I'm a sucker for classic Joe figures that had very slight repaints in other countries. Mutt is no exception. This Brazilian Mastim features darker greens than the US Mutt and a more sunburned skin tone. The most notable change, though, is that this Mutt is missing his trademark badge on his chest. Estrela removed this feature of the Mutt mold and forever altered the appearance of every subsequent release of Mutt. I was able to tap into a vibrant community of Brazilian Comandos Em Acao collectors and found some solid content on Mastim out there. It was nice to see the figure gets love in his native land. Here's the best of the Brazilian Mastim from around the web.
Saturday, April 17, 2021
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
In 1989, Hasbro rebooted a few of the original 13 characters from the Joe line. Snake Eyes and Stalker were the big two. But, they were joined by a new take on the Rock and Roll character, too. Rock and Roll was both an upgrade over his original figure as well as an homage that kept a few basic premises that made the character unique back in 1982. It was a perfect blend of design that was matched with solid colors and an amazing contingent of accessories. In 1991, Hasbro also introduced a line of figures called the Super Sonic Fighters. These figures were repaints of existing molds that included a super expensive electronic backpack. One of the molds selected for this series was the 1989 Rock and Roll. This time around, he was given new accessories and darker, richer base colors. The figure was destined to join Falcon and Law (from the prior year) as amazing repaints of classic molds. Hasbro, though, added a fun little perk to Rock and Roll. They tripped him out in orange highlights. The bright color was a harbinger of things to come and was used to draw the eye of potential customers to this higher priced (and more profitable) Super Sonic Fighters figures.
In the comic book, Rock and Roll's 1989 look was introduced in a dark green ensemble. It's a repaint that Hasbro should have made. And, if you look beyond the orange of this 1991 repaint, you see that Hasbro was so very close to delivering on that artistic license from Marvel. The figure's shirt is a rich evergreen color that is rare in the vintage line. His pants are brown. Sans orange highlights, this combo would have been a great update for Rock and Roll that would not have treaded upon the 1989 version. Hasbro, though, did include bright orange highlights. And, while they might have somewhat ruined what could have been the perfect Rock and Roll, they also give the figure some personality. The orange allows this figure to stand out and be seen. Brightly colored Joe figures tend to photograph well. And, this Rock and Roll is no exception. The neon highlights help showcase the figure's quality and pull him out of a drab background.
I'm a fan of neon Joes. I love them because they are eye catching toys. Joe was never about "realistic military!". It is superhero fantasy set within a military framework. And, figures like Rock and Roll fit into that. This guy lugs around a massive machine gun that he can fire standing up as well as a mortar that's thicker than his waist. His original design had him with pistol grip double barreled gatling cannons that were fed from an ammo pack on his back. He was a superhero archetype right from the beginning. So, having him in colors that are bright and eye catching fits with that motif. When you are larger than life, realistic rules no longer apply. And, in this context, Joe makes a lot more sense.
My biggest issue with this figure is not the orange highlights. Instead, it's the amount of unpainted details on the figure. The 1989 Rock and Roll suffers from the same fate. This figure sculpt is covered in bullets, buckles, belts and pouches. None of which are painted. So, you lose much of the sculpt's amazing details as they obscured by being the same color as the figure's base pants, shirt or orange harness. The legs, especially, are under-detailed. Rock and Roll's legs are covered in bullets and straps that, if painted, would have raised this figure to another level. Instead, they are lost in the sea of brown and collectors miss out on the amazing sculpting that covers this entire mold.
By 1989, I was done with Joe. I bought no figures and even my youngest brother had mostly moved on. But, I was buying the comic. And, as I was bored each day in my first period Spanish class, I'd often write up adventures for Joe figures that I did not own. Rock and Roll was the one who most stood out. I thought his gear was awesome and his new look was perfect for a character from my childhood. When I started collecting as an adult, a mint 1989 Rock and Roll was among the first figures I tracked down. This orange figure, though, never entered my mind.
In 1999, I was about the only person scouring Ebay for lots of figures from the 1990's. Most collectors of that time believed the line ended in 1987 but would allow for Hit and Run and Shockwave. Even the vaunted 1989 army builders were not overly sought after. In one of these lots, I managed to pick up an entire set of mint and complete with filecard Super Sonic Fighters figures. I paid less than $2 per figure for that lot. It was a great time. I was enamored, though, with Falcon. And, Road Pig was terrible enough to draw my ire in and early profile. Rock and Roll, though, fell into the back of my 1991 drawer and never escaped. His weapon appeared with my 1991 Grunt as I thought it a better fit for that figure. But, Rock and Roll never appeared in any photos and was completely lost. In 2009 or so, I sold the figure in a lot of junk. But, for some reason, I kept his accessories and filecard.
Over the past few years, I've been slowly rebuilding the collection I sold. While I lament the rare stuff that's now too expensive to ever re-acquire, I've found that finding figures like this Rock and Roll can be a challenge, too. Mostly, that's because I'm cheap and refuse to pay for figures. But, also, I can take a while to find figures like Rock and Roll from sellers who have enough other items I want to be able to justify the shipping cost. (I never pay to ship just 1 figure.) But, as I track down each of the unchecked boxes in my database, I get to rediscover some gems like this Rock and Roll figure. It's doubtful I'd have such glowing things to say about him had I kept the original figure that had weird, pink residue on his head. But, in the hunt, I found value and this figure has captured my attention now, for several months.
Rock and Roll's accessories are his calling card. The figure includes the massive sonic backpack and a green cone that serves as a weapons stand. He includes a brown mortar and machine gun. The mortar is good if you have it set in the stand. But, it doesn't work on its own. The best weapon, though, is the machine gun. It's an excellent sculpt that's just the right size. The color is fun and unique to the line. For some reason, though, the brown plastic on the weapons is very soft. As such, the weapon handles scuff easily. I'm not aware of any other weapons in the vintage line that are as soft (except, maybe the 1985 Shipwreck's gear). So, it's likely a function of the plastic color. Rock and Roll does not include his shotgun from the 1989 figure, though. This weapon does appear on the card art. And, in India, the Funskool version of this figure does include an exclusive version of the shotgun. So, it was likely a last minute omission from this figure.
There are three versions of this Rock and Roll sculpt. The 1989 figure is the best. He has the best weapons and the best colors. This orange figure is great, too. But, if you can only buy one, get the 1989. In the mid 1990's, Hasbro sent the mold to Funskool where they released the figure in Sonic colors. This mold went out of production after a couple of years and is hard to find. The story then gets interesting. Funskool returned the mold to Hasbro in 1997. In 2001, Hasbro wanted to include a version of this Rock and Roll with the 2001 HQ. Hasbro had the mold, but then could not find it. So, they went with the 1994 Flint mold instead. But, then, Hasbro sent the mold BACK to Funskool. Funskool, not really sure why they got it back, decided they would release it again in 2003 or 2004. But, the Funskool line was cancelled before they could do that and this Rock and Roll is left with two figures that never came to be.
Dealers will sell complete Rock and Rolls for upwards of $40. But, you can buy carded versions for that price. Mint and complete with filecard figures will cost you about $20, with a few deals here and there. If you sacrifice the filecard, the price for mint and complete figures falls by half. For that price, everyone should have this figure. The gun is worth it alone. But, the dark green color with the bright orange is just a vibrant look that is great for photos and just looks fun. If the figure wasn't orange, but black, this figure would probably be more than double his current price. For a figure that's kind of scarce, though, the pricing on this guy is still affordable and makes him a very worthwhile pickup.
Saturday, April 10, 2021
Col Courage is not a figure I ever thought I'd like. He wasn't someone I really wanted in the 1990's. But, upon owning a version of the character, I realized that he's not a bad figure at all. He's like Alpine, Blowtorch and even Crazylegs in that he's a solid figure who blends into the background. In hand, you realize how good he is. But, otherwise, he doesn't much enter your mind. Despite that, there's a nice assortment of content out there on Col Courage for collectors to enjoy. Here's the best of the 1993 Col Courage from around the web.
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Crystal Ball sucks. Yes, I'm starting this profile with that base statement as there's really no way to otherwise place this figure into a proper context. He's probably one of the worst Joe figures ever made. Along with his classmates of Raptor and Big Boa, he fulfills the triumvirate of terrible. It's hard to understand how Cobra's villains went from Zartan, Firefly, Scrap Iron and Stormshadow to Crystal Ball in just three years. But, you can see the progression in both 1985 and 1986 that lead to the class of 1987 being the worst crop of Cobras Hasbro ever released in a single year.
As an idea, Crystal Ball probably had some merit. A guy who can "read" minds as a means of interrogation would be very useful. While torture has merits a means of extracting information from prisoners, the social connections that can be formed by a con man to his marks can be even more powerful. To this day, top notch hackers rely on social engineering to sneak into their targets. The marks are often unaware of their complicity until it is too late. Tying him to the Romani superstition of a seventh son of a seventh son gives Crystal Ball that supernatural backstory of a supervillain and made him more interesting to kids of the '80's than a smooth talking friendly guy who gets you to spill your innermost thoughts.
In the collecting community, Crystal Ball really only has two niches. He's either a joke figure who's played for laughs. Or, he's a Dreadnok. In the context of a Dreadnok, Crystal Ball probably works best. Dreadnoks were societal outcasts. And, few groups have been historically marginalized like the Romani. It's easy to see someone like Crystal Ball falling in with this crowd...especially if he had a useful talent like parting rubes with their hard earned money. So, even today, you'll often see a Crystal Ball figure posed with the Dreadnoks. And, in this context, he works relatively well. His costume looks like the ragtag, homemade ware that someone on society's fringes would wear. The fur collar is ridiculous. But, it also is the type of ostentatious flair that is found among the Dreadnoks. His shield is entirely impractical. But, is the type of MacGuffin device that would distract locals while the Dreadnoks picked their pockets or robbed their cars.
Crystal Ball entered my childhood collection near the end. But, as it was the end, even a figure with limited appeal found a role. While I relegated Crystal Ball to one of my brothers, I did appropriate the figure as a viable enemy. Crystal Ball's value, though, was defensive. His shield was indestructible. As I was a fan of the Captain America comics around the time of Crystal Ball's release, it's no secret where this idea came from. I didn't, though, see Crystal Ball's shield as an offensive weapon like Cap's. Instead, Crystal Ball would lead Cobra Troopers into battle. He would block the bullets with his shield with the Vipers lined up behind him. In other cases, he'd act as a body guard for Cobra high command since his shield could protect them from anything.
These uses are, of course, patently ridiculous. But, it was a way to use someone new at a time when I was so engrossed in Joe that some classic characters became stale. It was, though, a way to appreciate the shield accessory, too. In time, reason won out and Joe gunners would just aim for Crystal Ball's legs. Then, he's quickly fall and his shield was useless. It was sometimes useful against Snake Eyes or Stormshadow swords. But, those were more one off adventures instead of being part of my ongoing story line. So, Crystal Ball faded away. And, when it was time to pack up all my Joe figures for posterity, Crystal Ball was among those who were left out for my youngest brother to destroy. He simply held no value to me. In the mid 1990's, though, this manifested itself different ways as Crystal Ball joined in with other unloved figures to form roving bands of criminals who would be tracked down and captured by Joe security forces.
Crystal Ball's filecard was written by Stephen King. King's son, Owen, was a G.I. Joe fan. And, in thanks for King's contributions to Crystal Ball, the Sneak Peek character's real name is Owen King. It's a neat little bit of history for the Crystal Ball figure. But, even that hasn't translated into long term interest in the figure or character. You get the horror references in Crystal Ball's character. But, it makes him a bit goofy. With a better design, the character might have worked.
Crystal Ball looks like Vincent Price. While such a reference is likely lost on anyone under 30 or so, Price was an iconic enough celebrity at the time that Crystal Ball's resemblance to him further boosted Crystal Ball's horror credentials. The figure's red eyes were a bit of weirdness that gave Crystal Ball more of a supernatural flavor. And, while this wasn't an avenue I explored as a kid, it was one that many others used as their basis for Crystal Ball's character.
In looking back at the Crystal Ball figure, though, there is a lot of quality work that went into him. He's a perfect example of a figure doing everything right, but still not working. Crystal Ball's headsculpt is probably the most detailed work Hasbro did on a face at that time. He textured two-toned hair is a nifty bit of work for 1987. His gritted teeth showcase exceptional detail. While his open chest doesn't do much to make Crystal Ball work, the lattice string that holds it together is a nice little detail. The rest of his outfit is finely detailed with gold paint. As an example of toy engineering, Crystal Ball really showed what was possible with the Joe line. The problem, though, is that the character is just too bizaree and the entire ensemble is just too out there to really land within the context of G.I. Joe. Starting in 1987, G.I. Joe got a bit weird. And, there were even more bizarre concepts that were proposed but didn't come to be. Crystal Ball shows that even when these ideas were excellently executed, they were not going to resonate with kids of the day (and their later, adult collector selves) in any meaningful way.
Crystal Ball had two uses. Hasbro produced this figure and the mold was then sent off to Brazil. There, Estrela release a Crystal Ball figure that is very similar to the US release. The mold never appeared again. For years, customizers used Crystal Ball's parts to make various creations. The small build of the figure allowed many of his parts to be used for female customs with decent effect. There really aren't parts on the figure that would have lent themselves to repaints. Sure, some wacky orange, yellow, blue and purple Funskool release would have been awesome. But, Crystal Ball is really a one and done figure mold and character.
Because the current Joe market is dumb, you'll see mint and complete with filecard Crystal Balls sell in the $20-$25 range. Which is WAY too high. With a little patience, you can get one for $15, though. Loose figures can be had for even less. Carded figures sell in the $80 range, which is about the cheapest you'll find a carded 1987 figure. Crystal Ball is not a popular figure, though. So, it's pretty likely that this is a figure who's price will plummet when the collectible bubble bursts. If you don't have a Crystal Ball, it might be worth it to wait out the market.
Saturday, April 3, 2021
In 2018, Red Laser's Army released this Shimik figure. He was a long wanted character in my collection and having a chance to get this figure with swivel arms was an opportunity I just could not pass by. Sadly, Red Laser's Army has ceased to be and figures like this will not continue. But, we got some great figures over the years. And, collectors are far better off with figures like this Shimik being available. There's not a ton of content on the figure out there. You will see that a few people who do like him, though, use him frequently. Enjoy the best of the Shimik figures from around the web.