Thursday, June 3, 2010

Figure of the Day: Day 1,297: Darth Maul (Jedi Duel)

Episode I Collection 1
Item No.:
Asst. 84085 No. 84088
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Lightsaber, CommTech Chip
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $6.99
Availability: May 1999
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: Evil personified, Darth Maul has been ordered to destroy Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi assigned to protect Queen Amidala. (Taken from the figure's packaging.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' desk.

Commentary: In 1999 this Darth Maul figure was a big deal. Huge. As a matter of fact, I'm fairly confident this was the #1 most hotly anticipated figure from the prequels during their entire run and it was easily Hasbro's best seller of its day. Casepacks were adjusted to increase the quantity of this figure, and word on the street was that some stores even got solid cases of 32 pieces of just this one figure. That's pretty amazing, plus there were a few running changes to keep the still-engaged fans interested. Minor packaging changes incorporated the logo of the company responsible for CommTech, and the figure's own chin was initially pink and was later changed to a more uniform shade of red and black. The inner part of his robes also had darker shades of grey, and some fans did indeed pay premium prices for these minor changes. This was pretty common from 1995 until about 2000, when some figures proved so hard to get that people started being more concerned about getting a complete set than every last version.

People were paying premium prices for just Maul briefly, and even more for specific versions of the packaging or head, but eventually Hasbro caught up with the demand and people started to realize they didn't like Episode I all that much. Before then, Hasbro shipped a ton of this figure, and it seemed the public was quite eager to catch Star Wars fever and started out their collections here. With the standard six points of articulation plus additional wrist and swivel arm joints, this was considered to be about as good as Star Wars figures got in 1999. I mean, 10 points of articulation! What a jump! Most people remembered figures as having 5, so this was genuinely significant even if, by today's standards, the sculpt is a little outdated. People wanted Darth Maul, and while we haven't yet seen Hasbro's best effort on the character (or so I hope), this was a pretty good first attempt at retail.

Collector's Notes: Like most once-valuable figures, this one is pretty worthless today at a couple of bucks, and most sellers aren't remotely interested in the variations. Hasbro has done better, but this one is a neat item as far as the line's history goes. I'd suggest getting one just because it's a uniquely popular piece from the past.

--Adam Pawlus

Day 1,297: June 3, 2010


Ben Carthage said...

I recall that this was THE figure everyone was hoping to score at Celebration I. I can also remember that gluttonous first day of launch for the Episode I figs (something like 32 figs on the same day) and being primarily concerned that somewhere amidst the hunt that I secure one of these guys (in fact I think I bought two). I still love this very first Maul, although I agree we probably have yet to see the 'ultimate definitive' version.

Bravo said...

I got this figure the day after the midnight madness whatever.

Funny, they put Maul's face on the Episode 1 packaging, his figure was a fast seller...and in the film he's almost a non-entity. Sure, sure, peeps love the final lightsaber fight, but before that Maul is all looks, almost no lines, and gets screen less time than a pod race.

Like Jar Jar, Darth Maul was sign that the prequels were gonna be hollow under the hype.

SlickMcFavorite said...

This is the one that started it all for me. On a whim I attended the first Star Wars Celebration in Denver. The TPM hype was in full affect and I hadn't been to a convention since I was kid.

While wandering the seller room I was immediately taken back to my childhood. Vintage Star Wars, Transformers, Joes, I felt like a kid again. Then I saw one of the coolest figures I had ever seen, but he was $20. I asked the guy why he was so expensive and he explained how hard he was to find.

That following Monday I went on what I realize now was my first true run/hunt. I finally found this grail at one of my last stops, a now defunct Kaybee. The feeling of accomplishment was indescribable and the rest is history.