STAR WARS: THE ULTIMATE ACTION FIGURE COLLECTION
Author: Stephen J. Sansweet
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Paperback: 352 pages
ISBN-10: 1452111308 ISBN-13: 978-1452111308
Released: November 28, 2012
For Star Wars fans and collectors, having a passionate advocate and steward like a Steve Sansweet, who also just happens to be the custodian of the largest Star Wars collection in the galaxy, is like catching lightning in a bottle. Not only does he have a collection you can never even dream of owning (let alone housing), but he can write, and write pretty well, of all the relevant events and collectibles from both a fan and collector standpoint because he bore witness to and collected most of them. Like E.F. Hutton, when Steve writes, every Star Wars fan should read.
It was his seminal books, Star Wars: The Action Figure Archive and Star Wars: From Concept To Screen To Collectible, that inspired me to start a website you may remember called CollectStarWars.com, and what's now Galactic Hunter (with the only other person I really admire, consider an authority in the hobby, and who can also write well, Adam Pawlus). Many have been waiting for a follow up to The Action Figure Archive for awhile, especially since that book left off with the Power Of The Force 2 collection, which seems like a relic now. So when The Ultimate Action Figure Collection was announced earlier this year, it was almost like a new Sequel Trilogy was going to be released. Well, with all due respect to Steve, there's a strong emphasis on almost.
The Ultimate Action Figure Collection is focused solely on the over 2,500 and counting 3.75 inch action figures produced by Kenner and Hasbro in a blister card, multipack, battle pack, exclusive, playset, and vehicle since 1978 and up to 2012's final Vintage Collection, Clone Wars, and Movie Heroes. Probably due to publishing cutoffs and Hasbro keeping a tighter leash on retailer exclusives, it doesn't include the 2012 TCW Commander Fox, the TRU Ewok and Pilot figures, Target's Darth Maul Returns battle pack, and the K-Mart Endor 2 Pack figures. This is a monumental task and one that compelled Sansweet to enlist the aid of internet collecting specialists Dan Curto (formerly of Rebelscum.com), Paul Mancil (writing as Paul Harrison, of JediTempleArchives.com), and his assistant, Rancho Obi-Wan's Anne Neumann. With only 9 months to write, compile, prepare, and publish, you can imagine there was plenty of midnight oil burning, and knowing how obsessive compulsive collectors can be, particularly when it comes to the vetting of variants, I would have loved to have been privy to the back and forth e-mails trying to put something of this magnitude together.
The book is over 350 pages and almost 12 inches high of Star Wars action figures organized in alphabetical order with a front facing photo of each figure along with their appropriate accessory. A blurb, tidbit, anecdote, or point of interest for the figure is also included. While not a hardcover, the paperback cover and pages are of good, thicker, premium quality that's both bookshelf and coffee table worthy (similar to the paperback version of The Action Figure Archive and his recent 1000 Collectibles book), and since it's a Sansweet book, fundamentally essential for a Star Wars library. Character reference photos from the films and television are sidebarred on each page along with a select figure that's highlighted with a larger photo and write up. The book is prefaced by a key page with cardback product reference of the various packaging line looks and abbreviations both official and "unofficial", like Power of the Jedi (POTJ), 30th Anniversary Collection (TAC), Shadows Of The Dark Side (SOTDS) and one I was ignominiously responsible for naming, Star Wars Saga (SWS).
Other than this reference page showing the various packaging looks, The Ultimate Action Figure Collection is devoted to the loose action figures themselves, which may be a downside for fans and aficionados of packaging design and vehicles and playsets. Once you drill down to the character, the figures are arranged in chronological order of release. The intention was to show an evolution of each character represented in plastic over the years and their line assortments, but the taxonomy could appear somewhat disrupted and disjointed in places where one or two off figures of certain characters spill over to the next alphabetically sequenced character. For instance, where a page that makes sense being visually dedicated to Count Dooku, but also has a CZ-4 and two Dak Ralters which seem out of place. It's a small quibble, but I much prefer the layout, taxonomy, and flow of Action Figure Archive, which is categorized and indexed by line and chronology between Vintage and POTF2. However, it doesn't take too much away from the overall presentation of the book itself, which for the most part is clean, easy to follow, and dare I say visually stunning?
The commentary on each figure is superb and make great quick reads, with small tidbits of information, points of interest, and a little humor in some places without being too verbose and wordy. There may be a learning curve for someone just jumping in to the hobby, like a casual shopper or kid, with the audacity to view action figures as "toys" and aren't familiar with terminology like "kit bash". For the collector, particularly those who have visited the various websites over the years, there's nothing too new about points of articulations, repaints, and variations of each figure, but it's good for a quick reference and having our geek version of an Ansel Adams photography book on the coffee table.
TOPPING THINGS OFF
Steve is probably sick of me writing this, but I'm still waiting for a follow up to The Action Figure Archive complete with vehicles, playsets, packaging, store displays, and even the Hasbro convention swag, marketing ads and promos. The history of Star Wars action figure collecting for the past 35 years is so rich and compelling, and oh yeah, still being written, no other toy line in history can compare or keep up. There is no doubt that such a comprehensive publication would entail several volumes of books, and one can question its broader appeal and viability given the issues with Todd DeMartino's The Saga Museum, which looked to be such a promising effort when it was first announced, but has been harangued with protracted delays.
Having gotten that off my chest, Star Wars: The Ultimate Action Figure Collection is a very worthy addition to your Star Wars library by a man who has been such a linchpin for the fan and collecting community. For lovers of 3.75 inch Star Wars action figures, all the usual suspects are laid out for your visual pleasure complemented with expert and entertaining commentary from 2-1B to Zuckuss. With the announcement of the Disney era and a new Sequel Trilogy, there's promise of way, way more action figure toys in the future where we can easily foresee an additional 2,500 figures added to the line; The Force, The Mouse, and Hasbro be willing.
The book retails for $40, but Amazon has been selling it for between $20-30. Click here to order and you can support Sansweet's Rancho Obi-Wan at the same time.
RATING: MOST WANTED (5 out of 5 Bounty Points)
REVIEW BY: MIKE SULLENGER
REVIEW COPY PROVIDED BY CHRONICLE BOOKS