STAR WARS, REVISITED
EPISODE IV
A NEW HOPELESSNESS

Last modified: Saturday, November 1, 2008 8:32 PM

 

Medicom Dark Stormtrooper

 

Palpatine My fellow prisoners...

Unfortunately, articles demand some kind of exposition, so I'm afraid that once again, I must subject you to that. Before I begin, I should mention that I am well aware that I haven't done a web update in a very long time... but I should remind you that time between is a necessary evil that keeps everything from happening at once. Yes, it's horribly inefficient, and we'd all be finished if not for this inconvenient truth... but that's just the way it is. So... there! Nyahhhh! The reward for your patience is this tedious obligatory exposition, in the form of yet another dull retrospective:

My Internet "life" started around '97 when I joined Phillip Wise's Star Wars customizing maillist; that inspired me to start this website as a way to show off my 3-3/4" custom figures. The figure customizers' mantra could be summarized thusly: "If they don't make what you want, grow your own." But it wasn't long before Hasbro started to produce even the obscure SW characters-- and in many cases, did a very respectable job. Customizing opportunities seemed to dry up. For a while, I tried to keep up with the collecting aspect, but was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of 3-3/4" stuff that Hasbro was releasing. Eventually, I drifted away from 3-3/4" Star Wars customizing and followed my interests into the larger 12" figure/doll format; I didn't take up customizing Hasbro's 12" format stuff though.

Hasbro had been doing the 12" format concurrently with the 3-3/4", as Kenner had done back in the beginning. During the late '90s, Hasbro extended their 12" lineup with lots of new and interesting figures-- the cantina band, aliens, imperials, etc. The only problem was that many of their products were super-funky. As with the rest of their 12" GI-Joe products, they had da jones for velcro and oversized weapons. It didn't help that their choice of base figure was awful: It was typically a barely poseable chunk of plastic with rubber feet that didn't allow the doll to stand without external means of support. They went through various incremental changes in figure design, but it seemed that the Star Wars line always got the oldest and crappiest ones.

I credit Marmit with producing the first "adult" 12"-format Star Wars figure in 1999, their Stormtrooper. Around about this time, the 1:6 scale market was undergoing a renaissance (thanks to Dragon and 21st Century Toys), focused around the concept of realistic miniature replicas that would appeal to the adult collector. Whereas Hasbro had focused on the toy market-- sturdy toys that captured the general look of the Star Wars icons, Marmit (and other producers) had begun focusing on dolls that were like models; delicate and intricately detailed, to accurately replicate the proportions and design of the 1:1 scale subject. Also, manufacturers had begun to concentrate on improving the articulation of the figure. Although Marmit's initial ball-headed, hand & footless figure was pretty odd with sparse articulation, it was a huge improvement over the rubber-legged figure Hasbro had been using.

Marmit didn't hang around for very long. They produced a Stormtrooper, a couple versions of Sandtroopers, the Fetts, a TIE pilot and an AT-AT driver. Medicom then stepped up to the plate and produced their take on high-end 1:6 Star Wars merchandise. A few years later, Sideshow Toys got the license and started their line of 1:6 scale Star Wars products. That's still going strong today, and they've made distribution agreements with Medicom and Hot Toys. I imagine that Hasbro is still in the game, although their production routine seems be fitful and intense, tied in with media release schedules, while the other guys target the enduring Star Wars fan base at a much more relaxed pace.

TIE Pilot costume I've been out of the customizing/doll-making & collecting mode for quite a while, so why am I writing about Star Wars now? Well, it's because I bought "Star Wars Unleashed" for our Wii console and really sucked at it. Yep, I was really bad at it, and had absolutely no idea what I was doing with those farking controllers. Sooooo... what Star Wars games are out there for the PC? Not much new stuff, but they re-released a bunch of oldies in a "Best of" collection, which led to searches for other old games. I'm a bit behind the times, but I finally got to play "Jedi Academy" and "Battlefront II". Fun stuff! It made me want to get a 1:1 TIE pilot helmet. Once I got that, I thought, "Well Jeez... why not the whole costume?"... and a she-mannequin to wear it? (BTW, there are some really -ahem- interesting mannequins out there nowadays...) The 1:1 scale stuff is really unwieldly, so why not get the Marmit TIE pilot doll? That started a new cascade of spending, and all of a sudden I find myself heavily invested in a bunch of newly-purchased 12" Star Wars stuff. It's a good thing I checked my storage shed, because I was on the verge of buying stuff that I already had! (Now that's pathetic...) Yes, but it's even more pathetic than that: I ordered most of the new stuff within a two-week period, so there were days when I was coming home to four or five packages stacked at my front door. I'm still getting packages, although the pace has slowed. I'd like to believe that I'm doing my part to help the struggling global economy.

When you're bombarded with that much "fun" at once, it loses some of its fun. After quickly processing/playing with/enjoying the latest batch, I was forced to think about dealing with that huge accumulation of shipping boxes and packing materials. Hark! Is that the sound of the world's tiniest violin? I mention this to let you know (in advance of writing about it) that I haven't spent lots of quality time evaluating and considering customizing options; so this is like my whirlwind second honeymoon with Star Wars stuff. Honestly, when you've got a single new toy to play with, you're likely to put much more time and attention into jazzing it up than if you get a bunch all at once.

An observation: As awful as I've thought the Hasbro stuff was, and despite the frequent trashing of the "Hasblow" name, I've come to believe that Hasbro has gotten an unfairly harsh rap. Sure, some of it is unredeemably awful, but some of it is salvageable. I consider myself fortunate in that I'm not an accuracy-nazi, so I've found that sometimes, with a figure swap and a few tweaks, the result isn't as awful. In fact, I've found that it's more fun to fix the Hasbro stuff than buying and shelving the good 'nuff out-of-the-box Sideshow stuff. The kicker is that the Hasbro stuff can be had for pretty good prices, since it's shunned by many adult collectors. Their Shaak Ti doll compares very well to Sideshow's Assajj Ventress and Aayla Secura, at a fraction of the cost. Hasbro has the resources to produce ambitious products, like the Scout Trooper and Speeder bike, that other manufacturers might balk at. I'm truly grateful that they've produced so much variety while I've been busy not buying their stuff. Although Sideshow or some other producer may eventually get around to producing a better rendition, the discontinued Hasbro stuff is still out there and can often be had now, at a fairly reasonable price. Like I said, it's fun and gratifying to make 'em display-worthy.

Star Wars dolls

This is the first installment in a series of articles (hopefully) about some 12" Star Wars stuff-- because I think it's pretty neat stuff, and I'm decadent enough to think that it's worth writing about. Just so you don't get the wrong idea, these aren't reviews or customizing articles, but collections of pics and rambling commentaries. I'll be putting up new articles periodically (again, hopefully), and tweaking older ones (because stuff is still coming in). I'm hoping that this will inspire you to start spending money that you shouldn't be spending; together, our noble sacrifice will lead the way to a future of unimaginable poverty and blinding despair.

-11/01/08

 

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