Saturday, September 25, 2021

1983 Stalker - Around The Web

Stalker is one of the most visually distinctive members of the Original 13 Joes.  His character is just below Snake Eyes as one of the most important in the G.I. Joe franchise.  And, fittingly, there's a lot of content out there on the original release of the character.  Sadly, original Stalker figures are getting brittle.  So, there's more risk when you take one out for a photo shoot.  But, the original is worth it as he brings life to any photo.  Here's the best of the 1983 Stalker from around the web.

1983 Stalker Profile

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

1993 Outback

Outback was a popular character from 1987.  He got a great run in the comic.  His figure, though, got just one repaint in the Toys R Us exclusive Night Force set.  Six years after his original release, Hasbro resurrected the character.   At first glance, the new Outback design was a radical departure from the minimalist survival expert from 6 years prior.  But, at his core, this new Outback reflected an alternate look for the character and a gave kids and collectors a way to use Outback in more diverse ways.  The figure still retains some of the survival aspects of the original.  But, he now has more trappings.  And, he features some design elements that rarely appeared in the Joe line.

At some point in 1995 or 1996, I found one of these Outbacks at retail.  While the figure didn't match the Outback I knew from 1987, the look was solid enough to warrant purchase.  Once in my collection, though, I did not use the figure as Outback.  Instead, this figure became an army builder of combat engineers.  It was a role I felt was missing from the Joe line.  And, it served a purpose in my collection at the time.  These characters would be part of a convoy and would be called upon to fix damaged vehicles, solution a way to cross a river or gorge and might even have to improvise a weapon that was capable of defeating an unforeseen enemy.  The characters were part soldiers and part Mr. Fix-Its.  But, that was a perfect way to create tension and conflict within the Joe team.

Often, the engineers were only mildly trained soldiers.  Sure, they had been through basic training and could use weapons.  But, after that, they were almost exclusively focused on technical expertise.  As such, they weren't much use in a firefight.  But, they took up valuable space in the convoy that might have been better utilized with another machine gunner or hand held artillery trooper.  On the occasion where engineering expertise was needed, though, the script flipped.  Here, the engineers would bark orders at the combat troops, asking them to do basic tasks.  Tasks that they often didn't understand.  This would frustrate the engineers and they'd often end up accidentally exposing themselves to enemy fire when they went to do something themselves.  Once the engineer was dead, the Joes had to figure a way out of a situation without their technology.

In the years since, though, this Outback hasn't been all that important.  From time to time, I'd break him out to join some other more brightly colored 1993 releases in a photo shoot.  Though, I'd often reach for the Eco Warriors variant instead.  But, I still only see this figure as an engineer.  I don't consider him Outback.  The 1987 sculpt is just too iconic.  But, at the same time, this 1993 figure is just too strong to ignore.  So, even after 25+ years, this figure remains, primarily, in the specialty I set for him when I first acquired him at retail.  There's some value in that consistency.  And, as this figure looks good with a variety of vehicles, he also remains relevant as a vital part of any motor pool.  

The 1993 Outback mold is well sculpted.  He has a canteen and knife on his chest.  And, the figure has a bit more bulk than those from the '80's.  He has some odd wrappings on his forearms and blue trim on the top of his boots.  (According to the filecard, these are Outback's personalized wool hiking socks.)  To me, these things make him unique.  To others, they make him weird.  Neither is right nor wrong.  It's just how you perceive the figure.  (And, I'd wager that most collectors who grew up in the '80's view them as weird while those who came of age in the '90's find they give Outback character.)  The cargo pants aren't overdone, but are nicely detailed.  The main calling card of the figure is the head.  The black hard hat is a feature rarely seen on Joes.  (Hardtop and Tollbooth are the only other two who come to mind.)  So, it's appearance gives this Outback a distinct look.  The face is well sculpted and the bright orange beard that was Outback's calling card is still there.  It's just a bit better trimmed this time around.

Outback's weapons are red.  Sadly, he was given a decent accessory tree.  But, all the weapons were red instead of something more useful.  (In the 1993 Toy Fair Catalog, though, Outback was featured with purple weapons.  The hue that appears in the photo was never released with any figure.  You'll note the weapons on Outback's card art are a light purple instead of the deep red included with the figure.)  While I wasn't a huge fan of alternatively colored weapons in the 1990's, I was able to find a use for them and my Outback used the red Hit and Run rifle right from the minute I opened him off the card.  The red Big Ben rifle would occasionally see use.  But, often, I'd give it to a spare 1994 Viper if I didn't have a second 1994 Flint black version of Ambush's rifle for him.  Outback also had a red version of the Ambush rifle.  But, for some reason, I never really used it.  He was rounded out with a red battle stand and the requisite blue spring loaded missile launcher with two missiles.

Outback was used three times.  The first release was intended to be part of the Eco Warriors sub team.  But, when that concept was cancelled for 1993, the rainbow colored figure found its way into the standard Battle Corps line.  Hasbro quickly changed the paint job, though, and released this more subdued Outback later in the year.  Around 1995, the best version of the mold was released in Brazil.  The Marfim figure is a great combo of green and gold and lacks many of the more distracting colors.  In the late 1990's, carded Marfim's were an Ebay staple and you could get them cheap.  Then, the figure disappeared for about a decade.  When new ones started popping up in the 2010's, the $30 price tag was now over $100.  And, Marfim figures have not fallen in the decade since.  It's too bad as Marfim shows this mold's value.  It's also sad that Marfim was released in Brazil with the Headhunter and Gristle molds.  So, Hasbro had it available for a convention set in the 2000's.  But, they never delivered the mold again.  Just think how great it would have been to get Outback in ARAH form during that time!  Even this mold would have been welcome.  But, it was not to be.

Like all 1993 figures, Outbacks have gotten a bit harder to find and a bit more expensive in the last two years.  While dealers will ask $20 or more for a mint and complete with filecard Outback, the reality is that carded versions can be had for $25 and you can get the loose, mint and complete figures for around $12 without too much trouble.  Just the figure will cost about half that.  There's enough supply that you don't have to wait too long to get a version of this figure.  So, that helps make the decision to acquire one.  I have long found this mold to be of value: whether you use it as Outback or a new character.  For older collectors who grew up with Outback's scraggly mountain man look, seeing this figure as Outback might be a harder sell.  But, the mold is strong and the price is still right for this figure.  So, it probably doesn't hurt to pick one up regardless of your feelings about this new look.

1993 Outback, Battle Corps, 1994 Mexican Lobotomaxx, Lunartix Alien, Star Brigade

1991 Snake Eyes, 1993 Outback, Battle Corps

1993 Outback, Battle Corps, 1992 Flak Viper, 1991 General Hawk

1993 Outback, Battle Corps, 1994 Mexican Lobotomaxx, Lunartix Alien, Star Brigade

Saturday, September 18, 2021

1990 Rampart - Around The Web

Rampart is one of those figures that you just don't remember.  When you see him, you realize that he has a lot of potential.  But, it's rare to see him in action.  And, even I hadn't photographed one in nearly a decade and a half when I pulled him out for this Around the Web feature.  It's just not a figure that really grabs you and demands your attention.  That doesn't mean it's bad, though.  Rampart has a lot of fun features and exhibits a very unique sculpt.  But, a later release year that also contained a ton of better figures keeps him obscure.  Still, I was able to find some nice content on him out there.  

1990 Rampart Profile

Rampart by ironman3719

Rampart by thedustinmccoy


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

1990 Sky Patrol Altitude

I have never really been a Sky Patrol fan.  I'm not sure why.  But, even in my heady collecting days when I bought any and everything, Sky Patrol was never a focus.  In fact, until the acquisition of this figure, I actually owned more Brazilian Patrulha do Ar figures than I did of Hasbro Sky Patrol.  Even looking at everything I've ever owned, the two series are tied and I've even owned more of the unproduced 2003 Sky Patrol Wal Mart figures than I have 1990 Sky Patrol.  For some reason, Sky Patrol wasn't something I actively sought out.  And, due to their general release type and scarcity, they were not something that often appeared in lots of 1990's figures that were the staple of my acquisitions back in the early 2000's.  So, I have not had occasion to really examine Sky Patrol in quite a while.  

Recently, though, I came across some Sky Patrol figures at a local haunt.  I could choose between an Airborne and a Altitude.  While I've long wanted Airborne due to his distinct look, the Altitude figure was in better shape, the same price and fully complete.  So, I went with Altitude and didn't look back.  Once in hand, I found the figure a nice addition to my collection.  The newly sculpted head for the character was very distinct.  His colors are muted, complementary and not often seen on vintage Joes figures.  And, the mold chosen for his body makes sense in the context of his specialty.  In short, he's a solid figure that expands my collection in a different direction than most of my neon-heavy acquisitions.

All of the Sky Patrol figures were repaints of pre-existing vehicle drivers who were given new heads.  Some of the bodies chosen were Joe and some were Cobra.  It was a cheap way for Hasbro to make new figures that included expensive accessories like the parachutes.  The unifying theme of the figures was that they all included chrome colored parachutes that were packed into repaints of the 1985 Parachute Pack case.  Along with the new heads, each figure included an array of unique accessories.  The calling card, though, were the unique helmets that were given to each figure.  No two figures got the same helmet, but all the characters wore them to give the team a modicum of uniformity.  Each figure also included new weapons.  Some were better than others.  But, all were distinct to the Sky Patrol theme.  The end result was that parents were asked to pay a premium price for a product that appeared new and an adequate value.  Even for collectors of the day, the radically different paint schemes on the bodies as well as the elapsed time since their last use helped make the Sky Patrol figures all feel new and worth the extra price.

The Sky Patrol figures, though, lack a real uniformity in their appearance.  While the chrome parachutes tie them together, each figure is individually colored.  Skydive and Static Line share blue and silver hues.  But, the blues are drastically different and Static Line features some off white.  Airwave is cast in tan and pea green.  Airborne is all grey.  Altitude and Dropzone both feature brown.  But, Dropzone's is offset by grey instead of Altitude's green.  In short, the figures look less like a subset as they had previously existed in the Joe world and more like a group of individuals who shared a specialty.  There's enough complementary colors that you can kind of see them together if you really reach for a theme.  But, that also allowed for any kid who just got one of the figures to be able to find a special place for him without feeling cheated that he didn't have the rest of the team.

In thinking about Sky Patrol, it hit me that there really isn't a breakout character among the members.  This struck me as odd.  But, in other subsets, the popularity of a figure is usually determined by the popularity of their original release.  (Think Tiger Force Flint or the Python Patrol Viper.)  Figures like Cesspool, Headhunter and even the Star Brigade Roadblock have found some breakthrough success.  But, they are the exception rather than the rule.  All of the Sky Patrol figures remain about equally difficult to find, in same price range and appear with the same frequency in old collections.  That's probably due to them being packed at equal ratios as well as all being good guys.  Were there one or two Cobra villains in the subset, I'm sure they'd command premium prices over the Joes.  

Altitude pretty much sums up the uses I find for Sky Patrol figures, though.  He looks great in the Tomahawk.  Though, I also suspect he'd fit in nicely with both the Razor Blade and Dragonfly.  As part of the helicopter crew, his flight suit makes sense.  The helmet is icing on the cake for this role.  But, I can't really see Altitude as a ground trooper.  I'd much rather give his gear to a different figure for that role.  Altitude's colors work better for ground missions than some of the other Sky Patrol figures.  But, he's still a stretch.  So, it's likely that he'll simply man one of my choppers.  Here, his colors will work and he'll fit within a specialty.  I like figures like this because not everyone on the Joe team can be all things.  The point of an elite unit is that they have extreme specialists who are the best.  A guy like Altitude might lead a team through a high altitude parachute jump.  But, once on the ground, he was sort of a tag-along.  He had a role and did it fantastically.  But, once that's done, there's less use for him.

About half of the Sky Patrol weapons are awesome.  The other half are not.  Unfortunately, Altitude falls into the latter category.  His weapon is just inane.  He includes a small pistol that looks like the kid brother of the 1987 Blaster's gun.  It's lame and uninteresting.  Then, though, it takes a turn to the absurd.  Altitude's gun has a slot where a blast shield affixes to it.  Then, a missile affixes to the blast shield.  So, Altitude's little pistol becomes a missile launching bastion of death.  Of course, if he uses it in his right hand, Altitude will be the one dying.  In this direction, the blast shield would protect Altitude's gloved hand and covered arm.  All of the blast from the missile rocket, though, would be directed straight into Altitude's uncovered chin.  I guess it works as a left handed weapon (like the Alley Viper's rifle).  But, the whole set up is just bad.  The engineering to make a three piece weapon was rare in 1990, though.  So, it represented a step forward in Joe accessory design.  The design was just not very good.

Altitude uses the mold from the 1986 Slipstream figure.  Neither this body nor the new head sculpted for Altitude were ever used again.  (There is a red Slipstream from Italy named Jet Man.  But, it's likely that figure was created from a Hasbro Slipstream instead of them actually having the mold.)  It's a shame.  As, the Sky Patrol heads would have been a fun way to update some repaints in the 2000's.  But, Slipstream being both a Joe and a pilot makes him a perfect choice to get the repaint treatment in Sky Patrol.  Altitude having a flight suit with built in survival gear works for a guy who would jump out of airplanes at high altitudes.  And, the coloring is different enough that it's not completely obvious that Altitude and Slipstream share the same body.  (The fact that Slipstream isn't a very popular figure also helps!)  All of the Sky Patrol figures were colored well enough that the mold sharing isn't overly obvious.  But, Altitude, in particular, brings new life into an existing mold that didn't have a great paint job the first time it was used.

The last oddity about Sky Patrol is that they were released in a year that also saw a paratrooper released in the standard carded line.  Freefall debuted in 1990.  In terms of design and gear, Freefall is probably a superior release.  But, he didn't include a working parachute.  If you bought Sky Patrol figures in 1990, the only Joe aircraft on the shelves were the Locust, Mud Fighter and Retaliator.  So, the repaint of the 1986 Night Raven in the Sky Patrol line was the only real airplace for Sky Patrol.  And, a super sonic jet isn't really the type of thing that drops highly skilled paratroopers behind enemy lines.  But, were I a kid in 1990, I wouldn't have let the lack of planes stop me and I'd have found ways to insert a Sky Patrol figure into a situation, even if all I had was a single jet pack.

Dealers will sell mint and complete Altitudes in the $60-$80 range.  The higher end of the range usually includes the filecard, too.  Left to open pricing, Altitude is about a $45 figure.  That's not terrible in this insane market.  Especially when you consider the high price of Night Force and even Tiger Force figures.  Sky Patrol has always had its following.  And, you don't find high quality, complete figures like you used to.  Altitude is one of the stronger colorings for the subset.  And, his helmet isn't bad.  Really, after acquiring him, I wondered why I haven't gone after figures like Altitude before.  I buy Cobra army builders that cost more than a Sky Patrol figure.  So, there's no excuse to not own more.  Maybe it's time for me to accept that, enjoy the concept and finally go about finishing my Sky Patrol collection.

1990 Sky Patrol Altitude

1990 Sky Patrol Altitude, 2017 Sightline, Red Laser Army, Factory Custom

Friday, September 10, 2021