It’s not really that uncommon for someone to really latch on to an ancillary character from a book or movie. Maybe Dean Thomas really clicked with you. Perhaps you’re a fan of Dolorous Edd from Game of Thrones. Could be that Dr. Nick is your favorite Simpsons character. After surviving all three Original Trilogy movies, Wedge Antilles had quite a fan group sprout up around him. Boba Fett is perhaps the most mainstream example of this phenomenon. I thought I would talk about one of my favorite ancillary characters from the the Star Wars movies. If you couldn’t guess from the title (what are you, stupid?), I’m talking about General Maximilian Veers. This will be part Character Spotlight, part Moment in Collecting, all Veers, all the time. It’s The Great Galactic Academy General Veers Extravaganza!
Now, the question you may be asking yourself is “Why Veers?” That’s reasonable. You may also be asking “Who the hell is General Veers?” That, too, is reasonable. Truth be told, Veers isn’t actually heavily featured in the movies or, perhaps more surprisingly, the EU. He only has a few appearances outside the films, and he doesn’t really star in any of them. His only film appearance was in The Empire Strikes Back, where he led the ground invasion on Hoth, to great success.
Maximilian Veers has a relatively extensive backstory, but a lot of that was filled in through reference guides and the like, not through a full novel like some of the more privileged Imperials (looking at you, Tarkin). In the EU, he’s very strongly tied to the AT-AT, which, given his limited screen time in the films, makes a lot of sense. His rise through the ranks is tied to the walkers, and he actually gets a cadet transferred to Tatooine for making public a weakness he had discovered. Throughout it all, Veers is portrayed as supremely competent. He’s actually recommended to Vader by none other than Grand Admiral Thrawn in a short story called “Side Trip,” and those who know about Thrawn (that could be you, if you click on that link!) know what high praise that is. One type of media where he is featured prominently is video games, particularly real time strategies. Veers is featured in both Galactic Battlegrounds and the later Empire at War as a playable unit, which given his status as a field commander is rather fitting. Perhaps the reason Veers didn’t get featured that much in the EU is that he was killed off very quickly: he appeared as captain in the first issue of Dark Empire II, and was killed in that issue. Though it isn’t made clear (I own the issue and couldn’t find confirmation of his death), it’s revealed through other EU sources that due to his close relationship with Vader, he was widely shunned after Endor, and that he was demoted and sent on a suicide mission by an angry commander. Despite knowing it would likely mean his death, and being disillusioned with the Empire as a whole at that point, his sense of duty compelled him to carry out his task.
There’s one other reason that I really like Veers, and that’s who plays him: a Mr. Julian Glover. I doubt many of you have ever heard of Julian Glover, but I bet you’ve seen him, and I bet in more than one movie, too. Mr. Glover has had a hand in some of the biggest franchises of the last 40 years. Outside of Veers, he played Bond villain Aristotle Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only, one of the more grounded Roger Moore films, he voiced Aragog in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he was the main villain, Walter Donovan, in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and he currently can be seen as Grand Maester Pycelle in Game of Thrones. He’s been in Doctor Who, Troy, and a cavalcade of other films. If you don’t think that’s pretty nifty, well, I don’t know what to tell you.
Now, I also mentioned that this would be part Moment in Collecting, and that’s about to come true. You see, Veers hasn’t received a terrible amount of love in terms of collectibles. He’s got the requisite action figures, he’s been a figure in a few Lego sets, but his only high end collectible is a bust by Gentle Giant. Perhaps “a” bust is the wrong terminology: Gentle Giant produced two versions of it; a regular available at the mass market, and an exclusive deluxe edition available only to their Premier Guild (which, again, you have to pay $50 to join). The regular edition would feature Veers wearing his iconic AT-AT armor (okay, iconic is a strong word), while the deluxe edition would feature removable armor, so that you could display him in the classic Imperial officer uniform.
Now, a lot of people were very excited for this bust. Most were perfectly content to order the regular edition, as the armored look is by far and away the more popular of the two. Me, I did order the deluxe edition, but I actually did so with reluctance: it was more expensive than the regular edition, and I had no plans to ever display him sans armor. That said, I had a $30 coupon, and I hadn’t used my Premier Guild membership for anything that year, so I figured I might as well have the option, in case the mood ever struck. As it happened, this wound up being absolutely, 100% the right call.
You see, at some point in production, Gentle Giant actually decided to switch things up. They decided that the regular version of the bust would not feature the AT-AT armor, and just be him in the officer uniform. On the surface, this actually isn’t a terrible idea. A deluxe version that lets the user display their product with less stuff is kinda stupid, really, and making the more famous look a Premier Guild exclusive would be sure to drive up membership (even if it was kinda of a jerk move). This would have been all well and good if Gentle Giant had actually bothered to tell anyone that they were doing this.
Somehow, defying all conventional logic, Gentle Giant made the switch without any sort of announcement. Retailers still had the armored picture of the bust up on their sites, and collectors were eagerly awaiting their armored busts. Then, orders started showing up, and Veers didn’t have any armor on. People were confused, then understandably angry. There was no level of damage control that could ease everybody’s anger. People had gotten used to Gentle Giant doing dumb stuff before releases (likenesses between prototype, display pieces and the final version would occasionally be drastically different), but this was a whole new level. There were 1200 regular busts, and less than 450 deluxe. Almost 800 people got screwed out of the bust that they ordered. Gentle Giant was contrite of course, issuing the following statement:
The concept for the regular edition of our General Veers Mini Bust changed in development. Originally, the regular edition bust featured General Veers wearing un-removable AT-AT pilot armor. In revising the bust, we decided to display him in his officer’s uniform instead. We failed to keep you updated about the nature of these changes before this piece was released. This was unintentional, and we sincerely apologize for any disappointment and confusion this error has caused. If you are not satisfied with the final product, please return it and we will be happy to issue a full refund.
The Team at Gentle Giant Ltd
So, really, there were just two options in the end. Either Gentle Giant decided to deliberately leave collectors in the dark, which is idiotic and evil, or they somehow forgot to tell literally anybody who didn’t work at the company about the switch, which is also idiotic but eliminates the evilness. The promise of a full refund didn’t make many collectors, who still really wanted their damn armored Veers bust, happy whatsoever. Despite calls for a second run of deluxe busts from the collecting community, Gentle Giant never did anything else to make the situation right. It’s a real shame too, because there was a huge amount of excitement from collectors when Veers was first shown. I’m not the only one so taken with the character, you know, and there are plenty of collectors who really just want anyone with a speaking role to get produced. To make things even worse, the likeness on the bust wasn’t even that spectacular. Far from their worst effort, but not their best either. Of course, if you have the deluxe version, all those fancy bells and whistles kinda distract from that….
– Now that we have this new canon, Veers is someone who I think is screaming for some action. He’s the only Imperial of note to survive the movies (he was almost killed off during the Battle of Hoth, and in early drafts for Return of the Jedi, but his ultimate fate is never shown on screen), so he could show up in the lead up to The Force Awakens, in Marvel’s Darth Vader or Star Wars ongoing series, or get a novel a la Tarkin (a man can dream, can’t he?).
– Seriously, that deluxe Veers bust sells for oodles of money nowadays. One sold on eBay in May for over $400, original retail was around $85.
– In general, I tend not to buy autographs if I don’t meet the person in the process (which means that I really only buy autographs at conventions). I had the chance to meet Julian Glover at Celebration IV when I went in 2007, but fool that I was, I passed on the chance. Thankfully, an official signing with Julian was offered earlier this year, and for Veers I made an exception.