Saturday, April 22, 2017

Takara (Japanese) Cobra Trooper

As a foil to the G.I. Joe figures, Takara also released several Cobra characters.  However, they replaced the blue card color with a vibrant reddish orange hue.  This made it easy to spot the factions on the shelves in Japan.  And, it also gave modern collectors an interesting take on Joe figures from outside the U.S.  And, just in case the card color wasn't enough, there is a huge Cobra symbol preceding the G.I. Joe name brand to be sure kids were aware they were buying a bad guy.

The classic Cobra Trooper was one of the figures released released by Takara.  He features his classic card artwork from the original release.  The blue figure seems to explode off the orange and yellow background: giving him a nice visual difference from other instances of his release with the classic art.  The figure itself is the same as the Hasbro release and includes his rifle.  You'll see a sticker sheet behind the figure, too.  This was an add on for the Takara release.  Though, I'm not sure if it was a short lived promotion or these stickers were included with every Cobra Trooper.

Like all Japanese figures, the market has absorbed these Troopers.  Six or Seven years ago, you could still buy MOC Takara Cobra Troopers for only a slight premium over what you'd pay for a truly mint Cobra Trooper.  But, those days are gone.  However, the Takara figs are still cheaper alternatives for classic figures with standard card art when compared to their Hasbro counterparts from around the world.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Brazilian Vibora Card Art Vs. Python Officer

The Python Patrol Officer was released in the U.S. in 1989.  This repainted Cobra Trooper utilized the card artwork from the original release.  But, Hasbro updated the colors to match their new subset of figures that were brought to retail as Python Patrol.  Around 1993 or so, the Cobra Trooper mold showed up in Brazil.  Here, he was released in Python Patrol colors as Vibora.  While the toy mold remained the same as an American release, Vibora was given brand new card artwork.

Vibora Card Art

Vibora features the classic Python Patrol coloring from the 1989 U.S. figure.  So, Hasbro sent those paint masks to Brazil for the swivel arm trooper mold.  But, this is the only connection to the U.S. release.  Vibora is in a completely different pose.  He also features his Brazilian exclusive weapons (a remake of Hit and Run's rifle and the Range Viper's grenade launcher) drawn into his hands.

Oddly, Vibor's name translates as Viper.  G.I. Joe fans know the Viper as the building block of the Cobra army and their successor to the original Cobra upon which Vibora is based.

1989 Python Officer Card Art
The biggest difference I see in the two artworks are the characters eyes.  Vibora's eyes are wide and somewhat crazy.  He looks worried and overwhelmed by his station.  The Python Officer's eyes, though, look very, very evil.  He has the hardened face of a career mercenary.  Each of them is cool in their own way.  But, the eyes seem to be the biggest characterization difference between the two releases.

Vibora Cardback and Filecard
Here is rough translation of Vibora's filecard:
He is extremely vengeful. And fast in your actions. Perfect for being the commander of the Cobra attack jets. His thirst for vengeance leads him to despise danger. And when it lands, its speed leaves the inmates unreacted.
Once, at school, Vibora needed to take ten to not be disapproved. He had no doubts: he took the test from the most intelligent colleague, put his name and called the teacher. For what? To accuse the unfortunate of wanting to take his test.

Vibora and Python Officer Card Artwork Comparison

Thursday, April 20, 2017

TNT - Argentina Exclusive - Around the Web

TNT is one of those figures that I just really like.  I shouldn't.  Yellow, blue and silver should not be the type of repaint that attracts my attention.  But, I find this figure fascinating.

TNT was one of three Plastirama uses of Blowtorch and he is my favorite of the three.  The figure was very common in 2000 and 2001 and would often sit unsold for cheap prices.  But, TNT was the third behind Ninja Ku and Satan in popularity and the supply slowly dried up.  These days, he's a fairly pricey figure.  Here's the little I could find on him around the web.

TNT Profile

TNT Diorama

TNT Gratis Card on Instagram

TNT Anniversary Figure Review at Mike's Collection

TNT at Gangusstars

Argentina, Plastirama, TNT, Blowtorch, 1982 Grand Slam, 1983, Rock and Roll, HAL, 2004 VAMP

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Korean Carded Gung Ho

In the late 1990's, foreign Joes that weren't the Chinese exclusives, later run Estrela figures or a few, select Funskool releases were rather scarce to come by.  You would see some displayed at conventions and there were a few pictures online.  But, information was incomplete.  One day, though, a bunch of Korean carded Joes showed up on online auction sites.  The figures themselves were Hasbro produced items from the early 1990's.  These generated quite a bit of discussion as collectors argued over whether to bid them up because they were Korean or to ignore them since the figures weren't exclusive: just the packaging.

The end result is that the figures didn't sell for much.  I think I paid $15 for the figure below and sold it for about the same a couple of years later.  But, I liked this Gung Ho.  I was drawn to him because I had bought a 1992 Gung Ho figure at retail and considered him one of my "return to collecting" figures.  But, I also liked the juxtaposition of the American flag on the packaging and with the figure, yet with Korean writing.

There were quite a few figures in this series.  But, the images I saved are long gone and I didn't save a scan of the cardback.  This Gung Ho is another one of those little oddities that I've owned over the years that I wish I had hung onto.  Not that it's overly valuable or rare.  But, the figure is interesting and is a fun way to show off just how influential the Joe line was around the world.

Korean Carded 1992 Gung Ho

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Olhos de Fenix - Brazilian Exlusive Spirit Iron Knife

As Joe figures were cycled out of production in the United States, Hasbro looked to license their toys for use in other parts of the world.  It was a way to grow the global G.I. Joe brand while also stretching a lot more profit out of molds that had paid for themselves with just the U.S. run.  In the latter half of the 1980's, most G.I. Joe figures from the line's first three years found their way to South America where local companies (Plastirama in Argentina, Rubiplas in Venezula and Estrela in Brazil) licensed the figure molds and produced exclusive versions of the toys for their domestic markets.  These figures contained small subtleties that differentiated them from the Hasbro releases.  In some cases, the changes were somewhat major.  But, at least for the early figures, the changes were mostly due to the plastic mixture colors and some different paint.  But, the figures produced have left a legacy of high quality and fun variants for collectors to track down.  In a few cases, foreign companies produced figures that had superior benefits as compared to the Hasbro release.  One such instance is the Olhos De Fenix figure released in Brazil.  

The figure itself is modeled on the highly recognizable and popular 1984 Spirit figure.  Olhos de Fenix loosely translates into the "Eyes of Phoenix".  Eyes of Phoenix is a mouthful of a code name: as is Olhos de Fenix.  What's odd is that the figure is also named Flecha Veloz, which translates as Fast Arrow.  Fast Arrow is a better code name and is something you can say.  Even Flecha Veloz would work as a distinct name.  But, it's tough to look at this figure and see anyone other than the classic visage of Spirit Iron Knife.  In some ways, though, that is a very good thing.

There are a few items of note about the Olhos de Fenix figure in relation to the American release of Spirit.  The Spirit figure has two major flaws.  First, the blue shirt and arms tend to discolor terribly.  Second, the golden wrist gauntlet paint will wear off is you breathe on it.  This makes finding truly mint Spirit figures very difficult.  The Olhos de Fenix figure, though, does not suffer from these issues.  The brilliant blue shirt does not discolor easily.  And, the golden paint on the figure's wrists is much more robust than that of the American release.  Oddly, South American produced Joes do not have nearly the same discoloration issues as those produced in Asia.  You see it on Olhos de Fenix, Cobra de Hielo and other South American issued molds.

The other difference in the Brazilian figure versus the American version are the general colors used.  Olhos de Fenix figures feature much richer color palettes.  The blue shirt is a much deeper blue than the American version.  In turn, this makes the red and gold pop more from the base background.  Olhos de Fenix's skin tone is darker, too.  It's actually more in line with his Native American skin color than the American release.  The overall color brilliance carries over to the accessories, too.  The figure's pack and gun are the much darker Brazilian green that was common to Estrela produced figures.  The loincloth is about the same in color.  But, the eagle included with the Brazilian figure is actually a lighter brown color than the the American released version of Freedom.

Ever since I acquired my first Brazilian figure back in 2001, I've had an issue with the softer plastic on the figures turning tacky to the touch.  This has occurred to figures stored in different ways in different parts of the country.  I've had it happen to figures I've opened off the card and figures and those I've acquired loose like this Olhos de Fenix.  In this case, the figure's hair has started to turn soft to the touch.  His loincloth has as well.  You can feel a slight, oily residue on your hands after handling these parts of the figure.  At this point, the plastic is 30+ years old.  So, the deterioration that's occurred may be the extent of what I'll see.  Or, it could be the harbinger of finding globs of gelatinous goo inside my figure storage bins.  But, I'm curious if others have this same issue.  Since I've seen it on figures acquired from American dealers, Brazilian aftersellers and even carded figures, I assume I can't be the only one who has found this problem.  So, if you have any experience with the Estrela plastic, let me know in the comments.

For me, Olhos de Fenix fits into a specific niche.  Like many foreign remakes of classic figures, Olhos de Fenix is a way for me to enjoy a classic figure from my childhood in a new way.  I find this figure better and more fun to photograph than the American Spirit due to the color differences.  More than one collector has commented on the quality of the Spirit in one of my photos, not realizing it was actually the Olhos de Fenix figure.  Posing him with remakes of classic characters from around the globe brings a worldliness to my collection that I enjoy.  You really don't need this figure as he brings nothing to a collection that Spirit does not.  But, having more than one way to showcase one of the figures who dominated the latter half of my 1984 play patterns is a nice, nostalgic bonus.

Spirit had a long life.  After the American release in 1984, the figure went to Brazil.  Olhos de Fenix was likely released sometime around 1986.  Subsequent to that release, the figure was then released by Auriken in Mexico in colors based on the American figure.  In 1989, Estrela fired up the mold again and produced the Slaughter's Marauders Spirit figure that was actually sold in the U.S.  Then, though, the mold was returned to Hasbro.  How this went down is unclear.  But, around 1991, a new Spirit figure was produced in Asia and released by Hasbro as a European exclusive figure.  The mold died after this.  Circumstantial evidence suggests that Hasbro could have had the mold in the 2000's.  But, it's impossible to know for sure.  All we know is that Spirit got a good number of releases around the world, but hasn't been seen in over 25 years.

A few years ago, Olhos de Fenix figures were fairly cheap.  You could get mint and complete figures for around $30 shipped from Brazil.  (So, about half that cost was shipping.)  Now, they cost much more. Nicely conditioned and complete with filecard figures will reach nearly $100, and sometimes more.  If you sacrifice some gear, the filecard or condition, it can still be a $50 figure if it's unbroken.  That's a lot to pay for something that's a slight variant to the American figure.  But, finding cheap American figures that are not discolored and have no gold paint wear is a challenge in and of itself.  The deeper colors of the Brazilian version do make him worth owning.  But, I"m not sure that the differences are worth the massive price differences between the Olhos de Fenix figure and the Spirit figure.  I was fortunate to acquire this guy when doing so was about the same price as getting a Hasbro release.  That is no longer the case.  But, I'm glad I have him now as the differences make for a better version of Spirit.

Olhos De Fenix, Flecha de Veloz, VAMP, Double Blast, Quarrel, Brazilian Exclusive, European Exclusive, Action Force, Palitoy, Spirit, Fumaca, Ripcord, Estrela

Olhos de Fenix, Flecha Veloz, Brazilian Exclusive, Estrela, 1985 Parachute Pack, Mail Away, 1984 Ripcord, 1983 JUMP, Jet Pack, G.I. Joe HQ

Olhos de Fenix, Flecha Veloz, Fumaca, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Palitoy, Estrela, Brazilian Exclusive, European Exclusive, 1985, Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, Steel Brigade