A regularly updated blog about my vintage Kenner Star Wars toy collection. Some stuff that I've recently acquired; some stuff that I've had since I was a kid. Some rare, some common, but all sharing the warmth, charm and character of the "first generation" of Star Wars toys - the ones we played with as kids in the late '70s and early '80s.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Unlicensed Darth Vader Ceramic Lamp

Whaddaya think of this?? Back in the summer my good friend Mike of 4th Moon Toys tipped me off to this item that was for sale on our local kijiji site: a vintage "unlicensed" Darth Vader ceramic lamp.

This thing is super-cool and although not particularly rare or valuable, can be tough to find undamaged and with the original clear plastic lightsaber.

Back in the day, DIY ceramics were a real thing... people would have parties at their houses, and someone would bring in a bunch of ceramic stuff they'd cast for the partygoers to paint as a fun activity (and to generate a bit of cash of course). Then the person would take the ceramics back and fire them, then the attendees would go pick them up. Sometimes the ceramics maker had a retail shop where people would come to paint ceramic items, and again the shop owner would fire them for later pickup. The items came in all different themes, but pretty much all were unlicensed by any legitimate trademark or copyright holder. This Darth Vader is a great example.
The lamp is hollow of course, and a short string of incandescent coloured lights fits up inside, shining through the eyes and details on the chest plate, and of course illuminating the lightsaber. 

Here's a short video clip of the item all lit up. Not sure how it works exactly but once it's warmed up, the lights blink different colours, and things get pretty freaky. So cool.

Faint date marking on the bottom of the item reads "1982" with initials. Certainly no copyright or trademark info to be found here!

I love this lamp and want to thank Mike again for putting me onto it. Of course these things are relatively delicate and don't travel well, so finding one locally is really the only way to get them. The Star Wars Collectors' Association has a few pages with a bunch of information on these unlicensed items here, if you want to learn more and see some really crazy items.

I hope everybody gets as much of a kick out of this as I do, and I hope you're having a great Holiday season!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

5-Minute "Vintage" Custom: K-3PO

What can I say - when you're on a roll, you're on a roll. And right now I've been rolling with the vintage customs. Here is the latest - K-3PO, hero of Echo Base, from The Empire Strikes Back.

While you can dive as deeply as you want into the Expanded Universe lore, suffice to say that K-3PO was a protocol droid in the service of the Rebel Alliance. Apparently his master was somewhat of a military historian, and loaded up K-3PO with tons of military knowledge, to the extent that the droid became somewhat of a master tactician himself. This resulted in K-3PO's appointment to the rank of Captain (denoted by the two red dots on his chest) and command of Echo Base's droid pool. Sadly he perished after a direct hit on the command center (wow - it just occurred to me I could have gotten out the Rebel Command Center for this photoshoot!)
Obviously a super-straightforward repaint of an original C-3PO figure (loose limbs, worn plating and all) that I had stored in a Vader case with a ton of other spare figures. Just a spray with satin white, paint in the yellow photoreceptors, and two red dots for the insignia, and he's done. It took longer for the paint to dry than it did to paint him in the first place.

Rebel Commander and Princess Leia discuss the Echo Base evacuation while K-3PO offers unsolicited advice stands by to assist.

This was a fun quick project and moves another beater figure from storage into the display cabinet. Most collectors will have one (or many) beat-up 3POs and this is a great, easy way to take a dip into the custom pool without too much time or effort at all.  Fun!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

"Vintage" Custom Captain Antilles and The Mystery of the Rebellious Robot!

Another fun custom project - Captain Antilles of the Tantive IV, the putative "consular ship" upon which Princess Leia travelled with the stolen Death Star plans at the beginning of Star Wars.

The opportunity for this project came about a bit randomly. I'd had a beat-up Han Bespin kicking around on my desk for awhile, and when I happened to visit a local antique shop and spotted a loose POTF2 Rebel Fleet Trooper for cheap, it was on...

Unlike the custom Rebel Fleet Trooper I made a little while ago, I didn't want to use the new POTF2 head for Captain Antilles, because I'd already used it on the custom RFT. Instead, I planned to transplant the POTF2 helmet onto Han Bespin's head. So I plunked the POTF2 figure into boiling water and removed the helmet. As shown above, I took a slice or two off the top of Han's head, and Dremeled out a hole in the top of his head to accommodate the trimmed-down stud on the inside of the helmet.

Of course, Han's original head needed some sculpting help to add the chin cup that goes with the RFT helmet. Two-part sculpting epoxy ("green stuff") was just the thing to use.

Here's Han before paint. Painting was straightforward - the pants and jacket were painted GW Zandri Dust, the shirt was done in Steel Legion Drab, the jacket yoke was done in XV-88, the leather in Mournfang Brown, the hardware Mithril Silver, and flesh touchups in Kislev Flesh.

The chincup was painted GW White Scar and strap painted in with craft black acrylic. The white patch insignia was done in White Scar and blue.

Of course the points of articulation were retained, the helmet was superglued onto the top of Captain Antilles' head.

Here's the Captain along with one of his Troopers.

Now to recreate one of the iconic movie scenes!

The other item I picked up at the antique store was this children's book, the copyright date is 1979. I had this book as a child and remember it well. The story is only marginally of interest but the illustrations are really remarkable.

Check this out! The illustrations were done by a young artist called Mark Corcoran (you can Google him for some information about him) and this was his only Star Wars work. The author is uncredited but the story was probably written in-house at the publisher - Mark said that he was just provided the manuscript and asked to do the illustrations.

The visual style here is so good - I love the side-eye Leia is giving the "walking carpet" next to her.

Corcoran really had a great grasp of the whimsy and humour of the Star Wars universe too. Look at this Jawa blaming his friend for some mischief while the other seems to be saying, "who, ME...???"

Definitely worth picking up if you have a chance, this near-mint copy cost me less than $5CAD.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Cloud City Playset (Sears Exclusive)

The last in my series of posts on the "Sears Exclusive" cardboard playsets is this one - the Cloud City Playset. 

Of course, it was just another cheap vehicle for Sears to sell its exclusive action figures - in this case, Han Bespin, Dengar, Ugnaught, and Lobot - but upon examination the playset reveals itself as a pretty clever piece of papercraft.
Box sides - as typical with the Sears cardboard playsets, while the box front had amazing art direction, the sides were ho-hum with no further play scenarios illustrated.

Now we get to the goodies. The cardboard playset comes in two pieces, the larger of which is actually die-cut in places to allow the 3D setup.

Multiple dates on the copyright notice is... unusual. Also the callout to 20th Century Fox is seldom seen in Kenner notices, as they usually reference General Mills Fun Group, Kenner, or other affiliated entities. Interesting.

The reverse sides of the pieces are undecorated.

And here it is set up, probably for the first and final time. It does look rather amazing, but the cardboard tabs are super fragile and I don't want to find out how much assembly and disassembly 40-year old cardboard can take before disintegrating. So I'll have to make the most of it!

Detail shot with the carbon freeze chamber (centre), Cloud City dining room (left), and torture chamber (right). The litho on these pieces is really good.

Stormtroopers about to torture Han Solo.

Dining room awaits the appearance of Vader.

Here's the box art tableau. Fortunately my set came with the full complement of pegs as well (seven - six for the base and one spare).

Some closeups of figures in the environment.
What on Earth is Dengar doing in Cloud City?

Now some more imaginative play scenarios. "We would be honored if you would join us."

"I love you." "I know."

"What if he doesn't survive? He's worth a lot to me." "The Empire will compensate you if he dies. Put him in!"
The playset is fairly complete, missing only the instructions (and insert?). Above you can see the box that contained the included four mini-action figures, and the small bag of pegs.

The three Sears playsets (this one, the original Cantina Adventure set, and the Rebel Command Center) command ridiculous prices for what they are - essentially a few flimsy bits of cardboard and a few plastic pegs in a cardboard box. Remarkably, the Cloud City set was the most expensive (for me) of the three. However, I would put this set and the Cantina set far above the Rebel Command Centre in terms of coolness. I just love the creativity involved in the papercraft of this set, and the litho is really well done. For such a compact playset, this one includes a good variety of Cloud City environments, missing only the gantry location of the Vader/Skywalker lightsaber duel, and maybe the landing pad. Too bad, but there's a limit here I guess. It's just too bad there weren't any other Cloud City playsets produced for action figures in the vintage era. This one is pretty cool though and the box looks epic, so colourful and well done.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Rebel Command Center Adventure Set (Sears Exclusive)

Another of the Sears exclusive playsets here... basically a vehicle to offer new (and exclusive to Sears) action figures - in this case, Luke Skywalker (Hoth Battle Gear), AT-AT Commander, and R2-D2 (with Sensorscope). 

A little bit of show-off of the new figures on the box sides.

Boy, does this look familiar... the plastic playset base is of course recycled from the Hoth Ice Planet Adventure Playset, and from the Land of the Jawas Action Playset before that. As you'll see from the pics below, though, the cardboard backdrop design took advantage of the "cave" to include a neat new feature.
Here's the cardboard bits - the folding backdrop itself and two supports. Note the "cave floor" at lower left of the backdrop piece - this fits under the cave opening on the plastic base.

Copyright notice on the backdrop.

Here's the assembled playset. The backdrop looks pretty cool as a trompe-l'oeil image of the interior of Echo Base on Hoth.

On to the box art! Luke covers the AT-AT Commander as Artoo looks on, sensorscope erect. Strangely, Luke and the Imperial commander seem to have exchanged weapons here.

Artoo looks good with Echo Base interior in the background.

Another one from the box - AT-AT Commander menaces the lovable droid.

Supplies cleverly cached in a small cave outside the base entrance. I like that the designers used the backdrop in a novel way.

Cardboard insert included with the playset.

Here's the box for the exclusive pack-in figures.

Instruction sheet included in the set.

Same copyright notice on the bottom of the base as appeared in the Land of the Jawas and Hoth Ice Planet playset incarnations, with the exception of the added "No. 38770" text at lower right. Not sure of the significance of this, as that wasn't the Kenner number assigned to this playset. 

Definitely one for the completist here. I can't say much for the playability or aesthetic appeal of this playset, and even the box is kind of boring. If this cost $12 at retail I would feel a bit ripped off, notwithstanding the inclusion of three new figures... the superior playability of something like the Imperial Attack Base playset just beats this one all hollow. Hard to find nice examples nowadays though and they tend to sell for a real premium, considering what they are.