Clone Wars Episode 2: Rising Malevolence

Originally aired October 3, 2008 on Cartoon Network.

In short: The Republic is out to find Grievous' new super weapon. Plo Koon and a bunch of Jedi are stranded in a life pod after a battle, waiting to see if someone will pick them up. Similar plots were done on other shows (Star Trek: Enterprise comes to mind) to varying degrees of success, and it's unfortunate we're seeing such a common device used so early in the series' run.

In this episode, we see a heck of a lot of action. We get to see Anakin talk down to his new sidekick, we get to see R2-D2 doing R2 things, we see big ships get destroyed, we get to see escape pods, and all sorts of stuff. There's little time for exposition, as it seems the series' writers assume you already know the major players and don't need to introduce them or even name them on screen more than once or twice.

Things move along nicely, as there's a slight panic about a super weapon, there's some resentment of Anakin for going on a rescue mission, and there's more than a little tension in the voices of the two main Jedi heroes. Plo Koon, unfortunately, sounds almost like an old, bored super hero. He's very mellow, and can apparently be out in the vacuum of space for a brief period of time. Further, his dialogue propels the notion that by and large, the Jedi are very dull. A more alien voice saying fewer words could be interesting in a variety of ways, but it turns out after years of speculation, Plo Koon sounds just like any other Jedi might sound. Oh well.

This particular installment seemed more robust than the first, but it's still feeling a little light overall. Thankfully, we have two more weeks (at least) following this storyline and the super weapon: the galaxy's most dangerous ion cannon.

Appearing: 2-1B (or similar medic droid), R2-D2, Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, Commander Wollfe, Yularen, Clones, Plo Koon, Mace Windu, Count Dooku, General Grievous, Palpatine, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Battle Droids.

Pros: Mostly great voice acting, good sets, decent story, better pacing-- there's a lot of cuts between the Twilight and a ship wreckage, plus the Malevolence. Cutting away to something else makes everything better.

Cons: The Battle Droids have some very creepy scenes with the life pods, but due to the goofy nature of the characters the threat seems removed despite characters being in very real danger. The concept is a wonderfully eerie one, but the execution didn't work. Also, Plo Koon can breathe in space? Who does he think he is, Batman? Aside from clones, we're seeing few new characters-- this could be a problem.

Posted byAdam16bit at 9:00 AM 0 comments  

Clone Wars Episode 1: Ambush

Originally aired October 3, 2008 on Cartoon Network.

In short: Yoda goes to meet the king of the Toydarians (Watto's people) on a moon to join the Republic, but-- oh yes-- Count Dooku sends Asajj Ventress to issue a challenge to Yoda, which Yoda accepts, over the fate of the Toydarians. Of course, the Toydarians didn't have too much say either way but they seem to like the Jedi. It plays out like a mix of a fable, a few episodes of Transformers (which had similar plots), and a PBS kids show in how Yoda treats the clones. Very touchy-feely, and the Clones are put off by this-- which is probably the right thing to do as to not lose older kids.

The pacing was pretty slow, but I think the real problem is that it wasn't so much slow as it was repetitive-- you're on a single planet for a full episode without much variety. If this were a Star Trek, at least you'd cut back to the bridge of the Enterprise, or perhaps multiple away teams could go through different things. Also, Yoda and some clones vs. anything-- it's not only obvious who will win, but it's so uneven that it's a wonder the Clone Wars lasted more than a few weeks. The Jedi are superheroes, and they're fighting the worst droid army in the history of ever-- how come the war took so long to win?

At 23 minutes (minus commercials) I can see why George Lucas insisted the previous series be about 3-4 minutes an episode. Honestly, this story was so light on plot that it could have easily been done in that short amount of time

Appearing: Yoda, Dooku, Asajj Ventress, Lt. Thire (clone), more Clones, Battle Droids, Super Battle Droids, Destroyer Droids

Pros: Neat scenery (which Yoda actually comments on), good voice work, good designs.

Cons: No wacky and vaguely culturally insensitive accent for the Toydarians, been-there-done-that plot, entire show takes place on a single planet with very little cutting away to make up for it.

Posted byAdam16bit at 8:55 AM 0 comments  

Post-The Force Unleashed

I spent a lot of this past week not blogging, editing, and generally not doing what I should be. My backlog of columns shrank, and I can thank The Force Unleashed on my Xbox 360 for that. I've since finished it.

The game is unusual in that it manages to succeed in something and fail in that very same thing. Some examples:

Properly aging the characters. Bail Organa looks the same as he did in Revenge of the Sith despite a 16-year difference between the stories. Princess Leia, on the other hand, manages to look like a young Carrie Fisher, which is perfect for a story that takes place about 3 years before the original Star Wars.

No ability to skip cut scenes. The first time through, this is a blessing-- you want to see them, they're neat. However, after you've seen them all 2-3 times, sometimes you want to skip them so you can find Holocrons and unlock achievements. Guess what? You can't. You have to watch them every time, and this problem compounds when you want to skip to a new stage-- you have to do so from within a game level, meaning you have to (you guessed it) watch a cut scene for several minutes before regaining control.

Oh, and in the "bad" department...

Interface. The menus are largely well-designed, clear and easy to read. However, the loading time for these mostly text screens is quite significant, and the menus are pretty buggy. I've unpaused the game only to find the level started over, or I'm treated to the beginning of the level cut scene despite being in the middle of a stage.

Controls. Some parts are a little clunky, others are downright confusing-- despite the game telling you exactly which buttons to push, it isn't clear that you're always succeeding.

For what it aspired to do, I think it succeeded. You really do feel (more or less) like you can use the Force, despite some of the characters' equipment feeling less like an in-universe technology and more like an in-game cop-out. Some elements of Star Wars really don't mesh well with a good video game, simply because having super powers that essentially make you a god-like being would remove much of the game's challenge. Also, the very idea of troopers who can disappear just doesn't click for me.

I can nitpick at it, but I'd be lying if I said that the under 10 hour run time wasn't one of the most fun experiences I've had with a Star Wars game in years, and one of the more fun games I've played this year. But I'm extremely biased-- I might not have said the same thing if the setting was ancient Greece or, for example, NBC's Heroes. The final product feels very piecemeal, and there are some inconsistencies within the game itself. The Stormtroopers in the prologue are usually normal Stormtroopers, but in at least one cinema scene they're a hybrid of Stormtroopers and Revenge of the Sith clone troopers. It seems like a lot of it was farmed out to other developers or animators, giving the game a somewhat rough feel. Still, it's a decent Star Wars adventure that really aspires to be an interactive movie, and it seems LucasArts is making a lot of headway toward this goal. It's great to see a decent story in a game that isn't an RPG for a change.

Posted byAdam16bit at 12:55 AM 0 comments  

Q&A: Post-The Force Unleashed Edition

Now that The Force Unleashed is out and (for some of us) completed, let's look at Star Tours toys, Indiana Jones playsets, and yes, even Clone Trooper variations. All this, and much more, await you in this sorta-but-not-really exciting installment of Q&A!




1. Do you know if the Star Tours Droid Pack with R2-D2, C-3PO, WEG-1618, RX-24 ("Rex"), and DL-X2 ever materialized? I haven't been out to Disneyland or Disneyworld, and haven't been able to locate these on eBay.
--Gabriel


Well Gabriel, I have good news and bad news.

The good news? You're a very capable collector, able to do research and look at the best places for this kind of information on your own. For this, I give you applause and a favor if I can fill one for you at some point. Seriously, I appreciate it when people look for answers in the places that can give them immediate feedback-- which isn't something this column can easily do.

The bad news? You're right. It's not out yet. Hopefully it will show up again soon, but for the time being it doesn't seem too likely to be on the way. As Hasbro tends to give absolutely no information out about the products it develops with Disney-- seriously, none of its Star Tours products for the first few waves (or any of them, if memory serves) appeared on their own web site as news items-- searching eBay is your best bet. Well, that and collector sites like this one. (Or, let's be honest, other ones.)




2. Short and sweet: Is the mail-away Captain Rex the same figure/packaging as the new figure hitting stores now?
--DFR


No, but it fits under the "just different enough to make you mad" banner. The figure is from the same mold, but without the battle damage/dirt. The packaging is actually way better with the mail-in version, as it sports a rockin' fold-out diorama. It's so good I actually used a stupid slang word like "rockin'" to describe it-- that should tell you something. I'd suggest getting one just for that, but I've got a sack of UPCs and order forms and I'm not sending in for extras because, well, it's kinda bland overall. It seems a "clean" variant of Rex may be hitting retail stores as well, making the mail-in version merely a package variant and rendering the actual mail-in offer to be one of the more pointless in recent memory.




3. Is the clone trooper in Legacy wave 2 a member of the 501st and can therefore join Commanders Vill and Bow and 501st airborne trooper in my diarama?
--S


In Legacy Wave 2, there's the Heavy Gunner and SCUBA troopers, neither of which are explicitly in the 501st. The Heavy Gunner is part of the Muunilinst 10, a group you absolutely should consider getting a diorama together for.

As the 501st did not yet exist at the time of this cartoon's creation, it's a crapshoot as to if they could eventually be retoconned into the 501st or Obi-Wan's 212th attack battalion. As far as I can tell, this is just a specialized group unto itself.




4. [In a previous] q and a someone asked a question about not being able to get the figures before retail. To avoid this have you ever hidden the figures around toys r us, walmart etc ? do you think its wrong because ive benefited many times?
--Rich


I think it proves that you probably shouldn't be collecting unless you're doing this because you aren't old enough to have a job yet. If I can't afford something, I don't buy it. I actually cheap out on lots of things so I generally don't have to face the "lunch or toys?" question. Ideally, I'd say fans should avoid this kind of behavior simply because it screws up the store-- if a figure is "hidden," that means the store thinks it still has that item in inventory, and the automatic replenishment system won't tell the employees to order more or put more on the shelves. So basically, by doing this, you're throwing a wrench into the gears of that store, potentially preventing new shipments of product and causing other fans a lot of grief that could have been solved by your just putting it on layaway or simply charging it. Or, you know, doing without-- which is what I do when I can't justify buying something.




5. Whatever happened to the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 3 3/4" Lost Temple of Akator Playset? I can no longer find any listings of it anywhere on the internet and wonder if it was pulled from production. Did it ever come out and/or is it still on its way to stores?
--Todd


I have two suggestions.

Unless Hasbro surprises us, it's due out around the DVD release-- Hasbro makes it a point to have a second big "push" for the home video market, as that's when the kids typically see the movie for themselves. I'd expect to see it around that time.




FIN

OK, so I got and played through The Force Unleashed. The good news is that (for me anyway) it was compelling enough to hold my attention to the end... unfortunately, as you may have guessed, the end came quite quickly. I played through it on the second level of difficulty and am wondering if I should have started with the third. But I don't want to spoil the story, so let's just talk toys and the game.

I'd really like to know when the toys were developed against when the in-game character models were finalized. Some of the figures, like Rahm Kota and Starkiller, don't seem to look too much like the actors in the game. The most interesting thing I thought, though, was with the Incinerator Troopers. The red Wal-Mart exclusive figures leaked ages ago and my first thought when seeing how the stripes were painted was that a pauldron was missing-- and in the game, sure enough, they have a pauldron. So basically the figures aren't entirely accurate, meaning Hasbro has an excuse to crank out more. Also, most of the troops have blasters that don't quite match the game, which is unfortunate but it does give another reason to rerelease them with more game-accurate paint.

It's packed with a lot of familiar places (and faces) so if Hasbro wanted to, the game could have been a great excuse to reissue older figures. It's really a shame most of the toys were sold to a market who hadn't had the chance to play the game yet-- odds are Hasbro could have sold a lot more stuff with the game out. With any luck, the game will do well enough to justify additional toys as there seems to be enough good stuff in here for at least a few more figures. (Well, maybe not a ton. But some.) If you haven't had the chance to try the game out, I'd suggest giving it a shot if you have the means.

...also, a number of you wrote in concerning your experiences with GameStop and the Stormtrooper Commander. Some recurring themes:
- Employees were not aware a promotion was taking place
- Employees said "I'll take one or two myself if we get any in"
- Stores were not given enough to go around
- Stores were not informed what to do with them (at least a few readers were simply given one without purchase

Odds are it was a successful promotion from where Hasbro and GameStop stand, but it's basically cemented where I won't be taking my game business from here on out. I know most people who write in to me only let me know about the bad experiences, so I can only assume some of you got the figure like you were supposed to without any trouble. Here's hoping for a Hasbro reissue down the raod, I suppose.

Oh, and my backlog is empty-- I've got one column in the can, and all the questions I've earmarked have either been answered or deleted. So if you've still got one, you know what to do! Email me with "Q&A" somewhere in the subject line and hopefully I'll get to yours in the next column!

Posted byAdam16bit at 12:40 AM 0 comments  

Q&A: Animation, Bad Investments, and More!

This week, we answer another 5 questions! (Big surprise.) Topics include the alleged divide in figure collecting, the 10th anniversary of the prequels, and much more. Also: Why GameStop can suck it. Read on!




1. As you know, 2009 is the 10th anniversary of TPM. Consequently, do you suppose that Star Wars product in the original Episode I packaging will sell better on eBay next year? I'm wondering whether I should hold off my auctions.
--Edward


My initial reaction to this question was that it was someone setting me up for a great joke-- then I realized it's entirely possible that the world does not share my favorite stock answer, which was some variation on "burn them."

The bulk of the line from 1995-present was widely collected-- a number of fans bought one of everything to keep in the package, and many of them bought multiples. Episode I was overproduced to a ridiculous sense, and it's going to be more than 10 years before there will be any interest in it. I'd actually go with "forget it." Not all toys are destined to be collectible in the long run, actually very few are. For every old figure you can sell for a profit, remember that there are Playmates Star Trek figures worth a dollar or three each, years of now virtually worthless McFarlane figures, and piles of G.I. Joes which have outlived the collector attention span. The added problem with Star Wars is that many of the figures have since been reissued, often in superior forms.

The anniversary likely won't help. If you're seriously considering dumping your collection, my honest advice to you is to see if you can break even (or profit on) anything, and unload it. Give the rest to charity-- the $1-$3 per figure you will most likely get, less eBay and PayPal fees, is really not worth your time. The vast majority of recent collectibles based on the Lucas saga took a nose dive in terms of value and I think you'd be better off keeping it (hey, you might have kids some day) or setting fire to it.

...or if you're feeling saucy, hold on to all your vehicles for a while. If history is any indicator, fans will care about vehicles, and 5+ years later, they'll start being interested in the figures. I personally do not believe most modern figures will ever achieve any significant collector interest unless Hasbro stops bringing them out again, and again, and again with a series of improvements. Why should anyone pay you $7 for a Mace Windu from 1999 when Hasbro has a new one with a box of weapons, more articulation, a properly colored lightsaber, and a cloth cloak for $7 in stores now?

If you bought the stuff to get rich, well, breaking even is a really admirable goal. The figures aren't going to skyrocket next year (or likely ever) because so many people put them away 9 years ago that they will simply never be rare.




2. Where are the new build a droids from?any movie or EU? And how many will there be?My favorite astromech is now R7-Z0 with the triangular eye,reminds me of Plankton.
--ABarra9721


SO far, the build-a-droids come from a variety of sources. There are places you'll find the R4 units in the movies, you can look them up on resources like Wookieepedia or fan sites like this one. The R7s are squarely Expanded Universe, and little visual reference exists for them. The RA droids, well, you probably know the deal there.

As of now there is no final tally on how many build-a-droids will be made, as Hasbro has yet to confirm how long The Legacy Collection will be produced. Previous lines say we'll get 40-60 figures in a line, which means we're likely to get something like 10-12 droids-- unless Hasbro decides to keep it going, which we all hope they will.




3. I'm still not a huge fan of, nor will I be collecting in great numbers the animated style toys. I think they are great as a limited tie in with the show and do have a few which I will display in stylized ways, but aside from the vehicles they do not work with my existing collection and I simply can't (or don't want to) spare the room or cash for something that doesn't work with everything else I have.

Do you feel that this is a widespread attitude and will it translate to the line being a limited run not unlike the previous Clone Wars line? Do you think there is much longevity in the animated style figures or will Hasbro eventually merge the characters and give us realistically styled figures of characters in the show? I especially would LOVE to see a realistically styled phase 1 Scout trooper from the movie.
--Joshua


The ridiculous volume of releases since 2005 have basically made collecting Star Wars a nearly full-time job. (Thankfully, my full-time job requires that I pay attention to it.) More than boredom, fatigue, or anything else, we've all spent so much time and bought so much stuff that any deviation from the norm is almost enough to make a lot of fans throw in the towel. I've basically lost interest in the other toy lines I followed just because of the effort required to keep tabs on it all.

The obvious new divide-- animated vs. not-- may or may not be a good thing. A lot of fans said they won't buy any animated, but seem to be gradually warming up to the line. I just don't know where it's going to go. Frankly, I want one big line-- not two competing 3 3/4-inch lines. Seeing how the toony toys are dragging, it seems like a lot of fans probably won't be won over by the new releases because there really aren't any to go get. Being boring is typically what gets me to quit a toy line, a big gap means I stop paying attention and move on to something else.

Despite Hasbro's insisting that there won't be any (or many) realistic versions of cartoon figures, I disagree. Realistic clone repaints sell, and it makes sense that we'll eventually start seeing realistic versions of some of the animated clones. Or rather, it seems like a great, cheap repaint that would help Hasbro's bottom line-- why not do it?

I think they're pretty slick, but if Hasbro ended the cartoony line tomorrow I wouldn't miss it. I might change my tune eventually, but one consistent style is really where I think collectors want the line to go. I don't think that's where the money is, but I don't have access to Hasbro's books.




4. Do you know if the upcoming Ahsoka Tano Clone Wars figure will be smaller and more petite than the other figures in the line,like the more recent Princess Leia figures?
--Daniel


She's pretty dainty, but I have yet to play with a sample up close. I don't know if she'll be quite as small as the recent Leia figures, but she does seem to be smaller than other animated figures from what I saw at Comic-Con.




5. Do yo know of any good database or "pedia" type software for keeping track of your figure collection? I've reached the point I can't remember what I have and don't have anymore.
--Buntz


I have two suggestions.

1. Excel, or your favorite spreadsheet application. Nothing sorts, scales, or is as robust when collecting data. I love it for some things, and it is pretty widespread at offices across the world. You can always work on your collection lists at the office, for example.

2. If you don't know what you want, then you don't need it. No, really. This has worked wonders for me and other collectors. If you don't know what you're missing-- unless you're a variant hound who catalogs every minor change-- I would seriously consider letting those pieces go. Of course, this is coming from someone who has collected toys pretty much non-stop since 1989 and is at a point where he'd rather just enjoy the stuff he has for a while. But that's me.

A large personal investment of time is absolutely necessary to keep track of the line because no book (and as far as I can tell, no website) will ever mesh up with every collector's idea of what constitutes a "collection." Do you need all 3 TIE Bombers? Or the blue and red Battle Droids from Episode II in the deluxe and basic line? Your mileage may vary, and because of this I would suggest doing the research to write up a list of what you have and what you want on your own. If nothing else, you might be able to find some pieces you can skip.




FIN

You can skip this next part. You probably should. Seriously, this is just me being angry.

Man I hate GameStop. I used to love GameStop (and Babbages and its other stores)-- in high school and college, I made it a point to go to one or more locations weekly. I picked up something (a figure, a controller, etc.) pretty much every other time I stopped in, or went with someone who was buying. It's tapered off a little in recent years due to declining customer service... and you can probably guess why I'm pissed at them this week. You may have even had the same experience. I called a store on Saturday and asked if they had any of the Stormtroopers available with preorders. "Let me check," she said. Pause. "Yup, we've got a ton." I respond with "so I can come in today, right now, pre-order the game, and walk out with the figure?" "Yes you can." I informed her I'd be down there in a few minutes-- as I had not yet pre-ordered the game-- and I could get it. It takes me about 25 minutes to get there and park, and the guy behind the counter looks at me like I was insane. "Who did you talk to?" he asks. "Her, I assume" I respond, pointing to the only female employee in the store. He comes back and tells me that no, they don't have any. "She said you did-- and that's why I came here to give you my money." He just shrugs, she walks by and I say "so you don't have any despite my asking about it a few minutes ago?" and she says "nope."

Now that's fantastic customer service. I've been giving my business to other chains in recent years because of more and more incidents like this one. At least make it up to me or explain why you lied to me to get me in your store. Ugh. Well, here's hoping you had better luck getting your Stormtrooper Commander than I did. My guess is I'll be watching eBay until the market gets saturated or people get bored with them. Thanks for nothing, GameStop #3815, but I do appreciate your ensuring Target, Best Buy, Circuit City, and/or Toys "R" Us gets my gaming business from here on out. Oh, and by the way, none of your feedback forms work on your web site. Which I assume is intentional. Excellent work there.

Shockingly, though, I managed to find both of the Wal-Mart Force Unleashed Stormtrooper packs last weekend at $15 a pop. I know a lot of people are down on yet more repaints, but as repaints go, these are pretty good. The really interesting thing I noticed about them was that it seems on the packaging, one of the mock-ups of the Incinerator Troopers is a repainted POTJ-era Sandtrooper (or OTC Carry Case Stormtrooper/Saga Imperial Forces Stormtrooper), while one of the Shadow Stormtroopers is a repainted Evolutions Sandtrooper (or Tantive IV Battle Pack Stormtrooper). The actual product is simply repainted VOTC Stormtroopers, which works just fine. If you like these. (And I do.) Here's hoping Hasbro puts them out again in the future, even though the pricing here is about as good as we're likely to get. Supposedly even more Stormtrooper repaints are in the game, which I'm sure would make someone a nice exclusive some day.

I do like these, but then again, I'm easy. And at this time, I've only played the Force Unleashed demo, so for all I know the weapons are all wrong. Still, they're neat figures. I'd love to see more of them, as long as they looked pretty cool, especially if Hasbro started making mini-vehicles to go with them. (Hint, hint Hasbro.)

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!

Posted byAdam16bit at 12:05 AM 0 comments  

Q&A: Fan Wars, Droid Construction and Durge

It's Monday, so before you start working, take a few minutes to read about plastic people! This week's questions include Durge, the never-ending debate on if fans like the new Animated Clone Wars toys, and so much more. I could tell you everything here, but that'd take up a lot of room-- so just click through for this week's column!




1. Given your knowledge of the action-figure retail world, would you hazard a guess to say the animated Clone Wars figures are selling a) better than the 'real' sculpt style, b) about even, or c) worse? I know it's hard to tell at most retail stores because they are all lumped together and stores (at least in my area) seem to have been shipped a *lot* of product (six weeks after the lines came out, you can still pretty much get any figure from Clone Wars line 1, the first two Legacy lines, and the Saga Legends first line; in fact I've seen first day of issue stickers loitering around even this week). Did Hasbro release too much product at once, and has that helped or hurt the Clone Wars line, do you think (I know there's intended support through next year, but then there was for Indiana Jones too and that line has *tanked* at retail)?

[snip]

I'm beginning to wonder if (what I perceive to be) a growing (and wholly asinine) aversion to the prequels isn't the cause. [snip] People are going to like what appeals to them. But it really feels like people are closing their eyes -- and minds -- to prequel stuff merely because it is prequel stuff, which to me seems, well, kind of stupid. SW is a BIG playground now and we all have areas that don't really grab us (I find most of the novels are pretty bad personally), so maybe this is just the whining of someone who thinks he's seeing a backlash against a part of SW lore he really likes (for the record, I really enjoyed Clone Wars and have seen it twice, can't wait for the show).
--Ed


The anti-prequel question is a bit of a doozy. I'm a big believer that most franchises have a sort of magical property about them that causes the real feelings toward one story to be transferred to a later installment. For example, the box office success of The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean sequels all came from the first strong film. Ditto the merchandise-- the reason POTC2 had such great toys and strong purchases were because of the love for the first picture. In this case, a lot of people hated the prequels but stuck out the movies-- and now that the story of the movies is over, a lot of the indifference or general distaste of the Old Republic is being fueled into The Clone Wars. Which, as far as I can tell, isn't entirely fair given that the cartoony movie didn't strike me as quite as indulgent as parts of the prequels.

I've seen no evidence that Star Wars toys are hurting in any way. LEGO and Hasbro products seem to be doing just fine, but the edition sizes on recent Gentle Giant and Sideshow items (really, over the past year) lead me to wonder what the heck is going on there. It's entirely possible that the success of Star Wars is largely driven by kids, because, let's face it, all we collectors do is complain. We don't typically go on forums and say things like "this new C-3PO figure is entirely wonderful!" And those prequel toys are selling to somebody.

Regarding product availability, what we're seeing here is fairly normal for a "launch." In 1999, with the exception of Darth Maul, those initial Episode I figures were widely available. Ditto 2002's Episode II line's first wave, and much of the first few waves of Episode III in 2005. Sure, some figures were popular, but a very short toy run could usually yield the entire first couple of dozen figures with limited problems. It would seem that the first day of issue stickers-- a really bad piece of marketing in light of the hundreds of dollars of new product, especially given that a sticker does not a "first day of issue" make-- continue to trickle in. I don't know if you pay attention to assortment breakdowns, but no single case has more than 4 first day sticker figures in it. So if anything, there's a certain level of BS/marketing to it, but those terms tend to be pretty swappable. (And I say this as someone in marketing.)

Star Wars was and continues to be a largely kid-driven franchise. It's just that kids grow up-- the reason it's so big today is that the children of what may be referred to as Generation X grew up and came back to it. It's hard to tell what today's kids are going to do, but it's entirely possible they'll grow out of Star Wars (like so many of us did from 1985-1991) and come back some day. Of course, Star Wars went away once, and it hasn't yet done so again. The toy line is consistently successful, the sheer quantity of product each year is gargantuan, and complain as they do, collectors still line up to buy.

I can't say I blame fans for hating on the prequels, or even the TV show, as long as they took the time to see it. The strangest reactions I've seen to the new Clone Wars project are something like this: "Lucas sold out. I'm not going to watch this cartoon crap, I'm just going to buy the toys."

...I'm a firm believer that there's a very large part of the fan base which will buy absolutely anything Hasbro cranks out, without exceptions. This isn't a huge number, but the number that'll buy every basic action figure-- I believe-- is pretty big. Backlash or no, we're in a hobby which survived Hurricane Episode I, several off-years, and countless competitors. No licensed movie figure line has lasted forever, but history shows that a lot of brands will go on even if the fans shift. Someone's going to buy this stuff no matter what we think.




2. How long do you think Hasbro will do the build-a-droid pack Ins? It seems as though continuing a program like that would force people to buy the whole wave, Right? I'm still debating whether it's worth it. I don't know how many times they can get me to buy repacks or repaints of figures i already have. Plus I'm not sure i want to collect figures from comics and other sources besides the movies and TV shows
I was also wondering since Hasbro has stated in recent Q&A's that the animated and legacy figures are going to remain separate (which is fine by me!) Do you think this will spawn 2 types of collectors.
How long before people stop belly-aching about the stylized look of the animated figures? Clone Wars is here to stay and has a long way to go before it ends right? With the release of the cartoon network preview the other night I'm baffled at the lack of excitement for this huge venture Lucusfilm and Hasbro are about to take us all on? I'm Excited are You?
--Chad


Right now the build-a-droid line looks like it's going to have a healthy 12-18 months of production, so right now I'd be surprised if it doesn't last until near the end of 2009. Hasbro might change this depending on sales and new cost factors, but if history tells us anything is that Hasbro won't keep it around forever.

While the Animation and Real/Other lines are separate, I don't know if it will split the collector base too much. I see a lot of people break down and buy into the toon figures because they want to buy something and no new "movie" figures are available, or because they heard some figures like R2-D2 are awesome. (He is, by the by.) As long as Hasbro keeps cartoon characters out of the realistic line, there's a very good chance both could thrive or at the very least co-exist for a while. Collectors seemingly embraced the cartoon line, with only 8 figures out there they seem to be doing just fine.

As far as complaining goes, never. A lot of collectors are pretty focused and anything that isn't what they love is going to be the target of much malice. You'll see the same thing in competing home video formats, video game consoles, and anything else that fans could argue over. Fan interest seems to be a little tepid, but that might have to do with expectations or people going into this not wanting to like it. I'm just a curious fan-- I'll watch something even if (or especially if) someone tells me it's bad. I just finally saw Star Trek Nemesis, for example. It's entirely possible fans will warm up to the show, but I'd be lying if I said I was crazy about the two separate lines-- I'd personally rather just see one, even if it meant shelving the classic movie figures for a while. Do we really need to have cartoony and real clones on the pegs next to one another?

...but to answer your question, I'm all about the TV show. It's a great medium, even if its golden age is behind us, and seeing the saga on TV could be really fun. And if an episode sucks, it's only going to be another 7 days until the next one. As someone who has watched many episodes of Star Trek, I can say that I wouldn't get your hopes too high-- even a beloved franchise can have multiple rotten episodes. That's no reason to knock the entire series, but it is worth mentioning that a 10-20% suck rate shouldn't be a big surprise on a good weekly sci-fi television program. especially if it skews young. (Plus we've had dozens of great [and awful] comics, games, and novels, so I'm expecting a mostly good mixed bag here.)




3. Also, some of the figures I have said first day of issue with the blue foil star wars logo. Will these be rarer than the non foil logo ones? Does it matter?
--Eddie


The intent of those "First Day of Issue" stickers on the first 8 The Clone Wars and first 12 The Legacy Collection figures were to drive sales and create a little extra buzz on an already buzzworthy line. It seems that under 20% of the production of each figure so far has the label, and it might be closer to 10% or less. The real question, which you asked, is if it matters-- I'd say probably not. Typically these "Ultimate Galactic Hunt"-style chase figures do well during slower seasons, but in the midst of a big push, they get lost in the shuffle. Many fans just don't care, and history shows us that this sort of thing doesn't generally have a lot of lasting interest with fans. By the time the next few waves hit, these will likely be forgotten.

If you think they're cool, I'd suggest getting a set. If I was on a budget and I could only pick one or the other, I'd skip the first days so I would be able to have a uniform looking packaged collection-- I'd want a uniform look, but that's me. Since it's just another figure with a sticker on it, it's a great way for the manufacturer to convince you to buy the same product again with minimal changes.




4. I recently picked up the Durge/ Anakin Comic 2 pack and was initially impressed by the Durge figure (not sure why). It sparked in me a desire to go back and pick up the other incarnations of Durge as I have, until the last year or two, been strictly an OT figure collector. I bought the original Clone Wars carded Durge as well as the Deluxe Durge with bike. I haven't had the opportunity to get a good look at the Deluxe (it hasn't arrived yet), but today I received the single carded figure and rushed to do a side-by-side comparison of the two (old and new) versions. At first I thought that the new version borrowed parts from the older version since some of the basic features are pretty similar. I was disappointed by this until I took a closer look and realized that the new version is not only all-new but, sculpt-wise (IMO) not as detailed as the original. The original has more paint apps and added details that the newer Durge is lacking. The 08 Durge is pretty plain in comparison and missing some of the oomph that the older one brings to the table. Sure, the newer figure has some more articulation (although there are no knee joints) but I am a bit surprised at how much cruder the newer version looks compared to the older Durge. I am not an EU guy and have therefore only seen the character in the Cartoon Network Clone Wars series as well as the comic book packaged with the 08 figure. Still, it just seems like the older figure packs a better punch. Is the new one more accurate in all of its ...blandness? Where does the Deluxe figure rate compared to the other two? Your thoughts?
--Dan


The deluxe Durge with his bike is my overall favorite-- best helmet, best articulation, and best accessories. He also holds together nicely. The 2003 basic figure has this weird fleshy patch on his arm, likely meant to be his arm, which doesn't really mesh with the character's appearances in the various comics and cartoons too well. The 2008 figure looks a lot like the 2003 one, but with less detail, a smaller head, and... well, it just doesn't sing. And it should.

Accuracy is tough to read. The character looks different in each incarnation, as artists take liberties with the design. I'd suggest checking out some Internet pages on the character for reference, or if you really don't follow the comics, just pick your favorite. I'm willing to give a little in terms of detail if it's more fun as a toy, which is why I think the deluxe model is the best.

I would agree that the new one is cruder, and it certainly needs something to make it better. Fanboys and girls, hold on to your 2003 figures if you got 'em.




5. So what do you suppose is the deal with [these guys from Asia selling figures by the lot on eBay]? I know you've obliquely
referenced back-door factory sources for toys before, but I'm eager to
talk frankly. I'm not interested in tossing around accusations or
anything, I just think there may be a lot of conversation worthy
information implied by these auctions. I kinda feel like this guy is
getting some sort of unofficial factory output - most likely "off hours"
production runs.

Might it be possible to guess mold usage from such a seller's available
stock?
--John


At one point it seemed pretty telling that these individuals were picking up items from current production runs, but over the years it has been all over the place. They have sold G.I. Joes which never saw an official release, Star Wars figures from several years ago, and even upcoming items. There's no obvious pattern to the items being sold versus what will or won't come out, as these sellers have even sold kitbashed figures of their own designs which were never produced by Hasbro proper.

I honestly don't know what the deal is with them, but I'm wagering a guess that they're done in the off-hours from real Hasbro molds. That, or surplus product made for any of a variety of purposes, such as safety tests or items which were never completed. (For example, there have been cases of toy companies making too much product and not enough boxes, and those toys will end up going somewhere or being ordered destroyed-- and it's possible employees take them rather than have them ground up.)

I know Hasbro's official stance is "it's stolen property" most of the time when prototypes or anything that looks like it came from a factory is concerned, but that simply can't be true. Employees do get this stuff and sometimes sell it off. And if a factory sends Hasbro every piece it ordered and cranks out a few hundred extra for one reason or another, there's definitely some intellectual property rights issues here, but there's no guarantee it's genuinely "stolen" product. It's hard to get information out of these sellers for a variety of reasons, especially given there's often a bit of a language barrier in many cases.

Right now, I'd look at them as merely being interesting to watch for potential new unannounced products or shots at items I've missed-- seeing older molds show up for auction doesn't necessarily mean anything, for all I know someone bought a huge wholesale lot of figures, opened them, and is now selling them at a premium price as an army. (I've seen people pay more per-figure for a lot of unpackaged clones than they would for just one single packaged figure on a regular basis.) I wish I could say that there's something you can read into from the figures they sell beyond the obvious, but right now, I would be unable to see any consistent patterns out of these sellers' inventories.




FIN

Last week was pretty miserable-- thanks for all the kind words, by the way-- but I did manage to stumble on the Ewoks and Droids cartoon DVDs as a mall in Phoenix. It really is a shame these are essentially out of circulation, even though they are oddly edited together with stock footage from other episodes appearing in strange places. No sign yet of the live-action Ewok DVDs any more... but I'm still looking.

You may have seen my post earlier in the week regarding my initial impressions of the Toys "R" Us exclusive Lars Homestead set. My opinions on the topic of its value haven't changed much, but it is fun to mess with it. It's just ridiculously overpriced and has a much lower production quality than I've come to expect from Hasbro which, I suppose, may be my own fault. These little figures aren't all perfect, but I've never seen plastic this flimsy used on any of what I considered to be a collector-grade toy line. Having bought the cardboard sets, which I thought were fine, I found this to be more than a little disappointing. However, I have kept it within arm's reach while at home for a while and have been messing with it here and there. So don't not buy it just because I think it's potentially the worst value of the year outside the $13-$15 individually carded exclusive figures-- you might have fun with it. Just be careful, it's fragile.

I'd also like to add that I can't put down the Tobbi Dala and Fenn Shysa figures. These things are pretty amazingly great for repaints with new heads. That, and they also beg for their own vehicle(s), so here's hoping Hasbro cranks out some fun, angular, 1980s-style space ships with two seats in them. Or three. (And also, I'd like to see a Boba Fett based on the art from those particular issues...)

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!

Posted byAdam16bit at 12:04 AM 0 comments  

Star Wars Legacy Comic Packs Wave 2 Impressions

They'll all be in Figure of the Day soon, but I just got the rest of Wave 2 of the new comic packs. It seems Hasbro is putting more effort into this sub-line than the basic figures in 2008, as it's loaded with clever repaints, excellent retools, and brand new figures on par with your average basic action figure.

Star Wars #68 with Fenn Shysa and Dengar
Not one to rest on their molds, Hasbro took the 2008 Evolutions Jango Fett and gave him a new head. The 2003 Dengar was redecorated as well. As a fairly shameless fanboy for Marvel's Star Wars, I like this set a lot. The weirdly colored Dengar looks like a bootleg, and Fenn... well, I wish I liked Fenn more as a toy. Jango's oddly hanging holsters don't look good here, and Fenn's head feels small. His armor looks great though, very much a product of the 1980s. There are no real surprises in accessories or articulation.

Star Wars #69 with Tobbi Dala and Princess Leia
We have a winner! Princess Leia isn't the winner, but she's good-- it's a 1998 mold with a newly sculpted belt and improved paint. She fits right in witht he comic art, being almost entirely white. The holster isn't very good in that it's squished under her vest, which will also squish her blaster if it is held inside. Also, her right hand is warped and if you remove the rubber band, she may drop the gun. Tobbi Dala is a pile of awesome. Great metallic coloring, wonderful pose, and it's based on the 2008 Evolutions Boba Fett. The figure's poses remind me of the various hip-hop Mandalorians at comic conventions and the bright coloring is very retro. You simply must buy this set.

Star Wars Legacy #2 with Darth Talon and Cade Skywalker
Both are all-new molds. Cade doesn't include a lightsaber (no matter what the art or insert tray may say), but Talon does. Cade is super articulated, has his belt packaged on him backwards, and includes his trademark customized special rifle. His head is also a little funky, but the costume is great. Talon is almost super-articulated (no elbows), but is otherwise wonderful. Her lightsaber is a little rubbery, but she's unique enough to warrant a purchase. The set is a must-buy for fans of the Legacy comics.

Star Wars Legacy #6 with Antares Draco and Ganner Krieg
Both share a body, but it's an all-new body. Pros: wonderful paint, great soft goods, super articulation, good poses. Cons: hoods don't stay up well, lightsabers can't be pegged to belts, clearish white blades look goofy. Ganner's head is pretty good, but Antares is quite striking-- it almost looks like it can come to life and speak to you. Again, this is a must-buy for fans of the series. Draco won't let you down.

As a Star Wars comic fan, I'd rate the entire wave a must-buy... but you likely are not a fan of both comics from 1981 and 2008. As such, you might be put off by the oddly colored Marvel characters, or the distant future generations of Legacy. It's hard to identify a true favorite, but out of this wave I'd say the true highlights are Tobbi Dala and Cade Skywalker. If either character appeals to you on some level, buy the figures.

Posted byAdam16bit at 12:22 AM 0 comments