Thursday, May 2, 2013

1993 Outback - Eco Warriors Variant

Outback remains of one the vintage line's most collector friendly characters.  He is widely liked by collectors and his initial design is appreciated in all it's releases.  There was, though, another Outback design in the vintage Joe line.  In 1993, Hasbro revisited the character.  This figure is not well liked by collectors and is rarely remembered when discussing the Outback character.  The reason for the indifference to this mold is that is does not have a decent coloring and is a remarkable departure from Outback's classic appearance.  But, the 1993 Outback figure actually has a better mold than most people realize and can find a niche in a collection.

Eco Warriors seems like a failure to the modern collector.  However, it must have been a good enough seller for Hasbro in the early '90's as it featured figures in both 1991 and 1992.  In 1993, Hasbro planned for series 3 of the Eco Warriors figures.  However, the idea was either played out, or Hasbro had enough other subsets to sell.  As such, the subset was cancelled.  However, Hasbro had already drawn up two new figures for the line: Snow Storm and Outback.  Instead of scrapping the brightly colored figures, Hasbro put them into the main Battle Corps line.  Rumored to be limited to 10,000 pieces, though, the figures were quickly replaced at retail by differently colored Battle Corps versions.  As such, the Eco Warriors versions of Outback and Snow Storm can be somewhat difficult to track down.

As a mold, this figure is excellent.  Take off the sunglasses needed to see through all the bright colors and you find that the figure is intricately detailed.  The face sculpt easily could be Outback and is true to the character.  The molded helmet is in scale with the head and is features molded electronics on one side.  The figure's chest follows the survival motif and showcases a large knife, canteen and grenade.  The pants are somewhat non-descript, but include molded pouches for some detail.  The figure's forearms are wrapped in cloth with gloved hands.  Properly painted, this could have been a really excellent update to Outback.

Accessory wise, this figure is no better off than the base mold's paint colors.  While the weapon molds are strong, they are colored bright red.  There is no playing off red guns.  The result is that the figure suffers as the red (if you can believe it) clashes with the other bright colors and just makes the figure appear worse than it is.  Replacing the red weapons with black versions that were available with other 1993 figures, though, makes a large difference and can salvage the figure to a degree.  Outback also includes the requisite spring loaded weapon from that time period.  The poor quality of the accessories, though, makes it easier to just pick up a loose figure and outfit him with better colored weapons from other figures.

I first acquired the '93 Outback in either 1994 or 1995.  At that time, it was relatively easy to find Battle Corps figures hanging around in most stores that sold toys.  I couldn't use the figure as Outback since the Version 1 was that character.  At the time, though, I was more into converting Joe figures into nameless army builders who could fight Cobra.  The named Joes were still around.  But, they had huge support squads who aided them against the Cobra legions.  Using this model, I often pigeon-holed figures into specialties...much like the many flavors of Vipers.  Outback became a combat engineer.  The mold and helmet reminded me of a construction worker and I found a need for battlefield engineers who could build emplacements or even repair vehicles all while under heavy fire.

For a few years, the figure saw use in that capacity.  I could get past the gaudy colors since so many other figures from the time had similar constraints.  By the late 1990's, though, my collection was growing with figures from 1988 through 1991 that I had never previously owned.  The superior colors and accessories on these figures slowly pushed the brightly colored 1993's and 1994's out of my display rotation.  Outback fell into disfavor and has never really come back.  (In looking through 15 years worth of Joe photos, I can only find the figure in two pictures I've taken.  That's a small amount for something that, at one time, saw some decent use.)  For Outback, there are better choices using the original mold.  And, the figure's colors don't lend themselves to display in many of the classic vehicles and playsets.  So, the Outback has become a forgotten stepchild of my Joe collection who gets this last moment in the sun.

The Outback mold was used for the two variant figures in 1993.  It was not repainted in 1994.  However, the mold was shipped to Brazil and released there by Estrela as Marfim.  This is notable as the Marfim figure is far and away the best version of this mold.  Colored in a muted green, Marfim is superior in every way to the two American releases.  Alas, Marfim figures have all but disappeared from the market.  Easy to find in the late 1990's and into the early 2000's, Marfims seem to have vanished into thin air.  There used to be carded and even loose Marfim figures available from Brazilian and American sellers.  (Col. Coragem was the same way.)  But, they have dried up and I have not seen a Marfim figure for sale in years.  If you can find one, though, it is the best version of the mold and definitely worth acquiring as a new, different version of Outback.

It is likely that this figure is rather rare for the vintage line.  There are probably fewer of him than there are extremely expensive figures like Star Duster or AVAC.  But, the late release date, poor colors and unpopular mold drive down demand.  So, even today, the figure is very inexpensive when you can find one.  As an oddity, the figure is useful.  He actually fits with the Eco Warriors subset and can work as a member of their team.  The marbleized pants are an interesting anomaly and are something that definitely ties the figure to his era.  Beyond that, though, the Battle Corps version of the figure is substantially better and more worth tracking down.  But, if you want something bright and obscure to dominate a photo, this Eco Warriors Outback is as good a choice as any.

1993 Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines, Mirage, Bazooka, Outback, Eco Warriors Variant

1993 Eco Warriors Outback, Variant, 1993 Backblast, 1991 Tracker

1993 Eco Warriors Outback, Variant, 1993 Backblast, 1991 Tracker

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