Last Christmas, I came across some incredibly strange toys I consigned to Bizarro's Toybox, where the abnormal is normal, bad is good, and wish list toppers like Guitar Hero 3 are nowhere to be found. Well, this year, it looks like I'll only have time for one visit to Bizarro's Toybox, so I'll try to make it extra-special. In fact, instead of one unusual item, how about ten?
Okay, we all know about Darth Vader, right? Principal bad guy from the Star Wars movies (the good ones), armored Sith Lord, evil father of Luke Skywalker, and pupil of the Dark Side of the Force? Yeah, that guy. Well, as someone who's got Darth Vader's helmet-face mask thingie on full display in his studio, it's safe to say I'm a big fan of the character (despite George Lucas making him into such a whiny putz for the prequels). However, my enjoyment of the character usually doesn't extend to the hundreds (thousands?) of products featuring his likeness. Oh, I can usually find something to admire in just about any Darth Vader product...but man, some of this stuff really crosses over to the Dark Side of licensed merchandising. How about a Top Ten countdown featuring some of the darkest? (click on the images for a larger view)
10. A toddler size Darth Vader Costume: What better costume to dress a happy, innocent toddler in than that of a conquering Sith Lord who actually murdered small children in Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith? No thanks...I think we'll stick with Bob the Builder or Picachu and save the Vader look for the older kids.
9. The Darth Vader Night Light: On a similar note, what sort of parental thinking process is at work (or not) when a glowing Darth Vader head is brought in to calm a child's nighttime fears? "Shhhh....go to sleep, now. Just look at that frightening, skull-like mask, and you'll feel all safe and snuggly..."
"Ducky Vader, you're the one
You make bath time lots of fun
Ducky Vader, I'm awfully fond of you
Woo woo be doo!"
7. Hey, it's Lil' Vader, a cute, stubby little Vader aimed squarely at...you guessed it...pre-schoolers! If the masked version of Lil' Vader (left) isn't enough to make them forget their potty training, imagine what the sunken eyes and pasty skin of the unmasked version will do!
6. The Darth Vader inflatable backpack: Finally moving up to an older age bracket, the Vader backpack gets points for a clever design, but once again I go back to the image of Vader's head as essentially a high-tech skull. That's when the product starts getting a little weird for me. Yeah, yeah....that's probably the parent in me talking.
5. Darth Vader Birthday Cake: Birthdays...a time of fun, frivolity, and celebration. Naturally, the perfect cake for such a happy occasion is one that reminds kids that Anakin Skywalker (pictured in the upper-right corner) was horribly burned in the fires of a volcano planet, necessitating the creation of his life-preserving Darth Vader armor. Happy Birthday!
4. Darth Vader Piñata- Next on the Happy Sithday agenda is the Darth Vader piñata, where kids traumatized as babies by the Darth Vader night light can finally strike back at the candy-filled lapdog of Emperor Palpatine. Then again...maybe it's not filled with candy...but blackened bits of Anakin Skywalker's soul!
Whatever it's filled with, just make sure the kids are wielding lightsabers when striking at the piñata.
3. Darth Vader Nutcracker: Play Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite as you dance and twirl around the room with your very own Darth Vader Nutcracker. Hand carved from wood by Steinbach of Germany, this limited edition piece will set you back a mere $300.
1. The Darth Vader Chopper: One of the "crown jewels" of the Bizarro Toybox collection, the crass stupidity of this product is surpassed only by its kitschy appeal and unintentional humor. Besides, didn't the Star Wars universe have flying Speeder Bikes for motorcycle equivalents?
Had enough? Yeah, me too. I can only take so much of George Lucas' greed-based insanity. Let this edition of Bizarro's Toybox serve as a warning to Lucas and Star Wars fans alike: