Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Phantom Troublemaker’s Most Wanted Star Wars Vintage Collection

By Phantom Troublemaker

I generally don’t like using lists as posts, but sometimes it’s the way to go. Like, for instance, when Hasbro has announced that they’re bringing back the line of action figures that you’ve been crying about for what seems like years.

I know I’ve mentioned this countless times here and on Facebook, but my current Star Wars collection is Hasbro’s super articulated 3.75” figures and accompanying vehicles. I have other items here and there, but my main focus has been on that style since it was introduced in 2005(ish). I have hundreds of figures and vehicles and at this point in my life I’m not changing size or format. If Hasbro had been done with this style, then I’d be done, too.

They’ve been stringing us along with their mostly shitty Walmart Exclusive 3.75” Black Collection for a couple of years now. It’s an overpriced line that consists of repackaged figures that have been previously released and an extremely limited selection of primary characters from current movies. Finding the figures I want has been a nightmare because Walmart is literally the worst place in America to buy toys from. But I’ve managed to find all but one of the figures I want and I’m not even sure that one – a variant of the Scarif Stormtooper – ever even hit retail.

This past weekend at Star Wars Celebration, Hasbro announced the return of the Vintage Collection, which was a deluxe series of 3.75” figures. It will be mass market and not exclusive and in all likelihood will carry the same $13ish price tag, but at least I’ll be able to find them. For a few waves, anyway.

In a way, Hasbro’s shitty Walmart Exclusive Black Series might have been brilliant. Those of us that collect that style have been starving basically since before the 6” Black Series was introduced, so we won’t be resistant to the move from $10 to $13. I still remember when the prices hit $10 and I felt like it was too much. Now I’ll gladly pay three dollars more if it means I can resume collecting my precious Star Wars characters.

The key thing about the Vintage Collection is that Hasbro is going to have to do a better job with character selection than they have with the Black Series or even in the later days of the last run of the Vintage Collection. Obviously primary characters are the cornerstone of any line, so repaints or retoolings of those Walmart Black Series The Force Awakens and Rogue One releases are fine. If it helps the line, I’d be happy to buy another Han with the proper hair color or a few more Deathtroopers. But if Hasbro wants to keep collectors happy – and let’s face it, that’s who this line is for – they’re going to have to return to their old habits of producing those deep cut characters like Willrow Hood and Bazine Netal.

There are also opportunities to revisit characters that Hasbro still hasn’t gotten quite right in all the years that they’ve been producing this style of action figure. I’ll start with one of those that has, in the past couple of years, been receiving the recognition he has always deserved.

Note: This is the “top of my head” list. With more time I could no doubt go deeper and wider, but I’m all excited from the announcement and these are the releases that are occurring to me first.

Grand Moff Tarkin – There have been five 3.75” action figures of Wilhuff Tarkin, the main villain of the very first Star Wars movie, and the first one didn’t even come out until 1997. And none of them are great. Most have the wrong color uniform (Tarkin’s is olive green, not grey, because he is not a member of the Imperial Navy). Some have bad likenesses. The one that comes closest to being best has a terrible soft goods skirt that is supposed to be the bottom of his tunic but instead looks like… a skirt. My favorite is the one from the Imperial Briefing box set that came out in 2006, but neither the articulation nor likeness are up to today’s standards (that’s still a fantastic box set, though).

In short, we need a 3.75” Tarkin as good as the Black Series version that was shown at Celebration. It should be easy enough to scale down, so I have high hopes that I’ll be able to cross this off the list.

General Hux – Hasbro released Walmart Black Series versions of Phasma, Kylo Ren, and First Order Stormtroopers, but we didn’t get a Hux. Like Tarkin, he’s basically the main villain of his movie! Sure, Kylo gets style points and his stupid face on pillows and curtains or whatever, but Hux blew up the entire New Republic. And delivered an incredible speech right before he did it. Plus he has a cool coat. Not enough Star Wars figures have cool coats. Basically Han in Jedi and Cad Bane and that’s it.

The Crew of the Ghost – Give me this in a box set. Slap whatever price you want on it, I don’t care. DO NOT MAKE IT SDCC EXCLUSIVE. I’m already feeling pre-denial pains from not being able to get the awesome Thrawn set that will be at this year’s convention. And I was sure I didn’t need more Thrawn figures – I’m super happy with my Sideshow version and the one that came out as part of 2008’s Legacy Collection.

Okay, back to the Rebels cast. I want Ezra, Kanan, Hera, Sabine, Zeb, and Chopper done in a realistic style. They need to be from the most recent season possible, which might well be the third given the amount of time it would take to get this done. There are plenty of other characters from the show I’d want to see, but I feel like these characters are a must for my collection. They’re now a core part of Star Wars canon.

Obviously I’d like a toy Ghost, as well, but in today’s market that would probably cost $500.

Governor Pryce – Yes, I’m picking recent bad guy Arihnda Pryce over more active and higher-profile villains like the Inquisitors or the recently reformed Agent Kallus. I just finished reading Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn and the degree to which it utilizes and fleshes out her character is amazing. She is not only a key player in Thrawn’s career, but provides a fascinating look into the workings of the Empire.

Side Note: I’m not a huge fan of the Inquisitors. I’ve always had mixed feelings about second-tier Force users. Although it looks like Episode VIII might be about to turn the whole Jedi and Sith situation on end.

The Entire Rogue One Team – We got Walmart Exclusive releases of Jyn and Cassian, but that’s it. Not even a K-2S0. I don’t care if they’re a box set or spread out over a number of waves, but I have to have figures of Baze, Chirrut, Bodhi, and K-2S0. And once they’re on the shelf, Hasbro needs to produce Krennic, Galen, Saw Gerrera, plenty of the new Stormtrooper variations, a new Mon Mothma, Captain Antilles, General Dodonna, Weeteef, the Two-Tubes brothers, General Merrick, and EVERYONE ELSE IN THE DAMN MOVIE.

I like Rogue One a lot. And you can see how spoiled I was by Hasbro’s glory years of releasing everyone. I still can’t get used to the idea of having to accept that there are some characters that just aren’t going to get made. Of course, part of the problem is Disney’s new annual release schedule. There simply isn’t time like there used to be.

But I would absolutely buy every last character I just named. And Moroff. Gotta have Moroff.

Zutton – I don’t even know if this is his name anymore, but I don’t see why Disney would go to the trouble of changing it.

I want two versions of the Cantina (oh, how I miss typing “Chalmun’s Cantina” and getting to feel all superior) alien colloquially known as “Snaggletooth”. I want a screen-accurate version in his little red jumpsuit that looks like the prototype for the Visitor uniforms from V, but I also want the taller version in disco boots and a blue jumpsuit that was Kenner’s (wrong) interpretation of the character.

When the first Snaggletooth figure was released as a Sears Exclsuive in 1978, Kenner hadn’t gotten the best look at the character, so their figure was too tall and in entirely the wrong costume. Much like Hasbro releasing Constable Zuvio decades later, Kenner simply didn’t have enough information to go on. This resulted in one of my favorite action figure variations of all time and I’ll gladly buy both versions in a super articulated style.

Side Note: Any retailer that is still trying to sell Zuvio for more than a dollar is run by morons.

Darth Tyranus – Sir Christopher Lee’s character, Count Dooku, was a massively important part of Palpatine’s ascension to Emperor, but I am not happy with any of the figures I’ve seen. I have owned a few different versions and have settled on the 2010 Target Exclusive version for display, but this guy deserves an upgrade. An evil upgrade. I’d like to see an accurate face sculpt with a less benign countenance. Most of the past releases also have odd sculpt decisions and some wonky articulation, so I think there’s plenty of room for improvement. This would have to be an almost completely new figure. Retooling wouldn’t get the job done.

Lobot – This guy’s last figure came out in 2004 and it shows. It has the old cut joints at the elbows and nothing below the hips. It’s a travesty, especially after learning his backstory in Charles Soule’s excellent Lando miniseries from Marvel. I realize he might not be high on everyone’s list, but every time I look at my Cloud City area, Lobot’s elbows make me sad.

Bib Fortuna – The most recent Bib Fortuna came out eleven years ago, was only in a box set, and looks like hot trash. He has some crazy facial expression where he looks like he’s screaming, which I don’t remember him doing a whole lot. He also has a sculpted robe that basically makes him a statue. The original Kenner figure is better. But we need an upgrade, perhaps with a soft goods robe similar to the original and a more sedate portrait. Just like a Lando with a lousy Lobot, Jabba isn’t the same with a stiff, lunatic Bib hanging out behind him.

Tessek – Like Zutton, I don’t even know that Squid Head’s canon name is still Tessek.
It’s been sixteen years since we got a figure of one of my favorite aliens from the entire Star Wars franchise. I have to admit that the 2001 Power of the Jedi release was pretty good, but he could use an update that mixes the original’s use of soft goods with modern design techniques.

You’ll notice that a lot of these are simply updates and not really characters that haven’t been made. That’s because I can sit here and think about the figures that occupy my shelves that I’m not happy with. Maybe some of these will happen, maybe they won’t. Either way I’m delighted that my favorite action figure line to collect is coming back next year!

If you enjoy Star Wars, Lobot’s elbows, or Needless Things, you might enjoy

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