Sunday, 4 June 2023

Jedi: A Star Wars Toy Story

In this special edition of A Star Wars Toy Story, Nick Smith, our US-based collecting connoisseur, remembers when Star Wars: Return of the Jedi ruled toy aisles a long time ago...

Guest post by Nick Smith

It was 1983 and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was in movie theatres. Almost as exciting as the film were the new toys that came along with it.

I had no qualms about buying Ewoks - Wicket, Logray, Chief Chirpa - before fan wisdom decided that they were uncool. I marvelled at their little plastic outfits and primitive weapons; I could act out their man-eating rituals and pit them against my Biker Scout, who sadly lost his delicate head in a forest accident.

Most of my toys were from Jabba the Hutt’s Palace but my favourite was Luke Skywalker in his ‘Vaderish’ black costume. Sadly, I couldn’t afford a Speeder Bike, a Rebel Transport or the Ewok Village playset, although I did buy a Rancor for my son years later [shame we didn't meet until university in 1993 as I had almost all the things - Ed].

Even in the ‘80s, the number of action figures was becoming unmanageable and I, ahem, ‘borrowed’ one or two from friends to try to keep up. (Don’t worry, I gave them back). But Kenner 'only' released 17 new figures for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, a variety that pales into insignificance compared to what’s on offer today.

Hasbro is still pushing toys to commemorate Lucasfilm’s 50th Anniversary, marked in 2021. These include Black Series figures of a Tusken Raider, an Imperial Hovertank Driver, a Rogue One Shoretrooper, a Death Trooper, Darth Revan and Grand Admiral Thrawn, all 6” tall.

The good news about Hasbro’s deluge of dolls? Tie-ins have been released or are planned for all of the Disney+ live-action shows: The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Andor and The Book of Boba Fett.

There’s a ‘Star Wars Publishing’ line, which includes Mara Jade, plus tie-ins with The Bad Batch, The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, the 2023 video game Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and ‘Gaming Greats.’ Who doesn’t want to own a toy of Lando in his colourful Battlefront II outfit?

In an issue of the Star Wars comic book Infinities, Darth Vader turns Jedi (and white as a pint of milk). The Black Series has resurrected this toy from 2007. A retro collection brings back figures from the ‘70s and ‘80s. So, something to appease every fan, if not every wallet. You can buy ‘Boba Fett’s starship,’ nee Slave One, for a Hutt’s bounty of $200.

Gone are the days when a child could pick up a Star Wars toy for a buck or two. Hasbro has tried to cater to younger, cash-strapped fans with its basic retro figures, running about $12-15 each. The more detailed $25 Black Series is aimed at collectors and Richie Rich kids [that was me back in the day - Ed]. If parents really want to splurge, they can buy Fives from Clone Wars (a Walmart exclusive), the half-a-Han bust from Gentle Giant or a sweet-smelling Ewok from Scentsy.

What will they think of next? Expect Ahsoka tie-ins like an animatronic ‘chatter back’ Chopper, highlighted at this year’s Star Wars Celebration Europe, and a Black Series Cad Bane.

Since demand for toys seems to be increasing with every new streaming show on Disney+ the possibilities, as White Darth Vader would say, are infinite.

What are your memories of collecting original Star Wars trilogy toys? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 1 June 2023

LEGO Ideas Jaws

The summer blockbuster season began with director Steven Spielberg's Jaws in 1975.

Jaws fans (myself included) will be delighted that the awesome LEGO Ideas Jaws set featuring Brody, Hooper, Quint and the titular great white shark (Bruce), created by Fan Designer Jonny Campbell AKA Diving Faces, will be released in the future by LEGO.

Jonny Campbell writes: "I built this model because JAWS is my favourite movie. I have a great passion for both LEGO and this movie and I wanted to create my own JAWS set. We reached 10k before, and hopefully we can do it again. We need a JAWS set!"

You can read more about the LEGO Ideas Jaws set here.

In the wake of a global pandemic, adults (myself included) have turned to LEGO for nostalgia and mindfulness. It's worth reiterating LEGO was instrumental in my recovery from a life-changing brain injury in childhood.

What do you think of the LEGO Ideas Jaws building set? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023

15 years of Iron Man

Marvel Studios' Iron Man celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and director Jon Favreau (The Mandalorian) discuss the film that began Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Read the synopsis:

"In 2008, Marvel Studios released Iron Man, a film that would cement the future of the studio and leave a lasting impact on film and popular culture. Starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Iron Man was a critical and commercial success, helping to launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe."

During an era of middling superhero fare in the noughties, the genre became a multi-billion dollar industry unto itself in the wake of Iron Man's unprecedented success when Disney bought Marvel Comics.

Whilst I missed the first movie in cinemas, it was my inaugural rental from LOVEFiLM (now Amazon Prime). Robert Downey Jr. was charismatic in the lead role of Tony Stark. The movie was a much-needed tonic for my dad and me in the wake of my mum's death in 2007. And we've enjoyed watching the MCU movies together ever since.

Iron Man 3 was arguably the franchise's best instalment! Director Shane Black (The Predator) flipped the tin man on his head in the wake of Avengers Assemble and gave cinemagoers a memorable blockbuster ride with a twist.

Overall, Captain America: The Winter Soldier remains my all-time favourite MCU movie to date. The upcoming Secret Invasion series on Disney+ channels the paranoia of that standout movie directed by the Russo brothers.

Fast forward to 2023. Phase 5 began with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Since the conclusion of The Infinity Saga, the MCU has struggled to maintain momentum. However, there have been highlights with WandaVision, Loki and Hawkeye and the Special Presentations' Werewolf by Night and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special on Disney+.

What are your favourite MCU memories on the 15th anniversary? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 26 May 2023

Marvel Comics resurrects the Micronauts

45 years ago, George Lucas' space opera Star Wars captured my childhood imagination. As such, I devoured everything related. From Kenner action figures to Marvel Comics. It was in the pages of Marvel UK’s making of Star Wars magazine that I saw an advertisement for a new toy line distributed by Airfix.

The interchangeable world of the Micronauts.

The Micronauts, Mego’s rebranded name for Microman in the US, was a storied interchangeable toy line from Takara (the Japanese toy company that would go on to create Transformers).

The 3½ inch action figures and accessories scaled perfectly with Kenner’s Star Wars toys, so they inhabited a shared universe in my bedroom. Ironic, as Mego infamously passed on Star Wars. Incidentally, Mego reused Microman tooling for Disney’s The Black Hole and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century toys, which I also collected.

Marvel Comics released a tie-in comic (reprinted in Star Wars Weekly and Future Tense) following the adventures of Commander Rann (my Xbox Gamertag) and his battle with the evil Baron Karza. The latter, a Darth Vader lookalike, was a cherished holiday gift in 1978.

The original comic book series based on the beloved toy line is being reprinted in partnership between Marvel Comics and Hasbro, which owns the Micronauts brand. The Disney-owned publisher will release an omnibus edition of the original comics in April 2024.

In related news. Rom the Space Knight is also returning to Marvel Comics after four decades.

Could this pave the way for the Microverse to officially appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)?

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is more fun than I anticipated on Disney+! Jentorra (Katy O'Brian) is a Micronauts alumnus. And it left me wanting a Micronauts movie in the vein of the classic comic book series I grew up reading! That's another step closer following this surprise announcement.

Will the Micronauts toy line be rereleased on Hasbro Pulse?

In June 2016, Hasbro announced a limited edition Micronauts Classic Collection toy set. The San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) exclusive included three Micronauts: Galactic Warrior, Pharoid and Orbital Defender, and featured packaging artwork by artist Ken Kelly.

What are your memories of the Micronauts? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 25 May 2023

Lower Decks live-action in Strange New Worlds

Star Trek: Picard's third and final season stuck the landing on Amazon Prime and Paramount+. Excitement for further adventures in the final frontier is fever pitch.

Paramount+ dropped an official trailer for the second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds featuring a live-action crossover with the animated adult spin-off series Star Trek: Lower Decks.

Read the official series synopsis:

"In series two of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, under the command of Captain Christopher Pike, confronts increasingly dangerous stakes, explores uncharted territories, and encounters new life and civilisations. The crew will also embark on personal journeys that will continue to test their resolve and redefine their destinies."

I have a confession to make. I've never watched Star Trek: Lower Decks but will be streaming the animated series on Paramount+ ahead of the new series.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' second season premieres exclusively on Paramount+ on 15th June.

Are you looking forward to the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and Star Trek: Lower Decks crossover? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Game of Thrones star joins Doctor Who

Award-winning actress Indira Varma (Game of Thrones) is crossing galaxies as she joins the new series of Doctor Who. Longtime fans (myself included) will remember Varma played Suzie Costello in Torchwood.

Speaking of joining Doctor Who, Indira Varma says: "I’m thrilled to be in Doctor Who and particularly excited to be crossing cosmic paths with Ncuti, as the Doctor, and look forward to creating interplanetary mischief with him. I loved playing Suzie Costello for Russell T Davies in Torchwood so am thrilled to be entering this world again."

Varma most recently starred in the Star Wars special event series Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+.

Showrunner, Russell T Davies says: "I’m overjoyed to be reunited with Indira after our Torchwood days, and this part is truly spectacular! A whole new audience will be hiding behind the settee when the Duchess unleashes her terror."

Doctor Who returns for three 60th anniversary specials, starring David Tennant (Doctor Who) and Catherine Tate (Donna Noble) this November on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland. Ncuti Gatwa takes over control of the TARDIS during the holiday season.

Are you looking forward to the new series of Doctor Who? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Star Wars actor Ray Stevenson dies

Actor Ray Stevenson (Thor) has passed away aged 58. Stevenson is best known to Star Wars fans (myself included) as Gar Saxon from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.

Stevenson will make a posthumous appearance as Baylon Skoll in the Star Wars live-action spin-off series Ahsoka on Disney+ later this year. He recently spoke of his excitement during Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023.

Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

Monday, 22 May 2023


LEGO builds on the success of its Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Atari 2600 retro-themed video game building sets with PAC-MAN Arcade!

Describing the process of designing the new set, Sven Franic, LEGO Designer comments: “A cultural icon for the past 40 years, it was a delight to bring PAC-MAN to brick life. We are always looking for new and exciting ways to bring classic gaming experiences to life. Our team of talented designers worked tirelessly to capture the essence of the beloved PAC-MAN arcade machine in brick form, from PAC-MAN himself to the colourful, maze-like environment he inhabits. Every detail was carefully considered and crafted, resulting in a one-of-a-kind LEGO creation that captures the magic of the original game while adding a playful new twist and a couple of Easter eggs – in true video game style. We are thrilled to share this incredible build with the world and cannot wait to see the joy it brings to fans of all ages.”

Waka waka waka down memory lane as PAC-MAN turns 43. I remember playing PAC-MAN on Atari VCS with my childhood friend Kevin Simpson!

Adding on the collaboration, Aadil Tayouga, Director of Licensing and Business Strategy at Bandai Namco Europe says: “Bandai Namco and the LEGO group share a lot of common values, notably aiming at providing fun for all people through quality products. In addition to these values, since PAC-MAN yellow was actually inspired by the LEGO Group yellow, it made the connection even more natural. It has been a tremendous collaboration with the passionate teams at the LEGO Group and we hope that fans will enjoy this kit.”

LEGO PAC-MAN Arcade is available from LEGO AU, CA, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding LEGO PAC-MAN Arcade to your collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 20 May 2023

Miles and Gwen swing Across the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse swings into cinemas this June.

Sony Pictures has released an official clip featuring Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) from the highly-anticipated sequel to the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Read the official synopsis:

"Miles Morales returns for the next chapter of the Oscar®-winning Spider-Verse saga, "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse." After reuniting with Gwen Stacy, Brooklyn's full-time, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is catapulted across the Multiverse, where he encounters a team of Spider-People charged with protecting its very existence. But when the heroes clash on how to handle a new threat, Miles finds himself pitted against the other Spiders, and must redefine what it means to be a hero so he can save the people he loves most."

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the middle part of the Spider-Verse trilogy concluding with Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, and the co-directors have likened it to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

"Across The Spider-Verse is a movie on its own, but it definitely ends on a bit of a cliffhanger,” co-director Kemp Powers revealed. “I think it’s a good cliffhanger. We hope that it’s a satisfying tee-up for what’s coming in the third film, because you want people to be excited about what’s coming next.”

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is my all-time favourite film! Colour me most excited.

Fellow director Joaquim Dos Santos adds, "I was very satisfied after The Empire Strikes Back. And hopefully, this is our Empire."

This weekend I'm going to rewatch Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse on Sony's BRAVIA CORE streaming service exclusively for BRAVIA XR.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is exclusively in cinemas 2nd of June.

Are you looking forward to Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 19 May 2023

Stormtroopers win on Star Wars Day

Micheal Fitzgerald has sent over an update regarding the latest episode in his Stormtroopers fan film series to be released later this year, which won big on May the Fourth AKA Star Wars Day.

Guest post by Micheal Fitzgerald

Stormtroopers wins Best Irish Short Film at the May the 4th Sci-Fi Film Festival.

The May the 4th Sci-Fi Film Festival featured the best Irish & International Sci-Fi films in Portmagee, Kerry over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

Stormtroopers won a number of awards including:

- Best Irish Short Film
- Best Actress - Carolyn Bracken
- Best VFX - William Beam
- Best Production Design - Micheal Fitzgerald

In the film, an Imperial Base Station is besieged by battleship attack & haunting PTSD within its ranks.

It stars Carolyn Bracken (You Are Not My Mother; Dublin Murders, Balor Hall, The Gone); Pius McGrath (Foundation, The Gates); Peter Cosgrave (Pilgrimage) & Klancy Casey Williams. It is directed by Micheal Fitzgerald (Home & Away; Game of Thrones; Dublin Murders).

Stormtroopers filmed in epic locations including hiking 792m above sea level to film in a dormant volcano in Waterford to diving 30m deep to film underwater in Tipperary while the 32m Large Antenna Array in the National Space Center in Cork doubled as the anchor location for the Imperial Base Station.

The May the 4th Sci-Fi Film Festival premiere follows up on several Stormtroopers event screenings including:

- Mitchelstown Cave Premiere 200ft underground in the chilled prehistoric caverns in March
- Exclusive Dublin Comic Con Premiere in The Convention Centre Dublin also in March
- National Space Centre Homecoming Premiere in April

For further information, please visit the official site.

Are you looking forward to the next episode of Stormtroopers? Let me know in the comments below.