Tuesday, September 26, 2023

1984 Machine Gun Defense Unit

Sometimes, it is better to be late to a party than to miss it altogether.  Such is the case with the Battlefield Accessories that were introduced into the G.I. Joe line in 1984.  While I was well versed in the Joe releases each year, toys that did not include a figure and weren't larger vehicles that allowed for figure interaction were not high on my list.  So, as the year progressed, I didn't really bother to pick up any of the small, boxed playsets that didn't seem all that interesting.  But, around 1986 or so, I discovered a couple of the playsets at my friends' home.  This intrigued me.  And, remembering that both Target and Toys R Us still had plenty of these available, even three years after their release, got me to finally buy a couple of the sets of my own.  My first was the Machine Gun Defense Unit.

I'm not sure why this Machine Gun playset was my first choice.  But, I do believe that it had to with the hope that the machine included with the set would be a great replacement for my long broken 1984 Roadblock's weapon.  I despised the 1986 Roadblock heavy weapon.  And, from the box back, it appeared that the weapon included with the Machine Gun Defense Unit was a better version of the 1984 Roadblock set piece.  The thought of getting a weapon that would bring back one of my favorite childhood figures who was otherwise lacking in my collection was of great appeal.  

Upon opening up the Machine Gun Defense Unit, I realized that the centerpiece of the set, the actual machine gun, was probably its weakest element.  While the gun looked fine, it was just too big for use with figures.  The handle is a thumb cracker, which immediately made it useless to me.  No figure could hold it.  The ammo belt and box were a neat idea.  But, they weren't enough to salvage the gun.  The big sign that came with it was useless.  And, with that, the entire playset was in danger of getting tossed into my shallow box full of unused, broken and unloved parts.  Then, though, I found the best feature of the playset: the iron crossbar blockades.

These little toss ins added so much value to my play setups.  My Joes now had some additional cover behind which they could hide whenever Cobra attacked.  They also had barricades that could slow down a Cobra advance and even hinder a Hiss Tank or Stun.  In short, they became vital elements to any base I would set up.  The Joes could toss them into the back of an APC and carry them into any battle to provide some support.  They could be cover for guys just returning cover fire with their infantry weapons.  It might be obstacles for smaller Cobra vehicles (like the Stinger or Dreadnok Cycle) that simply weren't powerful enough to roll over them.  They were versatile pieces that could be used to simply enhance the visual appearance of a play area or the functional play value that was the cornerstone of my childhood Joe experience.

The main use for the Machine Gun Defense was as part of the barriers that blocked my hallway from my room whenever I had Cobra attack.  I had one, small step into the actual bedroom.  So, I'd cover the entire wall to wall length with various parts and pieces to block on the oncoming Cobra onslaught.  I'd have everything from an overturned bridge from the Bridge Layer to leftover wings from my childhood TIE Fighters.  Filling the gaps between the bigger pieces would be things like this Machine Gun Defense Unit.  Sometimes, it would be manned by a figure with already broken thumbs.  Usually, that guy would die pretty quickly.  Other times, it was unused and available for a Joe fleeing from his now-destroyed vehicle to jump behind for both cover and additional firepower.  

The Machine Gun Defense Unit had a few releases.  After its retail run was over, it was a mail away for a while.  Some of these mail aways ended up being the European version of the playset.  The Euro version has slightly different colors.  The set was then released by Plastirama in Argentina.  Again, the colors are pretty similar to the Hasbro version.  But, side by side, they are easier to differentiate.  Time was, the non-US versions were very cheap, making them a fun alternative to expand any diorama.  But, the Argentine releases are stupidly priced by dealers with few otherwise appearing on the market.  And, the mail away/Euro releases have also gotten expensive if you want them bagged.  Those, though, can still be found loose for fair prices...it just may take a few months to find one.

With the market in such flux as prices plummet, there's a lot of options for complete Machine Gun Defense Units.  You can find complete ones for under $20.  But, some dealers will still get $35 or more for one.  That's dumb since this isn't a highly desirable piece, it's fairly easy to find, even complete and there are a ton of them out there.  So, if you can get one for $20 or less, that's probably a good deal.  If you're interested in a challenge, you can put them together from parts lots for even less.  That can be fun...and frustrating.  But, after collecting for decades, why not give it a try?  This is one of the playsets that I feel is probably worth the money.  The set is worth it just for the crossbars.

1984 Machine gun Defense Unit, Roadblock, 1983 Grunt, TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, Ripcord

1984 Machine gun Defense Unit, Roadblock, 1983 Grunt, TNT, Plastirama, Argentina

1984 Machine Gun Defense, 2004 Night Force Roadblock, 1983 Rock and Roll, Cobra Trooper, Viper Pilot, Toys R Us Exclusive

Friday, September 22, 2023

1993 Armor Tech Star Brigade Destro - Around The Web

Armor Tech figures are not my favorite.  The oddball construction ruins what might be otherwise nice figures.  The heads, especially, are excellent.  But, within the context of the rest of the figures, they aren't enough to salvage the line.  But, today, the figures in the set are no where near as hated and neglected as they once were.  So, here's some excellent content on the Armor Tech Destro that you can find all around the web.

1993 Armor Tech Star Brigade Destro Profile

1993 Armor Tech Star Brigade Destro by masterbungle

1993 Armor Tech Star Brigade Destro by ronnie_trickshot

1993 Armor Tech Destro by Slipstream80

1993 Armor Tech Destro by thedragonfortress

1993 Armor Tech Destro by toysandtomfoolery

1993 Armor Tech Destro by gen_liederkranz

1993 Armor Tech Destro by gen_liederkranz

1993 Armor Tech Star Brigade Destro, Invader

Monday, September 18, 2023

1989 Python Patrol Trooper

I've had this profile scheduled for months.  It was just the way it fit into the schedule with various other figures and the fact that this profile was mostly done.  Then, Hasbro dropped the Classified Python Patrol Cobra Officer release last week.  So, now it looks like this is a response to that.  But, hey, I'll take the weird kismet and roll with it.  

I don't much care for the Cobra Officer.  I have always been a Cobra Trooper fan and found the Officer to pale in comparison to the much more detailed Trooper.  But, the Officer included an AK-47.  And, to a kid of the '80's, this weapon was the symbol of the bad guys and tied Cobra's imagery to the two greatest evils of the era.  So, the figure was imperative, even if it wasn't my preferred Cobra army builder.  As a kid, I bought a Trooper at a Kohl's store.  But, I don't recall the Officer mattering very much to me.  He was in our collection as my parts bin still as some Officer pieces in it.  But, the Cobra Trooper was always my preferred Cobra and the Officer was, to me, a lesser figure that wasn't really worthwhile when the superior Trooper was available.

For some reason, Hasbro switched the names on the Python Officer and Trooper.  It's not quite a 4-LOM/Zuckuss level screw up.  But, it has lead to decades of confusion.  Personally, I always felt the Officer mold was better suited to be a trooper since it was bland and included the assault rifle.  But, the notion of this mold being an Officer over the Troopers is so ingrained from the original blues, that the name bungling can't prevent me from still seeing this figure as the Officer and the other figure as the Trooper.  I have just this one Officer.  But, I have quite a few Troopers and even some Factory Custom troopers to supplement them.  So, I still see this figure as the officer, even if the official name is that of a trooper.

The upside to this Python Trooper is that the colors and python pattern are excellently done.  Green Cobras were all but non-existent in the vintage line.  (At least, outside of 1989!)  So, the fact that this Python Trooper sports a green shirt makes him stand out.  Oddly, grey was also a sparsely used color among vintage figures and this Trooper also features grey accents that highlight the mold's details.  The bottom of the figure is cast in black with grey highlights to tie the top to the bottom.  In short, the figure isn't a color combo that appears very often and it allows for this figure to be a standout.

The Python Patrol used a color scheme that was consistent across figures.  So, this Trooper features the same green that you find on the Python Officer's straps.  What is really nice, though, is that the green also matches with the Brazilian Exclusive Python Patrol figures.  Gatilho is a nice match for the Officer.  And, you can easily mesh the exclusive Brazilian characters with the Hasbro army builders to create a larger, more cohesive team.  And, if you pair them up with the Sears Dreadnok Ground Assault, you get a cool little cadre of Cobras that can be used in some specific scenarios.

And, it is in that vein that I use the Python Patrol to this day.  I missed them when I was a kid.  And, even my brothers were pretty much done with Joe in 1989.  So, Python Patrol was solely a subset that entered into my consciousness when I was a collector.  It wasn't one that really resonated with me beyond the Viper.  But, in 2008 or so, Hasbro released an anniversary sculpt Python Trooper.  At the same time, there was a Hiss Tank available at retail.  I liked the combo and thought about how awesome it would have been to have had a vintage style Hiss and Python Trooper available at retail just a few years before.  But, at the time, Python Patrol figures were dirt cheap.  So, I stocked up on some Python Officers and built an army that remains the bulk of my Python Patrol collection today.

The Python Trooper has an accessory variant.  His AK-47 can be a glossy black or a light grey.  It is imperative to not confuse the light grey weapon of this figure with the white AK-47 from one of the Battle Gear packs.  You'll also often see the original, charcoal colored AK-47 from the 1982/1983 Officer with these figures, too, as they are actually easier to find than the black rifle from the Python figure.  You can see both variants in the photos below.  Neither of the variants appear to be more common than the other.  But, these days, it's far more common to see Python Troopers sold with incorrect weapons that it is to find them marked with specific variants of the rifle.

It is a ridiculous travesty that the 2022 Cobra Trooper/Cobra Officer set hasn't been repainted into Python Patrol figures.  Hasbro could drop a 6 pack of 4 Troopers and 2 Officers in a white box and baggies (like they do with Star Wars army builders) and sell them without too much difficulty.  They took the time to make these new molds and we have yet to see them reused outside of a last minute addition to the Skystriker.  Maybe we'll see them someday.  But, at this point, I don't hold my breath.  It's far more likely we'll see a repainted Trooper or Officer included with a $120 Transformer before we see a real army building pack that's themed and directed at collectors.  It would really be hard for Hasbro to have bungled the vintage Joe homages any more than they did.

The Cobra Officer mold wasn't used all that much.  The straight arm figure was sold in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.  The swivel arm Cobra Officer was sold in various countries and was available as a mail away for years and years.  In fact, bagged Cobra Officers were available as late as 1999 from Hasbro Canada.  The mold was used for the 1984 Stinger Driver.  Then, Python Officers were sold in 1989.  But, they were also available in things such as the Chuck-E-Cheese promos.  Hasbro remade the Officer mold in 2004.  But, they then found the old mold that same year.  It was used in a Toys R Us set, a Comic Pack and the Night Watch set from the DTC line.  Then, we got the 2022 Officer and it's repaint on the Stinger Driver.  Factory Custom makers have done an Officer mold.  So, you can find the proper color variants that Hasbro should have done in that realm.

Way, way too many Python Troopers sell in the $50-$70 range.  And, that's not just dealer sales.  You'll see the market push that high, too.  You can get mint and complete figures in the $40 range.  But, even incomplete figures sell in the $30 area.  As the crotch is brittle, it's much easier to find broken figures.  But, even they will command premiums at times.  Python Patrol was once considered less desirable than standard paint job figures.  But, those days are gone as collectors have realized that the Python Patrol exists in far lower numbers than their contemporaries.  So, pricing now reflects that.  

1989 Python Patrol Trooper, Cobra Officer, Gatilho, Comandos Em Acao, Estrela, Brazil, 1986 Sears Dreadnok Stinger, 1984 Firefly, Python Trooper, Relampago, Python Patrol Airborne, Ripcord

1989 Python Patrol Trooper, Cobra Officer, Gatilho, Comandos Em Acao, Estrela, Brazil, 1986 Sears Dreadnok Stinger, 1984 Firefly, Python Trooper

1989 Python Patrol Trooper, Cobra Officer, Gatilho, Comandos Em Acao, Estrela, Brazil, 1986 Sears Dreadnok Stinger

Friday, September 15, 2023

2006 Operation Flaming Moth Flak Viper - Around The Web

Back in 2015 and 2016, you could buy large lots of these figures from  Asia for a couple of bucks each.  As those sold out, you could get plenty of complete versions or $12 each.  Since then, the prices on these figures have gotten ridiculous.  Which makes little sense since these figures were hugely unpopular, were heavily clearanced and had overstock available for nearly a decade.  But, many of today's collectors have no concept of the line's history and can't imagine there are guys with dozens of these figures sitting a bucket, still thinking they are unwanted, cheap acquisitions.

There's little content on this Flak Viper any more.  Most of the items you'll see below have aged quite a bit.  Which is more about the changing nature of the collecting community than the quality of the figure itself.  So, check out all the content below for a glimpse of the past when the community was more vibrant.

2006 Flak Viper Profile

2006 Flak Viper by gen_liederkranz

2006 Flak Viper by fireflyed

2006 Flak Viper by yovalleyjoe

2006 Flak Viper by nightforcetunnelrat

2006 Flak Viper by plasticbattles

2006 Flak Viper by scarrviper

2006 Flak Viper by kushviper

2006 Flak Viper by LTCLAYMORE

2006 Flak Viper by Scarrviper

2006 Flak Viper by gen_liederkranz

2006 Flak Viper by blast_gijoe

2006 Operation Flaming Moth Flak Viper, Range Viper

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

2001 Funskool Red Dog - Random Photos of the Day

It's been over 20 years since Funskool released their version of the Red Dog figure.  In that time, the figure has fallen out of the collecting conscious.  Few people still have the figure.  And, those who do rarely use him.  In photos of the Renegades, it's always the American Red Dog that's featured.  The Funskool figure just isn't used very often.  Despite my lamentation of this fact, though, I don't even use the figure all that often.  

I always hope to see the figure more often.  And, often comment that I'd love to see this figure get used more often.  But, he's just not part enough of collections, though, to really appear that much.  This is too bad as Funskool did a great job creating a figure that's totally different from the Hasbro figure.

Sadly, Funskool Red Dogs are no longer the $4 purchase that they were for many years.  You'll find very few of them for sale.  And, those that you do find are almost always overpriced.  So, that's a big hindrance to this figure ever become a staple of various photos you'll see of the character.  

Sgto. Slaughter, Plastirama, Argentina, Funskool Red Dog, Brazilian Mercer, Estrela, Comandos Em Acao, Tocha, Blowtorch, 1984, 2022 Duke, Pulse

2001 Funskool Red Dog, Sgt. Slaughter's Renegades, India

2001 Funskool Zartan, Red Dog, Slaughter's Renegades, 1986 Dreadnok Swampfire