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Han Solo (Carbonite)

SWV: Empire Strikes Back
by yo go re

*SpongeBob announcer voice* "...seven years later..."

In 2013, Hasbro kicked off their new Star Wars Black Series by offering an exclusive version of Boba Fett at the San Diego Comic-Con. It was the first thing to sell out every day. So despite all the best efforts, none of us were able to get one. It wasn't too bad of a problem, though, because the same basic figure was released in the second series of figures, alongside Leia, Greedo, and Han. So, yeah, not much easier to get him that way, either. But we digress.

What set the exclusive apart from the mass version was the packaging, of course, and a single accessory: Han Solo in Carbonite. You know, that big cool extra that all the fans would want? Yes, that. The only way to get it was in an SDCC exclusive that sold out in minutes. Hasbro said they'd find a way to make it available in a wider release, and so we began waiting. And waiting. And waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting. Finally, someone in Pawtucket remembered they had a promise to keep, so now there's a solo accessory (no pun intended) being sold on a retro throwback card as part of the ESB 40th Anniversary Collection. As an exclusive to Hasbro Pulse (for like a day) and then Amazon.

After escaping from Imperial forces in the Hoth system, Han Solo and Princess Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO landed the damaged Millenium Falcon on Bespin's Cloud City for repairs. The four put their trust in the city's administrator, Lando Calrissian, unaware of the dangers awaiting them. A dashing ex-gambler and long-time acquaintance of Solo's, Calrissian had grudgingly made an agreement with Darth Vader to betray Solo and his friends. In return, the band would be set free once their capture had lured Luke Skywalker into Vader's grasp. The Dark Lord had no intention of keeping any promises: on his order a carbonite freezing chamber was modified for use on humans, especially Luke Skywalker, to render him helpless for safe delivery to the Emperor. To test the chamber, Solo was frozen and then turned over to the Bounty Hunter Boba Fett for delivery to the crimelord Jabba the Hutt. He became the favorite decoration in Jabba's Palace on Tatooine, until a daring rescue attempt led by Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia freed Han and returned him to the enduring cause of the Rebel Alliance.

The carbon freezing process was used to store and preserve Tibonna gas extracted by Cloud City from Bespin's atmosphere. The gas was mixed with molten carbon and flash-frozen for transport to far-off trading centers. Solo's experience proved that a human can be successfully frozen in carbonite, remaining alive but "suspended" in time. Upon release from the deep-freeze, a human would experience extreme weakness and temporary loss of sight.

Our first impression? Good lord did they ever used to put a lot of text on the back of toy packages! There's literally not a single word on the back of the oversized card about this toy, so we went back to the 1996 PotF2 release of Han with a Carbonite block. It's amazing what you can do when you're not trying to be multi-lingual. That figure included a Han (who just hid behind the block), while this one is simply the carbonite itself. It's made from a few pieces, so it can be hollow rather than solid plastic, but a block of carbonite is all you get.

I've always wondered a bit about the carbonite freezing process. The 24-year-old text we copied up above does answer a few of the queations quite handily - a few, but not all. Ignore the Han-parts sticking out of the block for a moment, and try to picture it the way it would be under normal production processes. Now, the smooth edges around the outside are not part of the carbonite: they're a containment frame (one which, since Han goes into the pit on a little lift with nothing around him, must be contained down within the chamber and be applied therein). Not really sure why the sides are angled - if things were frozen for transport, having straight sides would allow for more efficient packing.

The "surface" of the actual frozen carbonite is uneven and wavy. Liquids usually get smooth as they freeze, but that's because they freeze slowly; what we call "cold" is just the absence of molecular motion - therefore, motion is the enemy of freezing. Water turns to ice when it's still, not when it's churning, yeah? But flash-freeze something, and you'll catch it in whatever position it happened to be in at the time. Han goes into the chamber standing up, not laying down, so the liquid carbonite clearly isn't poured into a trough for freezing. And if there were any sort of mold it was going into, even a vertical one, the stuff would be smooth. So we're left to assume it's somehow frozen as it's being poured into the chamber! Dang! The back of this toy is smooth, but we've never actually seen the back of a "real" carbonite block; it's possible it's as meant to be as lumpy as the front is.

If that's the case, then maybe we'd finally understand how Han can actually fit inside the block. The piece is about ⅞" thick, which would translate to 10½" at full size. Is that really deep enough to conceal a full body? The actual prop was made in pieces (with Alan Harris, the guy who played Bossk, providing the body), so it's possible they didn't think about whether the parts would logically fit together. Like, for his hands to be at that height and yet that close to his chest, his elbows should be poking out the back.

This isn't a perfect replica of the movie prop, we must admit. In the real thing, Han has a terribly stupid look on his face, and a clear line of drool or something that came out of the corner of his mouth. That's there on this toy's portrait, but it's been toned way down. Screen-accuracy be damned, this looks better. And the Harrison Ford likeness is better than on regular Han, despite all the detail being softer. Figure that one out!

The block is mostly one solid color, a dark silver, with lighter silver paint apps to pick out a few details on the control panels on the sides. According to schematic diagrams in one of those Visual Dictionaries or something, those things monitor the gas mix ratio, the rate of carbonite flux, as well as working the repulsorlift projectors and the thawing elements. One of them is painted with a green panel, which is probably the improvised life systems monitor.

Despite this being a glorified accessory, it comes with an accessory of its own: a three-part stand. The same thing came with the original SDCC release, but that one had instructions on how to use it. The two little triangular pieces push together, forming a tetrahedral stand that allows the carbonite block to be displayed vertically; slide the tabs at one point of the pyramid into the notch on the included disc, and now you can also display it horizontally, like when Boba Fett was floating it back to his ship. Remember the Speeder Bike stand, that was useable at three different heights? Someone on Hasbro's Star Wars team absolutely kills it at engineering interesting and effective display stands. There are two small tabs that hook into recesses on the narrower sides of the block, and a round peg that can plug into one of two holes on the back. Basically, the stand can go on either the top or the bottom of the block for different looks. A smart feature would have been if the back of the block could be removed, so you could store the stand pieces inside when you don't want it on display.

Released this way, Han Solo in Carbonite costs $15 - a least, he retails for $15, but since it keeps selling out, resellers are trying to get upwards of $40. It's an accessory, people, it's not worth more than a figure is! Ideally, Hasbro would have found a way to get this out sooner; maybe if the first Han hadn't been filling shelves for literal years, we could have gotten a sickly, sweaty, "Hibernation Sickness" variant in a deluxe set with the carbonite block included. Or, you know, they could have just made enough Bobas to meet demand in the first place.

-- 10/04/20

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