WOODSTOCK – Superfan Frank Stallman is so excited about the new Star Wars movie coming out Friday that he could pull the ears off of a gundark.
Unless you’ve been living for the past year hanging upside down in a wampa cave, you’ve heard that the much-anticipated Star Wars Episode VII, “The Force Awakens,” opens in a matter of days. And a room of Stallman’s home is a shrine to the galaxy far, far away.
Besides owning a collection of toys and memorabilia that is something to behold, Stallman, along with a co-worker of his at the McHenry County courthouse, produces a weekly Star Wars podcast.
(That’s podcast, not podrace, and this is the one and only time in this story that “The Phantom Menace” will be mentioned.)
Senior Reporter Kevin Craver, who taught his 3-year-old daughter to say, “It’s a trap!” in Admiral Ackbar’s gravelly voice much to Mrs. Craver’s consternation, sat down with Stallman, 36, at his home to talk Star Wars and actually get paid by Shaw Media to do it.
Craver: How did all this start?
Stallman: My parents. They were science fiction fans themselves. It started as soon as I knew what it was – I picked up a Luke Skywalker [action figure], and that’s how it started. The first of the movies I saw in the theater was “Return of the Jedi.”
Craver: Let’s cut to the chase. What do you think Episode VII will be like?
Stallman: I’m betting it will be great, along the lines of “The Empire Strikes Back.” It has a lot of [Empire’s] writers, it’s filmed on 35-mm just like Empire, more practical special effects [meaning less CGI], and I trust director J.J. Abrams. From what I’ve seen of the trailers, I tear up everything I see something new. I have high hopes for it.
Craver: I take it you have tickets.
Stallman: Yes. Friday, 1 p.m. Lake in the Hills, with those nice La-Z-Boy seats, dead center. I'm going to see it four, five times that weekend. We're going to run audio interviews with fans before and after they see it.
Craver: That brings me to your podcast. Tell me about it.
Stallman: I have two. The first one is "Geeks Amok." It's all geek culture – toys, movies, video games, tech, everything. The Star Wars podcast is called, "Sith Yourself," and that's all Star Wars. Both can be found at www.geeksamok.com.
Craver: How many downloads?
Stallman: We average 300 listeners for Star Wars, and 600 to 700 for Geeks Amok.
I’d be wrong if I didn’t mention my partner in the podcasts, Leroy Otterson. He works in the courthouse, too, in IT. He’s a huge videogamer, too.
Craver: So are you, apparently, given there’s a box for the new Star Wars Battlefront game laying right next to me. My gaming days ended when I became a father. But one day, Grace will need a console and then it’s game on.
Stallman: I always wanted a daughter, buy that’s the good part about having boys. It gives me the excuse to go to the toy store, buy something and then claim it’s for the boys (laughs).
Craver: I have to ask – what’s your wife think of all this?
Stallman: She ... (laughs again) ... as long as it’s all kept in one room, she doesn’t mind. She’s not a sci-fi fan, but she’s not mad about it. She encourages the boys.
Craver: So Abrams’ story will reject the entire post-Episode VI Expanded Universe that’s developed over the 30 years since Return of the Jedi. How do you feel about that?
Stallman: I’m not happy with it, but I understand it. J.J. wants to control this story, and tell it in the way he thinks the fans want it told. If he followed the Expanded Universe, everyone would know what is going to happen.
That was one of the problems with the prequels – everybody knew that Anakin Skywalker was going to become Darth Vader.
Craver: One last question, but it’s very important. Han or Greedo – who shot first?
Stallman: Han, baby. Always and forever. Greedo never got off a shot.