Twenty years ago, Kenner (purchased by Hasbro in 1991) released their first wave of “modern” Star Wars action figures in 1995. Most fans remember these figures for their exaggerated musculature and wrestler-like stance. There were nine characters in all from A New Hope — including the infamous Princess Leia figure — packaged in reddish cards with Vader’s helmet as the signature sign of the line. A rather small photo (compared to the vintage cards) was shown on the front of the card, while the back offered a biography of the character and a lineup of the other figures and vehicles.
Do you remember what was included in the next wave of Hasbro’s modern figures? Let’s find out!
Wave 2 (December 1995)
Luke Skywalker (X-wing Pilot Gear): This figure shows Luke in his Rogue Leader outfit from The Empire Strikes Back and includes a DL-44 blaster and lightsaber. The lightsaber can be short or long (Kenner replaced the early long lightsabers with shorter versions). The figure has a nice amount of details — especially on the helmet — and can even be considered a debut figure since the vintage Luke X-wing pilot was based on his appearance from A New Hope. Like the previous Luke, this toy suffers from being too muscular, but has an improved stance.
Lando Calrissian: This muscular incarnation of Lando is based on his appearance at Cloud City. Lando’s cape can be attached to an opening in his back. While the cape isn’t too loose, it certainly won’t remain attached under any circumstances either. Lando comes with an oversized blaster rifle (based on the vintage Cloud City blaster) and a slightly different E-11 blaster. His stance and likeness are not that bad, but his muscles (he even has a six pack) make him look more like an ally of He-Man instead of the charming Baron Administrator of Cloud City.
Boba Fett: The ever popular bounty hunter also has an oversized upper torso, and the colors of his armor are identical to his appearance in Return of the Jedi (making this the first modern figure based on the film): blue and yellow jet pack, wine-red wrist gauntlets, and brown gloves (derived from promotional pictures where Fett is wearing a prototype armor). There are several small variations of the figure with half circles, full dots, or no dots (theoretically the rarest one) on the gloves. Fett comes with a sawed-off EE-3 Blaster Rifle, removable jet pack, and a cape. The figure would also be released in a “Shadows of the Empire” two-pack.
Wave 3 (March 1996)
Yoda: Although lacking individual legs (he has four points of articulation and can sit down), this still remains a pretty decent figure. While the vintage Yoda had a cloth cape, this Yoda’s clothes are fully sculpted for more detail. Better Yoda figures have certainly been made by Hasbro, but this one is not a total anachronism among more modern figures. His face is acceptable and the Jedi Master comes with two accessories: his gimer stick and Luke’s enormous backpack. Hasbro would release this figure quite a few times with minor changes.
Luke Skywalker (Dagobah Fatigues): This variation of Luke is a true debut figure since Kenner never made Luke in this outfit during the ’80s. While Luke is still too beefy, Hasbro managed to tone down his muscles compared to the Luke farmboy from 1995. He still sports a wide stance and comes with a blaster pistol and a lightsaber (either short or long). With the backpack that was included with the Yoda figure, you could recreate the scene of Luke running around on Dagobah during his Jedi training. This would be the first of three times that Yoda, the backpack, and Luke Dagobah would be released by Hasbro in the same wave. The figure’s balance when carrying both Yoda and the backpack is quite impressive.
Han Solo (In Hoth Gear): Han Hoth is beefy with a wide stance and comes with a DL-44 and a heavy assault rifle (designed by Hasbro). The figure has a variation since his right hand can be “closed” (so he can hold a weapon) or open, but it’s doubtful that any fans are still searching for this variation today. While the vintage Han Hoth is sporting the hood of his anorak, this version instead features Rebel headgear. The vintage jacket is also dark blue, while this one is more of a grayish blue. (Han’s anorak was actually dark brown, but appears to be blueish in the movie.)
TIE Fighter Pilot: This first modern edition of the TIE pilot (many would follow) is based on the character’s appearance in Return of the Jedi since it sports a similar chest apparatus. The figure comes with an E-11 blaster rifle (the same as Lando Calrissian) and an enormous assault rifle. While it isn’t too muscular, the arms look rather short and the helmet is small compared to the one in the movies. After the stormtrooper, this was the second troop builder made by Hasbro for the modern line.
Wave 4 (June 1996)
Han Solo (In Carbonite Block): This was Hasbro’s third Han Solo figure and the first from Return of the Jedi. Han’s beefiness continues to diminish and he comes with the DL-17 blaster he used to shoot one of the Sarlacc’s tentacles in order to free Lando. While this figure doesn’t come with a transparent carbonite block like the vintage line, there is a slot to attach the figure inside. The block itself is nicely sculpted and is an improvement over the vintage one.
Luke Skywalker (Jedi Knight): Hasbro’s progress comes full circle with Luke Jedi Knight. Though Luke’s likeness is still far away from the film, the beefiness has once again been toned down along with his wide stance. The figure comes with a black plastic cape (unlike the vintage cloth) and a lightsaber (no long/short variation), and has some variations that include a gray vest (instead of a black one) and an exclusive blister to celebrate the release of the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi. Those exclusive figures demanded a substantial amount of money, but today only a handful of fans would probably still be interested.
Han Carbonite and Luke Jedi were released simultaneously with five single-carded figures from Lucasfilm’s 1996 multimedia project, “Shadows of the Empire.” This is the reason why the cardbacks also show ships and figures from the short-lived Shadows sub line.
While the first wave of action figures contained some pretty weird-looking action figures (Chewbacca, Princess Leia), Hasbro seemed to have listened to the fans and the criticism, reducing physique and improving their overall appearance. Throughout the years Hasbro made far better versions of these action figures, but 1995-96 was a welcome return to the toys that once charmed an entire generation.
Photo by starwarscollector.com.
Sources: The Action Figure Archive (1999) and The Ultimate Action Figure Collection (2012).
Tim Veekhoven (Sompeetalay) from Belgium, is president and co-founder of TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars fanclub. He has written for Star Wars Insider, Build the Millennium Falcon, and has created character back stories for “What’s the Story?” and Rogues Gallery.