Q&A: Star Wars Vehicles, Comics, and Vintage Action Figures

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, February 1, 2015

1. What do you think about having not one but two variant covers of the new Marvel Star Wars Issue #1 with Jaxxon on it? Even though this comic starts after Episode IV and Marvel justified this choice with the (simply outrageous) statement that they chose this time period because it had been relatively unexplored (ignoring previous Marvel efforts and the fact that Dark Horse had a currently running comic at the exact same time period), I found that I was unable to maintain my sense of jaded aloofness and ran like an excited fanboy to the local comic book store on Wednesday and picked up the issue with seven different covers! What a day!

Now Hasbro just needs to bring back the comic-book two packs and include this cover with Jaxxon!

It's certainly very curious that Marvel would allude to something with some - admittedly mild - love from the past only to basically dump on it. Jaxxon is one of those things that people rightly mock, but it's not like green rabbits in space wearing red costumes are unique to this particular brand.

People - and by people, I mean not people, but marketing people which are a reasonable facsimile - generally have little to know actual know-how of the property. They're well-rehearsed on talking points and messages, and as you say they do indeed forget that Star Wars stories written in this area are somewhat plentiful. As a matter of fact, you may recall that the 1996 opus Shadows of the Empire was initially pitched between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, but was moved in between the latter two parts of the trilogy because they said that area was less explored overall. I suppose they don't want to get too into it, but many of those early stories were written before the bulk of the audience for this new era of material were probably born and I doubt newspaper strips, old Marvel stories, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, and numerous Dark Horse series were taken into consideration. That's the way these things go - I saw similar comments a few weeks ago about an executive at Hasbro UK saying that Transformers were fundamentally unchanged for 30 years until 2014, which just shows a sort of willing obliviousness to observe anything about what they're selling. But I digress.

From where I sit there are very few parts of the Star Wars galaxy left completely untouched. We've even got dubious tales of young Luke, Leia, and Han, alternate universe retellings of the original trilogy, and so much more that it probably wouldn't be wise for Marvel to just cop to the fact that the entire Expanded Universe was pretty much tossed aside to make what amounts to an "Ultimate" Star Wars publishing program. Because that's what this is really about - selling paper. The best way to do that is to make new #1s.

As to the comic two-packs, well, keep wishin'. Hasbro made numerous wonderful comic pack toys over the years, I jumped on board with awesome G.I. Joe ones roughly 2005-2010ish. And then we got really cool Star Wars ones starting with Kir Kanos and Carnor Jax from 2006 until it ran its course with the final items dumped as Entertainment Earth exclusives in 2010. And now Transformers has a comic book with every deluxe Generations toy, as has been the way of things since 2013. And it works! People love them, and they're seemingly coming back after a one-wave delay. (We shall see!) Now that Star Wars figure 2-packs at $10 are really popular, I can't imagine Hasbro would want to change the cost structure to bring back a comic. Speaking of, remember that? $9.99 for two, super-articulated action figures AND a full size comic book? When regular single figures were $6.99? How times have changed.



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2. This is a twofold question: The space ship Ghost from the cartoon Star Wars Rebels, will Hasbro get the courage and gives us that ship? If they do provide that ship will they expand to include the small ship Phantom or would we use the one that Hasbro already gave us?

The Hasbro of today is different than the Hasbro from five or ten years ago. Right now, Hasbro is competing against Hasbro for the boy's action market - rather than have one or two big movies with several waves of toys each year, we're looking at a year with two potentially billion dollar movies, plus a few smaller ones, and a couple of TV shows, all from Hasbro. As such, the selling windows are getting shorter and without some huge mandate, a massive surge in popularity, the risk of a big toy continues to increase along with the labor and raw material prices. If Hasbro puts out a big toy aimed at kids (and the Ghost would be), then it has to time it just right so that it doesn't step on (or be stepped on) by whatever the next Marvel movie is or another new toy line.

I believe I overheard someone at Hasbro saying that the Phantom was engineered with a potential dock in mind, but undocumented and unrealized features happen on toys all the time and we just don't realize it. Were one to be made some day, I would expect this one to dock with it - clearly the vehicles were a big success and sold through nearly everywhere so far, so hopefully Hasbro will continue to explore and develop more of them as time goes on. But big ones? I gotta tell you, Hasbro seems to be downsizing everything - smaller figures, less articulation, and lower price points are the new goal. Given Rebels product from Hasbro seems to have had its wings clipped with a late release, poor distribution thanks to the dock strike, and effectively being absent from most stores for the holiday season I am not hopeful that Rebels will have legs beyond 2016 in a significant toy way. Of course, I hope I'm just dead wrong - Kenner used to slow-drip few figures to market per year, and it was a wild success. Maybe Hasbro is taking notes and starving the market into caring once again.




3. Will Hasbro rerelease the last wave of the Vintage Collection that includes the Royal Guard and others that are popular in ebay?

Before we get into this, let's look into the economics of action figure collecting in 2015. The last time we got new Vintage figures, the going rate was $9.99 or $10.99. Today it's looking closer to $12.99 as a start - possibly $14 or $15. New shipments haven't happened yet and any price increases which may be happening this year tend to roll out gradually as the old product leaves and new product arrives. New figures still tend to be scarce - regardless of where you live, you may be forced to order online anyway. With that in mind, analyze the numbers before you ask for reissues of anything. Will a reissue be cheaper? Not necessarily - because even if they make the exact figure with the exact accessories and no changes to the deco in any way (unlikely) prices will likely continue to increase a tiny bit every year or two, so by the time your figure of choice is brought back it may have been cheaper to just buy it right now on eBay. If you can get a cheap collection/lot/sealed case of that wave, and by "cheap" I mean $30/delivered per figure or less, let's be honest: it's about as good as you'll get these days.

So, your question. Reissue this wave in Vintage Packaging? With no meaningful changes? No, absolutely never. I've been asked this a few times by differing people for different reasons... this wave had some struggles to get out as it was, and it performed well given the circumstances. With enough demand I expect the individual figures could be reissued, but when you look at how that wave really performed it's not in Hasbro's best interest to reissue it. For a long period of time you could pick up many of those figures for $5 or less on Amazon - not all of them, of course, but enough of them that Hasbro would be pretty foolish to reissue them all. I file this under "you had your chance." About half the case bombed when it hit for the first several months, and only a few got expensive fast - with others getting expensive later. In the words of the Great One, "Don't get your hopes up, cheese!"

It may make sense to rerelease some on new cards in The Black Series or a successor, because troopers like the Republic Trooper and the Emperor's Royal Guard could join "movie" Ahsoka as successful figures with a wide potential audience. However, this means these are "new" figures to Hasbro bean counters - it takes development resources and counts as a new product slot - so join me against reissues so we can hopefully get more new stuff.




We saw some new stuff in stores, finally! New Rebels are starting to make the rounds - so be on the lookout for new Mission Series and other items as cargo containers are oh-so-slowly unloaded in Los Angeles. Even got me a Motormaster, so it's a good toy week.

Question for you all - Toy Fair is in about a week and I'm flying an airline which uses the new, smaller carry-on requirements. Either I'm going to stuff everything in a duffel bag or I need to buy a new smaller carry-on... and I'm cheap. Is there anything good out there that isn't $200? (Or hopefully not $100?)

A thing to consider - which I haven't brought up here - is that Star Wars could go any of a number of directions over the next few years. Disney buys a bunch of stuff and it's very possible that it may not go like Marvel, but instead like The Muppets. There's a franchise that's been struggling for years but remains beloved, with lots and lots of false starts and "it's not as good as the original stuff"s since the late 1980s. Disney put it under the direction of really big fans who made names for themselves in other areas without the help of an existing big brand name, and people only seemingly kinda cared.

Since declaring his intentions to go back and do prequels after Jedi, Lucas - even by doing nothing for a few years - started an amazing march to 1999's opening of The Phantom Menace. The runaway success of the prequels came from a surprising change an attitudes among the non-hardcore. People who dumped on the Ewoks and Return of the Jedi on the whole were a little quieter as Lucasfilm rolled out novels, video games, comics, and reissues of movies in the 1990s. The theatrical reissues of the first three movies did fantastic business and were basically an event unto themselves.

While Rebels has been a middling show with high points mostly from cameos or guest stars, I don't dislike it nor does anything I see on paper make The Force Awakens look like a dud. Fans in 2008 stayed away from The Clone Wars in theaters while expressing their dislike online, despite the show itself being one of the most Star Warsiest things since 1983. Cartoon Network treated the show about as well as they usually would and the series ended a little prematurely despite being - by later accounts - arguably a fine replacement for the first two prequels.

While Marvel Studios lucked out with a huge hit that just happened to be a widely beloved movie with Iron Man, there's no guarantee everything will be a hit nor even if we as fans love it, that it will be widely accepted by the masses. So here's to the future - and let's hope Disney isn't likely to put Star Wars out to pasture if it underperforms.

Due to the licensing revenue of Star Wars - "free money," basically - I assume there will be something active for a while because Hasbro can still turn a lot of money making and remaking lightsabers, Darth Vaders, and so on. LEGO will also do just fine, so here's hoping that the eventual reveal (let's be honest: leak) of new toys means glorious things are in our futures.

--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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