Thursday, November 10, 2016

1991 Sci Fi

I started reviewing G.I. Joe figures in 1999.  These days, pretty much every collector that's still around is at least familiar with all the figures released in the vintage Joe line.  In 1999, though, that was not the case.  The vast majority of collectors stopped collecting at 1987 and had little desire to learn anything about the figures released after that year.  If you wanted to buy Joes made in 1987 or earlier, they were plentiful.  You could find a good deal of 1988 and 1989 collections online from students who were selling off their childhood toys for beer money.  But, anything made after 1989 was actually pretty hard to find.  It wasn't uncommon to go weeks without seeing any 1990 or later figures offered for sale.  Individual figures were nearly impossible to find unless you bought a large lot.  But, since these lots often sold for under $2 per mint, complete with filecard figure, it wasn't a huge burden to pick up the extras for the sake of the figure you did want.

My childhood was immersed in pre 1988 Joes.  A decade later, I could still fully equip the entire line from memory.  I had a passing knowledge of 1988 and 1989 figures as I was still dedicated to the comic and my younger brothers bought enough items that I owned cardbacks and catalogs.  After 1989, though, my only real resource regarding Joes were the fleeting memories of a kid down the street who had some figures that I had seen when I babysat him and his little brother.  From here, I recalled Big Ben and Metal Head.  But, I couldn't have told you if they were released in 1990 or 1991.  So, when I returned to Joe collecting, my primary focus was to acquire later edition figures that I had not owned as a child.  (I still had pretty much all my childhood figures and, while they weren't mint or complete in many cases, I considered them good enough at the time to satisfy my collecting goals.)  In short order, I acquired most of the 1990 through 1992 line.  As I did so, I discovered the quality of these figures was easily up to par with that of the figures from the '80's.  While most collectors at the time would not have entertained the thought of these figures supplanting the vaunted 1985 and 1986 series, I found that there were hidden gems among these years.

In my zeal to overshare everything, I started a website to showcase these figures.  17 years ago today, that site went live with the review of a 1990 Decimator.  The purpose was to tell the story of later figures and "prove" there was life in the tail end of the Joe line.  7 of the first 10 profiles I did were of figures made in the 1990s.  While I did showcase a large volume of '80's figures, too, the first year of the site was heavy on figures from 1990 through 1993.  I doubt this had little impact.  It was only as more collectors whose childhoods occurred in the 1990's came of age and the older collectors ran out of pre-1988 figures to buy that interest in the line's later years began to flicker.  Now, most collectors can find favorites in any year and the real dichotomy remains between the construction styles rather than the release years.

Among the figures I acquired in one of those early lots was the 1991 Sci Fi figure.  In my amazement at the Crimson Guard Immortal, Desert Scorpion, Topside and Salvo, this figure slipped through the cracks and fell into obscurity.  If you peruse the thousands of photos on this site, you will see the figure very rarely appears.  But, if I opened the 1991 figure drawer looking for a photography subject, there were so many great figures from which to choose that I would overlook Sci Fi.  Plus, I really liked the 1986 version and that was my default if I wanted the character.  But, like many 1991 figures, Sci Fi is a solid figure worthy of a second look.

The original Sci Fi figure did not have a removable helmet and was rather bulky and bright.  The 1991 version solved those issues and gave collectors a drastically different view of the character.  Sci Fi's head was fully visible and his helmet was now removable.  The helmet still features the open face of the original figure.  But, does have goggles and what appears to be some mouth protection.  The base uniform is grey with black details.  Just so you remember that this is a 1991 release, though, Sci Fi also feaures bright yellow gloves and stripes.  He's more muted than the 1986 figure, but still has some color to him that showcase his release year.

The mold isn't overly detailed, though the head sculpt is quite good.  The figure pretty much has a vest and wrist gauntlets.  That's it.  Sans helmet, Sci Fi isn't much to review.  With the helmet and his full complement of gear, there is a lot more there.  But, Sci Fi is definitely an example of capable minimalism.  He works despite his simplicity.  The basic colors work well together and the splash of color gives him depth.  There's just enough here to create a nice toy without overdoing it.

Hasbro's dedication to accessories started with a few, sporadic 1987 figures.  You saw it again in 1988.  But, it expanded in 1989 and, by 1990, figures were laden with gear.  Sci Fi is no exception.  He includes a removable helmet, backpack, laser rifle and two hoses.  If this isn't enough, there is also a spring loaded missile launcher and a yellow missile.  The silver pack and gun add to the futuristic nature of Sci Fi's specialty.  But, the rifle later appeared as a stand alone item in so many multi colored weapon trees in 1993 and 1994 that it's uniqueness was lost.  The missile launchers of 1991 were designed to be more realistic and less intrusive that those that would come later.  So, the launcher plugs into a hose and generally fits the look and scale of the figure.  Overall, the gear enhances Sci Fi's look and makes him much stronger as a release.

For me, this Sci Fi is one of those background figures that you need to make the line work.  He's not going to be anyone's favorite.  The lime green original took chances and created a figure that you either love or hate.  This version inspires neither such emotion.  It is one of the multitudes of figures that simply are.  They are great to have around in dios or manning vehicles.  And, you need them for that.  But, he's not a figure that you notice or go out of your way to include in a collection.  But, that's ok.  The Joe line's strength was the army of figures and characters who filled in behind the main players.  You had a figure for every occasion.  That's what lead so many kids to buy them all.  You may not have wanted this Sci Fi.  But, you probably wanted a laser trooper.  So, when you saw this guy, you'd, eventually, buy him.

Hasbro seemed to have a reluctance to redo some of the original 13 Joes.  Stalker, Snake Eyes, Hawk, Rock and Roll and even Scarlett got multiple vintage versions.  Clutch, Grunt and Zap eventually saw new versions, too. Short Fuse, Breaker, Grand Slam, Steeler and Flash did not.  (OK, Grand Slam got a repaint, but that's not really a new version.)  Why these four characters were ignored while others were not is a mystery.  Maybe the designers didn't like them.  Maybe they just liked the replacement characters better.  This Sci Fi could easily have been Flash.  But, the same could be said for the V1 of the character, too.  My affinity for Flash was his original outfit being so different from the other, carded figures'.  So, I don't mind this being Sci Fi over Flash, even if Sci Fi is a bit more obscure.

This Sci Fi was only made by Hasbro.  He was released in the U.S., Europe and various Asian countries.  The figures are no different, but the packaging can be quite fun to track down.  In 1993, Hasbro repainted the mold in white and included him as the pilot of the Starfighter.  This is a nice remake of Sci Fi and is also worth owning.  The figure then disappeared until 2001.  Hasbro resurrected the body and added a new, Cobra head and released the figure as the now unappreciated Laser Viper.  That marked the end of the mold.  Sci Fi would have been a nice member of the Anti Venom set and it's hard to understand how Hasbro could remake the same mold over and over while neglecting an easy repaint that was right before their eyes.  This body painted like the V1 would have been a hit in the 2000's.  But, like so much in that time period, it was simply not meant to be.

Sci Fi figures are not expensive.  You can get a carded version for around $20.  Mint, loose and complete with filecard figures usually run around $7, with some going cheaper if you skip the filecard or one of the easily replaced hoses.  Dealer pricing runs around $11.  But, the figure isn't overly difficult to find and appears with enough frequency that the extra price for expediency isn't really worth it.  The figure is a good addition to a collection, though.  He's the least gaudy of the vintage laser troopers and his gear is solid.  The removable helmet is a nice touch and adds some depth to the figure.  He's one of those guys that is great to have, but you don't miss him if he's absent

1991 Sci Fi, Laser Trooper, 1993 Payload, Star Brigade

4 comments:

  1. It's interesting he and Low-Light were remade in the same year and assortment. The yellow aside, Sci-Fi has colors closer to Low-Light V1 that Low-Light V3 has.

    I suspect Flash was not remade in part because of The Flash, which Toy Biz had the DC license at the time (or was it Kenner again?).

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  2. It's funny, that you mention not being sure if Big Ben was a '90 or '91, because I've always assumed he was a 1990, turns out he's '91.

    I'm always surprised this version of Sci-Fi didn't pull an '88 Shockwave and be an acceptable post '87 figure to use. He was a classic character, had Night Force colours and a removable helmet. Plus he's a better figure than 1986 Robocop.

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  3. Funny you should mention the Flash-Sci-Fi connection, considering that the '07 convention Flash came with this Sci-Fi's rifle and backpack.

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  4. Love this mold. It was fantastic as the Laser Viper in 2001, which I need to rebuy. Right now I'm using the Star Brigade version of this mold with the proper laser backpack. Gotta love the blue/white.

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