Sunday, November 28, 1999

1985 Crankcase

1985, in my opinion, was the best Joe year ever. Almost every figure was spectacular. Even those that were bad measure up very well when compared to line as a whole. While the regular figures, though, were great, it was the complement of vehicle drivers that made the year really stand out. Crankcase was part of this complement. While we've already discussed the Lamprey, Crankcase, along with Frostbite, helped make the Joe side of the 1985 line very memorable. His vehicle, the A.W.E. Striker was great. It was a more fun and playable version of the VAMP. Crankcase fit into it perfectly. He was the type of vehicle driver you would expect for a vehicle of this type. While he was no Clutch, both in character and in figure, he remains one of the funnest figures to have.

Crankcase's mold was great. He was very different from all other figures in both look and style. The suspenders with the very minimalist shirt made for a cool figure. While many other figures from 1985 are very busy, Crankcase is relatively bland. This works for him, though, as he stands out. The holster on his leg is really the only distinguishing feature on the figure. For some reason, though, this very basic design makes for a much more playable figure than some of the other ultra busy figures of this year. His unique helmet and great rifle only added to this figure. (I don't know why, but both Frostbite and Crankcase came with great weapons. Steeler had previously come with a gun, but it wasn't until 1985 that the practice became standard.)

Crankcase instantly went to the top of my playlist. I used him for just about everything. His rifle, though, was brittle and I broke mine into three pieces. I then lost his helmet, and the extra version I got in a later supply pack. Since this figure was so good, though, I managed to find uses for him. Rarely did I give my figures other accessories than those they came with. If the figure was really good, like Crankcase, though, I always managed to find a way to keep them around. The specimen you see below is from Hasbro Canada. I got two of these guys from them in early 1999. Crankcase was the first figure I got from them that I opened. I had waited so long to have his helmet and gun, that I ripped one open right away. As my original figure is still back in Indiana, this new one quickly found his way into my "heavy use" box.

Oddly, this is the only use of the Crankcase mold. While the A.W.E. Striker made its way around the world, there is no indication that Crankcase followed. Of the '85 Vehicle drivers, Crankcase was the only one whose mold was never used again. Maybe Crankcase's failure to appear again was due to the fact that he was available as a mail away for so long. But, if that's the case, it's likely that Hasbro should have access to this mold. In 2004, Toys R Us carried an exclusive A.W.E. Striker repaint. This included a Dial Tone figure. But, the original computer code called it "AWE Striker with Crank". Now, in late 2007, it appears that the Crankcase character is making a return appearance with a Target exclusive release as the driver of a repackaged A.W.E. Striker. This time, though, the character will be in the Anniversary style sculpts rather than a new release of this mold. If the original Crankcase mold is still out there, I'd like to see it return. Aside from an overdue repaint of the character, the mold also has a lot of potential for amalgamations.

Crankcase is a mainstay in most collections. The A.W.E. Striker was a great vehicle so many people had it. Crankcase was also available as a mail in for several years. As such, he is very easy to find. He is usually found with at least his helmet, but the gun isn't too hard either. Like most of the more common early vehicle drivers, Crankcase was readily available for about 8 years. As such, he isn't rare at all. He can be found MIB or mint, complete very easily. He won't, like many of the other '85's, break your budget. He is one figure that every collector needs to have. Like most of the figures I feature, once you get a Crankcase and look at him, you just have to find some use for him. The figure is just good.

1985 Crankcase, AWE Striker, 2001 Desert Striker, 1997 Lady Jaye, 2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Sky Patrol Duke

1985 Crankcase, AWE Striker, 2004 VAMP, 1998 Ace, 1984 Sky Hawk, 1985 Snake Eyes, Strato Viper

1985 Crankcase, AWE Striker, 2000 Law, Cobra Commander, HQ

1985 Crankcase, AWE Striker, MIB

1985 Crankcase, AWE Striker, 2007 Convention Clutch, 2008, night Force Lightfoot

1985 Flint

Flint is the consummate Joe. I believe that if G.I. Joe had to be summed up in one figure, that figure would be the 1985 Flint. While Snake Eyes may have more collector appeal, Flint is the one character we all remember from the toys, the comics, and the cartoon. There are so many version of Flint it is nearly impossible to name them all. Like Snake Eyes, from his initial release, there was always a version of Flint on the shelves. He is the one character that was always needed in the line. The cartoon introduced him a year early. That alone should illustrate his importance. As such, all of his incarnations get a lot of press. However, many collectors still equate their G.I. Joe experience with this one figure. Therefore, it can never get enough coverage.

This figure is one of my all time favorites. In Feb. of 1985, I first found the new Joes. They had a Flint, but I passed him up for Footloose and Airtight. I spent the next six months regretting that decision. When I finally got him, Flint became the cornerstone of my play. He was in every mission, often as the leader. Duke was relegated back to the toybox, as my Joes had their new commander. As the year progressed, I used Flint so much that he became worn down. I lost his shotgun. (still one of my favorite accessories.) I ended up with three Flints in two years. After Flint disappeared from American shelves, I tried in vain to contact British collectors since Flint was still available over there. Action Force used to run a trading service every issue, but I could never get them to publish my list. I would have gladly traded new Joes only available in America for a new Flint since I had, once again, lost his gun. Since the mold was so good, though, I took all my old ones and turned them into many of my favorite custom figures. I still have my original 4 customs that were made out of Flint, Snake Eyes, Barbeque, and Footloose.

This figure is just awesome. The cammo pants, black shirt, gloves, and really cool shotgun shells just make this guy awesome. He just looks like the type of guy the Joes would respect. His shotgun was the most original accessory to come with the Joes in a long time. It was this gun, that made the figure all the more desirable. Of course, I managed to lose his shotgun about a dozen times. As such, my Flints had many other weapons, my favorites being the Snow Serpent's AK-47 and the gun that came with the Cobra Night Landing. In fact, I still use the Cobra Night Landing gun as Flint's exclusive weapon to this day.

Flint's character was one of his most appealing traits. He was the cocky rich kid you wanted to hate, but couldn't. He had that damned grin, but always got results. Reading his filecard, you could see that his background was very interesting. (Some aspects make you wonder if he might have been loosely based on Kris Kristofferson.) He was a pilot, and looked darned good in the Dragonfly, a Rhodes scholar, and a case of whup arse waiting to happen. While he was far more prominent in the Cartoon, Flint's appearances in the comic were memorable. (Who can forget his solo attack on a company of Eels in G.I. Joe #54?) He was always part of big missions, and was not just a carbon leader. I think the reason I never liked Duke was because he had a great introduction, and then just petered out. Flint was tough from the get go and never looked back.

Flint had at least 4 versions of him released, and you can see his planned 5th version here. This version, though, was far and away the best. The 1988 Tiger Force repaint was also pretty good. The darker version of his shotgun was a welcome addition to the accessory realm. The other incarnations didn't fare so well. We all know about the Eco Warriors fiasco, though Flint's figure has some cool uses if you apply your imagination. The 1994 version was pretty cool, but it couldn't live up the shotgun toting original.

Flint was popular the world over. Aside from the American release, Flint was also released in Europe (where he was a major player in the Action Force comic) and Brazil. Flint was also scheduled for release in Argentina and appears on later cardbacks there. However, the Joe line in Argentina was cancelled prior his release and he was not produced. In the mid '90's. Flint was released in China. While this figure used the original card art from this V1 figure, the exclusive figure used parts from the 1991 Dusty and 1987 Falcon. Finally, this V1 mold appeared again in India in the '90's and remained there until Hasbro recalled it in early 2003. Now, the mold is back in Hasbro's hands and will probably be utilized several more times before the line's ultimate end.

Flint was the second most popular figure in 1985 and is very, very common. (I personally have about 8 or him.) He is nearly impossible, though, to find without at least some paint wear along the edge of his beret. Most Flint's took quite a beating from their owners. He is almost always found in any lot that includes '85's or '86's. He can almost always be found with his pack, but the gun can be a little tougher. Loose, complete Flint's aren't too expensive, considering his popularity. Some unscrupulous dealers, though, will try to tell you otherwise. This figure was the second most sought after figure for two years, during G.I. Joe's peak production runs. I would venture to guess that the number of Flints out there numbers in the millions. When you think of it that way, how could this figure be any type of rare. Still, since many collectors are nostalgic about him, Flint can cost more than others in his year. However, since most of the collector activity on the '85 line centers on Snake Eyes, Lady Jaye, Eels, and the Crimson Guard, Flint has not yet reached the unaffordable price range.


1985 Flint, Heavy Metal, Mauler, 1986 Havoc

1985 Flint, CRankcase, 1986 Strato Viper, Snake Eyes V2, 1998 Ace, 1984 Skyhawk

1985 Flint, 2003 Alley Viper

1985 Flint, Heavy Metal, Silver Mirage, 1997 Lady Jaye

1985 Flint, Footloose, Crankcase, 1982, 1983 Cobra Trooper, Cobra Officer

Friday, November 26, 1999

1994 Viper

Cobra needs troops. They have all sorts of specialty soldiers, but no basic Cobra troops had been produced since 1987. In 1994, Hasbro managed to fill that void by producing a new version of the basic Viper. This guy wasn't the great field trooper the earlier version had been and reflected the more modern military technological approach Hasbro seemed to be taking with the line. The result left many collectors rather miffed. Like many of the new versions of classic characters, though, it would be impossible to live up the magnificent original version of most of these figures. In fact, there are very few figures in the whole run whose original versions were improved upon with a new, later version. As this is the case, the 1994 Viper remains another of those neglected 1994 figures that garner little collector attention.

This figure doesn't live up to earlier versions of Vipers, but he is a cool figure that should have more than just a quick gloss over. You will notice in the picture that my Viper has a black rifle. This is not an original accessory. The Viper came with some red pistols. (Maybe a partial reason why this fig gets no respect.) The weapon you see here is from the 1994 Flint. It just fits this figure perfectly. With this in hand, this figure starts to become worthy of wearing the Cobra logo. This guy has a decent color scheme. Had there been a 1995 version, I shudder to think what they would have done with him. This guy, though, isn't too bad. He has a pretty good sculpt, and his helmet is worthy of any Cobra release. He is one of the few 1994's that doesn't suffer from "Big Shoulder" syndrome. For that reason, he is a very playable figure.

In my collection, this figure has evolved. When I first returned to Joe collecting in the mid '90's, this figure was my base Cobra army builder. He was the only army builder I had ready access to and was the main enemy figure who battled against the few Joes I had at the time. As my adult collection grew, though, this figure's role started to diminish. Newer, more classically colored Cobras started to become available and they slowly took the place of figures like this Viper. Now, this figure is still one that I enjoy, but it rarely gets used. I have a nice cadre of these figures, but the orange highlights make the figures difficult to mesh with other, more classically colored Cobra figures. As such, I don't see these guys ever regaining their former stature in my collection. It's too bad, but such things happen over time.

This mold was just used the one time in the vintage line. In 2005, the mold was recolored and released as the high quality Iron Anvil figure. This figure showed how great the '94 Viper mold really is. However, even that figure was not, entirely, perfect. As such, collectors are still left wanting for the final and definitive version of this figure. Personally, I'd like to see this figure painted as he appeared in the comics: with a golden helmet and a green suit. (Very reminiscent of the Aero Viper.) Until that happens, this mold remains a prime example of unfulfilled potential on a great mold from the line's final years.

The grey and blue uniform give this figure a good color base. The Halloween orange doesn't do much for me, but it does work. Remember, when dealing with the 1994 figures, you have to view all color schemes in relative terms. Relative to the other 1994 releases, this guy has a good color scheme. His real accessories are terrible, but that can be remedied very easily. With a little outfitting from your weapon reserves, these figures can become very dangerous adversaries very quickly. I think the 1994 Viper will never be a highly regarded Cobra figure, but it will have it's place. As other Cobras continue to rise in price, this one should remain affordable for quite some time.

The 1994 Viper is a bit tough to find loose. He can be found carded, but not with the regularity of many of the other 1994's. I think that collectors scooped many of these guys up when they were available at retail. As such, you don't often see this Viper for sale. When you do find them, though, they are very inexpensive. Carded samples can usually be purchased for about the same price as a loose figure. Both of these prices, though, are insanely low. As people fill in their earlier gaps in their collections, I think that select 1993 and 1994 figures will start to disappear. The later edition Alley Viper has already started to, and I think the 1994 Viper will follow suit. Collectors can never get enough Cobras. As such, if you can find the 1994 Viper available, you should take your chance now to pick one up and add him to your collection.

1994 Viper, Battle Corps, Stalker, 1988 Hit and Run, Shockwave, 1997 Night Landing

1994 Viper, Battle Corps, Stalker, 1997 Rage, 2006 Viper Pit

1994 Viper, Battle Corps,

1994 Viper, Battle Corps, Star Brigade Cobra Commander

1993 Mace

I will admit that one of the most basic premises of this figure is ludicrous. Whoever thought that a head mounted missile launcher was a good idea, well, I can't really finish that sentence as no hyperbole would be accurate enough to describe the stupidity. The figures planned for the 1993 D.E.F. line are among the worst in the entire collection. They seem like they were just thrown together at the last minute to put as many figures on the market as possible. By my best count, there were 64 new carded figures released in 1993. (Not counting the Street Fighter or Armor Tech figures.) This was far and away the most prolific year in the line. I think Hasbro knew the line was ending and they were desperate to get as much product out as they could. G.I. Joe was also suffering through an identity crisis. They had made so many special interest groups that the whole "team" concept was lost. I think they started to find their focus in 1994, and would have really wowed us in 1995 had the line survived. Instead of what could have been, though, we are left with figures like Mace.

I actually like Mace. I have found a good use for him as a prison guard. His helmet works on him. (He looks atrocious with it off. Kind of like the 1984 Duke on steroids.) His black vest with the communications device are actually pretty cool. He has a shoulder holster that also adds to his usefulness. Had this figure been conceptualized in the late '80's, I think he would have been among the most popular of his year and would even rival Shockwave in overall collector popularity. Unfortunately, he fell victim to Hasbro's 1990's philosophy: short on realism, long on neon. The sculpt is good, the colors are okay, the head is awful. As I said, though, a diorama with two or three of them set up as guards looks pretty good. If you have some black weapons laying around, it's amazing how much of a difference they make in a figure. Mace makes for perfect custom fodder as he is basically cast in black with yellow highlights. His uniform is very minimalist and subtle. After looking at him for a while, you just have to find some use for him.

The Mace mold has been around a bit. After his release in the US, the mold went down to Brazil. There, the figure was released in colors similar, yet slightly superior to the American figure as a character named Cerebro. (That figure also included yellow version of Bullet Proof's gun.) After that, the mold mysteriously reappeared in the US as part of the comic pack Clutch figure in 2004. It was then used again on Steeler a few months later. It is not known if this mold is the original from Brazil or if Hasbro had two of the molds available for Mace and just dusted off the second version. Either way, this is a figure who could, potentially, return at some point. With the right coloring, I think he could be a welcome addition to the modern line.

Mace is one of those figures from the end of the line that is both easy and difficult to find. He was among the most frequently found figures at discount stores well into 1996. I managed to find all three of my originals at retail that year. As such, Mace is usually available carded. Since most people disdain this figure, though, he is rarely found by himself. Mostly dealers cleaned out the discount stores where the 1993 Battle Corps figures were dumped so these figures ended up in boxes, far from the collector's eye for several years. Now, Mace's are readily available. You may just have to also pick up a version of Long Arm and Gristle with him. Mace's also seem to be finding their way into many lots. Since these figures were available at many discount stores, I think many kids also have them. Since these figures sucked, though, they seemed to have survived junior's play years rather well. Most Maces you find are mint and have at least the helmet. Like most the later figures from the line, I think Mace's availability will only increase in the near future. As such, he is a good figure to pick up for cheap. If you don't have any carded figures, you can usually get a Mace for under $3 or $4. It may not be much, but if you're just starting, this can be a fun figure.

1993 Mace, DEF

1987 Law & Order

Law is the consummate cop. He is perfect for both civilian and military police work. He quickly became one of my favorites right after he was released and still remains high on my list today. Of course, you really can't consider him a forgotten figure as Law remains rather popular to this day. He is just so cool and usable, though, that I have to dedicate a page to him. Supposedly, Law's head was sculpted after a Hasbro employee. He looks just like my sixth grade teacher, Stanley Morgan. I don't know why I mention this, but I think that since he was molded after a real person, Law's head just seems far more realistic. Law's accessories are great. The night stick was very nice. If you're into dogs, Order was pretty cool, too. I am not much one for the dog. I use the leash as a rope that the security troops keep prisoners lashed to. It is far more fun. His pistol left something to be desired, but it still worked for this figure. It is odd that while some people rant and rave about neon figures, they never mention Law. He is cast in orange and aqua blue. For him, though, this works. The uniform is pretty cool. He has the ever popular chest holster, a badge, and a sculpted ring on his belt for the nightstick. The handcuffs sculpted on the back of his belt are just icing on the cake.

As Law works so well, he is one of the few Joes that make excellent army builders. They are perfect MP's, or civilian police. I often have several of them in pursuit of the Dreadnoks. It provides a great break from the normal story line considerations. Law just looks tough. Because of this, he remains a believable law enforcement figure. While Mutt was the military Dog Handler, Law is the cop. I think Mutt was an awesome figure, but Law is just a figure that I can't get enough of. Some people have dozens of Cobra Troopers, Vipers or Crimson Guards. I have nearly a dozen Law's. He has so many uses that I pick one up every chance I get.

Law actually had three incarnations. This one is far and away the best. He also had a 1991 Super Sonic Fighters repaint version that wasn't too bad. The colors were slightly more militaristic, but still worked well. The 1993 version with an all new mold was awful. He looks most like a diver, but even that's a stretch. Like most of the planned 1993 D.E.F. figures, this mold was very poor and lacked any sort vision that would have at least grounded the figure in reality. This version has uses, but not as a MP or anything pertaining to that occupation. The 1987 version was just too good. Like Shipwreck and the Viper, the first incarnation of this figure was so good that no future version could live up to it. This is good, though, as the sonic fighter Law is also very easy and cheap to get these days. At least the original version was made in Joe's heyday. The production runs were up and everyone was opening their figures. This has been a Godsend for modern collectors as they can accumulate to their heart's content without really affecting the supply.

Law is a very popular figure. As such, he is starting to command a slightly higher price than many of his contemporaries. 1987 wasn't the greatest year in Joe history. It had its moments, but there were quite a few stinkers. As such, the good figures from that year are starting to become a bit pricey. (They also make excellent trade bait, especially if you're after newer figures.) Law's are rather easy to find in very good condition. If you don't want Order with him, Law starts to get very cheap very quick. He is a staple in large lots of figures, and can almost always be found for sale mint and complete by himself. It is rather easy to build an army of these guys. While slightly more expensive than other figures from this time, Law is still pretty cheap. He doesn't command anywhere near the prices of the Cobras of his era and remains a good figure for the beginning collector to add to their budding collection.

1987 Law, 2003 Wal Mart Duke, Unreleased, Unproduced, 1994 Joseph Colton, Rare G.I. Joe Figures

1987 Law, 2003 Wal Mart Duke, Unreleased, Unproduced, 1994 Joseph Colton, Rare G.I. Joe Figures, Tiger Force Outback
















1986 Slipstream, AVAC, Firebat, Air Viper Advanced Corps, 1987 Chuckles, 1998 Ace, Chinese Exclusive Flint, Tiger Force Falcon

Tuesday, November 23, 1999

1994 Shipwreck

As most people hold the 1994 G.I. Joe releases in disdain, you never see much about this figure. However, I think this guy is one of the best figures that was ever created in the line. The 1994 Shipwreck was excellent for many reasons. He could be used underwater, on ships, or as an attacking commando who would raid enemy maritime installations. I have heard many collectors deride this figure. I will admit that this figure is certainly not the character of Shipwreck that so many collectors enjoy. I think this figure is best put to use as a nameless, faceless trooper. An army of them is absolutely awesome. Since the face mask covers the head, this figure could be any Joe who is put to use in a special mission. In fact, this figure always reminds me of G.I. Joe Special Missions #1. I only wish this figure had been available in the '80's.

As with most of the 1994 releases, you never hear about this figure. Since the comic and the cartoon were both cancelled at this point, Shipwreck never got the chance to appear in this uniform. Many people had abandoned the line, and those left didn't like this bastardization of one of their favorite characters. This has left this figure as a great unheralded gem at the end of the line. I was happy to see the mold redone in the 1998 Navy Seal pack. My great lament, though, was that they didn't give him the weapons of the original figure. Shipwreck was one of the few 1994's who actually came with black weapons. It was these that helped make the figure. I have always thought that the gun that originally came with Hit and Run to be the best of the line. I was very happy that Hasbro reincarnated it so many times in the '90's. This figure is just awesome.

While he does suffer from the "big shoulder" syndrome of the later figures, this figure is still one of the best molds of the last three years of the line. His best feature, is that the figure is all self contained. The mask plugs into the body rather than a pack. This is a feature they didn't use enough in the line. The few figures that have it, though, are all very cool figures to play with. The color scheme on this guy is great as well. He is perfect for a diver, and night landing missions. I loved the color of the Mission to Brazil Wet Suit and this figure carries that tradition. He just looks realistic to me. (Note that I am not a military scholar by any means, so this figure could be totally off. I still like him.)

This Shipwreck mold has now been resurrected twice by Hasbro. It first reappeared in the 1998 Navy Seal Team pack in basic and aqua blue. It then showed up again in the highly desired Wave V of the A Real American Hero Collection. That figure was done in colors very similar to this version: only a little lighter. Unfortunately, both of these figures pegwarmed a bit upon their release. It seems that despite the high quality mold, collectors simply aren't interested in this figure to the extent that I am. I'm not too disappointed, though, as the figure has been released in 2 great color schemes and one really good one. That's more than can be said for many other molds. So, if we never see this mold again, I don't think that's a terrible thing.
Shipwreck, like most of the '94's, is easily found carded, but appears less often loose. Many times he is found without his mask, but sans that accessory, the figure is useless. (Fortunately, the Navy Seal pack can still be found at TRU's throughout the country and the mask from that pack is compatible.) I feel that most of the loose '94's, though, are still about a year or two away from appearing on the second hand market. Once this happens, I expect to find Shipwrecks popping up all over the place. This was a very cool figure, and would be one of the '94's that kids would have wanted. As these youngsters become teenagers, need money, and discover Ebay, these figures will begin to appear all too often. (Kind of like the Eco Warriors figs do now!) Naturally, I will welcome that day as this figure is one of the few Joes that makes an excellent army builder. Hopefully, by the time I have the space for a Flagg, I'll have enough of these figures to help man it.

1994 Shipwreck, 1985 Eels

1994 Shipwreck, 1988 Hydro Viper

1994 Shipwreck, 1985 Eels, 1986 Lifeline, 2004 Convention Beach Head

1994 Shipwreck, 1998 Shipwreck

1990 Range Viper

1989 was probably the second best year for Cobras in the entire run of the G.I. Joe line. As such, many of the releases in 1990 tend to be overlooked. Since the awesome 89's were still on the shelves, many people didn't take much notice of the Cobras that welcomed the new decade. The S.A.W. Viper got a lot of time in the comic, but the Cobra who I think was the highlight of the year, the Range Viper, never seemed to get any coverage. This figure is awesome. I love the skull like head, the evil grin, the color scheme, and the accessories of this figure. He is the perfect Cobra trooper. He is equipped to the hilt with great weapons, he has a respectable color scheme and is molded with the ever popular bullet strap on his chest. He is perfect for all sorts of missions. I often use them as the more advanced field troops who come in when the Vipers have really made a mess of things. These guys work great in both rural and urban settings. They are the rare Cobra figure that really can be used in any situation.

The Range Viper anguishes in relative obscurity along with his '90 counterparts, the Laser Viper and the Rock Viper. All of these figures are very good, but they just couldn't keep up with the great class of '89. Unfortunately, 1991 followed with another great crop of Cobras. The Crimson Guard Immortal, Desert Scorpion, Incinerators, Snow Serpent, Bat, and Cobra Commander simply overwhelmed the 1990's again. The figures never had the chance to appear on the shelves as the pre-eminent Cobras. As they were overshadowed at retail, they have been largely overlooked in the collector market as well. This, though, gives many collectors a chance to get ahold of these guys. While Alley Vipers and Crimson Guard Immortals continue to climb the price charts, the Range Viper has remained affordable. The Range Viper is probably the most readily available well sculpted Cobra that can still be purchased for a good price.

The Range Viper has been one of Hasbro's favorite Cobra molds since they relaunched the line. The figure was repainted in his entirety as the 2001 Rock Viper. The mold was then dusted off again in 2002 for the Skullbuster figure. Parts of the mold then appeared in 2005 as the Processional Viper and most recently, a desert Range Viper was released by the collector's club. But, remember, that figure isn't an army builder.... Regardless, it has been one of Hasbro's favorite molds and characters. Still, even with that, I think that a Range Viper done up in real wilderness colors is still one of the figures that needs to be done. After that, the mold can be retired. But, it really makes no sense to never see a Cobra Wilderness Trooper in colors that would befit his specialty.

Range Vipers can be found rather easily and rather cheaply. Unlike the pricey '89's and '91's, the '90 Cobras are still cheap and plentiful enough to build armies. They make excellent additions to any Cobra legions. Their weapons are great, and they don't have the neon colors that seem to plague so many figures made in the '90's. These are the consummate Cobra field troops. Not until the '98 Viper pack did Cobra get a generic field trooper that could measure up to the Range Viper. (Don't get me wrong, I think the original Viper is awesome, but his red uniform would not work too well in the field.) I don't know why the collector market has passed on these guys. To my knowledge, they never appeared in the comic. I don't know about the cartoon. Like Miniver Cheevy, the Range Viper was born too late, or too early. Either way, he came out at the wrong time to be able to capture the Joe fans' attention. This is fortunate, though, as the Range Viper gives new collectors a chance to build a Cobra army with cool figures that won't break the collecting budget.

1990 Range Viper

1990 Range Viper, SAW Viper

1990 Range Viper, SAW Viper, 1998 Viper, 1993 Cobra Commander

1990 Range Viper

Monday, November 15, 1999

1993 Nitro Viper

In 1993, Hasbro released a lame vehicle called the Detonator. The vehicle itself wasn't so bad, but the foam missiles they surrounded the thing in made it so terrible that I left them sitting on the shelves of the Hamilton, Ohio Hills store in early 1997 when they only cost $10.00. This vehicle, though, came with a figure. As the vehicle sucked, and didn't see a high production run, this figure went largely unnoticed. Of course, the neon orange repaint of a 1989 Track Viper, itself an uninspiring figure, didn't help much. I had never paid the Nitro Viper much attention. In early 1999, though, Hasbro Canada found a few of these figures in their stash. I checked one off, not really knowing what it was. When my figures arrived, I was amazed by this Nitro Viper. The orange color with the silver face plate and dark black trim just made for a really cool figure.

This figure was obviously just a last ditch attempt by Hasbro to sell off a really lame vehicle at a time when vehicles in general weren't selling at all. He was just a new neon repaint, and holds the incredible honor of being the only figure in the line to not have a filecard. However, I think this figure is one of the most underrated in the whole line. The stark contrasting colors create just a striking image. While this guy has no use in real combat and is not realistic at all, he is actually a very pleasing figure to look at. This guy makes a good Cobra firefighter, or pilot. I also think his torso would make excellent custom fodder.

I really enjoy this figure. I think the orange and black color scheme works very well. Since so many people hate the neon figures, though, I doubt many collectors will agree with me. As such, figures like the Nitro Viper get absolutely no press. Most collectors brush off all neon figures without naming any by name. I think that after the Eco-Warriors fiasco, collectors were forever soured by any figures that didn't fit the traditional military role. I think this figure is a quiet gem. Most collectors wouldn't be able to tell you much about this figure except that it was one of those "neon guys" at the end of the line. The Nitro Viper is mostly a forgotten figure, but is due some recognition.

Nitro Vipers are pretty scarce to come by. The Detonator was never a popular vehicle and I don't think it saw a great production run. As such, you rarely see Nitro Vipers in any lots. They were available by mail order, and the Hasbro Canada find seems to indicate that there are many, many bagged samples out there. I have never been to any big shows, so these figures might appear there, but I know that they rarely make any kind of appearance in any of the avenues that I use to find Joes. I would love an army of these guys. Heck, I would even love to have a loose sample. However, they just don't have the availability of many of the other '93 figures. Of course, this does not mean they are rare or valuable. I would wager that most of the Nitro Vipers that were ever made are either still in the bag, or at least in mint condition. I also have a feeling that as the 9 and 10 year olds who collected Joes in '93 and '94 start selling off their collections, we will see many more loose '93 and '94 figures make their way to the second hand market. Just a few years ago, you couldn't find '91 or '92 Joes. Now, they are plentiful. It just takes some time for these figures to trickle into the collector market. As the later Joes start to do this, I think that figures in colors collectors tend to disdain, like the Nitro Viper, will start appearing with alarming regularity on the second hand market.

The Nitro-Viper is just a repainted Track Viper. After these two releases, though, this mold saw production one more time. Sometime in 1996 or 1997, Hasbro sold some molds to the Olmec toy company. Olmec then produced a very nice set of figures called the "Bronze Bombers" who used these old Joe molds. Among these were figures using the Track/Nitro Viper body. Unfortunately, the management at Olmec got into some legal trouble with the Federal Government. They are now defunct and the whereabouts of their toy molds is unknown. As such, it is highly unlikely that we will see a newly repainted Track/Nitro Viper in the new Joe line.

While the Nitro Viper did not have an official file card, Hasbro did "sanction" a fan created filecard for the Nitro Viper at one of the conventions in the mid '90's. You can find this filecard inside one of the toy magazines. It isn't something you see every day, but also not something that is as rare as some dealers will lead you to believe. At the end of the day, it's still a fan creation and should be approached as such.

As an addendum to this diatribe, I have recently acquired both a Detonator and a loose Nitro Viper. I must admit that the Detonator, with the missiles removed, is actually a fun vehicle to own. I use it as my command vehicle. I was surprised, but pleasantly so. As for the Nitro Viper, now that I have a loose one, his star has faded. The figure is still cool, but not nearly as it was with just the bagged sample. I still like the figure and will have uses for him, but I am no longer seeking them like I once was. Still, if I can pick up a couple more of these guys, I will take the opportunity. They are still fun to have, just not as much as I had originally anticipated.

1993 Nitro Viper, Detonator

1993 Nitro Viper, Detonator, 1983 Hiss Tank, 1987 Worms

1993 Nitro Viper, Detonator, Bagged, MIB, Mail Away, Hasbro Cananda

1993 Nitro Viper, Detonator, Cyber Viper, HEAT Viper, Mega Marines

1985 Lamprey

Lamprey is one of my old favorites. The Hydrofoil is my favorite Cobra vehicle of all time. It ranks third to only the Hovercraft and the Tomahawk on my all time favorite vehicles list. Part of what made the Hydrofoil so cool was the pilot. Lamprey was an awesome figure, with a cool gun, and a great color scheme. He was the perfect fit for what was, at the time, the largest Cobra vehicle ever attempted.

The minute I opened my hydrofoil, the Lamprey was almost too cool to use. I took extra special care of him since I knew that I would never be able to get another one without buying another hydrofoil. (This was before Hasbro Direct started offering vehicle drivers through mail-in offers.) He was one of about 7 or 8 figures I always hid from my little brother. He liked the Lamprey and really liked Lamprey's gun. If my Lamprey was ever missing, I could always find it in my brother's room. I managed to keep him well hidden, though, and my original Lamprey is in excellent shape. My brother did manage to lose his gun for a while, but I found it about two years ago in a box of forgotten Lego's that appeared in our attic. I was lucky enough to get a couple of these guys in early 1999 from Hasbro Canada as part of the find up there. Unfortunately, when I tried to order about a dozen more a few weeks later, they were sold out. At least now, though, I have enough to fully man a hydrofoil. I've also managed to pick up the bagged sample you see here. He is the mail in version of Lamprey. He's got the red backed file card that is indicative of Hasbro Direct. On the file card page, you will see another bagged sample from Hasbro Canada that does not have the file card included.

The 1985 Cobras are considered by many collectors to be the best year of Cobra figures ever released. While most people like the old blue troops, with the additions of the Tele Viper, Crimson Guard, Snow Serpent, and the Eel, Cobra became a legitimate enemy to G.I. Joe. Lamprey just extended the already great '85 line. Unfortunately, he is often overlooked in most conversations about the '85's. Looking at this figure, he is not just cast in cool colors. His mold even looks good when it's grossly exaggerated like the Super Sonic Fighters version was. The sleek helmet and tight life preserved make the figure look realistic without sacrificing any of the figure's overall look. It's a shame this guy wasn't used more in the comic. I've always made him a special guard to Cobra Commander or other high ranking officials since he is just too neat to only use in the hydrofoil. His gun also usually finds its way into some of my custom terrorists' hands.

Since the Lamprey was available as a mail-in for several years, he isn't too tough to find. Many people had the original hydrofoil, and many more purchased the mail-ins to get this figure. He often appears in big lots, and can usually be picked up still in the bag like the one you see here. You don't often hear many collectors clamouring for more Lampreys, but since they are readily available, most people can get their fill without breaking the bank. Personally, the Lamprey is one of those figures that everyone says, "Oh, yeah. He's really cool.", but never brings him up in conversations about their favorite figures. Like many of the figures that were only available as vehicle drivers, Lamprey is kind of forgotten by the collecting community. It is unfortunate, but it keeps this figure from reaching catastrophic price points like the other '85 Cobras.

Of interesting note about this figure, his legs were going to be reused on the 1995 Battle Corps Rangers Flint . This figure has great parts, but they weren't used on too many other figures. It also proves that Hasbro had the mold around until at least late 1994. It's just too bad we didn't get a Moray remake with a new Lamprey in either the 1997 or 1998 re releases.

1985 Lamprey, Chinese Major Bludd, 2001 Sub Viper, 2000 Lamprey, ARAHC, Brazilian Flying Scorpion, Estrela, Escorpao Voador

1985 Lamprey, Cobra Moray, MIB, Filecard

1985 Lamprey, Cobra Moray, MIB, Filecard

1985 Lamprey, Cobra Moray, MIB, Filecard

Friday, November 12, 1999

1991 Super Sonic Fighter Road Pig

First off, I want to make it clear that I hate this figure. I thought Road Pig was a lame figure and character to begin with. To color him in neon and give him a backpack full of lame sounds was one of the worst ideas Hasbro ever had. That's saying something.

Why, then, would I profile this figure here? The simple answer is that I scanned him in and had the picture available. The better answer is that, while I personally hate this figure, many people like the Road Pig character. Personally, after the original three Dreadnoks, I thought the idea was stale. On the bright side, though, Road Pig was the one new Dreadnok who had some individuality. Rather than being just a carbon copy of the others like Thrasher, Zanzibar, and Monkeywrench were, Road Pig had some characterization to him. Larry Hama, the one who created many of the personalities of the Joe characters, once said that Road Pig was one of the new characters he was most looking forward to. I think this is why Road Pig stands out as the one later Dreadnok who has some popularity. It also explains why many people still like the character, if not the figure.

The other issue here, besides, the character, is the Super Sonic Fighters crap. Why did this sound like a good idea? The bad thing is that the line actually had some very cool figures that were a part of it. I really like the Psyche Out and Falcon figures. The Dial Tone and the Viper were also pretty cool. This line, though, marked the beginning of Hasbro's neon fascination. I will admit that I like many of the neon paint jobs in other sub sets. I think the Eco Warriors and many of the Star Brigade figures that were done in neon are some of the best figures in the line. However, neon has no place in the rank and file world. Science fiction characters should wear neon. Soldiers who are trying to blend into the forest should not. The fact that this Road Pig is so grossly miscolored only makes me hate it even more. I would even go so far to say that this figure is the worst of the entire line. He even beats out immortals like Raptor and Big Boa.

Of course, I'm being overly critical of this figure. The real reason it's featured here is because this figure gets no press. Many people refer to the original Road Pig, but never even acknowledge this figure's existence. Because of its awful color scheme, and low sales, you don't see this figure featured for sale very often. He is very easy, though, to pick up in lots of figures and he is often found still on the card. Overall, I still hate this figure. I just have no use for him. I do, though, understand the character's popularity with Joe fans. Hell, if he weren't a popular character, he would never have had a second or (planned!) third version of him made.

1991 Super Sonic Fighters Road Pig, 1986 Zandar, Zarana, Dreadnoks, SEARS exclusive Dreadnok Stinger, Dreadnok Cycle, 1994 Shipwreck, 1998 Wet Suit, Shipwreck

Wednesday, November 10, 1999

1995 Unproduced Battle Rangers Flint (Unnamed Figure)

Many of you may have seen this figure on Yojoe.com. listed as an unnamed prototype. This is the exact same figure you see there. (They get a lot more hits than I will, and I believe figures like this should be shared with as broad a segment of the collecting community as possible.) I believe it is a prototype of the Battle Ranger Flint that was scheduled for release in 1995.

From the looks of this figure, 1995 would have been a great year for military figures. Personally, I think the '94 figures had their moments and were pretty cool. The '94 Shipwreck is one of my more used figures. 1995, though, seems as if it would have given collectors a chance to focus on military toys without having to deal with all the Star Brigade that was also planned for that year. Much of the conception art from the Battle Rangers that has survived shows that Hasbro was returning to the good old days. I don't know how many figures would have been in the Battle Rangers line. In fact, this figure is the only 1995 prototype I have seen, except for the infamous 1995 Baroness, that was not from the Star Brigade series. If they were serious about a return to traditional military, Hasbro really screwed up in not releasing these figures. The detail is great, and they seemed to be going back to some popular older molds to help overcome what could be perceived as lack of creativity. Had it not been for Hasbro and Kenner's marriage, and the desire to reintroduce Star Wars figures, we might still be seeing new Joes every year. While I like Star Wars, that was certainly not enough to kill G.I. Joe. (Of course, I doubt I would have 40 Stormtroopers had there also been Joes available to compete for my toy dollar.)

You will notice that this figure has great detail. I can only imagine what kind of paint scheme he would have had. It looks like he is wearing a life preserver. In actuality, I like to think it was a flak vest, or something else cool like that. You will notice, though, that the vest could also be exaggerated by Hasbro's insistence on making the '94 and later figures with higher shoulders and broader chests. I think it was their last ditch attempt to "buff up" the figures to be more in line with other contemporary toy releases. After this trick failed, they went on to Sgt. Savage and the awful G.I. Joe Extreme. The existing Battle Rangers art that depicts Flint shows him drab gray and green. This color scheme actually looks very cool and would have made an excellent figure. Of important note about this figure is that his legs are from the 1985 Lamprey. Other prototypes didn't have the legs if they were reusing old molds. Why this one does, though, is a mystery. It would make sense that Hasbro would reuse old molds since that was their practice during the final years of the line. I just found it odd that this figure is complete while other prototypes only exist with their newly molded parts. It does, though, tell you how close we were to getting a 1995 line.

Recent discussions with others who own prototypes of 1995 figures has yielded some interesting new observations. It appears, that Hasbro may or may not have been toying with the idea of taking the waist articulation away from Joes. Many of you have seen the concept figure at YoJoe.com that is a block figure in basic Star Wars construction. It has poseable arms, legs, and head, but the waist is one solid piece and does not move. Other people who have prototypes from the Battle Rangers line have reported that while their figures have the same O-ring construction as the rest of the line, the waists are fused together to not allow movement. That is not the case with this figure. He has full waist articulation. The question is, what were Hasbro's plans regarding waist articulation? Were they planning to do away with it? If so, why would they keep the basic O-ring construction the same but take the extra step to fuse the pieces together? Could it also be that other prototypes were from earlier stages of development and had not had the articulation added in yet? It could also be that since this figure utilizes legs from an already existing figure that he would have kept the waist articulation while the other, completely new mold figures would have not had any. Of course, this would have created an incredible inconsistency in the line, but, in the mid '90's, Hasbro wasn't too keen on attention to detail. Whatever the explanation, all the '95' prototypes are a fascinating look into what Joe would have become had Star Wars not been reborn.

There has been a recent (July-August 2000) rash of 1995 prototypes appearing for sale on the second hand market. At least 2 more versions of this figure have appeared, as well as a few new figures. One of those new figures is making the rounds as Flint. Does that mean that this figure is not the intended Battle Rangers Flint? Well, I still don't think so. I appears that the Battle Rangers line was going to be articulated in the same manner as the rest of the line. I also appears that there was going to be another subset where the waist articulation was going to be changed. This new Flint has the different waist articulation. Hasbro had released the same character in different outfits and different subsets before, so it is not all that strange that Flint would have appeared in both the Battle Rangers subset and another subset at the same time. This differently articulated subset, which, by all indications, would have at least included this aforementioned Flint, a new Stormshadow, and a new version of Duke appeared to have been more sci fi in nature. While the figure you see here is fairly tame and realistic, these figures are more similar to the Mega Marines and 1993 Battle Corps lines. It certainly would have been interesting to see what type of subset these guys would have been put into, but, alas, it is not to be.

(8/24/00) Thanks to heads up reader Ben for pointing out to me that the Flint and Stormshadow prototypes that surfaced are from the doomed Ninja Commandos line. You can read all about the Ninja Commandos, as well as check out painted prototypes and see mocked up card art at YoJoe.com.

Thanks, Ben!

This also brings up another point. A prototype of the 1995 Battle Rangers Footloose has also recently surfaced. This figure only had newly molded chest pieces and head. It follows the pattern of the figure you see here. If the Battle Rangers were to be the only 1995 subset that included classic articulation, it would make sense that they would utilize existing molds as a cost cutting move. Of important note, though, is that the Footloose prototype closely matches the Battle Rangers conception art that can be seen at Yojoe.com. While this figure was not sold to me with a name, it does closely match the character on that concept art that has been identified as the Battle Rangers Flint. It is possible that the character was simply called Flint in publicity literature as it is an identifiable name However, Footloose was hardly a popular Joe. It doesn't make sense that one new Joe would have been renamed for publicity paraphernalia and the Footloose figure would not have been renamed to Duke. (Duke was a much more recognizable name and was also supposed to be included in the Battle Rangers line. I have never seen any prototypes for him, but the recent discovery of the Footloose and the additional versions of this figure would seem to indicate that he must be out there somewhere.) It is for these reasons that I still am a firm believer that this figure is the intended 1995 Battle Rangers Flint.
***Updated 12/14/03***

As it has been over 4 years since I first showcased this figure, a lot has changed and a little has changed. The Joe world is a bit different than it was then as just about every figure known from the '95 assortment has appeared for sale a few more times. (I've added the Dr. Mindbender to my collection.) My guess is that there are probably less than 12 of these figures out there. The number might be smaller than that, but it is an educated guess. Surprisingly, though, collector interest in pieces like this remains low. While people will pay over $1,000 for a production level unproduced figure (even when there is no documentation from Hasbro to support the figure's authenticity) they don't seem too terribly interested in these unproduced resin prototypes. That's nice, though, as, if you can find them, these pieces (which I consider a greater part of Joe history than anything produced since) don't command the price tags you are accustomed to seeing for production level unproduced figures.

The real question that begs to be answered, though, is: where are these 1995 molds? While these resin pieces don't seem to indicate that the molds were ready for production level figures, they do show that they aren't that far off. As we've gotten the Manimals with the re-releases, it would make sense that, if these molds still existed, we would have seen at least a couple of them make it into production. As we have not, I am lead to believe that these molds are not available to Hasbro. They could simply not be finished and deemed not worth investing in when usable molds are abundant. They could be lost in a warehouse with their documentation separated so the molds can not be used. Or, they could be sitting in India. Whatever the case, I would like to know. I think that the '95 Battle Rangers figures are worth digging up, even if only two or three of them ever see production. Hopefully, the future will hold more information about these figures.

***

As with other existing prototypes I have seen, we, the collectors, were really short changed by Hasbro never releasing these figures. The '95 line promised great detail and cool figures for both the military purist and people like myself who really liked the Star Brigade figures. I can only imagine what else the Battle Rangers line would have offered, but if this figure is indicative, '95 could have been one of those years that collectors really cherish.

1995 Battle Corps Rangers Flint, Unnamed Figure, Prototypes, Unproduced G.I. Joe Figures, Rare

1990 Decimator

The Decimator is one of my favorite Cobra vehicle drivers. I don't think he ever appeared in the comic, and he is a relative no show in most discussions about Joe. As obscure Cobras go, this guy epitomizes their plight. He is a classic design done in a great color scheme that came with a high price point vehicle during the beginning of Joe's downturn in popularity. As such, very few collectors pay him any attention beyond checking him off of their list. However, I've found this figure to be a great addition to my collection and a figure worthy of some recognition.

This figure is just fun to have. The Tunic makes him look important, and the helmet is pretty cool as well. I use him as an officer over the minion Cobra troops. Like the Lamprey, the Decimator is just too cool to only use as a vehicle driver. I use him in all sorts of situations. The figure just looks good, either with the helmet, or without. He is one of those guys that doesn't look like much from a photo, but is very fun to own once you get him. I use him in just about every enviornment. He is the right hand man to many of my new Cobra generals. As I have retired many of the staple characters from the '80's, I've had to come up with new Cobra characters to keep the fight fresh. The Decimator serves as their underling. He often does the dirty work to keep the generals reputations untarnished. He's another figure that has earned a high spot in my collection because of what I have done with him. Once again, a little imagination can make even the most boring and mundane figure into a vital part of any collection.

For some reason, the figures wearing tunics, WORMS being the other one that comes to mind, are just appealing to me. Their uniforms make them look more important than their lot as vehicle drivers would suggest. Decimators are rarely mentioned by anyone other than the collector who just purchased a Hammerhead without one. No one seems to really care about vehicle drivers. I think this is due to their reduced exposure and lack of card art. The drivers that came with the larger vehicles, especially, are highly overlooked by collectors. While the figures from the big ticket items, like the Defiant, remain very desirable and rather pricey, many of the drivers from vehicles like this are actually harder to find. I believe that the rarest figures are always out there since they have a high price point. It's the other guys like the Decimator, Aero Viper, Steamroller, and Long Range that seem to be so hard to find since they are mostly just "commons" in the collecting community.

Decimators can be tough to find. If you look, though, you can find them in many lots. Often times, though, they will not be complete. Getting one with the helmet and gun can be a challenge. Beware, though, as these guys can get pricey if offered by themselves. In recent months, I've seen this figure out price even stalwarts like the Crimson Guard figures. It seems that complete specimens are missing from many people's collections and on the rare occasion that a complete one is made available, the price rises accordingly. I'm just glad that I go my Decimators early in my return to Joe. They remain important figures that I utilize in most of my Cobra battles. While most people may forget about him, I like this figure and have made him a vital part of my collection. With this profile, perhaps, this forgotten vehicle driver can now get some due.

1990 Decimator, Hammerhead, Rock Viper, 1985 Eel