Q&A For November 15, 2004


1. Has the VOTC C-3PO been delayed or recalled by Hasbro for some reason? I ask because I bought the only one I've ever seen at retail a couple of months ago, and since then, I've found every other VOTC figure through the ROTJ wave many times over. But even when it looks like I've stumbled upon a freshly opened ESB/ROTJ case hanging on the pegs...there's not a single C-3PO. I'm wondering if it was recalled for improvements based on the appearance of my unopened sample...the head shape looks distorted and the hip joints look like they've been changed (for the worse) from the package photo. Thanks for your time!

He has not been delayed (no later than Lando), and he is still shipping. (I just got mine this week.) That's the good news. The bad news is that he isn't shipping in as many cases as some of the other figures, but as he is still shipping (and is a pretty mundane release) he'll probably wind up warming pegs somewhere eventually-- it's just the where and when that are unknowns.

2. i was listening to the audio commentary of the Empire DVD and noticed that lucas confirms that Vader was actualy serious when he told Luke to join him so they could destroy the emperor. Vader really wanted to take over and believed he could do it with Luke's help. however, in ROTJ when Luke proposes that Vader join him on the "good side" Vader replies, "i must obey my master". is he refering to the lustfull greed for power that consumes him through the dark side of the force or is he refering to the emperor? because wouldn't killing your master be disobeying him? i know i'm being a geek on this one but thanks for the insight.

The saga is filled with contradictions, inconsistancies, and outright screw-ups. This is a good thing to remember when listening to or reading any comments from the creators.

There's a lot of interesting things to keep in mind here, some of which are (most likely) retroactive points to consider. Like the fact you can only have two Sith. The Emperor knew from the get-go that Luke could be instrumental to his downfall. Also, Vader is torn-- he has a lot of options ahead of him, and in the past he's made some choices that obviously weren't so good... so does he go along with his son, or his boss? It's all pretty complicated stuff, but if you ask me it's a safe bet he got chewed out between ESB and ROJ. That, and it's probably easier to badmouth your boss when he's a few bazillion light years away.

If at the end of Empire, Luke said "OK pops, let's go beat some ass" that opens the door to a whole new field of questions. Would Luke try to convert Vader along the way, or vice-versa? Is the Dark Side truly Vader's master, moreso than the Emperor? On the last question, I'd say yes-- the history of Star Wars as told by comics (i.e., the continuity that's valid until Lucas says it isn't) says that the Sith was plagued by murder, with one of the two lords killing the other every now and again. So I have no doubt Vader would have iced the Emperor if he felt he had the right support, which Luke probably could have brought to the table.

3. With the other OTC figures coming with stands, why was the Holographic Emperor not packaged with one?

While I have no official answer at this time, Hasbro didn't include stands with some figures-- like the Vintage array-- because they're targeted to an audience less likely (not unlikely) to open them, and I'd say they felt the same way about this one. That, and he stands just fine on his own. (I'm still confused why they gave the recarded OTC R2-D2 a stand-- he has no foot holes.)

4. I have a question about the recently re-issued Y-Wing. Since the Y-Wing was once a Target exclusive, why was it allowed to be repainted and become exclusive to Toys R Us? I would have much rather seen a new Skiff and with the OTC line on its way out with E3 coming, the odds of seeing a repainted and repackaged Skiff (with battle damage!) seems unlikely for a long time, agreed?

Well, "exclusive" is something that means all things to all people. To some fans, it means an item will be sold at one store and never sold anywhere again. To others, it means the item may show up but altered slightly. And to others still, it means nothing. Some examples:

This past Spring, Hasbro gave Wal-Mart an exclusive launch window for Megatron, a large jet Transformer from the Energon range of toys. This toy is now sold everywhere, but Wal-Mart was able to boast it as an exclusive from February until some point in the summer because Hasbro gave them the short period of time when nobody else had it. Wal-Mart had (and last time I looked, still has) it listed as an exclusive on WalMart.com. An example of this (of sorts) comes from the various Fan Club exclusives, which were liquidated at such diverse locations as Kay-Bee (12" Vallorum/Senate Guard), Toys "R" Us (Wuher, Death Star Droid, Pote Snitkin, etc.), and even the Wizards of the Coast store (too many to list). Exclusiveness, when you get right down to it, is really all about time and money. Things are exclusive until they're available elsewhere-- like eBay, or another retail channel. Look at the Imperial Shuttle-- some exclusive that turned out to be!

The Y-wing sold in POTF2 was an exclusive-- it was never sold elsewhere in the USA, although Hasbro most likely could crank out 10,000 units for anybody who would bankroll it. The new version is an exclusive too, as it has been given an all-new box and an all-new paint job-- this isn't a simple color swap, there's new plastic, new labels, new colors of all sorts of things. It's a new toy, through and through.

The Y-wing is also here as a result of fan demand and, if the rumors are true, was in the works since 2003. Numerous fans complained that the POTF2 version constantly edged near $100 on the secondary market and I know I saw one ship at one Target only one time, so there's still demand out there for this mold-- so it made sense for Hasbro to pimp this ride and sell it to you again at a $10 markup.

Hasbro's repeatedly gone back and tweaked or otherwise altered an existing exclusive to be sold in a new format. The Cantina Band member, Han Stormtrooper, B'Omarr Monk, Spirit of Obi-Wan, and countless other items made a second appearance in a slightly changed form-- so I'd say the chances of seeing another Skiff at some point are really good. I mean, Hasbro likes to do repaints, we like the Skiff, and we want a new version of the Weequay. This is what we in the biz call a win-win if someone goes for it.

5. it seems that many were skeptical of a new assortment of figures consisting of almost all repacks but now that it's almost over it will be missed (until we're wowed by E3 figures most likely). It's easy to Monday morning quarter back, but I just can't help think that Hasbro missed a big opportunity to push out even more of it's older product with the DVD release.

Hasbro learned a few lessons from this, I'd gather, some of which aren't going to be too great for us in the long run. They found out that you can sell a lot of figures and rejuvinate interest real quick with the right packaging, and I have my doubts that this is the last we'll see of black-and-silver cardbacks.

I think Hasbro really could have continued this, and I have no doubt that they would have if it weren't for Revenge of the Sith being mere months away. (Frankly, I was just happy at the prospect of having nothing to hunt for during OTC, but they went and upgraded the figures, so that didn't quite work out.) Hasbro probably could have done a heck of a lot more this year for the DVDs as most markets seem to be able to soak up these new old figures without a problem. The important thing here is that Hasbro didn't get screwed, thus giving us hope for the line's life after next year. Even if it will undoubtedly mean a lot of repackaged figures.

6. Did the "Jabba's Denizens" (or whatever) 3-pack, the one featuring Bubo and the Wol Cabashite, ever get released? I'm fairly thorough in my searches, but if that one came out, it gave me the clean slip.

Sure was-- we reviewed it a few months back, and it tended to come, go, and come again early in 2004. I didn't see it too frequently at my ususal stops, but a few local grocery stores had it all the time if you can believe it.

My advice to you is to check your local non-traditional stops, be they clothing stores, drugstores, grocery stores, or anything like that-- these places are quite useful when you're missing one or two random pieces. (Just be prepared to make a few stops. And I mean like dozens.)

7. I have some insite on question 5 of [last week's] Q&A column. Lucasfilm entered into a contract with Dolby Labs in 1999 to develop the THX EX Dolby Digital format for the Phamtom Menace. Since entering into this partnership for the most part (I am unsure of THX 1138) Lucasfilm has exclusively pushed the format of their business partner Dolby Labs. You can even see on the backpack of one of the Battle Droids in Ep 1 a Dolby Digital Logo as an Easter Egg probably thrown in since Dolby and Lucasfilm entered into a partnership that same year.

Thanks, Tim! I appreciate the help and I bet everybody out there in Q&A land does as well!

8. I am eagerly anticipating Republic Commando for my Xbox. My question is like Battlefront do you think we will get an exclusive Clone Commando? Those Clones look kool as heck and I tell you if I had to preorder 2 games just to get an opener I would. Do you think Hasbro and or Lucasarts realizes the potential here and will make fans happy?

What is the story behind all this EU animosity? I think EU sheds interesting light on our favorite universe...I mean to say only the films "matter" is like saying everything that happens outside of my front door is a myth.

Are Episode III figs going to have those god awful action features and "action" poses? I still look at my Luminara Unduli fig and shake my head at wasted potential due to her static pose.

This is a complicated question. I've addressed this a few times, but what the hey, it's almost break time.

I hold no animosity toward the Expanded Universe as a fan, and am a big fan of the comics-- even the ones that suck. (I'm looking squarely at you, Vader's Quest.) For whatever reason, these titles have taken on a life of their own, with things like Knights of the Old Republic drawing fans into Star Wars who for some reason or another don't like the movies... but do enjoy novels featuring Wedge Antilles. Anything that helps the brand, right?

The EU holds limitless potential to do anything, and this is good and bad. I'm all for a new Mara Jade, as she's recognized by fans for the most part and made her way into the recent miniatures game. But when people talk about the Yuuzhan Vong, or figures from KOTOR, I just don't know if the market wants it. They might-- I could be wrong, I don't see eye-to-eye with the fandom at large most of the time, but it's a big gamble. Hasbro has to make tens (or hundreds) of thousands of a figure, with an investment that could be as high as a million dollars, to make a toy and get it to market. That's a lot for something that isn't a sure thing, and the reason we're getting so freaking many repaints from the big toy companies and even the smaller ones these days.

From where I sit, and from what I understand decision makers to say, this has nothing to do with "myth" or not-- it's all myth, what matters here is that the average buyer might buy the figure. Fans of Star Wars have mixed reactions to non-movie items, and over the past few years Hasbro has made quite a few, with toys based on concept art as well as Clone Wars which most people (myself included) consider some other thing and not so much EU. (Multimedia campaigns like Shadows of the Empire are kinda their own beasts, you know?)

Video game figures usually aren't hot stuff, look at Batman or Star Trek. While the Clone Commandos are super-nifty and all of that, Hasbro most likely wouldn't make an exclusive figure for a game-- it's just too expensive. It'd make sense to see it as a toy, and frankly I wish they continued Clone Wars so they could have done it, but such is life. I'm all for making fans happy, but I'm not going to be happy if you tell me I need to drop $50 for a single figure with a game I may or may not even have the ability to play-- it isn't wise to alienate collectors or make them feel that for their set to be complete, they have to drop a wad of bills.

For now, Hasbro is wisely banking on what they know works, and that's Original Trilogy in some years and Prequel in others. After the movies die down, it could be a mix, or EU, or TV, who knows? Without the hype of new novels, or the lack of a new movie on the horizon, obscure non-movie toys are a really risky proposition.

Now, back to your other question on Revenge of the Sith-- you've seen what I've seen thus far, and it seems to be a mixed bag, mixed in with enhanced posability. Last time we asked we were assured/warned that we would see at least some action features since they were pushing this on kids. (I disagree that action features are worth anything without try-me packaging, because it's not as much of a selling point if you can't try it out.) So expect some buttons and switches.

9. here's a question, how does your significant other "handle" (as in deal with, not touch) your collection and collecting habits?

Well, most married collectors I know didn't start until after they got married, and a lot of the single collectors I've heard from over the years don't "come out" for a while. (I mean, consider if you saw some hottie's apartment and it was full of Beanie Babies. Some of you may understand. Some of you will be scared.)

As far as specifics go, let's go right to the source. Here's Erin:

"While this may surprise you, before I met Adam I was unaware that grown men bought toys. So, at the beginning I suppose I was caught up in the whimsy and frivolity of it all. Girls like to do silly things, and these "toy runs" as you call them are fun. Two kids in love laugh, point at bad paint jobs, and I learned how to tell who Optimus Prime was on sight. Boy did I.

I really wasn't aware of the extent of it until I carried what was probably around a hundred boxes up three flights of stairs. (AP note: no, she's not exaggerating.) And that was just ME. So yes, the minimalist in me screams in terror.

That's not to say it's bad. I'm partly to blame, buying him even more toys during holiday or birth-related celebrations. I usually give him things I would want, so he got pretty used to seeing Playmobil.

It's also addictive, this hobby. I even found myself buying things that I really didn't need. And once I thought I finally had all the Godzilla toys I wanted, I found out that some hatch out of eggs. Or I saw a little super-deformed Baragon that looked like a snarling puppy.

Also, if you haven't noticed before, if you're making a stop at Target or Walmart, there's a 95% chance that there's a Petco or a Petsmart nearby. That's where we got our guinea pig children, and where we still go to talk to the birds or admire the puffer fish. So he likes plastic things, and I enjoy furry things. (But I don't enjoy furries.) Something for everyone.

So, while I'm a bit nervous about sharing my dwelling with thousands of other...err..."individuals", there's one person in that crowd that I can't live without. (And no, it's not that Hot Topic exclusive duty-mode GIR). So I'll handle his collection like I handle everything in life. I'll eat waffles and I'll go to sleep early."

10. What's the skinny on the "new" Titanium die-cast vehicles? Are these any different from the die-cast vehicles released previously. From the photos they don't appear to be much, if any different, other than the new packaging. Is this just more re-hash, or are these worth pursuing.

I guess the idea was to prove that Hasbro is capable of surprise when they want to. I mean, where the heck did these come from? As far as I can tell, the vehicles themselves aren't any different from those released by Galoob back in the day, and who knows the stand situation yet. (A lot of the Galoob releases-- especially later ones-- had no stands. My Slave I didn't have one and when I thought I was missing a part, the company told me that this is how it is.)

So if you have the run from before, pass on these unless you're a packaging fiend. Which I could understand... as this is really nice packaging.


So, thanks for reading the season finale of Q&A. Pending questions and time, there may be an encore posted while I'm out-- so feel free to send in any questions you'd like to see answered and I'll do my best to answer all of them for a bonus update that will go up... well, when I can get it done. So that's my promise to you-- send me a question before Midnight on Friday, November 19 and if I can answer it, I'll put it in the column.

This year, I'm asking Santa for some of those nifty World's Smallest TransFormers. If you don't know what those are, they're Micromaster-sized miniature replicas of the G1 characters sold in the 1980s-- so you can get a teeny tiny Soundwave, Optimus Prime, and so on. I initially passed on these because Hasbro said they were considering bringing them to the USA and now it looks like that ain't happening. I scored three of 'em thus far (Prowl, Ramjet, Anime Optimus Prime) and I gotta say they're really striking. Now I want a friggin' Hot Rod. (Accursed Takara, short packing my favorites.) It's really too bad Hasbro isn't selling these stateside-- that and it's too bad the first series seems to be gone, as I never snagged Bumblebee, Sideswipe, or any of those. Grrr. (So if you have any to sell... cough cough...)

(Also asking Santa for the bonus Pit Droids. Which they really need to just recard and sell here. I mean, seriously, aside from like the Eopie, is there any one mold that nobody here seems to have?)

Live around Phoenix? The Minibosses will be playing Modified Arts here in Phoenix on November 27. They play old NES game music and are awesome. Also playing there, the equally awesome (but for different reasons) Osama Bin Sars, a local act best summed up by my friend Pete-- "Is it wrong for me to be enjoying this?" You might enjoy it. Or not, I don't know you people.

That's all for this week. So get those questions in for next week--if it happens-- and if you could put "Q&A" in the subject line, that would greatly help my email filters find your message. Just email me with your inquiry, and we'll see what we can do. (If you do not put "Q&A" in the subject line I cannot guarantee it will get through.)

Q&A will return in its usual weekly format on January 3, 2005. That's a Monday. Feel free to keep sending your questions in as you think of them, I'll be sure to answer them for that first 2005 update.

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