Q&A: New Star Wars Figures, Rereleases, Big Stuff, and Greener Grasses

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 1, 2015

1. Is it true that all six of the upcoming Star Wars Digital Release Commemorative Collection action figure four packs are Repacks?

It's going to depend on how you define "repacks" but for all intents and purposes, based on those photos, yes. These are all existing tools with supposedly similar or identical paint jobs, but you know how things go - little variations can creep in on the final product from time to time, resulting in different shades of blue or brown or whatever. Back in the 1990s we'd be excited about this, now it's just sort of a nuisance to even note it considering we're thousands of figures into this collection.



PRE-ORDER NOWish - New Toys at Entertainment Earth!
Star Wars Black Series Emperor Palpatine 6-Inch Figure Star Wars The Black Series 6-Inch Action Figures Wave 8 Case Star Wars Black Series Commander Wolffe 3 3/4-Inch Figure Star Wars Black Series Commander Doom 3 3/4-Inch Figure Star Wars The Black Series 6-Inch Action Figures Wave 9 Case Star Wars Black Series 3 3/4-Inch Action Figures Wave 7 Case
Free U.S.A. Shipping - Spend $79+ on in-stock toys!


2. With The Force Awakens having a December release, how do you think that will affect Hasbro's product rollout? I believe Disney gave Sept. 4th as a start date for merchandise, although we don't know if that's the same date Hasbro is planning on releasing E7 stuff. In the past, with the films coming out in May, Hasbro could bring out new products 6 weeks or so before the film and then ride into the Christmas shopping season. Now, they have to bring stuff out during the Christmas shopping season. How much will they have to change their strategy going into January 2016 and do you think the December release date is actually (toywise) a better time or would a May release have been better?

Considering how nutty Hasbro's summers are, a late year release is only a good thing. Hasbro put the prequel toys on shelf 1-2 months before the film - unless you count all the broken street dates, of course, and you probably should. With this summer focusing on Ant-Man, more Avengers, Jurassic World, and the new Transformers TV show plus the now unknown release date for B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations as well, moving out of the line of fire can't be terrible.

Generally a date means a date for everything - soundtracks, coloring books, toys, spoileriffic novelizations, and the works. So unless that date ends up being wrong or moved, you'll probably all want to go into hiding on September 3 because when someone posts a soundtrack cover scan that says something like "Main Villain Kills Wicket" a bunch of you are going to lose your minds and I'm going to laugh. So be warned, the internet is a dangerous place for spoilers and so are the retail aisles. Remember the leak of the track "Qui-Gon's Funeral"? I mean, they're not even trying.

So... where are we? Right, toys. A December release date for toys means you miss Black Friday and nobody wants that. Heck, it's bad enough they're missing Halloween. Hasbro will most likely have stuff out in September (if not leaked earlier, and if not a Sneak Preview assortment that hasn't been announced yet, which I don't know about, because if I did I wouldn't be typing about it) so odds are you'll have 2 or 3 months of toys before the movie. This lets kids get some (but not a lot) of back-to-school buzz and it'll help the line get more than zero time before stores reset and start to clear things out, as they are likely to do in the New Year. Sure May would probably be better, but Hasbro and Disney have to spread their wares apart - now they have to prevent Avengers and Star Wars from cannibalizing one another's sales.




3. There is a new massive (four-volume) history of the role-playing game industry, called "Designers and Dragons" by Shannon Appelcline, which got started as a kickstarter, and is now more broadly available. (At least it is at Amazon.) Why do you care? Because there is a long chapter on Wizards of the Coast and its relationship to Hasbro, which owns it over the years. The funny thing is that the author describes the RPG community as looking at "Star Wars" as one of the favored children of Hasbro, while Dungeons and Dragons was the black sheep of the family, based on a Hasbro internal categorization into core products (generating more than $50M/year in revenue and non-core, less than $50M/year). By this measure, Star Wars & Transformers are core. D&D is not. The Star Wars action figure collecting community complains about Hasbro's poor management of the brand, but to read a history of Hasbro's treatment of the D&D property really changes your perspective. It's the ultimate story of a corporation using revenue metrics to botch the giant in an industry and the consequences that held on all the many smaller publishers who relied on their leadership. The poor handling of the d20 and Open Gaming License is really jaw-dropping. Hasbro's cavalier firing of employees, who over the decades had become giants of the industry, defies belief. Anyway, I thought you might be interested in sharing with your readers the perspective that there are folks who have worse treatment from Hasbro than SW collectors.

D&D is, well, D&D. It's not Star Wars. Very little is - you could compare pretty much any licensed product franchise to Star Wars and it'll probably compare poorly unless it's Disney, Marvel, or maybe Batman.  D&D did something like a billion in sales, and just toys our favorite sci-fi property typically does more than that in a year.   As such, Star Wars having an off year can be a bit more disruptive to a much larger group.  (The same can be said of Marvel.)

Wizards of the Coast is sort of a separate fiefdom inside Hasbro, that mostly does its own thing in its own distribution network. They really do get to do their own thing for the most part. It's also sort of an apple and an orange - RPGs for teens and adults aren't exactly the same size of potential market as kids' action figures that also are beloved by collectors, and they certainly don't put the marketing dollars into it to resonate the same way we saw with 1980s action toy lines. Star Wars didn't suffer the indignity of being branded as "satanic" or banned in schools either, which helps a bunch. The Star Wars of the 1990s had boundless speculators and is now worthless as a result, but it was a nice ride, wasn't it? Long-time readers know that we've got it pretty good. There's no bigger success in licensed action figures and even in a bad year, we've got it great. All you really have to do is look at G.I. Joe right now. There are advantages to being seen as a family-friendly entertainment brand with countless collectors and a fanbase that treats the property as more of a religion than a cult.

Wizards of the Coast has a unique way of doing things and it's like any other franchise - if you're old, it was always better in the old days. If you aren't, well, anything is possible. The 1990s were a glorious era - as were the 1980s - and it's possible there's someone out there who will make a case for the '00s but this is the danger that is the nostalgia moebius strip on which our lives are presently based.



4. I'm one of your readers who's quit, but keeps reading. I haven't bought a Star Wars figure since 2012. I'm pretty much over Black Series-style 3-3/4" and the only 6" I'm holding out for is Bespin Han.

That said, Saga Legends/Mission Series feels like a fresh start -- a clean break from the past 20 years. They appeal to the vintage Kenner collector in me. I haven't bought anything yet, but I'm watching.

My Q for you to A:

What kind of "deep cuts" do you think it's fair to expect from this line? Feel free to speculate.

Hasbro has, across the board, been playing it pretty conservatively in the kid lines. We're not seeing Arctic Camo Megatrons or Shadow Stormtroopers aimed at kids - so right now anything in the Saga Legends or Mission Series line would probably be seen as a main character in terms of recognition at the time of its development, even if that's not necessarily true of the character's final standing on the media in question. (Feel free to read into that.)

I expect more of the same - the 5-jointed figures is basically the new old Kenner line, focusing on the most recognizable faces and helmets. I figure we'll eventually see the the usual suspects like Greedo, a Gamorrean Guard, an Emperor's Royal Guard, but probably never Lobot or pod racers. Basically, if it makes sense for Pop! Vinyl it probably makes sense for Saga Legends/Mission Series. I'm a little surprised Hasbro hasn't done more Clone Trooper variants in the line - frankly, I find it offensive that they don't try to sell me an easy repaint, but that's me. It's a wonderful line and I would suggest picking up on it now before the prices start to creep up. Kids are buying these and it will happen if you drag your feet. $10 for 2 figures is too cheap, especially compared to $14 Black Series guys. Amazon's prices show what the market will pay, and if they're paying $20 for a $10 2-pack now they're going to pay a lot more for Zeb in three years.



I do not feel well. I got a post-post Toy Fair bug and my eyeballs are melting, which I realize sounds pretty whiny. I don't do well with "sick" mostly because I sit around all the time as it is. So I end up doing things like hauling empty boxes out of the basement, or assembling that IKEA crap I bought during the Super Bowl apocalypse, or trying out the demo to the (no kidding) new NES game Mad Wizard. Which is actually really fun and if I could plop down to the store and buy it right now I would. Sitting still and feeling crappy is just miserable, but at least if you're giving yourself cuts with tools you don't know how to use properly or assembling things you've put off for eight months, you get the dubious benefit of being a productive, and probably slightly sicker, person. Anyway, I put together three shelf things so it's a solid start.

I'll just say that I look forward to the finale of Star Wars Rebels on Monday evening and am delighted by the huge, giant spoiler they stuck into their "Who will fall?" teaser graphic. (Don't look it up if you haven't seen it yet, at least not until after the show.) Regarding issues of corporate communication, it just goes to show how hard it is to keep on message and to make things work when you're in a big company. In a smaller company someone is much more likely to be able to easily and quickly stop something before it gets out - but at a big company, sometimes there are so many channels a message must go through that it may be easier (or at least less likely to be a problem) just to let something continue as is rather than making a change. But that's life, more or less.

We as fans of a thing also all suffered a huge loss this week with Leonard Nimoy's passing, which is arguably more of a blow than the passing of Gene Roddenberry. Nearly half of the original main cast of Star Trek has gone where many have gone before, and as an active player in the franchise even recently it shows just how much goodwill an icon like him can create. He got to do a lot of great stuff, and it looked like he managed to keep busy with tons of fun projects over the last couple of decades too. We should all be so lucky - plus he got to do this.

I'm going to go hover over the toilet some more. Back to 3 questions next time. Have a good week.

--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.



This Video Limits our Liability - Watch It
It's a Thing You Can Watch



Who Will Fall

The "Who Will Fall" graphic is actually a fan-made update to the official one made for The Clone Wars Season Five, keeping the Mustafar background while swapping Sidious for Vader (using the image from the promo sent out by Lucasfilm) and TCW characters for Rebels characters. The potentially spoilerrific character in question is nothing more than the animation model from the Mortis trilogy.