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Tuesday, May 21, 2013



These three figures were made by Kenner for the Star Wars toy-line years after the first movie (Epidose IV), to be ready when the second movie (Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back) came out.

If you know the movie, you’ll remember that most of the history is set in Hoth, an icy planet covered by snow where the rebels have built their base “Echo Base”.

That’s why most of the main Star Wars characters were re-released in proper snow-outfits. These three figures are completely new, since they were not released before. They represent a rebel soldier, a rebel commander and an AT-AT driver. The AT-AT‘s (also AT-AT walkers) were those four-legged vehicles from the Empire that walked the planet Hoth. A figure of its pilot was released in 1980. This pilot basically looks like a normal Stormtrooper, but with slightly different colours and helmet.

AT-AT PILOT: Came with a rifle with strap (the rifle in the picture is original but missing the strap) so the figure could attach the rifle to his back instead of carrying it on his hand.

REBEL COMMANDER: Came with a black rifle with strap (in picture: repro). Interestingly, although there should have been several commanders, the one that made it to action figure is based on the character Major Derlin, played by John Ratzenberger.

REBEL SOLDIER: Came with a Bespin blaster (in picture: repro). This figure has a couple of colour variations.

Something interesting about these figures (as well as about many other in many different toy-lines), is that they do not represent single characters. They have generic names (soldier, commander, driver), and this means that in the story behind the toy-line (or in this case, in the film), there are more than one of those. This leads to a collectors habit which is called army-building. It basically consist of getting as many of those figures as you can: if you have 20 Rebel Soldiers, it is much better than if you have only 10; this way you can arrange the figures to represent scenes from the movie, or some military parade.

The “star” within the Star Wars collection are naturally the Stormtroopers, but both the AT-AT Driver and the Rebel Soldier can be “armybuilderized”. The Rebel Commander too, but is lower quantities.

Almost any action figure toy-line is liable to army-building. Even in character based lines, like Masters of the Universe, there are characters which for some reason were planned to be a group rather than a single character. In this case, collectors amass as many “Horde Troopers” as they get. In military based lines like G.I.Joe: ARAH, this is taken to the extreme with people having hundreds of units of a single figure.

The consequence of this is that the figures that fall in this category are always much more expensive than the average, and they do not flow from one collector to another as the other figures, because many keep them, even if they already have it.

Some collectors even customize (if possible) their figures, so they are slightly different, for example, they paint the figures with different shades of skin colour or hair colour, maybe they add (or remove) a moustache or a beard… so the army is a bit more heteregoneous.

There are really impressive picture on the internet under the search term “army building”. I do not think it is a good idea, since it costs a lot of money to buy multiple figures of the same model, and I try to avoid this, although I must admit, I have some small “armies” of G.I.Joes, that I used for dioramas.

  • Toy Line: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Year: 1980
  • Company: Kenner (U.S.A.)
  • Size of the figure: 3 ½¨ or 8 cms

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