Tuesday, September 27, 2022

2022 Duke

I don't much care for Duke.  Not being a cartoon guy, Duke never really resonated with me.  His comic character was rather bland and there were far better characters for any adventures.  His original figure was cool enough.  But, it also felt like a retread since it reused accessories and even mold parts from other figures.  Among the class of 1984, Duke felt like an anachronism.  And, as such, he rarely found a role in my collection.  In fact, Duke's most memorable contribution to my childhood was the donation of his parts that were used on other figures.  My favorite being a new Hawk that used a Duke's chest that I had repainted.  But, you can't deny Duke's importance to the Joe mythos and his place of prominence among collectors.  So, his inclusion among the first 6 of the Hasbro Pulse releases makes sense.  And, while I'm not a fan of the Duke character, this new rendition of him accomplishes some things that failed Hasbro from 1997 through 2005.

Duke has been re-released a ton of times.  But, none of those Duke figures really lived up to the version that appeared in the cartoon.  During the 1990's and, to a lesser extent, the 2000's, Joe fandom was heavily skewed towards the Marvel Comic.  As such, Hasbro was steered away from any cartoon homage figures.  In the ensuing decades, though, this has changed as more and more cartoon fans have come into the fold.  Now, there's a pretty even split.  And, the cartoon has proven to offer some nice designs for toys.  Super7 has mined the cartoon mythos very deeply and produced some figures that are unlikely to ever appear in any form again.  What's sad is that Hasbro could have done this very easily in the 2000's.  It's a shame there is no cartoon accurate Baroness, Snake Eyes, Cover Girl, Flint or any other cartoon rendition of your favorite character.  But, this Duke and Cobra Commander release of 2022 takes a step towards rectification.  Both figures are based on their cartoon appearances and include cartoon inspired accessories.  It's probably 20 years too late.  But, cartoon fans finally have some figures that are inspired by their favored medium.

As you likely know, though, I'm not really a cartoon fan.  I watched it as a kid.  But, it didn't really resonate with me and most of my Joe inspiration was taken from the comic.  So, the homage aspect of this figure doesn't matter much to me.  The colors are interesting.  But, they also aren't great.  I love the deep green of Duke's pants and helmet.  It is a great color.  But, the yellow of his shirt just doesn't match anything.  I tried to pair him with a variety of figures.  But, couldn't get a look that I liked.  Duke just doesn't go with anything.  And, to me, that limits him.  I'd love a Duke that could be easily melded into photos.  But, this isn't that Duke.  And, while the paint masks are spectacular, the color palette just doesn't translate into a neat looking figure.  So, Duke is just a toy that I own.  He sits in his drawer and I have yet to have any real compunction to pull him out for photos other than those in this profile.  It's not a terrible fate as it's the same way I feel about many of the 2000's releases.  But, I was hoping for more from a premium priced toy.

One of the supposed perks of premium pricing is that we get a bunch of extra accessories with each figure 2 pack.  With Snake Eyes and Stormshadow, it was extra 1989 Snake Eyes gear that didn't really go with the released figure.  With the Cobra Trooper/Officer, there was a nice cadre of additional weapons.  Most of them were Joe weapons.  But, they also represented pretty much every weapon that was released with a Trooper or Officer all over the world.  For Duke and Cobra Commander, though, the ante was upped again.  The Commander included a nice batch of weapons, computer pads and even binoculars.  Duke, though, was the real plum.  Aside from his helmet and card art inspired XMLR, Duke also included binoculars, his backpack (which keeps the 1984 color and doesn't match with this figure at all!), a green M-32 like the original figure, a dark green bazooka (still missing the sight!), an American flag and pole, a figure stand based on the anniversary figure design, a bizarre shoulder harness and, the coup de gras, a silver JUMP backpack that's meant to be held by the harness.  It's a great complement of gear and seems like a deluxe figure.  I'm not sure it's worth the $21 for the figure.  But, it does help make this figure feel like less of a price gouge.  Personally, I'd love for every Joe to include a specifically colored JUMP.  It would be awesome.  But, I'll take it just with Duke for now.

The quality of this figure is pretty strong.  There is, though, quite a bit of consternation over the eye paint on the figure.  They eyes of most figures are not symmetrical.  In close up, macro photos, the eyes look terrible.  But, under normal vision, it's far less noticeable.  The head is goofy.  But, Duke has always been goofy.  The paint ops, though, are top notch.  They are a step up from the 2000's era.  The plastic quality is about the same as the 2000's, though.  So, you have softer overall plastic along with more pliable thumbs and crotches.  I do not, though, like painted hands as they are susceptible to wear.  But, few of these will be played with.  So, that's less of an issue.  

This figure is an all new Duke mold.  So, while Duke was released in 1984, 1988 and then in a variety of times in the 2000's, those were all different molds from this figure.  Hasbro is just releasing its first repaint of the Pulse era when the Stinger Driver shows up in a few months.  I'd love for Hasbro to start repainting some of these new molds.  But, I'd prefer them to come in a cheaper option for packaging.  I don't really want a Tiger Force Duke or a 1984 colored Duke on a full cardback.  But, I'd love one of each in a baggie for a cheaper price.  It would be awesome to get a Night Force Duke.  Or, even a figure based on the European Force Mirage.  I do hope that we see some repaints in the line, just to get more than 8 or so figures in a year.  We'll see if that ever happens, though.

If you want Duke, buy him right now.  He and Cobra Commander are $42 plus shipping.  You can even buy up to 5 of them.  Honestly, if I could just buy a Duke with all the gear for $21, I'd probably get one or two more: just for the gear.  But, I'm hesitant as the price seems high with the Cobra Commander.  The long run value for these figures is unknown.  I'm sure the Cobra Commander will remain desirable as it's the first release of that mold since 1984.  Duke is less certain as this is a specific look for the character.  But, the figure is solid and the gear is amazing.  That's usually a recipe for prolonged interest from collectors.  

2022 Hasbro Pulse, Duke, Cobra Commander, Quarrel, Action Force Palitoy

2022 Hasbro Pulse, Duke, Cobra Commander, Quarrel, Action Force Palitoy


2022 Hasbro Pulse, Duke, Cobra Commander, 2005 Stalker


2022 Hasbro Pulse, Duke, Cobra Commander


2022 Hasbro Pulse, Duke, Cobra Commander


Saturday, September 24, 2022

1997 Baroness - Around The Web

 The 1997 Joes have actually fairly well.  Despite their unpopularity at the time of their release, the general color schemes and original accessories have lead to a series of figures that are held in much higher regard today.  One of the main reasons is that several of the figures who appeared in the 1997 series never got another repaint that surpassed the 1997 release.  One such figure is the Baroness.  Her 1997 figure offered a nice shade of blue that allowed the Baroness to seamlessly blend with other early Cobras.  

1997 Baroness Profile

1997 Baroness by Nekoman

1997 Baroness at the Dragon Fortress

1997 Baroness by gen_liederkranz

1997 Baroness at Nekoman's Viper Pit

1997 Baroness by bruxovigo

1997 Baroness by Nekoman

1997 Baroness by bruxovigo

1997 Baroness, 1985 Ferret, Toys R Us Exclusive, 2021 Cobra Trooper, Black Major, Factory Custom

1997 Baroness, Toys R Us Exclusive, Alley Viper, Rage


1997 Baroness, Toys R Us Exclusive, 2005 Classified, SNake Eyes, Comic Pack

1997 Baroness, Toys R Us Exclusive, 2006 Convention Exclusive Major Bludd


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

1988 Target Exclusive Hit and Run

I quit buying Joes in 1988.  At that point, I was way too old to still be playing with toys.  But, I was also not really ready to let go.  I had bought all of the 1987 releases.  And, those figures dominated my room and my time.  But, as the calendar turned to 1988, I had found a new hobby in baseball card collecting that was more acceptable for someone my age.  So, Joe began to fall away.  In 1988, I only bought a handful of figures: Hardball, Tiger Force Roadblock and Hit and Run.  I don't really recall when I got Hit and Run.  He might have been my first figure of 1988.  Or, he might have been the final figure I purchased in childhood.  The circumstances of his entry into my world are lost to time.  But, he maintained a high status in my collection during the time I still played with Joes.  At some point in 1988, though, my youngest brother brought home a new Hit and Run.  This one, though, was a special figure that included a parachute pack.  As I had lost my original Hit and Run's filecard, I clipped out the yellow version and, ultimately, stowed the figure and parachute away into my plastic red Lego box that held all my Joes as I transitioned from kid into adult collector.

I didn't think much about the second Hit and Run figure.  By that time, I was not playing with Joes.  though, I may have snagged his awesome rifle and used it with another figure.  I did not realize that the Hit and Run was a Target exclusive.  It was meant as a higher priced gift type item.  There was nothing really new about the figure.  But, you could get a figure who included a rope, working winch, grappling hook and a parachute in one combined package.  At the time, it was the the most deluxe figure package that Hasbro had ever offered.  In coming years, Hasbro would expand upon the deluxe figure idea and offer a wide array of full release figures at higher price points for premium accessories.

When taken as a pairing, Hit and Run and the parachute pack seem a natural fit.  The colors match up.  Hit and Run's body mold looks like it could be part of a paratrooper's uniform.  And, Hit and Run could still use all of his gear and the parachute at the same time since his duffel bag was not a traditional backpack.  The parachute added a new element to Hit and Run and made him an even better option as a member of a Tomahawk crew.  Hit and Run was also a pretty nice match for the 1984 Ripcord and the Night Force Crazylegs.  So, he fit the motif of the paratroopers in the line.  

As a figure, Hit and Run is just about perfect.  His sculpting is top notch where he's detailed but not over the top.  His green and black coloring satisfies the "military purists" while his ingenious satchel, rope and grappling hook are one of the best accessories Hasbro ever produced.  His rifle perfectly matches the figure, is well detailed and is neither too large nor too small.  In short, Hit and Run is what many people hold the Joe line as a whole out to be.  But, truthfully, Hit and Run is an outlier in the line.  He is the military in military fantasy.  The 1988 line was a perfect balance of the two in that there were many military figures but also a great number of outlandish, fantasy characters, too.  This balance shifts from year to year...especially on the Cobra side. 

As Hit and Run was among my last figures of childhood, his adventures were limited.  I've told the story, though, of how I lost him hanging in the ivy of my grandparents' yard, only to find several months later.  Beyond that, though, Hit and Run was heavily a figure I admired.  Shortly after I got him, I put my toys away.  They were locked in a closet.  And, I suspect this had something to do with my brother's acquisition of this Hit and Run.  He liked the figure, but didn't have access to it.  So, he bought his own.  And, in this case, it turned out to be an exclusive.  (He would also get the Night Force Sneak Peek and Falcon later in the year.)    I spent much of 1988 and 1989 wishing that I could still collect toys.  And, I'd pull my Hit and Run out every now and then to admire the work and imagine all the adventures I've had with him were he released in 1985.  Even now, as a collector, that wanting still lingers.  I've profiled Hit and Run three times, now.  Yet, in no instance do I feel that I've adequately captured how cool the figure is in the photos.  Nor, do I feel that my profile lives up to the figure and gives him his due.  It's odd how these old feelings remain with a toy, even three and half decades later.

In 1988 and 1989, Hasbro offered up a few retailer exclusives.  While the Night Force line at Toys R Us is the most famous due to the exclusive figure paint jobs, there were a few others that were designed to attract parents and gift givers to the Joe line.  This Hit and Run is one example where Hasbro took two existing products, put them in new packaging, and sold an exclusive figure for a premium.  Target also got an exclusive two pack of Voltar and Muskrat.  Again, the figures were the same as the standard release.  But, Target got exclusive packaging designed to sell a two enemies in a package.  In 1989, Hasbro boxed a Mudfighter and Hiss II into a single box and sold them at warehouse stores.  Hasbro never again offered bundled vehicles or figures.  So, we're left to question if those products were successful.  However, Sky Patrol did appear in 1990.  These figures all included parachute packs like Hit and Run and feature larger cardbacks.  They seem like the real legacy of this Target exclusive figure from 1988.

The Target Hit and Run parachute pack has a specific Country of Origin (COO) stamp on it.  The more common mail away Parachute Pack features a made in Hong Kong COO stamp.  The parachute pack included with the Target Hit and Run, though, features a Made in China COO stamp.  The green color of Hit and Run's parachute pack is also slightly different than that of the mail away.  It's nearly impossible to discern unless you have one of each next to each other.  So, the COO stamp is the main way to be sure of the correct Hit and Run parachute pack.  Most "Target" Hit and Run's that are sold feature the incorrect parachute pack.  So, be sure to confirm the correct COO on the pack when you are looking to acquire one.

Hit and Run saw a fair amount of release.  Hasbro released him as the standard carded figure and this Target exclusive.  His arms were also used on the Tiger Force Duke figure and later appeared on the Chinese Exclusive Duke.  From there, he appeared in the European line in exclusive Tiger Force colors.  Hit and Run was then sent to Brazil.  Estrela released the mold in a darker green as Alpinista.  Both the Tiger Force Hit and Run and Alpinista are notable in that they feature Hit and Run's flesh toned face.  Hasbro planned to repaint the Hit and Run mold in 1995 and release him as a vehicle driver with a tank.  That figure was planned to stay true to Hit and Run's roots and feature a black torso and green pants.  Had this figure been released, it would be highly sought after today.  Hit and Run collectors, though, have a ton to track down already.  Despite that, Hit and Run was one of the most requested Joe repaints of the early 2000's and a repaint of him in other environments or sub teams would have been well received.

Pricing on Target Hit and Run's is difficult.  Sure, a carded figure will easily run over $1,000.  But, loose, mint and complete with filecard samples are few and far between.  Loose Hit and Run figures themselves are odd in that they sell in $18 range: but dealers sell an appalling amount in the $40+ range.  It's a huge disparity.  Lots of dealers will try to match a complete Hit and Run with a mail away parachute pack and charge a premium for a "Target" figure sans filecard.  But, figures with the correct, yellow filecard and the parachute with the correct country of origin stamps will likely exceed $100 in today's Joe market.  It's an absurd price to pay when you can achieve the same thing with cheaper alternatives...even if they are not "collectible".

1988 Target Hit and Run, Night Force Crazylegs, Toys R Us Exclusive, 1986 Lift Ticket



1988 Hit and Run, Target Exclusive, Parachute Pack, Filecard

1988 Hit and Run, Target Exclusive, Parachute Pack, Filecard


Saturday, September 17, 2022

1993 Leatherneck - Around The Web

I found this Leatherneck at a local Big Lots for $2 in the fall of 1995.  When I went back a week or two later, all the figures were gone.  I was bummed about the sell out.  But, I was very happy that I had snagged this Leatherneck.  I chose him because he included black weapons that I had never seen before.  I opened him up and would, from time to time, find him in various poses after my room mates had played with him.  

That's my enduring memory of this Leatherneck.  But, as a figure, he's not terrible.  This mold would have been awesome in 1986 colors.  Or, really, any other repaint.  But, the banana pants are fun in a 1993 way.  And, people have come around on the figure moreso than in the past.  There's some good content showcasing the figure out there.  So, take some time and check the links below.
















1993 Battle Corps Leatherneck, 1988 Mean Dog, Duke



1993 Battle Corps Leatherneck, Beach Head



1993 Battle Corps Leatherneck

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

1990 Locust - General Variant

I have written about my old neighbors once or twice.  They moved away, though, in 1985.  The people who moved in to the house had two boys who were both younger than my brothers and I.  As such, we had limited interaction with them.  In 1990, though, I would do some babysitting for them.  When looking for something to do with them, I found a small cache of G.I. Joe toys in their basement.  They were from 1988 and later and were relatively unfamiliar to me.  I remember a shell of a Tiger Fly: which I recognized as a Dragonfly repaint.  But, most of the other toys were in pretty bad shape.  But, one day, they had gotten some new toys when I was watching them.  We were playing outside under a hemlock bush with some new figures and vehicles.  The one new toy, though, that caught my attention was the Locust helicopter.

This little brown copter was right in line with the type of flying vehicle that I loved in the final years of my Joe playing days.  It was small, compact, loaded with weapons and had an easily accessible cockpit.  In short, it was the perfect type of vehicle for vast types of aerial based combat.  It could easily be held in one hand while it attacked the figures on the ground.  It could hold it's own against the Night Raven and Mamba drones that comprised the entirety of my Cobra air force at the time.  And, the exposed cockpit allowed for the dramatic death scenes that were integral to any aerial combat adventure.  I really wanted to get one.  But, I wasn't really buying toys then.  So, I filed the Locust away for a later time.

When I started collecting in earnest in the late 1990's, I was focused on filling many of the holes in my collection that started with items I recognized from the years after I was buying toys.  Figures like Big Ben and Metal Head were key acquisitions.  I tracked down a Hammer: which proved to be one of the biggest disappointments of my collecting life.  But, I never managed to get any version of the Locust.  For some reason, I never really spent time searching for one despite wanting to get one.  I'm not sure why this was.  I spent so much time building my figure collection that vehicles were a secondary concern.  Even with the addition of better Cobra aircraft like the Firebat, I never had occasion to seek out the Locust.  I even acquired a beat up General as a throw in with a lot of other 1990's figures.  (Things like that happened in the late '90's.)  But, the Locust wasn't included.  And, as Hasbro started releasing more toys in the 2000's, the Locust just got overlooked.

With one now in hand, though, I find that my memory of the Locust is stronger than the actual toy.  Sure, it's still compact and well armed.  And, the canopy/cockpit is in line with what I remembered.  But, my older, wiser self has yet to really find that sense of wonder that burst through when I first saw the Locust back in the fall of 1990.  It may come in time.  But, things like the Razor Blade have helped dull the appeal of the Locust.  But, this General version of the copter looks nice with a variety of figures.  And, it's rather seldom seen.  So, it's possible that I'll use it in far more photos than some of the items that replaced it.  I've just been disappointed.  But, considering I built the toy up in my head for more than three decades, there was little way it was going to live up to the hype I created for it.

Truth be told, though, there isn't much to the Locust.  1990 started the transition to more molded vehicles instead of the model type kits we'd seen in prior years.  So, the Locust just has the guns, missiles, canopy and skids.  There is a swiveling tail rotor.  But, it's, as far as I can tell, the first chopper with such a feature where the rotor doesn't actually spin.  In 1990, Hasbro experimented with a clip to hold figures into place.  On some level, they're useful since your figures didn't flop around in the toys.  But, I've found them to be terrible as they impede putting figures into the vehicles and can damage figures today.  The Locust has one to hold the figure in the slightly oversized cockpit.  Without it, the inside of the chopper is great.  But, it's an intrusive feature at best.  The only other real feature is that there is a bomb dropping feature underneath the copter.  There is a little door that will open up to drop two additional yellow missiles onto Cobra targets.  It's not much of a play feature.  But, it's something and foretold of the action features that would become essential to all vehicles made after 1990.  

The Locust was released at retail in brown and in green and yellow with the General.  Neither are particularly hard to find.  It was rare for vehicles in the 1990's to get a repaint.  So, the fact that there are two Locusts is a oddity.  I won't argue that the General version is superior to the retail release.  As, I do think the brown and silver version is superior.  But, this General version offers bursts of color that make it more visually interesting.  And, it better complements the figures from 1991 and later while the retail version is a nice match for other 1990 Joe releases.  In 2000, Hasbro reused the Locust name on a tan repaint of the Dragonfly.  This Locust is a great toy.  But, it has no bearing on the original.  It's sad that there was no place for little vehicle like the Locust in the 2000's.  I think a lot of small, generally overlooked vehicles could have found a nice second life during that time.

One of the things I'd really like to do in 2023 is learn to take aerial photos of Joe toys.  The aircraft are such an integral part of the line.  But, there's only so much you can do with photos of them on the tarmac.  There are lots of little tricks and tips to get flying shots.  And, I want to spend some time next year learning a few and then working on showcasing toys like this Locust in their intended environment.  In the sky, you can better visualize the purpose of the smaller flying machines.  And, getting some of the well known tricks down would really help breathe some life into photos for toys like the Locust.

It's surprisingly easy to find mint and complete versions of this Locust.  It's even easier to find parts.  So, it's possible to spend about $40 to have a General version of the Locust shipped to you.  But, it's also possible to put one or two together from cheaper lots of parts.  It seems that Generals tended to get damaged and thrown away while the Locusts were saved.  And, that's the likely reason it's easier to find this helicopter than it is to find an unbroken General.  The retail Locust is both cheaper and more common, though.  So, depending upon your color preferences, that might be a better way to go if you want a version of the Locust.  Be on the lookout for drooping cannons and be sure you get 4 missiles.  Personally, I wish either version had been available to me when I was a kid.  Having it as a collector just isn't the same.  But, it's still a great little toy that's well worth tracking down.

1990 Locust, The General, 1991 Tracker


1990 Locust, The General, 1992 Talking Battle Commanders General Hawk, Cloudburst


1990 Locust, General, 1987 Mercer, Slaughter's Renegades


1990 Locust, General, 2003 Major Storm, 1992 Wild Bill