Q&A: Retro Star Wars Droids and Flopping Figures

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 26, 2023

1. Finally got my long-awaited Black Series Mara Jade figure. There is absolutely no way this figure will stand on its own. Her feet are made so that she is standing on her tip-toes, and there's no way to have them be flat. Are there any good and affordable action figure stands for Black Series figures? I'd prefer just a round base with a peg or two, but don't see anything like that at EE. Do you know of any that aren't the expensive arm & pincer type, the kind that cost $10 or more apiece? I'd like to get several, so that price really is too much.

Don't waste your money on discs with pegs for figures at or over 6-inches tall.

I would suggest looking into metal doll stands at your local art and/or craft stores. While I was able to get Mara to stand with little fuss, I assume she'll tip over with time. As such, anyone reading this with a disc stand solution with a peg or two is barking up the wrong tree - those are useless for bigger 6-inch figures or top-heavy figures with little feet. She will fall eventually. So get a stand with some actual support, or just lean her against the wall on your shelf.

There are some similar problems with 3 3/4-inch figure disc stands and robots with thin limbs. Your Battle Droids will stand for a while, but eventually, the figure's legs will start to bend and then you'll have a figure whose leg is still upright, but whose head is touching the floor. And that ain't no good.

I'd also suggest bringing Mara to the store with you in your pocket to check the height - I've had a hard time sizing them right online. You can sometimes get tiny metal arm & pincer stands for as little as $1.50, which ain't cheap, but nobody is doing "cheap" for this kind of stand just yet.

I cannot vouch for them, but Walmart.com has these stands which might give you what you want at a decent price. If anyone has tried them, let me know!

The bulk of my on-display 6-inch figures are on wooden risers I cut where they just barely lean back against the unstained/unpainted/untreated wood - and nobody has fallen over. It's by far the cheapest option, if not prettiest, and it's pretty efficient to have a few rows of them staggered.



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2. Recently there was a run on the custom/factory-made astromech droids by Stan Solo, wiping out his inventory and spiking prices on the secondary market by several hundred dollars per figure.

Do you think this is an indicator of growing fan interest in this type of figure, or just the same fanbase of customized figures jumping on the Stan Solo bandwagon as the scarcity of the figures became understood by more people?

Finally, do you think an enterprising toy seller could talk Hasbro (who now has a Retro Artoo mold in their arsenal) into releasing repaints of said Retro figure in alternative character styles? If only I could think of a guy who has gotten astromech repaint multipacks made in the past...oh well...

Oh this is going to be a long one.

I picked up a bunch of the Stan Solo droids that were still available last summer, and I hope he runs more of the ones I missed. (R3-M3, specifically.) They're really cool, if expensive, but without an alternative they're worth it. From what I see on eBay, most of the more recent droids (while expensive) are not over $100.

To my knowledge Hasbro has expressed zero interest in exclusive non-prototype repaint exclusives of The Retro Collection. I would strongly recommend fans ask Hasbro to make them if they're so inclined, and also to let them know at which store(s) they may like to find them.

I don't think I would want to see Hasbro ever shave off a chunk of its figure license for a variety of reasons, but a scrappier company would probably do retro better than Hasbro. Not because Hasbro is bad at it - but because Hasbro is competing against Hasbro with $25 6-inch figures, $17 4-inch figures, transforming robots, caped super heroes, NERF blasters, and so on and so forth. The Retro Collection figures may well be their cheapest action figure that isn't for preschoolers, and as such, is very unlikely to be a priority for their bottom line. The same would be true of literally any other medium to small new license - Hasbro's not going to give (for example) D&D the kind of love a known blockbuster franchise like Marvel enjoys. They only have so many resources and they want to use them to make maximum dollars, and to a lesser extent, maximum doll hairs.

Given the delicate balance of "what the market can absorb" versus "what a toy company wants to sell," you might have noticed a lot of exclusives got real cheap real quick at some stores. Or a store doesn't take the entire run, and they show up elsewhere. I don't know if the market would necessarily want a multi-droid retro set at the current edition sizes that may be required to make such a thing happen - but I'd like to find out.

The balance is the tough part - there may be enough interest for Super7 or NECA or a company that isn't Hasbro to do dozens (hundreds?) of retro Star Wars figures, but not enough for Hasbro due to the amount of people they employ. Someone like Stan Solo is a pretty small outfit - I would wager you could count their employees on their fingers, if not a finger. He doesn't have to worry about licensing costs, lawyers, insurance, electric, packaging (necessarily), safety testing (that I know of), sales teams, a marketing department, accountants, catering, offices, trade shows, and all the other stuff Hasbro has to pay for. And someone like Super7 has to worry about some of those things, but on a much smaller scale. Hasbro's huge. Most action figure companies aren't.

I like some of the Stan Solo stuff. It's not "real" but it's good enough to fill some gaps - I would bet you money Hasbro and Lucasfilm and Disney may be too sensitive to public relations to ever make an Oola or Slave Leia in the retro style. As such, I'm very happy Stan Solo made them. I bought them, they're very nice. If he does a good Wedge - and when Droids cartoon Boba Fett ships - I'll probably buy those too. But Hasbro really should have made, at the very least, Boba Fett for us. Droids R5-D4 was a little silly... but I totally bought it.

If Hasbro wants to keep Retro small - but active - I begrudgingly don't have a problem with a couple dozen figures per year. As of right now, we/you know about 22 figures plus a prototype recolor Mando exclusive. That's a mix of new guys and reissues, but 22 new retro guys in a year is way better than what we got back in the day. Hasbro will do what Hasbro wants to do, and for whatever reason, they don't want to leverage their retro tooling library to give us droid variants, black or red Stormtroopers, and so on and so forth at this time. Hopefully they'll change their mind but I don't think the company in its current configuration is interest in pursuing these things unless the audience grows (and the price goes up.) If they were taking outside advice, retro is the one place I would encourage them to do a subscription program if only because you can say "you get 4 deliveries of 6 retro figures per year, with X repaints and Y rereleases and blah bah blah." There's no reason each SKU has to be $10-$12 - you can make a SKU for $72-$100 with 6-9 figures in it, and other than some army builder potential, there's not much money being lost by bundling them together.





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And this week, we got some new stuff. It's kind of amazing to see how strangely the action figure line is going, although I assume Disney (and/or Lucasfilm) are keeping a lot of assets close to the vest and don't want things spoiled by toys leaking early. New pre-orders included The Book of Boba Fett 6-inch Luke with Grogu - and we're told matching Retro Kenner figures are on the way (we assume with Luke as we haven't seen the figure yet) and a Vintage Cad Bane, which looks fantastic.

I'm glad we're getting this stuff, but also I wish we lived in a world where they could throw us a bone with a wave of figures at launch like a "Force Friday." I don't mean a midnight madness retail bonanza, but something akin to the Sneak Preview waves of old would be great - 4 figures, even minor characters or nobodies, would be a thrill. If we got Ragnar (the young Mandalorian) with zero context a month before these episodes aired, that'd be fantastic and exciting to speculate what his deal was. Throw in a droid, maybe a trooper repaint, and some background alien you may not even realize you saw on the show, and that's a recipe for an interesting time. Given we're seeing figures from a show that finished airing about a year ago that won't be in our hands for six (or more) months is a little exhausting, but better late than never. Probably.

This launch also showed how much the toys (and merchandise in general) shaped our view of the characters. Luke Skywalker's The Book of Boba Fett action figure showed he had a different vest and boots from what I think we all thought we saw on the show - which I watched twice! i was surprised to see it was different, but it's understandable. I assume absolutely every fan watching that show had their eyes glued on Luke's face to see if it looked better than his appearance on The Mandalorian, because really, what else would you be doing? It's a magic trick and we're all more than a little obsessed with how well it turned out. But I digress, I'm here to talk about toys.

It's really amazing to see how this goes, because timing is everything and it's so difficult to know what will click and what won't. For example, Hasbro was pretty quick on the draw with Andor exclusive that appear to be just sitting there unbought. These The Book of Boba Fett toys - including Boba's Throne Room coming later this year - are in a weird position that somehow felt very different when we got things a year or two after each of the prequels. Is it new, nostalgia, neither, both?   It's something.  I just wish more vehicles were involved.


--Adam Pawlus

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