Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Airing Out My Grievouses

However you may feel about The Star Wars Prequels, there is no denying how much they added to the Star Wars mythos in terms of characters, planets and new ideas. And most notably I really enjoyed the new villains we got. Episode 1 gave us the double lightsaber wielding devil horned Sith, Darth Maul. In Episode 2, we got the dark and evil Jedi turncoat Count Dooku. But for Episode 3, George Lucas decided to do something different for the new “baddie”. Instead of a force wielding Sith lord, we got an new general to lead the Separatist Droid armies, the mechanical monstrosity named Grievous.

General Grievous actually made his official debut before Episode III, in an episode of the Star Wars: Clone Wars micro series. And it was quite the debut as he battled and defeated a group of Jedi including Aayla Secura and Council members Ki-Adi-Mundi and Shaak-ti. It was only through the intervention of a squad of Clone Troopers that the three Jedi managed to escape. The 3 other Jedi with them were not as fortunate.

Although Grievous himself was not a force user, he was quite skilled with the lightsaber having been trained with Count Dooku. He had a collection of lightsabers taken from Jedi he had killed. He also had the added ability to split his arms and doubling their number from 2 to 4 with each wielding a lightsaber. And if that wasn’t enough, his clawed feet were also used as additional arms able to hold weapons or grab opponents as well. Visually, Grievous was truly a sight to behold, unlike anything I’d ever seen in Star wars. And it made me all the more excited to see this character translated into the big screen.

Unfortunately, when he finally came out in Episode III he was significantly different from what I had seen in the cartoon. For the most part of movie he was portrayed as a coward who would rather run than fight. He also looked sickly oftentimes hunched over with a wracking cough. It was only towards the later part of the movie when he decided to take on Ben Kenobi in a fight. And although the fight was fairly entertaining, it was a far cry from when he easily dispatched six Jedi in his debut. And in the end, Kenobi used a blaster to blow Grievous away.

Anyway as it tuned out, there sort of was an explanation on why Grievous from the cartoon and in the movie were quite different. It turned out that the Grievous in the movie was already….ahem, grievously injured.

So it turned out that despite leading a massive droid army, General Grievous himself actually wasn’t a droid. He was originally a Kaleesh warrior turned into a cyborg secretly under the orders of Darth Sidious. While he was mostly mechanical, he still retained a small portion of his organic Kaleesh body. His brain, eyes, spinal cord and several vital organs remained. Most of which were stored in his chest and abdominal cavity protected by a synthskin gut-sack and some metal plating. Unfortunately his remaining organic parts, particularly his lungs didn’t take well to his new cybernetic parts resulting in him constantly coughing and weezing.

During one of the final episodes of the Clone Wars series, Grievous led a bold assault to “kidnap” Darth Sidous's alter ego, Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine. But before he could successfully escape with his prisoner, the Jedi Master Mace Windu Force crushed his chest cavity causing the steel plates to cut into his lungs, further aggravating breathing problems and significantly weakening him for the rest of his life.

Anyway, despite his shortcomings, visually General Grievous is one of the most unique and memorable characters to come out of the Prequel Trilogy. And he was definitely a favorite of mine and at the top of my wishlist of Black Series characters that I hopes Hasbro would produce sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately for the first few years of the Black Series line, Hasbro made it clear that characters from the Prequels were not a priority for them so for the longest time, getting a Grievous seemed to be more of a pipe dream.

Then in 2015, Disney announce the release of a new General Grievous toy as part of their exclusive Star Wars Elite Series toy line that was sold in their parks and online store. Now this line featured action figure slightly larger (around 7”) than Hasbro’s Black Series as to not directly compete with them. But a slightly oversized Grievous definitely would work for me in my Black Series collection. I patiently waited til the early hours of the morning for General Grievous to go on sale online at the Disney Store website and when he did I eagerly scooped him up. In a few minutes he was sold out...apparently I wasn’t the only one excited to get a Grievous on their shelf. So I got my Grievous without having to resort to buying him at over inflated prices in the secondary market.

And if that wasn’t good enough fortune, it seemed the stars aligned perfectly for me to get my Grievous in hand. Since The Disney Store didn’t ship to the Philippines, I had it shipped to my sister in New York. At the same time I had a friend who was currently vacationing there, who got it from my sister and graciously brought it back home to my waiting arms.

And then I opened him up.

So another feature of Disney’s Elite Series line was that they added diecast metal to their figures which supposedly made them more high end. Unfortunately for such a spindly frame as Grievous, all that diecast made him unnecessarily heavy and quite difficult to stand. And then the disappointments kept coming. His arms, which were attached to the body via ball and socket joints could barely stay up, especially when they held lightsabers which themselves hung loosely from his hands.. And the worst part was that his legs lacked proper ankle articulation and came pre-posed so you could literally stand the figure ONE way (that is if you actually got him to stand in the first place). I was in denial for a couple of days but eventually I had to concede that this “action” figure was a complete dud. I sadly packed him up and put him up for sale online.

Fortunately, demand for the figure was still at an all time high and so I had no problem finding a buyer at a little “padded” cost. To be fair, I warned the buyer of all the issues and why I was selling him, but he still insisted so there you go.

The next opportunity to own a General Grievous figure came a few years later when Bandai released a General Grievous model kit. This was great news for me since by this point I was a big fan of their model kits, and their lightweight nature seemed to be perfect for Grievous’ design. And it turned out that I was right! Like the other model kits before him, Grievous was fun to build and the finished product was easy to pose and mess around with. He also came with switchable parts so you could have him in his 2 or 4 arm configuration. But after having him built, I knew he wasn’t quite done.

One drawback for model kits in general is well….they lack paint. As is they’re pretty presentable but can look a little plain if left unpainted. So I handed him over to a very talented customizer/painter , Marvin Dela Cruz who was more happy help my Grievous reach its full potential.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves :)

And finally, in 2018, having finally gotten around to making Prequel characters, Hasbro announced their plans for a Black Series Grievous. Now while I was very happy with my model kit version, I still decided to check this Hasbro version out. I figured it wouldn’t be the worst thing to have two Grievouses….as I could have him displayed in both 2 and 4 arm configuration.

Anyway when I finally got him, I was kinda underwhelmed. To be fair, all in all he’s a pretty decent figure and if building and painting models isn't your thing then this guy is more than suitable for your Grievous needs. He’s definitely more solid with a better cape (one of the weak points of the model kit) and most notably he can actually switch between 2 and 4 arm configuration without switching out parts! Problem is, he feels a bit...undersized. Who knows if it's actually more accurate, but in my eyes and standing next to my model kit and other Black Series figures, he looks small and less imposing. In the end it bothered me so much that I decided to sell him as well. I kept his cape though which fit perfectly on my model kit Grievous.

As collectors we are always looking for the perfect representations of our favorite characters to place on our shelves. As a result, collecting can involve a lot of trial and error purchases. Such was the case with General Grievous. In the end, I’m very happy and content with what I have. With his custom paint and improved cape, I have a very unique version of Grievous that I can be proudly place on my that definitely doesn’t give me any….grief :)