We're back! This should be back to normal soon so let's get started with Q&A and hope this isn't filled with duplicates - we talk Droids, the new lines just hitting now, more on The Black Series, and other stuff in this column I penned about a week ago. Ask your questions for next time!
1. Ok, so I just read on your site there is a new 2013 R4-P17 figure from the new SW Saga Legends wave. I wonder if you could tell us if any of the other 7 figures in that wave are "new" or "new enough" or are they all just repacks?
To add to my [previous] question, in the new wave of SW movie legends (Ep III Clone Trooper, Ep III Shock Trooper, Ep VI Darth Vader, & Ep III Grievous) are they "new" or "new enough" or are they all just repacks from the past as well?
The Saga Legends and Mission Series figures (these are on the Lava Vader cards and are new for 2013) are kicking off with 8 single figures and 4 2-packs. All of the figure sculpts are new as of this wave except the Battle Droids, which are recycled from the previous 2007 Saga Legends 2-packs, which have been used for other figures dating back to a 2002 Deluxe Attack of the Clones Droid Factory set with C-3PO. They are not aging well and can not stand for extended periods of time - minutes, if you're lucky. The rest are all new, but some are repeated within the new waves.
There is no new General Grievous in this line (at this time), and the only completely new character is the Seeker Droid, which shares tooling with Star Tours' exclusive Seeker Droid. The parts and deco are significantly different, though, so a character completist will aspire to track down both.
The clones, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, both Anakins, Jango Fett, Yoda, R4, Mace Windu, and the Super Battle Droid are new sculpts and if you're into that sort of thing, are worth tracking down.
2. Have you heard any rumors about Hasbro producing more new astromech droids any time soon?
Last year at Celebration VI, the Star Tours/Disney Parks merchandise panel confirmed there would be more Droid Factory parts issued this year, but as far as I know nobody has found these yet. A few of them were in early press photography announcing the program. (It is my sincere hope that the line continues to ship more of the same parts and doesn't make new ones. I can't imagine anyone but the craziest hardcore collectors would notice, there are so many parts only the most spoiled of children would be able to purchase enough that they would require more choices down the road.)
At this time there are no known confirmed figures beyond an R2-D2 in the Mission Series lineup and the 6-inch Black Series R2-D2, off the top of my head at least. Any other unproduced candidates are as of yet homeless.
3. Here's a short question, have we as collectors lost sight of what we are buying? I have seen many people venting/ranting about either the lack of articulation on the mission series (sorry but they remind me of my first action figs that I got in '78, love em) or the "poor" sculpting and paint apps on the 6" scale black series. They are toys! Love them for what they are or don't buy them.
There was a great headline on the Onion from 2001 - I had to look it up, and it's "Model-Train Hobby Becomes Model-Train Habit." I can't speak for all of us, but the nut of that headline more or less says it all - this isn't something a lot of us do out of enjoyment, but some out of some sort of obligation, training, or worse - completeism.
Many collectors buy things because they don't have them. Not because it's better, not because they want them - you may not be one of these people, or not, but I've definitely met more than a few of them. The new Mission Series/Saga Legends fall on the fence here, because between 16 new figures only one character is new to a mass release with the Seeker Droid. Everything else, collectors likely own several times over. It's a safe bet that the majority of The Black Series run will be similar - unless it brings in new collectors, which I believe it should, it's just more of the same, but taller. Better, sure, but taller and more expensive. If we're all going to be buying more Darth Vaders anyway, I'd rather they either be weird 1970s throwbacks for less money, or taller figures for slightly more money, or, well, nothing at all and I just have money.
Most fans are seeing The Black Series in person for the first time just this weekend, with SDCC. A few of us saw them up-close at various other venues. Almost none of us saw the final figures up-close when this question was submitted, so as always, we have to wait it out and see how things look up close. I have high and probably unreasonable expectations for the Black Series line, mostly because when a toy company aims to cater to an adult audience they are stating that these are going to be better products. This isn't always true, but the advantage of catering squarely to "kids" is that people like me are more accepting of lower standards. That 12-inch Darth Vader for $9.99 that just came out? That's awesome. I love it. If the same figure was designed as a Collector's Series thing, and/or had a higher price tag, I doubt I'd have the same reaction. It looks pretty cool and is significantly more interesting than any of the 3 3/4-inch "Vintage Collection" Vaders we got over the last few years.
I guess what I'm getting at is this: don't be afraid to skip stuff if you don't like it. With 5 or more movies on deck, we won't like everything, anyway, so be picky now. Just remember, there are hundreds if not thousands of action figures you don't buy every year - adding a few more to the pile won't hurt.
4. I have said before that I buy anything for my children. They love the 3 3/4 inch figures of Star Wars. I have to agree with your statement [in your recent reviews] "For what Hasbro aspired to do, I think they largely succeeded in making decent toys of an acceptable quality, but we won't know for sure how they shake out for a few years. I've seen enough no-fisted, un-headed, dismembered figures from recent eras in thrift store bins to have high hopes for this line of figures providing fans with a more satisfying experience. (For the record, I like articulation, but I also like figures that can stand easily without falling over and that can fit in their vehicles more. I've got hundreds of figures that can't do anything but stand on a shelf and be posed, which is no longer acceptable.)" Figures, with articulation or without, if Hasbro produces fine quality action figures to play with, I am all for it. As long as they continue to expand and produce more new figures. My question to you is, how does the future for making 3 3/4 inch figures, with articulation or without, expand to new or not made characters from Star Wars?
If I were in charge at Hasbro right now, every 3 3/4-inch figure would be in the "mission series/Saga Legends" 2013 style. Granted, if it meant getting Jaxxon or a Dejarik monster few really cool, really weird figures, I'd be OK with a reasonable higher price tag.
Expect new releases in The Black Series to continue what we've seen in Vintage - a smattering of new characters mixed in with lots of figures using existing tooling, to keep costs down. The Saga Legends/Mission Series line may have more new sculpts but primarily exists to make cheaper figures for kids. I think they should just make them all cheaper and call it a day, with a few - very few - "premium" figures per year. It's less risk for a retailer if a $5.99 figure tanks than if a $9.99 or $10.99 figure fails, backs up on the pegs, and prevents dozens of other figures from making it to store shelves. (But if I had to pay $10 for Vlix or for an all-new crazy awesome Yak Face? OK. I'm listening.)
5. Do you know if the new TVC TIE Interceptor is a repack from the Legacy Collection a couple years ago? From photos so far, I can't tell if there's anything new besides the packaging.
While I do not have finals of both in front of me here in the basement, I did compare photos of the new one with my sample of the old one. It appears some panels are painted a slightly different color on the body of the ship, or aren't painted at all. It seems fundamentally the same as The Legacy Collection Toys R Us exclusive version unless you compare it side-by-side with the new one. In short, this is a place you can save $50 unless you need each and every last minor different version.
Black Series! We're going to get a lot more including an identical (save for the Han-sicle) Boba Fett along with Obi-Wan Kenobi, Greedo, Han Solo, Slave Leia, a Speeder Bike, and some other stuff that wasn't announced yet but is probably a Stormtrooper, Anakin Skywalker, and Bespin Luke. I'm really interested in a good Bespin Luke.
While not perfect, Black Series Boba Fett is good and makes me like my previous Evolutions and Vintage Fetts even less. He stands well, he poses well, and there are few (but some) restrictive elements in moving him around. His belt pouches are unfortunately restrictive of his leg movements, and the cables connect his gauntlet to his arm can get in the way. Other than that? This is basically a Hasbro Marvel Legends figure, with more detail and deco, at an inflated price. $45 for Boba Fett plus Han in Carbonite is a lot of money, unless you collect Japanese Figma or Revoltech toys, in which case it's a fine deal.
My favorite feature of the figure is that it follows Andy Magels' signature line about Boba Fett's face. "This is my face," he said in the comics, and not seeing what was under that helmet is essential for part of the figure's mystique. The helmet has a double-joint at the neck but does not reveal an unhelmeted Tem Morrison under there. The cloth is a little stuff, the rangefinder isn't poseable, and the lateral arm movement could be better - I'd love to have his arm sticking straight out at each side. It's still probably the best Boba Fett from Hasbro I own by a long shot, but it is curious that this is the premiere figure in the line. Hasbro typically starts off with decent figures and moves up to something great, and I can't help but wonder how much better Boba would have looked as a third or fourth generation figure. It's still better than just about anything else coming out of Hasbro right now, though, and I'm sure G.I. Joe fans will start screaming at Hasbro for a Black Series of their very own. (And for the record, if it was a conservative line with few to no exclusives, I'd give it a try.)
I'm guessing we'll be at 20 figures and 5 big accessories for this line by the end of 2014, and Darth Vader is probably going to be held back for some epic debut. Or we'll get a few of them, from each movie, over time. I hope they keep it nice and slow, with few to no variations. (Reissues are welcome, though.) After getting Boba in my hands, I'm eager to see how non-armored guys like Slave Leia really turn out as a final product.
...to be honest I'm not too excited to get her so soon. I like metal bikinis as much as the next guy but there's already a lot of that to be had - another Bounty Hunter, or Boushh Leia would be superb too. Han Solo and Greedo make for a wonderful pairing, and I hope Hasbro continues to plop two related figures in each wave (Anakin/Obi-Wan, Greedo/Han Solo, Luke/R2-D2.)
I also hope that the line caps out at 12-16 figures per year. I don't want to buy 50 of these in a six month window.
Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.