"You don't know anything about Star Wars!" a middle-aged man exclaimed as his adolescent son jumped up to take the Star Wars Trivia Challenge.
"It can't hurt," the unfazed teen replied. He lined up with about 30 other people who had braved their way through the throng at Comic-Con 2003 to a small conference room. A fair number of attendees at the contest, sponsored by the San Diego Star Wars Society (SDSWS), donned kimono-like tunics, jump suits, floor-length robes and Jedi lightsabers.
SDSWS Supreme Chancellor Linda Crispien explained the club, an official chapter of FanForce.net, was founded in 2002 (just before the release of Episode II) to "keep Star Wars alive in the San Diego community and endeavor to give back to the community through charitable events." Members regularly get together for costume- and prop-building workshops, movie marathons (during which all five Star Wars movies are shown back-to-back) and excursions. A recent trip to "rediscover Jabba's sail barge" took devotees, metal detectors and shovels in tow, to a spot near the California/Arizona border where scenes from Return of the Jedi were filmed in 1982.
For SDSWS, Comic-Con, where the first Star Wars film had a test run in 1976 before its theatrical release, is a major event. This year, the club had their own booth in the exhibit hall near the official LucasArts contingent in "Star Wars Alley."
James Floyd, SDSWS public relations director, said he came up with questions he thought would be "tough and random" for the trivia challenge through extensive research. He also chose a "last one-standing" game format that he had discovered at a previous Comic-Con. Prizes for winners included such Star Wars collectibles as action figures and trading cards.
Because much physical audience participation was required, several rows of chairs were folded and placed against the room's walls. Questions-derived from the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, novels, comics and collectors' factoids-were presented with a choice of two answers. Contestants who thought the answer was "A" moved to one side of the room, while those who chose "B" moved to the opposite side. Participants who answered incorrectly had to return to their seats. Purple-gloved Imperial guards, faces and bodies concealed by red hoods and helmets, and equally intimidating storm troopers wearing armor that was completely white (right down to the codpiece), kept the proceedings orderly.
Question: Who was Quinlan Vos' master when he was a padawan? A) Tyvokka or B) Tholme?
"Choose, but choose wisely," Floyd advised contestants, some of whom shuffled indecisively as anxiety over which side of the room to choose played across their faces.
Question: Which action figure came with the Episode One Opee Sea Killer toy? A) Obiwan Kenobi or B) Qui-gon Jinn?
"I don't understand these questions," an audience member whispered to a companion. "Do you know any of these answers at all?"
However, some contestants came up with correct answers rapidly-so rapidly that Floyd had to warn them not to move to one side of the room and tip off the others before he gave both choices. Less well-versed contestants found strength in numbers by simply following the people who seemed to know their stuff around the room.
"Like you guys really, truly know these answers!" one man chastised his sheep-like fellow contestants. "Liars!"
When onlookers became a bit restless, forbidden audience assistance had to be stifled.
"Imperial Guard, escort that person out!" Floyd responded to such insurrection. "Take away their trading cards!"
To break deadlocks, Floyd had to pull out the most truly obscure details; in one instance, contestants had to guess how interpreters working on the German release of The Empire Strikes Back had reworded some dialogue. "The correct answer is "Wookie herder'!" Floyd announced.
"Gawd, dawg!" a disappointed contestant mumbled on the way back to his seat.
In about 40 minutes, seven competitive rounds, with seven different winners, were completed, and it was back to the hall for the exhibitors. And though the convention was moving into its final day, SDSWS members had at least one more group event scheduled for the aftermath: a Comic-Con recovery party.