by Mike MacDonald
It’s three weeks after Force Friday as I write this and for the first time since getting back into collecting in 1995 I’m not sure how I will continue to collect Star Wars action figures. Not IF I will collect, mind you, but how to move forward going into the next phase of the now apparently endless Star Wars saga.
My Star Wars collection has grown pretty darn big over the past twenty years. Like so many other Star Wars fans, the release of new action figures back in the 90’s was my entry back into the Star Wars universe. I’ve spent this past 20 years putting together a collection of roughly 700-plus items based on budget and display space. But most of all it’s a collection based on my love for the GFFA. I have never been a completist collector since I’ve never had the funds to pursue that angle. Also, my collection has to fit into a 10×10 spare room along with a couch and TV. I have relatively few action figures that aren’t on display as I try to buy items that resonate with me. In the past five years or so I’ve also shifted from simply lining up figures on shelves to creating dioramas. As a result I’m somewhat limited by how much I can actually fit onto a shelf. This is intentional as my displays are constantly being reworked as I come up with new ideas–
–Ok, ok, fine, I’m playing with my toys. There I said it.
Some shelves are virtual “cinema scenes” pulled from the films, like the Cantina, Jabba’s Palace or my large Rebel base displays. Some are highlight displays like my Empire Strikes Back one that has three different sets of figures representing key moments from the film. It’s these two types of displays that I’m constantly tinkering with as I try to take a sort of “Disney Imagineer” approach of having the display tell a story.
Then there are the shelves that just, sort of, sit there. Like my Rebels TV show shelf and my Prequels shelf. They each represent the two biggest barriers I face as a collector who displays figures “kinetically”–5 points of articulation (5 POA) and characters from less dynamic scenes.
Let’s tackle 5 POA first.
When figures from Star Wars Rebels first showed up in stores I was excited to see new characters and new toys with a slightly different look than the rest of the series. The screen accurate colours of the Rebels figures were especially appealing to me as they moved away from the somewhat muted colours of the films. I picked up a good portion of that first wave last November (finally picking up Hera while on a camping trip during Force Friday Weekend) and set up a small display on one of my shelves. The first figure I tried posing on this shelf was The Inquisitor. I put his unique double-bladed, spinning lightsaber in his hand and, well, slightly rotated his arm up. Now his saber, that’s nearly the same length as the figure itself, stood straight out from him–looking more like a marching band leader than a fearsome minion of Darth Vader. Sabine is another example. In the show she almost mimics Spider-Man as she flips around the screen (will we find out why she’s so acrobatic by the way? Are those Jedi reflexes?). When she draws her blasters she will often adopt a pose where her legs are spread apart as she alternates firing each blasters. On my shelf she either holds the guns down at her sides or straight out as if she were a train robber standing on the tracks. These characters are probably the most physically dynamic characters we’ve seen in Star Wars yet they stand boringly on my shelf. In order to make the best of this I’ve decided to incorporate them into my Rebel Base display where they can be escorted around by Bail Organa–who will at least be able to point sideways at the surroundings! 5 POA just reduces the fun to be had with these figures.
There are collectors that like 5POA because it’s a reminder of the original Kenner line and I love my Kenner figures and love the nostalgic feeling of displaying them in my Creature Cantina but speaking as a former child who spent most of 1978-1980 playing with these toys I can say that given the choice I would have wanted articulation in my action figure even back then. My 17 year old son agrees. I asked him what he would have thought about these less articulated figures when he used to play with his multitude of clones and he said that they at least need to bend their elbows to hold a blaster properly.
There are so many amazing figures that were released for the prequel films. Nute Gunray, Poggle the Lesser, Darth Maul and the pod racers are all characters that would top my Top 20 list. The problem is that most of these figures are just lined up on one shelf. It’s one of the few displays in my room that really doesn’t tell a story apart from, “these are prequel figures.” The main reason for this is the simple fact that there are very few scenes in the prequels that lend themselves to large, or ‘space efficient’ dioramas. Apart from the Battle of Geonosis with multiple Jedi fighting battle droids, most of the key scenes in the prequels have relatively few characters in them-usually two or three (ie-the ‘main’ lightsaber battles such as Maul v The Jedi, Dooku v Yoda and Anakin v Obi-Wan on Mustafar). Basically my prequel shelf has a lot of cool figures that end up lost in the crowd.
This brings me to my biggest dilemma: How do I continue to collect Star Wars figures when there are, so far, six upcoming films? Lack of space means I will have to condense shelves as more figures are released. I’ve already decided that if I continue to collect I will only be able to buy the key characters from each film. The Force Awakens will have to be represented by less than ten figures including the three “new” heroes, the three “legacy” characters and maybe a villain or two. But what about when Rogue One hits theatres next year? There’s six brand new characters in that promotional image that we’ve seen alone! Then Episode VII comes out in 2017, then a Han Solo stand alone…Half the fun of collecting in the Star Wars universe is picking up background characters. I can’t see myself doing that going forward.
It’s been suggested to me that rather than trying to cram every figure I own into the room, I should maybe curate my collection by rotating displays on a regular basis; boxing up a shelf’s worth of toys and replacing with others. I just may end up doing this but it presents the same problem–I’m going to need a lot of storage space to accommodate new character toys every year.
To paraphrase our favourite fishy Admiral, “My Star Wars Room can’t repel new releases of that magnitude!”