Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Funskool Streethawk - Spearhead Chest Variant

I have found it surprising that it has taken me this long to get to a Funskool figure on this new site. In the past, Funskool offerings have been one of the most innocently fun parts of Joe collecting. However, Funskool ceased producing new G.I. Joe figures in early 2004 and that has really lessened their overall impact on the hobby. Funskool Joes, though, remain one of the more interesting subsets in the Joe world. Their combination of bizarre colors, off-beat mold combinations and funky card art has made them both the toast and the laughingstock of the collecting community. I have long admired the Funskool line and enjoy the quirky offerings they have produced. Buried among the neon repaints, race changing figures and notorious mustaches, though, Funskool has also produced some really nice figures that are actually superior in design and color to their American counterparts. Some figures, though, have no American counterpart. Such is the case of the Funskool Streethawk figure.

The Streethawk figure has long been one of the most popular Funskool figures. He is, arguably, the best paint job of a quality Cobra mold and includes an awesome rendition of the RAM motorcycle in black. As such, many collectors have army built the Streethawk figure and he remains one of the few Funskool figures who have sold out from the larger dealers from time to time. It is not entirely clear what Streethawk's purpose was. Odd American television shows have found second lives in foreign countries. (I distinctly remember watching a Spanish dubbed version of the A-Team during prime time in Barcelona in 1993.) As such, it is likely that this figure was meant as a way to promote the newly launched G.I. Joe line in India by cross branding it with a popular TV show. Funskool had a few instances of this. Aside from the Streethawk, there is infamous Superhero figure. The package, though, is clearly labeled G.I. Joe, even though the figure has no other information that puts as part of the line. (You will also note the MRF on the tires on the Streethawk package. This is another cross sell with the co-owner of Funskool, the Madras Rubber Factory: a large tire maker in India.)

In my collection, the Streethawk figures has multiple roles. The version that has the TARGAT body has found a life as a generic Cobra pilot who is seen flying various Cobra aircraft. It is the Spearhead chest version, though, that has become a bit more interesting. I use this figure as a Cobra coyote. For unfamiliar with coyotes, it is the term for human smugglers in the Southwestern United States. These people (and I use that term loosely) smuggle desperate immigrants across the border in the worst conditions possible. They think nothing of leaving women, children and the elderly in the back of a tractor trailer in 110 degree heat with no water or ventilation while they stop for lunch. They are prone to incredible violence and have been known to get into gun battles right on a US highway. They are not good people in any sense of the word.

However, Cobra does have a use for people like this. The coyote is able to find the most desperate souls who are willing to sacrifice everything for a chance at a better life. These are the type of people that Cobra can use as they are easily malleable into the Cobra philosophy and create a dedicated base of loyal troops who will do the Commander's bidding under any circumstance. These people don't go on to become Vipers or Crimson Guardsmen. Instead, they are the cannon fodder for scientific experiments or the simple laborers who are the backbone of the Commander's most ambitious construction projects. (Like a tunnel from Cobra Island to the mainland US.) The Streethawk character can also serve as a means for Cobra officials to slip into and out of the U.S. across unsecured borders. The character is not really a part of Cobra (which is why he has no Cobra sigils on his uniforms) but is contracted with them and does lots of work for them.

This assigned role kind of fits the look of the figure. I see the bullet strap across his chest as a stereotypical homage to the Banditos of old. The helmet, though, offers protection both against the hard ground in case of an accident, but also against the powerful Southwestern sun. While the black may be a bit much in the desert heat, I see this character mostly driving across the deserted highways at night as he out maneuvers border patrol, Federales, local police, ranchers or civilian militant groups. Now, I just need to come up with a name for him....

There are several variants to the Streethawk figure. Page 55 of The International Action Figure Archive by Ron Conner and Derek Anderson lists 4 distinct versions of the Streethawk figure. The first, and most difficult to find, is a repaint of the V1 Snake Eyes figure. The third and fourth versions are basically TARGAT repaints. Version 3 features Spearhead's waist and legs while version 4 only features Spearhead's legs. The version 2 Streethawk figure, which is the subject of this profile is a completely repainted Spearhead body with only the TARGAT head and arms. (You can see a comparison photo at the bottom of this profile.) It is the second most difficult version of the Streethawk figure to find as it was discontinued just before Joe dealers began importing mass quantities of Funskool figures into the United States.

Much has been written about the quality of Funskool figures. They range in quality from nearly equal to American figures for the early Funskool stuff to really poor examples of workmanship with weak joints, cheap plastic and horridly applied paint. The key is knowing how to pick which figures are of the better quality. For some reason, certain Funskool figures are more prone to poor quality. Fortunately, it has been my experience that the Streethawk is not among these. All the Streethawks I have are well made. They feature tight paint masks and plastic that is more sturdy that many of the most recent Hasbro ARAH-style Joe releases. If you are still worried, though, there is another way to pick better quality Funskool figures. In April of 2003, Hasbro came down on Funskool for their quality. As such, any Funskool figure with a manufacture date subsequent to April of 2003 tends to be of much higher quality than those that were made prior to that date. As the Streethawk is a more popular figure, those that are still left at retail have a higher likelihood of being produced after April of 2003. So, even if you've had a bad experience with the quality of other Funskool figures, I would recommend giving them another chance with some of the later made figures. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

This version of Streethawk is somewhat tough to find. While he was not imported in the quantities of the later variations, though, he was one of the more popularly imported Funskool figures during the early days of foreign Joe collecting. As such, you can find them both loose and MOC with a little work. This version will probably run you over $20, though, if the sale is properly labeled. As many collectors, though, are unaware of the differences in price among some of the more significant Funskool variations, you can get good deals on this figure should you come across a sale with a blurry picture or poor description. However, unless you are a variation nut, I would highly recommend just spending $6 and buying one of the newer versions. It is much easier, the figure is high quality, and you would be able to quickly add this character to your collection.

I've found that the Streethawk figure in particular and Funskool figures in general are great ways to expand a collection. While Funskool figures are not as special as they once were, they still offer something distinctly different from many American releases and give any collection the diversity it needs to distinguish itself. Of all foreign releases, I count Funskool variants as the most common international figures in my collection. It is a distinction well earned and, if you have yet to take the Funskool plunge, is worth exploring.

Funskool Street Hawk, Variant, 2001 Major Bludd, 2005 Crimson Shadow Guard, 2004 Urban Strike Alley Viper, 1983 Hiss Tank, Fred

Funskool Street Hawk, Variant, Ryu, Scorpion, Mortal Combat Movie, Street Fighter

Funskool Street Hawk, Variant

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