From a Certain Point of View: Which Kenner Star Wars Figure Was the Best?
Posted on August 05 2016
One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers go head-to-head on which toy from Kenner’s original Star Wars line was the greatest.
Boba Fett was the best Kenner Star Wars figure, says “Pixel Dan” Eardley.
When looking back at the Kenner Star Wars line, it may seem hard to choose just one figure that could be considered the best of the bunch. I mean, this is the toy line that pretty much defined what the 3.75” action figure should be. It dominated toy sales and changed the way many toy companies operated. So how could you possibly pick just one figure from such a legendary toy line as being the best? Simple: you choose Boba Fett.
Okay, I already know what you’re thinking. Yes, Boba Fett is a bit overexposed these days. He’s everywhere, and everyone loves him. But really, can you blame anyone for liking such a cool-looking character? If it’s the overabundance of Fett that bothers you, try to think back to a time before everyone had Mandalorian tattoos and the prequels introduced us to Jango Fett. He was mysterious! His face was hidden by a sweet helmet! And he had a jet pack! Instant cool points!
After the craze of the first Star Wars film, the Kenner Star Wars line really took off. Fans were thrilled to have new toys based on these characters they recently fell in love with. But as time went on, fans were gearing up for a return to that galaxy far, far away. It was right at this time that the world got a sneak peek at a brand new character from the next film in the series thanks to Kenner.
Boba Fett was initially offered as a mail-away figure. The offer was plastered on the back of the action figure packages letting you know that this brand new character could join your collection with a mere 4 proofs-of-purchase from other figures! Now of course, we all probably know how this story went. He was initially promoted as having a rocket firing action feature on his backpack, but due to safety concerns the figure that showed up in mailboxes had the rocket glued in place with no spring loaded firing feature anywhere to be found.
But despite this minor disappointment, the figure itself was so exciting to get in hand! The little piece of paper that came with him reminded us that he first appeared in the animated short “A Wookiee Holiday” seen on the Star Wars Holiday Special. This was probably the only time that a piece of official Star Wars merchandise acknowledged that special! But in addition, it also went on to let us know that this fearsome, intergalactic bounty hunter would play a major role in the upcoming film The Empire Strikes Back!
After the initial run of mail-away Fetts, Boba was then offered at retail like the rest of the figures. He was reissued multiple times over the next several years, coming packaged on cardbacks for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and even the short-lived Droids animated toy line!
His role in the film may not have been quite as “major” as that original toy description led us to believe, but it’s an absolute fact that the short amount of screen time, the minimal lines of dialogue, and the straight-up awesome look of the character’s costume made Boba Fett one of the coolest and most loved characters to come out of the Star Wars saga. And if a character was this cool, then you better believe you HAD to have his action figure amongst your collection.
Plus, having this toy allowed you to live out your own adventures with him! Sure, we could send Luke, Leia, and Han on any adventure we wanted to. But we also knew pretty much everything they were up to thanks to the films. Boba Fett was almost a blank slate for us, especially before we really got to see him in Empire and Jedi. How many of you out there had Boba Fett running around as Darth Vader’s right-hand man on your toy adventures? I’m willing to bet most of you.
This vintage Boba Fett action figure is so synonymous with the original Kenner line that over 30 years later in 2010, Hasbro made good on Kenner’s original promise by releasing a new version of the original figure that actually included the spring-loaded rocket firing backpack! Now that’s rad.
The original mail-away Boba Fett action figure from Kenner is the most famous of the Star Wars figure mail-away offers. I might even go so far as to say he’s the most famous mail-away toy of all time. He was released over and over because the demand was high. Much like the bounty hunter in the films that the toy is based upon, Kenner’s Boba Fett is legendary. And that is why he is the best action figure from the original Star Wars toy line.
The Emperor’s Royal Guard was the best Kenner Star Wars figure, says Matt Dracula.
So Dan picked Boba Fett. It’s tough to argue with him. Boba Fett’s action figure looked like a doubly-ornate stormtrooper who’d spent the prior six months playing paintball. Could the wizards at Kenner possibly top that?
In my view, they did — but only once. Released in 1983 as part of the first Return of the Jedi wave, the Emperor’s Royal Guard was my absolute favorite Star Wars figure. (And it remains one of my all-time favorite action figures from any line.)
In Return of the Jedi, the guards served mostly as set dressing, flanking Emperor Palpatine and seeming more ceremonial than functional. At the same time, they were just so intriguing. Fewer in number than any other type of Imperial “troop,” the fact that these dudes protected THE BIGGEST BAD clearly marked them as an elite force.
Silent but violent.
Redder is better.
The awesome aesthetics translated perfectly in action figure form. The Emperor’s Royal Guard was extravagant even by Kenner’s standards, utilizing more “real fabric” than any other Star Wars figure.
Not counting droids, this also may have been the shiniest figure in the series, with reds so red they somehow looked hot to the touch.
Most kids played with their Star Wars figures “as directed,” meaning they followed the rules set by the films to keep everything as in-universe as possible. Other kids — like me — would’ve gladly given Darth Vader’s cape to C-3PO and made him run the Empire.
That’s important to note, because when you skirted canon, the Emperor’s Royal Guard was even cooler. Like, how could this guy not be the leader? His clothes were too fancy, his helmet too menacing. You’d never heard him talk, yet you knew he sounded exactly like Dr. Claw.
As a kid, all of my other Star Wars figures kowtowed to this guy. ALL of them, irrespective of whether they were hero, villain, or rancor. In a move that seemed super clever to my four-year-old brain, I took to calling him “The Royal Emperor” instead.
I still think it fits.
The Emperor’s Royal Guard had other tricks up his sleeve, too. Kenner never intended this, but when you tore off the figure’s outer cloak, what remained looked like an especially svelte space alien wearing a cocktail dress. I did that to one figure and left another unmolested, and suddenly Han and Leia weren’t the only power couple in my personal Star Wars universe.
You could also tear off the second layer of fabric to create a third character. The “naked” Emperor’s Royal Guard usually acted as a prisoner for my other action figures — sort of like a really red version of the Man in the Iron Mask.
(And then you could use all of those torn-off capes to make your finger puppets look like superheroes. This action figure just never stopped giving!)
I collected more of these guards than any other Star Wars figure, and it had nothing to do with army-building. Even when I already owned one (or two, or five), so few Star Wars figures seemed like better choices when I was at Toys “R” Us.
So what if I had six Royal Guards but no Lobots? Lobot didn’t look like a cherry Blow Pop under a pile of blankets. I’ll take the usual, Geoff.
My brain might agree with Dan about Boba Fett, but sometimes, you’ve gotta trust your heart. The Emperor’s Royal Guard was the very best of Kenner’s Star Wars figures.
What do you think? Is Boba the boss? Or does the Royal Guard rule? Who would you pick as best? Let us know in the comments below!
“Pixel Dan” Eardley is a reviewer, reporter, and all-around toy enthusiast. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, Dan enjoyed a variety of popular toys including Star Wars, among many others. His love of toys has followed him into his adult life where he continues to collect toys both new and old. Through his popular videos on his YouTube channel, with over 100,000 subscribers, Dan shares his enthusiasm for the collecting hobby with the world.