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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 249: Luke Skywalker (Early Bird Kit)

LUKE SKYWALKER Early Bird Kit
Early Bird Kit Wal-Mart Exclusive
Item No.:
No. 85868
Number: n/a
Includes: Lightsaber blade
Action Feature: Retractable blade in arm
Retail: $29.99
Availability: Summer 2005
Appearances: Star Wars

Bio: Luke Skywalker was the son of Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker and Naboo Senator Padme Amidala, and the older twin brother of Leia Organa Solo. A celebrated pilot, leader, and legendary Jedi Master, Skywalker was most famous for destroying the first Death Star and providing the catalyst for Darth Vader to kill Emperor Palpatine, which led to the eventual downfall of the Galactic Empire and made him the greatest hero of the Alliance to Restore the Republic. (Stolen from Wookieepedia.)

Image: Adam's Early Bird stage.

Commentary: While there a lot of oddities about this figure, it might be more important to focus on what this figure of Luke Skywalker is rather than what it isn't. It's meant to be a throwback to the original 1978 vintage figure, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if Hasbro designers said "well, people are probably going to leave this in the mailer box anyway." To date, it's the only version of Luke from the original film to have a shirt that isn't white-- it's a weird tan color, which may match the illustration on the Early Bird Kit stage well, but it doesn't look like the movie at all and is the one aspect of this figure of which I'm especially critical. It's not hard to get a shirt color right. The overall sculpting is fairly excellent, and it really is a neat update to what was the very first Star Wars figure for thousands of fans. The figure even has the wacky lightsaber-in-the-arm trick, which you either love or hate.

Hasbro designers decided to improve the original figure design with ball jointed shoulders and a waist, but unfortunately, the modern "skirt" piece prevents Luke from doing a lot of sitting. This is a figure that shows designers have a lot of ambition and the ability to try new and interesting things, but at the same time, shows that someone wasn't necessarily doing a lot of thinking when it came time to paint it. Even if this is the color that the design team/marketing/whoever really wanted, it looks weird and not so hot, and leaves the door open for a properly colored repaint on a regular basic figure package down the road.

Collector's Notes: As a mail-in figure, this is a pretty good one. Given that Hasbro went out of their way initially to not bother to tell fans what figures they'd be getting with the modern Early Bird Kit, it seems you could argue that this figure (and the Leia, Chewbacca, and R2-D2 it came with) were made to be substandard releases because the team knew that a lot of people would buy it and send off for it without knowing what would come in the mail. This is, of course, purely speculation. The actual Early Bird Kit sold at Wal-Mart was initially sold only at select Wal-Marts, meaning the half dozen or more I would frequent in Phoenix didn't all stock them-- only the two in the overall oldest areas of town, where they were fairly weak sellers and stuck around for quite some time. There's nothing to confirm this but supposedly the redemption late was low and units remain at Hasbro's distributors waiting for a new home, plus the deadline for the mail-in offer was extended several times in hopes of getting people to buy the kit. It's a pretty safe bet we'll never see an offer like this again, which is a mixed blessing. If Hasbro did a new Early Bird Kit as a "Sneak Preview" offer for, say, the TV series figures, that would be a very compelling thing (if done early enough.) So there you have it-- another bit of nostalgia, recycled and ultimately not quite the hit you might hope for.


Day 249: January 10, 2007

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