Sunday, July 3, 2011

Star Wars Vintage Collection: Bom Vimdin

I finally found Bom Vimdin from Hasbro's Star Wars: The Vintage Collection line yesterday, after several months of looking and more months waiting for the release date. This figure has probably just been released — if so, I really didn't have to wait long. But I had heard months ago — maybe longer — that the release date was to be back in March or April, and I have been waiting and searching ever since.

This is one of the most frustrating things about collecting Hasbro's Star Wars line: they announce release dates months in advance, but either the dates keep changing or supply lines to retailers are slow. Meanwhile, it's a lot of pointless store checking and aggravation.

Another frustrating element here is the price. I bought mine at Target for $8.89, which is ridiculously high for a simple action figure on such a simple card. I don't place any special value on the old-style Kenner packaging, either. In fact, I think this type of packaging — which is far less bulkier and seems to use less plastic than Hasbro's other current Star Wars line, The Clone Wars — should be standard for this type of toy in order to eliminate waste and cost. Hasbro seems to think otherwise, though, and these "vintage" style figures are actually about a dollar more than their Clone Wars kin.

Which is partly why Bom Vimdin has been my first new Star Wars action figure purchase in a long while. Price is not the only reason — I just haven't been interested in the figures in this line — but price is the reason I didn't pick up the Logray I found alongside Bom, or the Han Solo. Back during 2007's 30th Anniversary Collection, I probably would have bought all three, but at $8.89 each, no way. These days I need to focus my collection even more than before — in this case, on the cantina aliens from Episode 4.

Getting to the bottom of this pricing mystery is a challenge worthy of Fox Mulder, though he would most likely conclude it was all a plot of lies engineered by the Cigarette Smoking Man. Hasbro has claimed that it doesn't set prices, the retailers do. The retailers all seem to set just about the same price, though, which suggests something about the price they pay for the figures. Meanwhile, there's the issue of who is buying action figures nowadays, especially of characters from the first three Star Wars movies — kids or collectors? Should collectors need to pay more than kids? Maybe, if they are the only consumers of a line made in less quantity than Clone Wars, though I don't know if they are. In any event, the pricing and less-than-stellar character lineup of the Vintage Collection has kept me from all but Bom Vimdin.

The figure itself, like nearly all Hasbro Star Wars figures that don't use so-called "soft goods" accessories, is excellent: outstanding sculpt, great detail on the costume and guns, and a nice balance of articulation and "default pose". (I typically don't care too much about articulation — I just want a default pose that looks good and allows the figure to stand on its own, if a base is not included.)

The next two Vintage Collection waves are supposedly to include two other cantina favorites, re-sculpts of Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba (originally known as Walrus Man). I am looking forward to these — I just hope I don't have to look too far forward.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Compulsive Collection: HeroClix

After many years of collecting action figures, I have become pretty good at staying "in focus," that is, I have defined two or three collection "topics" (Star Wars, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.) and have tried pretty successfully to stick only to certain items that seem to fit those topics. It is with some embarrassment that I admit this discipline has taken a long time to achieve (and it is with even greater embarrassment that I call it "discipline"). Still, I am prone to lapses. My eye strays. I sometimes look "outside the topic" for satisfaction.

I am most prone to this in two situations. First, when I am all "caught up" — that is, when I have found and purchased everything on my current "want list." This is usually a welcomed break, but if boredom sets in I get weak. Second is when I am hunting for a very difficult-to-find item and in frustration turn to something else. (My collection of die-cast 1957 Corvettes is the direct result of not being able to track down Ephant Mon from Hasbro's 2002 Star Wars line.) This happened recently while looking for the new Funko Pop Wonder Woman, which in my area is only available in one chain of stores, and there are only three such stores in my immediate area. After striking out at all three, I found myself at a local comic/collector shop browsing through HeroClix figures with my sons, helping them locate among the shelves of loose figures the ones they needed to expand their own collections. I had never collected HeroClix figures before, because I have never been interested in gaming so much as collecting. But I sensed something about these tiny game tokens.

That's when it happened. Fuelled by the urge to buy, and frustrated by my failing Wonder Woman quest, my rationalization engine kicked in full-force. A pack of Batman HeroClix figures could be considered relevant to my Batman action figure collection. It would also give me my own army that I could use to join my sons' games. Relevant-ish item. Quality time activity with the kids. Done deal.

I bought one pack, along with the items my sons had chosen, and we left the store. When we got to the car, I opened the box and was happy to find cool characters — the Batman featured in the box's cut-out window, of course, but also Penguin, Commissioner Gordon, and Bane! Holding them close to my eyes, I was impressed by the relative detail for figures this small. I was happy about this purchase. My sons were happy for me. We were all happy.

That's when it happened. We ran back into the store, and scrounging up enough coins from my loose change jar, I bought two more sets. Back in the car, I opened them to find Mad Hatter, Riddler, Robin, Oracle, Alfred, and — wow! — Batgirl! I was psyched. All cool characters, not one double! I was amassing an entire Batman min-collection right there in my car! Back into the store, bought the last set, back to the car. Scarecrow, Nightwing, Ra's Al-Ghul!

Days later, I still don't have buyer's remorse. The figures look nice in their little cluster on the shelf, still impressing me with their detail and colors. It would be a little nicer, I guess, if I enjoyed playing the game, but after a few tries with my sons walking me through it, I still don't get it — so many rules and counter-rules that in the end it's just a semi-structured way to play with toys, but maybe that's all it needs to be.

Today I caved and bought Wonder Woman on-line (just as I had eventually caved and bought Ephant Mon on the secondary market). So in the end, my HeroClix excursion didn't take the place of another, it just appeased me during a moment of frustration. But this is partly how collections grow, leapfrogging over compulsion and reason alike.

Which oft our stage hath shown; and for their sake,
In your fair minds let this acceptance take.