Thursday, December 28, 2000

Funskool Exclusive Sky Diver

Some time ago, during one of the frequent flare ups in the Joe newsgroup, a noted collector of foreign Joes made a statement along of the lines of, "when you grow up and get grown up tastes, foreign Joes will be of the most appeal to you as a collector". At the time, I figured no way. I hated foreign Joes and found absolutely no interest in them. At that time, though, I had about 250 unique figures and about 500 overall. Now that I've got over 450 unique figures, the few that are left in the line hold little appeal to me. That's why I have yet to acquire them. As such, there is very little out there that I really want. In my attempt to continue the expansion of my Joe collection, I've had to find new avenues in which to do so. Earlier this year, I picked up a Chinese Major Bludd. Shortly thereafter, I acquired a Tiger Force Outback. The bug had bitten me. Now, I've found myself seeking out foreign Joes. Not too long ago, I found a source for several Funskool Joes from India. Of these, Skydiver is the most unique.

Skydiver represents everything that is so wrong about non-U.S. Joes as well as everything that is right about them. His color scheme is terrible. This figure is as bad as they come. Had he been a U.S. release, this guy would knock Crystal Ball and Big Boa out of the worst action figure ever perch. Because he was only available in India, though, this guy has a mystique about him that makes the figure very cool. They would never have released this guy in the U.S. The color scheme is just too whacked. This is what makes non-U.S. figures so much fun. They use the same molds with which we are familiar, in this case it is Crazylegs and Beach Head, but color them in different ways that makes them dramatically different from their U.S. counterparts. This is what is so fun about non-U.S. Joes. They aren't in realistic military colors, but do reflect the fact that they are toys. While collectors may gripe and moan about how they don't like unrealistic figures, we have to remember that we are collecting a children's toy and that is for whom it is designed. Since that is still the case in many other countries, foreign Joes have a sort of innocence about them that makes them that more appealing.

One thing about Funskool Joes is the flimsy cardbacks upon which they come. I had heard about how flimsy the cardbacks were, but I was not prepared for when I first held a Funskool figure in my hands. I have resume paper with more tension that those cardbacks have! They are not much stronger than normal, run of the mill printer paper. I don't know how these things could ever hang on a shelf without tearing under their own weight. Because of this, finding mint cards on Funskool figures is nearly impossible. For me, though, I'm after the figure on the card. I like figures that are differently colored than their U.S. counterparts. Some of the Funskool figures have unique card art that was not available in the U.S. (The General Flagg comes to mind.) I also like these figures as they offer the Joe collector something different that not everyone is used to seeing.

Funskool Joes aren't too tough to find. There are some that are considered among the rarest Joes ever produced. As Funskool was still manufacturing Joes at least until February of 2000, though, there are others that are very easy to find. I paid $8.00 for this figure, as well as 8 other Indian exclusive figures. You do have to look, but you can find many of the Indian Joes for a very reasonable price. For this reason, I've found the Funskool Joes to be a new, interesting way to grow my Joe collection without dropping hundreds of dollars for some of the South American figures. As I've exhausted the possibilities for my American Joe collection, there are thousands of variations of those figures and molds from other countries that help keep the hobby interesting and challenging. Some of you who know me know that this stance is dramatically different from the position I held only a few months ago. I see myself maturing as a Joe collector and moving on past things like army building and searching for some Shadow Ninja. Foreign Joes are an excellent avenue to grow my collection. Being a completist of foreign Joes would be impossible, but it's that vastness that creates such exciting opportunities. As we head into 2001, we'll see if I continue to search for non-U.S. Joes. I have a feeling that I certainly will.

I'm getting into non-U.S. Joes. If you have some Funskool, Estrela, Plastirama, or European exclusive figures with which you are willing to part for not too much money, email me.

Funskool Skydiver, Crazylegs

Funskool Skydiver, Crazylegs

Wednesday, December 27, 2000

1982 "Mickey Mouse" Cobra Commander

In late 1982, Hasbro offered Cobra Commander as a mail in figure. If you mailed in for him very quickly, you might have been lucky enough to get a straight armed version of the Cobra Commander figure. If you were really lucky, though, you might have gotten the figure you see here. A figure that is considered one of, if not the, rarest domestic Joe figure in the entire line: the alternate logo, or "Mickey Mouse" version of Cobra Commander.

Back in January of 1983, I finally got the 2 mail away Cobra Commanders for which I had been waiting. They were both the straight armed version and were awesome. Snake Eyes was no longer the only enemy of my Joes. I used the Cobra Commanders as enemy elite troopers who were every bit the Joes' equals. As I discovered Cobra in 1983, though, the Commander's role changed. He became the character he was supposed to be and the one I have already twice profiled with the 1993 and 1994 versions. The only reason I am profiling this figure is because of the rarity of the logo that is on his chest.

Frankly, this is not an often seen figure. Most people know of the different logo, but pay little attention to it. For hard core collectors and completists, though, this alternate logo Cobra Commander is one of the most frustrating figures in the entire line to find. He just doesn't appear all that often, and when he does, often exhibits extensive play wear, like most straight armed Cobra Commanders do, from his original owners. This guy came out in 1982. Back then, no one kept their figures mint and on display. We played with them, and hard. That is why this figure remains such a "holy grail" in the collecting world. Very few people received this figure, but even fewer didn't play him to death. This is why I put little stock in modern variations. So many people keep figures MOC and mint in perfect storage, there is no way that you will have the majority of any one variation disappear over time. Back when I collected baseball cards, many dealers had a theory that most of the cards produced prior to 1976 had a one year half life. That meant that every year, the number of mint cards in existence was halved. Of course, this theory only applied for a limited time as certain items would reach peak rarity and then the vast majority would disappear into collections and remain forever mint.

I think a similar theory can apply to the early '80's Joes. I'm sure they had a one year half life throughout the '80's and even into the '90's. Now, though, I think there are more Joes being rescued than there are being destroyed. I do not, though, hold this theory to any Joe figure produced after 1989. I just feel that many of the original Joes were destroyed by their owners. Now, the figures that remain will stay fairly constant, but as the number of collectors increases, the early figures who were not mainly kept mint, complete and in the package, will become the more desirable and valuable specimens. For this reason, I think the "Mickey Mouse" Cobra Commander will remain one of the most sought after figures in all of Joedom.

There is one more thing of note on this particular figure. His crotch arrived to me unpainted. I don't have any specific reason for this. It could be a factory error, or some kind of oversight. It could be that this figure is a pre-production piece and should be classified as a prototype rather than the actual figure that made it to shelves. Whatever the reason, the crotch on this figure is exactly the same as the normal Cobra Commander. It is just unpainted. If you have any information about this figure, or any insight into why the crotch is unpainted while the rest of the figure is, please email me. I will give full credit to anyone who can help me solve this little mystery.

I'm not kidding when I say that this guy is among the rarest Joes ever made available in the U.S. In fact, check out T.N.T.'s Web Camp for their listing of the rarest Joes based upon collector input. This figure ranks #1 as the rarest U.S. figure and #19 overall among all Joes ever produced from all countries. As such, you can expect to pay through the nose for this guy. Loose, mint, complete specimens usually sell in the $75.00-$100.00 range. Any example still sealed in its original mailer bag would sell for substantially more. The thing about this figure, though, is that you can get very, very lucky. Many people who are not informed Joe collectors may not know of this variation. They may have it and not realize the gem in their collection.

There are many, many stories of collectors buying a straight armed Cobra Commander off of Ebay, or some similar place and being surprised when they receive the alternate logo version. This did not happen to me, but keep your eyes peeled. Only two days after I purchased this figure, there was a lot of 3 different Cobra Commanders on Ebay. Among these was this alternate logo version, though the logo was a bit scuffed. As there were no comments explaining what the figure really was, the lot went for under $30.00. The only reason I'm offering this is because it is still possible to get lucky. Personally, I just went for it and added this guy when I found one where I felt the price was fair. It is the second most I have ever paid for a figure, being outranked only by the Battle Ranger Flint, but is a cool variation and one of the few variations in the Joe line that actually occurred on a major character. Right now, I don't regret purchasing this figure, but ask me again in a couple of months. This guy now sits safely in my safe deposit box and his only use will be for this page. When I think of all the other Joes I could have bought with the money I spent on this guy, I wonder if he, or any figure that costs even half this much, is really worth it. I guess time will tell.

Now that I've got this guy, I don't need another. If you have any information, though, about why his crotch is unpainted, please email me.

1982 Straight Arm Cobra Commander, Mail Away, Mickey Mouse Cobra Commander, Variant, Rare G.I. Joe Figures

Wednesday, December 13, 2000

1988 Mail Away Super Trooper

G.I. Joe was an interesting line from a mail in offer perspective. While they rarely offered really great, original figures by mail, Hasbro Direct did keep just about every figure and many vehicles available for years after their retail cancellations. As such, there are very few figures in the Joe line who were not available via mail order. By the same token, there were very few mail order figures who were only available via that avenue. Of those who were, most were repaints of existing molds with maybe one or two newly molded parts. Others were celebrity spokespeople whose inclusion in the line is a discussion best left to another time. The final group of mail in only figures was what I call the "gimmick" group. These guys all had a selling point that would make them attractive via mail order whereas it would have doomed them at retail. I count the 1988 Super Trooper in this category.

As I have said many, many times before, by 1988, I was pretty much out of Joe collecting. Still, though, I did poke my head into the toy aisle every now and then. My brothers were still of Joe collecting age and I still collected the comic. (Funny how collecting comics and sports cards was okay, but collecting toys was not.) As such, I was still privy to the happenings in the Joe world. When I was much younger, I had always eagerly anticipated the mail in figures that were offered by Kenner for their Star Wars line. While this had built up expectations for mail order greatness, Hasbro had killed those expectations off with their relatively mundane mail in offers. I had diligently ordered them all, though, from the original straight armed Cobra Commander, though I didn't get the "Mickey Mouse" version, all the way through Sgt. Slaughter. When the Fridge was offered in 1987, though, I drew the line. I just couldn't, in good conscience, order that figure. When I saw the offering for 1988, though, I was even less impressed than I had been with the Fridge. Super Trooper was just too far gone for my tastes. An invincible trooper who wears all metalized silver armor? Come on! Naturally, Super Trooper was passed by and was not added to my collection.

That all changed last Saturday when I finally added this guy. I picked him and a straight arm Breaker at the last minute in a lot on Ebay. I had never really searched for the Super Trooper, but jumped at the chance to pick up two figures I needed for a fairly small price. I just figured Super Trooper would disappear into the 1988 drawer forever and would never emerge. When I got the package, though, I was enthralled by this figure. He was really cool. Of course, I still don't think I will ever have a use for him in my collection, but he is nice to look at and looks very good displayed out in the open. As such, I was pleasantly surprised by a figure that I thought I would always hate. The metal looks very good when its juxtaposed to the dark and light greens that make up the rest of this guy's uniform. The visual effect is very different from what I anticipated.

On Sunday, the day after this guy arrived, I was cleaning out an old shoe box full of G.I. Joe paperwork. Among the blueprints, flag points, and booklets, I found the mail in coupon you had to send in to get Super Trooper. Unlike the lame Fridge and Sgt. Slaughter inserts, though, the Super Trooper advertisement came with a short comic strip that introduced the character. It is, as far as I know, the only time Super Trooper appears in any element of Joedom besides the figure itself. I know he wasn't in the comic and I don't think he was in the cartoon. As a special bonus that will cause this page to load incredibly slow, I've included scans of both sides of that mini comic so you can see just how special Super Trooper was supposed to be. The comic is a chilling reminder of what Joe could have become had the toy powers had full control over their figures' characterizations.

Super Troopers are both easy and hard to find. If you aren't looking for this guy and just randomly acquire large lots of figures, Super Trooper rarely appears. He just isn't a figure you see in large collections that are offered for sale. If you are looking for him, though, he often appears by himself and is mint and complete. As such, you can usually get yourself a Super Trooper for under $10.00. He's one of those figures that just doesn't inspire a tremendous search for many collectors. He is very cool to look at, but cheesy to use. As such, I don't foresee this guy ever reaching the heights of popularity enjoyed by the Steel Brigade figure or Starduster. They are at least fun to use. This guy is just sharp and eye catching. Still, he is a fun addition to any collection. I've got mine standing on a shelf with many of my more obscure Joes. The metal stands out among the subtler colors of many of the other figures. In this capacity, he gets some use, but it is all he will probably ever receive. While a neat figure to look at, Super Trooper is just another forgotten member of the all too large Joe team ranks.

I'm not after any more Super Troopers, but would like another version or two of Starduster. If you can help, drop me a line.

1988 Super Trooper, Mail Away, 1994 Alley Viper

1988 Super Trooper, Mail Away, 1994 Alley Viper

1988 Super Trooper, Mail Away, Paperwork

1988 Super Trooper, Mail Away, Paperwork

1994 Star Brigade Gears

Lately, a lot has been made of Gears, the Version 2 Techno Viper, and the Power Fighters in general in the Joe newsgroup. People have been arguing over their scarcity, value, and just general coolness. Before all this erupted, I was planning to profile Gears. I have just recently acquired one, after almost a year's search, and feel that he should be my Star Brigade entry for this batch of 20 figures. Now that all this hulabaloo has come around, though, I feel that my timing may be misplaced. However, timing is everything and I feel that Gears should be showcased while the little attention he receives is still in full swing.

When I first saw the Gears figure, I thought he was pretty cool. I had yet to acquire either the '92 or '93 version of Barricade and thought that Gears would make an excellent pilot in my collection. After an unsuccessful but short stint trying to find one, I finally got a '92 Barricade. The mold had such limitations that I abandoned my search for Gears for a year or so. Late last year, I finally got close to completing my '94 Star Brigade collection. (I still need a loose Predacon and Lobotomaxx, though. If you've got one, I'll trade you something very nice for them.) As I neared the completion of that goal, I remembered Gears and the Version II Techno Viper. I started searching for Gears almost immediately. Nearly a year later, I finally found a loose specimen. I bought him and quickly tossed him into the '94 drawer. I highly doubt he will ever emerge.

I like Star Brigade for what it was in 1993 and 1994. The Lunartix aliens started to get a bit out there for me, but I could accept them since they were cool figures and had Joe articulation. The Manimals would have been too much. Frankly, I'll buy one of each of the new Manimals and leave it at that. They won't be opened or anything. I just don't see the need for them. They are part of Joe, but not one of which I think I would have been particularly fond. I hold the Power Fighters in the same regard. They are neat toys, but not the direction I think Joe should have gone. Had the Manimals been broken off to another, separate, line, the Power Fighters would have made perfect sense. With the release of the new Manimals only a couple of months away, I hope they are released just for collectors and Hasbro doesn't decide to take the fledgling line in that direction. It would be too much and probably kill any chances for success that the Joe comeback has.

Okay, let's cut to the chase. Gears is tough to find. In fact, he and the version 2 Techno Viper are definitely among the 25 rarest American Joes. While this is the case, that does not mean he is expensive or valuable. Boxed Power Fighters routinely sell for under $30. I bought this loose Gears for under $8. People don't like him. His mold is overused and not that cool to begin with. His color scheme is highly suspect. Also, he is Star Brigade. All of these factors doom him to an eternity of collecting purgatory. Since he isn't common, he will always be worth more than many other '93 and '94 figures. Still, he will be worth considerably less than any figure who has any type of fan following. Gears is an oddity. At that level, he works. Taken as anything more than that, this figure is pretty awful. That being said, you can determine his value to you on your own. To me, he was a figure that I wanted. I like Star Brigade and wanted a complete set. That is really the only reason I was after him. Unless you are a completist, I don't see much need for this figure. Even as hard to find figures go, he is very mundane. Still, he deserves some shrine to his existence. If the recent discourse and this profile are all he gets, well, I think he's gotten more than his due.

I don't need any more Gears, but would like a Version II Techno Viper. If you can help, drop me a line.
1994 Gear, Star Brigade, Predacon, 1987 Payload


1994 Gear, Star Brigade,

1997 Snake Eyes

I've really got no reason to profile this figure. I've already touched upon the Snake Eyes character when I profiled the 1991 version. Why, then, am I wasting a profile on a character who has been done to death and a figure reuses one of the most famous molds in the entire history of the line? The answer is simple. I felt that I needed to examine the phenomena of the 1997 figures and their current state of affairs in the collecting world. Since I've already profiled the only 1997 figure that I consider to be of excellent quality when I did Stalker and Snake Eyes is the only other 1997 figure that I own that I also use, I felt it appropriate to profile him.

I've already stated that I was incredibly surprised when I found the Star and Stripes nearly three years ago, today. At the time, I mainly had Star Wars figures. I had just moved to Arizona and hadn't brought any of my original Joes out with me. Once I had the Star and Stripes set, though, I started looking for more Joe figures. By the end of 1998, I was back into Joe collecting full time. I haven't really looked back since then. (Although, this Christmas is shaping up to be a Star Wars Christmas. Apparently, I've got over 20 figures that I don't yet have coming to me. While I'm sure I'll get at least a couple of Joes, I think Star Wars will take this year's holiday season.) In those early days, though, my figure selection was limited. I've already said that I don't really use the Snake Eyes character. Because of that, this figure became a masked assassin. I gave him the original Mutt's silenced Mac-10 and made him the lone gunman who would assassinate prisoners or high ranking officers on both the Joe and Cobra side. When it's all you've got, you become incredibly resourceful.

As my collection has grown exponentially over the past two years, figures like Snake Eyes have been replaced. Now, this guy sees very little use. I just don't have the inclination to use him any more. I've got many other figures who are better suited to the type of role in which I had been using him. Every now and then, I pull him out for a quick strike against some poor, unsuspecting Cobra higher-up. Since I haven't had any real desire to use the original Joes in any capacity since the very early days of my youth, figures like Snake Eyes really don't hold any meaning for me. I think that's why I have yet to replace several of my straight armed figures. I had to make it one of my collecting goals to acquire some new straight arms this year. I just don't have any desire to add them to my collection. Perhaps, someday, I will wish I had taken better advantage of the current availability of many of the original Joes. Until then, though, I really don't care much for those early members of the line.

One of the reasons I like the Star and Stripes set, though, is because they took many of those old molds and gave them more elaborate color schemes. The result is the figures don't all blend together so much. It is a much nicer effect. Snake Eyes, for example, has a bit more subtle color to him. It makes all the difference in the world. What was a dark, bland figure is now much more realistic and likable. The same can be said for the other original molds they reused for the Stars and Stripes set. I think part of the reason why I'm not overly fond of the original Joes is that they are all the same. With these repaints, some of the figures have grow on me. For that reason, I think many of the '97's will be a nostalgic favorite, if nothing else.

The 1997 figures have become incredibly hard to find on the second hand market. I don't know why. In all of 1998, these guys were remarkable pegwarmers. Sure, the Commando team would sell out from time to time, but none of these packs were hard to find. In late '98, the '98 Joes hit the shelves. Almost overnight, all the '97's disappeared. You could find beat up Stars and Stripes sets lying in Toys R Us clearance bins from time to time, but the rest of the '97's were gone forever. As such, we are left with a relatively tough class of figures to find on today's second hand market. In late '97 and early '98, Star Wars scalping was still in full effect. Because of this, Joes fell to the wayside. The other factor that has lead to their relative scarcity is the fact that the figures suck. There are very few cool '97's and most people consider the construction and paint quality of this group so poor, that they really didn't pay much attention to them. While the '98's were full of army builders and good molds, the '97's were poor color choices of unpopular molded figures. This leaves the modern collector who missed out on them at retail in a real bind. All of the '97's are starting to get pricey, when you can find them, that is. As time goes on, I think that G.I. Joe's "Power of the Force" (scarce figures that come out at the end of the line and are produced in smaller quantities) will not be the 1994 series, but the 1997 series. Fortunately, there are no highly desirable figures in that mix. While it won't ease the financial stress these guys are starting to put on the modern collector, it does keep these guys from being that one sore spot in your near finished collection.

I need a 1997 Ace and a 1997 Alley Viper. If you've got one for trade, email me.

1997 Snake Eyes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 Tripwire, Thunder, Steeler, APC

1997 Snake Eyes, TRU Exclusive, 1989, 1994 Alley Viper

Wednesday, December 6, 2000

1989 Night Force Repeater

I've avoided most of the Night Force figures for a variety of reasons. The primary reason, though, is that I only own three of them, and of those three, only my Repeater is in any kind of shape to be profiled. While I would like to have the entire set of Night Force figures, in fact, it was one of my goals this year to add 3 new ones, I just can't seem to have any luck when it comes to acquiring them. As the end of the year approaches, I'm facing the reality that many of my goals will go unfulfilled. However, 2000 has been a smashing success and, as of now, is my best Joe year ever. I more than doubled the size of my collection. Joes returned to retail shelves. And, I completed enough of my goals so that I no longer have any "Holy Grail" figure without which I can't live.

Repeater was always a cool figure. By the time he came out, though, I was, for the most part, out of Joe collecting. Sure, I picked up a couple of the '88 figures like Hit and Run, as well as Hardball and the Tiger Force Roadblock, but I had mostly let the Joe portion of my life pass me by. My youngest brother, though, was still buying up many Joes. One of the figures he had was the original Repeater. Being younger, though, he quickly broke many of the this figure's accessories. While this shouldn't have mattered to me, I still couldn't help myself and would, from time to time, break out some of my Joes. When I did this, I always grabbed a few of my brother's newer figures since they were ones I didn't have. Repeater was very cool and I wanted to use him. Since his weapons were gone, though, I had to improvise and gave this guy the '82 Rock and Roll's M-60 instead. It was a perfect fit.

Since Repeater was a figure I only got to use sparingly, when I returned to Joe collecting, I wanted to pick up a mint, complete specimen. Once I did so, though, I found him lacking. His bland color scheme just didn't look right compared to the other figures I had taken to using. Just about a year ago, though, I picked up the Night Force Repeater in a large lot. Once I had him, the problems I had with the original version's color scheme was solved. Now, the Night Force Repeater is Repeater in my collection. The original is tucked away and rarely sees the light of day while the Night Force version currently stands on my CORPS! assault vehicle along with many of most used Joes like Low Light, Falcon, Crankcase, Stalker, and Big Ben. He fits in very nicely with this montage and has managed to keep himself among my most used Joes for just about a year. Very few figures are able to claim a distinction like that.

Many collectors disdain the Night Force concept. After all, the entire subset was just full of repaints. However, in many of these cases, I consider the repainted Night Force figure to be superior to the original. Repeater is a prime example. While the original is very nice, this version adds a bit more color that makes the overall presentation that much nicer. On many of the figures, most notable Outback, Crazylegs, Sneek Peek, and Spearhead, the Night Force showed what a good mold that had originally been given a bad color scheme could be turned into. Others, like Falcon and Tunnel Rat, really didn't improve upon their original incarnations. This is what makes the Night Force subset problematic. It is full of great repaints, but also figures who didn't really need any attempts at improvement. For this reason, there is a small camp of collectors who don't like this subset. Personally, I thought that many of the figures are done well. I would take a Night Force Crazylegs over the original any day. The subset, though, was overdone. Had it been left to six or eight figures and none of the neon and black vehicle repaints, I think it would have been much better. While Hasbro is currently repainting existing molds and releasing them as new figures, I think they would do well to go back to the Night Force subset and look at what worked. I don't think we need a dozen figures dressed in all black, but one or two who were properly done and neither one of whom is Snake Eyes would be a welcome addition to the 2001 Joe line.

All of the Night Force figures are tough to find. They don't appear all that often, and even more seldom appear complete. They are also highly sought after by many collectors. All this adds up to an expensive bunch of figures. These guys are the most expensive subset in the entire line. While I'll let you decide if they are worth the money or not, I've found that shelling out in excess of $40 for a mint, complete Night Force figure is just too much. Quite simply, they aren't that rare. However, the Night Force Repeater and Shockwave were available as a mail in near the line's demise. As such, these two figures aren't nearly as difficult to locate as the other members of the subset. Of course, these two figures didn't come with the regular Night Force accessories. Fortunately, both of their primary guns are easily available in black with other figures. In fact, the figure you see here is from the mail in and is outfitted with a spare Repeater's gun. Once I can find a pack, then I'm set. However, I don't see myself adding any new Night Force figures anytime soon. They are just too expensive for me to justify.

I need this guy's pack. If you can help, email me.

1989 Night Force Repeater, 1987 Rumbler, 2002 Night Rhino

1989 Night Force Repeater, 1989 Night Viper

1989 Night Force Repeater, 1989 Night Viper

1988 Iron Grenadier

I've already talked about the Iron Grenadiers subset's lack of respect when I profiled figures like the Annihilator. The figure who derives its name from the subset, though, is another excellent example of a great mold improperly marketed. Had this guy been a Cobra, I think he would be as popular as any of the '89 Cobras that came out the next year. As he is relegated to a subset, though, he is another forgotten gem that came out during Joe's peak popularity. How a figure like this slips though the modern collecting community is beyond me....

In my collection, the Iron Grenadier has always been a poor man's Cobra trooper. I mean that in the respect that he was always used as a Cobra only because all my original blue Cobras had bitten the dust. The look of the figure harked back to the days of the old blues. I used them as updated Cobra cannon fodder. As time progressed, though, I found better uses for this figure. At first, he was the backbone to an urban invasion squad. As my Alley Viper army grew, though, his need for this capacity dwindled. His next foray, and the one he still occupies today, is as a guard and specialty trooper. I have 8 of these guys surrounding the 1988 Destro. They stand juxtaposed to Cobra Commander and his minions. Surrounding Destro, these guys look great. The black and gold, as well as the menacing way with which they are capable of holding their weapons just makes for a great display.

The best thing about the Iron Grenadiers is his accessories. The Uzi is an excellent weapon that looks awesome. It has only one flaw: the handle is huge and will break many figures' thumbs if it is shared. The little red pistol is about as bad as accessories go, but it easily ignored. What really makes this figure stand out is the sword. He doesn't carry it because he's a ninja or martial artist. The sword is for decoration that hearkens these troops back to the Scottish warriors of old. This little feature is what makes this guy perfect for guard duty. It's also what separates him from many other figures in the line. While Joe really pushed the limits of modern technology, they did offer us a throwback figure every so often. I consider Budo to be one. This guy is another and is a perfect example of how a stupid gimmick can really give a figure identity.

I really don't see the Iron Grenadiers as a separate faction from Cobra. Instead, I see them as part of Cobra, but they are specially trained by Destro to serve under him exclusively. They are not Destro's troops, per se, and still answer to Cobra. But, they serve Destro almost exclusively and are used for his ends. However, I also see them as a specialized unit. They are small in number. (Maybe under a couple of hundred.) But they are capable of pulling off missions that are beyond the scope of stand Cobra Troops. Usually, they operate in urban environments and their missions tend to be well planned and better executed. They are sort of like a Cobra SWAT unit, but they work mostly with Destro and serve his desires most often.

The Iron Grenadier mold was used by Hasbro in 1988 and 1989. After that, it was sent down to Brazil where the mold was released in nearly identical colors as the American figure as Terrork. From there, the mold has disappeared. In 2005, Master Collector recast the Iron Grenadier head for use in that year's convention set. But, the full figure seems to be missing. This is somewhat odd as some of the Iron Grenadier's Brazilian contemporaries are safely back in Hasbro's control. (Astro Viper and 88 Destro). However, some other figures from that same time have not reappeared. So, the whereabouts of the full Iron Grenadier mold is undetermined. If it showed up at some point in the future, it would not surprise me in the slightest. However, I won't hold my breath for this to happen.

Iron Grenadiers are rather easy to find. He came out at a time when Joes were still being pumped out by the millions. Even mint and complete, this guy isn't too tough. In fact, he is one of the easiest enemy figures with which to build armies. Since he isn't, technically, a Cobra, many people don't hold this guy in the same esteem as many of the other villain figures that were available around the same time as the Iron Grenadier. This is, though, a very good thing. The Iron Grenadier is one of the few very cool figures that can be had for under $8.00. As this is the case, I suggest building your armies now. The Iron Grenadier is a figure who's turn will come. While Cobras have climbed the price charts, Destro's minions have been left behind. As many Cobras are no longer economically feasible with which to build armies for the average collector, many people will turn to Iron Grenadiers and their ilk as more than ample substitutes. When that happens, you can expect the ready well of Iron Grenadiers to run dry.

I need a couple of Iron Grenadier Uzis. I would also take a took at any extra figures you might have. If you've got a few with which you are willing to part, email me.

1988 Iron Grenadier, Ferrett, Destro, 1985 Mauler, 2004 Comic Pack Steeler

1988 Iron Grenadier, Nullifier, AGP

Friday, December 1, 2000

1998 Cobra Trooper

I've made my feelings about the original Viper known in his profile. While many consider him to be the consummate Cobra soldier, I look much later in the line, to the '98 Cobra Trooper for a figure fitting of that moniker. It is the '98 version that ties the newer, more modern look of the classic Viper to the traditional colors of the Cobra army. He includes accessories that make him look like the grunt that he is. This version perfectly blends into any army of early Cobra figures and is a great, modern update to the original Cobra Trooper.

This figure is just about perfect. He combines the nostalgic look of the old blue Cobras, like the Viper Pilot, with the more modern approach that was utilized in later figures. He is fully outfitted with tons of great accessories, and was available in a pack with 2 of him and one of the equally excellent grey Cobra Trooper Commanders. For the first time in any toy line of which I'm aware, Hasbro finally got it right. They put together an easily available army building pack that came with two awesome troopers, one "leader", and all the proper accessories to make them all usable right out of the package. (Of course, the Vipers were shortpacked in the cases of '98's. As such, they were the toughest '98's to find, but I, and no one else who looked for them, really had any problems building nice armies.) Why Hasbro doesn't utilize this approach to other lines, like Star Wars, really baffles me. I know a three pack that even contained one Stormtrooper, one Sandtrooper, and one Snowtrooper would fly off the shelves. It would be an easy way to build armies without driving yourself nuts trying to beat out the scalpers. The fact that the '98 Joes were highly driven by fan interests, though, may explain why we got this awesome pack. Hopefully, Hasbro will get it together and remember this success with the 2000 line. I would probably buy 10-20 2 packs of Cobra troops but, I know that I'll probably limit my purchases of the new Rock Vipers to under 6 since I also get a Major Bludd figure. Not packing troopers together shows a remarkable lack of understanding about the both the collector and kid toy market. We want bad guys and lots of them! Are you listening, Hasbro!?!

Now, back to the task at hand. When I first found these guys, I quickly used them as my primary Cobra troops. I only had one Range Viper and one Alley Viper at my disposal. As such, I wanted a cool figure of whom I had three or four to be my primary Cobra baddies. These guys quickly filled the role. When they disappeared from shelves in early '99, I was afraid that I hadn't bought enough. Fortunately, new shipments appeared at Christmas in '99 and I stocked up with enough '98 Cobras to keep me satisfied, for a short while, anyways. These guys just work great. They integrate with any generation of Cobra troops. They also look great in dioramas and dio-stories. If you check around the web, you will find many people who use these guys for those purposes. In all instances, these guys look good. They are a versatile figure that is remarkably cool.

This figure does have one "detriment". He does not have a Cobra logo painted anywhere on him. Like one look at this guy doesn't identify him as a Cobra! Still, it was enough for some people to raise holy hell. Of course, these are many of the same people who bitch about every little nit picky detail on any figure. Personally, these guys are the only Cobra troopers in my collection. They get used on every mission. They are a figure that shows a well thought out repaint can create a fabulous result.

This version of the Viper actually uses the mold from the 1997 figure rather than the full vintage version. As such, he has the legs and the waist from the BAT rather than the original Viper. (This was due to the fact that the original Viper legs and waist were split from the rest of the mold when they were shipped to Brazil as part of the 1993 Dr. Mindbender mold. This new hybrid of Viper became the defacto version for many years and saw release in 1997, 1998, 4 different times in 2002 and 3 different times in 2003. Hasbro finally remolded the upper thighs and waist from the original Viper in 2006 as part of the Viper Pit set. At this point, the various Viper molds have been used in a full rainbow of colors. Yet, there are still some glaring omissions in the Viper pantheon. I would greatly enjoy both a desert Viper and an arctic Viper should Hasbro ever return to the mold. But, I don't need any more blue or red versions at this point.

Cobra Troopers aren't all that tough to find. Of course, that doesn't mean they are cheap. These guys are easily fetching $10.00 or more for loose specimens and carded 3 packs can go over $50!. What must be remembered, though, is that these guys came out a time when many childhood collectors were of an age where they had not only the idea to build armies, but the financial wherewithal to back up that desire. I've got 6 opened 3 packs of Cobra Troopers and another 3 still carded. I left several more sitting on the shelves since I felt that I had enough. You can be sure that there are people out there with substantially larger armies of '98 Cobras than I. In fact, check out Cobra Command Online. Be sure to stop by his Cobra rally diorama. You will quickly get the point that these figures are not rare: just very cool and highly desirable. That being said, in a few years, I see these guys being among the most expensive Cobra troops. Right now the nostalgia factor keeps many of the '80's figures high in price. When memories of these guys sitting on retail shelves fades away, you can be sure they will quickly climb the price charts. Now may be the best time to add them to your collection. Unfortunately, only two years ago, it was much easier to do so.

I like these guys, but have 12 of them. Still, if you've got some from which you wish to part, email me.

1998 Cobra Trooper, Viper, TRU Exclusive, BJ's Fast Blast Viper, 2002

1998 Cobra Trooper, Viper, TRU Exclusive, BJ's Fast Blast Viper, 2002

1998 Cobra Trooper, Viper, TRU Exclusive, Cobra Officer, 1984 Stinger, 1983 Hiss Tank, Stinger Driver, hiss Driver

1998 Cobra Trooper, Viper, TRU Exclusive, 1993 Cobra Commander, 2001 Rock Viper, 1990 SAW Viper, Cobra officer

1987 Croc Master

As all time great figures go, Croc Master is certainly not one of them. What Croc Master is, though, is what Big Boa, Crystal Ball, Raptor and Dr. Mindbender aspire to be: a wonderful idea for a villain that actually translates well to an action figure. He is really the first Cobra since Destro that Hasbro took a chance on and had it actually work. Of course, work is a relative term. The four aforementioned figures were all so horrid that even an idea like Croc Master would seem not just plausible, but downright likable compared to them. Taken against the entire line, though, Croc Master is another figure like Interrogator and Night Vulture, he has his points, but lacks the total package that makes a hyper-popular figure.

Why would I choose to profile this figure? He doesn't really fit the mold of most of my other profiles. However, this figure is very, very cool. You need only look at him to realize that this guy has some serious potential. Add to that, he came with awesome accessories and you're starting to realize why I actually like this figure and have made up uses for him outside of his Crocodile training specialty. He is just too menacing to be relegated to a minor role like reptile security. Just looking at his frightening head is enough to give this guy some use. His overall color scheme is also very subtle and fits with a swamp, or aquatic type figure. Of course, Croc Master's accessories rock. The whip is just fabulous with its intricate detail. His face hose, a rather difficult little hose to come by, also helps make this guy look like he might be a bit more sophisticated than you first imagine. The spiked collar, which I use as leashes on prisoner figures, is a much more fun accessory than it first appears. There is, then, the obligatory alligator. While this incarnation is pretty lame, he had to come with one. If you look around, though, there are some toy companies that make realistic plastic alligators that appear to be about 20 feet in length when used in Joe scale. One of these substitutes nicely.

Let's face it: Crystal Ball sucks. Raptor really sucks. And Big Boa, well, he might be the worst action figure ever made. Croc Master stands so far above these guys that it's really not fair to compare them. Croc Master is a figure that anyone can use. Cobra, and the Joe line in general, has so many boats and watercraft that a figure like this can really become a vital villain. Along those lines is where I've found my best uses for Croc Master. I use him in the swamps, but also as a Water Moccasin commander. He looks like the type of character that would have a lower ranking command position. I use him as one of the lower ranked Cobras who isn't in a position of high power, but has just enough that he can sway the balance from one leader to another.

When I was younger, Croc Master was one of my favorite figures. Since then, he hasn't seen much use. I just don't have the inclinations to use him as the badass he once was. The newer, cooler figures took over his role. I had always used Croc Master in conjunction with Copperhead. As Copperhead's star faded, so did Croc Master's. They had a very niche role. Once the season changed back to winter, I had no use for swamp figures any more. Only recently have I been reminded of what a nice figure he really is. I've found some new uses for him and now keep an accessorized Croc Master near the top of my drawer of '87 Joes. Now that it's cooled down out here, I've got a swamp area where I think a Croc Master appearance is necessary. I think it will be fun to use him again, but once that little episode is done, I don't think he will ever return to a place of prominence in my collection.

Croc Master's aren't too tough to find. Especially if you don't mind things like incomplete figures and paint wear. Finding one in mint condition and with all his accessories is a challenge. As such, he commands a higher price tag due to these factors. He is certainly more expensive than the other named villains from his era, but he even rivals many of his contemporary the Cobra army builders in price. He is, though, a very cool figure that does deserve to be in everyone's collection. I think that since he is really the only '87 Cobra higher-up that is even remotely usable, people desire him that much more. I don't know if he is worth the money, but I've found Croc Master to be a fun addition to my collection. He is one of those guys who doesn't get all that much use anymore, but I keep him around, ready to be called to duty at any time.

Croc Master is cool, but I have more than enough of him. What do you think of the '87 Cobras? Let me know!

1987 Croc Master

1987 Croc Master, 1985 Alpine

1987 Croc Master, 1985 Alpine, Bazooka, Flint

Tuesday, November 28, 2000

1985 Tele Viper

1985 gave the Joe collecting community the class of Cobras that it holds as the best group ever offered. While there is incredible nostalgia for this group, most of it centers around the Crimson Guard or the Eel. You even get a few people who are really ga-ga over the '85 version of the Snow Serpent. What you never see, though, is any great sentiment for '85's lost Cobra: the Tele Viper.

As figures go, the Tele Viper is as basic as you can get. Frankly, he is only a glorified Cobra trooper who wears just as plain a uniform, but carries some flashier accessories. It is easy to see why the Tele Viper would be overshadowed by his more famous classmates. It is upon deeper inspection, though, that the true value of this figure appears. The Tele Viper is spectacular in his simplicity. He is basic Cobra Blue and has a mold, that while lacking in some respects, is very simple and realistic. He has all the trappings of a communications trooper. I think that is why the figure works so well. While he isn't drop dead awesome cool, he is a figure that fits his specialty and provides the backup to make the other figures seem that much better.

I think of the Tele Vipers as the ultimate in how avant garde Joe really was. These guys were used to absolute perfection throughout the comic series. The modern military's reliance on high tech communications and computers required an organization like Cobra to have a branch of specialists like the Tele Vipers. Unlike many other genres, though, where "techie" characters are relegated to supporting roles, Cobra used the Tele Vipers as its front line in the assault on the American family. They were the ones sneaking into sewers to tap phone lines. It was also the Tele Vipers who were right next to the Commander during any battle so he could remain constantly updated on the situations that arose. I've always kind of forgotten about the Tele Viper. I didn't like his lack of battlefield flash. Now, though, I consider Tele Vipers, or his counterpart, the Python Tele Viper, to be essential to any Cobra offensive. I use them on my Detonator, or other large Cobra vehicles. They look very nice in this capacity. At some point, I would like to have a Terrordrome. If this day should come, I see it manned with original blue Cobra troops with the Tele Vipers manning all the computer stations. I think the look would be great.

Tele Vipers are an interesting figure. There are many aspects of him that make me think he was originally slated for a 1986 release rather than '85. First off, he is a Viper. The basic Viper, and variations upon him, did not appear until 1986. It makes more sense that this guy would, originally, have been part of that class. His mold also suggests a hurry up job. His head could have been much better. This looks like it was an earlier design that hadn't had time to be fine tuned. Also, his color scheme. Hasbro was moving away from the basic Cobra Blue. To put this guy in it was a throwback in an era before collector nostalgia. It is also a very simple, easy, and basic color scheme that the designers knew worked. All of these things point to a figure that was rushed, rather than allowed the proper time to mature. Rather than take the time to hand paint up a bunch of mock ups, they took the easy road out with the color scheme. Of course, I have no hard evidence to back this theory up, but I am throwing it out there since this figures seems so out of place among other '85's, '86's or even '87's.

The Tele Viper was released in the US in 1985 and again in 1989. Parts of him were used in 1986 on the Claymore figure. In the early 90's, the Tele Viper mold was then used in Brazil where it was released in colors nearly identical to the American version. That was the last time it was seen, though, as the mold has never appeared again. Many of the Brazilian Tele Viper's contemporaries eventually made their way to India where they were released by Funskool. But, the Tele Viper never saw such treatment. The mold may simply have died in Brazil or may have been left to rot in India for whatever reasons. Personally, I think the mold is nice, but not one that is a necessary repaint. The original Tele Viper is in strong enough colors and is easy enough to find that there really is no need for the mold to return. Instead, I'd prefer to see the Tele Viper character amalgamated out of several existing, '90's ARAH Joe molds. I think it would a great update to this mold and make a nice, more modern companion piece.

Of all the '85 Cobras, Tele Vipers are far and away the easiest to find and cheapest to buy. In fact, as Cobras from any year go, the Tele Viper is substantially cheaper than many of the later army builders. His lack of combat accessories seem to doom him to common bins and bargain prices. Of course, this means he is one of the last cheap army builders. Unfortunately, I don't see him staying this way for much longer. The Techno Viper, a similar specialty figure who isn't as cool as this guy, is already starting to become rather expensive. I see the Tele Viper following suit over the next year. As people move away from play and more into display and diorama building, figures like the Tele Viper who look good manning the support, gun, and maintenance stations will start to disappear. Lately, there have been a rash of Tele Vipers offered for sale. While I have yet to really take advantage of this surplus, I don't think the Tele Viper is a figure of whom you can ever have enough. As other collectors are starting to see this as well, I think the days of the cheap Tele Viper are nearing an end.

I have several Tele Vipers, but can always use more. If you have any you would like to trade, email me.

1985 Tele Viper, 1993 Cobra Commander

1985 Tele Viper, 1993 Cobra Commander

1994 Snowstorm

One of the areas of Joe collecting that I have tended to really focus upon has been the end of the original run of Joe figures. The primary reason for this is that I had just come back to Joe collecting as the line was winding down. I have profiled many of the 1993 and 1994 figures here simply because I have found them to be relatively unheralded in most realms of Joedom and I feel they are worthy of increased collector attention. While much of the feedback I get for this site seems to disagree about the quality of the later Joes, I still stand by my guns and insist that many of these late figures are worthy of standing equal to, if not above, most earlier figures. Of course, I do not place the 1994 Snow Storm into that category.

Snowstorm has so many strikes against him that there is no way he could ever be taken seriously in the Joe collecting world. He was originally intended to be part of the Eco-Warriors subset. When that idea was scrapped, his mold was still used, in Eco-Warriors colors, on a Battle Corps card in 1993. That version, though, was quickly pulled and replaced with a more subdued orange and blue version. This color scheme was then replaced in 1994 by the white, grey, and black version you see here below. The mold is lackluster, at best. The figure's head is minimally detailed and lacks any real, defining characteristics. While he is sold as an Arctic trooper, the mold looks like a futuristic space man. There is just nothing about this figure that really works. Unless, you find him a niche specialty.

This is what I did. I'm sure you all remember my mentioning of a certain Blockbuster Arctic Tank when I profiled a figure named Windchill. Well, Windchill was never destined to drive this Arctic tank with which he came. He was perched in the gunner's seat. I then needed a futuristic looking Arctic trooper whose uniform looked like he could be an armor operator. Enter Snowstorm. Originally, I had the blue and orange version of this figure. When I got the Blockbuster, I decided that I needed a second Snowstorm to man the second seat in the cockpit. I went to a local Meijer's store where I had seen a Snowstorm when I bought the Blockbuster. As luck would have it, he was still there. I bought and took him home. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had a new, different version. After some careful consideration, I decided that this figure would be my vehicle driver while the blue version would be the co-pilot and gunner. Heck, it worked for me. The bottom line is, I had a perfect specialty for this figure and didn't have to waste any of my other, good, Arctic figures as the drivers of the tank. On this level, Snowstorm became an important part of my collection.

Snowstorms are problematic when talking about their availability. The Eco-Warriors version, while certainly not as common as most of the Battle Corps figures, is still fairly simple to find. The Blue and Orange version is also rather ubiquitous. The version you see profiled below, though, is much more seldom seen. Like most of the 1994 repaints, this guy is difficult to find loose. He is a bit easier to find carded, but still does not appear all that often. I still maintain that most of the 1994 are among the rarest in the entire line. They almost never appear for sale. When they do, though, the interest in these figures is absolutely minimal. Collectors could care less about the '94 repaints and that relegates them to the very bottom of the Joe world. Personally, I feel that these figures are worth picking up now. Most of these figures can be had for under $8.00 for a MOC specimen. As more collectors fill gaps in their collections and leave only the '94's for final completion, I see these guys rising in price and disappearing off the second hand market. The getting for these guys is good right now and I would take advantage before they follow many of their earlier brethren into the stratospheric price ranges.

I like this guy, but am really only after a 1994 Predacon and a 1994 Lobotomaxx. If you have either of these guys for trade, we can work something out.

1994 Snow Storm, 1997 Snow Job, 1994 windchill, Blockbuster, 1993 Frostbite

Thursday, November 23, 2000

1994 Action Sailor V2

Back around Christmastime in 1994, I went to a Toys R Us. While, today, this is a fairly common practice, back then I rarely went to any toy stores. I was after a couple of Joe figures, though I didn't know who I wanted. When I got there, there were so many figures from which to choose that I had a very difficult time deciding which figures to buy. While I don't recall exactly who I purchased, one of the figure sets on which I passed was the 30th Anniversary Set. The figures were very cool and came with some awesome accessories. I figured, though, that I would be able to get these guys some time after the holidays. Here we are six years later and I have just added the first 30th Anniversary figure to my collection: the Action Sailor.

I guess it's the striking nature of orange that makes me like figures cast in it. I still dig the Nitro Viper and the 1994 Star Brigade Roadblock remains one of my all time favorite figures. The Action Sailor is no exception. The orange diving suit is very cool. At first, I didn't think I would like this guy. I mean, he's got bare feet. Once I got all his accessories on him, though, this guy is just awesome! His only flaw is the spear gun. Had he come with a better weapon, I think he would have been perfect. Still, though, the weapon he comes with works very well, though it does lack in some detail. His sled (not pictured) is bulky, though it could be fun. It is his pack and air hose, though, that are spectacular. The pack snaps together. (An interesting feature that could allow for someone to put baking soda into it and achieve an Man-O-War type of effect with the figure.) His air hose then plugs into his face and attaches to the pack. The overall effect is very cool and makes this guy a better looking diver figure than most of the other Joes.

Currently, this guy is another member of my search and rescue corps. When I get the other version of him that is cast in black, he'll be a member of my combat diving corps. (This orange Action Sailor, as well as a differently colored Action Pilot came with the 30th Anniversary boxed set of 5 figures. The black Action Sailor came in his own box, by himself.) This is a figure that is a lot of fun to use. Next summer, I see him spending a great amount of time in the pool. His look may be dated, especially when compared to figures like the '94 Shipwreck or the '85 Eel, but he is a cool figure. This guy got the attention to detail that was heavily lacking in the line's final years.

All of the "Action Series" figures aren't too often seen in discussions about Joe. The Soldier and Marine are staples in many people's collections, though. All of the "Action Series" figures were relatively nameless. This allows for you to use all five of the different molds as faceless legions who battle Cobra. While I've said that I use figures like Recoil, Salvo, Dusty, and many others as Joe army builders, the "Action Series" figures allow just about everyone, regardless of how strictly they adhere to any particular Joe "canon", to have some Joe cannon fodder as well. I think that is the primary use any of these guys see. They make excellent nameless soldiers who can be sacrificed to Cobra without worrying about destroying an established Joe character.

Action Sailors are kind of difficult to find. That statement, though, only applies to loose specimens. You can find boxed 30th Anniversary sets, as well as individually boxed figures very easily. I guess speculators and dealers snatched up tons of these guys in expectation that they would become a valuable collectible. Here we are, years later, and those boxed figures still sell for very close to what they originally cost at retail. Since these guys lack the personalities that made Joe as popular as it is, I think collector interest is low. Most hard core collectors have at least a boxed set in their possession and don't want any more. As such, it allows you to still pick up mint, complete figures in new boxes for relatively cheap. While I have yet to start building armies with this figure, I easily see me adding one or two more next year. I've decided that one of my 2001 Collecting Goals will be to add loose, mint, complete specimens of all five 30th Anniversary figures to my collection. It shouldn't be a difficult task, but these figures should be very fun to have. Using the Action Sailor as a starting point seems to illustrate that this will certainly be the case.

I would like additional Action Sailors, be they version 1 or version 2. If you've got some you want to part with, email me.

1994 Action Sailor, 30th Anniversary

1994 Action Sailor, 30th Anniversary

1994 Action Sailor, 30th Anniversary

Wednesday, November 22, 2000

1993 Duke

When I first returned to Joe collecting in the mid '90's, one of the requisites for my purchasing a figure was if he came with black weapons. If I found a figure with black weapons, I purchased him. End of story. This approach netted me a few, shall we say, "interesting" figures, but also gave me the chance to really enjoy a couple of the late Joe figures that were released. The vast majority of my profiles that feature '93 or '94 figures are about either astronauts or Cobras. While I've done a few Joes, I think that there are many more that were released in these final years that really deserve more collector attention. Among these guys is the 1993 Duke.

I've never been a Duke fan. I didn't like the original figure and I've never liked the character. However, Duke had a couple of excellent molds made up for him in 1992 (which will be returning with the newly announced version of Duke we should see either late this year or early next) and 1993. It is the 1993 mold, though, that was one of the few figures I had available to me back when I first returned to toy collecting. For that reason, this figure held an important role in my collection. Of course, I didn't use this guy as Duke. He was a new, younger soldier who was just learning the ropes. I had him be the new leader of the few new Joes I had. The problem, though, was that his new character turned sour. Originally, I had made him to be a highly trained, excellent soldier. This role grew tiresome, though, as I acquired many more new figures who were much cooler than this guy. As such, this figure fell from grace. He became a a martyr who was sacrificed to bring the Joe team back together. I found that as a martyred hero, this character worked much better.

With the fall of the character made for this figure came the fall of the figure as well. He just couldn't compete with all the new figures I began to add to my collection in the late '90's. He disappeared into one of my 2 drawers of 1993 figures (I have well over 125 1993 figures. I don't know why that year is so high, but I've got more '93's than any other year.) and has yet to emerge. I just don't have that much use for the figure any more. As I've stated in other profiles like the Desert Scorpion, I'm not too keen on desert figures. When this guy was one of about 5 figures available to me, I made due. Now that I've got dozens of properly designed figures who work in all environments, I use them rather than stretch a figure like this. Still, though, this figure is very nice. The mold is excellently detailed. Some people don't like the molded helmet, but I think it works very well. Were desert scenes a more popular arena in which to use Joes, I think this guy would be more popular. Hasbro really tried to cash in on the Gulf War and the desert gear that was ubiquitous in all media in the years following. Many of the figures and toys they created, though, are nicely done. This Duke is no exception.

This mold may also have been an interesting footnote in G.I. Joe history. In 1995, the Battle Rangers were going to be released. While I've already profiled Flint, there was also to be a Footloose and Duke figures who were to be part of this line. While Flint made it all the way to the final prototype stage, and Footloose at least had his original parts molded, I have never seen anything that points to a mold for the 1995 Duke. However, that version of Duke did appear on many different G.I. Joe promotional items that appeared in the mid '90's. From these pictures, it is easy to see that the planned Battle Rangers Duke would have been a figure with a mold very similar to this one. He would have been done in a green cammo pattern that would have looked much like the 1987 Falcon's. As prototypes for other Battle Rangers have been found, it could be that the Battle Rangers Duke was simply going to be a repaint of the 1993 mold. Had that been done and the figure reached production level, I think this 1993 version would be more appreciated. It is a good mold. The desert paint can be limiting, but the figure is very solid.

1993 Dukes are insanely easy to find both carded and loose. They appear in all sorts of lots, as well as by himself. You can usually get them for under $5 or $6. As he was a very popular character, I think Duke was shipped in greater amounts than other figures of his year. I know I found him on retail shelves until 1996. I don't think this figure will ever be appreciated. Collectors have a really love-hate relationship with the Duke character. Many really like him, many really hate him. As such, there are a lot of people out there that have little use for this figure and aren't interested in him. Personally, I've found that he makes great custom fodder. Of course, the figure as it is is also very fun to use. This is not Duke's most obscure version (that would go to either the '94 or '97 version) but it is a figure that is often seen but rarely has attention paid to it. Hopefully, that will now change a bit.

I like this guy, but have way too many of him. There are a few other '93 figures I am after, but I would really like a '94 Star Brigade Predacon or Lobotomaxx. If you can help, email me.

1993 Duke, 1988 Tiger Force Dusty

1993 Duke, 1991 Dusty, 2004 desert strike Gung Ho, 2002 Night Rhino

Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Chinese Exclusive Major Bludd

I first encountered this figure in the summer of 1996. I was at some scalp kiosk at a flea market looking for Joes and Star Wars figures. The only figures this guy had were four Chinese carded Joes for which he was asking about $25 a piece. The Flint figure intrigued me, as his shotgun was very cool. (At that time, I was not as versed in Joe as I am now. I did not know that gun was available in the U.S. with the Headhunter.) I thought the Major Bludd figure was also cool, but I figured that these guys were far too expensive and I would never have any of them. Fast forward four years and here I am profiling the Major Bludd on my website.

Normally, my feelings towards foreign figures are rather grim. I feel that most foreign issued Joes are overrated, over hyped, and overpriced monstrosities that lack the quality and basis in reality that drove the American, and even the European, line. Had other countries taken the molds and redone them in a fashion that was designed to mimic their own military, I think the foreign figures would hold more appeal to me. As such, I tend to avoid foreign releases. Every now and then, though, you do come across a foreign figure that just must be part of your collection. The one figure who most personifies this is the Chinese release of Major Bludd.

I've already profiled the Major Bludd character with the original figure. However, that guy has now found retirement. This version has become Major Bludd in my collection. He is just the perfect version that fits in excellently with the later figures. The 1983 version is a bit too thin and scrawny to look like the horror Bludd is supposed to be. This version, made from the 1991 version's head, General Flagg's chest, and Lamprey's legs and arms, is bulky enough to stand up next to the later figures without looking out of place. He makes an perfect companion to the 1993 Cobra Commander and either the 1988 or 1992 Destro figures. I don't know why Hasbro didn't release a remake of the good major in a paint scheme and mold that would at least pay homage to his roots. Like the Baroness, though, it was not to be for Bludd. Instead, he was relegated to poor resculpts like the 1994 version. While the figure itself isn't all that bad, the color scheme and accessories doomed it to a lifetime of discount bins. This figure's only shortcoming is his accessories. He comes with a version of Dodger's rifle that doesn't fit him at all. A quick swap with the original Major Bludd's accessories, though, and you have a perfectly outfitted figure.

It really is a shame that this figure was never released in the U.S. It is, without a doubt, the best version of Major Bludd. I really don't know how China, of all places, got a figure of this calibre, but it is unfortunate that American, and other, collectors never got to see this figure as part of a regular release. The nice thing is, this guy is all over the place. He is easy to get and can be found without too much trouble. I've known about this guy for quite some time, but only recently decided to add him to my collection. I have been leery of foreign figures, but consider this guy too cool a figure, for too small a price, to not have in my possession. He is now in a place of prominence, next to the Commander and surrounded by 1998 Vipers. Major Bludd had pretty much disappeared from my heavy use box. I just couldn't see him standing tall with many of the later figures I tend to like. (In fact, the only non-ball headed figures I still use with any regularity are the 1984 Firefly, 1984 Ripcord, and Scrap Iron.) Now that I have this figure, though, that dilemma is solved and Major Bludd will regain his rightful place among the Cobra elite.

Many collectors and dealers will try to fool you into the scarcity of foreign released figures. The fact is: foreign figures were released for mass consumption in their home countries. While the production numbers may not be as high as the American figures, foreign releases are by no means rare. As the internet makes the world smaller and helps break down language barriers that have traditionally existed between some countries that produced many of the most unique Joes, expect many new foreign variations, as well as the highly publicized figures about which we already know, to spring up with alarming regularity. That being said, this version of Bludd is very, very common. Many of the Chinese figures were imported to the U.S. in the mid '90's. You can find both the Major Bludd and Flint figures for about $8-$12 for a MOC figure. Finding them loose, though, is very tough. I got my Bludd by opening a carded sample. Now that I've done that, I can't ever see me going back to any other versions of the Major Bludd figure. I have no regrets and don't think you will either.

Just a quick side note, the next wave of new Joes have been shown in some toy publications. One of the new figures we will see either late this year or early next is a new Major Bludd. He is a repaint of the highly underrated 1991 version, but he is painted like the original. It seems some Hasbro designer has seen this Chinese version and decided that it was a great idea. Be on the lookout for that figure very soon. He will come with the Rock Viper, which is actually a repainted Range Viper. They are both very cool. Hasbro is doing a bang-up job on the new releases. It is certainly an exciting time to be a Joe fan!

This guy rocks! Who is your favorite foreign figure? Let me know.


Chinese Exclusive Major Bludd, Funskool Zartan, Tracker

Chinese Exclusive Major Bludd, Estrela, Brazil, Cobra Flying Scorpion, Escorpiao Voador, Lamprey, Sub Viper, 1985, 2000, 2001

Chinese Exclusive Major Bludd, Estrela, Brazil, Cobra Flying Scorpion, Escorpiao Voador, Lamprey, Sub Viper, 1985, 2000, 2001