I’m not going to hold it back; I’m a mark for Return of the Jedi. The Empire Strikes Back is certainly the most critically acclaimed of the Star Wars films and the clear cut favorite amongst the serious Star Wars fanboys but Return of the Jedi has always had a certain appeal to me that I cannot quite put my finger on. Star Wars (or as it was retroactively titled A New Hope) kicked off the franchise in a fun and adventurous manner. Empire was the darkest chapter that explored the characters and their deepest fears and motivations while the antagonist completely pounded the heroes into submission. Then Return of the Jedi comes out and completely alters everything we’ve previously known about the trilogy. Luke Skywalker, wide eyed optimist and whiney moisture farmer with a penchant for power converters suddenly burst onto the scene in a black robe and force chokes a couple of Gamorrean Guards (or as we called them, those pig guys). On a side note, I think Gamorrean is the most misspelled name in the entire Star Wars universe. I had to triple check that I used the correct spelling myself for this article. Han Solo lost a little bit of his “edge” and was even ready to step out of the way so that Luke could romance Leia. Speaking of which, the Leia/Luke possibility was completely ruled out when it was revealed that the relationship would have been incestuous. How disturbing. Marketing stepped in by pushing a huge line of Ewoks merchandise to push onto children. How effective was the Lucasfilm advertising juggernaut? It should be noted that the word “Ewoks” is never uttered in Return of the Jedi. Despite the shift in continuity ROTJ just has an indescribable appeal to me.
Perhaps one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed the film more than most is the cool aliens and interesting politics in and around Jabba’s Palace. Of all the Kenner Star Wars figures released I would suggest that the finest aliens were produced during the Return of the Jedi production run. I’ve already discussed Ree-Yees the three eyed big handed drunkard in a previous article. Today I’m going to touch on another one of the Jabba’s Palace denizens that I’ve always been drawn to. Today he’s known as Tessek but in 1983 Kenner bestowed upon him the moniker of “Squid Head”. God you have to love Kenner!
So what’s a Squid Head? If you read the Expanded Universe which falls in and out of canon he is a Quarren which is a race of beings from the planet Mon Calamari. There’s a lot of backstory I’m sure you can gather but the pertinent points are that they have a bunch of tentacles on their faces and they come from an oceanic world. How Squid Head managed to survive on a desert planet like Tatooine is certainly curious. Oh, and this particular Quarren’s name is actually Tessek. I’m not sure when this name was bestowed upon him but Kenner obviously was not aware of it. He is also apparently Jabba the Hutt’s accountant. Cool.
Vintage Squid Head was among the best figures released in the vintage Kenner Star Wars line. In fact, it was such a good figure that it still holds up today over 30 years after it’s release. I mean, this thing just looks freaking cool. Not only does the figure have soft goods clothing, it has TWO separate and distinct pieces of cloth clothing. His primary robe is a tan color that is form fitting. He then wears a dark brown cloak which is also the perfect fit and scale. One of the common issues with soft goods on action figures is that they can often be made too bulky and look out of place with the rest of the figure line. Not here. This action figure is perfect.
Squid Head’s face is very detailed with all of the strange tentacles and gills in place. Although I cannot honestly say that the figure looks like a miniature version of the on set costume, it is certainly close enough and it makes for a very interesting toy. It’s more faithful to the source material than 95% of the toy line. To top things off they gave him a blaster. Sure they just recycled the pistol that was issued to most of the Bespin figures from the Empire Strikes Back line but at least he isn’t vulnerable. If this accountant gets an audit he’s going to fight back.
Squid Head was eventually re-released years later as part of the newer Star Wars reboot figure line. Although the figure was more accurate to the movie, the robe and cloak were composed of molded plastic rather than the cloth on the vintage figure. As a result the toy is more impressive to look at but it effectively becomes a miniature statue with no playability. Vintage Squid Head could hijack Luke’s X-Wing Fighter or sit in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon after Chewie and Han bribed him to help them escape Jabba’s Palace. Power of the Jedi Tessek released in the early 2000’s just looks neat on a shelf. Appearance is certainly important but I submit that articulation and fun is even more so.