Saturday, September 24, 2016

1989 Recoil - Around the Web

Recoil is a figure I like so much that I've profiled him twice.  The baby blue weapons are the real negative to him.  But, there are lots of black M-203's from the 2000's era Joes that outfit him nicely.  And, if you can find a cheap Steel Brigade figure, you can get his gun in charcoal as well.  (Good luck with that these days, though.)  Here's the best of the character around the web.

Recoil Profile - 2014

Recoil Profile - 2000

Recoil at Mike's Collection

Recoil Video Review

Recoil at

Recoil at the Viper Pit

Recoil Pre-Production Photos at

1989 Recoil, 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Falcon, 1993 Battle Corps Gung Ho

Thursday, September 22, 2016

1994 Star Brigade - Carded Set

In the second half of 1998, I really started to look to G.I. Joe collecting as my hobby of choice.  I had dabbled a bit in a Joe resurgence for a while.  But, the retail stream of new Star Wars figures consumed not only most of my money, but also my time.  However, by the summer of 1998, the Star Wars market was over-saturated.  The huge volume of shipments and new waves that included carry over figures from earlier releases had caused a pegwarming backup that was unprecedented.  While the early part of 1998 had been a great time of constant new figures and refreshed army builders, Hasbro had made too much and the waves planned for later in the year could not get out to retail.  This resulted in a some waves being cancelled, others only showing up in obscure retailers and the complete reboot of the line in early 1999.  To me, though, the retail frustration of Star Wars, coupled with my first major promotion in my adult career lead me down another path along which I could spend my money.  All of this, of course, coincided with the emergence of Ebay as a means to purchase items that were not available from local toy dealers or second hand shops.  As I shifted my collecting priorities, I first focused on a few items from the Joe line that I had long wanted.  Among them were a Hammer, the 1989 Rock and Roll and, at least one Lunartix Alien.

In 1998, the alien figures, MOC, fetched about $15 on the secondary market.  This seems low, but was a princely sum back then.  You could get lesser character 1985 figures MOC for that price at the time.  So, it was a large purchase when I bit the bullet and got a Lobotomaxx figure.  When he arrived, I realized how cool the overall card presentation was.  I liked the colors and look of Star Brigade.  And, I had a connection to the 1993 series that I had found at KB Toys liquidation stores a few years prior.  As I surveyed the other 1994 Star Brigade offerings, I was enthralled by the designs and colors.  At the time, the figures were relatively hard to find, especially if you wanted them loose.  However, you could find them carded: and they were cheap when you did.  So, I put together my first complete series of carded figures: the 1994 Star Brigade.

The '94 Star Brigade line was divided into two distinct series.  The first wave consisted of Cobra Commander, Cobra Blackstar, Sci Fi, Payload, Space Shot, Duke and Roadblock.  The second wave contained Ozone, Countdown, Effects, Lobotomaxx, Predacon and Carcass.  This left an unlucky 13 figures in the retail, single carded line.  But, the overall presentation remained.  Gone were the generic pink cards from 1993 and in was a visual delight of black, blue and purple with a clean G.I. Joe logo running up the card's left edge, culminating in a bright Star Brigade logo at the card's top.  Each character got his own, unique card art along with a yellow "gimmick" tag that touted some feature of each figure.  In short, they were a crisp, clean look for the last unique retail wave of figures to hit stores.

Wave 1 showcased Hasbro's commitment to the line.  5 of the 7 figures featured either mostly new parts, or all new parts.  On top of this, the characters all included a wide array of feature rich accessories that were essential for retail success at the time.  Hasbro did skimp on the overall paint applications, though.  Most of the figures only have three or four minor paint masks.  And, Duke and the variant Roadblock only featured one paint mask on their entire body.  This Roadblock and the Payload figure were repaints of Star Brigade molds that had been released in 1993.  Which, in turn, were mostly repaints of prior years' retail release figures.  So, the line spent money wisely in terms of bringing something new to the market.

1994 Star Brigade, Duke, Sci Fi, Space Shot, Cobra Commander, Blackstar, Roadblock, Payload, Variant, Carcass, Lobotomaxx, Predacon, Effects, Countdown, Ozone
1994 Star Brigade Wave 1: Duke, Sci Fi, Space Shot and Cobra Commander

Oddly, both of the repainted figures from Wave 1 also featured variations.  The most notable is actually a different figure version rather than a variant.  Payload was first released in a black and blue color scheme that was a direct derivative of his 1993 figure.  He was then upgraded to match his card art with a red, white and blue version.  Roadblock exists with either silver painted grenades and highlights or black.  The silver was the initial version.  The paint mask was then removed to save money.  The silver gives the figure more depth.  But, both variations work.

1994 Star Brigade, Duke, Sci Fi, Space Shot, Cobra Commander, Blackstar, Roadblock, Payload, Variant, Carcass, Lobotomaxx, Predacon, Effects, Countdown, Ozone
Cobra Blackstar, White Payload Variant, Blue Payload Variant and Roadblock with Silver Grenades Variant.

Each figure except for Payload and Blackstar featured a removable helmet.  Payload and Roadblock included standard missile launchers of the day.  But, the rest of the figures were given new, more exciting gimmicks.  Blackstar included an oversized spring loaded cannon that fit onto a backpack.  Duke's pack not only shot missiles, it was the attachment point for his helmet.  Both Sci Fi and Space Shot included rope accessories integrated into their packs.  (Sci Fi's pack would later return with his Funskool release, as well.)  And, Cobra Commander got the oddest item of all: a suction cup laden climber that affixed to his torso and was designed to allow him to climb up your mother's nicest coffee tables and freshly painted walls.

Wave 2 of Star Brigade was equally ambitious.  Four of the six figures were all new.  The remaining two, Ozone and Countdown, were repaints of 1993 Star Brigade figures as well.  The overall color scheme of Wave 2 is excellent.  Ozone is a striking brown while Countdown uses a subtle grey and green base.  Effects is an all new figure using a base color of blue.  But, he also suffered from limited paint masks. (And bare, gloveless hands!)  The Lunartix aliens, though, took Joe to a whole new place.  Joe was now fully science fiction.  Whether you agree with that direction or not, the alien figures are something completely unprecedented and interesting.  They showcased the enhanced sculpting that was common at the time with the bulkier builds of the 1993 and 1994 figures.  But, they also stepped away from the constraints of the Joe line and added unforeseen construction while still keeping base compatibility with the existing line.

1994 Star Brigade, Duke, Sci Fi, Space Shot, Cobra Commander, Blackstar, Roadblock, Payload, Variant, Carcass, Lobotomaxx, Predacon, Effects, Countdown, Ozone
Wave 2 Joes: Effects, Countdown and Ozone.

The Lunartix Aliens are the most famous part of the Star Brigade subset.  Lobotomaxx, Predacon and Carcass are all something Joe had never seen before.  For many, these three figures represent everything that was wrong with G.I. Joe in the 1990's.  However, if you forget the theme, the figures themselves are very well done.  They are intricately sculpted, well painted and fit together within a theme without being too similar.  In short, they take the greatest qualities of Joe figures and applied them to aliens rather than humans.  Hasbro obviously spent a lot of money designing these figures.  So, they were part of the overall commitment that the maker had to the brand, even at the end.

1994 Star Brigade, Duke, Sci Fi, Space Shot, Cobra Commander, Blackstar, Roadblock, Payload, Variant, Carcass, Lobotomaxx, Predacon, Effects, Countdown, Ozone
Lunartix Aliens.  From Left to Right: Lobotomaxx, Predacon and Carcass

The aliens originally came back from the factory in colors that didn't match their card artwork.  Hasbro went back to the well and had them changed.  However, the miscolored figures were given Spanish language stickers and were released in Mexico.  They are extremely short run international variants and have become both pricey and desirable among collectors.  You will also note that none of the aliens include the spring loaded launchers.  This, likely, was a cost saving move for a wave that was destined to be a short production run.

The Star Brigade figures were individually numbered.  Hasbro starting the numbering in 1993.  It was likely a way for kids to track what they did and did not own.  The numbers appear on boxes on the back that make it easy for kids to check off which figures they own or want.  The series, though, it split.  The first 7 figures are numbers 21 though 27. The final 6 figures are numbers 49 through 54.  The numbers skip around based on other items released through the year.  It is noteworthy, though, that the second wave does not appear in the 1994 product catalog.  And, the first wave is only shown as card artwork and not actual figures.  The artwork may have been a stylistic choice.  But, the absence of the second wave shows that Hasbro was stepping out of the yearly release cycle for Joes in 1994 and was beginning the trend we see to this day of more releases in shorter windows.

For a long time, carded 1994 Star Brigade figures were cheap.  Slowly, though, the supply has dried up and more collectors have found them a necessary element to collection completion.  Now, many of the figures will fetch $25 to $30 for MOC specimens.  For a time, certain figures have even climbed over $60.  One of the reasons I have these is because they were so cheap to acquire.  Now, that's less true.  But, considering the low production run, the figures are probably still a bit underpriced due to the lack of popularity.

For me, this small, final subset of the Joe line is a perfect bookend to my collecting timeline.  I started getting Joes in 1982.  When I returned to collecting, I started at the end and worked my way backwards until I met my childhood collection.  But, beyond that, I find this line a lot of fun.  I was always a Star Wars fan and having astronauts and aliens was kind of a way to bring the two mythoi together.  Nearly 20 years later, I am still enthralled by the Star Brigade line.  It remains my favorite subset in the entire history of Joe.  I would have loved to have seen them return in the 2000's.  But, several of the molds were in India and collectors would have likely shunned them.  Now, I think Star Brigade returning as an anniversary sculpt convention set would actually be fairly popular.  The aliens would be hard to pull off.  But, I think we've finally reached a point where collectors are more accepting of the Star Brigade concept.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2004 Comic Pack Scarlett

G.I. Joe #2 was one of the earlier back issues I acquired in late 1984/early 1985.  My local comic shop usually didn't have a ton of G.I. Joe back issues in those days, but I got lucky and found a #2 for $3: which was a princely sum back then.  I sucked it up and bought it and then marveled as the book climbed to nearly $50 on the secondary market in fairly short order.  To me, though, the value of the comic was the story inside.  The second issue and third adventure of G.I. Joe was really a great precursor for the later Special Missions title.  It featured a team of 4 Joes battling against a new enemy, the Eskimo Kwinn. It remains one of my favorite Joe stories to this day.

When it was announced in 2004 that this comic would be in the first wave of Hasbro's new comic pack products, I was excited to see what figures would accompany it.  When the images popped up, my initial reaction was one of great anticipation for the toys.  But, after I got the pack, my enthusiasm was tempered.  Snake Eyes was cool, but the colors weren't great.  Kwinn was good to see: but still flawed.  The third figure in the pack, Scarlett, was one I categorically dismissed.  Getting the character's head on a white Jinx body to emulate an appearance on one page of the comic wasn't that exciting.  But now, 12 years later, this figure holds up a bit better.

In the comic, Scarlett appears in the outfit on which this figure is based for 2 panels.  2 panels.  But, frankly, that's the type of obscurity I preferred that Hasbro mine when looking for figures to populate the comic packs.  The artistic comic renderings of the Joes, in general, were based on the toy appearances of most of the characters in the early issues.  So, finding an alternate appearance to give collectors something different was a strategy I appreciated.  What I did not appreciate, though, was the quality of the newly sculpted heads.  Most of them had issues and appeared to be out of place on the bodies with which they were paired.  Scarlett is a notorious offender.  Her head is the size of a pin and is woefully small for even the relatively dainty Jinx body.  She looks like the reverse of those old cartoons where the character goes into the steam bath and comes out with a shrunken body but normal head.  She is swimming in her collar.  If the uniform had a generally baggy appearance, this might have been less noticeable.  But, this tiny head atop fully stout set of shoulders and arms is a bit silly.

If you look at some of the unproduced comic pack figures, you see that sizing the heads was a problem for Hasbro.  Most of the early heads exist in two sizes: both of which are often flawed in different ways.  The comic packs were an experiment and it's likely that the budgets for design were eaten up on the heads in general.  Spending more to make them perfect was probably not an option once the two sizes were production tested.  As the line progressed, the new heads got better and culminated in the 2005 Firefly head which is just about perfection in terms of fitting with the vintage mold while improving upon the 21 year old design.

Getting past the design limitations, though, the figure is about as good a representation of Scarlett as Hasbro could have done.  The Jinx body for this figure is a good choice.  Though, the shoes are a departure from the bare feet of the comic.  The white color is so different from the vintage red, Vypra black and Tiger Force green that it appears much newer and less overused than many of the Joe molds that later dominated the comic packs.  The figure included the standard Scarlett crossbow as well as a new sculpt era rifle.  The are unnecessary accessories, but nice to have and give the figure more useful possibilities.

As a toy, the figure is fairly basic.  You get the new head.  I'm sure the pony tail piece was quite expensive for Hasbro to design, paint and produce.  That said, though, the figure only has a black belt, white shoes, a grey leg cuff and flesh colored hands and ankles as additional details.  It's very basic.  But, the outfit was very basic on the comic and the Jinx mold itself doesn't have a lot of flash.  This is a rare case where simplicity rules.  You get a major character in an off hand appearance that, while not overly useful, is different and true to the media from which she was drawn.

For that reason, I appreciate this figure.  As a character, Scarlett appeared quite frequently in the repaint era.  But, each and every one of those figures with the exception of this one used the 1982 body in different colors.  As such, you had a bit of chomatic diversity that was lost due to the mold's overuse.  Seeing the character in a different configuration was nice and gives collectors a way to use Scarlett differently.  All that said, though, the figure has its issues.  The Jinx body works well enough.  But, the head does not fit onto it all that well and the overall appearance is that it's too small.  On top of that, while the look is different, it is also boring.  It makes for a good sparring Scarlett for your dojo dioramas.  But, this figure's use elsewhere is rather limited.  But, with an appalling lack of female figure parts available, Hasbro can be forgiven for using what they had in a more creative way than just repainting the V1 figure in white and calling her an "arctic" version.

Like many later edition figures, Scarlett's pricing is all over the place.  Left to her own devices, the figure can sell for under $2.  However, you see many more selling for $8 or so.  Kwinn sells in the same range.  The Snake Eyes figure sells between $4 and $6.  Or, you can just buy a carded set consistently for $15.  The point is that if you want the figure right now, there are lots of affordable carded versions available.  If you want to economize, you can wait it out and likely get the figure for next to nothing.  Either way, this is a decent version of Scarlett and something very different for her character.  It's a way to incorporate her later "ninja" theme without having to resort to the awful 1993 figure.  In a sea of green comic banality, this figure does stand out.  That and the head make the figure worth owning.  And, the cheap price makes it easier to accept the figure's flaws, too.

2004 Comic Pack Scarlett, 1987 Jinx, 1994 Viper, Battle Corps

2004 Comic Pack Scarlett, 2001 Laser Viper

2004 Comic Pack Scarlett, 2001 Laser Viper

Saturday, September 17, 2016

1987 Ice Viper - Around the Web

The Wolf was one of the last Cobra vehicles I bought at retail.  I found it to be a lot of fun and one of the few instances where Cobra's gear was superior to the Joe's.  The Ice Viper was a fitting driver, too.  The sais are an odd weapon choice.  But, they make the figure distinctive.  Here's the best of the Ice Viper around the web.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Diorama - Viper Attack

I was setting up a photo shoot for my Sgt. Slaughter profile.  I got a bunch of '86 figures out and showcased some Vipers, too.  Several of the photos were better as larger sets in lieu of the more focused Slaughter profile.  So, I put these photos together in a mini dio.  This was taken in early sprint just as my garden was coming in.  It was fun to get several of these figures together: even if the photo style seems horribly dated now.