Thursday, October 18, 2018

1989 Tundra Stalker - Around The Web

I didn't mind Hasbro revisiting some of the classic characters from the line's earliest years.  It was a great way to keep younger fans engaged with the brand's roots as well as give longer term collectors some variety in outfits for their long term favorites.  This 1989 Stalker is a perfect example of how a excellent original figure could be updated to something just as nice.  I've looked at this figure twice in the site's history.  Here's the best of the figure from around the web.

1989 Stalker Profile (2013)

1989 Stalker Profile (2003)

Stalker Video Review by Michael Mercy

Pre Production Stalker at YoJoe.com

Stalker at JoeADay.com

Stalker at 3DJoes.com

Stalker Video Review

1989 Stalker, 1987 Worms, Maggot

1989 Stalker, 1988 Mean Dog, Rock and Roll

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

1993 Ninja Force Scarlett

Action figures evolve over time.  While they didn't invent the scale, Kenner's 3.75" Star Wars figures dominated the market and pretty much set that size as the pre-eminent format for the next 30+ years.  G.I. Joe, though, took Kenner's scale and maximized it.  Hasbro revolutionized the articulation, paint applications, construction quality, accessories, vehicles and playsets in that size through the 1980's.  Even within their flagship 3 3/4 line, Hasbro continued to improve the sculpting and design of the figures.  Sometimes, though, they went too far.

 As the 1990's dawned other toy companies were intruding on Joe's dominance.  Ninja Turtles were the rage.  And, other toy companies, freed from the constraints of the human form of their toys, began to increase figure size to showcase more detail and include play features that were built into the toys themselves.  Not wanting to fall behind, Hasbro's designers followed suit.  First, play features were built into accessories and included gear.  But, that wasn't enough.  In 1992, Ninja Force debuted.  These figures featured spring loaded action features that showcased "ninja" moves.  But, to achieve this new functionality, some concessions in figure design had to be made.  The Ninja Force figures lacked the back screw and waist movement that had been the hallmarks of the G.I. Joe line.  In 1993, Ninja Force went even further with the action features and accompanying construction changes.  Which lead to the 1993 Ninja Force Scarlett figure.

Let's make no mistake.  When taken in the context of 2018, this version of Scarlett is a terrible figure.  She is big, bulky, has horrible hair, a large face and outrageous colors.  In short, she is everything an action figure released in 1993 would have wanted to be and everything a collector in 2018 despises.  But, even for 1993, this figure is not great.  The blocky lower body construction looks terrible in the 3 3/4 scale.  And, it's even more out of place on a female figure.  The string hair, though, was about the best you could expect for movable hair in this scale.

The biggest use of this Scarlett is for customs.  Not so much the body, but the head often appears in custom takes on Scarlett.  The head is nicely detailed and the long hair is a fun, customizable bit that attracts talented designers to find a way to incorporate the head onto more traditional Scarlett body molds.  The size of the head makes it problematic to be placed on the 1982 Scarlett body.  But, many talented customizers have pulled it off to success.

This Scarlett's claim to fame was the comic book.  As the comic limped towards cancellation, Snake Eyes and his clan remained the focal point.  Scarlett was featured as prominently as ever.  But, she started to appear in this uniform.  The '90's artwork of many of these later books doesn't appeal to me as much as the more traditional artwork from the '80's did.  But, Scarlett's appearance on the printed panel sold this uniform and look for her as something useful.  The colors were very early 1990's.  But, having an update to her combat appearance for the first time in a decade was welcome.

Scarlett's weapons were typical of 1993 Hasbro releases.  They were all included on a weapon tree and were bright yellow in color.  She included three swords, a knife, nunchuks, two claws and a figure stand.  The weapons fit with the figure since they match some of her base colors.  In the comic, Scarlett often used edged weapons.  So, the inclusion of them here fit with the appearances of the character.  The weapons are all larger than the fine swords that I had grown up with in the '80's.  But, they worked with the slightly bulkier figures that were being produced in 1993.

Hasbro milked three releases out of this Scarlett mold.  In the same year that this figure was released, Hasbro also repainted it as the body for Chun-Li in the Street Fighter series of Joe figures.  A blue and yellow version of Chun-Li was released carded and an orange version was released with the Beast Blaster.  A third and final version of Chun-Li Xiang was released in the Street Fighter Movie Line of figures.  But, this used an all new mold and did not resurrect the Scarlett body.  All the 1993 Ninja Force figures disappeared after that aside from those that were carried over to the Shadow Ninjas line in 1994.  Scarlett never appeared again in this configuration.  An anniversary style figure was released with colors and design that were an homage to this 1993 figure.  But, for fans of an alternate look for Scarlett, they begin and end with this figure in the vintage line.

For me, seeing a figure that is so stereo-typically 1990's is a fun reminder of that time.  Ninja Force figures were the bane of my Joe buying existence in the mid 1990's since they were always left over at Toys R Us, clogging the shelves and mocking me at what the Joe line had once been.  It took months of only finding them and nothing else for me to finally break down and buy a loose Night Creeper.  The figure was severely flawed.  But, in an age when I only had around 20 figures available to me, even that Night Creeper found some use.  This Scarlett reminds me of those days: both in the frustration at only finding her brethren at retail but also in the enjoyment of rediscovering my collecting passion again.

I recently paid $6 for a MOC version of this figure.  Getting a mint, loose and complete with filecard version probably would have cost me the same after I paid shipping.  For the price, I was just going to open the figure.  But, as I looked at her, I couldn't find a reason to do so.  The figure is bad and would never appear in a photo outside of this profile.  She would sit in a bag for years.  Then, maybe, she'd end up in a display case, near the back and out of sight.  I also happen to have a bunch of 1993 Ninja Force figures still carded.  So, I'm just adding her to that collection.  Some day, I'll come across a cheap, loose version.  For now, though, there's simply no reason to open this figure up.  It's not a good Scarlett and it's actually just a bad G.I. Joe figure.  But, it's also the only incarnation of one of the three or four most important characters in the comic run after the 1982/1983 releases.  So, she has significance for that and is worth picking up for the pittance she costs.

1993 Ninja Force Scarlett

Thursday, October 11, 2018

1983 Tan Grunt - Around The Web

In 1983, Hasbro released its first repaints.  Grand Slam, the Viper Pilot and this Grunt were all newly colored rehashes of figures that were otherwise available.  It was a cheap way to get an exclusive figure into a vehicle pack.  But, it produced some of the rarer figures of 1983.

You'll note, though, that this Grunt isn't anywhere near as rare as the other two repainted figures.  This is heavily due to the fact that a well funded collector acquired untold dozens or hundreds of these figures for a diorama.  That dio never came to be and tons of bubbled Tan Grunts and regular 1983 Grunts were tossed into the collecting community where they forever altered the availability of what should be a harder figure to find.

With that, the Tan Grunt remains the basis for a team of tan Original 13 Joes.  And, there's a good deal of content out there on him because he's from a classic year and is such a different look for figures of that era.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1983 Tan Grunt Profile

Grunt by cyko

Grunt at Memories of Toy Morrow

Grunt at Joe A Day

Grunt at JoePedia

Grunt by Hit and Run

Grunt at 3DJoes.com

Grunt by discovolante

Grunt by slipstream

1983 Tan Grunt, Falcon Glider, Airborne, Dragonfly, Zap, Bazooka, Ripcord, 1984, Fuego, Plastirama, Argentina, 2001, Locust

1983 Tan Grunt, Falcon Glider, Airborne, Dragonfly, Zap, Bazooka, Ripcord, 1984, Fuego, Plastirama, Argentina, 2001, Locust

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

1991 Cloudburst

1991 brought about a fundamental shift in the Joe line.  While sub sets had been a common thread in the yearly releases for a while, 1991 converted the line away from the traditional figures/vehicles combinations that had defined G.I. Joe since 1982.  The vehicle drivers, for the most part, were gone.   (I'm hard pressed to call the Battle Copters "vehicles".)  In their stead were three separate series of higher priced figures who were all themed together.  Eco Warriors and the Super Sonic Fighters both featured larger cardbacks and a higher price point to make the figures seem "deluxe".  The Air Commandos took the concept a step further and tossed a large glider onto a cardback that also featured a figure.  Again, these were higher priced items meant to appeal to gift givers who felt a single figure was not adequate.  The actual figures in this set of four, though, have a non traditional appeal.  They featured bright colors and fewer paint applications while also including a surprising amount of accessories.  I've looked at a couple of these figures through the years and now the 1991 Cloudburst's number has come up.

My first encounter with Cloudburst was in 1999 when I got a bagged version from Hasbro Canada.  Sadly, these bagged figures did not include any accessories.  So, it was just the figure.  I got two or three of them in my order as replacements for other figures I had ordered which had already sold out.  In looking at the figure inside his baggie, I felt no desire at all to open him.  Sans gear, the bright yellow and offsetting black design didn't do much for me...and I'm someone who doesn't mind bright colors.  But, at the same time, I acquired this figure at the same time as I got a bagged Air Devil, 1992 Ace and several classic figures.  So, he was somewhat lost in the overload of cheap greatness that the Hasbro Canada find provided.

A few years later, I returned to one of those bagged Cloudburst figures.  Again, I was not compelled to open it.  In looking at the mold, though, I did see the potential.  Cloudburst actually has an excellent sculpt.  And, were the yellow something more muted, he would be something far more desirable. But, while I might have been able to live with the black jacket with yellow highlights, the offsetting white pants just don't work in the overall ensemble.  The figure also has unpainted details that might have made a difference such as the straps holding the leg pauldrons in place.  A bit of black here might have helped to salvage the figure.  The same goes for the white gloves.  Another color here would have done much to improve my opinion of Cloudburst. 

As for use, Cloudburst has yet to find a niche in my collection.  Painted differently, he could make for a cool Starduster custom.  But, as he stands, he really doesn't work in any of my airborne capacities.  If I need a crew for the Tomahawk, Dragonfly or Retaliator, Cloudburst doesn't make the cut.  His colors don't work with the vehicles.  Considering I can make most neon Joes work in the settings, though, I suspect part of that is just personal bias against the figure as I don't, personally, like the way the colors work together. 

Gearwise, Cloudburst featured two accessories: a rifle and his goggles.  The rifle is a cool design that I first found with the 1993 Backblast and Keel Haul.  Sadly, though, it is cast in a bright red color.  The rifle is often missing from the figure, but can be found without too much trouble since it's bright and relatively large.  The goggles plug into Cloudburst's head.  Once affixed, they are far more secure than the microphones of the 1980's.  But, they still come out and are the more often missing part of the Cloudburst figure.  With the goggles, Cloudburst is more interesting.  Their blue color helps bring some additional life to the overall visual presentation.  Without them, Cloudburst feels like a cheap knock off Joes we had seen in prior years.

This was Cloudburst's only appearance.  All of the 1991 Air Commandos had decent sculpts that would have made for tremendous repaint fodder in the 2000's.  And, as the figures never appeared anywhere else in the world, they were likely in Hasbro's control.  But, that was not Hasbro's focus of that era and we missed out on useful updates to figures like Cloudburst in exchange for multiple releases of Duke, Roadblock and Snake Eyes.  All that's left for collectors are various customs and the ability of creative collectors to squeeze any life from the parts.

Cloudburst figures tend to run around $6.  You can get one with the rifle or about $10 or so.  But, a complete version with the visor and gun will run as high as $22.  The figure is surprisingly easy to find.  But, that's likely a testament to both the figure's unpopularity and the leftovers from the Hasbro Canada find.  If you can get a cheap version, Cloudburst isn't a bad figure.  If you can find some really cheap parts, he makes for great customizing fodder, too.  But, that's about the extent of his usefulness.  Skymate is so weird he's cool.  Cloudburst is not.  I'm always fond of airborne Joe specialties.  But, in this case, the figure just doesn't deliver for me.

1991 Cloudburst, Air Commandoes, 1992 Wild Bill, Battle Corps, 1990 Retaliator, Nunchuk, Ninja Force

1991 Cloudburst, Air Commandoes, 1992 Wild Bill, Battle Corps, 1990 Retaliator, Nunchuk, Ninja Force


1991 Cloudburst, Air Commandoes, 1992 Wild Bill, Battle Corps, 1990 Retaliator, Nunchuk, Ninja Force, 1988 Mean Dog, 1985 Crankcase

Saturday, October 6, 2018

1991 Big Ben - Around The Web

The first time I saw Big Ben was when a kid down the street had one.  I was out of Joes, but was enthralled by the look of the figure.  Big Ben would appear in the comic and it was cool to see him there.  Years later, when I returned to collecting Joe, Big Ben was among the first figures I wanted to acquire.  I was not disappointed in him.  Sadly, the mold was used to death by Hasbro in the 2000's and that dulled the lustre of this original figure.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1991 Big Ben Profile

Big Ben at Joe A Day

Big Ben by Vader9900

Big Ben by Wizard of X

Big Ben by Slipstream80

Big Ben at Joepedia

Big Ben by ToneGunsRevisited

1990 Big Ben, 1991, Bullhorn, 1985 Mauler