The Best of 2022

Happy New Year! And here we go, full throttle into 2023!

2022 was not an easy year for your old pal, Platinum Al. But the Virtual Hot Tub soldiered on regardless, never giving up despite the odds. NEVER SAY DIE. And in the end, the year 2022 was a successful one for this blog, with site views up approx. 2% on the year before.

Not a massive improvement, I’ll grant you – but I’ll take all the good news I can get. I certainly didn’t expect to finish the year with those stats, just the opposite.

So what were the most successful blog posts on the Virtual Hot tub in 2022? What articles brought in the hordes of avid readers? What did YOU want to read?

Here’s the traditional review of the Top 10 blog posts by number of views. In reverse order, countdown style, of course…

10. Hawarden Classic Car Show

Events started to return in 2022, and this local classic car show was a great example of the fun to be had as restrictions were lifted. Some nice pics.

9. New Skateboard 2022 – Death Benson

I like to chronicle my skateboards (or at least just the deck) for posterity, and just for myself. Despite my doubts, this rad set up made the Top 10.

8. Pentre Fest 2022

My beloved Pentre Fest was BACK in 22, with two more days of metal bands at high volume. Not long till the 2023 event!

7. Liverpool Comic Con 2022

A family trip out to Liverpool for a great con and a load of cosplay photos.

6. Scars of Halloween Horror Fest

My annual horror movie fest provided this blog, which was by far the most popular this year as it featured a Hammer classic.

5. Star Wars Figures- Empire Strikes Back Part 2

I’m happy to see the second part of my blog focussing on my Star Wars figures from The Empire Strikes Back feature in the Top 10!

4. Subskate Summer Fun!

An in depth investigation into the merits (and failings) of a pool toy that never quite made it.

3. Star Wars Figures – The Empire Strikes Back

The first part of my feature concerning my original Star Wars figures from Empire. Good to see this was popular!

2. Return of Wales Comic Con

More Comic Con and cosplay fun, with a visit to Wrexham and Wales Comic Con back on home ground.

So what was the number one blog post of 2022? It was…

  1. Chester Comic Con 2022

In the number one spot, a visit to Chester’s Comic Con! A summer afternoon, loads of merch and dozens of cool cosplayers made this article the most successful of the year!

Events back on the menu has, unsurprisingly, dominated the results this year. They were all great fun, and well worth the visit. In contrast to the results from last year, where events were (understandably) under represented.

It’s also gratifying to see some skateboards and toys being appreciated, too.

This year, we look to return to a “new normal” in our post pandemic world. But with a Cost of Living Crisis, Brexit still unleashing it’s mayhem, and the same gang of inept cowards and liars in charge, we still have plenty of obstacles ahead.

Never the less, we at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub remain vigilant – bringing you the best entertainment. Thanks for being with us in 2022. Stay tuned for ever more greatness in 2023!

Star Wars Figures – Empire Strikes Back Part 2

Welcome to the second part of my reminiscences of my old Star Wars figures. This time, we’ll complete the rest of the Empire Strikes Back waves that came out in the early 1980s. A little less words maybe, a few more photos.

Last time we looked at the first wave of Empire figures, plus an early arrival (Boba Fett) and a late comer (Yoda). Whereas the figure selection for the first movie was never exhaustive (we could’ve done with more, to be honest) – the remaining Empire waves would deliver a bundle of key characters as well as some background oddballs, to pad out your playing experience.

The first wave gave us a classic Leia, this time in Hoth Outift. Again, the figure shown here is my excellent condition version, which I bought myself at the end of the line’s run, to replace my sister’s slightly beat-up one.

Next was Han Solo (Bespin Outfit), hands down my favourite Han figure. This guy saw a lot of play. Great sculpt, holds his blaster well, just awesome. The only negatives are that his trousers are too light in colour, and they packed him with the wrong gun.

The Rebel Commander was a welcome addition – you can never have too many troops! Lots of detail, but the blaster he came with is pretty lame. The Medical droid, 21B, was also a very detailed figure. I loved the transparent torso. Sadly, I lost his medical tool/needle thing years ago, so I should replace that.

A couple of Bespin characters next: the Ugnaught, who is exactly the type of minor character I have to own! He comes with a soft goods apron, presumably to add more value a la cloaked Jawa. And lastly, Lobot – a really cool looking guy who I’d have liked to see get more screen time.

Finally, with this wave, we got an Imperial officer! Named Imperial Commander on the card, this late-to-the party figure would have to double up for every Imperial officer in all three films – including Tarkin (don’t get me started on that thorny issue) – despite the black, not olive outift. So better get as many as you can! I have two; there’s a slight difference you’ll see in the pics below: one has no hair (I assume this is a paint app production error, or some one scraped it off – not a genuine variation).

At this point, the biggest toy around – biggest in size literally, but also in impact and desirability – was the AT-AT. I couldn’t believe that a toy would be made of this huge vehicle. Of course Kenner did, and thus I needed at least one, preferably two AT-AT drivers.

Last from this wave, another cool bounty hunter: Dengar. The first mail away figure I ever sent off for (Palitoy waved it’s proof of purchase nonsense this time), he took months to arrive. As in, literally months. Palitoy were swamped with requests, but one magical day, after ages spent in anticipation, a clean white box with Dengar inside arrived in the post. What a wondrous day that was…

Let’s start the next wave with the droids: C-3PO with Removable Limbs and R2-D2 with sensorscope. I wasn’t really expecting these figures as a kid. C-3PO was kind of cool as he came with a bag you could put him in, on Chewbacca’s back – though Chewie could never stand unassisted with the extra weight. R2’s new feature was interesting, though this version could never take the place of the very first R2 figure, my first and most loved Star Wars figure of all.

Luke in Hoth Outfit was a much needed alternate look, ideal to place on your Tauntaun toy. However, he came packed with that weird gun instead of the obviously more preferable (and accurate) blue lightsaber. The black Bespin Guard was an instant troop builder and a nice early nod to diversity. Twin Pod Cloud Car pilot was definitely a cool design, but he’s less “blink and you’ll miss him” and more “was he even in the film”? This figure was a necessity so someone could pilot the vehicle, I guess. I’ve lost his communicator sadly, this extra accessory was actually a good feature.

To finish the Empire figures, the “bad guys” from this wave. AT-AT Commander (or General Veers, if you knew your SW trivia) was another handy addition to the mighty AT-AT toy. And at last, a TIE Fighter Pilot, so stormtroopers could be relieved of their flying duties. You’ll notice here that the TIE Pilot isn’t holding his gun, I just couldn’t get him to grasp it for longer than two seconds. Interesting side note: my TIE Pilot had a nice fruity smell when I first opened him, which remained for years. Must’ve been the paint – anyone else have the same experience? Unfortunately, that smell has long disappeared now.

The last two bounty hunters shown here were two of my favourite action figures in the line so far: 4-LOM and Zuckuss. Both were really detailed and despite limited screen time, they were amazingly cool. Awesome weapons too – two of the best guns in the entire line. This adherence to showcasing the myriad background characters is exactly what I loved about Star Wars figures: I could scene build and create whole little worlds. “Which is 4-LOM and which is Zuckuss?” you may ask. The answer’s on the card name lozenge, that’s all I’m saying.

There we have it: all of the action figures from The Empire Strikes Back. The line was particularly strong at this time, with improvements in the sculpts and some great character choices, not to mention a masterful piece of cinema inspiring it all. This really was a magical time in mine – and many others’ – childhoods.

I was surprised how many of these figures I could actually remember buying, and from which now long-gone small toy shops around the country I found them (there was no Toys’R’Us in those days). I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief nostalgia trip, maybe we’ll meet again soon for the next chapter…

Bonus photos:

  • Leia and Hoth troops
  • General Veers – prepare you men for ground assault!
  • Arrival at Bespin
  • Bounty Hunters! We don’t need that scum.

Star Wars Figures – The Empire Strikes Back

1980: by the time the Star Wars sequel was due to appear in the cinema, I was excited and more than ready for it. We’d waited three years, endured numerous playground rumours (“Luke and Darth Vader will have a lightsaber fight!”), but we knew that it wasn’t going to be called “Star Wars 2“.

It was going to be called “The Empire Strikes Back“. I was seven years old and had no idea what that could mean.

I was the first kid in my class to get to see the movie (I’d been the last for the first film, despite being forced to utilise relentless pester power). Of course, Empire was amazing, though not as good as the first: there was no cantina scene or similar. I do remember my Dad whispering to me “Did you just hear what he said?!” after Vader’s revelation. Mind blown! But let’s concentrate on the toys…

Over the previous couple of years, Star Wars toys had to compete with other toy lines for my attention (Action Man, Dinky and Corgi cars, etc etc) – but by 1980, I was pretty much laser focussed on Star Wars figures as my main priority.

Which Empire figure did I pick up first? It may have been Lando, as I thought he was cool and he was a major new character who hadn’t been created in plastic before. My original Lando is pictured, though I replaced the vinyl cape with a repro version recently. Note he’s not the white eyes/teeth version, which I thought I had as a variation somewhere in my collection, but apparently not when I rummaged through for these photos. So that’s one I may track down in the future.

Or maybe Luke was first, in his Bespin Fatigues. This figure is one of my favourites, in an outfit that became his new standard Rebel uniform. This was probably thanks to the great run of Marvel Star Wars comics between Empire and Jedi, where Luke wore it all the time. As a result, this Luke Skywalker went on many missions, though I sadly lost his yellow lightsaber. One to replace.

My sister bought the original Leia figures. This was cool by me as I was bizarrely self conscious of buying a girl figure. Or maybe it was because I figured out that I could still use my sister’s figures, and use my own money to buy a different character (two for the price of one, ha!). My sister didn’t look after her figures as well as I did mine, so I replaced all of her well worn toys with my own when the line came to an end in 1985 and I could pick them up cheap. Here’s my excellent quality Leia in Bespin Gown.

I was never a big fan of the Han Solo (Hoth Outfit) figure, with his hood up he could be anyone. So I didn’t pick that figure up till much later. Cool holster feature though.

Also pictured are the Hoth Rebel Soldier and the first Bespin guard, complete with snazzy moustache.

Boba Fett? I was never a fan, really. Overrated character who did very little in Empire or Jedi. I just never got the cult of Fett. My lack of enthusiasm probably dates back to when he was offered as a mail away. Palitoy required proofs of purchase for several figures, which I obviously didn’t have – so I couldn’t send off for him. So maybe it’s just sour grapes. Eventually, I warmed to Fett, but if i ever hear one more person say how this figure is really rare, I’ll go space loco.

Fett wasn’t technically a part of this wave, he predated it – but here he is anyway for completeness sake. Also pictured are the Snowtrooper (complete with vinyl “skirt”) and two way cooler bounty hunters: IG-88 and Bossk. Both are nicely sculpted figures with loads of details, and cool accessories.

Yoda

Finally, one figure which I believe was held back from the rest of the first wave to avoid spoilers: Yoda. I picked this guy up as soon as I saw him. He’s tiny, but features some nice accessories to increase value for money. Unfortunately, his gimer stick is long gone and will need to be replaced.

I think that’s enough on this wave (of sorts) for now: this will have to be a two-parter. We’ll reconvene with the rest of the figures from The Empire Strikes Back soon.

Bonus photos:

  • Luke carrying Yoda in the backpack from the Survival Kit mail away.
  • Is this a variation? Hoth Rebel Soldiers with different chest insignia.
  • Original vs replacement Leia Organa (Bespin Gown), showing turtle neck variation.