This has always been a blog about my thoughts on collecting as much as anything. The fact that I am a HUGE fan of Star Wars, and that it appears on a Star Wars-related site, means I usually work in references to the Galaxy Far, Far Away as a matter of course, even if the subject isn’t DIRECTLY related to anything from the mind of George Lucas. This time out, however, the Star Wars connection is VERY direct, because this is part one in a series. I don’t know how many parts will comprise the series, because I don’t believe in limiting myself. Either that or I’m still formulating the whole thing in my head. Probably that last thing. Either way, starting this month I’m going to talk in some depth about my favorite Star Wars toys, one category at a time. Up first: ACTION FIGURES (What else would it be, really?)
I’ve mentioned before (here and on several podcasts) that my favorite action figure of all time is the Bespin Han Solo that Kenner released with The Empire Strikes Back line in 1980, so I won’t bore you with many details. The reason this is my favorite is because it is (in my opinion) the best representation of my favorite character ever in 3 ¾” plastic form. For some reason, toy makers rarely get Han just right. But this one is outstanding. The hair, the jacket, the pants, and the boots are all just COOL. Taylor and I will be doing an in-depth analysis of him soon enough on Talking Toys with Taylor & Jeff (available on www.MarvinDogMedia.com) so you can expect more in the future on this one.
What I’m planning is to present my favorite item from the month’s category from each of the four releases that Kenner did for Star Wars. Toys were released under banners for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Power of the Force. The last line came out in 1985 and filled in a few gaps that had been missed previously.
For the figures that debuted on Star Wars cards, my absolute favorite is, of course, Walrus Man. You’ve all heard the story, and if you haven’t, let me know and I’ll be happy to tell you, but the main bullet point is that Walrus Man carries a special connection to my late mother, but even if that was not the case, he would still be my number one. I just love the colors on this guy, when I think of “action figures” this is one of the first images that pops into my head. Blue, bright orange, green, all the colors just pop. He looks almost nothing like his film counterpart, but it never bothered me, because his orange onesie and blue bodysuit are just so much FUN! He’s also one of the first figures to boast a posed sculpt, since one leg is slightly bent to make him look like he’s in motion. I typically don’t like ultra-posed sculpts, but this one is subtle enough that it really works.
As for The Empire Strikes Back, obviously Bespin Han is my favorite, but he’s in a class by himself, so I’m going to use my blogger’s discretion to make another pick, and that choice is Lando Calrissian. The older I get, the more I enjoy Lando. Billy Dee Williams’s portrayal is obviously perfect, and this figure was the 2nd Star Wars toy I ever got (C-3PO was the first). I love this figure because the limitations of the tooling and sculpting and paint didn’t keep Kenner from giving us a fairly accurate representation of the film character, right down to his rakish grin. Vinyl capes are a necessary evil for figures of this time, but even his cement-gray cape doesn’t detract. In many ways, it helps to highlight the light blue shirt and dark blue slacks. There are even variants for this guy, so you can collect more than one, and that’s always a good thing for someone like me, it gives me a reason to keep looking! Even his hair is stylish! In my book, Lando is a real winner.
The Return of the Jedi line is when Kenner really started to get a good grasp on sculpts and paint, these figures were leaps and bounds above the previous two lines in terms of complexity. I have several of these that could take the “favorite” spot, but I’m going to go with everyone’s favorite appetizer, Admiral Ackbar. This was one of the figures I got as a mail-away, and I have always been fascinated with this toy. The sculpt is amazing, his head has tons of detail, and the paint job is perfect. His eyes are very distinct, his torso and legs look JUST like the guy in the movie! And the staff that he came with is one of the best non-gun accessories we ever got. His arms and hands have little bumps on them, it looks like you could crack them open and dip them in drawn butter. Can you tell I’m writing this just around dinner time? Ackbar is one of the best figures Kenner ever did, hands-down, and I’ve enjoyed most of the later iterations of this character as well, but none will ever top the first for me. The Emperor’s Royal Guard could easily have been in this spot, but today I’m just feeling the Mon Calamari love.
The Power of the Force is a smaller line than the other three, and the hardest to find these days. We had such important characters as Luke in Stormtrooper Disguise and the Imperial Dignitary. Because, really, what kid doesn’t want an old, pasty white guy to play with? Kenner filled in some gaps with characters from Star Wars and Return of the Jedi, but none from The Empire Strikes Back, interestingly enough. We got an outstanding Han Solo with Carbonite block, and it was so amazing that I didn’t even mind that his hands were in the wrong position when compared to the end of The Empire Strikes Back. In all honesty, the Han Solo figure leaves much to be desired. He has a VERY thick neck, his head looks squashed, and he’s a bit pudgy. The thing that has always drawn me to this figure is the carbonite block. It’s translucent, so you can see Han inside when you place it over the figure, and he fits perfectly in it. This is why it had to stray from the film, he can’t have his hands up near his head due to the articulation, so his hands are down at his side, with one slightly in front of his leg. It isn’t accurate, but it works, and even as at age 9 I understood why this had to happen. How they managed to make that block so translucent but also so sturdy I will never know, but it is one of my favorite action figures of all time even to this day. It was bigger than the carbonite block that came with Slave 1, so it was tough to use with that ship, but again, not even that could bother me because it just looked SOOOOO cool!!
Sadly, 1985 was the last year we got new Star Wars toys for a decade, and when the next wave hit shelves, my excitement was somewhat tempered by the fact that the sculpts were not great, and the quality seemed to have regressed. I’ll write more about that later, this is a time to celebrate Kenner.
Next month I will be talking about my favorite playsets from each line, I know you just can’t wait. Until then, log in to the site and leave some comments about your favorite action figures (vintage or otherwise), I’m always interested to see what other people respond to!
Until next time, May The Force Be With Us All!
Jeff can be heard weekly on Assembly of Geeks (www.assemblyofgeeks.com) and on his own podcast network, MarvinDog Media (www.MarvinDogMedia.com) where he hostsThe Pilot Episode, Talking Toys with Taylor and Jeff, and Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show. He is also co-host of Comics With Kenobi with fellow CWK blogger Matt Moore, and part-time co-host for Coffee With Kenobi, which you have already found if you’re reading this blog. You can contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org.Powered by Sidelines