes study the movies' use of mythical symbols and homages to American cinema from the 1920s and '30s.
In her class, O'Connor often shows a 1970s blockbuster, like "The Godfather," "Jaws" or "Star Wars." Students in the class talk about the political situations in the movie and in real-life history, the strong female character of Princess Leia and compare the wisecracks of early talkies to the dialogue between Han Solo and Princess Leia.
O'Connor is optimistic the next movie can be a good one. She pointed out that Disney's purchase of Pixar in 2006 didn't change that studio's reputation or significantly alter its track record for good films. In fact, she said, maybe the new movies could revive the series.
Rich Drees, 43, of Nanticoke is part of the original generation of "Star Wars" fans. He saw the first movie when he was 8 years old. More than 30 years ago, he told his younger self that if there were any more "Star Wars" movies in the future, he would be there in the theaters when it opened.
Even though the story of Anakin Skywalker's downfall and redemption through his son Luke is already told, Drees said, "If there are more stories to tell, I'll be excited to see what they are," and will be there three years from now, when the iconic music starts and the camera pans out to space.
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