#2149: Cantina Band Member

CANTINA BAND MEMBER

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

Mos Eisley may be home to scum and villainy, but it’s not without its entertainment value.  There’s plenty of peppy tunes to be had in the Mos Eisley Cantina, home to the Cantina Band, known more specifically as Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes.  The Cantina Band is definitely a distinctive element in the first film, even if they do boil down to just six identical guys with rubber masks.  The band was absent from the vintage line, but Power of the Force put a lot of effort into filling out the Cantina, with both patrons and employees.  Rather than releasing the Band’s individual members, Kenner took advantage of the shared basic design and released one figure with a bunch of instruments, allowing fans to buy how ever many they wanted…provided it wasn’t more than five.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Cantina Band Member was offered up exclusively through Star Wars Insider Magazine and the official fan club in 1997.  The figure was limited to five per person…which actually means no one was able to get a complete band, since there are six members in the movie (two of them played the same instrument).  Whoops.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 10 points of articulation.  In order to facilitate holding all of the instruments, the Band Member was given both elbow and wrist joints, thereby making him one of the most articulated figures in the line.  Such as it is, he still has some trouble holding the instruments, but it was a nice idea.  The sculpt on this guy isn’t a bad one; the aliens always made out the best in this line, and he’s no exception.  The head’s definitely the best piece, and does a quite respectable job of capturing the mask from the movie.  The body falls a little bit victim to PotF‘s penchant for pre-posing.  It’s not terrible, and is really just limited to the slight forward step of the legs.  It does make him slightly tricky to keep standing, though.  The paintwork on him is fairly basic, but there’s definitely some nice accenting on the head and hands, which gives him a little bit of pop.  Accessories are really the main game here, as the figure includes five different instruments.  Included are the Kloo Horn (played by band leader Figrin D’an), the Dorenian Beshniquel (played by Doikk Na’ts), the Fanfar (played by Ickabel G’ont and Tedn Dahai), the Omni Box (played by Tech Mo’r), and the Bandfill (played by Nalan Cheel).

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I wasn’t so much up on the fan club stuff in the ’90s, so I didn’t get one of these as a kid.  Instead, he’s one of the perks of working with All Time Toys, as I literally had this guy thrown at me by the owner when he was informed I didn’t own one yet.  He’s not quite as good a figure as Kenner was aiming for, but he’s still a pretty solid offering, and at some point I’ll need to track down a few more of them.

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#1948: Spirit of Obi-Wan

SPIRIT OF OBI-WAN

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

You know something I really miss? Mail-away figures.  They were quite popular during the ’80s and ’90s, and even made their way into the early ’00s, and were particularly common amongst the Star Wars lines, and they even netted me my very first Han Solo action figure.  To say I have a soft-spot for them is something of an understatement.  In their hey-day, they permeated all manner of merchandising.  Perhaps one of the most infamous is today’s focus, the Spirit of Obi-Wan.  One of the first offerings of the re-launched Star Wars line, he was born out of a partnership between Kenner and Frito Lay.  If you sent in a certain number of proofs of purchase from Frito Lay’s then-new pizza flavored potato chips, they’d send you this fancy exclusive figure.  Obviously, thought the smart toy collectors out there, this figure was going to be super rare and hard to find, so they had to order as many of them as possible, so that they could retire on them in the future.  Little economics lesson here: if you create false demand for an item, then the supply will rise to meet it, and then *nobody* gets to retire.  But enough about senseless speculation, how’s the actual figure?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Spirit of Obi-Wan was shipped out to fans in 1997, as the second mail-away offer in the Power of the Force II line.  He was the line’s second Obi-Wan figure, following his standard release in ’95.  It was also our first time getting Obi-Wan in his force ghost form, which is somewhat surprising given how much of the original trilogy he spends as a ghost.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and has 0 points of articulation.  Yes, you read that articulation count right; this figure has no articulation, at least not right out of the box.  There are clearly joints at his neck and shoulders, and you can get them moving without *too* much trouble, but they are affixed in place when new, on every sample of this figure.  Why is anyone’s guess.  It’s entirely possible it wasn’t even fully intentional, but there it is.  Obi-Wan’s sculpt is, understandably, rather similar to his standard release figure.  The only parts actually shared between the two are the head and I believe the right arm, since the translucent nature of the figure makes a solid construction on the torso more sensible than the removable robe of the prior figure.  It actually looks pretty decent, and possibly one of the most surprising things about this figure’s sculpt is that it wasn’t ever repainted into a regular Obi-Wan.  I do have to say, while not spot-on, the head actually seems to have more of a resemblance to Alec Guinness when unpainted.  Speaking of unpainted, that’s the nature of this whole figure.  While later force ghost figures would experiment with variations in coloration, this one is just a straight translucent blue.  I myself like this look a little more, if I’m honest; it makes him more identifiably different.  The Spirit of Obi-Wan was packed with no accessories, unless of course you count the assortment of coupons he came with, but that seems like a stretch to me.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I had enough trouble holding onto my regular Obi-Wan back in the day, so I did not have this one growing up.  Instead, I added him to my collection thanks to my friends at All Time Toys, who got in not one, but two *sealed* copies of this figure, one of them still in its cardboard mailer.  Since they aren’t actually worth much of anything, All Time was more than happy to pass along one of the pair to me.  He’s not a super playable figure, but he’s a nifty sort of set dressing, and a great example of how badly speculators can screw up a market.  Don’t buy your toys as investments kids; it never really pays off.

#1502: Han Solo as Stormtrooper

HAN SOLO AS STORMTROOPER

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

Okay, so let’s talk about a concept that I really miss: mail away action figures.  Those cool little bonuses you’d get for collecting a bunch of proofs of purchase, or even just finishing a box of cereal.  Hasbro used to be pretty big on them, but we haven’t seen anything like this in a good decade.  It’s kind of a little sad.  So why not reminisce a bit for better times and have a look at one of my favorite mail-away items, Han Solo as Stormtrooper!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Han Solo as Stormtrooper was offered in 1995 through 1996 as a Kellog’s-exclusive mail-away offer, featured on Froot Loops, as a part of the overall Power of the Force II line from Kenner.  This was the second Han in POTF2, following the basic ANH Han from Series 1.  As noted by the name, he depicts Han in his Stormtrooper disguise from his time on the Death Star in A New Hope.  Believe it or not, this was the first time we got such a figure.  Said figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and has 6 points of articulation.  Surprisingly enough, the sculpt is all-new, and doesn’t use pieces from any of the standard Stormtroopers.  It still follows their lead stylistically, of course, meaning he’s still got that whole steroid abuse look going on.  But hey, if you’re gonna blend in, you gotta actually blend in, right?  He’s sculpted with a bit of a pose to him, like he’s right in the middle of a lunge or something, which is consistent with the rest of the line’s earliest figures.  The head is a slight re-working of the early POTF2 Han head.  It still doesn’t really look like Harrison Ford, but I can understand their desire for consistency.  I also really like the addition of the collar to his neck; that’s a nice touch.  His paintwork is fairly standard fair.  The body’s on par with the basic Stormtrooper, and the head with the first Han, so he’s certainly at home with his line-mates.  While the figure included no blaster (due to Kellog’s fairly strict no guns policy with their mail-away offerings), he did get his removable helmet, which looks just like the actual trooper head, and goes on quite nicely to boot.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This figure’s important to me.  Not only was he my first Han Solo, but he was also my first experience with a mail-away offer.  I was at the grocery store with my parents, and they let me pick out a cereal.  I didn’t know what I wanted, but they were kind enough to point me in the direction of the Froot Loops with the Han offer, and that was just tops for me.  Sure, this figure’s goofy and dated, just like the rest of the line, but I still think he’s awesome.

#1388: Clark Kent

CLARK KENT

SUPER POWERS (KENNER)

Ah, the Mail Away figure.  There’s a largely abandoned concept.  It hasn’t been dead for as long as you might think (Hasbro had a few in their various Star Wars lines a few years back), but it’s kind of fallen out of fashion, especially with the introduction of Build-A-Figures.  The concept was an intriguing way of getting an extra figure out there, but was actually born out of the a need to help move figures at retail.  Need to sell extra stock?  There’s no better way to do that than to offer a reward to customers who buy it in a certain quantity.  Today, I’ll be taking a look at one of the earlier mail-away offerings, courtesy of one of my very favorite toy lines ever, Super Powers!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Clark Kent was offered as a mail away item in 1986, coinciding with the third series of Kenner’s Super Powers line.  He was the second mail away figure to be offered in the line, but unlike his predecessor Steppenwolf, he remained exclusive to the mail away offer and never saw a carded release.  The figure stands about 4 1/2 inches tall and he has 7 points of articulation.  Like the rest of the line, his sculpt was unique to him.  The head shares a number of traits in common with the Superman from the line, which is a very nice touch, and is kind of the linchpin in selling this guy as a Clark Kent.  The plastered-on combover looks suitably dorky, and the glasses actually don’t look terrible.  The body is a decent generic suited body; I’m not sure it has quite the same stature as the standard Superman.  Perhaps Kenner was hoping to re-use it for other characters down the line?  I don’t know.  It’s certainly not a bad sculpt at all.  The paintwork on Clark is fairly straightforward.  The color scheme has the same basics as Superman, swapping out white for the yellow.  It’s all nice and bright and it stands out pretty nicely and fits in well with the rest of the line.  All of the application is nice and clean for the most part, apart from some slight wear here and there.  Clark included no accessories, but he *did* have the requisite Super Powers action feature; when you squeeze his legs, his arms swing in opposite directions.  Not really sure what it’s supposed to be, but it does make for a kind of goofy fast-walking, late for work sort of motion.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve been steadily working on a full set of Super Powers figures, and Clark’s not one of the easier ones to track down.  I’ve seen him once or twice, but he’s usually a little pricey.  I saw one at Yesterday’s Fun this summer, and was sort of thinking about getting him, but wasn’t sure.  Remember how I said my family were too good to me?  Well, the day after seeing this guy at Yesterday’s Fun, my Dad presented me with a bag of figures I’d put back, this guy included, with the words “your Granddad would have wanted you to have this.”  I guess I can’t really argue with that.  Is he the most exciting figure of all time?  No.  Is he fun?  Yes.  Do I love this figure?  Most certainly.

#0720: Lifeline

LIFELINE

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO

LifelineVint1

Despite having quite a high appreciation for G.I. Joe and its many military themed characters, I wouldn’t really consider myself a particularly military-minded person. As such, my favorite figures are very frequently those who deviate a bit more from the military structure of the line. One of my favorite characters from the line is Lifeline, who was one of the team’s medics and happened to be a pacifist, which definitely made him a little different from the rest of the Joes, and gave him a nice bit of contrast.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

LifelineVint2The original Lifeline was released in the 1986 series of Hasbro’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (which, having looked into for the purposes of my review, may well be one of my favorite Series of ARAH. That was a good year). This Lifeline, however, is actually the exclusive Rice Krispies mail-in offer version of the character from 1991. The two are almost identical, but there’s one difference between them that I’ll get to in a moment. Lifeline, like all good G.I. Joes, stand 3 ¾ inches tall and has 14 points of articulation. Lifeline has a sculpt that is very much in line with the rest of his vintage compatriots. Sure, it’s not quite up to modern sensibilities of action figures, and there’s a bit of hokeyness to the sculpt, but it’s certainly a nicely detailed sculpt. Plus, it just has a certain charm to it. Lifeline has a helmet and a pair of sunglasses, so his face is a little hard to see, but what we do see looks nice and friendly, which certainly is befitting of the pacifist medic. So, about that minor change; yeah, Kellogg’s wasn’t super eager to have their mail-away figure sporting a firearm, so, in addition to dropping the original’s included handgun from the accessories list, they also had Hasbro change the figure’s legs to remove the holstered gun on his thigh. The final figure’s legs are shared with the 1985 Frostbite figure. The change isn’t a really big deal, what with the whole pacifist thing mentioned above. The only real issue is that the straps on the figure’s waist, which originally connected to his holster and a pouch on his right leg now just end with the waist piece. It’s a little odd, but admittedly not super obvious unless you’re looking right at it. Lifeline’s paintwork is pretty straightforward; the reds are molded plastic and the whites and silvers are painted on. While my figure sports a little bit of wear from play (that’ll happen to figures from the time before collectors started having the hermetically sealed), the paintwork is overall pretty clean, and I like the “RESCUE” printed on the left leg in particular.  While he may have lost his handgun, the mail-away Lifeline certainly isn’t lacking in terms of accessories. He includes a backpack that looks to double as a transmitter of some sort, as well as a rescue pack, befitting his status as a field medic.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

My appreciation for Lifeline came a little while after I got into G.I. Joe. He wasn’t amongst the Joes chosen to be updated for the 2000s incarnation of the line, so I had no figure of him, and therefore, no initial knowledge of the character. However, I got to know the character through his comic and cartoon appearances, which is how I came to really appreciate him, even if I didn’t have a figure. This figure is actually a fairly recent acquisition, having been picked up from a cool little store nearby called 2nd Chance Toyz. I didn’t realize until after getting him that he was the mail-in version, but I can’t say I mind, truth be told. Lifeline is very definitely a toy of his time, but I’m glad to have him in my collection.