rating: +99+x

sgt.bones 11/06/12 (Tue) 05:28:52 #11322857


A mock-up model of Eye-Man, created by a member of a private forum.

The original trilogy of Star Wars films has spawned one of the most dedicated and passionate fanbases of all time — and what sets this particular pack of nerds apart from the others is the borderline obsessive documenting and cataloguing of every extra or background character who appears onscreen. Every character — regardless of screentime or plot relevance — has earned themselves a name, a fictional backstory, and sometimes, if the design is visually intriguing enough — an action figure. But there's one character you won't find on a Wookieepedia page, priced exorbitantly high in a collectors guide, or lurking in the background, and if you do — God help you.

Eye-Man. It's a name unfamiliar to even the most knowledgeable of Star Wars fans, but mention it to the small collective who are aware of Eye-Man's non-existence — and watch as their faces light up with a unique mixture of passion, weariness, and fear. Each account is as personal as the next, but every one of them is laced with a bitter sense of self-doubt, delivered with the cadence of a wizened storyteller telling a story for the thousandth time.

Eye-Man is the name given to a background character who supposedly appeared in the original, theatrical cut of the 1983 film Return of the Jedi. His design is consistent: a large, muscle-bound cyclops covered in hair and a burlap sack. Compared to other extras in the Jabba's Palace sequence, Eye-Man is uncharacteristically simple. He's not a puppet or an elaborate animatronic, nor does he sport the colorful and imaginative design motifs of other palace denizens. By all means, Eye-Man is out of place, and rightfully so — because Eye-Man does not exist.

Every Eye-Man account starts out the same: a young boy between the ages of 5-9 watches Return of the Jedi in theaters after months of anticipation. They enjoy the film, but become particularly vested in the various aliens and creatures inhabiting Jabba's Palace — specifically the cyclops. The roles that Eye-Man supposedly fills in the film vary between accounts, but only add to the intrigue of this mythology. Some claim he only stood in the background alongside other extras, with brief focus-shots like the ones given to other extras. Others remember a scene where Eye-Man accosts protocol droid C-3PO, who is acting as Jabba the Hutt's translator. Eye-Man proceeds to brutally dismember C-3PO as Jabba and the palace denizens cheer on, some catching pieces of the droid's plating that fly through the air as the cyclops continues his assault. The alien takes time to chew on the droid's wires before unceremoniously ripping C-3PO's head off with his mouth and swallowing. This lasts for an extended period of time, with no musical score, and is never referenced again. The film proceeds as normal, with C-3PO apparently being reconstructed by the next scene, as if nothing happened.

In the weeks that follow, witnesses become fixated on the creature, with Eye-Man receiving the same fearful curiosity children often exhibit towards movie monsters — but that would soon change. Attempts to bring up "the scary cyclops in Jabba's Palace" to peers — even ones that were present at the same showing — result in confusion. Accounts detailing the C-3PO scene are laughed off the playground, and Eye-Man witnesses learn to not talk about their secret obsession.

Witnesses draw pictures of Eye-Man, incorporate the creature into their play sessions, and open every pack of Topps trading cards hoping to get a glimpse of their one-eyed muse in the same way that they had other background characters. As time goes on, Eye-Man creeps into their subconscious, usually in the back of their minds, and always in their dreams. No one ever forgets the dreams.

The progression of an Eye-Man dream varies between accounts, but certain attributes remain consistent. They take place in a dark and seemingly infinite location, like a forest or a basement. There's a nauseating sense of fear and dread. Other children are present. Simple actions like walking or running become near-impossible, limbs feeling like they're tied to cinder blocks. Eye-Man is always present, hiding behind trees, doors or in the background. The children explore the dream-world, with Eye-Man never far behind. When a child draws verbal attention to the stalking cyclops, the creature will lunge out and devour the child before returning to the shadows. This happens for what feels like hours. Upon awakening, it's like they never fell asleep. These dreams occur repeatedly for months, every single night. During the day, Eye-Man becomes an omnipresent background character in their life, hiding in the dark corners of a room, or under the bed. But they remind themselves that he isn't real, that Eye-Man is just a guy in a costume, or a puppet — and then they fall asleep.

For most Eye-Man accounts, that's where the story ends. After hundreds of vivid, life-like nightmares, Eye-Man suddenly disappears. They don't think about Eye-Man for decades, before stumbling on a forum post about identifying the "cyclops" from Star Wars. It all comes flooding back. One forum post built upon another — from website to website, witnesses began connecting with each other, and forming tightly-knit, private communities and chat-rooms to discuss this phenomenon. If you know where to look, you'll find them. If you post about Eye-Man, they'll find you. No consensus has ever been reached through these discussions, nor any evidence of Eye-Man's existence found. All that remains are the harrowing stories told by an aging user base on a private IRC server, and that's all there ever will be. When it comes to Eye-Man, closure is not an option.

But I was never satisfied with that. My story is different, and for the first time — I will tell it. Where I branch off from other witnesses, is that I saw something tangible.

My history with Eye-Man is, as far as I could tell, entirely unique to myself. I never saw Jedi in theaters. I saw it on LaserDisc in 1986, and I can assure you — there was no Eye-Man. Now, for context, Star Wars was well on its way out in 1986. People had moved on, kids especially, and the thought of any new content seemed like a pipe dream. This, however, was great news for me — because that meant all of the toys were on deep discount. Every Saturday, I'd go to the toy store and pick two figures from the giant bin of unsold Star Wars toys. This worked out conveniently well for both me and my notoriously cheap parents. Regardless, I was happy.

But one Saturday, as I sifted around the bin like usual, examining the cardbacks and trying to decide whether I needed another Stormtrooper, something caught my eye. It was a figure I had never seen before, and I was pretty certain I had seen them all. You've probably guessed it by now, it was Eye-Man, staring at me in his 3.75'' glory. Now, as any avid Star Wars collector will tell you, an action figure of a random, no-name background character is a pretty common occurrence, so seeing a character I wasn't particularly familiar with wasn't anything new. For every Luke Skywalker, there was a Squid-Head or a Walrus Man. But this figure was different. He unnerved me. From the photo on the cardback, he looked like he was from Jabba's Palace, and while I had a particular affinity for Hutt goons — I just couldn't bring myself to buy him. He was way too creepy, and quite frankly, I didn't need that in my toybox. I picked up another Stormtrooper, and headed out.

As soon as I got out of the store, I began thinking about Eye-Man. In fact, he scared me so much I debated never watching Return of the Jedi again, in fear that the one-eyed bastard would be staring at me from the corner of my screen. Nonetheless, my fears were alleviated when I went back the next Saturday, and Eye-Man was nowhere to be seen. I breathed a sigh of relief, and didn't think about my one-week-boogeyman for 20 years. That's right, no dreams, nothing. I simply forgot about him. Then, I saw a post on a sci-fi forum that made my jaw drop.

A user was asking about the cyclops from Jabba's Palace, and the entirety of the thread had it out for this guy. Pages and pages of arguing that there was no cyclops in Jabba's Palace, while OP insisted there was. It came flooding back to me — the store, the figure, the fear. I jumped in and vehemently defended OP, flashing my nerd cred by mentioning that the cyclops was named Eye-Man, and Kenner made him into a toy during the final years of the line. Another user blatantly told me I was wrong, and obviously confusing Prune Face for this non-existent Eye-Man character. I told him they were wrong, but when multiple users began telling me this figure didn't exist, I decided to do my own research.

I must've scoured every collecting fansite on the internet. I looked over the official Kenner checklist hundreds of times — no Eye-Man. I then assumed a figure from another toyline might have ended up in the Star Wars bin, and my faulty memory filled in the details, but no. There was no toy that resembled what I saw that day. A couple days later, I got a PM on the sci-fi forum, inviting me to a private chatroom. I told my story, and the rest is history.

That was six years ago. Since then, I've been fascinated with Eye-Man and the tightly knit community that has sprung up around him. There were only a couple hundred of us, but we had become pretty close. Eye-Man, being an exhausted topic, became less and less of a focus over time — sans the indoctrination of a new member to our little clan. We got to know each other, talking about our lives, our families, hobbies, whatever. We were friends, and as clichéd as it sounds — the Eye-Man community was like a second family. All of us were nerds, in one way or another, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that even Eye-Man himself was given an irony-tinged lining as time went on. The embodiment of childhood fear and uncertainty that hung over our heads like a one-eyed Damocles turned into little more than a calling card — his presence immortalized on #WheresEyeMan coffee mugs and t-shirts. I even received a custom Eye-Man action figure, who looked as terrifying I remembered him.

The next step for any community like this would logically be a meetup. That's right, the Eye-Man fandom decided that we would get together at one of the larger Star Wars conventions. I was ecstatic. It was only a two hour drive, and I would finally get the chance to meet the people I had been talking to for the better half of a decade. I got to the convention and immediately began searching for the hall that we rented out. A large sign, saying "Two eyes only, please" was stationed out front. I entered, expecting the same lighthearted atmosphere and banter from the chatroom to carry over, but I was dead wrong.

Nothing could prepare me for how quiet the room was. Around 40 people, simply staring at each other. Some were aimlessly pacing, and others engaged in hushed conversation from a corner. I found our organizer, and asked what was happening. What he told me felt like a punch to the gut from Eye-Man himself.

A few people recognized each other.



Convention hall.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License