6th Feb 2010. It seems like we've been waiting for the Ralph McQuarrie Concept Darth Vader Helmet for a long while. However, we're glad to say its been worth the wait and as of Monday 8th February 2010 these will finally go on pre-order on the eFX site (www.efxcollectibles.com). However as per our previous reports, there are only plans to produce 250 helmets - as special "Signature Edition" versions with signed plaques by Ralph McQuarrie - hence even at $900 per helmet, we doubt they're going to be in stock for very long. Update - they actually sold out on the 1st day!

Based on the original pre-movie design by Ralph McQuarrie, eFX Collectibles' commissioned talented artist Jay Kushwara to produce a CG rendition, which would completely capture McQuarrie's initial vision. Upon comparison against the painting featured op the front of the Ballantine's book (see lower down this page) you can see that Jay and E-FX have certainly succeeded.

As you may be able to notice, we've photographed the helmet outside to try and get a good natural light and colour balance which best illustrates the look of the helmet in person. As with the initial designs the helmet has a slight blue tinge which can change quite dramatically dependent on the type of lighting present (e.g. natural, fluorescent, halogen etc.). Its likely the final production versions (around in a couple of months time) will have the colour darkened a little more - but either way it has a really impressive appearance which in most lighting conditions appears "black".

First off, the thought that hits you when first picking up this 1:1 full size helmet is its weight, at something like 140oz (not far of 4kg if our maths is right) its twice the weight of other helmets we have close to hand here (like the MR Boba Fett for example) - its an absolute beast! However, despite its weight, its appearance has a number of really subtle touches that effectively capture the more robotic attributes of McQuarrie's initial intent.

The detailing on the face is really crisp and sharp thanks to many of the parts being attached after casting and painting - and this is most noticeable in the wiring on the cheeks as well as the curved strips which cover the jaw line. The designers should be applauded for not trying to simplify its manufacture by creating a single cast of the face - and thus sacrifice the sharp-edged detail that McQuarrie envisaged. By breaking the face up into the base section with add-on detailing, they've completely succeeded in the challenge.

From the rear it actually looks very much like the movie version of the helmet - although we don't think McQuarrie drew any rear-on shots so Jay and eFX has wisely not strayed too far from what we've come to expect.

Above and below a couple of close-up shots showing the detail around the face. The eye lenses are only slightly darkened - but enough to reflect back most of the light thrown at it given the darkened interior (which on the production versions will be leather lined). As you can see the paint work is fabulous - with the jaw line is finished off nicely with a pair of flat-ended Aluminium tusks.

Similar to the old Master Replicas RotS Darth Vader helmet, eFX's RMQ Vader uses a series of magnets to hold the dome in place - however the connection method is significantly improved. As you can see there are three circular magnetic disks which line up with their pairings on the inside of the dome creating a satisfying and secure "click" when they're correctly engaged. The twin tracks also marry up with a single track on the inside of the dome - further anchoring the helmet together. You can also see the neck-brace to the rear of the face-plate. This is another impressive feature that eFX could so easily have overlooked - respect to them for including it.

The rear neck-brace can be opened/closed should you wish to don the helmet (which of course can be worn) - and we're wondering how long it will be before someone creates the ultimate concept Vader costume using this as the base. Below another shot of the neck brace showing some of the great detailing Jay's added to what would have been unseen on the original artwork.

This profile shot below shows off the angle of the face and specifically the mouth grille section - and also captures the foreboding look of the Dark Lord as initially envisioned by Lucas

Finally for now, a shot of the helmet against the Master Replicas Revenge of the Sith version to illustrate the size. Note that this shot was taken inside under halogen lights which seem to have really accentuated the colouring making it look a lot bluer than it actually appears in person. As an example we asked a couple of people today about the helmet and both thought it was black when viewed under normal bulb lights! 

So in summary we'd say this is an excellent addition to any collection - especially if you have an interest in pre-production and concept work and "what might have been".   Clearly a huge amount of work has gone into this project both from the sculptor Jay Kushwara as well as the rest of the eFX team and with only 250 of these going on sale this Monday its unlikely they are going to be available for very long. Whether that's hours or days is anyone's guess but if you're at all motivated to get one of these then its our advice to move quickly. Update 9th Feb - It turned out to be hours since they actually sold out on the 1st day!

The addition of Ralph McQuarrie's signature is a real bonus and the helmet is a fitting tribute to the man whose inspirational creativity defined the unique and wondrous look of the Star Wars movies.


Work in progress shots

We've wanted to show this for some time but understandably the eFX guys wanted to "reveal" all at San Diego Comic Con. So with this now in full swing we're able to show off this cool CG photo of the new RMQ Concept helmet from e-FX and also direct from SDCC some cool photo's from Rebelscum and  Star Wars Action News of the unpainted Engineering Prototype.

Having seen and contributed to the evolution of this helmet over the last few months in CG, its great to see a "real" version of it - and it does look awesome. Not completely sure at this stage what the production numbers are likely to be but eFX has now confirmed there will be a limited Ralph McQuarrie Signature Edition run of just 250 helmets - with no word on any subsequent LE helmets- hence its likely to be a bit of a rush when these go on sale. Pricing-wise it sounds from Shadow like its going to be "North of $800".

The CG modelling work was led by Jay Kushwara and e-FX has based their McQuarrie concept Vader on the one featured on the Ballantine book below. McQuarrie produced a number of slightly different designs - and some fan-made versions of the differing Vader designs can be found here.

Though this is obviously not the final version, it is shaping up to be a really great looking collectible and one that we'll certainly be keeping you updated on. Its expected to arrive winter 2009,  we'll be pushing for an early hands-on look as soon as possible. Latest news (Sept 09) is just 250 will be produced - all Signature versions.

More of this as soon as we get it. Again thanks to e-Fx - along with Rebelscum and Star Wars Action News for the photos.

Update December 27th 2009 - We've just received these new photos of the latest factory sample from e-FX's production facility in China - and this is therefore in essence what the finished helmet is going to look like (although obviously painted and with lenses etc.)

The helmet is waiting for its "final approval from the licensee" which presumably means that Lucasfilm need to give it their final stamp of approval - although we here at StarWarsHelmets doubt there will be any issues there since it looks pretty superb!

It's pleasing to see that they've retained the sharpness seen on the original prototype. The metal tusks are cool too.

It comes in three sections, dome faceplate and neck brace. From a manufacturing perspective most of these sections are done in a single mould - with the detailing added as separate attached pieces - such as the cheek detailing and bridge down the side of the jaw-line. Below, a shot from the rear showing the dome, which is much like the ANH dome - although completely symmetrical.

These next two photos are of a painted factory sample - although you will notice that its missing its detailing - which as mentioned earlier is added onto the base faceplate. If the first photo looks a little odd that's because we've had to digitally align the dome to the faceplate since on the original photos we received they weren't attached.

We really like its menacing appearance and captures perfectly the look that Ralph McQuarrie painted all the way back in 1975 - when Lucas first imagined the Darth Vader character. Don't take the colour/shade as a given from these photos as the were taken with a flash close up and the final version is likely to be a little darker (although hopefully with that slight hint of Navy Blue like the RMQ painting)

Again, we'll be showing more of this as we receive additional information - and hopefully a Video review if we're able to get an early production piece. We believe this is due to be up for pre-order Jan/Feb 2010 and with only 250 pieces on sale its likely to be sold out within hours - we suggest you keep checking back!!!

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