You might not imagine old puzzles to be a corner of the Star Wars universe worth exploring, but think again! Not only are they some of the cheapest vintage collectibles out there, but the art on these babies is just killer.
Take this one, for instance. Released by Craft Master in 1983, this 70-piece Return of the Jedi puzzle features art that you’d have a hard time tracking down anywhere else.
Starring the strangest members of Jabba’s court, it was — by 1983 standards — one of the only methods of getting a clear look at the many random aliens who were only onscreen for a moment, masked by dusty darkness and hidden in group shots.
For people like us — people who’d pause our old Return of the Jedi videotapes hoping to discover new characters in Jabba’s palace — a puzzle like this was a godsend. Heck, of the 10 weirdos shown here, only four made it into Kenner’s sprawling action figure line! Many of these monsters were NOT easy to spot, and I’d bet that even a serious Star Wars fan would have trouble identifying all of them. How cool!
This phenomenon was not limited to Star Wars merchandise. When it came to puzzles, many licensed properties delved into their least-used promotional photos and concept art, presenting their fans’ passions in ways previously unseen. If you wanna see art that hasn’t been used to death, puzzles are a great place to start!
Course, there’s also the simple fact that puzzles are just fun to do, and that’s especially true when you’re dealing with one that depicts Star Wars aliens.
It’s one thing to try to group together puzzle pieces representing farmhouses or autumn trees, but here we’re talking about Bib Fortuna and Ree-Yees. (You haven’t lived until you’ve pored over 70 puzzle pieces looking for parts of Bib Fortuna’s lekku!)
If I’m being honest, I was never much of a “puzzle guy” before today. As it turns out, I was just choosing the wrong puzzles. The thought of assembling a team photo of Jabba’s ugliest henchmen was all the motivation I needed to stick with this from start to finish, never once taking a break.
Thank you, Star Wars. Even after almost 40 years, you’re still finding new ways to make me broaden my horizons.
Shown above is the completed puzzle, which I think we can all agree is totally amazing. Immediately upon completion, my mind drifted to thoughts of lamination and expensive frames.
I was also struck with the sad realization that I didn’t quite recognize all of those characters. Thankfully, Wookieepedia was there to help me fill in the blanks…
Having trouble identifying these wacky galoots? Follow this guide! (Keep in mind, much of this information leans on Expanded Universe lore.)
1) Ree-Yees: An alcoholic Gran charged with taking care of Jabba’s pet frog-dog, Ree-Yees secretly planned to kill Jabba… just like almost everyone else in the palace did.
2) Saelt-Marae: More famously known as “Yak Face,” this Yakora con artist looked sort of like Joe Camel, if Joe Camel ran a dilapidated pawn shop. Hired by Jabba to sniff around for backstabbers.
3) Bib Fortuna: Jabba’s majordomo, this duplicitous Twi’lek hoped to one day take over his employer’s organization. You can consider him Jabba’s “executive producer.”
4) J’Quille: A hulking Whiphid. While J’Quille’s role in the movie was miniscule, Expanded Universe lore says that he was spying on behalf of another Whiphid, named Lady Valarian — who was one of Jabba’s chief rivals on Tatooine.
5) Tessek: Believe it or not, this heat-hating Quarren actually served as Jabba’s accountant, and was yet another member of Jabba’s court plotting to kill his boss.
6) Shasa Tiel: A female Ishi Tib, Shasa Tiel looked like a cross between a frog, a bug, and a human. A victim of circumstance, Shasa did not enjoy her stay under Jabba’s employ, where she was another of the criminal’s number-crunchers. (Amazing to think that Jabba kept track of such things!)
7) Tanus Spijek: Once serving as a courier for the Rebel Alliance, this fuzzy Elom eventually found work as one of Jabba’s informants. As was the case with several others on this list, when Jabba’s sail barge went kaput… so did he.
8) Yoxgit: An Ugnaught — the species more famously known for working in Cloud City — Yoxgit assumed the role of Jabba’s security expert. Extremely ugly, even by Ugnaught standards.
9) Gauron Nas Tal: A Saurin combat trainer, his job was to — get this — keep Jabba’s army of Gamorrean Guards in shape.
10) Geezum: A Snivvian, you may remember others from his species from their more “visible” appearances in the Star Wars cantina scene.
I won’t promise that every old Star Wars puzzle you find will be this intriguing (Impossible!), but there are quite a few interesting ones out there.
Best of all, since most collectors treat puzzles as “passable,” they’ve largely remained cheap. Often enough, you’ll be able to find these now-ancient puzzles for barely a drop more than their original retail prices!