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Posts Tagged ‘action figures’

31 Years Later…

September 14th, 2010 No comments

It became the stuff of legends. Back in 1979, Star Wars fans mailed-in proofs-of-purchase in anticipation of receiving the first action figure based on the upcoming sequel film The Empire Strikes Back. But when the mysterious bounty hunter Boba Fett arrived in the mail, he came with a note explaining that, due to safety concerns, the promised spring-loaded rocket had been glued into place. A generation of disappointed children–myself included–grew up to make the handful of working prototype figures among the most expensive collectibles.

This year, toy maker Hasbro has been on a “vintage” kick, releasing Star Wars toys in packaging very similar to that seen in the late ’70s and early ’80s. What’s more, plastered onto the cardbacks are stickers offering–at long last–a honest-to-Jabba rocket-firing Boba Fett!

Mine arrived in today’s mail…

Nice use of the old marketing copy:

Boba Fett…

  • A fearsome interplanetary bounty hunter.
  • A threat to the Rebel Alliance, especially Han Solo!
  • A new character in “Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back.”

Best of all, they didn’t just slap a rocket launcher onto a modern-styled Fett. They actually reproduced the old-school figure with its decidedly inaccurate color scheme and generic laser pistol.

I don’t know that it was worth the 31 year wait, but somewhere a disappointed 15-year-old is feeling rather good.

Return Of The Obama

January 22nd, 2009 No comments

Some Japanese toy company has apparently made a highly-articulated Obama doll. The attention to detail and the interchangable hands/heads are typically superb, but what really sells it are the “action” poses. Keep scrolling until you reach the bottom! (And what’s up with the lap full of oranges?)

Updated: Darn, the link is down. Presumably the site was being hammered so badly by people trying to get a peek at Obama vs. Vader that they disabled it. Hopefully it’ll be back once everyone’s attention is drawn away to the next shiny object.

Further updated: The photos have been reposted to Gizmodo.

Crimson and Cloverfield

December 7th, 2008 No comments

Way back in February, I pre-ordered Hasbro’s super-deluxe collectible Cloverfield Movie Monster” action figure. Seventy points of articulation? Interchangeable heads? Comes with ten “parasites” and the head of the Statue of Liberty? I was so there!

In October, my order (in fact, all orders) were inexplicably canceled. After checking with Customer Service, it appeared that Hasbro’s computer automatically killed them once the toy’s original October release date had passed. However, I was told that it would indeed be coming out in December, and that I should place a second order. Which I did.

Sometime between now and then, my original order was just as mysteriously reinstated. Long story short, TWO of them arrived on my front porch on Friday. And trust me, at 14″ tall and a hundred bucks a pop, two is definitely one too many.

Two, two, two giant shipping cases!

I contacted Customer Service again, and was told that it was all okay. All I had to do was to affix the included return label to one of them and drop it off at the FedEx office.

Guess what wasn’t in either box? I called again yesterday and asked them to e-mail me one, but apparently they can only do it by “escalating” my claim and sending a return label via snail-mail. Bleah.

As for Clovey himself, damn, he’s impressive. They weren’t lying about the 70 points of articulation. Dude’s got joints everywhere. I’m sure that there are still some I haven’t found yet.

The box is equally impressive, though in hindsight I’m finding it a problem. As a high-end collectible, it comes in a super-fancy, full-color box (featuring the decapitated Statue of Liberty image from the movie poster) that lifts off to reveal a 3D cityscape. Clovey really wants to be displayed there, but damn, it’s big for an already crowded toyroom. And even storing it away somewhere safe may take some doing.

I was a bit disappointed in the accessories. The parasites and Liberty head are apparently in scale, which means that they are tiny compared to the creature. I would’ve thought Liberty’s noggin was bigger, but apparently not.

Hobbes says “What the what?”

On the plus side, there’s the scary, second head with its open mouth. Pushing its tongue activates its eerie roar, which my cat does. not. like. And did I mention 70 points of articulation? I remember when “16 points of articulated evil” was enough to impress me.

Bye, Bye, This Here Anakin Guy

August 13th, 2008 No comments

Two hundred eighty-nine figures. Nineteen vehicles. Grand total: $1,040.84. Packages going to Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Germany, Australia, and Urbana, Illinois.

While I certainly didn’t make back what I initially spent on all these toys, neither did I merely make pennies on the dollar, as I’d feared. I believe that all the homework and sorting helped goose the sales.

The new Clone Wars “movie” opens Friday, and I believe that its impending release and the associated hype provided the tipping point that led to my personal Order 66. In large part, that’s because I see it as a cynical cash-grab: it’s literally three episodes of the upcoming TV show strung together. That sort of thing is nothing new; it used to happen all the time back in the ’50s and ’60s. But I find it a bit more galling in that we’re getting all the usual pre-release parties and Happy Meal toys that would’ve accompanied a “real” Star Wars feature, only this time without the actual film. Heck, with the exceptions of Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee and the omnipresent Anthony Daniels, they didn’t even bother to hire back the original actors to provide the voice-overs. What, Hayden Christensen was too busy?

In the end, though, I think that my lack of enthusiasm about all things Clone (which I’ve previously discussed here) comes down to this: while a tragedy of a fall from grace that ends in betrayal and murder is a perfectly legitimate story, it’s a hell of a thing to base a franchise around.

“This fall, on Cartoon Network: Titus Andronicus, the animated series!”

Outside of the visceral, visual thrill of droids and starships in combat (which I’ll admit is considerable), I’ve got no real stake in the Clone Wars. Who am I rooting for? The clones who eventually turn on their masters and bring about the Empire? The corrupt Republic and its puppeteering Sith Lord? The hapless Jedi, who foolishly fall into the elaborate, and at times obvious, trap?

Besides, we know how it turns out. All those nifty Jedi? Dead. That cute, little female padawan who features so prominently in the trailers? Dead. (And probably killed by her own master, Anakin Skywalker.)

Would you like apple fries with your Happy Meal?

Updated: Time magazine TV critic James Poniewozik blogs about this very issue.

Executing Order 66

August 8th, 2008 No comments

It took a few weeks longer than I’d originally hoped, but my personal Jedi purge is finally happening. I’ve currently got 25 eBay auctions running. I’ve still got a few large items (including the massive Royal Starship) to photograph and weigh, but everything else is on the block.

The Emperor had an army of clones to execute Order 66, but for my own sale, it’s just me. (That may be because I’m also purging my Clones!) And it took forever to sort the toys into lots, correctly identify everything, and dig through literally hundreds of guns and other accessories and match them as best I could to their respective figures. That last part was most daunting, as many of their weapons look very, very similar.

But at last the de-clone-ification is underway, and to my utter surprise, more than half of the auctions already have bids!

Update: With a little more than one day to go on the first of the auctions, 22 lots have bids for a total of $579.68! As my recent eBay experience has been that most of the bidding occurs in the last day or so, I’m floored that there’s already been so much activity. And several of the lots have upwards of 30 “watchers,” so who knows what will happen this weekend?

Categories: Toys Tags: , ,

I Am So Glad That I No Longer Care About This Shit

July 15th, 2008 No comments

Announced today by Adam Pawlus of Galactic Hunter: an exclusive set of Star Wars figures based “on the Crimson Empire flashback scene in which we see Kir Kanos and Carnor Jax in training.”

Crimson Empire, for those of you who have lives, is a Dark Horse comic book about the guys who make up the Emperor’s Royal Guard: the ones with the red robes and the phallic helmets. If there’s one thing that Star Wars fans love, it’s dudes in all-concealing headgear who stand around looking bad-ass. (See: Fett, Boba.) The Royal Guard are so stone cold that they don’t do a single thing in the entire film saga. They don’t need to prove anything.

But it seems that before donning the Red Robes of Awesome, they go through a training phase in which they dress up as their favorite Power Ranger. I believe that the guy in the black robes above must be the wizard Zordon.

Click through for the full horror.

The Jedi Purge

June 22nd, 2008 No comments

Last week, I made a major lifestyle choice. No, not what you’re thinking, though it’s now legal in California. Rather, a few days back I decided that enough was at last enough. It was time to stop the madness, and take back the toyroom.

As you know, I’ve been collecting Star Wars toys since they first arrived on store shelves in 1978. Back then, I idly thought one day that eventually there might be as many as sixty or seventy different action figures based on the promised nine films, and that it would be fun to set them up in little dioramas.

I had no idea what I was getting myself in for.

By the time the original Kenner toy line ended in 1985, 96 different figures had been released. (The most figures to come out in a single year were the 17 that accompanied the premiere of Return of the Jedi.) That was more than I had originally expected, but still a pretty reasonable total. With extra “army builders” such as stormtroopers, I had perhaps 130 total.

And indeed, I did follow through with my grand plan of collecting them all and setting up my little scenes. There were usually two reactions to my display: visitors were either impressed or frightened. (Vic was unusual in that she didn’t react at all.)

Flash forward to 1995, when the line was relaunched. While the early releases were absurdly beefy, with time the sculpts improved and they began to replace their so-called “vintage” counterparts in my scenes. Eventually, I purged most of my original figures, partially because I wanted to take advantage of their escalating secondary-market value, and partially because the plastic used to make them was getting tacky with age.

When the first of the prequels premiered in 1999, I had a choice: should I continue my collection with the new characters, or just stick with the original films? I thought “Do I really want to spend another eight years incessantly running to toy stores?” But I thought “At least then it will be over.”

Hah, hah, hah.

Nine years later, the line is still going strong. Too strong. The allegedly final film was released in 2005, but there are dozens and dozens of Star Wars toys planned for the next several months alone. Some of that is due to new media projects in the works, some due to the mature collectors market which allows the creation of ever more obscure characters to serve in “exclusive” boxed sets, and some due to what I believe to be sheer cussedness on the part of Hasbro.

The latter has manifested itself in a never-ending, rainbow coalition of droids in new paint schemes. Hasbro learned that people such as myself would buy R2-D2 dozens of times over if each was a different color. (And of course, the same trick was used for the many “astromech” droids seen in the films.)

The clone troopers have been even worse. Unlike the stormtroopers of old, which came solely in white, the many squadrons of clones seen in Revenge of the Sith each had their own unit colors. (The better to market to you, my dear.) There were orange clones, red clones, purple clones (yes, really)…

Then someone got the bright idea that the ones from the film weren’t enough. It was child’s play to create brand new clone squadrons. Bring on the “exclusives!”

The poster child for this trend was last year’s 14-figure set of repainted clones and Boba Fett knockoffs. Fourteen figures–nearly as many as the most prolific year of the original Star Wars toy line–and ten of them couldn’t even claim a tie to an “official” film, comic, novel or videogame.

I surprised myself by not being suckered into buying them for the sake of completism. It was harder than it sounds; I sometimes think I’m borderline OCD. But once I passed on those, it became just a little easier to avoid other “exclusives” of similarly dubious provenance.

Still, the toys piled up, and spilled off the overcrowded shelves onto the floor. It was a mess, and the collection was becoming harder to manage. It was starting to become more frustrating than fun.

Plus, I got fucking sick of this face:

It’s what you see every time you look under a clone trooper’s helmet. Naturally enough, as they’re all meant to be identical. But still, what’s the joy of an action figure with a removable helmet if it’s always the same damned face underneath? And now they’re even giving us classic trilogy stormtroopers with that same head!

As I sat in a movie theater a few weeks ago watching the trailer for the newest Star Wars media project, an animated film based on the Clone Wars, I realized that George Lucas had learned his lesson. Last time a Star Wars trilogy ended, it was a mere two years before the merchandising empire died out. He’s not gonna let it happen this time. After the Clone Wars cartoons there’s going to be a multi-season, live-action series set in the time period between the trilogies. And of course, an endless supply of spin-off stories spinning off an endless supply of figures…and on and on and on…

So, as I said, enough is enough.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I won’t buy any more Star Wars toys. And I’m not saying that I’m getting rid of all the ones I’ve already got. But what I am doing is getting back to my roots, and as a consequence, giving up any pretense of completism.

The truth is that while I’ve made my peace with the prequels, I’ve never really loved them the way I do the original trilogy. What I’ve decided is that all those Jedi, battle droids and especially those thrice-damned clones need to go.

And so, last week I began to cull my toyroom on a larger scale than ever before. In honor of the secret command that led to the purge of the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith, I’m calling it “Order 66.”

I tore down the displays and rebuilt them from scratch with a sole focus on the original films. No more scenes with fifteen guys in identical brown robes. No more Creamsicle colored clones. And no obligation to buy every damned thing that comes from Hasbro even if it did show up in a comic book once.

The toyroom now looks great. Most everything is off the floor. And losing the prequel displays gave me more room for Lego models. I even completely reorganized the closet. It’s very satisfying.

I did keep some prequel figures: background aliens, astromechs, and the various Sith lords. Also a few favorite items, such as General Grievous’ wheel bike and the vicious Acklay beast.

As for the rest…well, that’s phase two. The next step is to sort several hundred action figures and vehicles into lots, and to dig out their respective accessories. Then, it’s on to eBay!

I know that you probably don’t realize how big a step this is for me. I’ve been collecting this crap for thirty years, and whatever frustration I and my wallet have been feeling lately, there was a lot of inertia willing me onward. I’m not exactly Rosa Parks on the bus here, but I am taking back at a little piece of my life, and it feels good.

Some Get It

April 29th, 2008 No comments

As nerd culture seeps ever more into the mainstream, it’s not surprising to see it cropping up in prime-time network TV. But it’s easy to see which shows really have geek cred and which are just posers. Last night, I saw an example of each.

First up was The Big Bang Theory. I’ve only recently begun to watch this series, mostly while I’m waiting for How I Met Your Mother to start. It’s fairly standard issue sitcom stuff: four genius nerd friends and the hot blonde who lives across the hall. But what sets it apart is the obvious care taken in getting things right. While I’m not knowledgeable enough to confirm the science/math references (the credits list a science consultant), I do know that the geek stuff is bang on the money.

Last night’s episode was about the gang purchasing the original prop of “the Time Machine” from the classic ’60s movie of the same name. I missed the first part, but I gather that the aforementioned blonde derided one of them for his “toys,” causing a crisis of faith which nearly had him selling off his collectibles to the local comics dealer. (I took comfort in the fact that he ultimately changed his mind. And also when one of the nerds called her out on her Beanie Babies and Hello Kitty shorts.)

But what really pleased me was that not only did we get a dream sequence featuring movie-accurate Morlocks (as in the photo, right), but even a dream-within-a-dream which recast them as movers wearing embroidered uniforms reading “Starving Morlocks.” (Which, if you know what Morlocks eat, is pretty funny.) Furthermore, we got references to the Golden Age Flash, the Justice Society of America, and a rare Geordi LaForge action figure mistakenly packaged without his VISOR. And, unlike the film The 40 Year Old Virgin, which decorated the apartment of an alleged uber-collector with whatever random toys they picked up from the clearance aisle at Toys ‘R Us, the props people here made sure to have an actual Golden Age Flash figure on hand.

I’m not a big fan of The Big Bang Theory, but I do enjoy that the geeks aren’t just objects of scorn. Cringe-worthy moments are rare.

On the other end of the Cringe-o-meter was last night’s Star Wars-themed episode of Deal or No Deal. I’m not a regular Deal watcher, but I do believe that the “march of the models” which begins every game is one of the things for which television was invented. And I’ll be the first to admit that my entire reason for tuning in last night was the promise of 26 Slave Leias in formation.

But, despite (because of?) the obvious cooperation of Lucasfilm, it was painful to watch. First off were all of the lame “use the Force” references, which went as far as having Darth Vader telekinetically open the cover of the “Deal” button. (Cue the “oohs” and “aahs.”) And having the Dark Lord fill in as “the Banker” was funnier in theory than in practice. He sat up in the booth, quoting random Vader lines from the films as if he was his very own fanboy. (At least the James Earl Jones soundalike was good.)

Stormtroopers entering the corporate world. Oh, Annie, how low have you sunk?

They had two Star Wars fans competing to see which one would end the game with the larger cash amount (with the winner taking all), but the confluence of real-life geekery and typical game show contestant enthusiasm led to many embarrassing moments, including the worst. Yoda. impression. ever.

Then there were the special guest stars cheering them on. Carrie Freakin’ Fisher showed up to debase herself on behalf of a woman who, as we were repeatedly told, escaped from Vietnam as a child and found a role model in Princess Leia. (The real Carrie Fisher: not quite so much a role model.) Backed up by the leader of the Rebellion and the will of the Force, the contestant achieved a stunningly low total of $13,000.

“You there! The one in the white helmet!”

Ms. Fisher was shuffled offstage before the army of Slave Leias arrived, ostensibly to avoid giving the second contestant any clue as to how much he’d need to win, but probably so that there’d be no attempt at comparing drug-and-age-ravaged Carrie to 26 hot, young Carrie wanna-bes. Instead, geek #2 had R2-D2 and Chewbacca in his cheering section. Or rather, some tall dude in a Chewbacca suit. Giving high fives. Honestly, I would’ve thought that any schmoe in a fur coat could make a decent Chewie, but this guy’s performance had me appreciating Peter Mayhew all the more.

In the end, the Lucasfilm-sanctioned event featuring real nerds seemed less authentic than the sitcom in which four actors pretended to be nerds.

Plus, those Slave Leia outfits? Not movie-accurate.

Quaking In Our Boots

April 18th, 2008 No comments

A little after 4:35 this morning, Illinois was hit with a 5.2 earthquake. It’s not the first time I’ve woken up in the middle of a temblor; I did live in California for a year. It was still pretty freaky: the closet door was rattling and at first I thought one of the cats was in there having an epileptic fit. However, they were both in bed with us. It seemed to go on for half a minute or so, and Vic and I just rode it out. Tigger purred loudly for the next hour or so.

So far, I haven’t discovered any damage, and toyroom casualties were light. Mara Jade took out Darth Vader, but both were saved by the Emperor. An unidentified Rebel pilot stumbled off the flight deck with only minor injuries. An AT-AT driver was not so fortunate, plunging a full six feet to his doom. His in-helmet recorder picked up his final cry.

I must also report the death of one of the Empire’s senior officers: Admiral Piett. A career member of the Imperial Navy, Piett’s efficient work and ability to stay in the good graces of Darth Vader saw him quickly rise to a top position within the Sith Lord’s personal fleet. He is survived by his wife Merva and his twin sons, Rix and Jaxxon. He will be missed.

They Know Exactly How To Hurt Me

February 15th, 2008 No comments

Hasbro is offering a limited edition, 14″ tall, roaring Cloverfield monster. It’s got interchangeable heads, 70 points of articulation and ten detachable parasites. Oh, and it comes packed with the head of the Statue of Liberty.

Thank goodness it doesn’t come out ’til September. That gives me plenty of time to eBay my stuff…