Tuesday, February 28, 2017

1983 Snake Eyes

Eventually, I'm going to run out of figures to review.  There was a time when Hasbro pumped out more new figures than I could possibly keep up with.  But, they haven't made vintage style Joes for retail release in more than a decade (aside from one crappy Snow Job repaint) and haven't produced even a collector themed Convention exclusive is more than 6 years.  So, I've been catching up.  While there are still tons and tons of figures which I haven't looked at, my current collecting focus is heavily based on my childhood recollections.  Which leads us to today.  The 1983 Snake Eyes is certainly one of the most iconic G.I. Joe figures ever made.  The all black base with a masked visage created a character for all time.  He is not "forgotten" at all.  But, to me, this figure was not an overly important part of my childhood.  Snake Eyes as a character was not really relevant until the 1985 figure entered into my collection.  But, this original design for Snake Eyes was still around and had a few memories forged around it.

G.I. Joe entered my childhood in October of 1982 when my younger brother got most of the released toys for his birthday.  Prior to this, I was focused solely on Star Wars figures.  But, these new G.I. Joe figures offered cooler accessories, better vehicles and added articulation.  After playing with my brother's toys for a while, I wanted G.I. Joe for my birthday and Christmas that December.  My birthday was disappointing, though.  I only got the RAM.  A day after my birthday, though, a friend who had been sick for the party dropped off my present: a Breaker figure.  So, I had something to hold me over.  Christmas proved a bit better in the Joe department.  My existing RAM was joined by a VAMP (our second as my brother already had one) and an MMS.  Both toys included figures, so I had three Joes and three vehicles.  Also under the tree, though, was a single, carded figure: the 1982 Snake Eyes.

Upon opening my Joes, I now had three vehicles and 4 figures.  However, I had a dilemma.  Breaker was the sole operator of the RAM.  While I tried to put a second figure onto it, that was problematic and was more hassle than the play value afforded.  The VAMP's two seats were occupied by Clutch as the driver and Hawk since it was his MMS that was towed behind the jeep.  This left Snake Eyes out in the cold.  He had no transportation.  I tried him as second fiddle on the RAM.  I then attempted to have him sit on the back of the VAMP, somewhat manning the gun.  Again, though, this proved frustrating as he got in the way of play for the VAMP.  So, Snake Eyes was the odd man out.

However, this proved somewhat fortuitous.  It turns out that after Christmas of 1982, we had three Snake Eyes figures in our house.  My younger brother had gotten one in October and my youngest brother had also gotten a Snake Eyes under the Christmas tree.  In looking at the trio of all black, hidden face figures, I found my enemy.  These Snake Eyes figures became the villains to my Joes.  (I wouldn't see any Cobras in any neighborhood collections for several months.  And, by that time, I didn't really care as I was full bore back into Return of the Jedi figures.)  In early 1983, I acquired two Battle Gear packs.  With these, the Snake Eyes army could be outfitted with M-16's, M-60's and even laser rifles to help battle the Joes with more diverse weaponry than just their Uzis.  Through winter and into the early spring of 1983, Snake Eyes was the enemy who would capture, kill or be killed by the Joes.

This dynamic, though, was short lived.  1983 was interrupted by Star Wars and I completely abandoned my Joes from around April until well into July.  When Star Wars played itself out, though, and I found myself enthralled by the new, 1983 Joe releases. Snake Eyes was no more.  Now, I had access to real Cobras.  I didn't need the contrived enemy of Snake Eyes figures any longer.  (Plus, more than one had now suffered broken thumbs from the variety of weapons forced into their hands.)  With this, Snake Eyes perished as a viable member of my collection.

In the early summer of 1984, though, G.I. Joe #26 came out.  I read the issue at school and was hooked.  I found issue #27 at a local drug store in the first weeks of summer vacation and subscribed to the comic that day.  This story made Snake Eyes valuable.  And, as I searched out a Stormshadow figure as the year wound down, not having Snake Eyes as a foil was problematic.  I found the old Snake Eyes figures.  But, even the one that was unbroken was straight arm.  Now that I had swivel arm figures, straight arms might as well have been Kenner or Fisher Price toys.  They simply weren't compatible.  How could Snake Eyes fight a better articulated Stormshadow?  And, thus was born a dilemma.  At the time, I'm sure I could have found a swivel arm Snake Eyes had I wanted one.  But, there were so many other, newer figures to be had that I somewhat ignored finding Snake Eyes at retail.  December of 1984, though, ushered in G.I. Joe #31 where Snake Eyes showcased his commando skills.  I now needed a figure.

Fate, though, intervened.  My friends down the street discovered their Christmas presents hidden in their parents' room.  We sneaked in and found the carded Dreadnoks that had been released early at Sears.  On the back, plain as day, was a new Commando figure that solved the Snake Eyes dilemma.  The thought of getting an old figure was completely out the window as Snake Eyes would be handled by the 1985 figure.  (Finding a 1985 Snake Eyes would be somewhat problematic for a while, until I found an unopened case of them at Toys R Us the Friday that Spring Break began in 1985.  None of my friends would get one for many more months and even resorted to ordering figures they already had from the Sears of JC Penny catalogs just to get a Snake Eyes.)  This revelation ended the original version of Snake Eyes in my collection.

When I returned to collecting in the 1990's, I didn't start as a completist.  I was more focused on filling holes of things I thought were cool or I hadn't owned as a kid.  I didn't have much interest in the 1982/3 Snake Eyes as I had the '85 and an '89.  Both of which, in my opinion, were far superior figures.  In December of 1997, I found the Stars and Stripes set at Toys R Us.  With this purchase, I had a V1 Snake Eyes figure that was better painted than the original.  As Hasbro repainted this mold a few more times, there was no real reason to care about the original release.

Eventually, though, nostalgia reigned and I wanted a complete run of swivel arm figures from my prime collecting years.  (To this day, I don't care for straight arms and don't really keep any in my collection.)  I acquired an '83 Snake Eyes again.  Frankly, owning a nice version reminded me of how cool the figure and the character are.  Despite using the standard 1983 chest and arms, Snake Eyes does feature unique legs.  He has a bomb molded onto his left leg.  This distinguishing feature is both a nice way to set Snake Eyes apart, but also shows that he is a very deadly member of the Joe team.  It's a subtle reminder that Snake Eyes was a commando before he was a ninja.

The Snake Eyes mold was a world traveler.  He was released in the U.S. only in the 1982/1983 incarnation.  Palitoy released a slightly repainted Snake Eyes as Stalker (the Panther jeep driver) in their Action Force line.  The straight arm Snake Eyes, though, was much more traveled.  He appeared in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.  In both Argentina and Brazil, he was given a silver Cobra logo and released as Cobra Invasor.  His head was used for the infamous Brazilian Cobra de Aco and his entire body was used for both the Plastirama Cobra Mortal in Argentina and the Rubiplas Cobra Mortal in Venezuela.  The swivel arm version showed up again in India in the 1990's where Funskool released a blue variant and a version with silver highlights.  He was also the original Street Hawk figure with silver highlights and a black helmet.  Hasbro started releasing the mold in 1997 and used it no less than 6 times, with the head making an appearance on a Snow Job body in the first wave of 2004 Comic Packs.  (Hasbro also made a new head for a 2005 release.)  All of the Hasbro figures were, basically, black with the lone blue DVD exception.  If you want an oddball Snake Eyes figure, there aren't really any options.  The Cobra themed oddities and blue Funskool figure are among the rarest and most expensive G.I. Joe figures in the world.  But, V1 versions in a base black body are now very easy to find if you only want the look and not the collectible.

The basic black look with painted highlights gets old and it would have been cool to see Snake Eyes in desert colors or Action Force green.  A dealer tried to get Funskool to produce a Snake Eyes based on the original artwork with cammo pants in 2003, but it never came to be.  Around 2010, though, the Black Major bootlegged the Snake Eyes mold.  He repainted it into dozens of combos.  The vast majority of them were flavors of the Cobra Invasor, De Aco or Mortal and many are exceptionally good.  (You'll see both a Red Shadows Invasor and a blue Mortal floating around in the pics on this site.)  There are also desert Snake Eyes figures along with many other colors.  These helped fill the gap in the Hasbro banality and give Snake Eyes collectors even more to track down.

Being an iconic version of the most famous G.I. Joe character that was released in the line's first years has left this 1983 Snake Eyes as a pricey figure.  Dealers will often sell the figure for $50.  Left to the open market, the figure is readily available and sells in the $30-$35 range for a mint, complete with original weapons and filecard version.  (Watch out for Battle Gear weapons as many sellers mistake the lighter gray accessory pack weapons for the charcoal originals.  You'll also often see the '82/'83 Snake Eyes with the easier to find 1985 Snake Eyes Uzi.)  If you want to skip the filecard, or don't mind the Battle Gear weapons, the price falls rather precipitously.  (No paint to wear out on the figure sure helps up the supply of mint versions of him!)   As there are lots of options for Snake Eyes figures with better highlights and the same gear, spending a lot may not make sense if you have no emotional attachment to the figure.  But, if you do, the price could be a lot worse than $30.  So, he's at least somewhat affordable.

1983 Snake Eyes, 2003 Scarlett, Toy Fair Exclusive, Bootleg, Cobra Trooper, Black Major, Custom, VAMP, 2004


1983 Snake Eyes, 1994 Chinese Flint, Tiger Force Falcon, Steel Brigade, Mail Away, 1984 Spirit Iron Knife, 2004 VAMP, TRU Exclusive


1983 Snake Eyes, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Viper Pilot, Black Major, Custom


1983 Snake Eyes, Gung Ho, 1984 Tan Clutch, Ripcord, Fuego, Argentina, Plastirama, 1988 Desert Fox

Saturday, February 25, 2017

1983 Zap Around The Web

Zap was not the most popular Joe in the original 13.  But, he saw more releases than some of his peers.  His unique green color and cool bazooka made him stand out among the class of  '82.  And, his oft broken thumbs and crotch have been consternation of kids and collectors for 35 years now.  But, he's a classic figure and there's lots of great content on him out there.  Check out my around the web roundup below.

Zap Profile

Zap at JoeADay.com

Zap at WhenitwasCool

Zap Dio 1

Zap Video Review

Zap Dio 2

Zap Pre Production at YoJoe.com

Zap Dio 3

Zap at Comic Vine

Zap Dio 4

Zap Dio 5

Zap Dio 6

1983 Zap, Snake Eyes, Grand Slam, Flash, VAMP, JUMP, Jet Pack

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Diorama - Island Raid

In my old backyard, there was a section on the left hand side that was the "forest" of about 20 younger trees.  The ground beneath them was small river rock over a plastic tarp to keep the weeds down.  But, when it rained, I got large puddles in the area that make for a great photo setting.  You can see the location used often in profiles from 2001 to 2003 on the site.

It was still raining when I went out take these pics.  The water was at it's highest and there just a single dry patch.  My intent was to showcase my newly acquired 2002 Shipwreck figure that you can see below.  But, it ended up being a good way to get some Dreadnok shots.  Again, you see the theme of a large force being necessary to take out the Dreadnoks. I don't know why I return to that theme a few times as the Dreadnoks as characters were not a huge part of my childhood Joe collection.  But, they made for some different show of force type shots.

1986 Sears Exclusive Dreadnok Stinger, 1987, Dreadnok Cycle, 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Road Pig, Zarana, Zandar, Thrasher, 1994, 1998, Torpedo, Wetsuit, Shipwreck, Action Sailor, 2002 ARAHC Wave V Internet Exclusive Shipwreck, 1989 Gnawgahyde

1986 Sears Exclusive Dreadnok Stinger, 1987, Dreadnok Cycle, 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Road Pig, Zarana, Zandar, Thrasher, 1994, 1998, Torpedo, Wetsuit, Shipwreck, Action Sailor, 2002 ARAHC Wave V Internet Exclusive Shipwreck, 1989 Gnawgahyde

1986 Sears Exclusive Dreadnok Stinger, 1987, Dreadnok Cycle, 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Road Pig, Zarana, Zandar, Thrasher, 1994, 1998, Torpedo, Wetsuit, Shipwreck, Action Sailor, 2002 ARAHC Wave V Internet Exclusive Shipwreck, 1989 Gnawgahyde

1986 Sears Exclusive Dreadnok Stinger, 1987, Dreadnok Cycle, 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Road Pig, Zarana, Zandar, Thrasher, 1994, 1998, Torpedo, Wetsuit, Shipwreck, Action Sailor, 2002 ARAHC Wave V Internet Exclusive Shipwreck, 1989 Gnawgahyde

1986 Sears Exclusive Dreadnok Stinger, 1987, Dreadnok Cycle, 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Road Pig, Zarana, Zandar, Thrasher, 1994, 1998, Torpedo, Wetsuit, Shipwreck, Action Sailor, 2002 ARAHC Wave V Internet Exclusive Shipwreck, 1989 Gnawgahyde

1986 Sears Exclusive Dreadnok Stinger, 1987, Dreadnok Cycle, 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Road Pig, Zarana, Zandar, Thrasher, 1994, 1998, Torpedo, Wetsuit, Shipwreck, Action Sailor, 2002 ARAHC Wave V Internet Exclusive Shipwreck, 1989 Gnawgahyde

1986 Sears Exclusive Dreadnok Stinger, 1987, Dreadnok Cycle, 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Road Pig, Zarana, Zandar, Thrasher, 1994, 1998, Torpedo, Wetsuit, Shipwreck, Action Sailor, 2002 ARAHC Wave V Internet Exclusive Shipwreck, 1989 Gnawgahyde

1986 Sears Exclusive Dreadnok Stinger, 1987, Dreadnok Cycle, 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Road Pig, Zarana, Zandar, Thrasher, 1994, 1998, Torpedo, Wetsuit, Shipwreck, Action Sailor, 2002 ARAHC Wave V Internet Exclusive Shipwreck, 1989 Gnawgahyde

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Antorcha - Argentine Exclusive Blowtorch

It is no secret that my favorite subline of foreign G.I. Joe figures is the Plastirama line from Argentina.  My interest is heavily driven by the fact that it's a strong combination of exclusive repaints and slightly derivative remakes of classic 1983 through 1987 molds.  It was also readily available and very cheap to acquire in the early 2000's after a warehouse find in Argentina brought massive amounts of overstock to the U.S.  There are some quality issues among the figures, both in terms of construction and paint application.  But, those can be forgiven for the great diversity the line adds to any Joe collection.  I am also a big fan of the Blowtorch figure released in 1984.  In the US, the mold never saw any repaints and I was left with one version of the character.  But, in Argentina, Blowtorch was ubiquitous.  While there are two more famous repaints we'll talk about later, the main character of Blowtorch also got a full release.  Plastirama released him as Antorcha and he's a solid variant for any Blowtorch aficionado.

Just before school let out for the summer in 1984, my dad took a friend of mine and I to the local Children's Palace.  I don't recall which figure I bought that day (though, it was likely Scrap Iron), but my friend bought a Blowtorch.  We had fun the rest of that day with our new toys.  And, Blowtorch, while cool enough, didn't really leave a great impression on me.  It was not until the following Monday at school when he said he had been using the figure as a diver in his pool that the awesomeness of Blowtorch's mask sunk in.  Sometime that summer, my youngest brother acquired a Blowtorch.  For a few weeks, he was great.  But, my brother broke his mask and lost his flamethrower.  Without these, the figure suffered.  As 1985 began, one of the Joe products I was most looking forward to was the 1985 Battle Gear pack.  I assumed it would include Ripcord's mask and parachute, Mutt's muzzle and, of course, Blowtorch's gas mask.

When the set appeared, though, the gear I most wanted was all absent.  That disappointment lasted for a long time and soured me on the battle gear in general.  But, the real loss was that Blowtorch didn't get a new mask.  So, while I read great stories using Blowtorch in the comic and really wanted him to be a part of my collection, I couldn't get excited for him since the one in our house was damaged.  (I went so far as to use electrical tape to tape the mask to his head to try to get some use from him.)  So, Blowtorch went largely unused and was a gap in my collection that I wanted to fill.

If you fast forward to the late 1990's when I was building my adult Joe collection, though, I rectified this loss.  In short order I had more than half a dozen mint and complete Blowtorch figures.  Every time I saw one, I bought him.  It was an attempt to make up for not using him as a kid.  But, even with all these new samples around, Blowtorch didn't get much use.  I had so many other new figures that I never really utilized the figure as much as I wanted.

Then, I found the Plastirama figures.  Seeing my childhood favorites in slightly altered colors was interesting as it made these old figures new again.  I set about acquiring all of the Plastirama figures that were readily available and picked up most of the line in fairly short order.  Among these was the Antorcha figure.  The deeper yellow and red colors combined with the sunburned skin tone really made the figure pop to me.  It brought the Blowtorch character back into my collection in a new way that was fresher than a 20 year old retread.  Now, that's my enjoyment of the figure.  He's a different way to display and showcase Blowtorch.  Anyone who sees him knows that he is Blowtorch, but also notices that he's a bit different.

Plastirama used the Blowtorch mold three times.  In the regular carded line, the exclusive TNT figure is the most famous usage.  The Backstop figure included with the Persuader was the second.  The final was, basically, just a slightly redone American Blowtorch named Antorcha.  All three figures used the full Blowtorch mold with the exception of the waist piece.  Instead of Blowtorch's waist, the figures all use the waist from Doc.  Visually, it's not really important, except that Doc's waist is a bit smaller than Blowtorch's.  So, the figure appears a bit out of a balance as you have a bulky chest flowing into a skinny waist that then expands into puffier legs than were designed for the waist.  As such, you have to be careful as quick, harsh movements can snap Antorcha's crotch instantly.  You see large quantities of Antorcha figures from childhood Argentina collections with broken crotch pieces.

Antorcha's accessories are different from the American Blowtorch's.  Well, at least partly.  The backpack and airmask are the same and are in the same, yellow color as the US figure.  Antorcha's helmet, though, is not the traditional Blowtorch helmet.  Instead, it is a yellow repaint of the helmet released with Doc in the US.  Rather than the traditional blowtorch, Antorcha includes a black version of the acetylene torch that was included with the 1985 Torch figure.  The black torch is also available with many other Plastirama figures who have common accessory variants.  I have not seen any Antorcha figures with a different weapon than the torch.  But, considering the randomness of Plastirama accessory distribution, it's possible that a carded figure may exist with a different weapon.  But, as the preponderance of Antorchas include the torch, it should be considered the figure's default weapon.

If you are a Blowtorch fan, there's a lot to track down.  But, a lot of it is the same.  After his American release, Blowtorch  showed up in various other countries whose Joes were produced by Hasbro.  He then went to Brazil.  The Brazilian figure is, basically, the same color as the American figure.  There's some slight difference (especially in regards to the green color of his flamethrower) but he's pretty much the same.  Auriken then produced a Blowtorch figure that's also very similar to the American figure.  From there, the mold went to Argentina.  Plastirama finally brought some diversity to the mold with the release of both TNT and Backstop.  However, both figures still use a lot of yellow.  Then, you have Antorcha, who's also, basically, the American figure.  So, there's 6 uses of the mold: but 4 are basically the same and the other two are just slightly different.  I'd have loved a Night Force Blowtorch, an Action Force green Blowtorch, a Sky Patrol Blowtorch (though TNT kind of fills that role), a wacky Funskool Blowtorch and even a desert themed Blowtorch.  In short, I'd have taken just about any repaint of the mold we could have gotten.  But, there's a lot out there for the character and mold.  So, I can't complain too much.

In the early 2000's, carded Antorchas could be had for under $10.  But, Antorcha was in an assortment that wasn't as common as some others.  Slowly, Antorchas started to dry up.  Over time, carded figures started to climb upwards of $25 each.  Now, pricing is up and down.  You'll see some sell for $60 and some sell for $30.  But, the days of getting one for $10 are long gone.  Loose, mint and complete versions are fairly rare to come by as most of the stock was carded and stayed that way.  For the price, buy an American Blowtorch and some other figures.  He's better in every way.  But, as another foreign version of a classic character, Antorcha is worth owning.  I'm just not sure he's worth the current pricing.  But, he does bring something different to the Blowtorch character and nicely diversifies a collection.

Antorcha, Blowtorch, Argentina, Plastirama, Quick Kick, Sigilo, 1987, Falcon, 1989, Snake Eyes, 1988 Duke, Tiger Force, 1993, Ace, 1994, Lifeline

Antorcha, Blowtorch, Argentina, Plastirama, Quick Kick, Sigilo, 1987, Falcon


Antorcha, Blowtorch, 1984, Plastirama, Argentina, Doc, Medico, Hawk, 1982, 1983, 1985 Transportable Tactical Battle Platform



Friday, February 17, 2017

Funskool Beach Head - Around the Web

I got my first Funskool Beach Head 15 years ago.  The lime green was an excellent way to bring some color to the character and remains a visual treat.  The figure is very common now and most collectors have ample opportunity to acquire one.  He remains one of my favorite foreign figures.  Here is the best of him around the web.

Funskool Beach Head profile

Funskool Beach Head at JoeADay.com

Beach Head at Action Figure Adventures

OreoBuilder's Funskool Beach Head inspired customs

Funskool Beach Head at JoeCustoms.com

Funskool Beach Head at JoeDios.com

Funskool Beach Head, Airtight, Crimson Guard Immortal, India, 1989 Dogfight

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Bootleg Viper Officer

There are two different outfits currently making bootleg G.I. Joe figures: the Black Major and Red Laser.  I have looked at many of the Black Major's offerings a couple of different times through the years.  Red Laser is newer to the game, though, and I have not acquired any of his figures until recently.  Black Major currently makes Steel Brigades and Cobra Troopers.  Red Laser currently makes BATs and Cobra Vipers.  Normally, Vipers wouldn't excite me.  But, Red Laser added a bit of a twist: a removable helmet.  This little feature brings something new to the mold and has captured my attention for this week's profile.

In the vintage line, Hasbro released the Viper mold three times: the original, the Super Sonic Fighters Version and the Python Patrol Viper.  Between 1997 and 2006, though, they released (most of) the mold an additional 12 times.  (1 in 1997, 2 in 1998, 4 in 2002, 3 in 2003 and 2 in 2006.)  Despite all these incarnations, though, Hasbro really didn't explore the possibilities of the design.  If the Viper was Cobra's basic grunt, it would make sense to have uniforms for them that fit all of the environments where Cobra tended to operate.  Despite this obvious use, Hasbro failed to deliver on any Vipers that were remotely specific beyond the grey 1998 Cobra Officer and the green 2002 Viper.  The rest were just color mashes.  Some were well done.  Some were not.  But, as with the Cobra Trooper mold, Hasbro left so much potential on the table that even 15 versions of the figure were not enough.

Enter the Red Laser.  In the latter half of 2016, Red Laser began producing Viper figures.  They were designed to solve the missing legs that had plagued Vipers since 1997.  They brought back the original Viper rifle (which hadn't been seen in 30 years) and backpack.  But, the real selling feature was the removable helmet.  Rather than have a fully sculpted Viper head, the figure features a head based on the 2004 Crimson Guard figure.  Over the appendage fits a perfect rendition of the 1986 Viper's helmet.  It is tight fitting and accurate and, when on, is barely noticeable as anything other than the sculpted head we've seen 15 times before.  The series also introduced Vipers of different hair colors and races.  Hasbro has given us multi race Crimson Guards and Cobra Troopers.  But, they missed the boat on the Vipers in the 2006 Viper Pit set.  Now, though, you can add some diversity to the Viper ranks, even when the helmets are on.

There are currently three flavors of Viper available from Red Laser: desert, Eel and these Officers.  (I'm sure, though, that in just a couple of months there will be more and within a year or two there will be many more!)  The Officer is interesting to me due to the tie to the Stinger.  Cobra established grey as a base color in 1984.  So, it's been part of them since the early days.  And, the grey color is a nice contrast to the black Hiss Tanks and Stinger jeeps that comprise the bulk of my Cobra vehicles. These figures are a nice combination of grey and red with just enough black thrown in.  They are a brighter grey than the 1998 Toys R Us Cobra Officer, but not as light as the Stinger Driver or any of the bootlegs Bats, CG's or Cobra Troopers who were derived from him.  The color is a nice match for the 2005 Comic Pack Firefly.

The big difference from the 1998 Cobra Office is the red painted highlights.  The red pops more against the grey than does the gold from 1998.  But, the biggest red addition is the Cobra logo.  I don't really miss Cobra logos on the '98 figures.  But, having it on this figure is a real asset since it contrasts so well with the grey.  You could use these figures as the armies lead by the 1998 Officer.  Or, have one of these guys lead your squads of Officers.  Either way, they work well.

The figures are nicely accessorized.  You get a high quality rendition of the classic 1986 Viper rifle.  It is cast in a light grey color: darker than the original accessory.  It's a nice match for this figure without treading on the vintage gun.  Also included is a reproduction of the classic Viper backpack.  It's glossier than the vintage pack.  But, is otherwise tough to tell apart.  The coup de gras, though, is the removable helmet.  Hasbro never produced a Viper with anything other than the standard 1986 head.  Now, though, that has changed.  The helmet is very tight fitting on the figure's head and has to be pushed to get all the way on.  But, once on, the helmet covers the head almost exactly like that of the original figure.  Usually, removable helmets are far bulkier than sculpted heads.  (Think the 2005 Crimson Guards versus the originals.)  But, that is not the case with this Viper.  Part of that is the original head was better scaled.  But, it's also the strong design of this head/helmet combo.  You can see in the photos below how well the helmets fit.  I can not state how strong the design is on this element of the figure.

The real question on these figures is the quality.  The early Cobra Troopers were of excellent quality.  But, then there was quite a drop off in later Cobra Trooper batches, the Crimson Guards and the early BATs.  However, much of this has been corrected.  These figures don't quite have the full heft of a vintage Joe.  But, they are close.  The hard plastic is a concern.  You'll notice the crotch piece of these figures has been better engineered than the 2006 Viper Pit crotch to help avoid breakage.  The thumbs are another story.  You'll see the guns in the photos below are held somewhat awkwardly.  This is because, while the figs will hold the weapons and the thumbs don't break, the hard plastic makes it so the stocks pop out from behind the forearms.  There's just too much pressure and the weapon slides.  (Which is preferable to broken thumbs!)  Collector Cyko9 has recommended shaving down the gun handles a bit, though, to solve this issue and worry less about breakage.  These figures will stand on their own, though they do have to hunch forwards just a bit.

The paint masks are very sharp and crisp.  You'll notice it, especially, on the two tone eyes of the unmasked figure.  But, the factory quality is top notch.  The sculpting is clear and clean and is a solid match for the Hasbro edition of the figure.  The caucasian skin tone is the darker, sunburned look we often saw in the 2000's.  It works well enough.  The African American skin tone is dark and sharply contrasts with the lighter uniformed figures.  My packs snap into place on the backs and aren't as smooth as vintage figures.  I haven't tried the gear on vintage Joes to check for compatibility.  But, they fit tightly on the Red Laser releases.

Currently, these figures are available for around $12.  You can buy them up in lots, or as individual figures: to match your collecting style.  I'm sure the helmets cost quite a bit to develop and engineer.  But, they are worth it.  The colors for these Officer figures are right up my alley, even if the Viper itself isn't as big a draw.  If you are a Viper fan, these figs are worth checking out.  If you are an ARAH style Joe junkie, they are definitely worth checking out since we collectors of it have been left behind by both Hasbro and the club.  Fortunately, modern technology has made figures like this possible.  The fact that there's a couple of outfits making them just means there is more and more to collect.  And, that's exciting.




Saturday, February 11, 2017

1984 Spirit Around the Web

Spirit is one of the more iconic looks in the vintage Joe line.  He's a solid figure and character who gives the line some visual distinction.  The American figure is prone to breakage and discoloration.  But, he's still well worth picking up.  Here's the best of him around the web.

Spirit Profile

Spirit Dio 1

Spirit at the Cobra Temple

Spirit at HalftheBattle

Spirit Dio 2

Spirit Dio 3

Spirit Dio 4

1984 Spirit Iron Knife, Steel Brigade, Mail Away, 2004 VAMP, TRU Exclusive, Chinese Flint, Tiger Force Falcon

1984 Spirit Iron Knife, 1983 Scarlett, Flash, Mexico, Mexican, Auriken

Thursday, February 9, 2017

1994 Joseph Colton Mail Away Insert

The 1990's really brought about the rise of the collector.  For the first time, toy companies really understood that there were people who collected their brands and that they were a demographic worth catering to.  They had money to spend and could offset their smaller numbers with the increased dollars they were willing to spend on high quality or nostalgic items.  Hasbro jumped on the boat with the 12" Joe figures.  And, with 1994 being the 30th anniversary of the original G.I. Joe, they decided to do a series of homages to the brand's roots.  In late 1993, Hasbro began including a mail away promo with 3 3/4" G.I. Joe figures encouraging kids and collectors to send away for their very own Joseph Colton figure.

1994 Joseph Colton Mail Away Promo, G.I. Joe, 1993, Paperwork
Joseph Colton Mail Away Promo Cover

For 3 3/4 collectors, this anniversary meant a small figure of Joseph Colton and reproductions of the Marine, Soldier, Diver, Pilot and Astronaut from the early days of the brand.  While the "Action Series" of figures would be sold at retail in individual boxes and a commemorative boxed set, Joseph Colton was only available as a mail away.  At the time, the internet was in its infancy and communication among collectors was heavily influenced by rumors and falsehoods.  Most of these were driven by people trying to speculate in specific toys and drive up demand for something they either already owned or could easily acquire.  And, Joseph Colton was heavily influenced by that.  Adult collectors began hoarding up carded Joes so they could send off for the "sure to be valuable" Joesph Colton figures.  But, Hasbro actually made more of the 3 3/4" figures than collectors could absorb.  And, despite some high early pricing, the figures crashed in value and remain relatively easy to find to this day.

The insert shows a sample of both the 12" figure and the 3 3/4" figure.  The 12" figure is posed on a bookshelf in an obvious showcase of Hasbro's intentions behind it.  They created and marketed the figure for adult collectors of the day.  In looking at the 3 3/4" figure, there are some differences between the figure shown and the actual figure that was sent to collectors.  There are very subtle color differences in the green and brown colors.  The main change, though, is the rifle shown.  Colton is holding an M-16 inspired rifle.  It is a far cry from the 1992 Gung Ho machine gun that was actually sent with the figure.  The weapon shown in the insert was never, to my knowledge, released in any G.I. Joe line.  The sample appears production level, but it might have been a mock up and the Gung Ho weapon was released to cut costs.

1994 Joseph Colton Mail Away Promo, G.I. Joe, 1993, Paperwork
Joseph Colton Mail Away Promo Interior Pages
The Colton mail away featured one major change from prior mail aways.  Rather than requiring flag points, it required mailed UPC codes from packaged figures.  The reasoning was that many people had bags and bags of flag points and there would be no need for them to buy up the massive unsold store stock of G.I. Joe figures if the promotion required mail aways.  And, if someone bought a figure and cut out the upc, they could not return the figure to the store.  It was an interesting way to devalue flag points and spur collectors to buy up unsold merchandise.

1994 Joseph Colton Mail Away Promo, G.I. Joe, 1993, Paperwork
Joseph Colton Mail Away Promo Back Page
The legacy of this decision, though, is still seen more than 20 years later.  It is very common to find '90's era G.I. Joe figures that are MOC, but with missing upc symbols.  12" collectors and casual dealers who had no interest in retail G.I. Joe figures but had great interest in acquiring more than a few Coltons bought up retail figures, removed the upcs and then dropped the Joes into a box.  In the ensuing decades, as garages, attics and storage sheds have been cleaned out, these figures were put into the marketplace.  Most sell for loose figure pricing and remain one of the most effective ways to buy mint and complete with filecard Joes from the line's final years.

As mail in promos go, this one is fairly banal.  The Colton artwork on the front page isn't spectacular.  And, unlike most other mail away offers, this one only had a form to order the Joseph Colton figures and no other offers were present.  Just being two pages doesn't leave much room for pizzazz.  But, by 1993, the Joe line was in death throes and there wasn't much that was going to revive it.  Colton is a solid demarcation of the end of mail away premiums.  In 1996, Hasbro would start teaming up with food brands for mail aways for their new Star Wars line.  After that, mail aways were mainly retro ways to appease some collector nostalgia for bygone days.  So, this offer is one of the final legacies of the '80's Joe line.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

1998 Snow Serpent

The last 4 months of 1998 were some of the best in my life.  Basically, everything that people consider to be major achievements in life other than having a child happened to me in those 4 months.  As such, I hold even minor events of that period in high esteem if only because they were made that much sweeter by the big things that happened, too.  Toys were just part of the overall ensemble of awesomeness that defined that period.

Star Wars toys were very frustrating.  The carded line had stagnated in May and several waves of figures simply never saw retail.  However, due to professional growth, I had the income to acquire these toys through the various retail avenues that were available.  Paying a buck or two more per figure wasn't a huge price to own something that I simply couldn't find.  But, with Star Wars malaise setting in, my attention was turned to Joe.  I had discovered Ebay and my G.I. Joe collection was growing every week.  In turn, Hasbro released a new series of Joes that started hitting retail in early December of 1998.  This series was higher quality than the 1997 releases and featured a collector friendly lineup of the Oktober Guard, an army building three pack of Viper repaints and a set of arctic Cobras with two army builders and the hugely popular Firefly figure.  It is from this pack that I take the subject of this profile, the 1998 Snow Serpent.

To tell a story of how different the times were in 1998, when I found the first cases of new Joes, it was this arctic pack that had sold out, not the 3 pack of Viper repaints.  Getting a new Firefly for the first time in 14 years was a greater draw than three of the best army builder repaints that were ever released.  It seems quaint now.  But, the arctic 3 pack was, initially, the fastest seller.  (1998 was still a time when a collector who happened upon a freshly stocked case might only be able to buy one or two of the new toys rather than them all.)  This quickly changed, though, and in the weeks before Christmas, all of the Joe packs became plentiful and were readily available.  And, I set out to build an arctic army.

The 1985 Snow Serpent is classic.  It is about the perfect arctic trooper.  However, the figure is wearing bulky, heavy clothes and carries massive amounts of gear.  If you were going to lay siege to Chicago in January, you'd want an army of 1985 Snow Serpents.  This, though, didn't fit my vision of Cobra.  To me, Cobra was a swift strike outfit.  They wanted to hit you and get out.  As such, a more mobile and nimble force made sense.  Enter the 1991 Snow Serpent.  This figure retained much of the idea and practicality of the 1985 figure, but make him sleeker.  It gave him a snowboard that would be much more conducive to swift arctic combat rather than long, drawn out campaigns.  The mold of the new Snow Serpent was also excellent.  He still had tons and tons of gear.  But, he looked more dynamic than his predecessor.  In short, this new Snow Serpent was a perfect upgrade that kept the integrity of the character without impugning the original version.  It's a tight line to walk, but Hasbro pulled it off with the Snow Serpent.

The 1998 figure took this mold and colored it in a scheme that's very complimentary of the 1985 figure.  Included with him were all of the 1991 accessories.  The guns were still in white but the snowboard was cast in a bluish grey that better matched the figure than the gnarly early 1990's purple.  The pack was now black, too.  Against the white figure, the black pack is a bit of a contrast.  But, it's also more realistic than earlier versions.  In short, the accessories were as good as or better than the 1991 figure's.

Using the 1991 gear also allows the figure a great deal of spectacular design.  The Hasbro designers were still on top of their game in 1991 and the Snow Serpent showcases that.  The guns are wrapped in cloth to keep them warm.  The figure's sleek head has a molded tie on the back that extends down to the figure's torso.  The fur vest and ear warmers are excellently detailed and showcase the character's need for warmth.  The pack is full of details and includes both a hose to connect to the guns and a slot to hold the snowboard.  It's a great accompaniment of gear that enhances the figure into the realm of the 1985 version for the best rendition of the character.

By the first weeks of January in 1999, I had bought a few of these sets.  I was not enamored with the Night Creeper (though I now see it for the awesome figure it is!) and my plans to army build Firefly figures were somewhat curtailed after I had a couple and I found the practicality of him as an army builder was far less fun than the idea of stockpiling him.  So, the sets faded from retail.  In July of 1999, though, Hasbro shipped another allotment of the 1998 Joes to Toys R Us stores in the lull of Episode I figures.  I think I bought 1 set at this time, but kept it carded.  Again, the figures sold out.  But, at Christmas of 1999, Hasbro shipped the third run of these figures and gave me a chance to pick up a few more.  I got one or two extras, but also kept them carded with plans to open them later.

However, I never got around to opening them.  They sat in a box.  As 2000 turned to 2001, though, I saw the prices on sealed Arctic Team and Viper Team sets climbing.  Rather than open them for more army builders, I discovered that the carded sets were extremely attractive trade bait with European and Brazilian G.I. Joe collectors.  In the latter half of 2001 and through 2002, I traded off all of my carded Polar Assault Teams and most of my carded Infantry Teams in exchange for European and Brazilian exclusive figures.  My Abutre Negro carded figure was acquired, along with Gatilho and Letal, for a package of one of these Arctic sets and 2 Cobra Infantry sets.  At the time, I wasn't sure that I came out all that well.  Taken in context of 2017, though, that deal turned out fabulously for me.  But, at the time, the Toys R Us figures were very expensive and few collectors had extras to send overseas.  Simultaneously, especially in Brazil, the foreign Joes were very available and hadn't attracted the collector eye that has raised prices on them in the past 15 years.

I've really only gotten to use this figure in the snow one or two times.  My favorite was the Saturday it snowed and I was able to get a full cadre of Cobras out into the weather.  But, the showcase of that photo shoot was the army of 1993 Snow Serpents and these 1998 versions were mostly filler.  After that, these figures never really got another chance to see snow and that has greatly limited their visibility among my Cobra army builder figures.  Even below, you will see one of the figures standing near a baby palm tree.  The visual just isn't right.  But, that doesn't keep me from enjoying the figure's design.  I only have a few of them, though, and their lack of numbers is largely a function of the fact that I have basically no occasion to use them.

This mold was used three times.  There is not a bad figure in the bunch.  Arctic figures are tough to design without staying true to a base of white color.  Unless you make that base arctic ice blue.  And, that's what Hasbro did in 1993 with the mail away Snow Serpent.  The blue is a nice separation from the 1991 while still staying true to the figure's purpose.  It is an excellent repaint and might even be better than the '91.  The Snow Serpent was also planned for release in 1995.  There are hand painted samples of the figure out there.  It's similar to the 1993 version, but with more color.  It, likely, would be the worst use of the mold and collectors really didn't lose out on it being cancelled.  This 1998 repaint, to me, is the best release of the figure.  You get a solid base without too much superfluous colors along with the full range of original accessories.  (Minus the spring loaded launcher.)  It's just about the perfect winter army builder.

Oddly, Hasbro did not pull the mold out again after 1998.  They found the 1985 mold for the Flaming Moth set in 2005.  You can't really knock that choice since it hadn't been seen on an arctic figure in two decades.  Hasbro really didn't have any slots into which this mold would have fit after 1998.  The only winter figures were Joes.  (Though, knowing Hasbro had the Wolf available is a bummer as a release of that with an Ice Viper and a repainted Snow Serpent would have been awesome.)  As all three versions of this figure are excellent, though, I don't think collectors missed out.  This is really a case where Hasbro delivered on the potential of the mold and you don't have great lament over what could have been.

In the early 2000's, at the height of the army building craze, carded Cobra Polar Assaults would fetch nearly $50.  Individually, the figures would sell for close to $20 if they were complete with filecards.  Loose figures, though, were very hard to find.  But, time evened that out.  By the early 2010's, 1998 Snow Serpents were easier to find and a lot cheaper.  Now, prices have stabilized.  Dealers will offer the figures in the $17 - $20 range with little success.  You can find loose, mint and complete with filecard figures for around $11 with regularity.  It might take you a year to build an army of 25 to 30 figures, but they are out there.  That price isn't bad, especially when you consider that the production numbers on these figures were likely lower than those of the 1991 Snow Serpent which sells for around the same price.  It's tough for me to wrap my brain around spending more for this figure now than I spent to buy sets at retail.  But, that was also almost twenty years ago.  So, I have to call myself out for being cheap.

None of that takes away from the sheer quality of this figure, though.  He remains one of my favorite cold weather figures and is always a welcome addition to my collection.  Were I to cull my winter forces to just one mold, this would be the choice.  The solid paint scheme, excellent quality, plethora of accessories and general solid design all add up to the pinnacle of snow themed Cobras.

1998 Snow Serpent, TRU Exclusive, 2005 Horrorshow, Stormavik, Oktober Guard, Comic Packs





Saturday, February 4, 2017

Diorama - The Refinery

I didn't do much with new sculpt figures.  Though, I did buy them religiously from 2002 through 2004.  But, the vastness of the line coupled with low quality, poor gear and the growing distribution problems pretty much killed my interest in them by 2005.  Today, the sculpts are highly dated and really don't fit into either of the more popular eras of G.I. Joe.

Kids who played with these should now be of collector age.  But, we're not seeing lots of fans of the era come into the hobby.  The figures, though, have some redeeming factors.  Seeing the panoply of colors below reminds me of the highlights of that line.  But, seeing some of the sculpting reminds me of the limitations, too.  I took these photos in late 2003 or early 2004, right as the Wal Mart exclusive Urban Cobras were showing up.  I found both them and the harder to find Wave 8 figures at various retail outlets.  But, they didn't last for long.

The end of 2003 was really the last time that Joe had a huge retail presence.  Seeing these old photos reminds me of those days.

2004 Wal Mart Exclusive Neo Viper, Claws, Iron Grenadier, 2003, Tele Viper, Widescope, Spy Troops, Gung Ho, Cobra Coils

2004 Wal Mart Exclusive Neo Viper, Claws, Iron Grenadier, 2003, Tele Viper, Widescope, Spy Troops, Gung Ho, Cobra Coils

2004 Wal Mart Exclusive Neo Viper, Claws, Iron Grenadier, 2003, Tele Viper, Widescope, Spy Troops, Gung Ho, Cobra Coils

2004 Wal Mart Exclusive Neo Viper, Claws, Iron Grenadier, 2003, Tele Viper, Widescope, Spy Troops, Gung Ho, Cobra Coils

2004 Wal Mart Exclusive Neo Viper, Claws, Iron Grenadier, 2003, Tele Viper, Widescope, Spy Troops, Gung Ho, Cobra Coils

2004 Wal Mart Exclusive Neo Viper, Claws, Iron Grenadier, 2003, Tele Viper, Widescope, Spy Troops, Gung Ho, Cobra Coils

2004 Wal Mart Exclusive Neo Viper, Claws, Iron Grenadier, 2003, Tele Viper, Widescope, Spy Troops, Gung Ho, Cobra Coils

2004 Wal Mart Exclusive Neo Viper, Claws, Iron Grenadier, 2003, Tele Viper, Widescope, Spy Troops, Gung Ho, Cobra Coils

Thursday, February 2, 2017