Raiders of the Lost Toyline: Part 4 – The (late) Spring of Indiana Jones, and dreams of what might have been
*Click Here to read Raiders of the Lost Toyline: Part 1 – The Summer of Indiana Jones
*Click Here to read Raiders of the Lost Toyline: Part 2 – The Fall of Indiana Jones
*Click Here to read Raiders of the Lost Toyline: Part 3 – The Winter of Indiana Jones
By the start of 2009, there was little hope left for the merchandising realms of Indiana Jones.
The majority of product for the acclaimed character and his friends, had hit its peak that previous summer, and as it stood, other lines were starting to wind down, from cold-cast statues, to the LEGO toys and games. Pretty soon, Indy-mania would be as fondly remembered as the excitement of a fourth Indy film.
For those who who were collecting Hasbro’s action figures based on the characters, the beginning of 2009 was a period where hope rose and fell.
At Comic-Con in 2008, Hasbro had included a slide that outlined the future of the Indiana Jones line beyond 2008. Their information had shown early prototypes and painted figures, for a second wave of toys. These would be additional figures based off of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
But, the expected release date of January 2009 came and went, and it seemed that those figures would end up being one of many Lucasfilm-related products that would never come to pass.
And then, came the announcement in the Spring of 2011. As Hasbro began to reveal their offerings for that year’s Comic-Con exclusives, they surprised many action figure fans, when they claimed that those lost figure moldings would definitely see the light of day!
Given that 2011 was the 30th Anniversary of Raiders, Hasbro decided to tie the exclusive release to this film’s major milestone. They then packaged 6 figures in the box design as seen on the left, and gave some lucky people the chance to get the last dregs of this promising, yet DOA toyline.
Almost all of the figures are new, with the exception of Indy in his jacket and fedora. This is a repaint/remold of the Raiders Indy that came out in the Summer of 2008. The figure does come with a few extra accessories, including the bag of sand he uses in the film.
Unlike the relic boxes that the figures from 2008 came with, these sport special stands with the Indiana Jones logo on them. This almost makes one wish there could have been a way to get additional ones, for the other Indy figures in our collections.
The set also has Indy in the German disguise he wore in his attempts to destroy the Ark before it could be opened. One can’t help but feel this release could have very well become the pegwarmer of the series. Even so, it does have a nice little bit with the red mark on Indy’s forehead: a souvenir of his attempts at getting the Ark back in previous scenes.
The set also gives us that rarity of figures from the series: another woman! Though in this case, the return of Marion Ravenwood, in the white dress given to her by Rene Belloq. Of course, this is after she is unceremoniously dumped into the Well of Souls, and loses a shoe. The sculptors and Hasbro have done a remarkable job in giving us a one-shoed Marion. She also comes with a small group of snakes, with a hooded cobra front and center.
The figure also improves over the previous Marion figure, in that her face looks a little more like Karen Allen, and has the additions of ankle and knee joints to move about.
The best thing this set did give us, was some include variety when it came to the amount of bad guys that Indy could go up against.
Satipo (played by Alfred Molina in the film) was one of the first casual baddies Indy encounters, when the timid assistant turns on Indy, attempting to make off with one of his treasures…before his own hubris gets the better of him. Satipo doesn’t really come with a weapon, but an assemblage of plastic spiders, meant to mimic the ones that clustered on his shirt after he and Indy went into the temple.
The German Mechanic that Indy goes up against, is also a nice touch. He not only comes with his cap, but also a gun and a wrench, and his muscles that soon ended up giving Indy quite a run for his money. And just like in the film, he towers over Indy, making him a formidable foe.
Though for many of us, the highlight of the set is Toht, the somewhat unhinged German with a Peter Lorre-feel to his interrogation methods. Of all the figures, Toht gets the lion’s share of removable accessories! He comes with a hot poker, the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra, and two interchangeable right hands (one normal, the other with part of the headpiece burned into it!) Along with a removable hat, he also comes with one of the coolest and disgusting additions: a melting head (the stuff that gave many of us nightmares as a kid)!
Thanks to a good friend of mine, I was able to get one of the sets from HasbroToyShop.com after Comic-Con 2011 for the $60 price tag (which breaks down to around $10 per figure!). The aftermarket value on the set has not let up after almost 3 years. You won’t find a full set running for less than $200 on eBay, and loose or single figures taken from the set will not be cheap either. The lowest I saw any one figure go for, was Indy in his German disguise, for around $40 loose. Even though I love the figures included in this set, I have not been able to bring myself to let them out of their packaging.
It is rather sad that on the secondary market, most of the fandom for Indiana Jones has been able to clean up pretty well. As it stands for those of us wanting to watch our wallets, it hasn’t been the best of times.
My Top 10 figures that Hasbro missed out on
With the release of the Comic-Con boxset, the final nail in the coffin container was sealed, and Hasbro pretty much ended any future hopes we’d be seeing other figures from the Lucasfilm productions.
Over the years, I have often lamented a number of characters that could have been perfect to have figures made of them, and so, I decided to include them in the list below:
10. Harold Oxley – This archaeologist and friend of Indy (played by John Hurt) would have been a decent inclusion to the adventures for the Crystal Skull. Oxley would most likely come with his poncho, the wind stick he had, and the crystal skull he carried around for much of the film.
9. Mac – Probably of all the people he’s worked with, there’s noone Indy has ever wanted to support and strangle more than George “Mac” McHale (Ray Winstone). A man who couldn’t seem to decide who he was working for, Mac’s figure would have been ripe for action figure roleplaying of some kid having Indy punching him in the face over and over again.
8. The Maharaja of Pankot Palace – Even though he had a rather small role to play in Temple of Doom the young Maharaja would have been a nice addition, with an Indy voodoo doll to carry around.
7. Marion Ravenwood (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) – While many blasted the 4th film for its Inter-dimensional beings and Shia Le Beouf, there was the quickly-forgotten return of many people’s favorite Indy girl: Marion Ravenwood (played again by Karen Allen). It would have been nice to have seen a figure of Marion in her more proper suit she wears for the remainder of their journey (right), let alone give Indy his love-interest for the film.
6. Colonel Dietrich (Raiders of the Lost Ark) – While there were many German officers seen in Raiders, the man who seemed to be heads above the rest was Colonel Dietrich (Wolf Kahler). The man who seemed moreso about making sure efficiency and the task at hand was all for the glory of Germany, one could definitely wish there to have been a figure for him to finish the triumvirate of evil that was himself, Rene Belloq, and Toht. It would be cool if he came with a interchangeable head where it shriveled up with the opening of the Ark.
5. Sallah (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) – Even though we already had a figure of Sallah, it was not in his more recognizable get-up in a white suit and red fez (and they say Fez’s are coming back in style these days!). The outfit would definitely have allowed Indy’s friend to get around better on crazier adventures than just digging in the dirt.
4. Marcus Brody (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) – Who could forget one of Indy’s first academic partners we see? Usually situated on the sidelines, Brody became part of the action in Last Crusade when he became integral to the overall storyline. In this case, he’d most likely be clad in his grey suit.
3. Lao Che (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) – The bad guy from the tail end of another Indiana Jones adventure that segued into Temple, this two-timing gangster from Shanghai would come with the poison antidote vial (see right), as well as the urn holding the remains of Manchu dynasty Emperor, Nurhaci.
2. Walter Donovan (Raiders of the Lost Ark) – Surprisingly enough, Donovan was the main villain of Last Crusade, but did not get any figures made. Then again, like most of the bad guys, he was a well-dressed man in a suit. Even so, it might have been nice to see him with interchangeable head/hands from when the false grail robbed him of life.
1. Rene Belloq – Indy’s first major villain, and one that I felt was sadly sidelined with his final ceremonial robe from the end of Raiders. Belloq was often a man of suits, notably his white one. This was the outfit he often wore, which made him pop out amidst the drab uniforms of the Germans, let alone act as a inverted color to the black-suited Toht.
And with that coda, this round of my column, Raiders of the Lost Toyline, comes to an end regarding the Indiana Jones action figure toylines. In the future, I’m hoping to talk about a few other toylines that reared their heads and then crashed on delivery, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (yep, you heard right!).
It’s been almost 12 years since I last visited the San Diego Comic-Con. I attended the con 5 times before the 21st century, and it was my first major eye-opener to the world of comic creators, panel discussions, and much more. I keep saying that one of these days I’ll go back, but after hearing how big the convention has grown (not to mention the masses staying in line for days to get in to certain panels!), I wonder if I dare to. Even so, this year’s convention fueled a memory of one of my favorite experiences there.
In February of 1998, my first (official) introduction to the world of Japanese anime and manga came when I checked out Urusei Yatsura Movie 2: Beautiful Dreamer from a local video store. It served as my gateway to the works of manga creator Rumiko Takahashi, and within the span of a year, I had gotten into her other major series, such as Maison Ikkoku, and Ranma 1/2.
I really grew to love Takahashi’s art style, and was one of the few that spoke up about their love for her first major work, Urusei Yatsura. At the time I had discovered Urusei, Viz Communications had begun to cancel the manga series, due to low sales (believe me, it was too weird for the majority of American audiences, but not for me!).
Not wishing to be denied over 60 % of the series’ stories, I soon after started up a small fan-translating group online called Project ILM: Industrial Lum & Manga (much like the series relied on puns, so did I for my group’s name). Made up largely of a volunteer squad of dedicated fans, we succeeded in translating and compositing the remaining stories of Urusei Yatsura by 2003. The Project’s site has come down since then, but our translated stories are still floating around out there (you’ll find several with my name listed as a compositor).
In the Spring of 2000, an article in a far corner of the internet announced that Rumiko Takahashi would be making her 2nd stateside appearance that summer at Comic-Con (she had last appeared there in 1994). This appearance would entail both a discussion panel, and an autograph session!
The year 2000 was the first time I spent 4 days at the con, and in the end, it was good that I came prepared. Once I arrived that Thursday (July 20, 2000), I was informed that there was a 350-person limit to the autograph sessions (200 set for Saturday, and 150 for Sunday). I spoke with a couple fans who were also reading the fine print, and it seemed that this was to prevent what happened in 1994. Apparently, autograph tickets were available on a first-come/first-serve basis at that show, and the majority of them were scooped up by sellers on the floor, who then took some of their wares to Takahashi, and then marked up the signed items for bigger sales later on.
On Friday (July 21, 2000), as soon as we got past the entrance, I made my way down towards the Viz Communications booth, and got my ticket. At their booth, a representative for Viz made the announcement that there would be 4 drawings on Friday (for the Saturday autograph session), and 3 drawings on Saturday (for the Sunday session). Also interspersed within the autograph tickets, were several ‘gold’ passes, that would not only get you an autograph, but a personal sketch drawn by Takahashi herself! When the time came for the drawings, many of us crowded around the booth’s limited floor space.
The first few drawings were a bust for me, but third time proved to be the charm, as they posted the drawing information at their booth, and I saw my ticket number announced! I eagerly stepped forward, and received my autograph ticket:
The next day (July 22, 2000), I came armed with Volume 15 of Urusei Yatsura, and made my way up to the ‘Sail Area’ on the convention center’s roof. The wait in line was definitely a lot of fun for us Takahashi fans. There were some people who had brought animation cels for Takahashi to sign, and one person even dressed up as Genma Saotome in Panda Bear form! I was also fortunate enough to meet another fan of Urusei Yatsura, who had also brought Volume 15 of the collected manga with him as well!
Eventually, I made it to the head of the line. I stammered out some praise towards Takahashi-sensei, and eagerly handed Vol 15 over to Toshi Yoshida, one of Viz’s translators. However, there arose a question: where should Takahashi sign?
Eventually, I chose for her to sign her name on the first page, which featured a watercolor/ink print of the main characters Lum, and Ataru Moroboshi, in wedding attire. Below, you can see a scan of the image along with Rumiko’s signature. One fun addition that Takahashi made, was a tiny little image of the piglet P-Chan, from Ranma 1/2 (you can see him just to the left of her signature!). I caught up later on with the guy who also had the same volume as I did. Not only did he also choose the same place for Takahashi to sign, but she drew a little Piyo-Piyo chick from her series Maison Ikkoku for him.
After the autograph session, the next event that many of the fans were awaiting, was a question and answer panel in Rooms 6A/B. I endured discussion panels by Kevin Smith and then the gang of Futurama, before it was time for Takahashi.
I actually came prepared to record the session, and previously had 90% of the panel discussion posted on the internet back in 2000 (transcribed, of course). We were also treated to some newly- dubbed episodes of Ranma 1/2, and the first animated preview for the soon-to-be-released Inu-Yasha television series (based on Takahashi’s recently-released manga title). There were some predictable questions (“What does Maison Ikkoku’s Mr Yotsuya do for a living anyways?”), and even a couple that debunked some rumors (“I heard that Lum was a nickname of yours. Is that true?”).
I managed to ask Takahashi the 4th question of the panel, which was in regards to the character Akane Tendo from Ranma 1/2. Originally, Akane had long hair, but 13 stories in, it was chopped to a shorter look that she retained through the rest of the series. I had to know from Takahashi, “what was your main reason for cutting Akane’s hair?”
After some discussion with translator Toshi Yoshida, I got my response:
“That’s just the way the story developed. I’m sorry.”
The discussion panel lasted for 1 hour and 45 minutes, before Takahashi gave a graceful thank you and left the stage.
Since those few days at Comic-Con, I’ve looked all over the internet, but never found anyone else who had chronicled this appearance by Takahashi. It seems this may have been her last US visit, as I have been unable to find information about any appearances since then (whether in San Diego, or other major American cities). Because of that, I feel kind of special that I could post this information. I originally had a small page on Geocities dedicated to the event, and it’s supposedly still out there in cyberspace, along with my transcript of the discussion panel. I’d love to post it up somewhere, but am not sure where. I’m sure several fans would love to read some of those questions and answers from that July day.
I don’t know what it is about the 1990’s, but there seems to be an overload of special-edition/limited-edition stuff overflowing from that decade. One that reared its head in the 90’s comic industry, were Variant Covers.
It used to be that one would buy a comic book, and that was it. That was all you got. But somewhere in the early 1990’s, the gimmick of specially bagging comic books with extra incentives (like promo trading cards), or giving them alternate covers came into play.
In February 1994, the Wildstorm Productions arm of Image Comics released the beginnings of a 4-issue miniseries titled Gen 13 (originally titled Gen X, until Marvel Comics came knocking on their door).
The comic dealt with a group of super-powered teens, who after their powers manifest at a secret training facility in the desert, go on the run from the group I.O. (International Operations). Joining them is former I.O. member John Lynch, who has defected, and becomes the group’s mentor as they work out their life and new powers in La Jolla, California.
The series proved to be a surprise hit, and even ended up adding a 5th part to the storyline, and serving as a launching pad for up-and-coming artist J Scott Campbell (also known these days for his art on Danger Girl, and Wildsiderz). As it neared the end of its run in 1994, word spread that Wildstorm would make Gen 13 into an ongoing series, with the first issue released in March 1995.
I remember eagerly walking into my local comic shop, only to be greeted by a surprise. Along with 2 regular cover variants, I noticed 4-6 different covers for issue #1 sitting behind the counter (with much higher price tags, courtesy of the shop owner). Now, I had encountered variant covers before (they were a staple of the whole death/return of Superman saga DC Comics did), but Image had taken the promotion of this new release to insane levels.
According to the comic shop owner, as well as Wizard magazine, a total of 13 different covers had been released. Even though I salivated over these covers, they cost much more than a 15-year-old like myself could afford (my Dad also wouldn’t pay the $25+ per issue they were asking). Though somehow, over the course of the next year, I did manage to obtain all 13 of the covers. Nowadays, pricing on the variant covers is not as extreme as it was in 1995 (I attended the San Diego Comic-Con for the first time that year, and a couple sellers were asking upwards of $70 for a couple!!), but still, it can take a little jumping around to find these. So, let’s take a little stroll down memory lane, and look at the 13 different variant covers, and a few other odds and ends. Also, if you want to see what the covers look like at a higher resolution, simply click on the image.
I never did find one of the super-rare Do-It-Yourself variants, but over the years, I have been very fortunate to get a couple Do-It-Yourself covers drawn on by several members of the original Gen 13 crew:
But wait, that’s not all!
Btw, in case anyone is wondering, no, these are not for sale!
Now that we’ve blown through 13 covers, it may surprise you to know that there is an unofficial 14th cover. This cover was never released on retail shelves, but is part of a collected box set. Adding more wood to the collecting fire, Wildstorm released a slipcase box set containing all 13 variant covers.
The incentive to purchase these box sets was the 14th cover, signed by either Jim Lee, Brandon Choi, J Scott Campbell, or Alex Garner. Each signature set for each of the creators was limited to a numbered edition between 1500-2500. Unknown to a lot of people, there was a super-rare ‘Artists Proof’ red-box of the variant cover set that was released. If you were looking to get that exclusive 14th cover without a signature, this was where you’d find it.
Through an online source, I was able to obtain one of these rare treasures, though I was surprised that unlike the black box set, the red one does not give a number of how many were produced (mine just has the number “294” on it). I have a vague recollection of the comic store owner I used to go to in Iowa, telling me that he heard one was going for $500 (and this was in 1995!). Since then, I’ve never seen a proper price guide amount for the ‘Artists Proof’ set, which I guess just goes to show that these sets are incredibly rare.
I will admit even with the promise of an unsigned Chromium Cover inside, I have not been able to bring myself to open my set. I’ll blindly trust that the “legends” are true (and that possibly, there may be a drawn-on Do-It-Yourself cover inside too!), and keep my set sealed.
But, the fun doesn’t stop there.
Later the same year that Gen 13 was released as a regular series, Image released the trading card set Wildstorm Archives I, which was a 99-card set showcasing cover art from various comics under the Wildstorm Productions banner. These included art from comics like Wildcats, Stormwatch, Deathblow, and more. Every card series needs some chase cards (aka special incentive cards) to make people keep buying, and that’s where Gen 13 came into play. 1 out of every 6 trading card packs contained 1 of 11 holofoil cards that showed one of the variant covers.
Over the years, I have often wondered which of the covers is the most popular, as I’m sure everyone has their favorites (mine is Cover 1J!). Sometimes when I visit random comic shops, I’ll leaf through the Gen 13 back issues to see what’s sitting around. Aside from covers 1A & 1B, I often found cover 1F to be the one that would pop up most often. Of course, sex appeal does sell, and that explains why covers 1G & 1H are almost never seen in back-issue bins. Sometimes, you can get a good deal on a set selling on eBay, or in some shops (I saw a 1C at a shop the other day going for just $2!).
Keep in mind that this was not the only variant cover gimmick that Image took part in. There was an 8-cover variant set that came out in the fall of 1994, with each of Image’s main titles getting a special issue that showed all of Wildstorm Production‘s main characters front-and-center, creating a connecting image that spanned across all 8 covers. In August 1996, a spin-off from Gen 13 was created, with the series DV8. This series followed a second set of super-powered teens, although moreso a bad-guy version, and led by John Lynch’s former partner, Ivana Baiul. The release of the DV8 series was heralded with 8 variant covers. Along with a group-shot, the remaining 7 covers featured one team member partaking in one of the seven deadly sins. Unlike those from the Gen 13 release, prices for the extra covers barely reached above $10, and it was pretty easy to obtain a full set at release time from local comic shops.
After leaving Gen 13 to pursue greener pastures, J Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell then created the Indiana Jones/James Bond homage comic series titled Danger Girl, which continued the trend of multiple variant covers. However, collecting the Gen 13 #1 variants was a cake-walk compared to all the exclusives that were released for Danger Girl (from merchant-exclusive releases, to foil-tinted cover-art, and even one cover release that was recalled!). I almost got into the hype, when my pre-order for the issue #1 Chromium cover netted me one on that issue’s release date. I held onto it for a couple years, before selling it to fund part of my trip to Comic-Con 2000. In the end, I didn’t really regret it, as my heart wasn’t quite into this new series like it had been with Gen 13.
All these years later, Gen 13 has been the only comic series in my collection that I was there for the start of. Though I can vaguely recall some of the story points all these years later, it was mainly Campbell’s art that kept me coming back for more, and by the time his art duties began to wane around issue #20, I began to pull away. It was a fun part of my teenage years collecting the series, and I still have a fondness for this little Variant Cover gimmick that Wildstorm pulled during the 1990’s.