What makes a Vader? The iconic helmet and cape, of course – but the devil is in the details. Here’s a case study in variation using two different Medicom Real Action Hero Darth Vaders.
The first RAH Darth Vader, released in July of 2005 for about 18,000 ¥, was the version from
The second RAH Darth Vader, released in February of 2006 for about 18,000 ¥, was the version from Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Standing around 32cm, this Vader is also roughly 1/6th scale. ROTS Darth Vader likewise came with a movie authentic costume, three-piece removable helmet, five sets of hands, a set of crossed-arm hands, a light saber, and a display stand.
But this tale of two Vaders picks up where the similarities end because these two figures are not redundant. There are about one dozen variations between the two. Click on the thumbnail for a clean, untouched pic of the figures side by side. Or click here for a shot with higher contrast and lines to illustrate the text. Same goes for the helmets. Anyway, here’s how they break down:
The Helmet –
ROTJ Vader’s helmet has narrower and deeper cut eyes with an asymmetrical black and silver paint application (true to the movie’s prop whose paint job was designed to highlight different parts of the mask in order to add depth when seen on film).
ROTS Vader’s helmet has a larger, more shallow eyes with a uniform high-gloss black paint application. Also, the external nozzles outside the mouth piece seem to have more definition on the ROTJ version.
ROTJ Vader’s head is a pasty-white old man face. The paint applications are weak, and it winds up looking like an aging cross dresser. Too bad it didn’t live up to the prototype pictures.
ROTJ Vader’s cape has a high-necked collar, short clasping silver chain, and a cut that hangs over the shoulder armor. The cape is held in place by a metal prong that points downward and runs through the middle of the chain (again, true to the movie prop).
ROTS Vader’s cape has no collar, a long permanently attached black chain, and a cut that hangs across the top of the shoulders. This cape is held in place by an unseen piece of fabric that runs around the neck like a noose or tie. Both capes sport bendable wiring in the hem in order to shape them into various configurations.
ROTJ Vader’s chest armor is short, has wider black stripes, and has a shallow bevel across the bottom. The shoulder pauldrons slope downward at sharp angles, giving this Vader a shaper and more slanted look to the shoulders.
ROTS Vader’s chest armor is longer, has narrow black stripes, and has a deeper bevel across the bottom. The shoulder pauldrons here are rounded, providing a broader and more powerful look to the shoulders.
ROTJ Vader’s chest controls are attached to a faux-leather harness that straps them across the body. The upper-right button is blue, the lower right switch is red, and the sculpted details are different than the ROTS version.
ROTS Vader’s chest controls have no harness and are imbedded directly into the front of the costume. The upper right button is green and the lower left switch is red.
ROTJ Vader’s belt has a visible clasp located between the left control box and the voice modulator. The voice modulator is smaller with un-inked lines and the two control boxes are smaller with larger buttons. There is also a metal hook to hang the light saber from on the left side of the belt.
ROTS Vader has no visible clasp or light saber hook; instead, the belt sports larger control boxes, smaller buttons, and inked lines within the voice modulator.
ROTJ Vader has a slightly longer cod piece with a longer embossed rectangle on the front.
ROTS Vader has a slightly shorter cod piece with a much shorter embossed rectangle.
ROTJ Vader has slightly shorter shin armor with sharply sculpted details.
ROTS Vader gets longer shin armor, but its details are less crisply defined.
The Boots –
ROTJ Vader has gray soled booties.
ROTS Vader has black soles. Both sets of boots sport different sculpts.
ROTJ Vader has a shorter light saber with a metal ring on the end for hanging it from his belt.
ROTS Vader has a much larger light saber, but it lacks a metal ring. The sculpts on the two sabers are different, and the ROTS version has a small dial on the hilt which is easily broken. Both sabers have “ignited” and “un-light” replaceable tips that are identical.
ROTJ Vader, as previously mentioned, has one extra set of hands.
ROTS Vader trades this set of hands for a combination of crossed-hands designed to look like his arms are folded across his chest; in reality, this looks good only in the box.
The Boxes –
ROTJ Vader has a huge and uninteresting black box with a gatefold cover. There is an embossed Imperial logo, silver reflective lettering, and a classic “hand with light saber” image next to the Star Wars logo.
ROTS Vader has a similarly boring box, this time with reflective gold lettering. There is NO “hand with light saber” next to the Star Wars logo.
If you’re nostalgic about Darth Vader, or want a cool dolly with shelf presence, these figures can’t be beat. They are both very poseable and their movie accurate costume details provide a bulk of subtle variation that might be enough to make you want both. But if you have to settle for one, which should it be? With neither version sporting particularly good paint ops on the heads, the costume details make it come down to a matter of aesthetic preference. The ROTJ Vader is a classic look and with a bit of touch-up paint, looks good in unmasked repose. While the ROTS Vader looks more dynamic and powerful it could also use a little touch-up; and though the design may not be for everyone, it commands attention nonetheless.