Monday, April 28, 2014

2007 Zap - Convention Exclusive

In 2004, Hasbro dropped a new version of Zap into a late run comic pack. The figure was the same basic, green body that everyone was pretty sick of by the 4th quarter of '04. That figure became clearance fodder throughout the country even though the new head was fairly well done and was a nice representation of how Zap appeared in the early issues of the Marvel comic. The head mold went dormant and was not brought back to retail until 2007 as part of the convention set. This Zap, though, brought an entire new life to a character and shows how the combination of two iconic figures with totally new colors can create an amazing new figure that doesn't tread on the ground broken by any of the figure parts from which it is made.

The original Zap mold was well traveled with releases in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Europe and India. In 1997, Hasbro got the mold back and released it in the Stars and Stripes set. But, that mold did not return with the debut of this new Zap head mold. The Scrap Iron body is also well traveled with uses in the US and India. But, it has only been used for Scrap Iron and in colors that are some shade of blue. As such, the combination of the head and body molds offered in the unique convention color scheme really brings the mold of Zap to life. You don't see Scrap Iron when you look at the figure. Instead, you see an obscure homage to Zap's original design with the overalls. The new figure looks more like Zap than even the vintage Zap and, to me, creates the definitive version of the figure.

This version of Zap's accessories...well...suck. He features some Sgt. Savage spring loaded weapons and a small machine gun. The gun is OK, even if it is out of character for Zap. The spring loaded weapons, though, are pretty much an unforgivable mistake on an otherwise great figure. There's aren't many bazookas in the vintage line, but Zap's original weapon still holds some relevance and is such an iconic piece that it's hard to view Zap without it. The great thing, though, is that the '97 Zap's accessories are a perfect fit in terms of colors with this new Zap figure. The dark green bazooka and dark green and black backpack mesh perfectly with this figure and look like they were intended for this color scheme. Outfitting the convention Zap with these fairly easy to find accessories is a great way to make this figure a traditional Zap figure and solves the accessory issue in a creative and unique way.

This mold combination works well. It was the only time that the character was released in this configuration. The Zap head originally appeared in a comic pack on a fairly lame figure. So, getting it again on a better body with more paint applications was a welcome treat. Like most convention figures, though, once the mold has appeared in a Club offering, it is rare to ever see it again. It is unlikely we'll ever get another Zap in any form. But, this figure gives Zap fans something different that is very useful with both repaint era figures as well as vintage Joes.

Typically, high quality Joe figures from Convention sets haven't seen great appreciation on the second hand market. Such was the case with Zap. Within a few weeks of the convention, Zaps could be had for as little as $10 each. For a figure like this, that's insanely cheap. Now, more than a year removed from this figure's release, Zap remains an remarkable bargain. He simply hasn't seen any appreciation on the secondary market and is a perfect example of how collectors simply don't reward ingenuity in the Joe line. I find this a great update to the Zap character and this is a figure that is well worth owning. It fits with classic vehicles while not being too out there. But, I've found that I'm in the minority on this point.

2007 Convention Exclusive Zap, 1997 STalker, Snake Eyes

Thursday, April 24, 2014

1994 Ice Cream Soldier

You may ask, "What's in a name?" as a facetious question. Or, it could be serious. In the case of the figure named Ice Cream Soldier, the name is the most interesting part. Why would someone choose such a seemingly outlandish name? And, if you take a name that invites ridicule, why would you exacerbate the problem by choosing to wear bright orange and yellow? The simple answer is that is was 1994. And, in 1994, things like this were acceptable. But, there is another answer: one that digs into the lore of fictional military characters and pays an indirect homage to Joe's basic roots.

In the 1950's and 1960's, DC Comics published a magazine named Sgt. Rock. The basic premise was they were an elite military unit during World War II. (In the 1980's, Remco made a line of Sgt. Rock figures. They followed some of the premise, were cheaply made and fought against an enemy based on a snake theme. I guess what goes around comes around....) The unit had a cadre of characters: all assigned nicknames by their leader, Sgt. Rock. The notion of the nicknames was so that the men could perform tasks that their civilian lives could not reconcile. They were capable of doing things as their nickname that their real name would never approve of. This allowed for a disassociation of their actions and the persona. It was a complex idea at the time and cuts to the basic nature of how people cope with the horrors of war. It was also an idea that was, basically, stolen by Hasbro for G.I. Joe since all of the characters went by Code Names rather than their real identities. One of the characters in the Sgt. Rock comic was named Ice Cream Soldier. With the specialty of flamethrower, Ice Cream Soldier got his nickname for being cool-headed in combat. The writers of the story likely had no idea that 35 years later, the name would be given to another, modern flamethrower as a bit of an homage to the story that, likely, influenced the design of the entire Joe line.

Ice Cream Soldier, though, did not get his nickname for being cool in combat. Instead, it is a red herring designed to give the enemy a false sense of ineptitude. They assume someone named Ice Cream Soldier would be young, inexperienced and an easy defeat. The actuality is that Ice Cream Soldier is highly competent and the misdirection of his name gives him an advantage over Cobra. As filecards from the 1990's go, Ice Cream Soldier's isn't as terrible as his name might suggest and the general characterization of him works on various levels. There is enough on the filecard to actually create something for the character since he never appeared in the cartoons or comics. So, that does give him an advantage over other, new 1994 characters. Unfortunately, the faceless helmet takes away some of that identity and helps drop Ice Cream Soldier into the faceless masses.

You can't really examine Ice Cream Soldier without addressing the glaring color issue. Ice Cream Soldier is cast in a base of bright orange plastic and is highlighted with brighter yellow accents. He is the epitome of the neon goodness that was the Joe line in 1993 and 1994. But, as a mold, this is certainly not a bad figure. The figure's helmet is very compact and detailed. It has a definite Stormtrooper vibe. But, this was acceptable in 1994 as Star Wars had yet to return to the public conscience. The figure's body is very well done. The straps have small indentations for texture and the entire mold appears to be encased in the thick armor that someone who used a flamethrower would require. The legs are a bit odd with the rounded, yellow armor. But, they still fit the specialty and the entire figure looks like he belongs together. (The 2007 Lt. Clay Moore repaint really brought out what this mold could have been with different colors and more paint applications.)

Ice Cream Soldier's accessories are decent for the time. Like all figures from his era, he included a basic weapon tree. The upside, though, was that the weapons were cast in a very light grey color. The color is unique to Ice Cream Soldier and allows the weapons to stand out. The tree included a version of 1992 Mutt's pistol, 1986 Beach Head's rifle, 1988 Spearhead's machete and the 1992 Shockwave's rifle. All are very solid weapon designs and Ice Cream Soldier's accessories were used to outfit many other, older figures in my collection who had long lost their gear. The hallmark of the figure's specialty, though, was the return of Charbroil's flamethrower. This is a modern looking device that works well with Ice Cream Soldier. Unfortunately, the gear that is really essential to a flamethrower: the fuel pack and the hose connecting the rifle to the tank, were missing. Blowtorch's gear looks dated on Ice Cream Soldier, but a pack from the original, Night Force or Anti-Venom Charbroil is an excellent upgrade that brings the figure into more usefulness. The figure is finished off with the requisite missile launcher and missiles. But, the overall combination of gear is very solid in terms of design and color.

In 1995 and 1996, I was buying every Joe I could find at retail. The sightings were hit and miss and there were many figures I never found. With Ice Cream Soldier, my first exposure to him was on the cardbacks of other 1994 figures. At the time, I was unaware of the Sgt. Rock reference and couldn't believe how G.I. Joe would have introduced such a lame code name into the line. Adding in the orange and yellow coloring certainly didn't help my perception of the figure. However, when I finally found an Ice Cream Soldier at retail, I still bought him. First, at the time, it was rare to find a new figure in the wild. So, when I found Ice Cream Soldier, I had to get him. Secondly, the figure's accessories are actually decent. Cast is a light grey, Ice Cream Soldier introduced a new color of weapons to my collection, but was also my first exposure to his flamethrower, pistol and rifle. Finally, the colors of the figure weren't that bad. I had always forgiven a bit of unrealistic colors for Joe figures, especially in the 1990's. But, frankly, Ice Cream Soldier's colors are no worse than those that appeared on Blowtorch and he is considered an iconic figure.

Now that I had an Ice Cream Soldier in my collection, his role was difficult to define. Flamethrowers, in general, weren't all that interesting to me. Wantonly destroying large areas by fire ran counter to my notion that the overthrow of a base or operation was heavily driven by the desire of the attacking party to actually own or control that installation. So, burning it up to take out the enemy was counterproductive. So, Ice Cream Soldier actually became his opposite. Instead of starting fires, he put them out as one of a crew of Joe firefighters. He would douse burning Tomahawks as they landed and even rescue trapped crew. His suit and colors were conducive to this role and he found a small role here. In time, though, that aspect got boring. So, Ice Cream Soldier became a pilot. His full body armor and helmet looked the part. And, the bright coloring wasn't really an issue for someone in the cockpit of an aircraft. Eventually, though, other figures were better pilots and Ice Cream Soldier fell into his final role as side gunner on the Shark 9000. His colors somewhat fit with that vehicle and I needed a gunner to man the station without taking away from the other, better figures I had in my collection. This was the last role the Ice Cream Soldier filled and he has pretty much been packed away for the better part of a decade and a half.

Ice Cream Soldier's mold was used for this lone figure in 1994. In 2002, though, Hasbro resurrected the mold and re-classified it as a Cobra named the Shock Viper. The first Shock Viper in 2002 was colored purple and red and was a great updated Cobra trooper. At the convention, Hasbro showcased a grey and black Shock Viper that would be released in later 2002. However, before this went to production, Hasbro changed the figure to a burnt orange and copper versions. The mold disappeared from there until 2007 when Master Collector created the Lt. Clay Moore figure using the mold with a new head. It would have been great to see the grey and black Shock Viper, or another version that more closely match Lt. Clay Moore. But, this mold got a lot of life. And, once it was appropriated to Cobra, there was little reason to ever bring back the Ice Cream Soldier character.

Ice Cream Soldier is a figure that few collectors care about. Being from the line's final year and in atrocious colors dooms the figure to a lifetime of obscurity. Mint and complete figures tend to sell in the $5 - $8 range with carded figures available for under $20. That's in line with most of the other, lesser 1994 figures and not enough to warrant skipping this figure in your collection. Ice Cream Soldier is definitely a product of his time. But, the figure can team with other Joe flamethrowers without too much difficulty. With a display of the rest of the 1994 figures, this figure does look at home. But, taken out of those contexts, the figure loses ownership value rather quickly. Had I not acquired this figure in my pre-Internet days, it's unlikely he would be anything more than a figure in a bag to me. But, since I acquired him at a time when all figures were interesting to me, Ice Cream Soldier retains a bit of nostalgic interest. That's not much, but it's enough for me to keep him around.


1994 Ice Cream Soldier, Flamethrower, 2004 Anti Venom Charbroil, 1987 Cobra-La Royal Guard

1994 Ice Cream Soldier, Flamethrower, 2004 Anti Venom Charbroil, 1987 Cobra-La Royal Guard





Ice Cream Soldier Around the Web:

Ice Cream Soldier at Joeaday.com
Ice Cream Soldier at 3djoes.com

Monday, April 21, 2014

1986 Firebat - Mail Away Version

Hasbro never released the Firebat at retail unless it was bundled with the Terrordrome.  As such, many kids who couldn't or didn't have the large Cobra base were left without one of the better small Cobra aircraft.  Hasbro tried to rectify that a few years after the Terrordrome's discontinuation by releasing the Firebat through Hasbro Direct as a mail away premium.  For a long time, the Firebat was indiscernible from the Terrordrome version.  But, at some point in the release cycle, Hasbro changed the plastic color of the Firebat from the standard maroon to a bright red.  This change was only available at the tail end of the mail away premiums and created a distinct version of the Firebat for collectors to track down and use as a supplement to the Cobra armies.

The Firebat is one of the better designed small Cobra aircraft.  It is compact, armed to the teeth and features some decent play features.  Really, that's all you can ask for from something like this.  These qualities have lead the Firebat to being a collector favorite. It is easily on par with many of the smaller Joe aircraft that were released and is compact enough to actually army build. It has guns, missiles, bombs and an excellent pilot in the AVAC figure who is clearly visible through the translucent canopy when you put the jet out on display. The sum of the parts is enough to make up for the limitations in terms of landing gear and other details.

There were very few Joe toys that were released prior to 1988 that I didn't have. The USS Flagg, MOBAT and Crossfire RC were among them. I had no interest in an RC vehicle, even if it had a unique figure. My mother would not buy us a MOBAT. And, my father told me I could not have a Flagg unless I was able to get a store to sell it to me for $50. In 1986, the Terrordrome joined the list of missing Joe toys. What's odd, though, is that I don't really have any recollection of wanting a Terrordrome. I wanted a Flagg desperately. But, by the end of 1986, I must have been occupied with other things. (I had entered junior high and that may have played a part.) By 1987, though, I was full bore into the new figures and vehicles that were released. There was just something about the Terrordrome that never spoke to me as a kid.

The Firebat, though, was one of the great misses of my childhood. I didn't know it at the time, but the Firebat was the exact thing I was looking for in my Cobra arsenal. By 1986, my Rattler had been pretty much trashed. With no other viable Cobra aircraft available, I focused my play away from air battles or air support. In time, though, I wanted to use the new Joe aircraft I had purchased. (Mostly, the Tomahawk.) But, I had no real Cobra aircraft which were not beat up and missing parts. Eventually, my youngest brother acquired the Night Raven and the drone from it became my de facto Cobra aircraft. Of course, this was limited as the figure was obscured and the drone only had guns, no missiles. (This was later solved with the drones from the Mamba.) Had I owned a Firebat, though, it would have been the perfect aircraft to battle my Joes. By 1987, the Skyhawk and Dreadnok Skyhawk were my Joe fighter jets du jour. The Firebat was a perfect size to battle them and would have been the exact toy I longed for. Only being available in the Terrordrome, though, made it unattainable and mysterious. I didn't even know anyone with a Terrordrome so it was impossible for me to see a Firebat in anything other than the pages of the G.I. Joe catalogs.

The Firebat saw release with the Terrordrome and as this mail away premium. It was never released by Hasbro again. In the 1990's, another toy company released a space jet that was based on Firebat mold. It is not clear if they reverse engineered the Firebat or if they acquired the mold from Hasbro. That vehicle drove rumors that Hasbro could not produce another Firebat. In the anniversary line, Hasbro finally resculpted the Firebat and has released it several times. This is similar to the vintage version, but has some updates to be more compatible with the anniversary line. It would have been great to see a Cobra blue or black Firebat in the repaint era. But, it never happened. During the army building craze, collectors would have bought these in droves. But, the vintage colors are interesting enough that they are useful. It just would have been nice to have a little more diversity as well.

Mail Away Firebats have gotten somewhat hard to find...at least in relation to the standard Firebat.  There are many still out there in collections, but you don't see this as often as you see the more standard maroon vehicle.  As such, you will pay a premium for the mail away version.  Typically, mint and complete versions will run upwards of $70.  Since you can get two standard Firebats and still have some change for that, it's hard to justify this different coloring unless you enjoy the variant aspect of mail away vehicles.  Had I not gotten this version from Hasbro Canada, I wouldn't have it.  It's just not worth tracking down.  But, it does mesh better with the AVAC so it has some value.  But, I'm not sure that small detail is worth the premium price you pay.

1986 Firebat, AVAC, Mail Away, Strato Viper, Techno Viper, Crimson Guard Immortal

1986 Firebat, AVAC, Mail Away, Strato Viper, Techno Viper, Crimson Guard Immortal



Friday, April 18, 2014

2004 Anti Venom Charbroil

Time brings perspective.  Things that were terrible during their height are often mellowed after a few years have passed.  A great example from the Joe world is the Anti-Venom set from 2004.  When first released, collectors were lukewarm to it.  On the surface, it should have been a hit.  Sure, it had the requisite Duke figure.  But, it also featured molds from Stretcher, Roadblock, Barricade, Mutt and Charbroil.  None of these molds had been seen at retail in some time.  (Well, Stretcher minus the head had been released in 2002.)  The figures had a decent, if uninspired, color scheme, a full complement of accessories and new helmets based on the Steel Brigade.  Really, the set should have been a slam dunk in terms of collector popularity.

But, at that time, collectors were heavily focused on things like army building.  And, sets, no matter how well done, that didn't feature army building components were quickly cast aside.  As such, the Anti Venom set lingered at retail for the rest of 2004 and only finally disappeared after the holidays.  For years, the set languished in obscurity.  But, as time passed, collecting tastes changed.  With army building falling from the sole goal of many collectors, interest turned to many of the figures that had been released during the repaint era that offered something different.  The Anti Venom set achieved that in spades.  So, the popularity of the set has increased, even if the individual figures within have not seen great appreciation in value.  One of the surface gems in this set is the Charbroil figure.  But, deeper analysis spots the issues that many collectors had with this set upon its release.

As a character, Charbroil is an open book. As a figure, he is a forgotten mold whose biggest claim to fame is inclusion in the original Night Force set in 1989.  Beyond that, his flamethrower specialty is something of a bygone era while his mold design simply can't live up to the likes of Blowtorch or even Ice Cream Soldier.  He is caught in the middle of the Joe timeline and his mold shows it.  But, seeing as how collectors had not seen the mold at retail in 15 years and the fact that the Blowtorch mold was gone, Hasbro can be commended for trying something different.  They found an obscure mold, recolored it decently and, subsequently, saw collectors yawn over the release.

Personally, I was no different.  While I liked the idea of the anti venom set, the execution left a lot to be desired.  The Roadblock figure was very well done.  But, the painted heads on the rest of the figures left me wanting something more useful.  So, even today, the Anti-Venom figures rarely see the light of day in my collection.  Of them, only Roadblock and Barricade really get any display with Mutt appearing from time to time.  The Lifeline, Duke and this Charbroil sit in their baggies in a plastic tub.  Maybe, someday, they will come out and be put on display as a vehicle crew or manning an HQ.  But, until then, they remain unused, forgotten and unappreciated.

Charbroil's accessories are decent.  The flamethrower is well detailed.  But, it appearance with figures like the Shock Viper made it seem less unique to Charbroil than it was when first released.  His backpack is large and detailed.  Missing, though, is the lenticular hologram that was part of the original figure and the Night Force release.  It is a small detail.  But, it added substantial depth to the original pack.  (Though it is a good way to differentiate a hard to find vintage Night Force backpack from an easy to find Anti Venom version.)  The hose to connect the pack to the weapon, though, fails.  Instead of using flexible plastic that would have allowed the hose to have some natural look, Hasbro used rigid plastic.  The result is that the hose is basically unusable.  If you look at the photo below, you see the hose straight out, as inflexible as the day it was opened.  This is due to the plastic and further reduces the usability of the Charbroil figure.

As a concept, the Anti Venom set made great sense.  A group of specialized Joes to fight the Venomized Cobras.  Even taking away the character choices as not the best for this speciality, you are still left with a group of figures that had not been, for the most part, recently released.  The set featured mostly original accessories for the figures.  And, those who had updated accessories had acceptable choices.  But, the set suffered from some major issues.  First was the fact that the figures had painted heads.  Prototypes of the sets included figures with flesh colored head molds.  For whatever reason, this was changed to the painted heads in production.  The result are heads that are easily chipped, worn or damaged.  When you add the fact that each figure (except Lifeline) included a helmet, the set was designed to ruin the figures in it.  The helmets were the second issue.  While the Steel Brigade inspired helmets have their merits, the reality is the the original Mutt, Barricade and Charboil figures all included distinct helmets.  Replacing these with the generic Steel Brigade stripped the Joe characters of their personalities and reduced them to nameless army builders.  This struck at the essence of Joe.  Joe is about character.  Take that away and the line has little to differentiate it from most other toylines from its vintage days.

The Anti Venom set's most compelling claim to fame is that it had two sets of unproduced variants.  The first set of variant figures were cast in a very dark blue color scheme.  It's likely that this palette was too close to traditional Cobra colors.  The next take is a light blue set.  Again, this was abandoned and Hasbro finally released the colors you see below.  Both of the dark blue and light blue sets were available from Asian Joe sellers, though.  The dark blue sets are extremely rare and will cost a substantial amount.  The light blue sets are much more common.  A light blue Charbroil will likely sell in the $40 - $60 range.  So, if you're in the market for something additionally different for Charbroil, these unproduced figures are a great way to get more takes on the character.

Anti Venom sets have gotten somewhat popular in recent years.  Mint and complete with filecard sets have sold for as much as $50.  Individually, the figures are a lot harder to find than they were a few years ago.  But, prices aren't terrible.  Charbroils tend to sell in the $5 - $6 range when offered by themselves.  That's not a terrible price by any means for the figure.  But, it is still Charbroil and with the figure's shortcomings, I still wouldn't consider this a must have figure by any means.  As part of a broader set of figures, the inclusion of an obscure character like this is fun. The figure isn't perfect and has substantial shortcomings.  But, Hasbro should be lauded for at least trying something different.

2004 Anti Venom Charbroil, Flamethrower, Toys R Us Exclusive

2004 Anti Venom Charbroil, Flamethrower, Toys R Us Exclusive, 1994 Ice Cream Soldier

Thursday, April 17, 2014

1991 Cobra Commander

Cobra Commander is one of the three most iconic characters in the Joe universe. Along with Snake Eyes and Stormshadow, he is the most recognizable Joe character. From his ruthless, hooded appearance in the first comic to the awful cartoon version, the Commander has always been one of the central forces in the Joe world. But, the Commander's look has rarely changed. The hooded and helmeted original version form the basis of most subsequent Cobra Commander versions and create a unified look. The 1987 Battle Armor version has become accepted as an alternate look for the character. But, Hasbro also tried another, new take on the character during the vintage line. In 1991, they not only released a Super Sonic Fighter homage to the original Cobra Commander design, but also an entirely new look for the character. It is not traditional and is something very different for the Commander. While it certainly has some limitations, the 1991 Cobra Commander figure does retain some attributes of prior releases and is a figure worthy of a second look.

This figure is a bit odd. There simply is no way around that fact. The suit is puffy, the helmet is ostentatious and the general look of the figure is somewhat short and squat. But, the detail of the figure overcomes some of these oddities. The base color is Cobra blue. This figure is a near perfect match for the classic blue Cobras from the line's earliest years. He is outlined with black and golden highlights: just like the 1984 Cobra Commander is. He features a prominent Cobra sigil on his chest. Really, from the neck down, this is a figure that would fit into the Cobra hierarchy from any year of the line. The helmet is where the look starts to diverge from the classic Cobra and into a more modern interpretation of the Commander. The golden helmet is adorned with a large, sculpted snake on the head. It is probably a look more befitting a new Serpentor than Cobra Commander. But, at least it stays within the Cobra motif. The real out of place look, though, is the semi-translucent red face mask. The Commander's face is obscured by the mask, but not nearly to the extent of his classic battle helmet or hood. On top of that, the Commander features exposed skin on his neck. To me, it makes the Commander more vulnerable since it was widely known that his helmet (and later his hood) were wired with explosives to prevent his identify from ever being discovered by force.

The Commander's accessories are not great: especially when taken in the context of the 1990 and 1991 accessory complements of his contemporaries. This figure includes only a golden sub machine gun. It is neither terrible nor overly exciting. But, it is unique to the figure (though later mail away figures did include it) and works as a weapon for the Commander since his history has him limited to a pistol for weaponry. The selling point of the figure, though, was a spring loaded launcher, with bi-pod, that fired a "Buzz Bomb" made of soft plastic. The Buzz Bomb features clear laminating around some interior paper design and a bright orange tip. As spring loaded weapons go, it is one of the more unique offerings. But, as an accessory for Cobra Commander, it is grossly out of place. 1991 introduced the spring loaded weapon to the G.I. Joe standard retail line. It would have been nice if Hasbro had spent the spring loaded money from this figure's accessories on something more suited to the character. But, spring loaded weapons was the way of the future and the Joe line became synonymous with them as the line wound down. At least these early versions were unique to the character with which they were included and not the more generic items that were the hallmark of the Battle Corps figures.

I first acquired this figure during the early days of my adult Joe collecting. At the time, I was so enamored with the other 1990 - 1992 figures included in the same lot that I paid this figure little attention. If you look through the nearly 15 years of photos on my sites, you will not find this figure used. He faded into obscurity since there were other, better Cobra Commander figures available. However, the traditional Cobra coloring does lend this figure to use. The bulkier sculpt meshes well with other Cobras produced in the 1990's and with many of the repaint era figures as well. This is a uniform that seems more combat ready for the Commander and that is always a bonus. But, the reality is that both the 1991 and 1993 Cobra Commander figures feature the beefier sculpt of the later years, but retain a classic look. Pairing the 1993 Cobra Commander with the 1992 Destro and 2001 Major Bludd looks normal. Replacing him with this figure offsets the classic homage. But, displayed in a Detonator with some of the later edition Alley Vipers, this figure can find a place in a collecting display.

Hasbro released this figure in 1991. However, like most of the 1991 series of figures, he was discontinued that year and was not reproduced into 1992. Instead, most of the molds that were not carried forward were given for foreign licensees. This Cobra Commander mold actually appears on the cardbacks of Brazilian figures offered in the early 1990's. (Tracker and Crimson Guard Immortal also appear.) However, the mold was never actually released in Brazil. In the late 1990's/early 2000's, the mold did start to appear in India. There, Funskool produced a version of Cobra Commander relatively similar to the American version through 2003. The mold was not among those confirmed by Funskool to have been returned to Hasbro. But, that doesn't mean it wasn't. Regardless, there are just the two version for collectors of this mold to track down. While the figure might be conducive to oddball repaints, the reality is that the better Cobra Commander molds available were much more suited to Joe's release during the repaint era.

There are at least three variants of this figure. In the U.S., the figure was released with the face beneath the mask painted with eyebrows and eyes. The black paint is visible beneath the mask. This is a fairly tough variant to find and can cost a bit to acquire. The most common version is with the unpainted face beneath the mask. The second variant to the figure is that the European release included a slightly different colored mask. It is, technically, a European variant. But, there are a lot of European variants in a similar vein that have no real extra value as they are not significant enough to warrant drastic foreign exclusive pricing. This is one such item. You will pay a premium for one, but they are not hard to find from European sellers and most collectors are not aware of the variant and really pay it little attention if they are.

One of the quirks of this figure is that Hasbro actually sculpted the Commander's face beneath the face shield. They glued the shield in place so that the face was not obvious. But, it is there. It is a wrinkled, old looking face that does not fit with canonical appearance of Cobra Commander. It is likely just a placeholder that was designed to showcase some facial features behind the mask. If you want to see the face, though, the easiest way (other than Googling it....) is to get the Funskool figure. The mask on the Funskool version is not glued in place and is easily removable. The face really doesn't fit the Cobra Commander character. But, it is a neat Easter Egg hidden beneath the mask and shows that Hasbro wanted the figure to be more than another faceless Cobra Commander version.

The 1991 figures that were discontinued that year are somewhat hard to find. The lower production numbers has made them more scarce in modern times than 1990 or 1992 figures, but they are still out there in more than adequate numbers. Pricing is a bit odd as mint and complete with filecard versions tend to sell in the $9-$12 range but carded figures can still be had for $15-$18. There are a lot of off condition and incomplete versions of this figure out there, though, that can be had for next to nothing and allow the modern collector to try his hand at customizing a version of the figure without spending too much money. Beyond that, the figure is interesting as it does blend well with many of the better Cobras from the line's later years. But, the 1993 Cobra Commander does as well. So, beyond having another look for Cobra Commander, there really is nothing compelling about the figure. But, the relative low cost makes the diversification of the character worthwhile.

1991 Cobra Commander, 2004 Cobra Trooper, TRU Exclusive

1991 Cobra Commander, 2004 Cobra Trooper, TRU Exclusive

Sunday, April 13, 2014

1998 Volga - Oktober Guard

In 1997, Hasbro decided to bring back a small run of collector targeted G.I. Joe figures to celebrate the line's 15th anniversary. After selling the concept to Toys R Us, Hasbro realized that many of the people who had worked on the vintage Joe line were gone. So, they turned to some collectors in order to help them choose the characters, design the paint schemes and even update the filecards. The 1997 Joe line was a modest hit for Toys R Us, even though collectors were not overly enamored with the figure quality, mold choices and many paint schemes. But, the sales numbers were enough to warrant another set of figures in 1998. The 1998 figures followed the same template with collector input, but the second year offerings were more generally accepted by collectors due to the inclusion of some well designed army builders and a long missing element from the vintage Joe line: the Oktober Guard.

Was Volga meant to be Daina? Possibly. Based on the custom figure that was submitted by collector Thomas Wheeler, it was intended for Volga to be Daina. But, for reasons unknown, Hasbro changed her with a new head, new hair color and hew name. This is probably for the best as Volga's head would have been a poor representation of the Daina character. This also allowed Hasbro to make the very well done Daina in 2005 and not have it be too much of a retread. But, if I can only use one female Oktober Guard figure based on Lady Jaye, it's going to be Daina and not Volga.

Volga uses the standard Lady Jaye body, but has a newly sculpted head. This was the first head Hasbro sculpted since 1994 and the lack of experience shows. The head has...issues with an overly large nose and imperfect proportions to the rest of the body. Plus, there was no reason to sculpt a hat onto the figure as it made Volga too similar to Lady Jaye. But, there remains a charm to the figure where it is so bad that it has some cachet. The pasty skin tone and red hair really gives Volga a look that is distinctive. It's not a great look, but it can be used as part of her character.

From a paint application standpoint, though, Volga is nothing short of excellent. Her uniform is fully decked out in an array of fall cammo colors with green, brown, grey and cream all offset by the dazzling silver of her zippers, buckles and belt. It is a paint job on par or better than those seen on convention figures. But, in some ways, this makes the head more troublesome as this is a great figure until you get above the neck. The colors are distinctive, the paint applications are crisp and the overall colors blend near perfectly together to create an aesthetically pleasing figure. She fits with the other Oktober Guard of her time

Volga included the full assortment of Lady Jaye accessories. Done in all black, the spear gun, pack and camera had all been released the year before with Lady Jaye. As such, it made Volga appear even more like a last minute knock off. Had Hasbro attempted at least some different accessories, Volga might have been more interesting and garnered more collector attention. But, with the same gear as the Lady Jaye figure that was still pegwarming at the time of her release and the sculpted hat, Volga was just too similar to Lady Jaye to really take off in the collecting world.

The Oktober Guard set was an incredible pegwarmer. For some reason, Hasbro packed 2 Oktober Guard and Diver sets per case with only one Cobra Polar Assault and Cobra Infantry Team. With three separate production runs (late 1998, summer 1999 and winter 1999), the overpacked sets lingered at retail well into 2001 in many markets. As such, collectors generally were able to acquire all the Volgas they wanted. For many years, the 1997 Lady Jaye figure hovered at a $15 price tag while Volga would sell for 1/2 that. Today, the Lady Jaye figure has fallen while Volga has remained about the same. While she tends to be cheap to acquire, though, the figure has gotten somewhat hard to find. Not too many collectors stockpiled extra Oktober Guard sets since they were so common at retail. So, Volgas aren't as easy to find as they once were. But, for the price, she's a worthwhile pickup.

1998 Volga, Oktober Guard, TRU Exclusive, 1985 Mauler, 1983 Steeler, 1984 Ripcord

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hombre-Rana - Argentine Exclusive Cobra Eel

The Cobra Eel is one of the most iconic Cobra army builders in the history of the Joe line.  He is generally considered the premier Cobra diver and remains a fan favorite.  Everything about the figure is the epitome of what made Joe great.  The mold is detailed, modern and sleek.  The accessories are a feat of engineering that mesh perfectly with the figure mold.  And, the figure is colored in sensible grey and black with just enough red to establish him firmly as a villain.  Hasbro was never able to top the Eel mold with their future, updated Cobra divers in the vintage line.  This leaves the Eel as a figure who stands head and shoulders above his similarly specialized brethren.  The downside was that the Eel mold was never repainted or revisted by Hasbro.  But, Eel aficionados are not left in the cold.  Hasbro did sublet the mold to South American licensees.  There, the mold was used to create some figures similar to the American versions.  One such example is the Hombre Rana from Argentina.

The Hombe Rana mold is basically identical to the American Eel.  It is the same mold and colors that are so similar they are indiscernible to the eye.  You can see a comparison in the 2nd photo below.  The main difference is the Cobra sigil on the figure's chest.  The Plastirama figure's logo is smaller and much more detailed than that of the American Eel.  That's the only real outward difference between the figures.  (Though, the Argentine figure also has the Hasbro copyright information rubbed out.)  You can tell a paint quality difference on the figure's face that's visible through the mask.  Otherwise, these figures can intersperse with American Eels and the modern collector would be none the wiser.

The Eel was one of the first new figures I acquired back in 1985.  I spent many a cold, early spring afternoon playing with the Eel and Alpine out in the front yard of my parent's home.  It had a sidewalk that split the yard in two and the end was a series of 5 concrete steps.  The sidewalk was the perfect "river" for the Eel and allowed me to use the figure in his element.  From the water, they could shoot the Joes as they tried to scale the "mountain".  Every now and then, an Eel would be swept down the waterfall to his doom.  But, such were the pratfalls of working for Cobra.

These early adventures, though, took their toll on my first Eel figure.  By the latter half of 1985, I had to buy another one as the original's accessories were lost and the figure was badly worn and broken.  This figure coincided with the addition of the Moray to my collection.  So, the Eel quickly took the co-pilot's chair on the hydrofoil when I didn't have use for actual frog-men.  This kept the Eel as a pivotal player in my childhood collection for many years...long beyond the lifespan of many other 1985 figures.  But, that is a testament to the figure's quality.  The Viper replaced the Cobra Trooper.  The Motor Viper replaced the Hiss Driver.  The Ice Viper replaced the Snow Serpent.  But, no figure from my childhood could replace the Eel.

To me, the Eel is about the perfect army builder.  The only way to improve upon the figure would be small, incremental changes that, likely, would not matter all that much when considering the figure.  The problem, of course, is that a diver is such a specialized part of any Cobra army that it's difficult to appreciate the figure beyond its visual appearance.  The accessories make the figure and you want to display them fully geared up and ready to go.  Beyond outfitting the back of a Moray, it's difficult to find a way to justify a display full of Eels with all their equipment attached.  But, collectors find ways to do so just due to the fact that the Eel is such an excellent figure.

The Hombre Rana includes the same accessories as the standard Eel.  The flippers, backpack, removable jets and speargun are almost impossible to differentiate from American Eel accessories.  The hose is very similar, but the plastic is more brittle and a bit harder than the American hose.  The upside to this is that if you can find and incomplete Hombre Rana, it's easy to outfit him with American accessories.  The Eel's weapons are, in my opinion, the best combination of dive gear Hasbro ever created for any diver figure, be they Joe or Cobra.  So, having an Eel from any country without his gear just doesn't work.

The Eel mold was released in the U.S., Argentina and Brazil.  After the Brazilian release, the mold disappeared.  During the 2000's, there was vocal collector support for the return of the Eel mold as it would look so good in Cobra blue, black or even Crimson.  But, Hasbro could not bring it to pass.  The mold was gone and they did not resculpt it.  So, collectors are left with three releases of the Eel mold that are, basically, identical.  Fortunately, the original coloring is high quality enough that the mold wasn't wasted.  But, there is so much potential in the mold, it's a shame that Hasbro was never able to bring it back to retail in the modern era.

Hombre Rana figures aren't overly difficult to find.  But, they are nowhere near as ubiquitous as some of the other Plastirama figures.  They were shipped in a case assortment that wasn't shipped to the U.S. in as great of quantities as some of the other assortments.  These days, carded figures will sell in the $50 range.  If you can find a mint, complete with filecard version, they will rarely run over $20 or so.  That's a slight premium over a mint, complete American Eel.  But, is in line with the figure's availability.  The figure, though, doesn't bring much to a collection.  Visually, the similarity with the American figure reduces the collectibility of the South American version.  But, that means that those who desire a complete of Plastirama figures can still acquire an Hombre Rana for a price that isn't absurd.  But, if you're army building or want to save some money, just get an American Eel.

Hombre Rana, Eel, Plastirama, Argentina, 2003 DVD Snake Eyes

























Hombre Rana, Eel, Plastirama, Argentina, 1985, Cobra Eel, Comparison

Thursday, April 10, 2014

1990 Captain Grid-Iron

Sports themed Joes are not overly common in the line. But, they do exist. Hardball was a baseball player. While he wore a baseball cap and jersey, his overall theme was not overly tied to his baseball past. The Fridge and Sgt. Slaughter were both fashioned after real people, so their sports ties were necessary for their characters. In 1990, though, Hasbro took the concept to reductio ad absurdum with the Captain Grid Iron figure. Not only did Grid Iron feature a name directly from sports, he sported a helmet based on a football helmet and even carried football shaped grenades. (While not as bad as the Fridge's football on a stick, they are still pretty awful.) The result should be a terrible figure. And, in a lot of ways, Grid Iron is a terrible figure. But, when you take some time to review him, you realize that Captain Grid-Iron was given the same level of attention and detail as the other, less outlandish 1990 figures.

Captain Grid-Iron suffers from a fatal color flaw with bright yellow pants. Take those out of the equation, and you have a figure that is very realistically colored. The dark green flak jacket covers a lighter green cammo undershirt with sleeves. His boots match the arms and he has olive half-gloves on his hands. He has a light grey belt and boots that match his accessories. Really, if you take the yellow away, this isn't a bad figure at all. But, Hasbro decided to use the yellow pants and an otherwise strong figure was rendered largely useless because of it. I find the general look of Captain Grid-Iron to be very reminiscent of Backstop due to the yellow, grey and green mixture that forms the bases for each figure and the two would fit well together as the crew of a Persuader.

Where Grid-Iron succeeds is the general sculpt. His arms feature a texture to them that adds depth to an otherwise mundane shirt. The cammo pattern is subtle, but enough that, again, it adds some visual excitement without becoming an integral part of the overall design. The raised, quilted collar helps to hide the figure's neck beneath the helmet and creates a buttoned-up look for Grid Iron. When you add in the flak jacket with the oversized buckles, you have a general figure that could be very useful in a military or urban setting. His belt and legs have enough detail that they aren't bland. But, they aren't overdone. The simplicity of the figure is very different from the designs of prior years and works on it's own.

Grid-Iron, though, suffers from other flaws. The football motif was simply taken too far. The figure has a helmet that is based on a football helmet with the grid facemask. (There are 2 helmet variants: hard and soft plastic but neither seems to have any advantage over the other.) However, with the clear visor over it, the helmet is actually OK. It's not too over the top and looks like the type of helmet that could be plausible. The figure then features a nice cadre of grey colored weapons. Grid-Iron includes a small pistol with a silencer on the end. It's a strong accessory and one that I co-opted for Cobra when I first got this figure. He has an olive backpack and two wrist shields that are colored yellow. From here, though, the figure goes off the deep end. Grid-Iron's primary weapon is a large rifle with two handles and a scope. It's out there, but not beyond the extent to which designers were coming up with Joe weapons at the time. The folly of the weapon is that it features 4 missiles that connect tot he barrel. So, Grid-Iron would fire these missiles from a hand held weapon with no shielding. The visual of the missiles on the gun is acceptable, even if the reality would be one use and Grid-Iron would sport a burned stump where his hand used to be. The too far item, though, is the football grenades. Grid-Iron includes three of them. The notion that some defense contractor was paid to produce explosives that resemble a football is ludicrous. And, the figure suffers for it. But, the fact that the bombs attach to both the figure and his pack brings a level of utility to them that salvages them to a degree.

From a collecting perspective, I don't have much use for Captain Grid-Iron. He survived my collection purge mostly due to the fact that he was a 1990 release and I kept all my figures from that year. As a crew member of a vehicle such as the Battle Bunker, General or even Whale, Grid-Iron can be an acceptable figure. The helmet obscures his face and allows for anonymity while the vehicle would obscure his brightly colored pants. The general look of the figure could be customized into a riot police type figure. The helmet, visor and flak jacket, colored in an urban theme, could make for a good base for an updated Shockwave or Bulletproof. With these colors and without the football gear, the mold and helmet would be more realistic and likely a figure collectors could enjoy.

Captain Grid-Iron was released in the U.S. in 1990 and 1991. In the late '90's, the mold started to appear in India. Funskool produced a carded Captain Grid-Iron through 2004. These figures are even more brightly colored than the American version and are so bad they have a coolness to them. There are several variants of the Funskool figure, some harder to find than others. I've always found it odd that a country where the populace would have no real exposure to American football had a figure produced that was based on the sport. It would be the same as if Hasbro released a Cricket playing Cobra villain. But, that is part of the charm of Funskool. The mold seems to have died in India as no parts ever appeared again. It's probably OK, though, as this isn't a figure that too many people would want to see return in any form. Though, I imagine that a few collectors might be interested if they could order an example in the colors of their favorite football team.

Like many 1990 figures, mint and complete with filecard Captain Grid-Iron figures can be problematic to track down. The abundance of accessories and later release date tend to make the 1990 series of figures not as common as those from even one or two years prior. Fortunately, no one likes Captain Grid Iron. Mint and complete with filecard figures sell in the $4-$6 range and carded figures can be purchased for around $15. That's definitely cheap, but in line with the figure's popularity and generally ridiculed theme. Had this figure not been released with the yellow pants, it is likely that collectors would not ignore it to the level they do. But, he was released with yellow pants and this figure's legacy will forever be determined by that one, seemingly innocuous decision nearly 25 years ago.

1990 Captain Grid Iron

1990 Captain Grid Iron

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Marechal Do Ar - Brazilian Exclusive Dress Blues Gung Ho

Gung Ho is one of the top tier Joe characters in the line.  He was popular from the get go in 1983 and retained much of that popularity through the current time.  His character, look and general demeanor appealed to kids and adults and has made him one of the most iconic Joe figures behind the first pantheon of Duke, Snake Eyes, Cobra Commander and Stormshadow. Hasbro revisited the Gung Ho character in 1987. At the time, remakes of existing Joe characters were few and far between. So, for Gung Ho to get this treatment was a testament to his popularity. Rather than reinterpret Gung Ho in a new combat motif, though, Hasbro went with a classic marine dress blues uniform for Gung Ho. He became the first Joe figure to be released in a ceremonial uniform rather than combat fatigues. The result was a good figure for the intention, but a rather boring toy to actually play with.

In 1987, I was flush with cash and bought pretty much every Joe I wanted. Every time I found a new figure, I would spend my lawn mowing money and add him to my collection. There were times when my younger brothers got a figure before me. But, even in those cases, if I liked the figure, I would simply buy myself another version. Every now and then, though, I came across a figure in which I had no interest. In 1987, those figures were somewhat abundant: especially on the Cobra side. Crystal Ball, Raptor and Big Boa were all figures which I let my brothers purchase and never bothered with on my own. They just didn't interest me. On the Joe side, though, there was really only one figure that fit that mold: the Dress Blues Gung Ho. In retrospect, the figure is actually very cool and a neat homage to the military. At the time, though, it was a figure in a dress uniform when I wanted combat figures for my collection. So, the figure simply had no use for me.

In the late 1990's, though, I found a use for this Gung Ho. At the time, I spent a great deal of effort on stories involving law enforcement and criminals. Figures like Chuckles represented captured Cobras who were heading off to long prison sentences. Typically, their Cobra comrades would try to free or kill them so they would not go to jail. There were two prime places for these Cobra rescue attempts: by attacking the convoy carrying the convicts to their imprisonment, or in the courtroom. The courtroom was a more unsecured place since they were in public buildings. As those dramas unfurled I realized that no court was complete without a judge. Enter this Gung Ho figure. His formal attire worked as a judge in those settings and the figure found some use for a while as either an unwitting pawn who would end captured or dead in Cobra's attempt to save their own or as an undercover co-conspirator with Cobra who would, unexpectedly, start assassinating law enforcement officers as Cobra agents freed their friends.

Marechal Do Ar isn't much different from the American Gung Ho. There are slight color differences and the Brazilian figure does not include the stickers for rank insignia. Where the Brazilian figure exceeds Gung Ho, though, is in accessories. Marechal Do Ar includes a version of the Annihilator's machine gun, Shockwave's pistol and a recolored missile firing backpack. Frankly, the gear makes no sense for a figure in this dress attire. But, it's fun to see a dress marine fully loaded with a anti-aircraft missile on his back and machine gun in his hand.

Sadly, though, that pretty much sums up Marechal Do Ar's role in my collection. He's a display piece and nothing more. He's cool when displayed among his Brazilian contemporaries since they all have familiar molds with different colors and spring loaded weapons. He can also serve as a second judge should the need arise. But, for the most part, this is a collectible figure for me and not one that serves much purpose. As the original Gung Ho had little relevance to me in childhood, the remake of this figure isn't as significant to me as are foreign remakes of my childhood favorites.

In the mid 2000's, this figure was readily available MOC for under $20.  For years, the overstock sat mostly unsold on the Joe secondary market.  But, as time passed, the supply was slowly absorbed.  Today, the figure is still fairly available, but a lot more expensive.  If left to market demand, carded versions sell in the $35 - $40 range.  But, those are few and far between.  Dealers have most of the remaining stock and typically try to sell the carded figures for around $70.  That's a bit high for this figure's popularity and availability.  But, if you want to complete a set of Brazilian Joes, it may be required at this late date to add the figure to your collection if you don't have an abundance of patience.

Marechal Do Ar, Gung Ho, Brazil, Estrela

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Leopardo - Brazilian Exclusive Recondo

Recondo is one of those classic Joe figures who has an iconic look. Upon seeing a character with the mustache, hat and jungle fatigues, every Joe fan instantly associates him with Recondo. Despite this notoriety, though, Hasbro only released the character twice in the vintage line. For fans of the figure, that left few options for them to seek out. Fortunately, the Recondo mold was licensed by Estrela for release in the Comandos Em Acao line in Brazil. Here, Recondo made a triumphant return in a color scheme very similar to his American release. The Brazilian Leopardo figure, though, has enough differences that warrant tracking it down and is a great way to have a unique Recondo in your collection. And, as a foreign version of a classic character, Leopardo is the perfect choice for the 100th figure profile on my new site.

Recondo entered my collection in the summer of 1984. I was at my aunt and uncle's house in Chillicothe, Ohio. I found the Recondo at the local K-Mart and convinced my mother to buy him for me. For some reason, we had few toys with us during that visit. As such, my main memory is of intense boredom broken only by my spells of playing with my new Recondo figure along with the Mountain Howitzer out in the driveway in the intense heat and humidity of July in Ohio. Despite that somewhat detrimental beginning, Recondo managed to flourish once I returned home. There, his excellent gear, unique look and interesting specialty all combined into a figure that saw a great deal of use through 1984 and into 1985.

In 1985, though, Recondo's star began to fade. The newly released Joes with the ball jointed heads quickly became the primary focus of my play patterns. Figures like Recondo seemed old and even a bit out dated. As 1985 turned to 1986, this trend continued and many of the early Joes who had once been my favorites now found themselves at the bottom of the Joe box, rarely seeing any action. The fact that my Recondo figure was rather worn didn't help matters. So, the character faded into a bit of obscurity for the remainder of my childhood. As an adult, though, figures like Recondo remain a mainstay of my collection. Characters and figures around which I have great memories manage to remain relevant. Every time I see them, I have a fond recollection of some after school battle from 30 years ago when all seemed easy in the world. There's value to that beyond the monetary denominations assigned to figures from the vintage line.

The main differences between the Brazilian Leopardo and the American Recondo are in subtle coloring. The most striking difference is the skin tone. While Recondo is pasty white, Leopardo features a more pinkish skin. The visual effect, though, is that Leopardo has the appearance of sun-burned skin...which actually makes sense for a jungle trooper. The other main difference is the green cammo on Leopardo's pants. While the American Recondo has a green and brown cammo variation, the Brazilian figure has very green cammo stripes. This richer color also blends better with his preferred environment. While there are sublte differences in the tans and browns on the figure, too, the last piece of interest are Leopardo's accessories. The standard issue Recondo gun and backpack are cast in green. But, it is the rich, deep, Brazilian green color that was ubiquitous across the early Estrela made figures. The same color can be found on accessories for the Ohlos de Fenix (Spirit), Fumaca (Ripcord), Comando Trevassia (General Hawk) and Muralha (Flint). It is a color unique to Brazil, but of a difference that is worthwhile tracking down.

Leopardo includes the complement of Recondo accessories. As a kid, Recondo's backpack was always one of my favorites. It is intricately detailed and full of the survival gear that any jungle explorer would need for his adventures. At the time, Recondo's pack was the most detailed infantry backpack that was available. And, I wanted to use it for as many figures as possible. When the 1985 accessory pack was released, I was happy to get some additional backpacks. But, the color was not nearly as nice as the original green. So, until more packs were released in subsequent years, my lone Recondo backpack saw use even beyond the Recondo figure. The same could not, though, be said of Recondo's weapon. While greatly detailed with the cloth wraps around the barrel, the gun never seemed to fit anyone other than Recondo. To this day, I hate the gun with any other figure, but also can't stand Recondo to have any weapon other than his original. It is one of those perfect fits where the gun and figure are meshed so well that they work. But, separate, they both suffer for the absence of the other.

Recondo saw some use as a vintage figure mold. After his first release in the U.S., the figure's mold was used for the earliest versions of Starduster. The timing of this is peculiar as Starduster first appeared in 1987. In 1988, Hasbro released the Tiger Force Recondo figure. Around this time, Starduster was changed to using parts from the vintage Duke figure. It is likely that after the Tiger Force Recondo was released, the mold was sent to South America. It's possible this timeline is a bit askew and the Brazilian figure was released earlier. But, the mold's appearance and disappearance (along with the torso for Airborne used for the Steel Brigade) seem to indicate that once the mold was sent to Estrela, it was no longer available for Hasbro's use on Asian made figures.

Like most of the early series Brazilian figures, Leopardo is not easy to find. Mint and complete figures are very difficult to track down as it seems most Leopardos saw good use from Brazilian children. Quality Leopardo figures can be purchased in the $25 - $40 range depending upon whether you acquire the figure from an American dealer, or have to pay the difference in shipping from Brazil. He is, though, a figure worth owning. The distinct coloring and burned skin tone bring something more to the figure and his Brazilian origin ties him even more to his specialty. I've long appreciated foreign releases of classic Joes whose colors are similar to the original figure's. They allow me to enjoy a new take on a great mold all over again. This Leopardo is no exception.


Leopardo, Brazilian exclusive Recondo, Estrela, Comandos Em Acao, Steel Brigade Mail Away, Fuego, Argentina Exclusive Ripcord, Plastirama, Ninja-Ku, Chinese Major Bludd, Risco, Alpine

Leopardo, Brazilian exclusive Recondo, Estrela, Comandos Em Acao, Steel Brigade Mail Away, Fuego, Argentina Exclusive Ripcord, Plastirama, Ninja-Ku, Chinese Major Bludd, Risco, Alpine, Sokerk

Leopardo, Brazilian exclusive Recondo, Estrela, Comandos Em Acao, Steel Brigade Mail Away, Fuego, Argentina Exclusive Ripcord, Plastirama, Ninja-Ku, Chinese Major Bludd, Risco, Alpine, Sokerk