Sunday, September 30, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 512: Darktrooper

DARKTROOPER Expanded Universe/Fan's Choice #1
Power of the Force Expanded Universe
Item No.:
Asst. 85205 No. 84753
Number: n/a
Includes: Blaster rifle, Removable Backpack
Action Feature: Positionable jets on pack
Retail: $5.99-$6.99
Availability: December 1998 & September 2007-present
Appearances: Dark Forces, Empire at War, Star Wars Tales

Bio: The goal of the darktrooper project was to create better battle droids. These "super stormtroopers" were used against the Rebels after the Battle of Yavin, but the project came to an end when an Alliance mercenary destroyed the production facility. (Taken from the Saga Legends Cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' TV tray. On the left: 1998 release. On the right: 2007 release.

Commentary: In 1998, Kenner ended its "Kenner Collection"-branded sub-line with a bang bringing fans nine never-before-made characters (and outfits) from the Expanded Universe. The final wave proved to be very difficult to find in many markets, making figures like this Darktrooper nearly instant-collectible status which reduced the discussion on the quality of the figure and changed the focus to "so, who's seen this thing?" Overall, the figure is a perfect example of how figures were in those days, except bigger. The robot has six points, the neck is a little stiff, plus a removable flight pack with shoulder pads that don't always stay put where you want them. He's very tall and very wide, and quite cool to look at. Modern fans and picky fans may not appreciate the limited articulation, but this was the first Star Wars villain and trooper to be made from exclusively video game appearances.

Compared to the 3D renderings from Lucasarts, the figure is pretty much spot on other than the lack of metallic shiny car paint. The armor is big and bulky, the hands are huge, and there's a fair amount of paint coloring to make the figure look a little more menacing, although Hasbro could stand to redecorate the mold to look a little closer to the game appearances and, dare I say it, more "real." It's still quite good and an excellent trooper, and Hasbro can't really improve on the sculpt much outside of making the backpack fit better and adding articulation, so you might as well go out and buy several to torture Rebel forces across the galaxy. Nine years after its release, I finally got my army up to two of them.

Collector's Notes: A personal note: the 1998 Darktrooper was the only modern carded non-exclusive action figure I never, not once, saw in the wilds of retail. (I saw its casemate, the Spacetrooper, once.) For this reason, I'm pretty stoked they brought it back, but both versions are worth snagging. The 1998 POTF2 version has a pop-out display built into its packaging based on a first-person view of Kyle Katarn in the game Dark Forces. As a game collectible nerd and a Star Wars fiend, I consider this to be the absolutely single most awesome pack-in/packaging gimmick ever created by a toy company on any toy line. EVER. (Bring it back, Hasbro.) The 2007 version lacks this pop-up diorama, but it does feature an exclusive gold coin representing the Expanded Universe, showcasing Durge, Aurra Sing, and a third character I have a hard time identifying. It might be Thrawn. Either way, you're going to want the coin, and if you're cool, you want the diorama too. And don't tell me you aren't cool.

The figure was changed slightly between releases: original release's feet say "KENNER CHINA" and "© 1998 LFL" while the new release has "HASBRO CHINA" and "© 2007 LFL." The sculpts are unchanged and the deco is nearly identical-- the 2007 release's paint seems a little smoother, but it could just be our 1998 sample wasn't perfect.

The action figure design (and another toy or two) were seemingly used as models for the Star Wars Tales #4 story "Sand Blasted," in which case a Darktrooper winds up on Tatooine and is battled by some of Jabba's swoop gang members. The cardback of the Saga Legends release features art from this comic.

A final note: the figure's 2007 release has a big sticker on it reading "Fan's Choice #1." What the packaging doesn't tell you is that the figure's status as grand plastic poobah means it was voted as the #1 most-wanted figure in a bracket voting tourney hosted by the mighty Curto at Rebelscum, a fan site that you probably already read at least three times a day. As of now, all releases of the figure include the gold sticker and gold coin, making this the only non-"Ultimate Galactic Hunt" figure to include a gold coin. Oh, and the coin itself is notable because none of the three figures on it are really in circulation outside of Aurra in a Battle Pack rerelease.


Day 512: September 30, 2007

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