Thursday, August 28, 2003

1987 Falcon

It's been a long time since I profiled a Falcon figure. Despite the fact that I like this mold and think that most of his figures were well done, I simply haven't been compelled to showcase this mold. I've long preferred Flint as the bereted leader of my Joe forces and have often considered Falcon to be second fiddle. This is not meant to demean Falcon or his place in the Joe mythos. I still use the figure and have a place for the character. I just try not to use him in conjunction with Flint as their looks and uses are very similar.

As a mold, Falcon is really hard to beat. He is about as realistic a soldier as was ever released in the line. His cammo pattern is top notch (and hard to spot if you drop him in the grass) and fits in perfectly with the incredible detail on the mold. Falcon really showcases the toy designers of the time's skill as he packs a large amount of detail into a mold without it becoming distracting. On top of this, he came with excellent accessories that complemented him perfectly. His pack, with the removable knife and antenna, added a new dimension to the figure and made him much more valuable as a field trooper. His shotgun was designed to be used in different hand positions so that the figure could be posed realistically and still used in a way that was more conducive to play. These little features were the type of things that allowed Joe to transcend its contemporary toy lines and become such a giant on the retail shelves.

As a character, Falcon had some airplay. However, in regards to this, I have a confession to make. I have never seen G.I. Joe: The Movie. I know that Falcon was a major character in it, but I have never seen it and can't comment on what part he really played. My reasons for this are varied but mostly lie with the fact that, as an adult, I think I would find the movie hokey and would find myself grimacing throughout the tale: unable to enjoy it even on a nostalgic level. (This is the same reason I'll avoid the new Joe Spy Troops movie and any cartoon that arises out of that. I simply do not have the interest in any endeavor.) The nice thing about this is that I have been able to avoid much of the comic vs. cartoon debate that seems to permeate throughout fandom. I'm sure that I've missed something by not seeing the movie. I just don't wish to jeopardize my take on Joe by associating something I would not enjoy with something I do.

Falcon's role in my collection has evolved over the years. He started out as a young officer trying to make his mark. From there, he developed into a solid soldier who, while able to lead, was not overly comfortable in positions of responsibility. Now, Falcon is more of a veteran and my new Joe commander (portrayed by the General Flagg figure) is hell-bent on turning Falcon into a top-notch field commander. This means that Falcon often finds himself over his head and stuck with green recruits. He has to prove that he can lead his men out of situations like this if he wants to grow as a commander. My new Joe leader knows that the fate of the Joe team (and their ultimate success) lies in their ability to develop leaders from within. That way, the Joes know the strengths and weaknesses of those who lead them and are not as susceptible to surprises in combat.

The Falcon mold was used three times: this figure, the 1988 Night Force version, and the previously profiled Super Sonic Fighter figure. His legs were then used on the 1993 Leatherneck figure. So, when Hasbro pulled the mold back out for the 2003 Convention release, they found the legs were separated from the rest of the body and ended up substituting them with legs from '82 figures. In my opinion, this didn't work all that well. Should Falcon ever see a return engagement in a more widely available repaint set, I would hope that the advance time would allow Hasbro to track down the original legs (assuming they are not in Brazil!) or, at least, more suitable replacements that don't make the figure look disproportional. If this can be done, I'd welcome another Falcon release. The figure is solid, though he has been colored in so many ways that it would be difficult to find a way to give him some uniqueness. Perhaps an arctic Falcon would be a way to go. I don't mind repaints that give us something new. Having a repaint that is too similar to the original just leads to blandness in the overall line and collector malaise towards a previously liked mold.

A few years ago, a mint, complete Falcon would have set you back $12-$15. At that point, most collectors were still after their "core" figures and considered Falcon an integral part of a collection. Now, though, most collectors who want a Falcon have one. As such, you can now get them for substantially cheaper. While some Joe prices have gone through the roof in the past few years, a lot of Joe affiliated figures, like Falcon, have fallen in price. This is nice as it allows new collectors an opportunity to acquire figures like this without breaking the bank. (That will come when it's time to acquire Cobras!) Going forward, I don't think we'll see a reversal of this trend. As this still allows collectors to get into Joe without a major financial commitment, it is good. I like the Falcon figure and use him fairly often. (He's one of my second-tier figures who comes out when I'm tired of the main guys.) As this figure is well liked, I'm not alone in this.

While Falcon is a major character, I would prefer to not see his ARAH mold again unless it is something new. However, I do think he would make an excellent candidate for a new sculpt. Hopefully, that will be something we will get to see in coming years.

1987 Falcon, 1988 Hit and Run, 1994 major Bludd, 1998 Cobra Trooper, 1988 Night Force Crazylegs, 1993 Beach head

1987 Falcon, 1988 Hit and Run, 1994 major Bludd, 1998 Cobra Trooper, 1988 Night Force Crazylegs, 1993 Beach head

1987 Falcon, 1988 Hit and Run

1987 Falcon, 1988 Tiger Force Flint, 1984 Stinger Driver

1987 Falcon, 1988 Tiger Force Flint, 1984 Stinger Driver

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

2003 "Shaft" Destro

Destro has always been a problematic character for me. As such, he is probably the least often profiled major character on my site. In my earlier profile of him, I described him as a villain with honor. This, though, has intrinsic problems that make the character simply no longer work for me. In my view, Destro's honor does not free him from culpability for his evil deeds. Destro may be totally honest and above-the-board in his business dealings. However, he is still responsible for reprehensible actions and that makes him, at his heart, evil. This is somewhat of a different idea of the Destro character than appears in traditional Joe cannon. The interesting thing about it, though, is that this has freed Destro from many of the trappings that I felt held his character back. With my new sentiment in place, I am free to concoct a slightly different take on Destro. This figure gave me the catalyst to really explore Destro's origins. I'll be interested to hear what people think about them.

On first glance, this figure is a bit odd. It is not quite Destro as we have come to know him. Sure, the mask is there. (And it's actually shiny chrome! This is a very welcome addition that really makes the figure stand out.) The rest of Destro's outfit is a tad retro. While Destro has always been the most stylish Cobra villain, this look takes his fashion sense to a different level. The combination of maroon pants and a form fitted black shirt give the figure some color while not making him obnoxious. His trademark medallion is still there, though it is now over his shirt. The look is less regal and less combative and borders on leisurely. It also allows the figure to represent two different takes on the Destro character.

The first take on this Destro figure is that he is a new character. While we saw a very cliched version of Destro's son in the new comic, I can see the new Joe line as existing in a different time frame. As such, rather than having 30 years of back story, Destro is a young man just starting out. It allows for a fresh take on Joe that does not have the baggage of previous interpretations of the character. If this Destro is a new, younger version, his clothes match the style from the environment from which he came. This Destro would have been a product of the early 90's and his look would reflect a hipper crowd. He is still the arms dealer that we know him as. He just has a different origin where he made his reputation in Africa and the Middle East rather than in the U.S. and Europe. When I feel unencumbered in my Joe world, I can look to this new story as a way to breathe some life into old characters.

My preferred use for this figure, though, is as a historical look at Destro's past. In the original comic, we first saw Destro in the late '60's. At that time, he was a bit more interested in playing tennis than he was international arms. As Destro's father had lived through World War II, he may have seen his son as soft. What better way to toughen up a young European aristocrat than to send him to the U.S. in the early 1970's and have him make his way in the burgeoning American crime scene. I see this figure as Destro during his days of running guns for all types of lowlifes in San Francisco. This is the outfit he wore when he was helping neophyte American street gangs go national by supplying them with guns and money. I can see this Destro sitting in trendy nightclubs, hobnobbing with the starlets of the day. American socialites would fall for his European breeding and charm. Meanwhile, South American dictatorships were meeting working with him to procure weapons they would use against their own people. On the home front, this Destro was also solidifying his reputation by actually kicking down the doors of lowlifes who owed him money and personally beating their debts out of them. While I don't see this Destro as an actual drug runner, he certainly did help fund and arm the major dealers of his day. By the late '70's, Destro had done enough to convince his father that he was ready to succeed him. He then returned to Europe where he ran MARS for 5 or so years before Destro became affiliated with Cobra.

With this origin, you might think this figure would have few uses in my collection. However, I could see Destro donning this look again during his business trips in the U.S. It is not his preferred look, but one that he will use as it still inspires awe and fear into his long time customers. (It is also a bit less dated than his open shirt, high collar look.) Really, though, this figure is just too cool to not use in some capacity. The blend of colors combined with the simple sculpt create a powerful figure that really stands out. On top of that, he has great accessories that fit the figure perfectly. He includes a shotgun that would have been beneficial during his street days. However, the real coup on this figure is the holster and pistol set. The holsters are pliable plastic that wrap around Destro's waist. Into them, you can insert his two pistols. The result is a really nice toy that shows a remarkable level of detail and quality. The new line has made great strides in the past 18 months. While this figure is excellent, I think he will yet be dwarfed by future releases.

****12/2008 Update****

5 years of perspective brings a different take on this figure. While I still consider this to be the best Destro released during the New Sculpt era, those figures are now, largely, irrelevant. In most cases, this is a just fate for this figure style. But, in the case of figures like this Destro, it is unfortunate. For whatever reason, this version never really took off with collectors. While you actually don't see them all that often, they are still generally disregarded. Even the unproduced version of the figure with the red shirt that would have been in a Mission Disk is pretty much disregarded by collectors. But, the truth is that even I have sold off this figure in my collection. Even prior to the 25th anniversary figures, I realized that the New Sculpt era was a waste of my collecting resources. (Though, the anniversary junk is moreso....). So, I've long since liquidated these figures and replaced them with more vintage and international characters from which I derive more enjoyment.

****End 12/2008 Update

In the long run, this Destro is going to be incredibly easy to find. Aside from the fact that he will be the only Wave 7 figure to rival Big Brawler as his Wave's retail pegwarmer, Destro is also intended to be included in a later figure wave as well. If that figure is not repainted, it will ensure that this figure will remain available at retail well into next year. As this figure is of very high quality, I don't really have a problem with that. However, collectors tend to look unkindly upon pegwarmers and even good figures who languish at retail tend to become subjects of collector disdain. Hopefully, that will not happen with this figure. He is just too cool and does not deserve to suffer that fate.

As far as the new sculpts go, this is my favorite figure. Hopefully, this level of quality will continue as we progress with the new line.

2003 Destro, Iron Grenadier, Lady Jaye

2003 Destro, Iron Grenadier, Lady Jaye

2003 Destro, Iron Grenadier, Lady Jaye

2003 Destro, Iron Grenadier, Lady Jaye

Friday, August 22, 2003

1992 Eco Warrior Toxo Zombie

Starting with Serpentor in 1986, Joe really established that its world would incorporate elements of science fiction as part of the military reality. While fans have debated this point endlessly and come to no definitive conclusions, my feeling is that these sci-fi elements made Joe stand out from a traditional military toy and helped to keep the concept fresh for almost 15 years. Of course, the whole sci-fi thing was taken a bit too far. By the end of the line Joe was off fighting space aliens. Through the years, though, there were some concepts that were actually kind of neat, even if they were offbeat. A perfect example is the Toxo-Zombie.

Toxo-Zombies are intended to be Toxo-Vipers who have been exposed to toxic chemicals (hence their moniker of the "Leaky Suit Brigade") and have mutated into horrible monsters. They are not quite alive and not quite dead. In this sense, their concept is actually quite good. While the idea of men turning into undead zombies after exposure to chemicals is a bit "Night of the Living Dead"-ish, it does give Cobras forays into chemical and biological warfare a bit more depth as it shows they have progressed beyond the stages of known toxic agents. This alone gives Cobra an added element of danger as they now have the ability to expose normal people to these types of chemicals and could turn a populace against itself. This could give Cobra the ability to create an army out of anyone and would save their own troops until the original carnage was past. The ability to create monsters like this would give Cobra a remarkably powerful weapon.

In my collection, this figure serves dual purposes. If you look around at some of my previous pictures you will occasionally see a Toxo-Zombie. Usually, they are positioned to appear as if their carcass has been uncovered. (That is also the theme of one of the photos below.) The reason for this is that I tend to use Toxo-Zombies as dead Toxo-Vipers. The Zombie mold appears to be a Toxo-Viper who had a stroke of bad luck and ended up a victim of some Cobra plot. Usually, the Joes find the body afterwards and are then left with the mystery of what Cobra is planning. While this use limits this figure, it is a way that I've incorporated him into a my Joe world that does not have monsters and aliens. However, I do also use this figure in his intended purpose. Recent world events really point to the fact that, if Cobra were real, they would be heavily involved in chemical and biological warfare agents. As Cobra would be able to test their concoctions on live volunteers, it is very plausible that something like a Toxo-Zombie might result. As such, I do use this figure, occasionally, as a product of a biological agent. They are very dumb, very strong and VERY angry. As long as their intended victim is armed, Toxo-Zombies pose little threat. However, unleashed into the public at large, they can be quite dangerous.

This figure mold is interesting in that it is almost exactly like the '92 Toxo-Viper. The similarity is intended as this figure is supposed to be one of them gone mutant. I'm not entirely clear as to whether Hasbro altered the Toxo-Viper mold to create the Zombie or if they simply cast the differing parts. As the Toxo-Viper's legs were used on the '94 Major Bludd figure, it is most likely that these figures share common parts but had distinct parts molded separately. If that is the case, then it is highly probable that Hasbro still has access to the molds for these figures. While I don't think the collecting world at large would welcome their return, I know that I would buy several "Toxo" themed sets. They could include 2 of the '92 Toxo-Vipers, a Zombie, 2 "corroded" BATs who could haul around the chemicals, and one named Cobra. (As Cesspool was last seen in Brazil, it probably wouldn't be him.) While that might be a little to "real" in the modern world, I think it would make for a neat set that would allow modern army builders to move beyond the staples of Vipers and BATs and give Cobra a new type of threat that is more in line with traditional terrorist capabilities.

Toxo-Zombie figures aren't too tough find, if you're willing to look for them. If you hope to acquire one casually, they can be a bit more of a challenge. The 1991 Eco-Warriors figures were a spectacular failure at retail. This lead to decreased interest in the '92 figures and has made them harder to find. Like most of the Eco-Warriors, it is actually easier to find a MOC Toxo-Zombie. And, due to the lack of demand, those can be had at prices that make it acceptable to open one. The good thing, though, is that there are a lot more of the early '90's figures coming into the second hand market. While still not common, you couldn't find Toxo-Zombies a few years ago. Now, if you are willing to look at bit, you will see that dealers are now able to get them and sell them for decent prices. To me, the Toxo-Zombie is a good deal. He's a neat figure that has amazing detail, even if his purpose is limited. I think that, though, has kept him rather unpopular and allows the modern collector to enjoy a figure like this without breaking the bank. It's nice that there are at least a few figures like that left.

I'm set for Toxo-Zombies. What I think would be neat for the new line, though, would be a Toxo-Viper that could change to a Toxo-Zombie. What about you?

1992 Eco Warriors, Toxo Zombie, Ar Puro, Tiger Force Airtight, Brazil, Estrela, Biomassa, Eco Warriors Maverick

1992 Eco Warriors, Toxo Zombie, 2003 Inferno BAT, Funskool Toxo Viper, Letal, Cesspool, Estrela, Brazil, Forca Electronica

1992 Eco Warriors, Toxo Zombie, 2003 Inferno BAT, Funskool Toxo Viper, Letal, Cesspool, Estrela, Brazil, Forca Electronica


Wednesday, August 13, 2003

1983 Torpedo

It's been a long time since I've profiled any figure from prior to 1984. The main reason is that those figures, while nostalgic favorites, tend to be smaller and skimpier than the majority of the figures from the line. Add to that the fact that most of the characters introduced in 1982 and 1983 had later figure versions that offer a more standard size and shape than the original and it becomes clearer as to why these figures don't tend to get a lot of use in my collection. However, the historical significance of the 1983 figures can not be denied. 1983 took Joe from it's humble drab green beginnings and turned it into a toy marketing force. The radical change in the way the figures were designed as well as the increased characterization really made G.I. Joe stand out on the retail shelves. While many people still consider the 1983 figures essential, I've chosen to profile one of the more obscure members of the class of 1983: Torpedo.

Back in 1983, the commercials showcased 4 main Joes: Gung Ho, Snow Job, Airborne and Doc. The two other retail released Joes, Torpedo and Trip Wire were kind of left out. This carried over the retail shelves as well as most of my friends were unable to find either Tripwire or Torpedo until the summer of '83 was almost over. However, the Torpedo figure was worth the wait. I first saw him in August of '83 and was immediately hooked by how cool the figure was. Torpedo is covered in small little details that really accentuate the fact that he is a combat diver. Combining that with his cool color and really remarkable accessories created a figure that still works well today.

As Torpedo wasn't really one of the major players of 1983, he is somewhat of an afterthought. While his wetsuit makes for a neat figure to use in the water, it also really limits his use in any setting outside an aquatic one. This is a common problem with just about every diver ever released in the Joe line. Their figures are great, but if you want the character, you have to create a custom of steal another figure in order to use the character outside of an underwater setting. Even later divers like the '92 Wet Suit who had a removable helmet couldn't overcome this. The one nice thing is that the new Joes have taken a few steps to remedy this. Both Torpedo and Shipwreck have already been released in land based uniforms. It is a nice homage to old fans to finally get a few classic characters in uniforms that are more useful. Hopefully, the time will come when Hasbro is able to put together a diver figure who comes with gear that allows him to be used both underwater and on land. Much of the Spy Troops gear that has been issued tells me it is possible. It's just a matter of when.

In my collection, Torpedo fills a few roles. I still use him as Torpedo from time to time. However, I like to have armies of unnamed divers who battle legions of Eels and other aquatic Cobras. In those cases, I use my extra Torpedo figures as faceless legions of U.S. soldiers who simply have the misfortune of uncovering a Cobra operation. Beyond this, though, he doesn't see much use. I still keep one in the recon sled in the belly of my Hovercraft, but that is more for nostalgic purposes. Divers just don't lend themselves to lots of use in any collection. They fill a niche purpose that, while important, limits their overall desirability. The Joe line is stronger for having them, but they are not usually figures that people will use as one of the principle Joes.
One interesting thing about this mold is that it has become a favorite of customizers. However, it is not due to the cool parts. It is more due to the fact that Torpedo is rather slender and his parts can be converted for use on female Joe customs. As there aren't many female Joe parts out there, customizers options are very limited. Torpedo is one of the few figures who has "crossed over" and can be used in that regard. It many be a dubious honor, but it has become another part of this figure's legacy.

Torpedo's mold has had many uses. After he was released in the US, Torpedo also saw release in India. There, he was released in two distinct color schemes: yellow and an aqua similar to the American figure. (His waist was also used on some versions of the Funskool Snake Eyes figure.) Hasbro, though, re-acquired the mold for the 1997 releases where Torpedo was released a second time. In 1998, the Torpedo character returned, but the 1992 Wet Suit mold was used to represent the character. In 2001, the Torpedo mold was used again, but this time as a new character named Wet Down. Really, all of the American releases are rather similar, so any of the three uses of this mold can easily be used as Torpedo as the mold is so recognizable as the character.

Torpedos are not hard to find. Even though he came with accessories that are easy to lose, was cast in a color that tends to fade, is an aquatic figure who tends to have been used underwater and is now rusting and used paint that chipped easily, Torpedo figures are out there. He was produced in huge quantities during the beginning of Joe's great popularity. As such, even his tendency to decay can not overcome the sheer abundance of figures out there. That is nice as it does keep this figure relatively affordable. As such, Torpedo is still a staple in many people's collections. While he is not as complex a figure as many later divers, the simplicity of the mold really shines and still allows this figure to be used as a combat diver. This is why I used to army build Torpedo figures and still have several of them left. He works in a number of capacities and is a realistic figure who has yet to be truly dated. That speaks volumes for the overall quality of this figure.

I'm set for American Torpedo figures. However, if you have a Funskool version, I might be interested in it. Let me know.

1983 Torpedo, 1985 Eel, Night Landing 1997

1983 Torpedo, 1985 Eel, Night Landing 1997

1983 Torpedo, 1985 Eel, Night Landing 1997

Thursday, August 7, 2003

2003 Python Patrol Lamprey

Years ago, I profiled one of my favorite Cobra figures of my youth, the original Lamprey. As he was one of my original profiles, I've wanted to revisit the mold and better explain the Lamprey's use in my collection. At the time of that original profile, the only other version of the Lamprey available was the 1990 Super Sonic Fighter figure. As he is cast in neon orange, I had little incentive to profile him. In 2000, another Lamprey was released. However, this figure was very similar to the original version. And, as he was only available with a terrible vehicle that cost around $7, it simply wasn't worth acquiring more than one of them as, at the time, you could get bagged V1 Lamprey's for less than that. Finally, though, an opportunity to profile this mold again arose. The Lamprey's inclusion in the Python Patrol set allowed many collectors to take another look at the Lamprey figure. I am one of them.

To me, Lampreys are Cobra's maritime troops. They are the aquatic infantry who board ships, defend coastal positions and patrol Cobra controlled waterways. They remain fully qualified Eels and Moray pilots, but also spend a lot of time as infantry soldiers. I've always felt that Cobra was underrepresented in this regard. The basic Cobra Infantry is great for land based operations. However, if a Viper fell into the water, he would be hard pressed to escape in a timely manner as his waterlogged body armour and field pack would weigh him down. The Lampreys, though, have no such problem. Their wet suits repel water while their life vests can pull them back to the surface. I have their helmets being capable of sealing in a few minutes of breathable air so that they can remain submerged for enough time to convince an enemy of their watery demise. These little features are what makes the Lampreys Cobras troop of choice when attacking marine harbours, shipping ports or cargo carriers.

This figure, and the rest of the Python Patrol set, is remarkably well done. His paint detailing is precise and is conceived well enough that the figure works both as a stand alone unit or as part of the overall Python Patrol. The combination of black, red and gold creates a unified look that is not gaudy. The entire set actually looks like a team but the individual figures can still be used on their own or with the originally colored figures of the same mold. The entire set is a perfect example of how ARAH repaints can be done. The Python Patrol offered collectors three figures (Rock Viper, Laser Viper, and SAW Viper) that have never been repainted and have not been available since their original molds. It also offered a "new" Major Bludd that uses the head from the '94 Bludd figure and the body from the 1991 Zap figure. The result is a figure that looks like Bludd but is not a straight repaint. The HEAT Viper is just the Fast Blast Viper but with the original head. While we've, essentially, seen this figure before, the return of the original head is nice. Basically, the entire set is a great grouping of seldom seen molds that really breaks the monotony of the constant Viper and Alley Viper repaints that have comprised the majority of ARAH style army builders in the past year.

The one area where the Lamprey is a bit lacking is his accessories. The well done original Lamprey gun has long since disappeared from Hasbro production. As such, this figure possesses the accessories from the Sonic Fighter Lamprey. The small machine gun, first offered with the '88 Shockwave figure, works well with the Lamprey. As these guys are more commandos than long term field troops, a small, more controllable weapon makes sense. They also come with an original Spearhead's rifle. However, this has been modified and has an unsightly Sound Attack tab protruding from the top of the gun, rendering it useless. This leaves the Lamprey with just the one weapon, which looks paltry compared the plethora of accessories that accompany the remaining members of the Python Patrol set. However, when the Lamprey's specialty is remembered, I can forgive his lone gun. That is all he really needs to make the figure effective.

Going forward, Python Patrol Lampreys are not going to be too hard to find. Aside from the fact that the set is still readily available for order at Toys R Us.com, there are tons of collectors out there who have army built this set in incredible numbers. Add to that the fact that there are a whole lot of people out there with 20-30 PP sets sitting in storage who are speculating on PP with the hope of it pulling another 1998 Cobra Infantry Team where it sees a 3-5 times gain in price in just a few years and you can see how there will be an ample supply of Python Patrol sets available to the average collector for a long time. If you look at the size of the collecting world back in 1998 as compared to now, it was much, much smaller back then. However, my estimation is that the size of the collecting world in 2008 (hard to believe that will have been another 5 year period!) will be smaller than it is right now. As such, I don't see the long term value potential in sets like this Python Patrol. While Cobra army builders are always popular, the collecting market will be saturated with these by the time the retail supply dries up. (The same it true of the BAT pack.) So, with that said, I would enjoy these figures for what they are. They are not going to fund my retirement, but they are a neat addition to my collection. Many of these modern repaints give collectors an opportunity to re-examine some classic molds. When those molds are done up in drastically different interpretations, like with this Lamprey, it just makes any collection that much more interesting.

What do you think of Python Patrol? Let me know.

2003 Python Patrol Lamprey, TRU Exclusive, Major Bludd, Funskool Mercer, 2002 Big Ben

2003 Python Patrol Lamprey, TRU Exclusive, Major Bludd,

2003 Python Patrol Lamprey, TRU Exclusive, Major Bludd,

2003 Python Patrol Lamprey, TRU Exclusive, Major Bludd,

Friday, August 1, 2003

Funskool Iceberg (Caucasian Version)

I've profiled race changing figures before. Excellent Brazilian figures like Flying Scorpion and the Black Vulture used a race change to create a new character of remarkable contrast to the person represented by the original mold. However, both of these figures utilized relatively minor characters from which to draw their molds. As such, the figures don't look out of place. In this case, though, the race change has been applied to a classic figure whose character did not change. What we are left with is a truly bizarre, yet strangely cool, foreign repaint. While not the most major character to ever have his race altered by a foreign toy company, the Funskool Iceberg is one of the most remarkably different figures who, beyond one simple change, is the same. While that may sound a bit odd, looking at the photos below will give you an idea of how stark a contrast this Caucasian version of Iceberg is from his African-American original release.

Funskool has offered us race changing figures before. Why they started this practice, though, is a bit of a mystery. You see, the first wave of Iceberg figures produced in India were actually of African-American persuasion. Shortly after this, though, the figure's complexion was changed to the Caucasian figure you see below. This is odd for a number of reasons. One could say that African-American figures may not be popular in India. However, Funskool currently produces a Roadblock figure whose race remains as it should be. Perhaps the change was made for more economic reasons. It could be that the plastic needed to create an African-American figure is more expensive or more difficult to find. Therefore, Funskool chose to eliminate it from as many figures as possible. Again, though, the existence of Roadblock in the Funskool line really makes this implausible. I guess the real reason is buried in some Funskool executive's head. Whatever it is, though, I would like to know.

In my collection, the Iceberg character has long been a major player. Back in '86, my focus was on arctic missions. Cobra was spending all of their energy in arctic locations and the Joes found their cold weather members of the team to be the most important. As such, Frostbite and Iceberg became the two most influential Joes in most situations. (I have always used Snow Job as a Joe army-builder and not an original character.) They lead legions of American troops against Cobra's highly trained Snow Serpents and were quickly promoted for their success. From there, Iceberg went on to become a full ranking general while Frostbite went into politics, though his career has been rocked by scandal. To this day, I see Iceberg as more of the arctic leader of the Joes rather than a true grunt. He still comes out to fight, from time to time, but is now more mired in the duties of being a high ranking officer and does not have the time to remain true to his combat roots.

This figure, though, gives my Iceberg figures a new life. He is starkly different enough that I can use this Iceberg figure as a faceless Joe greenshirt who helps flesh out my large army of V1 Snow Job figures. He does not infringe upon the characterization that I have given to Iceberg but still allows me to enjoy the mold without the encumbrances of the backstory I have chosen to give the character. As this mold is highly detailed and indicative of the time and effort that were put into the Joe line in the mid-'80's, that is a very good thing. As I use this figure as an army builder, it is very easy to put him into action in a variety of situations. Even as a new character, though, this figure is so different from the American Iceberg that you could easily put them in a scene together and not have to worry about them being confused for the other.

There are many variations of the Funskool Iceberg. As I said earlier, the first version of this figure made by Funskool was African-American. That figure was also exported to Egypt and sold there under the Nilco name though the figure was manufactured by Funskool. Shortly after this, though, Iceberg's complexion was changed. Of the Caucasian figures, there are several paint variations. The most noticeable, beyond the changing skin tone, are the torso color variations. The version you see below is very similar to the American Iceberg. He has blue and green trim. Other Funskool Icebergs also have the trim in pink and red. These figures are very odd in appearance and are more in line with what many people associate with Funskool. Beyond these major differences, there are also several variations on the figure's goggle trim. I think I've seen at least 5 variations of this figure. Knowing Funskool, I would guess that there are probably at least 5 more still out there just waiting to be discovered.

Finding a Caucasian Funskool Iceberg isn't too tough. Many dealers have carded samples for sale in the $15-$25 range. Seeing as how this figure hasn't been produced since at least 1997 (when the mold was returned to Hasbro), that's not too bad of a price. With a little searching, you can even pick up three or four different variations of this figure all in the same price range. As this figure is a significant variation and is very well done, I highly recommend taking advantage of this pricing and acquiring this figure now. He has been an excellent addition to my collection and I think that, even though he is a never popular arctic soldier, you will like him as well. Iceberg personifies many of the qualities I look for in foreign releases. Being able to still find figures that are so different like he is at still affordable prices is becoming harder and harder to do.

I'm always interested in out-of-production Funskool figures. If you have any available, please let me know.

Funskool Iceberg, Caucasian, Flint, Law, 2001 Desert Striker

Funskool Iceberg, Caucasian, Flint, Law, 2001 Desert Striker


Funskool Iceberg, Caucasian, Flint, Law, 2001 Desert Striker, Letal, Street Hawk, Estrela, Brazil, Mail Away Snow Serpent, 1993