Love it or hate it, space exploration was a major part of the G. I. Joe toy line. Starting with the Defiant Space Shuttle complex, the second most ambitious toy ever created, in 1987, and continuing until the lines bitter end in 1994, space toys were an integral part of the Joe team. The first astronaut to be available carded was the 1988 Astro Viper. It was a cool figure, but largely ignored. In 1989, though, the Joes got tougher in the space ranks when the Crusader shuttle, a smaller, more affordable toy that was just the shuttle from the Defiant complex, and Countdown were released. In 1989, I was out of Joe collecting. I had picked up a few straggler figures in early 1988, but I had started high school that year, and Joes weren't cool anymore. I did pick up a Night Viper in 1990, but that was it until I went to college. In 1995, I discovered the 1993 Star Brigade figures. Roadblock, of course, was my favorite. Ozone and Countdown, though, were both very high up on my list. I used them as pilots in all sorts of aircraft. As soon as I realized there was an earlier, better version of Countdown available, though, I sought him out. Now, I have 5.
Every year, I make one big purchase that is a bit too expensive and something that I want, but won't use enough to justify the purchase price. In 1998, it was a vintage Star Wars POTF Amanaman and Barada. In 1999, it was my Battle Rangers Flint. This year, it will either be a USS Flagg aircraft carrier, or a Defiant Space Shuttle Complex. As I have recently been informed that the Flagg won't float, the tide is turning towards a Defiant. (Still, it would have been too cool to have the Flagg in my pool being attacked by a bunch of hydrofoils.) In order to properly man that Defiant, I have been stockpiling astronaut figures for several years. The 1989 version of Countdown will be among the primary crew. I've been adding '93 Star Brigade figures as well. The five 1993 green Payloads are also on the short list for the first flight.
This is not my favorite version of this figure. The 1993 version, with red, white, and blue, is the worst, but the 1994 version is far and away my favorite. Of course, I have never, ever seen him offered sale as a loose figure. He is tough to find carded, and never appears loose. Fortunately, this original 1989 version is very similar and is also very cool. I just like the look of this figure. Normally, all white figures that aren't Arctic specialists don't really enthrall me. With this figure, though, the look works. The colors blend and complement each other wonderfully. Countdown is just a figure that is fun to look at. When it comes time to use him, though, the possibilities are also endless. Of course, I use him as an astronaut, but I also use him as a deep sea diver. Countdown also pilots a few of my jets. I have also removed his helmet, and given him a 1984 Ripcord helmet and mask and turned him into a fighter jock. Again, the look is cool. There is no reason to limit this figure just because space exploration is not an arena where you like to use your Joes.
I love this guy's accessories. The helmet is just awesome. The space pack with the rope thingie, though, looks cooler than it really is. Still, I enjoy using it with figures other than Countdown. His pistol is a bit futuristic, but isn't outlandish like some of the weapons from the '90's were. I am after a couple more of his packs, though, as I want to take the grappling hook off and use it with some other figures. I am anxious to get a shuttle of some type as I want to man it with my many Countdowns and 1993 Payloads. Then, the rope and hook will come in much more handy. Space rescue missions will be a lot of fun and something that I haven't been able to do before. I've been thinking about picking up one of those CORPS! Space Force shuttles. The CORPS! Hummer is a very nice toy. If the shuttle is of even remotely similar quality, it could be a fun companion piece to a Defiant.
After his many releases in the US, Countdown was also released in India in colors very similar to those of the 1993 figure. As he was a late Funskool release, it is likely that the mold is now back in the control of Hasbro and they could use it for another figure at some point in the future. However, I don't think that's very likely anymore and we have probably seen the last of the Countdown mold.
Countdowns aren't too tough to find. Getting one complete can be a bit of a hassle. Collectors don't tend to be terribly fond of astronaut figures. As such, you can often get these guys pretty cheap. They appear in all sorts of lots and usually at least come with a helmet. As is the case, though, with all white figures, you do have to watch out for discoloring. The bright white color tends to darken, and is easily stained. The figure you see below looked fine in the dim morning light when I picked him out. When I got to work to scan him in, I realized just how miscolored he was. You can see how bright the helmet is compared to the figure. That is how white the figure should look. Still, slightly miscolored figures are fun to have. The 1993 version of this figure can still be had for about $2.00 carded. The 1994's, if you can find them, are also only about $6.00 or $7.00 carded. This version, goes for a bit more, but is more readily available loose than the superior 1994 version. You can usually find these guys in any lot that includes 1989 or 1990 figures. As long as you get the helmet, this figure is one that has found many uses in my collection.
I would really like a loose 1994 Countdown. If you can help, email me.