With a slew of new Star Wars figures about to explode on the market this Friday, bringing with it a new generation of collectors, I’ve been thinking more and more about some of the coolest toy collectibles out there. Today, however, I wanted to talk more specifically about one of my favorite ‘genres’ to collect from, the Star Wars Expanded Universe (which are all Legends now). While Star Wars villains has long been my primary focus for collecting, but another area I have to continually track down items deal with the EU. I’m not talking about the Expanded Universe material themselves, but rather the toys and other items that spawned from the comics, video games, and books over the last few decades.
The EU has always been a line I’ve avidly sought after. There are only so many toys they can make from the movies (especially prior to the Prequels release), so when licensees began utilizing characters and vehicles from the Expanded Universe it gave fans something fresh they hadn’t seen, physically, before. I know of many fans who have as much passion for certain EU stories/characters as they do for the films and these collectibles gave them a chance to expand their collection to include those as well.
If you feel like this fits you, or you’re simply looking for a new, unique, area of collecting, these are some of the items you’ll want to keep an eye out for:
Micro-Machine Epic Collection
Galoob’s line of Micro Machines were already a popular item for Star Wars collectors. With a bevy of impressive playsets and expansions, fans were able to reconstruct some of the biggest scenes from the films without taking up a lot of space. Then they come along and make things even better by developing Micro Machines from the books. While they made a few different vehicle packs for the EU, the coolest items came from their Epic Collection line.
This series adapted characters and ships from a handful of books: Heir to the Empire, Jedi Search, The Truce at Bakura, Dark Apprentice, Dark Force Rising, and The Courtship of Princess Leia. The neatest thing about this line of Micro Machines is they’re designed to look like the books they’re based on. Hanging on the rack, they look akin to the paperback versions of the books, but opening them up reveals the miniaturized incarnations of the characters you’ve read about.
It’s such a fun idea, especially in a time when the EU was still developing and largely disconnected. At that point in time, toy/collectible developers weren’t interested in creating much material based on the books, keeping their focus solely on the films. These Micro Machine packs gave fans the chance to include characters/ships from their these stories into their current displays with the other sets. Considering the wealth of great books that have released since, it’s a shame this Micro Machine series stopped with these sets (excluding Shadows of the Empire…but I’ll come back to that). Best of all, they’re not hard to find for a reasonable price. While tracking them down in person may be a little more difficult (though not impossible), you can find MIB, or close to it, of all six versions for about $7 online if you look around.
Shadows of the Empire Memorabilia
Shadows of the Empire was an interesting endeavor in the mid-90s. In the time before the Prequels, Lucasfilm undertook this multi-media project as a way to give fans some new “canon” with their stories. Spanning comics, a book, video game, and more, Shadows of the Empire was treated much like a full movie release in terms of marketing and licenses (even going so far as to get George Lucas’ approval for the project). For many fans, who had been enjoying the Expanded Universe books, it gave us something to latch onto.
We were treated to new characters and vehicles; all the things that make Star Wars so exhilarating. Normally, this is where I branch off and tell you about a specific item in this line you need to be on the look for…but frankly, anything you find related to Shadows of the Empire is a good score. The vehicles are cool, the new character figures match up perfectly with the other figures from that time (Power of the Force II), and the collectibles were varied.
Shadows of the Empire is such a historically important moment for Star Wars, that picking up any piece of it is worth your time. It was the largest multi-media push with merchandising Star Wars had ever received without a movie being the driving force. Many fans who hadn’t experienced the Expanded Universe before had their eyes opened to a wealth of new content, while showing licensees the viability of producing collectibles based on other material. So anything you’re able to collect from SotE is worth picking up. While a full line may be much harder to acquire, on the whole, you can find toys from this series relatively easily and on the cheap.
Star Wars: Visionaries Darth Maul & Owen Lars
One of my favorite line of toys to come out in the last decade or so, were Hasbro’s Comic Two-Packs. This series gave fans a double whammy of figures, pulling popular characters (or variations on existing characters) from the different comics and bundling them together with the book in which they made their appearance. If you were already an Expanded Universe collector, this line of figures felt like manna from Heaven.
While I’m a fan of all the figures to hit shelves from this series, one in particular stands out above the others. Before The Clone Wars officially revived Darth Maul, his survival after the end of The Phantom Menace was nothing more than a pipe dream for fans. The Star Wars Visionaries comic, which compiled a handful of “what if” stories from various authors, envisioned a half robotic Darth Maul who survived and tracked Obi-Wan down on Tatooine for one final battle. It was a fun little story and provided much of the influence (visually) for his ultimate canonical return a few years later.
The popularity of the story and character prompted Hasbro to create the Visionaries Two-Pack, giving the cyborg Maul his own action figure coupled with a grumpy Owen Lars. Being that it was a such a unique character at the time and something fans had been clamoring for, this Two-Pack was already special. Adding to that, Hasbro made it their San Diego Comic-Con exclusive in 2010, instantly making the two-pack a more highly sought after figure set.
It’s a great talking point for your collection, with plenty of story behind its inception, plus being a convention exclusive gives it more shelf appeal for display. Despite being exclusive, you can still track this one down fairly easily. Many of the local and bigger conventions I’ve attended had some for sell and plenty of online vendors have them. Be prepared, however, to open your wallet a little more than usual. If you look around hard enough, it’s possible to find a good quality one in the box under $100. The Visionaries’ Comic Pack is worth it, but plan your budget accordingly.
Kotobukiya’s Mara Jade ArtFX Bishoujo Statue
Kotobukiya has a history of making incredible collectible statues for Star Wars fans. From fan-favorite characters to stunning designs, they always deliver the goods. This is doubly great when you’re looking for show pieces in your Expanded Universe collection. Kotobukiya impressed EU fans already when they debuted their Bishoujo (an Anime style design) statue for Jaina Solo, yet they turned even more heads when they released a similar version for Mara Jade.
Being one of the earliest Expanded Universe characters, debuting in Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire, Jade went on to become one of the most popular Star Wars characters in general. Fans have followed her exploits through several books and comics; making virtually any collectible featuring Mara an instant hit that flew off the shelves.
Even with her character being relegated to the Legends material now, demand for collectibles related to Mara Jade remains strong. Even though this specific statue released a while ago, it’s well worth tracking down. On top of being impressively made and sleekly designed, its unique approach to the character makes for an excellent conversation starter, while also being a great show piece for your collection in general.
Jacen Solo and Jaina Solo Figures
Every Star Wars collector has their personally “Holy Grail” collectible(s), and I can think of a handful of fans who feel the Jacen and Jaina Solo action figures fit the bill. Part of the final wave in the Legacy Collection line of figures back in 2010, the children of Han and Leia were finally given their own action figures, despite having been part of the books for many years. Based on their versions from the New Jedi Order series, these figures were something many EU collector’s had been looking forward to for years.
The problem, however, is this wave didn’t get a very wide distribution and fans hungry for the figures gobbled up what little made their way onto store shelves. As such, tracking this pair of action figures down is tough, even if you’re fine with them being loose. While you can find them online easy enough with a quick search on eBay or Amazon, these figures have remained constant at about $120 each for the last couple of years. Unless something drastic happens, I don’t expect it to change much in the future (except to go upward).
Regardless, if you’re a fan of the Expanded Universe and have put your collecting focus towards in that direction, purchasing these figures is something you’ll want to do. While the price point may put you off of buying them (think of all the other EU collectibles you could pick up for the same amount), these figures are worth planning and budgeting for. It’s the only time these characters were made into action figures and are genuinely tough to come across in real world toy hunting endeavors.
While these pieces I’ve shown you aren’t the be all, end all of Expanded Universe collectibles, I do feel like these will add immeasurable value to your overall collection at home. Even if you can’t find all of them for the prices you’re willing to pay, just remember, the fun of Star Wars collecting is in the hunt. These are just things to keep on your radar, though with Force Friday upon us, they might be on the back burner. Good luck out there!