Friday, April 28, 2017

Tiger Force Tunnel Rat

Hasbro released 6 exclusive members of the Tiger Force team in Europe: Outback, Psyche Out, Hit and Run, Blizzard, Sneak Peek and Tunnel Rat.  All have their charms with bizarre, deep orange and blue colors.  I looked at the Tunnel Rat figure many years ago.  The figure still holds up as an odd look for an iconic character.  The orange headband, yellow scarf, red shirt and blue pants don't make much sense and are an assault on good taste.  Were this an American figure, it's unlikely it would be loved.  But, as a harder to find, international variant, it has taken on a life of its own.

Tunnel Rat was a childhood favorite of mine.  I liked the character and his figure was epic.  This version is less so.  But, it still cool as a oddity and something different for Tunnel Rat.  Below you will see the figure and a carded sample.  The card artwork showcasing the new color ensemble.

European Exclusive Tiger Force Tunnel Rat, Albatroz, Patrulha do Ar, Sky Patrol, Estrela, Brazil

Tiger Force Tunnel Rat MOC








Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ninja Ku - Argentina Black Ninja

The Plastirama Ninja Ku figure, released in Argentina, is one of the most famous foreign exclusives ever created.  He and his even more famous cohort, Satan, have been collector favorites since they first became readily available in late 2000/early 2001.  Since then, the supply of both figures has heavily dried up and pricing has increased dramatically.  The characters were so popular that Hasbro co-opted them twice.  The first time was for the Black Dragon Ninja and Red Ninja Viper in the 2004 Ninja Strike set that was exclusive to Toys R Us.  In the anniversary line, though, Hasbro took their theft to a new level when they used the exclusive Plastirama card artwork for two figures released in their retail line.  But, this just shows that collectors desire these characters and welcome opportunities to add them to their collection in multiple ways.

Ninja Ku himself is very interesting for a few reasons.  First, he is a fairly straightforward Stormshadow repaint using black and gold.  The fig has two paint masks and that's pretty much it.  But, the color differential is striking.  Secondly, he is the first black Cobra villain released anywhere in the world.  Finally, he is a new character who is, at his core, an assassin.  These all add up to someone that collectors desire and want to see more of.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Streethawk - Funskool Exclusive Cardback

Starting in the 1990's, Funskool occasionally made something odd out of the G.I. Joe molds they had available.  For many years, the "Super Hero" figure was the most famous.  But, as Funskool invaded American shores in the early 2000's, he was supplanted by the high quality Street Hawk figure.

Street Hawk was based on a forgettable TV show that was airing in India.  The figure was a multiple marketing opportunity as they used the show to cross sell and introduce G.I. Joe.  You will also notice the highly prominent MRF brand on the tires, MRF being one of the owners of the Funskool toy company.

The card art itself is bigger than normal.  But, that's to accommodate both the figure and the repainted RAM that makes up the duo.  You'll note the rider looks a lot like Snake Eyes.  This is because the first Street Hawk figure released was actually a Snake Eyes repaint with a black helmet.  It's a highly desirable variant and a very nice Snake Eyes version.  By 2001, Funskool was on at least the third version of the figure, this one mostly using parts from TARGAT.  There are a few waist variants among these figures, adding more complexity for Funskool collectors to hunt down.

Funskool Street Hawk, Snake Eyes, RAM, MOC, India, G.I. Joe

The cardback is interesting with the marketing blurb about G.I. Joe.  You'll also notice that it features the earliest Funskool releases on the back.  Street Hawk was a holdover from the earliest days of the Funskool line.  So, it features many figures who had been out of circulation for years on the back.

Funskool Street Hawk, Snake Eyes, RAM, MOC, India, G.I. Joe

For the vehicles, you will notice the MOBAT.  Funskool MOBATs are notoriously hard to find and can be pricey.  While the stock photography you see showcased on the cardback is from vintage Hasbro days, Funskool did release all of the vehicles shown.  All save the MOBAT were available well into the 2000's, too.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Funskool Wild Bill Card Artwork

In 2001, Funskool figures started to be regularly available through U.S. dealers.  A byproduct of this is that collectors were able to follow the Funskool line's new released just like they did for Hasbro releases of the day.  The year started with the Desert Scorpion and General Flagg.  General Hawk debuted in the late spring.  And, in the summer, the hugely anticipated Crimson Guard Immortal became a staple of every good army builders' collections.  The final figure of 2001, though, was a bit disappointing to American collectors.  Wild Bill did feature the classic mold that collectors would have appreciated.  But, recolored in bright orange, the figure was an eyesore that quickly fell into obscurity among a collecting corps that was more interested in anything Cobra and Joes who weren't neon.

The figure itself, though, was a bit different from the card artwork.  Wild Bill's art was obviously taken from the 1992 Wild Bill figure, even while the release was from the 1983 mold.  Ostensibly, this may seem like a good bit of planning.  But, it could be more than that.  In 2000, Hasbro released Wild Bill as part of the first wave of the A Real American Hero Collection as the Locust pilot.  In this timeline, there were a few molds that moved back and forth between Hasbro and Funskool.  Hasbro recalled many molds for the 1997 and 1998 releases.  But, we know that Hasbro also shuffled off some molds to Funskool right after their use in 2000/2001.

As such, it is very possible that Funskool had planned to release the 1992 Wild Bill mold in the orange color scheme.  But, Hasbro recalled the mold and left Funskool with the original mold as their only option for Wild Bill.  It's also known that Funskool's molds were not well labeled at times.  So, it's also possible that Hasbro intended the 2000 Wild Bill to be the classic 1983 mold.  But, when Funskool returned it to them, they sent the 1992 mold by mistake.

At this point, it's unlikely that we'll ever know the true story of what happened with this figure.  But, we have a definite legacy where the card art does not match the figure that was released.  You will notice that Funskool modified the artwork to showcase the Funskool accessories.  This artwork also shows blue pants, which would have greatly broken up the Funskool Wild Bill's brightness.

2001 Funskool Wild Bill

2001 Funskool Wild Bill

Monday, April 24, 2017

Aguia Comando - Carded Figure

In Brazil, a small series of Sky Patrol figures were released under the Patrulha Do Ar subset.  The four members of this group were all characters, figure combinations and paint schemes exclusive to Brazil.  Through the years, I've showcased three of the four members of this set.  The final member, Aguia Comando was part of my collection for a long time.  I got a carded version of him back when such things were easy to find and cheap to acquire.  I meant to open him just as I had opened the other members of this set.  But, I never got around to it.  And, the price kept rising.  He, ultimately, became one of the figures I sold in the great purge just because I figured I'd get a loose one someday.
Well, someday still hasn't come.  But, I have the images from when Aguia Comando called my collection home.

Aguia Comando, Patrulha do Ar, Brazil Sky Patrol, G.I. Joe, Estrela
Aguia Comando MOC

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Takara (Japanese) Cobra Trooper

As a foil to the G.I. Joe figures, Takara also released several Cobra characters.  However, they replaced the blue card color with a vibrant reddish orange hue.  This made it easy to spot the factions on the shelves in Japan.  And, it also gave modern collectors an interesting take on Joe figures from outside the U.S.  And, just in case the card color wasn't enough, there is a huge Cobra symbol preceding the G.I. Joe name brand to be sure kids were aware they were buying a bad guy.

The classic Cobra Trooper was one of the figures released released by Takara.  He features his classic card artwork from the original release.  The blue figure seems to explode off the orange and yellow background: giving him a nice visual difference from other instances of his release with the classic art.  The figure itself is the same as the Hasbro release and includes his rifle.  You'll see a sticker sheet behind the figure, too.  This was an add on for the Takara release.  Though, I'm not sure if it was a short lived promotion or these stickers were included with every Cobra Trooper.

Like all Japanese figures, the market has absorbed these Troopers.  Six or Seven years ago, you could still buy MOC Takara Cobra Troopers for only a slight premium over what you'd pay for a truly mint Cobra Trooper.  But, those days are gone.  However, the Takara figs are still cheaper alternatives for classic figures with standard card art when compared to their Hasbro counterparts from around the world.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Brazilian Vibora Card Art Vs. Python Officer

The Python Patrol Officer was released in the U.S. in 1989.  This repainted Cobra Trooper utilized the card artwork from the original release.  But, Hasbro updated the colors to match their new subset of figures that were brought to retail as Python Patrol.  Around 1993 or so, the Cobra Trooper mold showed up in Brazil.  Here, he was released in Python Patrol colors as Vibora.  While the toy mold remained the same as an American release, Vibora was given brand new card artwork.

Vibora Card Art

Vibora features the classic Python Patrol coloring from the 1989 U.S. figure.  So, Hasbro sent those paint masks to Brazil for the swivel arm trooper mold.  But, this is the only connection to the U.S. release.  Vibora is in a completely different pose.  He also features his Brazilian exclusive weapons (a remake of Hit and Run's rifle and the Range Viper's grenade launcher) drawn into his hands.

Oddly, Vibor's name translates as Viper.  G.I. Joe fans know the Viper as the building block of the Cobra army and their successor to the original Cobra upon which Vibora is based.


1989 Python Officer Card Art
The biggest difference I see in the two artworks are the characters eyes.  Vibora's eyes are wide and somewhat crazy.  He looks worried and overwhelmed by his station.  The Python Officer's eyes, though, look very, very evil.  He has the hardened face of a career mercenary.  Each of them is cool in their own way.  But, the eyes seem to be the biggest characterization difference between the two releases.

Vibora Cardback and Filecard
Here is rough translation of Vibora's filecard:
He is extremely vengeful. And fast in your actions. Perfect for being the commander of the Cobra attack jets. His thirst for vengeance leads him to despise danger. And when it lands, its speed leaves the inmates unreacted.
Once, at school, Vibora needed to take ten to not be disapproved. He had no doubts: he took the test from the most intelligent colleague, put his name and called the teacher. For what? To accuse the unfortunate of wanting to take his test.


Vibora and Python Officer Card Artwork Comparison


Thursday, April 20, 2017

TNT - Argentina Exclusive - Around the Web

TNT is one of those figures that I just really like.  I shouldn't.  Yellow, blue and silver should not be the type of repaint that attracts my attention.  But, I find this figure fascinating.

TNT was one of three Plastirama uses of Blowtorch and he is my favorite of the three.  The figure was very common in 2000 and 2001 and would often sit unsold for cheap prices.  But, TNT was the third behind Ninja Ku and Satan in popularity and the supply slowly dried up.  These days, he's a fairly pricey figure.  Here's the little I could find on him around the web.

TNT Profile

TNT Diorama

TNT Gratis Card on Instagram

TNT Anniversary Figure Review at Mike's Collection

TNT at Gangusstars

Argentina, Plastirama, TNT, Blowtorch, 1982 Grand Slam, 1983, Rock and Roll, HAL, 2004 VAMP

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Korean Carded Gung Ho

In the late 1990's, foreign Joes that weren't the Chinese exclusives, later run Estrela figures or a few, select Funskool releases were rather scarce to come by.  You would see some displayed at conventions and there were a few pictures online.  But, information was incomplete.  One day, though, a bunch of Korean carded Joes showed up on online auction sites.  The figures themselves were Hasbro produced items from the early 1990's.  These generated quite a bit of discussion as collectors argued over whether to bid them up because they were Korean or to ignore them since the figures weren't exclusive: just the packaging.

The end result is that the figures didn't sell for much.  I think I paid $15 for the figure below and sold it for about the same a couple of years later.  But, I liked this Gung Ho.  I was drawn to him because I had bought a 1992 Gung Ho figure at retail and considered him one of my "return to collecting" figures.  But, I also liked the juxtaposition of the American flag on the packaging and with the figure, yet with Korean writing.

There were quite a few figures in this series.  But, the images I saved are long gone and I didn't save a scan of the cardback.  This Gung Ho is another one of those little oddities that I've owned over the years that I wish I had hung onto.  Not that it's overly valuable or rare.  But, the figure is interesting and is a fun way to show off just how influential the Joe line was around the world.

Korean Carded 1992 Gung Ho

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Olhos de Fenix - Brazilian Exlusive Spirit Iron Knife

As Joe figures were cycled out of production in the United States, Hasbro looked to license their toys for use in other parts of the world.  It was a way to grow the global G.I. Joe brand while also stretching a lot more profit out of molds that had paid for themselves with just the U.S. run.  In the latter half of the 1980's, most G.I. Joe figures from the line's first three years found their way to South America where local companies (Plastirama in Argentina, Rubiplas in Venezula and Estrela in Brazil) licensed the figure molds and produced exclusive versions of the toys for their domestic markets.  These figures contained small subtleties that differentiated them from the Hasbro releases.  In some cases, the changes were somewhat major.  But, at least for the early figures, the changes were mostly due to the plastic mixture colors and some different paint.  But, the figures produced have left a legacy of high quality and fun variants for collectors to track down.  In a few cases, foreign companies produced figures that had superior benefits as compared to the Hasbro release.  One such instance is the Olhos De Fenix figure released in Brazil.  

The figure itself is modeled on the highly recognizable and popular 1984 Spirit figure.  Olhos de Fenix loosely translates into the "Eyes of Phoenix".  Eyes of Phoenix is a mouthful of a code name: as is Olhos de Fenix.  What's odd is that the figure is also named Flecha Veloz, which translates as Fast Arrow.  Fast Arrow is a better code name and is something you can say.  Even Flecha Veloz would work as a distinct name.  But, it's tough to look at this figure and see anyone other than the classic visage of Spirit Iron Knife.  In some ways, though, that is a very good thing.

There are a few items of note about the Olhos de Fenix figure in relation to the American release of Spirit.  The Spirit figure has two major flaws.  First, the blue shirt and arms tend to discolor terribly.  Second, the golden wrist gauntlet paint will wear off is you breathe on it.  This makes finding truly mint Spirit figures very difficult.  The Olhos de Fenix figure, though, does not suffer from these issues.  The brilliant blue shirt does not discolor easily.  And, the golden paint on the figure's wrists is much more robust than that of the American release.  Oddly, South American produced Joes do not have nearly the same discoloration issues as those produced in Asia.  You see it on Olhos de Fenix, Cobra de Hielo and other South American issued molds.

The other difference in the Brazilian figure versus the American version are the general colors used.  Olhos de Fenix figures feature much richer color palettes.  The blue shirt is a much deeper blue than the American version.  In turn, this makes the red and gold pop more from the base background.  Olhos de Fenix's skin tone is darker, too.  It's actually more in line with his Native American skin color than the American release.  The overall color brilliance carries over to the accessories, too.  The figure's pack and gun are the much darker Brazilian green that was common to Estrela produced figures.  The loincloth is about the same in color.  But, the eagle included with the Brazilian figure is actually a lighter brown color than the the American released version of Freedom.

Ever since I acquired my first Brazilian figure back in 2001, I've had an issue with the softer plastic on the figures turning tacky to the touch.  This has occurred to figures stored in different ways in different parts of the country.  I've had it happen to figures I've opened off the card and figures and those I've acquired loose like this Olhos de Fenix.  In this case, the figure's hair has started to turn soft to the touch.  His loincloth has as well.  You can feel a slight, oily residue on your hands after handling these parts of the figure.  At this point, the plastic is 30+ years old.  So, the deterioration that's occurred may be the extent of what I'll see.  Or, it could be the harbinger of finding globs of gelatinous goo inside my figure storage bins.  But, I'm curious if others have this same issue.  Since I've seen it on figures acquired from American dealers, Brazilian aftersellers and even carded figures, I assume I can't be the only one who has found this problem.  So, if you have any experience with the Estrela plastic, let me know in the comments.

For me, Olhos de Fenix fits into a specific niche.  Like many foreign remakes of classic figures, Olhos de Fenix is a way for me to enjoy a classic figure from my childhood in a new way.  I find this figure better and more fun to photograph than the American Spirit due to the color differences.  More than one collector has commented on the quality of the Spirit in one of my photos, not realizing it was actually the Olhos de Fenix figure.  Posing him with remakes of classic characters from around the globe brings a worldliness to my collection that I enjoy.  You really don't need this figure as he brings nothing to a collection that Spirit does not.  But, having more than one way to showcase one of the figures who dominated the latter half of my 1984 play patterns is a nice, nostalgic bonus.

Spirit had a long life.  After the American release in 1984, the figure went to Brazil.  Olhos de Fenix was likely released sometime around 1986.  Subsequent to that release, the figure was then released by Auriken in Mexico in colors based on the American figure.  In 1989, Estrela fired up the mold again and produced the Slaughter's Marauders Spirit figure that was actually sold in the U.S.  Then, though, the mold was returned to Hasbro.  How this went down is unclear.  But, around 1991, a new Spirit figure was produced in Asia and released by Hasbro as a European exclusive figure.  The mold died after this.  Circumstantial evidence suggests that Hasbro could have had the mold in the 2000's.  But, it's impossible to know for sure.  All we know is that Spirit got a good number of releases around the world, but hasn't been seen in over 25 years.

A few years ago, Olhos de Fenix figures were fairly cheap.  You could get mint and complete figures for around $30 shipped from Brazil.  (So, about half that cost was shipping.)  Now, they cost much more. Nicely conditioned and complete with filecard figures will reach nearly $100, and sometimes more.  If you sacrifice some gear, the filecard or condition, it can still be a $50 figure if it's unbroken.  That's a lot to pay for something that's a slight variant to the American figure.  But, finding cheap American figures that are not discolored and have no gold paint wear is a challenge in and of itself.  The deeper colors of the Brazilian version do make him worth owning.  But, I"m not sure that the differences are worth the massive price differences between the Olhos de Fenix figure and the Spirit figure.  I was fortunate to acquire this guy when doing so was about the same price as getting a Hasbro release.  That is no longer the case.  But, I'm glad I have him now as the differences make for a better version of Spirit.

Olhos De Fenix, Flecha de Veloz, VAMP, Double Blast, Quarrel, Brazilian Exclusive, European Exclusive, Action Force, Palitoy, Spirit, Fumaca, Ripcord, Estrela


Olhos de Fenix, Flecha Veloz, Brazilian Exclusive, Estrela, 1985 Parachute Pack, Mail Away, 1984 Ripcord, 1983 JUMP, Jet Pack, G.I. Joe HQ


Olhos de Fenix, Flecha Veloz, Fumaca, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Palitoy, Estrela, Brazilian Exclusive, European Exclusive, 1985, Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, Steel Brigade

Monday, April 17, 2017

Abutre Negro (Brazilian Cobra Black Vulture) Card Artwork

The Abutre Negro (or Cobra Black Vulture) figure may be my favorite of the Brazilian releases.  His character is less important than the Flying Scorpion.  But, as a figure, he is incredibly well done and perfectly fits into any Cobra collection.

I acquired the Abutre Negro as a carded figure in the very early 2000's.  For collectors who are new to the game, this figure has always been difficult to find and extremely expensive.  But, 15 to 17 years ago, that was not case.  Collectors didn't really care about foreign releases and there were many avenues to acquire figures from Brazil as there were many Brazilian collectors eager to trade with American collectors so they could finish the U.S. run.  MOC, this was a $25 - $30 figure back then: with many going unsold at that price.

Below you see the Abutre Negro card artwork.  You'll note that the artwork is exclusive to the figure.  You see the silver parachute to also match the actual inclusion of the actual accessory.  You'll see that all my accessories are still attached to the package, too.  I opened the figure and got him out.  But, since the weapons kind of suck, I never bothered to remove them from the card.  One day I may.  But, I kind of like being able to slip the figure inside should I ever want to.

Abutre Negro, Patrulha do Ar, Cobra Black Vulture, Sky Patrol, Brazil, Estrela, Comandos em Acao, G.I. Joe

The cardback is kind of boring.  You see the other Patrulha Do Ar members as well as some of ther figures who were available at the time.  For some reason, Estrela blotted out the full artwork on the card front with yellow to highlight the accessories that were included.  So, the cardback is the only place you can see the full, unfettered artwork, however small it may be.

Abutre Negro, Patrulha do Ar, Cobra Black Vulture, Sky Patrol, Brazil, Estrela, Comandos em Acao, G.I. Joe

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Flint - Where in the World Redux

Flint's my favorite character and figure in the G.I. Joe line.  A while back, I took a look at the various Flint releases around the world:

Flint - Where in the World

1985 Flint, Muralha, Funskool, Brazil, Estrela
U.S. Flint, Brazilian Muralha and Funskool Flint


Friday, April 14, 2017

Marujo (Brazilian Tiger Force Shipwreck) Card Artwork

Estrela produced some very interesting unique figures for the Comandos Em Acao line.  Most are well known to collectors.  Among the most famous, though, are the Tiger Force and Python Patrol exclusives.  These figures took on a early collecting fame due to their ties to popular American subsets and the fact that they included popular figure molds done up in exclusive colors.

The Marujo figure, better known as the Tiger Force Shipwreck, is among the most popular Brazilian exclusive figures.  He's the only really different version of Shipwreck ever released.  (The Funskool version is very similar to the American figure.)  And, Shipwreck is among the most popular G.I. Joe figures.

For his release in Brazil, Estrela came up with exclusive card artwork.  Below you can see Marujo in action.  The first noteworthy item is that he features the long sleeves to match the figure.  Gone are Shipwreck's short sleeves as Marujo uses the arms from the Ripcord figure.  You also see his his included weapons (Footloose's M-16 and LAW rocket launcher) displayed.  Sadly, my example of this cardback had the filecard removed.  If you could see Marujo's legs, his bell bottom pants are on full display.  This particular version of Marujo included face paint for kids to use.  But, there are other Marujo cards that did not include the face paint.

Marjuo, Estrela, Brazil, Tiger Force Shipwreck

Marujo's cardback is interesting as it showcases 5 exclusive to Brazil figures: Relampago, Gatilho, Felino, Ar Puro and Marujo as the focal points of the cardback.  Below them are the regularly released figures from that time period.  It's odd to see figures from 1983 through 1987 sold in one series.  But, that was how Estrela designed their waves.  You'll also see the Comando Avancado.  This was a carded release of the Heavy Metal figure.  However, the exact figure was also bagged and offered as the mail away Rampage figure in the U.S.

Marjuo, Estrela, Brazil, Tiger Force Shipwreck

Like all Brazilian cardbacks, the cardboard isn't as strong or as glossy as Hasbro cards released in the U.S., Canada, Europe and parts of Asia.  But, the card size is comparable with American carded figures.  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Funskool Airtight - Around the Web

Airtight saw decent use around the world with releases in the U.S., Brazil and India.  But, the Funskool release is very similar to the American figure.  He is, however, slightly brighter.  Funskool produced the figure for many years.  He was absent when American dealers first brought Funskool figures over in 2001.  But, was among a handful of molds that were resurrected for production runs in 2002.  Collectors had ample opportunity to acquire one and many took advantage of his availability as an alternative to the Hasbro figure.  Here's the best of him around the web.

Funskool Airtight Profile

Funskool Airtight at YoJoe.com

Funskool Airtight at Serpentor's Lair

Airtight at Nekoman's Viper Pit

Funskool Airtight, India 1985

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Chinese Major Bludd Card Artwork

The Chinese Major Bludd figure is one of the most common foreign figures to appear in Joe collections.  This is a combination of his great availability and low price.  These make the figure attractive to potential buyers.  But, the quality of the figure is the real calling card.  This version of Major Bludd uses parts from the General Flagg, Lamprey and Super Sonic Fighters Major Bludd figures.

The card art itself is taken from the 1983 Major Bludd figure.  So, neither the mold nor accessories match what was actually included with the figure.  You see some English and non some non-English text combined on the cardfront.  The safety warning being in English is odd.  But, that warning mentions children under 36 months old while additional safety text at the bottom mentions the boy being suitable for kids 5+ years old.  It's a constant contradiction.  You will note the Hasbro logo on the bottom, indicating the figure was Hasbro made and is comparable to other, vintage Joes in terms of quality.

1994 Chinese Major Bludd, Carded, MOC, Cardback, Filecard

The cardback shows the Chinese line.  Again, you have an eclectic mix of figures with 1983 molds right alongside those from the 1990's.  However, in the case of Destro and this Major Bludd, the molds used were from later figures.  Duke and Cobra Commander used their classic molds.  (With slight modifications on Duke.) While Roadblock was actually the Tiger Force version of the original mold.  

1994 Chinese Major Bludd, Carded, MOC, Cardback, Filecard

Over the years, I've tried to translate Major Bludd's filecard a few times.  However, I have yet to be successful.  So, if anyone can translate it, please leave the info in the comments.

Through the years, there's been lots of speculation as to the audience for these figures.  However, large quantities of overstock Chinese figures were sold in U.S. liquidation and close out stores in the mid 1990's.  That is the source for the vast majority of the figures that populate collections today and is responsible for the cheap availability of the figure.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

European Exclusive Laser Exterminator

The Heavy Artillery Laser, or HAL, was released in the first wave of G.I. Joe figures in 1982.  It was a huge, towable laser cannon that included the Grand Slam figure.  It was the perfect blend of absolute science fiction and realistic military.  Hasbro milked the mold in '82 and '83 and sold a LOT of toys.  Around 1984, Hasbro gave the molds to Palitoy where they could recolor some classic Joe molds into exclusive colors and incorporate them into the Action Force toy line ahead of that line's transition to classic, standard G.I. Joe releases.  The line featured a small run of repaints of the American molds for figures and vehicles.  All were interesting and different from what you could get in the U.S.  One of the most interesting, though, was the Laser Exterminator.  It is a red and black repaint of the HAL that was changed to the Red Shadow affiliation.

The Red Shadows were the enemy of Action Force.  At their core, they retained the elements of Cobra.  But, to be fair, the elements of Cobra are the essence of every fictional villainous group that's been created since World War II.  They were dangerous and had really cool uniforms with a skull and crossbones logo.  As Palitoy moved away from the Action Force concept and adopted G.I. Joe, though, these managed to release a few Hasbro molds as Action Force toys.  This is important as it created a tie to the two lines.  Had Action Force never had the Joe figures and just been the 5 points of articulation figures and some vehicles, it's doubtful that American collectors would have paid it much heed.  But, with the last wave inclusion of Hasbro figures, the lines were forever intertwined and collectors have clamored for more Action Force items ever since.

As a toy, the Laser Exterminator made much more sense as a weapon of the villains.  It was high tech, highly impractical and completely out of character for a conventional military force.  As the byproduct of a Japanese technical wizard, though, the Laser Exterminator took on a much more useful role.  It was the domain of an evil genius rather than overzealous government weapons contracts.  Cobra always had that element of super-villainy and the Red Shadows featured that, too.  In the early days of the G.I. Joe line, Joe had all the best equipment.  If you're looking for the really science fiction-y stuff, it was mostly on the Joe side.  (The SNAKE armor was the most "out there" concept on the Cobra side for a while.)  Joe had individual jet packs, soldiers carrying laser rifles on their backs and a towable laser cannon.  Cobra was a bit more grounded with their equipment, even if their main characters were super villain clones as opposed to the plain Jane G.I. Joes of the first year.

But, like any good enemy organization, Cobra had to evolve.  They became more science fiction than fact because that's what good villains do.  In order to maintain their threat, Cobra needed to be able to bend the edges of reality.  In this realm, the Laser Exterminator is a perfect fit.  The practicality of a laser cannon is rather debatable.  Especially, one that elevates.  It would have to hit an aircraft in flight.  (Though, the speed of a laser would likely allow that, assuming the sighting system is good enough.)  It's kind of funny to re-read G.I. Joe #1 now and see the HAL taking out tanks on the ground.  The cannon would have to clear shot.  Which, for a weapon that requires another vehicle to tow it, would lead to a short field life.  But, the HAL remains a fun toy.  And, that is where the value in the design lies.  But, a super impractical, overly engineered laser weapon is exactly what I'd expect from a villainous organization that wears bright red uniforms and has a skull and crossbones as its logo.

My brother got the HAL for his epic birthday in 1982.  In fact, he got a couple of them.  However, his best friend's mom, seeing the same toys piling up, picked up the extras and exchanged them for Joe vehicles he didn't get.  But, that original HAL was the only one we ever had.  Despite that, the toy survived much better than any other vehicle that entered our playroom in 1982.  The stabilizer and computer were lost.  But, the toy still functioned without those items.  That original HAL is still around.  My mother's home has a back porch that is filled with toys for her many grandchildren to play with when they come over.  It is a combination of hand me downs from the oldest grandkids, items my mother has purchased on her own through the years and leftover toys from the childhoods of me and my brothers.  There's a few Joe toys in there: a Skystriker shell, a beat up old HQ and this HAL are among them.  They are sturdy and work fine for the kids.  They are all enthralled by some of the toys and incorporate them into play along with stuff you can buy at retail today.

The Laser Exterminator has a few distinct advantages over the HAL.  The most obvious is the color.  But, the stark red color isn't the real draw.  The HAL was all one solid green color.  It's cool.  But, you lose the sense that it's made of multiple parts.  The Laser Exterminator solves this by incorporating black plastic pieces into the mold.  The barrels, base, seat and back are all done up in darker colors: providing a distinct contrast on the toy itself.  It brings the mold to life in a different way from the HAL.  In addition to the coloring, the Action Force rendition also includes a much better array of stickers.  The additional computer display sticker in the gunner's station really adds a lot to the mold and makes the weapon appear more complicated.  It's a subtle detail, but one that shows small things can have a large impact on the overall view of a toy.

The HAL mold was a worldwide staple.  After the U.S. release and Hasbro's repurposing of the mold for Action Force, the HAL traveled to South America where it was released in Brazil and Argentina.  It seems the mold died down there, though, and it never resurfaced again.  In the 2000's, collectors would have welcomed a HAL repaint, regardless of whether it was Joe or Cobra.  Getting any towed vehicle was a treat and seeing a classic mold would have been a great surprise.  Knowing Hasbro of the time, though, any release would have likely been red in a blatant rip off of the Laser Exterminator.  So, we might be better off that they didn't release it.  But, there are lots of HAL's out there for the determined collector to find.  I just think that the Laser Exterminator is the most interesting one.

In the early 2000's, as collectors were just finding their footing, Action Force vehicles and figures were extremely pricey.  At the time, a loose, mint and complete Laser Exterminator might run you $80 to $100.  Red Laser himself was a $100 figure.  But, Action Force exists in large quantities in Europe.  And, the relative lack of language barriers, reliability of postal service and general large size of the European collector base slowly evened out the supply of the Action Force items.  Plus, large quantities of these toys were dumped to European liquidators in the 1980's and huge supplies of MIB Action Force items survived into the collecting world.  Today, complete Laser Exterminators can be purchased for under $20.  You can get them complete with a high quality Red Laser figure for under $60.  It's a far cry from the early days.  But, shows how the demand has been evened out and met.  It's possible that Action Force will one day regain its pricing.  But, that's unlikely.  So, the modern collector has an opportunity to buy up some excellent international pieces at a fraction of their cost from a decade and a half ago.  That alone is reason why the Laser Exterminator should be part of every collection.

Laser Exterminator, Red Shadows, Action Force, Palitoy, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Black Major, Bootleg, Invasor


Laser Exterminator, Red Shadows, Action Force, Palitoy, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Black Major, Bootleg, Invasor

Laser Exterminator, Red Shadows, Action Force, Palitoy, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Black Major, Bootleg, Invasor

Laser Exterminator, Red Shadows, Action Force, Palitoy, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Black Major, Bootleg, Invasor


Monday, April 10, 2017

Ice Cobra Filecard Translation

One of the first figures I showcased when I reincarnated the site was the Cobra de Hielo from Argentina.  This Stormshadow re-release was obviously based on the iconic American ninja.  But, the character was changed.  Rather than being the named ninja of the Arashikage Clan, the Argentine figure was a redo of a new character created in Brazil named the Ice Cobra.

Here is the Brazilian filecard:


Here is the Argentine filecard:



Here is a loose translation:

A martial arts expert, Ninja is a super expert in scaling huge ice walls with equipment.  Equipped with incredible strength, he overcomes the toughest weather conditions without flinching.  To fulfill his sinister task of destroying Comado, he will cross Antarctica.  Thanks to the Ninja's clothes, he is easily confused with the white landscape and it is almost impossible for the Comandos to discover his movements.
I'm not sure why Brazil and Argentina both released this update to the character associated with the V1 Stormshadow mold.  But, for kids growing up with Joe in these countries, the Stormshadow/Snake Eyes character dichotomy was very different.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Plastirama (Argentina) Cardbacks

Plastirama cardbacks are, to put it mildly, junk.  They are made of much flimsier cardboard than the American cardbacks and lack the glossy sheen on front and back as well.  As such, finding high quality samples of the cardbacks can be tough.  But, enough warehouse overstock came to the U.S. and was opened by collectors that good enough samples of lesser figures are pretty common.

The cardbacks themselves followed the general theme of American Joes.  You see the photo grid of character artwork for the other characters that were available around the same time as the figure you purchased.  You also have the requisite filecard on the back.  Only, Plastirama filecards are a bright yellow color.  It's visually distinctive and helps obscure the fact that the cards aren't as shiny or robust as those that were released by Hasbro.

The main item of note is that the characters listed on the were limited to 10 for these two series of figures.  You see the "Nuevo" banks on various figures on the Condor cardback.  Condor was part of a later wave release.  What's odd is that Recondo is listed as an earlier Plastirama release.  However, Recondo was never produced in Argentina and disappeared with Leopardo in Brazil.  The theme of unreleased figures is carried over to the Alado cardback, too.  Here, we see both Barbecue and Flint.  While both were released in Brazil (and, later, India) they were never released in Argentina.  Why these figures showed up on the cardbacks but were never released is a mystery.  It could be the molds were recalled by Hasbro or were never sent on by Estrela.  But, they offer insight into some possible other outcomes for the Plastirama line.

Plastirama Cardbacks, Alado, Condor, Crazylegs, Airborne, Argentina

Saturday, April 8, 2017

1989 Slaughter's Marauders Mutt - Around the Web

Mutt is a personal favorite of mine.  The mold is great and the character is fun.  His appearance in the Slaughter's Marauders was a great way to get him into the hands of a new generation of collectors.  The figure is solid, if a little odd.

You might be wondering how he fits into International Joe Month.  But, this figure was actually produced by Estrela in Brazil.  Hasbro then imported them to the U.S. for release.  So, technically, you can make an argument that he's a Brazilian figure.  Though, you'd probably lose that argument.  Here's the best on the figure from around the web:

Slaughter's Marauders Mutt Profile

Pre-Production Slaughter's Marauders Mutt at YoJoe.com

Mutt - Comparison of all Releases from Around the World

Mutt at 3dJoes.com

Mutt at JoeaDay.com

Mutt Custom at JoeCustoms.com

Mutt at JoeDios.com

1989 Slaughter's Marauders Mutt, Rock and Roll, 1988 Mean Dog

Friday, April 7, 2017

Takara (Japanese) Fint

In Japan, a small series of G.I. Joe figures were released by the Takara toy company in the 1980's.  These figures were made by Hasbro and are, for all intents and purposes, exact mimics of the American and European release of the same characters.  The notable thing about Takara figures, though, is the packaging.  The Joes are carded on a striking blue background while the Cobras explode off a red cardback.

In the late 1990's and early 2000's, collectors made the Japanese figures very popular.  This was a combination of the fact that they were plentiful, featured collector favorite characters, were visually interesting and were pretty cheap.  In fact, for a while in the early 2000's, there were several characters who were cheaper to buy carded on Takara cards than they were to buy mint, loose and complete American versions.  Those inequities ironed themselves out in time.  But, Japanese Joes are still rather cheap in comparison to the same characters on American or European cards.  It seems that Joes were either very unpopular in Japan, or they overproduced them by huge amounts.

Below is Flint as a representative of the Joes.  You see the eye pleasing blue card along with the classic character artwork.  There the oddball eagle logo, too.  Personally, I really enjoy the Takara figures due to these nuances.  They look like Joes, but are different enough to draw attention to themselves.  The supply of these figures are kind of drying up and it's getting harder to find many of the more popular characters in good condition.  In turn, prices are rising.  But, they are still cheaper than many of the alternatives for classic '83 - '85 figures.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Action Force Comic #9

The neighborhood in which I grew up had a comic book store that was within biking distance of my house.  Between 1984 and 1992, I visited the store multiple times per week.  Usually, to pick up the new comics I knew I wanted on Thursday and then again on the weekend after I had been paid from mowing lawns to get other comics that looked interesting.  The store, Comic Carnival, was set in a small shopping center, next to the post office.  Down the street, there was an independent toy shop that stayed in business until 1988.  For a kid who loved toys and comics, it was a pretty good place to grow up.  

The store was laid out pretty simply.  You walked in the front door which was off to one side.  The check out counter was in front of the door, so the clerk could see anyone coming in or out.  It also allowed the kids to lay their bikes down in front of the store and the clerks would keep an eye on them so you didn't have to lock them up and didn't have to worry they'd be stolen.  The store was packed with shelving in the middle which held graphic novels, books and roll playing games.  The back walls were lined with boxes of back issues from pretty much every title imaginable.  The new comics were on the wall on the side with the door, on the other side of the counter.  So, when I went in, I'd head straight for the new comics and then meander around the back issues, looking for something interesting.  I rarely looked at the random comics they would have stacked on thin shelves behind the main entrance.  But, one day in 1987, as I was checking out, something caught my eye.  Clear as day, there was a large magazine with Zartan on the cover and a title in the classic G.I. Joe style lettering.  Only, it wasn't G.I. Joe.  The title was Action Force.

Action Force Comic #9, Zartan
Action Force Issue #9 Front Cover
Immediately, I grabbed the comic and asked the manager what it was.  He explained it as a comic from the UK.  It was the first issue they had gotten.  I paid the whopping $1.00 price tag and took the book home to read it.  The comic began with a partial reprinting of the classic G.I. Joe #25 from 1984.  There were a few changes to the text that I noticed.  But, those were only mildly interesting.  The real surprise was a new story in the back of the issue.  It was a UK exclusive adventure using some non-familiar characters.  

Action Force Comic #9, Zartan
Action Force #9 - Holding the Baby Title Page
The story revolved around Lady Jaye holding a bomb.  Flint takes a Cobra prisoner and locks himself, the prisoner and Lady Jaye inside a blast shield to get the prisoner to divulge which wire defuses the explosive device.  I found the story fascinating.  First, it was a showcase of my favorite character in Flint.  But, it also was very different from the American comic.  There was this stark intensity to the story where Flint was risking not only his life, but that of his love interest.  I found it a refreshing take on the characters.  The best part, though, was the cocky Flint ending where he revealed that the decision he had made in the event the prisoner didn't talk would have resulted in all their deaths.  

Action Force Comic #9, Zartan
Action Force #9 - Holding the Baby Ending
Aside from the story, though, there was another aspect of the comic that captured my attention.  In the middle of the book was a full two page for G.I. Joe toys.  Not the toys that were easy to find on American toy shelves.  No, these were older, out of U.S. circulation toys.  The toys that I had mostly destroyed or lost by early 1987.  Plus, the creators used the toys to tell a quick story.  I've often wondered if the Joe collector notion of dio-stories has origins in these toy ads.  Maybe not.  But, they left an impression on me that lasts until today.

Action Force Comic #9, Zartan
Action Force #9 Full Page Toy Advertisement
After buying this issue, I was hooked.  Action Force became one of my routine comic purchases.  Over the next year or two, I got most of the issues.  There were a couple that my store didn't get.  But, I was able to mostly keep up.  There were good original stories in the comics and some pretty bad ones.  Some non Joe stories started appearing in the comics, too.  The toy ads continued, though, and showcased more old toys I wish I could have acquired.  

As a kid, the exoticism of owning a comic meant for sale in England was exciting.  It gave me an insight into Joe in other parts of the world and made me realize that kids in those countries could enjoy the toys and stories in a slightly different way than I did.  Really, it was these comics that started my fascination with foreign Joe items that, 30 years later has lead to an entire month's worth of content regarding G.I. Joe items released outside of the U.S.  This issue is a central part of why I still collect G.I. Joe so many decades later.  So, I appreciate having a means by which to showcase it.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Spanish Speaking Overkill

In 1992, Hasbro released the Talking Battle Commander series of figures.  The designs were pretty good.  But, the figures all included backpacks that were screwed into the backs of the molds.  This largely ruined the figures and has put them on the backburner of the collector world.  In the late 1990's, though, I came across the figure shown below.  It was a Spanish release of Overkill.

Ostensibly, the packaging difference is the most interesting part.  The figure is named Barracuda, which is a fun alternate name for the character.  You see the Spanish language tags on the rest of the card, too.  The phrases that the figure speaks are in Spanish writing.

This leads to the figure's real surprise.  The pack actually speaks in Spanish.  Instead of the English words, the electronic pack produces bad, 1990's era quality sound of the phrases in Spanish.  So, you can hear Overill (or Barracuda) scream "Nos Atacan!" over and over again.  While I've never seen the other three figures from the set on Spanish cards (to be fair, I've never looked, either) it's reasonable to surmise that they also exist and also have the Spanish speaking variant.

Alas, I sold this figure back in 2001 in an ill advised attempt to raise money to buy retail Joes.  I gave up oddities like the figure below to buy up Laser Vipers and Mirage figures.  Oops.  I'd like to see if the Spanish version has any other differences.  So, if anyone has this figure, or others in the series, and has any additional insights, please leave them in the comment below.

Overkill, Spanish

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Action Force Blades - Around The Web

For a Tripwire repaint, Blades is a pretty great figure.  The black and grey are a perfect match for Tripwire's mold.  This European exclusive from the Action Force line has found great popularity among collectors for his coloring and mold.  The yellow SAS logo is extremely fragile and the entire figure is susceptible to paint wear.  So, finding a mint one can be tough.  But, Blades is worth it as he's a great figure and a nice update to Tripwire.

There's not much content on him out there, though.  Here's the best I could find of him around the web.

Blades Profile

Blades Dio 2

Blades Custom Figure

Action Force Wiki

Blades Dio

Action Force Blades, SAS, Tripwire, Palitoy, European Exclusive, Sokerk, Argentina, Plastirama, Sky Hawk, Mail Away

Monday, April 3, 2017

Raio Verde - Brazilian Exclusive

The 1993 HEAT Viper is not a great figure.  He's big and bulky, has an odd head and, is colored neon green.  As such, he's one of the cheaper army building figures you can buy.  After Hasbro released him in 1993, though, they sent the mold to Brazil where Estrela also released.  Estrela kept the neon coloring and general look of the figure.  But, they made one huge change.  Instead of remaining a Cobra army builder, the mold was released as a Joe.

Raio Verde translates as "Green Ray".  So, you have a Joe named Green Ray.  Which seems ridiculous but really isn't all that much worse than many other code names from the American Joe line.  Here is a loose transaction of Raio Verde's filecard:
It is part of the latest generation of g.i. Joe, In love with speed and motorcycling, there is no bike he has not yet piloted. Exploring to the maximum the limits of the machine, Green Ray and scaled in the actions in which we say of second will decide the success or failure of the mission.
The Commandos usually bet with green ray. It has to identify model, engine capacity and year of manufacture of the bikes only by sound. Until today, he has not lost any bets.

So, basically, he's a Joe version of Relampago.  

The figure included weapons in neon green that were not available in that color in the U.S.  He has the standard '93/'94 era MP-5 inspired rifle, machete and shotgun.  He also includes a spring loaded missile launcher.  He was released in the final wave of Estrela figures around 1995.  If you could get the Estrela website to actually load on a browser in 1998, you could still find some catalog images from these late waves.  It was interesting to see some of the items from a time when all but the most famous Brazilian figures were impossible to find.

Really, there's no real way to determine this figure from the American figure, though.  The green is pretty much the same.  If the HEAT Viper were popular or decent in his own right, this figure would be more popular.  But, he's not.  As a novelty, the figure is cool.  And, he remains relatively cheap (though he's not as common as he was a decade ago) to acquire.  At one point, I had two of them, just because they showed up in lots of carded Brazilian figures quite often.

Brazil, Commandos em acao, Estrela, Cerebro, Raio Verde, Tiro Certo, G.I. Joe


























Brazil, Commandos em acao, Estrela, Cerebro, Raio Verde, Tiro Certo, G.I. Joe

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Brazilian Cobra De Aco

I don't own a Cobra De Aco figure.  I've never owned one and I likely never will own one.  It's not because the figure is rare.  (He's really not.)  It's because he's straight arm.  And, I really don't have the inclination to seek out and spend decent money on a straight arm figure.  The sad part is, the Cobra De Aco pretty much personifies why I like foreign figures.  He's a new character, a drastic repaint and an amalgamation of multiple figures' parts.  All that adds up to a winner.  But, straight arms kill him.

In 1994, the 30th Anniversary trading card set was released.  It showcased a lot of rare G.I. Joe items that, at the time, collectors had few avenues to ever see.  Among them was the Cobra De Aco figure.  It was listed as the rarest G.I. Joe figure in the world and that there were only a few of them in the whole world.  This might have been true at one time.  But, the cards didn't really foresee the impact of the Internet and how it made the world smaller.  As late as 2002, there were still dealers who felt there were only a handful of Cobra De Aco figures out there and would try to sell the figures for massive amounts.  But, Brazilian collectors had found hundreds, if not thousands, of De Aco figures and have shipped them to collectors in the U.S.

Today, the figure is fairly common, even complete.  Most do have some paint wear as the yellow pads, Cobra logo and chrome head are all susceptible to wear.  But, even high quality figures aren't all that much different in price than they were 15 or so years ago.  In the early 2010's, the Black Major produced bootleg De Aco figures.  Depending upon how you feel about straight arms versus swivel arms, the figs were awesome or terrible since he kept the straight arms from the original design.  Along with homages to the Brazilian release, he also repainted the mold several times.  So, there are more affordable ways for collectors to get a version of the figure should they want it.




Saturday, April 1, 2017

Funskool Big Brawler - Around the Web

For April Fool's day, I had to start International Joe month with the biggest joke of them all: the Funskool Big Brawler figure.  He's just so...Funskool.  Nonsensical neon colors.  A samurai sword.  And, the spectacular mutton chops from when such facial hair wasn't ironically terrible.  It all adds up to a figure that is just a must own due to his incredible badness.

It was terrible for collectors of the time to see the highly popular Outback mold was sent to India without Hasbro ever actually using it for an updated Outback.  And, that was part of the problem with Brawler in general: he was a poor Outback replacement.  Had the character been given another body mold with the 2001 release, it's likely that people would have written him off just like they did the equally terrible Sure Fire figure.  But, when collectors saw Outback's body being wasted on a new character, it was another tick mark that forever doomed the character.

This figure was available carded or bagged.  It was rare to see him packed in a vehicle as most Funskool vehicle shipments had been halted prior to his release.  But, large quantities of bagged overstock were sold for almost nothing to American dealers who then liquidated them into the collecting community.  So, there's a couple of ways to get the figure.  Here's the best content around the web on him.

Funskool Big Brawler Profile

Funskool Big Brawler Meme at JoeCustoms.com

Funskool Big Brawler at JoeADay.com

Big Brawler Wackiness at JoeDios.com

Big Brawler at YoJoe.com

2003 Funskool Big Brawler, MIB