Q&A: The Best, The Rest, The Box, and What the Kids Are Seeing

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, October 13, 2013


1. In the past we have gotten some great EU figures from both video games and comic books. The last wave was a great EE and TRU shared exclusive that I saw once in the wild before disappearing completely. I don't know the sales numbers, but they seemed quite the success. Do you believe that Hasbro is is done with new EU characters? Do you think we might see rereleases of these and other EU characters as fans have been demanding for so long?

You people are picky and insatiable.

Let me back up a bit - as a group, "fan demands" can never be met. EVER. It's just not possible - and the sooner we all understand this, the better. Back in the 1990s, fans were, as a slightly loud group, asking for Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn, and a few of us (OK, me) were asking for Dark Empire Luke - and we got 'em! We asked for a better Starkiller, we got that. We asked for Bastilla Shan, Darth Revan, Darth Malak, and we got those. I'm going to throw a can at your head for your question - just who is it you want? Or are you just looking to complain? Like with the movie figures, Expanded Universe characters are a moving target - as soon as Hasbro announces an item (or sometimes even after a rumor gets out) fans are immediately over that character and start talking up the next figure - it's just the nature of the hobby. If we were satisfied, there would be no business in it, nor would there be a place for me to write a column every week. We'd be bored and move on to playing competitive Boggle.

If you look at the movie line, fans assumed way back in 1995 that we would get an update of the original Kenner line (I'm still waiting) as well as a few new guys - and eventually, we did with Shadows of the Empire (which was loudly complained about at the time), and the fan-requested figures like Biggs, Wedge, Slave Leia, and Tarkin. But as soon as those guys would get announced, people would start asking for Piett. And then Motti. And then Bast and Jerjerrod and Yularen and so on - this hobby is something of an endless journey and why questions like yours have no real answer. Why doesn't Hasbro give you what you want? You didn't define it. Also, what you want will change by the time Hasbro gives it to you.

One of the loudly demanded (but I personally do not give a crap about) Expanded Universe figures due out this year is Darth Plagueis, which is an extremely unimportant and obscure character. Being named in a movie does not mean you warrant a figure, but this is what fans rallied behind and kept asking Hasbro to make, and we got it. I find characters like the Clone Wars Mandalorians, or D-Squad, or the red Snowtroopers from Super Empire Strikes Back to be more important - but the thing to remember is, here, loudness means a lot. If you want something, and you aren't making a big effort to get others to talk about it and Hasbro to hear about it, it really doesn't matter that you want it. You have to convince the rest of the class that your wishes are worthy of being granted, and then you're going to have to wait 18-20 months.

...I'm not kidding about that last part. The Mara Jade figure that just shipped? She was announced at Toy Fair 2012. The Fan's Choice poll for her ran in 2011, and voting ended in November 2011. It takes a while - so if you're not already hard at work on whatever it is you want, don't be mad when you don't get what you want. You're as much at fault as the rest of us are for not getting what we want, like Vlix, which I have been asking for patiently since I found out Glasslite made one in my collecting days around 1990. So be patient, work hard, cross your fingers, and don't hitch to something that they're never going to make anyway, you'll just be sad.




2. Your description of the Saga Legends figures really made me reconsider these, and they do a good job of bringing that feeling of nostalgia playing with these figures, rather than just buying them as an adult collector. However, the one thing that I wish Hasbro would have done was to have stuck these on vintage cards. I think that this would have completely reminded adults of the aesthetic they are going for. However, do you think that Hasbro would ever consider vintage cardbacks for their budget figures? Or have they trained us to expect "premium" figures with those designs? And do they feel that the terrible glut of the past two years was due to the stagnant presentation of the figures in uniform packaging (hence them constantly changing the cardbacks to make them appear fresh in stores)? I kind of think they would have brought many collectors back into the "buy one to open, one to keep packaged" mentality if they had treated these as more "retro" than "bargain." What do you think?

This very topic came up when the limited articulation buzz started to circulate, but there are many reasons to not do them with 1978-1985-style packaging - not the least of which is that it'll confuse fans with the Vintage 2010-2012 figures that are still rotting on Toys R Us, Walmart, Kmart, and Target store shelves rather than new product. (Hasbro, retailers, how can you allow this to happen for so long? Don't you know that stores aren't on it enough to distinguish older figures by now?) Another figure on an identical cardback would confuse the store employees even more, and at least around every last store I've been to it seems they don't need more excuses to not restock the shelves. I will be stunned if we don't see Vintage-level problems with wave 3 and beyond of The Black Series for this and other reasons, especially at Targets.

It is important to remember who Hasbro was aiming for here - it's not you, it's the young toy buyer market who ages out of toys before the 4-11 target. This is the "kid" line, so vintage packaging would not necessarily appeal to them or even their parents especially after that was just the "premium" line that cost twice as much. Today's 25-year-old new parent was born in 1988. Chew on that for a while - 1988 was when Star Wars was pretty much gone from the American toy marketplace. "Vintage" cardbacks are not held in the same fetishistic esteem to people born after the original line, unless they're collectors, and collectors may buy the figures anyway. (I did, anyway.) Hasbro is making their "cheap" figures squarely for kids, but I do think that they should reconsider expanding their character selection beyond the stuff children have been pitched as Movie Heroes and Saga Legends nonstop since 2007 - a few minor guys like a Greedo or even a Yak Face might do them some good. Today's 11-year-old boy has been fed a steady diet of repackaged clones, Anakins, and Obi-Wans since 2005 and probably deserves something new in their lifetime. If you're 11 today, you were born around 2002, meaning you were 4 in 2006, meaning that for your entire life all you've seen are the same repacks over and over and over. And we all wonder why kids aren't buying the same guys again and again?

If Hasbro were to put the new Mission Series or Saga Legends on "Vintage" cards, it would likely be as an exclusive - like a premium-priced Comic-Con set - and I'm no longer at a point in my collecting career where I would consider that interesting or worthwhile for their efforts. But as long as there were no changes made to the plastic figure part, hey, I say go for it - I don't have to buy it, and I feel really good about myself when my Comic-Con purchases do not stack up to be taller than I am.


3. I figure someone is bound to ask and maybe someone has but I am going to ask anyway. With the Kenner Alien figs arriving soon and the jumbo Kenner figs seemingly doing well, lets say someone continues with some Star Wars Vintage retro style figs. Like a continuation of the originals. Who would you say is essential to rounding out the line? I'd like some funky 70s designs for cantina aliens like the goofy Walrusman and Snaggletooth. The Cantina Band is a must, Tarkin and slave Leia. Maybe a few more Ewoks?

It's very difficult to capture the aesthetics of that era - we're going to see a couple of companies struggle with this after ALIEN, as the ALIEN figures were real, genuine unreleased old figures. The Six Million Dollar Man figures look more early 1980s to me... but that's splitting hairs. The real issue here is this: Hasbro doesn't want to do it and so far, Hasbro is unwilling to let another company do it. It doesn't matter what would be cool, the market for this kind of figure is very small, and with Star Wars it's a fraction of a fraction of the market. There are people who love Vintage figures that would love to buy new products, but generally those camps sort of drift to "I like old stuff" and "I like new stuff" levels. "I like new stuff that looks like old stuff" is somewhat unexplored, and while it's possible Hasbro might give it some thought - as I've said here many times before - they don't want to, so it doesn't matter. The company is bent on trying to adjust its line in directions that neither appeal to kids or collectors, through a mix of iffy decisions (3 3/4-inch Black Series) and what I assume are Lucas mandates (most of the 2013 line). Things are weird.

I love those funky alien designs like Greedo and Snaggletooth too, but the reason that they're interesting was because they were a mistake, and have historical significance. It's the difference between your kid drawing something crappy that you stick on the fridge, and some guy at work handing you a crappy drawing he made during lunch. Sentiment has value, and when dealing with something like this an intentional error would be not only difficult to properly create, but it would probably come off as phony.

The original line had eight Ewoks - that was plenty. That's twice what the Cantina got. Should someone decide to make 1980s-style figures again, it's probably going to be Darth Maul, Jango Fett, Tarkin, and heavy-ish hitters with collectors anyway. As far as I'm concerned, the line is complete - it is what it is, and I'm ready to move on to other categories. Sure, a Han Solo Stormtrooper would be nice. Yes, I wouldn't mind Garindan, a Rebel Fleet Trooper, or some such - but when you get right down to it that line was sort of perfect for what it was, warts and all. If it were to happen, you can bet new versions of Luke or Darth Vader would be in the mix - they might even be good, but is that what you're really hoping for? Probably not.

I eagerly await Funko's line of new old Kennerish figures, and if Hasbro ever decides to allow such a thing to happen I would love to pick up a few. A revised 1983-style Boba Fett with some improvements would be cool, after all.



4. Hey Adam!! Recently I bought the 6" sandtrooper and never seen it again in the wild. This was the only figure I've purchased since I got lucky and found a vintage barada last January at a toys r us. Lately all I see are the Luke clogging the pegs and more so the R2. How likely is it that the second wave will be delayed due to the stores not ordering? I do think that Christmas would clear a bunch out as parents would just want to give a toy as a gift. Now I do want to collect the 6" line as long as it isn't too much too fast but the paint apps on these two I've mentioned is just awful. What's the scoop on that? A learning curve maybe til they get it all dialed in?

It appears a few cases of Wave 2 made it out to New York for Comic Con last weekend, so the product is clearly making its way to a few collectors. I assume there will be some backing up at retail - Hasbro and retailers haven't hit on the winning formula for figure distribution over the last few years - but it's going to vary by things like how much they're sitting on right now, and that's something I don't know.

November used to be the greatest thing for our hobby. People would buy anything just to have a gift. Last year, we saw that didn't quite happen and some stuff still sat, while Walmart would blow out figures at ridiculous prices. Without a movie or really anything distinctive about these figures - even those cool new Saga Legends look like leftovers from 2005 at first glance - it's possible that the line may be due for some problems. Heck, my local Targets are still loaded with Vintage with precious few Black Series 3 3/4-inch in sight.

Quality of deco varies from wave to wave, with the Sandtrooper being all over the place. I've seen good ones, bad ones, but mostly adequate ones. I wouldn't say it's a learning curve - by now, they know how to do things - but sometimes the factory makes an error, or perhaps the person in charge of the figure design just didn't think something out to the consumer level, or they got hit with a deadline and had to make it as good (and cheap) as possible in a given time frame. As usual, it's not something Hasbro is likely to share. My only real beef with the 6-inch Sandtrooper is the belt - the visible peg and the dirt wipe just didn't work for me. Otherwise, it's fantastic.


5. I may have finally gotten my girls into SW figures (or at least the specific characters / creatures from the OT). My 10-year-old loves Ewoks; my 8 year-old is obsessed with Taun-Tauns.

I have already gotten a few such items (vintage and modern), but I have 3 questions as they pertain to further Christmas shopping. They both will want to play with these items, so I don't want to buy something that might break easily. Just because "I" might want it doesn't mean they will or would. I've already purchased the Princess Leia Collection from POTF2.

1. In your professional opinion, what is the best modern Farmboy Luke "toy" from 1997 to present? (I am buying Mission Series 2013 versions of other members of the Original 12). IE, if you could get one for Christmas, which one would you want to have?

2. What about OT Yoda (same parameters as above)?

3. If you were picking one lit blue lightsaber accessory (Luke's from SW, made between 2001 and the present) to go with as an extra accessory for a Hoth Han, which one would would you want it to be to go with your Hoth Han action figure?

I try to steer people away from converting the uninitiated into Star Wars collecting. It's not an evangelical hobby - if you don't already like it, you'll probably sour on it fast. It's not particularly accessible anymore due to the massive size of the hobby and relative lack of good reference texts for the newcomer. It's now an obtuse, bloated set of toys that requires a sherpa (Chirpa?) to wade through. Most people I've met who have gotten a loved one or friend into it have eventually quit - usually pretty quickly - so I'd suggest most of you out there, just wait for your kids to ask you. I'm sure in many cases, there are toys they'd rather get for Christmas. My dad liked Universal Monsters as a kid, and I'm quite glad what I got for my presents were AST-5s, Dewbacks, and Ewoks. As much as it would be fun to think our kids would follow in our footsteps, well, let them decide if they want to do that. You'll all be happier in the long run and have fewer therapy bills to pay.

So! Your questions.

1. Farmboy Luke does not have a very good "toy" figure since the early 1990s. I would suggest grabbing the 1995 Classic 4-Pack as a placeholder, and wait for the inevitable Mission Series/Saga Legends figure. The 2004 Vintage OTC release can sit, but it awkward in many ways. The Early Bird Kit version has a wonderful lightsaber. Despite there being many versions, none has a clear edge as a toy - if I were to go grab one out of the toy box to play with, it'd probably be the 1995 Classic 4-Pack one.

2. See above, or get the 2004 Original Trilogy Collection (not Vintage) release. Or, an actual vintage 1980 figure would be nice.

3. I would suggest just getting the 2003 Hoth Han figure. It comes with a lightsaber, and is available with either of two jacket colors on the regular cardback - more if you dive into gift sets.



While many of you won't care (because you hate fun) Machete Kills was awesome. I loved the first one, and I love the second one too. There are numerous nods to our favorite film saga, delightful casting choices, ridiculous battles, and the whole deal is the kind of thing that is pretty much a high schooler's dream movie. Go rent the original, and run out to see the sequel before it leaves theaters. You owe it to yourself. Fans of Moonraker (as an idea) and of course Star Wars will find lots to like, including a few subtle nods and a few not-so-subtle nods to the entire saga's best scenes. This is how you know Star Wars is culturally significant - nobody's spoofing Avatar.

I found the new Hot Wheels Jetsons Capsule Car last week, a new 2014 release. You'll want one, so get one if you see it. It's delightfully awesome.

If you live in Los Angeles (or near it), Mattel has a company store open to the public. Last week, I got 4 Matty Collector Ghostbusters figures at $3.99 a pop - Walter Peck, Ready To Believe You Egon, Slime Blower Ray, and Vigo. No complaints. (Although I suppose now I need a Peter and a Winston.)

Through many lucky twists of fate, I finally got my SDCC Super 7 ALIEN exclusive figures - the ones based on the old Kenner designs. Totes worth it, even at $40 for the set (or more). The faux prototype thing is certainly amusing on so many levels, and the figures feel about right and are quite functional. They're a little bigger than old school Star Wars, but they would look good next to them on a shelf. Last I heard the Early Bird sets won't be shipping out until late October at the earliest, and I'm quite eager to see what that "bonus" figure is. My gut says another "prototype" or a variant on the ALIEN. A glow-in-the-dark ALIEN would make me very, very happy. Or Brett. That'd be nice.

--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.