You know I’m into a toyline when I start doing lists like this. You’d think it would be only fair if I started reviewing the toys, too, but my camera died recently and I’m saving up for a quality replacement. As soon as I can afford it, I’m planning to do a whole Star Wars Black week.
Anyway, as I was coming up with this list it occurred to me that Kenner’s Star Wars may be the reason I tend to want toys of anything cool I see – movies, television shows, comics. Because Kenner turned everything from Star Wars into a toy. Yes, there were a few glaring exceptions (see below), but for the most part the 1970s-’80s toy line covered anyone who got at least five seconds of screen time. It conditioned me and a generation of collectors to want action figures of anything that moved.
Hasbro has taken this to extremes since relaunching the line in the mid-1990s, giving us figures of anyone who got a mere half a second of screen time, plus a slew of characters who got no screen time at all (i.e., the Expanded Universe of books, concept figures, and so forth). Of course, this was all in the iconic 4″ scale that is most closely associated with Star Wars. It’s easy to create action figures of Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Revan when the investment to do so is minimal.
The question is, will Hasbro’s new 6″ Star Wars Black (SWB)* line be nearly as comprehensive? The figures are more expensive to produce due to more detailed sculpting, multiple points of articulation, and plethora of accessories. I think it’s safe to say that while the line will cover the heavy hitters and, if it proves popular enough, may cover much of the breadth of the 115 figures that make up the 1977-1983 roster, I doubt it will get into the Expanded Universe (particularly since much, perhaps most, of the EU will likely soon be wiped from existence by J.J. Abrams, Destroyer of Continuities).
But that won’t stop me from making a list of my five most-wanted Likely characters and my most wanted Unlikely characters in SWB.
(For the purposes of the Likely list, I skipped characters who are obvious shoo-ins, like Chewbacca or Darth Vader.)
Poe’s Five Most-Wanted Figures Likely to Make It into Star Wars Black
#5 Nien Nunb
A favorite of young Poe, the guy with the unpronounceable surname gets the nod largely because he got to fly the Millennium Falcon, the greatest spaceship in all of science fiction. (You will never convince me otherwise, so don’t waste your time.) I’m also fond of his stylish red-and-black outfit.
I’m not really in any rush to get this guy, honestly, but when I thought about figures I really loved as a kid, this guy came up. I think the big reason is that Return of the Jedi was the Star Wars movie I really remember seeing in the theater (my dad took me out of kindergarten to see it opening day), and it’s the movie I had the most toys from.
#4 Hammerhead, a.k.a. Momaw Nadon
I don’t care what all those Expanded Universe Tales book say (and for the record, I love those books but some of the stories get pretty ridiculous) – this guy is Hammerhead. He was a goofy-looking alien and for that reason alone, his action figure was much beloved by young Star Wars fans. I definitely remember having one, and I hope he gets honored with a 6″ version.
#3 Admiral Ackbar
This is another case where my ROTJ-centrism comes up. Most fans seem to treat the character like a joke now, but I loved Ackbar was a kid, and was really fond of his action figure. I think we’re pretty likely to see a 6″ Ackbar, and perhaps not too far down the road.
I’m sure we’ll get this guy, along with all the Empire Strikes Back bounty hunters, but he’s the one I’m most looking forward to. The idea of a droid assassin just seems so obvious. The fact that he looks less like a killer robot and more like a scrap metal sculpture you’d find outside a shop at Venice Beach only adds to his charm.
#1 Grand Moff Tarkin
Easily my favorite Star Wars bad guy after Darth Vader – and sometimes even contending with the Dark Lord of the Sith for number one – I still can’t believe the banally evil Tarkin didn’t get an action figure in the vintage line. They made figures of guys who were on-screen so briefly Kenner wasn’t even sure what they looked like, and yet the main villain of the film (sorry, Vader) gets the shaft? Criminal.
The reason why Tarkin never got a figure is probably simple: kids preferred monsters and aliens so Kenner rushed them out first, and by the time they got around to considering Tarkin everyone was already shifting gears for The Empire Strikes Back and it didn’t seem profitable to release characters based on the previous movie. Of course, in retrospect this was silly – anything Star Wars sold like hotcakes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I’m sure there’s no way Hasbro would make the same mistake today, but back then, I can see it making business sense. Kenner hadn’t quite grasped how much Star Wars had changed the action figure game.
Anyway, the only way to make up for this outrage is to give Grand Moff Tarkin a 6″ figure in wave 4.
We’re probably going to see all the above characters in SWB eventually (unless the line collapses as predicted by Phil Reed). But in the event the line proves so massively successful that Hasbro begins producing characters of Demo-Man-level obscurity, here are my five most-wanted characters.
Poe’s Five Most-Wanted Figures Unlikely to Make It into Star Wars Black
#5 Death Trooper
We’ve already got a Storm Trooper coming in SWB wave 3, so why not change up a few bits here and there and make a Death Trooper? I’ll tell you why: the “character” is only from one book, and not a very well-known one, and it doesn’t even make sense as an exclusive. I’m definitely going to have to customize this one, because there is zero chance we will see this in SWB.
#4 Dark trooper
The Dark Forces and Jedi Knight games are arguably my second-favorite bits of the Expanded Universe after the Han Solo Adventures. The first game, Dark Forces, was a straightforward shooter that eschewed the whole “Jedi” thing and stuck mainly to the more military and underworld aspects of the SW universe, which is one of the reasons Dark Forces is my favorite of those games.
The dark troopers were essentially hulking battle droids, back before the idea of battle droids had become synonymous with goofy voices and general incompetence. The design was popular enough to not only get a 4″ figure in 1998, but a re-release as the #1 fan choice in 2007. If SWB gets around to the EU and if Disney hasn’t put a moratorium on all EU material of the pre-Abrams-era by then, there’s a slight chance we may actually get this guy in 6″ form.
When it came out in 2003 in the midst of the prequel trilogy, I found the experience of playing Knights of the Old Republic like getting a drink of water after crawling through a desert for days. Unlike the prequels, KOTOR had a plot that made sense, believable characters, and fantastic dialogue. Much of that great dialogue came from the terminally sardonic HK-47, a droid assassin who finds himself an indentured servant to the “meatbag” of a main character.
HK-47 was released in the 4″ line as a Build-a-Droid in 2009, so there’s a precedent for Hasbro making him, at least.
#2 Kyle Katarn
As I said, I love the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight games – in fact, I’ve recently come to suspect that I got the inspiration for “Poe Ghostal” not from a cheat code typed “gopostal” as I long thought, but “lapostal,” a cheat code in Dark Forces. As I mentioned earlier, I preferred the secret agent Kyle from Dark Forces to the one who became yet another hero destined to become a Jedi in Jedi Knight, but I love the character no matter what his appearance. Since his Jedi Knight look is a bit more iconic, I suspect that in the unlikely event he gets a SWB figure, it will be in that outfit. And you gotta love that 1990s Cable-style shoulder pad.
Kyle’s received not one but two 4″ figures (here and here), Again, while I strongly suspect SWB will never get anywhere near the EU, in the unlikely event it does I might just be lucky enough to get a Kyle Katarn figure.
#1 Bollux/Blue Max
These guys will not be in Star Wars Black. They’re so obscure they never even made it into the 4″ line, despite being older than any SW character aside from the ones introduced in A New Hope.
Bollux (“Zollux” in the U.K., due to “bollocks” being a naughty slang term) was a slow, old-model droid introduced in the aforementioned Han Solo Adventures, a trilogy of novellas that came out in the late 1970s to help fuel the public’s insatiable appetite for new Star Wars material while Lucasfilm worked on The Empire Strikes Back. Taking place a year or two prior to the events of Star Wars, the stories feature Han and Chewie roaming around the “Corporate Sector,” a region of the galaxy that was more or less unregulated by the Empire; there are passing references to stormtroopers and whatnot, but for the most part the stories are straight-up pulp adventure featuring everyone’s favorite scoundrel.
Bollux and his pal, Blue Max, a tiny, cube-shaped droid who lives in his chest cavity, are introduced in the first story and join Han’s crew for the duration of the trilogy. I’d love to get them in toy form for the simple reason that I love The Han Solo Adventures and would love to get something in plastic that’s unique to those books.
But again, no matter how desperate Hasbro has been for new characters in their 4″ line, Bollux and Blue Max have never rated. It’s virtually impossible they’ll show up in SWB, unless for some bizarre reason J.J. Abrams decides to pluck them out of obscurity and put them in one of the new movies. Since I’m 100% that won’t happen, I must accept the fact I will never own a 6″ scale Bollux/Blue Max.
* Per this post, for the foreseeable future anytime I write “Star Wars Black” or “SWB,” I am referring to the 6″ line. I realize this may annoy some 4″ collectors, but it’s what I’m going to do.