Death Star Playset

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I spent some fantastic quality time with my nine year old daughter.  Together we enjoyed playing with Star Wars figures, in this case some of those from my vintage collection.

I also dug out my Death Star playset, and we set about playing scenes from the film.

Or at least I did, she was more interested in making her own stories up.  Why won’t anyone sensibly recreate the movie with me?  Ever?!  Ah well, at least she had fun.

Now, your Highness, we will discuss the location of hidden Rebel Base…

Perhaps she would respond to an alternative form of persuasion?

All of my Star Wars toy collection means a lot to me, but there are a few items I have that I’m really proud of – and stoked to own.  This Death Star Playset is one of the outstanding pieces in the collection.

It’s made from cardboard sections that slot together, creating a number of rooms in which to recreate scenes from the film.  Rescue Princess Leia and escape via the garbage chute?  No problem.  Have Han Solo chase a squad of stormtroopers into a dead end?  Easily accomplished.

It was bought second hand – along with a few other playsets – back in the early 80s, when I was about 10.  Someone advertised them for sale in the local paper, and my Dad bought them for me.  I was very happy as I’d wanted this playset (and the others) for a long time.  I think the lot cost about £20 at the time, which is a pretty good price.

The Death Star on it’s own is probably worth a lot more than that now.  Although it’s not in mint condition – the box is pretty beaten up (always was) and there are a few tears here and there, as you can see in the photos.  In the USA, they had a plastic Death Star, and this Palitoy UK cardboard version is quite sought after over there.

It was fantastic fun, bringing back a lot of great memories.  I enjoyed setting the figures up and recreating little scenes from the film. The cell block fight and the trash compactor were great, in particular.

Recreating mini versions of the film with my figures was always a major goal for me – still is!  With this playset that aim became much more attainable.  When I was a kid, I only had two stormtroopers and one Death Squad Commander, so my Death Star looked a little empty.  Over the years I’ve added a few troops to the collection (very cheaply) and now the whole set up looks much more impressive.

The main reason I’d dug the Death Star out was to place my new “retro style” Grand Moff Tarkin figure in there.  I got him for Christmas along with the Escape the Death Star board game.  Tarkin was never made for the action figure line originally, and he was a glaring absence when trying to recreate the movie.

However, I didn’t realise that my new Tarkin was sealed on a card inside the board game box.  I didn’t dare open him.  So the Death Star is still not quite finished.

Should I have just opened Tarkin anyway?!

Star Wars Figures – the First 12

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Star Wars Figures – the First 12

I’m lucky to be old enough to have seen the first Star Wars film – Episode IV: A New Hope as it’s now known – back when it was first released.  I was five years old and the film was a sensation with everyone I knew in school.  It’s very hard to explain just how big a deal Star Wars was to us back then: absolutely everyone was captivated by it, and I was no exception.

Back then, we were a good few years away from video players and there was no way to view the film repeatedly.  There were stories of teenagers who saw the film twenty times at the cinema, but that wasn’t going to work for a tiny kid my age.

So other than the Marvel UK comic, the only way to relive the movie that I loved was with Kenner Star Wars figures. img_5012

I can remember first seeing the toys and being fascinated by them.  They looked really cool – we’d never really had action figures of this size, and straight out of a movie, like this before.  I was desperate to get R2-D2.  Just R2, if I couldn’t get any of the others.

After a long while I managed to persuade my parents to buy me an R2-D2 toy.  I can still recall seeing the figure, on the card, in the shop window.  There was a cycle and toy shop on the high street in Connah’s Quay in those days, known to us as the Bike Stores, which was the place to get your fix of 1970’s toy goodness. img_5013

So I got R2 and I was set.  Except it didn’t stop there.  I started collecting all the figures, and as many of the spaceships and playsets as I could, over the years.  Star Wars figures became an obsession that I still have today.

I can still remember how and when I acquired these toys, for the most part.  I remember R2 was first, I chose him as he was my favourite character.  Then I got Chewbacca from the same shop some time later, and eventually Luke from a shop in Flint.

Photos here are of the first twelve figures released from the film.  In the UK, they were all produced by Palitoy, rather than Kenner. And yes, I had them all on cards and opened them up to play with them.  Most of the figures on these photos are the original ones I collected in the late 70’s to early 80’s.  Some are replacements I bought around twenty years ago, so I could have better quality examples in my collection.

Unfortunately, my first R2-D2 figure got a bit wrecked.  There was a story in the aforementioned comic about the heroes being trapped on a water world.  So I took them all in the bath with me.  The detail on R2 was made from a paper sticker, which surprisingly (to five year old me) came off.  Luckily my friend Brendan later gave me his R2 and C3PO, shown here.  I repaired my R2 with a home made sticker, and gave this one a different colour so he could be a different droid.

Luke is a replacement I picked up in the late 90’s.  I bought Leia as the line was coming to an end in the mid 80’s, to replace my sisters battered version, so I’d have a good quality figure of my own.

Chewie still looks pretty good, and I still have his bowcaster all these years later.  There are two versions of Han Solo shown.  The “big head” version is mine from the late 70’s, the small head I picked up years later so I would have the variation.  The big head is my favourite of the two!

I’m not really a collector of variations, but I’ve also got two different hair colour Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi figures on show here.

Finally, I didn’t have this many stormtroopers when I was a kid.  I could only dream about having a whole squad!  I’ve picked the others up occasionally over the years at carboot sales and so on.  You always need troops!

Thanks Brendan O’Neil for R2-D2 and C3PO, and hours of playing Star Wars figures. img_5020

MCM Birmingham Comic Con – Part 2

NEC Birmingham

19/20 November 2016 

I have loads of photos to share from my recent trip to Birmingham NEC, so thought I’d share some more.  As I mentioned previously, there were loads of fantastic Cosplay costumes being worn – so here are some additional pics.

In fact, it seemed to me that there were even more costumed attendees than ever!  MCM Birmingham is the biggest and best Comic Con I’ve been to (I’ve not made it to London), and the number of cosplayers seemed to be higher than ever.

There were some truly amazing outfits. Whether film or TV, book or comic book – it seemed like hundreds of heroes (and villains) were walking the halls.

Maybe it was just the abundance of Harley Quinns, but it seemed like there were many more females dressing as characters this time.  Nothing wrong with that, as comics and science fiction have always been more of a boys club.  Nice to see the ladies being involved and doing things so well.  No offence to the Harleys, by the way – the more the merrier!

There were some classic costumes from the boys this year too, though.  Deadpool and the Joker seemed quite popular, and were represented well with some superb renditions.

In my opinion, when I was last here Marvel characters slightly out weighed DC.  This November, DC were definitely fighting back!

Lots of Walking Dead, too.  I mentioned last time the amazing Daryl Dixon who I photographed, but messed up the picture.  Probably for the best, Mrs Platinum Al would be drooling forever.

There was also a Negan, who was an amazing look a like.  He should get some stunt double work on the show, he was so good!

Another dead ringer was Breaking Bad’s Walter White look a like – an amazing resemblance!  Check him out at @walterwhitelike on Twitter.

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All in all a superb day was enjoyed by all.  Thanks to all the various cosplayers who gave me permission to take their photo.  Everyone was really kind, gracious and friendly – I thank you for your patience.

Now I’m looking forward to a return to MCM Comic Con at the NEC in March 2017!

Wales Comic Con 2015

Wales Comic Con – 26th April 2015

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

It was an amazing sunny day Wales Comic Con.  The sun was shining and the atmosphere was a winner.  I took my family along to Glyndwr University in Wrexham for an afternoon of Sci-Fi, fantasy and comic books and we had a fantastic time.

As per other conventions I’ve covered at the Virtual Hot Tub, the event was a mix of guests signing and doing Q&As, merchandise for sale, displays and gaming.  A varied menu of entertainments brought out fans galore, and the area was filled with enthusiasts from all over.

No doubt the great weather helped, but there was a tremendously friendly and enthusiastic atmosphere at this event.  My little girl, Eloise, dressed as Anna from Frozen and had a wonderful experience meeting lots of other Disney Princesses.  It was the first time she’s been to an event like this, and I think Eloise is a convert for life.

The Cosplayers were numerous, and their costuming skills very talented.  There were superheroes, Star Wars characters, time travelling doctors – everything you can think of.  I took plenty of photos, as you can see here.  All were happy to have their photographs taken, for which I am very grateful.  So many missed opportunities though!

A real highlight of the day, fo me, was meeting Dath Vader himself – Dave Prowse.  A very amiable chap, I’ve never met Mr Prowse before though I have met several of his Star Wars co-stars.  I got a signed photo  and shook the man’s hand.  A real gent.

My only criticism of the event was that there was little merchandise that appealed to me.  But that’s a very subjective viewpoint and wouldn’t put me off Wales Comic Con in future.

The event appeared to be run very well.  The last time I went, the queues were so long that my buddies and me gave up and went home without getting in.  No problems this year, the convention was busy but with no apparent issues.

Wales Comic Con was awesome fun.  We all had a great day out and will definitely go again.  It’s handy it’s so close to home.  The real success here was that the event kept all of us enthralled, whether it was a four year old Princess or an old Jedi like me.  Top marks.

Wales Comic Con website is here.

Meeting Dave Prowse

Meeting Dave Prowse

Sci-Fi Weekender 2015: Bonus Photos

Flogging a dead horse?  Me?  Never.  As per last year’s Sci-Fi Weekender features, there’s still loads of photos that for some reason, I didn’t share in the previous articles.  So here are a few more pics from the weekend, featuring some amazing Cosplay outfits not shown here previously.

Now some of my pics didn’t turn out very well, and in some cases there were great costumes that I missed taking a photo of.  Hope fully these additional shots will give a bit of additional flavour of the event.

I have no idea why Green Screen Jar Jar didn’t make the cut last time.  Whatever your opinions on the Gungan Menace, you’ve got to admit that it’s a fantastic idea for a costume!

Above you will see documented evidence of Greeny meeting the Dark Lord himself, Darth Elvis.  And below is a photo of Kurt, as Shaun from Shaun of the Dead – the only one of our troop who dressed up.

The Lego characters below were simply amazing costumes.  Likewise, the Mad Max gang – so disappointed that this is the only photo I got of them.

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So, there we have it for another year.  My apologies to anyone who allowed me to take their photograph, for the image not to appear.  That’s more than likely due to my camera skills, or lack thereof.  Lens cap!

Thanks everybody, hope to see you next year.

 

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Captain Adamerica

Adam, Greeny, Kurt and Ste – we had a great time. Thanks Adam for organising everything, and thanks guys for all the fun.  Awesome.

Here’s to next year…

 

Click here for the Sci-Fi Weekender website.

You can find Sci-Fi Weekender on Facebook or follow on Twitter: @scifiweekender

Star Wars Spin Off Movies – part 1

2015 is a big year.  Audiences around the world will get to see Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.  Something I honestly never thought I’d see – a continuation of the Star Wars saga.

There is another disturbance in the Force, however – the prospect of new, stand alone, spin off movies set in a galaxy far, far away.  These films are to feature characters from this rich universe,but who they will be at the moment is a mystery.  Will they be minor characters or well known favourites?

There are various rumours about who the projects will concentrate on, of course.  I’ve decided to add to the swirling speculation and anticipation with some thoughts who I would like to see appearing in their own Star Wars movie.

Let’s start with some of the obvious choices.

Boba Fett

To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of Boba Fett.  He’s only in the films for a few minutes, and doesn’t do a great deal  I always thought the pre-Empire buzz about this new character was a bit of a let down, so I never got the cult of Fett.  He does have one of the coolest looking ships in the Saga, however.

Regardless of my ambivalence to the character, Boba Fett would be a great choice for a stand-alone movie.  He’s got a ready made, massive fan base – and it would be an ideal opportunity to flesh him out and show exactly why Fett is the top bounty hunter in the galaxy.  His mercenary buddies from the Executor bridge in Episode V could also make welcome cameo appearances.

Just one thing – the film would need to be set during the Original Trilogy.  Why?  Because Fett dies in Return of the Jedi.  That’s right – he died, and HE DOESN’T COME BACK.  Clear?

Plus I love the Original Trilogy and it would be great to explore more of this time.  Let’s see Boba Fett in action, as one of the bad guys (because he is a baddie, face facts) causing trouble for the Rebel Alliance.

Han Solo and Chewbacca

The Corellian space pirate and his Wookiee pal have featured in their own series of novels years ago.  Their popularity makes them a great choice for a spin off film.  Again, this should be around the time of the Original Trilogy, maybe prior to Episode IV; or between that instalment and Empire.  What exactly happened to the reward Solo got for his part in the rescue of Princess Leia? MF1

The problem with a film of this type is casting a young Han Solo – whoever got the gig would have their work cut out for them playing Harrison Ford.  That’s not to say that it can’t be done – River Phoenix did a fantastic job of impersonating Ford in the third Indiana Jones movie!

What would be really scary though is recasting such an iconic character as Han Solo could be a stepping stone to that horror that none of us want.  That’s right – a “reboot”/remake of the original film.

May the Force protect us from that ever happening…

Palpatine

How did Palpatine become a Dark Lord of the Sith?  How did he weasel his way into the role of Senator of Naboo?  Just exactly what was he capable of, and what did he do to attain such power?

The early years of the Emperor to be could be a really fascinating story, full of Jedi Knights, Sith Lords and galactic intrigue.  Betrayal, deceit, evil plots, darkness on a massive scale.  Sign up Peter Jackson for this one now.

That’s all for now, though I will return to this subject soon, with more potential spin-off movie ideas.

May the Force be with you!

Sci-Fi Weekender: Bonus Photos

A bit like bonus tracks when you buy a CD, here are a few unseen extra pics from my recent visit to Sci-Fi Weekender.

Plus, it’s Star Wars Day – and a few of these photos count as a tribute.  May the 4th Be With You!