Galactic's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
March 23, 2009


1. Hello, I have a nerd question. With all the hipe going on right now with the Build-a-droids that Hasbro is doing right now I was wondering about droid numbers. With in the "Star Wars" universe do all of these droid pre and sub numbers actually mean anything? Do they designate anything particular about that specific droid? And also do these numbers, if they actually do designate something, have an order? I thought I read something along time ago that said R7 astromech droids were predecessors to the R2 units , or am I backwards on that? Please help me make sense of all of these 8 million different droid numbers!!! I need to be sure I purchase the right droid for the job....%^ D

I used to think there was, but now it seems that the naming conventions mean basically nothing.

For example, droid style. At one point, R2 units had round, opaque domes. R3 units had clear domes. R4 units had cone-shaped domes. R5 units were buckets. And that was how it was. Today, we're seeing the Clone Wars show have an R7 droid with an R2 dome, we've seen numerous R4s with the standard dome, and really, the RX prefix seems to mean nothing if you aren't an R1 'bot these days. At the same time, it seems the functions and specialties may have been ignored as well, but it's tough to tell because you never really see these guys stick around for long enough to prove their full functionality.

The series was, at one point, in order-- R1 was first, R7 is last. You can read all about these guys on Wookieepedia, plus a blurb on how the new TV show has basically disrupted the continuity in this respect. It's a shame, or it's the point. I'm not sure which-- we were always told that anything that wasn't in the movies was up for revision, and well, here's a fine example. If you want to straighten these out, at this point the most important thing to understand is that there's a big disruption in the conventions and that it will not be consistent.

2. I was watching Star Wars this weekend (try to keep myself to once/year) and noticed that Han Solo and Luke Skywalker don the utility belts from their Stormtrooper uniforms after they escape the trash compactor. I canŐt recall seeing figures made of them with those belts. Have they ever been done, and done well?

Yes they have, and no, not really.

In 1998, the "Gunner Station" toys were released and were packaged with Luke and Han action figures. Luke had a Stormtrooper belt (and a headset), but Han did not-- and would not until Power of the Jedi in 2001. That particular release did have all the bells and whistles of the "Death Star Escape" costume, but the articulation is very lacking by today's standards and I'll leave it up to you if the figure looked good or not. I don't think it was one of the best Han Solo headsculpts ever, but companies have done far worse.

3. After the 30th anniversary line launched - I basically stopped buying star wars figs due to packaging design and shape. I feel the GI Joe line for example did well due to the retro deco - love the packaging and retro design. Remember way back when there were contests on best card back designs [snip], some of them still memorable, (new card backs and retro fig in bubble) - random movie slides included and signature autograph series line "actors picture/slide". then there were plenty of custom packaging ideas from star wars fans for cinema scenes. I am starving for cinema scenes with all the figs LIKE THE JEDI COUNCIL (6 parts). Figures with fan choice card backs and packaging. What are your thoughts on packaging color, shape, texture? Do you think Hasbro would be willing in giving the cinema scene parts idea a chance (build a scene)? e.g. jabbas sail barge, palace, mos eisley, cloud city, dagobah, death star, hoth rebel base,sw holiday special with dvd, star destroyer, bounty hunter 2 floor scene ..

I'm going to give you an answer you may not want to hear. This is a "why aren't they doing the way I want them done?" request with "I" dropped in favor of "fans

For all intents and purposes, Hasbro has kept and improved upon the Cinema Scene concept with Battle Packs. In the 1990s, you paid $15-$20 for up to three figures and a backdrop. Generally, two of these figures were slightly altered versions of toys you had, with one special "new" figure. There were exceptions, but that's typically how it was. In 2003, you got Screen Scenes for $20-$25 with 3 figures and a small environmental piece. Today, the Battle Packs have 4 or 5 figures, cost $20-$25, and sometimes have new items and sometimes not. We're seeing some "large pieces" put in instead of figures like the Rebel golf cart on Yavin IV or the huge Jabba the Hutt.

Now as far as the packaging goes, well, it is what it is. For me, packaging is what you throw away, and Hasbro currently has too much "garbage" in it-- there are several extra bits and pieces of paper and plastic which could be eliminated to cut cost, to reduce the volume these take in shipping containers in China, and to take up less room in your collection rooms. You brought up G.I. Joe-- a fine example, as you can cram about 50% more carded figures into the same space as Star Wars basic figures these days.

As to building a whole scene out of a series of Battle Packs with a chunk of a building or ship in each? Not gonna happen. You might see things like a large cannon or a small piece of scenery, but the chances of Hasbro making a giant item over the span of multiple Battle Packs is extremely unlikely. Especially a Holiday Special with a DVD, you ain't never going to see that. When it comes to taking lots of existing items with few or no changes in a larger box, you really need to take a look at the business reasons for doing it. A Battle Pack makes a lot of sense-- it's a great gift item at a modest price point, and isn't exactly a burdgen. But if you wanted to get the entire Jedi High Council into a single box, that's a minimum of 12 action figures plus bases, seats, and all that stuff. You're probably looking at a MSRP of $80 or more, plus it's probably not going to appeal to the fans that already bought all of those figures the same way individually carded figures might appeal to the kids who just want a few cool figures at a lower price. I suppose the Jedi Council could be done as $20-$25 Battle Packs, but with the 3 figures and the bases, I would assume Hasbro would basically just be repacking the previous 6 parts in new boxes. And I have no idea if the market is really itching for that just yet, but when I say that, I really don't. Maybe they do!

4. We know that Hasbro's Titanium vehicles are great, but at $6-$7 each, they certainly aren't cheap. On certain ships (i.e, the Twilight and the V-19 Torrent fighter, you can't even display them with the lower wings extended. What gives Hasbro? When we have to pay so much per vehicle, wouldn't you expect them to go the extra mile and include a proper display stand?

I don't know for certain but I think that Titanium as a line is largely "collectible" in the sense that Hasbro probably expects you to leave them in the package. This is just a hunch. Keeping costs down is a big deal, which you probably gathered with all the repaints and such. It's a shame that some vehicles don't display properly, but they want to keep using the same stand. Which was developed by Galoob in, what, 1996? It's just a cost-cutting measure, and I'm sure it's just a matter of time where Hasbro is left to ponder price increase vs. remove the stand. Before you pick on Hasbro, remember that Galoob actually did ship a number of its die-cast ships without a stand in the 1990s.

5. In early anticipation of having to pick up the new exclusive comic packs on the secondary market unless Walmart puts them on their website I was wondering if you could shed some light on the disaster that is Walmart's distribution system when it comes to stocking Star Wars exclusives. Almost every time they get an exclusives my stores are lucky to get one case, if any at all. But then I go on various message boards and see that some stores are getting so many of them that they end up on clearance a couple of months later. I never see this problem with Target or TRU exclusives, the problem seems to be exclusive to Walmart. Any idea why they keep doing it this way instead of distributing the product more evenly? I get the concept of sending more stuff to their higher grossing stores but since the clearance thing seems to happen so regularly you'd think they'd have fine tuned the process by now so they can sell more of them at full price by spreading things around a bit.

Wal-Mart is weird. You no doubt guessed this, but really, it's weird. There have been items that I thought everybody found, and I missed. And then they show up in my area weeks or months later. There are some items which get very limited distribution to the point where if you're not there the right day, you'll never see it. For example, I've never seen the "I Am Your Father's Day" set at retail in California. Ever. But I went to visit Arizona many times and saw them all over the place, and then went a few months later and could still find them. I don't know if the distribution was light here in Los Angeles, or if someone snapped them all up, or if AZ is just the weird one.

I've seen the reverse a few times as well, with certain areas getting a glut of Droid Factory sets or Comic Packs (2008 exclusives) many months after fans first found them. I don't know what Wal-Mart's problem is, but I do know that it's very inconsistent and that ultimately I tend to see most exclusives at retail eventually, even if it's after I buy it from a fellow fan online. Wal-Mart really doesn't care-- and why should they?-- but we're not alone in this. There are Spider-Man and Joe exclusives that basically nobody ever saw, some Transformers were amazingly hard to get, and that's just kinda how they seem to like it. They just want something to sell you-- they're not that interested that all stores get an even distribution of stuff. They bought inventory, it went away. That's one of the reasons we as fans have to network and not screw each other over by buying everything up when it first comes out and selling it at a premium.

For the record I have no yet seen any of these comic packs in the wild, or in person in any capacity.


Sometimes I use this space to complain, to explain, or to broadcast news I feel you should know. This is not one of those times.

My "other hobby" has been creeping back in more and more in the past few months, thanks mostly to Street Fighter IV and a cheapo copy of Soul Calibur IV (thanks, Target!) If you didn't know, I love video games. I also love goofy controllers-- the bigger and more insane, the better. Sadly, since getting an Xbox 360, it has been difficult (if not impossible) to find an arcade stick in the wilds of retail. Few stores carry these giant eyesores, and now that Capcom's fighting opus is out nobody has any in stock. This is, as you may have guessed, troublesome. Like the Nintendo Wii (from which gamers have moved on as a "scalpable" item to command a premium), it seems eBay and such have their eyes set on these joysticks. The "cheap" stick from Hori is $80, and the bestest one you can buy is about $150, if you can find it. And it's a Mad Catz product, which seems unthinkable to me. (And to you, if you're a gamer.)

Unlike the world of action figures, though, it seems you can actually build your own stick. Now, this has nothing to do with toys, but I find this absolutely fascinating-- you can tear out the guts from a standard controller, assemble a wooden box, drill in some holes, pop in a few buttons, solder some wires, and presto-- you've made an arcade stick with honest-to-goodness arcade parts. Figure customizing is neat, but the idea of producing your own gaming input device in the 21st century just seems unheard of. Sure, you can buy one and change out the stick or the buttons, but to make your own? This must be how Dr. Frankenstein feels.

...naturally, I want to do this. I've seen some amazing work on the Shoryuken Forums, and apparently the audience is not us-- toy folks or Star Wars fans. The bulk of the sticks have stuff from games (sensible!) or anime characters, and look pretty spiffy. Where was I going with this?

Oh yeah. Have any of you guys tried to cobble together any game stuff? It seems you could probably construct some sort of X-wing flight yoke, or make a stick that looks like the interior of the Millennium Falcon's cockpit. If you did, and if you took pictures, I want to hear from you.

...and I'm supposed to tell you that I'm on Twitter, and both of my followers are quite fond of my stupid rantings.

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!

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