Friday, January 24, 2020

2009 Agent Helix - by Past Nastification

With the 2009 release of The Rise of Cobra, Hasbro pumped out many, many figures.

I’m just assuming that most of you didn’t like the movie.  If you did, that’s okay.  It just makes it easier for you to embrace its toy line, I’d assume.  The ROC toy line stayed with the 25th Anniversary/Modern Era format, but felt like a unique subset within the GI Joe brand.  But for me, at least, I try to look at the ROC figures as their own things and just ignore the movie that spawned them.     

Many of figures were inherently good, like most of the Baroness figures, which visually lined up other existing versions of the character. 

Some were them were good if you could imagine they existed outside of the movie’s continuity, like The Doctor as being a not-Cobra Commander character.

Then there were figures dropped into the ROC toy line whose characters weren’t even in the movie, but didn’t exist anywhere previously. Agent Helix is one of these figures/characters.

Agent Helix has a look that reads “techno saboteur” more than soldier.  Given that the title “Agent” is part of the character’s name, this is obviously what Hasbro was aiming for. 

The sculptor(s) did some top notch work on the figure.  The head features an attractive if slightly long face with a neutral expression.  The hair is a separate piece in what’s probably best described as a “Rachel from Friends” layered haircut.  It’s further accentuated by a two-tone color scheme, obviously mimicking the unnatural color-streaking fad of a decade ago.  The face and the hair are nicely done and infuse the figure with a lot of its charm.   

The uniform is not quite a bodysuit, but very tight shirt/pants over a lanky frame. It features a harness/body armor system that manages to provide protection to the abdomen, but leaves the upper torso completely exposed, which looks interesting at first but becomes ridiculous when you realize it’s very bondage-like.

“But the Baroness-”  Stop.  Don’t say it, because I am aware of the Baroness’ outfit.  But its armor plating appears to cover the entire torso, and even pops up on other parts of the body.  Agent Helix just wears a bulletproof girdle.   And besides, I’m always okay with Cobra designs being a bit sillier than Joe ones. 

Bondage harness aside, this is a good design.  The mustard yellow on the upper portion of the shirt gives a color pop against the otherwise dark and cold colors of uniform.  The silver of the pouches (or whatever they are) adds another slice of visual interest.  It looks clean in an antiseptic way that doesn’t contrast with the other colors, and even works with them.

There are plenty of great details on the figure.  The overall sculpting is top notch, as it was on most of the ROC figures.  There’s a techno-kibble device on the figure’s right upper arm.  The floating utility belt allows for the pouches to dangle over the hips.  The compression-style kneepads are perfect.  The sleeves are three-quarters length, like some sports jerseys.  The long boots have side pouches.  These are all little details that show that someone put effort into making this figure.   

Agent Helix’s gear is plentiful, though largely unnecessary.   The futuristic rifle and two sidearms would have been enough, but the figure also has the obligatory oversized missile launcher (that looks like at best like a Nerf toy and not a representation of anything close to real world), and even a machete.  Everything is nicely colored, which is better than neon green or safety orange, so there’s that.  And any accessories you don’t want to display with the figure can go into a baggie, tray, or parts bin.   Or even a trashcan if you’re like that. 

Had this character been introduced into the GI Joe mythos by ARAH format when I was a kid, I’m sure it would have been a welcomed addition. 

Time for a side rant.

Even 37 years since 1:18 scale GI Joe began, there are only about 30 different female characters that have one or multiple figures, and that’s including exclusive GI Joe Collectors’ Club figures.  This number is based on characters, not total figures.  So although there may are many multiple versions of Scarlett, the Baroness, and Lady Jaye in different formats, that still only adds up to 3 characters.  My point is that we’ve gotten less than one new female character per year on average.  Collectors even appreciate head-to-toe repaints representing new characters, like ARAH Jinx as Vypra or later as the swordsmith Araskikage sisters (also stupidly named Vypra), or ARAH Baroness as Chameleon.

Thanks, I feel better.   

A totally new figure/character, especially one done so well, is greatly valued.  Agent Helix might be the most important character to come out of the ROC toy line.  Just don’t think about the bulletproof girdle. 

2009 Agent Helix, ROC

2009 Agent Helix, ROC

Thursday, January 23, 2020

1987 Dodger - Around The Web

I'm still not a huge fan of Battle Force 2000.  Dodger remains one of the highlights of the set and is a figure that can find uses outside of his subset.  These days, he's about the only BF2000 member who sees any time in my collection.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1987 Dodger Profile

1987 Dodger by thedustinmccoy

Dodger by formbx257

Dodger at JoeBattleLines.com

Dodger at Toys and Bacon

Dodger at JoeADay.com




Tuesday, January 21, 2020

1988 Tiger Force Flint

The 1985 Flint figure is my favorite release in the entire history of the Joe line.  He had the distinction of being released right during the height of my childhood and bridging the time between when toys were played to death and the time when they were cared for.  To this day, that figure remains one of the most important to me and a version of that Flint will be among the final figures that I ever own.  Because of Flint's popularity in the comics and, especially, the cartoon, though, Flint himself didn't really get many retakes on his original design.  In the world over, there is really only one vintage version of the 1985 Flint mold that is materially different from the original: the 1988 Tiger Force Flint.

In 1988, I was done with Joe.  I bought three figures very early in the year: Hardball, Hit and Run and the Tiger Force Roadblock.  I bought the Roadblock just because our 1984 Roadblock accessories had long been destroyed and I could not pass up the opportunity to get Roadblock's weapons back into my collection.  Lost accessories were a staple of Flint, too.  I had lost several 1985 Flint rifles and had acquired no less than three versions of the vintage figure: vowing each time to not lose the shotgun that defined him.  But, inevitably, the shotguns were lost.  (The final one was lost in my grandparents' basement when my younger brother kicked it away while picking up some carpet squares.  I tore their basement apart, but never fount it.)  So, had the Tiger Force Flint been on the shelves that day in 1988, I'd have surely purchased him instead of Roadblock.  Destiny intervened, though, and this Flint didn't join my collection for another decade.

When this Flint finally did show up, though, he struggled to find a role.  With the 1985 Flint so prominent for me, that was always my first choice of figure to take out and photograph.  I ended up giving this Flint's shotgun to a custom law enforcement figure that I had lying around at the time.  It turns out that the shotgun will fit into Chuckles' holster.  So, this custom got both pieces of equipment.  In 2001, though, this holster and shotgun combo was transferred to the Funskool Supercop figure.  He still wears them in my display today.  The figure itself still doesn't get much use.  While the 1985 Flint still finds his way into tons of my photos (The Funskool Flint, too!) this 1988 version is less popular.  I only had one or two photos of him in my archive.  Which, when you consider that I got the 1988 figure drawer out for many photo shoots in the past three year, was even more surprising.  But, favorites usually win and my obsession with the 1985 figure has let a quiet gem slip by me.

One of my main points of interest on the Tiger Force Flint is that he showcases many of the details that are actually painted onto the 1985 Flint, but are usually long worn away.  The 1985 Flint features quite a bit of gold paint on the chest and belt buckle of the figure.  Even on otherwise mint figures, though, this paint tends to be either heavily worn or even gone.  Most collectors aren't aware that the 1985 figure is supposed to be adorned with the golden color.  And, you see huge numbers of Flints advertised as "mint" that have almost no golden paint on the figure at all.  But, the Tiger force version makes us for this with a much stronger blend of gold paint that is not nearly as susceptible to wear as that used in 1985 and 1986.  Because of this, you can more clearly see the adornments on Flint's chest and the details of his belt buckle.

As Tiger Force figures go, Flint is one of the least ostentatious.  While he does feature subtle black cammo lines on his shirt, they are not overly obvious.  His base colors are an excellent muddy brown for the upper body and a distinctive dark green for the legs.  He is accented by grey gloves and boots.  Out of the Tiger Force context, this Flint works fine intermingled with other Joes.  Were it not for the near perfection of the original, the Tiger Force Flint would work as a stand alone figure.  The painted details add to the quality of the figure overall.  In short, this Flint is every bit as useful as the original Flint colors.  It was exceedingly rare for a repaint to accomplish that.

Flint's gear is the same as the 1985 figure.  He includes just a backpack and his iconic shotgun.  Both are now, though, colored in an off grey hue that is easily distinguishable from the 1985 and also, at the same time, more realistic than the green version from three years prior.  Flint's lack of gear is interesting.  He's one of only three 1985 releases to include just two accessories.  (Torch and the Crimson Guard are the others.)  It's likely that some of these lower accessorized figures were small cost cutting moves by Hasbro so that figures like Alpine, the Eel and the Snow Serpent were able to have all the gear that makes the figures so compelling.  But, Flint's gear is iconic to the mold.  His shotgun is for him and the pack is one that I can only use with a Flint figure.  So, if you're not going to get much, at least make it memorable.  And, in this case, Hasbro accomplished that.

I now have a shout out to The Attica Gazette.  In his review of this figure, he points out that the Tiger Force Flint card art now shows Flint wearing a neckerchief.  There's no real reason for this piece of flair.  And, the coloring was not transferred to the figure.  We've long known that Hasbro overpainted the original artwork of the Tiger Force figures to create the Tiger Force artwork.  So, maybe this addition was to cover up a flaw on the original that was introduced after it was used to make the 1985 and 1986 Flint cardbacks.  Now, I can't unsee that neckwear.  It affects my view of the artwork.  But, I'm grateful that it was not carried over to the figure.

There are also some changes to Flint's filecard.  While most of the text is verbatim from the 1985 release, the Tiger Force version features a few changes. First, Flint's rank was changed from an E-6 to a W-3.  Though, I suspect this was to correct the discrepancy between his title of Warrant Officer versus his E-6 rank. Flint's attendance of Flint Warrant Officers School is changed to Warrant Officers Flight School.  Flint's name is in all caps to begin the body of the Tiger Force card, too.  The most significant is a change in the last line of the body.  While the general tone of the final sentence remains the same, the "let alone admitted to" reference is all gone from the 1988 figure.  This changes the filecard from 8 lines of text to 7 lines of text.  There's no real reason for this since the Tiger Force card now features empty space at the bottom.  So, the card wasn't made more readable by omitting it.  It's possible that the discovery of the Iran-Contra affair between the releases may have lead Hasbro to be a bit more careful about implying that the government undertook truly secret missions.

Flint was released all around the world and if you've read the multitudes of other Flint profiles on this site, you know all about his US, European and Japanese releases.  And, you are fully aware of the subtle exclusive versions available in India and Brazil.  In short, Flint appeared a lot.  But, this Tiger Force version is really the only different color difference for the mold.  Hasbro gave us two repaints in the 2000's.  But, neither really caught on.  There's tons of potential left in this mold and I'd love for a series of factory customs that finally give us a desert Flint, arctic Flint and an Action Force green Flint.  But, those are pipe dreams that will, simply, never come to be.

Tiger Force Flints are expensive.  I'm not really sure why.  He's no more rare than any of the other single carded Tiger Force figures.  He doesn't have any easily lost accessories.  And, he's not really any bigger of a character than Duke or Roadblock.  Yet, a near mint version of this figure that's complete with his filecard will run you between $40 and $50.  Note, I said near mint.  Those prices usually still mean cracked elbows and even some paint wear on the easily rubbed golden details.  For this reason, carded Tiger Force Flints are $150+ affairs these days and truly mint figures could approach ridiculous prices.  And, there's not much relief available.  Good conditioned, incomplete figures will still fetch $20.  Heck, the shotgun alone will sell for $20+!  Again, there's no reason for this.  But, this Flint got expensive a few years ago and hasn't come down.  For the money, buy either a 1985 Flint or a Chinese Flint or a couple of Funskool Flints.  To me, they are better figures.  But, better is relative and this Tiger Force version holds up on its own fairly well.

1988 Tiger Force Flint, 1989 Night Force Psyche Out, 2002 Night Rhino, Warthog






Saturday, January 18, 2020

20th Anniversary - Key Moments Tiger Force Outback

On September 8th of 2000, this site took a major step.  On that day, I profiled the very first foreign figure to appear on the site: the European exclusive Tiger Force Outback.  In looking back at my thoughts on the figure at the time, my approach to foreign figures is almost laughable.  My naivete shone through and I had no idea that foreign Joe collecting was going to come to dominate not only the most popular posts on the site, but also the near entirety of my collecting focus for the next four or five years.

In reality, the Tiger Force Outback was my second foreign figure that I acquired.  The Chinese Major Bludd had arrived into my collection a few weeks earlier.  But, there was something about the Outback that spoke to me.  The look of the figure was so different from the American offerings of the character that it captured my attention in a way that few figures ever had.  Even after acquiring a vast amount of other foreign figures, Tiger Force Outback remains one of my favorite foreign releases.

I acquired this figure from a European collector in a trade for a V1 Sgt. Slaughter figure.  In the late 1990's/early 2000's, many European exclusive figures were rather common among the European based collector set.  And, at the time, there were still many figures that had never been released in Europe that were very desirable for continental based collectors.  Trading an incomplete Sgt. Slaughter straight up for a Tiger Force Outback seems outrageous today.  But, in 2000, it was an even trade that left both of us extremely happy.

In 2000, it was unheard of for most American collectors to own foreign Joes.  Some of the Action Force exclusives such as Quarrel and Red Laser appeared most often.  But, most of the other figures that were exclusive to Europe remained over there.  Less than six months after I profiled this figure, though, two avenues of foreign Joes became more available and opened the floodgates of American collector interest in items released outside the United States.  The first, and less obvious, event was the discovery of a horde of Plastirama figures in Argentina.  This brought tons of MOC figures to the U.S.  Even the now desired Ninja Ku and Satan could be bought for $15 each for a time.  Others were even less.  Just as those started to saturate Ebay of that era, the first mass imports of Funskool Joes began at the YoJoe Depot and, later, SmallJoes.com and other dealers.  These cheap figures offered collectors a chance to expand their collections in new ways.  And, by 2002, foreign Joes were a staple of pretty much everyone who participated in the online Joe community.

Today, foreign figures remain highly desirable and many have exploded in popularity and price.  Everyone knows Tiger Force Outback.  But, nearly 20 years ago, he was a novelty that few collectors cared about.  In some ways, those days were more fun since there was so much to be discovered.  Now, though, it's a lot easier to find guys like this.  You'll just pay a WHOLE lot more than you would have in the early days of collecting.  But, this figure is the one that started my fascination with foreign Joes and it's an area of collecting that I still overly enjoy today.

Tiger Force Outback, European Exclusive, 1991 Retaliator, Star Brigade, 1994 Gears

Tiger Force Outback, European Exclusive, 1991 Retaliator, Star Brigade, 1994 Gears, Estrela, Cobra Soldado, Cobra Trooper, Black Major, Bootleg, Factory Custom, Night Viper

Thursday, January 16, 2020

1989 Backblast - Around The Web

I still maintain that at some point in his origin, Backblast started as a new version of Zap.  But, instead, we got a new character that's extremely well done.  Backblast features excellent colors, an amazing array of gear and is one of those obscure Joes who make the line.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1989 Backblast Profile

1989 Backblast by thedustinmccoy

1989 Backblast by ironman3719

1989 Backblast by thedustinmccoy 02

1989 Backblast by formbx257

1989 Backblast at JoeADay.com

1989 Backblast by Falcon Chile

1989 Backblast by Slipstream80