By Tom Momberg
A Douglas Manor man who grew up fascinated with science fiction and fan memorabilia has just released a book he co-authored based on his very own collection of Topps trading cards he collected as a kid.
“Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, before cell phones and computers — trading cards were really the only form of photo sharing,” author Robert Conte said. “That was the only inexpensive way to build a photo collection back then. So trading cards have more of an impact on pop culture than one realizes.”
His book “Star Wars Topps trading cards, Volume 1” is an official Disney- and LucasFilm-sponsored Abrams ComicArts book that catalogues the story of “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” through a complete series of Topps trading cards that came out in bubble gum packs coinciding with the original movie release.
The introduction and commentary for the book were written by Gary Gerani of Topps Co. — the creator, editor and writer of hundreds of trading cards.
Now the first of four volumes of books cataloguing the renowned Star Wars fan-memorabilia has been released in time for Disney’s December release of “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.”
Over the next few years, Conte and Gerani also plan to release volumes cataloguing the trading cards from Episodes V and VI, as well as “Star Wars Galaxy” as the fourth volume, which would include the work of hundreds of artists who drew different interpretations of all the Star Wars characters.
Conte, a Long Island native and Queens resident of 20 years, said it is exciting to work with the creator of the Topps card series and to meet many of the people involved in one of his all-time favorite science-fiction series as they return to make another movie.
A comic book store owner for several years, Conte said he was glad he held on to all his memorabilia because now he has a project that he loves.
“I was fortunate enough to have had the intuition to put my cards away … and look where we are today — those cards and stickers have now been made into a book,” Conte said.
As a young man, Conte dropped out of college to contribute to Revolutionary Comics’ “New Kids on the Block” series and from there continued on a project-by-project career based in comics and fan fiction.
He said he has always wanted to go back to school, but his geeky quirks have given him a place in the ever-evolving media industry centered on science-fiction, comics and superheroes. The characters of those intellectual properties have become multi-generational — something Conte shares with his own children and continues to inspire generations to come.
“It’s always fun to put your passion into something,” Conte said. “People always say, ‘Oh, that must be your dream job.’ I don’t see it as a job. I’m very blessed to use my knowledge and expertise, and the stuff I collected so long ago — and actually make a living.”
Conte’s upcoming book signings are scheduled for Dec. 12 at Fourth World Comics in Smithtown, L.I. and for Dec. 16 at Book Revue in Huntington Station, L.I. Conte said he will also contribute to an event at Strand Books, 828 Broadway, in Manhattan sometime in December.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb