But, years and years passed with no sign of the V1 Stormshadow mold. Finally, in late 2004, Hasbro gave collectors a red and a black repaint of the figure. Now, though, the original accessories were gone. The mold got one more use, in the traditional white, before it disappeared forever. In looking back at the repaint era of 1997 - 2006, the absence of the V1 Stormshadow figure mold is baffling. We know Hasbro had it. We know collectors wanted it in army building colors. We know Hasbro liked the character as he appeared in the terrible 1992 mold in 2000, 2002 and 2004. For some reason, though, Hasbro simply couldn't put it together and get the mold out to collectors who were all too willing to spend wildly on it.
As vintage Joe molds were destroyed and Hasbro turned its back on the legacy of ARAH Joes, collectors were left with some gaping holes that were never filled. In the late 2000's, though, high quality, factory produced bootlegs began to fill a few of those voids. I have looked at some of the figures before and found them to be excellent additions to a collection. As the 2010's progressed, though, the quality of these bootleg figures slipped quite a bit. Loose arm joints, splayed legs and poor quality all turned me off to the newer bootlegs that came out. This was punctuated by the ever rising cost of the figures, too. (They started in the $6 range, but quickly became $12-$15 figures.) I found myself less interested in the bootlegs and didn't pay them as much heed.
Then, though, came hints that the bootleggers were upping their game. Some new figures began to appear. Those who had them reported higher quality. Then, it was hinted that Stormshadow was in the mix. This piqued my interest. The possibility of a Cobra blue V1 Stormshadow has always been the last bastion of vintage Joes that was an absolute must have. In 2016, the figures showed up. Stormshadow was made available in a swath of colors and cammo patterns. Some of the figures looked pretty bad. Others were cool. But, who really needs a jungle cammo ninja? But, among the fodder was the gem: a truly Cobra blue V1 Stormshadow figure. At long last collectors had access to either an alternate uniform for the Stormshadow character, or a much better look for the under-utilized Cobra Ninja Viper.
Quality wise, the figure is solid. While you can still tell it's a bootleg, the overall quality is substantially better than that of the Crimson Guard figures and the middle release Cobra Trooper variants. The figure feels more solid than those earlier figures. The paint masks are crisp and you don't have any qualms about posing the figures. However, there are some oddities that should be noted. First, the elbow joints on the figure were redone. They are smaller than the production figures. They look odd and the figure appears somewhat out of proportion in the arms. It's a small detail, but something you notice. The second aspect of the figure that would be better is the hands. Instead of flesh molded plastic hands, the figure's appendages are painted flesh color. It creates a mismatch in the figure and adds to the oddity of the arms in general. These are small points, but they do detract from the figure's overall presentation.
It is also of note that there are both logo and head variants for this figure. You can get him with silver or red Cobra logos. (I, personally, prefer the silver.) You can also get an alternate head version. The head is based on the Mortal Combat ninja heads. It's a nice way to make the figure more of a true army builder that is different from Stormshadow as a character. (The heads are also closer to the first appearance of the Red Ninjas in G.I. Joe #21.) But, I am a fan of the original mold and the 1993 Ninja Viper gives enough credence to the similar looks to leave the classic Stormshadow head a canonical army builder, too.
The best part of the figure is the inclusion of the entire gamut of V1 Stormshadow accessories. Along with the pack, you get a bow, two swords and nunchuks. It is an excellent finish to a solid figure. With the V1 gear, this Stormshadow doesn't have the detracting issues that plagued the 2004 Ninja Strike set. In addition to a set of black accessories, though, the figures also include a full set of glow in the dark weapons. At first, these are kind of gimmicky. But, the translucent plastic is kind of neat. And, the blue glowing swords are definitely a step up for the overall use of figures like this. The extra set of gear also makes the price a bit more palatable. Putting the glow in the dark swords in the black pack is a neat effect. That also frees up some extra Stormshadow gear to outfit the extra 2004 Red Ninjas you have lying around.
A blue Stormshadow has a bit of history. Collectors have long wanted the figure and it's been a customizing staple. In the early 2000's, when the masses of Plastirama toys flooded the U.S., an scammer in Argentina custom painted some Cobra de Hielo figures in blue and packaged them into some overstock C.O.P.S. boxes. These C.O.P.S. sets were a Plastirama hallmark of selling off their massive amounts of overstock Joe toys. So, when the scammer offered them for sale, many ill informed collectors dropped massive amounts of money on them: thinking the blue figure was a new, Argentine variant. Quickly, a few collectors got a hold of a set, opened it up and exposed the fraudster for what he was. But, the damage was done. To this day, you will see boxed C.O.P.S. blue Cobra de Hielo figures in both collectors and for sale. The sellers usually try to hide the fact that it's a known fraud. And, from time to time, you'll still see someone who was duped into paying a high price for this forgery argue vehemently against all the documented evidence that his high dollar purchase "could" be real and that all the collectors who have proof that the figure is a custom are out to get him.
With all bootleg figures, buyer beware. Spending lots of money on a figure that someone can mass produce at any time is risky. But, it's also unlikely that the figures will ever sell for substantially less than their current retail price. (This usually only happens on extremely unpopular color schemes or molds.) So, paying $12 to $15 is about the market rate. We've seen discontinued figures skyrocket to three or four times that price. But, we've also seen some plummet to around 1/2 that mark. The popularity of the V1 Stormshadow mold, the classic Cobra color and the inclusion of the original accessories, though, all add up to a figure that's going to be popular both now and in the future. Long term availability is unknown. It seems these figures are very available right now. But, we've seen Cobra Trooper variants that were common for a long time appreciate radically on the secondary market and become hard to find. Stormshadow may follow that route, or he may not. Personally, I wouldn't balk at getting the figure for the current price. The accessories alone make him a worthwhile purchase. Army building him, though, is still up in the air. I can get a lot of army builders for $15 each. So, you have to weigh the value of additional Stormshadows versus the value of the army builders you could buy in his stead. I'd like a few more of these figures for sure. We'll see what the future holds.
There are now two Joe bootleggers in the market: Black Major and Red Laser. Black Major was the first who started with the Cobra Troopers back in the late 2000's. He "retired" and Red Laser took up the mantle. To date, only Black Major has the Stormshadow mold. (You will see the Black Major info stamped across this figure's rear end.) Both bootleggers seem to have the same suppliers and the general quality between them is about the same. But, as they offer different figures, it's tough to get all the figures you want in one shipment. I find that frustrating. And, with different suppliers, you have differing quality, etc. between the figures. Hopefully, having two different sellers will lead to increased quality and more creative offerings. There's a lot that could be done with bootleg Joes since Hasbro left so much unmade. Hopefully, these can be explored and there will be enough of a market to support larger production runs and lower prices. We'll see how it plays out.