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4-LOM

SWV: Empire Strikes Back
by yo go re

Most of the Star Wars droids' names are just random strings of gibberish. Yes, R2-D2 is a shorthand reference to a specific piece of audio tape (reel two, dialogue track two), but he's an exception. Another oddity is 4-LOM, the bounty hunter droid who works "for love of money."

A programming glitch changes 4-LOM from a protocol droid to a thief and a tracker of fugitives. Jabba the Hutt teams him with the bounty hunter Zuckuss, creating a formidable duo that successfully combines intuitive mysticism with emotionless logic.

Although he was introduced in Empire Strikes Back in 1980, 4-LOM wasn't properly named until nine years later. The vintage Kenner figures mixed up the names of 4-LOM and his little buddy Zuckuss; it was The Galaxy Guide 3 that finally decreed the droid-ish name should belong to, you know, the droid. A wild assumption, I know, but it works. Because of that mix-up, there are some old-time fans who to this day insist on calling this character Zuckuss.

4-LOM was originally built from leftover C-3PO parts the costume department found lying around. Of course, that's the real-world story, not the in-universe take on things. Within kayfabe, he was built to be a translation droid on a pleasure cruiser. He and the ship's computer started playing games about stealing the passengers' valuables, and 4-LOM eventually began taking things further. By actually taking things.

Since the ship he was on was intended for non-humanoid passengers, 4-LOM's head is insectoid - he's meant to look like the folks he'll be serving. He has bulbous compound eyes photoreceptors, which are green here. The "plug" in the center of his face is where he talks, and his "ears" are the two buds beneath the eyes. Weird, huh? It gets better: the final stud on his face, where you would expect a mouth to be, is actually a microwave emitter, which must be for remote communication. He has an olfactory sensor, but it's apparently on his torso below his neck.

4-LOM is pretty much the current pinnacle of what "superposeable" can mean for a Star Wars droid: ball-and-socket neck, balljointed shoulders, elbows, torso, knees and ankles, and swivel wrists and hips. The shoulder cuffs are actually separate pieces that rotate with the arms, so hey don't block the range of motion. Still, he really can't bend his arms enough to aim his giant concussion rifle. You can fake it, though.

Slowly but surely, Hasbro is releasing nicely updated versions of the six bounty hunters introduced in ESB. You could get Boba Fett, IG-88 and Bossk in the ludicrously overpriced "Vintage" serieses, and 4-LOM in the standard assortments. So really, all we need now are highly articulated versions of Dengar and Zuckuss, and we'll be set. So there's your mission, Hasbro: release updates of the guy wrapped up in toilet paper, and the bug wearing a dress. 4-LOM is lonely.

-- 01/31/09


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