Chester Comic Con was held recently, on a mild summer Sunday afternoon at Chester Racecourse. It was Father’s Day, and I made sure that my personal choice for the day was to attend this event for a fun filled afternoon.
I’ve not been to a comic con in Chester for a couple of years, due to the pandemic and all that kinda shiz. As previous, the racecourse hosted the event and it made for a good venue, with plenty of open outdoor space. Indoors was a bit more compact, but there were enough trader tables to fill the place without getting too manic.
There were also a few showbiz and comic book guests in attendance, though my main aim was to plunder as much action figures and comic books as possible. But have no fear, I also had my camera with me, to take some photos and hopefully provide an idea of what it was like to be there.
Here you’ll see some photos of the excellent Cosplayers, who were all very friendly and gallantly agreed to pose for pic. Thank you all.
Despite the smaller scale of Chester Comic Con – in comparison to some of the bigger events at Liverpool or the NEC for example – it’s a fantastic convention with a good family atmosphere. I had an excellent time, and bought a load of old 70s Marvel comics. Very happy indeed.
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…
Leia and Hoth troops
General Veers – prepare you men for ground assault!
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.
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.
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.
How long is it since the last time I went to a Comic Con? Any Comic Con? It must be pretty much exactly two years. The pandemic ruled out mass gatherings of this type completely over that time. Now, we’re back – a long overdue visit to the wonderful city of Liverpool and it’s excellent convention.
Our only initial bad luck was arriving to find massive queues snaking back for what seemed like miles. We had purchased early bird tickets for a 9am start, however arriving on schedule at nine left us in a long line with hundreds of other punters. It took an hour before we were finally inside the exhibition centre, which wasn’t a great start.
This was a case of Queue Hard, with several sequels including Queue Hard 2: Queue Harder – and finally, Queue Hard with a Vengeance.
When we were in the building, however, all was swiftly forgiven. I think we can accept some teething troubles in getting this event back up and running. It was great to finally be indoors at a Comic Con, and we gleefully threw ourselves into the experience with enthusiasm.
There were many guests signing on the day, but none that were of particular interest to myself. So, I braved the throngs of convention goers to view the treasures on sale at the stalls, purveying all type of nerdy goodness. As always at Comic Cons, there was far too much merch for me to buy it all – though I made some fine purchases, there were oodles more a timely lottery win would’ve made mine.
I picked up a couple of Star Wars The Vintage Collection figures that I needed, and a Mego Wolfman action figure that I couldn’t resist. Plus, the Christmas shopping commenced with some unusual items I wouldn’t have been able to pick up elsewhere. The only disappointment was a total lack of ReAction figures.
Of course, the main highlight of the day was the varied and spectacular costumes worn the attendees. Cosplay was alive and well, which was great to see. Hopefully these photos will give you some idea of the skill and splendour that was on show.
Despite a dodgy start, Liverpool Comic Con was a great day out. We came, we saw, we took photos and bought tat – a fine time was had by all. I’d recommend this convention as one to visit, and I’ll definitely be back.
Have a look at the Liverpool Comic Con webnet here.
Following from my recent post featuring my original 1980 Millennium Falcon toy, here’s part two as promised – looking at the revived, reissued version from 1995…
Star Wars toys blasted back to life in the mid-90s, after a decade of inactivity. By that point, I had recently graduated from University and had landed a dream job – working in Toys R Us. It was a stop gap, but I’d always wanted to work in a toy shop. As it transpired, although being an underachiever and not exactly proud of it, I was perfectly situated for the start of the Star Wars toy revival.
Despite grave concerns about some of the new figures (“Why are they so muscular?!”), the new Power of the Force 2 line did feature a lot more detail than their original counterparts. Take, for instance, the new R2D2, who now had sculpted details (and a third leg) instead of just a sticker*.
When the new Millennium Falcon arrived, it was pretty much the same intricate outer that we’d seen with it’s predecessor, but now there was more detail than ever. For a start, the outer had a much better, random and faded darker colours to give it that authentic used-Universe look, and blue (rather than red) engine exhausts.
Inside, there was a more movie accurate background card in the cargo hold, and the holo chess table had a more faithful decal too.
Most of the old features were intact, such as the laser cannon seat and hidden compartment. The latest version was augmented by movie realistic electronic sound effects, rather than the “buzzer” on the old ship.
The only main issue – which I rediscovered whilst setting up these photos – was, the new macho man figures were just too bulky to fit in the cockpit. That’s why there’s no photo of Han and Chewie flying the piece of junk…
My old 1980 version will always be closest to my heart, but this one is still very cool. The POTF2 Falcon is a fantastic toy: a nice homage to both the previous and the movie versions, plus a big step in updating for the future.
Until, of course, we arrive at the Big Millennium Falcon in 2008. We’ll get to that one another time…
*Disclaimer: I don’t mean to be cruel to the original R2D2 figure, he was my first Star Wars figure and will always be my favourite!
“You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.”
Was it Christmas 1980 or 1981? Whichever it was, it was the best Christmas present ever. After months and months of making a pretend Millennium Falcon out of cardboard tissue boxes, I was suddenly the owner of an actual Falcon. Han Solo’s super fast, hunk of junk smuggler’s freighter was mine, to recreate all the fun of the films.
The Millennium Falcon was the coolest space ship ever. The ship was a central part of the action in Star Wars, almost a character in itself – unreliable, temperamental, heroic. It was the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy and full of surprises – as was the toy.
We already had an X-Wing for Luke, a TIE fighter and landspeeder to play out our memories of the movie scenes (remember: no VCR in those days, kids!). But the Falcon seemed unattainable – surely Kenner/Palitoy wouldn’t be able to make a ship that big, to fit the figures inside?
And then they did. And I got one for Christmas: it was straight out the box, built up and stickers put on by my Dad, and I was ready to go. I still remember that morning now, after weeks of anticipation, hoping that I’d be lucky enough to be rewarded with this toy on the big day.
Kenner (or Palitoy, the UK manufacturer, in my case) delivered a toy that had all the magic of the film. Yes, you could put figures inside it: Han and Chewie could fit in the cockpit. There was a laser gun turret to shoot enemy fighters. A holo chess table to play (“It’s not wise to upset a Wookiee.”). A remote for lightsaber practice and a hidden smuggling compartment to hide from the Empire. It made a buzzing laser gun sound and had retractable landing gear.
The ship looked fantastic on the outside, lots of random detail just like the model in the film. This Millennium Falcon was a toy, but it appeared so accurate it might have been an actual prop from Industrial Light and Magic. That’s how I felt about it, anyway.
Photos here are of my original Millennium Falcon, still with all parts and in the box, which I gratefully received that Christmas morning. After years of play, it’s still all there: a little beat up, a little dirty – just like the “real” thing. As a kid, I liked to make it look more authentic with a good layer of dust and some discolouration: not sure that was a good idea, now.
But what a toy! Literally hours and hours of play value, recreating scenes or imagining my own sequels. An absolute joy.
It was great fun digging out this old piece of junk. I had a blast taking the photos, hope you enjoy them. And remember: “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”
March is usually the time for Sci-Fi Weekender: a weekend long, stay-over-and-party Comic Con that’s full of entertainment. From special guests, interviews, signings, screenings, games and all manner of live entertainment, this event has always been a fantastic, full-on experience for all your geeky desires.
Sadly, the Covid pandemic exterminated the event this year. It should have been taking place this last weekend. It’s a real blow, as Sci-Fi Weekender offers just the kind of escapism that we need right now.
Have no fear, however: I’ve used my Indiana Jones-like archaeological skills to rediscover some long lost photos from the past.
Cosplay is always a big deal at SFW. All manner of glorious, gruesome, magnificent and marvellous costumes can be seen on display, worn by some of the coolest and most down-to-earth people you’ll be likely to meet this side of Tosche Station.
Thanks to my old pal Darf Dork (that’s Adam G, to you), I’m able to present some photos from the past that will bring back some fond memories. These pics are all Adam’s work – he’s been kind enough to thaw them out of carbonite for your enjoyment.
Hope in my Virtual Hot Tub Time Machine and let’s go back to SFW past. Hope you enjoy the photos. And keep dreaming: one day Sci-Fi Weekender will return…
Well, that was a mad old year, wasn’t it? 2020 was more like a bizarre disaster movie than the regular fun ride that we’re used to. A pandemic made hermits of us all; working from home became the new normal for many and travel and events ceased to exist. A year from hell for most of us, though it’s far from over yet.
Here at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub, we’ve aimed to soldier on and bring you the very best in blogging entertainment. Be it music, skateboards, toys or tat, whatever nonsense I could investigate was delivered with all the expected wit and style.
As is customary at this time, let’s take a look back at the top ten most popular blog posts of last year. Calling it “The Best of 2020” seems somewhat incongruous, but let’s roll with it for traditions sake.
There was a distinct lack of live music in 2020 (Obviously), but quite a few album reviews for my old pals at Ever Metal. This review of Swedish doom metal band Firebreather’s album was the most read at the Virtual Hot Tub.
Yes, the most popular was this food blog, which benefitted from a genuine traditional recipe, and an idea to recreate a Greek holiday vibe with ingredients from the local supermarket.
As travel wasn’t happening this year for most of us, perhaps it’s no surprise that the Greek recipe blog came out on top. It was written as an ode to holidays and Mediterranean sunshine, something that wasn’t a possibility for many last year. I hope you found some nostalgic comfort from this post.
Usually my annual Top 10 has featured a load of comic con events – or similar – at the top of the list. Those events didn’t happen this year, so the Top 10 has a very different flavour. Who knows what 2021 will bring us?
Whatever the strange pan-dimensional cross flux of crazy brings us next, I’d like to thank you all for reading my blog. Please remember to pop by Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub as soon as you can!
I have a lot of Star Wars toys. Not everything, but a lot of stuff. Most of it was collected when the toys were originally released, back when I was a kid. Luckily, I’ve kept them all, and since the late nineties I’ve sporadically added to the collection.
The Ewok Village Playset was a toy I never owned as a kid. Released as part of the Return of the Jedi toy line, it’s a large and feature packed set that provides a perfect home for your cuddly-yet-vicious little Empire destroyers.
There’s a fire for roasting Han Solo; a net for capturing rebels; a throne for C-3PO; an elevator for lifting figures up – and a secret escape chute for them to escape down. All of these neat play features and more; plus it makes a cool diorama for displaying your ROTJ action figures.
When I got into collecting Star Wars toys again in the late 90s, the Ewok Village was on my list of “wants”. I tracked this example down to a toy shop in Manchester and picked it up for £60, if I remember correctly.
I don’t think that shop is still there now. Or at least, I’ve not found it on subsequent visits. It seems to have vanished mysteriously into thin air…
Although opened, this Ewok Village was complete in box, with all the bits packed inside in little baggies. It’s easy to assemble – before long you can start to recreate some moments from the film.
And that’s exactly what I wanted to do here, with this series of photos: showcase some of my figures from the original line, as they appear in the film. I decided against doing a further photo session with more modern figures due to time!
There are two scenes recreated here. Firstly, the Rebels held captive by the Ewoks, whilst 3PO sits on his wooden throne. Han is held above the fire, about to make a tasty celebratory meal. The others are gathered (not tethered to wooden poles as in the film, as nothing like that exists for these toys) as they attempt to persuade their way out of the situation.
Unfortunately, a figure of Leia in her Ewok robes was never made for the original line, so she’s not present. Maybe I will have to create this again with the later figures after all, as that the Princess in that outfit was made later on. But hey, I’m not aiming for 100% screen accuracy here, just the best I can with what I have available.
I love ensemble scenes using action figures, so another I wanted to recreate was the end of the film. The Empire has been destroyed, the Galaxy is free: the Rebels celebrate their victory with their short, furry allies and all looks good for the future.
The ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin are represented by their vintage figures, plus the main heroes are joined in their rejoicing with numerous members of the Rebel Alliance on Endor.
Ensemble scenes like this are my favourites in the movie, because it’s fun to spot random characters and details that were dropped into the film. This is the sort of thing that creates the rich diversity of Star Wars, and what constantly intrigues me. So, it’s nice to try to create something with toys that aims for as wide a scope.
So here are the two scenes: reasonably screen accurate, but not shackled to that original image. I did the best I could, and it was great fun.
One big mistake? Yes, I forgot to take a photo of the box the Ewok Village came in. Never mind, you can Google that, should you need to.