Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
March 26, 2007
1. I know that recently Hasbro has been doing a better job of getting us the figures we say we want (he Tantive IV Battle pack for example or the last Saga waves having 2 per case of many of the clones), and that ultimately much of our complaining about how many Han Solos or Vaders are released can be justified by the fact that these characters popularity never go out of style, but do you think that at the same time some hot figures, say the newly painted McQuarrie Stormtrooper, packed at 1 per case, are also essential to keeping the line alive or at least as healthy as it is at this point in time by being harder to find?
I was thinking about how insanely fast such figures sell out sometimes and wondered how that could actually help the line overall even though less of this particular product are flying off the shelves at any given time, therefore making Hasbro only so much money. If a figure sold based exclusively on its rarity/desirability as a character/species/trooper, then I'm sure Hasbro would just make a huge number of them and we'd have to complain about how many we found on the pegs and how light our wallets were getting instead of how few we found (they do indeed do this, but over a longer period of time, and at such a rate that we often do not realize that very few figures are, ultimately, rare).
Obviously, some combination of fan-preference along with a perceived rarity factor combines to make an item HOT or NOT-THAT-HOT but by creating these "hotter" figures, by sculpting desirable characters then packing them 1 per case, do you think this somehow rubs off on the entire line itself, giving it an overall perceived "hotness" and therefore a longer lifespan as a toy-line? Do we somehow get the impression that because some of the line sells so fast that the entire line must be hot and we need them all, even if this is irrational? Do you see what I'm getting at? I'm not saying I wouldn't have bought the entire wave anyway even if a certain character was packed 4 to a case or something but my desire to do so, to "Collect Them All", and to continue to do so long into the future, is heightened somewhat by the rarity factor and keeps me from perhaps being more rational about my overall Star Wars action figure collecting habit than I currently am. I guess that's part of the beast that is collecting anything!
The flip side of this is that if it is true and we were to try to convince Hasbro to stop this type of psychological manipulation with rare/desirable characters being marketed this way and give us a flood of what we say we want, and if they did comply with our demand, the line could die off much more quickly as we got bored with just being able to get what we want when we want it with little or no chain of desire/hunt/payoff, and in the end we'd end up with both fewer sculpts and fewer years to enjoy collecting. So I guess I'd have to say we need to live with it if we love the product and the enjoyment it gives us. Or quit collecting I suppose.
I actually asked Robert to edit this down because I think both the questions-- but mostly, the answers-- tend to get a little long in this column. So from here on out, we're going to institute a two-paragraph limit. But I really liked Robert's initial question, so hey, I love to break rules.
Is Hasbro really manipulating us to think the line is "hot"? That, I'm not so sure about. I think that making an item rare is a good thing for marketing, because some items tend to sell a lot slower without a little bit of it being hard-to-get, but sometimes an item being hard-to-get isn't intentional at all. Hasbro shipped the orange Utapau Clone Trooper in 2006 at one per case at first-- and then two per case in many revisions, and it still remained hard to get at retail, even though it (and Darth Vader) were likely produced in the largest quantities of any 2006 Saga Collection action figure.
Rarity of some items absolutely translates into the next one being hot-- look at Wal-Mart exclusives in most markets. We freak out over these things. The Target Lava Vader of 2005's "rarity" (at 50,000 pieces) rubbed off on other exclusive items, some of which were fairly undesirable once you get past the fact that they were sold by hype and not the quality of the actual figure. But another issue is that most of the basic figures probably still sell to kids-- and they don't even know what's available, let alone what's rare. Hasbro, for some reason, deliberately obfuscates the scope of the line in its marketing-- they don't put more than maybe 12 figures on the cardback despite dozens being in circulation. If anything, it's to their advantage to show us fewer products-- that way we have less of an idea of the complete picture of what we'll be buying that year. The less we know, the more excited we get.
2. what the hell is going on with all these retail exclusives popping up out of nowhere? I turn around and all of a sudden there's a speeder bike battle pack, Order 66 2-packs...what the crap?
Are those speeder bike clones well articulated or just "squatter" clones? Have you seen any of these packs locally?
Hasbro's marketing efforts in announcing exclusives for 2007 has been crappy. Outside the Hasbro Q&As, I don't believe they've even mentioned the Saleucami set from Wal-Mart (with Neyo, a Clone, and two bikes). Hasbro has only shown us pictures of 3 of the 6 Order 66 packs, and I just found those last Thursday. (No sign of the Saleucami packs here yet, but rest assured I'm looking-- just like everybody else.) As such, I cannot comment on the quality of those Clones yet. They're super-articulated, but there may be some sort of leg deformities due to rubber bands in the packaging.
Oh, and Order 66? Awesome packs for a great price. If you didn't see the news update last week, according to the case I bought (hey, $10 a pop, I was feeling stupid) they're making at least 16,667 cases for Hasbro US to distribute to Target stores. That's 200,004 2-packs. So hopefully, with this massive flood, there will be plenty for everyone, or maybe a "revision" shipment later in the year with more old ones as well as some new ones.
3. I was wondering if Hasbro has anything up it's collective sleeve in regards to the 7" Unleashed line. I know they have repackaged some of the previous releases in round tubes and redecoed the Stormtrooper to give us a Shadow Stormtrooper, but has there been any news on new sculpts? If this particular line is dead, suits me fine, but it is a shame as these are some of the best and most affordable STAR WARS sculpts around in my opinion.
Right now this line is on life support-- even Wal-Mart isn't supporting its own exclusives for this line. There have been no new sculpts in the tube packaging, although there are rumors of several figures being ready-to-go if the line took off and the market supported more entries in this statuesque series. No announcements for future waves have been confirmed, but the Shadow Stormtrooper was a bit of a surprise. (And I haven't seen one in stores yet, myself.)
4. How do you display your figures? I'm curious, because I notice in all your Figure of the Day photos, the figures in the background seem completely random to me. (I like to display mine in diorama format).
Randomly-- exactly. Given the quantity of figures, the rapid rate at which new ones come out (I mean, crap, if you bought all of the 2007 Target exclusives so far you've got 22 figures right there), and the fact that some don't necessarily "belong" in any one environment, mine are just where I can find room. I have specific shelves for Clone Wars, Saga (Prequels), and Saga (Trilogy) so far-- I'll probably start doing something to better organize the 2007 stuff, but the fact is with all the repaints, multi-pack variants/headswaps, and so forth, well, I'm having a hard time figuring out how I can display what must be close to 700-800 figures by now. (I don't even know how many there are with all the varieties. Hasbro's official count exceeded 500 in 2005, but that doesn't count pack-in figures, multi-pack figures, or anything that's come since-- so we gotta be scraping 800+ by now.)
In the past I've gone with shelves devoted to "this year" or "this line" plus a few random favorites (POTJ Boss Nass), and I might move back to that because, by my rough estimates, the 30th Anniversary Collection line, with all its multipacks, tins, and so forth, is already at 85 figures. (Wait a minute, that can't be right-- oh wait, it is. 9 basic figures with coins, 29 figures from the tin sets, 25 figures from Battle Packs, 12 Order 66 figures, 8 from comic packs. Granted, they're not all new figures, but they're all part of the line-- and that's a LOT OF FREAKING FIGURES!)
5. What's with the white dots on the 501st titanium clone? Is it true there is a variant without the dots? I have also noticed similar white dot patterns on the upcoming Utapau AT-RT driver (test-shot photos?) from the Obi-wan Order 66 2-pack (thankfully, a TARGET exclusive!).
Indeed! I got a no-dot blue Titanium Series Clone Trooper from a case with C-3PO and General Grievous. The no-blue-dot one is harder to find so far, due to the demise of the line it will likely remain as such. The blue dots were an attempt at battle-damage, which is a bit more obvious on the orange AT-RT Driver. It's just an experiment from Hasbro, it seems, that didn't quite work out and hopefully we've seen the last of the white dots. They seem to vary from Clone to Clone-- at least with my orange bad boys. But they're absolutely there.
6. I've decided to branch out to collect all things 501st (Blue version from ROTS era). I've been looking for a "battle-damaged" version of the bust-ups 4 pack of ROTS clones (which I believe exist in 2 configurations of the clean version). Am I mis-informed? I know there was a battle damaged 4 pack exclusive to SWshop.com, but that was for the AOTC version.
There are absolutely battle-damaged versions of these that were sold as Fan Club exclusives. You may find them slightly harder to get, but they're out there. (Also, keep in mind there are two configurations of the battle-damaged version as well.)
7. can you tell me what figures to expect in the upcoming Order 66
two-packs? I assume the Clones are just repaints, but what about the
other characters? Since my only Vader figure is the one from 1996, I'd
just like to know if this one will be better :)
This set is pretty much entirely repaints, but if you've been choosy about what you buy, this is a good place to plonk down some cash. They're just now hitting and for a nice change of pace, I can tell you exactly what to expect.
#1 is Emperor Palpatine (that's what it says on the box) and Commander Thire. Palpatine is a repackaged version of the figure sold in 2005 with the Evolutions Palpatine's cloth cloak. (Don't even bother trying to put the hood up.) Thire is the Evolutions Star Corps Trooper repainted. In the movie, Thire was just a basic Shock Trooper-- for this figure, Hasbro gave him added accessories and different decoration. (If you want to be movie-accurate, your existing Shock Troopers are fine.)
#2 is Mace Windu and a Galactic Marine. Mace (the figure) has been reused in several sets but as far as I can tell, his robes are brand new-- the color is new, and this robe is distinctive in that it has no hood. It seems to be an all-new pattern. The Galactic Marine is a purple-and-white redeco of the recently released Galactic Marine figure-- and, to date, has not appeared elsewhere.
#3 is Darth Vader and Commander Bow. Darth Vader is the Evolutions figure with the helmet glued on-- arguably the best Darth Vader of all time. Darth Vader's instrument panel on his chest is also decorated differently. Commander Bow is the Clone Commander/Commander Bly mold repainted with blue 501st coloring. (In the comics, Bow looks exactly like Appo-- making this figure either Bow as he might've looked elsewhere, or just a sign of a simple name flub.)
#4 is Obi-Wan Kenobi and AT-RT Driver. Kenobi is the slashing-attack figure molded in different colored plastic, so it looks obviously different than previous releases-- it also has a cloth cloak, extra hand, and unlit saber. The AT-RT Driver is an orange Utapau-themed redeco, raising the number of AT-RT drivers to three. This figure is an original design. Also notable: they cut off the strap on the AT-RT Driver's gun, at least on mine. Interesting, no?
#5 is Anakin Skywalker and Airborne Trooper. Anakin is the slashing-action version with the removable plastic cloak, and is the normal eyes (not Sith eyes) version without the eye shadow-- so he's new-ish! This is a bit of a pity as the Sith eyes one is a little tough to get. The Airborne Trooper is a 501st-themed redeco of the Airborne Trooper mold, making it the third release of the "beehive" trooper. This figure is also an original design.
#6 is Yoda and Kashyyyk Trooper. Yoda is the spinning figure from 2005 with the cane and spare hand. The Trooper is the III-41 figure, but with wacky camo. (It even has the antenna.) As far as can be told, this, too, is an original design.
So there ya go. Vader is technically new-- as the helmet is glued down and (I think) unpainted underneath, and Palpatine at least has a new cloak (haha, The Emperor's New Cloak) augmenting his appearance. And Mace's cloak is new, and Anakin's head is painted differently. All of the Clones are new or at least new enough to warrant a purchase if you're attempting to collect them all. Obi-Wan looks a little different. Yoda is probably the only figure that's entirely disposable, but odds are there's a slight variation there I'm not seeing, too.
8. Ewoks - in my neck of the woods they were just sitting on the shelves - actually BOTH Chief Chirpa AND C-3PO with the wooden throne. They sat for months, no one touched them. Chirpa is finally sold out most places, but I've seen 3PO's everywhere I go. The Ewok issue worries me, because love or hate the Ewoks (I personally don't mind them in the movie), they make awesome little figures. Any idea how the Ewoks sold elsewhere in the country (I live in the DC area)? My fear is that if they didn't sell good, Hasbro won't be too inclined to make new ones in the near future.
As always, when shopping, your mileage may vary-- some figures simply do not sell in certain neighborhoods. There was a region in Phoenix that frequently had massive quantities of single figures due to the shoppers there, and it's possible your people don't like Ewoks. There was a store where I saw piles-- and I do mean peg after peg-- filled with Jango Fett, and no other figures in sight. It happens.
With C-3PO, I think many fans can agree that stores seem to have this figure piling up frequently. Chief Chirpa, though-- you seem to be unique there, at least in my limited findings. He seems to sell through here and in other areas. Due to the fact that the figure was likely cheaper to make, and sold well enough, I'd be shocked to not see another Ewok in 2007 or 2008. They sell-- and with fan demand for more new Ewoks and a reissue or new version of Paploo, I doubt we'll be Ewok-free for long.
Hopefully Hasbro will take a cue from the Order 66 packs and do more of those kinds of things for the trilogy. Scout Trooper + Ewok = yes. (As does Stormtrooper + Bespin Guard, TIE Pilot + X-Wing Pilot, etc.)
9. Have you met many folks excited by the new 'collector' coins? I much prefer the holo figures, which, although they may seem pretty useless make great targets for my clone cannons at work! I would prefer a stand or accessory however! The first I've seen from the Mustafar Miner does not excite me. It's very toy-like, lightweight and poorly finished with a lot of scratch marks. Maybe fun for a new kid-fan, but not me.
The one thing about pack-ins I've learned is every one has its fans and its haters. Some people liked the Freeze Frames, the Flashback Photos (although I think they're liars), CommTech Chips, Force Files, Holographic Figures, and so on. A lot of people really hate the holo figures, and I gotta say I don't think I've heard more complaining about any pack-in, CommTech chips included. If there was a little more variety (or a third or fourth regular release color), I think there might've been more interest in them-- but if you bought all 100 carded figures (including Heroes & Villans), you're probably pushing close to 8 complete sets-- which is unnecessary and a bit of a waste.
The coins I really like. I agree that they're scratchy, but so were some of the vintage ones back in the day. Obviously, they aren't for everybody-- but for some reason, coin and stamp collecting are really big hobbies, and a lot of fans are genuinely excited about buying these coins. I think we all can suggest things we'd rather have-- but guess what? We're stuck with these for the year. Hopefully Hasbro will do a build-a-figure or a build-a-playset (seriously, put a tiny bit of a playset with 70+ figures) for 2008 so I can just tell people that don't like the pack-in that they're crazy or have bad taste. The coins are pretty divisive, though, so yeah, it's unfortunate you don't enjoy them. However if you're going to collect the figures anyway, you may as well put together a set of them (or close to it) to sell or trade later. Since plans call for at least 60 basic coins, some rumored gold UGH coins, 7 mail-in coins (including the Toy Fair coin), and at least 7 Saga Legends coins, it's not unthinkable that you could probably very easily get $80-$100 for a complete set at just $1 a coin.
10. Talking of cleaning, do you think/know if it's OK to wash regular figures? I'm thinking like a mild dishwashing detergent and lots of rinsing. I like to open and display, so dust becomes a problem after a while. I have washed figures I am customizing before painting, and they've been OK so far...
Toys are usually able to be washed in a mild soap with warm water and minimal problems. I believe Playmobil and LEGO fans have mentioned those brands are dishwasher safe usually, but I'm not willing to subject my playthings to that kind of torture. But yeah, you're on the right track-- however it might be best to adapt your displays to keep away more dust (closed cabinets, for example). Obviously, I'm no cleaning scientist and by reading this sentence you give up your right to sue me if I tell you something stupid. (It's true, it's legal and binding.)
So yeah, how about that. 85 figures. Obviously, many of them are repacks in multi-packs that we wouldn't buy were it not for the ONE NEW FIGURE in the box, which I can see as being a real problem as collectors try to collect them all. It really isn't that great an idea to basically require that, for a complete set, one is required to buy the same figure two or even three times just to ensure they have an entire collection. Now, I'm the last person out there who's going to say "Hasbro should tailor the line for collectors," but I do think there's something to be said about squeezing blood from a stone. I still haven't seen the Wal-Mart wave in stores (I still hunt just to see if I can see them in the wild), so basically, we've entered an era where there's a lot of frustrated collectors who are looking to buy many, many figures and the sick irony of the whole thing is that with some of these sets, they don't even want some of them.
For the sake of argument, let me go through the 30th Anniversary Collection packaged items and see what kind of stuff is "new." For the sake of argument, repaints are new, head swaps are new, and significant change on battle-damage qualifies as new, too.
9 total. All new except the Darth Vader repack with the coin album. Add 8 to total.
BATTLE PACKS (REGULAR)
15 figures from 3 packs of 5 figures each. Dagobah Pack: R2-D2 and Darth Vader are new. Yoda is not new. Luke and Obi-Wan are decorated slightly differently-- so for the sake of argument, I'm going with 4. Capture of Tantive IV: the Stormtrooper is new enough, and each Rebel Trooper is new. The duplicate Stormtrooper and Darth Vader are not. So that's 3 more. The Geonosis set is pretty much repack-a-palooza, so no new figures. Add 7 to total.
BATTLE PACKS (EXCLUSIVE)
12 figures from 3 packs of 2-5 figures each. Felucia: Star Corps Trooper (regular), Star Corps Trooper (with helmet) are "new." The others are repacks or duplicates-- so there's 2. Ilum: All new due to new deco and new molds. Add 5. Saleucami (which you can't spell without "EU")-- two new clones. Total for segment: add 9.
COMIC PACKS (ALL)
8 figures from 4 packs. All new. Add 8 to total.
TIN COLLECTIONS (ALL)
29 figures from 6 regular tins of 4 figures each, 1 exclusive tin of 5 figures. Because the Cantina band are all supposedly different guys, and repainted from other releases, I'm going to say they're 5 new figures. Each tin from the regular line has at least one new figure, but due to deco changes, there are more. Episode I: R2-R9 is new, the rest are, at best, accessory-swaps. Episode II: Jango Fett and the Clone Trooper are new, the rest are repacks. Episode III: AT-RT Driver new, the rest are accessory swaps. Episode IV: Darth Vader, Sandtrooper are new, you know the drill. Episode V: All new, each figure has new deco or other changes. Episode VI: Rebel Trooper, Rebel Commando all-new, Leia's deco is different enough to warrant "repaint." So for the 7 tins, 18 are new.
12 figures from 6 2-packs. All 6 Clones are new, Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker, and Mace Windu have changes big enough to call them "new enough" in my book. So let's make it 9.
So with my liberal definitions, 59 of those 85 figures are "new" or "variations bought with new figures you'd be buying anyway." Now of those, not many are all-new sculpts-- actually, you'd probably be depressed to hear how many are new sculpts. So let's skip that one. If you wanted to buy them all, you could skip some repeats due to how the figures are packed-- about 6. So you could whittle it down to 59 new figures bought for 79 total figures bought-- so the way Hasbro packs things, about 20 of the figures you'd have bought are ones you probably would rather not have due to the way multi-packs are made.
Now, I realize it's unrealistic that Hasbro make 100% new figures each and every year, but with the majority of those figures coming from multipacks, am I alone in thinking it'd be really nice to get packs where all of the figures are at least in some way slightly different? Or even improved? While figures vary from sample to sample, some of the recent figures I've had from Battle Packs have crazy loose joints and fewer accessories than their previously released... releases.
But anyway, let's get back to those 59 new figures. Now here's where it gets depressing-- obviously, a lot of them (OK, almost all of them) are some kind of clone, repaint, or previously released figure. Of the 85, there are 7 completely new molds. 7. If you factor in repaints, retools, Clones, and what have you, you get about 17 previously unproduced characters (assuming new color clones are new characters). And assuming you're looking to get all significant variants/recolors (no accessory swaps), you're looking at about a hair over 50 different ones-- and that's being generous with what constitutes a "new" figure. Oh, and this includes zero Saga Collection figures-- and we've had about 30 of those since the new year.
Despite what many fans have been insisting, Hasbro hasn't been slowing down new figure releases. Yes, there haven't been a ton of basic carded figures-- but we've still had at least 20 since the new year (counting the various repaints, head-swaps, Wal-Mart figures, etc.) One of the more common complaints I get at this column is that Hasbro isn't releasing enough product. I beg to differ-- I'd almost say there's too much. Sure, it's awesome, but geez. Even if you don't collect them all, and are able to skip most of the "variant" figures from multi-packs and what have you, it's still one of the most expensive years in a while.
And it's not even April yet. Counting most of the figures we know are coming, a lot that haven't been announced yet (but have entered my field of probability), and so forth, I wonder if we'll actually get to 200 total figures in the 30th Anniversary Collection. New or not, Hasbro has more figures in circulation in a very short period of time than, possibly, almost ever. Is it true that we can never have too much of a good thing? Or have most of us stopped "collecting them all"? I'll be quite curious to find out this year.
Got questions? I bet you do. Email me with "Q&A" somewhere in the subject line and hopefully I'll get to yours in the next column!
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