Armagideon Time

Den’s the breaks

December 15th, 2016

Some pals of mine had a grand ol’ time mocking the Saddest Bounty Hunter of All the other day. Though I missed the original festivities, I was able to get a few late kicks in this morning after the subject raised its oddly swaddled head again.

A bit later I asked my twitter friends for topics suitable for a short post, and it was only natural that the rascally Matt Digges would toss Dengar’s name into the ring. I don’t know if Matt was kidding or not, but I actually do have a Dengar ConfessionTM that fits the bill.

To understand the context of this tale, you have to go back to 1980 — a time when one’s obsession with Star Wars franchise had to make do with some fairly limited vectors of transmission. Home video was still an expensive luxury, fanzines were fewer and harder to come by, and there was no internet serve up total media immersion. If you were an eight year old kid — as I was — your options were even more limited. Novelizations and photobooks were okay — if a bit boring and rarely covered new ground — and the Marvel Comics series felt too off-model and goofy.

When it came to the transmission of Star Wars hype, there were only three reliably enticing vectors — dubious playground lore, the licensed toys (including pack-in catalogs and Sears Wish Book entries) and the unending but affordable series of bubblegum cards. Things really entered a fever pitch in the run-up to Empire Strikes Back, which whipped up astronomical levels of anticipation from those of us who’d lived and breathed the franchise from our pre-school days into the cusp of tweenerhood. This was a big event, bigger even than Fonzie jumping a school bus because it was going to shape the course of Christmas and birthday wish lists for aeons (by kiddie reckoning) to come.

Of all the details which began to emerge from behind the Lucasfilm curtain, the one that most captured the attention of my schoolyard peers and myself was the debut of THE BOUNTY HUNTERS –

– who combined the visual coolness of the cantina aliens with the moral ambiguity so delectable to an age demo which had begun to tire of Curt Swan Superman stories. Mere ownership of the card featuring that gaggle of guns for hire conferred an enviable place in the social hierarchy, and I witnessed kids offer up their most cherished Hot Wheels cars in exchange for that small slab of cardboard.

The pump was primed by the teaser reveal (and action figure release) Boba Fett following the infamous Holiday Special. He was new, he looked cool, and all the hype indicated he was going to play a crucial role in Empire (that was dialed back considerably in the actual film). That hype train reached full throttle when it was indicated that the character was only one of a whole crew of bounty hunters slated to appear in the movie.

Even in the small and grainy card photo, Dengar came off as battle-scarred old hand rocking a pretty cool set of hard-worn battle armor. He didn’t dethrone Boba Fett as my forever favorite, but he seemed like he had potential. More importantly, he seemed like he’d make for a bitchin’ action figure which is where my true interest in Star Wars resided.

Every trip to the action figure aisle as Zayre’s or Bradlees or Caldor became an exercise in sifiting through the roughly one billion Death Star Droid and Greedo figures in hopes of finding a Dengar tucked away in back. These fruitless searches only whetted my desire further. I created my own backstory and head-canon in which Dengar would be Snowman to Fett’s Bandit as they roamed the kitchen floor’s linoleum expanses in a Tonka Winnebago with AJ Foyt and a Fisher-Price Adventure Person I named after my father.

And then one Saturday afternoon, I finally found the object of my desire…

…and thought “Wow. He’s fucking ugly.” (Yes, even back then I had a potty mouth. Blame my old man.)

I ended up grabbing an IG-88 figure instead. One of its spindly arms snapped off a couple of days later, adding to the absurd pathos.

As the twig is bent, so the gimer stick is gnarled. Thirty-six years have passed since I rode that wheel of extreme anticipation and crushing disappointment, yet it’s the first thing that comes to mind whenever I’m reminded of poor ol’ Dengar.

(It happens more often than you’d think, because I’m too lazy to find a less nerdier class of friends.)

Related posts:

  1. Figured it out
  2. That was a long, long time ago
  3. Them’s the breaks

5 Responses to “Den’s the breaks”

  1. SJB

    I so coveted the Bossk action figure! I believe I actually mailed away for him

  2. Crowded House

    Oh, to live in the alternate universe where Bossk is the breakout character of ESB instead of Boba.

    I can’t say Dengar, because even in alternate universes, he’d still be a joke. Disappointments don’t fade, they just become cruel jokes.

  3. Chris Wuchte

    Until I saw this post, I didn’t even remember what the guy’s name was. I can remember IG-88, but I can’t remember something as simple as Dengar?

    I almost never played Star Wars with my actual Star Wars toys. I always made up new characters, usually superheroes and supervillains, and would build sprawling headquarters out of shoe boxes. I have no idea what Dengar became in my fantasy world. I’m guessing some generic thug, but I’d like to imagine I was more original than that and made him some superhero with a tragic secret.

    But, no, it was probably generic thug who gets killed right away.

  4. Michael Hoskin

    He was the first Star Wars figure I bought with my own money. Possibly the first toy I ever bought with my own money. Compared to the rest of my collection at the time (R5-D4 & Yoda) he was very cool indeed.

  5. Arik

    I can imagine Dengar in a cantina trying in vain to correct the minds of everyone within earshot.
    That he is a better bounty hunter then Boba Fett ever was. Dengar would also bore the patrons about how
    he would not be overpowered by a “stupid teenager with a laser sword”.

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