Thursday, August 24, 2000

1987 Ice Viper

Maybe it's the fact that I've recently moved all my Joes to a room with white carpet. Maybe it's my recent acquisition of 22 1993 Snow Serpents. Maybe it's the fact that there has only been one month out of the past 18 that has not had a day with a 90 degree temperature! Whatever the reason, I'm currently on an arctic kick. The last time I was on one was probably back in 1996. Since then, I've acquired new arctic troops and vehicles, but haven't really used them. The other day, I broke out one of my Wolfs. I dug out some Snow Serpents and started having fun. I then realized that I had another Ice Viper to add to the back of the Wolf. As soon as I got him out of the drawer, I knew my next figure to profile.

The Ice Viper is really a nice figure. He doesn't have all the trappings of the original Snow Serpent, but works very well for his specialty. He is a great vehicle driver who looks fabulous in his vehicle. He works both with and without his helmet. He has the always popular red face mask that blends very nicely with the white uniform and brown pouches. The Wolf is, in my opinion, the best arctic vehicle Hasbro ever produced for the line. The Snow Cat was nice, but the Wolf's turret gun, ski torpedoes, and hidden missile launcher are just too much for any other vehicle to compete with. It is the perfect arctic assault vehicle and the Ice Viper is the perfect driver for it. I've recently returned to arctic adventures. I'm planning a trip back to my parents' house in the next couple of months. When I go, I'll be able to bring back another Snow Cat, my Blockbuster tank, and another Wolf. At that point, I'll have quite an array of arctic war machines. Needless to say, it will be fun.

The one peculiarity about the Ice Viper, though, is his weapons. Sais? Sure, they are pretty cool and the leg holsters are a very unique idea. I'm surprised the Ice Viper's leg molds never appeared on any of the Ninja force figures from the nineties. However, why would an arctic vehicle driver use hand to hand combat weapons? It doesn't make much sense to me. Plus, it was easy for the sais to fall out of the leg holsters when the figure is seated in the Wolf. Some sort of gun would have been much more practical. However, the sais give the figure a mystique. They hint at something in his background. I think much of my interest in the Ice Viper stems from his filecard. It really painted an interesting portrait of the character. For that reason, I used the Ice Viper for quite some time when I was younger. Now that I've rediscovered him, I think he'll get quite a bit more use. He complements a platoon of Snow Serpents very nicely. As I've also managed to pick up about 6 Blizzards and 4 Snow Job figures, those Snow Serpents and Ice Vipers will have a large contingent of Joe forces to contend with.

The Ice Viper mold was only released at retail with the Wolf. He was, though, available as a mail away for several years. The figure did not appear any where else in the world. For whatever reason, Hasbro chose to ignore the mold throughout the repaint era and never revisited it. In 2007, Master Collector found the mold, including the helmet and sais, and released it in an over-priced exclusive set. Even with that release, I would still welcome another retail version of this figure. The mold is strong and there are several different color nuances that could be used to make interesting, updated Ice Viper figures.

Ice Vipers aren't too tough to find, unless you are a stickler about completeness. The sais and his helmet are usually missing from the specimens you most often see on the second hand market. The nice thing, though, is that arctic figures don't tend to command a premium. (Just look at the price differential between an original Snow Serpent and a Crimson Guard or an Eel.) Ice Vipers came with the hugely popular Wolf, but were also available for many years as a mail in figure. You can still find many, many bagged specimens of the figure that won't kill your budget. As the Wolf, though, is a two seater, many collectors do like to have a pair of Ice Vipers manning it. They still aren't too hard to find and make an excellent addition to any collection. I live in a place as far away from snow and ice as can be, and I still consider this guy an integral part of my collection. I think you will as well.

I need a couple of Ice Viper helmets. If you can help me out, drop me a line.

1987 Ice Viper, Cobra wolf

1987 Ice Viper, Cobra wolf

1987 Ice Viper, Cobra wolf, Filecard

1984 Ripcord

I've said before that sometimes an accessory does a figure make. Never is that thought more demonstrated than by the 1984 Ripcord and his parachute pack and mask accessory. They alone make the figure worth getting. The fact that the Ripcord figure, if a bit plain, is also very nice just adds to the overall satisfaction this figure can offer a collection.

Back in 1984, a buddy of mine managed to snag most of the '84 Joes very early when his family went out to California. He wowed us all with not only the catalog of what was to come that year, but also several new, fabulous Joes. Among those, Ripcord really stood out. Most of us had gotten the Skystriker the year before. The parachutes that came with that plane, though, were kind of lame. Still, my friends and I all wanted a parachute trooper who could jump out of the plane. Most of us had gotten by with Airborne. When we saw Ripcord, though, we all had to get him. Of course, this made the figure nearly impossible to find. I remember going to a K Mart in Chillicothe, Ohio that summer. They only had 2 Joe figures. One was Recondo, the other was Ripcord. Of course, being K Mart, the Ripcord was torn open and someone had stolen all of his accessories. I had to settle for Recondo. The reason I was in Chillicothe, though, was because my youngest brother was visiting my grandparents in Dayton, Ohio. Imagine my surprise when we went to pick up my brother and I discovered my grandparents had bought him not one, but two Ripcords! Needless to say, I quickly commandeered them both and put them to immediate use.

The Ripcord figure has always been, at least to me, rather plain when you are missing his chute pack and mask. He is in a very nice camo pattern and works great for forest or jungle missions, but he was just too plain to use without his gear. Since I had 2 of the figure, though, I often gave the second pack to another figure that was more fun to use once the chute was off. Still, Ripcord was a staple of most of my missions. His gear enabled him to be used in all sorts of situations. He was either the guy who was stranded behind enemy lines and had to be rescued, or was the last minute cavalry who would fall out of the sky to save the day. Either way, he was a figure that I used extensively. I loved green camo figures. I've always liked, and still like, to have multiples of these types of figures. For some reason, though, I have only recently added a new Ripcord to my collection. It was quite by accident, but I was very pleased to have another one. He is a nice figure to have.

Ripcord had quite a run in the comic. He was the focal point for many issues. I think this exposure helped keep him around in my collection. I most often had him jumping off the Dragonfly skids rather than parachuting from a Skystriker. I always had more fun with the helicopters rather than the planes. The original Dragonfly was great, but the Tomahawk copter is one of my three favorite vehicles of all time. With vehicles like this, figures like Ripcord could really be utilized. I think that Joes most enduring feature is that it was a fully accessorized line. The figures were great, but wouldn't have enjoyed the success they did had there not been the full complement of vehicles to accompany them.

The Ripcord mold got quite a worldwide workout. After he was released in the US, Ripcord was sent to Argentina where he was released in brighter green as Fuego. The mold was then painted tan and used for the excellently done Sokerk figure. After that, the mold went on to Brazil. There, Ripcord was also released in colors similar to his American figure. In 1988, Hasbro intended Ripcord to be a member of Tiger Force. A hand painted mock up of the Tiger Force Ripcord appeared in some toy advertisements. However, as the mold was in South America, Ripcord never got a chance to be repainted in the US. However, the mold was not quite done. Around 1991, Estrela repainted the Ripcord mold as a Cobra in Python Patrol colors named Relampago. After that, the mold disappeared and it is likely that the Ripcord tooling was forever lost in South America.

Ripcords are getting tougher to find. The parachute pack and mask were made of soft plastic that easily tears, especially over time. He also has a brittle crotch that is often broken. It is nearly impossible to find a sample that doesn't have at least some paint wear on the hands. That being the case, near mint, complete Ripcords are starting to get pricey. While he is certainly not at the price point of Storm Shadow or Firefly from the same year, this guy is still going to set you back a little more than many of his other contemporaries. That's really too bad, as this figure really lends himself to army building. If you have the cash, I recommend picking up a couple of these guys. I love having extra masks and chute packs. It's just a shame that they were never offered in any other way. The accessories, though, make the figure worth having. Ripcord is one of a handful of non ball headed figures to still be used in my collection. I think you will find he is one of the few figures in the line who was truely timeless and was never improved upon.

Got anything interesting to add? Email me.

1984 Ripcord, 1986 Lifeline, Tomahawk, 2006 Viper Pit

1984 Ripcord, 1985 Mauler, 1983 Steeler, Spirit Iron Knife, 1998 Volga, Oktober Guard

1984 Ripcord, Funskool Flint, 2003 Python Patrol Rock Viper

Wednesday, August 16, 2000

1994 Battle Corps Stalker

I've already profiled the Stalker character with his 1997 version. Stalker is the most ubiquitous non ninja Joe. His character was used in all facets of Joedom from 1982 until 1994. It is the version of Stalker that came out in 1994, that remains his most elusive, and underappreciated version. While everyone remembers the original's unique cammo pattern and head sculpt and most will even recall his tundra ranger outfit from 1989, only the die hard fans will even give this fantastic 1994 the time of day. It is a fabulous figure that deserves more collector attention.

In 1995 and 1996, the only Joes I had access to were the ones I could buy at retail. I managed to find many figures, but found myself disappointed with their weapons. The neon figures didn't bother me, but neon guns did. I decided early on that I would automatically buy any figure that came with black accessories, whether I liked the figure or not. Naturally, this led me to a few very nice figures like the 1993 Duke, the Crimson Guard Commander, and the 1994 Shipwreck. Of course, I also ended up with a few figures like the 1993 Backblast. Stalker, though, was a figure that not only came with cool black accessories, but his mold was great as well. At that time, I was after urban commando type figures. Stalker fit that role. He worked perfectly for commando missions in both urban and combat settings. The basic black unform, with the cool, tight, stocking cap (I once had a cap like this. A buddy of mine got it for me when he worked in a meat packing plant in Wisconsin. Somehow, it didn't make it out of Oxford. I've been looking for 4 years now and have yet to find one that is even close to that original.) and olive trim made for a realistic figure that was always useful.

Stalker comes in two distinct versions, one with neon highlights and one without. While the neon figure is still very nice, the neon gives the figure a splash of color, I prefer this non highlighted version. As a cost cutting move, Hasbro had stopped using the ornate paint decors to which collectors had become so accustomed. Almost all of the '94's come with two paint versions, one that has a extra color or two, and one that is very basic. (See the 1994 Star Brigade Roadblock for another example. Mine has silver grenades and highlights. Others are just cast in orange and black.) As such, this figure is only cast in two colors. I think the only thing that keeps this guy from being more honored in my collection is this fact. He has an elaborate mold that is very detailed. The fact that they didn't paint the detail shows the laziness that was rampant in the Joe team as the line wound into oblivion.

After the Joe line died at retail, this mold was not seen again until 2002 where it was used in the EXTREMELY limited Wave V of the A Real American Hero Collection as the body mold for Sidetrack. After that, it was never used again. That's too bad as Sidetrack did not even begin to scratch the potential of this mold and this figure could easily be used as a new version of Stalker in a variety of updated color schemes. But, for now, it remains one of the great undeveloped molds from the line's final year.

Stalker, like most of the 1994 Battle Corps figures, is easier to find on the card than he is loose. He is also, usually, very cheap. He does, though, take some time to find. For some reason, Stalker appears less often than many of the other 1994 figures. I think he is a collector favorite and many of the dealers who hoarded the last of the 1994's couldn't find many Stalkers to add to their stash. Still, he is a 1994 figure and can be found. He is a figure that is well worth the money. Until the 1997 version came out, this was the only version of Stalker that I used. Once you have this guy in your collection, you quickly realize how valuable a figure he can be. He is a great figure that works in all sorts of situations. He is a must in my collection and will find a nice home in yours as well.

This is a very nice version of Stalker. If you have a 1994 Stalker with neon highlights you wish to part with, let me know.

1994 Stalker, Battle Corps, 2004 Unproduced Night Force Tracker, 2005 Oktober Guard Horrorshow, 1986 Havoc, 1990 Salvo

1994 Stalker, Battle Corps, 2004 Night Force Short Fuse, 1987 Outback

1994 Stalker, Battle Corps, 1985 Snake Eyes, V2, 2007 Convention Exclusive Grand Slam, Bootleg Crimson Cobra Trooper, Action Force Lazer Exterminator, HAL, Red Shadows, Palitoy, European Exclusive

1994 Stalker, Battle Corps, 1990 Salvo

1993 Star Brigade Astro Viper

I promised I would lay off the astronauts for awhile, and I have done so. However, the time has come for me to profile yet another of 1993's overlooked figures: the Astro Viper. Of course, this figure had its original version released in 1988. While that figure came with superior accessories, the colors were not as eye catching as this version's.

I originally had the 1988 Astro Viper. When I first encountered the 1993 Star Brigade figures, though, the new version, as well as the new TARGAT, were gone. I searched for this guy for about a year, but, by that time, Cobras, regardless of who they were, were pretty scarce to come across on the retail shelves. I managed to find only three Cobra army builders at retail in '95 and '96. (Two Crimson Guard Commanders and the 1994 Viper.) About this time, I rediscovered my AGP pod. While the Nullifier was a good figure, I had other uses for him. I needed a new pilot. Naturally, the original Astro Viper filled the role. His color scheme fit in well with the AGP and I was very content. When I got 2 Firebats from Hasbro Canada, though, I wanted a new pilot to be at the helm. I experimented with a number of different figures, but finally decided to open up one of the many carded '93 Astro Vipers I had amassed in my Star Brigade buying sprees.

As soon as I opened this guy, I was enamored with him. He is a perfect Cobra pilot. His color scheme is far superior to the original Astro Viper, and it works well as a flight suit. The black helmet with the neon green faceshield is just fantastic. It looks very menacing and is a perfect fit in an open canopied aircraft like the firebat. I immediately opened another of my carded figures and then managed to acquire two loose specimens. Coupled with my half dozen or so original Astro Vipers, I now have a mighty army of Cobra pilots. I use the originals as the more experienced pilots who fly the AGP's, Rattlers, Night Ravens, and (I believe) Hurricane jets. This figure amost exclusively flies the Firebats, though they can sometimes be found in the drones from the Mamba. As I said in my profile on the Motor Viper, I like uniformity in my Cobra ranks. I like to have like troops driving all my vehicles and I enjoy having like troops flying all my planes. The Astro Viper fits that role. The two distinct versions help create a disparity in rank and explain why some are in lame aircraft and others are in the best.

This figure's lone drawback is his lack of weapons. While he came with an awesome helmet, he also came with orange guns. Needless to say, they are downright awful. As I use this guy more as a pilot than a space trooper, guns haven't really been an issue. I have given them small pistols and such, for use when the land their aircraft, but don't consider a weaponless Astro Viper useless. Many people are turned off by the 1993 figures since their weapons are so lame. Figures like the Astro Viper, though, work well despite this shortcoming. This guy has still found himself in my heavy use box even though he doesn't have a standard side arm.

The Astro Viper mold was first used in the US in 1988. From there, it went on to Brazil where it saw a short release as a member of the Iron Grenadiers subset. The mold was then returned to Hasbro for use in 1993. Hasbro still had the mold as late as 2001 when they used it for the Shadow Viper. After those releases, though, there really isn't much more that can be done with the mold. All the American releases of this mold are easy to find and cheap to acquire. As such, there really isn't enough demand to justify Hasbro using this mold again at any point in the near future.

Like all the 1993 Star Brigade figures, this guy is cheap and easy. Carded versions run about $3-$5. I've only come across a couple of loose samples, but those usually sell in the same price range. You pretty much have to buy carded versions in order to get this figure. Not many people opened up the 1993 Star Brigade figures. Those who did, though, often lost their helmets. Sans that, this figure is just custom fodder. I've found many uses for this figure, though, and think that he is still a cheap way to build up your Cobra pilot or ground support corps.

These guys are nice, but I've got enough. If you do have a loose 1994 Predacon or Lobotomaxx, though, email me.

1993 Star Brigade Astro Viper, 1993 Mega Marines Cyber Viper, 1990 Vector

Thursday, August 3, 2000

1992 Ace

I spent the better part of my Joe collecting years in search of the ultimate pilot figure. I tried adapting different figures, and even customizing my own with both paint, new pieces and different accessories. My search was always in vain, though. I wanted a pilot that had a cool flight suit, came with a helmet that covered his head, but was also removable, and had an air mask. It was this final point that was the most important. I purchased an extra Ripcord figure just to have a spare mask to use on my custom pilots. When Lifeline came out, his mask immediately found itself on my pilot figures that wore helmets and visors. The idea was there, but I wanted Hasbro to release a figure that would be the only pilot figure I would ever need. In 1992, they did so.

This figure is fabulous. The color scheme is very sublte blue, but the white helmet and tight fitting mask cap it perfectly. The fact that the mask plugs into Ace's flight suit is just another top notch feature that makes this guy so perfect. This figure's only main flaw is that the detail on his flight suit is lost in its bi-color scheme. Had they painted a little detail on the features they were kind enough to mold to his body, I think this figure would be much more popular. As a side note, they did color a little more of the detail on the later editions of this figure in 1993 and 1997. Both of those guys are also very nice, but this version remains my favorite.

For some reason, this figure receives no collector attention. He is simply forgotten. While the original Ace is highly thought of and is a principle part of most people's collections, this guy is just another jobber from the later years. The original Ace came with one of the best vehicles of all time. This guy came with some lame battle copter. I think this difference explains why this figure is so obscure. People just don't know about him. Were this guy to have been released in the '80's, I think he would be selling at a much higher price point. The nice thing, though, is that modern collectors can now find and appreciate this figure without having to deal with all the trappings of a hot second hand market collectible moniker attached to him. He is typical of the 1992-1994 figures. They are often underappreciated and overlooked. Savvy collectors, though, can use this blase attitude to their advantage and build up their stores of the nineties figures before the general collecting community catches on to the later gems, like Ace, the Flak Viper, the Crimson Guard Commander, General Flagg, and Shockwave.

Aces should be easy to find. Sure, he came with an obscure vehicle that is seldom seen, but he was available as a mail in figure and was even part of the Hasbro Canada Find. (That's where I got mine. I sure wish I had bought more than 2 of them!) You never, though, see them for sale. I think most people that have this figure, keep him. He is too cool to ever sell. The 1993 version is much, much harder to find, but this figure is still a bear. The nice thing is: most don't consider this figure an integral part of their collections. While they rarely appear, when they do, they don't get grossly expensive. By that token, though, you should still expect to pay seven or eight dollars for a MIB specimen. One that has the filecard, though, will go higher. If you like pilots, though, this guy is worth every penny. He is the only pilot figure I use. Once you have him, I think he will hold a similar distinction in your collection.

I like Aces and would like a couple of more. I'm also after both the 1993 and 1997 versions. If you can help, email me.

1992 Ace, Air Commandos, 1986 Zandar, Thunder Machine 2006 Viper Pit, 2004 Convention Exclusive Demolishor, Dreaknock, Buzzer

1992 Ace, Air Commandos, 1993 Ace, 1987 Hardtop, 1998 Ace, Razorblade, 1994, 1984 Skyhawk, Mail Away

1990 Laser Viper

The Laser Viper is another of the very seldom seen, but very cool 1990 Cobras. He eluded me for nearly a year before I managed to track down a complete specimen. Like most of the 1990 figures, he takes some patience to find. Once you have him, though, this is another unsung Cobra figure that is a very nice addition to your armies.

This guy is cast in a very nice, subtle grey with dark blue highlights. He is in a color scheme that actually lends itself to combat. (Unlike the 1988 Toxo Viper or 1988 Astro Viper, the two figures to which this guy is most similar in mold.) The problem is that his accessories limit him. While he has a nice mold, an awesome removeable helmet, and a good color scheme, this guy's accessories suck. The huge pack, with the lasers built into it, really limits the amount of use this guy gets in my collection. They very easily could have created accessories that were similar to the 1986 Sci Fi's, or even the aforementioned Toxo Viper's. Had this guy included a hand held gun that attached to a smaller pack, I think he would enjoy a little more popularity in the modern collecting world. I know that my interest in acquiring multiples of him is limited due to lack of cool accessories.

Due to the Laser Viper's lack of decent accessories, and his relative scarcity, my Laser Viper has found himself in new roles. I use him, sans helmet, as a commander of a Hiss Tank battalion. I've also used him as a support Viper who works along side the Techno and Tele Vipers in support of Cobra's heavy artillery. With his helmet, I've used him, sparingly, as a pilot and as the leader of my Astro Viper brigades. In those settings, I've found a bit more use for this figure. I think they wanted to put out a foil to the Joe laser troopers. Rather than give us a named Cobra higher up, (Instead they squandered their crop for 1990. It's really amazing how they pumped out the army builders in 1989 and 1990, but really forgot the Cobra hierarchy until '91 and '92.), Hasbro graced us with this figure. His mold offered so much, but delivered so little. I think part of the reason why 1990's are so seldom talked about is because the figures are nice, but could have been so much more. I just don't have much use for a Laser Trooper. You can use him as a welder, but I never went for the guys with laser rifles. I used lasers as tools, not weapons. Give this guy a good looking assault rifle, tough, and I think that his usage would increase greatly.

In 2001, Hasbro gave us a reinvention of the Laser Viper. He was better equiped to serve in the infantry and actually addresses many of the issues I had with the original mold. But, that new Laser Viper is still better suited to other roles than a laser trooper. In 2003, Hasbro dusted off this original mold and included it (with all the original accessories) in the Python Patrol set. This figure brought the mold back into the collector vision, but still showcased many of the limitations which are discussed above. It is likely that Hasbro still has the Laser Viper mold available for use. However, I'd rather the character not make another return appearance and, instead, like to see the mold used in various amalgamations for new characters. There are many parts of the mold that have potential, so seeing this figure as a base for others is probably his best use going forward.

I've already said that Laser Vipers are tough to find. However, they are not that popular among collectors. They really don't lend themselves to army building, but do provide nice custom parts. Since the 1989 and 1991 Cobras steal most of the thunder from the 1990 releases, Laser Vipers can be had for a relatively small price. The problem is finding them. Usually, they turn up in lots, but they are missing accessories. While Range Vipers are semi-tough to find, these guys take the obscure Cobra moniker to a new level. You can find them offered by themselves from time to time. When this occurs, though, the interest is minimal and you can often get the figure for under $5.00 for a mint, complete specimen. I've found that one Laser Viper, though, is enough. Unlike most Cobra army builders, I have yet to want a second to complement my original. While this guy is a very nice figure, I think he will always remain one of Cobras most unknown minions.

The Laser Viper is a cool figure, but not one of whom I want to build armies. What is his function in your collection? Email me.

1990 Laser Viper, 1989 Frag Viper, 1997 Duke, 2000 Locust