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Darth Vader

The Vintage Original Trilogy Collection was conceived as premium figures in a premium format, and at a premium price to boot. For the price perfection should have been delivered with each figure, I firmly believe this. However the line was a mix of outstanding figures that are as close to perfect as we’d likely ever see, and figures that still had corners cut. There were duds in this line too, it was probably inevitable there would be, but the line really had more “almost there” figures than anything. Not quite perfection but darn close, and figures anyone was glad to have on display.

Darth Vader is one of the 12 that fell just shy of perfection. He delivered almost every little bit you could want in a Vader action figure yet there were just little cuts here and there that left you wanting more. At the time of his release though, the VOTC Darth Vader definitely was the Dark Lord of the Sith to adorn your collection. He was close enough to perfection that you had to have at least one kneeling before Palpatine in obedience.

Hasbro did a lot right with this figure, and they left the door open to improve on him too. With the following year of 2005 being the “year of Vader” really, it was probably in their best interests to not cap off Vader demand too soon. Kids and adults would be seeing Vader’s mean mug for quite a while, and plenty of the Dark Lord’s figures would follow.

Read this latest Vintage OTC review and find out how VOTC Darth Vader satiated fans for a little while though, and also how Hasbro made sure to leave the crowd wanting something more too by leaving out some nice extras here and there.

PROS

-Sculpt: While I’m not a Darth Vader aficionado to know the subtle differences in the characters costume between A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, I look at the VOTC Vader and it looks to be the most accurate Vader we’ve gotten in the modern line up till this line’s launch. From the figure’s detailed costume sculpt to Hasbro adding some height so he towers a little over other “average” height characters, Vader seems to have been sculpted with a lot of care by Hasbro’s artists.

The costume’s detail seems to have gotten extra care for accuracy by my eyes. There are impressive amounts of detail sculpted into the figure giving texture to the “fabric” of the suit, and a lot of lines simulating the quilting/ribbing look of the costume as well. Equally so, the sculptor of the Vader figure put a lot of wrinkles and folds into the sculpt so it really looks like fabric on a human body as opposed to just smooth plastic lines. A lot of care and effort went into making this a realistic figure.

Vader’s mechanical bits of his costume are also nicely detailed. His belt and chest box are the two bits that stick out besides his helmet. The belt actually includes a separately sculpted cod piece to his armor giving the figure a lot of depth, though the little bit of armor can get in the way of posing the legs a little bit. The belt’s buckle has small lines and a raised disk sculpted into it, which looks great and the little control boxes on the sides have little raised buttons and switches. Vader’s belt also features a saber clip/hole for a saber hilt to snap into and that’s always appreciated by collectors. Vader’s chest box controls have plenty of switches and raised details as well, and the details all seem accurate to me.

Vader’s boots, gloves, and chest armor are all nicely done. The boots even feature the straps for his shin guards sculpted on and around the back of his fashionable Sith footwear. Vader’s gloves/hands are sculpted so the right hand holds a saber fairly well and the left hand is open for any number of force choking victims. Vader’s shoulder armor nicely hides the pin to his shoulder articulation by integrating it into the ridges of the armor plating, and shows some creativity to keep an authentic sculpt with functional articulation.

Vader’s head is just chocked full of work though. There are ridge lines where the mask face and mouthpiece would separate for instance. Little details and efforts like that make a sculpt stand out. The vents at the mouth, the tips of the nose area, the lenses, and other details are all there. The dome of the helmet looks like it could easily be a separately sculpted piece that pops off because of the depth to it, and from what I can tell it actually is separately sculpted but glued on. It looks great though, and this figure should please even the pickiest for all its details.

-Paint Aps/Deco: Let’s face it; Vader isn’t a “colorful” guy. Hasbro got off lucky with the paint applications on this figure, but at the same time they took a bit of extra time to make sure the little details he does have are painted right. A paintjob doesn’t make a figure great or not, but it can be a big difference in how sculpt details are brought out, and bringing little things to your attention like the depth to a figure’s hair sculpt or the panel lines on a droid.

On Vader, everything from his control boxes on his belt to the proper “shiny” elements of his costume contrasting with the dull colors of other elements all work towards the quality of the paintjob. For instance Vader’s belt and chest boxes have silver, green, red, and blue details painted all over. They’re little details that didn’t seem to get overlooked at all and pop out on the black background color of the figure.

Darth Vader’s shin guards and shoulder armor are particularly noticeable decoration details on this figure. The shins are a polished glossy black as they should be, setting them apart from the duller look of the body suit and robes. Vader’s shoulder armor also has a glossy black aspect to it, and also a contrasting application of gunmetal coloring is painted where appropriate on the shoulder armor.

Vader’s helmet is glossy black on the dome and looks great, while the mask underneath is a little more dull and subtle in looks. The detail enthusiasts out there will note that the lenses on Vader’s mask are a reddish-brown color which matches up to Vader’s helmet in A New Hope I believe. Like I said though, I’m no expert but the way they pop out is hard to miss and looks really nice. There’s not a ton of paint to apply, but the little applications Hasbro did were appropriate and look fantastic.

-Soft Goods / Cloth Feature: I am a huge champion of Hasbro utilizing cloth or “softgoods”, as they say, to enhance a figure’s poseability. I still enjoy a good sculpted robe where appropriate, but I believe cloth’s something that really should be used on any figure with an “action” role in the film. Vader certainly has his fair share of butt whipping to do in the films, so obviously I support some cloth robes on him. Plus with the overall simplicity of Vader’s robes Hasbro is able to do them without the fabric looking too bulky or awkward on the figure.

On Vader, Hasbro uses a thin black material that has a certain silky/shiny quality to it, and the end result is a fabric that looks nice on 3.75” Star Wars figures. The material flows with the figures poses, doesn’t look too bulky, and is generally easy to deal with, unlike say VOTC Obi-Wan’s robe.

The fabric is used only in two places on the figure, but it’s integrated well with the sculpted aspects of the costume. Vader’s cape isn’t removable, and is held down by the figure’s neck joint. There’s a silver thread that acts as the chain/clasp used to hold the cape down on the costume. While the silver thread is a little reluctant to stay down, it still is a nice effort and looks ok. Vader’s inner robe from his waist down is also the same black fabric, and is held down by the figure’s waist articulation and his separately sculpted belt.

The cape and inner robe neither one have much sewing to them which reduces how much they bulk up. The cape only has two hems down the sides, and the inner robe is hemmed at the bottom. When posing the figure the fabric looks great, and very much a part of the toy. While this kind of treatment isn’t what I’d want on every Star Wars figure, I think it works great and really enhances Vader, and of course you have a Dark Lord of the Sith you can pose too and that’s never bad.

-Articulation: The VOTC line, as I said at the beginning, wasn’t all great hits. Hasbro didn’t deliver perfection with each $10 figure, and articulation was a place where they made sure to cut corners. Vader is an example of one of the VOTC that Hasbro didn’t deliver that “super articulation” format, but they did deliver the best poseable Vader figure ever at the time it was released, and that had even this staunch articulation fan quite happy. He’s not perfect, but he’s close enough to get positive marks out of me.

VOTC Darth Vader features articulation at:
- 2 ball/socket shoulder joints
- 2 angle-cut elbow joints
- 2 standard wrist joints
- 2 standard hip joints
- 2 ball/socket knee joints
- 2 swivel boot-top joints
- 1 ball/socket neck joint
- 1 standard waist joint

So with 14 points of articulation, Darth Vader’s hardly a statue. Hasbro cut corners at the elbow articulation and a lack of ankle joints. The ankle joint, I’ve found, is the point of articulation you can sacrifice and not have the figure suffer terribly. It’s great, it adds poseability, but when it’s gone you don’t necessarily miss it. Knees, elbows, wrists - these points of articulation are sorely missed when they aren’t there. Fortunately Vader has all those and then some.

You can sneak old Darthy into almost any pose and that’s great. I’ve had him beckoning to his son on Bespin, choking Captain Antilles, kneeling before Palpatine (my personal favorite pose), swinging his lightsaber with two hands (always important), and just standing around with his hands on his hips overseeing death and destruction. I’d say if he’s missing any articulation that you notice, it’s ball/socket elbows. He could have stood a little more poseability at the arms, but the angle-cut elbow joints are a good stand-in. This is a very worthy figure for poseability, and that’s the single biggest criteria for my personal approval of quality in Star Wars figures.

-Accessories: Hasbro didn’t go all out with Vader and accessories. None of the VOTC figures actually came with a whole lot of anything, and some of them didn’t even come with the weapon you’d have liked to have gotten (*cough*Leia*cough*). With Vader though, Hasbro kind of surprises you by giving you a lightsaber with a blade and one without that clips to his belt.

Both sabers are nicely sculpted and both feature a great black and silver paintjob. The hilt looks like it fits a removable blade too, but none were included with the figure. There is a hole at the end though like if you had an extra blade you could put it onto the saber hilt… if you wanted to.

With two accessories, you really feel like you got something out of Hasbro. The VOTC line hasn’t exactly been an extravaganza of gear for your figures, so I appreciated the two different saber bits. I won’t mention it separately really, but the fact the saber hilt clips to the belt is also a major positive in its own right. A nice detail added to the figure for collectors that I think all figures wielding lightsabers should have.

-Packaging: The packaging on the VOTC figures is probably the most ornate and eye-catching package for a Star Wars figure to-date. While the basic OTC line that shipped alongside the VOTC figures was nice, the VOTC definitely drew your attention as being something special.

A downside to the dazzling packaging was the cost, which like other features I’ll touch on that shortly in the “Cons” portion, however it was a cost a lot of people were willing to bite for “ultimate” versions of various figures.

The packaging is a recreation of the original vintage Kenner action figure cardbacks from the 1970’s and 1980’s. If you were like me, and can recall these figures adorning your local toy store (Ah, Children’s Palace… The days when a trip to the toy store meant something), then you no doubt have a feeling of nostalgia, just as Hasbro intended. The old style cardbacks are nice to see on the pegs, and they really do catch the eye like no modern packaging has been able to.

While Hasbro went to great lengths to recreate the front of the packaging, the back of the packaging was a modern style displaying 3 other figures from a specific wave. The waves were broken down into a Star Wars wave with the original Star Wars style card, an Empire Strikes back wave styled accordingly, and then a Return of the Jedi wave.

Hasbro’s work to recreate the cardbacks was nicely done, and appreciated. This has so far been the only packaging I’ve wanted to save really. And Hasbro made saving the packaging easy if you were careful in getting the figure off the bubble, as they included a reseal-able protective clamshell over the figure’s card/bubble. Just perfect for keeping everything minty fresh, aside from that X-Acto knife slice along the bubble to get the figure out.

The end result is some nicely displayed toy on the pegs. A full set of the 12 VOTC cardbacks looks really nice displayed amongst your figure collection.

CONS

-Non-Removable Helmet: While a removable helmet was never a feature on the vintage figure, the VOTC line doesn’t seem to have too much in common with the Vintage Line at all other than their cards/packaging mimicking the vintage look. With that in mind, I think the VOTC Vader could have easily utilized a removable helmet feature for this figure at the $10 price point commanded by the VOTC line.

The VOTC delivers near perfection, and the lack of an unmasked Darth Vader under his black dome is really the only major drawback to the figure. It would have made the figure that much hotter if people knew they were getting an upgrade on the popular removable helmet Vader from the POTF2 line, one that was much more accurate and poseable.

Still, this detail isn’t terribly detrimental to the overall quality of the figure, and it’s really only listed as a negative in principle. It doesn’t make this Darth Vader any less desirable or anything. Hasbro delivered a poseable, accurate, and detailed Vader, so customizers will be left to fill the removable helmet feature if they want it until Hasbro decides to improve upon this figure.

-Height Slightly Off: While I listed as a positive that the Hasbro sculptors DID make the Darth Vader VOTC figure taller than average, he’s still not quite as tall as he should be I believe. The figure’s definitely not short though, and my nitpicking of his height is only as I compare him to some “average” height figures like Captain Antilles. He should really tower a good bit over Antilles, yet he’s only a little taller than the doomed Tantive IV commander.

Actually I noticed that several figures in the VOTC line appear to be a hair off in their height. Lando, Fett, and C-3PO all seem to be of a slightly shorter stature than they should be, but that’s not to say it detracts greatly from any of those figures. For Vader it’s a little more noticeable though as he is known for his height. Still it’s not too distracting and he is indeed taller than most characters, as he should be, just not quite tall enough by my estimations.

-Retail Cost: Without a doubt, and probably the worst aspect of the VOTC line, is the cost that came with each figure. Some have been lucky to have bought their VOTC sets on clearance, however most people paid the retail price which came to approximately $10 per figure or so. Not the cheapest price to pay for a single figure.

The cost of the figure can be blamed on a number of reasons. The VOTC line was touted for its “limited” nature, for instance, driving up costs due to lower production runs. The packaging was ornate, recreated by hand, and it required a lot of extra work for it to be done appropriately. The coffin blisters on the packaging even, to recreate the vintage look, were also “special” and added very slightly to the packaging costs. The special protective case surrounding the figure also would’ve been a noticeable increase in overall costs in producing these figures also. And that’s really only starting on where increases in costs could be hiding with the VOTC figures over basic modern figures.

I personally feel the VOTC figures are not any more intricate or complex in their design than a basic figure is, as far as costs go. If you put VOTC on basic cardbacks, and at basic production numbers, you’d see a figure that would sell profitably at a basic figure’s price. But with the packaging, you have something that, unless it becomes the line’s standard, it definitely inflates the production costs of the figures.

The cost seemed to noticeably hurt the VOTC line as well, as it also has hurt the Ultra/Deluxe lines over the years. $10 is a lot to pay for a figure, and it showed at stores that ordered the VOTC line heavily like Wal-Mart who couldn’t move the later waves out quickly. I love the VOTC concept though, and think that either a better price or case ratios would have alleviated all issues with product movement.

OVERALL

The Vintage Original Trilogy Collection chalked up a big win with the Darth Vader figure. I guess he got pushed to the Empire Strikes Back wave by default, but that’s ok. Vader was a constant throughout the vintage line, and kids were happy for it back in the 70’s and 80’s.

The VOTC Vader delivers the best version of “the man in black” to-date. As of his release he doesn’t have an equal, and he delivers a highly articulated and well sculpted action figure that should satiate Vader demands at least for a time. Hasbro would prove they could improve on Vader though in 2005 with their Evolutions sets. A Vader with more articulation and a removable helmet would definitely replace VOTC Vader as my favorite, yet at the same time my VOTC Vader sits on my display shelves quite proudly. I have him kneeling before Palpatine loyally, ready to be unleashed upon the galaxy. My Evolutions figure is better, but VOTC is good enough to retain a spot in my displayed collection.

If I had a major complaint, it would be that Hasbro didn’t need to cut corners when the figure was costing $10. But with Vader, few corners were cut. Other figures feature far bigger gaps in quality, like R2-D2 and C-3PO in particular. Hasbro just didn’t need to cut any corners on any of the VOTC figures, so yeah the ball/socket elbow joints are a little annoying.

Still, I think that this Vader is worth owning unless you really only want one version of Darth Vader in your collection. Otherwise, it’s a perfect figure to display choking your Captain Antilles, or Motti, or Ozzel… or maybe “monkey face” Leia, because man that figure just needs to be done away with. Put Vader to work then!

 

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