I have a passion for collecting vintage Star Wars merchandise from the late 70's. Action figures, comics, trading cards etc - anything related to the first Star Wars movie. But why only until 1980? It's not that I don't love The Empire Strikes Back and beyond (I really do), but there is something about that first wave of Star Wars mania that really grips me, back when it was all fresh and exciting...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kenner 3-3/4" Action Figures - The Imperials

Ahh! The Kenner action figures! Pretty much every kid who liked Star Wars back in the day had a bunch of these. Retailing at about $2.00 each, these were small and cheap in comparison to other action figures of the day (Big Jim, GI-Joe, Mego etc). This meant that kids really could 'Collect 'em all' and Kenner could produce a line of vehicles and playsets that were actually in scale to the figures (kind of).Being born in '83, I really missed the boat with all things Star Wars. I would be about 10 when I got to see my first Star wars movie, but my relationship with the franchise goes back much further. When I was about 5 or 6, my neighbor (who had a kid a few years older than me) was clearing out her attic. She handed me a plastic carrier bag filled with funny little aliens and robots who had very limited articulation and tiny, tiny guns that were very fiddly to fit into their hands. I took them home and my dad (who had seen the movie several years previously) told me that they were Star Wars figures.

'?' my face must have said because he then gave me a very brief run-down on the plot; Darth Vader wants to take over the universe with his army of stormtroopers and the good guy, Luke Skywalker, tries to stop him. This was all my imagination needed and the figures became a regular fixture in my own play-scenarios, sharing the stage with He-Man and Thundercats figures and probably the occasional Ninja Turtle.

A few years later I finally got around to renting a Star Wars movie from our local library - Return of the Jedi. Yeah, I know, completely the wrong one to start with. I can't remember why I chose that one - either the other two weren't in stock, or it simply just had the coolest cover. Nevertheless I fell in love with it and can remember being thrilled to see my action figures personified as living, breathing characters on the TV screen.

Not much later I sold all my Kenner figures at a yard sale for peanuts (D'oh!). But in my teenage years I rediscovered Star Wars and began collecting, picking up a few of the lil' ol guys from comic book stores where they were kept in glass cases.

Darth Vader here is sporting a vinyl cape that was pretty much a staple throughout the Kenner line. Kenner did issue a few of their figures with cloth capes later on, but in the late '70's vinyl was the rage. The great thing that amused me as a kid was the 'slide-out' lightsaber that can be seen emerging from his right arm. You'll notice that it has a little tip on the end. Originally the lightsabers were supposed to be telescoping, but for some reason Kenner quickly changed the design to the 'solid' lightsaber seen here.

The trusty Stormtrooper is quite possibly the most common Star Wars figure. Everybody had a couple of these or more it seems. This guy is even less articulated than the others as his head and torso are one solid part. The pristine white armor can be tricky to find in nice un-yellowed condition these days.

The Death Squad Commander was later named 'Star Destroyer Commander' presumably to avoid any Nazi connotations. Nevertheless, these guys are pretty much the SS in the Star Wars galaxy. In the films this is more prominent due to their all-black uniforms. I have no idea why the action figure was moulded in grey.


Northern Exposer said...

Great blog! Ah, memories. And why did the figures all have square butts??

Northern Exposer said...

Oh, and even I had five or six stormtroopers. Of course, a couple of their shoulders had to be painted orange.

Will Errickson said...

Darth Vader was the first one I bought, before I'd even seen the movie, in 1977. I was pretty much the perfect age for STAR WARS stuff and my folks were quite generous in getting me almost all the figures and many of the vehicles. Still have my AT-AT and Millennium Falcon, now on display in my bedroom. Yes, I have a girlfriend!