Q&A: Star Wars Vehicles, Missed Figures, and TIE Fighters

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 13, 2016

1. Question, what the hell?? 2004, was awesome. Saga 2 was awesome. Votc made me drive all around my city. WhTs going in nowadays? I just looked at an online store And they showed 6 inch IG-88...have I been asleep?? Where's this robotic beauty in stores? 6 inch bossk? What happened to this wonderful lizard? What's going on? I have money and see nothing but Finn. I do t want humans. I want troopers and aliens. I just saw electro Vader helmet at Walgreens, and was very scoffish towards him.

Where's bossk, ig-88 and jango? I don't like online shipping, I'm old school and like stores and typewriters. So, where's my bros at?

Basically, you've been sleeping. A lot of figures have come and gone over the past couple of years and, well, it does look like you missed a few. You might even still luck into some of those blue-boxed 6-inch guys at a Walgreens - I still see IG-88, Cody, and Boushh on a fairly regular basis (but I also cast a wide net).

In 2004, the bulk of the Original Trilogy Collection were remakes of remakes, with a few exceptions. The Vintage guys were the then best-ever versions of a dozen popular characters, which fans bought online or in stores. You also had the added benefit of them coming out when Star Wars was arguably more collector-focused than it is now, minus the mass appeal of a new movie bringing in kids.

If you don't see what you want? Don't buy it. If you missed something? Well, too bad - Bossk has come and gone in the 6-inch size, and I know for a fact you could buy IG-88 for quite some time online for about $20. Jango Fett is still very new so you haven't seen him yet. (Neither have I.) The myth of finding everything you want at a given time is long, long over - if you aren't actively hunting, you may have missed some stuff forever. If a figure you wanted was $20 online and you didn't buy it, that's unfortunately on you. It isn't 2004 when Walmart was slightly more loaded with figures, it's 2016 where Hasbro has to balance new with old even more than back in the day - because now instead of prequels there's a billion-dollar sequel.

With the influx of new blood, there's also a lot of people who need basic figures - and maybe Hasbro will bring them back, and maybe not. It's unclear how much direction Disney is taking in the toy lines now thanks to new movies, new TV, and other media requiring that Hasbro perhaps not just go ahead and make whatever. If Rogue One has a cameo of (insert spoiler here) then it would benefit Disney to maybe not tip their hat, or not let Hasbro tip it either.



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2. What do you see as the real agenda for Disney being so secretive about the merchandising? The Force Awakens had a very leaky production, fans could read the entire plot online a year before the movie was released. Yet licensees put out some really terrible product because they weren't allowed to see anything - including the returning characters (who were surely less revealing than the new ones, in the sense we know what they look like). What's your take on this?

Basically a positive feedback loop. Last year Hasbro managed to reap wonderful sales and a massive free media presence thanks to the wacky midnight launch. There will be diminishing returns (and other things I can't talk about yet) but Disney can probably milk this for a few more times before fans get cynical again. The whole "secret" thing is a recurring motif in this hobby - if you've ever been to Comic-Con panels that Hasbro puts on, you will see a room full of hardcore fans applauding wildly for the announcement of a toy that has been in stores for weeks already. Reality does not necessarily match up with the excitement levels fans experience when put in a certain context like a new movie or a press event. It's weird.

I have no idea why they're holding back on the Lukes and Leias for Hasbro, but don't forget Funko had your back with Han and Leia pretty quickly. Luke's coming from Funko. So what's Hasbro's problem? I have absolutely no idea. At this point I half-wonder if the can is being kicked down the road so it can launch for the next sequel.




3. What do you consider the definitive 3.75" TIE Fighter? My personal preference is the white 'Shadows of the Empire' big wing release, but there's been so many variations before and since then, it is very hard to keep track of all the running changes.

My favorite overall is the 2010 The Vintage Collection Target TIE Fighter - small wings, grey finish, ejector seat interior. It's sharp, and a great update of the original 1978 Kenner toy - so far, probably the best and sturdiest small wing TIE that also just happens to come in a very attractive box.

As the big wings go, there are many with pros and cons - the Shadows of the Empire one is nice but isn't necessarily specific to the movies. Each big wing version has something you'll probably dislike about it, so I'd say just get whatever color floats your boat. My favorite is the 30th Anniversary Collection big white one because it looks old. Functionally all of the big wing TIEs are very similar, so if you want some fun let me direct you to something else entirely. The Rebels Inquisitor's TIE Fighter is probably my favorite recent TIE vehicle thanks to the roomy interior and integrated rocket launchers. If you can still find one, get one - it's worth it.




Ehhhh still an iffy week. New stuff seems to be shipping, which is good, but it's kind of dull, which is bad. Hasbro is great at actually giving fans a lot of what they ask for within reason - a big $500 vehicle isn't really realistic right now, but they're good at delivering 6- and 3 3/4-inch figures of decent quality. The new 6-inch Jango Fett is unscarred in the facial area, but otherwise very impressive - the tarnished silver armor is wonderful, as is the articulation and dented helmet. They're doing a nice job, but part of the danger of having more things to make for fans is that you can't make everybody happy. 20 years ago it was 3 3/4-inch figures with 6 joints or bust. Now? You've got options. Many, many options.

A common refrain here (especially in your questions) is the newfound secrecy in Star Wars. I don't think it's helping in the off-season. It probably doesn't hurt the bottom line for the brand, but I do miss Hasbro's ability to give us a few months' lead for non-new-movie stuff. I really do like knowing what the next 3-6 months may bring, mostly because I do get genuinely excited looking forward to new characters. Quiggold is much more exciting when Hasbro says "Here's the prototype and here is his name" because it means I can actually learn the names before I get the toy. If the gap is a few weeks - if that - it will take me years to learn the name, mostly because once I have the figure in my hands I'm bad at learning them. I don't need to track them down, so I don't need to learn them. It's a nice figure, of course, but anticipation is one of the most important parts of collecting. If there is an old toy, you've no doubt been wanting it for months - perhaps years or even longer - and on new toys you can capture some of that by previewing toys early. I'm going to be bouncing up and down like a crazy person all year for Transformers Titans Return this Fall, which Hasbro started showing to the public last October. The first toy probably won't be available until July. Delayed gratification is one of the few ways you can build hype, especially among the "shut up and take my money" class of toy collectors. We're excited and we want this stuff, but we're mostly interested in those things which we do not yet have. Once we get the figure, it goes on a shelf and in many cases we may never touch it again. It's sort of depressing - and it's one of the reasons previewing toys to us is so important.

Looking ahead to 2016, I can say right now that the things that still have me the most excited are Jurassic World's hybrid dinosaurs and Transformers Generations' everything. Star Wars is largely a mystery outside the new movie, and not in a good way either. If we're dealing with legacy figures there's no reason to keep anything quiet, especially since we need something to do while Marvel is doing its thing. (Hey, I'm glad for those of you who lost your collective minds at seeing Spider-Man in a trailer last week. Me, I'm not really on board with all super heroes always - I'm happy that you're happier than me.)

Overall, the industry seems to be doing well at keeping the nerd class happy. We've lost a lot of our hype machines with the end of ToyFare and magazines in general, no longer do all of us read the same sources and get excited about the same things. On the other hand, our media consumption has become a lot more focused - the nerd class of 1996 could be in to almost anything. Today it's a safe bet you're going to be in to the new Batman movie, the MCU, Star Wars, and in many cases Disney in general. In 1996, Disney was the enemy - the symbol for safe, homogenous entertainment for children. (And also the parent company of Miramax, who gave us Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino movies.) There's a lot more nerd stuff coming each year, but it's also getting "safer" with each subsequent iteration and the weird and the risky are far and few between. Guardians of the Galaxy managed to take a low-budget auteur and give us a Star Wars clone of considerable merit. Deadpool managed to take something that could have been really insufferable and give us an entertaining - if perhaps a little too safe - take on a fairly anarchic character. We don't get many of those since Bugs Bunny went into hibernation.

Over the next few months our unique ethnic group is supposedly all looking forward to Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War, Star Trek Beyond, X-Men: Apocalypse, Suicide Squad, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Doctor Strange, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and a few more. It's kind of amazing to see a line-up that, 20 years ago, would collectively make each and every last one of us lose our damn minds now merely looks like just another year at the multiplex. There are limitless distractions and no longer must we wait for one or two big movies in May or July - there's something new every 6-8 weeks and it seems most of them have some sort of merchandising tie-in as well. Star Wars is going to rule the roost a little while longer, but sooner or later everybody will probably need to actually engage us without the whole mystery box gambit. We're open and receptive, but Hasbro has managed to succeed in grabbing my attention with other items - Star Wars' collector messaging just needs to be a little louder. I mean, we're not getting any younger and some of us are still growing out of this whole thing.

--Adam Pawlus

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