What could be better than a dozen action figures from the Star Wars universe, such as it was in 1978? Nothing could be better than almost a dozen new figures in 1979, and what made this possibly the best second wave of any range of action figures ever was the fact that only one of the new figures was a differently-costumed version of a character from the first wave.
What fascinated most of us about Star Wars back in 1978? Two things: aliens ‘n’ droids. The second wave of the original Kenner Star Wars line focused on these, with a few other pleasant surprises thrown in too.
Alien-wise, the Mos Eisley Cantina was the source for most of the second wave’s aliens; Greedo, Walrus Man, Hammerhead and Snaggletooth were among the bar patrons immortalized in plastic this time around, though the Snaggletooth figure has become something of a legend.
The quartet of Cantina aliens originally appeared packed-in with a cardboard Mos Eisley background sold exclusively at Sears stores; in that release, Snaggletooth wore a blue jumpsuit and was roughly the same average height as most of the Kenner figures. But when these characters appeared on individual cards, Snaggletooth was now slightly taller than, say, a Jawa or R2-D2, and wore a red costume with details similar to that of the original mold; the head was identical. The rare blue version wore silver boots, while the much more common red version was barefoot (!). The cause of this oddity has been narrowed down to Kenner’s sculptors’ use of some vague reference photos which actually originated from the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special. That’s also the source of the photos of the colorful prototype Boba Fett costume used to determine that figure’s paint job.
The Star Wars universe’s favorite bounty hunter first appeared in that TV special, and was initially advertised as the first-ever mail-in premium figure in Kenner’s Star Wars toy line. Originally, Boba Fett was to feature a firing backpack missile, but this plan was hurriedly nixed because of a neighboring science fiction universe. Toymaker Mattel was sued over an eye injury caused by one of their Battlestar Galactica toy vehicles, and Kenner quickly tried to change Boba Fett’s firing mechanism to make it safer, but ultimately glued the projectile into place and covered the slot that would have held the firing button in place for the final mold.
Droid-wise, Kenner unloaded the Jawas’ sandcrawler for the second wave, giving us Power Droid, R5-D4 and the Death Star Droid (though its card photo and chromed paint job was closer to that of a similar droid seen in the sandcrawler scene). The Power Droid and R5-D4 each replicated R2-D2’s “clicking” sound, the former whenever its legs were moved and the latter when its head was turned.
The first second wave figure to hit the shelves was Luke Skywalker (X-Wing Pilot), in a fairly detailed copy of the flight suit, complete with red Rebel crests on the helmet.
And the best part about the second wave of Star Wars figures? The next wave – or, more accurately, the first wave from The Empire Strikes Back – was only a year away.