Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 25: Luke Skywalker in Imperial Guard Disguise

LUKE SKYWALKER in Imperial Guard Disguise
Shadows of the Empire (Collection 2)
Item No.:
Asst. 69605 No. 69566
Number: n/a
Includes: Taser Staff Weapon, Cape (removable), Helmet (removable)
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $4.99
Availability: Summer 1996

Bio: The Empire's victory in the Battle of Hoth has brought hard times for the Rebel Alliance. Han Solo has been frozen in carbonite by Darth Vader, and two huge bounties have been placed on the head of Luke Skywalker. The Emperor wants him alive, but Prince Xizor, underlord of the most powerful criminal organization in the galaxy, wants him dead. Worse still is that the diabolical Xizor is holding Princess Leia Organa prisoner in his castle on the Imperial Center of Coruscant. This is a tactical maeuver, part of a larger master plan to lure Luke Skywalker into his castle where he can be easily eliminated-- the key step in Xizor's plan to replace Darth Vader at the Emperor's side. unaware of this danger, the young Jedi and Lando Calrissian sneak into Imperial City hoping to rescue Leia. Simply laying foot on Coruscant is a dangerous act for these two: high on the Empire's list of most-wanted outlaws, they could easily be recognized and captured -- or assassinated. Disguising themselves as beggars, they "borrow" the armored uniforms from a pair of elite Coruscant stormtroopers. These troopers are some of the Empire's finest, selected as home guards for the wealthiest and most cultured city in the galaxy. Joining forces with Chewbacca and Dash Rendar, Skywalker and Calrissian attempt to infiltrate Xizor's nearly impenetrable stronghold and rescue the princess. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' display shelves.

Commentary: Kenner shocked us all in 1996 with new figures based on original design work from Kenner and Lucasfilm-- including Luke Skywalker in Imperial Guard Disguise. This figure, complete with removable helmet, was cool because it was a troop builder, a new Luke figure (at the time, the fourth), and custom fodder all in one. (Lando also wore this outfit but never got a figure made of him.) This new figure has the typical 6 points of articulation, a helmet, and a stick-- which, all put together, make for a great figure. While cut from the beefy, poorly articulated cloth of his time, this figure still looks great on a shelf next to everybody else and will bolster your too-small Imperial forces. It truly was a product of its time, aside from the fact that Kenner spared us the horrible neon, spring-loaded rockets, and rotten sculpts that it sold in its other lines at the time. (If you think early Star Wars from 1995-1997 looks odd, go check out Congo, Waterworld, Batman & Robin, and their other movie-based lines at the time. The many Buzz Lightyears available today will look refreshing.)

Anyway, my point is you should get one of these if you claim to be a supporter of the Expanded Universe sub-line of non-film toys. Also, if you missed it, Shadows of the Empire was a 1996 "multimedia event," better known as "warming up the marketing machine for new movies." A novel, soundtrack, comic, Nintendo 64 game, toy line, pop-up book, and making-of book saw production for Shadows but support faded quickly when Kenner confirmed that the single batch of figures, vehicles, and 2-packs were to be it. (Galoob, however, put out a few more products in years to come, in addition to its initial MicroMachines line.) So if you can imagine Clone Wars being much less popular with fewer products and was slightly more reviled by fans, that's what Shadows of the Empire basically was. (I rather dug it for what it aspired to be-- a movie without a movie.)

Collector's Notes: In either late 1995 or early 1996, the working names for these figures got their way into my hands. This one was originally called a "Coruscant Guard," which lead many to speculate it just might be a fancy new term for the Emperor's Royal Guard, which would mean that some of us were expecting something that looked a little more like Kir Kanos. Likewise, Chewbacca as a Bounty Hunter was "Chewbacca in Snoova Disguise," and Snoova was later revealed to be a sort of cyborg Wookiee. The Shadows of the Empire line was the first de facto run of Expanded Universe action figures, bringing to plastic 4 brand new figures for the very first time: this Luke, the aforementioned Chewbacca, Prince Xizor, and Dash Rendar. While not as well-received as Clone Wars, these figures still do have a special place in the heart of collectors and those who are fiends for comics, games, and novels.

Day 25: May 31, 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 24: C-3PO

C-3PO Vintage Original Trilogy Collection
Original Trilogy Collection Vintage Collection
Item No.:
Asst. 85213 No. 85236
Number: n/a
Includes: n/a
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $9.99
Availability: Fall 2004

Bio: C-3PO (also spelled See-Threepio, called Threepio for short) was a protocol droid—a droid specifically designed to interact with organics. Threepio's TranLang III Communicator module combined with his AA-1 VerboBrain allowed him to be "fluent in over six million forms of communication." He was also equipped with "over thirty secondary functions". C-3PO was generally seen with his counterpart, R2-D2, a small, wheeled astromech droid. His main function as a protocol droid was to assist with etiquette, customs, and translation so that meetings of different cultures ran smoothly. In his time, C-3PO loyally served over forty masters. He hated adventure and space travel, as they often resulted in him coming out on the wrong end of a fight, losing parts, and having them reattached. His motto was, "We're doomed!" (Stolen from Wookieepedia.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' Early Bird Kit display. While cheap, the amusement factor of this display base seemingly knows no end.

Commentary: In the history of the modern toy line, few characters incite as much panic as C-3PO. In 1995, he was the 11th of the first 11 POTF2 figures, being shipped long after the "super rare" Princess Leia figure. Both Leia and C-3PO are tough sells today, and in 2004, when Hasbro made this "vintage" version, he was packed at 1 per case and was a real nightmare to find. While he's not dirt cheap, the hype wore off, and people realized they were sold an inferior sculpt with little articulation and, for the eyes at least, questionable deco. The pose for C-3PO is unique and quite interesting, if you look at his profile as he stands, the figure has a fair amount of personality. It's just so hard to get past a mere 5 points of articulation and oddball dots on his eyes which seem to be painted in the wrong location. The silver leg and dirt deco are excellent, and the sculpt, overall, is quite good. It's just that this figure has had greatness before it (regular OTC C-3PO) and right after it (ROTS C-3PO), and with his higher price and lesser articulation, this one just came around at the wrong time. (We at least hoped for removable limbs.)

Collector's Notes: First released in 2004, recent data indicates he will return in a "DVD Pack" gift set at Wal-Mart in September of 2006. This is not confirmed and comes only from early photographs-- Hasbro has swapped out figures on these gift sets before and will no doubt do so again. Aside from that, this figure was only available in this reproduction Empire Strikes Back packaging, and looks better as a carded collectible than it does as a toy. This isn't to say it isn't a decent toy, but the packaging and the packaged figure is nicer to look at than the figure itself.

Day 24: May 30, 2006

Monday, May 29, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 23: Teebo

TEEBO Power of the Jedi/2002 Saga Collection
Power of the Jedi Collection 2; Collection 2
Item No.:
Asst. 84455 No. 84663 (POTJ); Asst. 84861 No. 84996 (Saga 2002)
Number: n/a (POTJ); 0257 (Saga 2002)
Includes: Spear, Headdress, 2 Bandoliers
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $4.99-$6.99
Availability: Spring 2002-Spring 2003

Bio: Teebo is an Ewok poet, musician and mystic who reads the future in the stars and communicates with nature. He's a member of the tribe's Council of Elders and led the war party that discovered Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and the others before the Battle of Endor. (Taken from the figure's cardback. Both versions share the same bio.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' shelves, again. Time for a change of scenery?

Commentary: In the modern line, Hasbro has been stingy with the Ewoks-- Teebo here is one of very, very few "new" new sculpt Ewoks since 1998 as most were based on the 1998 Wicket sculpt. With jointed wrists, a lot of fine detailing, and a fair amount of movie authenticity (which the vintage one lacked), the new Teebo is really something to behold! He's fun, he's cute, he's vaguely cuddly, what's not to love? The little guy has no trouble standing, or holding his spear. Much like the vintage figure from 1984, he delivers, and is fairly well made. I say "fairly" because his wrists do tend to pop out of their sockets easily, so if you ever wanted to re-enact the Dooku/Anakin duel from The Invisible Hand but with an Ewok in the Dooku role, this is the figure for you. As Return of the Jedi is, was, and always shall be my favorite movie from which to get toys, Teebo comes with extra praise.

(Admit it, even if you weren't a fan of the plot, you gotta love the Jedi toys. Just think of it all! Imperial Shuttles, Speeder Bikes, A-Wings, B-Wings, Nien Nunb, Admiral Ackbar, Jabba the Hutt, Ewoks galore, a frozen Han Solo, Boushh Leia, Jedi Luke... I could go on. If anyone out there has arguments on the superiority of any other Star Wars movie's toy offerings, I'd be keen to hear them.)

Collector's Notes: Teebo was available on two unique cadbacks: Power of the Jedi (green) and the Saga Collection 2002 (blue). While I personally saw more of the green version, your mileage may vary. The green version can be had fairly cheaply on the secondary market, and for the "loose" collector, the figures are identical for all intents and purposes. No new accessories or altered sculpts here, this is just a good old fashioned repackaging-- just the way we like it. In other words, unless you collect carded variants, just pick one of the two, tear it open, and move on.

Day 23: May 29, 2006

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 22: Tion Medon

TION MEDON Sneak Preview
Revenge of the Sith Sneak Preview Collection
Item No.:
Asst. 85172 No. 83563
Number: 2 of 4
Includes: Rifle, Cane
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $5.99-$6.99
Availability: Spring 2005

Bio: Tion Medon is the local administrator on the remote sanctuary of Utapau, a planet pitted with enormous sinkholes. He meets Obi-Wan Kenobi, who has arrived in search of the droid army leader, General Grievous. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' shelves, again.

Commentary: A "helpful alien" played by actor Bruce Spence hit the rumor mills back when Revenge of the Sith was just "Episode III" to us all and we had huge hopes. Even when we heard the name Tion Medon leak, we had huge hopes, bolstered when we saw the figure show up in the Sneak Preview wave. And what were we left with? Another minute-at-best cameo, but a neat one! The vampire-like leader on Utapau has a cane (cool!) and a big gun (cool?) as well as multiple points of articulation to allow you to display him standing with his arms out, or his arms out, standing, but with the arms in a different position. This statue-like alien has a great sculpt, top-notch paint, and an easily-lost-if-you're-not-careful cane. With lots of folds and detail work, this is a fine figure with good craftsmanship behind him, although the character's screen time may not be enough to convince you to buy it if you aren't a card-carrying member of the "One of Every Figure Club," of which, I assume, I'm a charter member.

Collector's Notes: Packed in a very easy to find assortment, and shortpacked to boot, this figure was not hard to get. Actually, he was still available months into the regular line's run, while figures like Grievous, the Wookiee Warrior, and R4-G9 had long since sold out. Tion Medon is a fun alien design, and a neat addition if you like the look. If not, he's nothing special-- since he doesn't do anything, his legacy will be as a collectible that nobody seemed to want. I dig him, though, and even though his pre-release mystique will always be what makes this figure fun, it's not like you shouldn't give him a look if you get a chance to get one on the cheap.

Day 22: May 28, 2006

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 21: McQuarrie Concept Stormtrooper

2003 Saga Collection
Item No.:
Asst. 84861 No. 84829
Number: 0334
Includes: Glow-in-the-dark lightsaber, blaster, riot shield, display base
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $4.99-$5.99
Availability: Fall 2003

Bio: The Stormtrooper is based on conceptual art from A New Hope, depicting the Empire's shock troopers in a corridor of the Death Star as they hunt down the escaping Luke, Han, Chewbacca and Princess Leia. While Stormtroopers were armed with blaster pistols or blaster rifles in the movie, this Imperial soldier is unusual because he holds a lightsaber, the weapon of the Jedi Knights. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Pictured on Adam Pawlus' computer desk in front of the G5.

Commentary: For years, fans have been begging for concept-based figures and Hasbro delivers every now and again. With special versions of Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Obi-Wan Kenobi having been produced, very few trilogy designs have made the transition to plastic that this Stormtrooper has undergone. A Cloud Car Pilot, an "Airspeeder" pilot, and a Rebel "Biker Scout," of sorts, have been done as well as a few "removed from the movie" type figures, but this one is unique in that it's based on a well-known and much beloved concept painting from the legendary Ralph McQuarrie.

With 8 points of articulation (basic 6 plus swivel elbows), this figure can move pretty nicely. His gun fits in his holster, his shield clips on his arm, and the lightsaber can be held with no problems in either hand. It's really quite shocking as fans generally have something to complain about with a figure, but in this case, as a toy, it performs every toy-etic function perfectly. He can even sit down unrestricted. The glow-in-the-dark weapon is unique to this figure, an experiment that Hasbro opted not to continue in future lines. While it's slightly off-model from the painting, it's quite close, and as a toy I'm a little upset I couldn't get more.

Collector's Notes: Packed at 2 per case in only 1 case (alongside less popular figures who were 1 per case in only 1 case), this figure blew off the shelves, continuing the quasi-curse of Fan's Choice figures: it's either too many or too few. As such, this figure isn't too easy to get. Like many of the better end-of-2003 line, it came and went quickly and was clearanced out as the assortments were discontinued in favor of new SKUs. As such, if you want one, prepare to cough up some decent trade fodder or a small wad of cash that will undoubtedly be greater than six bucks. It is a lovely figure, and while we do hope Hasbro reissues it so I can build a squad of them, I am not hopeful. Well worth tracking down as a collectible, nifty to get as a toy, but for those wanting to streamline their collection this is one you should probably pass on.

Day 21: May 27, 2006

Friday, May 26, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 20: R5-D4 (Concealed Photon Launcher)

R5-D4 Concealed Photon Missile Launcher
Power of the Force Collection 2
Item No.:
Asst. 69605 No. 69598
Number: n/a
Includes: Firing Rocket
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $4.99
Availability: Fall 1996

Bio: R5-D4 was a part of the low cost Industrial Automaton R5 line, a line plagued with malfunctions. As a result, R5-D4 was owned by many beings and in a constant state of used sale. His programming became jealous of other droids that were capable of serving without failure and had loyal masters. (Stolen from Wookieepedia.)

Image: Pictured on shelves.

Commentary: Thousands of years ago back in 1996, Hasbro (then Kenner) passed around a price list with three figures that never made it out that year: Darth Vader with Removable Helmet (released in 1998), Attack C-3PO (according to Hasbro employees, essentially C-3PX from the comics), and Attack R2-D2. It is widely believed but has never been 100% proven, although employee comments seem to indicate what R2-D2 was to have been was eventually rolled up in this unique, completely whack-ass crazy action figure of R5-D4.

This figure has a few moving parts, but really only one meaningful point of articulation. Both legs are joined at the "shoulders," and cannot be moved independently of one another. This is the only Astromech droid to suffer this ailment, which can cause the legs to "warp" and skew in one direction. The guns on his "shoulders" are also articulated, but really don't do much other than confuse-- why does R5-D4 need giant guns? Also, he splits down the middle to showcase a spring-loaded firing yellow rocket. While many fans pretended R2-D2 or R5-D4 was a toy cannon in their childhood, it's doubtful that any actually expected a droid to perform that function. Well, Kenner decided there was potential for a good toy here, and while fun, fans would spend the next 10 years asking for a new, improved version. With the new version in stores now as part of The Saga Collection, this figure is little more than a mere curiosity and no longer the one and only R5-D4 in the modern toy line-- and for many, skippable.

Collector's Notes: This figure had more variations back in 1996 than any other between warning labels, red card versus green card, holo sticker vs. no holo sticker, a resculpted yellow trigger to launch the rocket, and so forth. A fan with every R5-D4 variant would be taking up close to an entire case worth of figures-- sad, but true. For those who open their toys, though, only two notable versions exist: a straight button, and a more or less L-shaped one. For fans of bad, funny, or just plain weird Star Wars toys, you can get this one for as little as $1-$2 on eBay before shipping. It's a fun toy, but just so wildly out of proportion and generally out of whack with the rest of the line that a lot of people will, no doubt, choose to pass on this one.

Day 20: May 26, 2006

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 19: Shakka (Watto's Box)

SHAKKA Watto's Box
Episode I Cinema Scene Collection
Item No.:
Asst. 84115 No. 84159
Number: n/a
Includes: Display base, CommTech Chip
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $19.99
Availability: Fall 1999

Bio: Sitting in their exclusive box-seats high above the thunder of the speeding Podracers are three of Mos Espa's favorite locals: the shrewd Toydarian junk dealer Watto, and his guests Graxol Kelvyyn and the Twi'lek, Shakka. They are among thousands of fans gathered from worlds near and far to watch and wager on the thrilling Boonta Eve Podrace. Enjoying a spectacular view, the three watch anxiously to see if Watto's young slave, Anakin Skywalker, will emerge victoriously from the storm of dust in the winner's circle. (Taken from the toy's packaging.)

Image: Seated on some shelves, yet again.

Commentary: While a character nobody asked for, the figure of Shakka is a striking one. Back in 1999, fans were still more or less surprised that toy makers put out a "Slave Girl" Leia which was followed by Oola, not to mention the trio of scantily clad alien dancers from Return of the Jedi: Special Edition. While this figure is neat, it's a neat throwback to the vintage days in the sense that nobody would know who she is or where she came from were it not for her packaging photo. With numerous Twi'lek female figures being made over the years, it's nice to know that there's a variety of them to choose from for whatever depraved dioramas you may be building.

Shakka sports the standard 6 points of articulation in addition to her distinctive knee joints, which bumps her up to 8. While some may refer to her (and other aliens) as a character, "set dressing" is more appropriate, and the toy largely serves the same purpose. She can sit around, and look good. She's not much of a toy but I suppose were your Rancor in need of a Twi'lek buffet, Shakka would be an excellent way to start it off.

Collector's Notes: Like so many Episode I toys, this set can be for almost nothing these days. Packaged along with a great Watto figure as well as the biggest basic figure in the whole line, Graxol Kelvyyn, the set in which she comes should be a must-add item to your collection. Seeing as you can have a giant figure plus two bonus figures and a display stand for under $10 on the secondary market, your not buying this is an insult to toy collectors everywhere. Don't sit around and whine for Hasbro to remake it, trade on the forums or buy it on eBay now. Trust me, if you can appreciate aliens, Episode I figures, or novel concepts figures, this is for you.

While we're not 100% certain, it seems Shakka's legs were either used for or greatly inspired the sculpt of the 2003 figure Ayy Vida, a Coruscant nightclub patron/vixen.

Day 19: May 25, 2006

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 18: Darth Maul

DARTH MAUL Tatooine Showdown
Episode I Cinema Scene Collection
Item No.:
Asst. 84115 No. 84158
Number: n/a
Includes: Lightsaber, display base, CommTech Chip
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $19.99
Availability: Summer 1999

Bio: After enduring heavy damage during their escape from Naboo, the Naboo Royal Starship is forced to land on the desert planet of Tatooine. Returning from Mos Espa with Anakin Skywalker, Qui-Gon is ambushed by a figure in flowing dark robes - it is the evil Darth Maul. Ordering Anakin to the ship, Qui-Gon matches his awesome Jedi skill against the Sith Lord's sinister power. Both escape with their lives, but it would not be their last meeting. (Taken from the toy's packaging.)

Image: Atop some cardboard boxes. Uh, on Coruscant. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Commentary: As arguably the most popular new character of the prequel trilogy, Darth Maul got a shockingly large number of action figures. What's even more shocking is that even Boba Fett, who has has had many movie and TV appearances since 1999, doesn't even come close. This figure was included in a 3-pack along with another Qui-Gon and another Anakin, however this Darth Maul was special. Released 3 years before Unleashed figures hit stores, this figure has an amazing, statuesque pose and looks more like a tiny sculpture or statue than an action figure. Which is for the best, as at that point, there was no other real direction to take a Maul toy. With most points of articulation marred by his massive robes, this figure looks incredible, has a dynamite face sculpt, and I believe is the Maul to end all Mauls. If you want one, and only one, this is probably the best looking in the entire line. He isn't much of a toy, but he is certainly incredible to look at.

Collector's Notes: Like the vast majority of Episode I product, this set can be had cheaply. How cheaply? You can usually get it in a small collection of toys, all boxed, for less than this three-pack's original retail price. It's sad, really. The Anakin is good, but not great, and the Qui-Gon is notable as it's the only Qui-Gon Jinn figure that included a plastic desert poncho. But the point here is to get you big on Maul: just look at that face. The face tattoos are bright, the teeth are gnarly, and the pose is as good as it gets. Even if you throw out the other two figures, this Darth Maul is worth the price of admission. Seeing as it was released in 1999, before scanning and today's super-articulation and whatnot, the figure is even more impressive.

Day 18: May 24, 2006

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 17: Jango Fett (Pilot)

JANGO FETT Slave I Pilot
2002 Saga Collection Collection 1
Item No.:
Asst. 84851 No. 84909
Number: 0247
Includes: Twin silver blasters
Action Feature: Quick-draw attack activated by pressing down missile
Retail: $4.99-$6.99
Availability: Fall 2002

Bio: The bounty hunter Jango Fett is a shrewd mercenary. Armed with dual pistols and a jet backpack, he is always prepared for dangerous confrontations. Jango is equally as dangerous in space as he pilots his modified starship, Slave I, to capture or destroy anything that gets in the way. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Shelves, we love you.

Commentary: A wildly popular figure, this was the final new sculpt of Jango Fett to be released as of today-- and it was in 2002 that it came out. With working holsters, a quick-draw attack, a top-notch sculpt, and above-average articulation (for the time), this was a great looking figure and a welcome addition to the toy line if for no reason other than it gave you the best figure to use in the vehicle, "Jango Fett's Slave I," which was released earlier that year. While there's no sign of the character's distinctive helmet, everything else is here and represented in top form, from the scars to the battered armor. The figure's mechanism works well, and he fits right in the pilot's seat, just like he should. This is a figure that delivers everything it should, however, the lack of helmet (and the bulky pilot's gear on his head) may turn some fans off due to this being less than the most interesting Jango out there.

Collector's Notes: While vastly popular in some markets, we found others in which this figure simply did not sell-- rows and rows of this figure and this figure only languished in certain regions in Phoenix, AZ in 2002 and we were quite surprised as he sold out everywhere else. This figure can be easily had for his original retail price, if not cheaper.

For a collector on a budget, it's not a bad deal. However, if you only want one Jango Fett, it may be best to get one that includes a helmet. To date, this is the best helmet-free face sculpt of Jango, and as a fairly decent toy, it's worth picking up if you open your figures and are willing to buy multiples of a specific character. After all, one Jango isn't even close to enough.

Day 17: May 23, 2006

Monday, May 22, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 16: Yoda Spinning Attack

YODA Spinning Attack!
Revenge of the Sith Collection 1
Item No.:
Asst. 85173 No. 85273
Number: III-26
Includes: Lightsaber hand, hand, cane, cape (removable), launching display stand
Action Feature: Twist figure at waist, launch into battle with a spinning attack
Retail: $5.24-$6.99
Availability: April 2005

Bio: Yoda suspects that Palpatine is behind the evil events that are destroying the Republic. On Coruscant, Yoda and the Emperor meet in the ultimate confrontation between the galaxy's most powerful masters of the Force. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Taken from yet another shelf location.

Commentary: For a character with virtually no outfit changes, Yoda has received a ton of action figures as of late. As one of few with an action feature, this particular figure has a nifty spinning attack which is really the figure's selling point. With articulation at the neck, shoulders, right wrist, and waist, he's not quite a statue, but he isn't terribly poseable nor is he the best sculpt of Yoda from Episode III on the market. Since he was created as-- *gasp*-- a toy over a collector's figure, those not wanting each and every Yoda ever made can easily pass on this one. Those seeking a toy, though, might enjoy having Yoda fly off his little base into a crowd of Clone Troopers or into a Sith Lord like Count Dooku or Emperor Palpatine. He doesn't look half bad on a shelf, either, as his mechanism is deployed by a really cool display stand.

Collector's Notes: While Yoda is an essential character to every collection, this particular figure is not. Easily had for less than its initial cost on the secondary market, this figure was surprisingly popular during the film's release due to it being purchased by kids, casual fans, and gift-givers, proving that collectors do not necessarily make or break a figure's success in the marketplace. (Although as far as the secondary market goes, that is another story.) Since this Yoda has everything a toy Yoda needs, you can do worse, but he does tend to look best in his packaging with his fairly nifty pose.

Day 16: May 22, 2006

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 15: Ewok

EWOK Complete Galaxy Endor
Power of the Force Complete Galaxy Collection
Item No.:
Asst. 69805 No. 69869
Number: n/a
Includes: Dropping rocks, glider, Endor globe
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $14.99-$19.99
Availability: 1998

Bio: The Endor star system was long thought to be an insignificant, removed cluster with few planets and no major travel routes. For that reason, it was considered the ideal construction site for the second Death Star battle station and in turn became the location of the Galactic Civil War's final battle. The Battle of Endor resulted in the destruction of the Death Star, the slaying of Emperor Palpatine, and the scattering of the Imperial fleet.

Endor's moon (Sanctuary Moon) is home to vast forests of giant trees, many predator species and the tribal Ewoks. The tree-dwelling Ewoks are curious creatures; they stand about one meter tall, rely on primitive spears and bows for hunting, and dwell in village clusters built high within the forest's giant trees. Their understanding of forest survival skills are extremely advanced and came in quite useful during the Battle of Endor where they helped a Rebel strike force destroy the Death Star's force field generator. (Taken from the toy's box.)

Image: Taken inside its planet Endor globe, which was included with the figure.

Commentary: Hasbro's love for this mold knows no end, and variations on it have been used for several ewoks, like this unnamed little fellow. Based largely on the sculpt for 1998's Wicket action figure, Ewok has a new head with a molded hood and a revised torso with a harness and a hole for plugging into the glider. As the figure is meant to be part of the Complete Galaxy display, it performs very admirably and looks excellent on a shelf or desk as a collectible. As a toy, it's a bit of a turkey. The figure itself is largely unremarkable, but it is a new character and another addition to the too-small selection of Ewoks made in the modern action figure line. It's cute, it's fuzzy, and we like it. No doubt, you will too, as his co-sell, a globe of Endor's Sanctuary Moon, is filled with geographic tidbits including points of significance from the two live-action Ewok movies!

Collector's Notes: While one of too many nameless figures, this little guy is a must-have for all lovers of Endor toys. I mean, look at him. (Tubby little guy.) Most collectors was their hands in Ewoks, but their number is quite small-- in the modern line, there's Wicket, Logray, Teebo, Paploo, Ewok (Complete Galaxy), Ewok (with Ultra Glider), and that's about it, with Cheif Chirpa coming along in a few months. With only two new characters of the Ewok tribe in the modern line, this is a figure that's worth snagging as anybody can tell you, there just aren't enough action figures made from Return of the Jedi.

The many nods to The Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: Battle for Endor are a most welcome fanwank, as the likes of the Gorax will likely never be seen in plastic in any other form. We hope, though, someday to see many more Ewoks from the three movies starring the furballs as well as the cartoons.

Day 15: May 21, 2006

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 14: ARC Trooper

ARC TROOPER Army of the Republic
Clone Wars Collection
Item No.:
Asst. 85205 No. 84753
Number: 0343
Includes: Blaster Rifle, removable armor (waistcoat, shoulder pauldron, rangefinder), bonus white Clone Trooper action figure (Wal-Mart only, not shown)
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $4.99-$5.99
Availability: 2003

Bio: The ultimate supercommandos, the ARC (Advanced Recon Commando) troopers are clones who were personally trained by Jango Fett. Only a select number of ARC troopers were bred and trained before Jango's untimely demise at the Battle of Geonosis. Activated shortly after the start of the Clone Wars, ARC troopers are used for only the most dangerous missions in which a substantial amount of independent thought and iniative is required. They are equipped with highly advanced clone trooper armor and formidable heavy weaponry. Whether they are fighting on their own or at the side of the Jedi, the ARC troopers are a symbol of the Republic's military superiority over the droid armies of the Confederacy. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Taken inside the 2006 Clone Wars Republic Gunship. Because it's awesome.

Commentary: While initially a head-scratcher, this figure's neat-factor increased several times after its appearance on Cartoon Network's Clone Wars animated series, which showed these guys as the absolute coolest things to happen to Star Wars since Han Solo. From a design standpoint, Hasbro integrated elements of Jango's armor as well as that of the existing Clone Troopers, in addition to inspiration from the original trilogy's vast array of Imperial troopers. The Stormtrooper's forearm armor is painted silver and repurposes on the ARC's right arm, the waistcoat is a nod to the Snowtrooper, bits and pieces of the body and leg armor are vaguely similar to the Scout Troopers, and the shoulder pauldron is, of course, a nod to the Sandtrooper. It's many homages in one figure.

As a figure, it's good, but not great. Released a couple of months before the super-popular super-articulated Clone Trooper, this figure had the typical six points of articulation and ball-jointed shoulders, as well as fairly worthless swivel joints above the elbow. Its bizarre gun was difficult to hold and the figure tends to look a little wonky holding it, although it still looks pretty slick. The figure has an incorrectly painted stripe down the front face of the helmet, as it does not run down the forehead of the figure as it does in the cartoons and elsewhere.

Collector's Notes: This figure was available several ways. Aside from the regular release, there was a red repaint, and a Wal-Mart bonus pack that included a bonus action figure of a plain white Clone Trooper. In 2006, a cartoon-colored repaint of this figure is coming as a Toys "R" Us exclusive and will likely make this one obsolete in the eyes of many fans. Still, it's a nice figure to look at even if it's not much of a toy and was very popular in 2003 upon its release. If you only add a few non-movie figures to your collection, the ARC Trooper should be near the top of your list because the likes of Alpha from the comics and the various troopers on the TV show are worthy toys to own.

It's also worth noting two flaws of this figure. One, the rangefinder falls out of his head at the drop of a hat, so be careful when handling yours. Also, the figure-- like many from 2002-2003-- has been known to have a yellow-green residue grow on packaged and loose samples for reasons as of yet unknown. The color can, in most cases, be wiped off, although a packaged figure that looks like it's "yellowing" can't be corrected without opening the packaging, thus ruining the mint-on-cardishness of it.

Day 14: May 20, 2006

Friday, May 19, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 13: Malakili (Rancor Keeper)

MALAKILI Rancor Keeper

Power of the Force Collection 2
Item No.:
Asst. 69605 No. 69723
Number: n/a
Includes: Vibro-blade, Freeze Frame Action Slide (1998 only)
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $4.99-$5.99
Availability: 1997-1998

Bio: Malakili was one of the keepers of the only known rancor specimen. Kept in a special pit below the crime lord's court, the rancor was reserved as a method of getting rid of unwelcome guests or others who failed the crime lord. (Taken from the 1998 version of the figure's cardback.)

Image: Shelf bait.

Commentary: While most figures in the 1990s were updated versions of the movie characters, Malakili really was an update of the vintage 1984 action figure. With the same weapon, pose, and general look, he has the basic 6 points of articulation and adds little else to the line. He doesn't have the saddened look on his face as seen in the movie, nor the facial (and body) hair, or-- I assume-- the right colored outfit. It's hard to tell in the dark. The figure itself is amusing because of what its function is, although we can't say that the figure itself is anything special. A great addition to your Jabba's Palace diorama, Malakili looks great in crowd scenes, but in and of himself, he ain't much to look at. (And why the heck were they so reluctant to name Jabba on the 1998 Malakili cardback?)

Collector's Notes: There aren't many figures you can point to and blame for problems in a toy line, but Malakili could be one of them. 1997 and 1998 were nasty times for collectors, with Hasbro re-releasing many figures in 1998 on new packaging and a bonus "freeze frame action slide" for an extra dollar. A lot of the figures were poor sellers before the 1998 reissue, and old stock languished on the shelves-- and now, the price went up. Malakili was frequently lining a number of shelves and was also one of many figures that Target stores had a very difficult time moving when some locations instituted a "hole punch" policy-- in short, they punched a small hole in the card to deter collectors. While it did no such thing, it did cause already weak figures to sell even worse as not only were they undesirable, they were damaged goods.

As an added bonus, Malakili shipped in assortment 69605, "Collection 2," which later in 1998 would contain the Expanded Universe line. Hasbro blamed the failure of Expanded Universe on poor sales for Collection 2, which, at the time, resulted from a domino effect in many markets which were born from unsold stock dating back to 1997. Malakili was frequently found among the poorly selling figures and became the butt of many collector jokes for being a bad figure that really cause the line to look as if it were doing worse than it might have otherwise. Granted, other factors hurt the line in the pre-Episode I days, although none can deny this figure's immense lack of popularity and completely unnecessary rerelease. Even though there is significant room to do a better Rancor Keeper figure, no fans are clamoring for such an item at this time, so if you want one, you can get one easy.

For the record, in most markets, those Expanded Universe figures were quite difficult to find and very popular. Due to the lack of popularity for the SKU, however, many fans only found them on clearance and were unable to have an opportunity to buy them at full price or otherwise.

Day 13: May 19, 2006

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 12: Star Tours DL-X2

DL-X2 Ambience
Star Tours Collection 2 Disney Theme Park Exclusive
Item No.:
No. 10240
Number: n/a
Includes: n/a
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $10.00
Availability: 2002

Bio: Employed by the Star Tours Travel Agency, the droid DL-X2's duties are rarely disclosed to the public, although it is known that this boxlike automaton serves a function in security. (Adam Pawlus)

Image: Oh look, another shelf photograph.

Commentary: While initially rumored to be a line largely populated by astromech and protocol droid repaints, Hasbro surprised many by making numerous all-new sculpts for Star Tours which, upon observation, were actually less exciting than repaints. DL-X2 is little more than a box with an arm, which has one joint and (on my sample) a non-functioning door. Actually, we have yet to hear of one that does open despite its appearance. What you see is very much what you get-- there's no wheels, no face, and really no action to speak of. This item is little more than a prop, an accessory to another larger, better figure. As such, it's not one we can advise you to purchase for $10 (or the current market rate) because, in all honesty, it looks and feels like a freebie. As a collector of droids, though, it's a must buy. It's also quite interesting as an oddity, being one of like 4 (so far) action figures to feature Roman characters printed on it, in this case, "Sector 2 Security." A fifth figure with English text, the 501st Stormtrooper, is slated to be a Summer convention exclusive.

Collector's Notes: While ordinarily I would delve in the backstory or the context in which the figure exists, the book on Star Tours has yet to be written. The backstory of the ride went unexamined, and as such, the personalities of the droids aren't exactly known, nor are all their reasons for coming into being. It's an amusing... box. It's hardly essential, and like much of the Star Tours line, is an Expanded Universe figure that seems to be largely ignored by collectors.

Day 12: May 18, 2006

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 11: Holographic Darth Maul

DARTH MAUL Figure as Holograph
Episode I Wal-Mart Exclusive
Item No.:
Asst. 84225 No. 84372
Number: n/a
Includes: Light-up holoprojector
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $9.99
Availability: 2000

Bio: Darth Maul was a Dark Lord of the Sith and the first known apprentice of Darth Sidious. Maul was kidnapped by Sidious and trained in the ways of the dark side of the Force from a young age. He revealed himself to the Galaxy on Tatooine and killed Qui-Gon Jinn on Naboo before being killed by Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Stolen from Wookieepedia.)

Image: This image was taken on a table of no real consequence, other than it cost less than the figure standing on it. Hooray for Target clearance furniture.

Commentary: Hasbro's fetish for holographic figures started here as Wal-Mart exclusives. Along with a companion Qui-Gon figure, Darth Maul had no articulation and could do nothing aside from standing there and, when a light source came from under him, lit up. That's it. As such, adding this figure to your collection will probably stem from your love of Darth Maul or your need to collect-them-all, because as a toy, there's really nothing here. As an added bonus, this acts as a quasi-roleplay toy because the projector (while large) is about the size of a communicator a character in the movie might carry. It's a neat item and worth picking up as a collector's item or even as a toy for kids-- heck, it's a little surprising this wasn't pushed as more of a roleplay item in which you could "Communicate with your Sith Apprentice!" or some such. But, such is life, and this item can only loosely be referred to as an "action figure" as there's pretty much no action here.

Collector's Notes: While fans keep requesting Hasbro "finally make a Darth Maul holograph," it's important to point out that they did, and this feature is dedicated to the ignorant few who seem to really want something but can't be bothered to search on Google to confirm that not only did it come out, but it's largely worthless. It can be easily had for retail price, and with a little patience, even less. I personally bought several at $0.50 a whack on clearance as this was an item that redefined "unpopular" in many-- but not all-- markets.

Day 11: May 17, 2006

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 10: R2-D2

R2-D2 Early Bird Kit
Early Bird Kit Wal-Mart Exclusive
Item No.:
No. 85868
Number: n/a
Includes: Display pegs
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $29.99
Availability: Summer 2005

Bio: R2-D2 (also R2 for short; pronounced Artoo-Detoo or Artoo) was an astromech droid, the most famous unit of the R2 series, and long time counterpart of Protocol droid C-3PO. Along with his resourcefulness, R2 had many tool-tipped appendages that allowed him to be a great starship mechanic and computer interface specialist. A bold droid, R2 would often enter dangerous situations without second thought. This adventurous streak saved the day on numerous occasions, often turning the tide of galactic history. (Stolen from Wookieepedia.)

Image: This image was taken against the background of the Early Bird Display Stage that was purchased at Wal-Mart as part of the certificate package. The figures (R2, Luke, Leia, and Chewbacca) came by mail a few months after sending off for them. (Yes, it's washed out. Sue me.)

Commentary: Hasbro rarely goes a year without reintroducing a new version of R2-D2, and in the case of this figure, the same mold was repurposed 3 times in an 18-month period, this being, arguably, the weakest of them. With no accessories and a non-removable gadget panel, the figure is essentially "what you see is what you get." While it has an excellent sculpt, and articulation at the arms and ankles as well as the dome, the removable third leg isn't much of an action feature. When you twist his dome, his sensorscope goes up and down, just like on other, similar R2-D2 action figures. As this figure is missing things which make his siblings more interesting, this is not the best version of R2-D2, or even the best version of this particular sculpt of R2-D2. It's by no means bad, but if you just want one R2-D2, this isn't it.

Collector's Notes: The most striking thing about this R2-D2 is that it isn't the one Hasbro said it would be. Originally, Hasbro showed the R2-D2 (Naboo) figure from 2000 as being part of this set, even in our own photo gallery of the hardcopies, we show this original figure instead. The final version is arguably better and truer to the film designs, but, as stated above, an overall inferior figure. In 2004, this mold was released with a removable access panel and additional gadget arms which plug into the figure as part of the Vintage Original Trilogy Collection. In 2006, this figure was issued again, with the panel still glued shut but with added accessories for travel as well as a display base and new "snow" dirt deco paint. Either of these figures are more interesting than this one, but this is by no means a bad figure-- it's just weaker than his brothers.

Day 10: May 16, 2006

Monday, May 15, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 9: Destroyer Droid

Epsiode I Collection 2
Item No.:
Asst. 84095 No. 84181
Number: n/a
Includes: CommTech Chip
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $6.99
Availability: Summer 1999

Bio: Elite units of the Trade Federation army, these armored wheel droids unfold into 2-meter tall walking weapons platforms capable of immense destruction. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: More delightful adventures in the home of Adam Pawlus.

Commentary: With Episode I, the line was a delight in the sense that each and every new figure was a brand new sculpt for a very long time. The downside was that several figures were designed and complete nearly a year before the movie came out, resulting in some quasi-authentic designs such as the Destroyer Droid. With articulation at the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, and ankles and a bendable midsection, many fans speculated this meant a transforming version would come out that could turn into a wheel. (This never happened.) The figure itself is quite good and one of the better Destroyer Droid figures except for the head, which has its eyes in a configuration quite different than what was seen on-screen. If you only buy one Destroyer Droid, this may be one of the best.

Collector's Notes: As one of many versions of the "Droideka" figure, this was one of the best. Durable, sturdy, nicely articulated, and devoid of unsightly action features, it may be the best were it not for a few inauthentic points in the sculpting. The exploding version was nearly equally as good, although the missile-firing ones form AOTC and ROTS were not quite as nifty, although some ultra-cheap versions were made for the Clone Wars line that were surprisingly good for their cost. This figure also includes a stand, and has no feet with which to use it.

Day 9: May 15, 2006

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 8: Princess Leia Bespin Gown

PRINCESS LEIA Original Trilogy Collection
Original Trilogy Collection
Item No.:
Asst. 84715 No. 84837
Number: OTC #18
Includes: Blaster, Display Base
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $5.99
Availability: Summer 2004

Bio: The Rebel heroes Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca think they are safe in the company of Han's old friend Lando Calrissian, who is now Baron Administrator of Cloud City. They have no reason to expect trouble as they enter the dining room. But they discover that they have been betrayed to the Imperial forces, when they come face to face with the evil Darth Vader. (Taken from the figure's cardback>.)

Image: More shelf fun.

Commentary: As one of only 7 newly sculpted figures in the popular Original Trilogy Collection, this figure gets surprisingly little attention. Shipped with an oddly painted face and very few meaningful points of articulation, this was a highly-requested figure that, with a slightly better face paint job, would have been a stellar figure. Named simply "Princess Leia" (her vintage counterpart was "Princess Leia [Bespin Gown]"), this figure is a good addition to any collection and one of too-few figures made from The Empire Strikes Back. While we wouldn't call this required purchasing due to its limited appearance in the movies, a good Leia is hard to find and this is a figure that's easy to advise picking up.

Collector's Notes: Aside from the vintage figure, a "soft goods" version of this figure was released in a two-pack with Han Solo as part of the "Princess Leia Collection" in 1998. Much taller and with less articulation, that version of the figure was largely ignored by fans who wanted a "real" version of the figure. It took 6 years, but here she is, with all her display base and Imperial blaster glory. Neither expensive nor hard to find, she's a figure worthy of picking up-- if you like Cloud City, and if you dare call yourself a fan, you no doubt do.

Day 8: May 14, 2006

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 7: Anakin Skywalker

ANAKIN SKYWALKER with Lightsaber
Power of the Force Flash Back Photo
Item No.:
Asst. 69680 No. 84047
Number: n/a
Includes: Lightsaber, Flash Back Photo
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $5.99
Availability: Spring 1999

Bio: As a youth, Anakin Skywalker was brought before the Jedi Council as a candidate for Jedi training. With some dissension, the Council voted to allow Anakin to become the apprentice of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and over time Anakin became a powerful Jedi. The Council's concerns, however, proved to be well founded. The Dark Side soon overwhelmed Anakin and changed him, creating Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith. Darth Vader faithfully served at Emperor Palpatine's side, leading the Imperial efforts to crush the Rebellion. He was even ready, if necessary, to take the life of his own son, Luke Skywalker. But in the final confrontation between father and son, Luke's pleas finally awakened the good buried deep within Darth Vader. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: More shelf fun.

Commentary: A surprise, to say the least, produced (we assume) as a nod to the vintage Anakin Skywalker figure. While a clear "Spirit" version came out a few months before this one, this one has the bonus of being one of many figures ultimately edited out of the Star Wars saga as of the latest DVD releases. It also comes with Obi-Wan Kenobi's lightsaber, for no good reason as far as can be told. The figure itself has a great sculpt, and was a fine example of how to do a figure right when it was released. At least in terms of sculpting. Once you get past that, it's a little confusing as to why Hasbro made it. With six points of articulation, only the neck and shoulders are especially meaningful as the robes restrict any other movement.

Collector's Notes: One of three figures based on the Sebastian Shaw Anakin Skywalker design. The first came out around 1984 and was a Return of the Jedi mail-in figure that eventually was sold in stores. In 1998, a Jedi Spirits version came out as a 3-pack with Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi. This version was released in 1999, and remains confusing to this day as a spirit version was already released, and the lightsaber just adds to the head-scratching. Still, it's a nice looking figure with a good sculpt that, if for no reason other than being a little weird, is a fun figure to add to your collection. (MORE IMAGES)

Day 7: May 13, 2006

Friday, May 12, 2006

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 6: Baron Papanoida

BARON PAPANOIDA- Lucas Collector's Set
The Saga Collection Lucas Collector's Set
Item No.:
No. 80060
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Cane
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $29.99-$34.99
Availability: May 2006
Appearances: Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars

Bio: This influential Wroonian guild baron has earned fame throughout the Republic for his vastly popular holodramas.  He is also rumored to have an information network that rials the Bothans.   (Taken from the figure's box.)

Image: Posed carefully atop a TV tray next to Jorg Sacul as you'll no doubt wish to compare the two.

Commentary: When rumored that George Lucas would make an appearance in Revenge of the Sith after trying some of Willy Wonka's gum, fans were hoping for an action figure.   Wasting no time, Hasbro and the Fan Club delivered this figure in a box set-- but for the purposes of this feature, we're only going to be looking at one figure today.

Posed to look pretty much exactly like every publicity still we've seen, the figure takes few risks and doesn't disappoint.   For every fan that likes silly hats, this may be one of the best figures you can buy.  Articulated at the shoulders, elbows, waist, wrists, and neck, he can assume a few poses but not too many due to his cape blocking movement.   His cane is made of a stiffer-than-usual plastic making it seem like it was made by toymakers who remember how to make great toys.   In terms of materials, this feels largely like a quality figure.  The face design doesn't quite match some of the images we've seen, with the red markings on the face being rendered nearly invisible on both samples we've inspected.  Harumph.   The figure itself can't do much other than stand, but as a figure explicitly designed for collectors, it delivers what it should.

Collector's Notes: While George Lucas has been hesitant to make a "George Lucas: The Director" figure, he's been a little more liberal about lending his likeness to toys as of late.   The first figure to carry his likeness was Jorg Sacul in 2002, which had the same name as a passenger being paged in Star Tours.   Baron Papanoida is the first of two Lucas figures in 2006, the second being the mail-in George Lucas in Stormtrooper Disguise action figure.   A minor character, this isn't a figure you might feel is "missing" if you skip it, but as it's a director cameo figure, it's hard not to recommend picking up as it's just such a fun-- if somewhat silly-- design.

The cane itself has an easter egg-- if you look at the "knob" part, it's quite obviously the Death Star from the original Star Wars film.   We're not sure if its a nod to his "information network" or just a cute in-joke, but we're sure someone out there has decided this is a major plot point and important aspect of the mythos and has a 32-page fanfic to tell you about.

Also, this figure is listed as a "Wroonian."   Which, frankly, is a new race to me.   Apparently there's Wroonian Twi'leks as well, as Chi Eekway has been listed as both.   I guess if Gran can represent tons of planets, Wroona can support numerous species, too.

Revisited 01/06/2013: This set had a big price drop as this Fan Club exclusive tanked, hard.  You should have no problems getting it for around $15 shipped.  It's worth that, easily.  The character itself - and this entire set - has gone through some retconning, as his species is now "Pantoran" and the entire Revenge of the Sith-era backstory for this boxed set is pretty much null and void as a result of his appearance in The Clone Wars in the season 3 episode "Sphere of Influence."  While I really dug the figure at the time, I've since soured on it a bit.  I think I prefer Jorg Sacul as my George Lucas-as-action-figure.

Day 6: May 12, 2006

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 5: Hoth Chewbacca

Power of the Force Flash Back Photo
Item No.:
Asst. 69680 No. 84051
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Bowcaster, Flash Back Photo
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $5.99
Availability: December 1998
Appearances: The Empire Strikes Back

Bio: Chewbacca, like all members of the Wookiee species, was indigenous to the jungle planet of Kashyyyk.  Honorable, intelligent, and friendly, though fierce and dangerous when angered, Wookiees were a proud species who once made contributions to the Galactic Republic.  Wookiee senators represented Kashyyyk in the Galactic Senate.   Their respectable position changed, however, when the Imperials seized power and began enslaving the extraordinarily strong Wookiees as laborers. In Chewbacca's case, he escaped slavery and death with the help of a young officer by the name of Han Solo, who destroyed his military career to save the innocent Wookiee.  A life debt was established, and Chewbacca joined Han in his adventures through the galaxy.  Later on, the duo played significant roles in the Rebel victory over the Empire and the Wookiee species was restored to its position of honor in the galaxy.   (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Taken in the wilds in the home of Adam Pawlus' display shelves.

Commentary: One of the first 9 figures released under the Hasbro banner, this figure was a sign of things to come-- namely, very specific figures and a whole mess of core character retreads that many fans found dull.   Figures from this wave earned a lot of less-than-friendly nicknames from fans, such as "Crack Pipe Yoda" and in this case, "Money Shot Chewbacca," a term which we will not explain here as this is, in theory, a family column.  The figure has 6 joints, 5 of which are meaningful, and is sculpted to give you an accurate impression of the few seconds in The Empire Strikes Back in which he and Han blast the Probe Droid.   Sculpted with chunks of snow in his fur, this figure was also one of the first figures to have obviously missed paint operations.  This resulted in unpainted brown clumps of a  mushy substance on his backside, leading many collectors to pick this as the butt of numerous jokes.

Collector's Notes: While never rereleased, this figure sold reasonably well upon its debut.   Based on the first major redesign of the character as a toy, this figure was a move in the direction closer to movie accuracy, and away from the original 1995 sculpt that was sometimes referred to as "Planet of the Apes Chewie."   This "new" sculpt debuted in 1998 with Chewbacca (Boushh's Bounty) and was largely improved in the Chewbacca figure packaged with the Mynock Hunt Cinema Scene 3-pack.

An all-new Hoth Chewbacca was created in 2003 as part of an exclusive multi-pack for Toys "R" Us, which ultimately leaves Hoth Chewbacca in the cold as far as many collectors are concerned.   Hardly essential, this figure is worth a look if you think brown clumps are funny or you're aiming to "collect them all."

Revisited 01/06/2013: Still funny!  The figure concept has been revised numerous times with painted snow, rather than the funny and disgusting clumps of this release.  It's a comical, weird, and therefore good collectible.  The price seems to be around $4 on eBay individually, but any collector can tell you that if you buy him as part of a "lot" it's cheaper.  You can get him and several other figures for $5-$10, and you should.

Day 5: May 11, 2006

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 4: Dark Empire Luke Skywalker

LUKE SKYWALKER- Dark Empire Comics
Expanded Universe Collection 2
Item No.:
Asst. 69605 No. 69883
Number: n/a
Manufacturer: Kenner
Includes: Lightsaber, Blaster Pistol, Fold-Down Diorama
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $5.99
Availability: Fall 1998
Appearances: Dark Empire comics

Bio: Six years after the destruction of the second Death Star, the galaxy is thrust into turmoil.  A reborn evil threatens to enslave the galaxy, and the Republic's closest friend-- Luke Skywalker-- may become their greatest enemy.   Freed from their detention cell, a group of Rebels begin their escape from the Imperial planet Byss.  But the sudden appearance of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master, could mean unfortunate news for the Rebels.  Has Luke fallen under the spell of the dark side?   (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Taken in the wilds in the home of Adam Pawlus' display shelves.

Commentary: A gift from above-- Hasbro (then Kenner) asked fans about non-movie figures in 1996 and 1997, and in 1998, paydirt.   Based on the unique stylings of Cam Kennedy, Luke has an all-new red lightsaber (which was prone to fading in direct light), and an all-new blaster which may have been the simplest of the Kenner-designed guns of its day.   The figure was articulated at the typical six points, plus had an extra one so you could lop off his hand, were you so inclined.    While simple, this figure was seen by comics fans as a gift from above for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was an awesome pop-up diorama cardback.  To this day, no Star Wars figure has come up with more interactive packaging than the 1998 Expanded Universe range.

Collector's Notes: The entire Expanded Universe range of 1998 was released during a market glut in which a number of products were pulled from development because Kenner was worried-- correctly-- too many products were flooding the shelves.   As such, a lot of stores didn't order because the assortment in which they shipped was clogging up pegs with Rancor Keepers and other undesirables, leading Kenner and Hasbro to tell fans that the figures were not popular and did not sell.   While true, this is because they were released in market conditions so unfavorable, even a figure as popular as Scorch would have been called a flop.   Today, the once hard-to-find figure can be had on eBay for pretty close to its original price.

Also, this is one of my favorite action figures of all time.  As someone who went batty over the Dark Empire comic series, I made sure to mention my interest for this particular Luke figure at almost every turn in the mid-late 1990s in the off chance it might make a difference, and Kenner delivered.   Luke has a unique sculpt and hairstyle never seen again, and to date, this is the "oldest" Luke figure.   All other figures were made during the confines of the trilogy.   So get the "Separation of the Twins" Obi-Wan with Luke, and this, and you'll have the oldest and youngest Luke figures.   I advise any fans of the comics to run out and get this figure, anybody who has an aversion to non-movie toys can skip this one safely.

Revisited 01/06/2013: Hasbro did a new version of this costume for Dark Empire II in its comic packs line, but the original managed to retail some value.  It's just that good!  I still love it.  It's around $6 on the low end, $15 on the high end.  Once again, on eBay the price seems to have nothing to do with packaging or condition, loose ones cost as much or more than packaged ones.

Day 4: May 10, 2006

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 3: Queen Amidala (Theed Invasion)

QUEEN AMIDALA- Theed Invasion
Power of the Jedi Collection 2
Item No.:
Asst. 84455 No. 84567
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Force File
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $5.99-$6.99
Availability: 2000
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: Queen Amidala is a skilled leader who is committed to maintaining her people's way of life.  She is a peaceful leader who always looks for the solution that requires the least amount of military action.  Although she has been trained most of her life to enter into a leadership role, the Trade Federation blockade and certain invasion will put her skills to the ultimate test.   (Taken from the figure's Force File.)

Image: Taken in the wilds in the home of Adam Pawlus' display shelves.

Commentary: While one of many "statue" figures, Queen Amidala is one of Hasbro's finest from one of its most-loved eras of figures.   Articulated at the neck and shoulders, this bright red figure adds an enormous splash of color to an otherwise drab shelf.   As the only 3 3/4-inch figure that represents this costume, this is a must-own figure at almost any price.   Luckily, it can be had on eBay for as little as $6 before shipping charges.   Considering this is the most iconic outfit (or more accurately, most represented in marketing), this is a figure that should be in your collection.  If it isn't, see to it that you remedy this before the month is over.

Collector's Notes: No variations of this figure exist, and there's no rumors of a rerelease either.   While excellent, the figure suffers from an inability to sit on a throne, which is a bit unfortunate as, to date, all Queen Amidala figures are standing-only figures, and there's a throne with nobody sitting in it with the Royal Starship vehicle.

Revisited 01/06/2013: I'm a little surprised Hasbro never went back to redo this one, given that it's arguably the most recognizable costume from the first prequel.  Samples on eBay are as low as $2 or as high as $16, regardless of condition.  I don't get it.  It's still a good figure and worth picking up, though.

Day 3: May 9, 2006