Stories of the Star Wars Action Figures

Chaos in Print

For those who have never seen my inner sanctum, let me give you a brief tour. To my immediate right, dangling from the wall, is my Star Wars action figure collection. Recently, as I turned to gaze upon it, I had a startling thought. It is complete. I can look upon them and think to myself, “I don’t want any more.” I have a grand total of 14 Star Wars action figures. Each one is a jewel in a shining crown. Each one has it’s own little tale of how it came into my collection. Each one offers a little lesson in life. They’re more than action figures, they are my history. Come now, let us voyage into my past as each of these figures sheds some light on how I grew up to become who I am.

Living In The Moment
The latest collection of Star Wars action figures hit toy shelves in the fall of 1995, to coincide with the final video release of the original Star Wars trilogy. I was still new to the realm of action figure collecting, but I knew that these Star Wars figures had to be mine. Following the directive I had laid out with my Star Trek figures, I had decided to limit myself only to my favorite characters. That meant I really only want one Star Wars figure: Luke Skywalker. I went to Toys R Us one day, and headed straight for their action figure section. I began pouring through their Star Wars collection, but I began to panic. There were no Luke Skywalkers! I searched and searched, and no Lukes! I started to remove the figures from the shelf one by one, in the desperate hope that there would be at least one Luke left for me. Finally, way in the back hidden by a row of C-3P0s, there was one final Luke! I snatched it up. I had the last one! I HAD THE LAST ONE!! Words could not describe the feeling of pride I had. It was there, waiting for me. I was destined to have the last one. I could not escape my destiny! It was the only one, and it was waiting just for me! I walked towards the checkout line. There, by the checkout, they had a second display of Star Wars action figures set up. It consisted of nothing but Luke Skywalkers.

Being In The Right Place At The Right Time
Of course, what good is a hero without a villain? I knew I had to get my favorite villain of the Star Wars saga: Boba Fett. A few months after I got Luke, I headed back to Toys R Us to pick up Boba Fett. I returned to the Star Wars section only to find that they had no Boba Fetts left. I was preparing to go home and lick my wounds when a shelf stocker came out with these brand new, unopened cases of Star Wars action figures. She opened up one, then remembered that she forgot something in the back room and left. Being the snoop that I am, I walked over to the open case and began nosing through it. I practically had my hands in the cookie jar when the shelf stocker returned. “Can I help you?” she asked. “Yes,” I said. “I’m looking for Boba Fett. You have none left on the shelf.” She did a quick scan of the case, reached in, and pulled out a Boba Fett just for me.

It was Boxing Day of 1999, and I was quite saddened as a collector. Because of the glut of the first wave of Episode I action figures, the second wave was not to be found in stores. I had searched high and low, and just could not find a Destroyer Droid. Leaving the city and its Boxing Day sales, my parents had the urge to stop in at Canadian Tire in Spruce Grove. We went in. They went off to housewares and wherever else they go in Canadian Tire, and I gravitated towards the toy section. There was a small selection of Star Wars figures left, and I started thumbing through them. Hidden way in the back was one last Destroyer Droid. Needless to say, it was mine.

Patience Is A Virtue
It was the fall of 1997 when I first read about it. Kenner had finally decided to make one of the most requested Star Wars figures of all time: Princess Leia as Jabba’s Prisoner, who is now known in the collector community as Slave Leia. For those not in the community, this is Princess Leia as she appeared in Return Of The Jedi after she had been captured by Jabba the Hutt. That mean ol’ Hutt forced her to wear nothing but a gold bikini. So, this action figure was known to me as Princess Leia in the Gold Bikini. I wanted this figure. I lusted for this figure. But, every time I went to Toys R Us, I was rejected. They just didn’t have Princess Leia in the Gold Bikini. I would frequently head to Comic King in West Edmonton Mall, and toy with the notion of paying $40 for one imported from the U.S. But, I always chose not to. Why pay $40 for it when it’ll be at Toys R Us soon enough for a paltry $7.99? And so, I waited. And waited. And waited. Then, in the summer of 1998, almost one year later, I went to Toys R Us. My faith was diminishing. This had become more routine than anything. I walked over to the Star Wars section, and with a minimum of digging, I found Princess Leia in the Gold Bikini.

But I was already in the midst of a similar wait. For, earlier in 1998, I had heard that the Ewoks were on their way. They would be putting out two of the most popular Ewoks: Wicket and Logray, in a 2-pack. Again, I waited. And waited. Then, finally, in the fall of 1998. Chuck and I were at the Duggan Mall in Camrose to see Antz. While Chuck was getting a haircut, I was wandering through the Bay, and there, staring me straight in the eye, were a pair of Ewoks.

I’m sure that we all remember when the Star Wars: Special Edition trilogy came out in 1997. I was still an eager young university student. It was in that February, as we were anticipating the release of Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition that I was making a sev-run to get a Slurpee and some Doritos. There, in the Camrose 7-11, I saw the Lay’s potato chip display. With only 2 proofs of purchase from Lay’s Potato Chips and $3.99 shipping and handling, get and exclusive Star Wars action figure: the Spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi. I knew I had to have it, and so I bought a bag of Lay’s Potato Chips instead of my Doritos. Do you know what I learned about Lay’s Potato Chips? I can eat just one. Lay’s suck. But I only had to choke down two bags. When I went home for Spring Break the next week, I dug around at home, found my checkbook, and wrote out a check for $3.99. I fired off the order form and my two proofs of purchase and began to wait. It was the summer of 1997, and I was just completely hating my job on the gravel crusher. I was going home for the weekend, and when I arrived, my mother said, “Oh. This parcel came for you.” Sure enough, it was the Spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Indulging Oneself In Flights Of Fancy
It was the fall of 1996, and the video game everyone was playing was Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. I hadn’t played this game yet, but I’d heard a little about it. The main character was “Dash Rendar.” What a cool name, “Dash Rendar.” While browsing in Toys R Us, I noticed that Kenner made a line of Shadows of the Empire action figures. I snatched up “Dash Rendar.”

In the summer of 1999, a wave of classic trilogy action figures was released to ride on the success of Episode I. As part of this set, they released the Gonk Droid. What a funny name, “Gonk Droid.” So, when I was one left on the shelf in Wal-Mart, I just had to get it.

Remember Your Childhood
I remember being 6 years old and watching TV commercials for Return of the Jedi. I even remember commercials for the Return of the Jedi action figures, but one always stuck out in my mind. It was TV commercial for a mail-away exclusive Emperor Palpatine. “Wow,” I’d think to myself. “That’s gotta be a really cool action figure if the only way you can get is to send away for it.” In the fall of 1997, as I was returning to Augustana, I swung by Zeller’s in the Duggan Mall. Sitting there, on the shelf was Emperor Palpatine. That TV commercial from 1983 flashed through my head, and I bought it.

You Really, Really, Like Me
Kenner/Hasbro started pushing the Episode I action figures during the Christmas season of 1998 with two “sneak peak” figures. There was the mail-away exclusive Mace Windu, and the STAP with Battle Droid. Since I had no desire to buy the 6 action figures required to get Mace Windu, I kinda thought the STAP and Battle Droid would be kind of cool to get. So, I was over at my friend Dexx’s place to watch his new DVD of Army of Darkness. As my gaze wandered around his room, I soon started going into convulsions. He asked what was wrong. I pointed my finger to his shelf and started stammering, “The STAP! The STAP!” He then looked over and saw what I had seen. Dexx had bought the STAP and Battle Droid and he had it squished between a few textbooks, so as it would not be noticeable. Why would you do this to the STAP? I soon found it. Dexx walked over to it, pulled it down from the shelf, and handed it to me. “Merry Christmas,” he said. I still have it on my shelf, and it is still mint in package.

It was May 3, 1999 when the Episode I action figures hit stores. I thought I’d be smart. On that day, I’d just go to the online Star Wars store and buy myself Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi online. Too bad about 1,000,000 other people had that idea and the Star Wars online store crashed. Things were looking dire. I wasn’t going to be heading back into Edmonton anytime soon, so it looked like I wouldn’t get my Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi. But, on May 4, my mother had business in Edmonton. When she came home that night, she said that she had something for me. She reached into her Wal-Mart bag and pulled out Darth Maul and…Qui-Gon Jinn. Close, but not there. But, I didn’t want to hurt my Mom’s feelings. So, I thanked her, and gave her a big hug. I bought Obi-Wan Kenobi on my next city trip.

The Point Is There Is No Point
The final figure in my collection is Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker. Not much of a story behind him, I just bought him because I thought he was cool.

And that’s the collection. I look upon it, and feel as though I am complete. Well, until Episode II comes along.

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