Wednesday, July 26, 2000

1986 Mission to Brazil Mainframe

While the notion of a mainframe computer is highly antiquated in today's client-server world, the character of Mainframe was on the cutting edge of 1980's computer technology. Of course, while computers play a vital role in modern military operations, they really aren't all that much fun to play with in a military toy setting. The result is another forgotten figure who modern collectors seem to have just skipped over. Mainframe, though, is due at least some recognition.

I was torn between which version of Mainframe to profile. His original grey version is a much cooler figure and one with which the collecting community is far more familiar. The Mission to Brazil Mainframe, though, is a figure that I, as a child, used extensively. The original Mainframe was the master, but this figure represented the hordes of field science and computer troops who would tag along on various missions. He was my cannon fodder while the original was the hero. Of course, I quickly created storylines where the nobody computer officer saves the day, but the figure also suffered his share of terrible deaths as well. By using the figure as a common bloke, though, I made Joe more fun. I could still use the main characters as themselves, but also had the ability to expand the Joe ranks and have Cobra assess a few casualties. I think this was why Joe was so endearing. The figures lent themselves to whatever a child could desire. Without limits, the line was free to last for as long as it did.

Mainframe's accessories were pretty nice. (Note, the uzi is an accessory that I added. Neither the original nor this version came with any type of gun.) The pack and computer were realistic enough. The computer, though, had holes around the edges. It seems that at some point Mainframe was either going to also come with a stand for his computer, or some other vehicle or playset would have done so. I think that would have made the figure a little more fun to own since he always had to kneel down to use his bulky version of a laptop. The microphone is also nice, and is an oft-missing accessory on most of the Mainframe figures you now see for sale. Had they attached it to his helmet, though, I think this guy's appeal would be greater. Mainframe's main problem is that he is not usuable in very many situations. He doesn't look good as a pilot; can't really be used as a field combat troop; doesn't have the acoutrements to be used in specialized situtions (like Airtight); and doesn't fit in as a vehicle driver. The figure is really only useable as a computer operator in the Headquarters, Tactical Battle Platform, or some other similar playset. As I pigeon-holed him into such a ting role, Mainframe's popularity was short lived. After mid 1987, both versions were put away and still have yet to really see the light of day again. Perhaps if I get a shuttle complex, they will find more use, but right now, they never leave their drawer.

Like all the Mission to Brazil figures, Mainframe is a bit more expensive than he is worth. This color scheme is terrible and the figure has no weapons. Really, he isn't much fun. Still, mint complete specimens will run you over $15.00. Frankly, that's too much to pay. Had I not owned this figure as a child, I doubt he would be part of my collection. This is a figure that many collectors do have, but only due to his perceived rarity. Unlike the MTB Wet Suit, this guy is about useless except as a filler figure at the Headquarters computer terminal. There are much cooler, and cheaper figures that can easily be used for that purpose. He simply no longer holds my fascination like he used to. Should you spend a large amount of money to acquire this figure, I think your opinion of him will be the same after only a short while.

I don't need anymore of this guy, but would like a Claymore with an intact crotch. The rest of the figure can be trashed, as long as the Crotch is okay. If you can help, email me.

1986 Mission to Brazil Mainframe, TRU Exclusive, 2001 Leatherneck, Medico, SOS, Argentina, Plastirama, Doc, 2002 Night Rhino, Sgto. Slaughter

1986 Mission to Brazil Mainframe, TRU Exclusive, 2001 Leatherneck, Medico, SOS, Argentina, Plastirama, Doc, 2002 Night Rhino, Sgto. Slaughter

1987 Chuckles

This guy should be a laugher. I mean, he is cast in pastels and looks like he's drunk. Oddly, though, it was my hate for this guy that has made him one of the most oft used figures in my collection. In the late '80's, I thought the whole Hawaiian shirt and Jams craze was ridiculous. I hated Chuckles and refused to use him. I made my youngest brother get him, though, as I wanted to have his holster and pistol. As it turned out, he ended up with two of them. I never used the figure, and relegated him to the bottom of my toybox. One day, though, I was looking for a figure that could act as a civilian. The Joes were walking out of a building and I wanted someone who could sneak up on them and open fire in broad daylight. Chuckles immediately came to mind. The Joes came down the steps, Chuckles pulled an uzi, opened figure, jumped into the sliding door of the A-Team van, and immediately became an integral part of my collection.

Chuckles rose to one of my favorite figures. I could use him as either a good or bad guy. He was the perfect figure to act as a tourist and mess with either Joe or Cobra's plans. I used him as the leader of an alternate terrorist group, or as a lone gunman who the Joes had to track down. The figure I hated, became one of the figures that went everywhere with me. He was so versatile that he was usuable in just about any scenario I could come up with. His initial appearance in G.I. Joe #60 was also very cool. When I saw some of this guy's other potential, the figure just became more interesting to me. Naturally, I was very glad to have 2 of the figures and used both of them to near destruction.

As time progressed, though, my Joe adventures returned to their military roots. Cobra became more of a military threat than terrorist. Chuckles, therefore, fell out of favor. I put the figures away and didn't see them for several years. In the mid nineties, though, I returned to Joe collecting in a big way. Since I had been gone, I explained that Cobra had been gone as well. Many of the Cobra higher ups were languishing in prisons. The proper way for Cobra to return, then, was to have them free their shackled brethren. While I had the prison breakers, I needed a figure that would work for a prisoner. These guys had been in jail for several years. They wouldn't still be wearing their Cobra togs. I needed a figure that was bland, but had an outfit that looked like the blue prison garb you see in all the movies. Once again, I turned to Chuckles.

Chuckles is the perfect prisoner figure. The pastel shirt is pretty close to prison blue and his legs are pretty barren. (Except for that knife, but I pretend it's not there.) The drunk look on his face could also be taken as sadness for a life lost to a long prison term. I had a new use for both my Chuckles figures. As Cobra began to succeed in a few of these missions, I had the Joes come out of retirement and start guarding larger contingents of Cobras who were all being moved to a central facility to keep them from recruiting. I needed more Chuckles figures. Now, I have 9 of them. Of course, they look really cool all chained together at the legs. (Just a note, twist ties, the plastic coated kind, make for good handcuffs and leg shackles. They don't look real, but they do hold the figure in realistic ways. They are all I use.) I usually put them all in my APC and have a contingent of guards, made up of 1987 Laws and 1993 Maces keeping them in line. I have a couple jeeps circling the main transport as well as a couple of bad guy jeeps and attack vehicles ready to pounce. Fun just ensues.

The Chuckles mold was used by Hasbro for this figure. From there, it went on India where Funskool released it for many years. However, Funskool stopped production on Chuckles around the time when they first returned molds to Hasbro in 1997. As such, it is highly possible that the Chuckles mold is available to Hasbro. But, in 2007, Master Collector wanted to release a Chuckles figure. They could not find the mold so they had a new Chuckles head cast. It is likely, though, that the search for the Chuckles mold wasn't as thorough as it could have been. But, it is also likely that Hasbro misplaced many of the molds that they used in '97 since they have confirmed the loss of the '86 Hawk mold that was just used a few years ago.

Regardless, I could stand for a new Chuckles figure since Master Collector basically remade the very common and easy to find original figure in terms of colors and look. They took no chances on the figure and gave collectors a boring copy of something that was already abundantly available. At least that figure is languishing in warehouses as collectors didn't respond to this lack of originality on Master Collector's part.
Chuckles figures are not hard to find. They are also pretty cheap. Most people don't like the figure, and certainly don't collect him in multiples like I do. His accessories, though, can be troublesome. His pistol is one of the smallest ever issued and was easily lost. The holster was such a cool accessory that it was often heavily used and is now found with some rips on the buckle or actual holster. Still, finding him mint and complete won't take you too long, nor break your budget. Chuckles were produced in abundance at the height of Joes' popularity. He is a fun figure, though, and is one that I wouldn't consider my collection complete without.

I like Chuckles, but have 9 or them. What is his use in your collection? Let me know.

1986 Slipstream, AVAC, Firebat, Air Viper Advanced Corps, 1987 Chuckles, 1998 Ace, Chinese Exclusive Flint, Tiger Force Falcon

1987 Chuckles, Law

Thursday, July 20, 2000

Luke Skywalker Ceremonial Outfit - Power of the Force II

1994 was a Joe year. 1995 was split evenly between Star Wars and Joe. 1996-1998 were Star Wars years. 1999 was a Joe year. I had anticipated 2000 being a Joe year as well, but a few things happened. First, Joe prices started rising. You may have noticed some of the rants I've posted about how figures are overpriced. It appears that Joes are hot right now. Unfortunately, for a toy line to remain hot, it must be something that is completable and must have a holy grail or two. The Joe line has neither. With well over 500 unique figures in the line, completing the set is a daunting task, especially for the casual collector who gravitates towards what it popular right now. There also is no particular year or figure that stands out as the hardest to get. Sure, a few variations of the Steel Brigade or Starduster figures are pretty tough, but they are not popular enough characters to carry the burden of an entire Joe renaissance.

The second thing that happened this year has been the awesome clearance sales on tons of Star Wars merchandise. Much of the product that never made it to retail in 1998 and early 1999 has finally surfaced, and it is dirt cheap. I've doubled my already substantial Stormtrooper army in only a few weeks. Awesome Star Wars figures are available everywhere, and they are on sale. As Joes have risen to the point where it is simply not economical to build armies, I've turned my focus to a line where that is feasible right now. Many Star Wars collectors hark back to 1985 when stores were clearing their Star Wars racks at 2 for $1.00 prices. They tore them down to put up Joes. I think these clearance sales are the beginning of the end. Star Wars has had a nice 5 year run, but Hasbro has basically killed most fan interest. As to what will replace Star Wars, I have no idea. A rebirth of 3 3/4" Joes would be what we all hope for, but I am not holding my breath. Perhaps another company will pick up the slack and cash in on the post Star Wars doldrums like Hasbro did back in the '80's.

The reason I selected this figure to profile is that he is my favorite figure in the new Star Wars line. It is a figure that had about 7 seconds of screen time, but is a nice mold of a major character. This is the outfit I always wanted Luke to have. It is the only outfit in the entire Trilogy that makes him look like the dashing young hero he has turned into. Many hard core fans will recognize this uniform as the one Luke wears in his appearance in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special that aired one time back in the '70's. Luke appeared in a cartoon that introduced us to Boba Fett. It is, as far as I can tell, the only appearance of Luke where he is more a pilot and kid and less a budding Jedi. The other reason I like this figure is because it allows you to use Luke outside of the traditional movie settings. All the other versions of this figure have him in basic outfits he wore throughout the movies. It's hard to use your imagination with a figure that is so limiting. This figure has a basic pose that allows for great play value. Had Hasbro made more figures like this and fewer like the pre-posed Cantina Han figure from late 1999, the line would have found tremendous following among children, as well as adult collectors.

When they first came out, these guys were tough to find. The Freeze Frame version was even tougher. That is, until the last couple of months when all the backstock turned up at Toys R. Us's around the country. Now, this guy is all over the place. Of course, I've picked up a carded version of him. I like the figure enough to have a couple. (It is also important to note that every Star Wars figure produced in the '90's probably has more carded versions of him stashed away in some hoarder's attic that there are opened verions. As such, none of this stuff will ever have any monetary value. If you want an investment, buy stocks. The only returns these figures will bring you is personal joy. If you like having them around, then buy them. If you think they will pay off the mortgage, then I've got this bridge in Arizona to sell you....)This guy also makes great custom fodder for Rebel Fleet Troopers and Cantina aliens. Joe customizers do a good job, but Star Wars customizers take the cake. Many of the top Star Wars customizers create pieces that rival what Hasbro could produce. (Check out and find the customizers link. Once there, you will find an Imperial Gunner Station made out of old G.I. Joe vehicles that is absolutely amazing.) Enought about this figure, though. I've used this as a catharsis to cure my Star Wars wanderlust and will now refocus on Joes.

Luke Skywalker Ceremonial Outfit, Power of the Force II, Kenner, Star Wars

Wednesday, July 12, 2000

1987 Rumbler

During one of my many trips to Toys R Us back in 1987, I saw a new Joe vehicle that was not advertised in any of the catalogs. It was a radio controlled dune buggy. I was not into remote controlled toys, and was not intrigued by it. I did notice, though, that it included a figure. I took a look at the figure, though, and realized it was just a retread of earlier molds and decided that he would not be enough to cause me to badger my parents until they bought me this thing. As I was not the only child who made that determination, or had it made for them!, Rumbler has become a very difficult figure for the modern Joe completist to acquire.

Rumbler is cast from the 1985 Footloose's head, 1985 Heavy Metal's chest and arms, and 1985 Bazooka's legs. Since, like Claymore, he has no original parts, Rumbler is often overlooked by the casual collector, and ignored by the hard core one. He is a very obscure figure who came with an equally obscure vehicle. The Crossfire was only available for one year. I only remember seeing it at Toys R Us, and that was only around Christmas time. As such, this guy is very uncommon. Of course, when you are cast in odd earth tones that really don't flatter, a figure's hope for success is greatly diminished. This guy is in really awful colors. The scan below shows his green gloves and blue shirt. Remember, this was taken with a high powered light going right over him. In real life, this guy is very bland. The blue shirt is actually a grey color and blends in with the jacket. His gloves are also much darker and are hard to distinguish as green. I really don't think they could have made this guy any darker.

Rumbler is a hard figure to use. His color scheme is so bad, it takes away from what should be a very good mold. Heavy Metal's chest is one of my all time favorites. How it looks so good on him and so poor on this guy is a real testament to the power of proper coloring. I've found limited use for this guy as the driver, or co-pilot of vehicles such as the Mean Dog, Rolling Thunder, or one of my CORPS! hummers. Like Major Major Major Major from Catch-22 this guy is impressive just by how unimpressive he is. I thought I would like this guy, but have found him so bland that I really want to find a use for him. One of the next vehicles I want to acquire is complete A.W.E. Striker. I think Rumbler would look good in the driver's seat. Other than that, though, this guy is not really all that much fun to have. The nice thing about him is that the Joes need vehicle drivers. I don't like using my coolest figures as vehicle drivers since I then can't use them for other purposes. Figures like Rumbler are great role players who fill the mundane jobs and allow the better figures to be used in greater capacity.

Rumbler only ever appeared as the driver of the Crossfire. All of the parts used to contruct him, though, were then sent on to Brazil where the individuals were all released on single cards in color schemes similar to their American counterparts. Since then, none of the molds that comprised the Rumbler figure have resurfaced. This is too bad as collectors would definitely welcome the return of any of the three characters who make up the Rumbler mold. As a character, I wouldn't mind the return of Rumbler as a new amalgamation. However, if that was to happen, I would want it to be as a figure made well (like the 2007 Starduster rather than a simple rehash of a bad original design (like the Cobra Mortal). As the Joe line can always use more vehicle drivers, the Rumbler character would be one whose return collectors would probably enjoy.

Rumbler is a horror to find. Very few people had him, and very few have him now. He was only available with the remote controlled vehicle, though one of the conventions did offer a Rumbler, but with no accessories. The nice thing is that Rumbler's helmet is similar to the Crankcase helmet that came in one of the accessory packs. His gun, a recolored version of Heavy Metal and Rampage's gun, though, is very hard to come across. Mint, complete specimens can fetch upwards of $20.00. He is not, though, a highly sought after figure. You can rarely find him available, but since not too many people are actively looking for him, he doesn't get as expensive as other, similarly difficult figures. He is easily as hard to find as both Hardtop and Payload from the space shuttle, but, since he is not nearly as high profile, doesn't garner the attention or big dollars when he does appear. He is, at best, an oddity and one of those figures that very few people know about. Once you have him, though, you quickly realize that, perhaps, he is best left forgotten.

I don't need the figure, but I do need his gun. If you can help,email me.

1987 Rumbler, Crossfire RC, 2001 Night rhino

1987 Rumbler, Crossfire RC, 1989 Hot Seat, 1985 Crankcase

1987 Rumbler, Crossfire RC, Sneek Peek, Knockdown, Back Stop, Road Toad

Thursday, July 6, 2000

1985 Dreadnok Buzzer

In late 1984, some friends of mine told me they had found the Dreadnoks figures. Of course, I didn't believe them. We had all seen the Dreadnoks in the comic, but they weren't released in 1984. I went over to these people's house and we sneaked into their parents' bedroom and pulled out the bags of Christmas presents that were under their bed. Imagine my shock when they pulled out all three Dreadnoks! It appears that Sears had gotten the Dreadnoks early. I finally convinced my Dad to take me to Sears and I found all three of the much maligned bikers. I bought myself a Torch, since I liked his accessories, and had my Dad buy me the other two for Christmas and Birthday presents.

Originally, Torch was my favorite Dreadnok. As Buzzer was fleshed out in the comic, though, he became far more interesting. While Torch and Ripper are illiterate thugs, Buzzer is a highly intelligent, ambitious villain who is the type of character around whom you can actually base a story. Buzzer was a former Cambridge Sociology Don. You don't get to that position unless you've got some extensive grey matter upstairs. (On a side note, I've actually rowed down the River Cam and can't understand how someone who would have lived in such a magnificent place could suffer from "intellectual displeasure".) As he began to be utilized in the comic, my Buzzer figure found more and more use. I liked Ripper's gun, and his jaws of life are a neat accessory to have around, but Buzzer's chainsaw and blade on a chain were much better weapons to play with. Soon, Buzzer found himself getting use along side my favorite Cobras while the other two 'Noks were hardly ever taken out of my toy box. The figure you see below, my original, shows his heavy use. Someday, I hope to upgrade him and allow this guy to enjoy retirement. Until then, you can see my point about these guys being hard to find in pristine condition.

The original three Dreadnoks were awesome. (They were also originally intended to be teddy bear type creatures that were loosely based on the Ewoks. No, I'm not making that up. Larry Hama, the comic writer and huge creative influence on the Joe line, has said in many interviews that the Dreadnoks were going to be sci fi creatures that would capitalize on the popularity of George Lucas' loveable little bears. Hama, fortuneately, suggested that they be "bikers or something" and the Dreadnoks, in all their glory, were born.) The later Dreadnoks were kind of parodies of themselves. Monkeywrench, Gnawgahyde and Thrasher were worthless, while Zanzibar had potential. Road Pig, well, I've already made my feelings about him known. The whole biker image was a perfect element to bring against Joe. Once again, it was the great villains that made the line memorable. Had these guys been Ewokesque furballs, you can bet Joe's popularity would have been short lived. (Though it did survive the Cobra-La fiasco.) My only lament was that they never released the Dreadnoks motorcycles. I remember, when I was a kid, people talking about how the cycles were released in Canada. How rumours like this spread in the days before instant messaging and graphics capable browsers is testament to Joes' unique popularity. Everyone had at least a few Joe figures and everyone knew at least some element of the storyline.

Buzzer, it seems, also suffered from the wrath of the file card censor brigade. Originally, Buzzer had "repressed psychotic anger". This line was later deleted. You can view his original filecard here.
After his release in the US, Buzzer was sent on to India. There, Funskool released him throughout the '90's in various color schemes. (There is a red vest version of Buzzer that is one of the harder figures to find in the entire Funskool figure line.) In 2002, Funskool brought Buzzer back into production and thousands of the figures were imported to the US. Sometime in 2003, Hasbro reacquired the Buzzer mold. It was quickly used in a 2004 Convention set and then again in a comic book pack a few years later. These molds showed the limitations of the Buzzer figure mold and have pretty much quelled any market desire for additional Buzzer figures.

Buzzer's, like the other two Dreadnoks, isn't all that tough to find. He was very popular in his day, and most people had him. Finding him mint and complete, though, is a challenge. My Dreadnoks got lots of use. They also had paint that easily rubbed off, small accessories that were easily broken or lost, and plastic that is subject to drastic sun fading. All that adds up to tons of Dreadnok figures in really bad condition. Pristine copies of these figures will cost you a couple of bucks. They are, though, very fun figures to own. I've picked up a couple of beat up specimens that I use as custom villains and criminals for the Joes to chase down. A collection really can't be complete without, at least, the original three Dreadnoks. If you only get one, though, Buzzer would be my recommendation.

Do you have Buzzer's original chain axe for trade? If so,email me.

1985 Buzzer, Dreadnok, Ripper

1985 Buzzer, Dreadnok, Ripper, Torch

1985 Buzzer, Dreadnok, Ripper, Torch

1985 Buzzer, Dreadnok, Ripper, Torch, Variant Filecard