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.

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2018 – Part 1

NEC Birmingham

24/25 November 2018

Regular readers will know that a visit to the NEC in Birmingham for MCM Comic Con is on the cards at least once a year.  I missed the earlier event as the gang and I were at Sci Fi Weekender, however we were able to make the November Con.

My intrepid companions and I arrived at the massive site and after parking up, wandered down to the event hall.  Already there were dozens of cosplayers around, showing their awesome costumes.

After a chill in Wetherspoons, we made our way towards the hall.  Thankfully we didn’t have long to wait before we could enter.  This year we had regular tickets rather than early bird, so although this gave us later entry we had no problems.

Inside Comic Con, the aisles were busy and we formulated a plan of attack on how best to navigate our way around the stalls.  There were hundreds of people there, so not always easy to get to see some of the merchandise.  With a little patience and a bit of skill we were able to get a good look around.

The guests this time weren’t particularly inspiring – it seemed like all the best stars would be at Wales Comic Con the following week!  We were happy to spend the day viewing the displays and stalls to see what amazing paraphernalia we could afford.

Sadly, despite buying some fantastic items, there’s never enough money.  Oh, the damage I could do with a lottery win.  Seriously, there were dozens of action figures (for a start) that I could have give a home to.

Besides the joys of spending hard earned cash, there were of course the magnificent cosplayers out in full force.  A mind boggling array of characters, some well known and some more obscure, were to be seen.

Due to various organisational issues, I had forgotten to bring along my trusty Canon camera.  There’s always something, right?  Forgetting to bring the camera was a new low though!  Never mind, I was able to take photos with my phone – and the cosplay superstars were just as friendly and happy to pose as ever.

My thanks to all those who posed for a pic, much appreciated!  You were all great.

After hours on our feet wandering round, wishing for the cash to buy more stuff, the day was finally over.  After another Wetherspoons break, it was back in the car for the long drive home.  Another great day out – looking forward to the next one.

Thanks to Adam for driving and Greeny and Kurt for the company.

There are numerous pics of cosplayers here, feel free to let me know your favourites,  Or if you know the people in the [pics, please let them know.

Finally, i any one in the pics would rather they didn’t appear here, just let me know.

That’s all for Part 1 – stay tuned for Part 2.

Sci Fi Weekender 2016 – part 2

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Phoenix

Sci Fi Weekender 17th – 20th March 2016

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Day 2 at SFW, and again it’s all a blur.  I recall it was a lazy start to the day for me, breakfast and chilling in the caravan.  Kurt was feeling better, but Greeny was starting to suffer with the illness.  It would be mostly be another day of watching Star Trek, Big Bang Theory and Top Gear for those two.

Adam had got up early and made it to see a showing of a new independent film called Pandorica.  Classed as an action-horror, reports about the film were very enthusiastic.  The Q&A with Director and cast was my first event of the day – it was interesting although I’d not seen the film!  Definitely one to keep and eye out for: word of mouth was very positive.

The highlight of the afternoon was, undoubtedly, an appearance by the incomparable Brian Blessed.  Larger than life and twice as loud, Blessed’s sci-fi credentials are suitably top notch.  A life long fan of science fiction, as well in starring in numerous genre pieces – you may have heard of Flash Gordon – his enthusiasm was both apparent and infectious.

Professor Elemental hosted the Q&A with Brian Blessed, who wisely let the great man get on and tell his tales!  A solid job from the Professor – a daunting task well executed.

Blessed’s talk ranged from his acting work to his many explorations and mountaineering adventures.  His recollections of the Flash Gordon movie, and it’s well deserved appreciation by audiences the world over, were affectionately told.  An unmissable audience with a real living legend.

In the afternoon I took some photos and looked around the stalls again.  Unfortunately, this years SFW again clashed with MCM Memorabilia in Birmingham, so genre based merchandise was thin on the ground.  I picked up some cool Elvira cocktail glasses though!

A good feature this year was the retro gaming section, where numerous old consoles could be played for free.  This was very popular, and although I don’t play video games it meant I always knew where to find my crew if we split up.  They were always playing games…

Every year at SFW, the Cosplay final is something to behold.  There’s always a sense of excitement in the air, as the costumed competitors take the stage.  And every year, the audience and competitors are enthusiastic and good natured.  Everyone cheers for each other, and there’s a real sense of community.  It’s nice to witness all the attendees rooting for each other; even though there will always be favourites, there is no bitterness.

The costumes were exceptional, as you can see (hopefully) from the photos here.  Not everyone entered the competition, but there were so many great costumes whether they were entering or just dressing up for fun.  Massive respect to everyone.

I find it great fun spotting and naming the characters.  The variety and imagination on show is consistently astounding, not to mention the talent that goes into making the costumes.  So again, thanks to all the Cosplayers for letting me take your photos.  Too many of my pics didn’t work out.  I also missed far too may opportunities.  But I hope that the photos here capture some of the creativity I witnessed.

And I sincerely apologise for not dressing up!  I lost count of the number of people who chastised me (with good humour, of course) for not dressing as Tony Stark…

Anyway, there can only be one winner of the Cosplay final, and that was the Robot Overlord fellow.  I can’t remember the character’s name, but I swear it was truly incredible!

Later on in the evening, I zoomed over to the Prog Rock area to catch some music.  I was very happy to catch the Focus set; the song “Hocus Pocus” was an obvious highlight.  I only saw a couple of songs by Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull fame) – though they were impressive – before heading back to the spaceport.

For the rest of the evening, my compadre, Ste and myself had a few beers and hung around with various SFW attendees.  We saw some old pals and met a few new ones.  I took more photos – including the now traditional “no photos” social media-proof shades pics.  And we managed to stay up partying till after 2 in the morning!

Not such a good thing going home Sunday…

Still, another great time at Sci Fi Weekender.  And yes, Greeny and Kurt got better, thanks for asking.

If you were there, it was good to see you.  Hopefully we’ll see you next year.

And big thanks to Adam, who organised the whole thing for us!

The Sci Fi Weekender site is here.

The HRH Prog site is here.

PS: There are photos left unpublished, so there will be Bonus Scenes in a few weeks.  Be warned!

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Cosplay winner!

Star Wars Spin Off Movies – part 2

Way back at the start of 2015, I wrote an article speculating about the content of new Star Wars films.  Not Episode VII, which we know is just a few short months away.  Rather, I was intrigued by the “spin off” movies that would focus on characters and events within the Star Wars galaxy, but not directly within the continuity of the major films.

Of course we now know that these “spin offs” will be called Star Wars Anthology movies.  The first film we will see is “Rogue One”, directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) and centred on the adventures of resistance fighters, stealing the plans for the first Death Star.

There are also plans for a Han Solo movie, telling of his early exploits before the events of Episode IV.  Those of you who read my original blog on this topic may remember that a solo Solo movie was considered back then.

So with that earlier success in mind, here are a few more ideas for Star Wars stand alone movies I would like to see:

Rogue Squadron

I’m assuming that “Rogue One” will not be related to legendary rebel pilots Rogue Squadron.  A film exploring the adventures of Wedge Antilles and comrades would therefore be pretty cool.  It would need to be set around the time of the original trilogy, tying into events as the Rebel Alliance fight against the Galactic Empire.  No thoughts on a new Wedge yet, but I’m working on it.

Lando Calrissian

One thing that currently troubles me about Episode VII is the total lack of Lando Calrissian.  The other major players are present and correct (except Denis Lawson/Wedge, but more fool him), so where’s Lando?  I’d love to see how the biggest scoundrel in the galaxy managed to “acquire” Cloud City.  Think Oceans Eleven style heist movie maybe?  But who to play Lando…

Mace Windu

Surely Samuel L Jackson would be up for his own stand alone movie, starring the enigmatic but under used master Jedi?  Hell, make it into a Clone Wars movie and get Ewan McGregor in as Obi Wan too.  This one HAS to happen – we saw hardly any Clone Wars on film.  Tarantino to direct.

Jabba the Hutt

Why not dive head first into the seedy Star Wars underworld with a film about intergalactic crime lord Jabba the Hutt?  Intrigue and menace would be the order of the day, with the big old slug up to loads of nefarious exploits to maintain his criminal empire.  Scorsese to direct; Robert De Niro as the voice of Jabba; Ray Liotta as Bib Fortuna and Joe Pesci as Salacious Crumb (obviously).

Admiral Ackbar

Just how did Ackbar get to command the Rebel Fleet, what are his experiences and motivations?  This could explore the struggle against the Empire from another angle, and also show how the Rebel Alliance developed to topple it.  You can guess the tagline.

Any more ideas for Star Wars Anthology movies?  Who should direct or star in them?  Leave a comment below if you have a suggestion…

You can read Star Wars Spin Off Movies – part 1 here.

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!

Questions #10: Film Scenes

If you could visit a location in any film you’ve ever seen, what would it be?  I don’t mean a film set like Pinewood Studios, I mean the actual location that you see on screen, real or imaginary.

You could pick New York, but when King Kong is climbing the Empire State Building.  That’s a real place, but when something fantastic from within a movie is happening.

Or you could pick a place that’s completely imaginary, like Oz or Narnia.

I asked this question to several people, and this is what they said.

Q: What scene from a film would you like to visit?

Scott: X-Men mansion

Jamie: Zion (The Matrix)

Matt: the mansion in Underworld

David R:  Andy’s room from Toy Story

Terry: Asgard (Thor)

Sam: Tron world(?)

Iaian: Springfield (The Simpsons)

Alex: Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit)

Mike W: SHIELD Heli Carrier (The Avengers)

David: Hoth (The Empire Strikes Back)

Nathan: Fantasia (Never Ending Story)

Laura: Neverland (Hook)

Sue R: Paris (as in Last Tango In…)

Jayne: Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory

Andy B: Hill Valley (Back to the Future)

Kev: Pandora (Avatar)

Greeny: Jurassic Park

Adam G: Hill Valley 2015 (Back to the Future)

Chris: Gotham City (The Dark Knight)

Simon B: the bar in the Cannonball Run

Karen: Black Pearl (Pirates of the Caribbean)

Steve O: The Copacabana club (Goodfellas)

Claire H: Jamaica (Cool Runnings)

Kirsty R: Desert island from Castaway

Me: Mos Eisley cantina (Star Wars)

Leave a comment below if there’s a scene you’d like to be in!