Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Rarities - Funskool Calcium Sandoz Figures

Funskool is notorious for producing their figures for a variety of corporate tie ins.  As they are owned by a rubber company who makes its fortune in tires, they have a bit different approach to product tie ins that a major American toy company may have.  In many ways, Funskool's corporate partnerships in the 1990's and early 2000's were reminiscent of Hasbro's and Kenner's from the 1970's and 1980's.  Along with Pepsodent, Complan and TV marketing deals, Funskool also worked with Calcium Valdoz for a series of figures based on G.I. Joe molds.

I'm not sure what Calcium Sandoz is.  It's a supplement of some sort that was discontinued in the UK in 2015.  But, in an effort to get children in India to take it, the company that produced the product worked with Funskool to offer some G.I. Joe figures as a promotional opportunity.  The figures were different from classic Funskool releases in two ways.  First, most of the figures are unique color schemes to the Calcium Sandoz premium.  But, more interestingly, all of the figures have a new pair of straight arms on them.  Below you can see some samples of the figures and the exclusive color schemes that go with them.

Hydro Viper:

The Hydro Viper is one of the best recolors of the line.  This blue version would be a great crew-member on a Moray.  The terrible arms, though, mostly ruin what should be a classic repaint.  It's too bad that this color scheme was never offered with the swivel arms on the standard cardback.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi, Hydro Viper


You can see a sample of Stormshadow in the photo below.  He is missing the classic cammo pattern from the 1988 mold.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi
Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures
You see that the arms are not the original Hasbro molds for straight arms.  For some reason, these figures were all given these new arms.  This is odd as the copyright for these figures is from 2003: a timeframe when we know that Funskool was still producing carded G.I. Joe figures and had full access to the original molds.  Below you can see a Captain Grid Iron figure with the exclusive coloring as well as the back of the insert card showing not only Grid Iron's bio, but the copyright date, too.  Also note that his colors are drastically different than the carded figure variants.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Captain Grid Iron
Funskool Calcium Sandoz Captain Grid Iron Figure
Funskool Calcium Sandoz Captain Grid Iron Insert & Bio


There are a lot of different figures in the set.  I'm not sure of the entire roster.  I have included the figures of whom I am aware in this post.  But, please let me know of additional figures in the comments below.

Blaster:

Here you will see Blaster with a body colored like the "Vehicle Driver" Blaster that was found bagged inside of specific vehicles in the early 2000's.  It's appearance here actually helps us understand how such a variant came to appear in vehicles.  But, this figure also uses the color scheme from the 2001 Funskool General Hawk.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


Deep Six:

Deep Six is colored very similarly to the single carded figure.  There are some variants on this figure with plastic that's more translucent or opaque.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


Desert Scorpion:

This Desert Scorpion is an interesting combo.  He has unique lower arms that are still the straight arms.  The figure's general base colors are similar to the single carded figure.  But, the figure lacks highlights and has some color differences such as the color of the figure's head/antenna.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


Star Brigade Sci Fi:

Again, Sci Fi has unique lower arms.  But, the figure is colored almost identically to the single carded version of the figure.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


Lifeline:

Lifeline uses base colors similar to the carded figure.  But, this version is missing all the paint applications.  The Funskool Lifeline has very intricate paint masks an their absence here makes the figure look unfinished.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


Psyche Out:

Like Blaster, this Psyche Out is in the colors of the mysterious "Vehicle Drivers" set.  But, this version has the terrible straight arms.  This color scheme for Psyche Out, but with the swivel arms, has been found in Funskool Halibna and Maldova promotional figures, too.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


Big Boa:

Big Boa is blue.  As a figure, this is probably his best base coloring.  The head is also more silver than the grey version from the single carded figure.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


The Calcium Sandoz figures have gotten to be stupidly expensive.  Bagged versions can run upwards of $500.  But, like most foreign Joes, these guys were easier to find just a couple of years ago.  And, now, many characters have all but disappeared.  However, as these were 2000's era releases, it's likely that there are more of them out there that will show up as kids from that time start looking to liquidate some toys. Until then, though, these guys are hard to find and expensive.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Rarities - Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank

Hasbro was always looking for ways to expand the Joe brand.  And, even in the early 1980's, retail partners were keen to cozy up with Hasbro to produce exclusive toys.  In the early days, these items were heavily focused on retailers with large catalog business.  In the U.S., both Sears and JC Penny's were able to carry specially packaged Hasbro products.  And, Sears was even able to secure exclusive toys for sale in their catalog and in their stores.  Sears was even able to secure an exclusive toy for their Canadian stores: the infamous Cobra M.S.V.  And, it is to Canada we look for another exclusive vehicle: the Cobra Combat Tank.

In 1984, the Consumer Distributing chain of stores was able to secure a Hasbro exclusive.  They got an all black repaint of the MOBAT.  This was named the Cobra Combat Tank and included a swivel arm version of the helmeted Cobra Commander figure.  It has since become one of the rarer vehicle repaints and is highly sought by many collectors.

Consumer Distributing was a warehouse store.  It seems to be most analogous to Service Merchandise in the U.S.  You ordered from a catalog in the store and waited for employees to bring it out to you.  (My Service Merchandise store had a conveyor belt on which your items would slide from the back of the store to the front where you picked it up.  So, it is this image I associate with this model of retail...even if other chains may have looked differently.) They were large enough to secure an exclusive repaint.  It would be interesting to know how many of these items were produced.  It's likely that the total number is quite small.

Consumer Distributing tanks are expensive.  It's rare to find one in mint and complete condition.  They aren't as rare as the M.S.V.  And, they only have one really small, easily lost part whereas the M.S.V. has several.  As a repaint, it's kind of boring.  It's just a black MOBAT.  And, the MOBAT, in general, sucks.  But, as a rarity, the tank is somewhat useful.  It matches well with Hiss Tanks and Stingers and would be an excellent addition to a pre-1985 Cobra army.

In 1985, Hasbro repainted the MOBAT for the U.S. market with the Sears exclusive CAT Tank.  Hasbro got their money out of the MOBAT mold.  But, it's somewhat odd that Cobra actually got more releases of the MOBAT than Joe did.  So, you can make a case that it's actually a Cobra vehicle, now.

Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank

Here you can see inside of the battery compartment.

Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank


Below are the blueprints for the CDT.  You will note that they still feature Steeler being placed into the turret.  You can see the instructions in both English and French.

Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank

Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank

Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank, blueprints

Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank, blueprints


As a cheap novelty, I'd love to get a couple of these to match up with my classic Cobras.  But, as an expensive, hard to find item, I have no interest in the Cobra Combat Tank.  I never liked the MOBAT and don't see an all black repaint of it being worth the hundreds of dollars or so it would cost to get a nice one.  Many collectors like the MOBAT, though.  That, and the fact that it was a Canadian exclusive, keep this item more desirable and expensive than I will ever find it.  But, this item is a great reminder of both how strong toy lines used to be and how powerful retail chains once were to commerce.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Rarities - Unproduced 1998 "Chocolate Chip" Dial Tone

In 1998, Hasbro planned to release a repainted 1983 G.I. Joe Headquarters.  It would be in a desert color scheme and would have been the flagship item in the 1998 Toys R Us exclusive line.  The HQ was slated to include 5 figures: Outback, Dusty, Law, Pathfinder and Dial Tone.  Hasbro, though, was unable to procure the HQ mold.  And, the showcase item for 1998 could not happen.  It seems, though, that Hasbro tried to resurrect at least three of the figures from this set in Dial Tone, Outback and Pathfinder.  They may have been for a planned 5th 3 pack of figures.  If this were the case, it is possible that the case logistics for 1998 would have been too skewed.  (The three packs shipped in 6 set cases with 2 each of the Oktober Guard and G.I. Joe Divers and one each of the Cobra Infantry and Cobra Polar Assault.)  Whatever, the reason, the figures were cancelled and a very few samples of the unproduced items made their way into the collecting world.

Of the three figures in the set, Dial Tone remains the rarest.  But, since you can count the number of each figure on your hands, rarity is relative.  But, you can see the intricacy of the Dial Tone design in the photos below.  Dial Tone is full of intricate paint masks, even if the colors are somewhat obscured by the camo pattern. (I'd have preferred some of the straps and pads on the figure to be black so they better stood out against the pale tan of the figure's base.)  The camo pattern is unlike anything we'd seen up to that point.  If you compare these figures to the 1993 Duke (a recent desert figure) you can see the upgrade in paint technology that Hasbro employed on these figures.

The Dial Tone would have included a black version of his gun and a black version of Firefly's walkie talkie.  In some ways, this makes sense.  Dial Tone should have his gun.  But, when the figure finally showed up in 2000, Dial Tone's original rifle was gone and replaced by a 1991 Dusty weapon.  His packmate, General Tomahawk, though, included a silver version of the Dial Tone rifle.  It was a shame the figure didn't include the signature backpack.  But, none of the future releases included it, either.  So, it's possible the mold was lost or damaged.

Collectors really missed out by these figures not being released.  Aside from the fact that Outback never returned to retail, the entire set featured a look that would never appear again in the Joe line.  (The 2004 Desert Patrol had some similar figures and the Stalker would have been a great companion to this set.)  While Hasbro did release all of the characters except for Outback in the 2000's (and, the mold was sort of used on the awful Big Brawler character) none of them were in a paint scheme as intricate or unique as these unproduced "Chocolate Chip" versions.  While I love all the 1998 3 figure pack figures, I'd gladly trade either the Oktober Guard or Joe Divers for these three figures.  And, I think collectors would have, too.  The two retail packs lingered at Toys R Us stores well into 2001.  It's hard to imagine that this unproduced pack would have suffered the same fate.  But, we'll never know.

If you can find a version of this Dial Tone, you'll probably drop a couple of grand on him.  The figure is incredibly rare and has always been pricey.  A complete three figure set would set you back $5,000 in 2007.  I can only imagine what such a set would command today.  This figure is far, far rarer than the Pimp Daddy Destro.  He's so rare that his unavailability works against him.  No one knows he exists because there are so few of them out there. It's a cool figure because there is nothing else really like him in the history of the line.  So, he stands apart from many other post vintage unproduced repaints for that reason alone.  Of all the figures we didn't get in the repaint era, this version of Dial Tone and his packmates are the ones I lament the most.

1998 Unproduced Chocolate Chip Dialtone

1998 Unproduced Chocolate Chip Dialtone

1998 Unproduced Chocolate Chip Dialtone









Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Rarities - European Force Knock Offs - Round 3

European Force figures remain one of the most popular rarity items I've posted.  They've appeared in Rarity Months in 2016 and 2017 and are now showcased for the 3rd series in a row.  This year, there is some info that enlightens us as to what these figures included.  But, it also muddies the water as it introduces the reality that the figures had construction, color and accessory variants.  For something so rare, that makes tracking them down that much more difficult.  But, for items that are, essentially, bootlegs, such inconsistency is to be expected.  The good news is that a lot of new images of these figures, especially carded samples, came to light in the past year.  So, we now have a lot more reference material from which to gather information about this line.

Below you will see some images of carded European Force figures.  They provide a great insight into what accessories were included with each figure.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


Based on the various carded images I've been able to find, the figures' accessory complement is as follows:

Eclair includes a black rifle based on the 1986 Leatherneck's M-203.  He also has a marbled green backpack from the 1986 Hawk figure as well as binoculars from the 1984 Duke.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


Randon includes a remade 1984 Baroness rifle and a General Hawk backpack.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


Mirage includes a Dragunov sniped taken from the Cobra Trooper and a version of Dial Tone's backpack.  (I can not tell if it has the microphone, though.)

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


Thomis includes Dial Tone's gun and Buzzer's pack but does not include the gas can that attaches to the frame.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


Le Colonel includes a Mainframe backpack, Major Bludd's pistol and a rocket launcher from Footloose.  It's difficult to tell if all Le Colonels include the pistol.  As you'll see below, it's common for the smaller accessories to move around.  So, some of the carded Le Colonels appear to be missing the pistol.  It's possible, though, that the weapon is simply behind the figure or other accessories after moving in the bubble.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

Tonnerre includes a black Leatherneck M-203 and a green Dial Tone backpack.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

MyGal includes the same Buzzer backpack frame as Thomis but also adds in the Dr. Mindbender electric prod.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

Acarie includes a green and brown version of Airborne/Duke's backpack and Iceberg's long rifle.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

Longue Vue includes the Duke binoculars, a Falcon pack and a 1986 Beach Head rifle.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


Mains Dancier includes a Falcon pack with antenna, the gas can from Buzzer's pack (but no frame), a Low Light sniper rifle and a Low Light uzi.  You'll note how the uzi moved around and is hidden by the figure.  These smaller accessories tend to float.  So, check around and get lots of pics if you can find a MOC version to ensure what gear is included.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando



Scorpion includes a 1987 Falcon shotgun as well as an Airborne/Duke backpack.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


The final figure is Comando.  This Flint/General Hawk hybrid is the only figure of which I have been unable to find a carded photo.  The cardback shows the figure with a 1986 Viper rifle.  I have images of a loose version.  So, the figure does exist.  But, for now, he remains the elusive, final figure from this series for which I need to verify his gear.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


However, it's important to note a few things.  There is a carded Eclair figure that does not include a rifle.  But, it includes a marbled green version of Falcon's backpack and Duke's binoculars.  As such, it seems that there might be variants among the accessories of these figures.  With so few carded samples to go from, though, it's extremely difficult at this time to determine the scope of the variances within each figure.

Here is a cardback showing the figures:

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

You'll notice the weapons mostly match up with the carded figures.  Le Colonel and Mains Dancier are notable exceptions, though.  Both are show with weapons that were not, otherwise, included in this set of figures.  With so few carded samples being available, it's possible there are examples of these characters with the alternate weapons.  So, if anyone has any additional information regarding them, please contact me.

These figures are rare.  But, as they're not branded as G.I. Joe figures, they do slip by the wayside and you can find them, mislabeled, from time to time.  But, loose figures that are in decent shape will still fetch over $100.  I'm sure some of the rarer figures would go for more.  Carded versions are few and far between.  Though, more have appeared in the past year.  But, anyone after a complete set is going to spend quite a bit of money along with a great deal of effort to track these figures down.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Rarities - Carded Rubiplas Topson From Venezuela

We all know about the second series of Plastirama figures released in Argentina.  The six figures are stuff of legend and remain among the rarest and most expensive figures released anywhere in the world.  But, there are even rarer versions.  The Rubiplas toy company in Venezuela also produced the figures from this series.  Most of the figures have slight differences.  They are even rarer than the Argentine versions of the characters.  Below, though, is a carded sample of a Rubliplas Topson figure.

There is an obvious difference with this figure: the Recondo rifle.  This is interesting for a couple of reasons.  The Plastirama Topson (as far as we know) came with a version of Grunt's M-16.  We know that Recondo was sent to Brazil for release there around 1987 or 1988.  Recondo appeared on the cardbacks of Plastirama figures: but was never released in Argentina.  So, it's possible that Plastirama had the mold and Rubiplas got ahold of it.  But, why use the gun for this Topson?  Was the Grunt M-16 separated from theses figures and not available?  You'll also note he has a helmet mold originally from Blowtorch.  The Plastirama version has been found with the classic 1982 helmet, molded in grey instead of this Blowtorch version.  But, it's possible that both helmet combos were released in Argentina, too.

The card artwork for this figure is a combination of classic Joe excellence with a bit of foreign silliness.  We see Topson clearly holding the ammo pack originally included with Snake Eyes.  But, it has an added antenna to it to make it appear as a radio.  This Topson figure includes an unaltered ammo pack.  There is some disagreement as to what the Plastirama version of Topson includes in regards to the radio.  We'll have to find a carded version from Argentina to be sure.  But, the different Recondo rifle opens up the door that other accessories were changed between the countries, too.

Rubiplas Topson, Venezuela, Argen 7, Plastirama, ARgentina

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Rarities - Sears Red Back Straight Arm Cobra Commander and Snake Eyes

From the beginning, Hasbro had a good relationship with Sears.  And, why not?  In the early 1980's, Sears was America's largest retailer.  No company who made retail products could get large without selling their wares through Sears.  And, the backbone of Sears's retail might was it's catalog business.

Long before the internet, if you didn't live in a place with retail stores, you had to resort to shopping and ordering goods from catalogs.  This wasn't just for hermits and those who were heavily isolated.  Even into the early 1980's, towns of 20,000 to 50,000 people would have limited retail options.  So, stores like Sears had huge swaths of the American population who were dependent upon them for ordering many items.

So, Hasbro got into bed with Sears rather quickly.  The downside to the catalog business, though, was shipping and handling.  The extra space for full figure cardbacks were a detriment for the shipping costs.  So, Hasbro and Sears came up with a solution.  Instead of putting the figures on full cardbacks, they packaged them into bubbles that were affixed to a reproduction of the figure's filecard.  This smaller size lent itself to mailing.  It also created a subset of collecting that contains some of the hardest to find items in the entire Joe line.

Below you will Sears catalog figures for the 1982 Snake Eyes and 1982 Cobra Commander.  The Commander is noteworthy because he is not the Mickey Mouse version.  But, he is the straight arm version.  This configuration of figure was available from Sears in the Missile Command set and this mail away.  I got two of them from the mail away offer in early 1983, as well.

1982 Straight Arm Cobra Commander, Snake Eyes, Sears Catalog, Mail Away, Redback Filecard

1982 Straight Arm Cobra Commander, Snake Eyes, Sears Catalog, Mail Away, Redback Filecard


You'll also note that the accessories are package right with the figure.  This was the standard for vehicle drivers and would appear again with JC Penny's catalog figures as well as bubbled overstock vehicle drivers from the Action Force line in Europe.

The figures were attached to a filecard that included a flagpoint.  It was a way to keep the characterization with the figure and still give the recipient of the toy an idea of the card art without incurring the additional hassle of superfluous packaging.

1982 Straight Arm Cobra Commander, Snake Eyes, Sears Catalog, Mail Away, Redback Filecard

1982 Straight Arm Cobra Commander, Snake Eyes, Sears Catalog, Mail Away, Redback Filecard


Figures still attached to their bubbles on these filecards are extremely rare and expensive.  Even the filecards alone (with the bubble marks on the red side) can command hundreds of dollars.  While Sears ordered enough product to make it worth Hasbro's while to create alternate packaging, the production numbers would have been substantially smaller than the standard carded figures.  Loose, the figures are indistinguishable from their retail counterparts.  But, the cards and evidence of the catalog origins remain grail type items for many collectors.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Rarities - 1995 Sea Wolf (Unproduced Whale)

Hasbro had lots of stuff planned for the 1995 line.  Sure, there was an abundance of ninjas and space stuff with an even greater emphasis on aliens.  But, there was also going to be a standard line that was more geared towards the traditional military themes that were so dear to just coming of age collectors in the mid 1990's.  Aside from the return of fan favorite characters in new outfits, Hasbro also looked at bringing back many classic vehicles.  Among them was a proposed repaint of the 1984 Whale Hovercraft called the Sea Wolf.

The Sea Wolf was planned to be an arctic themed release that utilized either a white or grey base for the whale instead of the classic olive green.  It seems Hasbro was big on the arctic theme for 1995 since there exists quite a bit of box art showcasing arctic themed vehicles, figures and gift sets.  It seems odd as the US wasn't really engaged in any arctic combat.  But, it may have just been a phase and a way to release some cool toys in color schemes that were different from the originals, but not neon or oddball colors.

There are 4 characters shown the artwork.  The two in the cockpit are the 1994 Shipwreck figure (a likely choice and a figure that would almost certainly have been re-released in 1995 since he was new in 1994) and the 1993 Duke figure.  Duke, though, is in his desert cammo, 1993 release colors.  It seems unlikely that Duke would have seen a straight re-release in 1995.  It's been long rumored that the 1993 Duke was going to be released in 1995 in green and black cammo.  So, this picture might be a placeholder.  Or, it might not.  We don't really know.  The gunner stations are manned by the planned 1995 Battle Corps Rangers Footloose character.  This mold would have been repainted into Shipwreck, too.  But, the '94 Shipwreck's appearance in the cockpit really cements this gunner as Footloose.

The final figure is unknown to me.  It seems that this arctic figure would have been a single carded release.  Aside from appearing on the Sea Wolf art, he also shows up on the Battle Station artwork.  Anyone appearing on the art for two major releases was surely planned to be a carded figure.  But, who would he have been?  Snow Job is a possibility, though the figure lacks the signature red hair.  Frostbite is an obvious back up.  While he had a 1993 release, Hasbro was starting to reuse characters again and again as the line wound down.  So, it's entirely possible it would have been a new take on him.  Or, it could have been a new character.  Regardless, we can surmise he would have been a single carded release.  Since he appeared on so much vehicle artwork, we can also deduce he would have likely been in the first series of figures released in 1995.  So, his artwork and, possibly, resin prototype figures might still exist somewhere.  I'd love to see this character come to light.

The biggest thing to note about the artwork is that there's nothing really noteworthy about it.  In fact, it appears the Sea Wolf was going to be a straight Whale repaint.  Hasbro wasn't going to create spring loaded weapons to replace the classic missile launchers or cannons.  They weren't going to integrate some sort of action feature to make the toy "exciting" to the kids of the day.  It seems it was going to be the basic toy from 11 years earlier.  And, frankly, had it been released, there's a good chance that mint and complete Sea Wolves would be more expensive and harder to find than Whales today due to lower production numbers.  Being a Whale aficionado, I'm sure I'd have bought this in a second: even if it didn't include any figures.   It would then have quickly joined my childhood Whale and Shark 9000 as the backbone of my Joe navy.

This concept artwork was not really changed for the final box art.  The final product was planned to include a "Special Edition Duke Figure".  It's doubtful the Duke would have been a straight up 1993 repaint as shown on the artwork.  But, it might have used his mold.  The final presentation is a solid combo of the updated style of artwork we started to see in the mid 1990's while hearkening back to the classic vehicle box of the 1980's.  It really cements that the 1995 line would have included some gems.  It's very odd to me that planned items from 1995 never saw the light of day in either the 1997/1998 series or the 2000's era repaints.  If the Sea Wolf mold was ready to go in 1995, how was it not available just 2 years later?  With so many Battle Corps Rangers figures in the full resin prototype stage, why didn't we see at least one included in a Toys R Us ARAH style figure set?  These answers are probably lost to time at this point and would only result in contentious back and forth with a company who has largely left Joe behind at this point.

I often wonder what the Joe world would look like had many of the 1995 items come to fruition.  It's unlikely that they would have saved the line for a 1996 run.  Joe was fatigued.  But, then again, the return of Star Wars to toy shelves in 1995 really jump started the collecting world.  And, coupled with the rise of the cheap and ubiquitous internet, Star Wars invigorated a collecting culture that has survived and thrived since then.  So, it could be that had 1995 occurred, Joe would have hung around long enough to catch the collector wave of late 1997 and we might have never seen a true hiatus of vintage Joes.  But, that didn't happen.  And, we are left to salivate over items like this that never came to be.

1995 Sea Wolf, Whale, Hovercraft, Battle Corps Rangers, Cutter, Unproduced


Saturday, June 2, 2018

Rarities - Unproduced 1994 Manimal Slythor

As one of my Halloween profiles, I dug out the Manimal Slythor.  My sample was the KB Toys exclusive release from 2001.  Below, though, you will the Slythor figure as he was originally designed.  In 2001, Hasbro and KB were concerned about creating a figure that could be confused with an original Manimal and deliberately produced them with different colors.  While the KB version was green, the original intent was for Slythor to be red.

1994 Slythor, Manimals, Unproduced G.I. Joe Toys, Star Brigade, MOC

You will note that the figure still has his inappropriately placed tongue.  But, the yellow eyes are far more pronounced on this version than on the later paint job.  The weapon is also cast in gold plastic rather than the black from 2001.  In general, this figure appears angrier than the 2001 release.  But, I think the 2001 paint job is actually better.  It looks more like a snake and the darker eyes give the beast a more plausible appearance in his non-transformed state.  If you're going to repaint something, I'd always prefer the repaint be an upgrade over the original.  And, in this case, I think it is.

Here you can see the Manimal cards.

1994 Slythor, Manimals, Unproduced G.I. Joe Toys, Star Brigade, MOC

You'll note that Manimals are not only part of Star Brigade, but also part of the Lunaritx Empire.  This ties them more closely with Carcass, Lobotomaxx and Predacon.  (You'll note that this figure's color scheme is also very similar to the Mexican Predacon's.)

1994 Slythor, Manimals, Unproduced G.I. Joe Toys, Star Brigade, MOC

The cardback shows off just the Manimals with cross sells of the new Power Fighters and the then pegwarming Armor Bot from 1993.  Another noteworthy item is that Slythor is number 44 in the planned releases of 1994 Joes.  However, the second wave of Star Brigade figures that were released in 1994 begin their numbering at 49: after the Manimals.  So, the Manimals were planned for release within the Star Brigade window.  Why they were cancelled when the wave of Lunartix aliens who were planned after them made it out is anybody's guess.  You will also note that the Manimals were made in Indonesia as Hasbro sought ways to further cut costs on a dying line.

In looking back, there probably wasn't anything that was going to change Joe's fate in 1994.  Had the Manimals been released, they couldn't have hastened the demise of a franchise that was already deceased.  In that respect, it's unfortunate we didn't get them.  But, at the same time, were these actually released figures, no one would care about them at all.  I'm about as big a Star Brigade fan as there is.  Yet, I don't really consider the 2001 Manimals part of that line.  I don't display with the other astronauts and I can't find a way to integrate them: even though I've found Predacon, Lobotomaxx and Carcass relatively simple to do so.

For me, the Manimals remain an interesting part of Joe lore.  Lots of casual toy collectors in the mid to late 1990's were aware of the brand only because of the Manimals and the few specimens that seeped into the collecting world.  There are more carded Manimals than many would like to believe.  In the late 1990's and early 2000's, Manimals were a staple on Ebay.  Usually, you could get a few each year.  Carded versions would sell for a couple of hundred dollars at the most since collectors didn't care.  That's not the case now as real rarities and unproduced Joe items have exploded in price and popularity.  Now, this figure is easily over $1,000 for a carded sample, maybe even a few times that.  It's not a price I'd pay as I don't find the figures all that interesting as far an unproduced Joe items go.  But, your mileage may vary.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Rarities - Unproduced Lotus Steel Concept Art

As part of Hascon in 2017, Hasbro released some never before seen artwork of unreleased figures.  Among these were two Ron Rudat concepts for a female ninja named Lotus Steel.  Below you will see two conceptual designs for the character.

The red head, of course, looks like Scarlett.  And, to get the figure actually produced, it's possible that Hasbro would have insisted upon the character being a new version of an existing, recognizable G.I. Joe team member.  (There was only one female figure released in the Joe line after 1987 and it was a new version of Scarlett.)  The dark haired portrait looks more like a unique character.  The big staff could have been a fun accessory for her, too.

Were this figure released in 1993 or 1994, though, it would likely be about as popular as the Ninja Force Scarlett figure is.  The non-traditional construction and bulky design of that era would doom this character to obscurity.  The same is true were she released prior to 1985.  There, the simplicity of her design would obfuscate the mold's intricacy.  However, were this figure released between 1988 and 1991, it would likely be immensely popular.  That was the height of Hasbro's sculpting prowess and this figure would have benefited from that quality as well as the novelty of being the Joe line's only female from that era.

The character art looks interesting enough.  And, collectors would greatly appreciate more female figures in the vintage style: even if it was another martial arts themed character.  The white uniform would have made a decent foil for Stormshadow.  But, it would have also been a nice color to see on another Joe.  The designs are ornate.  And, it's likely that much of that detail would have been lost upon the concept's conversion to plastic from paper.  But, Lotus Steel remains an interesting part of Joe history.

Unproduced Lotus Steel Concept Artwork

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Rarities Month - Year 3

For the third year in a row, June will be rarities month.  Throughout the month, I'll be showcasing some rare, odd and obscure G.I. Joe items from around the world.  These are all items found in various forums and aren't part of my personal collection.  This year, I've got a few unproduced 1995 items to review.  We'll bring back a third go around of the always popular European Force.  And, there's some cool artwork from unproduced items.

You can review past Rarities Months by clicking the link below:

Rarities Posts

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

1988 Tiger Force Tripwire

Today's profile of the 1988 Tiger Force Tripwire is part of a 3 site crossover event.  Myself, RTG and DragonFortress are all reviewing the Tiger Force Tripwire today.  RTG put this all together as a fun way to get an obscure version of an underappreciated character out there.  There's some great content and photos to fill your Joe collecting bug today.  Check Tiger Force Tripwire reviews at The Attica Gazette and the Dragon Fortress Blog to see all our takes on this figure.

I stopped collecting Joes in 1988.  I, personally, only acquired Hardball, Tiger Force Roadblock and Hit and Run.  After that, I was done buying Joes at retail until very late in 1992.  However, through 1988, my younger brothers would still, occasionally, pick up a new figure or two.  My brothers were never as into G.I. Joe as I was.  So, their purchases were sporadic and they bought figures they liked rather than focus on everything as I had always done.  But, through 1988, figures such as the Iron Grenadier, Blizzard and Lightfoot appeared in our house where I could check them out and, quietly play with them when no one was around.  One of the figures purchased by my youngest brother was the 1988 Tiger Force Tripwire figure.  In this case, I was familiar with Tiger Force since I had bought a Roadblock at the beginning of the year.  And, I was familiar with Tripwire from my childhood.  The figure was only slightly interesting to me, at first.  But, I found a few uses for him as time went on.

The original Tripwire wasn't a huge player in my childhood collection.  The comic and filecard portrayed the character as kind of a goofball.  And, as the figure didn't include any weapons, I found it difficult to use him in many situations.  Through time, Tripwire morphed into a vehicle driver or crewman.  (Most commonly in the APC.)  So, when this Tiger Force version showed up, I didn't really see a lot of use for the figure.  Mostly, I was disappointed that my brother had chosen such a bland release for his purchase of a new Joe.  It seemed that there had to be better figures available.  But it was hard to criticize him when I was to embarrassed to buy toys anymore.

The Tiger Force figure, though, is decently done.  The best part, for me, is that the head and arms contain a similar green color to the original figure: tying them nicely together.  For someone who used this Tripwire in the manner that I did, having this symmetrical color was a nice feature.  The green is well complemented by the brown color, too.  The brown isn't an overly common color on vintage Joes made prior to 1988.  And, it's welcome here.  The yellow and black tiger force armor pad is a bit ostentatious.  But, again, in some context, it can be deemed acceptable.  The mine sweeper is nearly identical in color to the 1983 release.  But, as this accessory was never available in an accessory pack, it was nice to get a new one.  The charcoal colored pack and mines are a unique addition to this figure.  But, due to his green highlights, you can interchange 1983 gear on him with no real detriment to the figure's appearance.

This Tripwire became an officer type figure who lead the other Tripwires who manned various vehicles.  He would sit in the passenger seat in the APC and coordinate a convoy of vehicles that were driven by busted Tripwire figures from years earlier.  He never really got any characterization in this role and would often either be inconsequential to the story or end up perishing.  In the mid 1990's, this figure was one of the few I had available to me.  And, he would often find himself as a prison guard commander who lead a transport of prisoners from a Joe base to their final place of incarceration.  I never really saw the figure as a mine sweeper simply because I never really had any adventures that required that specialty.  I preferred my Joe adventures to be about the interpersonal combat between Joe and Cobra forces.  So, impersonal weapons like land mines, missiles or, even, aircraft rarely were a factor in the story.

Tiger Force, as a concept, is somewhat odd.  The coloring isn't really for anything.  It's just a unifying color scheme to tie some figures together.  The real purpose of Tiger Force was so Hasbro could get some old, and popular!, characters back into the market without reissuing them.  And, it was a way to increase sales with cheap repaints rather than all new molds.  The 1988 G.I. Joe line, generally, seems cheaper than prior years.  Many figures skimped on paint applications.  Though, many made up for it with a massive amount of accessories.  The flagship playset for the year was the Rolling Thunder. And, while impressive, it was a substantial step down from the USS Flagg, Terrordrome and Defiant of the previous three years.  This simply could be bias since I wasn't immersed in Joe in 1988 like I had been in prior years.  But, it does seem that something changed in 1988 in regards to Hasbro's approach to the line.  (My guess is that it was the failure of the movie.)

In a way, Tiger Force can be vilified for ushering in the notion of repaints.  But, this is unfair.  The figures used in Tiger Force hadn't been available on retail shelves in a couple of years.  And, the repaints were substantial changes from the character's original appearance.  While you can debate the usefulness of Tiger Force, it did offer something very different.  And, it gave younger collectors a chance to own characters that they saw playing prominent roles in the cartoon that was still in syndication around the country.  But, Tiger Force was the harbinger of changes to the toy industry.  Toy lines needed to be squeezed for profit and repaints were a way to do that.  While these early appearances of repaints were substantial and far removed from the original figures, that would change in just a couple more years as Hasbro would begin repainting molds in subsequent years and many times the repaints would not be anything that really made sense other than to make a change.

The Tripwire mold saw a lot of uses.  The original figure was released by Hasbro in Europe, Japan and China.  There are a few arm insignia variants on the original Tripwire depending upon the time of his release.  Palitoy released an exclusive repaint of Tripwire named Blades as part of their Action Force line.  In 1985, the mold was recolored into the now stupidly expensive Listen and Fun Tripwire figure.  Then, this Tiger Force version showed up in 1988.  The mold went cold for a while before it resurfaced in Wave 4 of the ARAHC in 2001.  Then, Hasbro shuffled the mold off to India where Funskool produced their bizarre version of Tripwire in 2003.  It's likely the mold is still in India as the Funskool Tripwire was last produced in the 2009/2010 timeframe and it's certain that we'll never see Tripwire again.  Collectors have enough to track down.  And, while I'd have liked the 2001 figure to have been more distinctive from the original, I don't feel that collectors really got shortchanged on the Tripwire options that are out there.

Despite an general uptick in interest in the Tiger Force subset, this Tripwire remains relatively affordable.  You can pick up a mint and complete with filecard version for around $8 with regularity.  Dealers will sell him for substantially more.  But, cheap versions abound and there's no real reason to spend big money on him.  This is likely due to Tripwire's general lack of popularity and the fact that there are several other Tripwire versions that are probably better than this guy and are equally easy to find.  I'd never pass on a subset figure that price, just because things can change.  But, Tiger Force has been popular for over 20 years and the interest seems to focus on other members of the group rather than Tripwire.  But, this allows the modern collector to pick up an interesting figure for cheap.  That's never a bad thing.

1988 Tiger Force Tripwire, 1986 General Hawk, 1984 VAMP Mark II


1988 Tiger Force Tripwire, 1986 General Hawk, 1984 VAMP Mark II, Plastirama, Argentina, Doc, SOS, Mirage, 2001, 2003, Leatherneck, Night Rhino, 2002, TRU Exclusive


1988 Tiger Force Tripwire, 1986 General Hawk, 1984 VAMP Mark II, Plastirama, Argentina, Doc, SOS, Mirage, 2001, 2003, Leatherneck, Night Rhino, 2002, TRU Exclusive, Bazooka