Cheap Thrills

by Jim Bailey

I discovered 3A toys, and in particular, World War Robot, about a year and a half ago and reacted emotionally to say the least. Nothing had triggered that sort of bone-quaking visceral response since I was a kid and really, really into my toys and comics.  As I began to devour everything on the 3A menu, I slowly puzzled out the metrics of this phenomenon I felt.  It’s all deeply influenced by the pop stuff that Ashley Wood  (and I) was enthralled with as a kid. Turns out we’re the same age and have the same iconic images and stuff burned into our psyches. Go figure. The Names of bots and colorways and characters are reminiscent of early eighties GI Joe. The early chiaroscuro Popbot art looks like Frank Frazetta pounded it out on one of his notorious Sunday evening last-minute frenzies. The robots look like they come straight out of Star Wars. Square is clearly influenced by the Gonk Power Droid.  Bertie Warbot is R2D2 with hands instead of feet, two pegs where his third leg should be, IG-88 style bandoleer, and killer new paint jobs!  Heck, the card packaging IS the Star Wars packaging but for a few tweaks. Nom Deplume variants are clearly influenced by Vader and the Stormtroopers. I have my carded Noir and DIY sitting with some Daywatch and Nightwatch bots. Right above them are carded black and white imperial figs along with some loose Stormtroopers and Vader. The resemblance is uncanny…and cool. The company logo is even a riff on my favorite model company as a kid: Tamiya.  I could go on for pages about influence, homage, and art, graphic design, and toy history in 3A’s works but that’s not what this article is about. Maybe Brodie will nut up and invite me back to do another piece someday if I don’t get booed off stage with this one!

So…when 3A showed their prototype Stormtrooper and Boba Fett, I just about lost bladder control. There it was! The real deal! You have to understand that I had not purchased or really even checked out an action figure since I was about 12…and that was 29 years ago. When the word came down that they would not be granted a license, I started to look around. The first thing I found was the Medicom and Hot Toys stuff. Incredible, but a bit pricy and too tall. I never did go for the 12″ figs when I was a kid. Too much like dolls in my mind. Then, I found the Vintage Collection from Hasbro. We were shopping for something at Target and I happened by the toy aisle, picked up a 3 pack that was packaged just like the original 1978 3 packs (that I got all of for Christmas that year), got home, opened it up, and started playing. Couple hundred bucks later I had like 50 Star Wars figs laying around. These guys are amazing and dirt stinkin’ cheap, next to 3A stuff anyway. They ain’t your Daddy’s Star Wars figures, that’s for sure!

Luke "don't sass me" Skywalker

These are 3-1/2 inch figs like the originals. The sculpting is fantastic, the paint work is tight and the decals are really clean. Check out my homeboy Luke in the pic above. There is a holster for his pistol and that lightsaber clipped onto his belt comes off. He comes with powered-up saber as well as the helmet. Four accessories for an X-wing pilot? Wow! Oh, the individual blister cards for this line of figures are to die for. They look just like they could have been released back in the day. Don’t have any in these pics because I picked the figs up CHEAP in big lots on the ‘bay. Display room is at a premium anyway.

Princess Leia

The Rebellion. Featuring.. Jim's wife?

By the way, this is not actually a review of a set of toys but more of a “hey, check all this stuff out” kind of deal. I warn you that my photography sucks. You can find detailed reviews of all this and much much more on a whole host of dedicated fan sites out there.  Better photos too :-).

editor’s note. Jim, are you REALLY telling people to go check out OTHER review sites? grumble grumble… sigh, continue..

One of the greatest things about these figs is the level of articulation. Almost any pose is possible. They have ball and/or swivel at neck, shoulders, elbow, wrist, waist/legs, knees, and feet. Some of the figures pictured here are from older lines but anything done in the last two years by Hasbro is insanely poseable. That’s an older Chewie above. I think he’s from the SAGA line. Good stuff there too but can’t hold a candle to the new figs. They haven’t redone Chewie yet. The other big deal with the Vintage Collection  is that the face sculpts look like the actors. That Leia Hoth face is about the size of my pinkie nail but it looks like Carrie Fisher . So does my wife, strangely enough 🙂

Big daddy pimp Vader. And Crew

Yeah, that’s right. Check out Vader and his posse. These are stormtroopers from one generation back. The newer ones are even MORE poseable. Vader’s helmet is in two pieces so you can have him rockin’ the hamburger head if you want. I really love how cleverly the joints are all concealed, across the board. Most poses look seamless and natural.

"Comander, what good does chest armor do if our faces and crotches are exposed?"

The Hoth imperials above are a mix of new and older stuff. Snowtroopers, At-AT pilot, and Commander are TVC. Veers and AT-ST pilot are SAGA. At-AT Commander (far left) is a must. Seriously, just go spend twelve bucks on ebay and get one. Right now. Oh, there’s IG-88 hiding behind him. Get him too. He’s so poseable he can break dance.


Big bad Bossk here shows you just how far action figure design has come in 3 decades. I LOVE this guy. I loved him then too although he clearly looks like a freaking muppet next to his contemporary counterpart. Another thing I’ve done is go back and collect all the recarded figs up through the second wave of ESB. That’s about when I quit collecting Star Wars in earnest when I was a kid. I moved onto GI Joe then punk rock and girls. This is fun too. You can buy restoration kits for cheap on ebay. Collect nice specimens of your favorite old figs and recard them yourself. Multiple variants of cardbacks are available too so you can match the backs you had as a kid…if you even remember. I don’t. I mean, I’m a geek and all but…

Snow Job

Yeah, GI Joe is doing it too. These figs are taller. More like 4″. They still feel just right. Check out Snow Job above. This is one of the single coolest figures in my collection. The illustration and graphic design on the packaging  is really tight and homes looks all set to take out a Deep Powder Bramble or a Snowballer droppie with his recoilless. All of the previous comments RE Star Wars apply to this guy. Where he leaves them in the dust is the accessories. See the pic below. He has his rifle with removable swivel tripod, a backpack, 2 skis, 2 poles, camp stove, skillet, gas can, radio and handheld, an ice pick for mountain climbing and, get this, a tent (not shown) that utilizes his skis and poles as the structural elements. Oh, and his jacket comes off, and he comes with a base and cool fold-out mission insert. Is that crazy or what? That’s accessorization at the level of a 12″ fig! These are fetching about 20 bucks after-market. Still a steal at that price, sez I.

Snow Jobs Stuff, wow!

Snake Eyes. Badass and going strong since 1982.

The Snake Eyes above, from the Pursuit of Cobra line by Hasbro (Snow Job is too) is so dripping with accessories that I get lost. There are two knives with sheaths, a pistol with a holster, two katanas with two removable sheaths, explosives pack on shoulder strap, removeable tac vest/harness, trademark UZI and pistol (both have removeable silencers), an assault rifle (not shown), and a head variant (not shown). Whew! My only issue with the Pursuit of Cobra Joes is that they are weirdly long in the legs and the hip articulation, just like the old skool figs, detracts from the presentation.  Most of the new Joes are just as goofy as the later waves of the originals so you have to dig around to find the good stuff.

They have that OG G.I. JOE smell

In addition to the Pursuit of Cobra, there are several other GI Joe lines that have interesting features or that might appeal to peeps. The pic above is of some figs that are the real equivalent of the Star Wars Vintage Collection. They are well articulated, nicely sculpted updates of their 1980-1982 counterparts and sport the original card art. Flash was my first back in the day. $1.50 at Best Products! It took me 6 weeks of allowance to save up for him. I fell out after the 2nd wave cos I grew up (sortof). Snow Job was my favorite fig as a kid. How could he not be. He had skis! There are a couple of nice figs in the Rise of Cobra line as well as the new stuff available at Target/TRU based on the animated series. Cartoony but lots of fun.

One last bit on all this stuff: it’s built to be chewed on by 2 year olds and dogs, go through the wash, and handle at least one bottle rocket shot. Enough Black Cats or a blowtorch will probably kill them (like they did in the eighties) but the point is that these are meant to be played with. They can handle it. Sometimes I think I get lost in the “value” of the relatively shoddily constructed art toys  I’ve collected over the last year and a half and treat them too gingerly. Just pose them occasionally and let them sit there. Give yourself a rest from the fear and go slumming for some cheap thrills. For what you drop on a 12″ fig, you can get buckets of this mass-market stuff to mess around with. I guess I’m just an old guy. The mass-market stuff is so massively better than what I had as a kid (and in many ways, better than 3A) that I can’t help myself. If the devil himself handed me the Bossk and the Snow Job that I feature here back in 1981, I kid you not, I would have sold my soul.

Rock on, brothers and sisters!

Jim Bailey aka Grindhouse

3 thoughts on “Cheap Thrills

  1. The Targets near me suck for Star Wars figs. They don’t seem to stock the vintage lines except for an odd undesirable here and there. Maybe local nerds are buying them all up before I can?


    • Yeah, I’ve had mixed results. Jim’s in Texas, from what I recall the Target in his area kept a pretty good stock of goodies. My local Target (aside from being on the opposite side of the island) hardly had a thing last time I checked.


  2. Yeah, southside San Antonio Targets have all the goodies. I guess all the nerds on the north side are afraid they are gonna get mugged or something cruisin for figs on my side of town.


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