Q&A: Star Wars The Black Series - Again, Rogue One, and Clone Trooper Figures Redux

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, January 10, 2016

1. What do you know about the Walmart exclusive Black Series line. I have seen remnants of wave 3 at two area stores and I was happy to buy Poe Dameron and Finn - they are really nice figures that fit in well the VOTC figures. I hit the Walmart by my house daily and we only received wave 1. I have not seen signs of wave 2 anywhere in St. Louis. As a long time purchaser of all things Hasbro, I am dismayed by how Hasbro is treating this line. Any insight. Will the line continue. Should I just go to eBay. Can your employer pick it up as a shared exclusive?

This is a generalization - over the past decade, exclusive figures tend to be easier to get than non-exclusive ones. Sometimes it takes a while for things to roll out, but most of the time it will eventually hit wide. I don't doubt Rey will continue to be cherry-picked, but eventually we might (key word) see these start to hang around more. We're in the midst of Star Wars-mania today, so with a tight-lipped Hasbro and Walmart being Walmart it's impossible to say for sure if we've seen everything evaporate into the holiday shopping bonanza or if subsequent shipments are due later. Remember, the first wave flew off the shelves before hanging for a bit. We might get lucky here, too... and your Walmart might be terrible. Remember, one person can easily absorb an entire case of exclusive product.

While I'm sure lots of toys would be great as shared exclusives, that's up to Hasbro and the retailer. And of course you guys can write Hasbro and let them know where you might like to find certain toys for sale - after all, what could it hurt?

I'd anticipate more of these showing up sooner or later, and if you can wait a few years odds are people hoarding them will dump them cheap as the next movie's new hotness hits. Or maybe one or two movies down the road. We've got short attention spans as a group, so odds are you'll get what you want eventually. Just be on top of things.



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2. As far as I'm concerned, Rogue One can be a terrible, dreadful movie and I'll still love it if Hasbro finally gives us a 3.75" scale Rebel Blockade Runner in the toys. I get the world we live in today with regards to vehicles, so I'm not imagining this as some $100+ "in-scale" thing, just something that can fit into one of the existing price points and has enough room for 1-2 figures in the cockpit. Do you think there's a good chance we'll finally get this?

And I thought I was a pessimist! Right now I don't know what to expect from the movie in terms of hardware beyond what we've seen in a few leaked photos. (We've seen very little - but some newness.) At this point I don't know if that type of vehicle even makes an appearance, and based on the Falcon's performance - and price given China - I don't know that this format is going to be as viable as it once was. After all, the new Falcon was an all-new toy and it was pretty expensive - would a similarly priced (and arguably less famous) vehicle do better? Maybe... but probably not.

The new movie has a lot of potential. If the rumors are true, it could look very similar to the original 1977 film, which can't be all bad - but Rebels takes place around the same time, and it's a big galaxy. I wouldn't bet on Hasbro giving a lot of $100+ love to all-new never-before-seen vehicles if it can get away with redoing an existing signature vehicle. After all, while we may be griping about the 2015 Millennium Falcon after we got the big one in 2008, keep in mind that 8 years is an eternity to kids. Hasbro could probably get away with a different-but-classic take on an X-Wing, TIE Fighter, or other ship and do just fine. The Snowspeeder hasn't really seen much action in nearly six years - so if you're 7 or 8 today, you may never have had a chance to get one.

Given The Force Awakens it looks like Hasbro and Disney are gunning toward nostalgists for now - so for all I know we'll see new takes on existing vehicles that are proven sellers. I mean, when you get right down to it, this thing is now a full-on corporate franchise if it wasn't already. The entertainment serves as an ad for the merchandise, and you are a customer who sees him or herself as a fan. There's a lot of money in convincing adults to buy toys for their kids and leaning on the "I always wanted that when I was a kid" button does wonders here.

So - I hope so. I'd buy one. Hopefully 2017 if not 2016, it'd be a fabulous way to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the original film - by finally giving us the very first vehicle to appear on-screen in the movie.




3. Will we ever get an super articulated green ARC trooper sergeant? Also will super articulation come back?

Since I can't give out much legit insight on upcoming figures - for various legal reasons and the fact that what you're asking about is, today, hypothetically a Walmart exclusive - I'd say "no/I don't know." The Clone Wars has yet to reappear since the new movie started, and to date we haven't seen any non-film toys in Walmart's exclusive super-articulated 3 3/4-inch The Black Series line. We don't even know if they're going to continue it.

I hope Hasbro brings it back, especially if armor up figures cost the same as a super-articulated figure. The armor packaging is such a cruel tease, with so much wasted space and materials at a price tag that doesn't really offer a much more satisfying experience.

I'm really hoping Hasbro does - at the very least - what they did for this movie. "Who are the most popular 5-6 characters?" OK, do those as super-articulated figures. If Walmart doesn't want to keep doing them, find another partner - I know that partner exists. Maybe put them on Vintage cards because - let's be honest - if you look at 6-inch or 3 3/4-inch Kylo Ren Black Series figures on eBay, the packaged autoimages look pretty much the same. At least change the spot color, people.

I kind of hope Hasbro goes back to the 2014 split - I'd like a line of $6 retail figures (like we got for Rebels) and a separate line of $13-ish super-articulated figures (like we got for Vintage and The Black Series), hopefully with a greater emphasis on freshness and variety. I'll gladly shell out $13 for a super-articulated The Force Awakens Luke. I'll also buy one for $6 with a few joints without complaining. The mid-tier, build-a-weapon area just bugs me. It's too expensive to be cheap. It's too cheap to feel like a premium item. It's just this ugly middle area which will succeed because it's the only game in town, not because it's good, or fresh, or well-thought-out. It's just going to succeed because enthusiasm trumps market research.




While not much new has actually appeared on shelves, several new pre-orders are up - more are coming - and we saw a big toy controversy get in the press. I went on a little Twitter storm myself and was contacted for a few people on the story of "Where's Rey?" Now if you've been with us over the last 21 years (oh man I'm old) the very notion of there being a toy that you want and can't get is sort of normal. If you could go to the store and find the toy you want, odds are sites like this one wouldn't be necessary. Collecting toys in the 21st century with any element of completeness demands you put in time doing research at the very least, in addition to pounding the pavement to hunt or sucking it up to buy a desirable figure online. This wasn't uncommon in the 1990s either, as "rare" figures gain and lose heat due to kid demand, variations and other reasons.

The lack of Rey figures - which we know is just plain ol' popularity mixed with Monopoly oversight thanks to NDAs and completely confidential plots - resulted in quite the large amount of chatter for the new people, which resulted in press outlet outreach, anger, confusion, and probably suffering. We've come a long way since the 1990s, when most lines had (at best) one woman who was shortpacked and almost always automatically the must-buy figure. Star Trek gave us a pretty decent selection of figures thanks to the fact that the main cast had to be represented, while Star Wars, uh, was consistent with the media. Leia was joined by Mon Mothma, Sy Snootles, Mara Jade, Jabba's Dancers, Aunt Beru, and little else before the prequels started. Leia always started off being rare and scarce, but over time that changed - and Mara got terrible distribution thanks to the previous waves clogging up pegs, and Jabba's Dancers got dumped on clearance later on.

Today, Rey is going through a surge in popularity thanks to pretty much nobody knowing she was The Force Awakens' hidden lead. This was an actress with few credits, minimal appearances in the marketing, and let's face it - if you were guessing who gets to be one of four Monopoly tokens and you had to hedge your bets between classic and new, and you knew the bad guy had to be one of them, odds are Rey wouldn't be your first choice. It's great to see Hasbro listen to fan demands (as we fans have a few other demands, too) but I hope this comes off as a moment where those complaining will actually shell out when the product (re)appears on-shelf (figures = totally, Monopoly = not optimistic) but I tend to look at this stuff less from social advancement and more of "Can I get the figures I want?" and "Is the market getting what it needs?"

Hasbro did a pretty amazing campaign for Natalie Portman toys for the Episode I debut, with dolls and action figures right out of the gate - more or less consistent with or better than what other action "boy" lines did at the time. This time around Hasbro eschewed girl segments completely, which makes sense given the turnaround time and general shifts in attitudes about what constitutes a toy for a boy, or a girl, or both. While the market obviously can consume more Rey product right now, what I see here is more of a glass-half-full. People want Star Wars! Besides just us! That means great things for the viability of this hobby and the future of toys in general. The toy market has been kind of soft, particularly Star Wars, but the buzz I hear is that The Force Awakens isn't merely doing better than the last few years, but spectacularly. I don't have numbers, but if I do, rest assured I'll probably find out they're confidential.

So - if you have a kid that wants Rey, you'll probably have to tell the kid the same thing my parents told me when we couldn't find regular Leia/Luke/Han or the Cantina aliens. I was out of luck until we saw them at a flea market, garage sale, or freak JC Penny catalog reissue. I'd love us to be in an era where any manufacturer can meet demand for a scarce toy in a hurry, but after having conversations all over the industry I can see why it takes a few months to correct course and what the repercussions are on getting it wrong. If it's a fad and the fad is over, you could have a warehouse full of Battle Unicorns or Hula Hoops. Granted, this is different - with the sequels, there will be renewed interest on a regular basis. Right now it's a struggle to get pretty much any of the main characters (oddly, again, except Finn) and the decision to leave Han Solo out of the 2015 assortment is sort of obnoxious - but hey, we're action figure collectors. We've dealt with much worse, and if nothing else this is probably going to really boost the number of people buying toys at midnight in (I assume) September so they don't preemptively miss out on whoever the new star is going to be. Well played, mostly everybody involved.

--Adam Pawlus

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