Monday, December 25, 2006

Figure of the Day: Day 233: Holiday Edition Darth Vader

DARTH VADER Holiday 2005 Edition
Original Trilogy Collection-style Holiday Exclusive
Item No.:
No. 85965
Number: n/a
Includes: Lightsaber, display base, cape, greeting card, removable right hand
Action Feature: Open Package for Buyer's Remorse
Retail: $14.99
Availability: Holiday 2005
Appearances: Nothing, ever

Bio: It is a festive time for the Empire. After a rough year of crushing Rebel uprisings, terrorizing the Outer Rim, and choking incompetent underlings, Darth Vader decides that even a Dark Lord of the Sith needs to give in to the fun side of the Force. Donning his most celebratory red armor, he leads his Imperial forces to the ice planet of Hoth for some much-deserved holiday festivities. Vader uses his lightsaber and mastery of the Force to create the most detailed ice sculptures in the Galactic Empire, from TIE fighters to star Destroyers. He even gives new meaning to "snowtroopers" by creating an army of troopers from snow. Thanks to Vader's expert planning, this year's Hoth Holiday Bash is primed to be the best the galaxy has ever known. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: The toy shelves of Adam Pawlus. Specifically, the "figures of the damned" shelf that also holds Lava Reflection figures and Star Tours stuff like Jedi Mickey.

Commentary: Man does this figure suck. It also represents a problem I have with the fanbase (and myself), but let's start out with why the figure sucks. Darth Vader never, as far as I can tell, gets attacked by the cosmic hate plague as seen in the Return of Optimus Prime episodes of the original Transformers show. Yet, here's a figure that looks like just this situation happened. Marketing materials indicated that this figure ties in with a Lucasfilm holiday card. Well, the card bundled with this figure has a black Darth Vader making a snowman. The closest I've ever seen to a "festive" Vader was from a UK Marvel comic cover where Darth Vader has a Santa Hat and gloves, and that would make for a neat figure. This figure, however, is just a repaint of the Emperor's Wrath figure, but in red. Previously, the figure has also been repainted in all black, in black with some white to make snow, and was retooled into a new Emperor's Wrath figure-- so this mold is nothing new. The base is new, though, but hardly a selling point. Now, if it had that awesome Stormtrooper Snowman from the greeting card...

The paint is crappy-- it chips and feels like it was done in some bizarre, awkward aftermarket process because this thing feels like it'll fall apart. The articulation isn't anything special (eight points, whooptee-doo), and there's no decoration to speak of-- no lights, no lenses, nothing. It's red. That's it. If it were clear, it could at least pass for some sort of holographic thing. If it were clear blue, it could be a holograph and an ice sculpture. But no. It's just this metallic red plastic piece of junk that I, and by my estimates, 3,000-15,000 of you also probably got snookered too. Seeing as this came out about six months after the equally ridiculous Lava Reflection Darth Vader, it seems someone at Hasbro realized that Vader + paint = PROFIT.

I blame myself for buying this figure-- I passed on it at the club, but bought it on eBay (for slightly less) after it sold out (and I cannot BELIEVE it sold out) because, like so many of you, "it was the one figure I didn't have." Dammit. I also point blame to everybody else who bought it, because figures like this are what are the root of what most of the complaints I get. "Why does Hasbro make crappy repaints?" "Why do they keep making Darth Vaders?" Why? Because all of us keep buying them because collectively, we're all too stupid to say no too much of the time. (And yet, good exclusives like the Snowspeeder with Zev go on clearance. What's wrong with us?)

This is my least favorite figure in the entire line. This includes new figures, old figures, beefy sculpts, and figures that were pretty much entirely inaccurate to their source materials. This one is the worst, and it's really a shame the line got to a point last year where someone said "let's paint Vader red again, the fans eat this crap up."

Collector's Notes: This is the fourth release in the holiday series. The first was a Fan Club exclusive that ended up going to Wal-Mart because, as rumor had it, someone didn't have the ability to foot the bill. And that set had Santa C-3PO and Reindeer R2-D2, and was arguably the very best of all the holiday releases. Second was Santa Yoda, a real Fan Club exclusive, yet I saw one at a Toys "R" Us in LA in November of 2006. No, I'm not kidding. Number three is still available, and that was a pack of Holiday Jawas-- and yes, it was the third best of the series, and was another Fan Club exclusive that was defaulted upon, according to lore. It was sold through Entertainment Earth.

This year I got lots of complaints/demands/worries regarding the lack-of-a-2006-Holiday-Figure. I replied, usually, like this: "Aren't you glad after last year? That's one less sub-par release." Most fans were very upset with my dismissive attitude. I'm upset with our low demands of quality. The first set had significant remolding. The second was virtually an all-new figure. Number three had new arms, a new base, and was two figures. #4 was a figure we all bought four times over with red paint-- at this rate, a jolly green Ewok or Chewie as the Grinch didn't seem so farfetched, and let's face it, the last thing we need in Star Wars as a line are new excuses to not buy things. My standards are low-- I like pretty much everything, be it bad or good, because I do derive pleasure from toys. If it's a good toy, it might be fun to have at my desk. If it's a bad toy, I can complain about it for pages upon pages. (Obviously, not all of you have columns where you can just spout off, but if you have a chance I advise you to start one.) My point is this: we as fans don't know a good thing. Even when the good thing is an absence of a bad thing.

"Holiday"-themed releases are not a thing of the past, however, although the next almost-totally-confirmed release is a "Holiday Special" Boba Fett. This is expected to be a specially decorated version of an existing toy to look as the character did in the Star Wars: Droids episode The White Witch and the animated segment from the legendary Star Wars Holiday Special. If this one comes to pass, this is exactly the kind of thing we as collectors and fans should clamor for, but there is one slight downer-- this particular figure has absolutely no real tie-in with winter or the holidays of the season beyond it having been on TV around The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Oh, and on that note, MERRY CHRISTMAS. I'm counting my blessings, and near the top of the list (as far as the hobby goes) is that Hasbro opted not to make a holiday figure this year. After the red Darth Vader, let's just stick with non-Earthy-themed things, please.

To conclude this most foul holiday edition of Figure of the Day, I would like to add the token "some of my favorite figures are Fan Club exclusives." ShopStarWars/The Fan Club brought us the following in the USA over the years: Wuher, Cantina Band Member, Oola & Salacious Crumb, Death Star Droid, Hoth Leia, Pote Snitkin, AT-AT Driver, the Covert Ops Clone Trooper, Shadow Stormtroopers, Holographic Emperor Palpatine, Stormtrooper Troop Builder Packs, Holographic Leia, Baron Papanoida, Chi Eekway, Terr Taneel, and the aforementioned Santa Yoda. I may have forgotten a few as I was trying to cut this column short, but the point is this: Hasbro and the Fan Club brought us some wonderful (if pricey) items over the years, and something this cheap shouldn't be this expensive. On eBay, Red Vader goes for about its original retail price.

Day 233: December 25, 2006

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