REVIEW: Kylo Ren (Throne Room)

March 30, 2018 – The Black Series six-inch Kylo Ren has been issued and re-issued with so many tweaks, here and there, that we’re ready to throw up our hands and say, “Not another one!” And yet Hasbro’s release of Kylo Ren (Throne Room) offers some attractive new features that just might lure you in, even with the high $34.99 price tag.

The throne room consists of two halves: the GameStop exclusive (Snoke, $34.99) and the Walmart exclusive (Kylo Ren, also $34.99).

Moreover, if you have already purchased the six-inch Supreme Leader Snoke (Throne Room), a GameStop exclusive, previously reviewed HERE, you will need this rendition of Kylo Ren to complete the throne room.

The ensemble is attractively packaged in a 9-inch square box with the familiar black-and-red color of The Black Series. The glossy cardboard face flap swings open, secured in a closed position with two Velcro dots.

A clear acetate window reveals the six-inch Kylo Ren along with his three accessories: his fully extended lightsaber, an additional hilt with the saber off, and a titanium helmet.

Behind the Darth-Vader-wannabe is the environmental base, which snap-attaches to Snoke’s floor base and completes the throne room.

For many, the base is the main reason to purchase the set up. The majority of the semi-octagonal base is colored a glossy industrial gray. Cut into the floor are thick, translucent triangles and oblong shapes, which are filled with tinted plastic. From various viewing angles, a slight aqua-blue tint gives the clever impression of glass.

The environmental base easily snaps on and off.

By now you might exclaim: “I paid $34.99 for this? Another Kylo Ren and a plastic floor!” But that’s what nutty collectors do. In order to complete the Supreme Leader Snoke Throne Room set up and soothe your OCD tendencies, Hasbro has tricked us (yet again) to shell out cash. And be forewarned that it’s not that easy to find this half of the throne room as the package is a Walmart exclusive.

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Kylo Ren has 28 points of articulation, offering great ranges of motion. While we could not get him to fully kneel in front of the Supreme Leader, our young Sith can still strike a pose on the galactic dance floor.

Kylo Ren is barely kneeling. Hidden props help prevent him from toppling over.

The face sculpt and paint applications are excellent, offering a very good likeness of Kylo Ren. The soft-pink skin tone, the taut facial angles, the blood-red scar, soulless eyes, dark hair – everything comes together to make this one of the better releases of Kylo Ren.

If there is a flaw, it is in the soft-goods cloak. The cut, texture, flow and length are good. But there is no fastener, and the cloak has a tendency to slip off when you want it to stay. Gravity is no friend to Kylo and his cloak.

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The magic of the throne room begins when you link up the two halves of Snoke and Kylo’s environments. Once you introduce your other highly articulated figures (Praetorian guards, Rey, etc.), you can recreate various scenes from The Last Jedi.

Or better yet, let Disney and Jedi Mickey have the last laugh. Because they now own you. So don’t resist, let go your wallet, and have fun. They always win.

Jedi Mickey (not included) always wins.


David Prowse (Darth Vader) No Longer Signing Autographs

March 24, 2018 – David Prowse, the towering man behind Darth Vader’s mask in the original Star Wars trilogy, will no longer appear at fan conventions or sign any further autographs.

In September, 2017, the 82-year-old English actor (born July 1, 1935) had announced on his official website that his retirement would become effective in January, 2018. But by November, based on the recommendations of doctors, Mr. Prowse decided to immediately withdraw from any further public appearances.

In his younger bodybuilding days, David Prowse stood a towering 6 feet 6 inches (198 cm), making him an intimidating Darth Vader. But a lifelong struggle with arthritis, hip replacement in later years, and other health issues, have resulted in diminished height and, now, his full retirement.

Last fall 2017, perhaps as a farewell gift, he and his assistant(s) were offering a limited-time 20% discount on online orders for his autograph. At that time, there were fifteen (15) 8″x10″ glossy photographs to choose from. Better yet, Mr. Prowse would personalize the selected photo with your choice of greeting and your choice of pen color (silver, black or blue ink).

Back then, the website said: “Dave will personalise your photo(s) to a name for you. If requested, you may choose ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY’ if you are buying for a birthday gift, and you even get to choose the ink colour Dave signs in. Star Wars movie quotes are available for an additional fee.”

The eight movie quotes available to choose from included:

“May the Force be with you”
“The Force is with you”
“The Force is strong with this one”
“Give yourself to the Dark Side”
“Impressive, most impressive”
“I find your lack of faith disturbing”
“No. I am your father.”
“You don’t know the power of the Dark Side.”

In addition, shipping was FREE worldwide, offering you additional value.

The original list price was £49.99. But for a limited time, each signed photo was discounted 20%, or a price of £39.99 each. For U.S. consumers at the time, the equivalent price would have been about $52.60 each.

Some Pre-Signed Autographs Are Still Available

Now the deal has been altered. David Prowse is no longer signing autographs, personalized or otherwise. However, according to his updated website:

For a limited time, you can still order some pre-signed autographs. The prices are much higher than before he retired, but that’s to be expected. In addition, each photograph comes with a Certificate of Authenticity and a matching serial numbered hologram.

Here are some sample photos showing what’s available:

Click HERE to visit David Prowse’s website.

With Yak Face Onboard, Purchasing Jabba’s Sail Barge Now Makes Financial Sense

March 21, 2018 – Hasbro today released images of its painted prototype for the 4-foot-long Jabba’s Sail Barge, a visual feast some critics have been asking for since the company first announced its crowdfunding challenge on Feb. 17th.

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Yak Face

In addition, Hasbro revealed for the first time that it would be releasing a 3.75-inch scale Yak Face (a.k.a. Saelt-Marae) as part of the Sail Barge offer, a powerful incentive for those still debating whether to purchase the iconic vehicle.

Today’s twin announcements, which answer some critics’ requests for “an exclusive figure” as well as photographic samples of the painted prototype, may be the huge nudge needed to motivate the crowdfunding campaign.

Some collectors fear that increasingly sluggish sales are jeopardizing Hasbro’s stated goal of 5,000 orders by April 3rd. But today’s twin announcements have caused a spike in demand – over 200 orders placed in a 12-hour period. As of the posting date of this article (March 21st, 9:55pm EST), 3,091 pre-paid orders have been placed.

The question remains, however, with time running out, will the sales momentum be enough to reach the 5,000 mark goal?

Financial Reasons To Back the Barge

For collectors still debating whether to pony up the $500 (US), £599 (UK) or other currency amount for the Sail Barge, the addition of the Yak Face figure ought to be the tipping point.

By examining the contents of the entire deal, $500/£599 appears to be a very reasonable price. Here are the main components – along with our very rough value estimates in parentheses:

● Jabba the Hutt 3.75-inch scale figure ($30-40)

● Yak Face 3.75-inch scale figure with Power of the Force cardback and exclusive collector’s coin ($20-25)
● Ithorian/Hammerhead skeleton in prison cell ($20)
● 64-page booklet, “Behind the Bench” ($10-15)
● vintage-style box ($30)
● shipping & handling costs (Box is approximately 50″W x 15″H x 14″D; $75-100)

And so the subtotal, before including the actual Sail Barge, is roughly $185-230. True, many of the above price estimates can be debated – some too high, others too low. But we have to start somewhere in calculating value.

The more important point is that after estimating the value of the above components, that means your cost for the Sail Barge alone would be roughly $270-315. For a 4-foot-long vehicle/playset, with numerous play features and soft-cloth fabric sails and endless display options for your vintage figures, that’s an imminently fair deal while still allowing Hasbro their profit margin.

Our Yak Face Estimate Is Too Low

It’s almost laughable that we would be so conservative in placing a guesstimated value of only $20-25 for a Vintage Collection Yak Face on a Power of the Force cardback. Who are we kidding? In short order, a mint-condition carded Yak Face with the exclusive Collector’s Coin will fetch a triple-digit figure on the secondary market.

But again, for purposes of our overall value-discussion, we had to start somewhere.

And so with the above analysis, you can now see why purchasing Hasbro’s Sail Barge suddenly makes financial sense.*

Jabba’s creature trophy? In addition to Jabba the Hutt, Yak Face, and the Hammerhead skeleton, you get this creature (circled in red) attached to the wall. That’s four creatures in total!

Ready to order? Visit or click the button below:

* Financial Caveat: Needless to say, if you are living paycheck to paycheck or in debt, then it is not financially feasible or advisable to purchase the Sail Barge. As much as we love all things Star Wars-related, there are more important things in life.

Jabba’s Sail Barge Coming to the UK and Europe: Dark Side Toys Now Accepting Orders

March 16, 2018 – Dark Side Toys is now accepting orders for Hasbro’s mammoth “Jabba’s Sail Barge” for addresses in the UK and most of Europe.

But hurry: You have until Hasbro’s April 3rd crowdfunding deadline to post your order. Once Hasbro has received 5,000 unit orders, the toy company will begin production of the 4-foot long Sail Barge.

How Dark Side Toys (not to be confused with in the U.S.) was able to pull off this trans-Atlantic feat, what with significant obstacles for shipping costs and customs, remains something of a mystery. Whatever the answer, we are just happy that collectors in the following 29 countries can now obtain The Khetanna. Dark Side Toys is now accepting orders from:

You can read Dark Side Toys’ website for FAQ’s, including payment plans, shipping dates (expect courier delivery around Feb. 2019), and other information.

Now that the UK and most of Europe are eligible, how far will the HasLab needle move toward the 5,000-count goal? No one knows yet, but every bit helps.

The 28 countries of the European Union have a combined population of over 510 million, which exceeds that of the United States (326.7M) and Canada (37M). For purposes of HasLab’s crowdfunding campaign, the larger populations of Germany (82.3 million), France (65.2M), U.K. (65.1M), Spain (46.4M) and others may make all the difference.

The HasLab counter currently shows 2,670 orders as of March 16th, 3:30 PM EST. With 18 days remaining, we will soon know whether the most ardent Star Wars collectors worldwide can launch The Khettana from dream to reality.

HasLab counter: 2,670 orders as of March 16th, 3:30 PM EST

Trivia: Which European countries are not part of the EU?
Answer: Switzerland, Norway, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Ukraine, Moldova, Iceland, Belarus, Russia and Turkey. (The United Kingdom is, for now, still part of the EU pending Brexit negotiations.)

Toys “R” Me: Michael Mercy’s Private 1980’s Toy Collection

March 15, 2018 – YouTuber Michael Mercy may well have one of the most expansive and neatly organized collections devoted to 1980’s toys.

Michael Mercy offers a virtual tour of his private 1980’s toy museum. In the first video (out of seven), he tongue-in-cheek calls his private collection “Toys R Me” [cue 00:04:50].

As a self-admitted Toys “R” Us geek who spent innumerable hours wandering TRU’s aisles in the 1980’s, Michael Mercy has enshrined his youth in his own private collection. While light on vintage Star Wars collecting (he wasn’t that big an early 1980’s Star Wars collector), there is an enormous and draw-dropping array of action figures and vehicles in his collection, mostly from the 1980’s, which he has amassed over the last 35 years.

While most need no introduction (G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, Transformers, Mutant Ninja Teenage Turtles), many others are lesser known toy lines (Kenner’s Centurions, Mattel’s Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, Mattel’s Wheeled Warriors and more).

The seven-part video series includes helpful embedded clips from the various 1980’s animated shows and TV commercials as well as insightful commentary. You can view the first of the seven videos below – and prepare to be amazed:

To view the other six videos in the series, watch them on YouTube. You can also view related content on his Twitter and Facebook sites.

The first of the videos was published in July, 2017, just months before Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy in Sept. 2017. With TRU’s imminent demise in coming weeks, the above videos also serve as a prescient tribute to a great toy retailer from a bygone era.

Toys “R” Us Officially Closing

March 14, 2018 – If you are still holding on to any Toys “R” Us giftcards, you had better hurry to your nearest TRU store. The 70-year-old company today informed its employees in both the U.S. and the U.K. that it would be shuttering nearly all its stores.

Founded in 1948, the New Jersey-based toy retailer hasn’t reported a full-year profit since 2012.

The company’s CEO, David Brandon, advised its employees on March 14th that the parent company would either be closing or attempting to sell nearly all its store locations. No specific timeline was announced for the shutdown. However, TRU is expected to file a liquidation proposal in Bankruptcy Court as soon as this week, subject to the Court’s approval.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection in Sept. 2017, disclosing to the Bankruptcy Court over $5 billion US in long-term debt and that the company was spending about $400 million per year just to service the debt.

A hoped-for turnaround during the crucial Christmas/Holiday sales period in Dec. 2017 never materialized as customers stayed away, continuing the growing trend of online shopping (Amazon) or diverting their money to TRU’s competitors, Walmart and Target. In addition, several vendors declined to extend additional credit or full inventory requests to TRU during the busy shopping season.

TRU has failed to pay its vendors in recent days. The company reported a loss of $953 million in the first nine months of 2017. Its last full year of profit was in 2012. Since then, TRU has lost an additional $2.5 billion.

While it would be tempting to blame the likes of Amazon and Walmart for TRU’s decline, the truth is that the giant retailer was a dead man walking for over a decade. It’s No. 1 problem was mounting debt, which prevented badly needed upgrades to its stores and employee retention. As far back as January, 2005 – when Amazon was just a small blip on the Internet radar – TRU’s debt was downgraded to junk bond status.

In March, 2005, TRU sold the company to a group of investors, led by New York-based KKR Group, Boston-based private equity firm Bain Capital, and New York-based Vornado Realty Trust for $6.6 billion. The sale left the once-iconic retailer with $5.3 billion in debt, from which it never recovered.

When it filed for bankruptcy last September, TRU had 1,697 stores worldwide – the most in its 70-year history. The company’s decision to not shut down its weakest performing stores over the last decade points to a sluggish company that was either in denial or that had no clear plan on how to claw its way out of insurmountable debt.

The once-dominant toy retailer, founded in 1948, now has some 1,600 Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores around the world. In the United Kingdom, the company will be closing all 75 remaining stores, affecting roughly 3,000 workers. In the United States, TRU is already in the process of shutting down 180 of its 800 stores nationwide. About 33,000 TRU jobs in the U.S. are at risk.

The retailer is reportedly working on a proposal to keep about 200 stores open in the U.S. even after liquidation. CNBC reports that the plan may include selling the company’s Canadian operations, along with roughly 200 of the company’s most profitable U.S. stores, to an unnamed buyer.

Whatever the final outcome, the Toys “R” Us chain store that generations of kids and consumers have come to love will be a thing of the past. For Star Wars fans, TRU’s Midnight Madness shopping events and its exclusive Star Wars collectible merchandise will become a quaint memory.

“Going, going … gone”: A Toys R Us Midnight Madness promo in 2015.

As for the retailer’s famous TV jingle of the 1980’s (“I’m a Toys R Us kid”), the jaunty lyrics and tune may still echo through your (y)ears.