Thursday, May 16, 2024

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 3,134: Battle Droid (The Retro Collection)

BATTLE DROID
with Non-removable Backpack

The Retro Collection 3 3/4-Inch Action Figure Target 6-Pack
Item No.:
No. G0370
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Blaster with Queen Amidala, Jar Jar Binks, Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Maul, and Obi-Wan Kenobi
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $59.99
Availability: March 2024
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: The Star Wars Retro Collection is inspired by 1970s Star Wars figures and features original figure design and detailing! Continue your collection from the galaxy far, far away! (Stolen from the marketing copy. Packaging has no bio.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at eBay now!

Commentary:
Sometimes a retro figure looks a lot like a regular figure - take the Battle Droid. At first glance, it looks like any of a number of figures put out by Hasbro around the turn of the century, many of which had more articulation. This one stands out with sturdier, thicker limbs, no knee or elbow joints, and a distinctive pose that actually gives him some personality. You also lose a removable backpack, but depending on how you see Kenner figures, that's something that may be a good creative decision.

I'll give away my overall opinion by saying I'm annoyed that this figure is in a $60 gift set, as I'd love to buy another one or two. (Maybe Hasbro can repaint it later.) A lot of fans forget that a lot of old Kenner figures had poses with personality, including bent arms or hands that look like maybe they were posed to push a button on a panel. The Battle Droid keeps both hands able to grip things, but the sculptors made a good decision to twist the right wrist and bend the elbow so he can look like he's gesturing and telling you that you're not authorized to go there. This sets the design apart from a lot of modern figures who just stand there with their arms at their sides, which is never quit as interesting. His pose is mostly upright, but that's typical for this kind of robot - and probably why it looks so much like existing "modern" figures. He's hard to get wrong.

The details are pretty good, a little less intense than Hasbro's other droids but all the major elements are all there. You can see little ridges and joints (that are cosmetic), and the head has some mold seams that I assume weren't intentional, but certainly add to the old-ness of the design. His head now turns at the base of the neck only, so be careful - you don't want to torque the head off the neck. I don't know if this design would hold up to kids playing with it, but hey - that's never going to happen, is it? In the hands of collectors it should be fine.

In the movies and previous figures, we saw Battle Droids with removable backpacks - Kenner never sold a figure with a removable backpack. (Some accessory packs with backpacks did, however, exist.) Hasbro 2024 opted to co-opt the backpack designs of 1979, fusing the backpack to the body with some hand-waving, rounding it off and making for a thicker torso. I think this is the right idea - we saw similar design cues in Dengar and the Rebel Commander, but the connective tissue was refined as time went on. The Battle Droid has tiny antenna and a rounded-off look that seems unfinished, or perhaps made from memory - which is how a lot the Cantina Aliens of 1979 were made. I think going with how the Rebel Commander backpack made it look more like a separate element than part of the body would be a better looking choice, but the weirder choice is certainly more interesting (if intentional.) If you told me the idea was to make something Kenner might have designed before the original Star Wars line, I think I'd believe you - it's wrongness feels a little right.

It's always a little jarring to have Retro figures that have modern touches (hands that can grip the blaster well) and things that seem primitive (backpack), but it works for me. It's different enough from a standard figure that I can say "hey, that's interesting" even if I can't say "hey, that seems worth the ten bucks." Hasbro made freebie Battle Droids as substitutes for CommTech chips in some non-English speaking markets in the 1990s... and this is about that good, with similar articulation. And let's be honest, probably why the entire set is $60, unlike $72 or more like some of the other retro 6-packs we've seen. I like this figure for what it is - quirky, fun, sturdy - but odds are its pose isn't "retro" enough to please purists and anyone who has an MTT full of Battle Droids already doesn't need another one. Recommended for retro enthusiasts... unless this set goes on clearance, in which I say don't buy it at all, just leave it at the store so I can buy more of them.

Collector's Notes: I got my set from Target. It was in a pile of stuff on the "Collectibles" shelves without any real indication as to where it should have been.

--Adam Pawlus



Day 3,134: May 16, 2024

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 3,133: Queen Amidala (The Retro Collection)

QUEEN AMIDALA
with Better Articulation than the 2000 Figure

The Retro Collection 3 3/4-Inch Action Figure Target 6-Pack
Item No.:
No. G0370
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Battle Droid, Jar Jar Binks, Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Maul, and Obi-Wan Kenobi
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $59.99
Availability: March 2024
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: The Star Wars Retro Collection is inspired by 1970s Star Wars figures and features original figure design and detailing! Continue your collection from the galaxy far, far away! (Stolen from the marketing copy. Packaging has no bio.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at eBay now!

Commentary:
I had low expectations for Queen Amidala and turned out to be quite impressed. This is probably the most marketed image of the character from the movie's time in theaters 25 years ago, and while we got dolls and toys at Taco Bell, we did not get an action figure until the following year. That Power of the Jedi Queen Amidala (Theed Invasion) [FOTD #3] was more or less a salt shaker with arms, but it was a nice sculpt and a decent looking figure. She couldn't sit, which meant there wasn't a great figure to sit in the throne in the Royal Starship... until now!

Unlike many, many incarnations of the figure, this Queen Amidala can actually sit. The designer of this figure - and if the same person did the others, well, oops - seemed to study the specific elements of actual old figures and incorporate some of them. For example, her left hand can't actually hold anything - much like a lot of Kenner-era Leia figures. The right hand could, but no accessory is included. The legs swing forward really well, and the tabard bends a little - now that's something I don't think Kenner would have done, but the sculpted detail on the leg interiors is something I really dig. You can see rolling fabric, just like the legs on the original mail-away Anakin Skywalker action figure. The eyes and make-up look great, and all of the details are not necessarily beautiful, but mutated. This figure's tabard is all gold, while the previous one was mostly red, and the movie costume was red with gold detailing. Getting it a little bit wrong is trademark Kenner, so I think it worked nicely here.

Sculpted details are pretty good - as usual, the body is a little botoxed with smoothed-out pleats and wrinkles, plus a narrower footprint that can fit in some vehicles. The arms are bowed out a tiny bit in a way I don't quite love, but that's not unusual with modern retro-style figures. The most unusual design element is that she has a collar around her neck, above her shoulders, attached to her tabard. It's sort of like a reverse cape, and is quite clever. I can't name any old figures I've had with quite this sort of bib, though, although figures have had belts or actual cloth aprons. I assume if Kenner did this in the 1970s, it might have been made sort of like a vinyl cape, perhaps Bespin Gown Leia's as it had a printed pattern on it. This solution looks a lot better, and gives the figure a lot more to do than just stand there like a chess piece.

Amidala doesn't quite have the posture of an old-school Kenner figure, nor does she have any sort of real "motion" in her pose like some figures, but she does a better job getting closer to it than a lot of other new guys. Kenner would never have had the hair hanging down the back, or the necktie, but I like thinking that maybe they would have done it this way eventually. She's lighter on sculpted detail with softened sculpted detail compared to a real vintage Kenner figure, but you know what? She's good. If she were an individually sold release I'd recommend picking her up at twelve bucks, and she's my new favorite figure from this set so far. I'd say that I like this figure so much I'd love to see them do a few more, but I can't imagine they'd do an Anakin or C-3PO or Darth Sidious at this point. I can dream, though.

Collector's Notes: I got my set from Target. It was in a pile of stuff on the "Collectibles" shelves without any real indication as to where it should have been.

--Adam Pawlus



Day 3,133: May 14, 2024

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 3,132: Qui-Gon Jinn (The Retro Collection)

QUI-GON JINN
Just The Way He Was Never Intended!

The Retro Collection 3 3/4-Inch Action Figure Target 6-Pack
Item No.:
No. G0370
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Lightsaber, plus Battle Droid, Jar Jar Binks, Queen Amidala, Darth Maul, and Obi-Wan Kenobi
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $59.99
Availability: March 2024
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: The Star Wars Retro Collection is inspired by 1970s Star Wars figures and features original figure design and detailing! Continue your collection from the galaxy far, far away! (Stolen from the marketing copy. Packaging has no bio.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at eBay now!

Commentary:
I feel that there's a sliding scale with retro figures - almost none of these feel like they could have existed in the 1980s due to their posture and texture, but sometimes there are elements that feel right out of 1980. Qui-Gon Jinn absolutely feels that way. I would have loved to live in a world where Hasbro made one with a vinyl cape and telescoping lightsaber (because being from a prequel, it should look older than the 1978 figures.) What we got was a figure with cloth Jedi robes and a non-telescoping lightsaber, which is what we saw around 1983 - but the figure's texture is too smooth for 1983, as Kenner was putting subtle changes on its many figures.

Old Kenner figures were usually pretty on-model or wildly divergent. Luke looked more or less like what you might expect, Leia did the best they could with the engineering of the day, and I don't think there's anyone who can explain what was going on with R2-D2. Qui-Gon Jinn looks like a really high-quality knock-off with hints of the 1980s peppered throughout. The most authentically "old" detail is his left hand, which is a little more like the claw we saw on 1978 Luke. Can you cram an accessory in it? Sure - but it's not a "gripping hand," like the right hand. The robes mostly look like someone copied the reference photos well, except for the belt. In the movie (and most toys) the dark brown belt usually hangs a tiny bit higher, with some of the tan belt hanging below it. Here, the dark brown belt hangs a little low and it immediately struck me as just not looking correct. His boots look more or less like other action figure boots, but have that weird, not-quite-puffy rounded detailing that modern Hasbro Retro figures sport but old Kenner figures did not. You probably won't notice, but it really is one of those subtle "this isn't right" things that fans over 40 will see and are less likely to accept.

The head sculpt has an example of modern toy companies working around old limitations. The hair is a separately molded chunk in the back - old Kenner figures rarely had long hair or ponytails. In the case of Boushh, they just dropped Leia's braid entirely. Qui-Gon has a glued-in piece and while it does look sloppy, "sloppy" is how such a thing would probably look in the 1980s. The eyes don't quite feel right for the era, and the beard looks arguably too good. General Madine may be the most prominent beard in Kenner-dom, and Qui-Gon's looks too realisitc. Not that it needs to look weird, but sometimes weird is right with these old figures. The head also isn't particularly glossy, which hurts the old-ness a bit.

A green lightsaber that's just like Jedi Luke's is what one should expect, but the Jedi Robes - included with Qui-Gon but not Obi-Wan Kenobi - are also arguably too good for a retro figure. The hood sits well on the head, the texture is good, the feel is nice... Hasbro really struggled with cloth Jedi robes with sleeves when we started to get them regularly. This seems refined, which is odd - but also Kenner was pretty good about getting hats and hoods to fit, and most figures could fit in the appropriate vehicles. It makes sense that this would be just fine.

The figure's articulation is good, but I'm not buying the posture. The arms and legs swing forward well, and the long robes cut as leg joints do have a precedent. If you have a Hoth Han Solo or Bespin Princess Leia, their garments hang below the belt and above the knees, so this is more or less how it should look. The legs swing forward with little fuss, and the neck can turn without snapping off his long hair. That's more of a modern innovation, and I can't think of an old Kenner figure from the Star Wars era with long hair over his shoulders. Maybe I'm forgetting somebody. In terms of functionality, I would say it's appropriately retro with the quality-of-life improvements we got when Hasbro said "hey, we can use flexible plastic and the thumbs won't snap on our G.I. Joe figures." This is a good thing, even if it's not necessarily authentic to the era.

You can choose to like this figure for what it is - a licensed figure that looks like it could stand on a shelf with other old figures - or bag on it for not hiring an actual original gangster sculptor, and was probably sculpted digitally, and was spit out of a factory who doesn't grok that Kenner's old figures had good, crisp details - just not as much detail as a modern figure. For about $10, given what I assume to be a limited audience (the Venn Diagram of "People who love Episode I" and "People who love Kenner Action Figures" might be me and about 40 other people in total), it's this or nothing. I don't think someone like Stan Solo was ever going to crank one out, and I don't know that a Super7 or other company that trades in 3 3/4-inch retro figures would (in today's marketplace) come up with something that captures the tough-to-define posture and pose of those original figures. Having said that, I'd rather the original Episode I figures be posed and jointed like this so they could more easily fit in vehicles. It's good for what it is (a modern take on retro) and I can't argue the price.

Collector's Notes: I got my set from Target. It was in a pile of stuff on the "Collectibles" shelves without any real indication as to where it should have been.

--Adam Pawlus



Day 3,132: May 9, 2024

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 3,131: Jar Jar Binks (The Retro Collection)

JAR JAR BINKS
Just The Way He Was Never Intended!

The Retro Collection 3 3/4-Inch Action Figure Target 6-Pack
Item No.:
No. G0370
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Blaster, plus Battle Droid, Qui-Gon Jinn, Queen Amidala, Darth Maul, and Obi-Wan Kenobi
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $59.99
Availability: March 2024
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: The Star Wars Retro Collection is inspired by 1970s Star Wars figures and features original figure design and detailing! Continue your collection from the galaxy far, far away! (Stolen from the marketing copy. Packaging has no bio.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at eBay now!

Commentary:
After other recent (and good!) figures of this character, I would not have expected to buy another Gungan. But in The Retro Collection, all things are possible and I got Jar Jar Binks. I would love nothing more than to take a crack at writing a story about him in a post-Empire world, but that's not likely to happen. What is likely to happen is me taking this figure to a bunch of vehicles to see if he'll fit, and thanks to his very long legs it's a mixed bag. He can fit in a Landspeeder or CAP-2 or even (shockingly) the AST-5, but his feet bump into the cannon of the MTV-7 which for some reason still remains on my desk to this day. I don't think that's a failing on anybody's part, he's just a really tall dude.

When translating any new design to the classic Kenner style, it's tough to say if Hasbro did a good job, or not. I think they did a bang-up job of making a good retro-style action figure, but the question we always have to ask is "but when was this figure made?" Is Hasbro tackling the design of a figure that could have came out in 1978 or 1983 or 1985? Usually figures are a pastiche of styles, cribbing details from each era to put something out that's something of an anachronism. For example, Jar Jar's ears being sculpted as big separate pieces is something I don't think you would have seen until 1983 or much later, but the legs having the sculpted "skirt" (and not a cloth one like the 1983 Klaatu figure) is something you could have seen as far back as 1978. The eye are perfectly 1978-ish, but the gripping hand is way better than anything we got in those days. His hands are almost modern, or at least, 1990s-style in terms of how well they grip the Battle Droid blaster. He stands and sits well, like most old figures, and I don't think any modern (read: late Millennial or younger) customer is going to have a problem with it seeming like something really, really old people had as a kid. You know, 40s, 50s, people who have one foot in the grave.

The coloring seems a tiny bit off, and that's where I think Hasbro rightly zagged where Kenner would also have zagged. His skin is molded in dark pink with a light beige for the mouth, nose, and ears - in their position I would have molded in cream and painted pink, but it works well and I don't see any blemishes. Hasbro opted to not include the skin pattern, but most interestingly the colors on Jar Jar figures tend to change a bit. In the movie, his shirt was more of a darker brown, and the vest was often a little darker too. This one has a lighter vest with a lighter brown pants and shirt - it's not as wacky as Walrus Man or Greedo or Hammerhead but it is off-model just enough for me to say "good job." He looks like Jar Jar Binks, but isn't perfect. That's what I want to see here.

Oddly, his hands are pretty much perfect - there's a separately molded trigger finger, which is not the kind of thing you saw from Kenner very much. You might have had fingers wrapped around in a closed loop, but this sort of thing wasn't typical until the 1990s. Also the left hand is interesting in that it's "broken," rotated so it can't hold a weapon and once again looking like something that came out of the 1990s. I can't quite tell what the design decision was here, but it really does seem like a heavily watered-down and somehow better figure than the staff-holding version we got in May of 1999.

Hasbro could've made a $17 (or $25) deluxe Jar Jar Binks in Vintage and it probably would have been great - but this goofball is also really fun. Sure he doesn't have the painted detail we got in 1999, but that's the point. He's a goofy salamander that looks sort of like he might fit in with your old Jabba's Palace or Cantina aliens. I think this is a great way to make me care about some figures I didn't think I would want to buy, and I'd recommend you pick this one up if you liked Kenner toys. Also if anyone out there from Hasbro is reading, consider a wave of Retro dudes for the next Star Wars movie's pre-release line. Don't wait 25 years - off-model figures made from preproduction designs are a blessing in the Kenner line, save authenticity for post-release The Vintage Collection figures.

Collector's Notes: I got my set from Target. It was in a pile of stuff on the "Collectibles" shelves without any real indication as to where it should have been.

--Adam Pawlus



Day 3,131: May 7, 2024

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 3,130: Darth Maul (The Retro Collection)

DARTH MAUL
Just The Way He Was Never Intended!

The Retro Collection 3 3/4-Inch Action Figure Target 6-Pack
Item No.:
No. G0370
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Lightsaber, plus Battle Droid, Qui-Gon Jinn, Queen Amidala, Jar Jar Binks, and Obi-Wan Kenobi
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $59.99
Availability: March 2024
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: The Star Wars Retro Collection is inspired by 1970s Star Wars figures and features original figure design and detailing! Continue your collection from the galaxy far, far away! (Stolen from the marketing copy. Packaging has no bio.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at eBay now!

Commentary:
A few years ago I was pondering if Kenner-flavored prequel figures would be cool, and now we've got Darth Maul just before the 25th anniversary of The Phantom Menace He was the first one I'd want to see in this style - but Diamond Select Toys made a Jumbo 12-inch Kenner figure too... and I think they designed it better. Diamond's had sharper detailing, a better head, a vinyl cape, but had a not-so-retro lightsaber with a silver hilt. Hasbro opted to make soft details with very few painted tattoo markings, a different pose, and arms that were, sadly, too big to fit in the Sith Infiltrator vehicle we got about 18 years ago.

If there's one thing that's increasingly clear to me about Retro figures, is that they would be massively popular if these things could be released before the movie or TV show. With rough details, they would be the ultimate "sneak preview" figures. If they're off-model or generally wrong? That's OK.

Maul is a really tough nut to crack for true Kenner styling - after all, what do you emphasize? Do you pretend it's pre-1977 and give him early details like a vinyl cape or telescoping lightsaber? Or do you pretend Kenner never stopped doing Kenner-style figures, and make something that may look more like a 1990s release? This figure doesn't seem to hit any specific era with its massive 1980-style lightsaber hilt with two blades, the pre-1984 clean cut slice in the pants without any flowing fabric detail, and a head that has horns that somehow look better than the 1999 figure and facial tattoos that, I must say, don't do it for me. It's pretty close, but I don't know how Kenner would have done either the face or the make-up. It's just a lot more red and a lot less sharp angles than I expected.

In terms of functionality, it's pretty great - the aforementioned Sith Infiltrator ship from Hasbro has a few quirks and a small cockpit that was designed around jointed knees and smaller arms, so this one can sit in it - but you can't close the cockpit. He can sit, though, so break out the mini-rigs because his range of motion is excellent and he doesn't have any obstructions. They did a good job there, and he can holt the lightsaber better than most real Kenner figures. His pose is also pretty great, with a right hand slightly rotated to give him a slightly more dynamic shelf presence than most modern Hasbro incarnations of Kenner sculpts. I think they got that completely right.

He's also rather tall - Liam Neeson's a big dude and so are his figures, but Ray Park is a little short. Their Retro figures are about the same size. That seems like an OG Kenner move, were there wasn't a massive rift between the shorties and the Wookiees like we get with modern figures.

I'm less enamored with the actual robe sculpting - it seems unfinished, and is missing a certain sense of the weight or detail of an actual old figure. I would love grooves on the face for the tattoos (Klaatu had some real texture), and a chest that has some better layering. I'm not saying I could do any better, but it would be nice to have the lower torso area a smidgen more rounded so the legs swing forward more easily. It's good, but it could be just barely better - or, most fans won't notice and won't care because they will never open this one. But we will. I love how it feels as a toy - all the parts move more or less as expected and it feels like something you believe could have existed in the past.

As a bundle I assume this set is going to be destined for a sale unless the run was particularly low - that's no criticism of the set, I just don't think people going to Target are going to see a weird block box with no visible figures and drop $60 unless they are big believers in the format. I bought it at full price because I want to see more of these, and Hasbro's not making too many figures per year and the prices are generally on the fair side. Collector's Notes: I got my set from Target. It was in a pile of stuff on the "Collectibles" shelves without any real indication as to where it should have been.

--Adam Pawlus



Day 3,130: May 2, 2024

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 3,129: Jannah (The Black Series)

JANNAH
Really, Really Cheap Now

The Black Series 6-Inch Action Figure
Item No.:
Asst. E4071 No. E6055
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: #98
Includes: Cape, blaster, quiver, bow, arrow, arrow group
Action Feature: Working holster, arrow fits in bow or quiver
Retail: $19.99 Availability: October 2019 Appearances: The Rise of Skywalker

Bio: From an oceanic moon, Jannah leads a band of warriors, ready to charge against the forces of the First Order. (Taken from the box packaging.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

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

Click here to buy it at Amazon now!

Click here to buy it at eBay now!

Commentary:
Looking at a figure like Jannah with the gift of hindsight is peculiar - I had her sitting for almost five years before opening the box. I didn't exactly have a great time with The Rise of Skywalker, so a lot of the 6-inch figures just sort of sat unopened. That's not a knock on their quality - Hasbro did a great job outfitting Jannah with a lot of gear and articulation, plus she has that superior face printing technology from when it was still relatively new. I assume a figure of this quality would be "deluxe" by today's standards, given how much stuff they pack in the box - with paint! - for the price. And now it's worth less than half of what it cost, I assume in part because the sequels left people feeling pretty much done and then The Mandalorian was on. This is an ambitious figure with plenty going on, but since she didn't exactly have a great role in the last movie you can get her on the cheap now.

After opening her, I was impressed by the level of paint and articulation - and noticed that my sample had a missing paint operation. The glove on her right hand should have paint on the forearm, my sample was left undecorated. But she has red sandals, blue pants, silver armor on her torso and left arm, painted goggles, a painted face, plus black, white, gold, and silver bits. And a cape which is oddly clear plastic painted brown, which gives it an incredible texture in most light. It looks a little strange when backlit, I admit, but so did my friend's mom's intestine sculptures. And I assume this is some sort of skin cape.

I don't know that the figure was made after final casting was done - the level of detail is incredible, but the face isn't quite perfect, and the belt and some of the gear is not tilted the same as the publicity shots. It might be nothing, but you may have heard the legends of General Madine's beard. It's a nice sculpt. The hair is big and looks cool. The goggles look like something out of Rogue One and her pants are not unlike what we saw on Rey... but in terms of costuming, it really does feel like the modern era of Lucasfilm had lots of designs and pulled them out at random as needed. This figure would be right at home in a Rogue One shelf if you didn't know her from the final sequel film. The goggles and arm decor could probably have worked just fine in a Partisan stronghold. The elbow cuts are a little weird, but get the job done - plus she has double-jointed knees. This was around the end of when they were doing those, as they would be phased out in most new sculpts around 2020. Also notable, she has a mid-torso joint that's completely hidden by her silver belt and bandolier thing. That is how you hide articulation.

The range of movement is mostly great, the shoulders don't have quite the range of some other figures of this vintage but she can hold her bow and arrow. And blaster! It's really hard to get anything to sling over her back though, as her cape needs to be removed and the head does not want to come off without a fight (or heat.) As such, it's kind of a pain - but you've got options and you don't have to make use of the many, many accessories you got in the box.

There are some pretty unsightly gaps around her bottom and her elbows when those joints swing forward, but other than that? It's a decent action figure. It's by no means perfect, but you got a lot for your money, and I would have preferred a slightly better head. And maybe the belt and stuff being tilted right. But that's sometimes as good as you can get when the figure comes out at roughly the same time as the movie, but I don't recall her (or many of the new movie figures) flying off the shelves. Heck, even her wavemate Cara Dune sat a while until... you know. I'm curious if we'll ever get another Jannah, or if she'll show up in the alleged Rey movie, but if she doesn't you can just be impressed her single arrow can fit through a little plastic tube on the bow and look like she's about to launch it. As I pretty much memory holed The Rise of Skywalker and have been putting off a second viewing since 2019, I am not sure if this figure is going to stay out on display. I'd recommend it as being a decent figure for the asking price, but especially if you're fond of the newer films and the future eras of Star Wars. Just don't pay full retail for this one, the eBay prices are incredibly low.

Collector's Notes: I got mine from Entertainment Earth

--Adam Pawlus


Day 3,129: April 30, 2024

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 3,128: Darth Vader (Epic Hero Series)

DARTH VADER New Kids Line
Epic Hero Series Basic Figure
Item No.:
Asst. F9405 No. G0100
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Cape, lightsaber
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $9.99
Availability: January 2024
Appearances: Obi-Wan Kenobi
Bio: Seduced by the dark side of the Force, Sith Lord Darth Vader led the Empire's eradication of the Jedi Order (Taken from the packaging)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

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

Click here to buy it at Amazon now!

Click here to buy it at eBay now!

Commentary:
Look - they can't all be amazing and fun. I'm pretty open to new things, toy things, kid things, things for that ever-growing class of toy collectors who seem to be ashamed of buying toys for children. I want to see stuff that is the very best example of what it can be in my toys, be it a perfectly-executed gimmick, an amazing sculpt, or a figure that's satisfyingly made to fit in a pilot's seat. This Darth Vader exists in a unique spot where you can go down the checklist of the things it does well, while not arriving at a satisfying finale. The same is true for most Darth Vader figures - there are some good ones, but think about it - how many were truly great figures that can stand, sit, be posed properly, with a correct lightsaber, good deco, and capes that don't get in the way? There really weren't many - quite a few get the job done, to some extent, and I would say my all-time favorite one was the 30th Anniversary Collection Darth Vader [FOTD 1,163] from 2007 (and 2006.) 

We've seen better sculpting, but for its time and place 2006-2007 figures satisfied fans of all ages with a good accessory, a nice gimmick, robes that just plain worked, and tip-top articulation featuring legs you could swing forward and it didn't have that weird codpiece that would flip up sometimes when he sits. There's so much going on right with that figure that it was easy to take for granted, and people hand-wave away things like sometimes getting the hilt wrong (I've done this) or heads falling off (you know who you are.) This new figure excels in no specific way. It is mid. Not Mid, the kid from Final Fantasy V, but middling. The other figures in this line show signs of refinement. Not Darth Vader. (Also not the Stormtrooper.)

I should make an aside to tell you that this Darth Vader appears to be based on his appearance in Obi-Wan Kenobi, which makes him the only figure in this entire line to date that comes from a timeline before the first movie from 1977. How can you tell? The gloves are the ones with the horizontal ribbing across the hands, rather than parallel to the arms. You'll see those in Rogue One and Star Wars as well. The other tell is that his shoulder region does not have his robes draped over it, but rather, under it. In the two aforementioned movies, the robes are on top. This combination of robes below the armor with these gloves is unique to this series, although Disney has used it in spots since 2019 (if not earlier) despite it not having appeared anywhere yet. I'm nitpicky.

His pedal extremities really are colossal. Darth Vader has unusually big feet, yet has problems standing - the center of gravity is off, the capes do him no favors. The other figures in this line are easy to pick up, pose, and place on a table. Vader may stumble over - the only figure in this line to do so. You really have to get his arm out front just-so in order for him to not flop over backward, which is really an upsetting thing if you're a child and this is your favorite bad guy. You can swing his arms and legs forward, but the cape is cut oddly - like some of the ForceLink-era figures - with odd cuts that may help him squeeze in a ship, but there's no ship in this scale as of yet. So what's the point? The figure has no ship, no playset, no action feature - is his purpose merely to be collected? Does he need to exist? He fills a space in an assortment and no doubt makes people in suits who make decisions happy, but there's a lack of creativity here that stings a big, especially after over 60 Darth Vader figures from Hasbro alone.

Darth Vader's sculpt is mostly great. The detail doesn't get lost at all (like spots in 2022's The Retro Collection Darth Vader [FOTD 2,961], which had some pretty soft gloves and underdefined helmet detail. The factory made this figure sharp - which I assume means a lack of understanding what "Retro" really means, and some nice work on the toolmasters here. The quilted sleeves look good, and the armor is shiny. The helmet seems assembled off-center, with the crest on the top not quite lining up with the nose - also the lenses aren't painted here. Numerous chest details are left off, as are some elements on his belt. Hasbro also integrated the wrist sockets to snap in accessories from other figures, and thanks to the design and coloring they blend right in.

I'm not fond of the cape, either - it's kind of a hassle to get the peg lined up in his back, but once you get it in there it is sturdy. If it were a bit longer it could help prop him up without having to balance him exactly perfectly. The lightsaber feels short, but isn't - it might just be an illusion from his size, and the decision to make the hilt silver rather than all black or silver with black highlights. It seems wrong - no doubt to keep costs low, which I can appreciate, but it's not going to win him any beauty contests.

While Mando and Ahsoka were largely well-executed affairs in Epic Hero Series, doing what they should do without any real caveats, Darth Vader seems like a bad first handshake to this new line. I could see this figure turning off fans from buying more, not because it is terrible but because it's just below average enough to throw off the curve. I would say this is my least favorite figure in the entire line, and experiencing it in 2024 certainly made me think back to all of the Darth Vader figures. So many of them do interesting or weird things, but I don't think any of them was a favorite toy. I would invite Hasbro to try Darth Vader again, perhaps as a deluxe with an interrogation droid or some sort of wrist-mounted Force blast, with the goal of making a figure who could fit in a ship with no problems and who can stand without fuss. Also with a centered helmet - mine might be a special case, but I can't un-see it. I would nudge you toward the other, non-Imperial figures from the first wave as places to start.

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

--Adam Pawlus



Day 3,128: April 25, 2024

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 3,127: CZ Series Communications Droid (Gold, Droid Factory)

CZ SERIES COMMUNICATION DROID Gold with Silver Head Highlights
Star Tours Droid Factory Customizable Figure
Item No.:
???
Manufacturer: Disney?
Number: n/a
Includes: n/a
Action Feature: Removable limbs
Retail: $12.95
Availability: April 2017
Appearances: n/a
Bio: The CZ-series communications/business droid was a droid series produced by Serv-O-Droid, Inc. The CZ-series was released as Serv-O-Droid began to wane in its position as a dominant droid manufacturer. (Stolen from Wookieepedia.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at eBay now!

Commentary: I don't deny that as I get older I take the hobby for granted a bit, but I still get excited by some things. The Gold CZ Series Communication Droid is fun because it's unique. There are so many figures we get these days where you can pick it up and say it's a lot like a figure you already own, but not this one. While Hasbro has done a CZ-4 droid, that was an oddity - Disney did them in other colors and they made some interesting choices along the way. This gold version uses the same parts as the other Disney droids I plucked from the bins, with very limited paint.

Articulation would be excellent for 2008 - but this figure came out in 2017, so swivel hips and shoulders were a little old-fashioned at that point in time. Swivel wrists are fine, and bend-and-swivel wrists, knees, and elbows made it a decent figure. The neck swivels, and there's a nice pivoting waist joint. While a new figure could add articulation, these droids work well as being slightly stiff. Anthony Daniels and the other performers had severely hindered movements, so figures that can't sit easily make some degree of sense. The hips only swing forward about 45 degrees, and you don't need a protractor to measure the disappointment. Unless you just want him standing around, in which case he's perfect.

As the CZ droids are known mostly from their filthy on-screen appearances, a shiny non-vac gold finish brings out a lot of detail and ribbing you don't normally see. What's particularly amusing is that the details look more like something out of the 1960s - if this came out of Mel Birnkrant's sketchbooks, it would fit in with other midcentury droids. The ribbing on the torso and arms really stand out nicely, and I wish we could see more of this figure so customizers could fill in those chest panels like some sort of stained glass window. It's a nice, angular, weirdly blocky look that would be right at home with any of a number of toys that predate The Transformers. If this were in Adventure People, I guarantee you that the toy snobs would be telling you how great it is and how you're a monster for not having one next to your Opticon.

Deco is light, but good. The figure has a painted midriff that you probably won't notice thanks to the chest hanging over the painted colorful wires, but at least it's there. Disney went the extra mile by painting black dots for his eyes plus subtle silver detail around the face like a mask. It's really striking, and very un-Star Wars-y. Given the dogmatic adherence to classic designs in the Disney era, I'm absolutely delighted that once on a while, we get a figure that looks like it might not necessarily have come out of the same old design aesthetic. This is fancy.

Looking on eBay, very few come up for sale and he's about forty bones if you can find one. The sick thing is that I should be decrying this as highway robbery for a figure you had to assemble yourself, but we live in an era of $17 Hasbro figures. Is $40 outrageous for a figure that had a $100 cover charge, parking fees, and possibly an airline ticket or rental car involved? Probably not. I don't have to like the price, but this is absolutely one of the most charming gold and silver droids you can get that look like it came from an unlicensed fan film you never saw. If you have a chance to get it at a fair price, failing to do so is a mistake on your part.

Collector's Notes: I got mine from Disney Hollywood Studios. Thanks Shannon!

--Adam Pawlus


Day 3,127: April 23, 2024

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 3,126: The Mandalorian (The Book of Boba Fett, The Retro Collection)

THE MANDALORIAN Kenner Take Three
The Retro Collection 3 3/4-Inch Action Figure
Item No.:
Asst. F6874 No. F8563
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Darksaber, blaster, cape
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $11.99
Availability: December 2023
Appearances: Star Wars: The Book of Boba Fett

Bio: The Star Wars Retro Collection features design and detailing inspired by the original 1970s Star Wars figures and features original figure design and detailing! Continue your collection from a galaxy far, far away. (Stolen from the marketing copy. 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! 

Click here to buy it at eBay now!

Commentary: I was rewatching The Book of Boba Fett last year, and much like anything that came out after 1983 it's something of a guilty pleasure. Episode 5, "Return of The Mandalorian," remains a favorite and I caught myself smiling constantly while watching the unusual protagonist infiltrate a butcher shop, hang out on a ring planet, duel for his honor, build a new car with Jerri Blank, and outrun Appa driving an X-Wing. That's a spectacular hour of television, and to honor it, Hasbro brought back a figure and swapped out an accessory. This new figure has the Darksaber from 2021's Moff Gideon [FOTD #2,821] replacing the Amban rifle from The Mandalorian [FOTD #2,941] from 2022. Considering both figures sell for under retail price now, it will not surprise you that I consider Hasbro blowing one of its precious slots on this to be a massive waste of resources. We could have a Remnant Biker Scout or maybe R5-D4 or something we didn't already own. But I've never seen this wave of The Retro Collection The Book of Boba Fett figures in a store, so does it matter?

It's good. If you have the previous figure, it's the same figure. He's got the same basic detail, and he looks just as good. It would be great to see a shinier, lighter silver armor paint variant, or perhaps a vac-metal take on the figure. The coloring is a little drab, and had they thrown in the Beskar Spear or some other extra I would probably encourage absolutely everybody to buy it. I assume he'll sell if he makes it out to shelves in the wild. The figure's head swivels nicely, the cloth cape hangs a little awkwardly, and all four limbs swing forward nicely. He has the same SKU mark as the previous release, but such is life. Half of this wave is corner-cutting with a variant Tusken, Grogu with a backpack, and Luke with one less accessory.

While he doesn't have a holster loop for blaster storage, Mando does have a sculpted-on rocket pack. He also fits in The Vintage Collection N-1 Starfighter, but it's a tight squeeze.

I complain, but I assume the reuse of parts was done to get the line made. Reusing existing tooling saves money, and having a The Book of Boba Fett wave of Kenner figures - even if it's missing Pelli Moto or a Boba Fett with his post-Hammer pants phase - is still something of an unthinkable miracle. The sculpting is a little soft, but he still looks like something Kenner might have sold us in the late 1980s had Star Wars not burned out in a blaze of $1.00 Droids and Ewoks cartoon figures at Kay-Bee Toys. It pushes my nostalgia buttons, but it's also completely redundant if you've been collecting these as you probably swiped Gideon's Darksaber and handed it to Mando as soon as you had the figure.

While some nonbelievers may disagree, the original Kenner line is what brought most of us here. Hasbro can make fancier, more expensive figures, but they're not always as fun. This is fun. And if you don't already have Mando in a Kenner format, you really ought to snag one. But if you're a carded collector, go ahead and get 'em all.

Collector's Notes: I got mine from Entertainment Earth.  I have yet to see any of this wave in a store.

--Adam Pawlus



Day 3,126: April 18, 2024