Thursday, June 15, 2023

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 3,038: Death Squad Commander (The Retro Collection)

DEATH SQUAD COMMANDER (Star Destroyer Commander, Kenner Style)
The Retro Collection 3 3/4-Inch Action Figure Shop Disney / Hasbro Pulse Exclusive Set
Item No.:
Asst. F7649 No. F7649
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Blaster with R2-D2, Tusken Raider, C-3PO, Jawa, Obi-Wan Kenobi
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $69.99
Availability: May 2023
Appearances: Star Wars

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

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Amazon now! 

Click here to buy it at eBay now!

Commentary: While the original 12 figures are spoken of as some sort of amazing legendary line-up of figures, I would say to you that it's strong - but not a perfect line-up. One of the weaker entries in that line-up was the Death Squad Commander, later renamed Star Destroyer Commander because it didn't exactly sound great for kids and the term "Death Squad" was coming up in the 1970s in some very horrible ways on the news during that era. But Hasbro went to the original name - given these are figures made for collectors, at high price points, that won't be on retail shelves, what have they got to lose? People aren't thinking about political activities in South America from the 1970s right now. What they're thinking about are action figures.

Toys like this are what it's all about. It may not have been your favorite, but maybe you got it at a garage sale, or as a birthday present. He probably went on a lot of adventures and never as anybody's favorite figure, but a trusty stooge to hang out with Darth Vader and the Stormtrooper as Imperials were pretty limited at first. He's on my desk now next to the Grand Inqisitor and an original Kenner Death Squad Commander... I just wish I had a little playset with a cardboard backdrop here for them to enjoy. Or a Mini-Rig based on the Inquisitorius Scythe shuttle. I feel like that's something lost in this era of action figure collecting. The old school was never about hoarding piles of the things - they were toys you got to put with your ships and monsters and playsets. They're better in groups, but exquisite when they can sit in some Imperial hardware.

While C-3PO was a pretty gosh darn good remake of a tough-to-replicate figure, this one is not quite as impressive. He's smaller. His legs are squeezed together. At first glance it's a good replica with some improvements, like a cleaner rank badge and nicer silver paint on the belt and the gloves. The boots and helmets aren't glossy, and the mold lines are cleaned up a bit. Some of you may like it, some of you may not. If you look at this figure as a "what might a figure look like if it were cranked out for 40 years and parts were replaced as they wore out the molds," I'd say this would hit that mark.

The plastic colors are different. The body suit is a lighter gray, and I think looks pretty great. The face is cast in a slightly more translucent plastic which does it no favors - the beat-up originals have a bit more personality. The eye paint is just different enough to look off, but again, you'd have to have an original handy to realize it. The 2023 figure looks legit until you compare it and notice the wrinkles on the shirt are all in the right spots, but not precisely the same level of detail. The circle on the belt buckle isn't quite right either. It's still pretty good, and it's not all bad. I like the sharp detail on the circles on the helmet, and the silver buttons on the glove may have never looked better. The trade-off is that the subtle texture on the body is all but gone, now giving you a very smooth figure. You're getting how people perceive these figures, rather than how they were. It's also worth noting the right hand isn't as open, and grips much more tightly as a result.

You also get an improved, straight rank badge. Sure it's just two stripes of paint, but they look better. The blaster is notable in that Hasbro showed a blue one in its product photography for this 2023 figure. It's actually super black. Not blue black, or black-adjacent, it's black. As of my writing this I don't know if that means there's a variant out there or not. A lot of these will be sealed in a six pack with nothing to do, never seen, and never checked. But some people open them up to split and dump on eBay, and maybe we'll see something there. But I digress. It doesn't quite look like an original blaster, with a rounder magazine and softer details. The grip is also smaller and lacks texture. You won't mistake it for an original, unless you really don't know your originals. It also is worth pointing out the new smaller grip is too small for the 1978 figure - it falls right out of the hand. This is the kind of change I love, subtle, and not affecting the appearance of the figure. It's different, but not different enough to be maddening.

It's not as good as the original, the cuts on the hips and the silver squares on the belt are all just altered a bit. It isn't bad - it's just different. As nobody seems to be talking about designing these guys, we don't know if it's intentional or a result of the factory not quite getting the tooling 100% right and people just shrugging and saying "good enough." And "good enough" is what I'd say here. It would be nice to see a meticulous remake of the original, but I can live with some softer detail and slight changes to colors. Goodness knows it happened in the old days. While I don't love the fact that he's shorter or has his legs pinched together, at least he looks and stands differently from the genuine article so you've got a solid excuse to buy an updated version of an old figure you probably only bought out of completism. If this figure were sold individually for about $12, I'd recommend it. At this point I think it may be difficult or impossible (or undesirable) for Hasbro to do a perfect remake, so as "good enough" and "different enough to be interesting," I'm having a good time. The only problem is the more of the Retro guys Hasbro does, the less interest I have in anything else they do. I just want more to play with. Throw me a Rey, crank out a Sabine, or just grab the Super7 Maria figure because she looks like she belongs.

Collector's Notes: I got mine from Hasbro Pulse.

--Adam Pawlus

Day 3,038: June 15, 2023


Richard said...

Death Squad Commander was always a favorite of mine. I took him to the hospital as a security blanket when my dad was suffering. Anyway, this new retro version is also missing the hair on the neck below the helmet. He was an early troop builder and two of them belong at the two control stations on the second floor of the Kenner Death Star. I was never satisfied with just one of them.

Special Agent said...

When I was five or six, and before the grass was put in at our new house, I once buried my Han Solo and Death Squad Commander figures in the dirt in our front yard (maybe they were caught in a cave in at a hidden underground Imperial base?). I placed a marker over them, planning to dig them up later. But before that happened, one of the neighbor kids moved my marker (an old Fisher Price helicopter?), and my figures were lost in a sea of dirt.

Flash forward some time later, and during the process of rotor tillering the front yard, my Dad found my DSC figure; now sporting a missing chip from his backside and some extra dirt weathering. He never spoke of the experience, but you could tell it changed him.

BTW, RIP Han; he was never found. But a new cloned version of him did show up on my pillow sometime later after school one day (thanks Mom). Good times.