Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Urzor - Brazilian Exclusive

As most of you know, my current collecting focus in on figures that were never released in the United States. It has been my focus for nearly a year, now, and I have experienced some modest success in growing my collection in this direction. Most of you are familiar with my other profiles of Brazilian exclusive figures and know that I have found them an excellent addendum to any Joe collection. Well, that trend has continued. While this figure does not posses the true originality of those earlier figures, he is slightly different from his American counterpart. As such, Urzor plays an important role in my collection.

Urzor is a straight repaint of the American figure Repeater. He is done in a slightly brighter green base color and has a brown hat. The most distinguishing feature on the figure, though, is his mustache. As if from a bad Star Trek episode, this mustached Repeater is not a Joe, but a new Cobra figure. He was included in a four figure subset with Kangor, Leontor, and Tigor. Kangor is a straight Big Boa repaint who has a black head. For some reason, he is the most scarce of the Forca Fera figures. He is kind of unspectacular, but his card art is almost worth having. On it, it appears that Kangor is boxing a Kangaroo! Perhaps the humour is just me, but seeing that card art always makes me chuckle. Leontor is the least desirable of the 4. He is nearly identical to the American Backblast figure. He has no real paint differences that are noticeable without very close scrutiny. Tigor is a tangerine colored amalgamation of Recoil's upper body and Scoop's legs. He has highlights in light, olive green and comes with a bluish-grey version of Recoil's gun. While he may not sound like much, the figure is pretty decent. He and Urzor are probably the most known figures in the bunch due to their differences from their American counterparts.

This brings me to the inevitable question, "what do you do with a Cobra aligned repaint of a classic American figure?". Well, I've got that angle covered. ;->

As some of you may have noticed in many of my dioramas throughout the site, I always have the Decimator figure positioned with my new, young Cobra hierarchy. Ever since I acquired him, this figure has been the highest ranking Cobra enlisted field trooper in the Cobra army. (Worms represents the highest ranking enlisted man in Cobra, but he no longer fights in the field.) This character has stood alongside the character portrayed by the Chinese Major Bludd as his most trusted field advisor. This character is the combat veteran that the character portrayed by the Flying Scorpion figure needed to have a real perspective on the realities of combat. However, this character has served his time. He has now been an enlisted man at the beck and call of the field generals for several years. Naturally, a promotion was in order. The Flying Scorpion character decided that this high ranking enlisted man needed to be a full field general in order for him to be able to command troops and officers who were not fully loyal to the Flying Scorpion's cause. However, in order to do this, he needed a new person who could assume the role of the highest ranking enlisted man. The current Sergeant Major (my rank for this person) then sought out a suitable replacement. As soon as this was done, the current Sergeant Major was promoted and became the named General called Urzor.

Urzor decided to buck the Cobra tradition of hiding his face. Of the men in the Flying Scorpion's cadre, only the character portrayed by the 1993 Firefly covers his face. (That is due to necessity as he is a fast attack commander and often rides in the front of uncovered, fast attack vehicles.) Urzor decided to follow the trend and allow his face to be seen for the first time in his Cobra career. As he is a veteran combat trooper, he shows some of his age and this head sculpt allows the story to flow right into this figure. With his new promotion, Urzor still works with the Chinese Major Bludd character, but he is a full field general and no longer simply relays orders from his superiors. With Urzor firmly in place, the Flying Scorpion character has another trusted associate who can carry out his plans without fear of being compromised by backstabbers in the more traditional Cobra hierarchy.

Urzor is a straight repaint of the American Repeater. The mold was used twice in the US before it was sent on to Brazil. In South American, Estrela released the mold twice: once as Retaguarda and then as Urzor. Retaguarda is a slight repaint of Repeater and is a fairly difficult figure to track down. Urzor is the more significant repaint that features the affiliation change and is much easier to find. After the use of the mold for Urzor, the Repeater tooling has not been seen again. As it was likely that Urzor was produced around 1993 or so, it is fairly safe to say that mold is lost in Brazil and will simply never be available for the modern repaint line.

Quality wise, Brazilian figures are just about on par with American releases. They are, though, more brittle. It is something you can feel when you handle one. The plastic squeaks when you first turn the joints and arm swivels can often be frozen. Broken thumbs are a common affliction of Estrela produced Joe toys and when you handle a figure, you can feel why. Very rarely do I put a gun in any Brazilian figure's hand. The purple version of Spearhead's gun that is included with Urzor is an accessory that I will have hang by its strap, but not one that I will put in his hand. I just fear breakage and look for accessories with smaller handles and smooth grips to use with my Brazilian Joes.

As Brazilian exclusive figures go, Urzor (along with the rest of the Forca Fera figures) are about the cheapest and easiest to acquire. Even MOC, you can get them for under $25. For whatever reason, they are out there in quantities that the collecting market has yet to truly absorb. You can often find these figures from American as well as Brazilian sources. As figures, I've found Urzor and Tigor to be worth their price. Both of them see use in my collection and continue to play important roles. I like figures that are unencumbered with almost 20 years of Joe "canon" behind them and are free to be developed in any way you wish. To that end, Urzor is a great figure. He has the look of a traditional soldier that Cobra is really lacking. Yet, he is still different enough to not be confused with the American figure with whom he shares a mold. If you are looking to expand your collection with Brazilian figures, I would recommend starting with the Forca Fera set. The figures are usable and even affordable. It's pretty hard to beat that combination!

As you can see, I have an Urzor. I also have a Tigor. Neither Kangor or Leontor interest me. However, if you have a Corrosao, Marujo, Marfim, Reptil Do Ar, Albatroz, or Asa Negra figure available, email me.

Urzor, Forca Fera, Brazil, Estrela, Repeater, Chinese Major Bludd, Heavy Duty, Night Viper

Urzor, Forca Fera, Brazil, Estrela, Repeater, Chinese Major Bludd, Heavy Duty, Night Viper

Urzor, Forca Fera, Brazil, Estrela, Repeater, Chinese Major Bludd, Heavy Duty, Night Viper

Urzor, Forca Fera, Brazil, Estrela, Repeater, European Exclusive Spirit, Range Viper

Urzor, Forca Fera, Brazil, Estrela, Repeater, 1997 Alley Viper, Funskool Dial tone, 1994, 2002, Major Storm, 1990

Urzor, Forca Fera, Brazil, Estrela, Repeater, 1997 Alley Viper, Funskool Dial tone, 1994, 2002, Major Storm, 1990

Urzor, Forca Fera, Brazil, Estrela, Repeater, 2002 Viper

Friday, April 19, 2002

1985 Bazooka

Back in early 1985, my mother took me to a Kay Bee toy store who, I had heard, had received the first shipment of the new Joes. 1985 was a neat year because the Dreadnoks had been released the December prior and everyone knew about the new figures before they hit the shelves. Sure enough, this Kay Bee had quite a selection of figures. I really wanted a Flint but passed on all of them because the figures' heads were drooping and I thought them broken in the package. (Imagine my surprise when I discovered the new head articulation that year!) At any rate, I purchased a Footloose and Airtight figure and went on my way. Now, this lead to later great lamentation as, after learning about the new head articulation, I really wanted a Flint figure. Alas, I could not find one anywhere. For Easter that year, my family went to visit relatives in Lacawanna, New York. On Easter morning, my brothers and I got up and followed a candy trail to our respective Easter baskets. My middle brother found his first. His "large" gift was the figure I am profiling today: Bazooka. This lifted my spirits as I thought, for sure, that I would receive a Flint. Alas, it was not to be. My youngest brother received a Tele-Viper, but there were no Joes for me. However, as I had brought a nice contingent of figures with me, this allowed me an opportunity to really use the Bazooka figure.

Just about everybody is familiar with the Bazooka character. He played a prominent role in the cartoon, though was less utilized in the comic. Anyone who has read it, though, can not forget Bazooka's cameo appearance in G.I. Joe Reinstated #1. Frankly, that panel alone is worth the cover price. However, while the character got some recognition, the figure received less so. Given the football jersey motif and the basic, bright red color of his chest, it is hard to see why this figure isn't more ridiculed in modern collecting circles. Had this guy come out in 1991, he would be on the receiving end of more jokes than even Captain Grid Iron. With the star of being released in 1985 shining on him, though, Bazooka has remained below the radar in most collecting circles and has retained his supporters.

In my collection, Bazooka's role was varied. Back in my youth, I had no Zap figure. As such, I missed the rocket launcher, anti tank specialist that every team needs. While Footloose's law rocket was nice, I used the figure as a true infantry trooper. (On a related note, the original Bazooka figure came with the same rocket launcher as Footloose. This was quickly corrected, though, and he is far more common with his traditional, handled rocket launcher. Both weapons are easily acquired, though, so don't let any unscrupulous dealer sucker you with claims that one accessory is rarer than the other unless you are dealing with a carded specimen.) With the acquisition of Bazooka, though, I finally had a figure who could take out HISS tanks and other heavy vehicles. This ability alone made Bazooka a valued member of many of my missions. I was able to forgive his basic red color scheme and use him as a primary field trooper.

As 1985 progressed, though, I acquired the Mauler tank. This remains my favorite tank in the Joe line and was among my most used toys. While Heavy Metal was great as the driver, I needed a second chair for the tank. While some older figures like Steeler worked in this capacity, I've always been more fond of my most recent acquisitions. As such, Bazooka found his way into the second seat on the Mauler. Again, he just fit perfectly. Unfortunately, though, since the figure was such a natural for this position, that's where he stayed. Over time, I forgot about Bazooka and he remained under the Mauler hatch for years. Once he was there, Bazooka ended up being replaced. In more recent years, figures like the '91 Zap fill the role the original Bazooka did. The just look better and are more interesting to me than Bazooka is.

Why, then, did I profile this figure? Well, the short answer is that he was requested. However, for me, Bazooka is the definition of a forgotten figure. He came out in one of the greatest Joe years ever and is overshadowed by most of his contemporaries. When choosing figures for a mission, most people would pass on Bazooka without even giving him a thought. While I might count myself as one of these people, the Bazooka figure is worth a little more respect than that. I think my main problem with both the figure and the character is how he was portrayed. Bazooka was always shown as stupid. While his filecard calls him "a decisive fast thinker" it also implies he is illiterate. While I can understand that some Joes might not be geniuses, having someone portrayed as so dumb just didn't fit with the team. The Joes are elite and its members would need to have some sort of intelligence. While some may love this characterization, I had to change him around to make him more palatable.

Bazookas are easy to find. He came out in 1985 which is one of the most plentiful Joe years and probably exists in numbers that would boggle the mind. However, Bazooka is prone to paint wear, especially on the numbers on his shirt and on his mustache. Spending some time to get a truly mint specimen can be frustrating as most examples that saw any real play, or even just unprotected storage with other figures exhibit some noticeable paint wear. The good news, though, is that they are cheap. Even complete with filecard, Bazookas consistently run under $8.00. Bazooka suffers from the popularity of other '85's and finds himself as one of the less popular figures from that fan favorite year. That's not a bad thing, though, as it allows you to acquire a decent enough figure from a cool year without dropping $20. For me, though, Bazooka's day is past. He just isn't a guy that I find use for anymore. There are other, better figures from later years that are more suited to represent Bazooka's specialty. This is function of time, though. Many early figures were replaced as the line progressed and Bazooka is just one of them. Perhaps, one day, we will see an updated Bazooka figure. I think many people, myself included, would be happy with that. Until then, though, Bazooka remains on of the unheralded supporting members of the class of '85. It's not a bad lot, just one that allows me to pass him over.

I need a MINT Bazooka figure. I don't need accessories or anything like that, but the figure must be mint with absolutely no paint wear. If you can help, email me.

1985 Bazooka, Alpine, Silver Mirage, Crankcase

1985 Bazooka, Heavy Metal, 1987 Fast Draw, 2004 Anti Venom Lifeline

1985 Bazooka, Alpine, Silver Mirage, Crankcase, Flint, Snake Eyes, 2002 Night Rhino, Footloose

1985 Bazooka, Alpine, Silver Mirage, Crankcase, Flint, Snake Eyes, 2002 Night Rhino

1985 Bazooka, Alpine, Silver Mirage, Crankcase

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

1987 Blocker

Back around Christmas time of 1987, I went to a Toys R Us. The previous year I had found several new 1987 series figures who had been released early at around the same time. This time, I was lucky, again. The store was fully stocked with a new subset of the G.I. Joe team: Battle Force 2000. There were six figures in the set and all of them, except for Avalanche, looked really nice. I purchased Blaster and Knockdown for myself and considered this a successful toy run. As 1988 dawned, though, my interest in Joe severely waned. I only purchased 2 more Joe figures the following year. As such, many figures of exceptional quality never made it into my collection. As the years passed, I returned to Joe collecting. In those early days before the Internet was available as the collecting tool it is today, I would pick up a figure or two in odd places. (A friend might find one in an engineering lab, I'd take a day trip to Trader's World in Ohio to find old Atari 2600 games and end up with a couple of Joes, etc.) Back then, figures were really cheap and I was only interested in what I didn't have or thought was really cool. At one such random find, I picked up a nicely colored figure who I recognized from the comics. He was done in subtle grey and brown and had a helmet molded to his head. I figured he would make a decent addition to my collection and I purchased my first Blocker figure.

There are two distinct variations of Blocker. The first one you can see in the pictures below. The figure has a clear visor covering his eyes. Later versions of the figure did not include this visor. The visored version of the figure is much tougher to find. Personally, though, I've always found the unvisored version to be more versatile. I've often used this figure as a combat pilot in my Razorblade helicopter. I give him Lifeline's air mask to amplify the visual effect and have found him a figure that I could really use. As such, in those early days of my return to Joe in '95 and '96, Blocker got a lot of use. He piloted my favorite small aircraft and was involved in many memorable crashes. He became my primary combat pilot who was heavily utilized against my resurgent Night Raven Drone and AGP Cobra air armada.

Back in those days, my collection was pitifully small and most of what I had was rolled up in little baggies and stored in a shoebox buried in my closet so that my brothers couldn't find them and continue to lose and break what was left of my once large childhood collection. As such, figures who I did have available to me then, like Blocker, still hold a special place in my collection. I've said before that I think I got more enjoyment from my collection when it was much smaller. While that may be true in some respects, I do still find my collection to be an entertaining diversion and appreciate it as a whole. However, one of the reasons I started the Forgotten Figures archive was as a way for me to remember individual parts of sum total.

As my collection grew, Blocker's found his role changing. The 92 Ace gave me the combat pilot I had always wanted and left Blocker without a job. I soon found him, though, as a tank crew member or gunner. The look that I had originally associated with flight was now more suited to being a member of an armor team. He was perfect as a turret gunner or second man in my Mauler. He was a figure that looked good, but didn't fit the infantry role that the figures I had previously used in the armor capacity could. He has the bulky sculpt of a tank operator and looks like someone who would be on the front lines, but not without some sort of armor around him. As such, he currently occupies the role of a gunner or secondary operator in a large piece of equipment. It isn't a glamorous role, but it is one that needs to be filled by one of the Joe lines filler characters. In that capacity, Blocker excels.

If you like the Blocker mold I've got some great news for you. There is a Blocker figure that is currently available from Funskool. You can get them all over the place for about $4.00. The figure's basic color is a little darker than the American version and the color patches are a little brighter. If you are a fan of the American version of the figure, you are still in luck. The unvisored version of Blocker is very easy, and very cheap, to find. You can get them in lots, or by themselves for not much money at all. If you are looking for the visored version of this figure, though, you are in for a much tougher time. The visored version is one of the more difficult variations in the vintage Joe line to locate. The good news is that most people don't know anything about the variation and collectors as a whole don't tend to care. This means, if you can find a visored figure, he still won't cost you a lot of money. Blocker is really just another mundane, under appreciated Joe figure who really is worth some attention. He has some great potential that can be utilized in a variety of ways. Again, these are the qualities I look for in a figure. As such, Blocker is a guy who I enjoy having in my collection. If you are willing to give him a chance, I think he will find a nice home in yours as well.

While the concept of Battle Force 2000 doesn't really inspire me, I felt that several of the figures were excellently done. What are your thoughts? Email me.

1987 Blocker, Battle Force 2000, Variant

1987 Blocker, Battle Force 2000, Variant

1987 Blocker, Battle Force 2000, Variant

Thursday, April 4, 2002

2000 Dial Tone

It's hard to believe that there have been G.I. Joe figures back on the shelves now for a year and a half. It seems like just the other day I went to the Indian Bend Toys R Us near Scottsdale, AZ and bought my first Cobra Commander/Chameleon 2 pack. In the past 18 or so months we have seen some remarkable things happen in the Joe world. I would suggest that almost all of it is very, very good. Really, what we are seeing now is what we had all hoped for back in '99 and early '00 when the return of Joe was nothing more than unsubstantiated whispers. While the return of Joe has been great so far and continues to be great, there are things we need to remember. There are lots of brand new Joe fans coming to the online community. In the past, we have been, shall we say, more than a little hostile towards many newbies who may not yet have brushed up on some basic social skills. One thing to remember in this time is that we were all newbies once. I shudder when I look at the posts I made to the newsgroup back in 1998. A little understanding goes a long way and often times, holding that scathing comment might prove much wiser for the long term health of the online fan community as a whole. With that aside, on with the profile. ;->

For as long as I can remember, Dial Tone has been one of my favorite Joes. It all started back in 1986 when a kid on the playground brought the newly found '86 Joes to school. He had gotten them at Target. Naturally, I convinced my mother to take me there. Of course, though, I arrived too late and there were no new Joes left. As we were walking out of the store, my little brother found a carded Dial Tone sitting on some random shelf. He snatched it up and my mother bought it for him. To me, this was devastating. I wanted that Dial Tone and watched in horror as my brother slowly destroyed him. As the year progressed, I bought all the other '86 Joes, but didn't acquire another Dial Tone. Finally, near the end of the summer, I broke down and bought the only remaining member of the '86 line who did not belong to me specifically.
This lead to a fascination with the Dial Tone figure. My Breaker figure had long since been lost by '86 and my Joes desperately needed a communications officer. Dial Tone fit his specialty perfectly. He came with a great gun and an awesome pack that had a pull down communication device. His colors were sharp and bright without being too unrealistic. He became a staple in my Joe collection as both a field communications officer as well as a companion to Mainframe in maintaining my Joe base communication systems. He was never the star of a mission, but went on all of them as his specialty was one that was imperative.

When I first returned to Joe collecting during my collegiate years, I had dreams of going to law school. As such, it was the law enforcement end of the Joe world that most interested me. You can see from many of my profiles that I use a variety of figures in security and law enforcement capacities and often buy them in multiples. For whatever reason, Dial Tone fell into this category. Somewhere, I had managed to pick up a couple of extra Dial Tone figures. They didn't have their packs so their use as communications troopers was limited. However, the berets just screamed a new specialty to me. As such, I made Dial Tone a generic security officer. He is the guy who is in charge of the Law minions and makes individual security decisions. With this specialty, I suddenly had a need for many, many Dial Tone figures. As was my M.O. at the time, I acquired them accordingly and Dial Tone was, at least until the '98 Cobra Infantry Teams were released, the single greatest quantity of any figure I had in my collection. In fact, one of the very first online G.I. Joe purchases I made was for a carded Dial Tone. He remains one of the best represented figures in my collection.

All this left me with one little void in my collection. With Dial Tone now a security officer, who was to be my primary military field communications officer? If you now fast forward to 1998 when the new Joe releases for that year were first being speculated about, there was a rumour circling that Toys R Us was going to offer a new repainted Joe headquarters with several figures as part of its Joe assortment that year. One of the figures rumoured to be included with this beast was Dial Tone. Naturally, this excited me and I eagerly anticipated seeing a new Dial Tone figure. Alas, the new HQ was not to be and my hopes of a new Dial Tone repaint disappeared. However, in the early part of 2000, there was news that Joes would be returning to retail shelves. Among the figures proffered forth as a possibility for the new releases was Dial Tone. A few months later, the first pictures of the new Dial Tone surfaced and he was in standard military colors. My dilemma had finally been solved and Joe finally had a definitive field communications officer. As such, I went kind of nuts on the Dial Tone figures and bought half a dozen of them for my collection. My Joe collecting energy had been pent up and I wanted to get as many of these cool new figures as I could.

There are many pros and cons about this figure. First off, his color scheme is great. Back when the Wave I's were released, the drab colors hadn't yet become so cliched and boring. On this Dial Tone, it was exciting; a true indication that Joe might indeed be back. However, the coloring had some drawbacks. Dial Tone's distinctive mustache was removed from this version. It's still on the mold, though, and makes the face appear a bit distorted. Secondly, the original Dial Tone had gloves that showed the skin on the back of his hands. The figure simply has bare flesh for his hands. Again, the original mold wasn't changed so the figure's hands had these raised patches on the back of them that make you wonder what sort of deformity this guy has developed. The figure did come with Dial Tone's original rifle recast in silver. I've always felt that this gun was among the best of the line and should have seen greater usage. To have it back, even in silver, was a great little treat. Unfortunately, that trend didn't continue as Dial Tone's signature accessory, his pack, did not find it's way to being released with this figure. It is a shame, for that was what really marked this figure as a communications trooper. Fortunately, the original Dial Tone's pack is available for decent prices and is something you can add to this figure for not too much money. Once you have that, the Dial Tone character probably has his greatest version in this 2000 repainted figure.

The 2000 Dial Tone isn't tough to find. He will, though, cost you a little more than you might like to spend. The reason is simple. While these guys were shipped in more than adequate quantities back in '00, people quickly picked up on the fact that the Tomahawk/Dial Tone and Firefly/Undertow packs were pulled from the Wave II cases. (Cobra Commander and Chameleon were as well, but they were such pegwarmers that no one cared!) As such, savvy, or unscrupulous, people bought out the remaining stock of these packs and held them. As such, now the only way to acquire one of these figures is though the highly marked up secondary market. Add to this the fact that Joe's popularity boomed in the months after these guys disappeared and you can see where the frenzy started. In all, though, the Wave I repainted Joes were quite common. They were available in most larger retail stores that carried toys and all of those stores got multiple shipments of them. If you are patient and a little creative, you can still get a carded Dial Tone/Tomahawk pack for about $10-$12. While this is about twice what they went for at retail, they haven't shipped in quite some time so you should expect a little markup. At any rate, at that price, the figure is very well done. I have found him to be a vital part of my collection and he remains my definitive field communications trooper. Despite some of the shortcomings of the figure, I think you will also find him a valuable addition to your collection as well.

While I'm pretty well set on Dial Tone's, I do need his Mission to Brazil version. Mine died a strange death when I was a child (that set got a lot of use!) and I need another one. If you have one available for trade, in fact, I'd even be interested in one with broken thumbs or a broken crotch, Email me.

2000 Dialtone, 1987 Persuader, Falcon, Backstop

2000 Dialtone, ARAHC, 1988 Swampmasher, 1993 Dino Hunters Ambush, 1994 Metal Head, 2001 Rock and Roll, Flint

2000 Dialtone, ARAHC, 1988 Swampmasher, 1993 Dino Hunters Ambush, 1994 Metal Head, 2001 Rock and Roll, Flint

2000 Dialtone, ARAHC, 1986 Tomahawk, Leatherneck, 1989 NIght Force Repeater