2010 was a landmark year celebrating the 30th Anniversary of what many consider to be the best Star Wars film made, The Empire Strikes Back. For Hasbro action figure collectors, it presented a mixed bag of peaks and valleys as the year progressed. Toy Fair got things started with this year's BMF, the AT-AT, and the announcement of the new Vintage Collection and its fantastic retro style Kenner packaging. Hasbro hoped to show some love for their collector fan base with what the toymaker considers as the ultimate plastic representations of Original Trilogy and Prequel characters and at a premium $10 pricetag to go along with the sublime vintage style cardback. While one can argue that the first two waves had its winners, it really wasn't until Return of the Jedi Wave 3 where we could truly say "ultimate". The Mailaway Fett tugged at our nostalgic heart strings, though Hasbro had to correct their shipping Q.C. in order to address the initial poorly packaged and damaged shipments.
The first half of the year slogged along, with the last few waves of red card Clone Wars trickling in at lower distribution and proving harder to find and the final B.A.D. Expanded Universe wave having all but disappeared as they were transitioned as exclusives for ToysRUs. Thankfully for collectors, these were made available through online outlets, though an ad for this wave persistently appeared in print periodicals well into the third quarter that they can be found "Only at ToysRUs".
By the summertime and Comic-Con, the blue "Shadows of the Dark Side" packaging for Clone Wars and Saga Legends began shipping en masse. The Clone Wars assortment for 2010 consisted of repacks aplenty, however, the new figures released were mostly brilliantly executed. While Hasbro continues their green initiative by recycling figures and improving profit margins, we do question the redundancies of a "Holocron Heist" battlepack, where the exact figures can be had individually in the same shelf schematic. And while we're on the green thing, does a Galactic Battle die need to be packed in with each figure and could that plastic be better used elsewhere?
There was a plethora of store exclusives, some remarkably awesome, while others not so much, with Target and ToysRUs carrying a good portion of them this year. Walmart's Jabba the Hutt finally gave us a worthy gangster slug we can build our palace diorama around and TRU's Rise of Boba Fett Ultimate Battle Pack featured a new, larger, and more feature laden Slave 1. And while we loved the Kenner-ness of Target's Vintage 9 pack, it probably would have been a better idea to market these as individual 3 packs for the next go around, given the premium shelf space it took for the 3 foot long packaging and the fact they were marked down by half off a month later.
Then there's Celebration V. Yes, the lower attendance made it a more intimate, less frenetic and an overall awesome experience for those who went, but holding it in Orlando during the hot summer a few weeks after Comic-Con? Maybe not the best move logistically.
Passages. We pay our final respects to the great The Empire Strikes Back director, Irvin Kershner, who passed late this year. Our friend and Star Wars collector and author extraordinaire, Steve Sansweet, also announced his retirement from Lucasfilm next spring. We can unequivocally say that the Star Wars fan experience will be diminished with Steve's absence, and thank him wholeheartedly for all the years of being such a worthy ambassador for the fans.
2011 promises more Vintage Collection and Clone Wars goodness, where we really look forward to some Savage Oppress and Sith Witch plastic, not to mention seeing if Hasbro can continue the benchmark they set with Vintage Wave 3. Toy Fair should also see a few reveals and good surprises in February. In the meantime, as we close out 2010, here's our Best of:
BEST FIGURE (THE VINTAGE COLLECTION) - LUKE SKYWALKER JEDI KNIGHT
Luke Skywalker/Mark Hammil has been one of the harder human characters for Hasbro to nail. But beginning with 2009's Snowspeeder Pilot and Resurgence of the Jedi figure, Hasbro has hit its stride which culminated in an ultimate Bespin Luke for The Vintage Collection, and even more ultimately, the best darned Jedi Luke to date. An amazing head likeness with a well proportioned sculpt and super, and mostly hidden ball jointed articulation, this version of DSII Luke is our favorite from a really outstanding wave.
Runner Up: Gamorrean Guard
BEST FIGURE (THE CLONE WARS) - PRE VIZSLA
The leader of the Mandalorian Death Watch is a great figure with good likeness and articulation. Hasbro also did a splendid job with the soft goods cloak.
Runner Up: Aurra Sing
BEST VEHICLE (LARGE) - AT-AT
It's appropriately large and chock full of electronic goodness. At a $100 pricepoint, it cost less than the BMF, and if you were a lucky K-mart shopper earlier in the season, scored it for half that price.
Runner Up: Slave 1 (Rise of Boba Fett Ultimate Battle Pack)
BEST VEHICLE (MEDIUM) - TWIN POD CLOUD CAR
It may not be the flashiest, but when Hasbro consistently stated that there was no chance this "essential" vehicle could be made because the toolings were somewhere in the bottom of a Hong Kong harbor, we looked them in the eye and murmured, "2010?". Well, that really didn't happen, but were glad the Cloud Car was finally produced for the modern line. Just wished we had a "stache-less" version of the pilot.
Runner Up: Clone Swamp Speeder
BEST DELUXE VEHICLE WITH FIGURE (SMALL) - NABOO STAR SKIFF WITH ANAKIN SKYWALKER
We dig the mini version of the Naboo Starship and its unique Anakin Skywalker figure even more so.
Runner Up: AT-RT with Clone Trooper Boil
BEST BATTLE PACK/MULTI-PACKS - ARC TROOPERS
While the Battle Pack category continues to be largely repackaged goods, this is a good looking, mostly newish set that is very hard to find lingering on the shelves.
Runner Up: Hostage Crisis 4 Pack (Target)
BEST EXCLUSIVE - JABBA THE HUTT AND THRONE (WALMART)
A highly detailed, all new Jabba, an awesome new throne, and a half nekkid Oola? Yes, please! This Wal-mart exclusive had spotty distribution in the initial get-go but can now be had on clearance for $19. An essential to your collection that's well worth the full price, let alone on a discount.
Runner Up: Entertainment Earth Comic Packs
BEST CONVENTION EXCLUSIVE - JUMBO 12' BOBA FETT (GENTLE GIANT- CELEBRATION V)
There's a lot of novelty and nostalgia factor to Gentle Giant's new Jumbo 12" Vintage figures. We're just not sure if all of them are worth the high price of entry. This exclusive for Celebration V certainly is, depending if you can afford the high price of entry in the secondary market.
Runner up: Bounty Hunter 2 Pack: 4-LOM and Zuckuss (Celebration V)
BEST MAILAWAY/ PROMOTION - VINTAGE BOBA FETT
No brainer here. A piece of your childhood for 7 bucks, a stamp, and 5 POP's. Though it's a little larger than the original and tends to hunch over, you can't beat the sight of having this displayed in all its vintage carded glory.
Runner Up: Sgt Bric and Battlemat
BEST PACKAGING - VINTAGE AT-AT (TRU EXCLUSIVE)
The Vintage style packaging is a winner, though we almost went with either the Target vintage styled TIE Fighter or Snowspeeder due to the nifty touch of vintage style 70's kids complete with helmet hair.
Runner Up: The Vintage Collection Basic Figures