Q&A: Star Wars Vehicles, More Vehicles, and Kickstartering Toys

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, October 15, 2017

1. Any chance of doing reviews of the Hasbro TIE Silencer and A-Wing? I bought these, but have yet to open them, and I want to know if they are actually any good. I passed on all of "TFA" vehicles, other than Rey's Speeder, because all of the reviews said they were junk. Are the TIE Silencer and A-Wing good vehicles for display, or do they suffer from cheap, rubbery plastic and/or other flaws that would make a collector hate them?

Right now the only vehicle reviews I do are for work via the Entertainment Earth Podcast. There's a link to the TIE Silencer here

with the Canto Bight Speeder and A-Wing here. I've had requests for vehicle reviews for years, but I've noticed increased output doesn't beget increased readership, sponsorship, etc. - so I do these just for my employer now, mostly since it's just an audio show.

In short: A-Wing is sturdy, blue, and completely devoid of unsightly features. Canopy opens, kickstand descends, laser cannon tips fire off instead of red or green rockets. Hasbro seems to have really taken the "I hate Nerf" sentiment, plus the pilot figure is really nice. The TIE Silencer is gorgeous, like the late-1980s TIE Interceptor of your dreams - but it's expensive. The wings have a little give to them, but I wouldn't say they're rubbery or of the kind of plastic we saw during The Force Awakens. These are both sturdier vehicles, but there's some give in the plastic over the hidden cannon flaps - a feature I really love.

Provided money is no object, these are my two favorite vehicles in the line. The A-Wing is sturdier, an abused TIE Silencer I could see having problems later. The Canto Bight speeder is neat, but there's not much to it - it's a good translation of the design with good paint. The Ski Speeder is a marvelously toyetic design with smart use of the rocket launcher trigger and Force Link chip, everything was placed so it is perfectly compatible with the Force Link band. And the Probot and Rathtar are good fun.

From where I sit, good or bad, vehicles are the most consistently interesting part of the 3 3/4-inch figure line - when we get them. Even weak wings like on the First Order TIE Fighter don't dampen my enthusiasm for the design. Two blaster holders? Seating for two? Hidden firing rockets? Be still my heart. The engineers really nailed the design, it's just a shame someone, somewhere, picked the wrong durometer for the wings. I even liked the Rogue One Nerf rockets - they were fun. I can't deny I played with them more than most of my other vehicles.



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2. I picked up an Imperial Troop Transport and repainted some parts to look more like the vintage toy. Despite not having rolling wheels, it's a great toy. Do you know of any armor parts that would fit a Stormtrooper, ones that would look even remotely similar to the helmet/mask things the vintage toy came with? I know a bunch of figures came with goofy armor parts over the last year or two, but I didn't notice any that might fit a Stormtrooper's head. Repainting one to be black isn't a problem, but the fit might be an issue. There's gotta be something out there that would work, right?

I have two suggestions, but this is the good one - just buy the originals. You can get the original restraints/hoods/helmets for about $10 a pop ($20 for a pair) on eBay, which isn't bad. I know it isn't free, but I have a hard time naming 3 3/4-inch scale boxes that can be bought quickly and easily. It's possible you'll find a substitute at the hardware stores, be they Home Depots or Fry's Electronics, but I'm not sure what.

The second suggestion is Shapeways or a 3D printer thing. There are people who will happily whip up a design provided you and others buy it - or you could also design one, and if you do it right it will be a perfect fit. Given the costs and time, you might be better off obtaining the original collar/helmet/whatevers sans stickers and seeing what you can do with them. Also given that these were shown over Leia's heads as well as Stormtroopers, you have some flexibility over what may provide that perfect fit.




3. With crowd funding sites like kickstarter and gofundme reviving toy lines like sectaurs, which line do you least want to see again?

I reject the premise of your question.

What I love about Kickstarter is that it brings us the best of what the free market has to offer, supply is created through demand and support. I might not throw down for Sectaurs at a major toy company, but there are hundreds - maybe thousands - of people who'd shell out money to bring them back, or Public Domain superheroes in the style of Secret Wars, Skeleton Warriors, and so on. It makes the impossible possible, even if only for a short time - not everything survives. Not everything can rally real support.

There's really nothing I don't want to see made, because of the built-in support mechanism. The creator covers their assets, the fans (hopefully) get the goods, and everybody is happy - even if they made something I didn't personally want, it could make a lot of people really happy. If you can make a figure line for 12 people who are willing to support it, who am I to say no?

What would I like to see? Glad you asked. Sprue-based robot dinosaur toys, like Zoids and Robo-Strux. Simple mini-figures like Battle Beasts - small, rubbery, 2 joints. I'd prefer to augment things because, as is my understanding, the IP holders may make using those brands difficult. I genuinely can't name something I hate enough to not want it to return (for someone else).

This is one place where the marketplace of ideas mostly works - it only fails when the concept and talent don't hit the ground running. I mean, because of it we got Shovel Knight - if you're a 1980s or 1990s kid, this is one of the best video games ever. (I liked it so much, I own it on two consoles now.) And OMFG, or SUCKLE, and other lines I've supported over the years - and then sometimes you get a Mighty No. 9. Not everything turns out great, and even a marvelous idea could turn out to be unexceptional while something simple could be truly grand.

Most of the people I see on this path are ambitious, and the main problem is trying to reign that in and actually deliver a final product. Simpler things turn out really great. And things like Super Retro Squad are still waiting for delivery, and are five years late. At this point I'm more supportive of really great people, those who deliver something on spec and on time are really more deserving of your money than anyone else.

As I write this I'm really trying hard to imagine something I wouldn't want to see the light of day. There are so many things that I don't personally buy I can't use that as criteria in a situation like this. Even my joke answers make me pause and say "No, I'd like to see what a superfan with money would do with that."

...OK, I went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth, and I came up with a general thing. I'd like to see actual toys - things you play with. BMOG scratched that itch nicely, with little gun/creature figure kits. I loved SUCKLE, as they're true to their ancestors. The super-articulated 3 3/4-inch figure is a fun collectible, but with little play value - I'd be the most interested in seeing someone do something that demands to be played with other than posed. I like surprise - what won't I expect? Glyos-compatibility was really novel with some lines coming back from the dead. But what's next? Holographic stickers? Assembly required? Slashing attacks? I don't want to stop seeing super-poseable figures, but I'd be really happy to see a figure inhabit more space beyond "will look awesome posed on a flat surface." So things with motors, things with vehicles, things with magnets, or something new entirely would delight me to no end. Especially if that something was Magna-Lock feet on super-articulated StarCom figures.




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Tickets for The Last Jedi went on sale along with the trailer last week, which is kind of weird - for most movies, I can't even get showtimes more than 2-3 days early, but for this I can buy it nearly three months ahead of time. I assume this is just smart business - maybe you'll buy tickets and get sick, or move, or forget that you bought them and buy another ticket. I freely admit to buying slightly advance tickets for the prequels, but so far in the Disney era I've been fortunate enough that the closest, cheapest theater to me is dreadfully unpopular. I saw Blade Runner 2049 there with about 6 total people, and most other films I see there are only modestly busy. I bought tickets opening day, minutes before, The Force Awakens and Rogue One... I pray this theater never goes out of business.

In the last couple of weeks we've seen numerous examples of the crappier parts of fandom - specifically when someone tells us to jump, and we say how high. The Super NES Classic Mini came out, and fans lined up - or in my case, missed out. McDonald's decided to pull some sort of stunt for McNugget sauce based on a cartoon everyone tells me I should watch, and people lose their minds. And yet Hasbro gave us another midnight launch and not only did I sit out, but most of the products are in ample supply with some already on clearance. No joke, our Walmarts slashed the Black Series Centerpiece statues and the two big vehicles by about $25 per unit. That's kind of remarkable, and in collectible toys, almost unheard of.

I think it's a good sign. I live in this weird place where I'm a consumer mark like no other - I like my music on plastic or vinyl, I like my games on chips, and I like my toys despite having aged out of them about three times by now. But I detest lining up for things. I can wait at a cash register, but the whole "hey nerds, get here 6 hours early so we can get footage of you for the news" bugs me to no end. I stomp the grounds of dozens of stores every week - sometimes in single day - to scope out toys and games and music and stuff. This is why I hate shopping holidays - I'm in the stores a lot. I buy a reasonable amount of this junk. I'm all for getting it out there, but for crying out loud, don't make us bark like seals or dance for your pleasure. I won't even say "I've got better things to do" - I've been writing columns like this for over two decades, so clearly, I don't. It's just that the kind of burning hatred you see in the eyes of a fan who was told to show up for something, when they get denied, it's just awful. It's disgusting. It makes us all look terrible. I can't tell you how weird it was to see the whole McNugget sauce thing as a total outsider, but while being completely able to recognize those moments in my own toy collecting past. Nobody wants to get up early, or drive for an hour, to be told to wait in a line for an hour. They especially don't want to be denied after getting to the front of that line after waiting. I freely admit there are more important things in life to worry about, but that's kind of the point - discouraging online pre-sells for video games, or apparently not making enough sugar sauce packets, or whatever - we're a jaded bunch of people as it is, and it's kind of horrible to see the madness approaching from a mile away.

It's also bad when you know, from history, that some of those launch-date toys wind up being the cheapest on eBay when the fly-by-night fans ask why they even lined up for this crap in the first place. I'm always happy to pre-order - it's good for businesses trying to determine how much product to bring in, donchaknow - but I'm definitely at a point where I can't see why I'd line up unless there was some sort of ironclad guarantee that I get whatever it is I showed up for. I'm a tiny bit ashamed how cranky I got in college when I went to lunch and a fast food place seemed to run out of ketchup. It's not an unreasonable expectation, but hey, we've all got our limits, expectations, and goofy pursuits that we use to distract ourselves from the other tragedies in the world.

Having said that, I'm still just going to show up and buy a ticket for The Last Jedi opening day. Movies, especially lately, seem to be the only thing I can count on being sold in an endless supply. There are so many theaters in Arizona, my butt will find room in at least one of them. And my butt is also thankful that the rest of my is generally unfamiliar with the Siren's call of Mulan sauce.

--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.