Tuesday, April 18, 2000

1985 Crimson Guard

Honestly, I wasn't planning on profiling any figures this week. The Nullifier was just something I had in my drafts folder and I cleaned it up and moved it into production. However, I was scanning Ebay and was awed by the prices for which mint, complete Crimson Guards were selling. Since I have 5 of them, I went home and pulled a couple out to see if I should sell them while the getting's good. After looking at the figure, though, I remembered why this figure is so inexplicably cool. I mean, this guy has a bright red (crimson) uniform. Sure, it has cool trappings, but it's still red. Had he come out in the '90's, this guy would have been a laugher. For some reason, though, this figure is just awesome. I can't bring myself to part with any of mine. They have a great mold and represent what Cobra was capable of doing. Also, since he is one of the immortal '85 Cobras, though, he holds a special place in many people's collections.

The Crimson Guard, or Siegie (CG, Cee Gee, get it?), as he was referred to in the comic, is the silent Cobra of which was only hinted about. These guys were deep cover operatives who infiltrated white collar America, never revealing their true loyalties. These guys weren't battlefield troops, they silently took over vast amounts of money and made people give in to their whims if they wanted to survive. Of course, a figure in a pinstripe suit that comes with a briefcase and pall point pen isn't all that exciting. Hasbro opted to release this figure in his ceremonial red uniform. The result is an awesome figure with a great mold, excellent detail, and a cool weapon. In G.I. Joe #29, they introduced the Crimson Guards in an elaborate ceremony. The first Fred shed his uniform, donned a suit, and climbed into a family sedan. The silent infiltration had begun.
From the minute I saw the Crimson Guard, he reminded me of the Emporer's Royal Guards from Return of the Jedi. Those guys used the red color as a regal, ceremonial symbol, but also masked deadly weapons behind the pomp. That also perfectly describes the Siegie. These guys were never meant for combat, but would appear during Cobra Commander's ceremonies as bodyguards or just a show of force. They were the Commander's private army. It is really a shame that the Siegie activities were never fleshed out in the comic. You could tell that Larry Hama had a fondness for the potential these guys possessed. Unfortunately, they never got the chance to realize it. I think that they would have made for an excellent sub story to the Cobra Island creation. I think, though, that it would have taken quite a long time to bring any sort of infiltration America story to a head. Hasbro was always anxious and liked to blow it's cover and reveal new products earlier than scheduled. I have a feeling that as the Siegies disappeared from store shelves, Hasbro put undue pressure on the comic creators to introduce new villains so those figures would sell. While the Siegie's would make token appearances for many years, they could never come to the forefront of Cobra Commander's plans.

At first, I used these guys as battlefield troops. My old, blue Cobras had bitten the dust and these guys were the most ready replacements. When the Viper came out in 1986, though, these guys became the elite troops they were meant to be. I had the Sears Crimson Hiss and had my guards ride that as the command vehicle into the fray. They were the leaders of the minions. They also served as the emergency help when Cobra was in serious trouble. I don't know where I got the idea, but I thought that Eels had to first serve as guardsmen. Since the Snow Serpents came from the Eel ranks, I had my Cobra hierarchy all set. The Guardsmen were good, but the Eels and Snow Serpents were better. Sadly, because of this, I stopped using my Guardsmen after a couple of years. They fell by the wayside. I knew that I had a couple, so I passed up many fantastic opportunities to add to my total. Now that Cobra Commander is back at the forefront of my collection, I suspect that the Guardsmen will start making many more appearances, and, if the price should fall, their numbers will certainly grow.

The Crimson Guards started a small franchise. Tomax and Xamot, a very dumb gimmick, were made their commanders. We also got a Sears exclusive Crimson Guard Hiss Tank, Mobat, and Mobile Missle System. In 1991, the mighty Crimson Guard Immortal graced the shelves. Finally, in 1993, the Crimson Guard Commander brought the genre to a close. The original figures, though, enjoyed a nice run of popularity. They appeared regularly in the comic and cartoon. In fact, I think they nearly replaced the old, blue Cobra soldiers of the first couple of years. That exposure, though, shows the dichotomy of the character. In the cartoon, he was a buffoonish trooper. In the comic, he was the pinnacle of Cobra advancement. They were never squandered on the battlefield and spent their days silently accumulating wealth and power in corporate America. They were the power that Cobra Commander knew he had, but was not willing to share with his other confidants. The Siegies were the Commander's trump card that he could play whenever anyone got too uppity. Had they had more time to explore the Siegie world, I think Cobra would have been the better for it.

The Crimson Guard mold was used by Hasbro in 1985 and again in 1989 when it appeared in the Python Patrol. After that, the mold was sent to Brazil where it was also released in a Python Patrol motif. (Though, this figure had the upper arms of Copperhead. That mold appeared to be gone at that point. As such, in 2003, Hasbro recreated the legs, torso and waist for the Crimson Guard and used them on the Agent Faces figure. This was just the beginning for the mold as it then appeared in Operation Crimson Sabotage in 2004, in a Toys R Us exclusive figure pack in 2005 and then in black as part of the Crimson Shadow Guard that came out later that same year. The mold was also planned for use in the Crimson Infiltrate set that was cancelled in 2003. At this point, the Crimson Guard mold has been used enough that most collectors should have adequate representations of it in their collections. However, I do think that we could still have a couple more uses of this figure in the standard Cobra blue or some other color that would keep the mold relevant.

Crimson Guards are very easy to find. Unfortunately, they are very, very expensive. They've been selling in the $20-$25 range for a loose, mint, complete specimen. That is far more than they are worth. These guys were released during the height of Joe's popularity. There are probably, literally millions of them out there. If you're going to shell out big bucks for this guy, make sure you're not doing it because you think the figure rare. He is one of the most common figures ever produced. Of course, he is also among the most popular. They look great in pairs and in large groups. They are a collector favorite for army builders. (I've already said that I have 5.) They are also one of the best diorama building figures out there. For this reason, I don't see their popularity decreasing any time soon. There seems to be an upswing in Joe prices right now. Frankly, the market can't support figures at these prices for very long. In the early days of vintage Star Wars figure resurgence, many figures were selling for ridiculous amounts. Suddenly, these seemingly rare figures started appearing in bulk and the prices dropped back down to normal. The same will happen with Joe. While figures like the Crimson Guard will remain more expensive than many other Joe figures, they won't keep the prices normally reserved for hard to find action figures. If you're into building armies of these guys, my advice is to wait.

I dig the Siegie, but am not willing to shell out what he now is fetching. What are willing to pay for an army builder? Email me.

1985 Crimson Guard, 2004 Operation Crimson Sabotage, Crimson Hiss Tank, KB Toys Exclusive

1985 Crimson Guard, 2004 Operation Crimson Sabotage, Crimson Hiss Tank, KB Toys Exclusive

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