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Darth Vader (1977) Action Figure Review

By:  Karl Stern (@wiwcool, @dragonkingkarl, karl@whenitwascool.com)

It might seem like I have been G.I. Joe heavy here at When It Was Cool lately but don't think for one second that I am not a fan and collector of Star Wars action figures also.  My favorite Star Wars character is unquestionably the lead villain Darth Vader.  He is without any doubt one of (if not top) the most iconic bad guys, heels, villains in cinema history.

 vintage 1977 darth vader action figure

vintage 1977 darth vader action figure

The first two Star Wars action figures I ever had were Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi.  I was in second grade when the original Star Wars movie came out.  I went with a classmate and his parents.  The first thing we did when we got back to his house was reenact the lightsaber battle between Vader and Kenobi with flashlights.

As soon as I was in a department store again I took my allowance money and bought both Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi just so I could have a lightsaber battle.  I also wanted a Luke Skywalker but the store was sold out and strangely enough, I never did get one.  As a kid I never found an original Star Wars Luke Skywalker on the toy shelves.  It wasn't until the Empire Strikes Back that I got a Bespin Luke.

 Darth vader in all his vinyl cape glory.

Darth vader in all his vinyl cape glory.

Make no mistake about it, as cool as this action figure is, it has it's problems.  But first, the sliding and retracting lightsaber was one of the coolest "action features" ever for an action figure.  Simple, useful, and not distracting.

But... Darth Vader vintage figures have multiple problems.  How many of us ended up with a headless Vader after about a year or so?  The neck is very flimsy and the plastic is too soft.  Unlike G.I. Joe figures which were sculpted with stronger plastic, Star Wars figures used softer plastic and some of the figures ultimately ended up headless through just normal play use.  Darth Vader was among the worst.  Not only was has neck too thin and too soft but his head was large and heavy leading ultimately to his demise.

Then there are the vinyl capes that several of the figures came with.  Inevitably, kids would want to take these capes off and put them back on leading to the arm holes stretching out and ultimately tearing.  In the first wave alone both Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi suffered from this particular problem.

 In addition to the broken neck and torn capes which could be suffered, the tip of the lightsaber is also difficult to keep unbent and ultimately suffers stress marks.

In addition to the broken neck and torn capes which could be suffered, the tip of the lightsaber is also difficult to keep unbent and ultimately suffers stress marks.

 my vintage 1977 Darth vader flanked by newer versions.  there is something still simplistically ELEGANT about that first darth vader figure.

my vintage 1977 Darth vader flanked by newer versions.  there is something still simplistically ELEGANT about that first darth vader figure.