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By Thomas Wheeler

It's said that George Lucas didn't especially like Boba Fett. More to the point, it's been said that he didn't like the character's popularity. Here was a character, first introduced in an animated segment in the otherwise ill-fated Star Wars Holiday Special, that gave us, among other horrors, Bea Arthur as a singing bartender, who was a ruthless mercenary sent to round up Han Solo and friends. He was on retainer with the criminal Jabba the Hutt, and was readily prepared to work with the Empire to secure his prey. He didn't even mind taking Solo back to Jabba as a frozen entree, as long as he didn't lose any money in the bargain.

So how'd he get so popular? It apparently bugged Lucas so much that he dumped Boba into the Sarlaac's pit on Tatooine at the first opportunity, in a rather embarassing situation where Han Solo accidentally activated the mercenary's jet pack.

But even THAT didn't stop Boba. Between the post-movie novels and comic books, Boba survived the fall into the beast's stomach, eventually made his way out, was nursed back to health by a fellow bounty hunter, and went on to cause even more trouble over the years.

You just can't keep a good bad guy down -- even if you're that character's creator. Wouldn't surprise me if Lucas just finally gave up on it and gave in, which is why he worked Boba Fett into the Special Edition of the first movie, and then introduced us to Boba's father, Jango Fett, in Episode II, and gave us a sort-of-cute-little-kid version of Boba in the process, who then went on to star in his own series of young reader paperback novels.

Personally, I'm still wishing they'd do a 12"-scale version of the younger Boba. All Hasbro would need to do is use the same molds they used for the Episode I Anakin, just with a different head and clothes. Put him in a two-pack with a 12" Jango or even a three-pack with a 12" Jango and a 12" adult Boba and watch 'em fly off the shelves. If there's one truth in the Star Wars universe -- Boba Fett is a popular fellow. You wouldn't want him paying you an -- official visit, but he's a popular fellow.

Boba Fett as an action figure has just as storied a history. The very first Boba Fett figure ever offered was actually a mail-in, oddly by virtue of his animated debut, thus revealing him as the first new character for The Empire Strikes Back. Boba was supposed to have a built-in spring-activated missile launcher, but after some little kid hurt himself on an entirely different toy, and some litigious parent screamed bloody murder along with her lawyer, that was the end of spring-loaded toys for a great many years. It was also the beginning of the end of taking responsibility for your own actions and anything resembling discipline in the public school systems once parents realized they could sue over stuff like this, but this is a toy review column, not a newspaper editorial.

So Boba lost his spring-loaded missile. Although, as legend has it, a number of them were made, and supposedly have leaked out over the years. Interestingly, once the Star Wars line resumed in the mid-90's, it wasn't too many years before Hasbro/Kenner decided to have a bit of fun and correct a mistake from nearly 20 years prior, and issued a Deluxe Boba Fett with a rocket-firing backpack. Spring-loaded toys had made a comeback in recent years, as long as they wre designed with "safety" in mind, so that if you were dumb enough to fire it at anything bigger than a half-grown hamster, no harm would be done. I don't think the half-grown hamster would much notice, either.

Fast forward to 2004. As part of the celebration of the release of the Original Trilogy Collection on DVD, Hasbro has been producing two distinct "OTC" toy lines. One features standard carded figures. The other features carded figures on cards that, at least on the front, are good replicas of the original cards used back in the 70's and 80's, sealed inside a protective plastic bubble. These so-called "Vintage Original Trilogy Collection" figures, so named for their carded packaging, are known for a specifically heightened level of detail and -- notably -- articulation.

I reviewed the VOTC Stormtrooper a while back. But I had several people recommending Boba Fett to me as well. Now, some of the figures in this collection have been scarcer than others. You can generally find Luke, Han, and Obi-Wan without the least bit of difficulty. The next assortment, which features characters like Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Stormtrooper, and Lando Calrissian, has been a lot tougher to find. They generally show up one day and are gone by the next.

But, I did recently find a Boba Fett. Originally intended for a friend of mine, he actually found one on his own, so I decided to keep it for myself. And indeed, of you're looking for the ultimate 3-3/4" Boba Fett figure -- there's no question that this is it.

Like the Stormtrooper, Boba isn't the least bit pre-posed. Also like the Stormtrooper, Boba has a truly amazing level of articulation. The head in ball-jointed. He is articulated at the shoulders, upper swiverl arm, elbow, wrist articulation at the gauntlets, waist, legs, knees and upper leg swivel, and ankles. About the only area that I'd say doesn't quite measure up would be that the legs move forward and backwars, but not outward.

In the Stormtrooper, hiding these articulation points as part of the armor design was fairly straightforward work. In Boba Fett, it's a little tougher, but Hasbro still managed to succeed incredibly well. Look at the figure in a basic standing position, and all you're going to see are the elbow joints. It's not until you open the figure and test the movement that you begin to realize what an amazing design job went into this.

Unlike G.I.Joe figures, I don't expect Star Wars figures to maintain a total consistency of design. Given the vast variety of humans, aliens, and robots, it just wouldn't be possible. Sometimes I'm amazed that the three aliens worked into the G.I.Joe line, the Lunartix, worked as well format-wise as they did. In Star Wars, it would be impossible.

That having been said, the design that Hasbro has come up with for Boba Fett, not only to articulate him well, but also make those articulation points less than obvious, is truly superb, and they are to be commended for it.

Boba comes with a blaster rifle, as well as a detachable jet pack. He has a small fabric (!) cape which has been folded, pressed, and attached to the back of his shoulder armor. My one and only complaint about this figure is that the shoulder armor is a separate piece glued into place, and mine wasn't glued very neatly. Oh, it fit properly -- but I spent a fair amount of time carving away as carefully as possible some sloppy-looking excess glue. And I'd love to know what brand of rubber cement Hasbro uses on these things. It's strong stuff.

One additional articulation point is the antennae/sighting device on Boba's helmet. It really does swing down in front of his visor. Nice touch.

The paint work is excellent. Boba Fett is one of those characters that's not supposed to look 100% clean and neat. This was actually explained in one story I read, where it was remarked that something Boba learned from his father was never to polish his armor too much. A bounty hunter does not want to stand out in a crowd any more than necessary. It can turn him into a target and make him miss his target. So along with the appropriate applied insignias, there are a few painted dings and dents on the figure. But, no one can deny that this certainly looks like Boba Fett.

One wonders, finally, if George Lucas had any idea what he was creating when he came up with Boba Fett. Many fictional pop culture concepts have that ONE character that just seemed to take off on his own. When Gene Roddenberry was creating Star Trek The Next Generation, he had to be talked into putting a Klingon on the bridge. And yet Worf went on to become one of the show's most popular characters, and then gave Star Trek Deep Space Nine a boost for four years. When Hasbro was creating G.I.Joe, the only reason Snake-Eyes was all black was to save money on the paint applications. And look at the popularity that character has enjoyed since then.

Boba Fett had limited screen time in Empire Strikes Back, very few lines, and showed up in Return of the Jedi scarcely long enough to meet an embarassing end -- which if you take the comics and novels into account, didn't even last that long. I doubt very much that Lucas expected this bounty hunter to take off well beyond what even his own personal jet pack could manage.

But he did. And now, he's back on the toy shelves, and in fine form. There's also a 12" version out there, that's been getting some solid reviews, but if you want a very cool Boba Fett that will cost less money and certainly take up less space, then I give my very enthusiastic recommendation to the VINTAGE ORIGINAL TRILOGY COLLECTION BOBA FETT!