Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
May 5, 2008
1. After reading your FOTD review of the Princess Leia in Combat Poncho from last year's vintage collection I was wondering
what your thoughts are on the rest of the VOTC Line? Who are your favourites and what aren't and why?
My favourite is by far the VOTC Chewie because it reminds me of the time my brother and I went looking for our christmas presents before our parents wrapped them!
On the whole, the vintage line is pretty good. One of my main beefs with it is that they're rarely any better than basic figures for 30% cheaper, and the basic figures tend to have bigger and better accessories. Of the 24 figures packaged in the vintage clamshell packaging, I'd say a significant chunk of them were, for the time, worth it. Basically, all I ask for is that I get my money's worth, I don't even have to love the figure as a plastic critic. I just need to feel like I didn't get taken... and I'd rather the figure not suck, too.
2004: C-3PO was rotten-- the head sculpt was weak, and the articulation sucked. The profile of the figure was good, and the pose was unique-- but the thing that really got to me was that this $10 figure appeared in a $10 Wal-Mart gift set with R2-D2, Luke, and the Emperor. It totally wasn't worth it. Obi-Wan Kenobi had bad elbows that fell off, and R2-D2 was fairly overpriced-- but as a whole, the line was great. I still love this Darth Vader, Luke is decent, Leia is good, Han has yet to be equaled, Boba Fett is fantastic, the Stormtrooper is superb, Chewbacca is killer, and Yoda... OK, Yoda kinda sucks too. But the line spawned some of the best figures Hasbro ever made, and overall, it was a good enough line that I don't think most collectors would have a problem with it existing. Han Solo and Boba Fett are so good that even at $10, I can't complain too much.
2006: 2006 was a great year, especially in hindsight. Greedo's baggy vest is the only thing about this wave that was worth complaining a great deal about. The figures weren't perfect, but man, they were good. Luke X-Wing, the Scout Trooper, and the Tusken Raider were wonderful, Han in his trenchcoat was pretty great, and Greedo was surprisingly awesome-- the vest was just a smidgen too big, but still, the whole line was solid and dare I say worth buying. The George Lucas Stormtrooper was so wacky, even though it wasn't really that great of a figure, I can't help but love it. I'm glad they made it.
2007: The year vintage made me mad, because even the good figures were more or less just OK. Part of this is due to the fact that I got bum figures-- my IG-88's arm joints are stuck, and my Hoth Han snapped in half. That, and the bulk of the figures were very much not improving over a basic $7 counterpart. Sure, a couple of extra joints are nice, but ultimately none of the six figures were complete improvements over earlier releases, which is something we saw in 2004 and 2006. Bossk was pretty good, and IG-88 was decent if you got a good one, but I could have taken or left the rest. Bespin Luke's head ruined the figure. The Snowtrooper is OK, I don't think the removable helmet really helped it much. It was the year's highlight, though.
2. A related question to the last Q&A #7....what product can we expect between right now and July 26? I know some are exclusives, so could you break down the stores, too? With a lack of product, toy runs aren't as fun as they used to be, though I did see the new new Indiana Jones Legos this week at Wal Mart.
Also, what is the most prized piece in your collection right now?
Right now, there's not a whole lot on the way still. Target has an exclusive Battle Rancor expected to show up any day now, plus there's the Battle Pack based on Mygeeto. Some new Mighty Muggs just hit, and a few more are coming, plus there's another wave of Titanium Series ships. Beyond that, it's sort of a toss-up-- I don't think anyone is seriously expecting too many other exclusives to hit before the big day, but they might. (As to other items, I'm of the mindset of "If I have one, it's out.") This is, of course, just Hasbro-- I'm not sure exactly what else is coming from the other vendors as I don't follow them all quite as closely.
As to the best piece? Always a tough pick, but the one thing I have that's presently getting the most attention from me is my $5 copy of LEGO Star Wars II on the Xbox. Bless you, Target clearance racks.
3. Do you know where is the legends wave 6? A month ago they were spotted and posted on web sites, even seen some on eBay ( average price 14.99, yuk ) but none of the stores have gotten any in here in the Tampa bay area. Now you can barley find them even on eBay. All the Wal-Marts pegs are practically empty. One store in Brooksville put up 5 cases of get this, the 2006 saga collection. 60 figures that was hard to get rid of at the end of 2006, cant wait to see how long it takes them to get rid of these.
Any info would be appreciated, I'm getting tired of stopping at 2 Wal-Mart stores every day and target every other day.
Well, they are shipping-- it's not yet known for how long, but do keep in mind these assortments will be shipping up to (and potentially beyond) July 26. As such, well, I've seen a few of them and got some myself, so they're definitely getting some. Due to how distribution works, store computers see Saga Legends and the 2006 Saga Collection as the same thing-- they have the same SKU, 85770, so it's sort of (but not really) the same product. Every now and again, a wave of figures hits, vanishes, and then shows up again several months later-- this could be like that.
I would suggest patience, as that's the cheapest option-- especially if you can live without them. If you have to get them, trading online might be worthwhile, and failing that you can always pick up a case from our
corporate overlords sponsors. It's not always ideal due to the extra figures, but if it's either that or $15 a whack, well, it ain't that bad.
4. At Toy Fair this year, Hasbro displayed an upcoming Battle Pack based on Hoth. This new set features a retooled Han Solo in Hoth gear with his hood up. This figure appears to sport a brown coat. In their presentation at the same event, Hasbro showed an image of an upcoming Wal-Mart exclusive Droid Factory set with the same retooled Han Solo figure that also appears to have a brown coat, though it is a bit hard to tell what color it actually is. I know it's a bit early yet, but do you have any clue as to whether we'll get both the brown version in both sets, or is it more likely that we'll see both the brown and blue coat variants one in each set?
I could be wrong, but it's my understanding the blue Hoth Han with his hood up will be in Wal-Mart's Droid Factory assortment. The brown version will ship with the Battle Pack.
5. I have found myself in a situation where I need to reduce the size of my Star Wars collection. I would like to donate some of it to charity if possible. I give Star Wars toys to Toys for Tots every year, but I was hoping you could offer some other options as well. I know you have mentioned donating in the past, so I thought that I would ask. Thanks in advance.
Toys for Tots only accepts new, unwrapped toys-- but thankfully they're not your only option. Goodwill and Thrift Stores often take donations, as do a number of churches and charities which may also run their own thrift store. Ideally, what I'd suggest is that if you have a church or other religious organization, a school, a daycare center for kids in need, or really any organization with a mission statement to provide anything for your fellow man, give them a call and see if you can help.
If you can't find anyone locally to take your stuff, you can always try giving it to another collector-- I'd suggest offering it up for grabs on customizing forums for shipping and maybe a couple of bucks for your trouble if you can't find any kids to take it. The other option is, if you're having a garage sale, just tell the kids' parents that they can get a figure or something free if the adult buys something. If nothing else, perhaps you can unload an old TV or toaster.
6. Have you heard anything about a Master K'Kruhk figure at any point? With all the hubub with the Clone Wars again and the Order 66 two-packs the setting seems primed for his release. They can even reuse molds for some of the parts. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
The "no-brainer" of 2006 is the precious gem of today.
While some fans say otherwise, there are precious few fairly major (and fairly major minor) characters left to do from the movies and comics until you start hitting the ultra-obscure. K'Kruhk is one of a few characters with a ton of comic appearances but no figure yet, and buzz seems to indicate one is in some stage of preproduction (be it a sketch or a name on a list somewhere or something.) I expect to see one eventually, but it may need more than a few new parts as there needs to be (if nothing else) a cool hat. So far, K'Kruhk has appeared in post-Episode I comics, Clone Wars comics, the Dark Times series, and Legacy with multiple outfits spanning each. Hasbro could easily do one or more figures, if and when they were so inclined. We're at a point in the line where to keep the old fogeys interested, they're going to have to spread stuff out here and there, so with any luck we'll see this one in late 2008 or 2009-- but, you guessed it, Hasbro has yet to confirm it.
Personally, I'd hope they do more than put a hat and some robes on J'Quille, but I'm patient-- and typically, the longer Hasbro waits to do a figure, the better it's likely to be.
7. I'm wondering what's going on with the paint jobs on these new Order 66 sets. There seems to be some issues with the helmet paint on the ARC troopers. At the Targets I've been to, the yellow ARC troopers seem to have a yellow streak at the top of the helmet that's pretty fat with unpainted portions inside the streak itself. Then the red ARC trooper commanders have bad visor paint...the black pours over the visor area onto the white of the helmet. But the red and blue ARCs do have the usual thin streak on the crest of the helmet, unlike that on the yellow ARC I mentioned earlier. Don't get me wrong...I like these sets a lot. They're better than they were last year I think, and I was looking forward to them. I'm just a bit disappointed in the paint work on most of the samples of those ARC troopers I've seen. Anyway I got one of each set and I stood at the checkout for about twenty five minutes trying to pick out the best paint jobs, and even the ones I took (out of a big selection) could have been so much better. That said...why does Master Sev look nothing like the artwork on the packaging? The image on the artwork looks nothing like a weequay.
Deco varies from figure to figure, but some styles seem to be absolutely intentional. Every one of the yellow ARC Troopers are as you've described, with the odd extra yellow on the sides. I don't yet know if it's intentional or not, but as they're all that way, it's almost a moot point-- that's how it is.
As to the red ARC, mine seems to be acceptable as to the black paint. That, or my standards are kinda low.
As to Sev on the packaging, I *think* that's a photoshopped image of Samuel L. Jackson that was repurposed for Sev. Hasbro's Order 66 character art (much like the figures) is largely based on existing materials, recolored and changed ever so slightly as to fit the bill for this budget exclusive. Having had a hand in the packaging development process, sometimes what you see is exactly what is asked for-- for better or worse.
8. Why do you think the newly sculpted gun area on the basic TAC TIE Fighter was not included on the new TRU TAC TIE Fighter with large wings? In some smoke filled room, did a Hasbro marketing exec decide that an uber TIE fan would buy both toy to make the best TIE Fighter with large wings to date? (If so, then it worked, because I did!) I also noticed that the basic TAC TIE Fighter has extra weathering deco, and is sonic welded, whereas the TRU TAC TIE Fighter with large wings is not welded and has no weathering. While I see cost savings for TRU in foregoing welding and weathering, I don't see cost savings for using the old gun area tooling verses the new gun area tooling. Your thoughts?
My guess is that this was a result of factory/vendor communication that didn't go 100% as planned. When it comes to repurposing existing tooling, toy companies often say to the factory "take this thing we did, make this change, put it in this box, and send us a sample." A few items end up being released that are "close enough," that is, it's basically the right item and any more changes could result in a product delay. I've got a hunch that's what happened here, but, well, obviously I am not an employee of the mighty Hasbro corporation and therefore don't know the exact deal. More than likely this was a communication issue that was meant to be fixed and wasn't, or perhaps this was the tool that was available at the time of the request. More than likely, it was just an unfortunate goof.
9. I think I would have been interested in your spiel about packaging though I think I get the gist of it so thanks for summarizing. I have often felt the same, as an opener yes there is a kind of rush to into a brand new package to get at the figure inside but still, once that is out of the way, you're left with a crap load of plastic that so far we've never gotten a straight answer about whether it's recyclable or not...and bit of cardboard that I'm pretty sure is. I myself would love it if it came in less packaging, much less in fact. It could come in something similar to a Bust-Ups box for all I care though I guess that wouldn't appeal to the nostalgia factor at all then...though the mail away figures used to come in a small nondescript cardboard box hardly any bigger than the figure it contained so it could work on that level. And if it didn't have a bubble window of some sort then maybe people would be afraid they weren't buying the figure they were expecting to buy. Anyway, what do you think the chances are of Hasbro considering making something much smaller? Would it start to present security issues, making them easier to steal or get into? If they felt retail still needed this type of packaging do you think they could realistically consider packaging them in some sort of reduced packaging format for collectors who order through specialty web sites and such? Or is that asking too much. Maybe your idea about just reducing it by about 30 percent but keeping the same general style is good enough for the short term at least.
One of the reasons I trimmed it last week was because I figured some of you wouldn't like something that looked vaguely political (as you wrote in and told me in some cases), some of you would be bored by facts and figures, and others still just plain wouldn't care. And on top of that, my conclusion was a very fanboy-ish one, and that was this: Hasbro can save tons of cash by just doing vintage-style packaging without the clamshell, but with a J-hook (just like G.I. Joe). It's effective, collector-friendly, and allows you to fit a bunch of figures into a smaller area. (For the record, about 16 carded G.I. Joe anniversary figures can fit in the same amount of space as 12 carded 30th Anniversary Star Wars figures.)
I took out a postal scale and some figures, did some measurements, and found out that a Hasbro Star Wars package had 30% more mass than that of a G.I. Joe figure from the same time. There's so much extra plastic for the inserts, cardboard tabs, and other junk that the Star Wars package takes up more materials and likely costs more as a result. Since all of these figures come over from ships from China, a smaller packaging footprint would mean you could put more on the boat, meaning less trips across the ocean, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Being able to fit more figures per case would also allow for more product to be out on the shelves at once, less space being occupied in the back room, and most important of all, less space taken up in your closets.
In short, reducing the footprint of the overall packaging-- just the bubble, trays, and blisters really-- would do us all a world of good. While we don't have to suggest a switch to a "vintage" design, it works-- heck, even the Power of the Jedi cardback would work as it used less material than the modern ones, but I think G.I. Joe seems to be the overall best as far as the amount of material used. Of course, I don't know jack about what degrades in a landfill or cost or that sort of thing, but looking at Hot Wheels, it's obvious that we're seeing a bit too much in the way of the packaging. It's important to have good packaging, as the box is the marketing for the toy on a store's shelf and is very eye-catching, but maybe Hasbro could consider redesigning it to take up less space.
If Hasbro really does expect all of us to be collecting for years to come, it's time to start thinking about the future of the line and how it will fit into our lives. If the packaging can be reused (or is a collectible unto itself, like a Bionicle canister or the Expanded Universe fold-out dioramas of 1998), that works too-- but if you're going to put extra cardboard and plastic into my toys which I am going to have to pay for, at least give me something to show for it.
Basically, I want to see our costs lowered-- because they're going to go up-- while seeing less materials used-- because there's only so much to go around. Nobody wants white boxes with plastic baggies, I still want to see carded product-- but just with less stuff making it up, as appropriate. (I'd still want to see big blisters for big figures as needed, but most figures don't need the amount of space Hasbro gives them. Look at 2-1B from this year, for example, you could fit a half dozen of him in there.) Galactic Heroes sort of succeeds in this category because you get two figures in the package, which is better than shipping individual $3 Galactic Heroes on individual packaging-- sort of. (As long as there's no "figure waste" of redundant figures being chucked.)
10. My usual question - Is there anything "new" in the new Hoth and Stap Attack Battle Packs, or just the usual repacks that I already own.
At this time, I'm going to give you the best answer I can, which may change. I'm actually saving this one and will email you personally if I need to change it.
The Stap Attack set is absolutely worth picking up for newness. The droids all have new deco, and the STAPs do as well. Unless you just don't want them, you should get these, no questions asked.
The Hoth set, well, it sort of sucks. But it's also sort of great. The Tauntaun is similar to previous releases, the Wampa is inferior to previous releases, and Luke is missing parts from previous releases. Just like the Wampa. I have not yet had the luxury of examining the Hoth set up close so I can't say for sure if Luke is painted differently or not, but it appears that if this set will be worth getting, it's going to be for variation hounds or for kids. It doesn't offer anything obviously new from the get-go.
As you may or may not know, since 2005, I've become a fiend for podcasts. I love them. I have a hard time finding lots of really great ones, but NPR gives me a lot of neat shows, as does Wired Magazine, The Stranger, and a number of talented comics and magazines. (If you're 18 or over I can't say enough nice things about Road Stories and Chunklet Radio, both of which rarely update, but are awesome. Seriously, Chunket is so disgustingly great. Any show with Big Black, Henry Rollins ragging on U2 fans, Les Savy Fav, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford, and Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet is beyond awesome. But where was I going? Oh yeah, the free book thing.
Del Rey is doing a free download thing for marketing the rest of their book catalog. If you click here before May 13, they'll let you download a PDF/MP3/Kindle/e-book for Star Wars Legacy: Betrayal, which is, surprisingly, fairly entertaining. Even though it's one guy and a whole mess of sound effects. At press time, I'm about an hour into it-- and it's six hours-- but it seems to be kinda neat. I'm mostly a comics fan when it comes to the EU because I dig the whole serialized format and it's nice to have pictures for toy ideas, but there's something to be said for someone reading to you in the car. So far, I really dig it, and I'm tempted to see if I can score others on the cheap if this one pans out not sucking as I rarely (if ever) read a Star Wars novel due to time constraints. (It basically boils down to "write for you guys" and "go to bed before 3 AM.") I wouldn't say it's a stunning piece of entertainment but I will say it's worth the nothing I've paid for it so far, even if it doesn't do a great job of explaining a bunch of references to the previous book series which it seems to be assuming I've read. It's also somewhat bloated and predictable, but that seems to be in line with a lot of recent Star Wars stories. Still, if you're trapped in a car for 60-90 minutes per day, and you're itching for something to hear that you don't want to pay for aside from NPR, this ain't bad.
...this also should say a lot about the excitement in the hobby right now if the most exciting thing I can think of to tell you about is a free, iffy-compressed audiobook of the first novel in a nine-part series that's just now wrapping up. And the Han Solo voice sounds like a mix of Harrison Ford and John C. Dvorak, which is kind of amusing. (If anyone has used CDs of the rest of the series they're going to throw away, do let me know.) It's not an exciting time to be a collector, but thankfully it will be in about 90 days when two of the biggest toys ever to hit the line will be available.
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!
Click here to read the previous installment of Galactic Hunter Q&A!