Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Saga Continues

Click the play button on the video / song before you start. It'll make for great ambiance while reading.

The Star Wars Saga continues with twenty-Nine all new (vintage) Kenner action figures featuring characters from the exciting sequel, "The Empire Strikes Back"! Join Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia - And the laundry list of other characters - as they explore new and exciting worlds such as the ice planet of Hoth, and the floating Cloud City.

Watch as a character with two lines in the entire film skyrockets in popularity surpassing a slew of new heroes, villains and creatures. Then revel in glee as you pay out the nose for a rocket firing version of said character...

Okay, okay. Let's get this back on track.

As many of you may know at this point, I opened Pandora's box back in December of 2017. With the aid of some ebay gift cards I received for Christmas. I went to work putting together a collection of all twenty-one of the original Kenner Star Wars figures released between 1978 and 1979. I suppose it was inevitable that this was going to continue into the next wave of toys.

You know...These;

Even I have to admit I'm really surprised with myself as to how quickly I am accumulating these things. I think it's fairly safe to say the word "addiction" comes to mind. These things are literally consuming my life right now.

When I'm not buying them, I'm constantly clicking tracking numbers - Impatiently waiting for them to arrive. When I'm not clicking tracking numbers, I'm one step ahead researching prices for the Return of the Jedi wave. What? You though I would stop at just the first two films? When I'm not doing any of the above, I'm looking at the potential price points for the final Power of the Force line. Needless to say, I'm trapped in a pretty vicious cycle right now. I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!

So get sick with me, and let's dive in!

Fans of the vintage figures know that Bossk gets the right of saying, "First!" He was offered during the "Secret Figure" campaign towards the tail end of the original Star Wars line, and became the first official Empire Strikes Back figure. Yes, I know - Boba Fett came out on the 21 back Star Wars card, and was technically the first character from the sequel.

If you missed your chance to get Bossk as a mail away figure (back in 1980), worry not. The figure was also one of the first produced on the thirty-one back cards (aka the first wave of Empire figures).

Admittedly, I could have held out for a better condition one - In terms of paint. The "+" on the chest is all but missing on the one I got.

IG-88 was the third soon to be iconic Bounty Hunter released in the culmination of the vintage line. Much like Bossk and Boba Fett (and forthcoming 4-LOM and Zuckuss) his shear mystery is intriguing enough to make him awesome.

The figure is also one of very few to include two weapons.

In keeping with my prior Luke figure, I opted to stick with the blonde hair version when it came down to picking up Luke Skywalker in Bespin Fatigues. It also didn't hurt that the blonde hair version was the first iteration of this figure.

This version of Luke also happens to be the second figure released in the line with duel weapons. Admittedly though - That bright yellow lightsaber is pretty disappointing. Why couldn't Kenner have produced a blue one?

Leia in her Bespin gown was one of the last few figures I picked up in the line. What was interesting to find out about this particular series was how much more expensive the main hero characters were as compared to...Well...All the others. I ended up paying an average of $60.00 to $80.00 for each hero (regardless of their outfit) whereas I was spending between $20.00 and $30.00 each (for the most part) for all the other figures.

There were two versions of Leia released - the one shown here and a second with a painted neck known in the collector's world as the turtleneck variant. While I'm glad the version I got turned out to be the first edition, truth be told I would have taken either in light of the difficulty I was having tracking one down in decent condition with all original cape and blaster.

In general, I was finding it a little challenging to find Empire series figures which didn't contain reproduction accessories. Fortunately my diligent searching paid off as none of mine have any reproduction stuff. Don't want it!

When Lando was first released, he came in the form as...Well, here...

However, once Return of the Jedi rolled out to theaters and with it came more toys, the figure was updated to feature painted white teeth. Since I was focusing strictly on the Empire line and no variants (at this time) it was a no brainer to go for the one I ended up with.

I do wish the cape didn't have the splotches on it, but it's still okay overall. I may see if I can wipe those off with a damp cloth.

Kenner released two versions of the Bespin Security Guard. The first was on the thirty-one back cards and what I personally dub as "1st Edition Bespin Security Guard".

If you're familiar with the figure, you can see on mine that none of the gold / bronze paint detail is intact on the vest. The lesson learned - Know what you're looking for before you buy. This is definitely a figure I will be replacing in the near future.

The Hoth version of Han Solo was proving to be a little difficult to track down in decent condition. Multiple versions I kept coming across had chipped paint on the hands showing large patches of the blue plastic underneath.

I finally came across this one and nabbed it up.

You can find Rebel Soldiers in great abundance online. Oddly though, finding one with either a weapon or one that isn't repro can prove a little challenging. Even then, I don't think I spent more than $15.00 for this guy.

Worth every dollar in my book. Superb paint job.

FX-7 was a difficult figure to find with limbs which hadn't warped so badly they would no longer stay "attached" to the body.

When I came across this one I got lucky on two fronts. Not only did it have good legs which didn't spring out of place, but also a nice tight "head" which actually stays in place when raised up.

When I was first hunting for an Imperial Stormtrooper (in Hoth Gear) I was so focused on finding a solid white one with an authentic rifle that I almost completely forgot the figure originally came with a "skirt". Boy that took the search to a whole new level of frustration and expense.

Let me put it into perspective for you - A nice white Snow Trooper with original rifle is about $15.00. One in that same condition with the skirt - About $45.00. Nice price hike for a piece of vinyl, huh? Well, ask any vinyl cape Jawa collector that question.

Do I go with orange snake Yoda or brown? Again, it all came down to which version was released first that was driving what I was looking for and that turned out to be the orange snake version.

Yoda just so happens to be the one and only thirty-two back figure in the series - Well, with the exception of re-carded / re-released "older" figures.

It was seriously getting ridiculous with how much some of these figures were going for that I honestly took a break from the Empire series for a while and focused on some of the Return of the Jedi figures and (more expensive) Power of the Force line. If I was going to spend "large" amounts for each figure, I was determined to focus on the rarer ones instead.

I nabbed up Jabba and the entire line up of the Max Rebo Band. However, I mainly stayed focused on what collectors dub the, "Last 17." This group consists of the final two Return of the Jedi figures released (Lumat and Paploo) as well as all of the original Power of the Force line. As of this writing, I have both Lumat and Paploo as well as eight ten twelve fourteen all of the fifteen PotF figures so far and will probably just finish that series up prior to jumping into more Return of the Jedi ones. It's been a productive couple weeks.

I will say I did (however) finish the Empire line before crossing off all of the Power of the Force figures...and done. I just finished my Return of the Jedi set as well.

Right...So where were we in regards to Empire?

I couldn't determine which version of the Ugnaught was released first - The blue or purple smock so what actually drove me to get this version was that it was not only 100% complete / vintage, but also came with a 100% complete / vintage Dengar and 4-LOM (aka Zuckuss). All three for a mere $40.00!

Ugnaught marks one of the first released on the forty-one back cards.

Speaking of Dengar, he just so happens to be next on the list and the forth Bounty Hunter released.

Is there really much more that needs to be said about him? I mean, look at him. He's covered in toilet paper. That's cool, right?

Bespin Han Solo was quickly becoming dubbed Bald Spot Han in my world. It took forever to find one that didn't have a massive bald spot on the front of its head. When I finally found one that didn't I ended up having to pay a premium because it also came with the card back.

In the end, the added cost paid off. The figure I got is pristine. I also put the cardback back on ebay and recouped a few dollars of my purchase. So, that wasn't too bad a deal in the long run.

Speaking of bald characters. Here's one that is actually supposed to have no hair - Lobot.

Lobot was one of the first figures I picked up when I started my Empire collection. Unlike the original Star Wars line, which I stayed focused on buying in order of release per cardbacks, I was all over the place for this line.

While part of me wishes I would have followed this same game plan for the Empire line, I suppose the end results were the same regardless. It just made putting them on my shelf a little disorienting as I tried making space for "coming soon" figures.

Another really expensive one - Princess Leia Organa in Hoth Gear. Ones complete with their vintage pistol were incredibly few and far between. I think I came across a mere three of them when searching and even then immediately cut one from that search because the eyebrows had rubbed off.

Princess Leia figures in general seem to be rather expensive in the vintage line and I don't understand why...

...Especially when Rebel Commando figures can be purchased for as little as $10.00 in pristine condition with a vintage rifle.

Sure he's no Princess Leia, but he does get to pass as Cliff from Cheers. Anyone get that reference and how it relates to The Empire Strikes Back?

Cliff in The Empire Strikes Back! Good stuff! Cameo before it would be considered a cameo.

Which leads us to another character first seen on Hoth - the medical droid, 2-1B.

2-1B didn't get as lot of screen time, but was imperative to the story of the Star Wars Trilogy. He saved Luke Skywalker not once, but twice. Without him, the end credits would have rolled after Luke stumbled out of the Wampa's cave.

Finding 2-1B with a vintage scepter proved a little challenging when I was looking for one. It also added to the price considerably when getting one. What kinda bums me out about it is no more than thirty days later and the figure is more readily available and at half the price I paid. Lame.

AT-AT Driver was another of the first few figures I picked up from the Empire series - After nabbing all of the Bounty Hunters.

I was cognizant to ensure the version I got had a solid paint job on the the helmet as well as the chest pieces (both front and back). Getting crystal clear red Imperial insignias was a must on the helmet.

This is definitely one of my favorites from the line.

Another one of my favorites is the Imperial Commander. I don't know what it is about the seemingly "simple" figures which actually stand out for me.

Much like the AT-AT Driver, the paint application in terms of the details was imperative for me. I was only going to accept on with the perfect combination of a solid rank insignia, symbol on the cap (okay, silver dot) and well shaped belt buckle. I think my "picky" selection paid off.

The next few figures are part of the forty-five back wave. Now, if you're like me and you start doing the math adding six new figures to the prior forty-one, your initial reaction is probably like mine and you say, "Wait. Wouldn't that be forty-seven?"

Well, it would if not for one thing. The forty-five backs would be the first time Kenner would discontinue two of the original figures in the line. The original R2-D2 and C-3PO were replaced with the all new R2-D2 with Sensorscope and C-3PO with Removable Limbs. 

The overall design for each figure is the same as that of the originals with the exception of well...What their namesakes claim. C-3PO's limbs now separate from the torso and R2-D2 has a pop up sensor scope tucked away in his dome. C-3PO also comes with a black vinyl "netting" to put on a figures back to carry his pieces - Ala Chewbacca in the film.

Luke in Hoth Gear was a troublesome figure to get in decent condition. The ones I was coming across had either yellowed considerably, showed a lot of paint chipping or had broken weapons (or the dreaded reproduction ones). It was because of this I finally had to settle on the one I ended up with and truth be told I will probably continue my search for a better one.

Though it may not show very well in the photo, the right leg and arm are both yellowed considerably. Now that you know this, take another look at the photo and you'll probably see it.

If I could have just found the perfect one...

AT-AT Commander was the final Hoth related figure released in the line. What's interesting to note is that while the actual character seen on screen was General Veers and the figure itself resembles the actor fairly well, Kenner never named it as such.

I guess they saw it more as an opportunity to "army build" if left generic (if that was even a thing back in 1980). Or perhaps maybe there was some form of kickback needed to the actors if their character names were used. I don't know. I could sit here and guess all night.

Believe it or not, the Cloud Car Pilot figure is rather costly as compared to most of the other "generic" figures in the line. This is because finding one with the original comlink can prove to be rather challenging. Apparently this is an accessory that many people lost throughout the years. This one set me back about $50.00.

I have to admit that for Kenner only having a photograph showing this character from the neck up this figure turned out pretty darn good. The creative team at Kenner took a relatively bland concept and turned it into a somewhat fun toy with one of the most unique accessories produced in the line. Name another figure from this line with a comlink. You can't! I think he's also the only figure with a bent elbow. Look at all the uniqueness oozing off of this guy!

This brings us to the last figure on the forty-five back cards - the 2nd edition Bespin Security Guard. If you look closely, you'll notice one tiny detail on the figure which is missing on all the others - White pupils.

Much like the 1st Edition noted above, I wasn't paying attention / too familiar with this figure when making my initial purchase. As such, I totally lunched on the gold / bronze paint which should have been on the vest. As with the 1st Edition, I will most likely be replacing this one as well. Fortunately neither are all that expensive.

As Kenner was winding down the Empire line, they released only a handful more of figures. The first two, dubbed the forty-seven backs were TIE Fighter Pilot and Zuckuss (who was in fact the incorrectly named 4-LOM). During this time, Kenner also started yet another mail away campaign for the figure 4-LOM - Which as you guess it was actually the incorrectly named Zuckuss.

At first glance, you may think TIE Fighter Pilot is nothing short of a repainted AT-AT Driver. This assumption would be incorrect. While the figures do look very familiar, if you look closely you'll see they are to very different sculpts from head to toe.

As mentioned above, 4-LOM (the real 4-LOM) was released under the incorrect name, Zuckuss. This was an error which would not be corrected until Hasbro's line in the late 90's / early new millennium.

Before retiring the line, Kenner released 4-LOM (Zuckuss) as the only figure on a forty-eight card back. Kenner also used this opportunity to start its new mail away campaign for the first Return Revenge of the Jedi figure, Admiral Ackbar.

4-LOM would also be the first figure to feature a higher quality "cape". Rather than the vinyl style released with prior figures, LOM featured a pleather like quality one.

With that, The Empire Strikes Back line ended, and Return of the Jedi launched the following year. I'll be posting about that one fairly soon.

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