It's hard to remember now, but there was a time when Funskool figures could only be purchased by importing them from Asian toy dealers directly. As such, the figures tended to be expensive and were tough for many people to find. In late 2000, I found a website that was selling many Funskool offerings for decent prices. I ponied up the international shipping and waited for nearly a month before a package arrived at my home. Inside were many of the most popular Funskool figures of the day. But also included was a new figure. One that hadn't been publicly shown prior to that time and the one figure of the bunch to whom I most looking forward: General Flagg. Of course, this was all made moot in Feb of 2001 when American toy dealers began importing massive quantities of Funskool figures to the US and offered them for about 1/3 of the price I paid. It wasn't fun to see the same figures that cost me $80 now available for $28, but I quickly got over it and started taking advantage of the cheaper prices and domestic shipping.
General Flagg is one of the better done Funskool exclusives. He features only a smattering of unflattering colors and his accessories are the same as the American figure. He is obviously based on the design for the V1 American figure, but with just enough color change to produce a drastically different take on the General Flagg mold. The copper jacket is a color that's not often seen in the Joe line and it makes this figure visually distinctive. The green pants are a bit bright, but they are not to the point of being neon and they blend nicely with the copper from the torso. The black and yellow highlights give the figure some depth and showcase some of the detailing that the mold offers. There is a red holster on the figure's waist that is a bit out of place, but it is small and relatively unobtrusive. As an overall figure, the copper allows this General Flagg to stand out a bit more in a group of Joes. The American figures are also well done, but they can blend into the background when showcased with more prominent characters. As such, I like the copper and lighter green as they give this figure more prominence and allow him to hold attention in a group shot that is befitting a general.
This version of General Flagg includes the same accessories as the American version. For me, the only accessories that matter are the hat and gun. The Funskool hat, though, can be problematic. It is made of a more rigid plastic than the American hat and is harder to afix to Flagg's head. It can be done. And, when done right, it does stay. But, when the hat fell off one of my Flaggs, I gave up rather than spend an hour trying to get it securely back on the figure's head. Flagg also includes a missile launcher that is powered by a rubber band. The Funksool version is brighter green, but still equally useless as the American design. It is a reminder of times when action figures first needed gimmicks to succeed at American retail. If you get the rubber band that powers the mechanism into place, though, the launcher does work adequately enough. For a child, it probably has some play value. For a collector, though, it is an inconvenient annoyance that has to be stored away in order to keep a complete figure.
Quality-wise, my General Flagg figures are in the top tier of Funskool figure quality. However, part of that is when I first bought the figures. My original Flagg was manufactured in 2000: before Funskool started getting sloppy with the figure quality. As such, that original figure is on par with American releases in terms of paint applications, construction and plastic quality. My later General Flagg was from very late in the Funskool production life. As such, it is also of high quality. I do not own a Flagg made during the time when Funskool let their quality lapse. But, in seeing complaints about Funskool figure quality, I rarely saw General Flagg as an example of poor workmanship. Funskool quality seemed to vary by figure and date. Some figures simply were better than others. (I have yet to see a Funskool jet-pack General Hawk that didn't have poor paint applications.) General Flagg seems to have been one of the lucky molds that produced higher quality output. So, that's something to keep in mind if figure quality has been a reason you were avoiding buying more Funskool product.
The General Flagg mold was one of the first figures I purchased back in late 1992. I wanted the character of General Flagg...even if this figure is, technically, only related to the original character from the classic comics. Plus, he had a really cool gun. When I got the figure home, I found that it was a perfect rendition for my own custom Joe commander: Col. Deadeye. You see, I had long since retired Hawk and now used a new leader in his place. My backstory was that Col. Deadeye and Hawk were the 2 finalists to lead the new top-secret military team. But, the higher ups simply couldn't decide between the two. While Hawk was more decorated and a better political choice, Deadeye had better international connections and was well respected by world military leaders. Each candidate would have been a great leader of the Joes and it was nearly impossible to distinguish between the two's credentials.
In the end, General Austin and the original General Flagg put together 2 distinct military units: one what would respond to domestic threats and one that would work internationally. However, Cobra intervened. When Cobra kidnapped Dr. Burkhardt on American soil, the mission fell under the jurisdiction of General Hawk. But, since Cobra took her off American soil, they had a decision to make. In the end. Joe ended up remaining the primary domestic response unit, but was also solely responsible for fighting Cobra...wherever Cobra may be. In time, that lead to the larger roster and budget for the Joe team. Meanwhile Deadeye's Brigade continued to operate around the world. They worked top secret missions in Argentina, Brazil, Germany, the U.S.S.R., China, Vietnam and the rest of Southeast Asia. Their missions were more highly classified than the many that were undertaken by Joes and many of the members of Deadeye's Brigade found their way there since they were "dead" to the rest of the military and the rest of the world.
This all came crashing down in late 1986. Deadeye's Brigade was running a training exercise in the Rocky Mountains. Unbeknownst to them, Cobra had intercepted top secret government communications telling them that an elite covert unit was going to be training in the Rockies. Thinking it was the Joes, Cobra laid and ambush. Deadeye's Brigade was trapped at the bottom of a small cannon while Cobra basically tore them to pieces. Less than a quarter of the members of the Brigade survived...Deadeye being among them. At that point, Deadeye's Brigade was disbanded. The surviving members worked alongside the Joes from time to time, but were more often called upon to consult with international military forces in super secret missions. When General Hawk retired from the military in late 1995, Col. Deadeye was the only choice to replace him. Since then, Deadeye has overseen the Joe team (though, when he took command, there were less than 2 dozen remaining members) and is now the full commander of the fully restored Joe squad.
As a character, Deadeye is more secretive and mysterious than Hawk. It is hard for his new subordinates to get close to him. Some, like Flint have succeeded. Others, like Falcon try hard but are simply unable to break Deadeye's tough exterior. Deadeye himself is no longer prone to action. He works his top commanders with great precision and is rarely called into combat. (One of the reasons the younger Joes have trouble bonding with Deadeye is because he only trusts fully those along whom he has fought. Being out of combat, it is hard for the new recruits to get that type of experience with him.) He is, though, an astounding military tactician and is remarkably well connected around the world. (Aside from being one of the best friends of the British Witch, Deadeye is also close to Manleh, Dragonsky, was close to Col. Brekhov and counts many diplomats and politicians as friends. Those who have been fortunate enough to have been invited into Deadeye's private office for a drink usually notice that the bottle of vodka Deadeye serves is from a private distiller bearing the seal of the president of Russia....) Deadeye is an astute tactician who is able to match the moves of the modern Cobras who are lead by Ramen. This figure is, as you can see, one of the integral pieces to my collection and represents one of the major forces behind my Joe collecting.
The General Flagg mold has a short, but somewhat significant history. After it was used twice in the US for the 1992 and 1993 General Flagg figures, parts of the mold were then used by Hasbro to create the exclusive and collector favorite Chinese Major Bludd figure. This Funskool version of General Flagg appeared sometime around 2000 in India and was produced there for many years. Now, it is likely that the mold is back in Hasbro's hands and could be used for future projects. As the mold is high quality and not one that most collectors find great use for in their collections, I would like to see it return either as an amalgamation or just a new take on Flagg. If that doesn't happen, though, I've got three great versions of this mold available as the character, so I can't complain too much.
Like pretty much every Funskool figure, General Flagg features some variants. The most noticeable is that his gun and missile are available in either bright orange or black. It seems the gun was originally black, went to orange for a while and then went back to black. The missile is the same. You can find any combo of orange and black accessories if you look around hard enough. The figure itself has a very obscure variant where a few of the Flaggs that came bagged as vehicle drivers have reversed paint applications on the crotch piece. More subtly, though, Flaggs produced at different times have slightly different shades of the same colors. While you can't really notice it on any one figure, if you put Flaggs from different production runs next to each other, you will see slight differences in the green pants, copper coat and his eyes and eyebrows. Whether these are truly variants is up to the individual collector. But, it is something to keep an eye out for.
These days, most of the online Joe dealers who sell Funskool are sold out of General Flagg. But, this doesn't mean that he's terribly hard to find or all that expensive. MOC, you can still buy them for around $5 before shipping. As this mold of General Flagg isn't all that popular, I don't see this figure increasing all that much in price. I still find this figure the best version of General Flagg and a distinctive way to use the character. But, I don't think a large portion of collectordom is going to join me in that opinion. So, that will likely leave this figure as one that can be used for unique purposes in each collection. These days, there really aren't enough figures like that. Today, I struggle to relive the excitement I had when I first added this figure to my collection. That lack of flair keeps this figure below the radar in the collecting world, but allows for a figure that, with a little work, can become a unique addition to any collection.