Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
December 17, 2007
1. Happy Holidays to you and thanks for the work you do to bring myself and others our Star Wars news. Target's exclusive Ultimate Battle Packs are great toys at great value. They offer something for everyone and even include new additions to the Star Wars toy universe in the form of a Hoth Rebel gun turret and two Endor forest Ewok attack logs. Kudos goes out to Hasbro for doing this and we urge them to do more.
Have you heard how well these are selling? Are we likely to see more of these with playset-like pieces? Could this be Hasbro's answer to providing playsets to consumers? I'd love to see some kind of Endor forest tree with an Ewok hut at the top, and some overhanging branch or something to hang the cargo net released with TAC #46 R2-D2. They could make a throne dias for Jabba the Hutt, a Sarlaac toy, and rerelease Wampa's cave pieces with some add-ons. I could ramble on for hours, but you get the idea. Adam, what's you're take on it?
It's my understanding that Target's Ultimate Battle Packs did their job, however a lot of stores didn't sell through-- they just moved them, in some cases, perhaps to the back. The thing is in the toy world, an item can still be a success. The Imperial Shuttle of 2006 hit clearance, but when you look at tens of thousands of units, most of which sold for full price and few of which were remaining for the final markdown, it's a safe bet that these items will ultimately (har) do just fine. So while we won't know for sure until we get a look at the December 26 sales rack, it seems these two boxes of repacks and repaints struck a chord with fans-- despite being, in principle, the kind of thing you guys won't stop writing in to complain about. So obviously, I have no idea if the fanbase at large is happy or annoyed or what.
These aren't meant to be playsets. While some of the accessories have playset-like qualities, like that Turret, items like the logs are a little baffling. OK, so you have some logs to bash your AT-ST with. What do you hang them on? Heck if I know.
If this does well I'd like to see it continue, especially if (and this is key) it integrates well with the rest of the line. What I found especially cool is that Hasbro just happened to release a wave of Empire Strikes Back figures as well as some Return of the Jedi characters alongside these sets. If Hasbro were to, let's say, do a high-end Death Star or Sail Barge some day, it'd be peachy keen to see an item like this designed to compliment it. My question is, as usual, why bother?
While the packaged sets were gorgeous collectibles and provided what may be the best bang-for-the-buck of all time as multipacks go, let's face it-- many of us already bought all this stuff before. We shelled out $100 to get a couple of Ewok repaints, some variant Hoth Rebels, two logs, and the Hoth Turret. (And the AT-ST Drivers, Hoth Han, and Luke were pretty spiffy.) I think this is a solid concept, and I for one would welcome a Battle Pack-- Ultimate or otherwise-- to focus on, let's say, Jabba's Palace. It's just that I'd rather see Hasbro do something to update all of the figures some more, or make the entire thing nothing but repacks. It always feels kinda stupid when you buy a big set like this and a chunk of the figures are virtually identical to figures you may have bought already.
So yeah, I'd love to see Jabba and his little throne thing in a set like this-- but I'd need them to toss in some decent repaints with it. Like variant Nikto and Weequay figures, a Jawa with a fan, or perhaps they could debut a sculpt in a multi-pack before its carded release later. (We're due for a new Gamorrean Guard, yes?) When all Hasbro does is repaint, it gets easier and easier to pass on items on the primary market and wait for an eventual clearance, or just wait for fatigue to set in and buy it on eBay for less than it originally cost. So to Hasbro, my Kwanzaa wish to you is for multipacks to be more awesome. These were two great big sets for my money, but anything you could do to knock my socks off in 2008 would be superb.
2. What are the chances we will ever see a TIE crawler in the £20/$20 dollar vehicle range? I know its an obscure vehicle but if Hasbro uses the moulds it already has for the TIE cockpit and wing supports they could just design one caterpillar track section and use it twice on each vehicle. That should bring the development costs down quite considerably and I for one would love to add a couple to my Imperial forces. It would be a nice cheap way to get another new vehicle in the line while leaving plenty of budget left over to develop other new projects. Thoughts?
In the short term, I'd say the chances are low unless someone demands one as an exclusive. The LEGO TIE Crawler is kinda hard to come by as it's sold at precious few stores (just Target?) and nobody seems to be buying it. Thing is, the TIE Crawler isn't a vehicle most fans recognize from the movies (or anywhere, really) and at first glance, it looks just like a regular TIE Fighter. If this vehicle gets featured in any visual capacity to a great extent-- TV, games, whatever-- I'd say anything is possible. With the focus for the end of 2008 being Clone Wars and precious few rumors as to what the new vehicles of 2008 will be, I think if we see anything it's going to be from the new cartoon or some retro vehicles from the trilogy. I'd also like to say that I'd be totally fine with Hasbro not doing cheap attempts at selling me the same (or slightly retooled) TIE Fighter midsection yet again. (If you've been buying the line since 1995, you probably have two big wing TIE Fighters, the POTF2 small wing, the OTC/Saga small wing, both TIE Interceptors, and the white TIE Fighter so far. Do we need one with wheels too? Based on *very* conservative estimates the readers of this column alone probably injected a few million into Hasbro's coffers. We deserve good things.)
3. In your latest Q&A column, you allude to collector burnout. I've been collecting "Star Wars" toys since '78, and I feel as if I'm finally reaching the point at which I say "enough." Just when things ought to be winding down, it seems they're ramping up: tons of basic figures, plus VOTC, comics 2-packs, retailer exclusives, pack-in figures and—most of all—all these damned repaints. Hasbro doesn't know when to stop devising new paint schemes for astromechs and clone troopers. And now it's stormtroopers, which in my day came in precisely one color. Not to mention Mandalorians. (I'm sorry, but I find those Entertainment Earth packs especially egregious: $70 for what is essentially one new figure.) It's not just a budget issue, but space as well.
Rational people would suggest that the answer is to only buy what you like, but that's where my borderline OCD kicks in. I don't *need* every last clone variation, but when I started down this path three decades ago, I got it in my head that I would have at least one of each character/costume change. So, when I'm unwilling to plunk down $40 to buy a ship I already have just because it comes with a "new" figure that's merely X-Wing Luke with a different head, it creates an unhappy friction. Now, add umpty-billion clones in every conceivable variation, and my dissatisfaction grows exponentially.
Don't get me wrong: I don't want to quit. There's been some amazing stuff this year. (Love those McQuarrie figures!) But all that goodness is being overrun by the Grand Army of the Republic, and I'm feeling pressured to either give in or give up.
Well, those sort of are your options. Unlike in the old days, Hasbro has decided to crank out hundreds of products a year, rehash a lot of them, and to offer a very similar item with a slight upgrade to re-sell you the same item you already own, but for twice the price. That's the business, and money tends to be the life force of the toy industry. Until things stop selling, they're going to keep coming. Forever. Unless Hasbro sees a reason to put these resources onto another brand which might make them more money, business as usual will continue for years.
Chances are really good that the line could splinter if it's half "animated" in appearance and half "realistic" with the cartoon next year, but let's face facts: we've been through all of this before. A lot of collectors said they'd quit because they hated the prequels, and they're here still or new fans took their place. A lot of fans claimed they'd quit when the movies ended, and yet again, here we are.
We're stuck in a bit of a loop right now-- we buy everything because we want the set, and because we'll buy the set, Hasbro makes a lot of items which, in some cases, are not great. Personally, I think the figure gift sets where they change all of the figures and/or offer new ones is a good thing. The Elite Forces was mostly "different enough" for me to enjoy it, I can understand some fans don't like getting duplicate figures in the sets but since the Diamond Battlefront sets cost the same for fewer figures, I don't think dropping duplicate Clones would have made it any more of a bargain. (And as an exclusive, making them individually carded would likely result in a $15-$17 price tag. Which hopefully will never happen on my watch.)
But this asks the question, what are we getting at here? I used to say "if you don't like it, don't buy it" quite often and got hate mail for that-- how dare I suggest that fans spend their money on something they enjoy?!? I realize that nothing I say will ever break through the "wanna get 'em all" mindset, but if you're looking for an excuse to quit consider this: it is 2007. From six films and a mixed bag of comics and books and games, we've been offered several hundred action figures since 1995. Ignoring Galactic Heroes, Action Masters, MicroMachines, Action Fleet, Titanium Series, Buddies, 12-inch figures, Electronic Roleplay Weapons, Transformers, Unleashed figures in two sizes, and more, most of us have spent hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars every year to keep up with this stuff. Hasbro knows we will, and that's why they keep diversifying the line-- eventually they'll hit a line that can continue and be a hit for another several years.
Now consider how much you've spent in 12 years. Now, remember that while there might not be another live-action movie, there are going to be at least 100 animated TV episodes and probably at least 100 live action episodes-- and quotes from Lucasfilm people to the media suggest there could be as many as 400 episodes of each series. While these series run, there will be countless new character introductions as well as numerous new characters from existing properties (the films) as well as new stories (games, etc.) By "collecting them all" for another 3-10 years, you're looking at a good $500/year if you just stick to the 3 3/4-inch line with some (not all) of the exclusives. This isn't even considering vehicles. 60 basic figures is at least $420 before tax, plus if you were to round your basic figures out with the convention and other exclusive concept figures, that's like another $100 right there. A new fan can no longer afford to buy the entire line as well as going back to collect last year's product, and long-time fans are slowly running out of room to store everything. Unless it's your hobby to write about the hobby, things like your ability to house your toys might be enough to make you cut back.
So we're basically nuts-- yeah, Hasbro knows this. The only solution is to get really picky with your purchases. I mean, fans are running out buying the Max Rebo Band reissues with glee, not because they want to buy the figures, but because they like the "playset" it comes with. (It's an insert.) While it on one level pains me to skip on an item like this, well, I gotta stop being a sucker some day, and we all do eventually. Few (if anyone) collected the original vintage line as it went along with the intent of getting all the packaging variants, multipacks, and so forth that would be made available over the years, that usually came up after the line ended, people went back and finished their sets, and wanted to get some more stuff. The problem is that "let's get everything!" mentality is being applied to a living, breathing toy line rather than a dead one, which can be dangerous. At least when you collect a dead line, you know that items won't be reissued another dozen times with slightly better deco and figures. As it stands now, the "basic" 1995 TIE Fighter has been tweaked and rereleased no less than 3 unique configurations-- and that's not counting packaging changes.
4. During the summer conventions, 2 battle packs were announced, "Battle Droids"- STAP Attack and "Wampa Attack"- Hoth Patrol. I have not heard of these coming out, have they been dropped or pushed back?
A number of items, like these, and the re-release of Kir Kanos & Carnor Jax, still haven't arrived yet. The Battle Packs were briefly solicited online and quickly pulled, so it's possible they were delayed or pulled back to be someone's exclusive in 2008. As no final fate has been determined yet, we'll have to wait and see-- they're solid items for the money but the last few questions have me depressed that almost everything fans seem to be interested in discussing these days are repaints, retools, and repacks. I'm going to go drown myself in the toilet now.
5. Finally found the Ewok two pack and want to know which is Romba and which is Graak? I'm assuming since we read from left to right, that is how they are represented in the photo, but am not sure.
This is a good "Google" question-- a number of questions can be answered by you in mere seconds by consulting one of two magic oracles, which I call "Google" and "eBay". Looking to see a picture of a character whose name you know, but you can't place his face? Google. Want to know if an item is out yet, or are you wondering what it has been selling for? eBay. (Typically if there are multiple units for sale, that means a) it exists and b) it's out.)
Romba was made as an action figure in the original Power of the Force line, and he's a brown Ewok with a spear. Graak is the other one, and was mistakenly identified as "Garak" in some early reports. I wonder if that means his first name was "Elim"? (I'll pause a minute for both of my fellow DS9 fans to giggle at that one and I'll move on.)
6. I've got a dilemma. So there's a Clone Wars shark gunship and now a Clone Wars shark ARC170 and a shark battle pack that goes with that. I got the shark gunship and an ARC battle pack so I could use the pilots for it, but I don't have the shark ARC170. Someone told me the Clone pilots in the Clone Wars cartoon were different from the ones in Episode 2 and 3. Then someone else told me that the gunner in the ARC170 is different from the pilots. Is this so? Now, I figure if that's true then the pilots I got from the ARC battle pack aren't accurate. Then there's a rumor that the Clone Wars clone pilot will be out some time next year. I'm thinking of getting the ARC170 but if the pilot is different from the gunner would I be okay with one battle pack or should I get two packs so I can have three pilots? If I do that then I'll wait on putting these new ARC pilots in my shark gunship for the right one supposedly coming next year. Then again, was the ARC170 even in use during the Clone Wars when the gunship was used on Munnillist? This whole whale shark thing with the gunship and ARC has got my head spinning. Any light you can shed will be appreciated.
Right now, Hasbro hasn't released any of the "ARC Gunship" pilots as seen in Episode #21 of Clone Wars. There are rumors for 2008, but with Hasbro's delightful weaving of facts with half-truths through their Q&As, it's tough to tell what they're wording juuuust misleadingly enough to be true, but not obvious that it's true. (Hey, there's another excuse to bring up Mr. Garak.) I believe I've seen at least one quote from Hasbro say "there are no plans for non-CG series Clone Wars toys in 2008" and another one that said "we're going to do either a SCUBA Clone Trooper or a new version of Fordo." So yeah, believe whatever you want, the truthiness is out there.
The ARC-170 in "shark" colors and its companion battle pack are, as far as I can tell, designed by Hasbro and inspired by the cartoon. The pilots, droid, and ship as you see them exist in the Expanded Universe solely in toy form. You can use whatever you want to populate your ships-- I myself have been using "Phase I" Clone Pilots (AOTC-flavors) in my Clone Wars gunship. If I were you, I'd wait if for no reason other than to hope whatever pilot Hasbro comes up with includes the freaking gunpods again. I've got 4 Gunships and 4 Gunpods, and cash burning a hole in my wallet. Little help, Hasbro?
7. I was examining my celebration McQuarrie Threepio & Artoo and I noticed that
my Artoo is backward. What I mean is, if you recall the middle leg is a
little slanted as to indicate what is front and what is back and the torso
side with the arms is in the back in relation to the slant of the middle
leg. So when you pose him his arms are behind him rather than in front.
Is this how it's supposed to be? Is it an error? Is mine just defective?
Either way I love the figures, but I was curious if anyone else has seen
If I were you-- and I'm not-- I'd say the first thing you should do is to consult as many fan site photo galleries as you can. You can see other collectors' figures and see if there were any assembly problems in mere moments, I often do this if I find something weird about a figure, or if I find some aspect of it hard to assemble for some reason.
So, is R2-D2 backward? I had to read and re-read your question because I have absolutely no attention span, and as far as I can tell, the figure is fine. Some astromechs (ones using the R4-G9 mold) had some center leg assembly issues in some cases, but the McQuarrie figure seems to be able to be properly posed with his legs in front or in back, whichever I prefer.
8. I recently tried to order the Hasbro protective cases for my carded Star Wars figures and I was told that they have been made Target exclusives for a time and Hasbro can't sell them from the toy shop website. I have not found them at Target online. Have you seen them in the Target stores? Also, are there any inklings at Hasbro about making a Droid Transport that was seen in EP1? Seems like a no-brainer for a great play idea or a diorama, but hey, we don't have a Sail Barge either.
The last time Target had Hasbro-branded cases as an exclusive was in 2005-- so that's a while ago. HasbroToyShop.com had some for a while but they're also long gone. So if you want them, cross your fingers for another run or go to eBay.
As far as I know there are zero plans for any vehicles from Episode I in the near or distant future. Hasbro kicks and screams to do vehicles for Clone Troopers, so expensive toys so you can reenact fights between Gungans and the Trade Federation are about nil.
9. I recently bought the VOTC Ben figure, because I simply didn't want to believe it could be as bad as everyone claims, and although it is, I was wondering if it might look better with a soft goods cloak from a jedi in one of the prequels. Since I only collect ANH figures can you suggest a figure with a soft goods cloak that might look good on the VOTC Kenobi? Obviously, the cloak he came with is an abomination, and I don't want to buy lots of anakin's and mace's before I find a cloak that looks good on Ben. If you can help, that would be great.
Well, it certainly does suck doesn't it? Right now there's no perfect ANH-style Obi-Wan figure, as the vintage one was a huge downer. The best cloth cloaks I've seen were the ones Hasbro stitched for the Jedi vs. Darth Sidious Battle Pack, which also saw release with other figures later. SaeSee Tiin's is great, but it's still not quite perfect for Obi-Wan. Basically, Hasbro still needs to go back to the drawing board on this one. If you don't already have a Saga Legends Saesee Tiin, I suggest you get one for his cloak and give it a try. If you don't like it, Saesee Tiin is still a top-notch action figure that everybody should own.
10. Was watching Episode I and noticed these small droids in the background of the Naboo battle scene.
Never really noticed them before and wondered what their story was. Has there been a figure made and if not, your thoughts on its chances?
No figures yet. These are unlikely-- very unlikely. There are so few Phantom Menace toys cranked out in a given year (I mean, honestly, when is the last time you saw Qui-Gon or li'l Anakin?) that I have serious doubts these guys will make the cut for the figure line in the short term. Off the top of my head I don't even recall the names for these guys-- as such, it might be a tough sell with Hasbro as I'm sure many fans wouldn't even know what they were called, or recognize them in a lineup.
I got my "repaint" wave last week, and I'm pretty pleased with it overall. The problem is that two of the figures had "they couldn't possibly screw this up" expectations... and guess what? They did.
My two top picks for this wave, or so I thought, would have been R2-B1 and Hawkbat Battalion Clone Trooper. After all, repainting a droid and adding a poncho to a Clone Trooper is about as easy as a rehash gets, right? Apparently not. R2-B1 is mostly great-- but his dome is filled with annoyances. The dome is grey, not that sort of brushed silver look we've all gotten used to over the past several years. Also, the top of his head is painted over, so his light-up eye is somewhat blocked. If they left the whole eye pipe unpainted, I'd be fine with it. If the eye was black, I'd be really fine with it. As it is, it feels like an incomplete custom. The Hawkbat Clone's helmet is missing a key stripe around the forehead, making it also look unfinished. The poncho is OK, the mud pattern isn't perfect, but it's the helmet that bothers me because it looks like they simply forgot to finish the figure.
Pax Bonkik turned out really well-- great paint job. Holographic Darth Vader didn't surprise but it's very decent. The 7th Legion Clone Trooper has spectacular damage on his body armor but the helmet doesn't quite match the rest of the figure in this capacity. The Rebel Vanguard Trooper's holster doesn't quite work on my figure but otherwise, it's definitely decent. And lastly, the Naboo guy... well, he's red, and they changed the "text" on his helmet. Not much else new here. It's a good mixed batch of figures, I rather like the idea of a few totally random waves not focusing on a specific battle or film for once. I hope we see more like this in the future.
Still no sign of the Wal-Mart comic packs. This is a little frustrating because unlike some other exclusives they've had there in the past year or so, I kinda care about getting these-- Marvel-esque Boba Fett and a purple robot? More clones? Sold. Soft Goods versions of Obi-Wan and Bail Organa? Eehhhhhh. Not so much. (I honestly don't think you can do anything to get me interested in Bail Organa again at this point short of packing him with a Blockade Runner.) I did see the Max Rebo Band sets (not different enough to justify buying) and Cantina Galactic Heroes sets (got 'em-- blue Snaggletooth = yes) over the weekend. It's a neat set, plus it has the world's first toy of Baniss Keeg. Which is probably only interesting to me and four other people. It also means that it's yet another toy that Galactic Heroes has that the 3 3/4-inch line doesn't, which is something I kinda don't like to see much as I've always felt everything should always see plastic in the 3 3/4-inch line, preferably first. But I digress.
So, how are those new Galactic Heroes Scene Packs anyway? Why, I'm so glad you asked.
In the set Cantina Band, you get these figures: Luke (nothing new), Baniss Keeg (new, repaint of Duros), Obi-Wan Kenobi (nothing new), Hammerhead (new coloring), Ponda Baba (nothing really new), and 4 new retooled band members (new enough to buy if you ask me.) The other set, Cantina Encounter, has Han Solo (nothing new), Greedo (not really new), Wuher (new sculpt), Garindan (not really new), R2-D2 (dirty repaint, new), C-3PO (silver leg, new), Sandtroopers (2 new repaints with dirt), and Snaggletooth (awesome blue repaint). If I could get only one set, it'd be "Encounter" because of Wuher and the Snaggletooth. The other set is essentially recolored or retooled items from the main line, at least here there's a wacky exclusive and a new sculpt.
The Target sets are pretty good too-- one is just short of spectacular, the other is merely OK. (Both are awesome if you're new to the line and aren't re-buying things.) The Assault on the Death Star, you get a redeco of the super-cool 2002 X-Wing Fighter (this one has opening wings and is fantastic), a new sculpt of Pilot Luke ("Just new enough to make you mad), a Leia repaint (not as good as the regular release), Biggs Darklighter (Wedge repaint with new helmet and moustache), and R2-D2 (no significant changes.) Considering that in 2002, $15 got you the X-Wing, a Pilot Luke, R2-D2, and Darth Vader, and this new $20 set is a so-so deal with inflation involved. But since it's your only option for an X-Wing at retail... get it. Jabba's Palace is awesome, because it has Jabba the Hutt in it. Jabba's 100% new, as is Bib Fortuna (who has a blaster and Kenner-esque staff). The set also has Nikto (essentially a reissue), Gamorrean Guard (no change), Luke Skywaklker (redone to have blaster and cloak), Lando (no real changes), C-3PO (now with goo, but no silver leg, what's up with that?), Leia Boushh (no real changes), and Han Solo (no Carbonite). This set is worth buying for Jabba and Bib-- everything else is icing on the cake. Because I'm an idiot I'd probably pay $20 just for Jabba if it had to come to that.
HEY HASBRO: Max Rebo Band Galactic Heroes would be prime. Even if it's just the main three. Put 'em in a set, put 'em in 2-packs, I don't care. Jabba is so awesome that I think I would actually lose my marbles if I got Max. (I bought the plushie Max, the Max action figures, got the Santa Max Gentle Giant statue... let's see a Galactic Hero of the little guy.)
Some interesting news postings around the web this weekend. It's always interesting to see if words like "retool" are being used properly, sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren't-- it doesn't always mean "modified," some people use it to mean "not the same mold as last time." You never know.
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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