Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
April 21, 2008
I was going through my figures from Jabba's palace, and realized most of them are "just the entertainment"! We now have all the band, dancers (which even got re-released), and now auxiliary drummers to round out a nice show for Jabba. We even have ol' fatty to look forward to!
These are great, but how about some skiff guards? I loved Hermie and 3PO with is eye being ripped out, but as of yet, we don't even have all the guys who were on the same skiff with Luke & the gang. Bane Malor wasn't even in the movie as far as I can tell. What are the chances of ever getting the other Weequay, Nikto, human, and Barada that was there with them? The only one we got was that one Weequay, and he's kinda becoming dated now. I'd also love to see the guy that shoots Luke's hand. Any rumors on these guys?
Oh, and about the BMF Millennium Falcon, I'm totally saving up for one! It looks awesome! Do you know if it will come with the helmet for Luke with the training remote? Thanks a lot!
One thing to remember is that there are rumors on everything. There's a finite amount of source material to make movie-based Star Wars figures, and it doesn't take a master of prognostication to watch six films and make a prediction or start a rumor-- there's only so much stuff left to do at this point.
Much of the figure choices we see come as a direct result of fan demand combined with what Hasbro thinks would be a fun, distinctive, and most importantly marketable toy. We got Hermi Odle because this was a figure that pretty much any fan who would buy a Jabba's Palace-based alien could get behind. If you're the type to buy a J'Quille or a Weequay, Hermi isn't a stretch. C-3PO is a consistent seller, and people freaking love Salacious Crumb-- so he was a no-brainer too. Umpass-Stay was a bit of a surprise, but hey, there you go.
This year's selection is a little more curious. Ak-Rev is seeing production largely to "finish the drum" from last year, so he has a built-in market. Gargan is your token fan request, because, let's face it, fan demand her has only increased as more and more fans discover that she was very nearly produced in the vintage line over 25 years ago. Bane Malor goes with her in the Expanded Universe stories, plus he's a good design. He's an armored guy, and guys in armor or space suits tend to do well. Heck, he's also wearing a black suit-- and adult fans can't get enough of black plastic toys. So these guys made some good sense.
As to the future, what you can expect to see in next year's token 2 or 3 figures from the first 30 minutes of Return of the Jedi? Well, that's probably a good 12-18+ months off, so it's not entirely set in stone by most indicators. Fan demand for specific skiff guards has been very low, but there's a ton of buzz for the likes of Gargan, Bane Malor, Doallyn, a new Slave Leia, and a few other non-skiff characters. Seeing as the names don't tend to leap right to the tongue, it's pretty unlikely you'll see them soon unless someone gets an exclusive boxed set of Jabba's Palace figures (and let me tell you, such a box ain't on my short list this week) or a new vehicle is produced that requires new figures. Buuuuuut... if you've seen the leaked trailer, you know The Clone Wars takes place at least in part in Jabba's Palace. That certainly can't hurt the chances for one or more of these figures to see release, so I'd say that if you really want Hasbro to make a figure (or figures) start making a fuss now and see if you can get anyone else to join you. Any figure-- regardless of ridiculousness-- is fair game for production. I mean, I have Darth Vader in blue comic colors, BoShek, and we're scraping a dozen old boring men that are Imperial Officers. (Well, Tarkin's pretty awesome. But diminishing returns, you know.) Fan demand is worth a lot, Hasbro wants your money, so be sure to let them know how to get it.
From what we've seen of this "unconfirmed" Millennium Falcon, it does indeed appear to include a fairly low budget representation of the training remote. I don't believe I've seen anything to confirm the Blast Shield helmet is included, but if you want one, you can go get one today off of eBay. The helmet was released with a Luke figure in 1998, and you should be able to score one for a couple of bucks.
2. So looking at photos of the new Force Unleashed Rancor, it seems certain to me that Hasbro will sooner or later re-paint and re-release this new sculpt as an updated ROTJ Rancor. How soon do you think they'll do this (if you think they'll do it at all)?
My crystal ball says this year. This may change, but Target does have not one, but two Rancor toys in its computer systems right now. One is obviously the Battle Rancor from The Force Unleashed, so assuming the other one is a valid entry, it will most likely be based on the one in Jabba's Palace. It's likely both were developed at the same time and Hasbro is playing the "pre-paint" card knowing we'll buy the less interesting of the two first, say "hey I wish we had another one from the movies," and deliver shortly thereafter. This is what we call good marketing.
3. I love the column and I am new to the Galactic Heroes line, thanks to my infant son. I actually love the line but never collected. Since he arrived, I have been stocking up on the Cinema Scenes, so that when he is old enough, we can play with his Star Wars toys (not dad's though). Since he is only 10 months old though, I missed many great Cinema Scenes like Vader's Bounty Hunters, Geonosis, etc. I also never saw Jabba's Palace. They blew in and out very quickly here. Any idea if these will ever be rereleased? Ebay is a little crazy for some of these. Also, any info on the Vader's TIE Fighter that we saw at Toy Fair?
Right now, we're in what the kids call a cooling off period. There's a mail-in offer for Captain Rex running now not because Hasbro is cool, but because mail-in offers are a great gimmick to get people to buy existing product from retail shelves to make way for the new stuff. When a new movie launches, the line tends to do a little reboot, meaning several (or most) of the SKUs are discontinued and replaced with newer, differently priced ones. Over the coming months, only a handful of Hasbro Star Wars items are expected to hit stores before the end of July. There's the Mygeeto Battle Pack, some exclusives, and well, that's about it.
While I don't have a specific release date for most new Galactic Heroes that are not yet in stores, all signs point to a release at the end of July at the earliest. (Basically, it looks like all the new stuff is being held to coincide with The Clone Wars' big launch.)
Rereleases are largely dictated by the needs of the market. If Wal-Mart wants an exclusive, a reissue is possible. Hasbro has also cycled older figures in and out of its Galactic Heroes 2-pack assortments-- you might recall the sets of Obi-Wan and Jango Fett as well as Anakin and Padme came out around 2004, were gone by 2005, and shot up on eBay only to be released and repackaged in 2007. I would advise against overpaying, but keep an eye on eBay anyway-- if prices drop, it's always better to buy what's already out there than to wait for a reissue that may never come.
4. I was looking at pics of the upcoming Hoth Patrol pack and the previously-released Endor Ultimate Battle Pack, and I wondered why Hasbro was continuing to use the old POTF-style speeder bike with the T-bar and incorrect handlebars. They released a better retool with the Deluxe Clone Trooper in Saga and the 2003 Clone Wars line, and most figures that would be expected to use such a vehicle have swivel wrists these days, so they can hold the newer handlebars.
Hasbro logic is hard to dictate. The best reason I can give you is simply this: they're making the most of their molds. Hasbro has made over a thousand action figures in this line and dozens of vehicles, each of which have molds in various stages of health or decay. A lot of these reissue sets are reliant largely on what molds are easily accessed, are in the right location, and are in working order. If something went wrong with a newer model speeder bike, they're not going to hold production up on a set when they can just use another mold, as seen on a number of reissued/repainted figures since 2006. It may be that a better mold exists, but the sad fact is that the other, arguably inferior mold is much more sensible to use from where they stand.
Remember, when you're making toys as a business, you're employed to make your company a profit-- fans will buy the toy if it's an all-new mold or if it's a reissue, especially if it's just one tiny part of what is essentially a bargain basement gift set. (I mean, have you pieced out the price for those Ultimate Battle Packs? Each one is like $80 worth of toy.)
Personally, I find even the Clone Wars bike to be a little dated-- I'd like to see something new with a clear display stand so it can "hover," but who knows when those will start showing up.
5. It seems like the grey harnesses on the Rebel pilots could easily be done with soft goods, rather than bulky plastic or rubber, for greater ease of articulation & fitting in ships. Any indication if Hasbro will or would consider this?
I find that the "bulk" varies from figure to figure. The straps on the 2007 A-Wing Pilot Tycho Celchu were completely removable-- this easily solving the problem of their getting in the way. The 2006 AT-AT Driver had these straps, yet I found they didn't impede movement at all. Some other figures, specifically Jedi, tend to have plastic pieces that really do get in the way when sitting in ships, and Hasbro is doing some cloth experiments with the Jedi. As of yet, there hasn't been a lot of evidence that cloth is being considered for the straps, or is even largely desired.
As a collector, cloth can be a scary proposition. For example, it worked well on the 2000 CommTech Princess Leia, the 2008 Order 66 Anakin Skywalker, and a number of other figures. And it totally sucked on the Princess Leia Collection Luke Skywalker, the 2004 Vintage Obi-Wan Kenobi, and others depending on what floats your boat. This isn't something I've seen or heard much demand for, so like I said earlier, it's always good to start making a fuss to see if Hasbro sees it and goes "oh, good idea." If they're reading this week, I'd also like to throw in a request for all pilot figures to be able to sit with their legs at a right angle-- if they can't sit, they can't fly a ship.
6. I am wondering if you have noticed the price jump for the 25th anniversary G.I. Joe? I just got a set of four Crimson Guards and realized they are going for $6.84 each at Wal-Mart. The Star Wars figs. are still $6.63 each. I am wondering since the G.I. Joe's have gone up two dollars; are the Star Wars figs. going to go up an extra two dollars, making them $8.63 each? What have you heard out there? Or is it just my area?
Nearly all toy companies have announced some form of price increase to take place during the year 2008. Rising oil prices and enhanced safety screenings cost money, and we as fans are going to have to foot the bill. While I have not seen explicit confirmation of this at mass retail, I do fully expect a price increase on basic Star Wars before the year is up. However, this may be offset by Wal-Mart and Target having a price war like we saw during 2005, when figures were largely $5.24 at those two stores despite the actual costs being reportedly higher than the selling price. Toys, as a loss leader, can have pricing that defies logic because it's a draw to the store. Kids and parents will go for toys and come back buying other stuff, so while costs are going up, there's always a chance one or more chains might decide to be ultra-competitive and lower the price. With a new movie, I'd almost consider this a safe bet, because let's face it-- does anyone want to pay $8 or $9 for a basic figure?
As to G.I. Joe, Wal-Mart's price in 2007 was too cheap-- $5 for these figures was lower than they probably should've been. $6 was closer to what they should have been, and now, they might go up to $7. As someone who has picked up a few of these, I can say they're still worth it, but it'll be easier to ignore some of them at that price. Pricing on figures at Wal-Mart varies by neighborhood, you can go to several stores in a major city and see price differences of a dollar or more depending on the retail climate.
7. I got a question, what do you think the chances are of Hasbro doing an Evolutions set for Obi-Wan Kenobi? He appeared in each of the six Star Wars films. They could do a figure from each one of the six episodes. I guess five, the last two he was more of a spirit. Do better articulation on the figures. What are your thoughts on this? They got to do it for the Jedi Master who had to challenge his Padawan Learner.
Hasbro recently confirmed that while an Evolutions set was in development, it will be broken up and released as three basic figures. Expect to see Episode I, II, and IV figures over the next 12-18 months.
8. I've been following Galactic Hunter since around 2004, even though I stopped collecting after the RotS waves stopped hitting shelves. The thing is, I'm looking to begin collecting again (I only ever collected 3 3/4 inch figures, no vehicles), but the Star Wars figure line just seems so... messy. I look at what's been released since I stopped collecting, and it looks like Hasbro's lines suddenly exploded with plasticy goodness, and now I'm at a complete loss where to start. I want the new Evolutions, the Mandalorian packs, nearly all of the figures that have been issued since I stopped... so where do I start?
If action figure collecting is going to be this chaotic and fast-paced, I'm not sure I can manage to buy them all. Time was, there was a nice long gap between releases, so I was able to buy figures when i could afford them and not worry about being drowned by the next wave before I was ready. So, any suggestions?
Without knowing your focus, I'm going to assume what it is-- let's say you're ultimately planning to buy one of everything. If you didn't stop, this is a challenging task. Coming into the line and playing catch-up is going to be very unpleasant as between all of the lines, even if all you did were basic carded figures, you might be looking at a couple of hundred new figures. So, what do you do? You can start by being thankful that we're in a bit of a lull right now, before it goes completely crazy in July, August, and beyond.
First, I would keep an eye open for sales. Also, watch eBay-- people quit collecting every day and dump entire collections for a fraction of what they paid for them. It's entirely possible you could get the entire 2006 basic figure line, packaged, for less than we all paid for them new. Toy fans are fickle and lacking in space, so it's not uncommon to see big purges which you can easily benefit from.
Second, I'd start grabbing exclusives. If something is still available at retail and the price is right, you should get it now. Target's Order 66 packs are a cheap $10 for 2 figures, and the Republic Elite Forces and Battlefront II sets are pretty cheap on a per-figure basis.
The other collecting alternative-- and by the way, this is the sensible one-- is just pick up the stuff you can't live without first. If what you want are Evolutions, Mandalorians, and the like, go get those-- the most important thing you can do as a collector is to buy what you want, and that should always take priority over catching up or completing the set. Sure, you might need the two Ultimate Battle Packs from last year to finish your set, but if what you really want is every Clone Trooper ever made, perhaps one purchase should take priority over another. When I was collecting the vintage line as a wee lad, I picked up my favorites first, and then what was cheap that I didn't yet have, and then the few figures I didn't have for one reason or another. Hasbro runs so many duplicate releases that you can probably afford to take it easy and just pick up what makes sense to you as you try to keep up with the new releases you want. The last three years of product will add up very quickly if you try to get it all at once, so see what you can do to take it slow and if you can play the vulture card and get someone else's refuse, you're golden.
9. I am interested to finding some mock-ups and prototypes. Where would you recommend to start? Also, has you know Hasbro has quite a bit of produced but cancelled items that have somehow made it out...specifically, the Jango Fett 4" Titanium figure. I have seen pictures and even missed an auction for one, so I know they are out there. Beside the obvious (ebay-months of no success) where would YOU look for such items? Thanks, and keep up the great work!
Hasbro and their affiliated companies often say that any prototype should be considered stolen property. I personally don't agree with this assessment-- it's possible that it was an extra prototype disposed of during safety tests, a mock-up made at home, spares made by accident at the factory (this actually happens), or some other oddball situation. There's a fine line between authorized items, stolen goods, and fake crap some guy made in his basement to take advantage of suckers. This is why collecting preproduction stuff happens largely within communities where fans have former employees or real, genuine experts who can verify a lot of this stuff.
I personally have not been following the cancelled Titanium Series products too closely-- all I know is that my place of employment had Jango Fett figures for pre-order and we never received any. As such, I'm not sure what's out there-- perhaps unpainted samples, maybe some early packaged product, or something else entirely. It's also possible that a factory worker could get ahold of the tooling and crank out a few unauthorized pieces during their lunch break, creating a dubious collectible that's made from a legit mold but is also an unauthorized release. It's a complicated area for collectors, to be sure, so when making a purchase of any preproduction item know that what you might be getting could be a glorified knock-off, a legit sample, or something that the toymakers in the USA never got paid for. (Granted, if I can't get an item from the USA, I'll get it from who has it. So I'm not casting any collector morality on anybody here.)
Really, all you can do as a fan is network, network, network. Make sure people know that you're interested and that you have money. And if you find anyone that has a Titanium Series Jango for sale, do let me know, I'd like one too.
10. I'm regaining control of my Hasbro collection by focusing only on characters from the Original Trilogy.
Did any of the figures from the Comic Packs appear in Episodes 4 thru 6?
Obviously the psychedelic versions of New Hope / Marvel Comic figures fall into this category, but how about other Comic Two-Packers like pilots and imperial officers? Are they strictly expanded universe, or did they start with some screen time?
A good rule of thumb-- I always say-- is this. If you don't know if you want it, then you don't want it. Imposing rules on yourself as a collector is a great way to whittle down what you buy-- for example, I pretty much won't buy any three-dimensional Star Wars item unless it's from Hasbro or in some cases, Funko and Gentle Giant. Personally, I feel that it if you don't "get" a figure, you probably shouldn't make the purchase-- if it doesn't call to you by either being a representation of something you really like, or just looks generally cool enough to warrant owning, you will be much happier with the ten bucks rather than making a purchase of two little plastic people that will spend the rest of your life on a shelf or in a dark box somewhere.
The entire point of the Comic Packs line was to bring in figures as they appeared in the comics. The bulk of "movie" figures do indeed have unique deco, and some of the figures in these sets are indeed very similar to those that appeared in the movies. Hobbie, a Rebel Pilot, absolutely appeared in the movies and was even named on screen, but he wore a slightly different outfit. Many characters appeared in the movies, but were produced in unique costumes for the Comic Packs line-- and since I don't know where you draw the line, that's your call.
Depending on how nutty you want to be, there's also the added benefit of the retcon. That is, years and years after the movie was made, someone decided to take a character from a comic/novel/game and assign his or her identity from one of the three original movies, or in some way indicates that a character was present at a major battle. For example, Baron Fel was supposedly present at the Battle of Endor, but the character didn't exist until the late 1990s. In a sense, he's an original trilogy character and in another sense, he's an impostor. This is why you can't trust someone like me to make the call for you-- I can make a compelling argument either way. Sure, because some guy who made a trading card in 1999 decided they were in the movie, they technically had screen time-- but the character was not a Lucasfilm creation in 1977-1983 nor was it the filmmakers' intent to have some of these characters appear in the film-- it's just what happens when you get to a point when every last extra has a lush back story these days.
I personally would say if you're jonesing for an excuse to buy a figure, just buy it. If you're wanting an excuse to skip something, just skip it. The collecting hobby is much more enjoyable when you don't feel you "have" to buy something.
More next time.
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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