Lando Calrissian: Smuggler, Cardplayer, Scoundrel…..
On June 22, 2020, Rhode Island-based toymaker Hasbro, Inc. released Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure), one of a wave of new or repackaged 6-inch scale figures featuring characters from director Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. This wave includes Luke Skywalker (Snowspeeder), Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot, and Rebel Soldier (Hoth). Based on the smuggler-turned-Baron Administrator of Cloud City played by actor Billy Dee Williams, this figure is a fine example of Hasbro’s commitment to creating Star Wars action figures that fans of all ages will seek out and add to their collection.
As envisioned by George Lucas in his early concepts for Empire, Lando Calrissian is a “slick, riverboat gambler type of dude. Han Solo is a rather crude, rough and tumble kind of guy; this guy will be a very slicked down, elegant, James Bond-type. He’s much more of a con man, which puts him more in the Mr. Spock style of thinking, being smart, cool, and taking tremendous chances. An emotional Spock, someone who uses his wits rather than his brawn. He could be a gambler friend of Han Solo’s. They’re both underworld characters.” 
Lando Calrissian was the second all-new major character introduced in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (the other, of course, was Yoda, the diminutive but wise-and-powerful Jedi Master). In essence, he is what we now call a “frenemy” for Han, a person from Solo’s past – in this case, a fellow smuggler, and the previous owner of the Millennium Falcon. In Empire, Lando is a man who is content with the status quo of the galaxy; he’s not overtly loyal to Emperor Palpatine’s New Order, but he’s willing to overlook its repressiveness and avoid supporting the Rebellion – as long as the Empire doesn’t interfere in his lucrative tibanna gas mining business in Bespin’s Cloud City.
In many ways, Lando Calrissian is the kind of person Han Solo might have been had he not joined the Rebellion after the Battle of Yavin; a smooth-talking underworld figure looking out only for himself. However, Lando’s position as Baron-Administrator of Cloud City have made him grow a bit beyond that. As Han observes in Empire, Lando is now “a businessman, a responsible leader.” And once his “deal” with a certain Dark Lord of the Sith falls apart and Lando sees the ruthless, venal side of the Empire, he, too, undergoes a transformation from a shady fringe-of-the-galaxy criminal to newly-converted freedom fighter and Rebel.
The Original Figure
LANDO CALRISSIAN: After losing the Millennium Falcon to Han Solo, Lando Calrissian went semi-respectable as the administrator of Cloud City. – Hasbro promotional blurb, Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian
This Star Wars The Black Series 6-inch scale action figure is a descendent of Kenner Toys original 1980 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 3.75-inch micro-action figure. Indeed, the package’s back card uses the same still image from the movie on the obverse side, as well as most of the logos and other indicia found on the Kenner figure’s cardback from 40 years ago.
Of course, this 2020 figure is not a remake of the 1980 figure – Hasbro has a separate product line called the Retro collection, which consists of almost-exact replicas of the 3.75-inch figures from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Instead, Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian is a reissue of Hasbro’s 6-inch scale Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian #39 from June 2017, with the same sculpt, paint job, and set of accessories but in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary packaging.
Star Wars The Black Series figures are designed and sculpted to look as closely as possible as the Star Wars characters they represent; Lando Calrissian looks a lot like Billy Dee Willams’ “card player, smuggler, scoundrel” as he appeared in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back.
Modern toy manufacturing technology and Hasbro’s continuing efforts to bridge the gap between “toys” and “collectibles” have gradually improved the look of Star Wars-based action figures since it purchased Cincinnati-based Kenner Toys in the merger mania of the 1990s. The 1978-1985 Star Wars micro-action figures that I collected when I was a teenager and young adult were cool and fun to acquire and display, but even the most ardent fans admit that:
- Most of the human characters had a “generic toy-like” look to them
- They had limited points of articulation (POA)
Kids younger than, say, nine or 10 usually didn’t notice these flaws, or if they did, they allowed their imaginations to override what their eyes saw and transport them to that galaxy far, far away in their own adventures pitting the heroes of the Rebellion against the forces of the evil Empire. I was too old – I started collecting Star Wars figures on my 15th birthday – and I did notice such details as Luke Skywalker’s hair (and lightsaber blade) being too yellow and that Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi didn’t really resemble Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, or Alec Guinness.
Kenner’s 1980 Lando Calrissian figure looks nothing like Billy Dee Williams. Kenner’s Hong Kong-based factories simply didn’t have the technology – such as computer aided design/computer aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) – to give the small figure the necessary detailing so that it would look like the smooth-talking cardsharp and conman. His skin tone was usually a darker shade of cocoa than that of the actor who plays Lando, and Kenner gave the figure a permanent smile on its tiny sculpted plastic face. And Lando’s elegant cape, which was sky-blue with gold trim on the obverse side and lined with gold-colored fabric, was a solid gray vinyl “cape” in the same style as those solid-color capes worn by Darth Vader, Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, and Princess Leia Organa.
Lando Calrissian – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure
40TH ANNIVERSARY FIGURE: Celebrate 40 years of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with this Lando Calrissian The Black Series action figure featuring 1980s-inspired design. – Hasbro promotional blurb on the Lando Calrissian – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary action figure page
What’s in the Box?
As I mentioned earlier, this Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary figure is a repackaged Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian #39 in “Kenner branding.” The 1980s-styled packaging is a scaled-up (from 3.75-inch scale to 6-inch scale) card back with the same still featuring Billy Dee Williams and a blister pack with the 6-inch figure inside. The old “Kenner” blue-and-white logo is placed – as it was in 1980 – on the lower-right corner of the front side; the back mimics some of the 1980-era branding as well, with five promo photos of figures from the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Collection surrounded by a silvery Star Wars collection logo.
The five figures advertised here are:
- Luke Skywalker (Snowspeeder)
- Lando Calrissian
- Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot
- Rebel Soldier (Hoth)
- Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah)
The figure is wearing the elegant cerulean blue tunic, yellow shirt, and dark blue trousers we saw Lando wear throughout much of his on-screen time in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. This outfit is accessorized with a stylish black belt and matching black boots, as well as a flowing blue-and-gold cape. Because Lando wears his tunic closed, we don’t see as much of his yellow undershirt as the image on the packaging implies.
The figure also comes with two accessories:
- A DH-17 Blaster
- A Cloud City Communicator
PREMIUM ARTICULATION AND DETAILING: Star Wars fans and collectors can display this highly poseable (4 fully articulated limbs) figure, featuring premium deco, in their action figure and vehicle collection. – Hasbro promotional blurb on the Lando Calrissian – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary action figure page
A significant distinction between the old and new Star Wars figures is the number of points of articulation (POAs) they have. In the context of toy manufacturing, POAs are analogous to joints in the human body, such as the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and so on. The more POAs a figure has, the more lifelike the poses can be.
Kenner micro-action figures from 1978 to 1985 usually have only five POAs. They are:
- One in the neck area (to turn the figure’s head from side to side.
- Two in the shoulders (to have the figure “aim” a blaster or brandish a lightsaber in “action poses”) or make the figure look like the character is driving/flying a vehicle
- Two in the hips (to place the figure in a sitting position in a vehicle)
Some figures, such as R2-D2 and R5-D4, only had three POAs; Chewbacca only had four because his head and torso were sculpted as a single piece and thus had no neck swivel point.
Kenner tried hard to make its figures as good-looking and “playable” for kids as possible, so it sculpted some of the figures in such a way that the limbs had natural-looking “bends” at the knees and elbows, but most of the characters (Rebels, Imperials, or “neutrals”) could only grip their blasters in one-handed (and straight-armed) handholds.
Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure is not only larger than its 1980 precursor, but it also boasts 13 points of articulation. They are:
- One for the neck
- Two for Lando’s shoulders
- Two for his elbows
- Two for his wrists
- Two for his hips
- Two for his knees
- Two for his lower legs
The advantage of having so many POAs in a figure is that one can pose it in more realistic ways. This is especially true if you create Star Wars dioramas for fun (and to display your action figures).
The Star Wars saga captured the hearts of millions with iconic characters, impressive vehicles, and a galaxy of stories that has passed the test of time again and again. Commemorate the 40TH Anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with figures from The Black Series, featuring classic design and packaging! (Each sold separately. Subject to availability.) – Hasbro promotional blurb on the Lando Calrissian – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary action figure page
I’ve been collecting Star Wars action figures – and other collectibles – since I was 15 years old. I have several Lando Calrissian action figures from the various 3.75-inch scale collections made by both Kenner and Hasbro over the past 42 years. Some of them, of course, are from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, including Lando Calrissian (Skiff Guard) and Lando Calrissian (General), but I also have counterparts to this figure, including the 1980 original from Kenner and a 2000s-era Power of the Jedi figure that would be a “Mini-Me” to this one.
I received my Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary) figure yesterday. It is still in its Kenner-branded blister package with 1980s-styled cardback, but from what I see it is a nice rendition of the character George Lucas described as “a very slicked down, elegant, James Bond-type.”
I don’t think that his face is 100% like Billy Dee Williams’ – some actors are difficult to render in figures of this size, after all – but there is a resemblance. Lando’s skin tone is certainly lighter and more lifelike than that depicted on my 1980 Kenner action figure, which had more of a “dark chocolate” complexion. And the general contours of Lando’s face are sculpted quite nicely – the guy has a nicely neutral-but-serious look on his countenance, which I prefer to a perpetually-smiling one.
I like the amount of detail that Hasbro has given to this figure. The two-tone removable cape is made out of fabric, and the design is faithful to costume designer John Mollo’s. I like how it has the blue-with-gold trim on the outer side, and the gold-colored lining on the inside.
Another cool detail: Hasbro doesn’t content itself with giving the figures “solid-color’ accessories, not even with figures that are smaller than this one. The DH-17 blaster has silver and black coloring, and the Cloud City Communicator is silver with gold-and-black detailing.
Whether you are a long-time Star Wars action figure collector or new to the hobby, if you don’t already have the original Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian #39 figure, get this one before resellers snatch them all up for Hasbro’s MSRP of $19.99 and sell them on eBay or third-party stores at Amazon for inflated prices.
Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary) figure is a nicely rendered replica of a character who has been a fan favorite for over 40 years, and the packaging adds a bit of nostalgia, especially for adults who grew up with the original Kenner Star Wars figures.
As always, I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much as I enjoyed putting it together. And until next time, May the Force be with you.
 The Empire Strikes Back Story Conference, November 28 to December 2, 1977, transcript summary, as quoted in The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, J.W. Rinzler, Del Rey Books, New York, 2010.