Thursday, October 26, 2000

2000 Dusty

Way back in May, in my profile of the 1994 Dialtone, I mentioned that Joes would be returning to retail shelves this fall. Well, they have. While there have been many detractors of these new figures, frankly, they are awesome! End of story. These figures showcase figure selection (with the exception of Chameleon, who should never have been made), color scheme, weapons choices and figure construction that harks back to the late '80's during the line's heyday.

Before I saw any early test shots of these figures, Dialtone was the one to which I was most looking forward. After I saw the early shots, though, that changed to Law. Now that I have all 10 figures in hand, Dusty has become my favorite. The mold they selected has always been highly underrated. (Had he not been in desert cammo, I would probably have eventually showcased him in the Forgotten Figures section. The new color scheme they have given, him, though is just awesome. The blue torso, green pants, and red beret all complement each other very nicely. While this guy may not fit the look of traditional military figures, he is certainly pleasing to the eyes and has a uniform that creates a very cool figure. In fact, I think he's the best Joe aligned figure that's been produced since at least 1992.

I don't know what I'm going to use Dusty for, just yet. Since he comes with Law, I'll probably end up with between 5 and 10 of him. Since that's also the number of Dial Tones I want, I won't have a problem outfitting Dusty with the rifle you see below. The figure only comes with a small pistol that is just like the one available with the '98 Viper pack. The rifle that came with the original mold of Dusty is also included with Tomahawk and Dialtone. That rifle, though, also came with the Viper pack and is now only a Cobra arm in my collection. The nice thing, though, is that as '98 Vipers come on the market sans accessories, I'll have a full armory of rifles and packs for any unaccessorized figures I might acquire in the years ahead. Back to Dusty, though. Currently, he is getting use as an elite commando. While figures like Recoil and Salvo make up my basic good guy troops, this guy is going to be a bit more elite. He will be the Joe equivalent of the Crimson Guard. In that capacity, he will work well. Of course, that could change. As this guy is a neophyte in my collection, his capacity should morph over time. Of all the new Joes, though, Dusty is the only one that was put to immediate use. Law and Tomahawk got set up in the Headquarters. My new Fireflies, who will act as Joe S.W.A.T. commandos, are waiting for their first mission. Dialtone went into my security jeeps, though he's waiting for multiples before he sees major use. The rest of the new figures went into the 2000 Joe drawer. It's pretty sparse right now, but should grow to alarming numbers, much like my '98's did, in no time. Dusty immediately made himself valuable by shooting down Trouble Bubbles and Mamba Drones. I like the figure in that capacity. The next time I pull out my Joe infantry corps and have them take on my Cobra masses, you can this guy will certainly be allowed in on the fun.

Normally, this is where I talk about a figure's availability. As this guy has only been on retail shelves for about a month, none of that applies. However, I feel there are some issues about the '00 Joes that need to be addressed. First and foremost are the online Joe fans who feel it is their God given right to do nothing but complain about these figures. Now, I don't feel they should be denied that right, but I get the impression that many of these people are complaining about things like paint wipes, colorizations, marbelized plastic, and rubber hands just for the sake of hearing themselves bitch. Every one of them writes a huge narrative about how terrible these figures are and how they don't live up to the '80's Joes. Of course, they way they know this is that they've gone out and bought multiples of all the two packs. Hypocrisy is not a becoming trait. I've got a simple solution for these people: grow up and face the facts that the '80's and the '90's are over. These are a new generation of Joes being marketed to a new generation of Joe fans. That being said, I've got one more thing to add: if you don't like the 2000 Joes, you are not a Joe fan. Period. Exclamation Point. If you like them, then you are a Joe fan. All of you namby-pamby whiners out there who have nothing better to do than complain about how terrible the new Joes are can leave the hobby. You're not fans. Go find another toy line. I guarantee that after a year of searching, you'll be right back to Joes again. They are the best toy line ever produced. Some of these detractors need to remind themselves of that. The second problem I have with the 2000 is the old time fans who can't seem to handle the influx of new blood to the hobby. Many of the people who helped found the Joe newsgroup are no longer around. Are they offline? Nope. Some have gone off and formed their own little private club that keeps the new found fans from finding them. There they are free to bitch and moan about how the newcomers have ruined the hobby. Again, I've got a real problem with that. Never have I come across a more cliquish group of people than online Joe fans. Rarely do they welcome any new members and many of the old guard are standoffish and retreat whenever a challenge is faced. It's sad, really, that that's the way it is. We should be welcoming the influx of new Joe fans with open arms. Many of the old time collectors have valuable information that could help fledgling neophytes from getting scammed. Rather than try to help, though, they have run off and are hiding. It's a shame. I've always found Joe fans to be more helping and nice than fans of any other toy line. It is a sad state in our hobby when these people feel they have to go off and hide so that they aren't tarnished by the newbies to our hobby. Lastly, I'm going to comment about the state of online Joe news. We really don't need a Sirsteve/Yakface feud like the Star Wars hobby has had. There is one definitive Joe site. That is They care about the hobby and represent all that is right with it. Others that hide behind "official banners" and exclusive memberships really need to lighten up and realize that if they spent the same amount of time promoting the hobby as they do promoting themselves, Joe would be that much more popular.

There, I feel better. It has been for reasons like this that I've left many areas of Joe collecting. Those who have found this site, though, know where I am. Frankly, if you've read the above rant and thought, "Gee, he might be talking about me", well, I most likely am. Naturally, I want people to respond to this. If you think I've painted an unfair picture of things, let me know. I fear our hobby is going to turn into something like Star Wars where everyone is either fighting everyone else, accusing them of scalping, or talking about anything else than what matters: the hobby.

I'm not looking for any of the '00's right now, since they are all available retail. In about five years, though, I'm sure there will be people looking for them. Until then, what is your opinion of the new Joes? Keep in mind that I will not lash at anyone via email. The above diatribe is a bit harsh, but I am fully willing to discuss anyone's particular feelings very calmly and rationally. I'm not into flames and the like. If you have valid points, I will acknowledge them and may even change my stance. My email address appears over 100 times on this website, but here it is again. I look forward to hearing from you.

2000 ARAHC Dusty

2000 ARAHC Dusty, 2004 Urban Assault Firefly, 2001 Leatherneck

Wednesday, October 18, 2000

1988 Ghostrider

Any fan of this website knows of my affinity for vehicle drivers. It was the vehicles that drove the Joe line. While the figures are simply awesome, the full range of realistic, and incredibly fun, vehicles were the perfect accompaniment that made this the greatest toy line of all time. While other lines have vehicles, none undertook the scope the Joe line offered. Boats, jeeps, tanks, and airplanes were the crucial elements that allowed children to enact out any, and every scenario of which they could think. The enduring factor of the Joe line is that it allowed for the breadth of a child's imagination. Any toy line that could encompass an area so large has to be memorable.

That being said, the heyday of Joe vehicles, and the beginning of the end of the line, occurred as the '80's wound down. However, 1988 and 1989 still brought us many fantastic vehicles that are just magnificent, even when compared to what little vehicular fare is offered by contemporary toy makers. Among these vehicles was the Stealth Fighter. It is a sleek, black aircraft that looks like it would be the most fun of all the large aircraft, both Joe and Cobra, to play with. It is the pilot of this plane that is our subject today: Ghostrider.

This guy is an almost never mentioned figure, but he is really very cool. He is cast in black and grey with realistically painted highlights. His mold is good, though not spectacular, and he isn't in some outlandish outfit many other vehicle drivers tended to have. He isn't a busy figure, and is rather plain. He's got an airmask molded onto his chest, but it is so small that it's easily overlooked. His helmet is molded onto his head, but it's not so big that it makes the figure seem awkward. The green goggles painted onto the helmet are nice as well. All of these signs point to a figure that should be very highly regarded. Instead, Ghostrider is just another forgotten face in the Joe air ranks.

The reasons why, though, are many. For all the nice things about this figure, there is just another step further Hasbro could have gone, and had already done on existing figures, that would have made this guy one of the best pilots in the entire line. First off, he should have come with an air mask. I've given him Lifeline's airmask (one of the best accessories in the entire line) to rectify this. Also, his helmet should have been removable. Had they done this guy similar to the 1992 Ace, I think he would have been awesome. Also, this guy's few appearances in the comic never referred to him by name. They said he was so stealthy and forgettable that no one could remember him. (It may also have had to do with the fact that one of Marvel's own super hero properties was named Ghost Rider, but who knows?) It was a dumb gimmick that robbed the figure of his due.

All of these things left this figure as one of limitless possibilities that were ignored. As such, Ghostrider is ignored by most collectors today. He could have been so cool. He should have been the best pilot ever. Instead, he's a nice figure but not one that people tend to seek. I've found him to work well as a non-descript airman. Since I normally use figures like Countdown and Ozone as test pilots and the aforementioned Ace as the nameless fighter jocks, though, this guy doesn't get too much time. I've used him as a co-pilot or aircraft gunner, but even those uses are minimal. Basically, this is a guy who is cool to look at, but not all the much fun to use.

Ghostriders are actually fairly simple to find. It doesn't make sense as the Stealth was a higher price point vehicle and he was never offered, to my knowledge, as a mail in figure. The Stealth, though, was an immensely popular vehicle. I think that accounts for his current availability. Of course, his scarf is a tougher find, but is still attainable. When they appear for sale, you can usually pick up a complete one for under $10. Frankly, I think there are other pilot figures that are more deserving of that kind of money, but I don't think this guy is highly overpriced. I like the figure and use him as a pilot in most of my Joe flying machines. He isn't the coolest pilot in the Joe line, but he is certainly a nice figure to have and fleshes out your Joe air corps very nicely.

I dig Ghostrider, but am looking for a Stealth fighter. If you know where to get a mint, complete one at a decent price, email me.
1988 Ghostrider, 1997 Rattler, 1989 Night Force Repeater

1988 Ghostrider, 1997 Rattler, 1989 Night Force Repeater, 1988 Crazylegs

1987 Backstop

I'm not sure the reason, but I've lately been profiling many 1987 figures. I think the primary reason is that 1987 was, esentially, my Joe swan song. I went all out purchasing figures that year, but 1987 was really the last year that I collected Joes with any gusto. I had finally reached the point where I was getting too old to be patrolling the toy aisles and getting excited whenever I found a new Joe I still needed. Of course, this didn't mean I didn't make the occasional trip to the toystore, but my post '87 collection used to be a fraction of that before.

From the get-go, Backstop got a lot of use in my collection. He came with the Persuader tank. This vehicle had all sorts of potential, it was basically a Joe version of the Hiss tank, but really came up short when it came down to the nitty-gritty. The gun turret had this huge, overdone cannon rather than smaller, more realistic guns like the Hiss tank. Frankly, it's a cheap vehicle that lacks any real detail or distinguishing feature. The reason it looked so cool in the catalogs, though, was because the design could have been great. My disappointment with the Persuader was made up for by my liking of Backstop. I've always liked vehicle drivers. They are often the more avant garde figures of their year. Since they were packaged with vehicles that sold regardless of the figure, the designers could include figures that took some chances in accessories, design, and color. For that reason, I liked the vehicle drivers. They weren't the run of the mill figures that were all too prevalent in the mid '80's. Backstop is no exception.

That being said, Backstop is a cool figure. You can't see his yellow pants when he is sitting in his vehicle. I always explained them away by saying that if Backstop was out of his Persuader, he was in desperate trouble and would need a bright color to attract the attention of potential rescuers. The figure, like the Motor Viper and Airwave, has the cool dual leg holsters. His green torso and red gloves are no longer all that great, but worked for me way back when. He also has heavy armor molded on his shoulders and upper chest that would offer some protection to his exposed areas when he was driving. His coups de gras, though, is his helmet. It is highly reminiscent of the old Battlestar Galactica helmets. It has a long, open area in front of his mouth that allows you to see his entire face, even when he is wearing the helmet. I've always been a sucker for removeable helmets, especially ones that were unique. Because of this, Backstop became an important figure to my collection.

From the beginning, Backstop had a few distinguishing characteristics. One: he was Canadian. As far as I can remember, Backstop was the first foreign born Joe. Second: his filecard indicated that he was big, strong and mean. Of course, many Joes' filecards said things to this effect. With Backstop, however, I took it as cannon. As he never appeared in the comic or cartoon as a major character, I was free to do with him what I wanted. I made Backstop a big, huge, hulking man who was a world class fighter. I also used him to intimidate both Cobras and other Joes alike. He was kind of an anti-hero. He would do what he was supposed to do, but he wouldn't let a little thing like being on the same side stand in his way of hurting someone. Of course, this lead to all sorts of adventures where the Joes had to let Backstop out of jail in order for him to help them. It may be cliched, but it was a fun new story line for me when I was a child.

As a figure, this rendition of Backstop did not appear in any other Joe line anywhere in the world. The entire body mold, though, was reused for a Sky Patrol figure in 1990. Backstop's Persuader tank, though, did see international release: most famously in Argentina. This tank actually includes another Backstop figure. Instead of this mold, though, the Argentine Backstop uses the entire body of Blowtorch (only with Doc's waist) in colors similar to the American Backstop. It is a unique figure and one that is well worth tracking down whether you are a fan of the Backstop character or not. I think that this Backstop mold, though, could be repainted into something interesting. It's not likely at this point, but I would not mind seeing Backstop return in colors that are more flattering.

Backstops appear every now and then. Usually, he exhibits heavy paint wear and is missing at least his gun and also his helmet. Finding one mint and complete may take a bit of a search, but is very do-able. He isn't very expensive, though, so he doesn't find a great deal of popularity when he is offered for sale. He is a figure with limited uses, but is nice to have. I've gone without one for several years and, now, don't really know what to do with him. He's the type of figure that I want to use, but don't have the arena for him just yet. Perhaps, with the addition of a couple of new tanks, Backstop will regain his former popularity. Even if he doesn't, I still have my memories of my childhood.

I like Backstop and could stand to see a repaint of him at some point, but I don't really want any more. Who is your favorite vehicle driver? Let me know.

1987 Backstop, Persuader, Taurus, Fridge

1987 Backstop, Persuader, Sneek Peek, Rumbler, Knockdown, Battle Force 2000, Road Toad

1987 Backstop, Persuader, Night Rhino 2002

1987 Backstop, Persuader, Night Rhino 2002, Rumbler

Friday, October 6, 2000

1991 Red Star

Any fan of the comic, and most fans of G.I. Joe in general, know of the Oktober Guard. They were introduced way back in G.I. Joe #6 and continue to play a part in the line even as recently as 1998. For whatever reason, though, Hasbro was never inclined to produce Oktober Guard figures during Joe's heyday. Perhaps Cold War tensions were too high. Maybe Hasbro didn't want to upset the delicate balance between Joe and Cobra. The speculation as to the Oktober Guards omission runs high. So, while we were never treated to the original Oktober Guard lineup in figure form, Hasbro did, in 1991, finally release a Russian character: Red Star.

By 1991, the Cold War was history enough that a Russian figure would not upset delicate sensibilities. Of course, though, Hasbro did offer a little snafu in this guy's production. The earliest Red Star figures were released with Cobra packaging. (In 1991, Joes were packaged on blue backing while Cobras were on Red.) His filecard had a Cobra sigil and everything. I guess this, though, that this "error" was caught quickly and Red Star was re-released on Joe packaging with a Joe logo under his picture. I don't know if that was Hasbro's way of saying they wanted to release Russian baddies, but weren't allowed to, or if it was just a simple error. Either way, this is a very nice figure that is fun to use.

This figure is very nice. Hasbro was kind enough to do all the Joe customizers of the world a great favor when they included the striped Russian undershirt on this figure. As such, Red Star's torso, and the rest of him, are staples in customized Oktober Guards everywhere. He also has a decent color scheme and cammo pattern. What makes this figure, though, are his accessories. They are simply awesome! Red Star comes with an AK-47 that is actually superior to the original 1982 version that came with the Cobra Officer. This gun has become a staple of my collection and is used with dozens of different figures. It looks good with just about anyone. (I only use the '91 Mercer with this gun since his own accessories suck so bad.) Red Star also has a removable hat that works very well. Without the hat, his head is kind of big and balloonish. With it, this figure is very cool. His pack is also another accessory that I use for many different figures. It is nicely detailed and comes with both an attached antenna and a knife sheath. (There are also two distinct coloring variations on Red Star's back. There is both a light brown color, and a darker brown. In my opinion, the darker brown works better with the black antenna, but the lighter brown works better on the figure.) The final accessory that Red Star has is a small, belt fed, hand held rotary cannon. While it is a bit unrealistic, it is another fun tool for this guy to use. The gun attaches to the back via an ammo belt that then attaches to the pack. It just provides another way to enjoy this figure. (Plus it allows him to give up his AK-47 to another figure and still be armed.)

Red Star is a figure that has found some time in my collection. After the mold was re-used for the 1998 Col. Brekhov, I rediscovered this original figure. He sees use as both a crusty old soldier whose experience outweighs his combat slowdown, or as a villain. This guy works very well as the leader of a group of insurgent rebels or urban toughs. I think that is why I like the figure so much. He is versatile and adapts to other scenarios. He is not one of my most used figures, but does get more time than the vast majority of the Joes I have. Like most of the figures I tend to like, Red Star doesn't get used as the character we collectors were given. I have given him his own personality and character that allows me to enjoy the figure that much more.

The Red Star mold has gotten quite a bit of modern use. It was used in 1998 for Col. Brekhov and then again for the same character in 2005. (Only this time with a new head.) It was also used for the 2005 Stormavik figure. It has been used for so many Russians that the mold has started to become a parody of itself. And, that has lessened the value of the original Red Star. Instead of seeing a high quality, vintage mold. Collectors now see another overused mold that comprises too many characters. It's a cruel fate for this figure, but the reality of the modern collecting world.

Red Star, along with the Bat are the two easiest 1991's to find. They are everywhere. Even with all his tiny accessories, Red Star is easy to find both mint and complete. Even carded samples can be had for under $12.00. This is one of the few '91's that is very easy to find. He and the aforementioned Bat often are the only '91's to appear in lots that heavily focus on either earlier or later years. Beware, though, of the Cobra packaging variation. While not as rare as some dealers would have you believe, this carded figure is a bit tougher to find. The figures, though, are indistinguishable. If you buy loose figures, you can build an army of Red Stars with little effort and little money. Since his accessories are so nice, this is one figure of which I don't mind many multiples.

I don't need Red Stars, but do think he's a nice figure. Do you think this guy should have been a Joe or a Cobra? Let me know.

1991 Red Star, Oktober Guard, Custom Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Camo, Black Major

1991 Red Star, Oktober Guard, 1997 General Hawk, 1998 Cobra Trooper, Officer, 1983 Hiss Tank, 1989 Aero Viper

1987 Gyro Viper

The Gyro Viper is one of my all time favorites. Every year, I got one big toy for my birthday in December. In 1987, it was the Cobra Mamba. While this chopper looks very cool, I never had all that much fun playing with it. It was the figure the Mamba came with, though, where I got my money's worth. The Gyro Viper immediately vaulted to the top of my play list. Since, by 1987, most of my friends had outgrown Joe toys, I was one of the few people that had this figure. For that reason, he was mine. I let everyone else fight over the more common figures while I kept the unique ones to myself. For that reason, the Gyro Viper you see here shows his extensive use.

The Gyro Viper is a very nice mold. I love the map, or whatever it is, that's molded onto his leg. His coup de gras, though, is his helmet. 1987 saw several Cobras with removable helmets, and most of them are very cool figures. The Gyro Viper is no exception. The helmet fits tight to his head. (Almost too tight, it would seem, as after the first or second time you remove the helmet, you rub paint off this guy's nose. Finding a Gyro Viper without any paint wear on his face is usually indicative of a Gyro Viper that has almost never worn his helmet.) The long, silver faceplate makes this guy look like a pilot. Frankly, I thought he was wasted on the Mamba. Almost immediately, I started using the Gyro Viper as the pilot for the Sea Ray or Rattler. To me, he looked like a jet pilot, not a chopper pilot. The Mamba promised so much, but delivered so little. The pods were fun to play with, but the lack of any chin gun on the Mamba itself, as well as the lack of landing gear, made the toy feel like a neglected relative of the awesome Joe vehicles that were its contemporaries.

The Gyro Viper was never a common troop builder in my Cobra army. He was the elite pilot who only flew the most dangerous missions. As late 1987 was near the end of my Joe playing days, though, the Gyro Viper never really got the opportunity to be more fully developed. In more recent years, figures like the 91 Bat and Cesspool have become my elite Cobra pilots. All the while, this guy has been hidden down in my parent's basement, out of sight and out of mind. Just recently, I managed to return home and rescue this guy. Now that I've got him, I would love for him to replace the Astro Viper as my upper echelon troop building Cobra pilot. Unfortunately, I've only got one Gyro Viper but 2 AGP's and Firebats which are my standard issue Cobra flying machines. Since the Aero Viper has found use in my Cobra ground forces, perhaps this guy will fly some of the more sophisticated Cobra planes, like the Rattler or Night Raven. The helmet is so cool, though, that he must be in an aircraft where you can see him through the cockpit canopy. Since I think he might be too bulky to fit into the Rattler's small cockpit, this guy may have to wait a bit longer before he finds a permanent aircraft to call his own.

Gyro Vipers aren't too common a find. For some reason, they are a bit tough and you don't often see them in lots. Sure, the Mamba was an expensive vehicle that wasn't available until late in 1987, but the Gyro Viper was available as a mail in for a couple of years. Still, you don't see this guy very often. He is rather forgotten, though, as they don't get expensive when they do appear. In fact, this guy is best known for having his mold reused on a Sky Patrol figure. When that is your biggest claim to fame, you can be sure you are in the presence of an unheralded Joe. What is nice, though, is that, with some patience, you can build up a nice cadre of these guys without spending a whole bunch of money.

I would like another Gyro Viper. I just recently found this one and would like to have a nicer conditioned companion for him. If you can help, drop me a line.

1987 Gyro Viper, Mamba, 2000 Firefly, 1989 Aero Viper, 1986 Strato Viper, 1985 Tele Viper

1987 Gyro Viper, Mamba, 1988 AGP, Iron Grenadier, 1992 Slice

1987 Gyro Viper, Mamba, 1988 AGP, Iron Grenadier, 1992 Slice