Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2005 Iron Anvil - Convention Exclusive

I first looked at this figure 5 years ago.  But, I didn't feel that profile really did this figure justice.  The 1994 Viper mold is a design gem that was obscure behind poor color choices in it's only release year.  Seeing the sculpt in fully paint glory showcases how amazing the final years of the Joe line could have been.  And, it also shows how spectacular the 2000's era repaint line could have been were these molds better utilized.  In short, you see a lot of missed potential in those statements.  But, the Iron Anvil figure from 2005 is one of those items that we should celebrate since it exists, is relatively common and remains one of the cheaper convention army builders out there today.

You can not discuss the 2005 convention set without touching upon the controversy that surrounded it.  Many months before the convention, a list started to circulate around collecting circles.  It quickly became the worst guarded secret in all of fandom.  But, it was the list of 2005 convention exclusive figures that were planned.  At the time, Master Collector was weirdly secretive and were quick to discredit the list when it appeared publicly.  But, the final set ended up being pretty much what the list showed.  The Iron Grenadiers had to get a new head that fit onto a Night Viper body.  And, the redone Condor never saw the light of day.  What was odd, though, was that the advance knowledge of the convention theme and possible items actually made the set more desirable and many collectors were given incentive to save up for the set since they had ample notice of the theme.  Despite that glorious bit of marketing intelligence, the leaks were plugged and the convention sets remained under wraps after that...heavily diminishing much collector interest.

The Iron Grenadier set, though, remains many collectors' favorite set of the convention era.  It had a solid theme, was in line with the vintage figures and included figures that were different from the originals, but also were well done.  In many ways, it was a set done right.  And, the Iron Anvils are my personal set highlight.  I've been a fan of the 1994 Viper since I found my first one at retail in 1995.  I found another near the end of the summer and began army building them before I knew what army building really was.  I found the design in the comics and always wanted a repaint of the mold with the green body and golden helmet.  As the mold was new for 1994, it's very possible it would have been repainted in 1995.  But, that didn't happen.  And, as Hasbro was releasing Viper repaint after Viper repaint, it never occurred to them to bring back the 1994 mold to offer collectors something different.  So, the mold's appearance in the Iron Grenadier set felt like someone had finally realized the mold's potential.

Starting with the base black color, the Iron Anvil is designed to work with classic 1988 Iron Grenadiers and the 1988 Destro figure.  He even matches the Iron Grenadier vehicles.  The gold and red highlights would be overwhelming.  But, they are toned down by the grey boots and gloves the figure is wearing on his extremities.  The gold and red, though, both feel somewhat fragile to me.  And, I've never been too keen on using these figures in similar ways that vintage figures are exploited.  I'm not sure if that's just fear or genuine experience from dealing with decades of figures with fragile gold paint.  Overall, though, the figure is just four colors: which is somewhat light for a convention release.  But, showing off the color, zipper and goggles makes the colors seem more complex than they are.  You get to see the details of the figure's sculpt without it being too busy.

The Iron Anvil's accessories are well done.  He includes a grey version of the wicked lightning knife that debuted with the 1988 Hydro Viper but was also released in red with the 1994 Viper.  It's a cool looking weapon and makes the figure a bit more dangerous.  The Iron Anvil's weapon of choice is the sub machine gun that originated with the 1989 Annihilator figure.  Again, it is an under-utilized weapon that is well sculpted and really deserved more releases.  It's also a perfect fit for the figure's specialty of para-trooper.  The final bit of gear is the convention issue backpack and parachute.  This combo of metallic vinyl parachute and recolored Jinx backpack originated in 2002 with the Paratrooper Dusty and remained a convention staple after that.  It's not spectacular.  But, it's not bad, either.  Working parachutes are always fun and this chute's colors match the figure. 

I think my opinion of this figure is over-inflated.  I love the 1994 Viper.  I wanted to see repainted 1994 Vipers.  And, the Iron Grenadier set was pretty nice.  So, I have a soft spot for this figure where others may not.  Collectors of the 2000's punished Hasbro for releasing any mold made after 1990.  The club fared a little better.  But, they received a lot of criticism for their use of later molds, too.  Everyone would have loved to have seen the Annihilator get released as the Iron Anvil.  (By the way, the Iron Anvil name is stolen from the obscure Iron Panther driver from the ill-fated Sgt. Savage line of toys.)  But, this Viper repaint is a suitable replacement.  Seeing an under-utilized mold was greatly appreciated by me, even if not every collector felt the same. 

Despite this, I don't have too many of these figures in my collection.  While they are great figures and not overly expensive, I'm not a huge Iron Grenadier fan.  And, I usually don't go overboard buying up specialty army builders, especially if they fall outside of my core Cobra vision.  Though, it's not from lack of trying.  Through the years, I've sought to pick up small lots of these guys.  But, I never get around to it.  They were cheap and common and that drove me seek out other opportunities that I feared would not present themselves again.  Even with a sparse few samples in my collection, I don't go out of my way to use the figure.  While I like the 1988 Destro, I see the character primarily as a member of Cobra.  So, him having his own forces didn't make much sense to me.  It doesn't diminish the quality of this figure.  But, it does reduce my desire to own him in bulk.

Like pretty much all the once common convention figures, Iron Anvils have gotten harder to find.  You used to see tons of lots of 3 to 6 of them that would sell for around $10 per figure.  While those days are gone, the figures are still among the cheaper army builders of those early convention sets.  The Iron Grenadier set was well received.  But, many collectors liquidated surplus army builders as a way to recoup costs.  These days, dealers sell the figures in the $30-$45 range.  Few sell at that price.  But, the more limited supply leads to some desperation purchases.  At open pricing, these are $15 figures: which is a very solid price for a figure of this quality.  But, the Cobra transitioning to an Iron Grenadier and the late year mold are mitigating factors in the figure's popularity.  I find they are worth their price, even if it takes a while to get an army.  With convention army builders, you never know what the future holds.  But, this figure hasn't taken off in almost 15 years.  So, I'm not sure why he would now.

2005 Iron Anvil, Convention Exclusive, Iron Grenadiers, 1985, Mauler

2005 Iron Anvil, Convention Exclusive, Iron Grenadiers, 1985, Mauler, 1994, Star Brigade, Roadblock

Thursday, December 6, 2018

1997 Stalker - Around the Web

The 1997 Stalker is one of my favorite repaints.  It used a classic mold that was done right the first time, but did enough different with it that you have an updated take on a classic character.  This version is the perfect combo of good enough to replace a 1983 Stalker if you're missing him while also being a nice complement to the original.  Sadly, Stalker was about the only figure in the 8 figure Star & Stripes set who was created this way.  But, this leaves collectors a great piece to add to their collection today.  There's criminally little content on this figure out there.  But, here's the best I can find of him from around the web.

1997 Stalker Profile - 2012

1997 Stalker Profile - 2000

1997 Stalker by Scarrviper

1997 Stalker at Joe A Day.com

1997 Pre Production at YoJoe.com

Stalker by Slipstream80

1997 Stalker, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 Wolverine, Snake Eyes, 2017, The General, Red Laser Army

1997 Stalker, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 Wolverine, Snake Eyes, 2017, The General, Red Laser Army, 2005, HAS, Cobra Soldado, Black Major, Cobra Trooper

1997 Stalker, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 Wolverine, Snake Eyes, 2017, The General, Red Laser Army, 2005, HAS, Cobra Soldado, Black Major, Cobra Trooper, 1987, Coastal Defender, Duke, Grunt

1997 Stalker, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 Wolverine, Snake Eyes, 2017, The General, Red Laser Army, 2005, HAS, Cobra Soldado, Black Major, Cobra Trooper, 1987, Coastal Defender, Duke, Grunt, cobra Commander, General Hawk, Torpedo

1997 Stalker, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 Wolverine, Snake Eyes, 2017, The General, Red Laser Army, 2005, HAS, Cobra Soldado, Black Major, Cobra Trooper, 1987, Coastal Defender, Duke, Grunt, cobra Commander, General Hawk, Torpedo

1997 Stalker, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 Wolverine, Snake Eyes, 2017, The General, Red Laser Army, 2005, HAS, Cobra Soldado, Black Major, Cobra Trooper, 1987, Coastal Defender, Duke, Grunt, cobra Commander, General Hawk, Torpedo, Zap

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

X-Ray Eye - Power Commandos

There are many G.I. Joe knock offs out there.  Most were cheap items designed to simply be a military themed alternative for budget minded gift givers.  Some, though, are spectacular in the lengths they went to mimic Hasbro's successful, flagship brand.  The Power Commandos by the Lucky Bell company are one such knock off line.  They not only stole ideas like filecards, package design and characterization, but they also deliberately sculpted their figures directly after existing Joes and even copied Joe accessories and mashed them together to form new weapons that are instantly recognizable to Joe fans.  The effort to do this was commendable and the power commandos remain one of the more ambitious Joe knock off brands.  The first series of figures were packed in 2-packs of one good guy and one bad guy from the "Terror" faction.  Today, we look at the menacingly named X-Ray Eye.

As a kid, I didn't like knock offs.  To me, they didn't work with Joes and looked far too different.  On the cheap knock off figures, the entire ensemble was a poor rip off of Hasbro sculpting.  But, on the better knock offs, it was usually the head and gear that were dead giveaways.  Usually, the heads are not properly sized or lack the details of a Joe head.  The gear may be intricate, but it lacked Hasbro quality.  So, I had very few of these items in my childhood toy room and those that were received as gifts usually ended up lost or destroyed rather quickly.  As a collector, though, I've grown to appreciate what many of these knock off lines attempted to do.  Most made at least a token effort to offer something different from the Joe line.  And, while much of the figure construction still leaves these items absent from my collection, there are exceptions where the figures most closely mimic G.I. Joes.

The quality of the X-Ray Eye figure itself is fairly high.  The paint masks are very crisp.  And, you have green, silver, flesh, black, gold, blue and red for a total of 7 colors on the figure.  Very few vintage Joes ever featured that many.  I suspect that the gold paint on the figure's hands is every bit as brittle as gold paint used in the vintage Joe line.  The sculpting is also very precise.  Usually, you'd find soft details on other knock offs.  But, the Power Commandos are so closely modeled after Joe parts that they retain the hallmark Hasbro quality.  It's likely that these molds were either based on or created from actual Joe molds.  You can see the Tele Viper's chest bright as day on X-Ray Eye.

I find the heads to be of two camps.  The covered head, like X-Ray Eye, aren't too bad.  While they are bigger than vintage Joe heads and still look a bit out of place with vintage Joes, you can forgive the flaws since the countenances are covered and the head coverings could hide any number of things.  The human heads, though, are less well done.  X-Ray Eye's packmate, Submarine, has a pretty terrible head sculpt that looks like the knock off he is.  It ruins a figure that is a close proximate for the 1986 Cobra Viper.  X-Ray Eye's head, works, though.  The single eye covering is no more bizarre than any number of Cobras.  And, his colors work in combo to make for a decent looking bad guy.  (Terror characters are supposed to be from outer space.  But, X-Ray Eye has a distinctly human fleshtone which helps ground the character in a more traditional Joe role.)

It is in this capacity that I find value in X-Ray Eye.  Getting a new, named Cobra is now impossible.  Even the foreign releases have been barren for over 15 years, now.  So, figures like X-Ray Eye work as new bad guys who can keep Cobra fresh.  I see his axe as the figure's defining feature.  X-Ray Eye is more or a cross between a Halloween movie villain and a Cobra baddie.  I've gone down the failed executioner road.  But, that limits the character quite a bit.  So, I'm focusing on the axe as an ornamental weapon that only appears in close quarters combat.  Though, I'm sure I'll one day have a photo of X-Ray Eye chopping off the head of some poor Steel Brigade figure.

The Power Commando accessories are extremely odd.  In the CORPS! line, we saw some exact matches for Joe accessories appear: only with subtle differences.  (Flint's pack was missing a grenade.  Blowtorch's pack had a slightly different pattern on the tubes, etc.)  The Power Commandos took that a step further.  Their weapons are almost exact copies of 1/2 of two different Joe accessories.  These two pieces are put together into something new.  Any Joe fan will instantly recognize the weapons as Joe related.  But, will also see how the designers made them different enough to avoid any legal issues.  X-Ray Eye's primary rifle is a combination of the 1984 Baroness' rifle butt combined with the classic 1984 Firefly rifle barrel.  The claw attachment is the BAT claw with a stick added as a wrist attachment.  And, the big axe features BBQ's blade stuck onto Alpine's pickaxe handle.  There are tons more strange hybrids in the line that make the gear worthwhile as an addition to any collection, even if the figure's aren't your cup of tea.

To make collecting Power Commandos more fun, there are some figure variants.  The first wave of figures are common.  But, there were later waves that featured re-releases of the Wave 1 figures.  But, most of the 6 figures featured some type of variant.  For X-Ray Eye, the differences are subtle.  The variant figure features orange boots and a slightly darker red torso.  It's not much of a variant.  But, it exists, nonetheless.  And, if you don't have anything to do, it gives you an unsatisfying variation that will consume way too much of your time trying to find.

I'm not sure of the origins of the Power Commandos.  The figures were manufactured in China by a company named Lucky Bell.  They feature a 1992 copyright date and it seems perfectly logical that they fit into this timeframe.  The cards are all in English.  (Though, the Mexican overstock features Spanish language stickers.)  I am not certain as to where all the figures were released.  Many origins can be traced to South America.  But, this seems to be more a case of a product being dumped into any market that would take it.  The all English packaging lends credence to them being designed for the American market.  But, their similarity to G.I. Joe may have caused them grief at customs when the not coincidental designs were seen and reported to Hasbro.  It's another of those stories that we'll likely never know.

In my early collecting years, all Power Commandos were hard to find and somewhat pricey for what they were.  In the 2010's, though, large amounts of overstock Power Commandos began to appear: mostly in Mexico.  This lead to both greater availability and softer pricing for the first 6 figures.  The series two figures remain both rare and pricey, especially since a couple of them are dead ringers for 1986 Cobra army builders.  You can get a carded X-Ray Eye/Submarine pack for around $20 with a little looking.  You might even be able to find a loose, mint and complete figure for 1/2 that amount.  But, you can also still get a complete set of 6 carded figures for far less.  It's likely those will disappear soon as they aren't as prevalent as they were a couple of years ago.  So, now is the time to acquire these guys as we've seen recent examples of Joe adjacent items rapidly climbing in price as soon as some found stock is absorbed.

1992, X-Ray Eye, Power Commandos, Terror, Lucky Bell, 1995, Mortal Kombat Movie Edition, Dhalsim, 1997, Silver Mirage, TRU Exclusive, Odin, Red Laser Army

1992, X-Ray Eye, Power Commandos, Terror, Lucky Bell, 1991 Crimson Guard Immortal, 1993, Firefly, Cobra Commander

1992, X-Ray Eye, Power Commandos, Terror, Lucky Bell, Black Major, Night Viper, 1993, Detonator

1992, Lucky Bell, Power Commandos, X Ray Eye, Submarine, MOC, Carded, Filecard

Friday, November 30, 2018

1988 Toxo Viper - Around the Web

The 1988 Toxo Viper was Cobra's first foray into biological warfare.  While the figure has its oddities, it has also endured as a classic design of the Cobra army.  The removable helmet and interesting pack/weapon combo are a perfect array of accessories for a well designed sculpt.  Despite collector sentiment against anything Eco Warriors adjacent, there is a strong amount of content available on the Toxo Viper.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1988 Toxo Viper Profile

Toxo Viper by Golden Cobra 79

Toxo Viper at 3DJoes.com

Toxo Viper by JDoubleBigApe

Toxo Viper Pre Production at YoJoe.com

Toxo Viper by DreadnokDread

Toxo Viper Video Review by HCC788

Toxo Viper Photo Feature at Joe A Day

Toxo Viper by thedustinmccoy

1988 Toxo Viper, Imp, 1991 Eco Warriors, 1993 Detonator

1988 Toxo Viper, Imp, 1991 Eco Warriors

1988 Toxo Viper, Imp, 1991 Eco Warriors

Saturday, November 24, 2018

1991 Low Light - Around The Web

Low Light became a classic Joe immediately upon his release.  The combination of sculpt, specialty and colors ingrained him into the psyche of the Joe community.  In 1991, Hasbro revisited the character.  And, while the trademark blonde hair was gone, the sculpt and design of the figure was easily on par with the original release.  This Low Light featured more gear and kept the dark color scheme that defined the character.  He remains a popular remake of a classic character.  Despite this, there isn't a ton of content on this version of the figure around the web.

1991 Low Light Profile

1991 Low Light at JoeADay.com

Low Light by JogunWarrior

Low Light at JoeBattleLines.com

Low Light by instachamp

1991 Low Light, 1985 Mauler, Super Sonic Fighters Zap

1991 Low Light, 1985 Mauler, Super Sonic Fighters Zap, 2002 Dial Tone, Gift Set