Wednesday, November 29, 2017

2004 Tracker Kwinn - Comic Pack

In the first half of 2004, the initial images of the upcoming Comic Book Packs surfaced. Collectors were wowed by the assortment of figures: but the enthusiasm was largely due to the fact that there would another outlet for vintage style figures at retail. The first 9 figures had their gems. Everyone wanted another Cobra Trooper at retail. There were highly anticipated new head sculpts for original 13 characters.  And, we were finally getting Kwinn.  But, the figures were also flawed.  As was the case with many releases of the era: Hasbro tried to make do with what they had handy rather than what made sense.  So, while it's great to see a character like Kwinn, he is far from perfect.

In the summer of 1984, I walked down to the local Hook's Drug Store to get some candy. My cousins and younger brothers were with me. When we went into the store, I noticed G.I. Joe #27 on the comic rack. (They kept the comics between the greeting cards and the pharmacy, so I rarely went over to that part of the store.) I had to buy it as I had read my friends copy of #26 just before school let out for the summer. As a sign of the times, though, I didn't have enough money to buy it. I had only brought .25 to the store to buy some candy. (Amazing that a quarter was enough to get 2 Jolly Rancher sticks and get change....) In the irrational fear of a 10 year old, I couldn't leave the store in case someone came and bought all the copies of the comic they had in stock. So, I convinced my cousins to walk back to our house with my brothers and then walk back with some additional money so I could buy my first G.I. Joe comic book. Once I did this, the comic became a mainstay of my childhood. I soon discovered the Broad Ripple Comic Carnival just a few blocks from my home and this store became one of my main hangouts well into my teenage years. It was at that store in late 1984 that I found a copy of G.I. Joe #2 for the whopping price of $3.

When I got it home, I read the story and was awed by the introduction of the Kwinn character.  He was a fascinating villain.  He had thoroughly outfoxed the Joes.  But, had also sold out the Russians.  The final panel of Snake Eyes wearing Kwinn's necklace was a powerful image.  (It also was an early insight into Snake Eyes' character.)  It was cool to see the Joes working in a smaller team on a mission with a specific objective.  The fact that Larry Hama was able to tie the frequency modulator from this issue to Cobra almost 5 years later shows the dedication and forethought he put into the stories.  I started to wear the issue out as I read it so often.  I also started to notice the price for that issue was rising steadily.  So, I stopped reading it in hopes of preserving the issue's condition.  To this day, my only copy of #2 was the one purchased at the local comic shop all those years ago.

The issue sold me on the Kwinn character, too.  For a comic that was supposed to be "for a kid's toy", Larry Hama added a lot of complexity and depth to the characters.  Kwinn was complicated.  He was a bad guy: but with some morals and scruples.  (Kind of an early model for what would become Destro.)  He added political intrigue with the Russian element and showcased the grim realities of the world with the station crews going mad and killing themselves.  The comic remains a powerful memory for me because the intricacy of the characters made it far more compelling reading than most items geared at boys under the age of 10 at the time. 

Kwinn only really had two looks in the comic. He wore his winter gear in his debut in G.I. Joe #2 and then switched to Khahki shorts when he returned in #12. Getting a figure to match his jungle look with existing vintage Joe parts would have been difficult and likely produced an awkward looking figure.  The character's introductory winter gear was also problematic.  Kwinn was supposed to be a giant man.  His dossier in G.I. Joe #2 lists as 6 feet 10 inches tall and 260 pounds.  It would be impossible to showcase that impressive physique with existing Joe parts.  So, Hasbro made due with what they had.  As with Horrorshow, Kwinn's size is lost in the process.

Like most of the comic pack figures, though, this Kwinn isn't without his issues.  The main beef is that the figure's fur collar is attached to his head.  Looking straight ahead, this isn't much of an issue.  But, as soon as you turn the head, it becomes apparent and makes the figure rather odd looking.  It also precludes the head's usage on other figures without modification.  Since these figures were heavily clearanced, it wasn't a huge deal for collectors of the time to have a few spare Kwinn figures (especially since the Scarlett in the pack was also desirable custom fodder) so this wasn't a huge hindrance.  Kwinn's use of Big Ben parts, though, was a big cliched.  Big Ben is a great figure.  But, he was released in 2001, 2002, 2003 and his parts appeared multiple times in 2004 and 2005.  In short, collectors were sick of him and the parts that comprised him.  So, Kwinn appeared a little stale due to the overuse of the chest pieces.

Kwinn's gear is OK.  The mighty Eskimo was known for .30 cal machine gun.  While Hasbro had a more suitable weapon mold in the doomed 1995 Sgt. Savage line, they were not yet creative enough to think that far outside the box in 2004.  So, Kwinn was, instead, given the 1984 Roadblock's .50 cal machine gun.  Really, all the two weapons have in common is that they are big machine guns.  And, as Roadblock's weapon is iconically his, it looks even more out of place with Kwinn.  The figure does have a nicely done Weasel Skull necklace.  It's rough.  But, anything in this scale would be.  For good measure, the figure also includes a random black version of Dial Tone's weapon as well as a repainted Order animal that's meant to be a sled dog.  In short, a simple machine gun swap would have done wonders for this figure.  But, considering the era in which he was released, at least Hasbro tried to match the character's comic weaponry.

It is somewhat difficult to believe that this figure is now more than 13 years old. Despite the age, the figure still seems new to me. That's partly due to the fact that ARAH style figures have been pretty much dead since 2006 and even in the years before that, the number of releases was relatively low. As such, Kwinn feels like a new acquisition since there have been so few figures released after him.  I could have gone for a convention repaint of this figure, but maybe with a newly sculpted, hooded head.  It might have worked out and been a much more fun release than much of what we got.  I always found it odd that the ARAH style convention sets never attempted to reuse the Oktober Guard or Kwinn figures as they were collector favorite characters whose repaints would have better resonated than the dull and lifeless club creations.

Hasbro brought the Kwinn character back to life with an Anniversary release in 2013. This figure seems to have sparked a bit of resurgance in this original Kwinn. Three or four years ago, mint and complete with filecard Kwinn figures would sit, unsold, for $1.00. Now, the figure seems to sell in the $8 range. But, you can get a carded 3 pack with the Snake Eyes and Scarlett figure for around $12-$15. Since the Snake Eyes is decent and Scarlett is new enough, it's probably better (and easier!) to just buy a carded pack if you want the Kwinn figure.  Like most figures from this era, you'll see dealer pricing at quite a bit higher as the once ubiquitous supply of Kwinns has started to dwindle.

I find this Kwinn a reminder of the days when Hasbro still cared about the Joe brand and used as a proving ground for new ideas for retail products.  Unfortunately, so many of them failed that it's easy to see why Hasbro gave up on the brand.  But, if you were around in 2004, the comic packs were an awesome idea and really energized the Joe community for a while.  Most of the figures from them are highly forgettable, though.  Kwinn isn't perfect.  But, he's good enough for a Hasbro release.  In some ways, at least we got him.  That's more than could be said for his contemporary characters like Scarface and Dr. Venom who were also integral to his storyline.

2004 Kwinn, Comic Pack, Scrap Iron, Urban Strike, TRU Exclusive, Cobra Trooper, 1984, Stinger


2004 Kwinn, Comic Pack, Grunt


1984 Firefly, 2004 Comic Pack Kwinn, 2005 Snake Eyes, Night Force Roadblock, Short Fuze, Stinger Driver

1984 Firefly, 2004 Comic Pack Kwinn, 2005 Snake Eyes, Night Force Roadblock, Short Fuze, Stinger Driver

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

1985 Flint - Around the Web

Flint is my all time favorite Joe figure.  I found him at the local KB Toys in February of 1985.  But, his head was drooping in the package and I thought he was defective since I didn't know about the new head articulation, yet.  So, I passed him up for Airtight and Footloose.  I regretted that for months as I could not find Flint anywhere.  For Easter that year, my brother got a Bazooka.  I was sure I'd get Flint.  But, there were no Joes in my Easter basket.

When I finally got him, he didn't disappoint and quickly became the most used figure in my arsenal.  To this day, there is something about Flint's design that resonates with me and he remains one figures of whom I can own enough versions.  It was 18 years ago today that I first profiled the Flint figure.  I've revisited him a few times through the years.  Here's the best content on him from around the web.

Flint Profile 2012

Flint Profile 1999

Flint - Review of all International Flint Releases

Funskool Flint Profile

Muralha - Brazilian Flint Profile

Flint at JoeDios.com 1

Flint at JoeDios.com 2

Flint at JoeDios.com 3

Flint at JoeDios.com 4

Flint at JoeDios.com 5

Flint at JoeDios.com 6

Flint at 3DJoes.com

Flint at JoeADay.com

Flint at Mobile Strike Force

1985 Flint, 1988 Hit and Run, 1986 Beach Head, AVAC, 1987 Maggot


1985 Flint, Footloose, Snake Eyes, 1993 Monster Blaster APC

1985 Flint, Footloose, Bazooka, Heavy Metal, Airtight, 1993 Mega Marines Monster Blaster APC

Thursday, November 23, 2017

1990 Vapor - Around the Web

The 1990 Vapor is an odd figure.  He's supposed to be high tech.  But, he comes across looking more like a BAT upgrade.  But, the colors are strong and he's kind of tough to find.  So, you can forgive his quirkiness.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1990 Vapor Profile

Vapor at Nekoman's Viper Pit

Vapor Dio 1 (There's a DOZEN of them here!)

Vapor at JoeADay.com

Vapor Dio 2

Vapor at 3DJoes.com

Vapor Dio 3

1990 Vapor, Airwave, Sky Patrol

1990 Vapor, Airwave, Sky Patrol

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

2001 Zartan

We all know the "Comic Book Guy" from the Simpsons.  You can hear his voice when you say "worst...Joe...EVER!".  But, which figure really is the worst?  Big Boa?  He's definitely horrible.  Raptor?  Terrible.  Crystal Ball?  Historically bad.  (Notice the 1987 theme?)  But, those figures, to me, get a break.  They were made in a time for kids of that time.  The designers of the Joe line took a chance.  It failed...miserably.  But, they were trying to make something great.  The Hasbro team of 2001, though, doesn't have that as a fallback.  They knew better.  They were making a line of Joes for collectors, to appeal to collectors and hoped that collectors would love them.  As such, their release of the 2001 Zartan figure really is unforgivable and that makes him my far and away choice for the worst figure in the line.

When Joe returned in 1997, collectors were lukewarm to the offerings.  Vintage Joes were cheap and plentiful.  So, the missing molds and generally lackluster repaints didn't ignite the collecting world.  1998, though, started to change things.  Hasbro filling in the Oktober Guard was a huge nod to collectors.  The classic Firefly figure returned to retail for the first time in 14 years.  And, Hasbro dropped 4 spectacular army building figures into the collecting world.  The 1998 line really felt like Hasbro really understood Joe collectors.  When the new line debuted in 2000, the first wave felt like it carried on this tradition.  Cobra Commander, the Baroness mold, another Firefly (that was OK then!) and General (Toma)Hawk all felt like they were made for collectors.  The rest of the figures were well done enough that the line felt like a solid homage to the vintage run.  But then, Hasbro out-thought themselves.  Instead of getting collectors what they wanted, they continued to pack army builders with named Cobra characters.  They painted every Joe in olive drab: diluting the color.  And, terrible homage figure shredded any credibility that the Joe team at Hasbro had.  The line spiraled into oblivion as retail interest faded away.  The final insult was the release of the Zartan figure.

In 2001, Zartan was about as popular a Cobra as you could find.  At the time, it was rare for a G.I. Joe figure to appear on "Best Of" toy lists.  Joe just didn't have the cachet.  However, Zartan was an exception.  His name and gimmick transcended Joe and the Zartan figure was as popular as any of the mainstay Joes or Cobras.  Collectors really had no options.  There was the original Zartan figure.  And, that was it.  The 1993 Ninja Force figure was simply ignored as the Joe world of the time barely acknowledged any figure made after 1987.  So, collectors were keen for a new Zartan that was cheaper and less brittle than the original.  The anticipation was high: probably higher for any figure other than the planned "Crimson Viper" that ultimately ended up a convention exclusive release.  When the figure appeared, though, the disappointment was colossal.  The Zartan was not the version 1.  It was a newly amalgamated figure using the SAW Viper body and a new head based on the original.  To say the figure was terrible and not in any way up to the legacy of the original Zartan is an understatement.  Collectors were dismayed at Hasbro's complete ineptitude when it came to such and important character.  They had completely bungled one of the easiest slam dunks in the line's history.

The very best part of the Zartan story, though, comes from India.  Right after Hasbro botched their Zartan figure, Funskool announced they were releasing a Zartan figure on a single card.  When the images showed up, Funskool was using the V1 Zartan mold!  And, it was a slight repaint of the American figure.  In short, it was everything American collectors wanted.  So, the Hasbro Zartan was all but forgotten as jilted collectors instead spent $4 to buy Funskool Zartans.  This way, they got a mask and the original gun (though in red).  The upside is that this fiasco lead many collectors who had avoided Funskool due to quality control issues to finally take the plunge to get a cool new Zartan figure.  The bad news was that Funskool quality at the time was terrible and many collectors found their worst expectations of poor quality to be true.

The real travesty of this mold is that it used up a slot on the SAW Viper's body.  As such, the body got a bad rap.  We'd only see the SAW Viper one more time: in the 2003 Python Patrol set.  Sadly, this figure is not in the standard pattern as the rest of the figures and is bright red in color.  The SAW Viper would have been a great substitute in the Urban Strike set or as part of a convention army builder.  The Zartan head created for this release could have found life on another, better conceived Zartan.  But, Hasbro got the V1 Zartan mold back from Funskool in 2003.  (In an ill conceived attempt to appease collectors.  Funskool's return of the molds ended up hurting collectors since Hasbro simply never used most of the molds and the Funskool figures who had been cheap and plentiful were taken out of production: never to return.)  From the ashes of this figure could have risen a phoenix of other, decent figures.  But, Hasbro let this Zartan and his parts die on the vine and focused their efforts on rehashes of the V1 figure.

One of the things that blinded Hasbro in the 2000's was their attempts to remain true to the originals.  In some cases, that worked.  But, in the case of this Zartan, it backfired atrociously.  If you take the flesh parts of this figure and color them silver, you get a solid homage to V1 Zartan that's not ridiculous.  The collar on his chest would then make sense and you get a figure that was different enough that people might have actually warmed to him.  The SAW Viper accessories still made no sense.  But, a few extra sets of those were nice to have when the 2004 Cobra Infantry Team was so weakly equipped.  Just making one color change would transform the worst figure ever into something that collectors could have, at least, accepted.  I doubt even that figure would have been popular.  But, he wouldn't be the laughingstock of the line.

Again, this figure is worthless.  It's so worthless that you don't see them very often because no one wants to waste their time on the figure.  As the Shadow Viper with whom he was packed isn't an overly popular army builder, there weren't collectors who stockpiled dozens or hundreds of spare Zartan figures and who will easily part with one for a buck or two.  But, you can find the figure without too much trouble if you ask around.  Since you can get a carded version for under $10 and that includes the excellent Shadow Viper, it's probably best to just buy a carded sample and open it up.

I hate this figure.  I hate this figure because he's terrible.  I hate this figure because he took up a rare slot for a vintage figure and it was wasted.  I hate this figure because I hate what Hasbro turned the ARAHC into.  But, mostly, I hate this figure because someone (probably a lot of someones) at Hasbro at the time looked at this monstrosity and thought that collectors would gobble up garbage because it had the Zartan name.  And, they were right.  I have one.  At one time, I had three or four of them due to my acquisition of a few Shadow Vipers.  But, they were also wrong.  The type of lazy thinking lead to demise of the short lived Joe line.  I suspect that was Hasbro's plan as they geared up to get the JvC sculpts into production.  But, their disdain for collectors lives on to this day.  And, that irritates me.  But, I see items like the 2017 Missile Command and think that, maybe, Hasbro is finally starting to get it.  But, when items like that are only available for exclusive, limited windows before you have to pay a 100% - 200% markup on the aftermarket,  I still see them thumbing their noses at us.  But, like I said, I'm still here.  So, now we all know who the true fool is.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

1984 Zartan - Around the Web

Zartan is one of the most popular and enduring Joe characters.  His original figure is revered and the character is considered among the titans of the line.  Through the years, I've often neglected Zartan in my photos.  His original figure rarely appears, even though I quite like it.  I'm not sure why.  I've just never felt that I've been able to capture the essence of the character in a photo.  But, I still consider him among the best figures Hasbro ever produced and he is a perfect example of how Joe could veer away from harsh military realism and still be enjoyed.  There's lots of content on Zartan out there.  But, here's some of my favorites from around the web.

Zartan Profile

New York Times Article from December 6, 1984 regarding Zartan's filecard change

Zartan at JoeaDay.com

Zartan @ 3DJoes.com

Zartan at WikiPedia

Zartan Video Review

Zartan at the Cobra Temple

1984 Zartan, 1985 Cobra Tele Viper

1984 Zartan,  Firefly, 1983 Destro, Stinger

1984 Zartan,  Firefly, 1983 Destro, Stinger, Stinger Driver

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

1997 Cobra Commander

In late 1997, I found the Toys R Us exclusive Stars and Stripes figure set.  I quickly bought it: excited to see new Joes at retail.  As 1998 dawned, though, Hasbro started releasing wave after wave of excellent new Star Wars figures.  Simultaneously, they were pumping out army builders galore.  In short, Star Wars consumed most of my collecting time and money.  On top of that, I had been disappointed in the Stars and Stripes set.  It hadn't captured my attention enough to really sell me on Joes.  So, trip after trip to Toys R Us, I'd pick up a G.I. Joe pack and each time, put it down, leaving it behind.  When Hasbro finally bungled some Star Wars case assortments in the summer of '98 and basically killed the line, I turned back to Joe.  Now, though, I was buying vintage Joes online.  I simply didn't see the need to buy the Toys R Us figures when I could get more vintage figures for the same price.  Again, the '97 Joes were left behind.

When the 1998 Joes shipped, though, everything changed.  Star Wars became an afterthought and G.I. Joe became my number one collecting priority.  Still, though, I never went back and bought the 1997 Joe packs.  I don't really know why.  But, I think my looking at them for a year had left them as old news, even if I didn't actually own them.  Plus, I found it more satisfying to buy additional Cobra Infantry or Polar Assault packs than I did to get repaints of characters I wasn't overly interested in at the time.  In 2000, the 1997 Joes dried up from retail.  They even got hard to find online.  As 2001 began, 1997 Joes were starting to get expensive and were kind of hard to find.  I snapped up a poorly labeled lot of figures that included all of the 1997 figures I had left on the shelves.  At first, I didn't pay them much heed.  In time, though, I found the gems in the release year.  Now, 20 years later, I find many of the '97's to be among Hasbro's best post-vintage work.  Yes, Hasbro was hamstrung by missing molds and a tight design window.  But, the sets feature a lot of fun and interesting figures that were never replicated.  The 1997 Cobra Commander fits that mold.

Originally, the 1997 Cobra Commander was to be a repaint of the 1983 battle helmet Cobra Commander mold.  It would have been in dark blue with gold highlights.  (There are photos of handpainted samples out there that showcase the idea.)  However, Hasbro could not find the Cobra Commander mold.  This was somewhat odd since Hasbro had used it in 1994 for the Chinese exclusive run of Cobra Commander figures.  But, with no mold, Hasbro had to find another idea.  They settled on the 1987 version whose mold had just been returned from Funskool.  They gave this mold the same dark blue and gold theme and released him in a three figure back with Destro and the Baroness.  This three pack featured artwork from the 1983 versions of both Cobra Commander and Destro, even though neither original mold was present.

The effect of the dark blue plastic, though, was actually quite striking.  Visually, this version of Cobra Commander is substantially different from the original release of the mold.  It gave collectors a version of the Commander who could wear his late '80's iconic outfit and yet still blend in with Vipers and other figures utilizing the classic Cobra blue.  The gold and red highlights give the figure and regality.  This figure looks like something that Cobra Commander would have worn and is an excellent alternative for the silver and light blue of the original mold colors.  I rank this version as the 5th best release of the character, behind the original, the Hooded mail away, the 1993 and the Star Brigade figure.  Your mileage will vary.  But, this is a figure I can appreciate.

Gear wise, this figure is pretty sparse.  He includes the requisite figure stand (which was a great inclusion in 1997) as well as a version of the classic Cobra Commander pistol.  Sadly, the pistol looks out of the place with this mold.  The greater detailing and bulkier sculpt makes the weapon look puny.  An original 1987 pistol is a much better fit.  Oddly, Hasbro never released the 1987 pistol with any subsequent versions of the mold from the same year.  Yet, they did release the weapon in silver in 2002.  So, you can track down a cheap 2002 Snow Serpent and steal the silver version of his weapon and give it to this figure or one of the later 1987 Cobra Commander repaints as a way to reunite the figure with his intended weapon.  For me, classic figures look out of place without their appropriate guns.  Likewise, later figures look out of place with reissued early weapons.  So, I prefer an alternative weapon for the figure and save the classic 1983 pistol for other uses.

This figure's biggest flaw (other than not being the V1 mold....) is the lack of the helmet hose.  For some reason, Hasbro did not include the hose from the 1987 figure on this 1997 version.  Those hose had appeared on the international versions.  But, not here.  Hasbro modded the head to not have the page on the helmets left side to which the hose affixed.  They also made the mouth hole shallower.  As such, if you have a spare 1987 hose lying around, it barely fits onto this figure and easily falls off.  In the photos below, my Cobra Commander has a spare hose.  But, you can see the how ill fitting it is.  In 2001, the hose returned with this mold.  So, it wasn't a missing piece.  Hasbro just didn't feel they needed to include with the 1997 figure.  To me, the head looks incomplete without the hose.  So, I have to have one.  I have not tried a 2001 hose to see if it fits better.  But, the 1987 version is not a great match.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the 1987 Cobra Commander mold.  It's a cool enough figure and was a valuable addition to my collection in 1987 since my original Cobra Commanders were all worn out and broken.  But, the figure quickly fell into disfavor.  I didn't like any character wrapped in invincible armor.  Nor did I like the direction that the comic took with the Cobra Commander replacement.  So, to me, Cobra Commander wearing this suit never approached an iconic visage for the character.  That lead to this 1997 figure getting lost in the sea of acquisitions that comprised my collecting in the early 2000's.  It has only been recently that I've really grown to appreciate this release.  The rich colors, excellent paint details and general diversity from other uses of the parts has created a figure in whom I find great value.  This dark blue version of the battle armor is my favorite appearance of the Commander in this get-up.  While I overlooked him for years, it's nice to find him now.  It's proof that the vastness of the Joe line can obfuscate solid figures right before your eyes.

This Cobra Commander mold was used rather extensively.  Hasbro released the figure in the U.S. and Europe starting in 1987.  From there, they mold was sent to Brazil.  Estrela released the figure in colors nearly identical to the American release.  When Estrela was done with it, the mold went to India.  Funskool then also released this Cobra Commander in colors nearly identical to the American release.  The main difference in India was Cobra Commander's weapon.  Instead of the unique pistol from his earlier releases, he was given a stock-less Crazylegs rifle in India.  Hasbro got the mold back in 1996/1997 where it was used for this figure.  Hasbro released it again in 2001, again colored similarly to the 1987 release.  In 2005, the mold appeared twice.  First, it was used for the Comic Pack "Fred" Cobra Commander.  This release featured a new head and helmet, but was also colored similarly to the 1987 figure.  The body was also used on the Imperial Processional Guard figure.  At least this body was colored differently. For Cobra Commander releases, this 1997 figure remains the only significant repaint of the mold.

Time was, 1997 Joes were expensive.  This Cobra Commander was a $15 figure, 15 years ago.  Now, though, pricing has softened.  While there aren't any real alternatives to this mold in this color scheme, this version of Cobra Commander has been generally forgotten by the collecting world.  You see lots of dealers who will get $10 for this figure just because you don't see many offered for general sale.  However, you can get a carded set with the Baroness and Destro for $20 these days.  So, before you pay half that for just this Commander, I'd buy the full three pack and get all three figures.  They all have their charms and are well worth the $20.  This Commander is worth even the $10 just because he's the only way to get the updated take on the character in classic Cobra colors.  It just seems so odd that among so many releases of the mold, this one would stand apart as the singularly different release that was true to the Commander's roots.  But, that's the main reason I've grown more fond of the 1997 releases in the decades since their release.  They tried to be vintage.  While that's not always a perfect strategy, it was far better executed than the neither vintage nor interesting figures that tended to follow in the 2000's.

1997 Cobra Commander, Skeres, Midnight Chinese, Stormshadow, 2004 Operation Crimson Sabotage, Crimson Guard, 2006 Viper Pit, Cobra Viper, Crimson Guard Commander, Hiss Tank, 1983, Hiss DRiver, Alley Viper

1997 Cobra Commander, Skeres, Midnight Chinese, Stormshadow, 2004 Operation Crimson Sabotage, Crimson Guard, 2006 Viper Pit, Cobra Viper, Crimson Guard Commander, Hiss Tank, 1983, Hiss DRiver, Alley Viper

1997 Cobra Commander, Skeres, Midnight Chinese, Stormshadow, 2004 Operation Crimson Sabotage, Crimson Guard, 2006 Viper Pit, Cobra Viper, Crimson Guard Commander, Hiss Tank, 1983, Hiss DRiver, Alley Viper

1997 Cobra Commander, Skeres, Midnight Chinese, Stormshadow, 2004 Operation Crimson Sabotage, Crimson Guard, 2006 Viper Pit, Cobra Viper, Crimson Guard Commander, Hiss Tank, 1983, Hiss DRiver, Alley Viper

Thursday, November 9, 2017

2003 Python Patrol Lamprey - Around the Web

The Python Patrol set in 2003 received mixed reviews.  Collectors loved the fact that you got 5 unique army builders.  They also loved that Python Patrol was returning.  But, the actual figure releases didn't really fly.  While the figures matched the vintage vehicles: few collectors in 2003 really focused on the them.  The figures not being compatible with the vintage Python Patrol was a detriment.  So, while collectors did buy quite a few sets, the Python Patrol stuck around at retail for quite a while.  Due to its pegwarming, the Cobra Infantry set in 2004 only got a production of 20,000 sets instead of the Python Patrol's 25,000.  Now, though, this set is more appreciated by collectors and has gotten a bit harder to find.  For me, the highlight of the set was the Lamprey.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Lamprey Profile

Python Lamprey at JoeBattleLines.com

Violentfix's Python Lamprey

OGToys.com Python Lamprey

2003 Python Patrol Lamprey, 1987 Maggot, Toys R Us Exclusive

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

1994 Action Pilot

1994 was supposed to be a great Joe year.  The retail line had been struggling for a couple of years.  But, it was G.I. Joe's 30th Anniversary.  And, Hasbro had big plans to celebrate the milestone of one of their flagship lines.  Along with a stable of 12" figures, Hasbro shrunk down some of the classic G.I. Joe icons into their more popular 3 3/4" scale.  This resulted in adult collectors of the originals to both bemoan the injustice done to their childhood classics but also rush out and buy them up with hopes of future riches dancing in their heads.  In short order, though, it became apparent that Hasbro's approach of melding the 3 3/4" scale with the 12" Joe mythos didn't create a lasting collectible.  The 12" collectors abandoned the 3 3/4" renditions in favor of the new 12" offerings.  And, 3 3/4" collectors found the homages boring toys that lacked the characterization that drove the A Real American Hero franchise.  The result is a group of neglected figures from the final year of the Joe line that are generally unloved.  Among them, though, are some solid molds that work for generic army building.  But, there is one figure for whom I have found little use in my collection: the Action Pilot.

The Action Pilot looks very dated.  In an of itself, this isn't bad.  All of the four figures are dated and the diver is equally bad as the pilot. But, pilots have come a long way since 1964 and the Action Pilot looks out of place with the futuristic pilots that have been Joe's hallmark since Ace in 1983.  The real problem, though, is the helmet.  The helmet and gas mask are not the same mold from the 1992 Ace.  They are similar, but not the same.  This air mask is much smaller and does not fit as tightly with the helmet.  So, the main redeeming quality of the figure (the helmet and mask) are mostly useless and make the figure even more out of place in the cockpit of any Joe fighter plane.

When I pulled this guy out for photos, I was shocked at how much the head looks like Sterling Archer.  So, for any customizer out there, this figure is a great piece of source material to make a custom Archer figure.  The 60's style, slick black hair, strong cheeks and jaw and the blue eyes all fall into the archetype of a heroic figure from that time period.  It's hard to fathom that this Action Pilot is an homage to a figure that's now over 50 years old.

In 2000, my Joe collection was bursting at the seams.  I was buying up large lots of figures every week and supplementing these purchases with smaller, targeted acquisitions.  For a few weeks in 2000, I got on a 1994 Action Series kick.  I needed all 4 of the figures to complete my collection.  And, I thought that they may make for decent army builders.  So, in a very short time, I made the Action Series figures the focus of my acquisitions.  In very short order, I acquired seven or eight figures.  All were MIB as that was the only way you could find them at the time and they were dirt cheap: you could get all 4 for under $25 shipped.  As I opened the figures, though, I found myself disappointed in them.  The Soldier and Marine were cool enough.  But, their bulky sculpts were annoying.  The Diver was retro cool.  But, again, there were aspects of him that simply didn't hold up against the Joe divers of the '80's.

The Pilot, though, was the biggest disappointment.  His large body made it difficult to get him into any vintage aircraft.  And, he was cramped in those into which he would fit.  His helmet and mask were definite downgrades from the 1992, 1993 and even 1997 Ace figures.  In short, he was an utter disappointment.  I had planned on purchasing many more of the Action Series figures as 2000 wound down.  But, after finding them so limiting, I turned my focus to other things and the Action Series figures in my collection today can all be traced to that short window in 2000 when these guys initially grabbed my attention.

Since then, the Marine and the Soldier have appeared in various photos and dios.  They were decent enough filler and were a nice match for the Joseph Colton figure that I like more than I should.  They worked as generic army builders that helped to balance out the Cobra armies that would be attacking.  The Sailor has appeared less frequently.  Every now and then, he makes an appearance since he's a nice addition to maritime forces.  If I had a Flagg, he'd be a staple on it.  The pilot, though, has really never left his drawer.  I tried using the mold a few times in the early 2000's.  But, his poor fit in most early Joe aircraft was a drawback from which he could not recover.  I like the notion of a pilot far more than I like the figure.  Even the Action Astronaut finds more use than the pilot.  That's a tough lot for a figure that is a pretty decent homage and includes decent accessories.

The Pilot's gear is cool and kind of lame.  He includes the requisite rifle and pistol that also appeared with the Marine and Soldier.  But, this time, they are cast in green plastic.  There is the helmet and ill fitting air mask.  The pilot then, though, includes a parachute pack based off of the 1985 Parachute Pack mail away.  The pack itself is a deeper green than the earlier offerings.  But, the main difference is that there are no manufactured in markings.  The parachute is plain white.  And, the belt is all new and no longer sports the nifty plug in for the Ripcord air mask like the mail away release.  It's always nice to get more parachute packs.  And, the green accessory color is a subtle difference from the more commonly seen black and brown.  But, when you have the other figures, the common accessories start to get a bit stale and the bulk of the chute prevents it from working on the pilot in his intended specialty.

The Action Pilot actually has three variants.  The yellow version was released as part of the single, boxed figures.  The figure was then recolored in blue and released in special 5 figure set that included the exclusive Action Astronaut.  The blue version isn't really any better than this yellow version and I'm not sure why the Pilot was chosen to get such a drastically different paint job in the set.  But, it's also a useful figure to have hanging around the Flagg.  The final version, though, is among the rarest G.I. Joe figures ever made.  It is an all black version of the Action Pilot that was only available at the 1994 G.I. Joe Convention.  This was a special figure offered by Hasbro to celebrate the 30th Anniversary.  It is an incredible obscure and rare release and easily crosses into a triple digit price tag now.  The pilot was among the figures that showed up as keychains around 1998.  That keychain was colored similarly to the boxed 1994 figure with another blue keychain figure available in a boxed set that was an homage to the 5 figure gift set figure from 1994 as well.

Right or wrong, collectors don't care about the 30th Anniversary Action series of figures.  Even now, they are shockingly cheap.  While you don't see dozens and dozens of unsold samples like you used to, they are not hard to find.  Mint in Box versions of the Action Pilot run $10 and that's only because no one leaves them to open pricing.  If they did, they'd be even cheaper.  Bought in a lot with other boxed figures, you can get pilots for $7 or $8.  Loose, mint and complete versions are few and far between because only a small contingent of collectors opened these guys up.  Most are still boxed.  Pretty much every Action Series figure in my collection was opened from a boxed sample.  It's just easier to get them that way and the price makes sense.  As an oddball one off, the Action Pilot is worth having, especially for the price.  But, unlike the other three figures in the set, I find little value in army building him.  The ill-fitting helmet and mask limit the figure's usefulness.  So, that really relegates the Action Pilot into the realm of figures I own to check off the list rather than figures I find fun to own.

1994 Action Pilot, Dial Tone, Lifeline, 1993, Mudbuster, 30th anniversary

Thursday, November 2, 2017

1990 Metal Head - Around the Web

The 1990 Metal Head was one of the figures from the 1990's that I saw as a teenager.  A kid down the street had him and I thought he was awesome.  To this day, Metal Head's design and specialty are a great addition to Cobra.  You just don't see as much of him as you'd expect.  He's one of those lost gems from 1990 that straddles the line between the generation of kids who grew up around the G.I. Joe Movie and those who latched on in the neon years.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Metal Head Profile 2002

Metal Head Profile 2006

Metal Head at 3dJoes.com

Metal Head Pre Production at YoJoe.com

Metal Head Video Review

Metal Head at Joe A Day

Metal Head Video Review 2

1990 Metal Head, Iron Grenadiers

1990 Metal Head, Iron Grenadiers, 1991 Heavy Duty, Mercer