Exclusive Interview with Jad Bean – Star Wars Fan and T-Shirt Designer

Star Wars action figures are awesome! More than just movie toys; they have been a staple in toy aisles for decades, become pop culture icons and are credited for jump-starting the collectability of action figure toys the world over. We here at From 4-LOM to Zuckuss appreciate what Lucasfilm, Kenner and Hasbro have created so much so that we have dedicated ourselves to covering all things Star Wars action figure related and that’s where you come in!

 We are seeking out those who share our passion, to share their thoughts and memories of playing with and collecting those amazing little figures from a galaxy far, far away.

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4LOMKUSS:  Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.  Now From 4-LOM to Zuckuss is a big fan of your work but for our readers out there who may not be familiar with it, could you tell us a little about yourself and your fantastic contribution to Star Wars.

Jad:  Thank you, I’ve been reading your site for quite awhile and I’m honored to be here! Here’s a brief bio: My name’s Jad Bean; I was born in ’76, which places me proudly in the OT generation. I had a healthy collection of Kenner toys growing up; lots of Micro Collection, roughly half the figures, and several ships, including my all-time favorite toy, the Falcon. 

When the SE/Prequel era came in the late 90’s, I dug out my old toys and “matured” into an adult collector by finding the toys I needed to add to my childhood collection. Along the way I had two letters answered by Steve Sansweet in the Insider, won a local radio station’s costume contest with a slapdash Jabba outfit (see attached pics), and made a silly Star Wars parody film with my growing action figure collection I Can’t Believe It’s Not Star Wars.

In ’02, I finished college and NEARLY finished my loose Kenner run, until coming up with the harebrained idea to sell ALL my toys to help fund a round-the-world trip. Star Wars, GI Joe, Transformers – it all went out the door. My only regret is not keeping at least one figure that I could say was mine from childhood.

 On said round-the-world trip, I did manage to visit the filming locations in Italy (Lake Como & Reggia di Caserta), Spain (Plaza de Espana in Sevilla), and all the sites in Tunisia, so, you know, it wasn’t a total loss! By 2007, I was still keeping up on action figure news, but wasn’t collecting. That all changed when, by complete chance, I won Rebelscum.com’s 10th anniversary contest. The grand prize was a trip to Celebration IV (my first convention) and a custom 12″ action figure of me, created by Gentle Giant from a 3D scan of my head. Since then I’ve collected everything under the sun – Lego, modern Hasbro, vintage Kenner, Master Replicas, artwork, Micro Machines, even Mighty Muggs. Over the last few years I found that I would usually grow bored of the modern stuff and sell it off. I realized that while I will always love Star Wars and collecting, it’s the original Kenner figures from my childhood that never grow old, as it were. So now I’m back to where I started, putting together a set of loose vintage Kenner figures.

You can see pics of the 12″ figure on my website, www.Jadbean.com, along with all my t-shirt designs. Oh, right, I also design t-shirts! 

4LOMKUSS:  That is such an incredible and bittersweet story of the life cycle of a Star Wars collector.  Selling one’s childhood for adult adventures is so very common but the beauty here is that your love for the hobby did return.  Now before we move on I have to ask how far along are you toward putting together a ‘second’ complete set of vintage figures?

Jad:  Well, I consider it a fair trade – the memories of walking up to the Lars Homestead will last a lifetime. Fortunately, there are still enough Kenner figures to go around; I’m having a blast reconnecting with those old friends. I’ve got 72 complete, near-mint figures, plus a gorgeous complete Death Star playset, a Landspeeder, a solid-belly Tauntaun, and a handful of the mini-rigs, which I loved as a kid. I’m also restoring a Falcon which is somewhat yellowed, and I’m torn about whether to try a hydrogen peroxide treatment, or just leave well enough alone. 

4LOMKUSS:  Those are definitely priceless memories, I wonder how many others would trade their collections for the same.  You also face a pretty difficult question on how much to refurbish vintage toys versus keeping their nostalgic wear and tear. I’m currently facing that question with the foam from my childhood Dagobah set. What fun problems to have!  Now about you designing Star Wars t-shirts, how did that begin?

AT-EAM (1)My first design was the Imperial AT-EAM – a mashup that imagines placing the A-Team van in the Empire’s arsenal on Hoth. I didn’t start out saying, “I’m going to make a t-shirt today”; rather, I was just randomly thinking “A-Team”, thinking about the shape of the words, and the concept just popped in my head – probably because I’m also constantly thinking about Star Wars. This is how I’ve come up with pretty much all my t-shirt ideas. I then searched online to see if anyone else had done this idea; once I realized no one had, I decided that I needed to figure out how to make it into a t-shirt!

I enjoyed art classes in high school, but I don’t have any formal graphics training. The A-Team image was created in the simplest way I knew how – it’s just a photograph of the toys posed on a landscape of baking soda. I used the free Gimp graphics program to create the border and title, and I clumsily cut & pasted bits of the image to change the “GMC” logo to a certain familiar number. I wanted it to look like it could be box art from a toy made in a parallel dimension, where Star Wars gets crossed with other properties. Of course, the Powers That Be in our dimension would never taint the Star Wars brand with such a disgraceful marketing gimmick *cough*ANGRY BIRDS*cough*.

4LOMKUSS:  Those are definitely priceless memories, I wonder how many others would trade their collections for the same.  You also face a pretty difficult question on how much to refurbish vintage toys versus keeping their nostalgic wear and tear. I’m currently facing that question with the foam from my childhood Dagobah set. What fun problems to have!  Now about you designing Star Wars t-shirts, how did that begin?

FailWHALEJad:  My next shirt was Fail W.H.A.L.E. This one places the classic ’84 GI Joe W.H.A.L.E. in place of Twitter’s Fail Whale,a graphic which Twitter users used to see when the site would go down. In mine, the W.H.A.L.E. is held aloft by a fleet of Trubble Bubbles, which I suppose doesn’t make a lot of sense, but who cares? For this one I matched the colors and the net shape from the original graphic by Yiying Lu. The silhouettes of the vehicles came directly from their original packages; I figured this would make the images as recognizable as possible, though I imagine only the most hardcore fans of GI Joe AND Twitter would get the joke. This remains one of my favorite shirts, simply for the obscurity of both references. 

MLPony

GI Joe must have been on my mind, because the follow-up to that one was M.L. Pony: A Real Equestrian Hero. This one was my shameless attempt to cash in on the “Brony” fan movement which was coming to prominence a few years ago. I can’t say as I’ve sold a whole lot of them, but I do now have the template to make a special “G.I. Choe” shirt for my wife (Choe is her family name). Hey, I need to get on that!

4LOMKUSS:  I do like the obscurity of the Fail W.H.A.L.E. shirt as well.  Its definitely a double-take design.  Another great double-take design, that I have experienced myself with others while wearing, is your Kennervesre: Collect Them All shirt.  Its such an awesome idea and gives such love to your beloved mini-rigs.  Does this design too have a story of inspiration?

Jad:  Thank you, that’s great to hear! The Kennerverse idea came to me in just the last few months, during the same time that I was diving back into the vintage Star Wars collecting world. If you’re anything like me, one of the things you absolutely love to do when starting up a collection is to work out a list – cataloging everything that was released, which variations are important and which aren’t, which toys you absolutely have to own and which you don’t need, and so on. 

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When I started my list I knew I wanted one of each figure, but I had to be selective with the vehicles. As I was poring over vehicle pictures online, I realized how awesome the mini-rigs are – well, most of them. The PDT-8 is kind of a dud, but I’d hold the CAP-2 up to any similarly-sized toy of any age. That thing has a spring-loaded capture claw, an opening dome hatch, hook arms, AND suction cups! I had one as a kid and I’m glad to have a mint one in my current collection.

As I kept researching, I realized that the Kenner wizards created some wonderful original designs throughout all three movies, designs that are as iconic to us old-timers as the Falcon or TIE Fighter. I wanted to pay homage to these toys, and I knew from the Fail W.H.A.L.E. project that the toys would be recognizable in silhouette. My first thought was to spell out “Kenner” with the images, but I soon realized that it would make for a simpler, more iconic image to just do the “K”. I’m thrilled to say the shirt has been popular among the vintage collecting community!

4LOMKUSS:  It’s such a great shirt I’m glad to hear of its popularity.  I wear mine proudly all the time.  

Jad:  Glad to hear it. Getting back into collecting Kenner has given me a lot of ideas for new designs. The next several shirts will feature some familiar vintage faces! NoSleepTillBespin

4LOMKUSS:  You can never go wrong with vintage Star Wars figures, especially if it’s as awesome as your newest Beastie Boys design.  Now, if you are ready, its time to face the 4LOMKUSS in a round of rapid-fire questions that we call:

~ The 4LOMKUSS Unleashed ~

Figures: For play or display? Play!

Your first figure? I can’t say for sure, but probably Hammerhead.

Worth more to you: Red or Blue Snaggletooth? Red. 

Your Star Wars “Holy Grail”? Somehow finding my original childhood Millennium Falcon, which was complete and unbroken, in the ESB box.

Vintage Yakface: Have it, Want it, Pass on it! Pass, I’d be too terrified of damaging it to want to own one.

I would sell my entire collection (again) for: A walk-on role in Episode VII!

Best vintage figure? Bespin Luke.

Least collectible: Ewoks or Gungans? Gungans.

Number of figures you have?  Around 100. 

Episode _____ is the best!  IV.

Vlix: Have it, Want it, Who the hell is that! No thanks, I’d rather make mortgage payments!

Would rather be: Han or Luke? Can’t decide, so I’ll have to melt two figures together and make the ultimate protagonist, Hlukan.

Which lost accessory do you miss the most? Admiral Ackbar’s staff, because I know EXACTLY where it went – down between the back seat cushions of my mom’s old ’81 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, on the very day I opened the figure. I can still remember reaching with all my might to get that staff, to no avail. That car is long gone, along with my childhood [single tear].

Most desired yet-to-be-made figure? Ackmena!

Favorite Star Wars figure line? Kenner‘s Return of the Jedi line. 

Fight to the death winner: Rancor Keeper or Cantina Bartender? Rancor Keeper! It takes a real man to be in touch with his feelings.

4-LOM stands for: 4-tunately Loaded On Midori!

Who tastes better: Admiral Ackbar or Gamorrean Guard? Ackbar.

Plan on collecting Sequel Trilogy toys? No, but if my kids want some, who am I to deny them happiness?

More desired toy: Death Star or Sail Barge? Sail Barge. 

Favorite collecting memory? I recall seeing tons of clearanced Imperial Shuttles and Jedi 2-packs at Kay-Bee in the mid 80’s, but that was before I had my own allowance money to spend. More of a bittersweet memory, I guess!

One wish for Star Wars Episode VII? Real puppets!

~ Final Question ~

4LOMKUSS:  “Fans of Force Figures” or “F oFFs” for short is a horrible name for this interview.  Do you have any better suggestions?

Jad:  How about: “Articulated Admirers”, “Articulation Points”, “Force Figure Fans”, “Profiles In Fandomery” (I can make up words, can’t I?), “Collection Agents”.

4LOMKUSS:  Before we head off into hyperspace, what would be the best way fans and collectors could find out more about or purchase your designs and do you have anything upcoming you would like to plug?

Jad:  Thanks so much for the opportunity to share my collecting memories and artwork. I’m all over the social media networks and forums using my real name, and you can always connect with me and browse my t-shirts at www.Jadbean.com.  May the 4LOMKUSS be with you!

4LOMKUSS:  Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.  It was our pleasure to hear your stories and talk Star Wars action figures with you.  The wonderful thing about Star Wars is that it is truly forever and we look forward to talking with you in the future, possibly about your kid’s Episode VII toys but for now its time for the scholarly, mature and thought-provoking words of Jedi Council Master Mace Windu, “This party’s over!”