Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Armadilha (Brazilian Exclusive Alley Viper Commander)

I've long had a soft spot for Brazilian figures. They simply offer so much to a collection. Due to the overall exotic allure of the figures, even mundane, poorly colored molds can take on new collecting importance. Such is the case with Armadilha. On the surface, this figure is a barely repainted 1993 Beach Head figure. But, this Brazilian release features just enough superficial differences for him to be a major player in my collection. Of course, the most important difference is that Armadilha is a Cobra. He is a Cobra that is unique to Brazil and he has no American counterpart. Frankly, there are a lot of Brazilian figures who were released as Cobras in South America even though they were Joes in the US. Of them, though, only Armadilha has really gained widespread notoriety.

Many collectors simply regard Armadilha as an Alley Viper commander. This likely came from the fact that Armadilha was released in the same wave as an Alley Viper (Mortifero) in Brazil and that Armadilha includes yellow versions of the Alley Viper's accessories. There is no indication on the figure's filecard, though, that he is associated with the Alley Vipers in any way. However, many modern collectors have simply accepted Armadilha in this role. As the Alley Vipers lacked a true commander, the ascension of Armadilha is a logical step in filling this void in the Cobra hierarchy. In the few instances where you will see Armadilha appear, it is almost always in this capacity as leader of the Alley Viper forces.

In my collection, Armadilha is still evolving. Years ago, I concocted my own leader of Cobra's urban forces when I acquired Relampago. I like Relampago in that role and am not willing to move him aside for Armadilha. I've always viewed this mold as more of a maritime character than anything. As such, I could see Armadilha becoming the leader of the Lampreys. Unfortunately, in that capacity, Armadilha's use would be limited. While the Lamprey is one of my favorite molds, it is tough to use in my desert environment. He could also become the land commander uniform for the leader of the Eels. In this role, though, his use would even more limited as it is rare when I use my Eels outside of water settings. And, it wouldn't make much sense for Armadilha to change out of his diving suit while those in him command did not.

However, as I spend more time looking at the figure, I do find myself linking him in with the 1997 Alley Vipers. Those figures are my favorite coloring of the Alley Viper character and are somewhat elite since they can be tough to track down. So, I could see Armadilha evolving into a lesser Cobra commander who's sole charge is an elite group of Alley Vipers. They would be the highly specialized division of the Alley Vipers, the guys called into an area first, or after it has gone so bad that standard troops no longer are sufficient. This would allow me to keep Armadilha as more of a combatant. I have enough politicians in my Cobra ranks and, every now and then, it's nice to find a Cobra character who is on par with the Joes. Cobra wouldn't be all troopers and leaders afraid to risk their necks in combat. They would have to have combat commanders. Ultimately, I think that is the role that will occupy Armadilha's time.

Quality-wise, Armadilha is right in line with his Brazilian contemporaries. His paint masking is not as tight as those on the American version of the mold, but it is still better than you would find from Funskool. (The last few waves of the Brazilian Joe line show signs of the paint masking quality slipping as the you will find slight over spray and inconsistent application of the paint on most samples of the figures.) The plastic is close to American figure quality, but is still a bit more brittle. It is much easier to break this figure's thumbs by simply using his accessories than it is to break those of an American figure. But, Armadilha isn't so fragile to render him useless. Like all Estrela figures, you simply have to handle this figure with a bit more care.

You can see a photo below that compares Armadilha to the American Beach Head figure. Armadilha has brighter green pants and the blue on his arms is slightly richer than Beach Head's. The true difference lies in the figure's under coloring on the chest and face. Beach Head is a much brighter green. Armadilha is quite dark and that more subtle base makes quite a difference in the appearance of the two figures. With the dark coat on his upper body, Armadilha's brighter green pants are actually a nicer offset than the more subdued green on Beach Head. That gives Armadilha some nice depth and allows him to be a figure that is more recognizable in photos and dioramas. The rest of the figure has the same black trappings as Beach Head and Armadilha does not feature any painted details that are not present on his American counterpart. (All Brazilian figures from Armadilha's era simply use the American paint masks, though the colors may be slightly different.)

Armadilha's accessories leave a lot to be desired. While he does include versions of the Alley Viper gun and shield, they are colored bright yellow. He also includes the standard spring loaded missile launcher and yellow missiles. This entire series of figures from Brazil basically mimicked their American counterparts in terms of accessory colors. So, Armadilha has yellow accessories to match Beach Head, Anjo De Guarda has blue accessories to match Keel-Haul, etc., etc. It's an unfortunate trend but one that is easily rectified. A simple swap of Armadilha's yellow accessories for the fairly easy to find black versions from American Alley Vipers simply makes all the difference in the world. (Much like the '93 Beachhead with the black backpack from the original and the black gun that was released in 2002 is an entirely different look than the same base figure with yellow accessories.) As such, a figure sans accessories isn't one to pass by should the price be right.

Loosely translated, Armadilha means "trap" in English. Now, a code name like "Trap" is fairly unimaginative and lame. But, in Portuguese, the name takes on a different dimension. Knowing the meaning behind Armadilha's name gives the character more depth. The commander of an elite unit of Cobras who is known as "Trap" connotes the type of missions that Armadilha and his men would undertake. It brings a bit of mystery and intrigue to a character who, were he named in English, would be somewhat forgettable. That's why I try to incorporate foreign names whenever possible. Many of these characters would blend into the background without a great name. And, their foreign moniker often provides the distinction that I crave in my collection ranks.

Armadilha marks the last appearance of this mold. It is probable that the mold died in Brazil and will never be available again. In a way, that's too bad as the mold is very high quality and someone with a vested interest in new figure design could easily turn this mold into something special with just a few new colors. Alas, that will likely never happen. In the meantime, though, the idea of the Armadilha character could easily be resurrected into a newly amalgamated figure. Armadilha has enough fame that he wouldn't be just a random homage to foreign figures and enough collectors know of him to make a new figure appealing enough to consider. I doubt it will happen any time in the next few years, but it is a possibility that, were it to come to fruition, I would like to see.

Armadilha is the hardest figure of his wave to find. Time was that all 8 of the figures from this wave and one immediately preceding it were equally easy to find. In time, though, collectors slowly absorbed the Armadilha and Mortifero figures. After that, Tiro Certo started to disappear. Now, Armadilha is rarely seen for sale with his contemporaries. But, when he is, the figure isn't pricey. Even MOC, Armadilha is still available in the $20-$25 range from American sellers. There were a lot of the later series of Brazilian Joes who were imported to the U.S. As such, there is stock out there that can be had. For my money, that's a fair price to pay for an exclusive Cobra character from Brazil. In fact, it's about the cheapest price you'll pay for an exclusive Cobra character from Brazil! But, Armadilha's similarity to the American Beach Head figure definitely keeps interest in the figure lower than it otherwise would be. The reality is that you can buy a MOC version of an exclusive Brazilian Cobra character for less than the going rate of several of the shorter run 25th Anniversary Joe figures that will still be shipping for months. But, that gives the savvy collector a great opportunity to add this figure to their collection without breaking their budget.

Armadilha, Beach Head, Brazil, Estrela, Alley Viper Commander, Trap, 2002 Alley Viper

Armadilha, Beach Head, Brazil, Estrela, Alley Viper Commander, Trap, 2002 Alley Viper, 1997

Armadilha, Beach Head, Brazil, Estrela, Alley Viper Commander, Trap,

Armadilha, Beach Head, Brazil, Estrela, Alley Viper Commander, Trap, Filecard, MOC, Carded

Armadilha, Beach Head, Brazil, Estrela, Alley Viper Commander, Trap, Filecard, MOC, Carded

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