Q&A: Retcon, Darth Vader, Black Friday Exclusives, and a Bit More

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, October 27, 2013

This week, let's look at reconning - that is, the changing of "history" and "facts" within the Star Wars universe. Remember Hasbro's clone-faced AT-AT Drivers? Let's also look at good Darth Vader figures for kids. There are many. And how about Black Friday Exclusives - should we expect any? All this and more, just read on!


1. Pablo Hidalgo works for Lucasfilm. He gave out the following information on Saturday at NYCC.

"No Stormtroopers will be Clones -- Pablo Hidalgo #StarWarsRebels"
Does that mean every Stormtrooper, AT-AT Driver, Snowtrooper, and Biker Scout figure with a removable helmet is now wrong (incorrect to have removable helmets)?

Are said figures now non-canonical, and 'from a certain point of view' non Lucasfilm approved?
-- Allen

Over the years, things like "facts" tend to evolve. In 1985, the guy who pushed around Luke in the Cantina had swim fins and was named Walrus Man. By 1990, he was called Ponda Baba. In 1979 Marvel published a comic that refers to a group of Jedi that visited a planet, two of which were Luke's father and Darth Vader. Oops. In 2005, Chi Eekway was a Twi'lek and her figure in 2006 had lekku. And now, well, not. Boba Fett has had a rich history, and fans of the Mandalorians have had to deal with shifting histories over the years.

True happiness can only be found from discounting anything that's not a movie. Movies and toys are "accurate" to me, with TV bringing up the rear. This makes Chi Eekway particularly vexing.

What Pablo says contradicts a lot of the Expanded Universe from 2005 until recently, as there were a lot of Stormtroopers that were clones of someone or other over the years. But, Lucasfilm can do this if they want - they have before, they will again. At what point in Star Wars lore did the Jango Clones get retired in favor of enlisted or conscripted men? We don't know. The figures that Hasbro makes are one expression of the story, as Hasbro has been fond of reminding us over the years. In the past - specifically the 1990s - they have said that this was their way of telling the Star Wars story, so you'll see some liberties taken during the pre-prequel days. As of late they seem to not say that ever, so who the heck knows what their policy is now.

The important thing to remember is that with all of these contradictions, someone inside Lucasfilm approved them. Things are right until they're wrong, and while Star Wars has made numerous changes to names, races, and events in recent years. All I can say is this: get used to it, there's gonna be more.




2. I haven't been keeping up, but see there [was] a PT and OT Blu-Ray/DVD release on 10/8/13. Aside from new artwork, are these the same as the previous Blu Ray release?

We have found out that the DVD part of the Blu-Rays are indeed the Blu-Ray cuts, and nobody has reported anything unique on the Blu-Ray discs as of yet.


3. So my younger son is really getting into sw toys and lucky for him, dad has huge collection ready for him. The thing is, so many modern figs don't sit or fit into older potf2 vehicles. Any advice on the best modern figs for kids? Is there a vader to fit into the potf2 vader tie? Also, Santa is bringing him the new tru x wing, any advice on the best r2 to give him that will fit? Do older figs fit in the new twenty dollar vehicle assortments?

Figure/vehicle compatibility has been consistently questionable from the 1995 relaunch. Even the first Han Solo and Chewbacca had a little difficulty both fitting in that Millennium Falcon, and over the years it seems that Kenner and Hasbro have often not placed a priority on a figure fitting in a vehicle - which as a kid would probably send me into a thunderous rage.

Thankfully, some basically work - most Darth Vader figures without the plastic skirt piece will fit into the 1997 Power of the Force Darth Vader's TIE FIghter. For example that 1995 original will fit if you pop off his main cape. The 1998 Gunner Station figure fits without a problem, as does the 2005 Revenge of the Sith Vader, the 2013 Mission Series Vader, and others. Even the 500th Vader fits, if you're willing to put up with the fact that his codpiece might go erect on you once you take him out.

As to X-Wings, well, if I were you I'd suggest waiting to see if Hasbro has a new, better one next year. As a toy I don't much care for the upsized modern version of the vehicle. However, the good thing here is Hasbro made the Astromech socket to fit almost every R2-unit on the market. If you grab the current Black Series booster rocket version, or the Saga Legends version, or pretty much any of them that have a retractable or removable third leg you'll be fine. But as it is Biggs' X-Wing, go for R2-Q2.



4. I recently purchased the Black series 3 3/4 storm trooper. The helmet sculpting stood out to me as different (specifically the black upside down "v" above the mouth). It is very different from the more recent sandtroopers and the awesomely sculpted saga legends stormtrooper.

Then when Hasbro shared the packaging design for Star Wars Rebels, I thought the storm trooper helmet really looked like the image on the card. I understand that Hasbro said it would be sculpting the Rebels figures in a quasi- animated/realistic design.

Is the black series storm trooper an example of this effort or is just my imagination?

It might be your imagination - the 2013 The Black Series Stormtrooper is basically the same as the 2009 Dewback/2010 Vintage Sandtrooper, with a different belt and different gear. The helmet deco is a little different for the 2013 Stormtrooper, in that the stripes aren't quite straight, nor are the lenses. Also the vents are different colors.


5. Every year, Wal-Mart, Target and TRU have special Star Wars Black Friday sales or battle packs etc… and usually we get a preview of a prototype etc. of what to expect a few weeks before then. So far, I haven't heard of anything and I was silently hoping for a ROTJ 30th Anniversary (larger scale) Skiff or Jabba's Sail Barge. Have you heard anything rumours or otherwise?

I wouldn't put it past Hasbro to have a surprise exclusive or two, but the Black Friday Hasbro Item has been phased out lately - we didn't get any last year, instead we saw a few Dotcom exclusives show up online like the Wolf Pack. We did see a few neat surprise items over the years, but they've been dwindling since 2009. If there is such an item on deck, Hasbro has done a bang-up job keeping it quiet - but they did the same in 2006 (Target Imperial Shuttle) and 2007 (Ultimate Battle Packs) too.

I do not anticipate anything special for Return of the Jedi's 30th Anniversary. For Star Wars, we got a line named for it - but there were very few items from the original movie. For Empire, we got a Snowspeeder, AT-AT, and Cloud Car, but that could just be a coincidence. Also, we did get a wave of Vintage based on ESB. Other anniversaries come and go with nothing - 2003 had no formal item for ROTJ, in 1997 there wasn't anything special for Star Wars' 20th, and to date none of the movies have had any new toys for any 10th Anniversaries. (But at the rate we're going, odds are there will be Revenge of the Sith reruns in circulation in 2015, that line never seems to end.)



I'm surprised! The Black Series wave 2 in both sizes showed up early, online anyway. As to the availability in stores, I haven't seen it yet - but if we look at our Wheel of History, it shows Hasbro has been rotten at wave 2s across its spectrum of male action toy lines for quite some time. Usually what happens is wave 1 piles up a bunch, and wave 2 trickles out - and if there's wave 1 figures mixed in the wave 2 cases, may whatever God you believe in have mercy on your brick-and-mortar shopper soul. I don't expect the 3 3/4-inch guys to be easy to get, but 6-inch - in theory - should be, since there are no repacks. If for any reason wave 2 does turn out to be difficult to get between now and January, well, it's been a fun two or three waves, hasn't it?

Every now and again when a new Episode VII news byte gets out, people ask if I have any real opinion on it and I have to say, after surviving the 1990s, I very rarely get excited by any casting or crewing news... or if I do, I know it shouldn't. The quintessential movie-that-sounds-great-on-paper is Congo, and cast member Bruce Campbell once shot back at a guy at a Q&A panel where he asked for a volunteer - this came from a Q&A a friend of mine went to about 10 years ago. And of course, I have the transcript courtesy of my friend Pete. People were asking Bruce Campbell for his least favorite movies that he's done, and he asked for a volunteer from the audience for the following exchange:

"The movie has the editor from E.T. It has the director of photography who won a Oscar for Empire of the Sun. The screenplay was written by the writer who did Jurassic Park and it is based on a book by the author of Jurassic Park. It also has all of Steven Spielberg's producers involved in its production. Would you make this film?"

"Sure," the young woman said.

"Congratulations, you just did Congo," Bruce said.

Moviegoing is a subjective experience anyway, so the news that one Lawrence Kasdan is writing the movie may not mean much. Sure, he wrote The Empire Strikes Back but you have to remember that a lot of the same people who worked on Star Wars worked on The Phantom Menace. Time changes a lot of things, including the person who watches the film, so trying to recapture the proverbial lightning in a bottle will always be a challenge. My question is now and shall always be "so how are the toys going to turn out?" In this case, should the writers and producers revisit locales of the original saga it might work out well for us so we can finally get some decent playsets or new vehicles, assuming their role is sufficient enough to warrant such a thing.

For the time being I'll just sit back and enjoy wallowing in the crumbs left by the 1999-2005 saga, which is still a nice place to be. I think (and you may disagree) that 1991-1998 was a damn fine time to be a Star Wars fan, with little nuggets trickled out every now and again regarding new movies in a sea of comics, novels, and toys that didn't come along as quickly as they do today. I remember when seeing a new postcard or a vinyl figure by In Character (were they owned by Dakin?) at the then-new Suncoast Motion Picture Co. store was a big stinkin' deal back around 1993. There's a whole era of wholly forgotten stuff back when Star Wars was terminally uncool. (And don't say you always loved it. I know the truth. Show of hands - who all remembers being genuinely excited the first time they saw a new Star Wars t-shirt in the early to mid 1990s somewhere other than Star Tours")

Where was I? Right, new movie. We've had a constant flow of new stuff (comics, toys, TV) and unlike the gap between the first two trilogies, the franchise has had a fairly constant presence dang near everywhere. I'm quite curious to see how it shakes out, but I think if you're a fan of anything long enough you can cultivate a sense of attachment that can evolve into detachment. It almost doesn't matter how the movies are anymore, because what really matters for a lot of us is discussing them and collecting them anyway. In 1996 they had the right idea with Shadows of the Empire, a novel which was also a comic, video game, pop-up book, and small toy line with a full orchestra doing a soundtrack album. Granted people were a lot hungrier for Star Wars back then, but the movie-without-a-movie marketing plan was something brilliant that it's quite surprising that nobody else has really managed to successfully duplicate. Plus, you have the added benefit of not seeing your heroes age 32 years in an instant, projected on a giant possibly 3-D screen in 8K resolution which remind you of the grim specter of Death stalking you every day of your life.

As long as the whole thing means I get a few more Astromech repaints out of the deal, I'll consider whatever Disney decides to sell us as a movie to be a worthwhile pursuit. And if it's a horrible flop, well, there's always schadenfreude and the joy of knowing that George Lucas may very well have made more money by not producing a movie and letting someone else do it.

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.