What I Got, Part I of XXV:
The regular old action figures were the biggest sellers at TRU, beating out the many 12" dolls, playsets and board games. The Star Wars merchandising house was built on the backs of four-inch figures, and to this day they're still the biggest money makers of all things branded with tiny Lucasfilm trademarks. I visited some of the other toy retailers on Saturday morning, still feeling the effects of Star Wars fever, and even then the places were filled with older folks pretty much cursing God if they couldn't find the figures they wanted. Now that supply has established which are the rarest of the bunch, expect the thirty-something trenchcoat-wearing death worshippers to be at the toy stores in full force, money in one hand, eBay "highest price first" lists in the other. Do they know it's Christmastime at all?
I knew I was going to buy some stuff. There was no avoiding that. Something would catch my eye. So yeah, I went home with a little bit of Star Wars junk. Or maybe I went overboard.
Yeah, probably overboard. I couldn't help myself. I was a kid in a toy store, and I had made the critical error of having too many cash dollars on my person. By the time I got home, exhausted from lugging around this stuff all night, reality set in and I realized that possibly...maybe...I'd bought a little too much. But whatever...you only get so many chances in life to duke it out with an A-Wing Pilot over who gets to keep the Chewbacca plushie.
I'm not going to review everything I bought in this space, because you and I both know that you'll stop reading before I finish. I'll give you the highlights, though, and boy, do they be high. Let's start with the obvious king of all things Star Wars and for sale: Darth Tater, the leader of our brave new world.
It's brilliant, it's absolutely brilliant. I can't believe they're selling it for 8.99 -- they so could get away with twice that much. Packaged in a suitcase-style window box riddled with clever puns ("Together we will rule the galaxy as father and spud!"), Darth Tater is impossibly inviting. Though it's probable that many collectors will leave the toys inside their pretty display boxes for maximum aesthetic appeal/future college funds, I couldn't stop myself from gently chipping the tape away to safely free my new best friend from his see-thru prison. If you have a Darth Tater, how can you possibly not play with it?
I don't know how they managed to make the thing look so cute, but there it is, all cute. The body parts can be arranged just the same as any Mr. Potato Head toy -- you can either have a faithful Darth Vader look-a-like without ears or one that only looks halfway like him with ears. Your call. The cape is a nice touch, but the lightsaber seals the deal. The toy's arms are barely strong enough to hold the weapon without drooping downward, but if you pose Darth Tater just right and back away slowly, he's a sight capable of crumbling swishy governments on this or any planet. A must-have. Pick it up now or they'll come kill you.
Yep, I bought around a dozen action figures. Don't tell anyone. Interesting note about that deluxe Anakin Skywalker figure, the one that changes into (SPOILER!) Darth Vader -- at the International Toy Fair convention this past March, Hasbro gave away a handful of the very same figure, albeit in a crazy, oversized, gimmicked promotional package. Most of the press who received one kept it, but a few threw 'em on eBay and sold the things for as high as 2,500 dollars. And now you can buy it for 10. Essentially, some collectors paid 2K for a box marked "not for resale." You'd have to be of a certain, warped mindset to understand why they'd do that.
Some of my purchased figures were bought only out of tradition -- R2 and 3P0, for example. Others were just too unexpectedly cool and/or strange to resist. On the cool side, we had the blue-robed "Senate Security Royal Guard" figure, the precursor to the Emperor's Royal Guard. Perhaps nodding to longtime collectors, the figure's robes are made of actual felt instead of plastic, much like the original Royal Guard figure's robes were in 1983. I'm thinking about this way too much, but indulge me. They're even selling the red Royal Guard, and when I find him, expect to hear the joy-scream from wherever you may live. On the strange side, I picked up a Padme figure showing signs of belly action. If you don't want anything about the movie spoiled, stop reading for a minute. Okay? Good. It's the infamous "Pregnant Padme" figure, something that will surely stir some form of controversy. Maybe parents will complain that their sons are making Vader saber-chop Padme in the stomach.
Each of the three big toy chains -- Toys 'R' Us, Walmart and Target -- had their own "exclusives." As in, toys you can buy at their stores, but not the others. You know...exclusives. Walmart's got a great revision of the 1977 "Star Wars Early Bird Kit" going on, while Target has a "lava reflective" Darth Vader figure rocketing up the charts. TRU's exclusive seems to be out there in the biggest numbers of the three, but that doesn't damper its cool factor -- it's a "Holographic Yoda" figure, free with any purchase of 35 bucks or more. With sneaky methods of checking out, I was able to snag three. One to keep, one to open and one to sell one of you poor freaks for three hundred dollars. Pay up. I've bought Walmart's exclusive right off their website, so only Target's magnificently hot Vader remains on the checklist. I don't plan on being in the mood to drive to the most local but still very faraway Target anytime soon, but I guess I'll have to. Lord knows how sad life will be without a sparkly-painted Darth Vader figure.
Two of my more expensive and annoying-to-carry purchases are shown above, including a 12" Darth Sidious that looks remarkably like the 12" Pruneface doll from the early `90s Dick Tracy collection, and more notably, the Anakin Skywalker "Ultimate Villain" set, which includes everything from a complete Darth Vader outfit to a burnt up skin mask meant to illustrate Anakin's woe-is-me fate just before donning the suave black metal. Costs fifty bucks, but it's put together really well. The skin mask is one of the creepier Star Wars accessories I've seen, looking like a bootleg version of Freddy Krueger mixed with piles of rotting meat. If only if wasn't sculpted to look so smiley.
Persuaded by the giant versions running around with lightsabers, I had to pick up a few bags of the Star Wars M&M's. The packages are terrific -- the milk chocolate "Jedi" editions feature bright colors, along with images of heroic Star Wars characters and M&M's dressed up as heroic Star Wars characters. The dark chocolate "M-Pire" editions are in correspondingly dark packages, with evil characters and M&M's dressed up as evil characters all over 'em. Even the colors of the M&M's themselves reflect the teams: The Jedi candies are all bright and pastel-like; the M-Pire candies are all gloomy, dim and metallic. I will prove this with a 7.5" photo.
Both the Jedi and M-Pire M&M's come in regular and peanut varieties, and probably a dozen others, but it's pretty clear that the good guys got the shaft in the color department. Seems like they've just dusted off their Easter-edition M&M's and threw in a couple of light brown ones. The M-Pire got all the home runs and grand slams. There's even ultra cool silver M&M's swimming around those bags.
As wonderful as the Star Wars M&M's are, they're not even anywhere near the most interesting food-related Star Wars item out there. For instance, did you know that there are now Star Wars Cheetos sweeping the nation...Cheetos that turn your tongue either "Yoda Green" or "Vader Dark?" Upstairs, the creator of reality shakes his head.
Ah, Star Wars. Ah, Midnight Madness. Ah, Lego-Chewie and Darth Tater. Y'all make me feel really good.
Check the X-E Blog for semi-frequent updates on the many new oddball Star Wars promotions driving us nuts, and as a favor to UGO for hooking me up with the credentials and shit to cover this fine event, check out their Players section, where you can view musical performances from dreamboat indie sensation Ted Leo and some redhead who is apparently a Ditty Bop. Do it for me.
Oh, and if you want to talk about what you've seen in this article with other readers, click here. See ya on the other side.