Q&A: Better Late than Never Edition

By Adam Pawlus — Monday, January 10, 2011

Is there a future for comic packs? We look at this, as well as Republic Gunship repaints and variations, complaints about vintage repacks, and the fine line between toys and stuff for collectors in this week's Q&A!

1. We've seen the case assortments for Waves 4 and 5 at EE. Once again Vader is in every case. I can understand Hasbro placing this figure in cases because he's iconic. What seems odd to me is that Hasbro seems to tell collectors at conventions to buy figures online, yet collectors are usually the last people that need a Vader in every case. Why does Hasbro do that, does it affect online sales, and what do collectors do with all those extra Vaders?

Hasbro's largest customers are Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us, and Target-- and as such, much of their business decisions are tailored to their needs and not online accounts or you, the collector. While Hasbro has managed to make casepacks with fewer (or no) duplicates and mostly new product, which is good, there's no avoiding the fact that the same assortments have to ship to all their customers. Not including Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and General Grievous is bad business-- these figures represent easy money, low-hanging fruit for the toymaker and it's really in their (and sadly, our) best interest that they keep cranking out a lot of these figures. While it's not directly good for those of you (like me) who get cases, it does help subsidize the creation of hundreds of characters which really have no business existing in toy form in the first place.

So what do you do with those extra figures? I sold some off a while ago, but not for a lot, which is a downer. There are also gifts and trade fodder, but as to a direct solution to your problem, well, there is none. Hasbro was really good about internet-friendly revision cases in the 2007 line, but this seems to have more or less gone by the wayside since the 2009 line got its black-and-red-card reboot.


2. I was wondering what are the differences between Clone Wars exclusive gunships. First, is the "Crumb Bomber" version TRU exclusive version. Other than the graphics, it has the closed doors and special guns right? Second, is the Walmart exclusive "Lucky Lekku." What does it have to distinguish it from previous releases? In particular, does the Walmart version have the closed doors for that sealed look?

The short answer: every Gunship except the "Crumb Bomber" version uses the same mold. The "Crumb Bomber" Republic Gunship had extensive retooling with added flip-out guns, larger fully-enclosed bay doors, plus closing doors on the smaller compartments near the front of the vehicle.

The "Lucky Lekku" Gunship is just a simple redeco of the same mold used from 2002-2008. If you like the blue canopy and special markings, it's worth buying but it's not what I would call essential. It does not have sealed doors, it's basically just a more ornate version of the original 2002 deco.


3. Do you have any insight into upcoming Galactic Heroes figures? I have the most recent with Quinlan Vos and such, but I don't recall seeing anything beyond this wave. I still have not seen anything about the Kohl's Hoth set either. Also, I asked somewhere if Hasbro could re-release some of the major hard sets, like the Jango set with the Slave I at TRU along with their exclusive sets, but have not read anything about this either. Is there any insight you can provide on my Galactic Hero woes?

Hasbro has been very slow announcing (and releasing) new Galactic Heroes to the point where my retail-fu would tell me the line is either being held back for a major February Toy Fair announcement, or is about finished. Hasbro isn't shy about announcing new figures for this line generally, so the lack of new 2-packs is a little unusual.

The AT-ST Hoth set for Kohl's did not hit the USA in 2010, but did hit the UK and, I'm told, is on clearance there. A reader wrote in to inform me that Hasbro told him that this set is still slated to hit Kohl's in the USA but I can't find the official confirmation anywhere online, nor was a specific date given. So don't give up hope for the AT-ST, but I wouldn't be too hopeful that you see too many new items.

Vehicle rereleases are, in my opinion, quite unlikely at this point. In 2010, we got one decent sized vehicle in circulation. One. That's not really great for a kid-driven line which has done well since its relaunch in 2004 (after a weak debut in 2002.) I would not expect to see a rerelase of any version of the Slave I unless a store like Toys "R" Us specifically requests it, and at this point I don't know that they would. After all, they've already got a larger, more expensive version of the set to sell through.


4. Does the performance of the last [comic pack action figure] sets with EE bring any hope for the future? Either as a one-off, last gasp bringing us that Luke & Han set pictured on the back of the last wave, or as an outlet for new collector geared figures?


The Entertainment Earth comic packs were not developed for Entertainment Earth-- they were basically saved from obscurity as Hasbro decided to release four of the sets to the company, as evident by a fifth set on the cardback which didn't see release and the 87504 case assortment appearing on the card. As these were more or less completed, they needed a home, and they got one. I don't know how complete the other comic packs were, but I would expect any of them far enough along to show up at a future Star Wars Celebrtion or as an exclusive at Comic-Con this year.

From where I sit I don't know that a pack of repaints would perform well as an online comic pack exclusive-- I really want that Han Bespin and white Pilot Luke, but I'm crazy. At this point, these sets coming out are all up to Hasbro-- if they think they should be made, I'm sure they'll reach out to an appropriate partner or find a way to cram them into a battle pack or even the basic carded line some day.


5. Hasbro constantly reminds us that these items we collect are in fact, "toys" meant for "children." Any chance we could see kid oriented comic packs from the Clone Wars comic? My five year old son LOVES the Marvel Universe sets, with the comic plus figure format being a bigger draw than the figures alone. My focus group of two, suggests collectors and children could potentially enjoy and support Clone Wars comic packs. Any thoughts?

My inner conspiracy theorist believes that the Hasbro Star Wars comic packs were killed off due to bad SKU management rather than the products specifically. While there were a few turkey 2-packs every year, some of these are still sitting around from as far back as 2007 because unlike vehicles, battle packs, or basic figures Hasbro opted NOT to change the assortment for whatever reason-- I don't understand all the inner workings, but I do know that Hasbro tends to change the assortment of their ongoing products every 12-18 months which often results in the old stuff getting flushed out of retail. Comic packs had the same assortment SKU since their debut, 87504, meaning the same DPCI (for you Target shoppers) existed for the entire run of the line. Since that spanned several years, that's not really a good thing for keeping the figures on the shelf fresh, but there may have been logistical or internal reasons to do it that way that I (as the armchair quarterback) just don't understand or see.

Since the Star Wars comic pack as a play pattern has been deemed a failure, for now anyway, that's why you won't see more comic packs. Sure, 2-packs of animated-style figures would be beachy-keen but the "realistic" style Clone Wars sets were produced and while they did well, the screaming vortex of 87504 pulled down everything into the gutter.

While kids and collectors could (and did) enjoy the packs, it's possible that the product type really did run its course. I was lucky enough to work for one of the stores that sold the very first pack as well as the final (so far) four, and since more than 50 of the things were made, well, I can't say I would call it a flop. My benchmark for Star Wars success is 96-- the number of basic carded movie figures sold between 1978 and 1985. Since more than 96 figures were released in this sub-line, even though some were a pain to get, it's hard for me to say that it didn't have a good long run.

I don't think I met a single collector that actively disliked the packs, but with some duds (I still see Luke and Deena) and weak retail support, there's not a lot of room to say it ended too soon. If Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us, and Target don't want to do something, that says a lot-- they're the biggest customers in the toy industry, and without their support a lot of things can't happen. Plus with over 50 2-packs including the retailer exclusives, that's over 100 (mostly) great figures... a good run, if ever there was one.



Generally this and 16bit.com are both updated overnight, but for some reason my internet connection went out for a couple of hours Sunday night and magically were on in the morning... so here it is now.

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? I bet you do. Email me with Q&A in the subject line.