Saturday, October 21, 2017

1995 POTFII Boba Fett

While I quit buying Joe figures in 1988, I never really left the hobby.  Aside from a few month hiatus from the comic, I was still acquiring something related to G.I. Joe every month.  At the end of 1992, I bought a few figures at retail, again.  I'd check the toy aisle on various shopping trips.  As I was in college, though, those trips were infrequent at best as my primary focus was on college life.  In 1995, though, that changed.  The driving force behind my newfound interest in toys was the retail return of Star Wars figures.  Hasbro's newly acquired Kenner division returned the classic franchise to 3 3/4" figure form in the latter part of 1995.  At first, I was not a fan of the bulky, oddly posed designs.  Slowly, though, nostalgia took over and I wanted the figures.  I picked up a few odds and ends as I found them in the sparse retail environment of my college town.  My girlfriend of the time bought me all the ships for my birthday.  But, she had not been able to find any figures.  This would be the theme of Power of the Force II's retail beginnings.  Over Christmas of 1995, I went home where a friend of mine had found 4 figures that I didn't know existed: Princess Leia, Luke X-Wing Pilot, Lando Calrissian and Boba Fett.  He had found them for a huge mark up at the local FAO Schwartz store.  Otherwise, these figures simply did not exist at retail.

As the calendar turned to 1996, my frustration with retail Star Wars continued.  I managed to find a solitary Luke X-Wing at a K-Mart on my way out of Cincinnati in early 1996.  But, there was no sign of the figure I most wanted: Boba Fett.  After failing for months to find him, I decided I was going to buy one from a second hand dealer over spring break.  I had my dad stop at a local comic shop on the drive home from school.  There, the store had a carded Boba Fett for $6.95.  I had planned on paying up to $8 for the figure.  So, I didn't balk at the inflated price and purchased my first Boba Fett figure since my childhood.

I sent away for a Boba Fett mail away in 1979.  My parents actually went to buy a new figure to get enough proofs of purchase.  His arrival in the mail marked the first package of toys I had ever received.  I played with the figure constantly...even taking him on a family winter trip to Pokagon State Park in northern Indiana.  Here, I forgot my original Boba Fett figure.  The fact I remember where and when I lost figure (37 years later!) shows how important he was to me.  (On a side note, if you find a vintage Boba Fett in the Pokagon lodge lost and found, it's probably mine.)  In time, another Boba Fett showed up in our vintage collection.  I'm pretty sure both my brother and I had our own.  So, the adventures continued despite that early loss.

My acquisition of this figure in 1996 brought Fett back into the fold.  And, this figure was light years ahead of the other options from the time.  The added bulk of the POTFII figures made more sense within the context of Fett's armor.  Plus, Fett being a later release, he benefited from the lessons learned of the less than stellar Luke and Han that came before him.  Plus, I was willing to be forgiving for a character that I so wanted to be in my collection again.  The added details of the backpack, cape and Wookie scalps and his updated rifle were exactly what I wanted out of a modern Star Wars line.  The panoply of colors looked like they walked right out of the movie.  But, then again, in 1995, we only had VHS copies of the movies that played on old, pre-HD TV sets.  Even the internet was so nascent that there was little reference material for the character available and most of that was either a blurry screencap or low resolution scan of an old trading card or magazine.  So, the nitpicky details that doom this figure today were less obvious upon his release.

As 1996 progressed, I picked up a couple of extra Fett figures.  I also bought the Shadows of the Empire repaint in a two pack with IG-88 when I found it at the Oxford Wal Mart while I waited to get an oil change so I could drive half way across the state to attend my cousin's wedding.  I really couldn't get enough of the mold.  At the time, Star Wars was a novelty.  People my age grew up with it and were starting to carry that love into early adulthood.  The Special Editions were still months away.  And, the Prequels were just a pipe dream.  The all Star Wars/all the time world we live in now was simply unfathomable.  And, because of that, Star Wars was still something that was somewhat fringe.

At the height of my Star Wars collecting days in the late 1990's, I probably had half a dozen or more of these figures.  I had a couple loose.  I had an orange carded version, the green carded version, the freeze frame carded version and multiples of many of them.  I fancied myself a "serious" collector even though I really didn't buy everything and I collected some of these items just to brag I had them.  In 2007, it came time to move my Star Wars collection.  I was back buying figures at retail and was upgrading all of the old POTFII era figures.  In my zeal to remove the clutter, I got rid of everything: often for about 1/5 of what I had spent at retail for it: nostalgia be damned.  A decade later, I had pangs of regret.  This was driven by the fact that I now had young kids and those early POTFII figures would be great for them as they were indestructible, cool and worthless.  I managed to find a bag of high quality figures at a local thrift shop.  I only bought the bag as it also had a high quality, unbroken 1982 Straight Arm Snake Eyes figure in it.  But, Boba Fett returned to my home.  The fig below belongs to my boys who enjoy playing with him and I don't have to give Hasbro $8 for a crappy 5 POA figure they made in 2017.

There was a time when Boba Fett figures were rare, expensive and popular.  People would pay huge amounts for this figure if he had one of the glove paint variants or the right cardback.  The mid 1990's were a silly time when it came to collecting toys.  But, Boba Fett is probably the most popular character among collectors and Hasbro obliged not only by releasing this figure many, many times: but also constantly making new and better Boba Fett molds.  As such, calling this figure worthless is an understatement.  Mint on Card versions of this Boba Fett sell for under $5.  (Though lots of dealers will sell a few for $10.)  Loose versions aren't easy to find because who wants to handle a figure for a buck or two?  And, frankly, if you're going to buy a Boba Fett figure to show off, there are dozens of better figures made subsequently that are equally easy to find and cheap.  This figure was in production for years and was shipped in many case assortments.  Hasbro was actually really good at keeping high demand characters on the shelves in 1997 and 1998: before the bottom fell out of the market.  But, seeing this figure again reminds me of why I loved it so two decades ago and why I also got rid of it when better Fetts came along.  It was fun, though, to recollect those mid 1990's toy runs.  It was a great time in my life and this figure reminds me of that.

1995 POTFII Boba Fett, Darth Vader, AT-AT, Kenner

1995 POTFII Boba Fett, Finn, Millenium Falcon, Kenner, The Force Awakens

Thursday, October 19, 2017

1983 Major Bludd - Around the Web

The 1983 Major Bludd figure is one of the iconic Cobra characters from the earliest years of the line.  His unique look, cool name and fun accessories added up to a villain for the ages.  This original release of Major Bludd works perfectly well with the other contemporary Cobras of the time.  Though, he is a bit out of place when posed with later figures.  But, being a classic character means there's lots of content out there on him.  Here's the best of Major Bludd from around the web.

Major Bludd Profile

Major Bludd Review at Whenitwascool.com

Major Bludd at JoeADay.com

Major Bludd at ARAH Gallery

Major Bludd At 3DJoes.com

Major Bludd Video Review

Major Bludd Pre-Production at YoJoe.com

Major Bludd at JoeDios 1

Major Bludd at JoeDios 2

1983 Major Bludd, 1984 Cobra Stinger, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Black Major, Crimson Trooper, Snow Serpent Trooper, Desert Trooper

1983 Major Bludd, 1984 Cobra Stinger, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Black Major, Crimson Trooper, Snow Serpent Trooper, Desert Trooper

1983 Major Bludd, 1984 Cobra Stinger, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Black Major, Crimson Trooper, Snow Serpent Trooper, Desert Trooper

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

1991 Ozone - Eco Warriors

Time heals all wounds.  Or, so they say.  In 1991, Hasbro released the Eco Warriors figures.  As collectors came online a few years later in the late 1990's, they generally hated the concept of neon Joes and, in particular, hated the Eco Warriors for being the harbinger of the bright colors.  Well into the 2000's this opinion remained true.  But, as the calendar turned to the 2010's, the stance began to soften.  This was due to the fact that many hardliners (those who felt the Joe line ended after 1987, or even 1985) had either left the hobby or had decided the later vintage Joes weren't bad since they had nothing else new to collect.  But, it was also due to an influx of younger collectors for whom the neon years had defined their childhood Joe experience.  While I won't go so far as to say that Eco Warriors are now popular, they are accepted and collectors find some value in them.  In looking back at the molds used in the Eco Warriors subset, they still exhibit the same high quality sculpting and design that Hasbro retained through the vintage Joe line's entire run.  This brings us to Ozone: an excellent addition to the Eco Warriors ranks and the subject of today's profile.

Ozone is known to me as an Astronaut.  The first time I came across the figure was in the spring of 1995 when I found the 1993 Star Brigade version of Ozone, Countdown and Payload for $2 each at a KB Toy Liquidators on the West side of Indianapolis.  The mold looked like an astronaut and it seemed perfectly reasonable to me that the figure was new to the Star Brigade assortment.  As collecting resources came online, I found that Ozone actually debuted two years earlier as part of the Eco Warriors assortment.  As I liked my 1993 figure, I made it a point to find an original Ozone figure.

In the late 1990's, though, finding figures from the 1990's on the second hand market was actually kind of tough.  Not too many kids had gotten to the point of selling their figures.  So, it took a good amount of time before I found a lot that included a complete Ozone.  Once in hand, though, I found that I still got more use out of my later Ozone releases.  The blue and yellow color was visually appealing.  But, I was more interested in Clean Sweep as a new acquisition.  And, as I was familiar with Ozone from Star Brigade, I had difficulty in seeing the original release of him in the Eco Warriors light.  Plus, the figure I got was very stiff.  So, he was difficult to fit into the Razorblade (my aircraft of choice at the time) which limited his display use.

Ozone's design is very strong.  His distinctive visage is one of the highlight.  The figure itself is named after a Hasbro designer of the time named David Kunitz.  The helmet is tight fitting and well placed without being a true danger of rubbing off the head's paint.  The rest of the body is somewhat bulky: befitting for a figure who would be wearing lots of protective gear.  He has lots of armor bits around that add depth to the mold, but really can only be explained away as aesthetic choices.  Ozone features an array of 6 neon green grenades on his chest.  They provide a visual break to the blue and yellow background.  And, they are a nice complement to the neon green accessories.  The overall color scheme works well despite the non-traditional bright colors.  Sure, Ozone is blue.  But the hue would never be mistaken for Cobra.

Ozone's accessories are a mixed bag.  His helmet is awesome.  It fits well and is in scale with the rest of his body.  The water squirting backpack is, essentially, the same as the device included with the other Eco Warriors figures.  For the time, it's a solid toy.  But, the weapon and hose are large and can easily snap thumbs.  The sniffer is a cool device.  However, in my first Eco Warriors lot I acquired, the sniffer was placed into the bag with Clean Sweep.  I never bothered to look up each figure since all the figs in the lot had their correct accessories.  So, until 2016, I considered this piece of gear to belong to Clean Sweep.  I've always seen it as an extension of the nice pack and controls setup included with that character.  So, seeing this vacuum gun with Ozone still seems odd to me.  But, the quality and oddity of the weapon remains the same regardless of which figure you have use it.  The bright green is a nice offset from the subtle blue and yellow of the figure.  So, I find it very aesthetically pleasing: even if it is very bright.

The Ozone mold got a lot of life.  Hasbro created it for the Eco Warriors in 1991.  It was then released in two variants as part of Star Brigade in 1993: a tan and a brown version.  Hasbro recolored Ozone into a dark brown and included him as a shortpacked figure in the second series of 1994 Star Brigade figures.  The mold then appeared in India around 1999 or 2000.  There, Funskool released a Star Brigade Ozone based on the 1993 American release of the figure.  There are a few variants of the Funskool figure to track down as some have different arm construction or differing shades of grey coloring.  Funskool still had the mold in 2010.  As such, it's more possible that Ozone's mold still exists.  Though, it's doubtful that he'll ever appear again.

Mint and complete with filecard Ozone figures are cheap.  While dealers sell them for $10, you can get them with the filecard for around $6 without too much difficulty.  You can still get carded figures in the $25 range without too much searching, too.  So, while the figure isn't as hated as it once was, it's still not loved by collectors.  However, for the price, Ozone isn't a bad buy.  The colors are different and vibrant.  The mold is solid.  And, the character is a relative blank slate that can be incorporated into any collection with no media baggage.  You can use the figure in a variety of settings and the panoply of later colors allow for some diversity when using the character.  Personally, I don't mind either Eco Warriors or brightly colored Joes.  I've been this way for 20 years, now.  But, the nostalgia of the neon years is strong with me as it was when I actively became a collector.  So, the value you derive from an Ozone figure may differ quite a bit.  But, I'm glad to have this guy in my collection.

1991 Eco Warriors, Ozone, Countdown, Outback, 1993, Star Brigade


1991 Eco Warriors, Ozone, Countdown, Outback, 1993, Star Brigade, 1991 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, tracker, Clean Sweep, Mercer

1991 Eco Warriors, Ozone, Countdown, Outback, 1993, Star Brigade, 1991 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, tracker, Clean Sweep, Mercer



1991 Eco Warriors, Ozone, Countdown, Outback, 1993, Star Brigade, 1991 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, tracker, Clean Sweep, Mercer

Thursday, October 12, 2017

1994 Ice Cream Soldier - Around the Web

For a bright neon figure with a terrible code who was released in Joe's final year: there sure is a lot of content around the web for Ice Cream Soldier.  It seems he's kind of the poster child for all that went "wrong" with the last years of the line.  But, the mold is still decent and the bright colors are kind of fun.  Here's the best on the 1994 Ice Cream Soldier from around the web.

Ice Cream Soldier Profile

Ice Cream Soldier at JoeADay.com

Ice Cream Soldier Video Review

Ice Cream Soldier at 3DJoes.com

Ice Cream Soldier Pre Production at YoJoe.com

Ice Cream Soldier at Half the Battle

1994 Ice Cream Soldier, Flamethrower, 1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Outback, Eco Warriors, Mud Buster

1994 Ice Cream Soldier, Flamethrower, 1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Outback, Eco Warriors, Mud Buster

1994 Ice Cream Soldier, Flamethrower, 1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Outback, Eco Warriors, Mud Buster

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sigilo - Plastirama Quick Kick (Argentina)

The character of Quick Kick never really appealed to me.  Despite first appearing in the classic 1985 series, I never found the figure all that interesting.  As such, through the years, I mostly ignored Quick Kick's existence.  I acquired a complete one in an early lot of figures I bought and never really thought much about him.  However, as I turned towards foreign Joes as the major growth area for my collection, I found that Quick Kick had a large contingent of international releases.  Again, though, I heavily avoided these: spending my time acquiring figures I liked more instead.  In time, though, I realized that I would "need" to get the Quick Kick variants at some point.  So, when I found a dealer selling several Plastirama figures I was missing from my collection: I went ahead and added the Argentine version of Quick Kick (named Sigilo) to my collection.

Quick Kick was never really important to my childhood collection.  There's a few reasons for that.  The first is that his look was just too far out there.  A guy with bare feet and bare chest was tough for me to really get behind.  The second was that he only included a sword and nunchuks as weapons.  Had he been released in 1984 as an enemy to Storm Shadow, I might have found Quick Kick more interesting.  But, with the 1985 Snake Eyes as Storm Shadow's foil available the same calendar year, Quick Kick never stood a chance.  The final reason is more trivial.  But, one of my friends simply loved Quick Kick.  He was annoyingly attached to the figure.  (I suspect it was because he could not find the 1985 Snake Eyes at retail.  So, he didn't have Storm Shadow's natural enemy.  I recall him ordering Snake Eyes from either Sears or JC Penny's: getting several figures he already had since he couldn't find the figure he wanted at retail.)  He had Quick Kick out duel Snake Eyes.  This, to me, was ludicrous.  And, it helped sully the Quick Kick figure for me.

Yet, I did find uses for Quick Kick.  One of my favorite Special Missions adventures centers around Quick Kick and Stalker being trapped by South American terrorists.  From stories like this, I found that Quick Kick could have some value.  Yet, I found the figure constraining.  So, in time, Quick Kick joined the legion of nameless, faceless minions who would represent enemies of both Joe and Cobra.  He might be a radicalized student, a dissident or just a general terrorist.  He was joined by my broken figures, Dreadnoks and other knock offs in this role.  He also served as a stand in for Viet Cong soldiers during the time I was obsessed with "The 'Nam" comic book.

Beyond that, though, the figure never found a place.  Even as an adult, Quick Kick hasn't grabbed my attention.  I have few photos of him on the site and he rarely even makes a background appearance.  If I'm rattling off the 1985 lineup, Quick Kick will be the one figure I forget: even over the obscure Listen & Fun Tripwire.  The bare chest and feet don't really lend themselves to much usage.  And, Quick Kick's lack or firearm further limits his value.

The main differences between this figure and the American release are subtle.  Sigilo's (the name means Stealth) skin tone is definitively pinker than Quick Kick's.  That's the most noticeable difference.  He has a red belt with silver pockets.  These work better than the American colors and are more unifying in appearance since they also tie with the silver wrist gauntlets.  If you come across a loose Sigilo in the wild, he's different enough that an experienced collector will instantly recognize him as being different from the American figure.  But, he's still similar enough that he doesn't really bring anything to the Quick Kick character that you don't get from the Hasbro version.

Sigilo's accessories are the same as Quick Kick's.  The Plastirama backpack is a shiny black color.  (It's the common color of many Argentine accessories.)  The sword and nunchuks are still silver and are functionally indistinguishable from the Hasbro versions of the same gear.  Quality Control for these Plastirama figures can be spotty, though, and it's not uncommon to see carded Sigilo figures missing the nunchuks. The black pack is something different for the figure, but isn't really enough to be interesting.  But, at least the figure contains the full complement of gear.

Quick Kick was quite the world traveler.  Despite that, though, he never really got an interesting variant.  After his release in the U.S., Quick Kick appeared in Argentina and Brazil.  The Estrela release from Brazil is notable because Hasbro actually had Estrela produce a large quantity of Quick Kick figures that were made available to North American collectors via Hasbro Direct.  So, anyone who had a later mail away Quick Kick figure actually has the Brazilian variant.  Despite this major difference, these mail aways remain remarkably cheap.  Though, massive amounts of overstock were put into the collecting community that helps sate demand.  From Brazil, Quick Kick migrated to India.  There, Funskool produced a Quick Kick figure for many years.  Like both the Brazilian and Argentine versions of the mold, the Funskool figure is a very similar to the American release.  There are a few very difficult to find variants of the Funskool Quick Kick, the most famous being a version with a light pink sash.  It does not appear that Hasbro got the Quick Kick mold back from Funskool in the 2000's and it could still be there.  Frankly, I'd go for at least one variant of Quick Kick that gave us a substantially different visual from the other figures that were released around the world.  But, that's never going to happen, now.

In the early and mid 2000's, mint on carded Sigilo figures were ubiquitous on online auction and dealer sites.  They would sit, unsold for $10.  If you were patient, you could get them for half of that.  Sgto. Slaughter, Alado, Fuego and Sigilo comprised a quartet of completely undesirable figures that collectors ignored.  Slowly, though, the supply of all the Plastirama overstock has dried up.  These days, MOC Sigilos are around $25 figures.  Loose, they will run around $15 or so.  That's still pretty cheap.  But, there are tons of Quick Kick figures out there and most of them are similar enough that once you have one, you have them all.  But, you simply don't see Sigilo (or any of the once easy to find Plastirama figures) with the frequency you did just a decade ago.

If you are a foreign figure junkie like I am, this is good since you can still get a foreign variant for really cheap.  If you don't really care, it's good, too, since this Sigilo doesn't really offer anything you don't get with the regular Quick Kick version.  Since I'm still not a Quick Kick fan, this Sigilo just sits in a box with some other Plastirama figures.  He's fun to display with Sgto. Slaughter and Alado from time to time.  But, I rarely have occasion to pull him out and use him on his own merits.  Quick Kick is a character that's never resonated with me and the figure has kept him buried in my collection.  Having a foreign version of him is kind of fun.  But, in the end, this Sigilo is still constrained by the same issues as the American figure.  For those who like Quick Kick (and, he has a lot of fans) that's a good thing since it allows them more ways to collect a figure they enjoy.  For me, though, this figure checked a box and that's about the extent of his value to me.

Sigilo, Quick Kick, Argentina, Plastirama, Cobra Mortal, Cobra De Hielo, Ice Cobra, Stormshadow, Black Major, Bootleg


Sigilo, Quick Kick, Argentina, Plastirama, Cobra Trooper, VAMP Mark II, 1985, 1983, Dusty, 1984

Sigilo, Quick Kick, Argentina, Plastirama, 1985, Worms, 1987, General Hawk, 1997, Lifeline 1986

Sigilo, Quick Kick, Argentina, Plastirama, 1985, Worms, 1987, General Hawk, 1997, Lifeline 1986