The modern line has had a few figures that always seemed to creep up on peopleís want-lists routinely. The Tonnika Sisters, for a while Bo Shek, and a new R5-D4 have probably been some of the most wanted items. There is one figure though that people have hoped for in the modern line since it began. A character thatís easy to miss, is just another random human soldier (though he does get lines, which is more than most can say), but one who was played by an actor that would go on to play in one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. I speak of course of Major Bren Derlin, played by actor John Ratzenberger who starred in the sitcom Cheers as egotistical know-it-all mailman Cliff Claven.
Well the day is here finally for the Major Derlin figure and Star Wars collector die-hards are Iím sure going nuts. The fact this figure was made will be enough for a number of collectors but that doesnít mean itís a knock-out action figure either. Hasbro hits many marks with the figure, donít get me wrong, but they also show a regression that I fear could be a trend in the 2006 line. Iím of course hoping this isnít the caseÖ Thereís theories that some of the Saga 2006 figures weíve been seeing were leftovers from 2004ís OTC line. I could buy that, as the quality is similar, but Hasbroís definitely putting out some less poseable figures than we received throughout 2005ís ROTS line, especially the Collection 2 figures, so Iím truly hoping these may just have been OTC hold-over figures.
That said however, Major Derlin doesnít miss many marks, so my opinion isnít a heavy downer on the figure. I just know he could have been more fun as a toy. Hasbro really impresses in other areas though, so fans do have reason to be happy with this figure, and Iím enjoying that my nonexistent Hoth Rebel Army has someone to boss them around other than Riekean.
-Sculpt: Itíd be easy to sum the articulation up as simply fantastic, but I wonít do just that. Iíll go into some depth with this because the figure really does shine. Thereís lots of crisp, sharp sculpting. Figures like this are purely for the collector, and really shine as little accurate statues of the character they represent as well as toys. Accuracy and detail abound though, and hatís off to Hasbroís sculptors for the good work.
The outfit features a number of great details. Thereís sculpted quilting patterns on the jacket sleeves and pants that looks great. There are a number of crisp lines around the chest pockets of the uniform jacket, and the flaps on the hip pockets of the jacket are sculpted with so much depth and realism that you would almost think you could open them and see a pouch. Thereís very sharp detailed sculpting there. Another great aspect to the jacket people will like is how the coatís collar comes up and completely hides the neck which is a separately sculpted piece thatís inserted into the torso.
Derlinís boots are similar in detail to those pocket flaps too. The way the straps around the legs are sculpted to appear as though they hold the cloth leggings closed around the figureís calves is incredibly realistic. The sculpt actually comes out and is angled back inward on the boot so it really stands out and looks 3-Dimensional. Itís the kind of sharp sculpting advancements that have shown the line has come a long way from 1995ís work.
Derlinís likeness is sharp and dead-on to Ratzenbergerís appearance in The Empire Strikes Back. Itís a youthful Cliff Claven, but still shows the age of a senior officer in a ragtag military. The sculpt is neutral, and nothing is exaggerated on the figureís face. Itís perfect. Another little point about the sculpt I liked but some may not notice is the way the left hand is sculpted fairly open and the right hand is sculpted to hold a blaster. The left hand though is what I really like as itís sculpted more, I believe, to hold the right hand in it behind the figureís back in a nice ďat easeĒ pose as Derlin oversees his troops and the base. Itís a nice little touch on a sculpt thatís filled with quality.
-Paint Aps/Deco: My sample of Major Derlin has no major paint flaws at all. The eyes are nicely painted and straight, which at this point is about all you can ask for with eye paintjobs. I donít think I have a Clone that can see straight in my entire collection! Derlinís eyes are the increasingly classic 3-layer paintjob comprised of a black pupil, blue iris, and white eyeball. The 3 layers make for a realistic paintjob that stands out on a mass production toy.
Derlinís outfit has a number of nice and varied paint applications. Thereís the brown shoulder paint that seems to be a Rebel Officer thing, and of course Derlinís little silver rank plaque on his right breast, with 3 red dots matching his character in the film. Derlinís hat has white goggles with green lenses, and no paint bleeding onto the hat at all. The hat has brown details on the scarf as well. I will say that his communication piece on the left side of his hat should be grey but itís painted a dull silver on my sample. A minor inaccuracy, but inaccurate nonetheless. No big deal though.
Derlinís boots are grey with an off-white trim and leg straps around them. All nicely applied with very little paint straying onto the wrong areas. Derlin has red trim on the chest pockets of his jacket that are even and well applied. Also Derlinís belt is the classic Rebel Fleet Trooper brown soldierís belt with a silver buckle and a silver button on the left. Ultimately, thatís the paintjob in a nutshell, and it is surprisingly colorful and complex compared to what you may think. My sample and the others Iíve seen were all well done so Quality Control seems to be on the money, at least with this figure.
-Functioning Holster: A feature that is hard to not love with any action figure, and something that should forever be a standard in the line in this day and age, is the functioning holster. Any figure with a blaster should have a place to leave his gun whether heís downing some brew at the Cantina or if heís just at ease on the battlefield. Figures with blaster pistols just need holsters. That said though, Hasbro came through with Major Derlin giving us a great functioning holster to enjoy.
The holsterís simple enough... The sculptís nice, it holds the blaster well. I think they could have sculpted it a little deeper to cover the trigger guard and perhaps hold the blaster a little lower on the figureís hip so his arm could clear the gun, but thatís neither here nor there. A minor detail at best. I just am a big fan of working holsters on figures and itís nice to have another Rebel with that feature.
-Packaging: The Saga Collection packaging for each figure is an interesting mix of styles. You can definitely see some elements of the ROTS line mixed with elements of the OTC line, and that makes for a unique package on the shelves. I really enjoy the black cardback with silver lettering, and I hope itís something Hasbro is willing to stick with for a long time to come.
I also highly enjoy the unique backgrounds for each figure. Pulling an element from the OTC line, the new Saga Collection packaging uses a film shot that pertains to each unique character, and really individualizes the figures. This is drool-worthy for the carded collector and it makes even the die-hard openers want a figure here and there to keep carded just because of how special the backgrounds are.
The bubble is a little closer to the ROTS line in its overall size and shape, but should lend itself more to staying mint for the carded guys. Thereís also an insert depicting the specific character and the characterís name, packaged into the bottom of the package just as the Revenge of the Sith figures had. The insert features the bold blocky silver lettering of the Saga, and lets fans know that this is the universal collection of figures encompassing the entire Star Wars universe.
Thereís a lot to like with this packaging so I hope it stays as the standard for a while. I would say that The Saga Collection and Original Trilogy Collection will go down as some of the most liked packaging by collectors for quite some time if Hasbro gives it a while, and this is coming from a guy that rips almost everything off its card at some point or another.
-Articulation: Easily my big gripe of the day with Major Derlin is the simple fact that this figure lacks the articulation that was prevalent throughout the Revenge of the Sith line for the most part. The arms are pretty good though, so thatís not to say that this figure falls completely short on articulation, and you can get some cool action poses out of him because of his arms. At the same time though, Derlin features simply 2 points of leg articulation and in 2005 itís a shame that any figure isnít superior to what vintage figures had for articulation at any given point of their design.
Major Bren Derlin features articulation at:
- 2 standard shoulder joints
- 2 angle-cut elbow joints
- 2 standard wrist joints
- 2 standard hip joints
- 1 ball/socket neck joint
- 1 standard waist joint
Thatís a total of 10 points of articulation for the good Major. Like I said, thatís not terrible, and yet Hasbro can certainly deliver better. There are no ball/socket joints on this figure at all, so really it would not have killed Hasbro to give Major Derlin 2 ball/socket knee joints. This is the same complaint I had with Han Solo in Carbonite from the previous wave, and this will be a complaint I have with other figures Iím sure.
If the Major Derlin is a throwback to the OTC line I can partly understand this. Figures werenít sporting the knee joints then too much. The Cantina Wave of the late OTC waves though really stepped articulation up and showed that even obscure background characters could use knee articulation and itíd be a huge step forward for the quality of Star Wars action figures.
Iíve noted before that the Cantina Wave from 2004/05 should have set the new standard for articulation. Major Derlin should have fell into that standard, especially since it can really be argued that Derlin is an army builder to some extent (thereís certainly more than one guy in his uniform at Hoth anyway). So Hasbro hopefully is beefing up articulation on a lot of figures in the future. Right now, some of these have been a let down for poseability, and Derlin really needed it I believe.
-Accessories: Major Derlin comes with very little to speak of. You get a figure; you get a pea-shooter pistol... Beyond that, youíre getting the stuff every figure is coming with this year but stuff you donít necessarily need or want in a holographic mini-figure and a stand.
Derlin comes with the *gasp!* Rebel Fleet Trooperís pistol from the POTJ line. The gun was a bit undersized without a doubt, so Iím a bit perplexed why Hasbro went with the inferior sculpt on this accessory instead of its more accurate sculpt that Captain Antilles (and other figures) have come with. Strikes me as somewhat odd, but who knows what the thought was there.
Of course Derlin also comes with a standard stand thatís embossed on the top with the name of the film Derlin appeared in, and is personalized with silver painted text of ďMajor Bren DerlinĒ so you know who youíre looking at. Then thereís also the random ďBonusĒ holographic mini-figure as well. The stand and mini are nice, but if unnecessary pack-ins are why Derlin isnít articulated better than I question whether we should be getting stands and minis. The stand I can see, the minis I could definitely live without.
So ignoring the stand and mini, thatís one teeny tiny accessory you get with Major Derlin and that sort of sucks donít you think? I think Hasbro could have packed in maybe a backpack for him, or the foot soldierís rifle (Derlin maybe picks up a rifle to defend the base too you know. You donít have to ONLY give gear to them that they have in the films), or how about the box from the Target Hoth Accessory set, or some other piece of random gear? Iíd even have taken a little datapad accessory from another figure since Derlin probably needs to keep things organized on one.
Basically the point is that they have other accessories sculpted and ready to just be slipped into the packaging as something to add some kind of minimal value to the toy itself. The accessories are MUCH less of an issue to me though than articulation. This wouldíve been passable otherwise.
-Tiny Pistol: As noted above, the pistol Derlin comes with is dinky. The sculpt was fairly weak compared to the sculpt that Dutch, Captain Antilles, or General Dodonna came with back in 2004. The pistolís smaller so maybe it was figured that it would fit more snugly into a holster, which is fine, but with a better sculpt in existence I canít help but look at the Fleet Trooper Peashooter they gave us as a flaw, though a minor nuisance at best. Yeah, again the lacking articulation was much worse to me.
-Price Hike: Star Wars figures have taken a jump in price at some retailers, and while we paid $5 - $6 for most of our ROTS figures throughout most of 2005, figures are up to $7 at most retailers with only Wal-Mart sticking to a $6 or less price point right now. Hopefully Hasbro and Retail will see the light that price increases in this day and age means that people may become more tight with their spending.
I know a price hike will affect my buying habits, and Iíll buy fewer extras of any figure I maybe wanted extras of. Iíll cut back on army building, custom fodder buying, and other areas that I otherwise maybe would have spent more freely. That $1 or $2 starts to add up over 60 or so figures though. Hopefully at least Target will adjust to compete with Wal-Mart in the near future, if nothing else, and we all maybe will have more to spend on more figures.
So there you have it. Major Bren Derlin has been reviewed, and in a nutshell Iíd say Iím 80%-90% happy with the figure if I had to put a number to it. I armed him with an extra Endor Rebel rifle I had laying around since this was the main firearm seen among the Rebels on Hoth, and he holds the rifle quite well even with the somewhat limited angle-cut articulation at his arms. That just shows to me that his arms are versatile enough, but that Hasbro really did drop the ball with his articulation by simply leaving him with straight legs articulated only at the hips.
Yes, the knee articulation is where that remaining 10%-20% of my overall satisfaction with this action figure lies. I like the Derlin figure overall, Iím glad to have it, but at the same time this figure lacks a lot of the poseability I want with my toys. Do I play with them? Well I donít take it out of the package and put it on a shelf never to touch it againÖ I do like posing my figures; I do play with the kids with Star Wars figuresÖ So yeah poseability is important to me, and in the industry overall articulation is the way to go it seems. The 1:6 scale is always a hotbed of companies trying to one-up each other by creating new, more outrageously articulated bodies. In the 1:18 scale, military lines are dominated by ever-changing articulation among companies like BBI and 21st Century Toys. Hasbro though, and more to the point their Star Wars brand, are capable of VERY poseable action figures but they seem to only use their skills at articulation sparingly throughout the line.
So with that said, I think Major Derlin is a good figure to buy, I think most all of the die-hard collectors were buying this one just because heís been so in demand for so long now, and articulation wasnít going to stop people from picking him up. I think heís good in most every respect, much like Carbonite Han Solo, but yet Hasbro really left that one big flaw there with his just simply not having articulated knees. Derlin is one big ďqualityĒ away from being darn near perfect in my eyes, so Iím left a tad disappointed. Iím still happy to have this character in plastic though. Iíll just have to hope articulation improves in the future across the board, and that Hasbro does adopt a standard 12-points of articulation ala the OTC Cantina Wave figures.
In the meantime though, enjoy your Derlin figures for what they are and let them have a beer in your Cantina. Itís where Ratzenbergerís figure just seems to fit in for some reason.