What's new in Q&A this week? Let's talk New Versions of Luke Skywalker because why not. And how about the Vintage Figure Remake List, or at least my take on it as of this week? Sure, why not? Let's also talk Statues and mention that credit card thing I didn't read about until yesterday, because that's the kind of citizen I am. Read on!
1. I've never heard anything about an "Emperor's Wrath Luke Skywalker", have you? We've seen Vader a few times being electrocuted but I think Luke getting sizzled would make a great figure.
One area Hasbro has had a pretty constant failure rate is in its expressive 3 3/4-inch action figures. We have received human heads with some sort of emotion, be it agony in the case of Han Solo (2007 Cloud City Torture) or presumably seeing a g-g-g-ghost! in the case of 2003 Speeder Bike Anakin Skywalker.
To date I haven't yet heard of it, but it seems plausible - there are only so many versions of Luke to do, and this one would require only a new head and some Sith lightning pasta noodles. I will ask you this though - and all of you reading - is this what you want? At this point it seems a lot more fans are saying "hey, I already own a figure, but could we like change one accessory so I can re-buy it for $12 or more with inflation?" I'm not saying I dislike the idea, as part of a Battle Pack or a low-cost new-sculpt limited-articulation figure it sounds great. I just think it's time all of us start complaining more when we're being given more of the same again.
2. Obviously Hasbro has made an effort to try to give us a modern equivalent of every Kenner Vintage figure. What figures do you list at this point as needing an update?
Of course Sim Aloo, a mustached Bespin Guard, and vinyl cape Jawa (which they are bound to get to eventually) is all I can think of. Any others you would count?
It's a sliding scale - every few years, we decide some figures are "too old" and even a 1990s figure may require another update because of a redesign, or a realization that it could be a lot better. (Case in point: 1997's EV-9D9 and Yak Face, plus the recent Kithaba, Lumat [Graak], etc.) There's also an issue of toy accuracy versus film accuracy, or overall acceptability. Greedo, for example, hasn't been done in the 1979 Kenner jumpsuit, and the last several releases had a bulky vest. Is this sufficient, or do fans require something new? Now that 1979 Walrus Man has made an official appearance in The Clone Wars, does he not deserve a modern figure update? How about Blue Snaggletooth? We saw both on the cartoon this year and neither have gotten plastic love in some time.
As far as I'm concerned, the Jawa is as covered as I can expect. The 2008 Jawa (Treadwell) has a dark brown cape over his shoulders, and the 2007 Jawa (LIN droid) has a light tan cape. Either way, it's as close as I think we can expect short of whole-hog replicating the original material. But that's me. I would argue we could stand to see a cloth Jawa still, though. We're still owed a vintage-carded Jawa too, or so I feel.
Here's my list of updates. First up: the requirements less the Ewoks/Droids lines!
Bespin Security Guard - facial hair
Imperial Dignitary - Sim Aloo
And here are the Kenner technicalities - deserving an update to better match the original, although it's not necessary:
Boba Fett - no modern figure has matched the coloration of the 1979 original
Death Squad Commander/Star Destroyer Commander - grey suit
Greedo - green speed suit
Hammerhead - blue jumper
Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot - ANH suit, gloveless hands
Power Droid - no sufficient modern color match to the vintage figure.
Snaggletooth - Kenner suit with hairy feet
Sy Snootles - 1983 feather hat figure couldn't hurt
Walrus Man - swim fins, orange jumper
Warok - 2009 figure does not match 1984 fur colors
And finally, the "modern" (let's say roughly post-2000-style) updates:
Droopy McCool - 1998 figure was good, but after this much time it could be better
Klaatu Skiff Guard - last done in 1990s but still acceptable
Han Solo in Carbonite - we haven't had a "frozen" block with Han since 1997!
Max Rebo - Red Ball Organ is missing the gramophone speaker thing
Rebel Commando - nearly every figure has had a jacket and doesn't match the 1983 style
Ree-Yees - last done in 1998 and was rare at the time
And personally, I'd love to see them done in a reduced-articulation style at this point. After a couple of thousand figures, futzing with ankles and knees to find the "sweet spot" is not as satisfying as picking up a 2012 Bespin Luke, plopping it on a table, and it just stands.
3. I know this is a Star Wars Q&A section but I can't help wondering about merchandising for the upcoming STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS film. There seem to have been conflicting information regarding who has the licence for toys. It's been confirmed Hasbro will be making KreOs of the Enterprise, but what about action figures? Some sites have said Hasbro has the licence to make 3 3/4 figures for the movie counterparts, other sites say Hasbro's involvement stops at KreOs. Do you have any definitive answer? Any surprises we may see at toyfair? Is Star Trek a desirable property in the action figure community?
Hasbro is doing Kre-O but has yet to announce any other product segments officially as of when I write this. That doesn't mean yes or no - because Hasbro has thousands of things in development for all of its licenses which don't get announced or even whispered outside the company. But I can tell you, I have yet to personally see any evidence that 3 3/4-inch Trek are en route from Hasbro. I've also not seen anything that definitively says they aren't happening yet.
If it does happen I would expect a small line, possibly reduced articulation, or limited character selection. Hasbro has been slowly reducing the size of its 3 3/4-inch lines in terms of variety, with 2012 being a much cheaper year for collectors. If they were to do a Trek line, I wouldn't expect it to be much better than what we got out of Playmates for the last film. Unless a store decided to take a whole line as an exclusive, like G.I. Joe Kre-O at Toys "R" Us.
4. Can we all presume that at the end of this year, we will be getting two waves of Discover the Force 3D, for the release of the next two Prequel films that are being released at the end of this year. ?
I honestly don't know if Walmart considered the 2012 Discover the Force program to be successful. It's actually incredibly difficult to tell, as I've talked to people who consider things to be a win or a loss for different reasons based on a variety of circumstances.
The Dewback and Droid Starfighter were blown out for as little as $9.50. The figures got dumped at 5 Below stores for $5 and (here anyway) many stores still have them at full price nearly a year later. Unless it brought in buyers to pick up other product, it may not have been a success. Although it is worth noting the DTF Darth Maul was a huge hit and sold out, rarely seen at stores around here. So if anything, Hasbro probably learned to avoid unique new characters and just repack the bestsellers. I only bought 6 of that sub-line myself, I don't care for repacks.
5. Regarding the cancelled "Droid Factory" waves - I was really looking forward to the new Arena Padme and the new Mara Jade (ALTHOUGH, that figure was supposed to be the Jedi Master version of her, NOT the Emperor's Hand version for a third time). I also wanted the updated Ceremonial Luke, due to the better paint on his face. I do hope these make it out at some point, and I hope that Toy Fair provides some answers from the Big H as to exactly what they are doing with this brand. It seems like we won't be getting anything at all until the fall, and while I don't mind saving money (and storage space), it sure would be nice to have a few things to look for on a regular basis. It's been really depressing since last January to be a collector.
Also...what are your opinions on the upcoming Kotobukiya Bishoujo Star Wars ladies? The Jaina Solo looks pretty nice, and I can't wait to see what the Mara Jade one will look like. Are these things that interest you at all?
Hasbro has yet to confirm the fate of those "cancelled" figures. Which you probably knew, but that line had to have been pretty far along - it's a safe bet some of those figures, particularly the ones for wave 1 or ones needing minimal tooling, could be far enough along to come out on another style of packaging, or as an exclusive. I personally was not excited about pretty much any of these guys save for the brownish green Clone, Anakin, and Padme. And realistic Rex and Mace Windu, I admit, those were cool. But seeing a line of 16 figures with so few new characters, the thought of sinking $160 to build 4 new droids was also a little disappointing. It's a scenario where it's hard to determine if we won or lost just yet.
I'd love to know what Hasbro has planned. I know a lot of us feel (and I agree) Hasbro shot itself in the foot with most of last year's January launch being too similar to product already in the marketplace, with the good stuff in waves 2 or beyond never reaching mass retail channels. Although there were plenty of vehicle repacks that collectors didn't necessarily want, nor did kids want to re-buy the same Naboo Star Skiff with a different figure (that they could buy 4 different ways.) Hopefully Hasbro mixes things up a bit, and were I an armchair quarterback, I would hope their next "wave 1" includes Boba Fett and Darth Vader just because c'mon. There was no Boba Fett in retail distribution in 2012!
As to the Koto Star Wars ladies? Well, my day job sells a fair amount of sexy anime statues, which have run the gamut from sexy teachers, sexy bosses, adult baby/diaper lover women with giant knockers, and now, Han Solo's daughter. When people ask me what my hobby is, I don't say "Star Wars collector," I say "toy collector" so I generally avoid adult material, be it "sexy" products or things marketed to people who spend more than $100 on a single item. I get a kick out of seeing new interpretations of classic characters in any form, but I think it's interesting that Kotobukiya is delving into the Expanded Universe. No Padme? No Leia? That's surprising. Also I want to make sure you know I have no problem with high-end statues, but well, eh. I get just as much fun out of a $4 pack of SLUG Zombies as I do from a $90 animated maquette. The thrill lasts about as long, but the advantage of the toys and mini-figures is that I can play with those and not have to worry about them shattering should they fall over in an accident some day. And I don't have to explain why I have a zombie Santa Claus on my desk, while yet another Slave Leia just seems kinda played out, particularly now. (It was a fun thing in 1997 when Kenner first did it and I didn't see 40 of them at every convention.)
If you live in the USA, 40 out of 50 states now allow for stores to pass along a credit card swipe fee as of today. I have not encountered this personally yet but there's a lot being written on the subject, so keep an eye on your receipts for credit card surcharges (which can reportedly be avoided with debit, cash, checks, etc. Of course checks have a cost, so yeah, there's that.) If you collect toys there's a safe bet you've used a credit card, particularly since by reading this you probably are online and shop online.
So, J.J. Abrams is in! This is probably a good thing. I liked Star Trek and Super 8 plus a lot of the stuff he produces, like Cloverfield, is on my Blu-Ray shelf. So I figure he'll do OK. My only real gripe with the man is how licensed products fare in his wake, but I assume his role as a hired gun combined with Disney, Lucaslessfilm, and Hasbro will probably force his hand to reveal more to licensors so the toy commercial aspect of the film can do what it does best: keep me employable for a few more years.
I hope, anyway. It's hard for me to tell if Star Wars' current level of success is basically just coasting as the brand has been lacking excitement since 2005, as The Clone Wars (despite a rich pageant of characters and vehicles) failed to take off as a way to print money. Revenge of the Sith seems to have had the best toy legs of the prequels, while The Phantom Menace just came off of a disasterous 2012. (I won't blame the movie, but I don't think there's a toy armchair quarterback out there who was pleased with how the whole thing shook out.)
The good news is that most likely we can expect a movie that follows Return of the Jedi in some capacity. But if that's the case, and this is really the infamous Episode VII which may be loosely based on the 12-episode outline Gary Kurtz mentioned thousands of years ago, it's important to remember that...
- Darth Vader, Palpatine, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jabba the Hutt, General Grievous, Padme Amidala, and the Separatists are dead*
- Boba Fett, Mace Windu, Thawn, and all the clones are probably dead
- Ahsoka Tano, Asajj Ventress, Bossk, Cad Bane, and Quinlan Vos could be very much alive
Obviously if George Lucas was repsonsible for the outline of the movies, I would assume minor characters and the Expanded Universe would probably be less of a driving force than something new. And of course R2-D2 and C-3PO, because I'd be pretty upset if they got left out and Lucas has frequently cited them as being an integral part of the story.
I'm optimistic because if The Clone Wars has taught me anything as a fan, it's that a bad episode is just as much fun as a good episode. I can complain about those Mandalore tea and corruption episodes for hours, and while I love the adventures of D-Squad you can only praise something for being smart, fun, or entertaining for so long. But hey, I thought that the prequels were good for what they were doing and minus some relationship stuff (forced) and racing sequences (indulgent) aren't half bad. Complain as we do, things like the Pit Droids, Trade Federation, Darth Maul, Jango Fett, General Grievous, Mace Windu, and even Dexter Jettster brought some decent life to the movie while numerous other aspects provided what I assume is some insight into George Lucas' hobbies and proclivities. And I don't care how much you hate Jar Jar Binks, that whole undersea sequence on Naboo with the creatures was fun.
All I ask is that if anyone from Abrams' camp is reading, please no intergalactic C-SPAN. But I'll take all the lightsabers, TIE Fighter, space gangsters, and bizarre creatures you can throw at me.
* - Movie dead. I read the comics too.
Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.