The Emperor’s Sinister Agent
In early April of 2017, shortly after introducing the first five Star Wars The Black Series 40th Anniversary figures to commemorate the Ruby Anniversary of George Lucas’ original Star Wars (aka Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), Hasbro released its Star Wars The Black Series Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) and Legacy Pack. This is a Special Edition 6-inch scale figure of the fearsome Dark Lord of the Sith in a “Kenner” branded blister pack with a slightly-modified Star Wars Collection cardback that closely resembles the packaging used for the original 3.75-inch scale action figure from 1978.
In addition to his red-bladed lightsaber and a flowing black cape made out of fabric, the Darth Vader figure – especially made for this release – came with a display stand and a reversible back card evocative of Kenner Toys’ 1977 Collector’s Stand from the 1977 Christmas season. The artwork on the double-sided backdrop originally appeared 43 years ago and some of its elements were used in Kenner’s marketing materials for the 12 original “micro-action figures” that – belatedly – hit stores early in 1978.
Start or expand your own collection with a 40th Anniversary Legacy Pack and have fabulous fun reliving the movie Star Wars!
Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) and Legacy Pack was first revealed at the 114th North American International Toy Fair on February 18, 2017 in Hasbro’s showroom in the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. Unlike many of its fellow Star Wars The Black Series 40th Anniversary figures, this version of Darth Vader was all-new. According to Rebelscum.com, one of the original prototype figures – dubbed “Red Eye” due to the bright red color of the Dark Lord’s eye lenses – was first made on December 30, 2016; production figures feature lenses on Vader’s skull-like breath mask with subtler red coloring.
A grim, forbidding figure, Darth Vader stalks the corridors of the Imperial Navy. Once regarded as mad human wreckage, with the increasing favor of the Emperor, Vader has risen in power and influence to become a much-feared military commander. – Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary, 2008 edition
Lord Darth Vader is, of course, the central character of writer-director George Lucas’ first two trilogies in what is now called the Skywalker Saga. Strong in the Force and born as Anakin Skywalker to a slave named Shmi Skywalker, he was discovered as a nine-year-old boy by Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn on the desert world Tatooine. In a series of events that transform the galaxy, young Anakin – well-meaning but strong-willed and often angry – trained as a Jedi Knight under the tutelage of Obi-Wan Kenobi. However, unbeknown to the Jedi, Anakin also fell under the influence of Sheev Palpatine, an evil Dark Lord whose Sith name was Darth Sidious.
Using Anakin’s weaknesses against him – especially young Skywalker’s forbidden marriage to Padme Amidala and his possessive nature – Sidious turned the gifted but troubled Jedi against his comrades during the last days of the Clone Wars. Through clever manipulation and Anakin’s visions of his wife’s death, Palpatine turned the Jedi hero into his fearsome agent, Darth Vader – and into a weapon against the Jedi, including Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Young Vader’s transformation from Jedi hero to Sith Lord became complete when, after a fateful duel with Kenobi on the volcanic world Mustafar, the veteran Jedi Master left the former Anakin Skywalker maimed, horribly burned, and nearly dead. Scarred inside and out and filled with hate and resentment, Vader was transformed into a black-armored cyborg and survived to become Emperor Palpatine’s chief enforcer.
In the original Star Wars Trilogy – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi – Vader is the most public symbol of Emperor Palpatine’s evil and fascistic New Order. Wielding a dark version of the lightsaber he once used as a Jedi, Vader is clad in a life-supporting suit of armor without which he can’t survive. It consists of:
- A skull-like breath mask with a locking helmet
- Vision enhancing receptors
- A voice projector/respiratory intake
- Armored breastplate
- Control chest plate
- A multifunction belt that aids in the control of the suit’s life support equipment
- Cybernetic limbs: the legs are covered with boots, armored shin guards, and ribbed multi-ply trousers
- Armored gauntlets
- A flowing black cape
Darth Vader’s iconic armor and breath mask was originally designed by conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie and refined by Oscar-winning costume designer John Mollo. Inspired by Japanese samurai helmets and – more overtly – Nazi German iconography, Vader’s look is both menacing and memorable. His image – especially the recognizable helmet-and-breath mask that make Vader the most recognizable screen villain in cinema – was a visual element in four of the Skywalker Saga movie’s posters, and the melted-in-the-funeral pyre-at-Endor version has been seen in the Sequel Trilogy, especially in The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker.
Of course, when Cincinnati-based Kenner Toys acquired the licensing rights to make toys and games based on Star Wars, Darth Vader was among the first characters to get a figure, both in the 12-inch action figure size as well as the 3.75-inch scale sized “micro-action figures.
What’s in the Box?
Start or expand your own collection with a 40th Anniversary Legacy Pack and have fabulous fun reliving the movie Star Wars! This Legacy Pack features a display stand with backcard to showcase the 40th Anniversary figures (each sold separately). – Packaging blurb, Star Wars The Black Series Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) and Legacy Pack
Photo Credit: Hasbro, via Amazon (C) 2017 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)
Introduced in stores in April of 2017, Star Wars The Black Series Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) and Legacy Pack is a two-in-one ticket to Nostalgia Land in a one-pound box that measures 2.13 x 16.89 x 11.26 inches.
Inspired by 1977 Star Wars Early Bird Certificate Package
Since 1977, Star Wars has captured the hearts of millions with iconic characters, impressive vehicles, and a galaxy of stories that has passed the test of time over and over again. Celebrate the legacy of Star Wars: A New Hope with this 40th Anniversary Legacy Pack, inspired by the 1977 Star Wars Early Bird Certificate package and featuring a vintage-inspired Darth Vader figure.
This 2.13 x 16.89 x 11.26 package has a MSRP of $39.99 and, although it’s obviously not an exact replica of the Early Bird Certificate box, it bears the iconic 1977-era indicia of Kenner Toys (which was absorbed by Hasbro in the 1990s), including the silver-on-black Star Wars logo, the Luke-and-Leia “hero” graphic, a Kenner artist’s rendition of the “Original Dozen” characters that were “figure-ized” in 1978, and the blue and white logo of Kenner Toys.
The Star Wars: 40th Anniversary Legacy Pack comes with a 6-inch premium Darth Vader figure as well as a reversible backdrop and display stand for all other 40th Anniversary 6-inch figures. Collect all 40th Anniversary 6-inch figures to complete the display! (Additional figures each sold separately. Subject to availability). – Hasbro product blurb, Star Wars The Black Series Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) and Legacy Pack
The Star Wars The Black Series Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) and Legacy Pack comes with:
- Darth Vader Special Edition action figure
- Lightsaber (with detachable blade)
- Display base (four pieces)
- Reversible backcard
- Backdrop border (3 pieces)
- Star Wars logo sticker
As a Star Wars collector, I’ve had many action figures based on Darth Vader since I started buying my own collectibles in the summer of 1978. The first one, of course, was the Kenner micro-action figure with the telescoping lightsaber. That was probably the second or third figure I bought in my first trip to Lionel Play-World, to counterbalance the preponderance of Rebel figures in my collection. Since then, I’ve either bought or been given countless figures of Star Wars tragic baddie, including one 12-inch scale figure that came – along with Darth Maul – in the Power of the Jedi 2-figure set Sith Lords.
I received Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) and Legacy Pack as one of several Star Wars-themed gifts for Christmas almost three years ago. At the time, I had no intention of returning to the world of Star Wars collecting; my life was going through some changes after my mother’s final illness and death two years before, and I don’t have the storage/display space that I used to have in my former home in South Florida.
Of course, I was bowled over by my new Star Wars The Black Series Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) and Legacy Pack. I don’t go to department stores or toy stores on a regular basis – another effect of the life changes I’ve experienced since the Summer of 2015 – so I had no idea that (a) Star Wars The Black Series had 6-inch action figures, or(b) that Star Wars The Black Series Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) and Legacy Pack existed.
Naturally, when I saw the Legacy Pack’s blurb that there were other 40th Anniversary figures available, I decided to get the 11 remaining figures as soon as possible. Even with online shopping, enough disposable money in my bank account, and an understanding friend who encouraged me to do so, this was neither easy nor cheap.
The original plan back in late 2017/early 2018 was to get a floating shelf on which to display my Star Wars The Black Series Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) and Legacy Pack and have it on my study’s wall by my birthday in March of 2018. Life, however, got complicated and we had to put all of the stuff in storage until this week.
So, what can I tell you about Star Wars The Black Series Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) and Legacy Pack?
Well, the action figure is impressive for an item that falls in the nebulous space between “kid’s toy” and “true collectible.” Technically, the figure is a toy. It’s made for active play by kids aged 4 years and up, so it has many features (multiple points of articulation, removable cape, a lightsaber with a removable “blade”) that a “collectible” targeted at adult collectors simply does not need.
On the other hand, Hasbro clearly understands that while kids – especially ones who are growing with the Sequel Trilogy as their generation’s Star Wars story – will ask for or receive as gifts Star Wars The Black Series, a large percentage of the figures will be bought by folks like me – kids who saw Star Wars: A New Hope in theaters when it was titled simply as Star Wars in theaters back in the 1970s.
As a result, Darth Vader’s 6-inch figure is, as the Dark Lord himself might say, “Impressive. Most impressive.”
First, the sculpt and paint job on this Special Edition Darth Vader are superb. The figure bears a striking resemblance to the menacing armored villain as he appeared In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Every detail – from the top of Vader’s Nazi-style helmet to the tips of his armored black boots – looks authentic, as if Hasbro had scanned the Jedi-turned-Sith Lord from a sequence in the film and magically turned the image into a Star Wars figure.
The black cape, as I mentioned earlier, is made from black fabric and is removable – though I can’t imagine doing that to my Star Wars The Black Series Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) figure.
In comparison to its smaller and less posable Kenner Darth Vader equivalent and its five basic points of articulation (POAs), Star Wars The Black Series Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) has at least 14 POAs. These are:
- Neck (1)
- Shoulders (2)
- Elbows (2)
- Wrists (2)
- Waist (1)
- Hips (2)
- Knees (2)
- Ankles (2)
This, of course, allows collectors (or kids, or kids who are collectors) to pose their Darth Vader action figure in more life-like action stances, including having the Dark Lord of the Sith hold his red-bladed Sith lightsaber in both hands. The original 1978 figure’s weapon was built into the figure’s right arm and telescoped in and out to simulate – roughly- how a lightsaber “works” in the movies. That meant that the three figures with built-in lightsabers – Luke Skywalker, Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, and Darth Vader could only “hold” their weapons in one-handed grips, even though the movies and most posters show them with lightsabers in two-handed stances. (Even this figure’s cardback illustration shows Vader holding a lightsaber with both hands.)
While the figure is beautifully made, looks awesome, and can be posed realistically, it’s not easy to put the lightsaber in Vader’s hand (or hands). It takes a patient, let’s-not-rush-this approach and a great deal of dexterity to do so.
As for the Legacy Stand?
It is visually attractive, but as the “voice-of-God” announcers always said in the TV commercials for Kenner’s Star Wars playsets, “you have to put it together.” It comes in several different components (which I’ve listed in the What’s In the Box? section), and though it comes with a set of instructions, it also requires a good bit of spare time, patience, good lighting, a quiet work area, and a steady hand.
I didn’t put it together; my dexterity is not good enough for a task that involves snapping pieces together and placing a sticker in the indicated area. My friend did that for me after her workday ended.
It took her a few hours – she not only had to deal with assembling the Legacy Pack, but she also had to open each figure’s carded blister pack without damaging it, then ask me which weapon or accessory each figure should hold (and which extra accessories would go into storage). She accomplished her mission, but she says that Hasbro should have made the display base larger; she things that the figures are packed too close together on the Legacy Pack stand and are thus difficult to put in the small space allotted to each figure.
However, the finished product looks nice on its floating shelf in my study. I decided to complement the “Original 12” with Star Wars The Black Series figures of Supreme Leader Snoke and Emperor Palpatine. (See the photo we took of the finished display; I think it looks cool!) It took a great deal of time and effort on the part of my friend, but after two and a half years of waiting and planning, her hard work had great results.
Well, this brings us to the close of another long Star Wars The Black Series product review. I enjoyed writing it and doing research on the Early Bird Certificate campaign, plus it’s fun to compare the new Hasbro collectibles to their Kenner predecessors. And, of course, 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.
 Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, Artoo Detoo (R2-D2) and Death Squad Commander. The rest were available after July of that year.
 As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, Kenner was caught off-guard by the success of Star Wars at the box office. Conventional wisdom held that like most sci-fi or fantasy films before it, Star Wars would be popular for two weeks at most, then fade out of the public’s radar after a while. So when that space-fantasy set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” became a cultural phenomenon as well as the biggest box office hit up to that time, Kenner had not started mass production of its Star Wars products.
As a result, there weren’t any Star Wars figures or vehicles ready for the 1977 Christmas shopping season. Kenner had to offer kids and collectors something, so the marketing department came up with the Early Bird Certificate Package, aka The Empty Box Campaign. In essence, the first Kenner Star Wars product was, well, a box. This is how the Kenner retailer’s catalog put it:
A UNIQUE CHRISTMAS CERTIFICATE PACKAGE
An opportunity to profit from pre-Christmas sales of the first action figures modeled after the stars of the smash hit movie, STAR WARS. The special display envelope package contains: colorful STAR WARS picture display stand; Early Bird Certificate which is a postage paid order card good for four authentically detailed action figures modeled after the stars of STAR WARS; special STAR WARS club membership card and full color STAR WARS stickers. The certificate package is designed to be sold prior to December 31, 1977. Ages 4 and up. (Source: Early Bird Certificate Package, theswca.com
My family was in the process of moving from a small apartment in Sweetwater, Florida to a new townhouse in Miami-Dade County’s Fountainbleau Park area, and I wasn’t aware of the Early Bird Certificate until I watched Empire of Dreams: The Making of the Star Wars Trilogy on the Bonus Disc of 2004’s The Star Wars Trilogy DVD box set.
 The first figures I acquired, Artoo Detoo (R2-D2) and See Threepio (C-3PO) were gifts, as was my original Landspeeder vehicle . Please see the footnote in my Luke Skywalker (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) action figure review.
 I also didn’t want to get addicted to buying the new Star Wars The Black Series figures; collecting is a fun hobby and certainly preferable to, say, buying illicit drugs in the bad side of Anytown, USA. (In fact, the one time that my mom ever raised an objection into how I spent my allowance as a 15-year-old, my reply was, “Well, at least I’m not secretly buying beer or getting drugs!”). But as any serious collector of anything can attest to, you do get a rush when you find – and acquire – a new addition to your collection.
So far, I’ve managed to keep this collection reined in and I don’t buy everything I see at a store or on Amazon. But sometimes I do treat myself to a few Star Wars collectibles.
 All in all, between the 11 figures, the floating shelf, and the Star Wars The Black Series Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) and Legacy Pack Star Wars The Black Series Darth Vader (Star Wars 40th Anniversary) and Legacy Pack (MSRP $39.99), we spent close to $350.)