Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 144: Luke Skwalker in X-wing Fighter Pilot Gear

LUKE SKYAWLKER in X-wing Fighter Pilot Gear
Power of the Force Collection
Item No.:
Asst. 69570 No. 69581
Number: n/a
Includes: Lightsaber, Blaster Pistol
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $4.99
Availability: December 1995
Appearances: Empire Strikes Back

Bio: Growing up on the twin-sun planet of Tatooine, Luke Skywalker had always looked tot he stars. He had been told that his father was a great star pilot, and it was clear that the young Luke had inherited some of his skills. In the arid deserts of the Jundland Wastes, Luke and his best friend Biggs Darklighter, would race their T-16 skyhoppers. Tagging womprats in Beggar's Canyon or threading the Stone needle, Luke and Biggs were the best of friends, and daring pilots. Unfortunately, they were separated when Biggs went to the Academy, and Luke was forced to stay behind.

Years later, Luke would be caught up in the Rebellion's fight against the Empire. On the moon of Yavin 4, Luke was pressed into service as a pilot with one of the assault teams that was trying to defend the Rebel base from the Empire's dreaded Death Star battle station. Luke passed flight simulator tests and was awarded a T-65B X-wing fighter, with R2-D2 to fly as his onboard astromech droid. Luke was reunited with his friend Biggs, who was also flying in the mission against the Death Star. Born were members of the X-wing Red Squadron, with Luke serving as Red Five. Dodging TIE fighters in the space battle above the surface of the Death Star, Luke, Biggs, and Wedge Antilles made an attack to run down the Death Star trench. Darth Vader's custom TIE and two TIE fighters dogged them, forcing Wedge to veer away. Biggs was killed, and a remorseful Luke completed his mission alone. With the timely arrival of the Millennium Falcon, Luke's pursuers were scattered. Guided by the Force, Luke fired his proton torpedo into the thermal exhaust port and destroyed the Death Star. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: The toy shelves of Adam Pawlus.

Commentary: Back in 1995, fans were both desperate for new figures and pretty forgiving due to the parade of toy technology that passed since the last "new" figure nearly 10 years earlier. As such, Luke Skywalker in X-wing Fighter Pilot Gear was genuinely impressive when it came out after Christmas in 1995, as it was loaded with paint ops, had a good sculpt, and despite the name, was modeled after the Empire Strikes Back flight suit as seen on Hoth. In short, it was newer than new, and quite spiffy. The figure had six points of articulation-- the line's standard in the early days-- with a non-removable helmet. There's a lot of good texture on the outfit, and the helmet alone had more paint detail than most original vintage action figures did on their whole bodies. Truly, this was an early high point in what would be an incredible figure line, and as such it's a figure that, as a collector, you owe it to yourself to get. If you're trying to keep your collection size down, though, you may wish to skip this version for one of the revised sculpts offered since 2001, but they're pretty similar to this one except for a few torso changes.

Collector's Notes: This figure had its share of variations. There was a packaging variant (look for .00 or .01, this was one of the first figures to popularize the revision numbers), plus a tray variant-- which heralded the weapon variant. The inner plastic tray could hold a short or long lightsaber, and some figures sold during the transition had a short saber in the long tray. As an added bonus, some fans found VERY short lightsabers which were largely considered to be errors. If this weren't enough, in 1997, the short lightsaber version of the figure was again repackaged in the green packaging, and it seems all units shipped with a quasi-sepia foil sticker of Luke on the front of the packaging. Although it is possible later shipments did not have the sticker, the sticker is easily removed so you don't need to make a big fuss about that. (There might be a slanted bubble variant too but I don't much feel like checking at the moment.)

Now, if you found that annoying and hard to follow, consider that variation hunting and tracking this sort of thing down was all the rage up until about 1999. This is why I'm not overly big on reporting every last variant, or collecting them-- you could effectively double or triple the size of your collection from 1995-1998 if you picked up all the major variations.

Day 144: September 27, 2006

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