Q&A: Hiatus Incoming, More Vintage, More Vehicles, More Fun

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, October 2, 2011

Last Q&A for a while-- I'm going on hiatus for a few weeks! We also look at the Just-relased Mandalorian Assault Transport, the future of vintage logos, and Star Wars Mego. And more! Read on, and send in your questions for our next exciting update.

1. What are the chances of a BIG Sandcrawler or Jabbas Sail Barge ever getting made by Hasbro or something exclusive for say Entertainment Earth? Also what about Hasbro resculpting a desert skiff for a more movie accurate version? I asking because these items will sale and make them money so what's the hold up?

For Entertainment Earth? Zero. Hasbro probably won't ever make a large item limited edition enough to make sense for a single online outlet. A great test this year is the Amazon.com Transformers Unicron exclusive, which has been in stock and sold out several times. I'm banking that this is a form of strategy to increase demand before TJ Maxx, but that's a hunch. If the item succeeds, despite being a repaint, it might make online higher-end item exclusives seem like a good idea. There are things I can't discuss here for various me-not-wanting-to-be-yelled-at reasons, but the numbers don't work. And unfortunately, the numbers are what matter most.

The 2004 Sandcrawler did OK, but some of you may not recall it sat pretty hard in some stores in malls. (Hot Topic, Suncoast.) I don't expect them to try another one, despite rumors to the contrary. It took nine years to get to it in the modern line and even then, it was a retooled 1970s release.

The Sail Barge is another one that may be too big to do well, unless it was a gutted shell without much inside. Or outside. Hasbro has said that they don't want to do it, and there's no arguing with that. For years they didn't want to do the Cloud Car, and it took them until 2010 to give it a second chance. Thirty years went by.

A retooled Skiff is, if you ask me, inevitable-- but it probably demands a push on Return of the Jedi which we'd probably only get in 2017 if/when the 3D reissues all come to pass. Lion King's success this month has me optimistic. I think right now they're just holding back for the right partner or opportunity, and having just got one in 2008 I think they're in no rush to put another one in the marketplace. But 2017? That seems about right.


2. Would it ever be possible that Hasbro and/or Sideshow Collectibles ever do Mego-style Star Wars figures, like the Star Trek, Twilight Zone, and Venture Brothers retro-style figures? I am curious, because it is something I always think about, and I would so consider buying a Darth Vader and a Boba Fett in such a format.

Are you a plant?

While Hasbro and Lucasfilm been approached by companies about Star Wars Mego, it hasn't happened. I believe it's currently under Hasbro's master toy license, so they have the final say on if it does (or doesn't) get made anywhere else. I believe Sideshow's "figure" license is limited to 1:6 scale, but you might be able to correct me if I'm wrong here. (Statues are a little more expansive. The licenses often are done by a specific size, product type, or size by product type.)

While there is a market for it, and it's probably easy money, the edition sizes may be too low for Hasbro to care. It's not worth sublicensing it as a competitive product to their own figures (this is a common practice, even back at Kenner), and their desired runs are probably big enough that a smaller Mego run isn't worth their while-- they need those resources on their other brands. It's not tough to understand, especially given how their boy's license basket is getting smaller almost every year. Unless I'm forgetting something, Hasbro doesn't even have a figural property devoted to boys with no similar collector component. I believe their Spider-Man series is the closest thing they make to a purely kid-driven line... and those are some damn fine figures. Where was I? Right, Mego.

As a post-Mego person I'm not crazy about introducing it as yet another scale in Star Wars. Since 1995 I've suffered through 3 3/4-inch, 12-inch, Unleashed (6-inch), Unleashed (2-inch), Galactic Heroes, Jedi Force (2-inch), Jedi Force (5-inch), Epic Force, Mega Action, Force Battlers, and that's just Hasbro and Kenner. If you want to branch out to the Micro scales, the "cheap overseas" scales, transforming figures, we can keep this going forever. Odds are the only thing keeping this from happening is Hasbro not wanting to license out-- if the stories I hear are true-- so basically you need to whine and plead to Hasbro and/or Lucas Licensing on this one. If you know what the runs are on Mego figures (and oh, do I ever) it's not huge. With the death of Twisted Mego/ToyFare Theater, aging collectors, and collectors not wishing to approach a new scale I have my doubts we'll see them any time soon. Really, the time for a mass-market Mego revival was probably when Playmates and Toy Biz were doing theirs in the late 1990s.

I'd like to say "it's only a matter of time!" but that's probably not true. Some sizes of figures stop being toys and morph into collectibles, and when that happens certain sizes slowly die off as their audience dies off. Sideshow's runs are so low it's ridiculous, and 12-inch Joes are not exactly the hottest thing around for the kids these days-- the original collectors just aren't out there any more. 3 3/4-inch figures are in a state where they're in a position between toy and specialized collectible, so it wouldn't stun me if in 10 or 15 years the notion of a 3 3/4-inch action figure for "kids" (collectors) is a completely foreign concept. And by that, I mean a concept sold in Japan as $60 limited editions.

But again, the most important thing you can do, Daniel, is to start forum threads, write letters, and encourage like-minded fans to make a stink about it. More than a few products exist just because of the amount of noise, and Hasbro does seem to try new things every few years. (This year, it's Imaginext.) I personally think seeing something like 4-6 "Mego" figures a year would probably be a pretty fun little side line... which, if Mattel's DC offering is any indication, will be welcomed with opened arms and knifed four waves in.


3. Has there been any sign that we will get an Episode 1 vintage style carded figure before that card style is retired? It would be a shame if we got the other five movies represented and the Expanded Universe only to have TPM absent. Thanks.

Hasbro has confirmed that the "first two waves" of 2012 will be Phantom Menace figures with a mix of repacks and new releases like Ben Quadianros. So yes, you will get your precious Phantom Menace logo on a vintage cardback before they stop doing it, but given that they consistently prove fans will pay a premium for this style of packaging-- which has a smaller footprint, uses less material, and offers a keen excuse to not include oversized accessories ever again-- I doubt you'll ever see it vanish until the license (or product) loses its momentum.

Some may say "but what about the Wal-Mart wave?" Word on the street which I believe was attributed to Hasbro is that those may not be on true vintage packaging-- so if you want Ric Olie and the Naboo Pilot, those might be on some other new or different line look and at this time, until we see packaged samples, I'm not quite sure exactly what it's going to be. (I know what the slides said. You're going to find out that a lot of the things in the San Diego Comic-Con slide show are not exactly true, some of which you'll already have found out, some of which may be revealed at New York Comic Con, and some we won't know about until next year.

But for what I can comment on, a number of products are actually still MIA after a few months. We were told the Vintage figures from Toy Fair were pushed into 2012, plus two vehicles from Toy Fair haven't been released yet-- a Mini Attack Shuttle and a Boba Fett Speeder Bike, which Hasbro mentioned were still coming at SDCC but as far as I can tell (and for those of you who know what I do for a living, I can often see some neat things) there are no known plans to ship these in 2011 just yet.

A number of August exclusives from Comic-Con are still unavailable, including two mini-vehicle repaints for Wal-Mart, the two Target mini-vehicles for the Vintage line, and there's two DVD 2-packs for Wal-Mart, each of which has an exclusive figure. No sign of any of these yet. My guess is they're all being held for the holiday push in November or (as is often the case) late October, but hopefully Hasbro will have something to say in New York in about two weeks.



Aaand that's my mailbag for now. Nobody else had a question on deck (that I could find), so I'll be back the next time I have sufficient questions and the time to answer them. Could be this week. Could be three weeks. Depends on how the stars align. Come say hi to me if you're at NYCC, I'll be working at the Entertainment Earth booth. I'll also be moving, and in addition to this, I have other couple of industry events to deal with. For those of you who've been with me from the start, the Q&A column started at another site while most of my collection was at my parents' house... and then I moved out and moved it to an apartment, another apartment, another apartment, and now it looks like it's finally going to be somewhere a little more permanent.

I got a Mandalorian Assault Transport vehicle in the mail last week and as a vehicle for collectors, it's fantastic. It also highlights a sort of a split in the mentality of what Hasbro says ("we're making these for kids!") and the reality of things ("we're making these for a very specific audience!"). For example, the vehicle is a well-designed craft with excellent decoration, fun features, and seating for six. Six. I'm trying to remember the last time I bought a vehicle under $25 that could seat six dudes inside. I mean, it can't be the original Imperial Troop Transport or the Imperial Cruiser, can it?

While I love the vehicle as a toy in and of itself, once you add figures there's a problem. Hasbro keeps saying they're designing these things for kids, but I don't know that I believe them. Cramming Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon chair has been a challenge since 1995, even the 2008 version suffered due to Han's holster bumping into the armrests. Due to the Transport's construction, figures must be thin and able to properly sit with bent knees. Only a tiny number of figures can do this well due to poor hip designs, so you can cram an ARF Trooper in there, select Clones with ball-jointed hips, and (I assume, as I can't get to mine due to the move) the animated Mandalorians. Much like the Droid Gunship was specifically designed for the super-thin Battle Droids, Hasbro seems to be going out of their way to limit who can sit in the vehicle.

It's an interesting trade-off. I'm used to all vehicles being designed for figures without knee articulation, and the "one size fits all" approach has worked generally quite well, but the problem here is if you want people to drive the Mandalorian Ship and you're a kid who didn't have the foresight to buy one (or seven) Mandalorians in 2010, you're out of luck until Hasbro reissues the guys. As a kid you could use a Stormtrooper as a makeshift TIE Pilot from 1978-1982, and in the 1990s we got the TIE Fighter and the AT-ST in 1995 but their respective drivers in 1996 and 1997. I'm easily annoyed, but I guess when you get right down to it this vehicle's going to be impossible to get for months and only collectors are going to get it anyway.

So if you open your toys, this is a fantastic ship provided you own ARF Troopers or animated Mandalorians. If I could get to it I assume Boba Fett might fit well in here too, and if Hasbro ever decides to do a made-up deco themselves, I'd love to see a tricked-out Boba Fett-specific version of the ship. Since I spent the whole thing complaining, let me tell you what it does well: the wings pivot (and act as landing gear), plus there's a retractable kickstand in the front of the ship. The interior is gorgeously detailed with amazing upholstery that resembles Boba's armor and a lot of sculpted bits and pieces, plus two flight yokes. The wings flip up to reveal four firing rockets, which is where the fun comes in. It's actually almost a perfect plaything save for figure interactivity. This is a toy that punishes your not having the foresight to army build about a year ago. Unless you don't care about drivers, in which case it's one of the best vehicles I've seen in ages. Figure compatibility is a big issue for me.

If Tunghori or some Asia-based eBay guy sells packs of Mandos, I suggest you stock up. Get 6, or more, because that Mandalorian mold is one of Hasbro's finest in the entire history of the Star Wars license. I'm also totally enamored with the vehicle, just be warned it is not compatible with all (or even most) Star Wars action figures. It'd be nice if you could at least put Mandalorian Police in there. (You can't, they don't have knees.)

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? I'll be back with a column (most likely) on October 17, life and time permitting. Email me with Q&A in the subject line now as my mailbag is totally empty!