Figure of the Day: Day 685
3/21/2008 7:30:57 PM | Reported by Adam

HAN SOLO Carbonite
Power of the Force Collection 2 (and later, 1)
Item No.:
Asst. 69605 No. 69613
Manufacturer: Kenner
Number: n/a
Includes: Carbonite Block, Blaster
Action Feature: Clips in to Carbonite Chamber
Retail: $4.99
Availability: July 1996
Appearances: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi

Bio: After escaping from Imperial forces in the Hoth system, Han Solo and Princess Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO, landed the damaged Millenium Falcon on Bespin's Cloud City for repairs. The four put their trust in the city's administrator, Lando Calrissian, unaware of the dangers awaiting them. A dashing ex-gambler and long time acquaintance of Solo's, Calrissian had grudgingly made an agreement with Darth Vader to betray Solo and his friends. In return, the band would be set free once their capture had lured Luke Skywalker into Vader's grasp. The Dark Lord had no intention of keeping any promises: on his order a carbonite freezing chamber was modified for use on humans, especially Luke Skywalker, to render him helpless for safe delivery to the Emperor. To test the chamber, Solo was frozen and then turned over to the Bounty Hunter Boba Fett. for delivery to the crimelord Jabba the Hutt. He became the favorite decoration in Jabba's Palace on Tatooine, until a daring rescue attempt led by Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia freed Han and returned him to the enduring cause of the Rebel Alliance. (Taken from the figure's cardback. Up until 1997, they were pretty gosh darn long.)

Image: Adam's toy room.

Commentary: It's hard to describe the sense of joy and wonder as Kenner released new figures back in 1996. Back then, you wouldn't see 20 carded figures per year, and most fans were on the same page as to what they wanted to see-- certain "never before made" characters, a number of hard-to-find figures from the vintage line, but basically, everybody wanted all the vintage guys plus some. Han Solo in his Carbonite block was super-exciting, because the original 1980s Kenner figure was incredibly hard to get-- or at least, was expensive. This version managed to both improve and degrade the original's legacy, but I'd say it was mostly an improvement. The Han Solo figure was, overall, a step in the right direction. His shirt matched the Carbonite block, but not the movie costume. (In case you didn't notice, the block has his shirt from Star Wars and the actor has the shirt from Empire Strikes Back. So Kenner tried to make it consistent.) The figure didn't have the fat neck of the original, plus it had six points of articulation instead of five. And depending on who you asked, the 1996 version had a better face sculpt than the original-- I certainly thought it was nicer overall. He had a blaster-- which his vintage counterpart did not-- and basically worked out well as a figure in his own right. And of course, he had a big block with him.

The block itself is, of course, the selling point. Since Kenner in 1996 realized that people might be playing with these, they were sure to engineer it as a toy, but with an attention to detail significantly above and beyond that of the normal line of the time. The block is a little wider than the movie, but it needed to be in order to contain Han's wide pose. The sculpt of Han's body on the face of the block was closer to the movie than the toy, so that was a welcome step in the right, non-muscular direction. There were labels to indicate lights up and down the side, plus Kenner decided to make it the silver color rather than the clear brown of the original. So in terms of authenticity, this is one of the best Carbonite blocks you can buy anywhere, and is-- to date-- the definitive modern non-melting Carbonite block. (Hasbro has yet to redeco the 2006 one to knock this release off its perch.) The best thing about the figure, though, is that actual real toy fun engineering went into it. To "freeze" Han, there's a clip on the back of the block, holding him in place. What's more, it was placed so that the block will stand fine on its own with Han being held in place, balancing with little difficulty. Many action figures with two feet couldn't do that, so to see a prop/accessory like this manage the feat was really impressive. Heck, Hasbro hasn't yet managed to repeat that with any of its subsequent blocks of Carbonite, so in many respects, this one is still the best overall version you can buy. It could stand to be more authentic, with a better likeness of Harrison Ford, but the overall package can't be beat. Even though it's a 12-year-old sculpt, the figure with its accessories is still good enough for me to suggest that you buy it, mostly because it stands as a great example (if not the great example) of what figures of that era could achieve. Hasbro could make a new version to cause this version to be easily ignored, but they haven't yet, so you might want to get this one especially if it's cheap.

Collector's Notes: The assortment Han initially shipped in wasn't labeled "Collection 2," but the SKU would later be identified as such. He shipped in a case alongside the five Shadows of the Empire figures along with Jedi Luke, Yoda, and a TIE Pilot. The figure would have a number of variants, from a name change on the package to green cards to holo stickers to Freeze Frames to more typo corrections. In short, there's probably eight unique versions of this guy in the US alone if you're a variant hound, if not more. I don't suggest you collect them. ( MORE IMAGES )

--Adam Pawlus

Day 685: March 21, 2008

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