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Spacetrooper

SWIV: A New Hope
by Monkey Boy

Y'know, I thought I was enough of a Star Wars nerd that there were no characters left from the films that I had never heard of or seen. I can pick out all the times Amanaman and Ephant Mon are seen lounging in the background of Jabba the Hutt's court, I can pontificate about the differences between the armor of a Snowtrooper lieutenant and a regular ol' Snowtrooper, and I know the precise moment that Oola's boob pops out of her netted top as she struggles against Jabba's advances. But Spacetrooper? Well, I'll be damned.

Specialized stormtroopers, dubbed "spacetroopers," are deployed to Zero-G environments, such as areas outside the Death Star's artificially generated atmosphere. They wear specially designed suits that have sealed armor and are equipped with rebreather packs.

Now, I'd heard of Spacetroopers, but I always thought of them as the big hulking mech-suited troops featured in Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire novel (as well as the old Super Nintendo Star Wars side-scrolling videogames). Apparently in my nearly two decades as a SW fan, I had failed to notice the "Zero G" troopers seen briefly (and tinily) in the corner of the screen in A New Hope as the Millennium Falcon is pulled via tractor beam into the Death Star's docking bay. See, this guy looks pretty much like your regular, vanilla Stormtrooper... but he's got a backpack! And a breathing hose! How could I have been so blind? Hasbro apparently wasn't, and they're finally giving this obscurest of obscure designs the action figure treatment as part of an all ANH-themed series.

This is not nearly the first time we've seen this sculpt. Hasbro used it originally for their Vintage Original Trilogy Collection (VOTC) Stormtrooper, which is easily separated from its sculptural descendents by its use of rapidly yellowing plastic. The sculpt has been used a few times since then with some minor changes, most notably for the single-packed (and controversial) "removable helmet" Stormie. There are fans out there, apparently, who dislike figures with removable helmets. The provocative decision was made to use the likeness of Temuera Morrison, the man who'd served as the model for the cloned troops in the Prequel Trilogy, for the figure (as well as several other Imperial trooper figures. This irked many fans who hated the idea of connecting the "OT" (Original [Gangsta] Trilogy) with the "PT" in any way, shape or form. When it was pointed out that those disgruntled fans could simply leave the helmet on and have a well-sculpted, non-yellowing, well-articulated OT Stormtrooper, they began to bemoan the use of a flimsy rubber helmet. Utter rubbish. The helm fits great, and I've got rubber helmets from the '80s that still hold up today.

Anyway, the Spacetrooper utilizes this same excellent sculpt, with some minor variations. The square-shaped, raised area on the figure's back armor is a separate piece, raised up more to allow for the attachment of the figure's removable jetpack. The helmet accessory also has a tiny hole in the "chin" where his breathing hose is meant to plug in. Like the rest of the figures that utilize the VOTC sculpt, he has a holster for his E-11 blaster rifle on his belt. However, while his series-mates Luke and Han (both in Stormtrooper disguises) got a thicker, re-worked version of this holster that actually functions and looks decent, ol' Spacie gets the same utterly useless too-thin holster that looks ridiculous from almost any angle when the gun is in it, as seen on the original mold.

The biggest sculptural difference, however, is under the helmet, where we find not Temuera Morrison, but renowned Star Wars concept artist and future Jumanji director Joe Johnston! While Ralph McQuarrie always gets the recognition (although apparently not financially) of being the chief SW concept artist, as a child I always preferred looking at the concept designs Johnston came up with. As an aspiring artist myself, he was kind of a hero of sorts. And now here he is, in figure form! A bit of hair is peeking out from under his black skintight hood, and he's got Johnston's baby blue eyes. There's an image floating around of Johnston, unmasked, actually sporting this costume during filming, which apparently serves as the inspiration for his likeness being used on this figure.

The paint is simplistic, with black accents applied to white plastic, and his accessories actually get a much wider variety of colors than the figure itself. The human face is painted well, with little slop, but the hair and the edge of his hood could use some better coverage. The helmet is remarkably clean for this scale, especially considering the spotty paint apps on past Stormtrooper figure helmets. Why can't you get it this right every time, Hasbro?!

The accessories include the helmet, the jetpack, and a breathing hose that connects between the two. He also gets a standard Stormie rifle, molded in dark gunmetal rather than the usual black, and a larger rifle reminiscent of the huge T-21 repeating blasters carried by some Sandtroopers in A New Hope. It doesn't seem "film accurate", since the only film references for the Spacetrooper are the picture of Johnston and the tiny film stills of the Falcon's Death Star docking, and neither of these seems to show the trooper carrying such a rifle. It's been pointed out by some fans that the rifle resembles CGI artwork of the T-21 done for one of the books in the Essential Guides series, and that the truncated look appears to be due to the accessory sculptor's lack of understanding with regards to the concept of foreshortening.

In any case, it doesn't look horrible, and considering we only see these guys for one second and they're blurry and tiny during that second, it's not out of the question that they never used such a rifle. But beware! There's a little handle on top of the gun that's removable and not very stable. Mine popped off right out of the package, and it's something that could be very easily lost if you didn't know was removable. You might even want to superglue it on there, since there's no real reason for you to ever take it off.

SpaceJohnston also comes with the head and middle leg of some random astromech droid. This series's Build-A-Droid is R5-A2 who, as his name suggests, is an R5 unit, which means he features a trapezoidal dome rather than the traditional half-sphere seen on the more familiar R2 units. He was apparently seen somewhere during ANH, but thankfully he wasn't given some insane backstory that tied him in with the fate of the galaxy like so many other tangential background SW characters. He was simply a droid seen puttering around the streets of Mos Eisley.

Unless you plan on building the whole droid, this head is pretty useless and will probably end up in whatever you use for a spare parts bin. In fact, even if you do end up building the whole thing, who really cares enough about astromech druids that they need a whole army of these BADs on their shelf? People have been complaining about the diminishing size of Marvel Legends' BAFs, but they're gargantuan compared to the BAD series, which typically gives you a piece of a forgettable character who usually ends up being smaller than most of the single-packed figures. Boring. The only really fun BAD was C-3PX, and each piece of him was divided among several Wal*Mart exclusive two-packs, one of which was always a droid boring enough to be a BAD candidate in their own right. Even on mega clearance, it was hard to collect C-3PX for less than $30. Give us some interesting Build-A-Droids, Hasbro!

It may seem like this figure is way too obscure to care about, but that's actually why I ended up buying him. I was fascinated that this design managed to fly under my radar for so many years, and it shows how eventually it's very likely Hasbro will get to just about everything that graced the screen across all six Star Wars films... even Willrow Hood, the "Ice Cream Maker Guy," who I believe is finally actually slated to be released in an upcoming Empire Strikes Back series.

But aside from his novelty at being so mega-obscure, this figure also provides another chance at getting a purely vanilla Stormtrooper figure. Remove the hose and the jetpack, and he's just another soldier in the ranks. Only this time, not only does he have an impeccably painted helmet, he's also not sporting the likeness of Tem Morrison. In fact, he's actually sporting the likeness of the person who was wearing the suit at the time of filming. Can't get more movie-accurate than that, naysayers! I'm sure some people will still gripe about the removable helmet, but hey... if you don't want play value, don't buy action figures! Kotobuyika and Gentle Giant offer some nice statues and busts that'll do a grand job of sitting there doing nothing. If you want a well-sculpted, nicely painted, super-articulated Stormtrooper with the added bonuses of having some cool (and removable) zero-g accessories and the face of one of the most influential people behind the look of the Star Wars universe... go ahead and pick up the Spacetrooper.

-- 03/01/09


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