I’m excited for The Last Jedi. You’re excited for The Last Jedi. The team at Hasbro is excited for The Last Jedi. But we’re not quite there yet, and it comes as no huge surprise that we didn’t see anything from Episode VIII revealed at Toy Fair. But thankfully Hasbro has found a new theme to focus on until Force Friday 2 in September– the 40th Anniversary of Episode IV, the original Star Wars.
The main line celebrating the big anniversary is a set of figures based on Kenner’s “Original Twelve,” and it’s a brilliant concept. Take the characters from that toy line in ’77 and re-release them in oversized blister cards which evoke the iconic Kenner Star Wars packaging. It’s a great concept, even if the larger size and shape of the Black Series leaves the new packaging far from a one-to-one replica of the vintage cards, and practically speaking this also serves as a perfect way to re-release hard to find early Black Series figures like R2D2 and the classic Stormtrooper, without compromising the collectibility of the earlier releases.
Hasbro is also using this line as an opportunity to drop a few new figures from Episode IV– a Jawa, Death Squad Commander, and a Gamestop exclusive R5D4– and to correct the face sculpt on the previously released Princess Leia to a much more accurate likeness of Carrie Fisher.
This anniversary line will launch with a deluxe Episode IV Darth Vader, packed with a display stand with backdrop which includes footpegs for all of the twelve figures. Wave One will hit in the spring, with the newly revamped Leia, Luke, R2D2, Han Solo, and Obi Wan Kenobi. Wave Two will follow in June, including Chewbacca, C3PO, Stormtrooper, Sand People (Tusken Raider), and the all new Jawa and Death Squad Commander. In addition to R5D4, X-Wing pilot Luke will also be reissued on a 40th Anniversary cardback as a Celebration exclusive.
I like these figures a lot, but I do wish Hasbro had taken the reissue/ tribute concept even further. The old school Death Squad Commander sported a grey uniform, instead of the film accurate black one which this figure features. Releasing a grey Commander in the 40th line would pay homage to the Kenner original, and also give Hasbro the opportunity to re-release him in film accurate black in the future of the Black Series, so it seems like sort of a missed opportunity. The bigger missed opportunity, though, is Luke. Since this version of our hero was first revealed, there has been much debate over his soft goods tunic, and unfortunately the end result left him as one of the weaker entries in the Black Series. This reissue could have been the perfect chance for Hasbro to retool this figure with a rubber/ plastic short, offering a new version for collectors unhappy with the cloth to have their definitive 6″ Episode IV Luke. Yes, it would demand a bigger tooling budget than a straight repack, but it would have silenced one of the loudest complaints over the by and large fantastic Black Series.
A few weeks back, Hasbro first announced one of their all new Black Series offshoots, the Centerpiece Collection. We all thought this was intended as a resurgence of the Star Wars Unleashed line, featuring dynamic, pre-posed figures that could serve, essentially, as low priced statues. But Centerpiece is more than that… it’s a diorama/ display option intended for the Black Series action figures. Each Centerpiece figure, while lacking articulation, is in scale with their Black Series counterparts, and the base they’re attached to can serve as a backdrop to multiple figures. It’s a little complicated to describe, but seeing Hoth Luke fighting a squad of Snowtroopers in front of an AT-AT foot, or Darth Vader commanding a squad of Black Series Stormtroopers aboard the Tantive IV proves how thoughtful and cool this concept truly is.
The Hasbro team also unveiled two new replica pieces– a Force FX Obi-Wan lightsaber, and Poe Dameron’s X-Wing helmet complete with surround sound effects built in. Target has the honor of releasing the final Rogue One 6″ figure, an exclusive AT-ACT Driver (I’m already queuing up the #WheresBodhi campaign)… and while there’s no details on the when or how, the Star Wars team was enthusiastic to announce that The Force Awakens Luke Skywalker IS coming to the Black Series. And the digital sculpt looks incredible.
Check out photos of Hasbro’s Star Wars showroom at Toy Fair below: