Tuesday, June 27, 2000

1983 Viper Pilot

There is Karma in the collecting world. The people who try to screw you over are usually fleshed out very quickly. The good guys, though, make themselves known from the first as well. I've bought and traded online since 1993. In all that time, with all the transactions I've conducted, I went until the Spring of 2000 (nearly 7 years) before someone screwed me. Perhaps I had a false sense of security after all my successful transactions. Maybe I wanted the deal to happen so badly that I ignored that little voice in your head that usually saves you from making mistakes. Whatever it was, in December of 1999, shortly after I opened this site and mentioned that I wanted a Viper Pilot, someone emailed me. They offered me a loose, mint, complete with filecard Viper Pilot for $25.00 shipped.

I felt this was a good price, but not out of whack enough to set off any alarms that this might not be true. I asked for a picture of the figure, and they came through. I checked Ebay for any auctions that might have been using the same picture they sent. I also checked YoJoe.com to see if there were any bad trader warnings about the seller. Alas, I found none. The deal seemed fine. I sent the money. They acknowledged that they recieved it. A week later, I had paid by check, they emailed me saying they had sent out the figure. 6 weeks passed. No figure. I emailed them and asked what had happened. The guy responded three or four days later to say that he had sent the figure to my old address that was on my check. (I had moved about a month before this transaction took place. However, I learned a valuable lesson. All checks I now send out have my old address scribbled out and the accompanying sheet I sent has my correct address, as well as the item description and price, highlighted in orange marker.) However, I had mail forwarding and was receiving all the mail that was being sent to my old address. I figured, okay, maybe it will take a little longer. 4 more weeks passed. Still no figure. I emailed them again. I never received any response. I am currently in the process of taking legal action against them. (One of the benefits of having attorneys as friends!) The bottom line is that I was not going to get this Viper Pilot. The thing that really cheesed me off, though, is that while I was waiting, a mint Viper Pilot sold on Ebay for under $10.00 because someone mislabeled it. I didn't bid on that figure since I figured I had one in the mail. Alas, the Viper Pilot was not to be....

Despite being screwed, I continued to trade online. In June of 2000, I acquired a lot from a collector. This lot is amazing. On top of the bucket of figures he sent, was the Viper Pilot. I nearly had a stroke. I truly believe that Karma works in the Joe world. I have talked about this to collectors before. Many of the good ones seem to think the same thing. If you hold yourself to a higher standard, it will always pay off in the end. At any rate, this is the end of my little morality tale. I will now focus on the task at hand, profiling the Viper Pilot.

In 1983, G.I. Joe took off. The line exploded past its shared mold beginnings and started blossoming into the fabulous toy line that inspires to this day. While most of the toys released in 1983 are awesome, there were two notable exceptions: the Falcon and Viper gliders. These fragile pieces of styrofoam crap were terrible. The didn't fly, broke easily, and weren't all that fun to begin with. The commercial showed kids throwing these things for yards upon yards. They had the gliders doing loop-de-loops. They looked like a great toy. When you got these things out of the box, if you could without breaking the fragile, compressed styrofoam wings, the lame toy couldn't hope to live up to its hype. The gliders wouldn't fly. They couldn't do loop-de-loops, and the figures would certainly not stay attached to their gliders like their commercial counterparts. The end result is that the Tan Grunt and the Viper Pilot usually took at least a couple of hard dives onto grass, rock, or pavement and were devastated as a result.

The basic blue Cobra mold is one of the best simple designs the line ever had. They were easily distinguishable as the enemy, came with cool accessories, and were faceless minions who didn't pigeon-hole the line into an easily stereotyped villain. The early days of the comic had all the Cobra specialty troops as variations of the basic blue uniform. If these figures ever become cheap again, I'd like to pick some up with which to customize many of those early specialty troopers. I think the primary reason G.I. Joe became the success it did, is because the the villain was so good. Cobra was the perfect enemy who was able to mirror Joes' moves. Many Cobra figures are still among the most popular figures of the line to this day. Cobra is just a good foil to Joe. They had dynamic personalities who were more interesting than the heroes'. Much like Milton's Satan from Paradise Lost, it is the evil characters who grab our attention. Sure, we root for the good guys, but the dynamic villain is why we watch. Without Cobra, there would not be G.I. Joe. I'm glad Hasbro seems to have realized that with their newly announced 2000 releases.

The primary reason I chose the Viper Pilot to showcase is that he is the most obscure of the three blue Cobras. I am very happy that we got basic Cobra blue Vipers in 1998, but they don't really satisfy my desire for more of these early figures. I always preferred the mold of the Cobra Trooper to that of the Officer. For some reason, I felt that a guy who has a gun on his chest, and comes with a sniper rifle would be a more elite soldier than some jobber with an AK-47. Of course, that is not how the hierarchy works, but I still use the Cobra Officers as cannon fodder while the Troopers are a bit more elite. Had I had a Viper Pilot when I was a kid, I'm sure I would have used him as the leader of the Cobra Troopers. Now that I have one, though, I just can't bring myself to use him. Most of my old blue Cobras are packed away. The later Vipers are just more fun for me to use. I've decided, though, that if I ever come across a Terrordrome, I am going to man it with original blue Cobras like they appeared in the early Terrordrome stories in the comic. I just think the base would look far cooler with tons of blue Cobras, blue Tele Vipers, and a few Crimson Guards milling about at the whim of an original battle helmet Cobra Commander.

Viper Pilots are very, very difficult to find, especially if you want one with a perfect Cobra symbol. I know my mother discouraged other parents from wasting money on the gliders. You can be sure she was not alone. The toys were so cheap and inferior that people just avoided them. Many people started with the Joe Falcon glider. Once they found out what a piece of rubbish it was, they never went back for the Viper Glider. That is why the Tan Grunts exist in a disproportionate number to the Viper Pilots to this day. Another reason is that the silver Cobra rubs off very easily. Once it is gone, the figure is indistinguishable from a normal Cobra Trooper. Many of the old, beat up Cobras that are missing logos were once pristine Viper Pilots. As such, finding a figure with a perfect logo is now nearly impossible. You will notice the extensive wear on the logo of my sample below. I was just happy to find one. Getting a perfect logoed sample will take some doing. Still, even figures like the one you see here command a premium. Many people are missing the Viper Pilot. He only appears for sale every so often. A figure like mine, which has some logo wear, but is otherwise perfect with very tight joints, will still run you over $20.00. Of course, the Cobra trooper and Officer are starting to reach that price level for loose, complete, mint samples themselves. As the entire genre of the old blues continues to gain in popularity and rise in price, expect the Viper pilot to lead the way in both price and scarcity.

1983 Viper Pilot, Cobra Trooper, ASP, Cobra Hiss Tank, 1984, Rare G.I. Joe Figures

Thursday, June 15, 2000

1994 Star Brigade Ozone

Why, oh why, do I like the Star Brigade figures? I'm sure many of you reading this site have wondered that. I mention them constantly, and have started, finally, showcasing them in the Forgotten Figures realm. Truthfully, I don't know what it is about the line. I've always been a sucker for cool removeable helmets and figures that can be used as pilots, divers, firefighters or science troops. I've been a science fiction fan for quite some time. I integrated my Star Wars and Joe toys at an early age. I also think that my interest in the Star Brigade line exists because it was something I never had as a kid. I always wanted the Defiant, but it came out at a time when I was getting out of toys. When I returned to Joe collecting in the early '90's, the Star Brigade stuff was kind of exotic. The '94 stuff dried up from retail very quickly. The '93 stuff was only available in non-standard outlets. I didn't even know about the series 2 non alien Star Brigade figures until late 1998. As such, the later Star Brigade figs are like some forgotten secret at the end of the line that not everyone is privy to save a select few collectors.

The first Ozone figure I ever had was the grey 1993 Star Brigade version. He didn't look very cool in the package, but he was on sale for $2.00 and, at that time, I was buying any G.I. Joe figure I could find. (I also paid for him and Countdown in quarters and dimes because I was so broke, but that's another story all together.) When I got him home, though, the figure was really cool. He immediately became the pilot of my Razorblade helicopter. He just looked good in it. As such, I started looking for more Ozone's. As time has passed, I'm picked up three of the grey version, one of the 1993 tan version, and the origial 1991 Eco Warriors blue version. The Eco Warriors fig has been the leader of my top cadre of test pilots who are the guinea pigs for all the new aircraft that need to be tested. Now that the 1994 Ozone is in my collection, though, that leadership post will be challenged. While I like all the color schemes this mold came in, this final brown version is my favorite. It is just so distinctive. All of the 1994 Star Brigade figures use subtler colors than their previous counterparts. The result is a nice group of figures that are easy on the eyes and look great as stand alone figures or as part of group. This version is cast in 5 colors. It is amazing that with how lazy Hasbro had become in its Joe creation that the Series 2 Star Brigade figures are so nice. They blend perfectly and don't have the clashing colors that had been a hallmark of the 1993 line.

Ozone is my pilot. Currently, I'm after a Defiant complex, or at least a Crusader shuttle. I fully plan to staff it with Countdowns. However, the first combat mission it flies, Ozones will be at the helm. Countdowns look cooler than Ozones, but the Ozone helmet is much better for Star Warsesque pilot death sequences. Their helmets are easily removed and it allows you to move their heads. As the shuttle explodes, the pilots can lean forward before they burst into flame. It's the little things that make figures like this so much fun. I think the reason why I have latched onto the '94 Star Brigade figs is because I never felt the G.I. Joe line had a supreme pilot figure. The 1992 and 1993 Ace are about the best the line had to offer, but even they are a bit lacking. I wanted a cool figure that had a great flight suit, a cool helmet that wasn't too bulky, and an air mask that looked like what real pilots wear. (Not too demanding, eh?) Since that figure was never made, I had to create my own. In the early to middle '90's, most of my figures were locked away in an attic were I couldn't get them. I only had the figures I was able to find at retail. I did, though, have lots of aircraft. I needed pilots in order to fly those machines. Ozone and Countdown were about the best figures that I had available for that use.

Ozone is unique in that he is the single rarest, non variation Joe that was ever available on a card. He was only shipped in the series 2 Star Brigade cases that came with 24 figures. It should have been 4 of every figure (there were 6 figures in the series) per box. However, the cases shipped with only 2 Countdowns and 2 Ozones. I don't know why Ozone was shipped in smaller quantities, or why others were chosen to have the extra figure in his place. The end result is that this guy is tough to find. I've never, ever seen him offered loose. He is starting to appear carded more often now, but in the past year and a half he was very difficult to find in any manifestation. I got my loose sample by opening a carded figure I bought as part of lot. I paid $5.00 for the carded version.

Needless to say, Ozone is Star Brigade and Star Brigade means cheap. Collectors aren't interested in these guys and don't care about how difficult they are to find. If you have no qualms about opening carded figures, you can build armies of all the Star Brigade figs. Otherwise, finding loose samples is very difficult. I've found, though, the search for these guys to be rewarding. I appreciate some figures that most people could care less about. Since there are few Star Brigade collectors out there, it makes collecting the line that much more fun. It also keeps this part of the Joe line very affordable. Many collectors know little about the line and are impressed by it when they see loose figures in person. I like to think of Star Brigade figures as being my collecting niche. Now that I have that, the time I spend with my collection is more greatly appreciated.

I dig Star Brigade figures. Needless to say, I want them all, and in multiples. If you can help, email me.

1994 Star Brigade Ozone, Duke, Effects, Sci Fi, G.I. Joe HQ, 1983

1994 Star Brigade Ozone, MOC, Carded

1993 Dino Hunters Low-Light

In the late spring of 1993, I headed off to England. I left three days after I got home from school and wouldn't come back for almost 3 months. While I was overseas, I picked up an occasional USA Today and saw articles talking about this new movie that was causing waves back in the States: Jurassic Park. It was not released in Europe while I was there, though, so there was no international hype surrounding it. Also, these were the days before graphics capable browsers, cheap PCs and the ubiquitous internet. I knew little about the movie. When I returned to the States, the phenomenon was over. Shortly after my return, a friend and I went to see Jurassic Park at the dollar theatre. Frankly, I felt I paid $1.00 too much for that piece of tripe. I thought the movie awful. Somewhere, there is a computer wallpaper done by someone at Lucas studios saying "Plot does matter." in the same style as the Godzilla posters. While I'll leave it up to you to decide if the saying should have applied to Episode I, it certainly did apply to Jurassic Park. Had the movie a good story behind it, characters you could actually care about or were interesting, or anything other than some poorly contrived computer generated dinosaurs, I might have felt differently. The point of all this is that dinosaurs were hot. Kids wanted them in any form they could get. How did Hasbro respond? By making the truly terrible Dino Hunters playset.

This playset is terrible. Apparently, Cobra has created some dinosaurs to use as weapons or some other lame concept. It appears that Cobra, though, only managed to create color blind dinosaurs, as the two figures the Joes sent to capture the mighty beasts were decked out in a nice array of bright, neon colors. (Just what you'd want to wear as you go traipsing through the jungle.) The worst part about this whole debacle is that they bastardized two figure molds that were actually very nice to begin with: the 1991 Low Light and the 1990 Ambush. In my profile of the 1991 Low Light, you can tell that he is one of my favorite figures. I use him in just about every scenario. This Dino Hunters version, though, will probably never be released from his baggie prison. He is just too awful a figure for which to ever have any use. Had they kept Low Light's features dark, and recolored the neon yellow chest and arms into a nice cammo pattern, this figure could actually be a very nice update to the original. Alas, in 1993, sound decisions were not being made in regards to the Joe line. Instead of nice combat troops, we got neon colored dinosaur hunters.

There really isn't too much to say about this guy. He is one of the less often seen Joe figures, but that's only because his color scheme is so bad. Normally, I like neon figures. This guy, though, just doesn't do it for me. His specialty requires the dark colors of his original version. If he were an astronaut, I'd think the color scheme nice. I think Hasbro had a surplus of this colored neon yellow plastic. They recast Deep Six in it. They also gave it to this guy. In 1993, there was no rationale behind Hasbro's treatment of the Joe line. Truthfully, I think it was the 1993 fares that killed the line off. 1994 was a last ditch attempt to save it, but the Hasbro-Kenner merger put an end to what could have been a Joe Renaissance. Alas, what might have been....

As this guy is in a laughable playset that was only available at Toys R Us for a limited time, he is tough, tough, tough to find. Beware, as his visor, unlike the 1991 version's, does not have red paint on it. His weapon tree was also available with a few other figures. Needless to say, an unsuspecting collector can be easily duped into spending quite a bit of money for a figure that is not complete with his original accessories. That being said, this guy does command a premium. However, I picked up this MIB specimen for under $15.00 shipped. Many kids had this figure, as toys with dinosaurs did sell well, but that is why so many specimens on the second hand market are broken, loose, incomplete, and have extensive play wear. This is one of those figures that many collectors put off buying. He is hard to find, expensive to get complete, and not very cool. Were I not a completist, there is no way I would have ever purchased this figure. As it stands now, the only use I will ever get from him is this page. I have never found most of the expensive Joes to be worth the money. You get the ability to say you have these hard to find figures, but they are so expensive that you are almost afraid to play with them. When I break a $2.50 figure, I don't feel bad. When I break one that will cost $15.00-$20.00 to replace, I'm a little more upset. This guy: he's an interesting figure that speaks much for the pop culture of the time in which he was released. Is he worth the money? I'd have to say, no.

Do you have a Dino Hunters Ambush for trade? If so,email me.

1993 Dino Hunters Low Light, MIB

Thursday, June 8, 2000

1991 Snake Eyes

If ever a character has been overused and overdone, it is Snake Eyes. I was sure that I was never going to profile any of his various forms here. However, things do change. I am not, though, going to go into Snake Eyes' character, nijaism, or superhuman capabilities. Nor do I want to discuss his mass popularity in the collecting and second hand action figure community. I simply want to profile this figure for just what it is: an action figure. Quite simply, this is a nice action figure with a great mold and some nice touches that make him a nice part of my collection. I've found this figure to be quite nice of which to own multiples. He has found many uses with me, none of them, though, as the character he is meant to portray. With all the Snake Eyes b.s. out of the way, you can actually find this guy to be a fun figure to own and use.

This guy's mold is very nice. While the other versions of Snake Eyes had elaborate molds, this figure is very simple. He only has some web gear and gauntlets to make stand out. His mask, while not the typical Snake Eyes fare, is also a nice retreat from the earlier versions. I like the goggles, though, and find them to another slight touch that makes this guy so intruiging. His accessories, though, suck. They are all cast in a hideous red. His pack was one of the few attempts Hasbro made at incorporating a pack with a missle launcher. They failed every time. His pack is totally unuseable, just like the rest of his accessories. At least he came with a rope. It is his only saving grace. In 1991, Hasbro put out some amazing accessories. (See Red Star, Crimson Guard Immortal, Desert Scorpion, Big Ben, Dusty, Snow Serpent and Low Light for examples of what they were capable of creating.) They also lost all creative sense and put out some stinkers as well. (See Snake Eyes, Mercer, Grunt, or Tracker [not the raft or mask, though] for examples of very bad accessories.) An interesting side note to this figure is that his mold was reused for one of the Street Fighter 2 figures. I believe it was Night Fighter Guile. At any rate, that figure uses the Snake Eyes mold, but is cast in black. If I can ever come across one of these Guiles, don't think I won't be doing a head swap to make a more color friendly Snake Eyes.

I don't use this guy as Snake Eyes. In fact, only the 1985 version has the honor of being used for who he really is. The '89's are just for accessories. This guy, though, makes up part of my elite swat unit. The figure just screams law enforcement, and I am only too happy to oblige. The color scheme, while not ideal for night operations, does fall within the law enforcement realm. His head and chest remind of swat troops. While the '88 Shockwave is my primary swat troop, this guy is used for special operations where infiltration and stealth are needed. The fact that he comes with a rope automatically makes him all that much more fun than his other versions. It also creates the aura of a swat type figure. Of course, his red gun in abominable. It is as terrible an accessory as they ever released in the line. Giving this guy the '85 Snake Eyes' uzi, or the '84 Mutt's pistol, though, makes him a formidable opponent. Needless to say, this guy does see some use in my collection. He is a specialty figure, though, and is only called upon when the situation is dire. Not being forced to use him as Snake Eyes, though, is a nice way to truely appreciate this figure and all it has to offer. When taken as a pure figure, this guy is very cool and very useable.

Hasbro used this mold for Snake Eyes in 1991. They then dusted it off again in 1995 or so where it was used for the Night Fighter Guile in the Street Fighter Movie line. After that, the mold disappeared for many years. In 2004, Hasbro surprised collectordom when they included it in the Desert Patrol set. This was a great update and created a welcome new mold for ARAH style Snake Eyes figures. But, like most of the molds Hasbro has used in the modern line, this version was quickly over saturated. The head was used in mid '05 in the Winter Operations set and the entire body was reused (with the top half of the figure being identical to the Desert figure) in the awful 2005 HAS set. At this point, the mold has enough good colorings out there for it to be retired. It is still a strong figure and a great look for Snake Eyes, but we don't need any more of them at this point.

All Snake Eyes figures are expensive, at least in relative terms to other figures released in the same year. That being said, this is not a highly sought version of Snake Eyes. His first three versions, with the second being the most popular, are more desirable and pricey. If you don't have any Snake Eyes figures, though, and want to get one without dropping at least a Jackson, this is the version to seek. This version does not appear as often as the other three, but it does not command their price tags either. This is the perfect way to add the most popular character, in an incarnation that is actually playable, to your collection. Most collectors pass this version by. Most have 1 of them for completion's sake, but don't like to hoard them like they do the other versions. I will admit that I have 2 '85's and 4 '89's. That, though, is because I want the '89's uzi and the '85 keeps breaking on me so I like to have a spare. I also, though, have 4 of this version. He is not as difficult to find as some of the other '91's, but will cost more than other Joes from his year just due to the fact that he is Snake Eyes. Fortunately, he does not come close to the price point of the '91 Cobras, so this guy is still affordable. He is a figure that I like and is the only version of Snake Eyes that I use. While this may not be the case for you, you will certainly find this figure an asset to your collection.

What are your opinions about Snake Eyes? Email me.

1991 Snake Eyes, 1990 Night creeper

1991 Snake Eyes, 2004 Red Ninja Viper

1991 Snake Eyes, Skydive, 1990, 1994 Action Pilot, 30th Anniversary, 1986 Tomahawk, Falcon, Super Sonic Fighters, 1993 Ace, 1994 Stalker, 2001 Desert Striker

1991 Snake Eyes,

1991 Interrogator

Like the Night Vulture, the Interrogator is a figure that has found some cool uses in my collection. He is, as his name suggests, Cobra's interrogation specialist. I use him as a powerful individual who has realized that he must bide his time and build the Commander's confidence in him. He is a character who is very strong and inspires fear even among his superiors. He often accompanies Major Bludd into battle, though he stays out of the way. After prisoners have been taken, he may either interrogate them for information, or simply torture them for sheer pleasure. I also use him as the base commander who is in charge while the more combat heavy field generals are off fighting. It during this time that he builds his power and experience. He's one of my lesser characters that, given a chance, may become more important as time progresses.

This figure has so much potential, it isn't even funny. This is a great idea for a character, but the execution into an actual figure leaves much to be desired. This guy's mold isn't all that impressive. He's just a basic figure with no real distinguishing characteristics. Unlike the figures I normally like, who's simplicity is their greatest asset, this guy's mold just isn't all that great. They tried to make him busy and have the mold be on par with other '91 Cobras. Where they failed, though, is that they took the middle ground. This guy isn't flashy, gaudy, and full of unique accessories and molds like the Desert Scorpion, nor is he very basic, yet strong like the mighty Crimson Guard Immortal and the Incinerator. Interrogator is an unhappy medium where his chest has all sorts of things happening, while his helmet and legs are very calm and sedate. As such, he isn't a figure that has found much time in any area of Joe collecting. That, though, seems to be changing. As many collectors have grown up and become more interested in the characters behind the figures, Interrogator, much like Mercer, has started to take on a second life. He is starting to appear in both works of fan fiction and dioramas. As I have said, he is a specialty that seems to be necessary to an organization like Cobra. The fact that it took them almost a decade to come up with him, though, says much about Hasbro's efforts to really explore Cobra.

I started using the Interrogator the minute I got him. However, he quickly fell out of favor and disappeared into his drawer. A couple of weeks ago, though, I needed him. When I pulled the figure and his gun out into my rotation, I was fascinated by the possibilities he offered. As I have said before, I like prisoner figures. Usually, though, I use them on the Joe side. Law, Dialtone, Crazy Legs, Shockwave, Mace, Mutt, and a host of other figures are just too realistic. When I decided to do the prisoner angle from Cobra's point of view, Interrogator was a natural choice. I shudder to think what those pincers on his gun would do to a poor, captured soul. Needless to say, many of my prisoners have suffered at this guy's hands. Currently, he is one of my "featured figures" who is not kept in his drawer, but, instead is out, ready to be used. I don't know why I associated him with the Night Vulture. I think that both are such obscure figures that they just naturally go together.

If you look at the Interrogator figure, you see that he is draped in basic Cobra blue to go with his black, grey and red. As such, he actually blends with pretty much every standard Cobra army builder from the peak years of the line. That is a fact that is easily missed when you first look at the figure. But, once realized, the true value of this figure comes to light. Interrogator can be used in conjunction with the earliest Cobras or stood among those from the modern take on ARAH figures and still fit in. That is a rare combination for a figure from 1991. Especially for a figure that represented an all new character.

Where, oh where is the Interrogator mold?!? Hasbro used it in 1991 and again in 1993. But, the trail runs cold there. However, Hasbro has pulled out many of Interrogator's contemporaries so it's likely that the mold is out there and could easily be used for a new version. As the mold has so much potential, it would be great to see a newly colored version of this character. But, since this version is still very good, if we never see the Interrogator revisited, at least we have one version that is nearly perfect.

Interrogator's aren't too tough to find. The Battle Copters figures seem to appear from time to time. The mail in version, though, seems to come up for sale much more often. (This is the same mold as this figure, but is cast in pastel, neon yellow. Needless to say, it is a very interesting color choice.) Neither version, though, will cost you much. The original's gun, though, is kind of hard to find in mint condition. The prongs are very thin and brittle. They are prone to breakage, bending and warping. You can still usually find the figure with his gun. Like most of the '91's, you will have your best luck finding this guy in large lots. He isn't popular enough to be found by himself. Like other characters who have found a second life in fan fictions, though, Interrogator's popularity may increase in time. Collector's tend to like this guy. As such, he may not always be as available as he is now. As such, now is the time to add this guy to your collection. He is nice figure with cool accessories who will find as many uses in your collection as he has in mine.

This is another cool figure that I don't want any more of. I've you've found any cool uses for this guy, email me.

1991 Interrogator, Air Commandos, 1989 Darklon, 2004 Night Force Action Man

1991 Night Vulture

In 1991, Hasbro attempted to reinvent the earlier gliders with some new entrants to the working flying toy genre. The results, shall we say, were grim at best. We are left with unpopular toys that included unpopular figures. Most collectors know little to nothing about the Night Vulture. He is as forgotten as they come. His vehicle is relegated to bargain bins and total obscurity. The figure follows that pattern. I don't think I have ever heard this figure being discussed in any manner in any forum regarding Joes. Usually, obscure figures come up every now and again. This guy, though, is one of the few figures that most collectors don't even care exists. While he is requirement for completists, casual collectors can easily overlook another of the line's shadowy support figures.

When I first got the Night Vulture, I thought he might be kind of fun to have around, but didn't do too much with him. As months went by, I found him to be the perfect companion to Interrogator. These two quickly found themselves as Cobras top torture men. I have them as lesser officers who answer to Cobra Commander, but don't have any authority over any troops who aren't security minded. At some point, I hope to find a Cobra figure that will make a good secret policeman who will be a member of a top cadre of recruits who do the Commander's bidding and answer to Night Vulture and Interrogator. At that point, these two figures might become more prominent. As it stands, though, they get considerably more time in my collection than many other figures from more popular years and subsets. He's another figure whom I have made into an interesting, for me anyways, character. In my collection, he is not another faceless Cobra minion. He is, instead, a dangerous boot licker who is a bit too close to the Commander for many of his superiors' liking. As such, he makes for an excellent character to add depth to a story. He is not a headliner, but is a very nice backup figure who bides his time.

This guy's color scheme is very interesting. The purple and black are very nice, but the orange highlights ruin what could have been a very nice figure. Still, the color scheme is not so bad as to preclude this figure's use in my collection. He is very detailed. His mask has ties molded on the back of the figure's head. He has all sorts of cool gadgets that show this guy was still part of the figures that actually received attention from the sculptors. This guy just screams for a repaint. If I can ever come across another one that isn't too expensive, I'll redo this guy without the orange. I think it will make for a figure that will certainly attract people's attention. Especially when they learn the mold is unaltered. He also comes with a cool crossbow/machine-gun accessory. It has crossbow bolts, but also has a clip and a barrel with cooling grooves molded into it. It is another of the obscure vehicle driver accessories that never get the press they deserve. Had Snake Eyes not been released in 1991, I think this mold would have made for a nice version of that figure. Alas, if that is the Night Vulture's only claim to fame, you can understand why collectors pass him by.

Night Vultures are kind of tough to find. Not many people are after them, but not many people have them. As such, many collectors simply pass by this guy. He is almost never offered for sale, and can only occasionally be found in lots. I got mine in a large lot of vehicle drivers about a year and a half ago. I don't think I've ever seen another one for sale since then. This is just not a guy people know about. As such, pricing one can be difficult. He is certainly not a popular figure, though, and shouldn't draw a lot of interest if one would appear for sale. He is an interesting figure, but not all that great. He's just another of the faceless Cobras that came out in the 1990's that no one pays attention to or even cares about. He is a different figure to have in your collection, though, and provides a nice figure whose character you can mold as you please.

This guy is nice to have, but one's enough. If you like the Night Vulture, email me.

1991 Night Vulture, Air Commandos

1991 Night Vulture, Air Commandos, Snake Eyes

1991 Night Vulture, Air Commandos, Interrogator, Crimson Guard Immortal, Cobra Commander, Sky Creeper, 1992

Friday, June 2, 2000

1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander

Granted, I have already thoroughly explored the Cobra Commander character when I profiled the 1993 version. However, while I fully explored the character of the commander there, this version is just too cool a figure to not showcase at least once. I've made my opinions about Star Brigade figures very prominent throughout my profiles on the site. I've profiled a number of the figures from both the 1993 and 1994 Star Brigade lines. This version of Cobra Commander continues the tradition of very cool figures that were offered in both years. Whether you feel this figure should be Cobra Commander or not is hardly relevant to the sheer coolness of this guy. This is a figure that has found many uses in my collection. I have had him for about two weeks and he has yet to be put away. He just looks cool and must be displayed.

Just taken as a pure figure, this guy is amazing. The level of detail in every aspect makes a figure that is just about perfect. Unfortunately, most collectors can not distinguish a figure from the character he was meant to represent. As such, many people dismiss this figure. From the reptilian scaling on the outfit, to the sculpted Cobra logo, to the snake head on his belt buckle, this figure is truly representative of what Hasbro was still capable of creating and would have continued to offer us had the line continued. His head, with the bare hair and the retro mask is one of the best heads for creating custom Cobra troopers. The mask has sculpted ridges and visible ties on the back. Whoever designed this figure created a masterpiece. His basic, simple uniform with the meticulous details makes for a figure that should be a requirement in every loose Joe collection.

With his helmet on, this guy has uses. I don't like using him as Cobra Commander. Instead, I use him as a deep sea diver, faceless space trooper, or elite pilot. The helmet, though, is unusually large. When on and viewed from the profile position, the figure looks like it was inspired by Alien. Still, the helmet is very cool, though it precludes the figure's use in most vehicles. I've given him an air tank pack and also used him a deep sea diver. He also works in that capacity. I also like to use him as a Cobra sub commander who is in charge of technology. He works well as the combative side of Dr. Mindbender. (I use Mindbender as more of a research scientist than an actual field commander. If they would ever make Dr. Venom, then Mindbender's role might change.) With his helmet off, he can be used as a faceless trooper or the sub commander about which I was talking. The face is very well done and makes for perfect custom fodder. Alas, loose specimens are still too hard to find for his head to be a staple in fan custom work.

This figure is another forgotten gem from the end of the line. Most collectors disdain the Star Brigade figures and don't give the line a chance. Sure, the concept is a stretch, but the toys are very cool. I've finally decided that my big purchase this year will be a Defiant complex. (And one just sold on Ebay for under $100!! Why didn't I bid more?!?) Having a large lot of astronauts will make this one of the most used toys in my collection. With Cobra Commander to lead a squadron of Blackstars and Astro Vipers, my Joes will have a worthy opponent. I only need a CORPS! shuttle (Or maybe a Shuttle Tydrium from the vintage Star Wars line.) to paint blue so the Cobras have a ride as well. The possibilities are so endless for something like this that I can't see why more collectors don't like the Star Brigade. It just shows the range of the Joe toy line and the myopia that can affect the collecting community.

Like most of the 1994 Star Brigade figures, Cobra Commander can be a bear of which to find loose, mint, complete samples. He is very easy, though, to find carded. He is probably the most expensive 1994 Star Brigade figure, but still only runs about $10.00 for a MOC specimen. The best way to acquire this figure is just buy a carded version and open him. Loose samples are finally starting to appear on the second hand market, but they are still infrequent enough to frustrate even the most patient collector. It took me nearly a year after the acquisition of my first carded sample to finally add a loose version to my collection. Like all of the 1994 Star Brigade figures, building an army of these guys is a daunting task. Fortunately, the 1994 are slowly starting to appear more frequently on the second hand market. With a little effort you should be able to add this guy to your collection. After you have him, you will think him well worth the search.

You should know the standard line here, but I'll repeat it anyways: if you have any loose, complete 1994 Star Brigade figures available for sale or trade, email me.

1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander, 1990 Vector

1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander, Viper

1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander, Viper, Funskool General Hawk, 2001

1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander, Carded, MOC

1991 Toxo Viper

Eco Warriors. UGH! That is the most basic response whenever you mention the subgroup every Joe collector loves to hate. The Eco Warriors line is almost universally despised. Some don't agree with the Captain Planet type message. Others consider these guys to be the harbingers of the neon to come. Me, I like them. I've made it known that I don't mind neon figures, if the neon fits the figure's purpose. In the Eco Warriors line, it almost always did. All of the 1992 Eco Warriors figures are of the very highest quality. Flint has become one of my most used pilot figures. Clean Sweep makes an army of my airport firefighters. Ozone is my experimental pilot. Cesspool is one of the highest ranking pilots in the Cobra army. The Toxo Viper, well, he's my Cobra deep sea diver.

When I profiled Deep Six, I showcased an area where Joe was under represented; deep sea warfare. Deep Six is the perfect Joe for deep water missions, but Cobra never got a suitable counterpart. The Toxo Viper fills that void nicely. He has a bulky sculpt that makes up for a pressure suit, air hoses sculpted on a cool helmet, and a pack that has tanks on it. This guy just screams to be used under water. The reason I profiled this figure here is just for that reason. When I got my first Toxo Viper about a year and a half ago, I thought he would make an excellent deep sea diver. At that time I was more into other aspects of Joedom, though, and didn't really use the figure. Last weekend, I took my first Joes out in the pool. I grabbed two '93 Star Brigade Roadblocks and one Toxo Viper. The minute I got this guy in the water, I was floored by how cool he is. He just looks good whether he is floating on the surface or walking across the bottom. I think I'll use them as Cobra underwater technicians as well. He looked very cool attached to the mouth of my "Creepy Crawly" that sweeps the bottom of the pool.

This figure is very aesthetically pleasing. The subtle purple and greens are very easy on the eyes. They are also colors that would work underwater. The red mask is also kind of menacing and gives this figure the type of mean look you would want to convey in the deep sea. His accessories are very nice. The pack has toxic leakage molded onto it. It is a nice feature, but not noticeable enough to preclude the other uses I've prescribed him. His gun is also futuristic enough to look good underwater. Since it isn't based on any weapon I know of, you can do just about anything you want with it. Sure, the accessories are purple, but they work with this figure since the color scheme is so nice. The original Toxo Viper was a very cool figure. His helmet was neat. This guy, though, takes the playability factor into account. The original Toxo Viper looks better than he plays. With this guy, you have no such dilemma. He is very nice to look at, but is also great fun to actually use. I've given thought to also using this guy as a astronaut as well. I think he would work in that environment and would be a perfect enemy for my Star Brigade masses.

The Toxo-Viper mold was never used again. The mold inspired the Toxo-Zombie and the figure's legs were used on the 1994 Major Bludd figure. Since then, the figure has been MIA. Hasbro dusted off the figure's contemporary the Sludge Viper, but the Toxo Viper mold has not appeared since. The figure was not sent anywhere else in the world that we can discern so it is possible that Hasbro would have access to the mold. It would be a solid candidate for either a Convention figure or another, exclusive release. In better colors, this figure could easily be useful for many collectors.

Toxo Vipers are kind of a pain to find. The Eco Warriors were more desirable to younger children than the serious collector. As such, you can often find non-mint, incomplete Eco Warriors figs, but mint complete specimens can be a bit elusive. The Eco Joes appear very often, but the Cobras are especially troublesome. I've managed to track down two Toxo Vipers and one Cesspool, but have never even seen a Toxo Zombie. Fortunately, collectors as a group disdain these figures. They don't even give good figures like the the Toxo Viper a chance. As such, when you find these guys, they won't hurt to old pocketbook like most of the other '91 Cobras will. If you can find them, they make excellent army builders. If you have any inclinations to take your Joes under water, I consider the Toxo Viper an essential part of any Cobra underwater attack force.

I like this guy and would like about 6 of them. If you have any available, email me.

1992 Toxo Viper, Eco Warriors, Letal, Estrela, Brazil, Forca Electronica, Frag Viper

1992 Toxo Viper, Eco Warriors, 1991 Sci Fi, 1993 star Brigade Payload

1992 Toxo Viper, Eco Warriors

1992 Mutt

Mutt is a fan favorite. He is a cool character that came with great accessories and a dog. Many people hold him high on their sentimentality lists. When it comes to Mutt's four versions of figures, though, they only talk about the first one. Sure, it is a great figure and may see itself profiled here some day. However, the 1992 version is at least worthy of the original and is a perfect update for a classic character. This guy is certainly Mutt, which is more than can be said for many remakes. He is a DEF figure, which is usually two strikes against most guys, but this Mutt is well worth another look. He is a nice figure that has found a prominent place in my collection.

I like security figures. Many of my adventures surround prison breaks and the like. As such, I like guys who can be used in a law enforcement capacity. Law, Mace and Shockwave are just a few of the minions who make up my security forces. This version of Mutt is often the officer in charge. (The original version is so good that I use it as Mutt.) He has an air of authority about him that makes him my best choice for the commanding officer. I use this guy as grizzled commander who is very good at his job, but lacks personality. He works very well on all sorts of missions. I use him in vehicles for prisoners in transit, at prisons for good old fashioned jail breaks, or as an old security officer who ensures the Joe headquarters isn't vulnerable to penetration. He's just a fun figure to own and looks good with a large number of the other figures who get a lot of play time in my collection.

The one facet where the designers let this figure down is the molded communications piece on the figure's head. Had this guy been released in the late '80's, the comm device would have been removable. It would make this figure much better. Sadly, though, by 1992, such innovation was gone from the Joe line. The molded comm device looks okay, but serves as a sad reminder of the line's past glory. Other than that, though, the figure is great. He has a solid mold, though no removable helmet, a great color scheme, and a face sculpt that is very reminiscent of the original Mutt. This figure kept the updated version of a classic character as true to the original as any other remake in the line. The molded dog biscuits are a bit hokey, but they do show that there was some attention to detail still being paid to the line.

I hate the spring loaded accessories that came with the '90's figures. There are, though, three or four exceptions to that rule. Mutt's spring loaded net launcher is one of them. It is a really fun toy. The net is very cool and has weighted balls on it that allow for you, unlike Ambush's nets, to actually use it. The launcher leaves a little to be desired, but is the only spring loaded launcher I keep in my accessories box. (The rest are in a bag tucked away on a high shelf.) The net launcher is definitely an accessory everyone needs. Mutt's other accessories are adequate at best. His gun is cool, but nothing special like the original figure's silenced Mac-11 was. Junkyard, the dog, is Junkyard. I don't use dogs, or any other animal for that matter. I just don't have any use for them. It's the same Junkyard mold that came with every Mutt figure. (Of note, though, is that only the Junkyard that came with the original Mutt has a brown belly. The rest are all solid black.) I think one of the reasons collectors don't like this figure all that much is because his accessories are so lackluster next to the original figure's. While that is certainly true, this guy is still very nice.

Mutts aren't too tough to find. The DEF figures weren't popular and many in the line are tougher to come across. Mutt, though, seems to be about the most plentiful. Since he was a popular character, many old time collectors picked him up while passing on the other DEF figures. You can often pick him up in lots. His pistol and net launcher, though, can be tougher to find. You don't often see complete specimens offered by themselves. Still, you can usually get at least the dog without too much of a search. This guy is certainly a nice addition to your collection. He has many uses. The original figure is better, but this version is worthy of the Mutt character and is an excellent way to incorporate an older character into your newer figures.

Mutt is cool, but I've had to sell of the extras I've picked up. Needless to say, I don't want any more. Headhunters, though, are a different story. If you have some of them available, email me.

1992 DEF Mutt, 2000 Law, 1993 Ace, 1990 Super Sonic Fighters Law, Chuckles