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Vintage-Era Star Wars and the Eradication of the Popularity Contest Mentality, or How Public Speaking Was An Action Feature in the Eighties

Sometimes you really have to stop and appreciate just how weird the vintage Star Wars toyline was, you know?

If you’ve been around the toy game long enough, then you’ve watched a lot of toys come and go. You’ve seen the trends, you’ve seen what really smears the butter on the bare buttocks, you’ve seen what the collecting populace will rigorously shun, you’ve seen them come, you’ve seen them go. Across all the lines, the main word is always the same: fun. Each and every toy needs to be the coolest damn toy that ever existed. Because the people behind the scenes know that every toy has to earn those dollars. This is why there were never any G.I. Joe members named Duffle Bag or Potato Peeler. Every Joe exploded off the pegs, promising big adventures. Potato Peeler and Duffle Bag were lame and never got to go on any big adventures.

Star Wars has spent decades—literally, decades—doing something different. It has not only provided the main characters, but it has done a very decent job providing us with the SAGs. SAGs are a valuable part of the narrative journey in most media, as their role is usually fundamental in evolving the plot. But the SAGs don’t make for the most exciting action figure, so they’re usually skipped in favor of the more explosive members.

What, you’re probably asking if you haven’t closed Fwoosh to go look at porn, is a SAG?

A SAG is a “stand-around guy.” Or, on occasion, a “stand-around gal.” SAGs fill up the universe in any given property, but they don’t usually get a toy. Now, they don’t have to stand all the time. Sometimes they sit. On occasion, they can even walk across the room. There’s not a lot of science in the nickname, so you’ll just have to run with it. Basically, the action doesn’t revolve around them. They kind of show up, dispense knowledge/advice/orders/Pez, and then they are gone.

Star Wars has never given a second though to giving those SAGs their action figure respect, and the vintage line set the bar for action figure inclusivity. Now, technically, the Cantina aliens are all SAGS. Despite coming with weapons, they didn’t do much in the movie. But the cool designs spoke for themselves. You don’t buy Hammerhead for his 2 seconds of screen time, you buy him because that is a friggin’ awesome looking alien. So his SAGhood is nullified by his awesomeness.

But then you have a fellow like General Madine. He was clearly important. He had a big speech. He had a very official looking beard. But, lacking the bitchin’ designs of any random alien that popped up on screen, he was rather unremarkable.

He was no Admiral Ackbar, in other words.

Did Kenner give a crap that General Madine was the poster boy for SAGs? Hell no. They didn’t stop for one second and wonder if kids were going to want to play with a dude that looked like the guidance counselor at any random high school. General Madine got an action figure, and his action figure came with a fancy stick for pointing at people, and kids of 1983 could enjoy buying his figure at any of the thousands of fine department stores or specialty stores worldwide. It’s just a shame that Mon Mothma wasn’t made to join him. First, she would have broken up the oppressive gynecological stranglehold that Leia held over the vintage line, and second, she would have provided the only representation for the stand-around gal.

I don’t know how we got General Madine but never got a Tarkin in the vintage line. Tarkin could be called a SAG as well, but nobody stood around with as much style as Tarkin. Tarkin didn’t really stand so much as he took up floor space with unmitigated hate. Tarkin hate-stood. He hate-walked. In his private quarters, he probably hate-showered, hate-pooped and hate-slept. He wore his shoes one size too small just so he would maintain a sour mood every second of every day. One time he slapped Darth Vader so hard that Vader’s mask spun all the way around. Tarkin did not take any sith from anybody.

Actually, if you want to get technical—and somebody just yanked a slide rule out of their pants–Star Wars went one step past General Madine in SAGgitude: Anakin’s ghost. Yes, you take one Sebastian Shaw, you stick him in some robes, you get ILM to give him a cool glow effect, and you stick him next to dead Yoda to smile at Luke right before the credits roll. Old, dead Anakin Skywalker is the ultimate SAG (and the only dead Anakin I will acknowledge) and even he got a toy. Old, dead Anakin Skywalker could not hold a lightsaber. Old, dead Anakin Skywalker could only stand there with a banal expression on his dead face, and remind you in no uncertain terms that, as you were holding his figure in your hands, he was both dead, no longer wearing black armor, and was dead. The most important thing to remember about this figure is that you were holding a ghost. This was a dead figure. It’s not like you ever saw him like this when he was alive, like Obi-wan’s figure. No, when we first see old Anakin, he was already dead. This was a toy of a corpse. It’s just one step removed from Owen and Beru getting action figures…post stormtrooper meet and greet.

“Can I offer you some weird blue milk? Straight from the tit!”

“Where are the droids?”

“What? I–”

“WHERE ARE THE DROIDS? THE DROIDS. WHERE ARE THE DROIDS?”

“Jeez Larry, calm down.”

“I just really want those droids! Ah, screw it.” Double blaster zap.

“O. M. G. I am not putting this in the report.”

“Why do you have to be such a bitch, Gary?”

Old Anakin’s ultimate SAGness did not stop me from getting his figure. Actually, his figure was the very last Star Wars action figure I would acquire in the 80s. While I liked having him, I admittedly, couldn’t figure out what to do with him. He was dead. I couldn’t just have him dispensing advice to Luke over and over. “Luke, remember to floss.” Maybe he could apologize to Leia for the whole “I’m going to have this droid torture you now, mkaythanksbye.” Talk about daddy issues.

So I think what I’m saying is the Star Wars Black Series really needs a Bib Fortuna figure to go with that Jabba we already have.

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