If you read my last post then you know all about my experience attending Hal-Con over the Halloween weekend. I shall reiterate that it was a good time and if you’re in the Halifax area next October I suggest you attend. One of the reasons that I never felt compelled to attend before was because of the retail aspect of things. I always imagined that if I were to attend the New York or San Diego Conventions I would need to bring thousands of dollars in spending money to buy up all the rare and exclusive action figures available to me.
But with the Hal-Con, I already visit the local comic shops around here on a very regular basis and doubted that they’d have anything on display that I hadn’t already seen. I imagined the Hal-Con retail area to consist of a table for each of the four local shops and maybe a table of Hal-Con themed T-shirts and programs. So when I hit up the retail area of the Con this past weekend I was more than a little surprised at the sheer number of vendors that turned out. Yes there was a table for Giant Robot Comics, and Monster’s Comic Lounge but it’s more accurate to say several tables. Each of the shops had very impressive booths set up and loaded with comics, toys, t-shirts and collectables. But besides them there were dozens of other vendors selling all kinds of swag. There was a ton of original art for sale by talented local artists and I quickly regretted not preparing better for the event financially. I had 10 bucks in my pocket and a near empty bank account. There was one comic retailer, not from the local shops, who had long boxes for days and tons of quality silver age books. There was plenty of toys and clothing, plus pewter dragons and sword replicas for the D&D crowd. I wish I could have spent more time browsing around but the place was packed and I was sweating like a pig in my cobra costume plus I was broke so I pretty much just did one quick walk-through of the retail room. One thing that did catch my eye was a vendor with a box full of individually bagged vintage Star Wars figures for sale. Now I don’t currently collect Star Wars figures and am not looking to buy up vintage figures at this time but alongside the standard figures was a Rancor Monster.
I’m sure most of you know this already but the Rancor is the large beast from Return of the Jedi that lives in the caverns beneath Jabba the Hutt’s palace. Jabba uses his trap door to make a meal out of anyone that displeases him. Sadly Oola the dancing girl and an unlucky Gamorrean Guard end up as appetizers in the opening scenes of the film. But they end up being the beasts last meal as Luke uses his Jedi powers to slay the Rancor in one of my favorite scenes from the trilogy. When I was a kid I wanted the Rancor figure so bad. I’m not sure why I never did get him, perhaps I was too distracted by G.I. Joe figures or maybe he just got to be too hard for my parents to find at retail around the holidays. Whatever the reason I never got one. And so it became a white whale of my toy collection. It’s not that he was so outlandishly expensive that I couldn’t have got one in the years since but I always figured I could find one cheaper if I held out. I frequently check ebay for good deals but where the Rancor is a larger toy the shipping always ends up being the nail in the coffin of every attempted purchase. My white whale list includes other giant creatures from my childhood that I never stopped wanting from the first time I saw them. The Kraken from the original Clash of the Titans line and the Invid Shock Trooper from Robotech remain two of my most longed for collectables. The Rancor topped that list for a long while but I never got him. And so a decade passes…
I remember when the modern Rancor figure was released in the late 90s as part of the Power of the Force line of figures. I was buying up Star Wars figures regularly back then and the Rancor was at the top of my want list. Finally I would own one. I remember they starting hitting retail stores around the Holiday season and they were abundant in every toy section I ventured into. But I was forbid by my family to buy one, I think it was little brother Brian that said “I will get you one for Christmas”. And so the holiday season went on and I watched the shelves slowly deplete of Rancors. Then Christmas came and guess what…no Rancor. I don’t remember the gift that I got in its place, I’m sure it was lovely, but I wanted a goddamn Rancor. I promptly made it known that I would be going to buy one myself. I was then quickly reminded that my birthday was only a few weeks away and that maybe somebody had already bought it for me so I’d better wait until after. And so I did. My birthday came and went and guess what…No Rancor! All this Rancor teasing had left me frustrated and so I decided to finally buy one on my own. But after the holidays and boxing day sales had come and gone nobody had any left in stock. I couldn’t find one anywhere and so the mighty creature had escaped me again. Another decade passes…
So here I am at Hal-con and a vintage 1983 Rancor is staring me in the face. Sure his arm is gimpy and seems ready to fall off but it’s not like I was going to be playing with him. I knew exactly where he’d go if I were to take him home; not with my Star Wars toys but atop my bookshelf where all my great monsters of cinema reside; including Godzilla, King Kong, and the Jurassic Park T-Rex. I checked the price tag hoping to see a ridiculously high price that I could easily walk away from. D’OH! Only $25. Why did I have to be so broke?! I walked away from him with regret but not totally without hope. I hate borrowing money from anyone but I was sure my brother Doug who was my Hal-Con date would lend me the cash if I asked. I pondered it. It was only after I saw Larry Hama offering up original sketches of Joe characters for $20 a piece that I knew I had to swallow my pride. Doug informed me that he had a wad of cash on him and so away I went, first an original Zarana sketch from Larry and then back down to the retail floor to see if the Rancor was still there. It was and I even talked the guy down to $20. AT LAST I HAVE MY RANCOR!! After nearly 30 years I finally have him!
So was he worth the wait? Yeah. I wouldn’t have been happy shelling out $100 on ebay for this toy but for $20 absolutely he’s worth it. The figures of that time weren’t typically loaded with detail but I’m pleasantly surprised at how detailed this guy is. His entire body is covered in textured wrinkles. He’s got spikes and ridges and a nicely detailed armored tail. Where he does fall short is in paint applications, in that they’re virtually non-existent. He’s molded in brown plastic and only gets a bit of paint on his teeny eyes and teeth. The later POTF version offered up a more detailed and realistic looking Rancor with lots of airbrushed shading on the body, a painted tongue and claws. The newer version even featured some flashy accessories like a bracelet and an earring which were film accurate. But the POTF always looked way too hunched over to me. I like the stance of this vintage one. He’s standing tall and his big giant arms are reaching out at you. This vintage one also has an articulated jaw so you can reenact him him chewing up Oola over and over again. I always found the Rancor to be a good mix of butt-ugly and super cute and this figure captures both aspects of the creature. I can imagine if I owned this as a kid I’d be chasing my screaming sister down the hall with him one minute and then having him sit on my lap while I swing on the swing set the next. He’s big and fun and relatively durable seeing as he has very few moving parts. That being said, the years have not been kind to this particular Rancor. His arm is extremely loose and appears to only be held on my some make-shift elastic rig inside his torso. I’m trying not to touch it too much. The only thing I don’t like about this figure is the seam in the plastic that runs right between his eyes and through the middle of his face. I wish they had sculpted the head as a solid piece to avoid this. Needless to say I’m very happy to welcome the Rancor into my collection. 9 out of 10.