Thursday, May 15, 2008

2008 Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

In the early months of 1984, my parents owed me a present for my top notch report card. However, in those days, the early months of the year were devoid of new toys. I was left with few options since I had already acquired all of the 1983 Joe figures and vehicles. I distinctly remember scouring the toy aisle at a local Kohl's store and finding only one single carded G.I. Joe figure: the 1984 Duke. (Of course, I already had Duke thanks to the mail away premium from the year before.) I was desperate to find something since my parents typically would only remember they owed me something for a few weeks and if I went too long without cashing in my reward, I lost it. There was only one other action figure in the store in which I had any interest: the original Kenner Indiana Jones figure.

I held it in my hand and thought long and hard about buying it. But, in the end, the prospect of finding new Joes who were shown the back of Duke's package was too tempting and I passed the figure by. (This worked to my advantage when I found Firefly a few weeks later.) I quickly regretted that move and wanted to acquire an Indiana Jones figure for many months. Alas, I was not able to find the original figure again and ultimately settled for Indiana Jones in the Nazi soldier disguise. This was a pale imitation of the original and it did little to sate my desire for the original character design.

When I returned to toy collecting as a adult, I focused my efforts on first acquiring all the Joe figures that I could still find at retail. From there, I branched into the newly released Star Wars figures. I then turned to vintage Star Wars collecting and finally ended at vintage Joe buying. This left little disposable income for collectibles outside my primary focus and Indiana Jones fell off my radar for a while. As my collection grew, though, I got more focused and started looking for the vintage Indiana Jones figure. However, by this time, the figure was somewhat pricey and I was more interested in spending that kind of money on Joes since they were so cheap. Plus, I was really hoping that we might, one day, see a new Indiana Jones done up in the style of the new Star Wars figures. But, more than a decade went by with no satisfaction. The Indiana Jones theme was used on some periphery products and even a small run of action figures. But, these were not really something I found to be in scale with my Star Wars collection and had no real interest in them. Finally, in 2008, Hasbro has come through with a modern Indiana Jones and the elusive title character finally calls my collection home.

For me, this is the perfect figure of Indiana Jones. I'm sure many will complain about some minor articulation point, or the inaccuracy of a certain element of his outfit. But, to me, this figure accomplishes all I would ask from a figure of such an iconic character. At it's core, if anyone who had only a passing knowledge of pop culture saw this figure, they would recognize it as Indiana Jones. The figure captures the essence of the character. It isn't obscured by irrelevant articulation points that cut into the figure's aesthetic. Nor is it buried under tons of useless "play features" that take away from the figure's usefulness. This figure is what it is: a toy that looks like you expect Indiana Jones to look.

Standing on a shelf about 12 feet from the floor in my downstairs office is my small collection of Star Wars figures. Most of these figures are more recent editions as I have largely cleared out my '90's versions of the characters. The versions of characters that I choose to buy are largely dictated by how many of that character I have in my collection, the quality of the figure, and whether the character is someone I care about. As such, I don't have many EU characters standing there (with the exception of some EU clones...) as the EU has never been part of my Star Wars experience. I also don't, necessarily, have the "best" version of each character. If I buy one that is good enough, it's unlikely I'll go back and get another unless the new version features a specific accessory or other enhancement that makes it worthwhile. The primary thing that motivates a Star Wars purchase, though, is how the figure looks. As such, standing front and center on my shelf is the 4 armed General Grievous from Revenge of the Sith. Most collectors wouldn't call this the best Grievous, nor even a good Grievous. But, standing in front of all my other figures, with his arms extended and fully armed with 4 lightsabers, this figure looks great. I'm not 9 years old any more, so the play value for Star Wars toys isn't as important as the look. I want some articulation since that gives freedom of pose. But, I don't want that articulation to come at the expense of the aesthetics. (This is one of the main reasons I dislike the anniversary style Joes. The joints are too pronounced and take away from the toy's look.) Grievous is flanked by Boba Fett, both VOTC and Animated Debut, IG-88, Ceremonial Luke Skywalker, Kit Fisto (Ep III and Clone Wars), Commander Cody and the generic Clone Commander from Ep III. As soon as I get the ladder out again, Indiana Jones will take a place front and center among my favorite figures.

This figure hits on all the points that are important to me. He looks like the character. He has great accessories. He is decently articulated. And, he is in scale and look of the Star Wars figures with whom he shares space. The figure includes the perfect complement of accessories and also features something I have never seen before in 3 3/4 scale: a holster with a working flap. Indiana Jones includes his standard pistol that fits into the holster, a fully extended whip, the bag from which he removed the sand that replaced the idol from the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a coiled whip that attaches to a hitch on the figure's waist, a removable coat and the golden fertility idol that started it all. Basically, everything that any version of Indiana Jones who appeared in this outfit would need. (As a neat little Easter Egg, the holster is positioned in a way that lets it sit just as it did in the movie when Jones handed his pistol over to Belloq after exiting the cave.) The extended whip's sculpting is a bit awkward and is difficult to get into believable positions. But, the figure can stand while holding it and that takes away from the sculpting deficiencies. The figure has articulation at the head (ball head), elbows (ball jointed), shoulders (ball jointed), hands, waist, knees (ball jointed) and feet (swivel). It is, basically, super articulated. Though, the purists will say otherwise since he's missing a few key points. The figure isn't perfect for everyone, but matches my expectations and desires exactly. (Also, it should be noted that Indy's likeness isn't that of Harrison Ford. So, if you're looking for a Harrison Ford look a like, this isn't the figure for you.)

Many collectors have complained about the lack of quality in the Indiana Jones line. Many people have reported finding figures with paint applications that make the figure appear disfigured. At this point, I have only seen one of this figure and it is the one in the photos below. Mine came out just fine and I don't see it. Perhaps, had there been a few more samples at the store, I might have noticed a difference. But, as the paint applications appear to be an issue, it is something to be on the lookout for. This figure also includes a "relic" and a sticker that can be used to redeem a mail away figure. Both are cool ideas that add some value to this purchase. The relics are particularly fun since there are so many and they are such an eclectic mix. However, this version of Indiana Jones includes a somewhat flat relic: a green mask. It isn't as exciting or useful as some of the other offerings. But, since the figure includes the standard idol anyways, it is acceptable.

There is a lingering question among collectors as to the longevity of this line. While Hasbro has publicly stated that have a multi-year commitment to the Indiana Jones line, the reality is that the panoply of characters from which they can draw new figure inspirations is substantially more limited than the same from the Star Wars movies. The Indy characters that did move from film to film retained much of the same look. While there were many background characters in the films, they haven't taken on the afterlife that was afforded many of the more obscure characters from the Star Wars movies. The fact that it took a new movie to finally bring a toy line that seemed so obvious to light speaks to Hasbro's confidence in the market to sustain this line over a long period of time. However, while I don't foresee a full blown retail Indiana Jones sustaining itself much more than a year or so, I can see that Hasbro has laid the groundwork to keep new Indy figures in the marketplace. The reality is that Hasbro produced a ton of molds for the movie figures and it's likely that, in the future, they can tweak these molds at little cost to produce new figures. Aside from that, look at the upcoming San Diego Comic Convention Cobra Commander in suit figure. His suit looks suspiciously like Toht. Hasbro is getting to the point where they can now take parts from one toy line and integrate them into another toy line. So, new molds could be made for future Indiana Jones figures and then be co-opted into G.I. Joe, Star Wars or some other licensed tie-in that would help offset the cost of the mold.

Hasbro also has two distinct distribution options for a reduced Indy line. They could easily package a new Indy figure or two into cases of Star Wars figures. The two fanbases cross over heavily and this way a few random figures would make it to retail without having to support a full blown line. Hasbro has already toyed with this idea when they shipped Titanium Battlestar Galactica ships in cases of their Star Wars Titanium assortment. It keeps retailers from having to program new products or make large commitments but allows for some fan favorite Indy characters to still appear at retail. The other option is the DTC model. A line like Indy would likely work better in a DTC type environment than G.I. Joe did. Indy has dedicated fans and it would be easy to stock online toy stores with enough product to justify small amounts. It would keep some of the main characters alive at retail and allow collectors to fill their niche desires, too. Either option gives Hasbro the ability to keep fans happy and keep the line alive even after it is no longer viable at the traditional retail outlets.

This figure is just now shipping and will likely be widely available through the year. The new movie will spark a decent amount of figures at retail stores and it's likely that they will still be available for the inevitable DVD release sometime this fall. As this is probably the signature figure in the line, it should ship for ample time in ample numbers in ample case assortments and anyone who wants one should be able to find one at retail. It is likely that Hasbro will revisit this character again and again if the line continues for more than this year. And, it is likely that those future versions will have increased articulation, better accessories, higher quality paint applications or other features (removable hat!) that will make you want to buy the same figure yet again. For me, though, this is just what I've wanted since I passed by the original Kenner figure back in 1984. It is Indiana Jones and has all the things that are iconic to the character. He will proudly stand among my small collection of Star Wars figures and it is doubtful that I will ever expand my Indiana Jones collection beyond, maybe, another version of Indy and the Ark. But, 10 years from now, if someone comes to my home and sees the figure, they will know who it is and the significance of the character. For a toy like this, that's all I can ask.
2008 Indiana Jones, Black Hole Stormtrooper, Animated Boba Fett, Endor Han Solo

2008 Indiana Jones, Black Hole Stormtrooper, Animated Boba Fett, Endor Han Solo

2008 Indiana Jones, Black Hole Stormtrooper, Animated Boba Fett, Endor Han Solo

2008 Indiana Jones, Black Hole Stormtrooper, Animated Boba Fett, Endor Han Solo

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