Monday, January 6, 2014

"Rebels" May Help Hasbro Out of Its Action Figure Rut

Just in the nick of time, Hasbro jumped through the closing blast doors of 2013 and released a photo from its upcoming Star Wars Rebels toy line.  Not surprisingly, it is the figure of the previously announced character known enigmatically as "the Inquisitor".  Here is what Hasbro and Starwars.com had to say in their announcement on December 30th:
The Inquisitor, the Empire's Jedi hunter and a major new villain in the highly anticipated Star Wars Rebels animated series, was unveiled by Lucasfilm at this year's New York Comic Con. Today, StarWars.com is excited to present the official reveal for the character's first ever 3.75-inch action figure from Hasbro.
The figure -- the first to be seen from the upcoming Star Wars Rebels Saga Legends line -- features five points of articulation, show-accurate accessories, and is sculpted in the art style of the series. Look for the Inquisitor and the Star Wars Rebels Saga Legends line to hit store shelves in fall 2014, and stay tuned for more Star Wars Rebels toy news from Hasbro at international Toy Fairs and here at StarWars.com.

For those not up to speed with the Hasbro toy world, there are currently 3 lines of action figures to choose from.  "The Black Series" (6" at @$20 per figure), a smaller "Black Series" (3 3/4" @$10 per figure, and the "Saga Legends" (3 3/4" @$5-6 per figure).  The two "Black Series" lines are aimed at collectors, as the figures feature a higher attention to detail, multiple points of articulation, sleeker, less "kid friendly" packaging, whereas the "Saga Legends" line seems to be aimed right squarely at kids, featuring roughly 5 points of articulation, a limited amount of weapons, and a smaller variety of minute details.  

Many in the collecting world seem to despise Hasbro's direction with the "Saga Legends",  blasting any comment thread they can find about how much they dislike the 5 points of articulation, or "5POA", as they've abbreviated it.  I, for one, applaud this new direction for Hasbro and Star Wars action figures.  Many fans and collectors my age, let's just call us "OTers" that actually played with the original 70's and 80's Kenner figures, and then got pampered in the last twenty years since Hasbro brought back action figures.  Hasbro made more and more elaborate figures with ever increasing costs which got passed along to consumers, so much so that it priced out it's original, intended audience: kids!
Starting last year, it seems Hasbro has attempted to right the ship, and make these action figures into toys again.  I personally have bought more action figures from the new Saga Legends line than I have in the last 2 years.  These toys take me back to being 6 years old, where it was OK to shove one in my pocket on my way to wherever I was going.  Lucasfilm seems to be in collusion with Hasbro in regards to Star Wars Rebels and what may be in store for its toy output.  

One of the first images we had from Rebels, was that of Imperial TIE fighters.  These TIE fighters were not the same as their silver screen counterparts.  The TIE's wing panels for Rebels are much more in proportion to that of the old Kenner 1970's toy version of the space craft.


 At the New York Comic Con, Pablo Hidalgo in his Rebels presentaion announced that one of the vehicles to be featured on the show had until now only been seen in the Star Wars canon as a Kenner toy.  The Imperial troop transporter.

  


All Hasbro has to do is dust off those old molds, and put them in shiny new Rebels themed packaging and what's old is now new again.
The creative use of old molds seem to not be limited to only action figures.  Although not announced, it seems Hasbro could get some use out of an old roleplay toy used in the Clone Wars toy line.  A lightsaber toy meant to be attributed to General Grievous, yet oddly was never actually used in the Clone Wars animated series, bears a striking resemblance to the double-bladed lightsaber wielded by the Rebels villain the Inquisitor.

With only some minor tweaking and a change of blade color and, again, you have a new toy for fans of Rebels.

Now, it could be argued that Lucasfilm is not doing this with Hasbro in mind, and that could very well be, but with Toy Fair coming up soon we may find out just how much we can look forward to.  Producer Dave Filoni and many working on Rebels grew up on those toys and tying those designs into the new show might simply be a touchstone for us nostalgic folks, so we can identify with the new series.  I think the evidence is pretty compelling though, and Hasbro certainly needs the shot in the arm that a new TV show and a new cast of characters can give a toy line. Hasbro has to be happy with the fact that they can have the toys pre-designed and ready to go into kids' hands, not adult collectors. We need to remember that these are toys first, "collector value" should become a four letter word.  I really hope to see kids carrying around Rebels toys, and have their own adventures in a galaxy far, far away. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

It Was Unavoidable-- Marvel Takes Reigns from Dark Horse


Dark Horse has lost the rights to produce Star Wars comics, they now belong to Marvel Entertainment. Marvel, like Lucasfilm, is owned by the parent company of Disney.


Much more so than prose novels, comics were always my thing.  While I still collect them from time to time, Marvel, in general, was my least favorite publisher.  I was  DC guy.  The near god-like heroes like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman appealed to me much more than the more down to earth heroes like Spider-Man or Captain America ever would.  The one thing in my youth that did draw me to Marvel however, were the Star Wars comics they produced in the late 70's and early 80's.  I most vividly remember the covers to the Return of the Jedi adaptation. 

A simple trio of characters in front of a star field somehow gave me a dire need to open up the comic and just bask in it.

There are also some very bad things associated with the Marvel stewardship of the Star Wars brand, in particular Jaxxon the green rabbit creature that is much maligned. Critics of the news that Disney has shifted the comic book rights under back to Marvel, immediately jump to the conclusion that we're going back to the bad 'ole Jaxxon days.  However this is not the same Marvel that existed back in the 70's and 80's.  Marvel now has an amazing stable of talent, both writers and artists, many of which I would LOVE to see create new Star Wars content. For me, the list begins and ends with Chris Bachalo.  

As far as stories go, I personally am a proponent of there being a new blank slate as far as EU to come (more on that in another time).  While certainly a possibility, I don't think Marvel would continue the storylines created at Dark Horse. What would be a wonderful, albeit a pipe dream, but Marvel could take the initiative to re-work old stories to fit into the new Disney continuity.  What we are likely to see is a series based off of Star Wars Rebels, and then a slow trickling out of series after each movie, perhaps to expand upon the events within the movies, as opposed to whole new adventures starring those characters.  Marvel and Dark Horse both fell into that pitfall before.  The comic books that take place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back by Marvel, as well as those surrounding The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars by Dark Horse have now largely been retconned (Durge, and Ki-Adi's wife and family for example).  I have to believe that Marvel as well as Lucasfilm would take these past missteps to heart when deciding the franchise's new direction in comics.

While yes, Dark Horse losing the licences is a sign of Disney's grand corporate strategies, we shouldn't put on our rose colored glasses just yet, and let Dark Horse off the hook.  Aside from the Legacy series, Dark Horse's Star Wars output in recent years has been pretty lackluster.  The myriad of Darth Vader mini-series, series taking place 20,000 years in the past, and Brian Wood's "Star Wars" flagship series that feels so off the mark, it did little to spark interest in the comics arm Star Wars.  It's almost as if they were trying to lose the license. Face facts: Dark Horse has been spinning its wheels.

So let's look to the future, Marvel may be able to get some traction going to get people to take Star Wars comics seriously again, perhaps in this new generation of fans some wide-eyed kid will walk into a comic shop and have the same reaction to a Marvel Star Wars book that I had when I first saw Dark Empire in those dark days of the late 80's early 90's.  Marvel has the talent, and if the Force isn't with them, Disney certainly is.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A little fun with Photoshop




EDIT:

Since it's unclear what I did, here's the reference photos.

plus
via rebelscum.com

And the rest is Photoshop magic. ( and a touch of Illustrator)


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

SWTOR: Galactic Starfighter Released For Subscribers

For subscribers to the massively multiplayer online game Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bioware opened the hangar doors on it's newest expansion to the game.  Galactic Starfighter, where Republic and Imperial forces vie for air and space superiority in 12 v 12 player versus player (PVP) combat.  Currently ONLY subscribers may access the space battles, preferred status members can join the fun on January 14th, and free to play accounts can suit up on February 4th.



Your Ship Awaits

Players can initially man one of three styles of combat ships:

Strike Fighters - The nitty-gritty workhorse of your fleet.  This ship is best used when needing to dogfight, or make use of its powerful missile payload.

Gunships - Long range powerhouse.  Gunships have a powerful ability to snipe targets at an incredible range with devastating results.

Scouts - Fast, fast, and fast.  These are your go-to for quick capture of objectives as well as making great use of it's ability to close gaps against gunships, and sorties on an enemy's defense turrets.

All three ships have a wide variety of customization options, from what type of blaster cannons you use down to the color of the vapor trail you leave behind.  Many of these upgrades use an in-game currency called requisition points, which you earn by playing matches.  Other unlocks use the game's Cartel Market, which turns real money into "Cartel Coins" for purchasing digital items, including new ship models as well as paint schemes for your fighters and varying color options.  Purchasing the Cartel Market upgrades is thankfully not mandatory, but it does provide Bioware a means to make money off of what amounts to a free expansion.


Gameplay

First, a reality check.  If you're expecting a flight sim like the old X-Wing or TIE Fighter games from the 90s you're going to be disappointed.  Although there are nods to those games in that you can determine where the majority of your power can be directed (shields, weapons, or engines), the similarities tend to end there.  In spirit it feels more like the Rogue Squadron franchise from the late 90s.  The arcade aspects of the Rogue Squadron series have been used to good effect in how these matches play out.   The only current game type "Domination"  consists of three capture points in which your squadron must attempt to capture to gain points.  Once a team reaches 1000 points the game is over.    Getting to that goal is easier said than done, and takes a great deal of teamwork to keep a base secure.  The three ship types seem to balance out for the most part, Strike Fighters seem to be the early favorites, but all three have their uses. Over time I expect to see a great deal of diversity once people get comfortable with frankly overwhelming amount of modification options available for each ship.  The only downside is the inability to add joystick functionality, however Bioware's reasoning for this as sound, as no one wants to feel like they need a peripheral to even the odds.


Final Thoughts

If you've read the older posts of this blog, you may know what a fan of The Old Republic I've become.  This new expansion is exactly what I had hoped it would be.  This is truly a huge step in the right direction for Bioware and SWTOR.  My imagination goes wild with where they could take this game next, nothing seems off limits now. Pazaak? Sabacc? Speeder racing? Holo Chess? Yes please!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rebels Rumblings

I don't plan for this blog to be about rumors much at all, casting or otherwise, but I thought I'd chime in on this latest bit of info.  Numerous sites around the web starting with Jedinews, have reported that five actors have been named to providing voice acting for Star Wars Rebels. Some I've heard of, others not so much. One in particular has really got my imagination spinning.   The actors  reportedly cast are:
 David Oyelowo

Freddie Prinze Jr.

Vanessa Marshall
Taylor Gray
and Steven Jay Blum

That's right kids, Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop is allegedly a voice in Star Wars Rebels.  If you aren't familiar with Cowboy Bebop, first, shame on you.  And second get thee googling.  That show was and is the high watermark in Anime for me.  This one bit of casting got my mind reeling with the possibilities that Rebels will even remotely try to tap into what made Bebop so great.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Death of Lucasarts Breathes New Life into Lucasfilm

In an article by http://www.theinquirer.net, (via jediinsider.com) covering the Technology Strategy Board event at BAFTA in London. Lucasfilm was present and gave a small presentation on the direction the company is headed in digital graphics and technology.  Using the assets originally developed for the game Star Wars:1313 (which theinquirer.net claims is still in development), Lucasfilm envisions and end to the era of extended post production phases of movie making.  

Using a video game engine, and motion capture technology, artists at Lucasfilm are able to drastically cut down render times, as well as being able to edit digital assets within a matter of minutes and hours instead of months. Being able to swap characters and equipment on the fly, change set dressings on digital scenery, and dynamically change lighting effects using tablet apps.  The potential of this new technological shift are nearly limitless.



Once the new Star Wars films were announced, and announced to be coming in 2015, a lot of people wondered just how that short of a production schedule could accommodate something as big as a Star Wars film.  If this technology is in place now, then I think we have our answer.  If George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy showed this box of toys to JJ Abrams, that may have been what convinced him to come aboard for these new films.  Perhaps I'm putting a bit too much hope on this breakthrough, but think about it.  The Star Wars Underworld series that was shelved could very well be viable now with this kind of short turn around in the VFX department. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Month Late Reviews--Star Wars #8

Welcome to the first installment of Month Late reviews.  Before I jump in and start with this week's issue, let me first point out what I hope to accomplish with this series of articles.  First, this is a spoiler heavy zone. I will not be holding back on plot points or big reveals, reviewing these issues a month removed should provide everyone with ample time to have read the material.  Second, I'm going to be brutally honest in these reviews.  I'm not going to candy coat anything simply because it has the Star Wars logo slapped on it.  If someone has bad writing, silly concepts, or just plain dumb ideas, it's not only going to be pointed out, but most likely ridiculed highly. My reviews are not intended for the Star Wars novice, yet I'm not so mired in the EU of Star Wars where I won't myself make mistakes....from time to time (dear oh dear).  I am however, more of a G-canon purist, so most of my judgements are based off of G-canon first, EU considerations somewhat secondary.

With that being stated let's move on to the review of this week's featured issue:  Star Wars #8  by Brian Wood (writers),  Ryan Kelly (pencils), Dan Parsons (inks), and cover art by David Michael Beck


Normally I would start off with what I liked about the issue, but this issue and in fact the entire series, has a laundry list of red flags that continually pop up.  So we'll start off right away with the cover, seen above. While I really don't like to judge artists too harshly, I have to admit this is the worst cover for the series to date. Following a legend like Alex Ross would be intimidating for any artist, and I would assume that would cause someone to up their game so to speak when it came to a brand like Star Wars.  A quick google search of artist David Michael Beck proves that he's capable of much, much better work.  So I'm hoping this is due more to a rushed deadline or something, rather than just a lack of interest.  The interior artowrk doesn't fare too much much better, however I wasn't all too thrilled with Carlos D'Anda's work on the series' premiere issues either.  No artist yet on this series has really captured that Star Wars feel in the ways that  a Kilian Plunkett, Jan Duursema, or a Doug Wheatley have in the past.  Chewbacca in one panel looks more like JoJo the dogfaced boy than a Wookiee.  Stormtroopers armor is seemingly made out of a plastic similar to that of an old Kenner action figure. And Boba Fett's "mythosaur" skull is on the wrong shoulder (a cardinal sin in some circles).



That's not to say that the art is all bad, just wildly inconsistent in most cases.  The ships are drawn well throughout, and luckily there is quite a bit of space action in this issue.

Probably my biggest complaint about this issue in particular lands squarely on the shoulders of the writer Brian Wood.  The plot of this series really meanders and I'm beginning to wonder if one 12 issue arc for the Rebel mole storyline was really justified, it seems as if Wood  is simply padding out what should have been a 6 issue run, only to keep his name on the book as long as possible.  I've completely lost sight of the long term goals of these characters.   Luke and Wedge got themselves captured, then promptly stage a prison break so they can implant a worm into the Imperial network, which seems like a very extreme thing for the heroes of the battle of Yavin to be doing so soon after the Death Star's destruction.  Leia is mourning Alderaan as if she didn't have enough time for her grieveing thoughts while prisoner aboard the Death Star. And for the life of me I have no idea what Han Solo is doing on Coruscant.  

The biggest misstep for me in this issue is how specifically Luke and Wedge break out of their prison cell.

Luke Skywalker, still a noobie in the ways of the force, has smuggled his lightsaber aboard the Star Destroyer in pieces concealed in his boot. Luke then assembles his lightsaber in what is portrayed as a very short amount of time, with little effort.

This one page alone is an almost complete deal breaker for the series as a whole.  While I'm at it let me retract one of my previous statements, this one page is my biggest complaint about this issue.  This page represents a failure not only of Woods, but of the editor, and Lucasfilm's continuity department.  Being able to assemble a lightsaber is supposed to be a HUGE deal, both technically, as well as spiritually within the Jedi.  Vader's quote from RotJ "I see you have constructed a new lightsaber.  Your skill are complete"  this quite boldly states that for a Jedi the construction of a lightsaber is a very big step in one's mastery of the force.  Not to mention this scene from Shadows of the Empire:
For Luke to now have reconstructed a saber in such a cavalier manner, destroys almost all of this books credibility for me, and this is Dark Horse's flagship title.  The one they hope to bring people back to Star Wars comics.  I fear it's going to do just the opposite.  I've told myself I would commit to this series through this first arc, but it's becoming tougher and tougher each month.  The few nuggets of brightness I found within the issue, Leia finding the mysterious Clone Wars era star destroyer, and Han's new gal pal Perla were nowhere near bright enough to eclipse the blatant disregard for what has come before.  And mind you, I'm not usually a stickler for strict continuity, but some things really cross a line.  This was one of those things.

I will return with my thoughts on next month's issue, with hopefully more positives than negatives to focus on. Between now and then I will be getting to Star Wars: Legacy vol 2. #6, and The Star Wars #1, which I guarantee will be much more positive.  Please feel free to comment and discuss if you think I'm wrong or too harsh I would love the feedback.