Thursday, August 22, 2019

1992 Eel - Around The Web

I've grown to enjoy the 1992 Eel.  It's bright, ludicrous and the complete antithesis of the original 1985 figure.  But, the neon is something I find fun and the design has some merit.  Hasbro could have gotten this mold back in the 2000's and a repaint in 1985 colors would have been awesome.  But, it didn't happen and we're left with the super bright figure seen below.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1992 Eel Profile

1992 Eel by Slipstream80

1992 Eel at JoeADay.com

1992 Eel by Toysandtomfoolery

1992 Eel at 3DJoes.com


1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six

1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six

1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six, T'JBang, Ninja Force

1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six, T'JBang, Ninja Force, 1993 Shark 9000

1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six, T'JBang, Ninja Force, 1993 Shark 9000

1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six, T'JBang, Ninja Force, 1993 Shark 9000, 1988 Cobra Bugg

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

2005 Sgt. Misha

It's easy to forget now.  But, in 2002 and 2003, G.I. Joe was a hot property.  So hot that, as 2003 marched into the holiday season, Hasbro couldn't produce enough Joes to meet retailer demand.  The last two waves of the year ended up only being available to the big retailers because Joes were selling so briskly.  As the calendar turned to 2004, though, something changed.  While Spy Troops had flown off the shelves, the first wave of Venom Vs. Valor quickly stagnated.  The figures in the first wave were no different than the last waves of Spy Troops.  The packaging color remained the same with a few, cosmetic, changes.  But, Hasbro did ramp up production and VvV quickly appeared at big retailers, small retailers, grocery stores, specialty stores and online.  The cracks were there. 

Before the year was out, Hasbro had cancelled their 2005 theme, Robot Rebellion, and pushed the release of many products.  At the 2005 convention the death knell was announced as Joe went on "hiatus".  All was not lost, though, as Joe's death at retail preceded the creation of HasbroToyShop and the entire Direct to Consumer experiment.  Hasbro created a strong lineup of figures and vehicles that were to be sold at online dealers only.  Of course, this failed, too.  Joe doesn't have the brand viability to survive in a niche.  (It still doesn't!)  But, Hasbro pulled out all the stops for the final waves.  Among the last figures Hasbro released during Joe's first renaissance was an Oktober Guard pack featuring a new Dragonsky, Lt. Gorky and the subject of this profile, Sgt. Misha.

One of the great mysteries of the 2000's was that the Oktober Guard never saw another release.  All of the figures were released in comic packs.  The first wave from early 2005 saw a limited production run due to the unsold stock of Wave 1 and Wave 2 that were still being clearanced all over the U.S. at the time.  The Oktober Guard then appeared in this late wave comic pack.  It was always odd that the figures didn't appear in a convention set.  The figures were incredibly popular.  There were many collectors who could not find them at retail and were missing the characters from their collection.  And, the figure molds lent themselves to repaints.  The fact that not even collector favorite characters like Horrorshow or Daina ever appeared shows that either Hasbro was unwilling to release the figures or that the club simply failed to properly gauge the demand.  (Guess which scenario I think is more likley....)  Either way, the Oktober Guard remains an underutilized subset in the ARAH form.

While the Sgt. Misha figure looks spectacular, it does have a serious flaw.  Misha's hands are painted.  The paint globs on to the hands.  And, for some reason, the hands in general are somewhat small.  The result of a small hand mold and extra thick paint is that very few Misha's can actually hold weapons.  (It doesn't help that the figure includes a good looking rifle that has an extremely thick handle.)  This greatly limits the figure's usefulness since most weapons simply pop out of his hands shortly after you affix them.  You have to find weapons with small handles for Misha to hold.  You can, on occasion, get his rifle to stay in his grip.  But, it's usually short lived.

Misha uses a mish-mash of parts: most notably Red Star's chest and Snow Job's (among others) legs and arms.  The head is all new.  What was exciting, too, was that he included some new accessories.  First off is the hat.  Misha's hat is all new and is the main piece that drives the figure's uniqueness.  The removable bandolier is also exclusive to Misha.  Hasbro introduced two new chest straps in this comic pack: Misha's piece and Gorky's holster.  These two new pieces help to make Misha more unique than his overused parts otherwise suggest.  He's rounded out by the JvC AK-47 based rifle (which isn't bad) and a knife.

Misha's coloring is very well done.  The green base is more interesting than the bland colors of 2000 and 2001.  And, the cammo pattern is subtle and not overbearing like many of the convention cammo patterns can be.  His five colors aren't too bad considering the late date of Misha's release.  The mold details are well painted and help breathe life into the parts. But, the hands were designed as gloves.  So, seeing them flesh painted can be a bit off-putting.  Had the hands been black, the overall coloring would have been about perfect.

The fact that we actually got a Misha is astounding.  But, since the DTC experiment was heavily geared towards collectors, it made sense that there were more collector focused figures offered.  The sad fact, though, is that DTC was a monumental failure.  So much so that Hasbro ultimately sold all of their G.I. Joe overstock to Toys R Us who then sold it in stores.  The upside of this was that Misha became available at retail stores around the country and was sold to collectors unable or unwilling to buy online or who were just in the dark that the DTC option ever existed.  Most of the final comic packs ended up being clearanced out online.  I don't, specifically, recall $4 Misha sets.  But, I bought a lot of Gas Mask Troopers and Dreadnoks for about a buck per figure and I have a few sets of the Oktober Guard, leading me to believe I stocked up on them at clearance, too. 

Pricing on Misha figures is tough to determine, mostly because the supply of them is limited.  You don't see the masses of overstock and cheaply acquired doubles of the comic pack figures like you did just a few years ago.  So, desperate collectors overpay.  You'll see Mishas routinely sell between $25-$30...just because that's what dealers price them at.  Yet, carded sets of the comic pack will only sell for $20 when left to open auction...implying that Misha is probably really a $7 or $8 figure on his own.  But, it may take you a year before you come across a seller liquidating one on the open market.  For under $10, this is a solid buy and a must have.  But, at $25, there's no way I'd consider Misha at all.

2005 Sgt. Misha, Oktober Guard, Comic Pack, Shimik, Argentina, Red Laser's Army, Bootleg


2005 Sgt. Misha, 2006 Comic Pack, Oktober Guard, Stalker, Lt. Gorky, Black Major, Cobra Trooper, Techno Trooper


2005 Sgt. Misha, 2006 Comic Pack, Oktober Guard, Stalker, Lt. Gorky, 2016 Viper, Red Lasers Army

2005 Sgt. Misha, 2006 Comic Pack, Oktober Guard, Stalker, Lt. Gorky, 2016 Viper, Red Lasers Army


2005 Sgt. Misha, 2006 Comic Pack, Oktober Guard, Stalker, Lt. Gorky

Friday, August 16, 2019

2001 Major Bludd - By Past Nastification

2001 was the last all ARAH year following the sputtering start of the Stars & Stripes Forever Set in 1997.  There were the comic pack figures and the GI Joe Collectors’ Club figures and even some ARAH figures packaged opposite New Sculpt figures.  

But the New Sculpt figures, as hated as they are now, were the belle of the ball in 2002.  The previous figures from the start of the new century were sort of left to wither on the vine of collector enthusiasm.  Except for Big Brawler, a character everyone hated with fiery animosity.  There were some decent figures in 2000 and 2001.   

It’s taken a long time for me to appreciate them. The head-to-toe repaints (Double Blast, Chameleon, White Out, Thunderwing) were a plague.   The not-different-enough-from-the-original-color-sets figures (Cobra Commander, Snake-Eyes) were too.

But several figures were repaints meant to represent the old characters in new uniforms that worked very nicely.  Major Bludd is the best.

This Major Bludd is a repaint of the 1991 Sonic Fighters Major Bludd.  With its blue uniform, collectors like the 1991 version because it showed Bludd growing some allegiance to Cobra.  But he’s a mercenary who only has an allegiance to money.  So the 1991 figure recolored in Bludd’s traditional brown fits the character much better.  With its silver grenades and black gear, this is a wonderful figure.  The head sculpt is an improvement over the 1983 version.  If only it had a removable helmet...  The body is bulkier, and not puffy chested hunchback big like some of the later ARAH figures.  

A decade in limbo makes the mold really appreciated.  It’s a good one.  

The unpainted dog tags are a missed opportunity to showcase another callback to the first Major Bludd figure, but the painted whites of the eyes add a touch of realism to the face. 

Major Bludd’s accessories are up for some debate, as the figure was included with a “Rock Viper” (a Range Viper that Hasbro sloppily misnamed).  I’ve pictured the grenade launcher, a dagger, and a strange rifle.  The strange rifle looks like it would have originally been an underwater accessory for a Cobra character, but is a repaint of the rifle included with the 1991 Major Bludd.  At least now it’s black instead of yellow.    

This is a contender for the best ARAH-style Major Bludd done for an American release.      



Thursday, August 15, 2019

1997 Scarlett - Around The Web

1997 had a couple of really nice figures combined with some not great repaints.  While Scarlett's new look was drastically different from her original incarnation, the new color scheme was also a nice update the for the character.  In the past two decades, the basic purple color has become part of Scarlett's accepted colors.  Here's the best of her from around the web.

1997 Scarlett Profile

Scarlett by gijoe_infantry_division

1997 Scarlett at JoeADay.com

1997 Scarlett Pre-Production at YoJoe.com

1997 Scarlett by gijoe_infantry_division

1997 Scarlett by fun_time_at_serpentorslair

1997 Scarlett by gijoe_infantry_division

1997 Scarlett, TRU Exclusive, 2004 Vypra, Ninja Strike

1997 Scarlett, TRU Exclusive, 2004 Vypra, Ninja Strike, Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes

1997 Scarlett, TRU Exclusive, 2004 Vypra, Ninja Strike, Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Stalker

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

1986 Zandar

Some Joe figures have help up pretty well over the 20 or 30 years.  Others, have not.  There are several Joe figures that were designed in the '80's that are just too over the top to actually resonate with modern collectors.  The greatest example of this is Zartan's brother, Zandar.  The overall look of the character is nothing short of a series of terrible design choices from a bygone era.  While Zandar was likely meant to be a dangerous outlaw in 1986, his look is something completely different in 2019 and that renders the figure mostly useless outside the circle of Dreadnoks that comprise his "family".

I recently purchased an upgraded Zandar from a local store.  The saleswoman who sold it to me was probably in her early 20's at best.  Here is the conversation when she saw the Zandar figure:

  • SW: Whoa!  Look at that guy with his pink and blue and orange beret.  Wait, that's his hair?!?
  • Me: Yeah, the '80's were weird.
  • SW:  And, he's not wearing a shirt?  I thought it was just a weird color.  But, he's barechested?
  • Me: ....
  • SW: And, is that an ascot?!?  Isn't this guy just cute?!?
  • Me: Being a completist sucks....
So, it's not easy to explain something like Zandar to people who weren't around in the '80's and understood that Zandar's look was based on terrible stereotypes of the time that were largely passed by the time this figure was released in 1986.  As a reminder of that time period, Zandar is interesting.  As a toy in 2019, Zandar is ridiculous, lame and relatively worthless.

One thing about me, though, is that newer figures always rise to the top of my collection.  It's been that way since I was a kid.  This is particularly relevant in Zandar's case.  I have a recollection of acquiring Zandar on a family trip somewhere after I found him on the shelves of a drug store that we stopped at for some other reason.  But, this doesn't really jive as our big family trip in 1986 was taken during the summer and I brought only a box of comic books and no toys other than a few MASK figures my brothers had stowed into a box.  I do know that I had Zandar before school let out and he appeared in G.I. Joe #51.  I associated Zandar with the Dreadnok Swampfire since I acquired them around the same time.  And, with this vehicle, Zandar became a powerful enemy for the Joes.

I wasn't much for for big planes as a kid, either.  They weren't much fun to play with since you had limited options for action and you couldn't hold up a Skystriker and Night Raven at the same time and have much fun with them.  Smaller flying vehicles were fewer and far between...especially since things like the FANG hadn't held up too well from earlier years.  So, the Swampfire's ability to fly made it a dangerous weapon against Joes who were often on the ground.  Zandar was the only pilot I really entertained for the Swampfire and from its command perch he would terrorize Joes with both the Swampfire's cannon and his hand held spear gun.  Many Joes were speared by it, though most managed to survive.

In this role, Zandar was powerful.  Initially, the Joes thought he was an amazing villain since he inflicted so much damage from the skies.  But, once caught on terra firma, Zandar was proven to be a weak opponent at best.  His spear gun was unwieldy and took a long time to reload.  And, he wasn't much of a hand to hand fighter.  And, once the drone from the Night Raven came along at the end of the year, the value of the Swampfire and, by proxy, Zandar was reduced to near zero.  Zandar quickly faded away and had little relevance to my collection again.  Even as Zartan became a powerful ally to Cobra Commander, neither Zandar nor Zarana were anywhere to be seen.  I felt they reduced the Zartan character and having them rotting in a box was preferable to them embarrassing Zartan in front of the other Cobra hierarchy.

Zandar was released only twice.  The U.S. version was released in 1986 and 1987.  He disappeared until some time in the 1990's when he popped up in India where Funskool released him.  The Funskool Zandar is pretty similar to the American figure.  He tends to have paler skin.  And, most notably, he doesn't change color.  Funskool stopped producing Zandar shortly before the mass imports to the U.S. began.  For a time in the early 2000's, Funskool Zandars were impossible to find.  Slowly, though, more have come to light and Funskool Zandars are not unattainable: though they do remain pricey for what you get.

And, of course, Zandars are now stupidly priced, too.  You see tons of mint and complete with filecard figures selling for over $25.  That's dumb.  Sure, once the o-ring breaks, there's no real way to keep the Zandar mint while replacing it.  But, figures from his year are among the highest produced in the line's history.  And, with some patience, you can get mint and complete figures for around $10.  That's a better price for an awful figure that has aged more poorly than most other Joes. I suspect some of the price lift is from the anniversary style Zandar figure that was part of an expensive pack and has gotten people to think that Zandar is popular rather than just part of a very expensive set.  But, the Dreadnoks have always been unusually popular (except when released in a convention set) and Zandar is part of the group...even if the figure is a laughingstock these days.

1986 Zandar, 1984 Zartan, 1956 Buzzer, Ripper, Funskool, Dreadnok, 1988 Road Pig


1986 Zandar, Zartan's Brother, 1988, Funskool Road Pig, 1987 Zanzibar Air Skiff