Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
December 3, 2007
1. Now that we are finally gettting some female Imperial officers, what are the chances of getting a Ysanne Isard? Maybe one in a comic pack with a retooled Wedge?
When it comes to additional issues in a series, it's a pretty safe bet that sales are going to have a lot to do with it. Based on the rumblings I've heard for 2008 thus far, I'd say unless a surprise exclusive might happen, your chances are about zilch. This year's choices for comic packs made a lot of sense, as some strong characters and comics were represented which should make for decent overall sales, if not great. But next year, we're supposedly going to get people like Tol Skorr. Tol Skorr? I read all the comics and couldn't remember his name. When I heard a rumor that we'd be seeing a "Skorr" in the comic packs I immediately thought it'd be this guy. Ugh.
Right now Rogue Squadron does not seem to be big on the radar, which is a pity for a lot of reasons. Since the entire line could be made with repaints and head swaps plus it has such a large emphasis on vehicles, it'd probably be a great candidate for a non-movie "event" like Force Unleashed except for the fact it's not at all new at this point. Still, it'd be nice to see more stuff like that, and given how many female figures have appeared in the 16 comic packs this year so far (5) compared to how many appeared in the 60-figure basic line (2, and I really don't think M'iiyoom Onith should count) I think the only place you can expect to see female figures will be in larger sets like these. I have no doubt that we'd probably never see Dark Woman were it not for the comic packs-- selling an older woman from the comics as a figure would be tough, but packaging her with a Tusken Raider Jedi? There's your sale right there. If we ever see Ysanne Isard, I'm hoping for an all-new Wedge Antilles, as we've never been given a Wedge Antilles figure that wasn't an old body with a new head. But really, they could package Ysanne Isard with a Stormtrooper or that 181st TIE Pilot and I'm sure it'd sell just fine at ten bucks.
2. Since Hasbro seems to be doing a good job with repaints and collectors are dealing with them, what are the chances we will see repaints of existing figures done in vintage deco. Particularly the Death Star Trooper in his vintage greys, the Gonk in his vintage blue, and once we have a Hoth rebel soldier, in his vintage brown vest. I think kids and collectors would gobble them up. Any chance?
Looking at Hasbro's penchant for repaints and reissues (there were like 380 figures releases in the 30th Anniversary Collection line total, maybe 20% are completely new sculpts) I'd say we very much will see repaints like those eventually, but perhaps not all of them. Having been able to listen to Hasbro's reasoning for doing (or not doing) certain figures I can't say I totally follow their logic for doing some figures and not others when it comes to mere deco changes. But, we do have a precedent: in 2004 Hasbro cranked out a blue "tall" Snaggletooth figure based on the Kenner line which, as far as anyone can tell, doesn't really fit in with the movies. It's just a toy tribute, and I have no doubt the recent blue jacket Hoth Han at Target was produced in their Hoth Ultimate Battle Pack for the exact same reason. If Hasbro continues the line, especially Battle Packs, I would all but guarantee that Gonk will happen as soon as a Jawa-themed set gets produced, that a Death Star Trooper will appear in a future "Ultimate" Battle Pack, and the Hoth Rebel, well, who knows-- Hasbro had their chance to do one and didn't, so it might be a while. Hopefully if they do, they'll do it with a brand-new sculpt as the 2003 one sucked for 2003 and for 2008 it's going to be utter rubbish.
(My vote goes to an ESB-themed comic pack with a Snowtrooper vs. Hoth Rebel theme-- just do a non-removable helmet vintage Snowtrooper and retool Derlin from the waist up or something. Build your armies, indeed!)
3. Why the change to the vac metal instead of the better coloring seen on the [Summer convention] sample? It looked much better in regular plastic with a nicer paint deco.
Congratulations, you've tread on one of the land mines! One of Hasbro's complaints about fans seeing product early is that sometimes what they show is an early mock-up which is not at all representative of the final product-- things change. Like I just realized the Elite Forces Mandalorians had two big changes (B'arin Apma's backpack, Isabet Reau's helmet), Hasbro often changes-- or the factory changes it on their behalf-- details of figures throughout production. This is one of those things. A shiny C-3PO stands out nicely at retail, and that's how about all of the C-3PO action figures have been made. If you want a non-shiny C-3PO, I suggest tracking down the 2004 Ultra C-3PO as that might fit the bill. The articulation is just as good and it looks a lot closer to those early samples for this year's version of the golden droid.
4. I've noticed that in recent Q and A sessions, you keep mentioning the build a figure concept. I primarily collect Star Wars figures, but I do take notice of what other action figure lines are doing. I really like the Build-A-Figure concept, especially the way that Legendary Comicbook Heroes has pulled it off. My question is, if Hasbro were to try this concept out with the 3 and 3/4" Star Wars line, what kind of build a figure would you want them to do?
At this point, I'd probably want them to push one of three things: super-obscure figures that probably wouldn't sell as well in another format (Vlix, Willrow Hood), figures which actually make sense putting together/taking apart in the context of the story (protocol droids, Battle Droids, etc.), or troopers (Clones, Stormtroopers, Battle Droids). And here's why.
Obscure figures make sense especially if they can keep it a "mystery" as to what figure you're building in each wave-- package the part in a black bag so fans will be able to put the character together and then maybe there would be a code on each part which, when assembled, you can go to the Hasbro web site and get a bio on your toy. (They did it for Transformers Cybertron, after all.) I like this idea because there really are some wonderful characters which could be a very tough sell otherwise, and for all I know there's a loophole if you don't use the character name or image in the marketing. (I mean, maybe there's a way to get a Tonnika sister this way. Probably not, but it's nice to delude one's self.) Also, while many fans lust after Mr. Hood, he's not what you would call a known entity outside die-hard forum users and die-hard CCG player circles, except for the spillover publicity he gets as a result of constant mentions in fan arguments or columns like this one. While Hasbro, fans, and stores may fret over the idea of Willrow not selling by himself, imagine Hasbro packaging a piece of him with each and every figure in 2007 Wave 5-- odds are you'd buy those figures anyway, so it's just like getting a bonus.
Droids make more sense because in the context of the story, it wasn't uncommon to see parts lying around in a junk pile. If you bought 3 or 4 figures out of a 5 or 6 figure series, you could still make use of those pieces-- a junked out protocol droid could go in a Jabba's Dungeon diorama, dismembered arms and torsos of a Battle Droid could be used in several dioramas based on the prequels and comics, and it'd be handy for customizers. Getting a figure apart to paint it is a real pain, but if I could get piles and piles of Astromech parts I'd gladly do so, just so I could hold onto them to repaint (or pay someone to repaint, let's be honest here) after the line ends and there's a couple of figures I'd still want to own. Also, Hasbro already has a protocol droid mold (AOTC C-3PO) as well as a Battle Droid mold (the current model) which are presently "dismemberable" and conducive to making a quickie build-a-figure were they so inclined.
Troopers make good sense for pretty much the reasons I listed for droids-- albeit slightly more grisly. A Clone with his leg blasted off? Totally sensible. Hasbro could even include one or two specific figures randomly sprinkled into figures all year long so you could build Clone armies, Droid armies, Imperial armies, Rebel armies, and so forth, plus if it were random you might stand a chance to build a figure without collecting every figure from every wave-- which would be difficult as some figures are always popular and it'd suck to not be able to finish the build-a-figure.
Also, an entire year of build-a-figures based on a specific property makes sense. For example, I don't think a Knights of the Old Republic wave is a good idea, but a build-a-figure in each wave of regular product makes good sense-- after all, the "build a figure" just becomes an accessory, thus reducing the risk of fans scratching their heads as to where the figures came from. The McQuarrie Concept figures probably would've made nice build-a-figures due to their immense popularity... if you know something is going to be super-hot, making fans buy 5 figures to buy it makes good sense for business and it rewards the fans who collect them all anyway. (Although for those who pick and choose, it kinda sucks-- which is why build-a-figures aren't so great at times.)
If it were up to me, I'd have it probably be obscure stuff, a sort of "Hasbro Employee's Choice" might be fun-- what kind of thing would they want to do that they can't risk selling individually due to the bean counters? I'd love to find out what they came up with when given free range to make the weirdest, most off-beat characters.
5. Was the shirtless Maul from the deluxe POTJ only available then? What articulation did he have? I'd love to customize the Visionary Maul with Greivous legs.
Hasbro's first Shirtless Darth Maul came out in 2001, and was one of four Deluxe Power of the Jedi figures: Amanaman, Slave Leia, and Bacta Luke rounded out the brief assortment. While Slave Leia has since been reissued, the rest have not. This particular Darth Maul is largely remembered as a bad figure with weak articulation, and a new, improved version of him will be out in 2007 as part of a Sith Evolutions pack which will also include Darth Nihilus and Darth Bane. I suggest you wait for that one, as I have little doubt fans will be buying the sets and splitting them up just to get the figure(s) they want.
6. We have seen tons of trooper figures from Hasbro. All of the movie troopers, and then some. However there is one trooper from a New Hope that, as far as I know, has never been even mentioned, and that is the ultra cool TIE pilot with the gray face markings. If you watch the final battle of the Death Star with the two TIE pilots that fly alongside Darth, you'll see on of them has gray markings...these are not glare marks. I think this is the trooper that actually kills Biggs. Check it out if you have time. I was wondering if this guy actually has a name, and will Hasbro ever make him?
He's been on my wish list too, and you can see him in a few of the various making-of books out there. I have yet to see any backstory for the character (like a name) but if people keep talking about it, I have little doubt that Hasbro will do it. I mean, why not? Two stripes, and you have a new figure. If Hasbro releases a pilot again anyway, I hope they make this little change to the pilot just to keep things fresh.
7. I think I've asked this exact question before, but it was before you had
your current job (I think), so maybe your thoughts have changed.
What if any effect do you think specialty e-tailers will have on the toy
aisles of big box stores? and/or mom and pops (I actually live in a town
where there still is a mom and pop toy store and they are gutsy enough to
move in right across the street from TRU [insert cheer for the escaping
Rebel transport in Empire]?
I ask cuz I did my part to save the economy last Friday and dropped about
$300 at: your employer, HasbroToyShop.com, and shop.starwars.com. That is
how I do my big purchases now, online. I've sworn off big box stores,
except for exclusives. In fact I've been mostly looking for loose figures
from whatever the last wave was on Ebay, basically to keep the belt tight.
Am I alone in this or have the last couple years been really full of
genuinely awesome AND mostly new stuff?
well now that's 2 almost 3 questions... so I'll shut up now.
I don't remember what (if anything)I wrote last time, but obviously every avenue fills a need. Some people want to overpay at collectible toy conventions, some people want everything delivered to their doorstep, and some people want to hunt for everything in stores.
I don't think speciality stores have any dent on the bottom line of big box stores. Zero. None. Wal-Mart, Target, and Kmart make little to no money marking up their toys-- most of them are "loss leaders," items they make a tiny amount of money on, because all the real money is made in toilet paper, soap, diapers, light bulbs, and batteries. In short, things that aren't toys.
Toys "R" Us and Kay-Bee have been hurting in recent years with massive store closures and I have seen numerous articles and reports stating that the blame was Big Box Stores. Most people go to a Target or Wal-Mart once or more a week to get necessary items for their daily life. If you need soap, you're probably going to go to a grocery store, a drug store, or a big box store. If you read this column, odds are you'll go out of your way to go somewhere with toys for sale, for obvious reasons. (I always do.)
Purchases are generally made where you are, rather than where you are not. I've been keeping an eye on my purchases, and I've found I make very few toy purchases at Toys "R" Us because I tend to find everything first at Entertainment Earth, Target or Wal-Mart. (In the past year I have bought absolutely nothing at Kmart or Kay-Bee as toys are concerned-- not out of spite, just because nothing showed up.)
So, speciality stores? It depends. There's a mom and pop right next to a Toys "R" Us where some of their product comes directly from the Toys "R" Us, and I've seen Target stores with a comic shop in their parking lot that just happens to have Target exclusives. But I don't own a business so it's not for me to say what needs to be done to keep your doors open. Some smaller stores really do a lot of good for their niche. ShopStarWars.com has managed to exploit its relationship with Lucasfilm to bring in items from all over the world that nobody else can do because they can do whatever they please as far as licensing goes-- so you see great foreign items show up for sale there at very reasonable prices. (They also overcharged for Concept Grievous and should be tarred and feathered for that.) Entertainment Earth selling cases to fans hasn't stopped fans from stalking aisles of the big box stores for the latest and greatest. The company fills a need and as few other businesses sell by the case, I don't think the market for $6.99 figures is really hurting as a result. HasbroToyShop.com hasn't really done much to impress me yet, aside from their wonderful deals and sales. They really haven't done much to make product easier to get, but their prices are great.
The real question is how do you shop, and what do you care? I mean, if you don't shop online, these stores mean nothing to you. If you don't go to the little comic shops, their fate really doesn't matter. Just because of how the market works for everything, our toy purchases are a drop in the bucket at a big box store and I have no doubt they'd make more money with other items entirely-- but toys are a draw, so we go there a lot. The big box stores will be fine for a long time-- but I do worry about Toys "R" Us and Kay-Bee's futures. I mean, I've bought nothing at Kay-Bee in ages, and it's fairly unusual for me to even go to one lately. My local Toys "R" Useses have had astonishingly poor service when I've gone there lately (namely in their video game section) and they've been closing a lot of stores, so my hopes aren't high for them. I wouldn't be surprised if, ten years out, there were even fewer all-toy stores out there that weren't niche-driven or Internet-only.
8. I collected and played with Star Wars figures as a kid during the original line in the late 1970s and 80s. Since the line was reborn in the 90s, I have collected carded figures from Day 1 and continue to do so (scored several wave 8 figs over the weekend). I may open one or two here or there, but I like to display the closed figures. The assortments of characters we have gotten over the years is stunning. Everything we could have possibly wanted but one. I have to ask -- how in the freaking world, and after all this time, do we not have a regularly distributed Cantina Band Member carded figure? It blows the mind. I know it was released through the fan club mail away years ago (which I did send away for). I know it was released in the (expensive) tin sets and I know there is one from Disney World, which is not exactly convenient. When will Hasbro release this iconic character in a normal assortment of carded figures? What's the deal? Keep up the great work.
Probably never-- there's too many Bith on the market as it is. In 1997, we got a Fan Club exclusive band member which many of us bought several of. In 1998, we got Barquin D'an as a Wal-Mart exclusive. In 2006, we got a five-figure set of band members as a Wal-Mart exclusive. In 2007, we got individually carded band members at Disney World and a reissue of Barquin D'an at Wal-Mart is just around the corner. As Hasbro sees it, there's plenty of product in the market and individually carding a figure isn't a priority if it exists in another format in the marketplace. The only Wedge we ever got carded was an online exclusive, and as a lot of us have several Cantina Band members now (as we bought every incarnation to date), I certainly don't want to see another one.
As you no doubt have seen, convenience is not a big part of this hobby. With all the exclusives, variants, and the sheer volume of product, collecting is almost a full-time job. As such, if you can swing it, I suggest you get one off of eBay from the Disney exclusive because we're probably not going to see all-new band members for a while. (But hey, Star Wars turns 40 in 2017 so who knows...)
9. I just recently discovered ( I know many knew this already) that the Hasbro's current Titanium vehicle assortment was actually started by Galoob's die cast Micro-machines line. I knew the two lines had very similar designs and intents but I didn't realize that Hasbro could actually repaint a Galoob product and sell it. The recent Trade Federation Battleship, I noticed, said 1998 on the bottom of it. When I finally saw a review of it, it was confirmed to be a repaint of Galoob. Do you know if any of the other Titaniums are also repaints from Galoob? Also, have you heard if the Titanium vehicle line will be continuing? Last I heard there was a wave of repaints planned that included a black painted AT-AT. Do you think they will repaint more Galoob products?
I also just received my two Mandalorian packs from EE. Overall I love them. Even though they used mosltly old molds for bodies and limbs, the paint and style of them rock. I just have a question about the heads. I think you may have addressed a similar question earlier but, who are the heads sculpted after? They seem too distinct to be random and too Generation X to be part of the Star Wars Universe.
Titanium is one of the more popular product lines going for Hasbro right now, and it will be continuing into next year-- but just the smaller vehicles. I can assure you we will see more Galoob product repainted over time as it's ready-to-go and fully developed, and it's also new to most fans. Ships like the X-Wing, TIE Fighter, TIE Bomber, Star Destroyer, Super Star Destroyer, Sandcrawler, Death Star, Naboo Fighter, and many others started life as Galoob products-- check eBay and various collecting sites for more information.
The Mandalorians have never been fully disclosed to me. Two of the figures I know, because I've met the people on which they are based. Dred Priest is Hasbro's Derryl DePriest, the head of the Star Wars team. Mij Gilamar is Brian Wilk, the guy who developed Attacktix and numerous other Star Wars products. The rest? Not really sure. I've heard first names on which people are based, and I think I was told that Isabet is someone inside Hasbro. But the rest? Not sure. (I didn't really have much to do with the development of the Mandalorians outside of some minor points on B'arin Apma.)
10. Just a little frustrated and hoping you have an answer for me.
I cannot find Wave 6, 7 or 8 ANYWHERE here in Tucson and Oro Valley. Target refuses to cooperate, I ask them to bring stuff out and they lie to me saying they cannot bring out until it's stocked again tomorrow(then I show up later that day and find it restocked with all the good figures missing). Have you seen these waves in the wild?
Any advice about getting them to bring out the other figures?
Due to how some stores work, they really don't have the time/interest in helping every collector shuffle through cases, especially this time of year. Unless you give off the vibe of a parent who will take a human life if you are unable to secure your child's gift for Christmas, the chances of getting another human to help you at a toy store is about 0%. Most stores do not want to bring product out of the back, and when I lived in Tucson, you flat out could not get them to do it. I suggest you save your breath and time, get back in your car, and go to your next destination.
Frequency is everything, as is not being picky. I haven't seen Wave 6 at any Targets, but several Wal-Marts and Toys "R" Us stores. I've also only seen Wave 7 remainders at Target, ditto with the repaint wave.
It's worth keeping in mind that, if you checked the case assortments on online stores, that many of these figures will ship for a while, some well into 2008. So if you don't care if you get the coin or not, you'll probably be covered even if you have to wait. Stores stock and restock very frequently this time of year, with some Targets restocking the shelves multiple times a day as needed. There's no guarantees, but you also have to remember that most fans haven't seen anything past wave 4 or 5 yet-- distribution isn't a science, and you sometimes just have to wait for the figures to show up. Or do what other fans do, and shop online. (Or get a trading buddy. I tend to wait on a lot of things, but it also means that I sometimes miss certain things that I never see in stores like Transformers Alternators Camshaft.)
Scored the last two Galactic Heroes Target Exclusive packs yesterday thanks to a reader tip. (Much thanks.) They're not bad, but I can honestly say I expected a little more in the wowie department for the X-Wing set. The Assault on the Death Star has Luke, Biggs. Leia, R2-D2, and the X-Wing mold from 2002. (In other words, no electronics, but the wings can move-- which makes it the better one.) Luke seems to be a new mold or at least significantly different from other Pilot Lukes, and Biggs is basically Wedge with a moustache. Leia and R2-D2 are not significantly different.
Jabba's Palace, though, this is good times. You get Jabba, Bib Fortuna, a Nikto, a Gamorrean, Luke, Han, Leia (Boushh), C-3PO, and Lando. In short, you're buying this set for Jabba-- if paying $20 for Jabba sounds like a good idea, you'll love the set. C-3PO has added green goo, which is a nice touch. Bib Fortuna is all-new, and Luke has been retooled to feature a cape around his neck and a blaster. Lando, Nikto, the Gamorrean Guard, and everybody else is essentially the same or inferior to previous releases. (For example, you get Han Solo, but no Carbonite Block.) It would've been nice to see Hasbro tweak the deco on the Nikto and Gamorrean for collectors, but ah well, I'll take what I can get.
If you've been collecting the line since the Playskool offerings of 2002, I'd say you can probably skip the X-Wing set unless you HAVE to have every last variant out there as Biggs is pretty lackluster and Luke, while new, isn't anything special. Jabba's Palace seems worth the best of these, and if you do Galactic Heroes I'd say it's easily worth the $20. (It'd have been nice to have seen figures that aren't available on the pegs anymore in here-- like Boba Fett-- but oh well.)
So, have you seen those fancy Force Unleashed Stormtrooper repaints? I have absolutely no evidence to back this up but I think the red one is an early, incomplete test shot. Looking at where the red stripe and silver markings stop on the chest, it seems that Hasbro may have intended there to be a Sandtrooper-style pauldron placed there. (Or so I think-- it makes sense if you think about the stripe on Commander Appo.) Since these are video game toys, I'm looking forward to them-- I find it best not to complain about game-based figures until I know the game sucks. I think the designs are interesting enough that I'm hoping there's some neat backstory to these, like they're the later incarnations of the Shock Troopers or some other specific task force.
There's a little negative buzz on them so far but I think there might be more to them, like the pauldron, or perhaps some other accessory. I certainly don't think any of them warrant premium pricing (i.e., overcharging by the Fan Club or Target) but as parts of battle packs, comic packs, or individual figures I could see snagging a few of each. There's a fine line between "stupid" and "awesome" when it comes to trooper repaints, and it tends to be simply precedent. If something appears in a comic, cartoon, book, or game? Fans usually will like it. As some out-of-nowhere design without a story? Not so much.
After seeing these I'd almost like to see Hasbro and Lucasfilm team up with the guys who did the Vader helmets at Celebration IV to paint up Stormtroopers and let fans vote on which one(s) to make as toys. The artists who do things like urban vinyl repaints and other unique alt-pop-arty projects are immensely talented and while some are repainting Bart Simpson Qees or other interesting items, many are painting fairly drab designs. Also, I would pay a premium if someone can convince Shag to do one. Seriously, you want me to drop $20 on a convention exclusive repaint? Get some of these guys in on this action, and have 'em sign it too.
2008 is starting to look crowded yet again. Hasbro said there'd be around 56 regular figures, at least 6 or so Saga Legends, who the heck knows how many Clone Wars figures (I'd wager 30), plus Battle Packs, Comic Packs, Evolutions, and unknown exclusives. 2008 should be a pricey year, folks.
That's all I got.
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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