Sunday, July 14, 2024

1988 Iron Grenadier

1987 was the swam song of my childhood collecting days.  I only bought a couple of figures in early 1988 before "growing up" and moving on with other parts of my life.  My younger brothers, though, still bought Joes.  And, slowly, they acquired most of the 1988 basic figure line.  When they brought home a new figure, I'd check it out.  And, in many cases, I found the new assortment of characters to be the type of figure I'd have simply loved were I still playing with toys.  Among the figures my younger brother acquired was the 1988 Iron Grenadier.

Upon his entry into our home, I found the Iron Grenadier fascinating.  First, I loved the name.  It conveyed strength and ability.  Second, the figure was amazing.  He looked like the a cross between the original Cobra Trooper and the later Cobra Viper.  Third, his Uzi was the type of weapon I always wanted Snake Eyes' Uzi to be.  It was bigger and bulkier and just seemed more substantial than the original version of the weapon.  Fourth, the figure's colors were great.  Black wasn't a common Cobra color for figures.  So, seeing it on a trooper was really different from the other figures that had been the staples of my childhood.  Finally, the figure included a sword.  Sure, it was kind of ornamental.  But, it was like the swords that Cylon Warriors from BattleStar Galactica had used.  They made no sense at all.  But, the mere presence of the sword was a cool visual and a constant reminder of quick death by a sharp blade.  

I felt that the details on the figure were just excellent.  They implied a ton of great uses.  The figure had the cool helmet and accessories.  But, he had a gas mask covering his face.  So, I could use the Iron Grenadier as an elite guard for Cobra's leadership.  Or, I could use him as a standard field commando who was better equipped than most of the Joes of that time.  So, he was an upgrade from the final Cobras who comprised my childhood collection.

During the rare occasion that I was home alone and could actually get my Joes out for one "final" battle, I'd use my brother's Iron Grenadier.  Usually, he was among the last survivors and had often taken out more than one Joe.  His newness afforded him this opportunity.  But, the overall quality of his mold pushed him over the top.  Really, though, I never felt like the adventures I created for the figure could live up to the coolness of the mold.  So, he ended up being a figure I'd appreciate from a visual perspective.  Though, had he been released in 1986, he's probably have been the backbone of my Cobra army.  I was just too old to really get the figure into the down and dirty adventures that cemented earlier figures as my favorites.

In the early 2000's, I had quite the Iron Grenadier army.  He was, for a time, the most common figure in my collection.  This wasn't due to anything other than the dynamics of the time, though.  I was among the few collectors who bought lots of 1988 and 1989 figures.  And, those lots always included an Iron Grenadier because even the army building sensitive collectors of the era wouldn't remove him from a collection to sell on his own.  So, just through acquisitions of bulk lots, I ended up with nearly a dozen Iron Grenadiers.  But, I really didn't do anything with them.  So, during my purge of the early 2010's, I sold off all but a lone Iron Grenadier.  And, while I have many regrets over the figures I liquidated at the time, the Iron Grenadier is not one of them.  I took one photo of them in 2000.  They didn't come out again until one photo shoot in 2007.  And, then, they don't appear again in any of my photos until I dusted one off for a shoot in 2023.  The figures just didn't matter to me and I didn't use them at all.  So, I'm glad someone else is able to enjoy that early army I had acquired.  

One of the things that plagues all long running IPs is bloat.  In order to keep things fresh, new concepts and characters have to be constantly added.  Over time, the IP becomes too large to manage.  And, you have to retcon certain aspects.  Or, just outright ignore significant events that occurred in the past.  That's how I view Iron Grenadiers.  While I enjoyed their introduction in the comic, there really wasn't any place for them to go.  Destro didn't work as a third faction in the story.  Him seeing himself as Cobra Commander's equal or better was a more interesting place to keep him.  But, eventually, the second in command has to make a play for leadership.  And, that's a fun story for a time.  In the real world, people like are killed.  In fiction, you don't waste a valuable character.  So, you figure out a way to put them back into their standard place and start all over again.  

This is where Joe found itself in the 1990's.  Hasbro started the decade with a slew of new characters and excellent toys.  But, by the following year, they were bringing back classic characters.  In the comic, the story was "getting the band back together" and heading towards a consolidation.  The upside is that kids of the '90's got to enjoy classic characters that were still appearing in old cartoon re-runs to go along with the new life that Hasbro was still breathing into the line.  The lost years are 1988 and, to a lesser extent, 1989.  Those figures and characters don't have the zealous following of the prior years and have not really found the later life that many of the brighter figures from the '90's have found as youngsters of that era have grown into adult collectors.  

So, the shelf life of the Iron Grenadier is short.  And, in reality, it was.  Hasbro released the bulk of their faction's items in 1988 with some updated toys in 1989.  There were a couple of figures in 1990.  But, then, the concept didn't really appear again.  Destro was brought back into the Cobra fold with his 1992 release and the Iron Grenadiers didn't show up until the early 2000's when Hasbro was mining the vintage line for any character they could find.  The entire idea of Destro being an army unto himself may have been re-examined in more modern fiction.  But, as I've grown to find the character of Destro to be overly problematic (there is no noble villain), my interest in Iron Grenadiers as whole has fallen away.

I do think that part of the reason for the relative short time that Iron Grenadiers appeared in the line was due to timing.  There was no cartoon in 1988.  So, there was no cross sell among kids of the day to get them interested in the toys.  Instead, kids of that era were treated to re-runs of the original series.  So, they are more likely to see Destro as a Cobra instead of this weird third faction that appeared on retail shelves.  The Iron Grenadiers as a concept were also meant to be a foil to BattleForce 2000.  Both had futuristic designs for their vehicles.  But, this idea was never fleshed out and it's difficult to even find relics of their past alignment among the toys that were released.  BattleForce 2000 fizzled as a concept, too.  Had there been a new cartoon in 1988 that focused on their antagonistic dynamic, the two sub teams would likely have near fanatical support among a group of fans who aged during their heyday.  Instead, we're left with some cool toys that don't really fit with the overall theme of G.I. Joe vs. Cobra.

In general, 1988 figures are pretty common.  Hasbro expected big things from the G.I. Joe Movie.  But, that didn't work out.  I've never been sure if my perception of the fate of 1988 figures was based on the fact that I happened to age out right when the movie failed.  But, in 1990, I could still find the entire 1988 Joe line at Kohl's stores around my city.  They had given up on Joe after 1989, likely due to the massive unsold stock that lined their shelves.  So, this has always left me thinking that Joe got a lot less popular starting in 1988.  But, a focus shift away from the core along with the end of the syndicated cartoon series both also contribute to my feeling this way.  As my local hobby shops still had pegs full of 1986 Joes on their shelves as late as 1988, I do think that my perception is just related to the kismet of me happening to age out of Joe right as the other things were happening.

The Iron Grenadier mold was used just twice.  The first was for this Iron Grenadier.  It was then sent down to Brazil and released in nearly identical colors as Terrork.  Terrork is a great name.  Even if the figure, itself, is just the standard Iron Grenadier.  The club wanted the mold for the 2005 convention set.  But, they didn't find it.  (Hasbro had it since Terrork's Brazilian contemporaries were all under Hasbro control at the time.)  They resculpted a new head to resemble the 1988 figure's and put it on a new body.  Around 2017, or so, a new factory custom maker named Letal Toys produced an Iron Grenadier mold.  The first wave included a green, tan, white and crimson versions.  Later, a light blue convention exclusive was released.  There were many more planned waves that included a Cobra Blue version and a classically colored version with more paint applications.  But, there were some mold shenanigans at the factory and no further Iron Grenadier factory customs were produced.  Black Major did resurrect the Uzi from the figure and included it with his Worms figures around 2020.  There's lots of life left in the mold.  And, a factory custom maker could make a go of it with the Iron Grenadier as his base.  But, those days are probably past.

Iron Grenadiers remain pretty easy to find.  It's tougher to find figures with perfect gold these days.  But, even that is doable as long as you're prepared to pay a premium.  High quality figures tend to run between $20 and $25, now.  Dealers will sell an appalling amount for $35, though.  There are bargains to be had, if you're willing to sacrifice the pistol and some of the gold paint.  But, the days of getting a few of them for three or four bucks each are long gone.  I don't think I'd pay a premium for this figure.  He was never important enough to me to justify a high price.  But, I also have a figure left over from my army building days.  So, I don't have to make a decision on a more expensive purchase.  

1988 Iron Grenadier, 1987 Gyro Viper

1988 Iron Grenadier, Voltar

Friday, July 12, 2024

1984 Baroness - Around The Web

Back in the mid 1990's, dealers convinced everyone that female figures were super rare and valuable.  Fortunately, Ebay proved that she was no more difficult to find than any other 1984 figure.  The market corrected and Baroness figures have never been hard to get.  But, Hasbro bought into the Baroness hype and produced nearly half a dozen versions of her over the years.  Some were good.  Some were bad.  Now, we have factory custom Baroness figures available, too.  So, if you're a Baroness fan, there's more than you could ever want from this original mold.

Being relatively popular leaves Baroness with a large amount of content out there.  So, check out the links below for your 1984 Baroness fix.

Baroness Profile

Baroness by thevintagetoylife

Baroness by strikeforce_codename

Monday, July 8, 2024

1985 Crankcase

The 1985 series of Joe figures were released during the apex of my childhood.  Nearly every kid in my class played with Joes.  It was a binding force for boys of our year.  By the spring of 1986, though, most of the other kids were outgrowing toys.  But, 1985 was that magical time when you could find common ground with any kid of similar age by bringing up G.I. Joe.  Everyone knew the characters.  And, even  if you had most of the same toys, the line was vast enough that most people had something you didn't.  Among my friends, we had some not always friendly competition over finding new toys.  We'd then take them over to each  other's homes to both show them off and also enjoy the new items together.  This cemented the memories of many acquisitions and tied them to locations and people.  To this day, I can  remember the huge white cabinets at the bottom of my one friend's basement stairs where all his Joes were kept.  And, I haven't been in that house in nearly 40 years.  But, that's the power that the 1985 line had on me.

I found the mid-sized Joe vehicles in the summer of 1985.  I don't recall if I first acquired the Snow Cat or the AWE Striker.  But, they were both added to my collection during that summer.  While the Snow Cat would find itself in the thick of my Joe convoys, though, the AWE Striker didn't catch quite the same attention.  The reason for this, though, was entirely of my own doing.  Early in my ownership of the AWE Striker, I had it outrun some Cobra missiles and take cover under my younger brother's bed.  The clearance under the bed was just not quite the same as the height of the AWE Striker.   And, as I had the vehicle race the missiles and zip under the bed at full speed, I stripped the cannon right off the top of the jeep.  While the bracket on the gun's pivot wasn't completely broken, it was stressed badly.  And, after that, the large gun never did anything but sag towards the ground or the sky.  And, it fell off as I tried to move the vehicle around our toy room.  So, the AWE Striker didn't have much of a life in my collection.

Crankcase, though, did.  I'm not sure why he so resonated with me.  Clutch had been my favorite figure of the original 13.  Crankcase's role as a small vehicle driver was similar to Clutch's.  So, I might have given Crankcase some benefit of the doubt due to Clutch's importance to my early Joe playing days.  We also didn't have a swivel arm Clutch figure.  So, as I didn't use straight arm figures due to their limitations, I was missing an iconic vehicle driver who could operate the multitude of small Joe vehicles that now comprised my mechanized divisions.  As Crankcase was cool looking, featured nice colors, had decent accessories and had a memorable face, he fit into this niche rather nicely.  And, since vehicle drivers were often called into battle after their vehicle had been disabled, Crankcase found himself involved in most of the pivotal moments in any play scenario.

The real testament to Crankcase's quality was the fact that he was a rare figure in my childhood collection who was able to survive the loss of his accessories.  For some reason, the rifle that came with my childhood Crankcase was weak and the stock quickly broke off.  As the weapon was ruined anyways, I then snipped off the clip with a nailclipper in the vain hopes that I could repurpose it as a pistol.  This ruined it even further.  And, I lost one of the coolest guns of my childhood collection.  To make matters worse, I also misplaced Crankcase's helmet.  When I was a kid, my parents kept a brown plastic tub near the back door for dirty shoes.  For some reason, I had it in my head that Crankcase's helmet was in the bottom of this tub, mixed among the clumps of mud.  Since I thought I knew where the helmet was, I didn't really look for it for several weeks.  When I finally did, the helmet was not there.  And, my childhood Crankcase went bareheaded until he was packed away in 1988.  

Despite this, though, Crankcase endured.  He would drive the VAMP, Awe Striker, Silver Mirage and sometimes find himself in the 2nd seat of the Mauler.  In 1986, I discovered that Hawk's small pistol looked great with Crankcase.  And, it was of the right size to have been pulled from the holster on Crankcase's leg.  I was fortunate in that we had two General Hawks in my childhood collection.  So, we had a spare pistol I could give to Crankcase.  (I also happened to prefer Hawk using Leatherneck's M-203.)  To this day, I often photograph Crankcase with Hawk's pistol.  And, there is even a spare 1986 pistol sitting in my drawer of 1985 figures that is always meant for Crankcase.

I see Crankcase as a natural heir to the role that Clutch originally filled in the Joe team.  He has a design that both denotes a bit of casualness.  But, unlike the more reckless Clutch, Crankcase seems like he's more polished and professional in his duties.  You could count on Crankcase to get the job done.  But, he wasn't going to do something crazy that might or might not work.  This reliability made him indispensable to the team.  He was the perfect backup player to work with my preferred main characters as he wouldn't steal the spotlight.  But, was essential at crucial moments.  Plus, he looked good with the 1985 through 1987 figures that dominated my late childhood collection.

One area where I also found Crankcase was in the Action Force comic books.  My local comic book store had started stocking Action Force.  So, I had access to most of the issues of the run.  Action Force books all featured original stories that were exclusive to the book and not, otherwise, available in the U.S.  The fun part was that they often featured characters who didn't have the spotlight in the reprinted Marvel Comics that also comprised parts of each issue.  My first issue was #9.  In that issue, there was a unique story that focused on Flint and Lady Jaye.  However, Crankcase was there, moving blast shields around them to ensure only three people died if Flint couldn't defuse a bomb.  Seeing him featured like this was a treat since he didn't have a real role in the Marvel comic.  And, I suppose I've always had a thing for obscure characters who happened to have figures that resonated with me.

The thing about Crankcase is that, upon first glance, he looks rather basic.  He's got a green shirt and tan pants: nothing very special.  But, upon closer inspection, the figure features 8 different colors.  Even among vintage Joes, that's a high number.  He features a variety of small details that bring little splashes of color to him.  These paint masks would have make Crankcase an expensive figure to make.  His gear only adding to that cost.  But, this tells the story of how popular Joe was in 1985.  Hasbro could afford to make a vehicle driver as intricate as a carded figure that would have been available on a card.  This, of course, would change in just a couple of years.  But, the 1985 vehicle drivers might be best designed figures that were meant as packs in in the line's history.

Crankcase was available in 1985 and 1986 as the AWE Striker driver.  Starting in 1987, though, Crankcase began his life as a mail away figure.  Here, Crankcase found a long life.  In fact, massive overstock of bagged Crankcase figures were available from Hasbro Canada in 1999.  You can find mail away Crankcase figures bagged with a red backed filecard or with no filecard at all.  The retail figure and some mail aways feature different country of origin stamps, different rivets and slight color variants.  Crankcase's legs appeared on Major Storm in 1990.  In 2003, Crankcase's rifle appeared in gold on early samples of convention Major Storm figures.  There was also a listing that appeared in the Toys R Us computers that was named "AWE Striker with Crank".  When the toy appeared, though, Crank was long gone and replaced with a re-release of the 2002 Dial Tone figure.  

Crankcase figures have gotten pricey in recent years.  Mint and complete versions will run between $20 and $25.  Oddly, you can get a nicely conditioned AWE Striker along with a complete Crankcase for about $15 more.  So, that's probably the way to go.  Crankcase figures can be had for $7 or $8.  The real value seems to be in the rifle.  They usually run about $10.  That's a far cry from a couple of years ago when the rifles were a buck or two each.  But, Joe accessories have really climbed in price since 2020. So, you're now paying premium prices for even common gear. But, since Crankcase was such a large part of my childhood collection, I'd probably pay the prices for him.  As 1985 figures, he's still among the cheaper options.  And, if you don't want the rifle (you do, though, want the rifle!) his price makes him a no-brainer.  

1985 Crankcase, AWE Striker, Footloose, Flint, 1988 Swampmasher, Funskool Tunnel Rat

1985 Crankcase, AWE Striker, Heavy Metal, 2008

Saturday, July 6, 2024

1988 Tiger Force Flint Around The Web

Flint remains one of the most popular vintage Joe figures.  His character featured in both the comic and cartoon, offering both fandoms a chance to appreciate him.  Flint's Tiger Force repaint is even appreciated.  For a while, he was a stupidly expensive alternative to the still pretty expensive original figure.  

The upside to the figure's popularity is that there is plenty of content on Flint for everyone to enjoy.  You'll find some great work among the content below.  So, check out the links and leave a comment for your favorite features.

Tiger Force Flint Profile

Tiger Force Flint by thedustinmccoy

Tiger Force Flint by thevintagetoylife

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

The Zeroes - Mark VIII

So, I completely forgot about the zeroes in 2023.  Not that it really matters.  But, the Zeroes posts used to do fairly good numbers.  The purpose of this is to showcase the poorest performing posts of the last year.  As always, some make sense as the items are obscure or not interesting.  But, in other cases, the subject seemed like it would do OK.  But, for some reason, it didn't.

Action Force Stalker - Around The Web

This is one of those cases where a figure that should be popular just didn't do numbers.  I suspect that Snake Eyes repaints have gotten blase.  

Action Force Stalker, Palitoy, European Exclusive, snake Eyes

1992 Dice - Random Photos

Dice is a cool figure.  His ninja action limits him, though.  Regardless, no one really cared about some random photos of this figure.

1992 Ninja Force Dice, Slice, Night Creeper, 1993

1994 Viper (Made in Indonesia) 

This was a disappointment.  The 1994 Viper is a figure I really enjoy.  And, these days, he is relatively popular.  At least, so I thought.  But, his profile did dismal numbers and was quickly brushed to the ash-heap of this site's archives.

1994 Cobra Viper

2001 Destro

No real surprise here.  The 1992 Destro isn't that popular a figure.  And, this 2001 repaint is barely different.  So, no one really cared about it.

2001 Destro, ARAHC, 1987 Jinx

1994 Beach Head 

Another one that makes sense.  The 1993 Beach Head is generally criticized, roundly.  And, adding a splash of neon yellow to his paint job doesn't make him any more popular, even if the figure is probably a little better.

1994 Beach Head

1985 Bazooka - Around The Web

Around the Web features don't tend to do great numbers.  But, this Bazooka was greeted with absolute silence.  It's an obscure figure that is more joke fodder than anything.  

1993 Bazooka

Black Major Tank Commander

Usually, factory custom figures perform very well.  But, this Tank Commander didn't get a lot of interest.  Upon its release, this figure was pretty ignored.  And, it was cheap for many years.  So, that translated to a flaming dud.

2016 Black Major Tank Commander, Cobra Trooper, Factory Custom

So, that wraps up a year's worth of duds.  Speaking of which, Rarities Month this year wasn't spectacular.  But, it had some volume.  I'm at a point where it's getting harder to find oddities and rare items that aren't part of the secret cabal.  I have some items for next year.  And, I have 11 months to find some more.  

Until then, keep coming by for more items.  I'll have more profiles as the year winds down.  I just haven't had much motivation this year.  I haven't acquired any Joes in almost 6 months.  And, I don't really feel compelled to change that: despite some really nice factory customs coming out.  I need to pull the trigger on a Baroness or two and also gear up for some of the Low-Light/Beach Head/Shockwave colorways.  Until then, though, I'll have a smattering of content.  I've found that going back and re-examining some of the figures from the earliest days of the site has lead to some inspiration.  So, I might be doing more of that as 2024 winds down.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.