Sunday, November 18, 2018

Hunting For Some Bounty

Considering the fact that they were literally on screen together as a group for less than a minute with hardly a single speaking line between them, it’s quite amazing how much of a cult favorite status the bounty hunters from The Empire Strikes Back have achieved amongst the Star Wars fandom. Possibly the biggest reason was because they included in their ranks one of the most popular characters from that galaxy far far away, Boba Fett. And as a result the entire group most likely benefited from that close association.

Boba Fett aside, there are plenty of reasons to like the rest of this group. For starters, each hunter had a unique design that were all very visually interesting. While they are often associated with the bad guys, bounty hunters actually present more of third faction whose loyalty is directed more towards the bounties that they receive for their work. And while most of them practically did nothing in Episode V, they have been featured and fleshed out more in other media such as books, comics and television. And I think it goes without saying that more often than not they have all been portrayed as highly skilled, lethal and accomplished operatives.

Like many, I have always been a fan of the Bounty Hunters ever since I first got my hands on their original vintage versions. So much so that in my early days of collecting, when I was trying my best from not falling down the Star Wars toy collecting rabbit hole, I made a special exception for them.

I spent a couple of months scouring through eBay for some reasonably priced Bounty Hunters to complete an updated 3.75” sized version of the team for my shelf. Eventually I managed to find all of them and for a time had a prime place in my collection right on top of my work desk at home.

Fortunately, aside from a few random Jedi and Sith here and there….and a “little” Ewok village….I never did go all in on any 3.75” Star Wars collecting. What eventually got me though was when Hasbro decided to up their game and release a new 6” line of figures. After a few speculative buys here and there….they eventually got me hook line and sinker and I went all in on their 6” Black Series line.

Anyway for what was initially planned to be the “best of” line featuring only iconic characters from the franchise, it wasn't much of a surprise that Boba Fett was one of the first figures released. At the time of his release I was still “dipping my toes” in the water but Boba Fett was definitely a sure buy for me. Once I got the opportunity to acquire him during a trip to the US back in 2013, I took it and he became the first official 6” Bounty Hunter in my collection.

The next year Hasbro surprised us by releasing 2 more hunters, the lizard man Bossk and the assassin droid IG-88.

I randomly found a lone Bossk in a Toys R’us in Hong Kong. At that time I was still in denial about collecting Star Wars but I figured that I had some fond memories of my original vintage figure that I just couldn’t pass him up. Plus I rationalized the purchase by concluding that Boba Fett needed a buddy.

IG-88 I found a few months later back home. I remember the day specifically as the day I truly decided to go all in on the line. I had some extra cash from selling off an old gadget and I went on a semi Black Series spree picking up iconic characters of Darth Vader, Stormtrooper and a Clone Trooper. In the same store I spied a solitary IG-88 who surprisingly was on sale at a well below retail I scooped him up again since I figured Boba Fett would definitely prefer having two buddies, one on each side.

And speaking of Boba. Although I was quite happy with my Black Series figure, at some point I decided to upgrade to a vastly superior version produced by Japanese company Mafex that I came across during my first trip to Tokyo.

Years later I realized that these two impulse buys turned out to be the right choice as both Bossk and IG-88 (along with a lot of the earlier Black Series releases) became even harder to find. With both of them selling for high prices on the secondary market*.

At this point I was cautiously optimistic that it was in Hasbro’s plan to once again give us all six hunters in 6” form. Hell I would’ve been happy if they had just given me one more….Dengar to complete the first four original vintage hunters released. Either way though, with so many more significant characters in the universe, I convinced myself that getting any more hunters would be more of a longshot.

As time passed, hope for more hunters seemed to dwindle as for the following years, Hasbro seemed more focused on releasing figures from their current new movies, Episodes VII & VIII, Rogue One and even the cartoon Rebels. It wasn’t until late in 2017, 3 years after IG-88 was released, that Hasbro finally revealed plans for more bounty hunters. In quick succession they announced impending releases for the insectoid droid 4-Lom, his partner in crime Zuckuss and the explosives expert Dengar! And with that we would finally get all six of our Bounty Hunters in 6” form. I was so excited for this news that all of a sudden my prized 3.75” set had lost all its luster, they were just killing time in my ewok village until I eventually sold them off to make way for a superior version.

To say the wait for these last 3 hunters was long would be quite the understatement. 4-Lom was the first to be released locally. But he was released in such small numbers that I totally missed out on him.  I had to resort to ordering him online a few months later for a slightly higher price.

Having to go through so much hoops for 4-Lom, I decided to not take my chances with the other two. So I made a preorder for both Zuckuss and Dengar at one of my local hobby stores. Dengar was scheduled to arrive first as part of wave 30 sometime in October, while Zuckuss, which was an exclusive selling at a higher price was set to arrive in December. So I was set. It would take some time, especially for someone with such low EQ as myself but I would finally get all 6 hunters on my shelf!

Then for some reason, boxes of Zuckuss figures started turning up in local Toy’s R’us stores here around October. Unfortunately none of the branches near me seemed to have any. Then after an out of the way house viewing (I’m a real estate broker in my adulting life) I decided to check out a random Toys R’Us branch I’d never been to that was in the area. And there he was...Zuckuss! Upon seeing him, I started doing a few calculations in my head and it turned out that if I bought him then and there, and cancelled my preorder, forfeiting my initial down payment, I would actually be saving money! So it was pretty much a no brainer for me. Zuckuss came home with me that day.

Zuckuss’ early arrival was definitely a pleasant surprise for me...and with Dengar scheduled to be released a few weeks later, I was in cloud nine! I would finally have the entire gang a whole two months earlier than expected! Or so I thought.

All of a sudden, news came out that Hasbro had pushed back the release of the wave 30 to December! And I was….devastated.

I know you’re probably thinking what’s wrong with this guy???? What is a few more months??? Ok so maybe “devastated” is too extreme of a word but you have to understand...Dengar, not Boba Fett, is hands down my favorite bounty hunter. He was one of the first vintage figures I ever got as a fact I got TWO! So he held a whole lot of sentimental value for me. So as odd as it may sound, ever since the announcement of his release almost a whole 12 months earlier, he had been possibly the most anticipated figure of the year for me. So yes….a 2 month delay sucked big time.

Anyway, just as I was about to just suck it up and wait….Sometime late October, while casually checking out an online store, I came across Dengar...with a shiny blue “add to cart” next to his image. I had to do a major double take to make sure I wasn’t just seeing this definitely wasn’t a preorder! Still, skeptical...I clicked on the add to cart….checked out...paid and BAM! I had just ordered a Dengar and he was on the way to me...NOW!

After I regained my composure I began to process what had just happened. I had yet again impulsively ordered a a slightly higher price if you include shipping costs, even if I already had a Dengar on preorder. Since my initial preorder of Dengar was part of a set (I had ordered the entire wave), there was no cancelling it this time around. In the end, I figured that it would be OK. I would eventually find a buyer for my second Dengar and if I didn’t, I would just keep both and have two on my shelf….just like I had when I was a kid :)

Dengar arrived a couple weeks later and I didn’t even wait till I got home to open him up. Within moments I had him standing next to me on my desk at the office, and later that day when I got home, it was almost like a slow motion religious experience (complete with angel choirs singing in my head) I proudly placed him next to the rest of my Bounty Hunters and then all was finally right with the World.

*There’s good news for those who missed out on the earlier released Boba Fett, Bossk and IG-88. All three will be re-released in 2019 by Hasbro as part of their Black Series Archive line :)