Sunday, September 30, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 512: Darktrooper

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

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

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

Commentary: In 1998, Kenner ended its "Kenner Collection"-branded sub-line with a bang bringing fans nine never-before-made characters (and outfits) from the Expanded Universe. The final wave proved to be very difficult to find in many markets, making figures like this Darktrooper nearly instant-collectible status which reduced the discussion on the quality of the figure and changed the focus to "so, who's seen this thing?" Overall, the figure is a perfect example of how figures were in those days, except bigger. The robot has six points, the neck is a little stiff, plus a removable flight pack with shoulder pads that don't always stay put where you want them. He's very tall and very wide, and quite cool to look at. Modern fans and picky fans may not appreciate the limited articulation, but this was the first Star Wars villain and trooper to be made from exclusively video game appearances. Compared to the 3D renderings from Lucasarts, the figure is pretty much spot on other than the lack of metallic shiny car paint. The armor is big and bulky, the hands are huge, and there's a fair amount of paint coloring to make the figure look a little more menacing, although Hasbro could stand to redecorate the mold to look a little closer to the game appearances and, dare I say it, more "real." It's still quite good and an excellent trooper, and Hasbro can't really improve on the sculpt much outside of making the backpack fit better and adding articulation, so you might as well go out and buy several to torture Rebel forces across the galaxy. Nine years after its release, I finally got my army up to two of them.  

Collector's Notes: A personal note: the 1998 Darktrooper was the only modern carded non-exclusive action figure I never, not once, saw in the wilds of retail. (I saw its casemate, the Spacetrooper, once.) For this reason, I'm pretty stoked they brought it back, but both versions are worth snagging. The 1998 POTF2 version has a pop-out display built into its packaging based on a first-person view of Kyle Katarn in the game Dark Forces. As a game collectible nerd and a Star Wars fiend, I consider this to be the absolutely single most awesome pack-in/packaging gimmick ever created by a toy company on any toy line. EVER. (Bring it back, Hasbro.) 

The 2007 version lacks this pop-up diorama, but it does feature an exclusive gold coin representing the Expanded Universe, showcasing Durge, Aurra Sing, and a third character I have a hard time identifying. It might be Thrawn. Either way, you're going to want the coin, and if you're cool, you want the diorama too. And don't tell me you aren't cool. The figure was changed slightly between releases: original release's feet say "KENNER CHINA" and "© 1998 LFL" while the new release has "HASBRO CHINA" and "© 2007 LFL." The sculpts are unchanged and the deco is nearly identical-- the 2007 release's paint seems a little smoother, but it could just be our 1998 sample wasn't perfect. The action figure design (and another toy or two) were seemingly used as models for the Star Wars Tales #4 story "Sand Blasted," in which case a Darktrooper winds up on Tatooine and is battled by some of Jabba's swoop gang members. The cardback of the Saga Legends release features art from this comic. A final note: the figure's 2007 release has a big sticker on it reading "Fan's Choice #1." What the packaging doesn't tell you is that the figure's status as grand plastic poobah means it was voted as the #1 most-wanted figure in a bracket voting tourney hosted by the mighty Curto at Rebelscum, a fan site that you probably already read at least three times a day. As of now, all releases of the figure include the gold sticker and gold coin, making this the only non-"Ultimate Galactic Hunt" figure to include a gold coin. Oh, and the coin itself is notable because none of the three figures on it are really in circulation outside of Aurra in a Battle Pack rerelease.

Day 512: September 30, 2007

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 511: Clone Trooper Lieutenant (Blue)

Clone Wars Wal-Mart Bonus Pack
Item No.:
Asst. 85205 No. 84753
Number: n/a
Includes: Blaster rifle, Anakin figure (with his gear)
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $4.96
Availability: September 2003
Appearances: Attack of the Clones, Clone Wars

Bio: Clone troopers were identical, genetically-modified soldiers bred and trained to serve in the Republic's army during the conflict that came to be known as the Clone Wars. (Stolen from Wookieepedia.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: Back in 2003, there weren't many Clone Trooper action figures to be had, so this one was a real treat. By taking the (at the time) most articulated Clone Trooper on the market, Hasbro whipped up a plan for surefire success. With this Lieutenant (and two others), Hasbro created Wal-Mart exclusive "double" packs that basically stuck together two basic carded figures for $4.96. So you got a Clone, and another figure, for dirt freaking cheap. Since we were all starved for Clones, this proved quite exciting, as the value was (and still is) unmatched making it the deal of the year. Two newly released and exclusive figures for five bucks? You'll never see that again.

This figure was the one of the first-ever blue Lieutenant figures, which made it quite exciting. Your white and blue friend here had articulation at the shoulders, wrists, elbows (swivel), waist, hips, neck, and knees. So 12 joints was pretty cool, but nothing compared to the super-articulated sculpt we'd get just months later. The figure's construction is nothing spectacular, although it's worth noting that the white plastic used in some figures during 2002 and 2003 was prone to discoloration via a weird film that would grow on the figure-- this can often be wiped off, but not always. It isn't "yellowing" but some other oddball process I've seen on clone figures, Padme, and at least one R2-D2. A little water and a paper towel can fix the discolored helmet and arms easily, but for fans of packaged figures, well, that's just the way it's going to be. Kudos to Hasbro for seemingly since having found a better grade of white plastic, as discolored troop builders makes the hobby seem like a bit of a waste. Still, it's unfortunate that the materials used had to suck. Oh, and the visor is nicely glossy. I really like that. Hopefully we'll see more glossy visors on Clones as I don't care for the matte ones so much.

Collector's Notes: This was one of the exclusives that I turned tracking down into a holy quest, and even then, I only saw them twice. (And yes, one time I bought the whole freaking case. Sue me. You'd have done it too.) Surprisingly, the figures never really shot up in value. I don't generally set expectations for the secondary market but the fact these often had times struggling to sell for $10 surprises me-- the set in and of itself is totally worth $10. You get two figures, that's a $10 value, right? Apparently not.

Day 511: September 29, 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 510: Obi-Wan Kenobi

BEN (OBI-WAN) KENOBI Original Trilogy Collection
Original Trilogy Collection
Item No.:
Asst. 85213 No. 85215
Number: n/a
Includes: Lightsaber, cloak
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $9.99
Availability: Fall 2004
Appearances: Star Wars

Bio: Obi-Wan Kenobi, later known as Ben Kenobi, was a dedicated and legendary Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi had a long and tumultuous career that has helped shape the fate of an entire galaxy. He taught both Anakin and Luke Skywalker in the ways of the Force, therefore indirectly forging the foundation stone of the New Jedi Order. (Stolen from Wookieepedia.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: One of the most important things you have to know, as a collector, is that there were 12 figures released in 1978 on 12-backs. Because these figures were released in the first series of figures on these 12-backs, figures like Obi-Wan Kenobi have been elevated to near-mythical status and resulted in special edition figures like this one. As you know, this Obi-Wan Kenobi was released on an original-style cardback that people really dig. The figure itself, well, it's not so great. Yes, the figure has soft goods, and wrists, and over 10 points of articulation-- but under the robe, the figure is clunky and the robe itself is overly baggy and looks more like some sort of mutant pajama thing. The figure's arms on opposite sides of the elbows feel like they were sculpted by separate people. The head has a sort of quasi ball joint, but it's backward-- the head has a ball on the bottom of the neck, rather than a socket, so it's sort of similar to 1980s G.I. Joe figures. So, in short, the figure is by no means the definitive figure it aspires to be, the likeness is basically the same as the 1995 figure, and the lightsaber is also basically the same as that that came with the 1995 figure with new paint. So it doesn't have the flair at the bottom that its cohorts in the Vintage line feature, and it seems like one of the two worst figures in the (so far) two dozen or so modern "vintage" figures, along with C-3PO. So if you're feeling cheap, don't by this one. If you hate bad figures, don't by this one. If you do buy this one, be sure to let Hasbro know that it sucks. A new one would be very nice to see because in 2005, Hasbro cranked out some top-notch Jedi figures with great cloaks and Hasbro could easily beat the living snot out of this figure without so much effort today, so hey Hasbro, let's see a new one please. Because this one sucks.

Collector's Notes: This is one of the vintage figures which has, as of yet, never been rereleased in any form. No boxed sets, no basic cards, nothing. It's also the last "old" non-spirit Obi-Wan Kenobi figure Hasbro has released since 2004. The 2004 Spirit figure was an overall stronger release, despite being made from some very old parts with far less in the way of articulation. If they ever recolor it in "living" colors, you should go get that.

Day 510: September 28, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 509: Biker Scout (Scout Trooper)

SCOUT TROOPER Imperial Patrol, Dirty
Power of the Jedi Collection 1
Item No.:
Asst. 84445 No. 84586
Number: n/a
Includes: Pistol, Force File
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $5.99-$6.99
Availability: 2001
Appearances: Return of the Jedi

Bio: Although lightly armored, Imperial scout troopers are essentially highly mobile stormtroopers. They patrol perimeters, perform reconnaissance missions, and scout enemy locations. They are equipped for high maneuverability and long periods without support. (Taken from the figure's Force File.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: During Power of the Jedi, Hasbro made two versions of this Scout Trooper, this being the second, dirty one. You can see he has random blast marks and smudges on his front and sides, while the back is almost entirely clean. This is the first "new" modern sculpt of the figure, as the only previous Biker Scout was in 1996, muscular, and posed specifically for the Speeder Bike. The figure features a holster for his pistol, has six points of articulation, and well, he doesn't do a lot else. His pose isn't very action-oriented, but it does look neat in some diorama settings because you can pose him as if he's in the middle of something. The sculpt is very good, there's a fair amount of details, and the added layer of dirt makes the figure look a little bit better. This figure, and his clean counterpart, were staggeringly popular and several fans from around the USA believed it was never actually released for a while. Hasbro never really did make enough to meet demand, but the figure was kept in circulation for a while, and then brought back in 2003, and then eventually completely redone thus negating the need for this figure at all.

Collector's Notes: I cannot stress enough how popular this figure was-- it was astonishing because most Power of the Jedi figures were eventually easy to get. The figure was available in a clean variant, as well as a version with a backward crotch piece as a Target exclusive gift set. The mold was most recently released with a flip-up helmet in late 2006 as a pack-in with the AT-AT.

Day 509: September 27, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 508: Mon Mothma

MON MOTHMA Republic Senator
Revenge of the Sith Collection 2
Item No.:
Asst. 85174 No. 85296
Number: III-24
Includes: Tiara thing, stick thing, base thing
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $5.24-$6.99
Availability: March 2005
Appearances: Revenge of the Sith

Bio: A member of the Galactic Senate, Mon Mothma is troubled by the expanding power of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. She secretly begins to assemble groups that will eventually become the Rebel Alliance. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: Mothma: friend to children. (No wait, that's Gamera.) Mon Mothma was one of the first figures made for the final prequel. She was also completely cut from the movie, which is a bit of a shame given that all the Rebels introduced at the end of Return of the Jedi pretty much showed up out of nowhere now. The figure's costume is very similar to the figure based on Return of the Jedi, with nearly identical jewelry, a strikingly similar haircut, and the biggest most notable additions being the removable crown piece and the very high neck on her dress. The likeness is good, the articulation is somewhat limited, but let's face it: this is not a figure you're likely to buy because you loved her story, or the figure's character. You buy it to complete the set. She can stand, point, and wave her arms and that's about it. It's not a bad looking figure, although Hasbro could make her look a little better with some more paint, a different batch of plastic, and maybe a slightly better head. This will never, ever happen, so buy the existing one and enjoy it because unless she appears on TV, you'll probably never see her again.

Collector's Notes: This was a poor seller. Mon Mothma came out in the wake of the hugely popular Revenge of the Sith line, which sold very well. At least the Jedi, troopers, aliens, and droids did-- anything labeled "SENATOR!" tended to not be quite as hot. There's not a lot of action in this figure, so it's appeal is pretty much entirely as a collectible or as custom fodder. I like the figure enough, but if Hasbro never made it, odds are you wouldn't really miss it from your collection. Sure, you can be the founder of the Rebellion, but if you don't appear in the movie in any significant way, your appeal goes away real quick.

Day 508: September 26, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 507: Yoda

YODA & Chian
Saga Collection 2
Item No.:
Asst. 84861 No. 84969
Number: 0315
Includes: Chair, Lightsaber, Cane, Chian
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $4.99
Availability: Summer 2003
Appearances: Attack of the Clones

Bio: Diminutive and unassuming, Jedi Master Yoda is one of the wisest and most recognized members of the Jedi Council. For over 800 years, Yoda has trained Jedi Knights and young pupils such as Chian in the ways of the Force. He instructs them to be calm, passive, at peace; to be aware of the present and midful of the future; and to use the Force only for defense, never for attack. In these dire times, the dark side has begun to cloud even Master Yoda's insight into the future -- into the fate of the Republic's encroaching war and the uncertain destiny of the young apprentice Anakin Skywalker. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: While many Yoda figures have been made, starting in 2002, things started to get weird-- for example, the little green Jedi Master started to have two extra toes on the bottom of his feet all of a sudden. This weirded me out, as now depending on what movie Yoda is in, he'll have very different numbers of toes-- 3, or 5. The figure itself isn't half bad-- he has no holes in his feet (for hoverchair-themed reasons), a single "unileg", no waist articulation, normal shoulder joints, swivel elbows, and the typical neck joint. As part of a set of figures, he's pretty great. All by himself, not so much. The detail is OK, the paint on the face tends to vary from figure to figure to figure so examining it up close prior to purchase is a good idea. Also, the expression is very weak-- he's not expressing any emotion, and most figures usually have an amused look, a hint of rage, a tiny smile, or something. This just looks like an untouched digital model from the movie where they forgot to tweak an eyebrow or something. As such, you can do better, but if you want a figure that can sit in a floating chair, this is the only game in town.

Collector's Notes: This Yoda mold proved to be popular, and the figure (without the chair) would be offered again elsewhere. In 2005, it showed up in the Jedi vs. Sith Battle Pack, which has just been reissued/repackaged in 2007. (The version of Yoda reviewed in this column is essentially identical, but with more accessories, so we won't be examining the Battle Pack version as there's nothing new to point out.) Also in 2005, it would be recolored and sold as a holographic figure for a Toys "R" Us exclusive. It's also worth noting a few more things: one, that the set was available on both 2003-style Saga cardbacks (the one with the orange nameplate, and the one with the gold stripe on the side of the package indicating the movie). Two, that almost all of the first shipments of this set came crushed, bent, or damaged in every single case I saw-- it doesn't mean they're all this way, but every one I saw certainly was.

Day 507: September 25, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 506: Darth Vader

DARTH VADER with Removable Helmet
Power of the Force Collection 3
Item No.:
Asst. 69705 No. 69836
Number: n/a
Includes: Helmet, Lightsaber, Cape, Freeze Frame Action Slide
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $5.99
Availability: March 1998
Appearances: Return of the Jedi

Bio: Luke Skywalker removes his father's head gear so that Anakin may look at at his son with his own eyes for the first time. Darth Vader became one with the light side of the Force when he rescued his son from the clutches of the Emperor. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: This figure was a huge deal in 1998. As the first "new" version of Darth Vader to be done after the line launched, finally bringing down that muscular build we got used to by that point. (It's worth noting the 1995 Darth Buffman was widely available until the end of 1998.) This figure was great-- it introduced removable hands, added articulation, and a removable helmet that actually looked great to the line. It brought the gunmetal silver markings to Darth Vader's shoulders, and it essentially made you feel good about re-buying the character. (You might not feel that way 20-some Vaders later, though.) It still looks good today, even though it isn't perfect, and it's better than many later figures in several respects. The detail is good, the stance is excellent, it's one of the finest figures of 1998. If you're collecting milestones, this is a turning point in the overall quality of the entire line, and it's well worth owning for that reason alone. However, the 2005 Evolutions (which is due out again late in 2007) Darth Vader has similar features, more articulation, and a better overall sculpt-- so if you just want a nice Darth Vader, you do have options.

Collector's Notes: Around 1998, a lot of the red lightsabers had a habit of "fading"-- basically turning pink, and then, eventually, nearly clear. Beware this when buying this or any Freeze Frame-era action figure. This figure originally appeared on official Hasbro documentation as early as 1996, but was not released until 1998. Anecdotes from Kenner employees indicate that the original vintage line wanted to include the figure but the idea was ultimately rejected by Lucasfilm, wanting to keep Darth Vader's face a surprise for as long as possible. By 1998, the world knew how the story went; it's hard to imagine a time when the identity of the character was still something of a mystery.

Day 506: September 24, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 505: AT-AT Driver

Power of the Force Vehicle Pack-In
Item No.:
No. 69733
Number: n/a
Includes: AT-AT, AT-AT Commander
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $79.99
Availability: Summer 1997
Appearances: The Empire Strikes Back

Bio: Imperial Army pilots were the Galactic Empire's support personnel responsible for the operation and maintenance of a variety of vehicles, such as the AT-AT and AT-ST, within the Imperial Army. (Stolen from Wookieepedia.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: One of the finest figures in 1997, this AT-AT Driver represented the more slim figures which Kenner would become known for. Unfortunately, it was also a pack-in figure with an obscenely expensive vehicle, and a retooled version of the figure would go on to be an exclusive (in the USA, at least) come 1998. He only had six points of articulation, but what made the figure really stand out was the printed box of buttons and switches on his chestplate. There's a lot of detail here, and while it isn't perfect, it was one of many steps Kenner took to advance the look and feel of the toy line in its first formative years. The pilot largely succeeds on its own merits as a toy, as it's more authentic to the film than the vintage version yet also features just enough articulation so that it can sit down without a hitch. (Sitting, of course, being a really uncommon thing with figures released in 2007.) If you need someone to warm a seat, this is a fine figure-- but the 2006 version is arguably finer, cheaper, and much easier to track down.

Collector's Notes: As it comes with the AT-AT, it isn't a very easy figure to find, nor is it a cheap one. The 1998 carded version is very similar (with retooled limbs), and is easier to get plus includes a blaster. The 2006 version may still be available in your local stores (well, the crappier ones) plus is nearly super-articulated and includes a display base. This version in today's Figure of the Day is essentially a great version to get if you collect them all, if you're collecting vehicles (and dammit, you should collect vehicles), or if you're just a fiend for Imperials. It still looks very nice by today's standards but is by no means perfect-- Hasbro has since done much better, but still, the 1997 figure is nothing to sneeze at. (Especially if you want the AT-AT, and, as I said, you do.)

Day 505: September 23, 2007

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 504: Han Solo

HAN SOLO with Jabba the Hutt
Power of the Force Beast Assortment
Item No.:
Asst. 69645 No. 69742
Number: n/a
Includes: Jabba the Hutt, blaster
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $14.99
Availability: Summer 1997
Appearances: Star Wars: Special Edition

Bio: Han Solo was a cocky Corellian with a wry wit, dry humor, sometimes reckless disposition, and technological savvy, who began his career as a smuggler. He went through several employers, had a short military career, and met and befriended Chewbacca. He was the captain of the Millennium Falcon and upset enough sentients to have several bounties placed on his head before being swept up into the Galactic Civil War against his wishes due to a chance meeting with Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Stolen from Wookieepedia.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: Based on a similar design as the figure from 1995, this Han Solo has five joints (no waist articulation), a slightly slimmer build, a less action-oriented pose, and a blue blaster. Most of these reasons caused fans to declare it the better of the modern Star Wars-based Han Solo figures until an entirely new design was trotted out in 1999. This figure can sit, stand, and generally look good with a slightly better sculpt with details which were better brought out than on other Han figures. By today's standards he isn't much to look at, and honestly, is not worth buying if you have the 2004 Vintage-style Han Solo. I mean, there's no working holster, no knee articulation, the likeness isn't very good, and the figure basically feels like a good first try. Which is unfortunate, as it's the third Han Solo from the original film that was produced in the modern line. As an evolutionary artifact, it's neat. As a freebie with Jabba, he ain't bad. As a must-buy figure to add to your collection, well, this, he is not.

Collector's Notes: For $15, this figure and creature set was a good deal back in 1997 because Han was essentially $5 worth of toy and Jabba made up the rest of the package. Due to fickle fans, questionable deco, and improved versions of both characters you can pick up the set on eBay today for about $5-$10 before shipping. I'm not saying you should get it necessarily, but if you can get it for $10 or less it's worth snagging. Especially if you have the talent to repaint Jabba the Hutt, as it seems a good toy is there if someone were to just color it properly.

Day 504: September 22, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 503: Joh Yowza

JOH YOWZA Max Rebo Band Pairs
Power of the Force Wal-Mart Exclusive
Item No.:
Asst. 69670 No. 84018
Number: n/a
Includes: Sy Snootles figure
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $11.86
Availability: Fall 1998
Appearances: Return of the Jedi: Special Edition

Bio: Joh Yowza, was a Yuzzum performer for the Max Rebo Band, originally hailing from Endor. (Stolen from Wookieepedia.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: I'm a huge fan of the Max Rebo Band, so you can imagine my excitement/rage at the announcement of these being a Wal-Mart exclusive in 1998. Joh Yowza was part of the second of three two-packs, and the least exciting of the six figures. The two new hornplayers looked more at home in Jabba's Palace, but this guy looked like he came from some other movie, with his spindly arms, rubbery face, and overly animated style. If his performance were a little more subtle, and the figure weren't quite as cartoony (big eyes, big open mouth, etc.) it might be easier to like this figure. He's not bad-- I mean, he can stand, he has a furry texture on his person, he has five points of articulation, and he more or less looks like he did on the big screen. It's just that I didn't like how he looked on the big screen so much.

Since you no doubt want to collect the whole band, you'll probably want to get this one. If nothing else, he's great diorama filler, but in and of himself there's not a lot to him. He can stand, and occupy space. So if you like the character, he's a must-buy. If you're a fan of Jabba's palace, musical aliens, or creatures from Endor, buy one. If you look at this and shrug, well, why are you even reading this?

Collector's Notes: In 1998, this Wal-Mart exclusive was either rare or common, depending on your local stores. Today, it can be had for the original price or a little more, meaning that it's something fans actually seem to like. Also, a new Max Rebo Band set is coming out again, in a few months, a Wal-Mart exclusive. Two big $19.99 boxes of 5 figures each-- and since they're expected to be straight reissues, you might want to pass on them. (Of course we've heard this before and are eager to see if any changes will be made.)

Early test shots of this figure showed a guitar, which was ultimately not included because it didn't appear in the movie. Fan-made accessories do exist, though, so you may wish to buy those if you absolutely must have something for this guy to carry around.

Day 503: September 21, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 502: R4-K5

R4-K5 Darth Vader's Astromech Droid
The Saga Collection Repaint Wave 2
Item No.:
Asst. 85770 No. 87346
Number: 066
Includes: Display base
Action Feature: Turn dome to retract or extend central leg
Retail: $6.99
Availability: Spring 2007
Appearances: Some book I didn't read

Bio: When Anakin Skywalker falls to the dark side and becomes Darth Vader, he casts off his entire past. To further embrace this change, he paints his starfighter black and chooses a black astromech droid to replace his former droid companion R2-D2. The outer darkness of his fighter and droid mirrors the inner darkness of the new Sith Lord. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: Repaint! R4-K5 came out as part of a batch of repaints as a token figure that everybody wanted, because, by and large, fans are very forgiving of trooper repaints, droid repaints, and pilot repaints if a new head is used. This is an excellent figure, because it's not simply a black repaint, but a figure that also uses some grey, some red, some silver, and the end result is pretty gosh darn great. The most obvious feature-- or non-feature-- is that like R4-M6, the figure's central eye is surrounded by a square that matches the rest of the dome and not the various panels on his head. I personally think it might have looked better were it decorated more like standard droids, but the silver paint used on the head tends to bring out a lot of detail so that the "eye" doesn't fade in to the rest of the head. I mean, look at the picture-- the shadows fall where they should and everything pops out visually, and nicely at that. If you like droids, Imperials, Darth Vader, or black toys, this is something you should probably track down.

Collector's Notes: Though technically part of the 2006 line, this figure didn't hit until 2007. Of course, that doesn't mean we can't include it in the big tally of how many freaking droids came out from January 2006 through March 2007, just before the basic 30th Anniversary line hit. There were two packs of five droids each (10), a red R2-R9 in a tin set (11), 5 basic Saga Collection carded figures (16), and if you want to count some oddities, there was also a UK-only silver R2-D2 as part of a gift set and a reissue of the 2005 ROTS R2-D2s... the talking one, and the one with the claw (19) plus a DVD trilogy pack from Wal-Mart with another R2-D2 ressiue (20). So 20 droids for what was essentially the 2006 line, 15 of which weren't R2-D2. For 2007, it hasn't been quite as extensive, but here's hoping Hasbro cranks out lots more droid repaints, at least 1-2 a year, even (and especially) if they're original designs.

While it hasn't yet come to pass, I originally expected this figure to be the herald of a new era of Star Wars toys in which Darth Vader would have things. Lots of things. He's got a Jedi Starfighter, a TIE Fighter, a personal squad of 501st Clone Troopers (with Commanders Bow and Appo so far) plus an astromech droid-- what's next? Darth Vader's ISP-6? Darth Vader's protocol droid? Darth Vader's Jabba the Hutt? Painting things black tends to attract collectors (because black equals cool, if you didn't get the memo) and it seemed this was a trend that would continue for a while. Well, it didn't-- so did Hasbro decide Darth Vader had enough toys, or will we see more later? Here's hoping for some more, especially if Darth Vader's Star Destroyer is one of them.

Day 502: September 20, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 501: Labria

LABRIA Mos Eisley Cantina
The Saga Collection Wal-Mart Wave
Item No.:
Asst. 85770 No. 87353
Number: 073
Includes: Blaster, Cape, Stand
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $6.76
Availability: Spring 2007
Appearances: Star Wars

Bio: Labria, a Devaronian with a dark and violent past is a well-known spy in Mos Eisley. His two passions are music and alcohol, which is why he is frequently found in Chalmun's Cantina. Some suspect that he fakes his intoxicated demeanor to fool informants into letting down their guards and revealing their secrets. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' Cantina.

Commentary: Sure his name may sound a little dirty, but Labria is one awesome figure. After a pale, poorly colored release in 1998 Hasbro decided that this simply would not do and went back to the well to make it better for Wal-Mart, our corporate overlord. The new figure has gritty yellow teeth, lots of shading and veins in his head, highlights on his horns, big eyes, and that's just his head! His cape has added deco, his costume is more appropriately colored, and the end result is one of the best repaints Hasbro has ever made. I often say that while a good sculpt is good, any customizer or fan can make a bad figure look awesome with the right paint-- and Hasbro made a good figure look incredible for this short-run exclusive release. Short of resculpting the figure, this is probably as good as he's ever going to get, so be sure you track this one down for your cantina diorama. And throw out the old one while you're at it. The coloring may not be perfect to the movie, but it's a lot better and probably the best we should expect for the time being.

Collector's Notes: This was one of five exclusive figures offered at Wal-Mart in early 2007, and the wave was hard to get in some areas. Other figures included R4-M6, Aurra Sing, Kitik Keed'kak, and a set of Nabrun Leids & Kabe. Good luck finding them now, as the cases often came and went quickly unless you lived in a pocket which got drenched in these... so it's feast or famine, or, of course, eBay.

Day 501: September 19, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 500: George Lucas in Stormtrooper Disguise

GEORGE LUCAS in Stormtrooper Disguise
The Saga Collection Vintage Mail-In Premium
Item No.:
No. 87069
Number: n/a
Includes: Blaster, Helmet
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $4.95 + 5 Proofs of Purchase
Availability: Spring 2006-2007
Appearances: None

Bio: Celebrate the legendary Star Wars films that changed the universe forever, with The Saga Collection. This collection brings to life the incredible story of good versus evil that captured our imagination and transported us to a galaxy far, far away. To commemorate these landmark films, we are honoring their creator, George Lucas. We pay homage to both his remarkable accomplishments in film as well as the legions of Star Wars fans that he inspired by presenting a likeness of the director himself, clad in one of the saga's most iconic designs - the distinctive armor of an Imperial stormtrooper. May the Force be with you! (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: There's a strange mentality among collectors that if you can't buy something in a store, that's it's automatically more valuable. Not so-- a lot of mail-in figures tend to be produced in big numbers and are rarely completely redeemed, meaning Hasbro has, in a warehouse somewhere, a bunch of these sitting around or waiting to be donated or something. I'm not saying this is the case with George Lucas in Stormtrooper Disguise, I'm just saying if history is any indication, you'll be seeing these again down the road.

So what is this figure? Well, it's the 1999/2000 CommTech Stormtrooper, which was pretty nice for its day, with a removable helmet (which I believe is a unique sculpt to this figure as it doesn't match other releases), plus an all-new George Lucas head that looks like he did around 1976-- although idealized slightly. For example, he has no glasses, black hair, and no flannel. The helmet fits snuggly, and at first glance you wouldn't even be able to tell that the face underneath is a future billionaire who indirectly determined where we shop for the remainder of our natural lives. The sculpt itself is decent-- it looks like George Lucas, the Stormtrooper looks like a Stormtrooper, in short, there are no surprises here. A lot of fans were hoping for a super-articulated body like that used for the 2007 Stormtrooper or 2004 Stormtrooper, but well, we don't always get what we want. The figure comes packaged on a faux-vintage cardback in a clamshell, which was shipped in a white mailer box-- so you'll probably want one to keep carded in addition to one to open.

Collector's Notes: At first, Hasbro made you buy one of each of five different figures to send away for this one, and on top of that, they charged you five bucks. This was obscene, and caused overpaying on the secondary market. Today, it's a little bit cheaper, but still hard to get as it's assumed by some that what's out is it-- but don't be surprised to see more show up over time. It's a nice one, a neat collector item (as in, collectors will dig this more than kids), and I personally think every fan who wants something unique in their collection ought to get one. I mean, it's George Lucas-- who, to date, has been released as a Rebel pilot and as a victim of Mr. Wonka's chocolate factory.

Day 500: September 18, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 499: Obi-Wan Kenobi

Revenge of the Sith Collection 1
Item No.:
Asst. 85174 No. 85342
Number: III-27
Includes: Lightsaber, base, pole
Action Feature: Jedi kick action
Retail: $5.24-$6.99
Availability: Spring 2005-2006
Appearances: Revenge of the Sith

Bio: Obi-Wan Kenobi goes to the volcanic lava planet of Mustafar to confront Anakin Skywalker, who has fallen to the dark side. The two friends are now fierce enemies and face off in a climactic lightsaber duel. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: With a movie, Hasbro engineers have to figure out how to combine the detail we demand with action features that, in theory, sell kids and parents on a figure. Obi-Wan Kenobi has a clever mechanism which lets him kick using his knee joint and a mechanism activated by the foot hole. (You need to try it out, it's nifty.) The figure isn't super-poseable, but is a decent Mustafar-specific version of the Jedi warrior, plus he has some added scenery which is always nice. The outfit has a lot of texture to admire, mostly because the paint job helps bring out the sculpting. The head has hair that's a little bit redder than you might prefer, but still, it looks good. The face is decent, the pose is OK, and overall, there's a lot to like here.

Collector's Notes: The figure was rereleased in 2006 as part of the Heroes & Villains collection of The Saga Collection. As such, it's not too hard to get.

Day 499: September 17, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 498: Biker Scout (Scout Trooper)

The Saga Collection AT-AT Pack-in bonus
Item No.:
No. 87141
Number: n/a
Includes: Blaster, AT-AT
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $99.99
Availability: Fall 2006
Appearances: Return of the Jedi

Bio: Scout troopers wore specially modified lightweight armor with greater flexibility than standard stormtrooper armor, and often used light repulsorlift vehicles, such as the 74-Z speeder bike, in the course of their duties, earning them the nickname "biker scouts". (Stolen from Wookieepedia.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: In 2006, Hasbro had an epiphany-- the original trilogy troopers must all be clones. Starting with the Death Star Gunner, they went back and retooled existing figures, or made new ones, to reflect this fact. The Biker Scout you see here is one of two versions of the trooper to have a flip-up head, the other one being far cheaper and more articulated. This one is based off of the 2001 Scout Trooper body with six points of articulation, and one major difference: the head has a flip-up helmet with Jango Fett's face. If you have the previous Power of the Jedi release, this is pretty much identical-- if you have the 2006-2007 "Tin Collection" release, that one is better. This one is the figure you'll get if you're like me, stupid, and ready to buy any vehicle repaint Hasbro makes with a smile. Especially if it's blue, and it's an A-Wing. The AT-AT this came with had muddy feet, but was otherwise pretty similar to the mighty 1980s and 1997 releases. But I digress-- the figure is totally clean, has a little bit of black paint, a working holster, and no battle damage whatsoever. It's a solid figure, and on a regular card, you might be inclined to drop $6 on it. But $99.99? Only if you want the AT-AT to go with it, and if you're anything like me, a shameless vehicle redeco fiend, you'll end up with one too.

Collector's Notes: So far, this figure has only been available with the AT-AT, which, nearly a year later, can still be found at Toys "R" Us. (Kudos to Hasbro and Toys "R" Us for doing extra runs of this fine vehicle.) Along with the original version of R2-R9, this is one of the most expensive figures to add to your collection if you were to buy it at regular retail prices. Those looking for a cheaper solution can find them on message boards, or on eBay-- although a lot of the eBay ones come from China and while they seem to be from the factories that make the figures, there's at least some question as to who is getting paid for these, if they're stolen, or if they're just samples a factory worker realized they could sell after hours. It's also worth noting a very similar figure was up for Fan's Choice around 2002, where Hasbro planned on a "Rebel in Scout Trooper Disguise" which would have feature the helmet flipped up permanently, and a bearded Rebel Trooper head under the mask.

Day 498: September 16, 2007

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 497: Qui-Gon Jinn (Jedi Duel)

Episode I Collection 1
Item No.:
Asst. 84085 No. 84072
Number: n/a
Includes: Lightsaber, CommTech Chip
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $6.99
Availability: May 3, 1999
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: A wise and powerful Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn discovers young Anakin Skywalker, proving to be a pivotal event to the future of the Jedi and to the entire galaxy for generations to come. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: Back in 1999, fans were thrilled that Hasbro upped the ante with tons of articulation and in many cases, better sculpting and deco than we were used to. We got figures which seemed great, like this Qui-Gon Jinn with a whopping 10 points of articulation, a display base, and a lightsaber which had multiple colors of paint on the hilt. Giggle if you want, because back then this was something special. Of course, with a few years between its release and giving the figure another look, you can see it really doesn't look too much like Liam Neeson, it's just a little too angular in the costume, and the hair still looks something like a dog's floppy ears. Time was not kind to the figure, but Hasbro did make sure he was taller than the other Jedi, which was nice, but the once-awesome deco just doesn't hold up today. The hair looks funky, the eyes look off, and the figure itself feels quite plain. This is no doubt the result of cranking out dozens of figures (1999 was the first year Hasbro got close to 100 releases), but geez. Time is the fire in which iffy figures burn.

Collector's Notes: This one has not yet been rereleased, although we can safely say we never expect to see it again. It's not awful, and later releases weren't as well articulated, it's just somewhat bland. Good thing a new, super-poseable version is coming in 2008.

Day 497: September 15, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 496: Tusken Raider (Female)

TUSKEN RAIDER Female with Tusken Child
Saga Collection 2
Item No.:
Asst. 84861 No. 84864
Number: 0208
Includes: Gaffi stick, Tusken Toddler
Action Feature: Toddler fits into pouch on back
Retail: $4.99
Availability: April 2002
Appearances: Attack of the Clones

Bio: Also known as Sand People, these dangerous savages live in the rocky Jundland Wastes on the planet Tatooine. The Tusken Raiders engage in an inevitable confrontation with Anakin Skywalker after he tries to rescue his mother from their camp. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: By 2002, some fans were getting pretty cynical-- as a toy line, Episode I failed to impress a lot of long-time collectors, so we had good reason to be apprehensive when we heard new figures would include Boba Fett and new versions of a Tusken Raider. Never before seen, the Tusken female had a fantastic design and even included a tiny kid-- that's the good news. The bad news is that the articulation may be some of the worst for that year. She has a waist joint, shoulder joints, and swively elbows-- that's it. So she can hold her weapon, but not do things like sit, or just stand around. This is unfortunate but the deco on the figure is striking, with weathered metal coloring, a good cloth texture, and some sort of faux-leather coloring. If you don't open your action figures, this is one of the better looking ones, and if you do open them, well, can anyone have a clan of Tusken Raiders that's too large? Answer: no. Hasbro has made so many different variations on the Tusken Raider that if you only bought one of every repaint and new release, you'd have a sizable clan of your very own-- and this figure should be welcome in such a grouping.

Collector's Notes: This one has been released twice-- in 2002 as an individually carded figure, and in 2007 as part of a Toys "R" Us Bantha & Tusken Raiders Battle Pack. Also, we'll be looking at the Tusken Child in a future column. Both were repainted in Spring 2007 as a "red clan" variant of the aforementioned battle pack.

Day 496: September 14, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 495: Obi-Wan Kenobi

Episode I Deluxe Figures
Item No.:
Asst. 84045 No. 84152
Number: n/a
Includes: Lightsaber, large deluxe lightsaber accessory
Action Feature: Lightsaber Handle Triggers Battle Swing
Retail: $9.99
Availability: May 3, 1999
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: Obi-Wan Kenobi, later known as Ben Kenobi, was a dedicated and legendary Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi had a long and tumultuous career that has helped shape the fate of an entire galaxy. (Stolen from Wookieepedia.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: In 1999, Hasbro realized it had a captive audience who would buy everything, so they diversified with unique products like this Obi-Wan Kenobi deluxe figure. Was it better than the basic figure? No. Not hardly. The figure has less articulation, pretty much the same sculpt, and a swinging action. That's it, really. It's not like it has a slightly better head sculpt, or superior detail work-- it's just the same basic design we got several times over, but with a button in his back. It's an OK action feature, but honestly not worth the ten bucks it originally was. It might be worth the $0.99 or so you'll pay for it now, though, it just failed to stand out back then and continues to do so now.

Collector's Notes: Do you like action features? Deluxe figures? Bloat? This is for you. If you already have one or more versions of the young Jedi in this costume, you really don't need this one. It's not bad, it's just not in any way better than the others.

Day 495: September 13, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 494: R2-D2 (Launching Lightsaber)

R2-D2 Launching Lightsaber
Power of the Force Flashback Figures
Item No.:
Asst. 69680 No. 84043
Number: n/a
Includes: Lightsaber, flashback photo
Action Feature: Press button, saber launches
Retail: $5.99
Availability: December 1998
Appearances: Return of the Jedi

Bio: Though small and unassuming, the astromech droid R2-D2 has proven to be a pivotal figure throughout the quest for freedom in the galaxy. Whether delivering Princess Leia's message to Ben Kenobi or accompanying Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing fighter as he delivered the fatal blow to the first Death Star, Artoo's actions have become legendary within the annals of the Revel Alliance. But unknown to his compatriots, Artoo already had plenty of time and experience at the center of action. Many decades earlier, he served on board the ship of the young queen from the planet Naboo. Even then, he displayed an unmistakable knack for helping others out of dire circumstances. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: As an update of one of the original vintage-era Power of the Force figures, we all had high hopes for R2-D2 here, as he had an actual spring-loaded launching lightsaber. In theory, that's some exciting stuff-- one of the panels on his chest was a very well disguised button, which, in theory, could result in a figure with a completely hidden action feature. In theory, that is. The end result is one of the worst figures ever made by Kenner or Hasbro, because there's just so much wrong with it. For starters, the sculpt has a fully extended third leg that's swelled up something fierce. The figure has two points of articulation-- each leg is jointed, and that's it. The dome can't move, and for that matter, it's not painted very well. This figure was the first modern-era non-vac metal domed figure, and it seems like someone forgot how to paint for a while here. The figure's silver paint is uneven, and you can see spots of white. This isn't an issue of aging, they were all like this on release. The "dirt" is crappy, sub-par even for its day, and just looks like someone threw some reddish brown specks on it. In other words, it just looks sloppy. The blue paint on the front panels is hit and miss, the "eye" sculpt seems off, and that's ignoring the fact that this is a figure from 1998, before Hasbro really hit their stride on how to make a rockin' astromech droid. In short, this figure was bad when it came out, and several years later, I look at it and try to remember why I'm too much of a packrat that I can't burn these things. Sorry, anonymous Hasbro employee(s)-- I mean you no personal disrespect. It's just that this figure sucks so much.

Collector's Notes: If you're a collector, take note: don't buy it. I know some of you have to collect them all, like me, because you don't know any better. Since some of you do know better, take warning, and save your money. You could spend it on something good, like a nail to drive through your big toe. I have hopes Hasbro will revisit this particular action feature again some day, and hopefully the end results won't make me sad to be a fan.

Day 494: September 12, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 493: Destroyer Droid (Battle Damaged)

Episode I Collection 1
Item No.:
Asst. 84085 No. 84126
Number: n/a
Includes: CommTech Chip
Action Feature: Exploding action
Retail: $6.99
Availability: January 2000
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: Unrelenting in their attack, destroyer droids bear down on the armies of Naboo, sustaining damaging hits yet still carrying out their mission. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: At first, this version of the Destroyer Droid looked identical to the 1999 release-- but if you keep looking, you can see some metallic blue damage markings that look somewhat like bullet damage or blaster bolts. Oh, and the whole thing blows up in the middle when you push in his back leg. Neat! Action features were almost totally absent from Star Wars figures since the beginning, with a few exceptions like the 1985 EV-9D9's moving mouth, or the bizarre rocket in 1996's R5-D4. This figure manages to use a common feature and use it well in a proper play pattern. Surely droids must explode, so why not make a toy that does it? The figure has somewhat poseable legs, moving arms, and a moving head. They each pivot just a little, but the design doesn't really lend itself to massive amounts of articulation that would be meaningful on a figure of the size-- all you really want it to do is stand up and look cool, or transform into a ball, and it ain't gonna do that. It's fun to have a figure that blows up, although it isn't as accurate as later figures would be-- the middle eye on the head, the coloring, the sculpt, all had minor changes and newer releases look a bit more fun-- especially the one coming late in 2007. Still, if you're looking to build an army, you should get this one because even though it isn't perfect, I have to say I prefer some variety on my shelf armies.

Collector's Notes: The figure was actually considered somewhat difficult to get when it first hit, as the later run figures from the first prequel were in short supply due to the figures from early in the run being in big supply. They eventually showed up on clearance in limited numbers, but if you blinked, you missed them. Today they can be had fairly cheaply, and new collectors will probably want to pay $7 or less.

Day 493: September 11, 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 492: IG-88

IG-88 vs. Boba Fett
Shadows of the Empire Comic Pack Assortment
Item No.:
Asst. 69590 No. 69568
Number: n/a
Includes: 2 blasters, Boba Fett, comic book
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $11.99
Availability: Summer 1996
Appearances: Shadows of the Empire & The Empire Strikes Back

Bio: The battered war droid IG-88 was among the bounty hunters commissioned by Darth Vader to hunt down and capture the Millennium Falcon after the Battle of Hoth. IG-88 is one of five droids created by Holowan scientists, who deliberately programmed the units to maximize their freedom of action in combat. This experiment proved tragic when, upon activiation, the new IG prototypes eliminated their programmers and escaped to fulfill whatever mission lie within their distorted metallic intellects. IG-88's programming has caused it to value Imperial credits over organic life, making it a devastatingly efficient hunting machine. It is loaded down with a mass of heavy weaponry such as a heavy blaster and blaster rifle as well as a flamethrower, sonic stunner and grenade launcher. (Taken from the figure's packaging.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: Some fans see the concept of two figures and a comic as a new thing-- not so. Kenner did two such packs in 1996, including Boba Fett vs. IG-88. Both figures were based somewhat on older sculpts, with IG-88 here being a modified 1980s vintage figure with a few minor tweaks, like an added waist joint and new deco. Obviously, a new mold was constructed, but most fans just assumed Hasbro tossed in a joint at the waist and added new paint and called it a day. Not so. There's a little more work here than that, although the details are somewhat minor. (It's also worth noting the original figure was pretty excellent for its day.) The newly dirty deco, retooled guns, and companion figure (the first-ever ESB-specific deco Boba Fett action figure) made it a huge hit, and it sold really well upon its initial release. Of course, that's probably just due to people still wanting a Boba Fett, although IG-88 was a really decent figure for its day, and one of a few figures from the films being marketed as what would eventually come to be known as the "Expanded Universe." It's not perfect, but it's neat-- arguably, it's more neat in its packaging, as all it is really good for is standing around and looking cool. Oh well. I like it, but more recent versions in 2001 and 2007 make this one look pretty dull.

Collector's Notes: As the prototype for the hugely popular 30th Anniversary comic pack concept, one might think this set and its companion piece, Darth Vader vs. Xizor, are currently valued collectibles. If so, you'd be wrong. The secondary market prices don't even keep up with inflation of the original MSRP, and you can get this set for about $7 if you play your cards right. The comic itself is just a reprint of part of the monthly/collected Shadows of the Empire comics, so if you have those, this is a comic you can skip.

Day 492: September 10, 2007

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 491: Sebulba

SEBULBA Mos Espa Encounter
Episode I Cinema Scene Assortment
Item No.:
Asst. 84115 No. 84161
Number: n/a
Includes: Chuba, CommTech Chip, extra figures
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $19.99
Availability: Summer 1999
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: While wandering with Anakin Skywalker through the maze of Mos Espa's outdooor marketplace, Jar Jar Binks spots a juicy chuba hanging temptingly from a vendor's cart. Unable to resist, Jar Jar lashes out with his sticky, elastic tongue, and accidentally sends the tasty treat flying into the soup of the galaxy's fiercest podracer - Sebulba. Enraged, the Dug racer leaps from his table and viciously attacks the unfortunate Jar Jar, leaving young Anakin to rescue his Gungan friend. (Taken from the figure's packaging.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: In 1999, this Sebulba figure was some seriously exciting stuff-- the Jar Jar and Anakin with which he was boxed, not so much. As the first non-helmeted Sebulba, this figure gave us a look at the horse-like Dug's face, and the figure featured a ball-jointed neck as well as the standard arm and leg articulation. (Although which are truly arms and legs is left up to the academics.) The figure had a fair amount of detail, but like with a lot of figures from this era, he felt a little pale-- he was molded in a creamy color with purple markings to bring some life out of him, which resulted in a coloration which wasn't as rich as I would like. He can stand, he can hold a chuba, and he can look around. And that's about it. At least his face had a nice, menacing expression on it, otherwise this figure might be listed under "dull." Sure, he has a decent skin texture, and yes, his costume looks pretty good. But unlike other figures from 2000 or later, he's a little too bland-- and Hasbro is a great company capable of wonderful things, so with any luck, we'll see a newer, more better-er Sebulba in years to come. (Although of the three, the final release is pretty good-- keep reading for more.)

Collector's Notes: A better Sebulba would be released during Power of the Jedi with more impressive deco, more accessories, and a removable helmet. Get that one first. Then, if you have time, get this one because the set is super-cheap on eBay.

Day 491: September 9, 2007

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 490: Jar Jar Binks

JAR JAR BINKS with Kaadu
Episode I Beast Assortment
Item No.:
Asst. 84125 No. 84094
Number: n/a
Includes: Boomer staff, Kaadu beast
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $6.99
Availability: May 1999
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: The kaadu are nimble creatures from the planet Naboo. Often used by the amphibious Gungans as steeds, they carry Gungan warriors like Jar Jar Binks into battle against the seemingly unstoppable Trade Federation army. (Taken from the figure's packaging.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: With loads of articulation (more or less) and a goofy facial expression, this version of Jar Jar Binks is easily one of the better ones in the past eight years. In addition to the then-traditional six joints, he had knee joints as well as a swivel on one of his arms which made him slightly more mobile. His added articulation and goofy pose helped make this figure a little bit more fun than the rest, and it really does need something to set it apart given that almost all the Episode I-era Jar Jar figures all used the same basic sculpt with a few modifications. The textures aren't anything too fancy, but the coloring on the skin remains impressive and his wide-eyed stare still looks pretty good. The figure has no problem sitting on his Kaadu, a dinosaur-like steed which features leg moving action and has some problems standing on its own because of this.

Collector's Notes: It's cheap (about five bucks or so), and it's fun, so you should get one. Still, Hasbro hasn't made a new Jar Jar Binks from 2002, and hasn't made a new Phantom Menace version since 2001-- so if you want a Jar Jar for your collection, why not this one? You could do worse, and yes, we'll be looking at "worse" in the coming months of this very column.

Day 490: September 8, 2007

Friday, September 7, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 489: LIN Droid

30th Anniversary Collection Basic Figures
Item No.:
Asst. 87500 No. 87278
Number: 3019
Includes: Jawa figure, coin
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $6.99
Availability: Spring 2007
Appearances: Star Wars

Bio: Bands of Jawas scavenge Tatooine for discarded droids and machinery to repair and resell. One of the droids that the Jawas show to Owen Lars during the sale of C-3PO and R2-D2 is a LIN mining and demolition droid created to lay mines and perform demolition operations. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' TV tray. And hey, who made that GONK in the background?

Commentary: Very few figures from 30-year-old movies will eventually get made as a Hasbro action figure, but hey, thankfully they're pretty good about making every last bit of scenery. The LIN Droid has limited articulation, and is based on the Sandcrawler version-- not the Death Star one. There's a clear blueish dome, an articulated arm, and not much else. There's no wheels, and the little sensors don't do much other than look cool. As an accessory of this size, I had to look at it as a figure-- it's just that nice. There's a lot of electronic details to see here, but it can't do much other than stay put and look cool. Of course, the same is true for R1-G4, so why should this little guy be treated any differently? Hasbro could have done more with it, adding wheels and such, but that would probably drive the price up and nobody wants that. As far as bang for your buck goes, he's half of a great set. The removable dome reveals tons of details, so odds are people will use this for future kitbashing projects as it's essentially "new" mechanics to glue to a larger project to make it look cooler. It's neat. (And yes, Galoob did one like ten years ago.)

Collector's Notes: This is a fine release-- an all-new mold packaged with another all-new mold that's a troop builder, if you like Jawas, and I do. It's new and so far, somewhat easy to get.

Day 489: September 7, 2007

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Figure of the Day: Day 488: Dud Bolt

DUD BOLT & Mars Guo
The Saga Collection Basic Figures
Item No.:
Asst. 85770 No. 87086
Number: 051
Includes: Blaster, Headgear, Mars Guo, Display Base
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $6.99
Availability: Fall 2006
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: These two prodigiously-snouted racers compete in the same Podrace in which Anakin Skywalker wins his freedom from slavery. Dud Bolt, a shameless toady, is actually paid by the nefarious Sebulba to cause accidents during the race – a job that lands him in a Mos Espa med center. Mars Guo falls victim to Sebulba's own treachery when the cheating Dug pitches a chunk of debris into his engine intake. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' toy shelves.

Commentary: By and large, collectors can't name a lot of the pod racers from the first prequel. While many know Ben Quadrinaros by name, and have asked for a figure of him since 1999, he hasn't yet been produced-- but his rivals, like Dud Bolt, seem to show up every few years to fill that sports quota. The figure has a removable helmet, which is quite snug but you probably want to take it off because the figure was packaged so that his chin strap is functioning as a ball gag. And unless your figures do unspeakable things to one another, odds are it wasn't your intent to have an alien with a ball gag. The figure has more than acceptable articulation for a figure this size, with a grand total of about 7 points. With a decent leather texture to the costume, a nice and wrinkly skin pattern, and a top-notch paint job, this is a fantastic figure. If you want more toys from The Phantom Menace, which you probably do.

Collector's Notes: Along with his companion, the figure recycles weapons from Durge. Still, at least he has weapons. The two-pack was in short supply in 2006, but most fans who wanted one got it.

Day 488: September 6, 2007