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May The Porkins Be With You

Star Wars was one of the first movies I ever saw in a theater, and afterward my parents took me to the TG&Y department store and bought me my first action figure. I picked Princess Leia in her evening gown, white cape, and mesmerizing side buns. The purchase would mark the first of many childhood collections - G.I. Joe, He-Man, Transformers - but none would surpass my legion of Star Wars figures. My rebel alliance alone was some 50 men strong at one point.

I watched the movie recently for the first time in maybe 10 years and was a little rusty on the plot, but I could easily identify each character by whether they had an action figure and if I had owned it. That's how I came to notice Porkins.

Luke blows up the Death Star at the end of the movie, but the rebel army suffers a few casualties. One of them is Red Six, aka Jek Porkins, a guy who looks about two space cheeseburgers away from not being able to fit in an X-wing fighter. You would never know the guy's name was Porkins if you missed a short line from pilot Biggs Darklight: "I'm going in. Cover me, Porkins." Whaa? Did he just call that guy Porkins?

porkins_lg.jpg

Turning to the Internet, as I am wont to do in such situations, I discovered there is, of course, enough information on Porkins to fill a hollowed out Tauntaun.

Google lists about 70,000 pages that mention Porkins, and the tribute site Porkins: The Man, the Myth, the Slamdancer has more than 54,000 hits. Another site markets T-shirts and hats that read: Porkins is My Co-Pilot. But I was certain that there was no Porkins action figure. I would have owned it and never given it up. Again, the Internet proved me wrong. Despite the fact that he had only about four lines in the whole movie, Hasbro created a Porkins figure around 2000. Here is the dialogue from his death scene:

Porkins: I've got a problem here.

Biggs: Eject.

Porkins: I can hold it.

Biggs: Pull up!

Porkins: No, I'm all right. I'm alr - argh!

That's it. I'm pretty sure Porkins didn't even have a first name until he got his own action figure.

porkins_th.jpg
Director George Lucas has been accused of turning to the Dark Side for everything from digitally editing the original three Star Wars films to marketing a storm trooper doll with his own likeness. But selling a Porkins action figure really reached a new low in mass marketing - even for Star Wars. Geeks, however, seem to love Porkins just the same. The action figure probably appeals to children because even the smallest kid knows it's funny to call a fat guy Porkins. It just is. And, I think, Star Wars geeks love him because he represents the Everyman: pudgy and under-appreciated, not exactly Jedi material. Hell, Porkins would probably still be living with his mom and playing video games all day if there wasn't an Empire to fight.

"Godspeed and stay on target," read a comment from a tribute Web page in late 2005, shortly after Porkins actor William Hootkins died of pancreatic cancer. Another anonymous comment read: "I can't believe he's gone. I really wish I had bought the limited edition Porkins action figure now. I've used the name Porkins in every Star Wars game I've played since Rogue Squadron. You will be missed Mr. Porkins."

The price of a Porkins figure in its original box does seem to be gaining value. I bought a new Porkins for twelve bucks at an action figure collector's store in Chicago recently. It cost more than the opened and slightly damaged Princess Leia figure I bought to keep Porkins company. I thought a Biggs Darklight might round out my mini-collection quite nicely, but decided that it's probably the end of my nostalgic action figure collecting for a while. My girlfriend will be pleased. But the next time it comes up in conversation, I'm saying Porkins was my favorite character.



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Posted on June 17, 2006


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