Q&A: Star Wars Dates, Bounty Hunters, and Paint

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, May 21, 2017

1. [Last] weekend I had Billy Dee Williams autograph my Vintage Original Trilogy Collection Lando Calrissian action figure in unopened card. I'm an opener, so I was relieved that after all these years I kept that one in the package. I was completely stoked. I love that he's still hitting Con's all over the country. It was incredible to meet him! But, it would have been great to also have him sign the 6" Lando that seems, one day will actually hit stores. I held out hope that I would uncover one in the wild before the event, but nope. Is there any word on when that wave will hit stores, online or brick and mortar?

As a matter of policy, I'm not actually in a position to be able to share info that Hasbro's yet to share. So I can say 6-inch Lando's release date has not been made to the general public. Crappy answer, eh?

Given the distribution of recent waves, I wouldn't bet on anything coming to stores. The Revan/Leia/Kenobi/Snowtrooper/AT-AT/Sabine wave barely hit, or didn't hit, according to most metrics. I'm not sure if the wave of repacks with Chirrut and Baze hit in any significant way or not. The 40th wave seems to be getting around, though. Given most stores aren't reordering the new assortments of boxed The Black Series and are actively slashing the prices to about $10 per figure, I wouldn't bank on appearances of new waves in all big box stores. This isn't me being coy, I sincerely don't know the roll-out and I'd not gamble if I saw a deal online right now. On the other hand, it is Lando, and in many regions Lando doesn't sell and clogs up shelves. There will be no middle ground on this one.



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2. Two questions:

Sideshow Collectibles. With the recent interest in Grand Admiral Thrawn (new book, inclusion in Rebels, Funko Pop!, Hasbro figure and Convention Exclusive). Any chance we may see a rerelease of the old Sideshow figure and chair? (Few are on ebay and they are highly priced). Ive seen Sideshow doing some rereleases of figures with some modifications from the original).

Bounty Hunters. Ive become a collector of the original six bounty hunters in Empire Strikes Back (Dengar, Boba Fett, IG-88, Bossk, Zuckass, 4-LOM). Ive noticed a few licenses that did maybe three or so of them but never all six. Any thoughts?

Perhaps Sideshow will do a variant costume or find a new angle, but I wouldn't place any bets on the figure - let alone the figure and chair - returning to availability. I really don't know how they do their character selection as this isn't a category I follow too closely, I'd just set up an eBay alert in your position. Watch the auction prices, watch for trends, and while you'd have to pay a slight premium you can probably get a deal with some patience and study. Oh, if you're willing to allow for the heat to hopefully die down, that is.  Sometimes people get distracted and prices drop.

While some toy teams do like to do groups, some toy companies love to rotate people. This means teams change over quickly and not everybody keeps track of this stuff like you or me. Back in the 1990s, it took Kenner three whole years to complete the original bounty hunters, and they've been inching ever-closer to updating the original 92/93/96/99 figures. Not everybody who works on Star Wars gets the cult of personality surrounding the Bounty Hunters and on occasion you'll find people don't even really get that Boba Fett was a big deal. With more movies, younger manufacturer employees, and thousands of licensed products, it's easy to miss this stuff.

It sort of makes sense. Boba Fett's a huge deal, followed by Bossk and then IG-88 and/or Dengar. 4-LOM and Zuckuss always bring up the rear, being traditionally afterthoughts in every format. One of my favorite Bounty Hunter sets was what Kotobukiya did - each one had a Vader piece, so collecting them all got you a sweet Darth Vader statue.

This sort of thing comes up in most nostalgia-based collecting hobbies. There are collections and sub-collections that fans see as essential, like "the original 12" or "all of the Bounty Hunters" or "the Thirteen" in Transformers. (Just kidding, nobody sees those as essential.) The one thing that's consistent from Joes to robots to Jedi and beyond is that rarely do the people developing these lines agree with you - to name drop, one of the few to actually push for "completing" a series was Scott Neitlich (now of LootCrate, formerly of Mattel) who pushed for updating all of Super Powers and Masters of the Universe (figures) under his tenure. Hasbro could easily update all of the original 92-back Kenner figures with a couple of waves over a couple of years, but I get the feeling they're not even aware of what that would mean these days. Or the new regime doesn't care. We've gone 23 years without the original Sim Aloo Imperial Dignitary so clearly nobody there is thinking the way we are.





3. So, in the last few years, we have seen some fugly looking paint jobs on star wars figures. This begs a couple of questions: Why is this a problem now, but not from 1995-2009?...or thereabouts. Second, how DO the faces get painted? By hand? Surely not, not if they make tens of thousands of toys. Secondly, if it is automation, how can a machine get sloppy?

(....this answer may change shortly.  I can't tell you why yet.)   It varies - some are printed by machine, some are hand-painted through paint masks. In many cases, it's actually a mask you put over a figure, and then paint through the holes. Little details are tough to do well and some factories do better than others. The human head is routinely tough, and as much as I'd love to make fun of the figure you cited when I asked which was a big problem - Han Solo from one of the Endor Battle Packs - have we ever really had a good Harrison Ford head in the 3 3/4-inch range? We've had a lot of "ok" and "acceptable" but perfection remains elusive. Ditto Luke, Leia, and pretty much everybody. Also my Han sample is painted better than the sample you provided.

Hasbro changes factories, bids change, and factories don't always deliver the goods as promised. The sample may be gorgeous, but 5,000-500,000 figures later you never know how perfect they'll be - and this isn't unique to Hasbro. Onell Design's factory for Glyos puts out superb figures, but once in a blue moon you'll get a bad eye or something off. Hasbro's newer factories in Vietnam are churning out mostly good work as far as faces go, but even if your dud rate is a fraction of a percentage point there will still be quite a few produced. Most of these aren't limited edition figures, and sometimes you have to go through a lot of figures to find a good one. I remember back in 1999 when I went through dozens (hundreds?) of Naboo Qui-Gon figures to find one with good eyes. And in 2008, there was Indiana Jones... that was a bit of a cruddy line overall.

Some are good, some are bad, but there are usually good ones if you're lucky enough to have options. Lately, options are scarce - a store gets 1-3 cases and you'll be lucky if you see two of something just to compare them. But, again, it's not unique to Hasbro. I bought a Hot Wheels car shaped like a toaster last week and I went through four with different, significant painting imperfections on the printing on the side. Mass-produced toys just aren't ever perfect. There were rotten samples in the 1990s, although I still think some of the big gift sets of 2008-2009 are some of the worst.

I really don't know how come we haven't seen some consistent level of greatness in paint, but I assume the complexity and number of paint masks combined with people who don't take the kind of pride in making an action figure that you might - it is a job, after all - it is what it is. For $5-$13 retail, with a lower wholesale cost and even less money going to the worker, the equipment, and the materials, it is what it is. This is why people collect Kotobukiya, Sideshow, and Gentle Giant - and why they get even madder when those fail to meet expectations.

I mean, look at this. They're all this way. This isn't a crappy bootleg carved out of soap in Scotland either - this is a real, made-in-China Hasbro product authorized by Lucasfilm (at one point in time). While there are dorkier sculpts, I would argue there is no worse paint job, and also that we will see a figure to rival this one some day in its ability to disappoint children of all ages.




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Show, how's your girl? I've seen glimpses into the future and am reminded a great deal of what has been forgotten. It is not time to peer into the closet just yet.

Speaking of cryptic, this weekend's entertainment serves as a reminder of what didn't happen. The Last Jedi didn't make it out in May for the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars as originally planned. May 25 may come and go without more than a die-cast metal release at the Disney Store, but it's not like nostalgia was in short supply. We went to see Alien: Covenant on Saturday and I'm hard-pressed to say if I liked it or not. On one hand it gave us some hoary old-thyme sequel tropes, while giving fans an opportunity to levy the same criticism given to The Force Awakens, specifically a lot of "have I seen this before?" Not coincidentally, my lovely cinematic companion was lamenting how the movie and trailers felt pretty derivative - at which point I stopped her, and we walked along the wall of posters on the way out. Each and every one was not merely a sequel, but also fourquels and fivequels. As a child such large numbers were reserved for The Planet of the Apes, James Bond, Godzilla, and eventually Star Trek. Now we're seeing Transformers on equal footing with named Alien standalone movies and The Fast and the Furious on equal footing with Star Wars. Questions of retcons and wiping out the original franchise remain after seeing the new Alien movie, which provided thrills, spills, and that Fassbender-on-Fassbender action that your wives and girlfriends and pals and boyfriends crave.

Similarly, Twin Peaks aired just before I wrote this and it lacked the Cooper-on-Cooper action that your wives and girlfriends and pals crave, but delivered on some of the other R-Rated elements you'd expect from an Alien movie. Like Alien I'm not entirely sure if I'd say I liked it and I'd also say you should probably watch it. This seems like a cop-out but it's how I'm finding myself dealing with much of the repackaged popular culture these days. I was not born in to superheroes, so I can admire them for what they are rather than what I wish they would be. I'm not getting much from them, but having cult television and nerd culture essentially take over for what amounted to adult (but not that kind of adult) entertainment has done a nice job highlighting originality, the copycats, and a true original. Even in its continuation of a classic, Twin Peaks draws from some truly unusual energy to deliver something that I can honestly say I recognize as being entertainment but can't easily pick apart as having been done before, whereas Alien borrows from itself and numerous old horror movies and recent Star Wars is currently mining itself for its future. Which it has been doing for years with McQuarrie and Johnston concepts. And Star Trek is seemingly borrowing from Abrams' Star Wars, at least in part, for visuals.

I'm chasing my tail and finding that Star Wars is a beloved institution that I wish to see less of in the future. An unlimited supply of anything is a problem, especially if you can't quite keep up. There's less joy in endlessly chasing a franchise, without being given time to ponder what you just saw and examine it for its merits. Marvel's one big flaw from where I sit is that each movie leaves you with a demand to go see the next one - or several ones - as part of the admission price. You actually postpone peeing to get this marketing message. The message changes the question from enjoyment of what you just saw to asking you to see another film, and if you liked the few seconds of teases to go pay and see that later. The answer is generally, invariably, yes. With Star Wars I find this troubling because that entire franchise thrives between films. The movie year is nice, but let's look at history - fans went bonkers between films.

In 1979, we got Boba Fett. The Marvel Comics let the characters live and breathe between films, sometimes in the wrong direction, but it happened. The Clone Wars happened outside the cinematic influence, the greatest years of the entire toy line took place after we thought it was on its way out, and the only video games worth a damn tended to come up as a tangent, an afterthought, and not part of the movies. Now we leave theaters with the existing movie toys already on the way out the door, with visions of the next movie on the horizon. In 13 months we'll have seen 2 new Star Wars films, Rebels will have come to an end, and we'll probably have two new movie titles and a new TV show to absorb and speculate upon.

For those of you who've been with me, I've been doing this - the toy writing thing - for you all since 1995. I assume I'll be doing it for another 20 years. I am feeling a lot older in the last couple of months, with the reality of the seemingly endless franchises ahead of us that wiser people than I (hello, Frank and hi, Kent) have always warned of when discussing all things plastic. The fact that I'm now the target demographic - and I'm aging out of it - for a lot of entertainment is sort of troubling as I have to both deal with how a significant amount of entertainment is made specifically for people around my age, while it could end very soon as the next generation coming up decides this is all a bunch of garbage. I have a feeling 10 years from now I'll be unemployable in the toy and collectible business as I will instead be given time to enjoy that which we already have, rather than worrying about an endless future of repeating entertainment ahead of me.

For now, I've got Star Trek, Twin Peaks, Star Wars, X-Files, Thor, Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman, The Mummy, Transformers, Spider-Man, Blade Runner, Cloverfield, Justice League, and probably something else all trading on my nostalgia of past entertainments before the end of the year. I don't know if I have it in my to absorb quite this much, and I can't imagine it can last forever. I assume I'll be catching up later on some of the stuff, but the option of saying goodbye to all of it becomes increasingly seductive by the day.

But hey, there are at least two toy launches for Star Wars in the next year. Hooray?

--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.