Monday, December 27, 1999

1987 Sea Slug

In the spring of 1987, I got a Zanzibar figure. That same day, I saw that the store also had the new Cobra Sea Rays. Later that day, I got my dad to take me back to the store and I bought one. In doing this, I managed to skip out on some lame 7th grade dance to which I was supposed to go. When I got the Sea Ray home, the figure that came with it fascinated me. I liked the Sea Slug. I don't know what it was about him. Maybe it was the light purple color with the yellow highlight. Maybe it was the futuristic look. Whatever it was, I had to use him.

Rather than use him as a deep sea driver, though, I made the Sea Slug a new character that was trying to ally himself properly so he could take over Cobra. (This was before the Cobra civil war in the comic took place, but the rift between Cobra Commander and Destro was evident. Plus there was the whole Serpentor thing.) I made him more of a conniving, backstabbing character; the kind of person you would expect to find in Cobra. As such, the Sea Slug vaulted high onto my playlist. He went on every mission and was often responsible for leading a faction of Cobra troops into battle. Later, I made him more of a coward who worked through political affiliations to gain power. Either way, he became one of my more popular figures.

I don't think Sea Slugs ever appeared in the comic or cartoon. He is as basic a character as you can have. His vehicle, while nice looking, is a moronic concept. (A flying submarine that can switch modes instantly.) As such, this guy gets no recognition at all. Most collectors have him, few like him. His colors aren't the best and he looks a bit out of place when lined up with any figures that aren't from the Star Brigade line. Still, there is a nice look to him. I've always wanted to replace his arms and head and use the rest of his body for some type of custom diver. His filecard made him out to be a badass, but so did all the other Cobra filecards. (Larry Hama, the creator of many of the Joes characters, has since revealed that Hasbro execs really liked the villain figures to always be the "best" or "baddest" or "meanest" or something. Apparently they thought it would help sell the bad guys. Never mind that the concept of Cobra really sold itself.)

Sea Slugs are a weird animal. You never see them for sale as individual figures, but they do appear in many, many lots. Collectors never talk about them, though, and they are considered rather common. You can pick complete ones up for almost nothing. Most people wouldn't even be able to tell you much about this figure except that he is pilot of the Sea Ray. I really don't even know if I like this figure all that much. What I like is the character I created for him. I remain fond of this figure for that nostalgic reason. Had this guy not had a new personality made for him, I think he would have disappeared out of my collection. I always had the Gyro Viper fly the Sea Ray as he looked better in it and the Mamba was a vehicle that was a lot more fun to look at that it was to play with. This is just one of those guys that shows a little imagination can go a long ways. email me

I really don't want any more Sea Slugs so I don't know what to write here. If you think of something witty, or have used him for a cool custom, share it.

1987 Sea Slug, 2002 Gift Set Firefly, 1983 Hiss Tank, 1994 Action Soldier, Action Marine

1987 Sea Slug, 2004 Urban Assault Nullifier, Night Creeper, Corrosao, Estrela, Brazilian Exclusive G.I. Joe Figure, 2004 Cobra Officer

Monday, December 20, 1999

1991 Low-Light

Few characters that were lucky enough to have more than one incarnation were ever improvements. The 1991 Low Light is a notable exception. While the original 1986 version is an excellent figure, this guy takes the character to another level. I sincerely doubt, though, that Hasbro originally intended this to be the same character as the '86. That figure has blonde hair, this one dark. (This figure came out before it was fashionable for males to dye their hair.) I think that Hasbro came up with a great mold that was going to be a night fighter of some sort. Rather than swell the Joe ranks even more, they recycled an old character that had never really been heavily utilized. The result is this figure.

Frankly, this guy rocks. His mold, colors and accessories are all awesome. (The helmet is a bit big, but looks very good with the visor down.) He is just a fun figure to have. His range of use is completely remarkable. The other nice thing is that you don't have to have him complete in order to enjoy him. While the accessories are great and make the figure one of the best produced in the '90's, they are not necessary to enjoy and use this figure. However, the accessories are awesome. His gun is fantastic. While many people are fond of his original sniper rifle, if you take this figure as a different specialty, the weapon works great. The pack with the light is also a cool touch. The helmet and the night vision visor also give this guy a great look. The goatee and painted cammo face also make him perfect for "commando" missions as well as night operations.

When I first got a 1991 Low Light, I thought he was cool, but didn't take him to be anything great. As I started using him, though, he quickly grew on me and became one of my favorite figures. I've used him for S.W.A.T. missions, commando raids, night operations, security forces, and a variety of other things. This is a figure I consider to be "free". He was never used much in the comic, though I don't know about the cartoon. As such, his personality is all my own. It's figures like this that make the line so much fun to play with. You can use the pre-built characterizations, or you can make your own. It's amazing the success you have with a line that actually allows kids to use their imaginations. It's no wonder G.I. Joe lasted for 13 years. (It is also why today's toy lines have a lifespan of about 15 minutes. But, I digress.)

This Low Light mold got a lot of use. After this release, it was repainted in neon for the 1993 Dino Hunters Low Light. It was then released in the ARAHC in 2001, in more subtle blue tones. The head was then used various times for Big Brawler and the arms and chest were used in the Desert Patrol set. Despite all these uses, though, we could still use another, differently colored, version of this Low Light. Done up in a desert or arctic theme, this mold would be welcomed by collectors. It is unlikely to happen at this point, but would be something that was fun to see should the opportunity ever arise.

1991 Low Light's, like many of the other '91's, can be troublesome to find. He came with many small accessories that were easily lost. I've managed to put a complete one together, but only by combining three different figures I bought at three different times in the past year. I don't know why 1991 is such a tough year. Hasbro didn't produce that many different figures in 1991. Plus, those they did produce were of very high quality. There are very few 1991's that are poor or worse. The nice thing, though, is that other 1991's steal the spotlight and help keep this figure at affordable price levels. When you can find them, they won't kill your budget. Mint, complete specimens that are offered for sale by themselves, though, can get pricey. The best way to get this figure is also the best way to get all the '91's, buy them in big lots. You can usually get a large quantity of near, or fully complete figures for about $2.00 - $2.50 per figure if you buy this way. If you're just starting out, this is the only way to go.

1991 Low Light, 2003 Viper

1991 Low Light, 1987 Outback

1991 Low Light, Super Sonic Fighters Falcon, 1990 Range Viper

1991 Low Light,

1991 Low Light, 1986 Serpentor, 1987 Sea Slug

1983 Airborne

In 1983, Return of the Jedi finally came out. What little headway G.I. Joe had made into my toy collection in 1982 was quickly erased by the new wave of Star Wars figures that were being released. After seeing the movie, though, playing with the figures became anti-climatic. That summer, my brother got an Airborne figure. On day, while playing, I decided to use this Airborne. At that moment, I was a full convert. Star Wars was out, G.I. Joe was in. The swivel arm battle grip had intrigued me, but once I held this figure in my hands, it was the amazing detail and accessories that won me over. Airborne had the awesome bayonet, and a pack that I thought had a parachute on top. (I now know differently.) He became my favorite figure. Soon, I had all the other '83's. Airborne, though, remained at or near the top of my play list until 1986. After that point, the newer figures were winning me over. Besides, my Airborne was dying a slow death. I managed to replace him, but it was too late. Now, though, this figure holds a special place in my collection.

I liked the Airborne figure, but after reading G.I. Joe #31, his character had me hooked. He and Spirit made a great story work perfectly. After reading that comic, I made them a team. Of course, after watching wrestling from the time, they eventually split up and became enemies. It just seemed the natural thing to do. Airborne was the least treated of the five major new character introduced in G.I. Joe #11. While Wild Bill was only available with the Dragonfly, Airborne, a regularly carded figure, got considerably less press time. With #31, he was finally given some adequate comic time. Of course, after this triumph, his only other appearances were token. Airborne was probably one of the first signs that the G.I. Joe team would grow to big to be manageable in a single comic.

I gave Airborne a quiver and Storm Shadow's bow. Like most of my favorite figures, he had to be over accessorized. This also lead to hard times for the figure. Many of my early versions have broken thumbs, crotches and accessories. The nice thing, though, was that Airborne was available for about three years. As I broke my old figures, I could still replace him. After he disappeared from the shelves, though, I was cautious of the figure so I wouldn't destroy the only one I had left. The figure was pretty strong, but the beating he would take over the years was enough to make anyone cringe. He was buried in dirt, left out in the snow, dropped from the top of the garage, had his parachute (a cloth Fisher Price jobbie that was about the coolest working 3 3/4" accessory I ever found. Those crappy plastic Hasbro parachutes always sucked and would never work right. This Fisher Price thing, though, was awesome. It opened every time. The rainbow colors, though, kind of made it difficult for military use.) rip off him in midair, and was run over by monster Tonka trucks. At least I never set him on fire....

The Airborne mold has a long international history. After the mold was used on the very first Steel Brigade figures, it was shipped off to South America. There, Airborne was released in both Argentina and Brazil, though in colors very similar to the American figure. (Of note, though, is the exclusive card art that Airborne received in Brazil. It is quite cool.) In the early '90's, the Airborne mold was dusted off, colored in Python Patrol colors and released in Brazil as a Cobra named Gatilho. After this use, though, the mold disappeared and has not been seen since. It is likely that the mold has stayed in Brazil where it is, for all intents and purposes, lost. It's too bad as a new take on this mold would be welcomed. At this point, I'd even settle for a new amalgamation that was true to the Airborne character.

It's sad, really, that most of Airborne's attention from collectors is from the fact that he made up most of the mold for the Steel Brigade figures. You never really hear people talking about him. When Ripcord came out in 1984, Airborne was basically replaced as the co-pilot for the Skystriker and Dragonfly. As such, he fell by the wayside. Since there were so many other awesome '83's, he is also easy to overlook. The figure, though, is awesome. I love the mold. I often gave him a spare Ripcord's parachute pack and mask. This tandem of skydivers became the first assault unit that always came in and made it safe for the later troops. With a little imagination, Airborne remained one of my most popular figures for several years. That's a lot longer than the average figure would make it.

Airbornes are not expensive, in comparison to other '83's. Do expect, though, to pay a bit more for him than you would for other, newer figures. He isn't too tough to find, but can be problematic. Like most '83's, you don't find pristine copies of Airborne without a little search time. Kids then played with their toys and most surviving versions are in bad shape. You will notice the damage done to the gun on this sample. While the figure is good, I have at least 4 dead ones that couldn't make it out of the '80's. Airborne's paint is fairly resilient, except on his hands. This is were the majority of wear occurs on these figures. He appears for sale rather often, though. Probably more so than other '83's like Gung Ho and Snow Job. (The only two Joe figures from '83 that really beat out Airborne from a sheer coolness standpoint.) Of course, I have now picked up a couple of extra copies of this figure. The only way I will display my Dragonfly is with Airborne in the gunner's seat. It is his place of honor for the figure that made me a full fledged Joe fan.

1983 Airborne

1983 Airborne, 1988 Hardball, European Exclusive Tiger Force Outback, 1993 Colonel Courage

1983 Airborne, Ace, Skystriker, 1984 Ripcord

Monday, December 13, 1999

1992 Flak Viper

Not many people pay attention to the Flak Viper. He is the most highly underrated Cobra figure to come out in the final years of the Joe line. Unlike the awful 1993 version, the 1992 Flak Viper is among the best Cobra figures that were ever made. It is unfortunate that this figure didn't get a Cobra sigil painted on him. That is the one mark that would make this figure even better. The 1992 Flak Viper has a great mold, realistic colors, and acceptable accessories. Had his gun been cast in black, this figure would have been off the charts. Most people, though, know little about this figure. He was never featured prominently in the comic, and I don't think he was ever in the cartoon. Since the 1993 version is so bad, this guy can be overlooked by people who associate him with that figure.

This figure is a perfect Cobra field trooper, or a specialty soldier. His colors work well in both urban and forest or jungle settings. His gun is a bit off color, but it still looks good with the figure. He has a decent mold and the helmet looks perfect. Besides, who can resist a figure that has kill marks already painted on his uniform? I don't know why more people aren't after this figure. He rarely garners any real attention when he is offered for sale. I think the lack of a Cobra sigil keeps him down a rung or two on the popularity scale. It's hard to identify him as a Cobra without it. This figure also starts the trend of the 1994 figures in that his torso is rather big. With him, though, it works perfectly. How else could a man be expected to carry an anti-aircraft missile on his back if he isn't huge?

Back in 1994 and 1995, I was never able to find a Flak Viper on the retail shelves. Most Joes were still available then, but the Cobras had all been scooped up. It just shows the eternal popularity of a good enemy that is chock full of army building figures. The Flak Viper was one of the many good Cobras that were released in the final years of the line. The 1993 version has a terrible red and green color scheme, but this 1992 version is worthy of standing tall among Alley, Night, and regular vipers. As collectors get their fill of those earlier figures, and their prices continue to rise, I think that figures like the Flak Viper and other later edition Cobras will become substantially more popular. They are still readily available and there is no collector sentiment that keeps potential sellers from parting with this figure.

***Update 1/15/08***

It seems that Hasbro finally came around on this figure mold. (The Flak Viper was never used by a company other than Hasbro.) In 2004, the Flak Viper mold was used as the Nullifier in the highly underrated Urban Assault set. (You can see some of these figures in action here.) Painted in a dark Cobra blue with black highlights, this mold finally got some well deserved collector appreciation. In 2006, that release was followed with the Desert Flak Viper that was released by Master Collector. This figure is also very well done and features the return of the original Flak Viper accessories. Both of these figures are classic updates to a great mold and really give fans of the Flak Viper a few more options when trying to use the character. Personally, I'd still like to see this mold used a couple more times. It could appear in arctic or jungle motifs and still be well received. In the meantime, though, at least we have a couple of other options available to enjoy the Flak Viper mold.

***End 1/15/08 Update***

Flak Vipers are rather easy to come by. They aren't expensive, but collectors are starting to pay attention to them. You can find them both carded, and mint, complete for very reasonable prices. Building an army isn't too difficult and can be accomplished without investing too much time or money. Flak Vipers are an excellent way to build Cobra ranks without having to pay outrageous prices. Many collectors focus on the early Cobra figures and let later gems, like this guy, pass them by. Flak Vipers, especially the 1992 version, appear in all sorts of lots. They are also usually complete, or at least with their gun. I've managed to build up a half dozen of them in the last year. That was all accidental. It's not like I've been seeking these guys. They just seem to appear all the time. I would highly recommend, though, taking advantage of this while you can. In a few years, many people will be talking about the "good old days" when you could get figures like this for nothing. As more people discover the Flak Viper and realize his potential, I don't think they will stay readily available for long.

1992 Flak Viper, 1990 Topside, 1998 Viper

1992 Flak Viper

1992 Flak Viper

1984 Copperhead

In 1983, the G.I. Joe line began to diversify from it's purely military beginnings. The team got a few specialists and the toy line we all love really began. 1984 continued this trend with what I call the "Swamp Year". Six months of the comic were primarily set in the swamp. The Joes got the incredible hovercraft and the S.H.A.R.C. while Cobra got Zartan and the Water Moccasin. The pilot of the Water Moccasin, Copperhead, is a truly unsung figure. If he was ever introduced in the comic, it was long after all the other toys from 1984 had been. Copperhead was one character that was never developed on any level of Joedom. He is as forgotten as they come. What's truly odd, though, is that the Water Moccasin is a highly regarded vehicle. How a vehicle remains popular while its driver anguishes in obscurity is beyond me.

Copperhead was one of my most used bad guys. I love the swamp. Most of my early play was centered around it. (My father, to this day, laments about how I dug a huge hole in our back yard and filled it with water just to have a swamp in which to play.) I made him a bounty hunter who worked for Cobra. I gave him tons of accessories and took him everywhere. In fact, I think my fascination with brightly colored figures stems from this original Copperhead. The bright greens and contrasting blacks made for an aesthetically pleasing figure that was just fun to own. My original Copperhead is in terrible shape. He is intact, but has almost no paint left. He shows all the wear that makes me want to keep him around. The one you see below is a recent purchase to allow my original to enjoy retirement.

As far as characterization, I never did too much with Copperhead. While he was fun to have around and use, he was never all that deep. Copperhead was what you saw: a soldier and fighter who was interested in a paycheck first and foremost. There was no time for morality or any other distraction in his pursuit of more cash. So, while the character was very good at fighting, he wasn't good at much else. He wasn't a Dreadnok by any means since he had some intelligence. But, Copperhead wasn't going to fly a Rattler, either.

The Copperhead mold hasn't lead the interesting life of some others, but it is well-traveled enough. The figure was first released in the US in 1984. That figure was then also available via mail order in 1989. (It stands to reason that Hasbro either used the mold to create some overstock figures for the mail away or already had them left over from 1984/1985 to create this mail away figure. Bagged Copperheads were actually available as late as 1999 from Hasbro Canada. So, Hasbro probably just produced a large quantity of them and left them in a warehouse for years as overstock.) Then, the Python Patrol figure was released in 1989.

Around 1990, the Copperhead mold appeared in Brazil. There, he was released in colors similar to this Python Patrol figure as Pantano. (Just a note, there were actually 2 figures named Pantano released in Brazil. One is the PP Copperhead and the other is made from the 1993 Iceberg mold. They are not the same character, though they share the same name. As if this all isn't confusing enough!) That was the last time this mold was in production. That begs the question: where is the mold now? While it's impossible to determine, a quick look at Pantano's contemporary releases might give us some clues. The Brazilian Python Patrol featured Pantano, Tocaia (PP Crimson Guard), Gatilho (PP Airborne) and Relampago (PP Ripcord). None of these molds have appeared anywhere since their release in Brazil. Among Pantano's other contemporaries, though, are a number of figures who have also subsequently appeared in India. The Pantano cardback features 21 figures. Of these, 10 have since been released by Funskool. None of them, with the exception of the V1 Low-Light have appeared in the US without also appearing in India. So, it really is impossible to determine the whereabouts of this mold. Most likely, it is still locked away in some warehouse down in Brazil. Regardless of it's location, though, I don't think many collectors would be excited about a repainted Copperhead. New sculpt, maybe, but this old mold doesn't offer much that hasn't already been exploited by the various color schemes.

Copperhead came in two distinct variations. The easy to find light green version is shown below. He also came in a darker green or blue color. This figure is, in my opinion, one of the 20 or 25 rarest Joes. I remember one of my friends having one, and seeing one in a store but being unable to convince my mother to purchase it for me just so I could get a figure I already had but with a different paint job. The blue gloves figure almost never appears for sale. He was only shipped in early releases of the Water Moccasin and was never available in any other avenue. He is an easily forgotten variation, though, and you don't see many people looking for the dark gloves version until one appears for sale. At that point, let the frenzy begin.

Copperheads aren't too tough to find. He was available for many years as a mail in and, in its day, the Water Moccasin was a very popular vehicle. Copperheads are a weird figure, though, in that the price fluctuates constantly. Sometimes, bagged specimens reach stratospheric heights. Other times, you can get them for nothing. Some people think this figure to be rarer since he is so old. Others know about his extended availability and won't pay outrageous sums for him. With this figure, especially, it is important to shop around before you buy one. Loose figures, though, tend to stay in the mid range. Since he had no accessories, Copperhead isn't as desirable as other, accessorized vehicle drivers from his era. However, it is hard to find a Copperhead with no paint blemishes. For some reason, his paint chips easily. Perhaps this is why the bagged figures can reach such a premium. Anyways, Copperhead is a fun figure to own, despite his lack of notoriety.
1984 Copperhead, Zartan, 1986 Dreadnok Stinger, Sears Exclusive

1984 Copperhead, 2000 Undertow, ARAHC, Mail Away, Rare G.I. Joe Figures, 1993 Create a Cobra, Water Mocassin

Wednesday, December 8, 1999

1985 Alpine

Alpine is another of the forgotten '85's. He is a figure that would have been one of the highlights of any other year. In 1985, though, he can't even crack the top five, or maybe even the top ten figures released in his year. This is a tragedy, though, as Alpine ranks as one of the best figures of all time. He has great accessories, (Who doesn't love a figure that comes with a grappling hook?) a great sculpt, and realistic color scheme. This guy is awesome. In 1985, I purchased an Alpine long before many of the other more popular figures. My parents had a small hill in our front yard and it made a perfect mountain for him to climb. Alpine became my most popular figure. As such, my original didn't last much more than a year. I replaced that figure, but I couldn't seem to keep his gun around. In fact, I lost my original Alpine's gun in 1985 while playing in my friend's backyard. I got another one, but lost it as well. A couple of years later, we were playing football in that same friend's backyard. I went after a ball that had gone into some bushes and, lo and behold, there was my original Alpine's gun. As the years went on, I lost that gun again. About three years ago, I was sitting at home and reading a book. I happened to glance up at my SnowCat that was on a shelf. I noticed something odd about it. Sure enough, there, in between the top and bottom of the vehicle was my Alpine's gun. This time, I secured the gun away with my Alpine figure and have removed it from circulation. I now have a couple of extras and use the weapon with it's rightful owner.

Alpine was what made the early Joes so great. He was a basic figure without all the hi tech gizmos that plagued the later figures. This made him realistic. This figure could be found climbing just about any mountain. While it was hard to use this figure away from a climbing setting, I know I had immense amounts of fun stringing ropes across my bedroom and having Alpine climb all sorts of things. (Giving him the Crimson Twins rope thingie also made coming down more fun than going up.) Alpine is the basic background figure that makes the entire Joe line so memorable. He may not have the flash and flair of a Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow, but he is a good, playable figure that can be used in any setting.

One of the great regrets of my childhood is that I wasn't more creative with my accessories. There were many times that I did not use Alpine because his rope was too short for my purpose. Little did I know that a quick trip to the hardware store would have solved all my problems. It is nice now, though, that I can take advantage of little tricks like this. It keeps the hobby interesting, though it does cause some lament. Still, I have fond memories of Alpine scaling the hills in my yard as Eels from the surrounding river tried to blast him off the high ground. Alpine scaled the limestone stairs of my grandfather's home in Buffalo and was the Joes' go to man in my other grandparent's terraced yard in Dayton. One of the reasons why this figure remains so important to me is because he could be used pretty much anywhere: and often was.

The Alpine mold traveled the world...well, at least South America. After his release in the US, the Alpine mold was sent to Argentina where he was released in similar colors as a figure named Risco. Subsequent to that, the mold was sent to Brazil where Estrela released it, also in similar colors to the American figure, as Everest. Since then, the mold has been MIA and not been used in any form. It is not known if the mold is lost in Brazil, rotting in India or maybe back in Hasbro's possession but just not available. Any way you look at it, I'd welcome a repaint of this mold. While it was just about perfectly the first time, getting the mold in new colors would add some diversity to the Alpine character and make the figure even more useful.

Alpine is rather easy to find. Getting him mint and complete, though, can be a challenge. His accessories were small and brittle. They were also very cool and got lots of use. As such, they can be difficult to find. Alpine is also starting to climb the price charts. Figures from 1985 are very popular. Alpine is no exception. Since his accessories are difficult, he often commands higher prices than other, more popular figures from the same year. With a little persistence, though, you can track one down without spending too much. He often appears in large lots, though he is starting to get to the price point where you see him for sale by himself. If you're procrastinating an Alpine purchase, I would suggest you stop and just go get one. This is a figure that will continue to rise in price and popularity. High quality samples can still be found for acceptable prices. Now is the time to snatch them up before they disappear.

1985 Heavy Metal, Alpine, Snake Eyes, 1984 Sky Hawk, Estrela, Muralha, Flint, Comandos em Acao, Brazil

1985 Alpine

1985 Alpine

1990 Bullhorn

Sometimes an accessory does a figure make. This is the case with Bullhorn. The figure isn't all that great, but the gas mask makes this guy a must have in every collection. Like the '84 Ripcord, this figure is about useless if he doesn't have some of his accessories. The mask is a must. The rifle is okay, and the put-together gun from the case pack is a good idea that didn't translate well into the toy. Still, this figure must be had just for the mask. It was an awesome accessory. Had it only been compatible with more Joes, Bullhorn might have reached stratospheric popularity heights. Alas, he did not. Many collectors don't like this figure. In fact, what little attention he receives is usually bad. I don't know why this figures is viewed negatively. He is in very militaristic colors, has a decent sculpt, though his head sucks, and has good accessories. I think he suffers from the dilemma of all the 1990's. He was sandwiched in between two great years that had dozens of figures. There were just so many figures on the retail shelves in the late '80's and early '90's that many of them have disappeared into anonymity.

When I first found places to talk about Joes, this figure's lack of popularity surprised me. How could people not like this figure? I still don't have an answer. The figures released in 1990 are rather forgotten. They came out between two spectacular years and don't receive much recognition from pricing authorities. Many new collectors think, if the price is low, the figures must be common and very poorly designed. This is not the case with most of the 1990's. My youngest brother got this figure after I had stopped collecting Joes. After seeing him, my interest returned and I started to prowl the stores on my lunch hours and actually bought a figure or two. That original Bullhorn met a quick demise. It was only years later that I was able to get another one. I now have about 5 of them. I use them both as trench and tunnel soldiers as well as security officers (riot police).

I think part of the reason Bullhorn is relatively obscure is that he is never shown wearing his mask. Most people showcase Joes sans accessories. As such, you can't get a real idea of what a figure looks like. Without his mask, Bullhorn is awful at best. With it, he is a great figure. I have always hated not having access to pictures of figures with their helmets, masks, etc. on them. Some helmets look great in the package, but look awful on the figure. (Effects, most notably, comes to mind.) Other figures don't look like much, but when they have their full complement of accessories, they are awesome. I have designed my site to remedy this. If someone discovers a figure they would have otherwise overlooked, then my goal has been accomplished. Don't get me wrong, I understand why many sites show the figures without accessories. Those sites also serve as a valuable reference guide. They don't have an agenda to promote a particular figure. I do. That is the sole purpose of Mike's Forgotten Figures.

Bullhorns are rather easy to find. For some reason, he has never caught on in the collecting community. He is a cool figure, though, and is often found in lots. Many kids had him for the mask. He was popular in his day, but his star has diminished as time has passed. This is good, though, as he remains a very cheap figure to purchase. Bullhorns are in just about every lot that has figures made in the early '90's. Even loose, mint, and complete, he is very affordable and you can build an army of them. Since the mask obscures his face, this is a good figure to have more than one of. He is fun to have and looks good in any number of dioramas. I hope Bullhorn remains unpopular. If this is the case, he should stay cheap and remain a good, cool figure beginning collectors can start with.

***Updated 11/24/03***

Since I wrote this profile a few years ago, some things about Bullhorn have changed. While I mentioned that he gets no respect in online collecting circles, that is no longer the case. Bullhorn is now more highly regarded as a figure and is considered an important part of many people's collections. This has greatly affected his availability as complete Bullhorns now command a bit higher price that I originally indicated. My guess is that this is mostly due to the fact that the crowd who grew up with Joe in the late '80's and early 90's has now come of collecting age. In the last 5 years, the collecting conscience has stayed, relatively, the same age. This has allowed different stages of the line to have their time in the sun. The original 13 Joes are now somewhat by the wayside and aren't, usually, held as the pinnacle of Joe's success as they once were. While those figures have historical significance, you now see more collectors who hold affinities for later years of the original line. This is nice as it keeps the overall collecting perspective fresh, but is also frustrating as some previously cheap figures like Bullhorn suddenly become popular and a bit more pricey. As this site has now been online for over 4 years, I've had occasion to chronicle some of the changes in the collecting world. That's why I'm going back to some of these older profiles as info that was correct when I wrote them has now changed. It's been fun for me to see the evolution of the collecting experience. Hopefully, you feel the same.


The Bullhorn mold made a surprise return in 2008 as a convention exclusive figure. However, the trademark gas mask was missing. Still, it was nice to see the figure return. But, once again, his late appearance showed how many molds Hasbro really did have access to. I can only imagine a Bullhorn figure appearing in the Anti-Venom or Night Force sets. Those could easily have been figures for the ages. It is a testament to the wasted potential that the Joe line from 2002 - 2006 really was. Maybe, someday, we will see someone who has a bit of respect for the vintage toys try another line and they will do it right. We can only hope at this point.

1985 Flint, 1990 Bullhorn

1990 Bullhorn, Funskool Metal Head, Night Viper

1990 Bullhorn, 1985 Mauler, 2004 Rock and Roll, Comic Pack

1990 Bullhorn, 2001 Night Rhino

1990 Bullhorn, 1990 Range Viper

1990 Bullhorn

Monday, December 6, 1999

1994 Star Brigade Roadblock

Some people love Star Brigade, other people hate it. Personally, I think it was an awesome line full of unheralded figures that are worthy of great recognition. Of all the figures in the line, the 1994 Roadblock stands out as my favorite. I don't know what it is about this figure, but it enthralls me. All of the '94 Star Brigade were far superior to the '93's with the possible exception of Payload. I think the lackluster '93's really killed off any hopes the line had of ever becoming successful. That was really too bad as the '94's are great figures, but are very hard to find. Most people associate the '94's with the Lunartix aliens. Regardless of you opinion of those figures, the '94 humans are worthy of collector attention.

It took me months to track down a carded sample of this figure. It took many more months to finally find one loose and complete. For most of early 1999, this figure was my "Holy Grail", as it were. I am still actively searching for more of them, but I am no longer after carded samples, just loose. I don't know why I like this figure so much. The mold is one of my favorites. I have several each of both versions of Hawk and the 1993 Roadblock that share this mold. The figure can be used for so many different things. I use them as deep sea divers, rescue troops, pilots, and firefighters. They are just versatile enough to be a must have for any collection. Fortunately, not many collectors view these figures that way. The '93's can be had for peanuts and the '94's, when you can find them, won't break the bank. As is the usual with the Star Brigade, the love-hate relationship collectors have with the figures in the line creates an interesting paradox. Not many people bought these figures, but not many people want them. As such, they are hard to find, but cheap in price. Go figure.

The great thing about this figure is that it is completely forgotten about. I didn't even know it existed until late 1998. Most people know of the 1993 version as it is always everywhere. There are times when I hate that version because so many people who claim to have the '94 actually have that one. The '94 Roadblock also suffered from the neon syndrome. Many collectors shy away from these guys. For a figure like this, though, the neon is perfect. This isn't a combat troop, he is an astronaut. The neon orange is what makes the figure unique. The Nitro Viper used the colors as a novelty. This figure uses them as necessity. Anyone who remembers John Glenn's 1999 return to space should take a look at the space suit he wore. Minus the grenades, his uniform was a dead ringer for the one this Roadblock has. If that's not realism, I don't know what is.

Truth be told, this is one my favorite figures in the entire history of the Joe line. There is something just so visually striking about the figure's appearance that it just stands apart when you do see one. The relative scarcity of the figure also makes it something that you don't see everyday: especially when you consider that many who do have this figure have never used him in any capacity. This Roadblock is a guilty pleasure of my collection and I have several of them just for that reason. Like Flint, this is just a figure that I have to have in multiples...even if those multiples make no sense.

The '94 Star Brigade figures are rather easy to find carded. Roadblock, though is one of the three toughest to find. (the '94 Countdown and Ozone being the other two.) He is almost never offered loose, and appears very rarely on the card. It is odd that the '93 figures are so ubiquitous, both loose and carded, and other series one 1994's are as well, but this figure remains relatively elusive. He is not pricey like some of the other '94's are, but can get more expensive than you want since they appear for sale so infrequently. With a little persistence, this figure can be found. Building an army, however, is proving difficult. As with most of the 1994 figures, though, I think this guy will become more available as the years go by. It is easier to find this figure carded than it is loose. Many dealers purchased up excess 1994 Joes when they were clearanced at retail. Those mint on card figures are out there, you just have to track them down. Many loose samples are certainly sitting in collections of people who haven't yet gone to college and been forced to sell cherished childhood items so they can get beer money. Those days will be here soon and I think this figure, and most other 1994's, will begin to appear more often.

1994 Star Brigade Roadblock, Action Pilot, Ozone, Quick Kick, Frostbite, Keel Haul

1994 Star Brigade Roadblock, Blackstar

1994 Star Brigade Roadblock, Variants

1994 Star Brigade Roadblock, Carded

Thursday, December 2, 1999

1989 Annihilator

Unlike his sister figure, the Alley Viper, Annihilator remains a relatively forgotten enemy. Since he, technically, was in the Iron Grenadiers subset, many collectors don't consider the Annihilator to be a true Cobra. This has hurt his long term popularity, but has helped keep this figure from becoming too expensive. The 1989 enemy figures were the second best crop Hasbro ever offered. They were very popular in their day and remain so now. While not hard to find, many of the '89 Cobras have started to become as expensive as the great '85's. Fortunately, for every Night Viper and Alley Viper, there is an Annihilator to keep things sane. This is a great figure. Sure, the individual helicopter pack is a bit unrealistic, but it is very cool. His weapon is great. (It reminds of the weapon Fred II used in issue #36 of the comic when he cornered Snake Eyes and Scarlett on the ferry.) I use Annihilators as the air arm of the Alley Vipers. It makes for a great city siege.

I can't get enough Annihilators. They are just awesome figures that you never hear about. As with most years that have a dominantly cool figure or two, there are always solid figures like the Annihilators in the background. I don't know why the Alley and Night Vipers have taken such a hold in the collecting community. They are neat figures, but didn't get any more airtime in the comic or the cartoon than the Annihilators did. It's amazing what the little Cobra symbol painted on their arms will do for a figure. This, though, has made most of the Iron Grenadiers line very affordable. The Iron Grenadiers figure, Annihilator, and Undertow just haven't reached the popularity peaks of the true Cobras released contemporarily. Just look at the figure. The purple and orange aren't the greatest colors, but they seem to work. The helmet is very good and not over done. The helicopter is a great accessory and his gun only completes the figure. He is the perfect addition to any enemy army.

In 1989, I only bought one figure. That was the Night Viper. I bring this up to illustrate my point. This figure is great, but it came out in a year full of great figures. Had this guy been released in 1988, he would be immensely more popular today. Annihilator is kind of like the Televiper. He just had the misfortune to come out in a year full of other great figures. I say I always want more Annihilators. Of course, I also always want more Alley and Night Vipers. This figure, though, gets no press. Collectors never talk about him. No one ever mentions an army of them. They are just a forgotten figure that most people have in their collections but never pay any attention to.

The Annihilator, much like the Range Viper, is a forgotten gem. They are very easy to find mint and complete, not too expensive, and very cool figures to own. Most people have them. 1989 is a very popular year. Most collectors have several of each of the figures from this year and '89's are always coming up for sale in large lots, often with multiples of the Cobras. An army of Annihilators looks very good, especially when mixed with Alley Vipers. These figures are almost always available carded, or mint complete. They also usually appear the same time as Alley and Night Vipers. Those two usually steal the spotlight and help keep the Annihilator even lower in price. If you're looking to start an enemy army (heck, I use them as Cobras!) Annihilators are a great place to start. You can start building very easily and not stress your budget. Of course, you can always send extras my way. They are one of the few figures that I will never stop amassing.

1989 Annihilator, 1992 Spirit, 1990 Salvo

1989 Annihilator, 2005 Greenshirts

1989 Annihilator, 1988 Destro

1986 Claymore - Mission to Brazil

Most people know of the Mission to Brazil set that was available in 1986. While many people consider this piece a must for their collection, the figures that came in the set left much to be desired. Of the five, only Wetsuit and Leatherneck really had playable versions. Claymore, the only original figure in the bunch, wasn't much better. This figure isn't very good. They took spare parts, repainted them, and turned them into one of the more forgettable figures from the line. What is sad is that they took a good character, and a great idea and implemented it poorly. (Kind of a foreshadowing of the entire 1992-4 editions.) The arms, head, waist, and legs are great. The repainted Televiper chest, though, makes this figure look not quite right. I never liked figures with open necked shirts. In some cases they worked. In this case, well, you be the judge.

I really liked Claymore, for the two weeks I used him. You will notice that the sample below has a broken crotch. This happened almost immediately after I first got him. The Crotch piece, originally designed for the 1985 Flint, has skinny legs, like Flint's, in mind. The reuse of the fat Dusty legs on this figure ensures that the broken crotch affliction is rather common. As such, it's hard to find a loose figure that is completely mint. This was a fun figure to own. Claymore was cool and his color scheme was very different from other figures of that year. His accessories kind of suck, but they could easily be changed out to make a more combat ready figure. I never used him as a covert operative, but as another ordinary joe. I managed to find some use for him after the "accident" but I never really have been able to use a broken figure. Since I broke him so early on, though, this figure is in otherwise excellent condition. I've always wanted to put together a Claymore from his original parts and see what he looked like. I can't imagine it would be pretty.

While the Mission to Brazil set as a whole remains a holy grail for many collectors, the individual figures are rather forgotten. Claymore gets little press. He was never used in the comic and I don't think he ever appeared on the cartoon. As with most repaints, he is hard to find for completists, but is often overlooked by casual collectors. In my opinion, Claymore is only the third or fourth best figure in the whole Mission to Brazil set. This is pretty bad considering that the set as a whole doesn't much measure up against the figures that were available on the shelf. This was Hasbro's first attempt at bizarre color schemes. The bright yellows and dark and light reds didn't really make figures that people wanted. I think this set's sales were a disappointment as Toys "R" Us did not have an exclusive G.I. Joe boxed figure set again until 1997.

Unfortunately, Claymore is one of the more difficult to find Joes. He is rarely found mint and complete. (This is why I have yet to upgrade mine.) His crotch was brittle and they are often seen in this condition. There are also reports that he came with two different guns. Since the accessories were packaged separately from the figures in the set, though, it's hard to determine if your Claymore has his original accessories. Claymore is rather expensive. Like all the Mission to Brazil joes, he was only available for a very short time at Toys "R" Us stores. Collectors, though, seem to misinterpret his rarity. At the time, Toys "R" Us was filled with these sets. They didn't even sell them out during Christmas, which is the originally marketed season. I don't think this figure is as rare as some people would have you believe. Granted, it is difficult, but there are still many Mission to Brazil packs still Mint in Box out there. The production run, while definitely less than other carded figures, is probably in the realm of many of the vehicle drivers from the $25 and up vehicles of the time. Of course, when you pursue this figure, you're also chasing it's mystique. There are very, very, very few truly rare joes. As such, sets like this tend to get a bit more press than they deserve. When it comes to individual figures, though, many people forget about Claymore.

1986 Claymore, Sgt. Slaughter, VAMP, 1982, Viper

1986 Claymore, Mission to Brazil, Dial Tone, Whale

1986 Claymore, Mission to Brazil, Dial Tone, Whale, Leatherneck

1986 Claymore, Mission to Brazil, TRU Exclusive, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Stinger Trooper, Black Major

1986 Claymore, Mission to Brazil, TRU Exclusive, 1985 Snake Eyes, 1988 Wildcard, Footloose

Sunday, November 28, 1999

1985 Crankcase

1985, in my opinion, was the best Joe year ever. Almost every figure was spectacular. Even those that were bad measure up very well when compared to line as a whole. While the regular figures, though, were great, it was the complement of vehicle drivers that made the year really stand out. Crankcase was part of this complement. While we've already discussed the Lamprey, Crankcase, along with Frostbite, helped make the Joe side of the 1985 line very memorable. His vehicle, the A.W.E. Striker was great. It was a more fun and playable version of the VAMP. Crankcase fit into it perfectly. He was the type of vehicle driver you would expect for a vehicle of this type. While he was no Clutch, both in character and in figure, he remains one of the funnest figures to have.

Crankcase's mold was great. He was very different from all other figures in both look and style. The suspenders with the very minimalist shirt made for a cool figure. While many other figures from 1985 are very busy, Crankcase is relatively bland. This works for him, though, as he stands out. The holster on his leg is really the only distinguishing feature on the figure. For some reason, though, this very basic design makes for a much more playable figure than some of the other ultra busy figures of this year. His unique helmet and great rifle only added to this figure. (I don't know why, but both Frostbite and Crankcase came with great weapons. Steeler had previously come with a gun, but it wasn't until 1985 that the practice became standard.)

Crankcase instantly went to the top of my playlist. I used him for just about everything. His rifle, though, was brittle and I broke mine into three pieces. I then lost his helmet, and the extra version I got in a later supply pack. Since this figure was so good, though, I managed to find uses for him. Rarely did I give my figures other accessories than those they came with. If the figure was really good, like Crankcase, though, I always managed to find a way to keep them around. The specimen you see below is from Hasbro Canada. I got two of these guys from them in early 1999. Crankcase was the first figure I got from them that I opened. I had waited so long to have his helmet and gun, that I ripped one open right away. As my original figure is still back in Indiana, this new one quickly found his way into my "heavy use" box.

Oddly, this is the only use of the Crankcase mold. While the A.W.E. Striker made its way around the world, there is no indication that Crankcase followed. Of the '85 Vehicle drivers, Crankcase was the only one whose mold was never used again. Maybe Crankcase's failure to appear again was due to the fact that he was available as a mail away for so long. But, if that's the case, it's likely that Hasbro should have access to this mold. In 2004, Toys R Us carried an exclusive A.W.E. Striker repaint. This included a Dial Tone figure. But, the original computer code called it "AWE Striker with Crank". Now, in late 2007, it appears that the Crankcase character is making a return appearance with a Target exclusive release as the driver of a repackaged A.W.E. Striker. This time, though, the character will be in the Anniversary style sculpts rather than a new release of this mold. If the original Crankcase mold is still out there, I'd like to see it return. Aside from an overdue repaint of the character, the mold also has a lot of potential for amalgamations.

Crankcase is a mainstay in most collections. The A.W.E. Striker was a great vehicle so many people had it. Crankcase was also available as a mail in for several years. As such, he is very easy to find. He is usually found with at least his helmet, but the gun isn't too hard either. Like most of the more common early vehicle drivers, Crankcase was readily available for about 8 years. As such, he isn't rare at all. He can be found MIB or mint, complete very easily. He won't, like many of the other '85's, break your budget. He is one figure that every collector needs to have. Like most of the figures I feature, once you get a Crankcase and look at him, you just have to find some use for him. The figure is just good.

1985 Crankcase, AWE Striker, 2001 Desert Striker, 1997 Lady Jaye, 2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Sky Patrol Duke

1985 Crankcase, AWE Striker, 2004 VAMP, 1998 Ace, 1984 Sky Hawk, 1985 Snake Eyes, Strato Viper

1985 Crankcase, AWE Striker, 2000 Law, Cobra Commander, HQ

1985 Crankcase, AWE Striker, MIB

1985 Crankcase, AWE Striker, 2007 Convention Clutch, 2008, night Force Lightfoot

1985 Flint

Flint is the consummate Joe. I believe that if G.I. Joe had to be summed up in one figure, that figure would be the 1985 Flint. While Snake Eyes may have more collector appeal, Flint is the one character we all remember from the toys, the comics, and the cartoon. There are so many version of Flint it is nearly impossible to name them all. Like Snake Eyes, from his initial release, there was always a version of Flint on the shelves. He is the one character that was always needed in the line. The cartoon introduced him a year early. That alone should illustrate his importance. As such, all of his incarnations get a lot of press. However, many collectors still equate their G.I. Joe experience with this one figure. Therefore, it can never get enough coverage.

This figure is one of my all time favorites. In Feb. of 1985, I first found the new Joes. They had a Flint, but I passed him up for Footloose and Airtight. I spent the next six months regretting that decision. When I finally got him, Flint became the cornerstone of my play. He was in every mission, often as the leader. Duke was relegated back to the toybox, as my Joes had their new commander. As the year progressed, I used Flint so much that he became worn down. I lost his shotgun. (still one of my favorite accessories.) I ended up with three Flints in two years. After Flint disappeared from American shelves, I tried in vain to contact British collectors since Flint was still available over there. Action Force used to run a trading service every issue, but I could never get them to publish my list. I would have gladly traded new Joes only available in America for a new Flint since I had, once again, lost his gun. Since the mold was so good, though, I took all my old ones and turned them into many of my favorite custom figures. I still have my original 4 customs that were made out of Flint, Snake Eyes, Barbeque, and Footloose.

This figure is just awesome. The cammo pants, black shirt, gloves, and really cool shotgun shells just make this guy awesome. He just looks like the type of guy the Joes would respect. His shotgun was the most original accessory to come with the Joes in a long time. It was this gun, that made the figure all the more desirable. Of course, I managed to lose his shotgun about a dozen times. As such, my Flints had many other weapons, my favorites being the Snow Serpent's AK-47 and the gun that came with the Cobra Night Landing. In fact, I still use the Cobra Night Landing gun as Flint's exclusive weapon to this day.

Flint's character was one of his most appealing traits. He was the cocky rich kid you wanted to hate, but couldn't. He had that damned grin, but always got results. Reading his filecard, you could see that his background was very interesting. (Some aspects make you wonder if he might have been loosely based on Kris Kristofferson.) He was a pilot, and looked darned good in the Dragonfly, a Rhodes scholar, and a case of whup arse waiting to happen. While he was far more prominent in the Cartoon, Flint's appearances in the comic were memorable. (Who can forget his solo attack on a company of Eels in G.I. Joe #54?) He was always part of big missions, and was not just a carbon leader. I think the reason I never liked Duke was because he had a great introduction, and then just petered out. Flint was tough from the get go and never looked back.

Flint had at least 4 versions of him released, and you can see his planned 5th version here. This version, though, was far and away the best. The 1988 Tiger Force repaint was also pretty good. The darker version of his shotgun was a welcome addition to the accessory realm. The other incarnations didn't fare so well. We all know about the Eco Warriors fiasco, though Flint's figure has some cool uses if you apply your imagination. The 1994 version was pretty cool, but it couldn't live up the shotgun toting original.

Flint was popular the world over. Aside from the American release, Flint was also released in Europe (where he was a major player in the Action Force comic) and Brazil. Flint was also scheduled for release in Argentina and appears on later cardbacks there. However, the Joe line in Argentina was cancelled prior his release and he was not produced. In the mid '90's. Flint was released in China. While this figure used the original card art from this V1 figure, the exclusive figure used parts from the 1991 Dusty and 1987 Falcon. Finally, this V1 mold appeared again in India in the '90's and remained there until Hasbro recalled it in early 2003. Now, the mold is back in Hasbro's hands and will probably be utilized several more times before the line's ultimate end.

Flint was the second most popular figure in 1985 and is very, very common. (I personally have about 8 or him.) He is nearly impossible, though, to find without at least some paint wear along the edge of his beret. Most Flint's took quite a beating from their owners. He is almost always found in any lot that includes '85's or '86's. He can almost always be found with his pack, but the gun can be a little tougher. Loose, complete Flint's aren't too expensive, considering his popularity. Some unscrupulous dealers, though, will try to tell you otherwise. This figure was the second most sought after figure for two years, during G.I. Joe's peak production runs. I would venture to guess that the number of Flints out there numbers in the millions. When you think of it that way, how could this figure be any type of rare. Still, since many collectors are nostalgic about him, Flint can cost more than others in his year. However, since most of the collector activity on the '85 line centers on Snake Eyes, Lady Jaye, Eels, and the Crimson Guard, Flint has not yet reached the unaffordable price range.

1985 Flint, Heavy Metal, Mauler, 1986 Havoc

1985 Flint, CRankcase, 1986 Strato Viper, Snake Eyes V2, 1998 Ace, 1984 Skyhawk

1985 Flint, 2003 Alley Viper

1985 Flint, Heavy Metal, Silver Mirage, 1997 Lady Jaye

1985 Flint, Footloose, Crankcase, 1982, 1983 Cobra Trooper, Cobra Officer