Thursday, April 9, 2020

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,680: The Mandalorian (The Vintage Collection)

THE MANDALORIAN First Two Episodes Armor
The Vintage Collection
Item No.:
Asst. E5912 No. E8086
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: #166
Includes: n/a
Action Feature: Blaster, Cape, Rifle
Retail: $12.99
Availability: March 2020
Appearances: The Mandalorian

Bio: Din Djarin, commonly known as "the Mandalorian" or "Mando" for short, was a human male Mandalorian who worked as a bounty hunter during the New Republic Era. With his Mandalorian armor and distinctive beskar helmet, Djarin was both well-equipped and enigmatic—a stranger whose past was shrouded in mystery to others.  (Stolen from Wookieepedia. Packaging has no bio.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Click here to buy it at Amazon now!

Commentary: Now that's more like it!   It's hard to easily see how far Hasbro has come with its 3 3/4-inch engineering over the years, as very few "new" figures are completely new tooling these days.  The Mandalorian is totally new, and you can see how much better he is than Hasbro's recent (now 10+ year old) Boba and Jango Fett figures are.  Is it perfect?  No - there's a little room for improvement, but when I say that it's minimal.  Hasbro did a good job here, but with some creativity I bet they could make it better on pretty much the same budget.

With no human head, and the least-detailed of the Mandalorian helmets, Hasbro may have a little room to play here.  The helmet is effectively one color with a t-visor, and I think they admirably replicated it as a grape-sized replica.   Deco is good for the size, with a smattering of damaged elements, painted ammo on his bandolier, but he's almost too clean. You can see sculpted dings and chips, but the color is largely uniform.  I'd love to see if - in some situations - it makes sense to do that "hyper-real face printing" on an element like the chest.  Why not print 2D battle damage over the armor to give it an action patina of some sort?  I'm nitpicking, of course, and the fingers are a bit more saturated in color than I would have expected - but it's great.  For $13 it's certainly worth the asking price in 2020.

Articulation is as good as this scale gets from Hasbro.   The neck has a decent range of motion, and the body doesn't seem as hindered as previously released Boba Fetts.  Bobas Fett? Whatever, this is better.   Bend-and-swivel wrists are probably the most useful addition to his 28 points of articulation. 

He has zero problems holding his painted blaster or nicely painted rifle, and they stow better in the 3 3/4-inch figure than the 6-inch one.  I'm even more surprised it's not the same sculpt chopped up at a smaller scale - the cape is clearly a different sculpt, and it appears other bits and pieces are slightly different too.  The blaster pistol easily slides in the holster, and the rifle fits in the slot in his back much more easily too.

Hasbro still has it when it comes to 3 3/4-inch figures - when they're inclined to make them.  I still see this as the "scale of record," even if Hasbro seemingly doesn't, and this is the kind of figure that would inspire fans to collect if a) they could find it, and b) if the line had more toys to buy.   I hope they build out a full toy line for the world of The Mandalorian beyond the title character and his little green friend.  I love that space western, and there's no shortage of weirdo characters, aliens, and Brian Posehns to enjoy.   If you can find him, get him - but don't be surprised if there are other versions later.  Battle-damaged?  Beskar Armor?   There are opportunities here, people.  Baby Yoda-sized opportunities.

Collector's Notes: I got mine from Entertainment Earth.  

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,680: April 9, 2020

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,679: Zorii Bliss (The Black Series 6-Inch)

ZORII BLISS Removable visor
The Black Series   6-Inch Figure
Item No.:
Asst. E4071 No. E8070
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: #103
Includes: 2 blasters, removable visor
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $19.99
Availability: March 2020
Appearances: The Rise of Skywalker

Bio: It is difficult for scoundrels to remain neutral in the war between the First Order and the Resistance, and Zorii Bliss and the Spice Runners of Kijimi must soon take a side.   (Taken from the figure's packaging.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Click here to buy it at Amazon now!

Commentary: After a specter of tariffs, now we get to wonder about raw materials, and factory labor, and bottlenecks at the ports.   Hasbro usually let us know we had a slot situation - that is, they only wanted to make so many SKUs and that they had to pick carefully to make all parties happy - which is why a figure like Zorii Bliss is a curiosity.  Aside from the topic of the Emperor's sex life, The Rise of Skywalker hit with all of the impact of fireworks - a lot of noise, a lot of light, and then it immediately burned out.  And here we are, barely three months later, and so much has happened between Baby Yoda and diseases and the Picard show and the election and everything else that anything from the recent past seems like the oddest of odd choices.  This wave also included Count Dooku and Commander Bly, which tie in to The Clone Wars a little bit, but Zorii Bliss seems like a holdover from a very incomplete movie line.  She's Poe's friend - we didn't get a matching Poe from this movie, at all, just a 3 3/4-inch reissue.  And Hasbro (and/or Disney and/or Lucasfilm) packed her at two per case for some reason.   At least the figure is pretty good.

One of the odder things to get a grip on with 21st century Star Wars was just how much of development was done blindly, based on the whims of the licensor or the hopes of a cool costume resulting in a good toy with excellent sales.   I wish the character had more impact on me, because Hasbro did a nice job on this one.  She has 29 points of articulation, with boot cuts, two great neck joints, bend-and-swivel darned near everything, and just about anything you've ever seen from this line short of double-jointed elbows.  Hasbro instead gave her the deeper cut elbows, which are also very good.  She has zero problems standing, sitting, posing with her guns, and looking the best she can.  This is a shining example of a figure design handed to a creative team that perfectly engineered the figure within the confines of the costume.  The removable black visor giving you a peek at Keri Russell's eyes is a huge plus, but it would have been nice to have an alternate head so you can actually see her face.  It's something - and I appreciate it - but it doesn't feel like enough to make it exciting.  The cynic in me is worried someone might be getting an alternate head Zorii as an exclusive that, ultimately, will not sell well.

Deco is good - this is a figure that doesn't need a lot.  The dark reddish costume has glossy black boots with grey trim, brown belts, and some metallic gold and silver accents.  Her helmet  is wonderfully goofy with a crest on the back potentially packed with weird technology, looking more like a space ship than a head.  It's great!   The matching collar looks good, too.  Thanks to the numerous elements of this figure - like the mid-torso joint - I can't help but wonder if the toy was designed first to ensure that the costume would match it, rather than the other way around.   It syncs up nicely, and turned out well.  The concept artists did pretty well here.

Because I'm old and The Rise of Skywalker was a huge letdown for me as a movie and as a toy line without even the entire main cast represented in any one scale, Zorii is the kind of thing I wish Hasbro put in wave one in 2019.   It's a cool design, we all thought she would be a bigger deal, and you can't deny that the costume looks pretty awesome.   In 2020, we know what the score is - and it isn't a figure that's going to sell based on the merits of the actress or the part, it's just a cool costume.  Maybe you can use it to populate your other incomplete dioramas, because as of today Jabba's Palace only has a Gamorrean Guard to hang out with, the Cantina only has Greedo in it, and for whatever reason Hasbro and Disney have opted to keep the line increasingly superficial with top-level talent toys only.   If you see this figure, you can be assured it's a good one - but given how few other figures she has to hang out with on the shelf, you might not see this as worth the wait in the check-out online or at your favorite big box stores.

Collector's Notes: I got mine from Entertainment Earth.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,679: April 7, 2020

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,678: Count Dooku (The Black Series 6-Inch)

COUNT DOOKU Sith Happened
The Black Series   6-Inch Figure
Item No.:
Asst. E4071 No. E8072
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: #107
Includes: Cape, hilt, "swoosh" blade, normal blade
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $19.99
Availability: March 2020
Appearances: Attack of the Clones & Revenge of the Sith

Bio: Count Dooku was a menacing Sith Lord and central figure in the Clone Wars.  Once a Jedi he became disillusioned with the Jedi Order and thirsted for greater power. (Taken from the figure's packaging.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Click here to buy it at Amazon now!

Commentary: I can only assume someone inside Hasbro is planing on reissuing last month's Count Dooku because it's just that good.   The last Sith character from the movies - but certainly not the final Sith costume variant - is one that doesn't have a lot you can do with it.  Other than adding Sith Lightning hands, this figure is pretty much the apex of Count Dooku-ness.  Maybe they can tweak the cape later, but it's pretty much perfect as it is.   I hope you have bought one or will buy it when you see it.

While it doesn't have a separately molded hair piece, the Christopher Lee likeness is excellent.   A portrait was printed over the sculpted face, showing what some of us have known for years - Hasbro does marvelous sculpts that can be marred by off-color skin tones or substandard paint apps. (See: a lot of Attack of the Clones Anakin figures in almost all scales 2002-2004.)   Thanks to the strength of Christopher Lee's face, and recognizable features, his figures turned out very nicely.  This one has a weird "doll" painted hairline on his skin, but aside from that it's as good as they come.  The eyebrows, the beard, the shiny eyes, it's the kind of thing that made you glad Hasbro waited seven years into this line to make him.   You never know when the golden age of a figure line may be, but it seems Hasbro has hit its stride right now - we're getting more interesting accessories, better articulation, and the best likenesses we've seen to date.

Articulation is as good as any figure these days, with decent elbows allowing for double-grip lightsaber duels.     We get swivel joints on the boots.  But you're more interested in the accessories.  The cloth cape has a light brown lining without being too thick, plus it has a sturdy plastic "chain" on his neck.  Aside from the unique stitching over his shoulders in the movies, it's perfect - but you can't have everything.  Cloth or plastic, a cape is going to have some compromises at this scale.

Most interesting, though, is the lightsaber.   Hasbro toyed with changing up the blade a bit in 2001 and the vast majority of the figures played it safe, with some flamboyant (and frankly, beautiful) exceptions in its 7-inch Unleashed line.   Hasbro gave us one of those standard red clear blades here, but you can pop it out of the curved hilt in exchange for a motion-blur blade.  Cast in clear plastic, elements of it are painted red to give it the illusion of movement away from its pure white core.  It doesn't perfectly sell the illusion, but the "swoosh" looks really cool. I bet figure photographers and diorama fans are going to buy extras of this figure just to pilfer the blade for customs.

Dooku's costume has been easy for Hasbro to do right since they seemingly have always had access to good reference, with the main variables being things like his face paint and the overall quality of the cape.  Hasbro did right on both here.   I'd call this an essential purchase, unless you're one of the weirdo fans who still won't touch a prequel figure even if it's good.  (Lookin' at you, Scott.)   Hasbro put in tons of joints and his most of them quite well, so go out of your way to get a Count Dooku.   And hope Hasbro keeps making them because you are going to want it later if you miss it now!

Collector's Notes: I got mine from Entertainment Earth.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,678: April 2, 2020

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,677: First Order Snowtrooper (The Black Series 6-Inch)

FIRST ORDER SNOWTROOPER First of Many
The Force Awakens The Black Series 6-Inch Figure
Item No.:
Asst. B3834 No. B4045
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: #12
Includes: Rifle, backpack
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $19.99
Availability: September 2015
Appearances: The Force Awakens

Bio: The latest generation of cold weather assault Stormtroopers, Snowtroopers wear advanced insulated armor and helmets that reduce the glare of icy terrain.   (Taken from the figure's packaging.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Amazon now!

Commentary: When I started writing this column something like 14 years ago, I wanted to do a lot more "whatever happened to" reviews - and now we can, since this First Order Snowtrooper was a 2015 release.  It came out around the same time as the once-impossible-to-find Hux and Asty, which were rerun (you're welcome) before you realized just how low the run really was.   In that wave - and carried forward - was this trooper.  It's a cool trooper!  Hasbro made a bepauldroned version as an exclusive for Toys R Us in 2015, and a caped one for Target in 2019.  You could build an army by being a completist!  The Snowtrooper did start to linger, especially since this version lacks the bells and whistles, and capes, of the other ones.   It's the least desirable of the lot, but it's cheap.

The figure is the same core figure as all three releases, each of which has barely different paint.  It's a white armored soldier with a distinctive helmet and about 26 points of articulation.  Hasbro did a good job with the sculpt thanks to Disney not being stingy with the reference files, and the figure has a pretty good range of movement despite the single-joint style of elbows.  I love the glossy "hard" elements of the uniform on the helmet, shoulders, and chest, while the vinyl kama around the waist just sort of gets in the way.  It's not like this is a really "action"-oriented figure when you take a look at the entire sequel trilogy, and this figure is kind of a good metaphor for the new saga.  It's shiny, it looks like it should turn into something really amazing... and it's fine.  It's probably not going to have the impact on my life that the original gangsta Snowtrooper had back in the day, but maybe it'll influence some kids and a new series of fans when it's time to contemplate raiding what's left of Ralph McQuarrie's sketchbook and swiping frames from other Japanese movies in 2040 when they release Episode X.  Or so I am guessing.
It's a sturdy if stiff trooper with a nifty blaster that's also indicative of its era.  I have little doubt that Disney and Lucasfilm Licensing put their thumbs on the design scale to make the blaster white, so it'd be easier to sell as a toy unlike black blasters.   Toy guns are tough to do these days, even pistol-like phasers from Star Trek Discovery were prototyped and while demand existed, you couldn't sell them in states like California due to gun laws.   And now you've got white blasters on your stormtroopers.   If you're an older fan, this figure is destined to sit on your shelf, possibly in its box, unlikely to be played with and loved like your childhood toys.   Since the free market has brought the price down, go ahead and get this version if you want one of the three First Order Snowtroopers.  It's cheap! Or it was.  I don't know when you'll read this.

Collector's Notes: I got mine from Amazon.  

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,677: March 31, 2020

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,676: C-3PO (& Chewbacca, The Black Series 6-Inch)

C-3PO & Chewbacca
The Black Series 6-Inch Deluxe Amazon Exclusive Action Figure
Item No.:
No. E8440
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: mn/a
Includes: Wookiee, Droid, limbs, blaster, net bag, wire limb filler
Action Feature: Dismantle droid
Retail: $49.99
Availability: December 2019
Appearances: The Empire Strikes Back

Bio: Encountering a Stormtrooper in Cloud City, C-3PO was blasted at point blank range and his limbs were scattered.  Chewbacca gathered the parts of the protocol droid and partially reassembled him.   (Taken from the figure's packaging.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Amazon now!

Commentary: We looked at the Wookiee it's Chewbacca & C-3PO droid day!  I haven't written one of these for a while thanks to frontloading the column for Toy Fair and the post-Toy Fair malaise, so now it's time to look at everybody's favorite robot, who filled the role of most hated character in the franchise for a few weeks early in the era of the original trilogy.  C-3PO is great.

We have had several C-3POs so far.  There have been two different flavors of red arm from The Force Awakens, there's an all-gold one from Galaxy's Edge that does double duty as Revenge of the Sith and the non-red-arm parts of the sequel trilogy, and we've also had a 40th Anniversary/Walgreens one that's an all-purpose original trilogy C-3PO.  This one gets more specific, taking the best of that mold (and its remolds) while adding new functionality to make this a C-3PO that is undoubtedly different enough to make you mad.

C-3PO (2019) has removable limbs - you can pull off arms and legs, replacing them with a toupee of wires that allow you to simulate battle damage.  The figure has open hands, a silver leg, and lots of dirty deco on the head and chest.  It's a blast!   The only thing it's missing is a removable back panel, so you can't pretend to have Chewbacca do repairs on him when he's backwards.   Aside from that, he ticks all the major boxes - it's a good C-3PO, he can be carried around in a mesh net bag, making it the 6-inch update to Kenner's 1982 "Removable Limbs" C-3PO.  It's good, and if you only get one C-3PO I'd nudge you toward this one.

BanDai makes a 6-inch scale figure (which I don't have yet and can't size-compare) with the removable back panel and a vac-metal finish - so if you need one for your display get that 1:12 scale BanDai kit.  Or both.  You'll probably get both.

Collector's Notes: I got mine from Amazon.  

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,676: March 26, 2020

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,675: IG-11 (The Black Series 6-Inch)

IG-11 Old figure, new vest
The Black Series 6-Inch Deluxe Best Buy Exclusive Action Figure
Item No.:
No. E7207
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Bandolier vest, rifle, pistol
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $19.99
Availability: November 2019
Appearances: The Mandalorian

Bio: One of a series of dangerous assassin droids largely outlawed in the galaxy, IG-11 is a hired gun programmed to follow Bounty Hunter's Guild protocols to the letter. (Taken from the figure's packaging.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Click here to buy it at Amazon now!

Commentary: At first glance IG-11 is a pretty good figure.  I mean, he's just IG-88 with new bandoliers, right?  Nope!  It's possible the design changed between product development and the airing of the show, but this figure is an old IG-88 figure, with new paint, and one newly-tooled part.  On the TV show IG-11 has different hands and other minor changes.

At a distance it's fine.  If you aren't too picky, it's good enough - he can stand (which the first IG-88 couldn't in its blue box release) and hold his guns thanks to clever peg/hole placement on the forearms and weapons.   If you just need a figure to look good on a shelf or in a box, it seems like this is a good one.   Hasbro made the deco closely match the TV show, with amazing, intricate printing of detail all over.  If you get in real close, you can see the head deco is tiny little dots - and they use this technique on the guns and other areas, too.   It's a masterpiece of toy deco execution, covering a dark grey robot body with silvers, greys, coppers, reds, and other colors to really sell the idea of a droid that has seen a lot of action.
For the nitpickers, or fans of actually matching the show, you're going to have some issues.  On The Mandalorian, the droid has multiple fingers - this figure just has a claw hand.   You can see him grip the weapons in publicity photos and on the show, while this figure has the same claw we've had on all IG-88 toys since the 1980s.  The feet also don't match the digital model, and the vest/bandolier is a little different.  It might not be enough for you to notice without a side-by-side comparison, but much like the AT-ST Raider Hasbro took some shortcuts to get a product out quickly and under budget.  I don't blame them - in their position, you probably would have done the same thing.  Updating tooling is expensive and the bang for your buck isn't always there.

Thankfully, detail on the original droid mold is probably good enough for most fans. The mismatched leg issue was fixed with the Archive Series rerelease of IG-88, so you won't have too many issues getting him to stand up. The elbows bend, there are lots of rotating parts, but you'll note the head isn't a perfect match to IG-11.  Things are moved a bit.   It's different.   Does it matter?  For the collector line that's supposed to be as authentic as it gets, I'm not a big fan of shortcuts - but this is where we are now.  Shorter lead times and lax approvals (which we've had under Lucasfilm for a while) allow for more inaccuracies, and when fans bring them up we'll probably get an eyeroll.   It's good enough, and I'm willing to bet all of us can agree to that.  It's not amazing.  It isn't bad.  But if you have a plain IG-88 already, even though this may be better painted and a little closer to IG-11, I wouldn't necessarily recommend you buy both.  If you've got one, you're probably going to be fine - unless you're crossing your fingers for a third-party upgrade kit, which I assume will be coming sooner or later from somebody.

Collector's Notes: I got mine from Best Buy.  

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,675: March 24, 2020

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,674: R6-LE5 (Droid Factory Line Look)

R6-LE5 Not R5-D4
Droid Factory The Rise of Skywalker Boxed Set
Item No.:
  No. 41342
Manufacturer: Disney
Number: n/a
Includes: 3 more droid figures, D-O clear base
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $29.99
Availability: October 2019
Appearances: The Rise of Skywalker

Bio: All different types of Astromech droids populate the Star Wars galaxy.  Each droid is different and has their own unique personality and colors.   These four new Astromech droids are featured in The Rise of Skywalker.   May the Force be with you... and your Droids!  (Taken from the figure's packaging.)
Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Amazon now!

Commentary:  If you liked R2-SHP, then R6-LE5 is more of that.  The same color and body are here, but the dome is different - the unique R6 shape has been added to the same, admittedly nice, droid form.  The metallic blue sparkles, and the silver and black with a light dusting of grey do make for a figure that pops in almost any diorama.

The black central eye is augmented by a white circle, a couple of red boxes, and some minimal detailing on the back.  It's pretty simple, but the shape is good enough that you probably won't notice.  The plastic metallic swirl does most of the heavy lifting in terms of bringing this figure to life, which gives it a look that's probably more metallic than if it were actual metal.  Articulation is standard modern Droid Factory fare, with removable legs and dome.  You get about five moving parts in all, with the exposed mechanisms under the dome all matching blue.  We've slid a bit since Hasbro started doing these, silver and other colors under the dome really did add a lot of detail while bringing these to "life" as real fake space appliances.   At least the BB unit cores still have some color... and a few colors of paint for added interior detail.

It'd be great if this figure wasn't nearly identical to another figure in the very same set, but given the asking price it's not exactly terrible - even if you consider D-O a freebie.   If you can find this set, I'd say it's well worth the $30, and if you were buying individual figures some fans split up on eBay this one is particularly nifty given its colors and distinctive dome.  It doesn't do anything your dozens (hundreds) of other droids don't, though, so don't feel too bad if you missed it.

Collector's Notes: I got mine from my pal Shannon.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,674: March 19, 2020