Friday, September 29, 2000

1988 Stormshadow

You all know it had to be done. I profiled Snake Eyes, so I have to profile Stormshadow. But, like that aforementioned Snake Eyes figure, the reason I'm choosing to profile Stormshadow's 1988 incarnation is simply because it is a great figure. It also tends to fall by the wayside when people talk about Stormshadow. Because of that, this figure is a perfect fit for a Forgotten profile. As a figure, he is really worth another look.

You will notice on the specimen below that I have added an accessory or two. The cloak does not belong to Stormshadow, nor is it even a Joe accessory. It is a Darth Maul cloak from the Sith accessory pack. If you look around, you can still find them for under a dollar a piece at many department stores. They are full of cloth accessories that look very nice on certain Joes. The sword you see below is also not this figure's original. I simply grabbed a red sword, not realizing that this is the wrong one. He actually comes with a thinner sword that fits into a red backpack. Since these accessories are red, though, they really do nothing for me. Giving him a black sword, any black sword, greatly enhances the figure. When I was younger, I gave this guy an inside-out Dr. Mindbender's cape. The look of the black cloth really enhanced the figure and made him much more fun. I had done the same with this guy until I got the Sith cape. I like this look much better. The long flowing cloth more easily disguises additional weapons and makes this guy seem that much more dangerous.

This figure's sculpt is just awesome. 1988 is a fairly banal year for Joes. The crop was okay, but lacked any one distinguishing member. Unlike '85 or '86, where the middle of the road figures are excellent when taken against the line as a whole, 1988's offerings just didn't have any flair. They make for good, basic troops, but see little time in my collection outside of generic army builders. Stormshadow, though, is the class of the year. The grey against white cammo pattern with the mask inset in a hood really creates a cool figure. While this guy's head was emulated through the years (and will be again on the 2000 Stormshadow) it was never improved upon. The white was also a nice homage back to the original figure. Stormshadow's torso has molded ropes that hint at his abilities. (Had he only come with a grappling hook and string!) Of course, though, the crowning achievement of the figure is the tattoo on his arm. It is accurate with the comic and is remarkably visible. It makes the figure really stand out among his contemporaries. Of course, it also makes it harder to use this figure in a Joe realm as anyone other than Stormshadow.

That being said, I don't use this figure as Stormshadow. Instead, he finds use a random assassin, and has even found himself as a member of a S.W.A.T. unit. The figure lends itself to both arctic and urban settings and the details in sculpting allow this guy some versatility. The awesome claw accessory is always with this guy, but I also sometimes give him a sniper rifle, or some sort of smaller machine gun that looks like something an urban commando would use. While Snake Eyes sees little use as Snake Eyes, Stormshadow receives even less. The only Stormshadow I liked was as Cobra Commander's silent body guard. In that setting, he worked great. This figure, though, is too cool to be relegated to my "archives". It's just a figure that you want to use and enjoy. Since he versatile, the figure gives modern collectors many choices for his use. You would think this would be an endearing quality for a figure, but, like most second and third versions of popular characters, this figure lives in the huge shadow (pardon the pun) of the immortal 1984 Stormshadow. It is that figure you will always hear about. A little imagination, though, allows this figure to enjoy the use it deserves.

This mold had a fairly long life. After it's time in the US was done, the figure was sent down to Brazil where it was released in colors similar to the American figure. From there, the mold made its way to India. Funskool then released an exclusive version also based on the American figure for many years. In early 2003, Hasbro re-acquired the mold. Since then, it was used in the Ninja Strike set and a comic pack. The Ninja Strike figure was a terrible pea-green while the comic pack figure was an all too bright red. Frankly, the potential of this mold has yet to be realized in the modern line and we could stand a few more reissues of this mold in more traditional Cobra colors. I think those would be well received. But, as we're in the days of dwindling ARAH-style releases, I would hate to see a coveted slot used by this mold again. Should there ever come a day where ARAH-style figures see more prevalent release, then I would welcome this mold's return.

We all know how expensive 1984 Stormshadows are. The nice thing about this figure is that he's a much more playable version of Stormshadow, at half the price. Of course, that still means he will set you back a little more than almost all of his contemporaries. He is difficult to find complete and his coolest accessory, the claw, is the one most often missing. Still, this guy is pretty attainable and he won't stress your budget like the original Stormshadow will. I've managed to track down 3 of him without ever looking. He is a figure that is readily available in lots, but he also appears often by himself. As more and more dealers move into selling second hand Joes, though, expect to see this figure, and all the versions of Snake Eyes, plucked out of big lots and offered for sale by themselves. Since Stormshadow is about the second most famous Joe name behind Silent Sam Snake Eyes, some people will try to sell him for higher prices. While this guy is worth spending a few dollars on, he is not the cash cow the '84 version has become. Nor will he ever be. The '84 suffers from brittle accessories and yellowing. This guy's claw may be tough, but it doesn't break if you look at it funny like the '84's bow tends to do. With that said, this is still a figure that has found some use in my collection. He is not the Stormshadow of the comics or cartoon, but he is a figure that I enjoy having. Your uses for him may be different, but I think you will agree that the figure itself is a very fun one to own.

Some consider Ninjas the downfall of the line. I think they served their purpose, but got out of hand. How do you feel about the inclusion of Ninjas in the G.I. Joe universe? Let me know.

1988 Stormshadow, 2004 Cobra Red Ninja viper

1988 Stormshadow, 2003 Convention Exclusive Black Dragon Trooper

1988 Stormshadow, 1985 Snake Eyes, V2

1987 Fast Draw

1987 is an interesting year for Joes. It's full of many good figures on the Joe side, but contains many of the worst Cobras ever released. 1987, though, was a year of originality for the Joes. While we got a few carbon copy rehashes, they also released a nice group of figures like Fastdraw who were very original, came with lots of accessories, and are still very cool figures. 1987 is widely regarded as the transition year for Joe. With the inclusion of more science fiction and fantasy elements, Joe was maturing past its traditional military roots. While many don't agree with the direction the line took, the journey was what made this the most successful toy line ever. The concept remained fresh for 13 years. That's more than just about any other toy concept can say.

Fastdraw is a very common figure. The reason I make that statement is because everyone I knew back in 1987 had one. If you only had one figure from that year, it was Fastdraw. It must be something about the missile launchers and a body covered in armor that really drew people. He has a nice color scheme that nicely blends all parts of the figure. Of course, the coup de jour is the face mask. Had this figure been release only two years earlier, he would have come with a solidly molded head. Talk about boring! The flip down face mask was a welcome change for the joe line and lead to the many great innovations that would grace the line until the bitter end.

For me, Fastdraw isn't all that much fun with his missile rack. I have one set up for display since he looks so cool, but don't even know if I have the packs for all my others. All I care about is the face mask. If I have that, then the figure is usable. And use them I do: as gunners for just about every stationary, and mounted gun that has its own seat or stand. The heavy armor and nice mask allow this guy to be a nameless, faceless minion who mans the gunnery stations, ready for air or ground assault. Often times, those gun positions are the first things to go, so the gunner would, naturally, have to wear protective armor. With this use, Fastdraw has become vital to my collection. He mans my headquarters, tactical battle platform, howitzers, Whirlwind cannons, and just about every other type of gun you can imagine. I've often said that I like uniformity in my ranks. With several Fastdraws, I'm able to achieve that.

Fastdraws are not hard to find. I buy many large lots of Joes and have about 8 of him. He was a very popular figure in his day since he was so unique and had the cool accessories. Finding him now isn't hard. What is hard, though, is finding him complete. While the face mask, pack, and missiles aren't too tough, the launcher handles can pose a problem. Usually, though, even at least one of those is present. What is really hard to find is the little blue hose that connects from his pack to his helmet. I have one that is in good condition, but have three with broken tabs. The blue hoses, like the Eels breather hose, are very brittle. As such, mint, complete Fastdraws pull a slight premium. Since the figure is so ubiquitous, though, that premium is still very small. He is an easy figure to acquire and I still get them as long as he at least has the facemask. Without that, the figure isn't even good for custom fodder. As I have been acquiring many old vehicles lately, though, this guy has proven valuable to me. He looks good in dioramas and is a nice addition to many displays. As more people discover this guy, expect to see the huge supply of Fastdraws diminish. It will be a shame when that happens, though, as this is a figure that really should be a part of every collection.

Fastdraw is cool, but I have way too many of him. I do, though, use about half of the ones I have. What's your opinion of this figure? Let me know.

1987 Fastdraw, 1986 Sgt. Slaughter, Mail Away, BJ's Roadblock, 2002, Gung Ho, Avalanche, General Flagg

1987 Fastdraw, 1997 Alley Viper, 2004 Nullifier, Flak Viper, 1985 Bazooka, 2004 Anti Venom Lifeline, Heavy Metal

1987 Fastdraw, 2004 Zap, Comic Pack, Anti Venom Roadblock, 1986 Mainframe, 1998 Heavy Duty

1987 Fastdraw,

Friday, September 22, 2000

1990 Undertow

Not since the Eel had Hasbro produced an enemy diver as cool as the Undertow. While this figure is fantastic, it maintains a low profile among modern Joe collectors. Since he is, though, one of the figures that will be re released any day now in the 2000 assortments (They must have lost the Eel molds. What a shame.), I felt compelled to showcase one of the few remaining 1990 enemy figures.

Undertow has many things going against him. 1st: he is, technically, in the Iron Grenadiers subset. 2nd: he doesn't come with any sort of gun. He has a spear thingy, but it's pretty lame. Had he only come with a spear gun like the Eel or the Hydro Viper, I think he would enjoy a little more popularity. 3rd: he followed in the footsteps of the fabulous Eel. Like most figures whose specialties mimicked those of the immortal class of '85's, Undertow is nice, but just can't measure up to the original. 4th: this guy was released in 1990. There were tons of other Cobras available at the same time. Most of them are held in the highest regard. Like the Range Viper, this guy never really had a chance to be the featured Cobras on the shelf. Finally, in 1990, no Joe divers were released. In fact, the only Joe diver on the shelf with this guy is the 1989 Deep Six. Hardly a formidable foe for a figure of this magnitude.

Undertows are a great figure. They have a fantastic mold and great color scheme. He is highly reminiscent of the success Hasbro had with the original Eels and again with the highly sought after Mission to Brazil Wet Suit. I usually give these guys the original Torpedo's spear guns. It looks very nice with them and allows for some difference in the weaponry of different ranks of divers. I really like the molded air tanks and detail of the figure's wetsuit. This guy just looks like he would cause his targets all sorts of trouble. Their only drawback is the hose that attaches the mask to the figure. It is a bit large and obtrusive. Something more along the lines of what they did with the 1994 Shipwreck would have been much nicer. Couple that with his lack of weapons, though, and this figure will, most likely, always languish in obscurity.

I think the reason we are seeing a 2000 Undertow is because the Eel molds are lost and collectors tend to be rather aloof when it comes to the very nice Hydro Viper or Eels Version 2. He is, though, an excellent choice. Should he come with new weapons that more mimic the Eels, I think this guy could be the class of the 2000 Joes. He has all the makings of a winner. It is both good and bad that he will be packaged with the new Firefly. Good because I like the Firefly and won't mind have about half a dozen of this set. Bad because everyone else feels the same way and these guys will be tougher to find in the numbers I want. Hopefully, though, Hasbro will produce more than enough of these, like they did the 1998 releases, and we all will be able to fill our army building needs.

Undertows aren't too tough to find. You can usually get complete ones for under $8. The mask, flippers, and spear, though, can be a hard to track down combination. Most of the Undertows you pick up in lots will be missing at least one of these accessories. While the figure is good, he needs at least the mask to really be useable. Unlike most of the 1990 figures, though, this guy isn't scarce and regularly appears for sale. He is an excellent companion to, or supplement for the oft mentioned Eel. I've picked up three of these guys and wanted more. After I see how much I like the new 2000 version, I'll let you know if I'm still going to be after additional Undertows. In any capacity, though, he is another lost 1990 figure that has gotten lots of use in my collection.

After I judge the 2000 Undertow, I'll let you know if I want more. Until then, who's your favorite enemy diver? Let me know.

1990 Undertow, 2005 Comic Pack Firefly

1990 Undertow

1990 Undertow, 2000 ARAHC Undertow

1987 Cobra La Royal Guard

I know. I can't believe it either. I'm actually profiling a figure from Cobra-La. What's even worse; I'm about to tell you how this figure is very cool and should be a part of your collection. Truthfully, I feel dirty. I'm going to espouse the single most hated concept in all of Joedom. Cobra-La is held in lower regard than Star Brigade, Ninja Force, Mega Marines, and, dare I say it, Eco Warriors. While those concepts were far fetched, the hidden society of bug people living in the Himalayas was too far off the deep end. Putting Cobra-La aside, though, allows you to enjoy what is actually a very nice figure. While Golobulus and the Nemesis Enforcer don't work for much, the Royal Guard is a versatile figure that can have uses even in the most reality based situations.

When I first got the Cobra-La set, Golobulus and the Nemesis Enforcer went into a junk box from which they only recenltly escaped. The Royal Guard, though, immediately found his way into a heavy play rotation. He is highly reminiscent of the Emporer's Royal Guards from Star Wars. I think that was part of his appeal. I also liked the heavy armour that covers the Guard's body. From the get-go, this guy was a heavy infantry trooper. (Of course, the next year I replaced this guy with the Nullifier, who occupies the heavy infantry trooper moniker to this very day.) Once that phase was over, the Royal Guard found a home as the drone pilots who flew the pods from the Mamba helicopter. The head looks like it could be some sort of futuristic helmet and he fit very nicely in the pod's cockpit. (It also helped that I had two Royal Guards, one for each pod.)

While this kept the Royal Guard busy for many, many years, I've recently began to use them again. These guys do work as underwater troops, but I have enough other figures I've bastardized for that purpose. (See the Toxo Viper for more details.) This guy, though, has become a specialty trooper. I like Crimson Guards watching over my Cobra Commander. This guy, though, has found use guarding other Cobra hierarchy. Scrap Iron and Metal Head both use these guys to keep other, younger, and more ruthless Cobras from taking over their positions. It is in this capacity that I've found the Royal Guard to be very fun to use. I also use them as Cobra prison guards. The Joes have many, many figures that can easily be used as prison guards, but Cobra needs them as well. The heavy armor and covered face looks just like the tough cookie that would have to break heads in a Cobra prison.

There is another reason I chose to profile this figure. The Royal Guard comes with an antenna that I consider one of the five hardest accessories to find for any Joe figure. (Heavy Metal and Lift Ticket's mouthpieces are first, followed closely by Sneek Peek's, the 1984 Firefly's walkie talkie is the other.) This thing is damn near impossible to find. Very few Royal Guards that you find on the second hand market have this tough accessory. Expect to pay for those who do, though. Without the antenna, these guys are still useable. With the antenna, they are just that much better. Like most of the toughest accessories, the lack of the antenna doesn't ruin the figure. I had three of these for years. None of them had the antenna, but they all got use. Now that I've finally got one with the antenna, I really don't use him as much. I have a feeling, though, that these guys will make a reappearance before too long.

Royal Guards are extremely tough to find if you want them complete. They are remarkably easy though, to get without the antenna or gun. It seems that tons of people had the Cobra-La set, but no one wants to admit it. The steady stream of these guys that appears on the second hand market, though, seems to indicate that this figure was used in many people's collections. Incomplete Royal Guards, therefore, don't command a premium. In fact, you can usually pick them up for under three or four dollars. Complete Guards, though, can get quite a bit more expensive. Many collectors who are sticklers about the completeness of their figures count the Royal Guard as one of the few they have incomplete. Still, this guy is Cobra-La and there are many people who simply disregard him for that reason. If you can put the Cobra-La behind this figure, though, he makes an excellent addition to your collection. As more and more people forget about the terrible G.I. Joe movie, figures like the Royal Guard will be judged solely upon themselves as a figure. When taken that way, the Royal Guard is well worth extra attention.

I like this figure, but can't stand the concept behind him. What is your opinion? Let me know.

1987 Royal Guard, Cobra La, 2005 Winter Operations Clear Mirage

Friday, September 8, 2000

1988 Destro

I find it odd that while I have managed to profile most of the Cobra big wigs, like the Commander, Major Bludd, Firefly and, Scrap Iron, Destro has eluded me. He is, perhaps, the most problematic character in all of Joedom; a villain with honor. The problem with a character like this is that, in time, he must either forego his honor, or give up his villainy. Of course, this is what happened. In the immortal G.I. Joe #57, Destro allowed his honor to help the Joes. His Iron Grenadier invasion fleet during the Cobra civil war also helped the Joes more than it hurt them. Once this had been done, it would be impossible for Destro to return to his true villain roots. Of course, that's what brain wave scanners are for.

This is the most unheralded of Destro's versions. Most people still go for the original 1983 mold. That figure is among the tallest in the line and still stands proud amongst even the latest figures. The 1992 mold, a figure I consider superior to the 1983, gave us the same costume, but updated to match the style of his contemporary figures. The 1997 repaint of the '92 is rather horrid. There do persist, however, rumours of a "pimp daddy" destro from the 1997 line. This figure is supposed to have a leopard skin collar and a color scheme that makes him look like an escapee from a 1970's blaxploitation film. Of course, no pictures of this alleged figure have surfaced and his existence is highly dubious, but he is another fun part of Joe lore. It is the 1988 version of Destro, though, that is, in my opinion, his best. Many hard core collectors don't like the gold mask, but it is this feature that makes the 1988 version so regal. Destro is, at last, a noble figure, befitting his noble status.

My 1988 Destro currently stands amidst 8 Iron Grenadiers. He is on a shelf, separated by a wall from a display of the 1983 Cobra Commander conferring with Major Bludd, Firefly, and an Aero Viper. I like the dicotomy the scene creates. While I have no problem integrating either the '83 or '92 Destro into my Cobra ranks, I've kept the 1988 version separate. He fits with the Iron Grenadiers, not the Cobras. I think it is for that reason that this version of Destro is so forgotten. While the Iron Grenadiers subset is chock full of fantastic figures, {cough}Annihilator{cough}, it is relatively ignored by collectors. For some reason, any figure outside of the Joe vs. Cobra hierarchy is left alone. While Destro was a crossover character, this outfit is representative of the Iron Grenadiers, not Cobra. As I have said before, though, the Iron Grenadiers not being Cobra keeps some spectacular figures from reaching high price points. That is the primary reason I have 9 Iron Grenadiers, 6 Annihilators, 3 Nullifiers, and 4 Undertows. They are great figures that don't cost anything compared to the Cobras that were released in their same year.

As this figure was never available on a regular card and could only be purchased with the Despoiler, this version is rather difficult to find. Finding him mint, and complete, is an even tougher challenge. For whatever reason, his gold plated head tends to flake and spot. Getting a nice, shiny figure is very hard. The nice thing, though, is that this version of Destro isn't highly sought by the collecting community. While it will cost considerably more than the 1992 or 1997 versions, this guy won't set you back what the original 1983 version will. This is a figure, though, that is well worth the cost. I only use mine for display. The 1992 represents Destro in my collection. Even for that purpose, though, he is a nice figure to have. If I can ever come across some of the tough to find Iron Grenadiers vehicles, I think this Destro could see some action. For now, though, he stands in a place of honor on a high shelf. The problematic, philosophical villain surveys the rest of my collection. I find it a fitting place for the character. Whatever you decided to do with him, though, you will find this version of Destro to be vital to your collection.

I really don't need another Destro, but am usually interested in extra Iron Grenadiers figures. If you've got any you might want to part with, email me.

1988 Destro, Iron Grenadier, Ferrett, 1985 Mauler, 2004 Comic Pack Steeler

1988 Destro, Iron Grenadier, Ferrett, Nullider, ASP, Voltar

Tiger Force Outback - European Exclusive

Normally, I don't go for foreign figures. The few differences there are between their American counterparts usually aren't enough to warrant the high price tag foreign releases tend to have. Lately, though, I haven't found American figures to be all that exciting. There are, roughly, 550 different figures that were released in the U.S. Of these, I have 413. The remaining figures, though, really don't grab my attention. I'm mostly missing figures like the Shadow Ninjas, the armor tech Star Brigade figures, and other lame subsets from the final years of the line. My collecting dollar is stretched pretty thin right now, and I really don't want to blow what little I have on figures I really don't want. The nice thing about this, though, is that my horizons are broadened. A year ago, I wouldn't have even considered foreign release Joes as a viable avenue. Now, I've found a couple of foreign figures that are very cool and have earned a nice spot in my collection. The first of these is the European Tiger Force Outback.

I don't know what it is about this figure. It might be the white hair or the cool looking tiger face painted on his shirt. Whatever it is, this guy is just plain awesome. I've always liked the original Outback, and have been half heartedly looking for a Night Force Outback for about a year. This figure, though, seems to combine the best of both. He has the basic cammo pattern of the first, but adds the depth of color like the second. Some people may not go for the orange, but I have always liked that color (See the Nitro Viper or the1994 Star Brigade Roadblock.) and think that its use here is highly justified. I think this figure is so appealing because it is so unusual. The only figure that comes close to the white hair is Hot Seat. On that figure, it doesn't work so well. On this guy, though, it is perfect.

There were 6 European exclusive Tiger Force figures: Outback, Psyche Out, Hit and Run, Tunnel Rat, Sneek Peek, and Blizzard. They are all extremely unique figures, visually, and are quite different from any American versions offered. All of them utilize different colors that work very well together. Of all these figures, I think that Outback works the best. (A case could be made for Blizzard. His color scheme is very cool, until you remember that he is an arctic trooper. On that level, the figure fails.) Outback's specialty allows him some leeway in dress. While the orange would stick out in the wilderness, it would also provide a good reference point if he is waiting for extraction or rescue. The huge tiger on his chest, while a bit of overkill, is a nice tough that you won't find on any American release figure. I think that is the single reason why I am so enthralled with this figure. He is drastically different from anything released here. If I did not know anything about foreign released Joes, I would have originally thought this figure a well done custom. It showcases originality that was simply not seen in the American line much past 1987.

The Outback mold has had an interesting life. After it was used twice in the US, the mold was then used for this figure. After that, it was sent to Brazil. There, the mold was released as Forestiero. He is very similar to the Tiger Force Outback in appearance, but has some slight differences. After that, it seems that Hasbro got the mold back. Outback was slated to be a member of the 1998 Desert HQ set. A few of those figures exist and they are among the rarest Joes in the whole world. In 2001, Hasbro put out the entire mold but with a new head as Big Brawler. Fans cried foul over Outback not being released, but Hasbro balked at releasing the character for whatever reason. Around 2003, the mold was sent to India where it was used on the Funskool Big Brawler. But, once again, Outback's head was missing. Now, the mold's whereabouts are unknown. It is likely that Hasbro has access to it and could easily reissue a classic Outback in a new paint scheme. However, this hasn't happened and ARAH style Joe fans are left only with the dim hope that the original Outback mold might appear in a future convention set. If that happens, though, I think it would end up being one of the more popular convention figures in recent memory.

The European Tiger Force figures vary in degrees of difficulty when you are trying to acquire them. The Psyche Out is everwhere and can be had for nothing. This guy and Blizzard are next in line. After that, I think I've only seen three or four Hit and Runs and don't think I've seen the other two offered for sale. As such, some people think all the European figures are hard to get. While this guy isn't cheap, he is available. You usually see half a dozen or so hit Ebay over the course of a year. While they are a bit pricey, this guy isn't nearly as expensive as you might think. He is, though, a great figure. I still don't know how I'm going to use him, but the figure is sitting out in a place of prominence. The figure is just so aesthetically striking that I can't put him away. If you have the opportunity to add this guy to your collection, I wouldn't pass it up. This guy is the first figure I've acquired since the Headhunter that has grabbed my attention so profoundly. I think he could also have that affect on you.

All of the European Tiger Force figures are pretty cool. I would really like a Hit and Run. If you can help, let me know.

European Tiger Force Outback, Funskool Flint

European Tiger Force Outback, Funskool Streethawk, 1985 Snake Eyes, Z Cycle, Action Force