Q&A: Retro Figures, Star Wars Nomenclature, and Packaging Judging

By Adam Pawlus — Monday, September 21, 2020

1. When the [Walmart exclusive Retro Collection] Empire Strikes Back wave was announced I was sure it would follow the same pattern [as Star Wars], but we've been given no similar information of the wave eventually being carried by [other] outlets.

Do you know, or have any insight into whether or not the fan channels, such as Entertainment Earth, may get access to the Empire Strikes Back Retro Collection? Is it something they can push for from Hasbro?

I've been holding out, but I'm debating whether or not it's time to just throw in the towel and buy them on ebay.

If I were you, I would wait unless the price felt right. As of my writing this there are no known plans for if or when anyone else might be selling these figures or rerunning them. That doesn't mean it won't happen, and that doesn't mean it won't happen if it doesn't happen this year. Entertainment Earth (specifically, me) announced they (again, me) would be selling Target's 2019 Star Wars wave in a Comic-Con panel (which I was hosting) last year - and anyone who ordered wholesale from EE could get them too, of course. This year no such announcement was made, but retailer exclusives have recently been exclusive until they aren't. Some items get reran and sold elsewhere and some are not - and this is one where no announcements have been made yet.

I hope it happens - I figure these are releases many many many fans still want - but I am unaware of a second shot being sold at Walmart, or their being sold elsewhere, as of my writing this. I would, however, suggest you make a fuss/start a petition/create a forum topic for people to say "me too" if they still want or need these, because that sort of thing is always good to help point out the interest on an item is unmet. And businesses tend to want to make sure they maximize their tooling (and of course marketing) investments.

Getting fans the toys they want is kind of what I want to do with just about anything these days - everybody wins big if you can meet demand for an item, especially since it helps you grow the pool of potential collectors. Don't stop asking in big, public ways for things you want - even stores that want to carry or rerun an item need data to point to for this kind of thing, and the scuttlebutt is a few figures are sitting at Walmart on clearance too. (And I say this as someone who had not seen any of these guys at retail myself.)



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2. Starting with the modern line in 1995 (which can probably be termed "new vintage" since it's 25 years old now), what do you consider the best 3.75" figure cardback design?

I'll assume everyone will choose the Vintage style, so that's a given. How about the Saga Collection?

Same question, but what's the worst design? The 2005 Revenge of the Sith with the pointy edges and weird egg bubble comes to mind.

The modern era packaging from Kenner to Hasbro has all been pretty neat and in a few cases, influential to other toy lines. I'd say my favorite styles were the 30th Anniversary Collection - great art, bonus coin, and easy to find on the pegs if you were flipping through it. I'm also very fond of The Saga Collection and The Original Trilogy Collection, which took the vintage line look and did something new with it. The Vintage Collection is also great, but limiting as to what you can cram in the bubble - other ranges (especially Saga and The Saga Collection had ample room for big weird bonus things in the packaging. Drums. Thrones. Big sidekick droids. Display stands. Vintage barely has room for more than the figure and Hasbro knows fans are willing to pay extra for it.

I'm not crazy about the cardbacks for Power of the Jedi or The Black Series 3 3/4-inch lines. I found the former derivative and the latter ugly (and poorly executed.) I'm not very fond of any of the packaging since the Disney takeover, as Hasbro has seemingly completely phased out showing "Collect them all!" collages on the back as part of its global unification strategy - and I find the "buy more" marketing to be incredibly important. The Force Awakens-era packaging was pretty wasteful, The Last Jedi and Solo was bad at identifying where the characters came from, and don't get me started on The Rise of Skywalker as a non-event. Well, I guess you did. It's a pity.

I liked Revenge of the Sith just fine because it felt like a real toy line instead of a nostalgia grab - nothing about it felt like it was catering to the olds. We got wacky call-outs like "WOOKIEE RAGE!" and big, open packaging that made the figure look alive. Plus display stands, plus pretty good articulation, plus decent prices, and the figures didn't fall off either. I admire the attempt to do something completely different, minus the horrible tubes for Galaxy of Adventures.




3. Referring to #2, what would we refer to Star Wars toys made starting 1995? Neo-vintage? New-vintage? Modern-vintage?

I call the entirety of the 1990s-present line "the modern line." It's continued largely uninterrupted for 25 years - there's a sense of unbroken continuity and some of those older molds from the 1990s were still being recycled until just a few years ago. Each sub-line does have a name, and I wouldn't confuse anything by calling more toys "vintage." It's bad enough Hasbro swiped the term for new toys in 2004 (and beyond) so now people have to ask "when you say vintage, do you mean..."

Every few years the line got rebranded, which is great - fans can say POTF2, POTJ, EP1/TPM, Saga, TSC, ROTS, TLC, 30th, and so on in the correct order which I am too lazy to type. The problem comes in with The Black Series, because it also refers to a different scale. Keeping the names distinctive is incredibly important for online sales but Hasbro is still figuring that out - if you type in "Black Series Star Wars Darth Vader" you can get a lot of similar products and it may not be obvious which size you're buying. This is important.



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This weekend is PulseCon, a mix of unannounced San Diego Comic-Con reveals and some newer things for the future. But what are they? Some may have leaked, some may have been whispered about, some may be a complete surprise, and nobody really knows what they're going to do to fill two days worth of streaming panels. It looks like Hasbro is really pulling hard to get a lot of eyeballs on this, but as of right now I have no idea where I'm supposed to go to stream it. And I think I can say without talking out of school, you can expect pre-orders this weekend.

The Mandalorian will be back next month, and there should be more to go with that. But what? Well, that's in the future. As far as I know there's no massive revival of the 3 3/4-inch line as of yet, but it would be an interesting time to announce one were they so inclined. One of the unfortunate things in the wake of the last movie is that there hasn't been much of a groundswell of support for anything specific or actionable. I can't speak for Hasbro but I know from where I sit, seeing a couple thousand people organize behind a specific figure could be a very actionable thing. If I were in a position to get an exclusive made or nudged, that's a conversation I would love to have an excuse to start.

Now that we're sitting on the precipice of a bunch of new stuff, it's probably worth saying it has been a largely good year. Figures are getting rerun (even if it may not be obvious from where you sit) to fill the demand, rather than let things just evaporate and shoot up on the secondary market. More are coming. The latest wave of The Black Series is pretty good, with a mix of all-new figures alongside a surprisingly high number of partially retooled releases that make use of existing elements. 6-inch Dagobah Luke may well be the best thing Hasbro has ever done for the Jedi hero, plus there's decent scuttlebutt over what may well be the next HasLab item. And some other rumors that sound like throwbacks to things I didn't much ever want to see done again. But we'll see, right?

It's worth noting that while not every new reveal and release is specifically designed for aging action figure collectors, it would not be hyperbole to say there may well be something for everybody. (At least, unless you're hoping for a lot of newness from The Rise of Skywalker.) Stay tuned kids. There's a lot likely to happen in an official capacity, provided it doesn't leak first.

--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.



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