From Farm Boy to Hero of the Rebellion
In the spring of 2017, in anticipation of the 40th Anniversary of the theatrical premiere of George Lucas’s Star Wars (aka Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), Hasbro, Inc. of Pawtucket (RI) released its first wave of Star Wars The Black Series 40th Anniversary 6-inch scale action figures with “Kenner” branded cardback packaging based on the packages for the original 1978 Star Wars “micro-action figures”
Introduced in Hasbro’s exhibit area at the 2017 International Toy Fair, the first batch of Star Wars 40th Anniversary figures included Princess Leia Organa, Han Solo, See Threepio, Artoo Detoo, and a young moisture farmer-turned-Rebel named Luke Skywalker.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s review of the Princess Leia Organa (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) figure, most of the figures in this consignment are repackaged items from Star Wars The Black Series’ 2016 production run. In this case, Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) is actually a reissue of the Luke Skywalker (#21) figure but in a slightly modified replica of the “12 Cardback” package used for 1978’s Luke Skywalker, the first of the original wave of 12 3.75-inch scale figures.
Accordingly, this Star Wars 40th Anniversary collectible is a 6-inch scale rendition of the original Star Wars Trilogy’s protagonist dressed in his iconic Tatooine farmer’s outfit and equipped with his father Anakin’s lightsaber and a set of macrobinoculars.
What’s in the Package?
A young farmboy living on the remote desert planet Tatooine, Luke Skywalker yearns to escape the dull routine of his daily chores on his uncle’s moisture farm. Luke dreams of becoming a space pilot, but is torn between his desire to enroll in the Academy and his loyalty to his uncle and aunt, who need him on the farm. When Luke discovers a cryptic message hidden in one of his new droids, he sets out on a quest and is catapulted into a world of adventure which will at last fulfill his true destiny. – Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary
In Star Wars: A New Hope, Luke lives with his Uncle Owen Lars and Aunt Beru in a remote homestead some distance away from the town of Anchorhead and Mos Eisley Spaceport. To work and live in the inhospitable desert of Tatooine, the moisture farmers and other residents must wear comfortable clothing that reflects the twin suns’ light and keeps the body cool. Luke’s clothing reflects these exigencies of the desert climate, so he wears a loose-fitting white farm tunic, light-colored pants, leggings to keep the ever-present Tatooine sand out of his shoes, and work boots with grip soles.
Luke also wears a belt with pouches and hooks for various items, including survival gear, a droid caller to summon any of the droids on the homestead – including Artoo Detoo and See Threepio – and (eventually) a belt clip to attach an unexpected heirloom – his father’s lightsaber. All of this is reflected in Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary Figure).
This figure is, as described earlier, a reissue of Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series Luke Skywalker (#21), which depicts the character played in six of the Skywalker Saga films (and two Radio Dramas!) by actor Mark Hamill as he appears throughout much of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Luke is outfitted with the following articles of clothing and accessories:
- Tatooine farm tunic (made of fabric)
- Light pants
- Sandproof leggings
- Footgear with grip soles
- Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber (with detachable “energy blade”)
- Set of macrobinoculars
A Closer Look at Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary Figure)
Although this Hasbro action figure is a linear descendant of Kenner Toys’ original 1978 Luke Skywalker #1 micro-action figure – the 40th Anniversary variant even comes in a “cardback” bubble pack with Kenner indicia and the same art and Star Wars collection logo used for that 3.75-inch figure – it is a vastly different product altogether.
First, the Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary Figure) is rendered in a larger size – 6-inch scale, to be precise. This allows Hasbro to add many features that Kenner Toys – a former rival that the company absorbed in a merger in the 1990s – simply couldn’t give its 1978-1985 figures at the time.
Advances in toymaking tech – especially computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) methods – gives Hasbro the ability to create action figures with better sculpts and paint jobs. As a result, Star Wars figures now more closely resemble the human, non-human, and robotic characters from the films and TV shows than the original Kenner figures ever could.
Second, because most of Hasbro’s consumers of Star Wars figures, vehicles, and other collectibles are adult fans and collectors, the company puts a lot of effort into making character-based products as realistic and lifelike as possible.
In order to give Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary Figure) – which was originally released as Star Wars The Black Series Luke Skywalker (#21) – these desirable traits, Hasbro not only tried hard to make the sculpt and paint job on the figure so good that it looks like the then-24-year-old Mark Hamill. And for the most part, it does, especially if you make the – unfair, I know – comparison to Kenner’s original Luke Skywalker #1 from 42 years ago.
For instance, where Kenner used a too-bright yellow color for Luke’s late-1970s shaggy hairstyle in at least two iterations of the farmboy-turned-Rebel-and-Jedi (Luke Skywalker and Luke Skywalker (Bespin Fatigues), Hasbro has used – for the longest time – a paint color that approximates Mark Hamill’s dirty blond hair color. The skin color on Luke-based figures is also more lifelike, and whereas Kenner never could give its 3.75-inch scale human figures accurately colored pupils, Hasbro has been doing so since at least its late 1990s Power of the Force 2 collection. (To be fair, Kenner could, and did, give its 12-inch line of Star Wars figures that kind of verisimilitude back in the 1970s, but that’s because the larger size makes that task easier.)
And if you look at the figure closely (either still in its cardback or loose), you’ll notice that the 21st Century Star Wars The Black Series Luke Skywalker gets the details of Luke’s Tatooine farmer’s outfit right, too. The white tunic – which symbolizes the character’s naivete and innocence at the start of his “hero’s journey” – is made of fabric and cinched at the waist by Luke’s survival gear belt.
Luke’s light-colored work pants, sandproof leggings, and grip-soled boots have a lighter, less monochromatic shade of beige-grey compared to Kenner’s dark-tan coloring for that part of the figure’s outfit. The only commonality, function-wise, between the newer figure and the 1978 original’s paint and sculpt job is that both simulate various articles of clothing and footwear via molds and paint rather than use fabric for the pants and leggings. The 1978 micro-action figure was cool for its time (and I wouldn’t part with mine in any case), but this one looks way cooler.
Again, it’s unfair to compare the new with the old due to the fact that as time has passed, the look of toys – especially those that are sought after by avid fans of a franchise such as Star Wars – has evolved in tandem with toymaking tech and methodology. So it stands to reason that this version of Luke Skywalker is closer to the character’s look than its Kenner ancestor.
Hasbro also makes it easier to place the figures in more lifelike poses by incorporating at least 12 points of articulation (POAs) – which are analogous to joints in human anatomy, such as the neck, elbows, wrists, hips, etc. – in human or humanoid character-based action figures. In the “early age” of Kenner action figures, especially its famous 3.75-inch figures, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Stormtrooper, Chewbacca et al had five – sometimes less – POAs. (Chewie and Imperial stormtroopers lacked a neck POA to turn their heads!)
Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series Luke Skywalker (#21) – or, in this case, its 2017 Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary Figure) incarnation boasts at least 13 POAs, most of which are hidden by Luke’s Tatooine tunic. These points of articulation are:
- Neck (1)
- Shoulders (2)
- Elbows (2)
- Wrists (2)
- Waist (1)
- Hips (2)
- Knees (2)
- Ankles (2)
By my count, Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary Figure) boasts 14 points of articulation.
Casting aside his humdrum life on Tatooine in favor of galactic adventure, Luke Skywalker learns the ways of the Force under Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi and quickly ascends to Rebel leader. – Packaging blurb, Star Wars The Black Series Luke Skywalker #21 (the original version of this figure)
No discussion of a Hasbro Star Wars action figure is complete without a look at the accessories that come in the package, so let’s see what Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary Figure) is equipped with.
In contrast to its Kenner Toys counterpart from 1978 – which only came with a permanently-attached lightsaber with a telescoping yellow blade – Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary Figure) is lavishly equipped in comparison.
Yes, the 21st Century Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary Figure) also comes with a lightsaber, but this one is not “built into the figure” but is a separate accessory with fine black and silver detailing on the handle and even has a red activation button. The lightsaber hilt even has a small hook that attaches to Luke’s utility belt. The “blade” is made of translucent blue plastic that resembles the energy blade of the “Skywalker lightsaber” and can be detached so that the “deactivated” Jedi weapon can hang from Luke’s belt clip.
The other accessory in the Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary Figure) package is a replica of Luke’s macrobinoculars. The figure can hold this high-tech optical device in one- or two-handed grips to make the figure appear as though he’s looking for a particular runaway astromech droid or a space battle just beyond Tatooine’s atmosphere. The “binocs” are painted black with silver detailing to simulate metallic parts of Luke’s vision-enhancing gear. They, too, can be attached to the clip on the figure’s utility belt.
The fabric tunic, I suppose, is an accessory and can be removed, although I’d only recommend doing so to carefully wash it if the figure gets dirty.
When I began collecting Star Wars figures back in 1978, the first figures I bought with my own money was Kenner’s Luke Skywalker #1, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, and Han Solo. I used to earn a weekly allowance of $15 by doing chores around the house, and because Kenner figures had a MSRP of around $2.69 at the time, I was able to, as the cardback with the Star Wars figure checklist used to say, collect all 12 by year’s end, as well as the original X-Wing Fighter and the Imperial TIE Fighter.
Luke was my favorite character at the time, and he is the protagonist of the Original Trilogy, so it is logical that his figure would be at the top of my “To Buy” list. And since I was 15 when I started collecting Star Wars stuff, I was aware of the figure’s strengths and weaknesses.
Like most of the figures from the Kenner Toys period, Luke Skywalker #1 looked best – from a collector’s point of view, at least – as a static displayable on the figure stands that were an integral part of the 1979-era Micro-Action Figure’s Collector’s Case or seated, with the Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, See Threepio, and Artoo Detoo action figures on the Landspeeder. At most, I sometimes placed the figure next to – but not in – my then-new X-Wing Fighter; I was too old at 15 years of age to use my imagination and “pretend” that Luke was in his Rebel-issue flight suit when I created static displays with my collectibles.
As I wrote earlier, the problem was that Kenner’s Star Wars figures and vehicles lacked the realism and authentic details that Hasbro’s 21st Century products have. First, Kenner wasn’t targeting its Star Wars toys to teens and adults. Look at any Kenner Star Wars product commercial from the period and what do you see? Child actors – boys usually – under the age of 12, gleefully creating their own Star Wars adventures with the figures or vehicles being shilled in the ads.
Second – and I’ve already discussed this in great detail in the sections above – even if Kenner did have the collector’s market in mind, the technology simply wasn’t there in the late 1970s and early 1980s to make Star Wars The Black Series-style action figures.
So even though I loved collecting the figures and setting them in rather impressive static displays that hardly anyone ever saw – I wasn’t friendless by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn’t have any close friends in East Wind Lake Village, and I rarely had any social gatherings at the house in any event – in the back of my mind I always thought that the figures did have their limitations. (I’ve always thought this is an interesting dichotomy – I was an avid collector, but I always wished that the figures would, well, look better.)
I’ve written elsewhere about why I started collecting, albeit in a deliberately limited fashion, the new Star Wars The Black Series figures, so I won’t repeat myself here. Suffice it to say that I bought this Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) figure and 10 other figures in December of 2017 to complement the Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary Figure with Legacy Stand) that I received from a friend that Christmas.
I think that even though Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series Luke Skywalker #21/ Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) doesn’t quite pull off the “Hey, this figure really looks a lot like Mark Hamill!” trick – the facial details aren’t 100% accurate, even though the hair and eye coloring are right – it’s still worth displaying on that Star Wars 40th Anniversary Legacy Stand, along with Princess Leia Organa, Han Solo, Death Squad Commander, Tusken Raider, Jawa, and the rest of “The Original Dozen.”
I will probably regret having to open the Star Wars 40th Anniversary “Kenner” cardback packaging. I think nostalgia is one of the big “draws” that these figures have for collectors, especially those of us who are in our fifties but still remember Star Wars as one of those Big Cultural Events that happened when we were adolescents or almost-adolescents. One of the reasons why I was so bowled over when my friend gave me the Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary Figure with Legacy Stand) set was the feeling of “Wowser! This is way cool!” when I saw, peeking from the box’s front panel “window” the old-school Kenner cardback style packaging.
Anyway, this is one cool and exciting figure from Hasbro’s successful Star Wars The Black Series collection. I suppose I’m a sucker for Star Wars and/or nostalgia for my (somewhat) misspent youth, but I am impressed by the attention to detail Hasbro lavished on the figure and its accessories. I like the fact that the tunic, at least, is made of fabric, and that it comes with two authentic-looking accessories from Star Wars: A New Hope.
Well, this brings us to the close of another Star Wars The Black Series action figure review. I enjoyed writing it and reminiscing about my older figure, and I hope you have fun reading this.
So, until next time, Dear Reader, May the Force be with you, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
 The first Star Wars figures I acquired were given to me as birthday presents by Chuck and Sheila Blanchard, who had been our neighbors in Westchester from the late summer of 1972 to September of 1977, which is when Mom sold our house on SW 102nd Avenue and bought a brand-new townhouse in a new section of Fountainbleau Park called East Wind Lake Village. Their sons Robert and Patrick were friends of mine (Patrick more so than Robert), and since Chuck and Sheila knew I was a Star Wars fan, they gave me the original Kenner Landspeeder vehicle and two action figures, See Threepio (C-3PO) and Artoo Detoo (R2-D2).
 A gift from my late maternal grandmother, “Tata.”