Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Action Force Z Cycle (Rapid Fire Motorcycle)

I received my first G.I. Joe toy for my birthday in December of 1982.  It was the RAM motorcycle.  I didn't get my first figure until the next day when Breaker joined my collection.  This seemed kismet since it was Breaker who was drawn as the rider on the RAM box art.  The two of them became inseparable.  Breaker was, pretty much, the only figure who got to ride the RAM and it was a perfect extension for him since the figure didn't include a weapon.  I came to view the Ram as Breaker's just as much as the VAMP belonged to Clutch.  If you lived in Europe, though, your first exposure to the RAM as a toy brought with a completely different character association.  Because, unlike in the U.S., the first European release of the RAM mold included a driver: Quarrel.  With this, the association between the Action Force Z-Cycle and Quarrel is probably more powerful than the RAM/Breaker connection.  The Action Force coloring of the toy, though, also creates a starkly different appearance for the RAM that makes it my favorite palette for the toy.

As a kid, the RAM suffered greatly due to its popularity.  My RAM went on many adventures: most of which it could not survive.  The leg pegs broke off.  The saddle bags were lost.  The kickstand snapped when I flicked it to simulate a figure kicking it down.  And, as the final nail in the RAM's coffin, the pegs that held the gatling cannon to the cycle broke and I was left with two pieces that could not be re-connected.  I glued and glued the RAM.  So much so that the plastic began to melt under the increasing in strength adhesives I applied in an attempt to make the toy whole.  Finally, it was no use.  The RAM found its way into the final resting place of many of my childhood toys: a box of broken and mismatched parts that I would cast onto the floor of our toyroom to simulate a debris field where battles or chases could take place.  For a toy, though, my original RAM couldn't have asked for much more as it was used to death.  Sadly, the great disappointment with the Silver Mirage soured me on Joe motorcycles in general and the RAM didn't return to my collection until the late summer of 2000.

This timing is interesting because two things happened in my collection at this time.  First, I acquired a massive original collection that contained pretty much all the figures and vehicles released between 1983 and 1985.  Oh, I also got this collection for free.  I just had to pay shipping.  But, while I reveled in my fortune, I also took an important step as a Joe collector as I acquired my first two international figures: Chinese Major Bludd and the Tiger Force Outback.  With this, the world of international Joes was opened to me and they quickly became my primary area of focus.  As the early 2000's slogged on, my international collection grew.  At the time, you could trade recent Toys R Us exclusive Joes pretty much straight up for many European and Brazilian releases.  As I had those in spades, I was able to pick up many figures even though I wasn't able to spend much money on my collection.  

One such acquisition was Quarrel.  At the time, Quarrel was one of the more popular international releases.  Despite the fact that she's relatively common, she was commanding prices similar to Red Jackal and Red Laser.  As with female figures from the U.S., though, the increased popularity of the character among collectors was outstripped by the figure's availability.  And, with that, Quarrel prices began to fall.  Despite this, I never really explored the possibility of adding Quarrel's missing motorcycle.  At the time, I was a figure collector and vehicles seemed like unnecessary purchases when there were so many figures I still wanted.  In the early 2010's, this changed.  I decided that I was going to hold key pieces in my collection.  And, if something made the cut to remain in my possession, it was going to mint and complete.  So, I spent a small sum of money on a complete with Z Cycle Quarrel figure.  

Once in my collection, the Action Force green color of the vehicle was a welcome respite from the sea of similarly colored vehicles that comprised the bulk of my holdings at the time.  The main thing that stood out, though, was how much the extra colors and additional stickers enhanced the Z Cycle over the RAM.  The side gun being black really helped to offset the green color and make the entire vehicle look more complex.  The red stickers also pop against the green background.  It's a dramatic shift from the 1982 RAM and brings much more life to the Z Cycle.  (I call it the Z Cycle as it's an easier name.  It's really the Rapid Fire Motorcycle.  But, that sucks to say.  Frankly, if people can make up asinine rhymes like "Argen 7" that make no sense, I can call this Z Cycle.)

For me, this alternate version of the RAM is a great toy to pair up with a variety of figures.  I enjoy the RAM mold because it has a relatively small footprint, but can also display figures, nicely.  And, everything from Funskool to Hasbro figures look good atop the Action Force green cycle.  Oddly, it's rare for Quarrel to use her native bike.  Instead, I farm it out to Lady Jaye.  I have some ideas to use it with Sightline, too.  When I find the box that holds my cycle, I'll get some pics of it with the most famous factory custom figure of all.

One of Action Force's great introductions to the Joe line was the color of green that Palitoy used for the Z Force figures and vehicles.  It is deep, rich and visually interesting.  It remains true enough to military roots to be believable.  But, it is also something that is a perfect supplement for the more drab and flat colors that Hasbro used so often.  Sadly, the color died out with Palitoy.  Neither Hasbro nor the club was able to resurrect the color.  (The club's odd fixation with drab colors affected even their Action Force homage figures in 2010 and they are not the right color of green.)  Even factory custom makers steered clear of the color until 2017 when it appeared on a couple of Red Laser's Army releases.  Even then, though, the homages were not a 100% color match.  Hopefully, it will continue to show up.  I'd love a 1985 Snake Eyes in Action Force green with black and silver details.  I'm sure others would, too.  

The RAM was a world traveler.  It was used in the US for both the original toy and then the 1986 Sears Exclusive Dreadnok Ground Assault.  You then have this Palitoy release.  From there, the RAM took a tour of South America where it was released in Brazil.  It finally ended up in India.  Funskool produced the RAM for several years and with several major variants.  (Some of which are ridiculously rare and expensive.)  The final use of the RAM was with the Funskool Street Hawk figure (which included an all black RAM motorcycle, but did not include the side gun) which Funskool produced until 2003.  RAM collectors have nearly as many items to track down as VAMP collectors.  But, most of the best colors remain relatively cheap and available.  So, pretty much anyone can at least get a sample RAM in their collection.

Like all toys these days, Z Cycles have gotten more expensive.  As Quarrel now tends to be a $150 figure, you see lots of combos of the figure and cycle for sale in the $200 range.  On it's own, the cycle goes for under $40 when it's complete.  Dealers, though, will ask two to three times that.  And, they'll get it more often than they should.  Toys like this Z Cycle were pretty common as recently as 2017.  So, their disappearance from the market seems to be more about an increase in demand.  But, there are plenty of mint and complete versions out there.  You just have to wait a lot longer for one to come along at the right price.

Action Force Z Cycle, Quarrel, Olhos De Fenix, 2003 Scarlett, Brazil, Estrela, Palitoy, Spirit

Saturday, November 27, 2021

2019 Slaughter's Marauders Snake Eyes - Around The Web

If you liked Snake Eyes, there weren't many options for him in the vintage line.  Sure, you had a lot of different figuers.  But, he, for the most part, was done in various shades of black.  And, the iconic 1985 figure never got a repaint.  In 2018, though, Black Major rectified this by releasing a multitude of 1985 Snake Eyes figures in a wide variety of colors.  He released additional repaints in 2019 and 2020.  Among the more desired 2019 releases is this version based on the Slaughter's Marauders color scheme.  Snake Eyes was notably absent from the vintage repaint series.  So, giving him a way to incorporate into some of the more popular Joe subsets was well received.  You can tell by the amount of content out there on this figure that people continue to enjoy him.

2019 Slaughter's Marauders Snake Eyes Profile

2019 Slaughter's Marauders Snake Eyes by thedustinmccoy

2019 Slaughter's Marauders Snake Eyes, Black Major, 1988 Muskrat

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

1990 Sonic Fighters Dialtone

Repaints are a double edged sword.  On one hand, they provide a great way to use an existing character in a new way.  On the other hand, collectors almost always wanted something new during the vintage line's heyday.  But, repaints became a thing in 1983 and continued through 1994.  In the vintage line, though, repaints were almost always excellent redos that brought something new to the character.  While this would change in 1993, the repaints released in the first decade of the line tended to be sold in subsets.  The main repaints were sold in color themed ensembles.  But, later, the figures started to appear in other subsets, but as just solid repaints instead of being married to a specific palette.  In 1990, Hasbro released the high priced Sonic Fighters subset.  While all the figures in the series are well done repaints, today we look at Dialtone.

Dialtone is one of my favorite figures.  This stems not only from the figure's quality, but also the circumstances of the character entering my collection.  (See the 1986 Dialtone profile for that saga.)  I had both of his 1986 color schemes and always found a way to include Dialtone in whatever adventure I could conjure up.  But, as I was completely out of Joe by 1990, I never saw this Dialtone in stores.  This new black, silver and blue color scheme was a strong entry for the character.  But, upon learning of this figure's existence, I didn't really take much time to track him down.  Instead, I was more interested in picking up additional 1986 figures.  And, this 1990 figure (acquired in a very early lot of 1990 figures I I bought back when no one cared about any figure after 1987) simply faded into the drawer of his contemporaries.  When Dialtone returned to retail in 2000, I army built that figure.  And, again in 2002, I snatched up a few extra cheap figures from the BJ's set.  Still, I never really thought of this Dialtone version.

In recent years, though, my obsession with all things obscure lead me back to this figure.  I found the color scheme stronger than I remembered.  And, his overall appearance is on par with his previous releases.  The color scheme is more akin to Cobra.  But, more on that in a later paragraph.  This Sonic Fighters Dialtone works well in a variety of vehicles and gives you a less bright version of the character for use in the field.  Original Dialtone gear isn't overly difficult to track down.  So, it's pretty easy to outfit him with the 1986 weapon and pack.  And, that leaves his other weapons for use with different figures.  The black grenade launcher is a nice match for the 1992 or 1993 Gung Ho.  And, I do enjoy the flamethrower with the 1994 Ice Cream Soldier.  

So, now this 1990 Dialtone finds himself another option for me to use when a photo needs a communications trooper.  While I still don't like it as well as the original, that's also a function of the first release holding the childhood memories.  So, it's difficult to look at the Sonic Fighter through the lens of anything other than an adult collector.  But, in that vein, this blue and black Dialtone is a solid entry to the Joe world.  He meshes well with other figures.  He can be used in a variety of bases or vehicles.  And, he looks good when he's out and about in the wild.  You can't ask for much more from a figure.  I always find more value in the Dialtone character than most, just because of my childhood biases.  But, even with those brushed aside, the Sonic Fighters Dialtone is pretty decent.

The Sonic Fighters included a great deal of gear.  In addition to the massive sound producing backpack that was completed with a radar dish on top, Dialtone also included four weapons.  The additional gear was a cheap way for Hasbro to convey extra value beyond the sound backpack.  As the Sonic Fighters were higher priced, Hasbro needed to convince parents that these figures were really special.  Dialtone included a black versions of: his 1986 weapon, Blocker's pistol, Hardball's Grenade Launcher and Charbroil's flamethrower.  Many of the Sonic Fighters included recolored Battle Force 2000 weapons.  But, they also included many accessories from the 1988 and 1989 Night Force figures.  Dialtone's flamethrower is nearly indistinguishable from the 1989 Night Force Charbroil's.  And, there is considerable debate in the community regarding the differences between it as well as the Night Force Shockwave and Spearhead weapons that are included with other Sonic Fighters figures.

It was pointed out to me that Dialtone and the 1991 Interrogator share a color scheme.  The blue, black and grey of Dialtone is nearly identical to those colors on the Interrogator.  While Hasbro loved to reused the same colors again and again in the line, it was rare for two figures in close proximity to be so closely aligned.  There's no connection between the characters.  But, maybe there should be.  It would probably get super weird with one them wearing colors to mimic the other.  And, the stalker, obsessive nature of one of the characters would be out of depth with their established characterization.  Interrogator is smooth operator.  So, it doesn't flow that he's had some bizarre obsession with a random and somewhat obscure member of the Joe team.  

The Sonic Fighters retailed for $7 each.  This was more than twice the cost of a standard carded figure.  But, while toys that make cheesy electronic noises are commonplace and cheap today, they were state of the art 31 years ago when this figure was released.  The size of the pack helped to sell the additional gimmick that more than doubled the cost of a figure.  But, the concept must have been successful enough as the Super Sonic Fighters and Talking Battle Commanders followed in subsequent years.  I did find remnants of the Talking Battle Commanders at retail in 1997.  So, it's probable that the higher price gimmicks did fizzle out, eventually.  But, Hasbro pushed the edge of what a 3 3/4" figure could be and found ways to make the figures evolve, even as they kept the construction and basic design of the figures the same for 13 years.  

Dialtone has been done to death.  He was first released in 1986 and immediately got a Mission to Brazil repaint later in that year.  This Sonic Fighters figure appeared in 1990.  The 1986 Dialtone was released on a Chinese card around 1994.  Then, Hasbro went crazy.  After scrapping plans for a desert Dialtone in 1998, they released an olive green figure in 2000.  He appeared in the BJ's Gift Set in 2002.  His chest and arms were also released in grey as part of the 2002 Dusty figure and his parts ended up on a few other figures from the 2000's.  Then, a Tiger Force version was released in 2003.  Despite all this, Dialtone could have used both an arctic figure and a full production desert figure.  As I enjoy the mold, I'd take him in any colors.  But, I'm in the minority on that point.

Sonic Fighters Dial Tones are not expensive.  Just the figure can be had for under $7.  One with a couple of his weapons will run you $12 or so.  And, mint and complete with filecard figures can be had for $20.  For a figure with a lot of gear that was released in a lower production run subset, that's not too bad at all.  But, as this was the third Dialtone released in the vintage line, you can see how collectors were a bit fatigued with him.  And, while his colors are pretty strong, they are also not as distinctive as his 1986 releases.  The lack of a communications backpack is also a factor.  So, this Dial Tone languishes in obscurity, even as other figures released in his same subset find favor among collectors.

1990 Sonic Fighters Dial Tone, 1986 Lift Ticket, Night Raven Drone

1990 Sonic Fighters Dial Tone, 1991 Interrogator, Funskool Streethawk

1990 Sonic Fighters Dial Tone, 1993 Outback

Saturday, November 20, 2021

1989 Backblast - Random Photos Of The Day

Ever since he entered my collection, I've been a fan of Backblast.  The black shirt/green pants combo is always a winner and it works well again.  The figure isn't overly done, but has enough detail to be fun.  And, his gear is excellently designed and poses well.  Little details like the knife holder on his arm help set him apart.  And, the oversized bullets (for which he has no corresponding weapon) make him useful as a sidekick for Roadblock or Rock and Roll.  Through the years, I've taken a few photos of Backblast and they almost always turn out very nicely.  You'll see some of the more recent ones below.

1989 Backblast, 2003 Convention Exclusive Major Storm

1989 Backblast, Rock and Roll, 1985 Heavy Metal

1989 Backblast, 1988 Sgt. Slaughter

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

1993 Mudbuster - Around The Web

 The 1993 Mudbuster is a really fun vehicle.  It's well put together, has lots of great play features and isn't overly large or bulky.  In short, it's one of the highlights of the 1990's vehicles.  There's a decent amount of material out there on Mudbuster.  And, you do see it in various photographs from Joe content creators.  It also looks great with a multitude of 1993 and 1994 figures.  Every collector owes it to themselves to pick up a Mudbuster...if for no other reason than to appreciate it and its place among the 1993 Joe line.  Here's the best content on the 1993 Mudbuster from around the web.

1993 Mudbuster Profile

1993 Mudbuster by tituslester32

1993 Mudbuster at Nekoman's Viper Pit

1993 Mudbuster by bouncy_bengal

1993 Mudbuster by Slipstream80

1993 Mudbuster by JoeADay.com

1993 Mudbuster at 3DJoes.com

1993 Mudbuster at GameBlips

Custom Dreadnok Mudbuster by Scarrviper

1993 Mudbuster by jogunwarrior

1993 Mudbuster by Slipstream80

1993 Mudbuster by tituslester32

1993 Mudbuster, Mirage, Clutch, Gung Ho, Mega Marines

1993 Mudbuster, Mirage, Clutch, Gung Ho, Mega Marines, Muskrat

1993 Mudbuster, Outback, Mirage, Mega Marines, Eco Warriors