In December of 1987, I turned 14 years old. I was, frankly, too old to still be playing with toys. My parents were loathe to buy me any additional Joe toys and rolled their eyes when I bought them with my own money. However, as 1987 progressed, I slowed down my Joe acquisitions. By the fall of the year, I was buying baseball cards with my hard earned money. This was, for many, a more acceptable collecting past time than toys. But, for that birthday, I got the final large Joe toy of my childhood: the Mamba. The large Cobra helicopter looked like an awesome toy but quickly showed its limitations. As such, the chopper simply never made a dent in many of my Joe adventures. The pilot, though, resonated with me much more deeply than the vehicle. The Gyro Viper was a figure that I thought was the best Cobra pilot ever released. In retrospect, that praise is probably overkill. The figure has its limitations. But, the design is still strong and the Gyro Viper delivers on the promise of a Cobra pilot that Hasbro often failed to deliver.
As a figure, the Gyro Viper is decent. The lack of traditional Cobra colors is a bit deceiving since the figure is mostly designed to be cooped up in the cockpit of an aircraft. The tan base is something new for Cobra. But, the red helmet does give him some standard Cobra relevance. The body mold features an array of hoses that suggest the suit has built in life support systems and that the Gyro Vipers can fly at great altitudes. It also appears that the suit has a molded on ripcord. I'm not sure how a pilot would abandon a helicopter with blades that would hit the canopy were it thrown open in flight. But, it's a detail that may suggest the Gyro Viper was originally intended for a different purpose and was pulled into duty as the Mamba pilot as a last minute replacement.
In the comic book, Cobra had a tremendously cool transport helicopter. Armed to the teeth, this chopper was also capable of carrying crew and vehicles. It appeared for a number of years as the go to Cobra air transport. Unfortunately, that copter never made it to toy form. Instead, Hasbro sold the Mamba. The selling point was that it was a twin blade attack copter with removable jet drones. The reality is that the Mamba looks a lot cooler on paper than it is in actual toy form. I was quickly disappointed with it as a toy. (Though, the drones ended up being an important piece of my Cobra army for many, many years.) It was the Gyro Viper, though, that kept my interest. The figure was high quality and needed to play an important role in my collection. For a few weeks, at least, the Gyro Viper was involved in any Cobra operation. He might be a pilot who was shot down and needed rescue from the Joes. Or, he was a new Cobra advisor partaking in his first battles. But, as 1987 wound into 1988, toys simply faded away. As such, the Gyro Viper didn't get the full treatment that other, solid vehicle drivers from 1987 saw. Instead, he was packed away with my other figures and left for many years, awaiting the day he would rejoin my collection.
These days, the Gyro Viper is a Cobra pilot. Figures like the Strato Viper can be more useful since he fits into any Cobra aircraft. But, the Gyro Viper still has a place. He is a perfect pilot for the AGP or even the Firebat. It's just a figure that can be plugged into any number of Cobra aircraft without looking out of place. The flight suit is flexible in that way and the helmet denotes both high tech and standard combat issue. Even as the pilot of his native Mamba, the figure works quite well. The maps on the leg and general detail really showcase that Hasbro still cared about vehicle drivers in 1987...even if the paint applications would fade away in 1988.
The Gyro Viper mold saw little use. Aside from its appearance as the Mamba pilot, the body was reused for the 1990 Skydive figure. After that, the mold disappeared. The Gyro Viper would have been an excellent candidate for a repaint during recent years. Done is more traditional Cobra colors, the figure would have been a welcome addition to the line. But, it was not to be. So, collectors are left tracking down the vintage version and living with the limitations of just a single release.
Gyro Vipers are not expensive. The figure was available only with the Mamba. But, it seems that unlike other vehicle drivers that were packed with expensive vehicles, the Gyro Viper is fairly easy to find. Mint and complete with filecard figures sell in $6-$8 range, with some skewing higher due to an impatience factor. It's a small price for a solid figure and one that works well as either a chopper or aircraft pilot. Due to the high availability and low price, it's a great candidate for army building and it's a cost effective way to standardize the Cobra pilot corps.