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.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kenner Alien 18" Action Figure Spotlight and Restoration

By 1978, 20th-Century Fox knew that their Star Wars property was a money-spinner like no other movie before. Science fiction was HOT and studio execs were anxious to get their hands on any kind of project they could find to leverage this trend.

So it was a natural for Fox to greenlight Alien. Directed by journeyman Ridley Scott, the film became an instant classic and a cinematic icon, spawning several spinoffs and sequels and generating millions for the studio.

But while Star Wars generated cubic money through merchandising tie-ins, Alien didn't. The film really wasn't "toyetic" in the way that Star Wars was, but nevertheless Kenner obtained a licence for the property and produced one toy - a large-size (18") action figure. While not popular in its day, the toy itself has become iconic among Alien collectors and toy fans for its audacity - a figure for kids, based on an R-rated movie that kids weren't allowed to see, in a scale that no other toy used, absolutely faithful to the hideous visions of a weird Swiss artist, of a character that exuded a sheer otherworldly horror. A natural fit for the toy aisle!

Having said this, the story that the toy was "recalled" for being inappropriate isn't true either... in fact the figure was a poor seller, and was finally blown out in remainder bins. Only later did collectors discover it, and demand has caused prices to rise to the level seen today - a nice loose example can run $200-300 with figures in boxes fetching up to $1,000.

Although I'm a relatively recent convert to Alien fandom, I've been aware of this toy as a collector for some time. As I'm a Giger fan as well, this is a must-have. The figures are available on eBay from time to time and that's where I found mine - fortunately complete with the clear cranial dome and all of his back spines intact.

The figure is remarkably faithful to Giger's vision. I'm still shocked that Kenner execs actually cleared the toy for production and thought it might sell. What parent would buy this for their 8-year old?!?!

Rear view showing the rubbery back spines and the plastic central dorsal spine - this is often broken.

The tail is a separate piece that locks into the body with a serrated washer on the inside of the figure.

Detail of head. The paint application on the head glows in the dark - as if the figure wasn't creepy enough already.

With clear dome removed.

Here's the action feature - press up on the trigger (shown in photo below) - the spring-loaded jaw opens up and the inner jaws extend.

Here's the trigger that works the action feature. Copyright info is on this piece also but is not entirely visible!

The often-missing clear dome piece. Apparently it comes in a "smoked" variation as well. As one might imagine, the piece was easily lost by kids and is comparatively rarely seen today.

Unfortunately the figure I obtained did have some (undisclosed) issues - as commonly happens with these figures, the rubber loops that hold the arms had been lost and the arms were held together inside the body with a limp bungee elastic. Not acceptable!

So I devised a repair that somewhat replicates the original fastening, while being pretty easy to install and reversible in the (admittedly unlikely) event that the original rubber fasteners are ever reproduced.

I went to a local big box store and picked up some plumbing o-rings. I had some strong plastic tubing around the house already. I cut a short length of tubing - wider than the internal arm hole but not too wide. Cut a slit lengthwise in the tubing and insert the o-ring as shown.

Insert the tubing end into the arm hole...

Work it around so that the tubing lays crosswise across the hole and is held in place by the tension of the o-ring. Place the arm inside the body of the disassembled toy and loop the o-ring around the central post as with the original. Screw the body back together and you're done.

An alternate repair method with some great photos is here.

The Alien now occupies a shelf in my office along with a copy of the awesome "Giger's Alien" book. The cabinet above will hold the new set of Alien 3 3/4" figures from Super7 when they arrive; for now I'm keeping my Super7 "Early Bird Envelope" up there.

Monday, August 12, 2013

TIE Fighter (Kenner Canada)

One of the original wave of vehicles produced in the Star Wars range was the humble TIE Fighter. This example, however, is in a box that's a bit unusual. Even on the front side, a knowledgeable collector will have a clue that this one is a bit different. Here's a hint - it has to do with the area around the Kenner logo at bottom right...

If you spotted the "Long-Playing Toy" logo on the box front and thought "WTF?" then kudos to you - Kenner USA had discontinued the use of the LP logo in 1979, before the ESB wave came out. But this isn't a Kenner USA box - it's Canadian! With French! Obviously - look at the stylish child flying the TIE Fighter in his cool black turtleneck.

Here's the French box front. Note absence of LP logo - presumably there was no French-language equivalent available for use.

Even though this is an ESB box and the TIE Fighter Pilot figure was an ESB figure, this TIE Fighter still gets piloted by a Stormtrooper - presumably the same one who stole Chewbacca's bowcaster and appeared on the Landspeeder box. This dude really gets around - now he's in the Death Star hangar for the duel between Darth and Obi-Wan!

"It's a man's life in the Stormtrooper Corps! One minute boiling your a$$ off on a desert planet - the next minute flying a TIE Fighter and witnessing a lightsaber duel between the two last surviving Jedi! Wow!!"

Copyright info appears on the underside of the battery compartment.

Action feature alert! Pulling up on the tab raises the pilot's seat. I have to say that as action features go, this one is pretty lame. But it obviously stood the toy in good stead because this same tooling was used over again for the blue "battle-damaged" TIE Fighter as well as for the POTF2 re-issue version in the 1990s!

An icon.

We're Famous! Kinda!

 A couple months ago the bog was linked on reddit where "carkoon" wrote:

"When it hit theaters, you couldn't sell toys and other products fast enough to keep up, which led to things like the famous 'Action Display Stand' that you could buy in order to hold a future place for figurines when they came out."

Of course, carkoon was referring not to the Action Display Stand, but to the "Early Bird Certificate Package" that has been comprehensively documented by collectors and others over the years. So the link was sort of a mistake, but I have to thank carkoon for the "link juice" as that post of mine got over 7,000 hits as  a result ;-)

More importantly, we got a shout-out from Skye and Steve in their Star Wars Vintage Pod 'Chive Cast #38. We're mentioned around the 32:40 minute mark of the show. Noted collector Duncan Jenkins (of Gus and Duncan fame) said:

"It looks really nice... really enjoyable."

Skye said:

"I get the sense that most of what he does is play with his toys and take pictures" but added "[that's] pretty admirable" so I'll take it ;-)

Anyway, thanks for the shout-outs, Internet!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Vintage Figure Collection Completed!

Today the last of the figures arrived to complete my run of loose figures from 1978-85 (only 35 years in the making ;-) so I'm celebrating with a quick post and photo rundown. Above - the first twelve - all of which I've owned since new.

Here - the next 9 (to make 21 from the Star Wars series, along with the elusive Blue Snaggletooth) plus all of the characters released for "The Empire Strikes Back". You'll notice a few extras in there - some custom figures that have snuck their way in ;-) Can you identify them?

The "Return of the Jedi" assortment.

The "Power of the Force" release. Looks like I've cut off an Ewok there - sorry! Latest acquisition to complete the run was the R2-D2 with pop-up lightsaber.

Lastly, some other oddball variants. Left to right: Death Squad Commander with only one rank bar, Boba Fett with Taiwan COO, matte-grey IG-88, modern bootleg Stormtroopers, Lando with white teeth and eyes, large head Han Solo, Jawa with cloth cape (since it came later than the vinyl cape, I consider the cloth cape version to be the "variant" ;-)

In the background, my only two MOCs - Canadian Toy Fair display Princess Leia Organa and a garden-variety Leia Endor.

Well, there you have it - 35 years of loose figure collecting! Whew!