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T'Challa Star-Lord

What If...?
by yo go re

What If... T'Challa Became a Star-Lord?

T'Challa grew up in space and became Star-Lord, now leading adventures throughout the galaxy.

Man, how heartwrenching was it to hear Chadwick Boseman voicing T'Challa one last time after his death from colon cancer? Everybody was devastated when it happened, knowing we'd lost one of the new leaders of the MCU, but then to get one final bonus appearance from him? Ah, the pain! The sweet emotional pain! Making Prince T'Challa one of the Guardians of the Galaxy showed that What If...? wasn't going to be afraid to mix stories pretty extensively: the original plan was one episode for each of the Infinity Saga movies, which would have been rather limiting; blending two such disparate parts of the MCU created something wildly new.

I didn't pay close attention to these toys when they were listed for sale - who wants spoilers for a show they haven't watched yet? So it wasn't until the episodes came out that I went and looked at everything, which is when I found out that these were being done in an "animated" style, rather than realistic. It's not noticeable on a lot of the toys, but it sure is on Star-Lord! His clothes are all smooth, and his proportions aren't quite human. Considering how many of the other figures in the series use existing molds, or put a lot of detail on the ones they do make new, T'Challa really stands out. And not in a good way. We don't consider that Dan Mitchell's fault, though: he started work on this one so early he could only be given a loose concept image, nothing even close to final!

Although there's the typical Star-Lord breathing helmet, we also get an alternate head showing T'Challa unmasked. It, of course, is just as stylized as the body. Seriously, this isn't Into the Spider-Verse, where the characters were solely cartoons; this is ultimately based on a real person, so wouldn't it have been better to make the toy look like that real person? We don't want a Star-Lord who needs to go on his own "animated" shelf, we want a Star-Lord who can stand with the rest of the MCU figures in a weird crossover.

T'Challa doesn't wear exactly the same clothes as Peter Quill, but if Nebula could get away with reusing molds, so could this toy. He's got plain pants and tall boots, and wears a short jacket over a T-shirt. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Take that existing figure and give it a new jacket piece, maybe new shoulders, and you're all set. Some new feet if you're really feeling adventurous. Dan couldn't even sculpt the necklace he wears, because it hadn't been decided yet. While Quill had a rust-colored jacket and black pants, T'Challa has brown boots, grey pants and shirt, and a royal purple jacket with gold accents. It looks great on him, it just looks too cartoony.

It's not like they couldn't use old molds: Star-Lord still carries his usual space-pistols, and they're exactly the same ones we saw on the last Star-Lord toy. And technically the one before that, too. Meaning, yes, they're way more detailed than the man who now wields them. Oh, except for the hands, which are the sole reused part of the sculpt: gotta have highly realistic hands on a rubber hose arm! He moves like any other Marvel Legend, with joints at the ankles, knees, thighs, hips, waist, chest, wrists, elbows, biceps, shoulders, and neck.

Star-Lord includes one part of the series' Build-A-Figure: the Watcher's head.

Making T'Challa into Star-Lord was not the only Guardians of the Galaxy related pitch that was made for Season 1: there was another that was rejected because despite being based on the wildest flights of fancy, it still managed to accidentally duplicate about half the plot of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3! Going to be interesting to see what that turns out to be, then. It may also explain why they went so wild with adding T'Challa - even before we lost Black Panther, the odds he'd be part of the story were basically non-existent. The reimagined character turned out awesome, but it's a shame his action figure lags behind the rest of the group.

-- 12/29/21

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