Q&A: Star Wars - The Last Jedi Launch Edition

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, September 3, 2017

1. ok so the 40th anniversary of collecting kind of sucked. yay for the neat packaging on the 6" Black Series figures, but it's all re-packaged stuff with only three totally new figures and one re-scuplted one. The only one I never found in the wild was the Tusken Raider and for me that's okay, it's one of those figures that doesn't really fit into any of the groups when you break it down, not a rebel, not an imperial, an alien but not one that's a bounty hunter or cantina patron, so they're hard to display with the rest, always off to one side by itself. I was disapointed I had to pay twenty bucks for one Jawa, but what are you gonna do? So with the whole less than mediocre celebration they never finished the main characters from Rogue One. Does Hasbro ever consider releasing a 6" Bodhi Rook or Saw Gerrera figure to pretty much finish off that collection {not including any aliens which they'll probably never make}? just wondering....

Anniversary lines are a mixed bag - for the 10th anniversary, the line died. For the 20th, we got the pretty spiffy Star Wars Special Edition era of toys - all kinds of goodies, spanning all three movies. The 25th line was three 2-packs. It sucked. The 30th line was a year-long celebration of amazing new things with coins and bigger and better accessories than ever. For the 35th anniversary, there wasn't much. The 40th anniversary is just OK - its The Black Series 6-inch figures were good, but nobody wants Titanium Series figures. Nobody. And yet, here they are, and there are more too.

Hasbro seems interested in spanning its Disney-era offerings, especially at movie launch time. I think it's possible, but it's going to require more fan demand. Right now it feels like Rogue One is dead and over, but fans can make things happen. The "obvious" choices don't get made if fans don't ask for them, even simple, obvious redeco figures need fans to remind Hasbro we want to buy them. And how cheap they are. I assume they're sitting on assets to make Bodhi Rook or Saw Gerrera, but I'm not sure we'll see Saw. I really hope we get Bodhi and maybe even a better Cassian later.

Make it a point to campaign for him at the next fan vote. Even if he loses, a good showing may mean he'll get put on a list for the future. If we're silent, Hasbro won't revisit him.



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2. This isn't strictly a Star Wars question, but it's tangentially related, so hopefully it will pass. I've been wondering what's the deal with different assortments of Marvel Legends figures having different prices. I've seen differing prices ranging from 19.99 to 22.49 at Target, sometimes simultaneously. The six inch Black Series figures are usually reliably 19.99, but now that I think about it, I've seen some variance there as well. Can you shed any light on the reasons behind that?

While I'm not permitted to discuss costs, I can say stores' prices aren't dictated by Hasbro - sometimes they will charge more for an item due to demand or because they feel like it. Sometimes they charge more because they can, or because they figure other lines are less popular, or just because inventory is tight. It's not something that's often discussed, but it does happen. I've seem some stores charge more at specific locations in certain neighborhoods, and sometimes an item just gets arbitrarily raised chain-wide. As that one Zippy the Pinhead comic said like 30 years ago, "sometimes there's no point."




3. Any word on whether or not the Titanium series of ships is returning for Force Friday? Specifically, will there be new ships from "The Last Jedi" released? (It would also be nice to see some new ships from "Rebels," as well). I really like this line of vehicles, since Hasbro has dropped the ball on the action-figured scaled vehicles as of late, but have not seen any confirmation that they are producing more of them.

Obviously, Force Friday has come and gone. Based on comments at Comic-Con, it sounds like the current Hasbro team does not believe collectors like this format and/or it may not be viable with the competing Hot Wheels line (which is being dumped at dollar stores). It's possible there are unannounced exclusives, or the mini-vehicles might come back in the future, but I'm not hopeful it will be this year.

The small vehicle format is very popular - the miniature games line seems to be doing fine, and Titanium Series ships from the 2005-2011 run are starting to run up ridiculous mark-ups on the secondary market. Interest clearly exists - but competition is rampant, and there are unquestionably too many competing Star Wars toy formats. I'm glad to see some items aiming for different audiences, just so it hopefully expands the pie with higher-end items for that crew, adventure dolls for the children inclined toward that format, but for some reason Hasbro is moving away from my favorite things. When I was hitting garage sales and antique shows during the dark years of 1985-1991, I was scrounging up vehicles, aliens, and droids - in that order. Those were my favorite things, and now they seem to be the first things axed as the lines move forward.

In the 1990s, they were my new favorites. I got excited at those concept art ships (OK those didn't do well), and the revised Cantina aliens, or Jabba's thugs, or whatever robots Kenner decided to give us. It was great. I'd still love to buy more aliens and droids from The Force Awakens if given the opportunity. Star Wars has a lot of potential life left in it, but the current cycle of massive dumping of new product and drought and clearance, repeating annually, isn't particularly good. Especially when some stores hang on to stuff far beyond the expiration date.

If history is any indicator, things tend to cycle in and out - except Unleashed, that seemed to die pretty hard. I also doubt we would see Star Wars Transformers again any time soon, but we can probably count on Mighty Muggs to come back if Galactic Heroes (sort of) came back, and a line like the bigger Jedi Force also came back (and went away), FX lightsabers had their ups and downs, and so on and so forth. I mean, they brought back Titanium Forged figures and what is basically the return of a fancier more magical CommTech reader. Anything can happen!

...except maybe Action Fleet.




4. Do you plan on attending the hasbro's HasCon next [week]? What do you think of manufacturer sponsored conventions as opposed to fan based conventions?

It's weird but neat - and I will be there. Three people I know (well?) from Transformers circles will be there as well, as are, uh, tons of people with which I work from the company in question.

For years we've had licensed, sanctioned conventions for Hasbro properties like Pony Fair, BotCon, and the official G.I. Joe Convention. Hasbro often supplied exclusive items, some booth stuff, signage, and maybe guests. The idea for these shows were property-specific. They may have started as fan conventions, but they were a business. Actual for-the-fans, by-the-fans conventions are rare in this age of peak nerd culture and without corporate assistance, cool exclusives are a tough get. (And for me, those are a requirement to leave the house.)

From what I gather, HasCon should be viewed as a Hasbro Convention about as much as the HUB was a Hasbro cable network. Hasbro owned and programmed most of it, but they also brought in other things that audience should like - in this case, we're seeing sports people and Flo Rida among the the guests who may enjoy Hasbro toy stuff. It's less "Hasbro Convention" and more "Hasbro presents a family comic convention with Hasbro products from Hasbro." In year one, it's going to be very Hasbro-heavy. If it keeps going, it wouldn't surprise me to see other big names get involved, or do something similar.

Having not set foot in there yet as it's this week, I don't know if I'll like it. The first Star Wars Celebration felt like a disaster, at a bad venue, with rainy, leaky tents and muddy grounds on which to walk with no interesting exclusives and lines for everything. It was unpleasant. HasCon will be within walking distance of a mall with numerous hotels, so I can personally vet for a wide selection of food within a few blocks if the Dunkin Donuts Center is found lacking for your culinary needs. (I anticipate many trips to said mall.)

If it works and lasts, I think it could be great. It does feel too expensive for a first year (the first Celebration was around $35 in 1999 dollars, HasCon is $165ish and gets you nothing but admission as far as I know.) Because of the perception - this is a walk-in toy commercial - I anticipate they will struggle this year because what family of four is going to spend $500 to go to a Hasbro festival when Disneyland is starting to be a comparably priced vacation experience?

Based on some of the policies I've seen so far - stuff you can bring in for autographs in particular - I'm guessing this is going to be a bumpy learning experience for Hasbro much as it was for the last-minute Denver-based Star Wars Celebration. I don't expect the attendance to be huge unless HasCon hands out free passes at schools, but I don't know how boring it is in Rhode Island and something like this could be a real draw. We shall see!  I am looking forward to it, and you can expect to see coverage here and on 16bit.com over the next week or two.



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We're back! Maybe you are, too - if you're back because of Force Friday, welcome and please feel free to read the Q&As and Figure of the Day articles you've missed. I find the shopping holiday distasteful, kind of gross with that much stuff hitting at once. "We expect you to spend like $2,000 and go to all these stores to get exclusives" is not the way I hoped the hobby would go. It's one thing to absorb a wave of figures and a new vehicle, but the countless exclusives dropping at midnight is kind of a hassle.

So! What do you need to know? 3 3/4-inch vehicles and action figures are now embedded with a "Force Link" thing, sort of like CommTech but it's built in the figure rather than a stand. This can both make sounds (in a reader) and activate light-up features on the actual toy - it's kind of magical, and you've seen similar functionality in toys-to-life video games. The catch is that the Force Link starter kit - with a figure - isn't cheap, and so far is only compatible with this season's figure line. How far it goes, we don't know for sure - but it's my hope Hasbro expands it to everything. Everything. Transformers, Marvel, you name it - make that reader the must-have accessory for all kids and collectors, and make Hasbro's toys more lively. Make it essential, make it a requirement. (And maybe make it cheaper.)

One of the stranger items is a BB-8 2-in-1 Playset. Why? I don't know what the playset is supposed to be - Snoke's base? A Star Destroyer? The Starkiller Base? It doesn't say, and it's really bizarre to once again see a good droid - like BB-8 - turn into an evil structure. What's cool is it's a lot like the old Galoob MicroMachines head playsets, but scaled to 3 3/4-inch action figures. The features are fun and the gizmos are cool, but the force-bundling of Force Link (thus resulting in completists owning at least two) adds a lot of cost to the toy. It's also the only Snoke you can get... and the guard is slightly different than the one in the 2-pack with Rey. It's good, and it's better than the big 6-inch scale TIE Fighter in terms of value. I'd recommend it if you want to support more things like this for the next sequel installment.

As of my writing this I'm making my way through the new stuff and I'm largely quite happy with it. The variety is more interesting than what we saw with The Force Awakens, and the quantity is mostly comparable. I'm a little miffed Finn and Poe look pretty much the same as previous releases, and C-3PO could stand to offer more for the price - but Chewbacca with the Porg is great. And so is almost everything else. Seeing how well the giant backpack figures balance with an improved center of gravity, I can't help but think Hasbro heard us or read our complaints to make these really, really great by comparison to the previous films. It may not be 100% to your liking, but the execution of this line, so far, is nothing short of exactly what it should be.

I was surprised to see new mold figures of Yoda (Revenge of the Sith) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars) out this weekend too - both are arguably the best yet of those figures from those movies.

Also as of right now, I find the lack of bad guys disturbing. We have at least 3 unique Kylo Ren figures, 1 Snoke, 2 Praetorian Guards, 1 Stormtrooper... and that seems to be it so far. No Bounty Hunters. No weirdo aliens. No special or new droids. Poe and C-3PO look very similar to existing figures to the point of identical to any but a hardcore fan, while Finn is very close to his previous incarnation at first glance with new pants and a new shirt. (A new jacket or a helmet, or hair, or a new weapon might have helped a bit more.) R2-D2 seems to be sitting this launch out, as are some of the new heavy hitters like Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, Phasma, and sadly even Leia is absent from the launch line-up so far.

One thing that's fun for me is watching accusations of what I like come up, because they're being presented as if I have some grand say in the flow of toys and your destiny. For example, the 6-inch figures are absurdly popular among new and lapsed collectors, but the old guard isn't as fond of them for many sensible reasons - a few thousand of them, all in our homes. Right now I'm hewing toward the 3 3/4-inch line being the better overall offering, save for one or two figures as of yet unconfirmed in the smaller scale. Small Luke is just as good as (maybe better than) big Luke, Rey is good any size you go for, and oh yes, here's another Stormtrooper. Well, at least they understand what we need with our new BB-8 Playset... that I did not troop build for because, honestly, who saw that coming after 22 years of small playsets?

--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.