Q&A: Star Wars Retro Figures, Dioramas, RIP Zac Bertschy

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, May 24, 2020

1. I recently purchased a retro boba fett from Walmart, but I heard someone say "I wish it had the rocket firing mechanism". Given that they have made firing backpacks for other lines, would introducing it to future figures be too expensive?

I can't say I've seen Hasbro's exact costs recently, but I can say that historically 5-jointed figures cost a lot less to make and Hasbro has frequently charged us premium pricing on some figures when they deemed it a worthwhile endeavor. (The Vintage Collection, especially early on, comes to mind.) So cost would probably have nothing to do with it - Hasbro sells 6-inch figures with 10 points of articulation with spring-loaded accessories when they feel like it for Marvel, so don't worry about those pennies.

What you should worry about is Hasbro already made a 1970s-style rocket-firing Boba Fett about 10 years ago as a mail-in figure. (And yes Hasbro has been recently asked about reissuing it.) I have no idea if they'll bring it back again, but it was pretty cool back in 2010. I've got mine on my desk. They got expensive on Amazon.



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2. Have you any insights or interest in the Gentle Giant/Diamond Select McQuarrie Concept mini bust line? I’ve been a fan for years and have picked up each of the exclusive Concept minibusts. The following on these seems to be limited (or maybe just quiet - I’m always curious to hear people’s thoughts on these but there doesn’t seem to be much out there).

In particular, I’m curious what your thoughts are on the selection over the years. Some of the choices seem odd to me, given what’s still out there from which to choose (I’m thinking about last year’s Sandtrooper). Characters such as Starkiller Hero and R2 are prominent in the iconic McQuarrie imagery. Obi Wan got a figure in the Hasbro 3 3/4” Concept sunset in the 30th Anniversary Line, as did the Rebel Trooper. The concept version of the Emperor is iconic and seem like he’d make decent transitions to this line.

What are your thoughts on the busts line, specifically the concepts sub-line? Thoughts on good candidates for upcoming releases? And, any rumblings on whether or not there will be a release this summer, specifically in light of the state of the world at present? I’d love to hear your thoughts on any or all of the above.

Busts as a category lost a lot of steam in recent years, and we saw the products remain pretty good while costs either go up, or features (like arms) get cut. Me, I've dropped out of buying most statues and busts because I don't get a lot of juice from them, even though their McQuarrie offerings were consistently gorgeous, but the line's dwindling popularity was long in the making. Back in 2005, Gentle Giant thought that Star Wars could well be peaking so they stopped cutting the runs tightly to preserve collectibility briefly and just went gangbusters on the Darth Vader and Yoda mini-busts at the time. Amazingly the line continued to perform well for a few years, and while Diamond Select is still making great statues, the busts are a tougher sell. The cost between "legs" and "no legs" may not be wide enough to warrant the development of more busts.

I have no rumblings about anything for SDCC as I write this (the question was sent in a couple of days after the summer convention went on hiatus this year) so we're all kind of wondering what may happen here. Will San Diego exclusives get pushed back to Star Wars Celebration? New York Comic Con? Will they be distributed next year, or just to other retailers this year? It's hard to say.

Anything on the bubble, I would speculate may go away. The mini bust category is a tough one to stretch out with a finite number of characters adult fans want, and remakes of remakes may wear thin. I don't think anyone would poo-poo the quality or character choices in most cases, but it's true that they slowed way the heck down with new offerings and I hear very little from fans clamoring from more busts - even the die-hard bust collectors. I don't think this has anything to do with the quality of the offerings, it might just be that this kind of fan has run out of space and precious few new characters are entering the mix, and lesser concept-based busts may be a tougher sell. I hope they do more McQuarrie busts and other concepts as they make sense to do so, but with this year's reduced slate of events that may prove difficult.

I would assume recent releases of busts will be a hot ticket down the road due to the diminished overall interest, with regret setting in and fans eventually clamoring for some really cool stuff they may have missed. Fans may also be specializing a lot more, sticking to one other format or sticking to a smaller collection as time goes on. We've had this line running for nearly 20 years and while I'm sure we can all point to a few awesome designs that would make stellar busts, there's not a whole heck of a lot left from the classics that may warrant new production. Thank goodness for The Mandalorian.




3. Galactic Trading Post (the Space Walls folks) made a sideways announcement of some licensing deal that required a new hire last year, I was hoping for details around Toy Fair... do you have any industry insider rumors or gossip that could fill in the blanks?

How long before the 3.75" license gets sliced up into throwback figures (retro), kid figures (current cartoony or realistic sculpts limited articulation), and collector focused high articulation meticulous deco?

Will fans and collectors ever just like things and be satisfied with the current offerings and price points?

I believe I saw these in or near the Star Wars Pavilion at San Diego Comic-Con a year or two ago, but I don't recall seeing much indicating any official packaging for the Space Walls. They're super cool but I haven't bought any yet, as one of the ways I try to keep my Star Wars collection from eating me alive is that I limit it to official (and mostly, Hasbro) stuff.

I assume the action figure license will get split up eventually. Hasbro isn't doing a good job with marketing it to kids, so unless they have something new on the horizon it would not stun me if it got hacked off for a "kid focus" price point or style like we saw Batman go to Spin Master. The last year's offering for 3 3/4-inch - taking the whole thing into account, not just "kid" or "adult" - was really soft. Even the awesome stuff was in short supply, so there's unmet interest. I assume Hasbro will never let it go, but there could always be some weird loophole like we saw for Titanium Series and Hot Wheels Starships. (I would speculate sooner than later but I have zero facts to back this up.)

I think collectors are partially satisfied with the quality of the new products we're getting - $20 6-inch figures are pretty good. The $13 3 3/4-inch figures - if you can find them - are the best yet. Also fans are completely ignoring the Battle Bobblers, as are stores, which is unfortunate for Hasbro but would probably be a rare victory for the free market's ability to select and support winners. Right now Hasbro seems to be putting all its eggs in various versions of The Black Series and all things Baby Yoda, and that's going to be great for the short term (and maybe for future retroists.) Since the 1990s Hasbro has largely treated Star Wars as a nostalgic property to great success, and deviating from that usually causes a problem and a course-correction - look at the prequel toy cycles. Since the sequel movies Hasbro has not steered back in to 50%+ classic years. Hasbro's last year was also pretty inconsistent, with spectacular individual offerings that do not work as a large group. We're in an era of souvenirs, not of collecting. If fans are satisfied, maybe we're nearing the end of the run.



This week's casualties: JC Penney, which had a toy aisle you ignored on your toy runs, is closing about a third of its stores soon. Pier 1 imports is looking to close all its stores. GenCon 2020 is off. But more importantly my best friend Zac died. We were in a comedy group together, we did toy runs galore, I hung out at his apartment and watched fansubs and movies. He rode shotgun on trips around Arizona while I was tracking down things like the red Arc Trooper variant from the original 2003 Clone Wars line and came over to watch whatever weird Japanese video game I had lucked into that month. After we all graduated we grabbed our friend Shaun and went on the requisite Vegas road trip, and we both had the role of best man at one another's weddings. We both moved around the country and sometimes we overlapped living in the same cities, or were at some of the same conventions since he was in the anime news biz. We last spoke last Monday. He died early Thursday.

We used to make jokes about which one of us would go first - and just about everything else. I'm sure you probably had a friend like that, where sometimes your goal was to try to say the worst thing you can and still get a laugh out of each other. We had a pilot episode for a comedy podcast with our friend Shaun Clayton and doing more weird performances has been on our radar for years. We were trying to put something together for San Diego Comic-Con, basically to force bits on my audience, as well as a new podcast to entertain ourselves and entertain and/or annoy the audience of six or seven people we would attract. Zac never stopped doing stuff, be it for Anime News Network like the ANNCast or his own Can You Survive? streaming sessions. It's possible you read his stuff somewhere, or a quote on a DVD box or in a magazine of his.

He was a sounding board for just about everything I needed to bounce off someone. There aren't many people that just plain don't pull punches and there were a few times I could've thrown in the towel but he always was there to keep things going.

The last time I saw him in person was last November when I visited Los Angeles after both of our birthdays for what was shaping up to be a regular annual trip to D-Con in Anaheim. We spoke all the time about just about everything, including our various writings. After The Rise of Skywalker came out he was the first one I called to say "That sucked, right?" But last Monday he just sounded awful. That was the last I heard from him.

He was a good guy. I can't begin to tell you how much I miss him. Be careful, and do what you can to stick around for the people that care about you as long as you possibly can.

--Adam Pawlus

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