Friday, November 30, 2012

Fumaca - Brazilian Exclusive Ripcord

Through the years, I've profiled hundreds of G.I. Joe figures.  In that time, I've hit on both major characters and minor bit players.  One niche I have found to be particularly enjoyable, though, is finding an obscure version of a major character, especially if that obscure version is from a country outside of the U.S.  Such is the case with Fumaca.  At his core, this is just Ripcord from Brazil.  But, the reality is that the figure is distinctly different from the American and Argentine releases of the mold.  The result is a figure that is extremely cool, even if he's something that, on the surface, appears to be commonplace.

Fumaca is a much deeper green and blue than the American Ripcord figure.  Really, that's his most notable difference.  But, visually, it is major as the figure is very distinct from the Hasbro released figure.  Brazilian figures have a distinct shade of green that is mostly seen on their accessories.  But, Fumaca uses that color as his base.  The darker green gives Fumaca a more visually attractive look and really draws the eye to him when displayed among his contemporaries.

Fumaca includes the full complement of Ripcord's accessories.  The helmet and mask are cast in the standard black.  The plastic is of Brazilian quality, though, and the mask tends to be a bit more fragile than the American version.  The parachute and gun, though, different shades of green.  I wrote before of a "Brazilian Green" and these accessories fall into that description.  Estrela used a specific shade of green for their figure accessories.  It is darker and deeper than the green used on 1984 American accessories.  Estrela used this color, though, on all their green accessories produced in the line.  It is the same color used for Spirit, Recondo, Hawk, Footloose and many other figures in the Estrela line.  I find this green to be much more interesting than the Hasbro green used in 1984 and it really helps to make the figures pop even beyond the slight differences in figure color.

For me, Ripcord has always been a figure whose gear made him vital to a collection.  Without the parachute and mask, Ripcord would be relatively unused as the mold, sans accessories, is somewhat bland.  But, that's the genius of the figure.  With the accessories, Ripcord is a must have.  Without them, it's a bland figure, but still good enough to keep around.  As a kid, I always had Ripcord in his full gear.  Even when part of a patrol who had miles of ground to cover, Ripcord wore his parachute and mask.  I liked the look and always felt the mask gave him an edge if Cobra dropped a gas grenade on the Joes.

The Ripcord mold got a lot of use throughout the world.  After his release in the U.S. in 1984, he was shipped of South America.  There, he was released as Fuego by Plastirama in Argentina and Fumaca in Brazil.  In Argentina, Plastirama also used the mold in tan for some versions of their Sokerk figure.  In Brazil, Estrela painted Ripcord in Python Patrol colors and released him as a Cobra named Relampago.  In 1988, Ripcord was slated to be a charter member of Tiger Force in the U.S.  Painted mock ups of the figure even appeared in advertisements for Tiger Force.  But, due to the mold's continued use in South America, Hasbro did not have the actual figure available to them.  So, Ripcord fans are treated to mostly foreign releases of the mold to sate their desires for differently painted Ripcord variants.

Fumaca's aren't terribly hard to find.  They were very common in Brazil and many survived to this day.  Getting one mint and complete, though, is a bit of a challenge.  The paint wears easily and Fumaca's thumbs are notoriously brittle.  As such, it can take some time to find a mint specimen.  But, even mint and complete with filecard Fumaca's sell for under $20.  Now, you may pay an additional $15 to ship one from Brazil.  But, the overall price isn't terrible when you consider that the figure has enough differences from the American version to be noticeable by eye alone.  Personally, I enjoy the foreign figures that are similar to their American counterparts.  They give me an opportunity to appreciate a classic mold in a slightly different way.  As the vastness of any collection grows, that is something of value.

Fumaca, Ripcord, Brazil, Estrela, 1984

Fumaca, Ripcord, Brazil, Estrela, 1984, 1993 Gold Head Steel Brigade, Mail Away, Rare G.I. joe Figures, 1983 Dragonfly

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

2006 Major Bludd - Convention Exclusive

There are many great characters in the Joe line's history.  Few, though, resonate with me as much as Major Bludd.  From the moment I first read his filecard in 1983, the character has stayed with me.  The combination of my Australian heritage, the terrible poetry and the fact that he was a mercenary with a ruthless past all added up to a character that made quite an impression on my 9 year old mind.

As such, this had lead Major Bludd to always be a major player in my collection.  The original figure always holds a place of prominence in my Joe world and is often showcased with the other major Cobras from those early years.  The subsequent U.S. released versions of Bludd aren't as iconic, but the Chinese Major Bludd has found itself a great niche in my collection as the more updated look for the Major.  This version of Major Bludd, though, isn't really in that vein.  I don't see it as an updated look for the classic character.  Instead, it is something new that denotes a new role for Major Bludd.

The mold for this figure is an interesting mix of figure parts that actually kind of works.  The head is from the 1994 Major Bludd figure.  It is a solid head that it true to the Major's roots.  Had it not been used in 2003 on the Python Patrol Major Bludd figure, it would likely have more impact on this convention version.  The rest of the figure is made of the mold from the 1989 Long Range figure.  Here, the mold choice could not be more obscure.  Long Range had not been seen for 17 years when it was dredged up for this Major Bludd version.  So, it's appearance is odd enough that the figure isn't stale.  The problem, though, is that the Long Range mold isn't the greatest.  The bizarre leggings really attract attention and often cause more questions as to their purpose than Bludd's right arm.

Of course, though, Master Collector chose to follow the lead of all Major Bludd figures other than the original by giving him 2 normal arms.  But, considering the date at which this figure was designed, that was really the only choice.  The original Bludd's armored arm is a perfect individualizing trait for the vintage figure.  But, it limited play and display options and was rightfully excluded from this incarnation of Bludd.  Overall, the look is definitely new for Bludd.  The overall figure seems somewhat skinny and tall.  (Though, with vintage molds, that's very relative.)  But, it does work for Bludd and isn't as awkward as some of the other figures released in the 2006 Convention set.

The figure's accessories are neither great nor terrible.  Cast in the now standard Convention Grey, Bludd includes 2 weapons and a figure stand.  The weapons are both molds from the JvC era of the Joe line, but are actually OK.  The Uzi is a decent pairing with Bludd and the movable stock gives the gun some character.  The other weapon isn't as great as it was designed earlier than the Uzi, but is still in scale with Bludd and does include a bi-pod that helps provide depth to the displayed figure.  A backpack would have been nice.  But, these accessories are more than adequate for the figure.

The figure is cast in Major Bludd's signature brown color.  It has black and grey highlights with convention level paint details that tie this version to the previous versions of the character that collectors consider to be iconic.  It does add, though, some red highlights.  On the surface, these aren't bad.  One of the traits of Major Bludd is that his color scheme doesn't really integrate with other Cobra factions.  As an independent mercenary, though, this actually works.  But, if you want to make Bludd the leader of a Cobra platoon, you end up with some contrasting colors.  In this case, though, the red coloring closely matches that of the 2005 Convention Iron Grenadiers.  (That is likely a byproduct of the same group producing both figures and having reusing unique paint colors.)  So, this figure can be matched with figures from the 2005 Iron Grenadier set without too much trouble.  The main problem with this is that Destro was hardly a Major Bludd fan.  So, teaming Bludd with Destro's personal troops doesn't really fit into the Joe mythos.

Fortunately, Master Collector included a small subset of troopers for Major Bludd to command in this convention set.  Major Bludd's Skull Squad Troopers are actually a very nice complement to this figure.  Cast in brown and using parts from Avalanche and the Crimson Guard figures, the Skull Squad Troopers appear to be a decent force for Bludd to command.  Bludd even features a new logo emblazoned on his arm to denote this new faction to the Cobra hierarchy.  Personally, I'm not too high on the addition of new subsets to Cobra or Joe as there are already plenty.  But, when the figures are good and make sense, then they can be decent additions to a collection.  And, in this instance of Bludd and his troopers, that is very much the case.

In my collection, this version of Bludd is solely the leader of the Skull Squad Troopers.  He isn't Major Bludd from issue #17 of the comic.  Nor is the Major Bludd who freed the Flying Scorpion in an effort to gain influence in the new Cobra.  This Bludd is the evolution of a mercenary for hire. Now, instead of doing all the dirty work himself, he has a team of like minded individuals at his beck and call.  These troopers allow Bludd to take on more complex missions while retaining a level of trust in his work companions that was rarely found inside the confines of the politically complicated Cobra.  It is a more niche role for Bludd.  But, this is very much a niche figure.  (Convention figures by their nature tend to be.)  It is a nice thing to have around for some diversity.  But this is not an essential figure to the Cobra hierarchy as there are better Bludd figures for that purpose.

There was a time when the named characters from Convention sets commanded premium prices.  But, those days appear to be past.  Now, figures like this Major Bludd can be had for next to nothing.  Often, mint and complete versions don't break $15.  Considering they cost about that to acquire new, it's not a bad time to add one to your collection.  Personally, I don't consider this the best version of Major Bludd.  But, it is something different for the characters that offers a little more color that can be integrated into more Cobra factions.  Taken with his Skull Squad Troopers, this figure is something that really works since the vintage Bludd figures aren't as good of a match.  Considering how cheap this figure and his subordinates are now, they are something that I would recommend to any collector.

2006 Convention Exclusive Major Bludd

2006 Convention Exclusive Major Bludd