Monday, December 31, 2001

2001 Funskool Red Dog - Indian Exclusive

We all know that there are newly sculpted Joes coming out. In fact, the first wave of O Ringless Joes is currently hitting retail outlets all over the country. We have all heard rumours and innuendo about the future of the line. How much of it is fact, and how much is speculation will be determined in time. At any rate, though, the classic look to Joes is no more. I'm not, though, going to get into any feelings about the new figures. Personally, I have yet to see them. When I do, I will make the determination if they will be become part of my collection or not. That being said, what is the fan of the classic Joe figures to do? Hasbro has kept us interested for the past year with the re-releases. Beyond that, though, there is only one other outlet for collectors to get a classic Joe fix: the figures produced in India by Funskool.

Funskool released some great new figures in late 2000 and early 2001. They offered fantastic repaints of General Flagg, General Hawk, and the Desert Scorpion. With that track record, I figured the late year releases would continue that trend. When I heard the next figure to be offered by Funskool was Red Dog, though, I was disappointed. I've always hated the Red Dog figure. The original Slaughter's Marauders pack had three members, Red Dog, Mercer and Taurus. Of the three, only Mercer found a home in my collection. Red Dog and Taurus became afterthoughts who often filled criminal or civilian roles. The characters did nothing for me and I found the figures lame. I just didn't think that a version of Red Dog would interest me. How wrong I was....

The minute I saw a picture of this Red Dog figure, I instantly knew he would have a home and a very important purpose in my collection. The former Samoan was now done as a Caucasian. Unlike other race changing figures, Red Dog kept the facial features that had previously distinguished him. The pale skin just screamed "albino" to me. As such, this new Red Dig figure became a new criminal, an albino Dreadnok named ZinZan who has taken over the group now that Zartan has gone off to become a part of the Cobra hierarchy. He is a new, ruthless leader who runs drugs, guns, and anything else that will make him money. He is a character that is more deadly than other, established Joe characters, and has the law enforcement world very nervous. He has made the Dreadnoks a more powerful criminal element while keeping them true to their mischievous biker roots. Again, like so many figures that I tend to use often, it is the character I've made for this guy that is his drawing power.

If you are a long time reader of this site, you know that often times I acquire two figures simultaneously and those figures become forever linked. (See Interrogator and Night Vulture.) Such is the case with this Red Dog figure. At the time I acquired him, I also picked up the notorious Super Cop figure, also from Funskool. He is an amalgamation of Sgt. Slaughter, Iceberg, and Hawk. He is a very nice figure and an excellent example of a law man. Naturally, he and this Red Dog character have become mortal enemies. Once again, though, that kind of backstory makes this figure incredibly fun. He is very distinct from the American Red Dog and can be used as a totally different character without too much stretching of established Joe story lines. His color scheme is not too out of whack with what a villain like him would wear and isn't the typical over the top Funskool style. He is a perfect example of a foreign figure being utilized in a primarily American collection without losing anything in form, function or style.

As this figure is a relative newcomer to my collection, his role will mature with time. Unlike many of the figures I've recently acquired, though, I welcome whatever this figure will become. His unique nature really makes him stand apart from what Hasbro has offered the American market in the past year. Aside from a few gems, most of the new releases have been relatively uninspired and show a sameness to them that makes most of the Joe characters simply run together. Having figures like Red Dog available provides some fresh air in the Joe world. Sure, this figure doesn't fit the traditional role of a military based toy. However, Joe's success did not come from it's pure military roots, it came from the expansion of the line to more distinct looks and characterizations. When all the figures look the same, there is only so much you can do with them. When there is great diversity in the line, it really opens up and expands play options that make the line enduring. Hopefully, the new Joe sculpts will remember that. I don't want all olive drab Joes. I want some in some different type of uniforms that allow for them to expand upon their traditional military roles and allow them some leeway in use. I don't think I'm alone in this thinking.

Red Dog is easy to find. A number of online retailers are currently selling him for about $4.00 for a MOC specimen. He was just released this year, so he should be available for a good long time. With that in mind, I'd continue to look to Funskool for some nice figures releases in the next year. Sure, some figures like the Wild (Wacky) Bill are a bit out there, though cool in an the offbeat, innocent way toys should be, but others, like the Crimson Guard Immortal have become staples of most people's collections. Funskool seems to rotate the figures they offer. With any luck, 2002 will provide us with some old favorites as well as some new guys we are not expecting. They will, though, continue to be a great outlet for collectors to keep acquiring classically molded Joes. Personally, I've found the quality on this Red Dog figure to be excellent. His paint masking is sharp, the details are nice, his accessories work with him, and the figure is well constructed and moves freely. From a toy standpoint, what more can you ask for? I know that Funskool will be one of my primary focuses next year, regardless of whether or not I like the newly sculpted Joes. They offer interesting and fun figures with decent quality at an incredibly affordable price. That's all I look for when I'm after Joe figures and I know you will not be disappointed in Funskool figures at all.

I like this figure, and most of what Funskool has done. If you have any older (pre '95) Funskool figures available for trade, email me.

2001 Funskool Red Dog, Super Cop, Law, Dreadnok Thunder Machine, 1992 Mutt

2001 Funskool Red Dog, Super Cop, 1992 Shockwave

Saturday, December 15, 2001

1997 Stormshadow

I've debated for long time as to whether or not I would profile this figure. When I finally decided to do so, I had another debate as to which year of this mold I was going to utilize. I use both the '84 and this mold about the same and couldn't decide if I should go with the classic, or keep with my original plan and showcase this later, less heralded use of this immortal mold. Finally, I let fate decide. I still keep my '97 figures ready and none have gone to the archive, yet. That is not the case with the '84 figures. All my original Stormshadows were packed away in baggies. As such, I took the easy way out and settled on the 1997 Stormshadow as my profile for this week.

There are some slightly more sentimental reasons why I wanted to profile this figure mold around this day. You see, back in 1984, Stormshadow was impossible to find. You couldn't get him even at the just recently opened Toys R Us stores. A friend of mine, in desperation, ordered a Stormshadow, along with 5 or 6 other figures he already had, in a figure pack from the JC Penny catalog. I, though, was a bit more patient. Finally, in mid October of '84, I found a lone Stormshadow at the aforementioned Toys R Us store. As October coincides with my younger brother's birthday, the only way I could convince my father to buy the figure was as a present for my sibling. I figured that as long as one of us had the figure, that would be okay. My brother's birthday came and went and I discovered that my plan had backfired. Instead of relinquishing the new Stormshadow figure our toy room, as was my brother's M.O. after the initial novelty wore off, he kept using the Stormshadow figure. I never got the opportunity to stash it into my collection like I had hoped. I watched in horror as my brother lost Stormshadow's accessories and left him in the mud in our backyard. I realized that by the time I was going to be able to commandeer the figure into my collection, the figure wouldn't be worth having. I needed a new plan.

By December, my thoughts had turned to 2 possible times when I could acquire the Stormshadow figure: Christmas and my birthday. I was hoping for my birthday as I was usually able to pimp my brothers for some insight into my upcoming presents. Christmas wasn't much of a challenge as I knew where the presents were kept. You can imagine my disappointment, though, when all my "sources" turned up no info that I would be receiving a Stormshadow figure of my own that holiday season. I let this slip from my mind, though, as I was preparing for my birthday party. For whatever reason, the weekend I had my party that year was unseasonably warm. We had a 65 degree day so all my friends and I could play outside. As such, my party ran long and I didn't open presents until much later in the evening. When I did, I found I had received a Stormshadow figure! One of my friends who wasn't really into Joe, but knew I was, had found it and thought it looked cool. We all then spent the rest of the evening in an epic G.I. Joe battle.

Just to show that this story has a point and that things do sometimes come full circle, there is one more little element to this tale. On December 15th, 1997, I decided to stop at a Toys R Us store on my way home from work. I always bought myself a present for my birthday. (It is a tradition to continues to this day, though now my wife buys me the toys. I've got a nice box of stuff coming from SmallJoes.com this year!) I was hoping to find the elusive Slave Leia from the Star Wars line. Of course, TRU was a bust for Star Wars, but I did see something very, very interesting. It was the Stars and Stripes set that contained 8 new Joe figures. At that time, I was not as involved in the online Joe world as I am now and didn't have any idea this set was being released. Naturally, I snatched it up. The figures weren't great, but it was enough to get me thinking about my Joe collection once again. (Oddly enough, I also stopped at the Wal Mart one freeway exit down from the TRU and found that Slave Leia. I've always had good toy luck on my birthday!)

Sadly, though, this about ends my fascination with the Stormshadow figure. When the '85 Snake Eyes was released the next year, Stormshadow had a brief opponent, but I just couldn't keep him near the top. My Joe world was changing and the need for ninjas had disappeared. Characters like Flint, Airtight and Footloose were the guys I liked to use. With them, I gravitated more towards traditional Cobra army builders like the Eel, Crimson Guard, and Viper. My Cobra Commander didn't need a bodyguard as he was rarely used. When I finally did pull him out for the '87 incarnation, the body armour precluded any further need of Stormshadow's services. The Cobra ninja then became an afterthought in my collection for many years. In the mid '90's, though, I did pull out both an original Stormshadow and an '85 Snake Eyes and had them engaged in a sword battle on one of the shelves in my room. Beyond that, though, this figure's uses were limited.

Now, little has changed. I still like the look of Stormshadow, but have no real use for the figure. In fact, the Stormshadow idea is kind of dated. Like the '80's ninja craze, Stormshadow's day has passed for me. I no longer have much use for the figure. However, he does still look cool. As such, I now have this '97 version displayed among my Cobra army. While Cobra Commander now has new bodyguards, Stormshadow is still there, just to keep everyone honest. It is a nice way to remember this figure, even though his days of heavy use are past.

This year of Stormshadow is a bit tricky when you talk about pricing and availability. While mint, complete 1984 Stormshadows are starting to consistently hit the $60+ price range, the '97 can still be affordable. However, again, this is problematic. I've seen this figure sell carded, along with the Snake Eyes and Lady Jaye figures, for around $20. Of course, I've also seen this figure, loose with no accessories, sell for $40! Like all the '97's, this figure was missed by a great many collectors. If you were wanted this guy in 1997 or 1998, though, he was very easy to find on the retail shelf. Basically, he is not a difficult figure to find, but you may have to endure many dealers who will try to convince you otherwise. Personally, I passed on this guy back in '97 and '98 because I was focusing on Star Wars figures and these Joes were just repaints of figures I already had. A couple of years later, I realized my mistake and started looking for them. You can see the search was successful. With that in mind, you should be able to get this guy without too much trouble. With the original mold reaching high price points, this figure is a great alternative and the one version of this original Stormshadow mold that I currently own that actually seems some use.

While I no longer need a '97 Stormshadow, I am really after the Satan and Ninja Ku repaints of this mold that were released in Argentina. I would also be interested in a Ninja Viper mail away figure. If you have any of those that you would be willing to trade, shoot me an email.

1997 Stormshadow, TRU Exclusive

1997 Stormshadow, TRU Exclusive, Cobra Commander, 1983 Hiss Tank, Hiss Driver, 2006 Viper Pit, 1993 Crimson Guard Commander, Skeres

1997 Stormshadow, TRU Exclusive, Cobra Commander, 1983 Hiss Tank, Hiss Driver, 2006 Viper Pit, 1993 Crimson Guard Commander, Skeres



























1997 Stormshadow, TRU Exclusive

1997 Stormshadow, TRU Exclusive, 1985 Snake Eyes, V2, Cobra Commander, 1983, Cobra Officer, Funskool Desert Scorpion

Thursday, December 6, 2001

Brazilian (Estrela) Carded Figures:

I figured I would do something a little different here. I haven't profiled a carded version of a loose figure in quite some time and thought I could use this opportunity to showcase a little information about Brazilian cardbacks.

First off, Estrela Brazilian cardbacks are not of the same quality as the American cardbacks. They are stronger than the sturdy writing paper that Funskool passes off as G.I. Joe cardbacks, but they are not as sturdy as even those from the currently released figures. When you purchase MOC Brazilian figures, this is something to keep in mind.

Second, the unique card art that was produced in Brazil is easily on par with that of American figures. Again, most of us have seen Funskool's attempts at card art. While well intentioned, they don't live up to the American art that most of us are most familiar with. That is not the case in Brazil. Some of the earlier art, like Sparta, Tan Grunt, Airborne, Ripcord, and the infamous Cobra De-Aco is rougher, but these later Patrulha do Ar figures have cart art of exceptional quality. By the 90's, Estrela was producing some Joes for Hasbro to distribute in the U.S. Guys like Rampage, Slaughter's Marauders, and the Arctic Commando Dee-Jay were all made by Estrela for U.S. consumption. The high commitment to quality shows not only in the figures, but the detail that went into the package art as well.

Third, Estrela cards are made of a darker cardboard than the glossy American cards. This is most noticeable in most scans you see of Brazilian cardbacks and filecards. Most scans look like they were taken with a low quality scanner that could not produce enough light to properly illuminate the image. This is not the case. The cardbacks are made of darker cardboard that is not nearly as sharp as the gloss coated American figures. This, I think, is part of the problem with the flimsier cards. Without the coating, the printing colors are not as bright and are somewhat difficult to see. The cardboard certainly doesn't hold details like the more glossy backings. Of all the features, this was the most striking when I first acquired a carded Brazilian figure.

There is one other little note I feel I should mention. I've opened several Brazilian carded figures. One thing I've noticed is that figures with helmets, like the Patrula do Ar and the Forca Eco, tend to have a little problem. It seems the plastic of which the helmets are made is starting to degrade. Both figures I've opened that came with helmets (from different sources) have had helmets that have become tacky and soft. In fact, they are even starting to seep into the cardback. I haven't seen the problem on any figures, or accessories other than helmets. I don't have any loose figures that have been loose for longer than this year, so I don't know if the degradation is an effect of the helmet still being in the bubble and not being able to breathe, or if all the helmets will eventually succumb to this. I know many vintage Star Wars figures have had this problem. I just offer this as many people who have some Brazilian figures tucked away with the hopes that they will one day retire from their sale may be surprised to find a puddle of orange goo that has seeped through a cardback and ruined a great part of their collection. Just something to think about.

All in all, the carded Brazilian figures are very nice. They display well and mesh with a diverse Joe collection. Personally, I prefer to have the figures loose, but not many people seem to agree with me. As more people are exposed to these foreign figures, and complete their American collections, perhaps that will change. Until then, I enjoy having guys like this in my collection and think you will as well.

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

Abutre Negro, Brazil, Estrela, Black Vulture, MOC, Carded, Patrulha do ar

Cobra Black Vulture (Abutre Negro) - Brazilian Exclusive Sky Patrol

Most of you now know that I've become a foreign Joe junkie. That is the area in which I've most grown my collection in the past months, but is also the one area where there is really no other avenue in which the figures are showcased. Sure YoJoe.com shows all the awesome (and rare!) foreign variations, but no one out there seems to make these guys a vital part of their usable collection. Lots of people have these figures. They just keep them out of sight and out of mind so that the mint specimens aren't damaged. This is great. However, I've decided that some of these figures deserve to be used in the manner for which they were intended. Like earlier profiles of foreign figures, the Abutre Negro, or Cobra Black Vulture, has become an integral part of my Joe world.

By now, you know that in my Joe world, Cobra is focusing on South America. The operations down there are lead by the Cobra Flying Scorpion. He has a cadre of younger Cobras that I have assembled from '90's remakes of classic Cobra characters. This group has been flying high. However, the old guard (all of my Cobra figures from the '80's) is starting to get a little antsy and wants in on some of the success. Naturally, the new generals think the old guard will bring their history of defeat and will bog down the operations in South America. In order to help prevent this, Destro, a silent ally of the new Cobras, approached the Flying Scorpion character with an idea. He proposed that an old, lesser Cobra named operative become secret allies with the Flying Scorpion's character. The idea is that this old Cobra is friends with all the other old Cobras who want to usurp the Flying Scorpion's power. He will act as a buffer and keep the Flying Scorpion informed of any impending actions by the old Cobras that could jeopardize the South American operations. In return, the Flying Scorpion will train this older Cobra in his combat techniques and allow him to win some major successes in North America. The end result is that the older Cobra gains power and allies himself with the new Cobras while still maintaining his ties to the old guard. It also builds in a layer of internal protection for the Flying Scorpion and keeps his vision for Cobra South America intact. Of course, all that holds the relationship together is that this old Cobra is loyal to Destro and Destro is allied with the Flying Scorpion. Complicated? Yes. Fun? You betcha!

Of course, I had a dilemma. Who would be this old, lesser Cobra that Destro would bring aboard? I thought about Scrap Iron, but decided that he was still needed as an ally of Cobra Commander. I needed a new figure to be this character. Someone that didn't have a back story. Like other times I have faces this same problem, I looked to foreign exclusive figures. More specifically; Brazil. The Abutre Negro had what I was looking for in this character. First, he is a totally new interpretation of classic molds. He utilizes the head of the G.I. Joe figure Dee Jay, though cast as a Caucasian instead of African-American, the chest and arms of Cesspool, and the legs and waist of Dee Jay. He has a look of a more grizzled, older character who fit the criteria for which I was searching. His black, red, and silver color scheme also matched the Iron Grenadiers with whom he was first assigned.

I will admit that the translation of this figure's name was something I did on my own. Several translators that I found all translated Abutre to Vulture. As such, I call this figure Black Vulture. Others out there may have different names for this figure based upon different translations of his name. At any rate, I like both his Portuguese and English names. Both are nice, somewhat complex, and different from many other traditional Cobra names. I have decided that in my collection, this guy will go by both names. His younger years were spent under one appellation while his older years were spent under another. He will not deny either name, but it is enough to keep unprepared enemies confused. It also adds an element of depth to this character.

I've also got a carded version of this figure. Along with that, I've written up a short description of the Estrela Brazilian cardbacks so that you can get an idea of what they are like.

Are Black Vultures hard to find? Yes, they are. Are they unattainable? No. Like most of the later release Brazilian exclusive figures, Abutre Negro can be had with a little searching. Carded samples are the easiest to find, but they are still affordable and are at a price point where it would not be unheard of to actually open one. Any way you look at it, though, he is another excellent addition to any collection. I have found foreign Joes to be the most fun way to grow my collection over the past year. Army builders and lame American figures just don't hold the same level of fascination that many of these non-U.S. releases inspire. Granted, not every collector shares my feelings. However, I've found that figures like this guy allow for more imagination and leeway in the conventional Joe story lines. They are not bogged down in nearly 20 years of history and characterizations like most of the most popular originally U.S. released characters are. That is a great appeal to me and makes guys like the Abutre Negro the type of figure I want to keep adding to my collection. I think, that given the chance, you would find him and his brethren awesome additions to your collection as well.

I don't need any more Abutre Negro figures, but would like an Albatroz, Aguia Commando, Ar Puro, Marujo, Letal, Corrosoa, Biosfera, Marfim, and Biologico. If you have any of them that you are willing to trade, let me know.

Abutre Negro, Black Vulture, Patrulha do Ar, Sky Patrol, Estrela, Brazil, Rare G.I. Joe Figures, 1988 Destro, Iron Grenadier

Abutre Negro, Black Vulture, Patrulha do Ar, Sky Patrol, Estrela, Brazil, Rare G.I. Joe Figures, 1988 Destro, Iron Grenadier

Abutre Negro, Black Vulture, Patrulha do Ar, Sky Patrol, Estrela, Brazil, Rare G.I. Joe Figures, 1988 Destro, Iron Grenadier

Abutre Negro, Black Vulture, Patrulha do Ar, Sky Patrol, Estrela, Brazil, Rare G.I. Joe Figures, Cobra Flying Scorpion, Escporpiao Voador, 1993 Firelfy, 1992 Destro

Abutre Negro, Black Vulture, Patrulha do Ar, Sky Patrol, Estrela, Brazil, Rare G.I. Joe Figures, Cobra Flying Scorpion, Escporpiao Voador, 1984 Rattler, Wild Weasel

Abutre Negro, Black Vulture, Patrulha do Ar, Sky Patrol, Estrela, Brazil, Rare G.I. Joe Figures, 2002 Convention Crimson Viper

Abutre Negro, Black Vulture, Patrulha do Ar, Sky Patrol, Estrela, Brazil, Rare G.I. Joe Figures, Cobra Flying Scorpion, Escorpiao Voador, European Exclusive Mutt, Spirit, G.I. Joe HQ

Abutre Negro, Black Vulture, Patrulha do Ar, Sky Patrol, Estrela, Brazil, Rare G.I. Joe Figures, 1988 Destro, Iron Grenadier, filecard

Thursday, November 15, 2001

1994 Battle Corps Flint

Back in the summer of 1995, I was on a quest to find every single remaining G.I. Joe figure that was still available at normal retail outlets. The pickings were very, very slim. By that point, the figures that were left tended to be lesser characters who were packaged with neon weapons. I started a simple policy, I bought any figure that had black weapons. This lead to my purchase of some fairly dismal figures, but also allowed me to acquire a few figures that turned into important elements of my growing collection. One day, I found the final figure that was left in a local Target store. It wasn't even on the pegs and was just sitting on the shelf. Labeled slots for G.I. Joe figures were gone, by then. If you could find a lone figure like this one, you bought it. The fact that it was a figure that I didn't have already was also an enticement. On top of that, the figure came with black weapons. The final piece that gave an inkling of how much fun I would find this figure to be was the fact that it was a remake of one of my favorite childhood characters: Flint.

Perhaps my favorite element to this Flint is his accessories. Unlike the original version's shotgun, this Flint's weapons were not original. They were, though, still spectacular. He included the standard Hit and Run rifle, but also a smaller, slimmed down version of Big Ben's machine gun. Unlike Big Ben's weapon that played more like a large, heavy rifle, this version of the gun is more in line with an infantryman's gear and is my weapon of choice with this figure. The other gun he came with is a slightly retooled version of Sidetrack's gun. Again, the slimmer appearance made this gun my favorite weapon to be used with the only 1994 Cobra trooper I could find, the Viper. This assortment of guns was enough to make me seek out additional specimens of this figure in order to increase my weapon reserves in those pre-Ebay days.

The moment I first opened this figure, he became my favorite. At that time, I had a stash of about 30 figures that were available to me. Most of them were lame, off conditioned figures that I hadn't bothered to attempt to save from my childhood. I also had a couple of newer figures that I had bought at retail like General Flagg, 1994 Shipwreck, 1992 Wild Bill, 1994 Viper, and the Crimson Guard Commander. From this eclectic mix of different figure generations I was able to create storylines that continue even to this day. It has also lead to the enduring popularity of these figures in my collection. You will notice throughout the many profiles on this site how often I refer to the days of 1993 through 1997. Those were the times when my collection was small and I didn't have the means to expand it. As such, the figures I did have got lots of use and have remained sentimental favorites far beyond even the figures of my youth. That's why I have such an emphasis on the post '87 figures here. Everyone seems to like and remember those older figures. For me, it's the newer and more obscure guys that make Joe fun. It takes a lot more imagination to come up with a role for many of these later figures than it did for those early ones. To me, Joe has always been about that.

This version of Flint became the 1992 Wild Bill's sidekick. Wild Bill was the strategist and money man for a criminal empire. When he left to ally himself with the character portrayed by General Flagg, he needed an excellent fighter to help keep him safe. He took this character because he was the best, but also because this version of Flint has a deep, dark secret that the Wild Bill character knows. The two are friends, but the fear of each of their power makes for a wonderfully symbiotic relationship. (You can read of more of their exploits in my Stretcher profile.) As time wore on, though, Wild Bill had less and less need of this character's services. He then became a loner who often appeared at just the right time. In the final picture below you see the figure in a desert poncho that is from one of the Star Wars Episode I accessory packs. (Also see Stormshadow for more examples of these great accessories.) When the character wore this, it symbolized his movement away from his friend and allowed him to become more of a Joe-allied mercenary.

In the past few years, though, my collecting focus has really shifted. I moved beyond individual characters and started building armies, both Cobra and Joe. Once my figure count rose to over 4 digits, I no longer had any desire to utilize the small bands of fighters that had been the hallmark of my early Joe days. As such, this figure moved closer and closer to the bottom of my 1994 Joe drawer. Recently, though, my time has been more limited. If I want to utilize some of my army builders, I take half my available time just getting them out and properly accessorizing them. Rather than do this, I've seen my focus once again shift back to smaller, more specialized storylines. Figures like this Flint are starting to once again play an important role in my collection. I've said many times over the past few years that I appreciated my collection much more back when it was significantly smaller. As I downsize the collection I once had, I'm starting to rediscover that appreciation once again. With it comes the resurgence of figures like this one.

Like all of the 1994 releases, Flint isn't difficult to find. You do, though, have to expand your mediums to acquire one. Most '94's are readily available if you want a carded specimen. If you want them loose, mint, and complete, you will be in for a much longer, and harder, search. However, just because they are carded does not mean they are expensive. Most '94's, with the exception of the Alley Viper can still be purchased for under $10. At that price, you can't go wrong. Also like most other 1994's, there are two versions of this figure: one with painted highlights and one without. As variations go, it is mundane. However, it helps explain why some people like this figure and others don't. With the highlights painted, the figure has more detail and is more in line with earlier releases. Without the highlights, the figure starts to appear bland and blend in with other figures who lack pizazz. The good part is, neither is tougher to find or more expensive than the other. At any rate, the 1994 Flint is a figure that most people pass by. He is not, though, one that should be. He is just another example of a great figure that was released in 1994 after most people had given up on the less than stellar 1993's. That allows the modern collector the unique opportunity to acquire a great mold of a popular character without breaking the bank. It is not an opportunity that I see lasting forever, though. The '94's were produced in smaller quantities than any other year. Not taking advantage of Flint's availability now many one day come back to haunt you.

This figure is great, but I don't need any more of him. However, I do need the repainted version of this mold that is currently available as Rock and Roll from the new headquarters. If you have one of those with which you wish to part,email me.

1994 Flint, 1990 Desert Scorpion

1994 Flint, Viper, 1997 Rage, 1993 Flak Viper

1994 Flint, Viper, 1997 Rage, 1993 Flak Viper

1994 Flint, Viper, 1997 Rage, 1993 Flak Viper

Saturday, November 10, 2001

1983 Gung Ho

Over the years, I've talked of my beginnings in Joe. I started my collection with the RAM motorcycle and Breaker. I slowly added a couple more figures and vehicles but, in 1983, my interest waned. Return of the Jedi brought me back to the Star Wars fold and I was only interested in those figures. However, during the summer of 1983 it finally happened. Star Wars lost my interest. With the movie tying up the loose ends, I had few adventures left with my figures. They just didn't hold my interest. This, alone, would not have been enough to end my Star Wars days. There was another catalyst that finally swayed me to collect G.I. Joe. In 1983, Hasbro added one simple little articulation twist: swivel arm battle grip. Once this feature was added to Joes, no other figure line could measure up. I remember seeing the first commercial for the new 1983 figures. It showed Airborne, Doc, Snow Job, and this guy: Gung Ho, in an Arctic setting and showing off their new play value. This was enough. When I first held an Airborne figure, my Star Wars days were over. From that day on, I was a G.I. Joe fan.

That brings me to why I chose to profile Gung Ho as my 2 year anniversary figure. It is both hard to believe that it's been that long and amazing that I've had the site going for only that amount of time. Usually, on my anniversaries, I profile a special figure. This one is no exception. There are very few figures in my collection that I have a sentimental attachment to. The original Gung Ho is one of them. You see, I got my first Gung Ho figure for Christmas in 1983. Like most of the figures I acquired back then, he had a hard life. His weapons were lost and his crotch and thumbs broken. This dropped him from my collection and would have relegated him into obscurity. However, in late 1984, I found a new Gung Ho at retail. I had some money and decided to buy him. Rather than allow him to fall into the general release of figures that populated our toy room, I kept special care of that Gung Ho. I liked him a lot and didn't want this version destroyed.

As such, Gung Ho was my figure. I was the only one who could use him. Still, I was young then and the figure did have some hard times. As can be evidenced by the photos below, he is now heavily worn and no where near a mint specimen. For one of the few times in my collecting life, though, I wouldn't have it any other way. With the thousands of figures that have passed through my hands in the past 4 years, you would think another Gung Ho would have been among them. (I have at least 5 of every other figure from 1983. Well, okay, I only have 1 Viper Pilot, but that's understandable.) He is one figure, though, of whom I have never acquired a duplicate. The only one in my collection is the one you see below. I don't know if that is a sign, or just a coincidence, but it makes this particular Gung-Ho an important part of my collection.

What I, and many other fans, loved about Gung-Ho was his characterization. He was big, strong, mean, and very cool. The bayou accent and persona that was evidenced by his filecard and early comic appearance made him stand out. Over the years, few characters were able to rise to Gung-Ho's level. Whether that was a product of poor characterizations or simply bad timing is another issue. What everyone knew was that Gung-Ho was awesome. I remember having schoolyard debates among my friends over which Joe was the strongest. While Roadblock usually won out, Gung-Ho got more than his fair share of lip time among the participants. From his first appearance in G.I. Joe #11 where he wore no shirt in sub-freezing weather, you knew this was going to be a character for the ages. Gung-Ho's undying popularity seems to indicate that it worked. (The figure has had 7 versions in an 18 year span. Few other characters who weren't ninjas got that kind of reinvention.)

Most of you know that I've spent the past several years in Arizona. As such, I have not had a true fall or winter. This year, I've come back to the Midwest for the change in seasons. After cutting my lawn one fall day, I remembered another day, years ago. It was a fall day like this one and I had just finished cutting my parent's lawn. Afterwards, I took my Gung Ho and Vamp outside to play in the freshly cut grass. I remember having so much fun that I relived the same adventure for several more days. Remembering those simpler times reminded me of my old Gung Ho. As my figure is so beat up, I rarely, if ever, use him. I hadn't looked at him in a long time. I then decided that Gung Ho would be my next profile. I then took him, my VAMP, and a couple of Cobra Troopers out in into my freshly cut lawn and wished I could recapture that feeling of so many years ago.

Gung-Ho's aren't tough to find. They aren't even all that expensive. They are, though, very prone to breakage and discoloration. All that means, though, is that people who took good care of their toys will have mint Gung-Ho's. People, like me, who used him to death, will not. Surprisingly, most of the '83 figures are easy to get and relatively cheap. That is a very nice feature for all the people out there who had these guys as kids but spent their days destroying the toy through vigorous play. I certainly have many memories of all my early figures. Many other collectors out there do as well. Despite the means to purchase an updated model, I wouldn't trade the symbol of those memories for the rarest figure in line. If that means that the figure you see here is the only Gung-Ho I will ever own, well, I think that would make me very happy.

I like Gung Ho, but this one has some sentimental value. However, if you have a 1993 Gung Ho with the red vest or a 1997 Gung Ho that you want to trade, email me.

1983 Gung Ho, VAMP, Cobra Trooper

1983 Gung Ho, VAMP, Cobra Trooper

1983 Gung Ho, VAMP, Cobra Trooper

1983 Gung Ho, VAMP, 2004 Clutch, Scarlett

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

2001 Fast Blast Viper

Back in early 1997, I had just finished college and was living with my parents in order to save some money before I moved to Arizona. During that time, I was mainly into Star Wars figures and spent my toy-finding time searching for them. However, one day while in my local comic store, the clerk (who knew I was a long time Joe fan) told me they had just gotten some G.I. Joe figures in and asked if I might be interested in any of them. At that time, my Joe collection was limited to what I had left over from childhood and what I had acquired at retail in the recent years. As such, there were many figures from the early '90's who I was not familiar with. As I searched through the three dozen or so figures they had, I found three Cobra figures that I did not have in my collection: the Range Viper, 1989 Alley Viper, and the Annihilator. All three of these guys were, in my opinion, very cool figures who needed a great purpose in my collection. Over the course of subsequent weeks, I devised a new direction for my Joe world where Cobra created Urban Death Squads: bands of highly trained troops who were capable of destroying a small town in a matter of minutes and then disappearing without a trace. The purpose was twofold: to strike fear into the hearts of Americans and also to create ghost towns that Cobra could then buy up (using their Bermuda based reinsurance operations as the financier) and then rebuild into surveillance and recruiting centers. Naturally, the three aforementioned Cobras comprised the bulk of these forces.

By 1998, though, I had started acquiring many new Cobra trooper figures. As such, the roles of the Urban Death Squads were expanding. They were now attacking larger urban centers and needed new types of troops to deal with new situations. Among these were the original H.E.A.T. Viper figures. They were specialists who were able to crack fortified positions such as police headquarters or military outposts. However, I found their bright yellow color scheme a bit too over-the-top and did not like how it meshed with the figures who populated the unit. In the summer of 2001, though, my problem was finally solved. The H.E.A.T. Viper was finally replaced by a figure that utilized the majority of his mold and accessories, but was done in a much more useful color scheme: the Fast Blast Viper.

First off, let's face it, the name Fast Blast Viper just sucks. There's no getting around it and no amount of justification will ever make it work. I know there are a number of collectors out there who simply call them Blast Vipers and that works. Personally, I just refer to them as H.E.A.T. Vipers. They have had the original colors updated and made more useful for urban environments. That way, they are not a new unit in Cobra, just one whose uniforms have been modernized. To me, this makes the figure more useful and gives him greater roots to Cobra's long history.

The best part about this figure is the coloring. The FBV is a nice blend of dark black, subtle smoke grey and a bluish hued grey that create a nice, dark figure whose details are not lost in the opacity. I think that is one of the reasons why I like this figure so much. His color scheme is very different in that it is vibrant and alive. So many figures in the '00-'01 A Real American Hero Collection were very bland and dead to the eye. The FBV does not fall into this category, though, as the colors don't have the muted tones that are so common on his contemporaries.

His accessories, while nice, don't quite live up the the H.E.A.T. Viper's legacy. He lacks the peg on both his head and on the shoulder tab that were the plug-ins for the H.E.A.T. Viper's weapons. As such, you are left with a large missile launcher that has an attached hose with no place to plug it in. I have made up for this by simply attaching it the backpack, but it is not an ideal solution. Still, it works and still allows for a wide variety of uses for the figure. One thing of note, though, is that this figure includes 6 missiles that attach to his legs. At first glance, these would appear to be the type of thing that will be easily lost over time. However, as a little bonus to collectors, both versions of the 2002 Wave 1 Neo Viper include these 6 missiles. That little Easter Egg will ensure that there are plenty of these accessories to go around as we become farther and farther removed from this figure's release date.

The final piece of note on this figure's physical appearance is dually a criticism and praise. For an unknown reason, the original H.E.A.T. Viper's head was not reused on this figure. Instead, it was replaced with a black Undertow head. This sleek head is far more visually appealing than the oddly designed H.E.A.T. Viper's. However, this head is only covered by a thin mask. As such, you would think that the gear carried by an artillery trooper would pose a danger that would not be covered by so skimpy a head covering. It is a small point, but one that was cause of some initial criticism of the figure. I've just assumed the mask to be fire-proof and able to provide the type of protection these characters would need. (On that note, it is unknown if the FBV was amalgamated due to the loss of the original H.E.A.T. Viper's head [the mold was released in Brazil in the early '90's] or just a design update. The H.E.A.T. Viper's head has long been an oddity, so it may have been deliberately excluded in an effort to create a more visually appealing figure.)

In my collection, this figure has some different uses. First and foremost, he is the hand held artillery specialist who still supports the Urban Death Squads. Beyond simple fortification destruction, the FBV also takes on anti-aircraft responsibilities. I have him as the primary attacker of the low flying G.I. Joe gunships like the Dragonfly, Tomahawk or Night Attack Chopper. In addition to the field duties, I also use the FBV as Cobra's primary gunner. When I was younger, I always wished Cobra had a gunner figure. Someone who could operate the turrets of the H.I.S.S. Tank or the A.S.P. As I had a number of the figure, I used the Hooded Cobra Commander in this capacity. Eventually, though, I just wanted something more. The FBV fills this role well as he looks good in most Cobra weaponry and his true specialty is closely related enough for people to accept him in this role. For this reason, I like the figure on a couple of different levels and am able to better utilize him in more situations.

Fast Blast Vipers are still not that expensive to acquire. However, they are a little harder to find that the ubiquitous Laser Viper. This is mainly due to the fact that the FBV pack was pulled after its shipping allotment and was not carried forward to future figure waves like the Laser Viper was. As such, if you did not get this guy during his short window of availability, he is harder to find than many other of the A Real American Hero Collection figures. However, by 2001, the collecting community was already aware of the quick disappearing act as so many collectors had missed out on the Firefly/Undertow pack from 2000 and were watching it reach nearly $75 for a MOC specimen. As such, once news about the Wave IV case assortment leaked out, many dealers and collectors went out and bought up droves of FBV's in an attempt to take advantage of potential later shortages. However, these haven't really materialized as many Wave III cases with the FBV ended up at clearance and warehouse outlets. I know that the Meijer store in my area had an ample supply of FBV's at $4.99/pack through Christmas of 2001. As such, this figure has not become the highly sought after second hand market item that many had planned for and is still available for around $12-$15/pack from many online dealers. As such, if you missed out on this guy, you can still acquire him without too much time, trouble or expense. I have found this figure well worth his original retail price. Even at aftermarket pricing, I would get one of them now as he is worth it just to have. Army building, though, is a different story. I have 2 loose FBV's and have found that enough. I still have 3 carded figures that I haven't opened as I have not had a need for the figures, yet. When I do, I'll open them. However, as the FBV is the type of figure that lends himself to smaller numbers, I don't know when that will be. Still, he is a quality figure and one that is important to my Cobra army. Given a choice between this figure or the original H.E.A.T. Viper, I'd take the FBV every time. I think that many collectors out there will agree with me.

While I'm well set on V1 Fast Blast Vipers, I do not have a 2002 FBV that was available in the BJ's exclusive set. While I don't want one for the ridiculous amounts I've seen them sell for, I would be open to trades. If you have one and want to work out a deal, email me.

2001 Fast Blast Viper, HEAT Viper, Funskool Night Viper, 1992 Parasite

2001 Fast Blast Viper, HEAT Viper, Funskool Night Viper, 1992 Parasite

2001 Fast Blast Viper, HEAT Viper, Funskool Night Viper, 1992 Parasite

2001 Fast Blast Viper, HEAT Viper, Funskool Night Viper, 1992 Parasite

2001 Fast Blast Viper, HEAT Viper, Funskool Night Viper, 1992 Parasite

2001 Fast Blast Viper, HEAT Viper, Funskool Night Viper, 1992 Parasite

2001 Fast Blast Viper, HEAT Viper, Funskool Night Viper, 1992 Parasite

2001 Fast Blast Viper, HEAT Viper, Funskool Night Viper, 1992 Parasite


Thursday, October 25, 2001

Action Force Blades - European Exclusive

Back in 1986, I went to my local comic shop on my weekly visit. Of course, I always bought the new G.I. Joe comic when it came out, but every now and then, I would pick up some other books for some variety. On one particular day when I went into the store I noticed a very large magazine with Zartan on the cover. The banner across the top of the magazine was done in the style of G.I. Joe, but read Action Force. This magazine was an issue of the UK issued Action Force comic book. Of course, I bought it. I wasn't so interested in the reprints of the American comics; it was the new, UK exclusive and centric stories that really piqued my curiosity. Their take on the Joe team was very different from what was portrayed in the American comic and cartoon. (I remember one story where Lady Jaye was holding a bomb and Crankcase was setting up a blast shield so only she would be killed. The story was so different from anything we got in America that I was hooked.) What I did not know, though, was that Action Force had originally been a Star Wars articulated line of military figures that were released in Europe. From those figures, they branched out to include repainted American Joes in certain vehicles. After that, they released American Joe figures on the generic Action Force card. Finally, Joe figures were released on cards very similar to those from the States. Of this process, it is the repainted figures that came with vehicles that concerns me today. I have chosen the pilot of the Action Force Fang repaint, Blades, to be profiled.

When you first saw that I was profiling a figure named Blades, I'm sure at least someone out there thought it was a late issue Ninja Force member. That couldn't be further from the truth. Blades is a straight repaint of the American Tripwire figure. Rather than be a mine detector, though, this figure is an SAS pilot (though the figure did come with recolored Tripwire accessories). He came with a black and yellow Cobra F.A.N.G. repaint. (I should also note, though, that Blades was available as a convention exclusive at one of the annual G.I. Joe conventions that was held here in the states. Because of that, there are bagged samples available that come with later issue weapons.) As you can see from the photo below, he has a yellow SAS logo on his chest. This logo is EXTREMELY fragile. I'm not talking normal logo fragile, this thing will scratch just as easily as the Viper Pilot's logo will. As you can see, even an otherwise pristine figure like mine will often exhibit some slight paint wear on the logo. At any rate, though, the logo is an incredible feature and just a small part of what makes this figure so cool.

I was never really big on the Action Force repaints. Red Laser, a repaint of the classic Cobra Commander, Hunter, a repainted Cobra Officer, Quarrel, a repainted Scarlett, and Blades are the few that held any real interest for me. I liked them because the color schemes were radically different from the American releases of the molds, but were still nice enough that they would fit into my normal figure usage. Unfortunately, I didn't actively pursue these guys for a long time. Even after I decided that foreign Joes were going to be the next area of my collection, I went after the European Tiger Force exclusives before I really looked for these early guys. The older early '80's molds just didn't excite me and I saw more uses for the oddly colored later releases than I did for these early guys. A couple of months ago, though, and opportunity to acquire a Blades figure arose. I knew that he was a neat figure, but only after I got him did I realize how superior a repaint this version of the Tripwire mold really was.

I've always used the Tripwire mold as a common, generic trooper figure. The original drove my APC for many years. Since then, he and the Listen and Fun variation have become the computer operators in my headquarters. They just look the part. I have yet to acquire the '01 Tripwire, but I see him occupying much the same role. The poor Tiger Force Tripwire sees very little time in my collection. This figure's black and grey uniform, though, really looks nice. It has the subtlety of color that makes it aesthetically pleasing while still maintaining its functionality. This guy is a perfect addition to any night ops force. While the bright yellow logo is there, it is not too much to take away from the figure's playability. That is what I most like about Blades. He is fun to play with and use. The color scheme nicely fits with other figures, as can be seen below, and allows this guy to be used by even the most discriminating collector.

There is one big reason why I wanted to profile this figure. With the addition of a European exclusive figure, this group of 20 profiles now features unique Joes from four different continents. Asia, South America, North America and now, Europe are all represented in what has been my most international group of profiles yet. I enjoy foreign Joes. Many collectors out there share my sentiments. Many others, though, do not. Either way, it really doesn't matter. Everyone has a different end to their Joe collection. What matters most is if you enjoy it. Having figures like Blades that I can turn into whomever I want is what makes Joe fun for me. I think that's the most important part of collecting. Everyone has different ideas about Joe and has a different aspect of it that they latch onto. While it may be frustrating at times, it is important to remember that in the end, we are all fans of the same toy line.

Now for the really bad news. Blades are very tough to find; especially so if you want a mint SAS logo. Those that can be found usually fetch $40.00+ for a mint specimen. Those that are still MOC can go upwards of $70.00 in a hurry. For that reason, most people aren't too keen on adding this guy to their collection. Sure, he is visually awesome. But who wants to spend that kind of money on a figure that only sits there and is never used or appreciated? Still, if you the opportunity to add this guy to your collection, I think you should take advantage of it. The European Action Force repaints are almost all well done and fit in nicely with American figures. I know that I enjoy having this guy, even if his only use is sitting in my headquarters. His look is enough for me to appreciate him. I think that given the chance, you will as well.

Blades is really cool. In fact, all of the Action Force repaints are. If you have a Red Laser, Quarrel, Red Jackal, Jammer, Gaucho, Hunter, Dolphin, Moondancer, Tiger Force Hit and Run, Tiger Force Sneek Peek, Tiger Force Tunnel Rat, Tiger Force Blizzard, Black and Red Spirit, or Stalker (repainted Snake Eyes) with which you wish to part, let me know.

Action Force Blades, Tripwire, European Exclusive, Listen and Fun Tripwire, Tiger Force Psyche Out, TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, G.I. Joe HQ, 1994 Joseph Colton, 1985 Keel Haul, 2000 Tomahawk, Law

Action Force Blades, Tripwire, European Exclusive, Listen and Fun Tripwire, Tiger Force Psyche Out, TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, G.I. Joe HQ, 1994 Joseph Colton, 1985 Keel Haul, 2000 Tomahawk, Law

Action Force Blades, Tripwire, European Exclusive, Listen and Fun Tripwire, Tiger Force Psyche Out, TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, G.I. Joe HQ, 1994 Joseph Colton, 1985 Keel Haul, 2000 Tomahawk, Law

Action Force Blades, Tripwire, European Exclusive, Listen and Fun Tripwire, Tiger Force Psyche Out, TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, G.I. Joe HQ, 1994 Joseph Colton, 1985 Keel Haul, 2000 Tomahawk, Law

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

1994 Action Astronaut - 30th Anniversary Set Exclusive

Back in my profile of Carcass I told of how this site's humble beginnings were heavily based on the promotion of Star Brigade figures. I've said many, many times how I really like astronaut figures. All of the regular Joes who were released as astronauts, though, were kept modern in design. They were more science fiction in appearance, though they all had their basis in some form or reality. For a unit like Joe, this was perfect. They were an ultra modern fighting force that would have utilized the latest technology. However, 1994 Hasbro decided to pay an homage back to G.I. Joe's 12 inch tall roots. They released four commemorative boxed individual figure sets of a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, and Pilot. All of these 3 3/4 inch figures were based on classic era military designs. As a special bonus, Hasbro also released a 5 figure boxed set. This contained the same 4 figures, though the sailor and pilot were recolored, as well as an exclusive figure that was not available by himself. The Action Astronaut was that extra figure and is a guy that I think deserves some notoriety.

As a figure and compared to the other 1994 Star Brigade figures, the Action Astronaut is very bland. He has no expression on his face, and the mold lacks any great detail. Of the 5 30th Anniversary figures, I would say that he is most mundane. However, he is supposed to be that way. The early astronauts did not have the modern trappings of his contemporary figures. Also, he is not a combat astronaut, he is a scientist, explorer, and adventurer. When viewed in his historical context, this figure is very well done. The simple helmet with face shield and the small control box on his chest are all the extra molding and accessories he has. They make the figure seem like an astronaut from the space program's early days. In this capacity, he succeeds marvelously.

This figure has some other small significance to the Joe line. It seems, back in '94, Hasbro was going to release this figure along with a full sized Mercury rocket. The rocket would have been very tall, and very detailed. It was going to be a supplemental to the 30th Anniversary set. However, high costs of production kept the rocket from ever becoming reality. Instead, this figure was released, along with his space capsule, in a boxed set with other figures. No 30th Anniversary playsets ever made it to production. The story is a sad reminder of Joe's final days when Hasbro felt that large toys were retail death. It also shows that despite many modern collectors' gripes about the '94 line, there was still great inspiration behind it. It was corporate stupidity that never allowed many of the possibly great toys from being released. Again, though, it is another look at what might have been.

It seems this profile has run out of steam. It's happened to me before, though not for quite some time. At any rate, while this figure seems very cool upon initial appearances, I really don't have many uses for him. While he might work in the Defiant Space Shuttle or even the Crusader, there are so many other, better astronaut figures in the Joe line that I don't have any real need for this guy. He looks great and has an air of authenticity that fleshes out dioramas and displays. As a toy, though, the figure can't live up to his better molded contemporaries. There's no shame in that. This figure wasn't designed as a toy. He is one of the few figures released in the Joe line with that distinction.

In 2005, Hasbro brought this mold back in the comic packs as Flash. The figure features a new head, though it is similar to the original Action Astronaut's. But, the figure's body is pretty much the same as this original version. As such, if you're looking for a cheap and easy to find alternative, well, the Flash really isn't it as he was part of the series of comic packs that were short produced at retail. So, while neither of the figures that use this mold are expensive, they can take longer to find than most collectors are willing to spend for a mold of this type.

Back in '94, these guys were sold as "collectibles". They were marketed as a keepsake rather than a toy. Now, 7 years later, you can still easily purchase boxed sets of the 30th Anniversary team for right at, if not under, their original retail price. I'm sure many speculators and dealers got severely burned on this set, but that just shows how volatile the toy market is. Now, these sets are easily acquired. Of course, finding a loose one is fairly tough. It took me nearly 2 years to do that. It cost me considerably less than a boxed set, though even those can be had for under $30. With that in mind, people don't really want these guys. While the figures are good, they are not really in line with other Joe figures. As such, collector interest really isn't there. Some years from now, I still don't see these guys being highly sought after. While this guy and the repaints of the Sailor and Pilot are certainly among the least produced figures in the entire line, the figures are rather bland and uninspiring. What made Joe was the characters. Without these personalities, these figures are doomed to a lifetime of obscurity. Of course, that means that for people like me who find these guys eerily cool, they can, and will be able to, be had for cheap prices in desired quantities for some time to come. That's the way Joe figures should be.

I've now got all 7 versions of the 30th Anniversary figures. Surprisingly enough, I don't want any more. However, if you have a 1987 Payload that you want to trade, email me.

1994 Action Astronaut, 30th Anniversary Set, Lifeline, Blackstar

1994 Action Astronaut, 30th Anniversary Set, Lifeline, Blackstar

Thursday, October 4, 2001

2000 Wild Bill

Many times, I referred to the days when I first returned to Joe collecting. It was in '92 and '93 and I didn't buy too many new figures. Mostly, I stuck to character that I knew or figures that looked really cool and had good accessories. One of the figures I picked in late '94 or early '95 was the 1992 Wild Bill. He had a decent look, cool enough accessories, and a nice hat that I thought was really cool. I sided this guy with my 1994 Flint and my '87 Mercer. They were a mercenary team that helped Joe, but wasn't really on their side. Naturally, this lead to a great deal of use for this figure and made him one of my favorites for a short time.

Like most of the figures I acquired back in the mid 90's, Wild Bill is still a sentimental favorite of mine. I only purchased a few figures at retail back then and my collection was very small. I wanted to find most of the figures that were showcased on the package art, but by then, most Joe figures were gone from retail. The few you could find, I snatched up even if it meant paying for the figure in dimes and nickles. That scenario, though, afforded me a greater appreciation for the figures I could find. I was able to let my imagination run wild with my small contingent. I only had a few Cobras at retail so I had to use some other figures in more creative ways to really expand my horizons. Wild Bill was an integral part in this and saw use in a wide variety of areas. He started as a villain. He then became a secret agent that was on the Joe's side. After that, he became a maverick that really only looked out for himself. Keeping the character represented by the original figure allowed me to use this guy any way I wanted.

When I first saw the picture of the 2000 repaint of the '92 Wild Bill mold, I was excited. It was very cool and something that I thought I would want. As per my M.O., though, I passed on the Locust for a long time after it came out. I finally got one for Christmas and was really amazed at how well done it was. There was a lot of collector sentiment against the Locust. The colors were bizarre and not everyone was as sold on the use of this Wild Bill mold as I was. This gave me rather low expectations for the Locust, but I was happily surprised. The chopper is actually very nice and fun to use. The fact that Wild Bill was a better colored version of my favorite mold of his was just an added bonus. I've been very happy with the inclusion of many later year Joe molds in the new line. Many were well done, just poorly colored. Now that they have a chance to do them over the right way, we are really seeing the potential many of these previously forgotten molds held.

Back in 1994 or 1995, I created another faction for Joes to fight. In other profiles I've alluded to how Cobra has moved to South America and started their operations down there. During the initial phases of this plan, Joe was out of the picture. Cobra's movements were so secret that the Joes had no clue what was going on. During this, I introduced a new contingent of mercenaries who were operating is former Cobra controlled areas. Cobra was quiet and didn't want to bring attention to themselves, so they called in the government for help ridding them of these mercenaries. Wild Bill and the 1994 Flint were two of the best, most important, and most mysterious mercenaries in this bunch. While the Joes pursued these guys, so did the remains of the Cobra forces. The three faction story where everyone is enemies made for some interesting times. However, there was a slight twist. The character portrayed by Wild Bill was secretly in cahoots with a high ranking military officer represented by General Flagg. By using Wild Bill, Flagg was able return under the command of his old acquaintance General Hawk. Basically, Flagg represented a splinter group I had created in my childhood. By using Wild Bill, I was able to tie together a number of old elements of my Joe world before I really launched into the whole South American invasion that has been my primary focus for the past 7 years.

The 2000 Wild Bill was only available with the Locust helicopter. Now, almost a year later, you can still occasionally find one of these buried on a store shelf. Target stores, though, clearanced them out at $3.24. With that kind of a deal, you can't afford to not add this guy to your collection. As time goes on, I think some of the original wave 2000 series Joes will really start to become tough to track down for affordable prices on the second hand market. I don't see Wild Bill in that category. The cheap Locusts were a boon for customizers everywhere. I've seen dozens of people who took a Locust and converted it to something much more exciting. You can be sure that all those extra Wild Bills will one day find their way into the hands of people who never bothered with the vehicles. Like all things available retail, though, I still think that if you're waiting to buy this guy, you should act now. You can never predict what product that is available at retail today will become the hard to find on the second market tomorrow. In fact, history has shown that the figures and vehicles that have been pegwarmers and clearance fodder of the past few years have become tough to find after they disappear from retail. Tough to find doesn't always equate to expensive, but that's not a chance I would want to take. At any rate, I've got my figure and really enjoy him. I think you will as well.

P.S. If you are a fan of the original Wild Bill mold, keep your eyes out for a planned Funskool release from India. There is an original mold Wild Bill figure planned for later this year. I don't know what it will look like, but when Funskool is involved, there's always great potential.

This is a nice figure, but not one of whom I build armies. Did you get all the Wave I army builders you wanted? Let me know.

2000 Wild Bill, ARAHC, Dragonfly, 1993 Ace, Funskool Night Viper

2000 Wild Bill, ARAHC, Dragonfly, 1993 Ace, Funskool Night Viper

2000 Wild Bill, ARAHC, Dragonfly, 1993 Ace, Funskool Night Viper

Thursday, September 27, 2001

1991 Incinerator - Cobra Flame Thrower

Back in 1998, I was just getting back into Joe collecting. I had spent most of the prior year buying Star Wars toys, but the Stars and Stripes set had finally taken its toll and gotten me interested in Joes again. When I first starting looking for Joes, I tended to be most interested in figure lots that concentrated on the '89-'91 time span. I had stopped collecting full time at the end of 1987, but still had a few '88s. As such, I really wanted the figures from the newer years. Of course, back then, it was easy to get pre '88 figures, but those from later years were very hard to find. Fortunately, I found a couple of large 30+ figure lots that heavily concentrated on figures from those years. (Of course, back then I paid about $1.50-$2.00 per figure for those lots. Today, a similar lot would run several times over what I paid. I miss the old days of Ebay.) When I started sorting through the figures, there were many I didn't recognize and had never even seen before. While I liked the Joe affiliated figures, it was the new Cobras that really drew me in. Guys like the Interrogator, Night Vulture, Annihilator, and the Rock Viper were awesome new additions to my fast expanding Cobra army. Another figure from those years that I liked, though, is the one I decided to profile this week: Cobra's only flamethrower, the Incinerator.

I use the Incinerator figure in the same manner as I use SAW Vipers and Fast Blast Vipers. They are a small support team that enhances a Cobra combat unit. The way I see Cobra, the Troopers and some infantry Vipers make up the bulk of any Cobra attack force. They are equipped with the weapons and supplies to at least pinpoint all of the enemy in a given area. When a situation arises, though, where they need more support, teams of specialty Vipers, like the aforementioned group, flock to the scene to take care of the special situation. Rather than have troops ladened with heavy gear, like the Incinerator would have, running around and getting in the way of the infantry, these specialty troops hang back near the Cobra armor or in troop transports and respond to calls for help. That way, if they are not needed, Cobra never has to show their full strength. It is a perfect way for Cobra to be more deadly, but always have an additional surprise available to them.

The Incinerator is a very cool mold. He has a bulky sculpt that showcases the fact that he is wearing protective gear. The helmet is very sleek, though not removable. He has nicely detailed features and excellent accessories. (His pack is large and detailed and he comes with the original incarnation of the same weapon that came with the 1993 Crimson Guard Commander.) All in all, this is a great mold that only has one drawback: the color scheme. Since the original Blowtorch in 1984, Hasbro seemed to think that a flamethrower would wear bright, neon colors. While this uniform would work in a base or controlled environment, it makes the Incinerator an easy target when he ventures into the field. Still, the orange and red is definitely a danger signal to anyone who would come across one of these guys. On that level, the color scheme still works for me.

Personally, I'm very surprised that we haven't seen this mold again since the initial 1991 release. This figure just screams for a repaint. He would have easily integrated into Star Brigade and would have fit into that genre. This figure also would have made a much better choice to be the mold for the 01 Laser Viper. His bulky sculpt and cool head would have been a nice addition to the new releases. I'm also surprised that we never saw this guy anywhere else in the world. He was released in Europe, but that version is the same as the American. However, with Funskool's recent foray into 1991 molds (see Desert Scorpion, Crimson Guard Immortal, and General Hawk) I would not be surprised if we one day saw an oddly colored Incinerator repaint offered from them. I know I'd welcome it.

Incinerators are tough to find. All the '91's, with the exception of Bats and Red Star, are still pretty tough finds. With a little patience you can build an army of these guys, but it will take a while. Incinerators can be had cheap, though. The bright colors, late issue date, and not often popular specialty keep them from most collector's and army builder's radar screens. If you like the figure, that allows you the freedom to acquire as many Incinerators as you can find without killing your budget. He is about the most affordable '91 Cobra figure, but really isn't bad to make him so. Like some of the '89 Cobras, this guy came out in a year of so many good enemy figures that he is kind of lost. It's a great idea and a very nice execution of that idea, but he still pales in comparison to many of his contemporaries. Still, he makes up a small part of my Cobra army, and I think he will find a home in yours as well.

The Incinerator is pretty cool, though I don't have tons of uses for him. Would you like to see a repainted Incinerator figure, even if it were offered by Funskool? Let me know.

1991 Incinerator, 1998 Cobra Trooper

1991 Incinerator, 1998 Cobra Trooper

1991 Incinerator, 1998 Cobra Trooper

1991 Incinerator, 1998 Cobra Trooper

1991 Incinerator, Letal, Brazil, Estrela, Forca Electronica, Frag Viper, Neon Green, Rare, G.I. Joe Figures, 1988 Toxo Viper

1991 Incinerator, Letal, Brazil, Estrela, Forca Electronica, Frag Viper, Neon Green, Rare, G.I. Joe Figures, 1988 Toxo Viper