B-Wing, A-Wing, and Escort Frigate Micro Machines

If you've visited the Buy, Sell, and Trade section of this blog, you'll have seen that I'm currently trying to complete my collection of original trilogy Micro Machines vehicles from the 1990s. Last week, Dawfydd from the SWNZ Message Boards came to my aid with three more that I was missing: the B-Wing Starfighter, A-Wing Starfighter, and Escort Frigate.

With these, my set is almost complete. Now I'm just after the Cargo Skiff, Imperial Lander, and Mon Calamari Star Cruiser. If you're looking to trade or sell one of these vehicles, be sure to drop me a message at relicsoftheforce@gmail.com.

A huge thank you also goes to Dawfydd for his generous help!

The Official Star Wars Fact File Issue 2

This week sees the release in New Zealand of issue 2 of The Official Star Wars Fact File. While I hadn't planned on picking up any further issues, the inclusion of a very cool Stormtrooper three-ring binder swayed me into purchasing this one.

The issue retails for $6.99 and features articles on Yoda, Commander Cody, and the T-65 X-Wing. The binder is the best part however - featuring a galaxy map and Star Wars timeline on the inside covers. I'd been hunting for a Star Wars-binder to keep some loose collectibles in for a while, so this'll fit the bill nicely!

October 2015 Empire Magazine

This week, the October 2015 issue of Empire magazine hit shelves, along with a fantastic feature-article on The Force Awakens. The magazine comes in two fold-out cover variants - "Villain" and "Hero". Given my love for all things military in the Star Wars universe, I had to pick the former!

The article itself features exclusive interviews with director and co-writer J.J. Abrams, producer Kathleen Kennedy, and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan - though the trio are careful not to share any details that haven't already been revealed in the earlier Vanity Fair and Entertainment Weekly features. Likewise, all of the images accompanying the article have been previously released - but the amazing covers alone should make this issue highly desirable for collectors.

The Official Star Wars Fact File Issue 1

The Official Star Wars Fact File has returned to magazine stores, and while I was out of town last week my partner picked up the first issue for me. This issue features articles on The Battle of Yavin, R2-D2, Darth Maul, and the Millennium Falcon - but the best part by far is the inclusion of a beautiful (and massive) Star Wars galaxy map.

Future issues will cost $6.99 each - but even if you don't plan on collecting the series, I definitely suggest paying the debut issue price of $1.99 for the galaxy map alone. If you are interested in future issues (and seeing some of the cool gifts that come with subscription) you can read more details here.

Star Wars Rebels Complete Season 1 DVD

Yesterday, season one of Star Wars Rebels was released on DVD and Blu-Ray. Only the DVD version is currently available in New Zealand, but since all of my previous Star Wars television purchases have been in this same format, I wasn't overly bothered by this restriction.

I'll be completely honest. I think Star Wars Rebels is one hell of a show. In the space of just thirteen short episodes, Rebels has managed to develop an ensemble cast of characters that are both relatable, and utterly endearing. The visuals - while simpler than those of its predecessor, The Clone Wars - are nevertheless dynamic and stunning. Best of all, it manages to move flawlessly between moments of action, humour, and sober poignancy, while still capturing the sense of magic and adventure that made us first fall in love with Star Wars.

There are countless reviews online pointing all of this out. For me however, the real value of Rebels is something else entirely. It's the way in which this show is single-handedly binding the galaxy together.

When Disney purchased Lucasfilm back in 2012, they inherited three connected - yet very different - pieces of Star Wars visual media: the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, and The Clone Wars animated series. While all of these were elements of a much larger story, this was sometimes lost to fans. Indeed, exactly what kind of fan you were depended on what you counted as being "true" Star Wars. Was it just the original films? Or was it the whole six-film saga? Was The Clone Wars merely a fun diversion, or did it hold a place that was just as important as any of the feature films?

In creating Rebels, it seems that Disney was keenly aware of this division. The show has, from the very outset, spent its time artfully weaving together the disparate parts of the Star Wars universe into one seamless tapestry. We've seen old friends return from both trilogies of films - many of whom have been reprised by their original actors. Now, one of the main protagonists from The Clone Wars looks set to enter the fray and have a huge impact on the future of the Rebellion.

The marrying of different elements of the Star Wars universe doesn't stop there. It's in the musical cues and cinematography, It's in the sight of a Clone Wars-era Republic Police Gunship alongside an Original Trilogy-era TIE Fighter. It's in the Joe Johnston and Ralph Macquarrie-inspired aesthetics that permeate every scene of the show. Now there are rumblings that Rebels may very well have deeper links to the upcoming sequel trilogy. If these rumours are true, then Rebels is - even more so - quickly becoming the key to the entire Star Wars universe. If, by some chance, you haven't yet indulged in this incredible show, now is the time to start.

The Season One DVD set includes all thirteen episodes from the first season, as well as the TV-films "Spark of Rebellion" and "Fire Across the Galaxy". The bonus features include fourteen "Rebels Recon" behind-the-scenes featurettes, "Star Wars Rebels - The Ultimate Guide", and "Star Wars Rebels Season Two - A Look Ahead". The set is currently available from JB Hi-Fi for $44.00, or by mail order from Mighty Ape for $49.99.

The Force Awakens T-Shirt

While in Houston, I also took the chance to pick up my first piece of The Force Awakens apparel. Target had a great range of t-shirts on offer for only $12.99US ($20.47) each, and I eventually settled on this particular one.

It's a simple design - but I like that, and I look forward to sporting it on a regular basis in the lead up to December 17th!

Stormtrooper Keyring

The dollar bins at US Target stores have always been a great place to find bargain Star Wars items. Last week, during my trip to Houston, they yielded another great find - this Stormtrooper keyring.

There were several designs to choose from, but - for obvious reasons - this one seemed the perfect choice, and it's now adorning my Stormtrooper helmet bag. It's amazing how far a dollar will go in the US!

The Hunt Is On - The Force Awakens Micro Machines Found

Sadly, New Zealand is yet to see a full release of the new Star Wars Micro Machines setsThis is the line I was most excited about post-Force Friday, so was top of my shopping list when I visited Houston last week. Despite a severe stock shortage State-side, there were still a few of these packs on shelves - and I was able to track down all but one of the sets on my wishlist.

I'm thoroughly impressed with every one of these sets. The molding and paint-apps are true to the old Micro Machine aesthetic (i.e., simple and robust) and are dripping with nostalgia. It's also great to see non-The Force Awakens gaps in the line (especially from Episodes II and III) being filled. I'm no expert on plastics - but it seems that there are two different materials being used in producing these. One is the sturdier substance we saw in old Micro Machines (used for most of the 'blockier' vehicles - like the various speeders, and Kylo Ren's Command Shuttle), and the other is a slightly more rubbery materials used for thinner detailing such as the X-Wing and TIE Fighter wings. The latter seems prone to a small amount of warping, but so far the old hot water / cold water trick seems to fix up these imperfections just fine.

My one piece advice for other Micro Machines collectors is to pick your packs carefully. It seems the vehicles aren't being inserted into the blisters with great care, and I spotted a few X-Wings which had had their cannons bent back a full 180 degrees by the way they'd been packaged. It's most likely fixable, but better if avoided.

Words cannot describe how excited I am to see this line back on shelves - and I hope it performs well enough to justify Hasbro continuing to produce Star Wars Micro Machines for a long while yet!

The Hunt Is On - The Force Awakens 3 3/4" Build-a-Weapon Figures Found

Of all the products released on Force Friday, it seems that the plain and simple 3 3/4" carded figures were some of the most sought-after items. Given this, I was lucky to track down all eight of the figures on my wishlist. I picked up both Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren at the Midnight Madness event, then hunted down the remainder (Finn (Jakku), First Order Flametrooper, First Order Stormtrooper, First Order TIE Fighter Pilot, Poe Dameron, Resistance Trooper, and Rey (Starkiller Base)) over the following weekend.

Depending on which store you visit, these figures retail for up to $19.99 in New Zealand. Thanks to some great discounts, I managed to pick up all of these figures for considerably less - including several for only $9.00.

I've been fearful of a return to five-points-of-articulation for a long while now - but given the lack of any super-articulated 3 3/4" figures in this new line, I decided to embrace these simpler figures with an open mind. Having finally got my hands on them, I have to admit that the lack of additional articulation is really no longer a concern. The sculpts and paint apps are fantastic, and even the robed figures - which tend to suffer most when limited in articulation - still look great. I tend to always display my figures in neutral poses, and the design of these figures is perfectly suited to that. My opinion of these figures is improved even further by the fact that they contain many more features than I'd expected (e.g., ball-jointed heads, working gun holsters, and removable capes).

My one gripe is with the pack-in 'Build-a-Weapon' accessories. I understand the thinking behind these, but given the fact that Hasbro is attempting to drastically cut the production costs of 3 3/4" figures, it seems a frivolous inclusion. I'd much rather sacrifice the pack-ins for a few more extras on the figures themselves (removable helmets, anyone?) If pack-ins are a marketing necessity, then I'd prefer them to be actual screen-used weapons and items. Or, better yet, return to the wildly successful 'Build-a-Droid' concept of previous years.

That's my only complaint with this line however, and it's a small one indeed. Hasbro have won me over - and while I'll lap up any super-articulated Force Awakens figures that are released in the future, I'm happy to focus my collecting energy (and budget) on this line for now.

Force Friday Midnight Madness Event at Toyworld Wellington (September 2015)

At 12:01am on September 4th, Force Friday officially rolled around - and with it, our first chance to purchase official merchandise from The Force Awakens. The Ballance Street Toyworld put on a fantastic 'Midnight Madness' event for those of us in the Wellington CBD. Attendance was high, and it didn't take long for a sizable line of avid fans to form outside.

Despite the large crowds, everyone was incredibly respectful and polite. No-one hogged the shelves, and it seems that everyone managed to find most - if not all - of what they were after. Guest appearances by Darth Vader and a Mandalorian Warrior helped build atmosphere, and a few spot discounts (including 25% off 3 3/4" figures) made the night an even more satisfying one.

Given our lack of knowledge concerning product availability and pricing, my purchasing was rather conservative on the night - restricting myself to only the 3 3/4" Kylo Ren and Captain Phasma figures. Over the next week or so I carefully sought out the rest of the items on my Force Friday wishlist.

Houston Toy Store Tour - September 2015

Last week, a piece of school assessment had me heading over to Houston, Texas for a few days. It was a great chance to check out some stores, and see what kind of stock was (still) available over there. There was one unavoidable conclusion I came to during my travels: we got damn lucky here in New Zealand. While we may have missed a couple of lines entirely (most notably, Micro Machines), it seems that the ratio of supply to demand was much better met here. I visited about half-a-dozen Hasbro retailers, and the story was the same at every one: no Rens, no Phasmas, no Rey's speeders, no 2-packs, and no TFA 6" Black Series figures of any kind. I spotted one Armour-Up Luke at a Target store - but other than that, the line was completely absent. Even the Titanium Series and Micro Machines lines were severely decimated, with most remaining vehicles only being those from the OT.

First up on my shopping tour was the Houston Galleria Disney Store. I have to admit that, out of all of the retailers I visited, this was definitely my favourite.

Disney just know how to do atmosphere. While I was in the store, "Across the Stars" was blasting from the stereo, and the Force Awakens trailers were running on a loop. It was also great to see a line of collectibles that is - for now - unavailable on New Zealand shores. The die-cast vehicles and figures are gorgeous, and if I wasn't already heavily committed to several other lines, I'd be all over these.


Next up was Toys 'R' Us, who had really gone all-out with a number of cardboard decorations throughout the store (not to mention a very cool clock counting down to the release of The Force Awakens). Toys 'R' Us turned out to be the most well-stocked of all of the retailers I visited - they at least had some 3 3/4" TFA figures on offer. It was here that I also came across the new 48" Jakks Pacific First Order Stormtrooper and Darth Vader. I knew these were going to be big, but dang, they are massive in person!

Finally, I checked out Target - a store which had clearly borne the full brunt of the Star Wars frenzy. Stock levels were at their lowest here, but the store was decorated with some great promotional material (including a full-size BB-8 that I would have loved to add to my collection).

Honourable mention also goes to Kroger Supermarket. While they didn't have any Hasbro products in stock, they were displaying some very cool party items - including giant inflatable Chewbaccas, R2-D2s, and Stormtroopers!

Despite the limited stock at a number of these stores, I still managed to pick up a few choice items (including all but one of the Micro Machines sets on my Force Friday wishlist). Stay tuned for updates on these items over the coming days!