Star Wars was HUGE in the late 70’s and early 80’s. At least with young people, children and teens, probably a lot of young adults too especially if they were already into science fiction or action movies. But adults weren’t into as much as adults now. I remember picking George Lucas as someone I admired in school, and my teacher asking, “What has he done?” I guess I was supposed to pick Harriet Tubman or someone. Today, it would probably be the teacher who’s obsessed with Lucas and not the students.
It started to tapper off in the mid-80’s. But about '89 it felt like Star Wars was over–a thing of the past that was just going to fade away. I remember thinking at the time that even though Star Wars had been much bigger than Star Trek almost my whole life that it was Star Trek that would live on in the hearts of nerds everywhere. When I started college in '91, I found a bunch of Marvel Star Wars comics on clearance at a comic book store. I almost bought them, but didn’t for some reason.
That’s about the time it started to grow in popularity again with the first Zahn book and the Dark Empire comic limited series getting the ball rolling again, but it didn’t become mind blowingly huge again until The Phantom Menace. I think George Lucas finally realized he was never going to sell toys like he wanted to if he didn’t make films. Shadows of the Empire was his attempt to whip up a fan feeding frenzy without out going to the trouble of making a movie, but it didn’t work so he made The Phantom Menace, and everyone’s been Star Wars happy ever since.