Showing posts with label Article. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Article. Show all posts

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Habit

CHUG Autobots Jazz Bumblebee Transformers

I’ve been fighting the urge again today.

Time and again I’ll get that uncontrollable desire to put down some money for some fine plastic crack, whatever line I’m into at the time, and much like Decepticons dogging an Autobot shuttle (which sounds kinda weird when typed out like that), the need doesn’t abate until I’m ripping plastic from cardback and welcoming a new soldier to the collection. That’s how so many of the figures I own have come into my possession, and quite tidily explains how I always veer so wildly off of any kind of focus.

It’s all good fun, don’t get me wrong – new toys can be exciting photography subjects, or companions on adventures around the house, but after a while the thrill wears off and in most cases the figures end up in a box waiting for the day they no longer fit the trim of my collection, gathering dust whilst destined for eBay. What’s more, impulse purchases never feel as good as ticking something off of ‘the list’ – finding Battle in Space Rodimus second-hand for £6 has been one of my best finds since starting collecting because a) he’s one of my favourite characters, and b) it scratched that G1 Movie itch. Beast Hunters Deluxe Smokescreen, currently on sale for £6.50 at the supermarket down the road doesn’t have the same pros going for it, however much I liked the character in the show. But still, despite these rationalisations, the temptation is there to nip out and buy it anyway. It could be in my hands in ten minutes.

CHUG Decepticons Galvatron Nightstick Cyclonus Transformers

Further propagating the insatiable urge has been the recent launch of the AOE toys, which I scouted out just this morning at another supermarket slightly further down the road. My willpower took an easy victory there though as those toys (the one-step changers and battlers) look terrible, completely and utterly devoid of the skill and invention that continues to make Transformers an evergreen line. Hasbro’s continued cheapening out will come home to roost (if it’s not already), but that’s a subject for another post…

So then, a thought suggests, maybe I should just go and buy the substantially better (and cheaper) Beast Hunters figures whilst I still can?

No. That way lies madness, and an inevitable financial loss when the toy ends up at a car boot sale one year hence. Furthermore it could also mean the difference between making all my bills this month or not, which means buying the figure would be both a serious lapse of responsibility and indicate a failure to contextualise my dilemma. They’re just toys man, just toys. 

Still got that urge though. What to do?

CHUG Autobots Rodimus Hot Rod Jazz Bumblebee Transformers

Here’s a novel suggestion, amidst the wave of purchase enabling which goes on online - how about appreciating the plastic I’ve already got?

My CHUG collection (Classics/Henkei/Universe/Generations, the standard Transformers lines of recent years) is small but pretty, and contains several of my favourite characters – the aforementioned Rodimus (Hot Rod in all but copyright-concerned name), Jazz, Galvatron, Cyclonus and Bumblebee. All G1, all Movie, all fun… Well, with the unfortunate exception of the small, fiddly and frustrating Galvatron, but I’m not here to focus on the negatives. The glorious weather we’ve had so far this week was a big motivating factor in taking them all out to photograph, and in doing so I remembered why I collect these figures in the first place.

So much of collecting is about the next big thing, the upcoming releases, the new third-party or Masterpiece pre-orders, with the result being that the current releases tend to get forgotten, celebrated wildly upon receipt but then left to stand on a shelf; at least, that’s something I’ve been guilty of anyway. What I think I’d be better off remembering is that I’ve got a great little collection of toy robots already, and in future I should perhaps try to associate my urge with appreciating what I have, rather than with spending what I don’t.

All that said though… One Kapow! sale, and I’m anybody’s…

Staying on target then, does anyone reading have any particular method for avoiding the temptation of sales and keeping focused with their collecting? Or is it just an intrinsic part of the collector mentality to move from one purchase to the next? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Thanks for reading!

Friday, 4 April 2014

They Call Them... Space Trees!

The Ewok Treehouse
Bright Tree Village
Perhaps it's due to my generally left-leaning politics, or maybe it's just because I selfishly want to see a good range of products from licenses I like get made, but either way I'm a big fan of third party manufacturers and the products they bring to the table. Case in point is this new offering from Twelth Parsec, 'Star Wars Inspired Space Trees' (click through to the Indiegogo campaign page). 

Third Party Ewok Hut
Scale Wars
These Space Trees are decent looking modular display sets that offer collectors the chance to build anything from a sole Ewok outpost to a fully connected Bright Tree Village, and they offer a significant chunk of play value as well (usable huts, rope ladders, AT-ST ending log swings); in short, they're offering pretty much exactly what fans, myself included, have been pestering Hasbro about for years. The campaign has already hit its target but has set stretch goals for the next five days, so be sure to at least check it out if you haven't already and see if you could maybe find a place for one of these in your collection...
Image from
I know there's some collector unease about third party products, at least with some well-informed Transformers fans I've spoken to about the subject, but I think that Hasbro only have themselves to blame for the recent proliferation of non-official Star Wars 'inspired' playsets and displays. Whilst the big H has continually claimed that playsets don't work and won't sell, they're basing that on the performance of the lazy, uninspired designs they put out to cash in on the Prequels. Junk like the Theed Generator Complex (above) didn't sell because it's poorly made, cheap and barely resembles the film set it's based on. I can think of two playsets that Hasbro did get right, the Endor Attack Bunker and the Detention Block Rescue - and both of these look somewhat how they're supposed to, and still command a fair to high secondary market price. The demand is there.

Third Party Cantina Booth
The last booth he ever used...
I'm in no position at the moment to afford any Space Trees, but I wish Twelth Parsec the best of luck with their endeavour. For what it's worth I already have a custom 'Hero Booth' Mos Eisley Cantina display from the hugely talented Boutros77, and would definitely buy something of that standard again in the future - be it from Hasbro or otherwise.

So, are third party companies good or bad? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks to Star Wars Collector for the heads up, and thank you for reading!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Star Wars Action Figures and Articulation

Whose Line is it Anyway?

New 5POA Jedi Kanan figure from the upcoming Rebels line
Star Wars Rebels: Kanan Jarras
5POA. If you’re a fan of Star Wars action figures at present, or most current licensed toy lines for that matter, that term is likely to evoke some strong emotions one way or another. With the reveal of the 5POA Kanan figure from the upcoming Star Wars Rebels line (above), I think I’ve finally hit a moment of clarity with regards to my own stance on the articulation debate.

As a rule I try not to let the excessive negativity of online forums get to me, and sometimes find myself taking a contrarian position just to counter that aggressiveness – I can’t help it, I have a natural aversion to sharing a viewpoint with some of the more… dedicated forumers out there. It was this attitude, along with genuine curiosity and an appreciation for the fact that Hasbro were making action figures affordable again that I picked up my first Saga Legends figure, the Super Battle Droid. Despite some initial reservations this purchase was swiftly followed with Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Shock Trooper from Saga Legends, and the Darth Vader/Seeker Droid and 212th Clone Trooper/Battle Droid sets from the Mission Series. I’ve now essentially got a small selection of vintage style Revenge of the Sith action figures, but as cool as they all look together… I’m not really sure what to do with them.

Saga Legends Darth Vader, Shock Trooper and Anakin Skywalker
A small selection of Saga Legends
I enjoy taking photos of my toys when I can find the time, but I’ve struggled to get much mileage from the Saga Legends in that regard. Don’t get me wrong, I love Rather Childish (RIP?) as much as the next toy collecting Star Wars nerd, but there are two factors stopping me from ripping him off as much as I’d like: firstly, my photography skills are nowhere near as developed as his, and secondly the vintage figures have a certain charm that the Saga Legends toys emulate, but don’t quite match… And that’s probably as close as we’re going to get to an empirical value for nostalgia. As pilot figures I think they look great, and I would love to pick up a Class II (accurately scaled) Jedi Starfighter with which to display either Anakin or Kenobi when I have the funds. Beyond that though, I’ve really run out of interest, and that’s only confirmed that this isn’t the action figure line for me.

And the thing is, it’s really not. I called it when the Saga Legends were first announced, and after giving them a fair go I’m happy enough to say that these figures aren’t for me. They’re for my nephew, his friends, and any other kids discovering Star Wars for the first time, and I am not gonna fault Hasbro for that – after all, it was an affordable kids toy line that got us all hooked in the first place, whether it was vintage or POTF2. That’s why I’m OK with the new Rebels figures being 5POA, because it means staying affordable, and might even lead to a new group of collectors eventually joining the party - something that’s definitely required if the line is ever to reclaim the heights it once scaled.

Promo pic of Ezra from the upcoming Rebels TV show
Star Wars Rebels: Ezra Bridger & The Ghost
The Saga Legends toy line isn’t for us, and the Rebels cartoon (a Disney channel exclusive, no less) isn’t for us either. If we enjoy it, that’s a different matter; but it’s not for us, and amidst all the pitchfork wielding about how the new Rebels characters have been designed purely for kid appeal, or that the latest figures aren't the greatest quality, that’s something entirely worth remembering.

I'll get off my soapbox now... 

Thoughts prompted and images snatched from the always awesome FLYGUY.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Best of the Best: The Star Wars Soundtrack Countdown

Star Wars Episodes I-VI
VII-IX Pending.
I’ve had very little time to focus on action figure reviews or photography over the last few weeks as my university course has grown increasingly hectic (it’s the final year rush!), but one thing that’s kept me going in that time has been Spotify, and in particular the fantastic work of John Williams. Whilst I’ve been happily listening to his scores for Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and The Book Thief, it’s really the Star Wars soundtracks that made me fall in love with his music, over and above, say, the incredible themes for E.T. or Indiana Jones

The thing is that when you begin to consider the music as a separate entity to the films a very different order of preference emerges, and the prequels don’t seem quite as bad anymore… With that in mind, I proudly present:

The Star Wars Soundtrack Countdown

6. Return of the Jedi

Coming at the tail-end of the OT, the Return of the Jedi soundtrack has its moments, such as the soaring, operatic majesty of Luke and Leia or the haunting Emperor’s Throne Room. However the music rarely takes off, and never feels quite as vibrant as the earlier scores, due in large part to the production which is almost muted and flat by comparison to the earlier records. The Special Editions were the hardest on this film as well, as we were ‘treated’ to the appalling Jedi Rocks and inferior Victory Celebration tunes – celebrate the love indeed. Like the actual film, the Jedi soundtrack has some depth, but a lot of filler. Still worth a listen though!

5. Attack of the Clones

On a similar note (hah!), the Attack of the Clones soundtrack has some beautiful moments, such as Across the Stars and Yoda and the Younglings; but it still falls a bit flat in places – Zam the Assassin and the Chase Through Coruscant is as bitty and noisy as the horrible, horrible scene it scores, for example. However, tracks like Confrontation with Count Dooku and Finale really emphasises the intended mystery of the Sith, and on the whole it’s a collection of beautiful music with a building, tragic undertone that sells the story far better than the actual film. It’s an undeservedly elegant score.

4. Revenge of the Sith

Revenge of the Sith comes the closest out of the prequels to matching the quality and tone of the OT, and as such it’s far more in harmony with its score than the previous two episodes. I’m still confused as to why Battle of the Heroes was composed and used when Duel of the Fates would have been equally (if not more) appropriate, but it’s a fine tune in and of itself. We’re also introduced to the brilliant, alert General Grievous, which is a sharp continuation of themes from The Phantom Menace album. The soundtrack is punctuated with stabs of the Imperial March, and the closing A New Hope and End Credits is the perfect way to tie the two trilogies together. It might not have a beautiful high point like the ROTJ or AOTC albums, but as a whole this soundtrack is greater than the sum of its parts.

3. The Phantom Menace

The soundtrack that started the debate. In my factual and scientifically endorsed opinion this is only the fifth best Star Wars film, but the soundtrack runs the top two extremely close. This album was pretty much all I listened to over the summer of 1999, and it’s a score of unexpected majesty, beauty, and fun – waking up the neighbours by blaring out Augie’s Great Municipal Band and End Credits every morning certainly fulfilled my bizarre, Calvin-esque rebellious streak; Anakin’s Theme is one of my favourite tracks from the whole saga, and even Jar Jar Binks gets a bone with a playful, enigmatic introductory tune. That’s even before we consider the commercial impact of the frenetic Duel of the Fates, as exciting as the fight scenes it accompanies… Regardless of your take on the success of Lucas’ decision to show a more regal and refined galaxy, John Williams delivered the goods in spades.

2. The Empire Strikes Back

I struggle with the Empire soundtrack, because it’s simply amazing – from an objective viewpoint, it can be genuinely considered for the title of the greatest film soundtrack ever. However, and I’m being subjective here, I listen to it fairly frequently and find myself skipping the ends of tracks, before the Imperial March comes crashing in and destroys the mood the previous music created. I get it, how the never-too-distant fear of the Empire is perfect for the film, but from a selfish point of view I’d really enjoy being able to listen to the soul edifying grandeur of Yoda and the Force without having to worry about turning the volume down almost immediately afterwards.

But maybe I’m being too critical; after all, this album gave us The Asteroid Field, City in the Clouds, Han Solo and the Princess, Yoda’s Theme… And of course, the Imperial March. It’s a classic.

1. Star Wars

Now, I’m not the kind to think that Star Wars is the greatest achievement of the saga (however great an achievement it is), and I love the fact that we have two complete stories, those of both Luke and Anakin Skywalker. However the score is a huge part of why Star Wars exists as it does today, and Williams nailed it at the first time of asking. The Main Title is a cultural touchstone, enough said. Beyond that there are moments of beauty and adolescent melancholy galore with The Hologram/Binary Sunset, and Tales of a Jedi Knight/Learn About the Force, weighted against the drama and tension of Burning Homestead. The beauty reaches a high point with Princess Leia’s Theme. There’s the playfulness that sets this film apart from the others in The Dune Sea of Tatooine/Jawa Sandcrawler and Cantina Band, and the glorious, rousing The Throne Room/End Title caps both the listening and the viewing experience off perfectly.

The Star Wars soundtrack established the themes and pattern for the others to follow, and however great Williams’ achievements on the other five films, or any of his countless other classics, no other soundtrack surpasses his work on this.

John Williams is The Man.
The music of Star Wars is one of the elements of the franchise that I enjoy the most, and do so on an almost daily basis. Whatever order you may put these soundtracks in, we should all be grateful that such masterful music exists for our listening pleasure. All the same if you think I've got it the wrong way around, let me know in the comments!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Empire’s End: The State of Star Wars Collecting in the UK

"Size matters not. Everywhere, bad management is."
More so than at any other point in the 18 years since POTF2 launched, the Star Wars action figure line appears to be in real trouble. Overly expensive, with hit and miss character choices and baffling case selections, the 3.75” Black Series line is proving a mixed bag for collectors, with some figures impossible to find whilst others sit and languish. Meanwhile, proving that nothing was learnt from 2012’s Phantom Menace debacle, the over produced first wave of Saga Legends is clogging up shelves everywhere. The budget line is divisive, but at first it seemed like the figures were selling well at the lower price point – now however there’s no getting away from the fact that the line is stalling. This all-round poor management and failure to sell will eventually lead to price reductions and clearance sales, which many collectors now wait for. No-one can blame them for waiting though, because the ever-increasing RRP for the figures is becoming truly prohibitive.
Thank you for the image!
I wrote this article about my take on the health of the 3.75” line back when the larger Black Series figures were announced, with the full intention of migrating to the new scale. At £20 each the figures are expensive, but the build quality and the way that each figure thus far has seemed like a definitive release makes the cost just about worth it, for cherry picking at least. Unfortunately before it’s had a chance to truly begin, the 6” line is already looking troubled.

Firstly the gap between waves one and two has been a real momentum killer, with many collectors losing interest in the line in the intervening months. I’m sure the figures are good enough to rebuild that interest but it’s an unnecessary stumbling block, and one that the re-launched Marvel Legends, to choose a pertinent example, did not suffer from. 

The second problem is the switch to the three figure wave, with the fourth figure being a repack. This decision actually makes sense, in the case of the repack being an army builder like a Stormtrooper. However, as has been announced with wave three, Hasbro are repacking Han Solo. Don’t get me wrong, Han looks like an excellent figure, and if there is the demand for him then I’ll happily hold my hands up; but unfortunately the Stormtrooper was the clear best choice for that slot. If that wasn't possible then there were no excuses not to repack Solo’s wave mate Boba Fett, a figure that scalpers worldwide are making a mint on. These case selection issues seem endemic at Hasbro, and scalpers are laughing all the way to the bank. No-one legitimate wins from this situation.

RRP: £20. Availability: Sparse.
The absolutely fatal strike against the Black Series however is the price hike. At £20 each the figures are already a luxury item (and I bought mine with vouchers and in a sale), but from wave three the price is climbing to an unsustainable £25 each. That equates to just over $40, to put it into context for any US readers, for a 6” plastic figure. It doesn’t matter how good the figures are, that is a rip-off. I know that I’m not alone in thinking this, and I really believe that this is going to do more damage to the brand than Hasbro may have accounted for. In reality these figures should cost about £15 each, £18 maximum. It’s going to be hard to stay with the line when the figures become that dear.

The thing is, I’m not swearing off the Black Series; I like the figures way too much to do that. I am however going to join the many other collectors in waiting for sales and clearance discounts to pick up the releases that I want, and I think that’s a shame all round. I am disappointed that something that started off with such promise has run into these kinds of issues by only the third wave.
Thank you for the image!
It isn’t all doom and gloom though, there is, personally, a bright side. The allure of the Black Series got me to seriously question my collecting, and I made myself break some of the bad purchasing/hoarding habits I’d developed. The issues with the Star Wars lines have actually given me the opportunity to invest more time in my other action figure interests, and time spent researching Transformers Masterpieces and TMNT Classics has helped me to refine my ideas of what I want from a collection – in other words, collecting Star Wars has made me collect other lines!

Really though, whatever happens with the Black Series I’m grateful we’ve seen it at all, for the figures we do have are rather splendid. Whatever I end up spending my money on, I really am hoping that these current issues are easily resolved bumps in the road, and that the line goes on to a long, glorious and (most of all) affordable future. 

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