It’s BOBA FETT.
I mean that’s all that needs to be said, right?
It’s taken five HoF articles for me to finally get onto STAR WARS. Is that bad? Or do I just take Star Wars for granted as its been the one real constant throughout my toy collecting career? Probably the latter.
Like most guys my age, Star Wars was a seminal experience. I’m talking about the original 1977 Star Wars here. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the movies (yes, even the much maligned and misunderstood prequels) but there’s something magical, untouchable and almost supernatural about the Original Trilogy that impacted so strongly upon an entire generation of kids. Not only did it introduce us to a galaxy of fantastic characters and ignite our imaginations, but it ushered in an age of movie merchandising that was utterly unprecedented. Movie and TV show merchandising was not a new thing when Star Wars came out. It had been going on for decades. But Star Wars took it to a whole new level and changed the toy merchandising industry forever.
Some of the first toys I ever remember being given were Star Wars figures. I’m pretty sure they were an R2D2 and a Stormtrooper (I still have ’em). It was the late ’70s. I remember lunchtime recess at Primary School and us kids playing with those early figures like Greedo and Hammerhead. These are snapshots in my brain which, for some reason, have stuck in there and remain like mental milestones. I don’t remember much from my early childhood, but certain memories, most of them Star Wars related, just won’t budge. And I don’t want them to. They provide a place to which I can retreat when the mood takes me.
I don’t recall exactly when I managed to get my hands on Boba Fett. I have a feeling it was pretty late in the vintage figure run. I do remember that when I did finally nab him, I felt like an itch had finally been scratched. That Boba shaped hole on my figure shelf (yes, even at that age I had one) had been filled.
Boba Fett was released in 1979 as a sneak peek mail-in figure during the lead up to the release of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (TESB still remains the greatest motion picture ever created. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a deluded imbecile and not worthy of your friendship.) LucasFilm had just (reluctantly) put out the made-for-TV Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978 which featured the first ever, albeit animated, appearance of everyone’s favourite bounty hunter, Boba Fett. Star Wars figures were running hot in the late ’70s and Boba seemed like the perfect character to usher in the new movie. I mean just look at him. If you don’t think that screams ‘total bad-ass’ then you need to go and have a serious look at yourself.
Now in case you’ve been living on another planet for the last 40 years and AREN’T aware of the fabled ‘Rocket-Firing Fett’ then here’s a quick summary: The first ever Boba Fett action figure was intended to be released with a working rocket launcher on his backpack. The idea was that a kid could flick a small lever located at the base of the backpack which would fire, via a spring, a small red projectile. Prior to the release of the figure this action feature was shown in most of the promotional material. A number or working prototypes of the Rocket-Firing Fett made it through the test-shot stage (a ‘test-shot’ is the process by which a factory does a test run using the moulds and plastics intended for use in mass production) and he was on the brink of seeing a release. But a last minute decision by Kenner put the brakes on the rocket-firing mechanism as it was considered too dangerous for kids. Which isn’t surprising really, given the projectile had a very swallowable shape. Kenner issued a quick apology to fans who had already committed to the new Boba Fett figure and the rocket-firing mechanism was shelved until 2010 when he was finally released by Hasbro as a mail-in exclusive.
My understanding is that approximately a dozen Rocket-Firing Fetts existed at one point in prototype form. None were ever released on a card. I believe about six are thought to be still floating around somewhere and can fetch prices anywhere in the tens of thousands if proven authentic.
Anyway, despite losing the rocket-firing action feature, what we ended up with was still a great figure by late ’70s standards. The paint applications and sculpt details were a step up from the previous Star Wars figures. Needless to say, Boba became the figure that all kids wanted.
Now I’m happy to be proven wrong on this point, but I’m pretty sure Boba Fett was one of the few figures that appeared on just about every cardback in the Vintage Figure line. His popularity never dwindled and as a result he was subjected to continual re-release. He never hung around long enough to warm the pegs of the local toy shop as pretty much the minute he was offered up, he was bought. And I’m pretty sure that’s why it took me so long to get one. He was just too popular and scoring one meant being in the right place at the right time. That’s right kids, there was no internet back then. No ebay. No Amazon. If you wanted a toy you had to go to an actual shop and hope to Hell they had it in stock. If not, you were fucked. Seriously.
My reasoning behind including the Vintage Boba Fett in the Tonk’s HoF is pretty simple: Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon. But Boba Fett is a phenomenon within that. He is virtually an industry unto himself. You stick Boba’s image on anything and it will sell. His design is so classic and timeless, his popularity so unimpeded that he is a proven evergreen commodity in the Star Wars catalogue. This original figure ushered in a Boba Fett craze which has not ceased since 1979. This little 3.75″ action figure was the starting point for the countless Boba figures that would come after it. His place in Action Figure History cannot be underestimated.
I’ve owned a few Bobas in my time. Sold a few too. These days my collecting tastes have moved away from the 3.75″ scale in favour of the 6-7″ scale and the 6″ Black Series is now my main Star Wars collecting interest. But I still keep a few small Boba figures dotted about my collection space. He’s just too cool not to.
Indeed, Boba Fett’s popularity doesn’t look like easing up anytime soon. Despite the fact that the suited Boba has not appeared in a new movie since 1983, fans still pay over-the-odds prices for Boba Fett collectibles. If Hasbro ever sees a dip in their action figure sales all they need do is roll out another Fett and watch the cash roll in. And the rumours of a stand-alone Boba Fett movie still persist despite no official word from LucasFilm as to it’s actual likelihood.
Boba Fett’s status within Star Wars and popular culture is legendary and long may he live. Because let’s face it: “He’s no good to me dead!”
(C’mon, He only had four lines of dialogue in the Original Trilogy…I thought I did OK to work one in!)