1. Is the 40th Anniversary 6 inch Darth Vader ONLY available with the Early Bird kit or will he be available seperately? I want one to open and one to keep carded but do not want to purchase 2 of the early bird sets.
Yup. At this time the line is only two waves and a boxed set - and Vader's only in that set. For those who don't know, the boxed Early Bird set stand includes Darth Vader on a matching Vintage cardback. So if you want a set of 12 carded figures, you'll need to violate that set.
For the curious, advance samples of the figures seem to be punched - the final product may change, but right now I would count on not finding unpunched figures. (This includes Darth Vader.)
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2. Do you think the original 12 (or 21) will be completed this year? Within the decade? Ever?
Depends on the size. For 6-inch?
As Hasbro has confirmed the original 12 are coming, really all that's left is the wave of 8 that was from 1979. We've already got of X-Wing Luke Skywalker and have confirmation of R5-D4. We don't have Walrus Man, Greedo, Hammerhead, Snaggletooth, the Power Droid, and the Death Star Droid. Unless Hasbro decides that this line of 40th Anniversary "vintage" 6-inch action figures will continue (and boy howdy, do I hope they do) I don't think you'll see the Death Star Droid or Power Droid this year or this decade. To date we've only had two droids in the non-exclusive parts of the line and zero wacky original trilogy aliens in my toy box.
Obviously you never say never - a change at Hasbro, Disney, or Lucasfilm could result in big changes in a hurry. If I got hired there you'd probably see a bare minimum of one wave of "vintage" figures per year, even if it's just for a convention. I'm really hoping someone at Hasbro goes ahead and confirms the remaining nine for (or adjacent to) Comic-Con, but if all we got was a single figure - and only a packaging variant at that - for Star Wars Celebration, the best we can all hope for is a matching Boba Fett at SDCC or HasCon. (HasCon being the barely-discussed Hasbro convention in September that may be the replacement for BotCon this year, but it focuses on Hasbro as a whole. In other words, the happiest place on Earth.)
For 3 3/4-inch, I'd say it's unlikely if you're holding out for correct color variants. The current Hasbro crew doesn't seem to have a handle on the thousands of figures that have come before and/or interest in making a lot of pre-Disney stuff. Until they hire a consultant to change that, well, don't get your hopes up.
3. Two post toy fair questions.
1. What toy line were you surprised to see return?
2. What new toy line impressed you the most?
Back in the 1980s, the reason I started hitting up garage sales and antique shows was to get Kenner's MicroCollection, the die-cast metal "army men" with little playsets and vehicles. (I still don't have a complete Millennium Falcon.) For this reason, Jada Toys' "Nano Steel" line - shepherded by Scott "ToyGuru" Neitlich during his brief tenure there - got me fast. The idea was that they're making a line of micro die-cast metal figures for $1 each. This makes them the "Hot Wheels of Action Figures." I got samples of Batman and Joker, and the licenses include Harry Potter, Marvel, DC, and WWE. More are likely to come, I have had conversations of this line prior to the reveal and I like what I see a lot.
I don't think anything surprised me to return - well, that's a half-truth. I was surprised that Transformers: The Last Knight's collector component was about 40% recycled molds from Age of Extinction, which was really disappointing. Hasbro's continued complete and total lack of support for 3 3/4-inch figures in the media presentation - they weren't even discussed outside Walmart's repack wave - is troubling and a bit of a slap in the face. I know they can't all be great, I know the format isn't as popular as it was, but at least take 30 seconds to show me the new stuff and talk it up. We want it, you want us to buy it, take a minute and remind us why we fell in love with you people in the first place.
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Another week, another superhero movie - we've had two so far this year with several more on the way. I saw both The LEGO Batman Movie and Logan, neither of which was bad, but neither of which was exactly an epoch-shattering triumph or particularly memorable. Skillfully crafted, yes. Well-cast, of course. I have the same basic problem with a lot of movies - they rarely leave me with some new cultural shorthand or something that may alter how we truly perceive the characters or the future of genre film in general. Both did a good job hiring the right funny people in the right roles. Both aimed to take their respective characters and redirect them for a different age group than the previous film. I'm in a curious position where if you said I enjoyed the films I'd say yes. I'd go as far as to say that someone interested in either movie should go see them. But do I have any interest whatsoever in watching either movie again? No. I know this is how most normal people digest a movie - see it once and never again - but it's so unlike people of our hobby.
I've got a strong, blind devotion to Star Wars (and to a lesser extent, Star Trek) so I'll pretty much see any movie (or episode of the shows on TV) one or more times. The potential for these movies (and shows) to get boring is and was always there - not a one of the Star Treks had a perfect run, nor did the movies always create something truly magical. (I'd argue that all of the prequels did give us something worth discussing, for good or for ill, as well as at least one positive addition to the franchise. But I digress.) With four Marvel movies per year and I think at least three DC films this year, they don't have to necessarily do what a good movie used to do - deliver something stunning enough that you'd talk about it with your friends for years. They just need to keep you happy until the next movie in a few months. Logan managed to balance its end-of-an-era-ness with a teaser for the untitled Deadpool sequel. The LEGO Batman Movie's adventures are continued in the toy store. The audience has a call to action before they leave the theater.
So far, Star Wars has resisted this - when you leave a Star Wars movie, they don't tell you what the next one will be called, or when it will be out. They don't give you a teaser for the next one. At first I was sort of miffed, but now I think I prefer it this way. We don't get to live in the moment much with this franchise, particularly not as toys go - we get a new movie line in September, and it's pretty much over by January save for a token "home video" toy and any straggler wave of figures. On the other hand, each Marvel Cinematic Universe entry teases something for the future with few exceptions - those mid- or post-credit scenes are the things that everybody talks about at work the next day, and they're marketing for the next movie.
I remember seeing and loving The Guardians of the Galaxy, even ordering a case of figures shortly after I left the theater, eager to see the movie again. I never did get around to rewatching it, or any of the Marvel movies, mostly just because another one is on the way and I'd get to visit with those characters again soon. Star Wars has started giving me new faces almost as frequently as it takes them away - and that vague level of scarcity seems to be doing the series some good. I would argue it could be scarcer, just so we can roll around in the space between movies some more. The "break" between movies is really six to nine months, depending on when you count the new movie window to be over - you can't really do a successful toy line if you have to end it to favor the new movie. Similarly, the frequent TV episodes and annual movies completely killed my "I must buy every comic and be vaguely aware of the novels" approach of old. If I want a new thing to watch, I'll get one every few weeks (on average). Frequency helped to breed complacency, and like many I don't buy into the notion that every printed story is now super-duper canon and will never be contradicted or rescinded. But that's another tirade.
I remember it being a tremendously big deal in 1989 when we got Batman. I remember that first X-Men movie feeling like we just saw the dawn of a new era of movie making as far as what we can and should do with a beloved franchise. And I'm sure you all probably saw at least once movie in DC or Marvel where you walked out of the theater generally pleased but also never really thinking about the movie again. We're still getting entertaining movies - market-tested, carefully engineered movies with just enough self-awareness that we don't turn up our noses - but I do worry that Star Wars may suffer in the coming years, particularly if the "main saga" stops being a thing after #9. Maybe this is just me getting older, but I do miss how some of these big genre movies inspired me to rewatch the movie - often in the theater - and/or inspire me to run to the toy store. Some do, but it's a lot more unusual than it was. Hopefully we won't see them slaughter the geese that lay the golden eggs, because this golden era of nearly two decades of wall-to-wall monster, comic book, space, and fantasy movies is something that I would have hoped never bred complacency.
Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.