Tuesday, November 28, 2000

1985 Tele Viper

1985 gave the Joe collecting community the class of Cobras that it holds as the best group ever offered. While there is incredible nostalgia for this group, most of it centers around the Crimson Guard or the Eel. You even get a few people who are really ga-ga over the '85 version of the Snow Serpent. What you never see, though, is any great sentiment for '85's lost Cobra: the Tele Viper.

As figures go, the Tele Viper is as basic as you can get. Frankly, he is only a glorified Cobra trooper who wears just as plain a uniform, but carries some flashier accessories. It is easy to see why the Tele Viper would be overshadowed by his more famous classmates. It is upon deeper inspection, though, that the true value of this figure appears. The Tele Viper is spectacular in his simplicity. He is basic Cobra Blue and has a mold, that while lacking in some respects, is very simple and realistic. He has all the trappings of a communications trooper. I think that is why the figure works so well. While he isn't drop dead awesome cool, he is a figure that fits his specialty and provides the backup to make the other figures seem that much better.

I think of the Tele Vipers as the ultimate in how avant garde Joe really was. These guys were used to absolute perfection throughout the comic series. The modern military's reliance on high tech communications and computers required an organization like Cobra to have a branch of specialists like the Tele Vipers. Unlike many other genres, though, where "techie" characters are relegated to supporting roles, Cobra used the Tele Vipers as its front line in the assault on the American family. They were the ones sneaking into sewers to tap phone lines. It was also the Tele Vipers who were right next to the Commander during any battle so he could remain constantly updated on the situations that arose. I've always kind of forgotten about the Tele Viper. I didn't like his lack of battlefield flash. Now, though, I consider Tele Vipers, or his counterpart, the Python Tele Viper, to be essential to any Cobra offensive. I use them on my Detonator, or other large Cobra vehicles. They look very nice in this capacity. At some point, I would like to have a Terrordrome. If this day should come, I see it manned with original blue Cobra troops with the Tele Vipers manning all the computer stations. I think the look would be great.

Tele Vipers are an interesting figure. There are many aspects of him that make me think he was originally slated for a 1986 release rather than '85. First off, he is a Viper. The basic Viper, and variations upon him, did not appear until 1986. It makes more sense that this guy would, originally, have been part of that class. His mold also suggests a hurry up job. His head could have been much better. This looks like it was an earlier design that hadn't had time to be fine tuned. Also, his color scheme. Hasbro was moving away from the basic Cobra Blue. To put this guy in it was a throwback in an era before collector nostalgia. It is also a very simple, easy, and basic color scheme that the designers knew worked. All of these things point to a figure that was rushed, rather than allowed the proper time to mature. Rather than take the time to hand paint up a bunch of mock ups, they took the easy road out with the color scheme. Of course, I have no hard evidence to back this theory up, but I am throwing it out there since this figures seems so out of place among other '85's, '86's or even '87's.

The Tele Viper was released in the US in 1985 and again in 1989. Parts of him were used in 1986 on the Claymore figure. In the early 90's, the Tele Viper mold was then used in Brazil where it was released in colors nearly identical to the American version. That was the last time it was seen, though, as the mold has never appeared again. Many of the Brazilian Tele Viper's contemporaries eventually made their way to India where they were released by Funskool. But, the Tele Viper never saw such treatment. The mold may simply have died in Brazil or may have been left to rot in India for whatever reasons. Personally, I think the mold is nice, but not one that is a necessary repaint. The original Tele Viper is in strong enough colors and is easy enough to find that there really is no need for the mold to return. Instead, I'd prefer to see the Tele Viper character amalgamated out of several existing, '90's ARAH Joe molds. I think it would a great update to this mold and make a nice, more modern companion piece.

Of all the '85 Cobras, Tele Vipers are far and away the easiest to find and cheapest to buy. In fact, as Cobras from any year go, the Tele Viper is substantially cheaper than many of the later army builders. His lack of combat accessories seem to doom him to common bins and bargain prices. Of course, this means he is one of the last cheap army builders. Unfortunately, I don't see him staying this way for much longer. The Techno Viper, a similar specialty figure who isn't as cool as this guy, is already starting to become rather expensive. I see the Tele Viper following suit over the next year. As people move away from play and more into display and diorama building, figures like the Tele Viper who look good manning the support, gun, and maintenance stations will start to disappear. Lately, there have been a rash of Tele Vipers offered for sale. While I have yet to really take advantage of this surplus, I don't think the Tele Viper is a figure of whom you can ever have enough. As other collectors are starting to see this as well, I think the days of the cheap Tele Viper are nearing an end.

I have several Tele Vipers, but can always use more. If you have any you would like to trade, email me.

1985 Tele Viper, 1993 Cobra Commander

1985 Tele Viper, 1993 Cobra Commander

1994 Snowstorm

One of the areas of Joe collecting that I have tended to really focus upon has been the end of the original run of Joe figures. The primary reason for this is that I had just come back to Joe collecting as the line was winding down. I have profiled many of the 1993 and 1994 figures here simply because I have found them to be relatively unheralded in most realms of Joedom and I feel they are worthy of increased collector attention. While much of the feedback I get for this site seems to disagree about the quality of the later Joes, I still stand by my guns and insist that many of these late figures are worthy of standing equal to, if not above, most earlier figures. Of course, I do not place the 1994 Snow Storm into that category.

Snowstorm has so many strikes against him that there is no way he could ever be taken seriously in the Joe collecting world. He was originally intended to be part of the Eco-Warriors subset. When that idea was scrapped, his mold was still used, in Eco-Warriors colors, on a Battle Corps card in 1993. That version, though, was quickly pulled and replaced with a more subdued orange and blue version. This color scheme was then replaced in 1994 by the white, grey, and black version you see here below. The mold is lackluster, at best. The figure's head is minimally detailed and lacks any real, defining characteristics. While he is sold as an Arctic trooper, the mold looks like a futuristic space man. There is just nothing about this figure that really works. Unless, you find him a niche specialty.

This is what I did. I'm sure you all remember my mentioning of a certain Blockbuster Arctic Tank when I profiled a figure named Windchill. Well, Windchill was never destined to drive this Arctic tank with which he came. He was perched in the gunner's seat. I then needed a futuristic looking Arctic trooper whose uniform looked like he could be an armor operator. Enter Snowstorm.

Originally, I had the blue and orange version of this figure. When I got the Blockbuster, I decided that I needed a second Snowstorm to man the second seat in the cockpit. I went to a local Meijer's store where I had seen a Snowstorm when I bought the Blockbuster. As luck would have it, he was still there. I bought and took him home. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had a new, different version. After some careful consideration, I decided that this figure would be my vehicle driver while the blue version would be the co-pilot and gunner. Heck, it worked for me. The bottom line is, I had a perfect specialty for this figure and didn't have to waste any of my other, good, Arctic figures as the drivers of the tank. On this level, Snowstorm became an important part of my collection.

Snowstorms are problematic when talking about their availability. The Eco-Warriors version, while certainly not as common as most of the Battle Corps figures, is still fairly simple to find. The Blue and Orange version is also rather ubiquitous. The version you see profiled below, though, is much more seldom seen. Like most of the 1994 repaints, this guy is difficult to find loose. He is a bit easier to find carded, but still does not appear all that often. I still maintain that most of the 1994 are among the rarest in the entire line. They almost never appear for sale. When they do, though, the interest in these figures is absolutely minimal. Collectors could care less about the '94 repaints and that relegates them to the very bottom of the Joe world. Personally, I feel that these figures are worth picking up now. Most of these figures can be had for under $8.00 for a MOC specimen. As more collectors fill gaps in their collections and leave only the '94's for final completion, I see these guys rising in price and disappearing off the second hand market. The getting for these guys is good right now and I would take advantage before they follow many of their earlier brethren into the stratospheric price ranges.

I like this guy, but am really only after a 1994 Predacon and a 1994 Lobotomaxx. If you have either of these guys for trade, we can work something out.

1994 Snow Storm, 1997 Snow Job, 1994 windchill, Blockbuster, 1993 Frostbite

Thursday, November 23, 2000

1994 Action Sailor V2

Back around Christmastime in 1994, I went to a Toys R Us. While, today, this is a fairly common practice, back then I rarely went to any toy stores. I was after a couple of Joe figures, though I didn't know who I wanted. When I got there, there were so many figures from which to choose that I had a very difficult time deciding which figures to buy. While I don't recall exactly who I purchased, one of the figure sets on which I passed was the 30th Anniversary Set. The figures were very cool and came with some awesome accessories. I figured, though, that I would be able to get these guys some time after the holidays. Here we are six years later and I have just added the first 30th Anniversary figure to my collection: the Action Sailor.

I guess it's the striking nature of orange that makes me like figures cast in it. I still dig the Nitro Viper and the 1994 Star Brigade Roadblock remains one of my all time favorite figures. The Action Sailor is no exception. The orange diving suit is very cool. At first, I didn't think I would like this guy. I mean, he's got bare feet. Once I got all his accessories on him, though, this guy is just awesome! His only flaw is the spear gun. Had he come with a better weapon, I think he would have been perfect. Still, though, the weapon he comes with works very well, though it does lack in some detail. His sled (not pictured) is bulky, though it could be fun. It is his pack and air hose, though, that are spectacular. The pack snaps together. (An interesting feature that could allow for someone to put baking soda into it and achieve an Man-O-War type of effect with the figure.) His air hose then plugs into his face and attaches to the pack. The overall effect is very cool and makes this guy a better looking diver figure than most of the other Joes.

Currently, this guy is another member of my search and rescue corps. When I get the other version of him that is cast in black, he'll be a member of my combat diving corps. (This orange Action Sailor, as well as a differently colored Action Pilot came with the 30th Anniversary boxed set of 5 figures. The black Action Sailor came in his own box, by himself.) This is a figure that is a lot of fun to use. Next summer, I see him spending a great amount of time in the pool. His look may be dated, especially when compared to figures like the '94 Shipwreck or the '85 Eel, but he is a cool figure. This guy got the attention to detail that was heavily lacking in the line's final years.

All of the "Action Series" figures aren't too often seen in discussions about Joe. The Soldier and Marine are staples in many people's collections, though. All of the "Action Series" figures were relatively nameless. This allows for you to use all five of the different molds as faceless legions who battle Cobra. While I've said that I use figures like Recoil, Salvo, Dusty, and many others as Joe army builders, the "Action Series" figures allow just about everyone, regardless of how strictly they adhere to any particular Joe "canon", to have some Joe cannon fodder as well. I think that is the primary use any of these guys see. They make excellent nameless soldiers who can be sacrificed to Cobra without worrying about destroying an established Joe character.

Action Sailors are kind of difficult to find. That statement, though, only applies to loose specimens. You can find boxed 30th Anniversary sets, as well as individually boxed figures very easily. I guess speculators and dealers snatched up tons of these guys in expectation that they would become a valuable collectible. Here we are, years later, and those boxed figures still sell for very close to what they originally cost at retail. Since these guys lack the personalities that made Joe as popular as it is, I think collector interest is low. Most hard core collectors have at least a boxed set in their possession and don't want any more. As such, it allows you to still pick up mint, complete figures in new boxes for relatively cheap. While I have yet to start building armies with this figure, I easily see me adding one or two more next year. I've decided that one of my 2001 Collecting Goals will be to add loose, mint, complete specimens of all five 30th Anniversary figures to my collection. It shouldn't be a difficult task, but these figures should be very fun to have. Using the Action Sailor as a starting point seems to illustrate that this will certainly be the case.

I would like additional Action Sailors, be they version 1 or version 2. If you've got some you want to part with, email me.

1994 Action Sailor, 30th Anniversary

1994 Action Sailor, 30th Anniversary

1994 Action Sailor, 30th Anniversary

1994 ACtion Sailor V2, Gift Set, Shipwreck, 1993 Shark 9000

Wednesday, November 22, 2000

1993 Duke

When I first returned to Joe collecting in the mid '90's, one of the requisites for my purchasing a figure was if he came with black weapons. If I found a figure with black weapons, I purchased him. End of story. This approach netted me a few, shall we say, "interesting" figures, but also gave me the chance to really enjoy a couple of the late Joe figures that were released. The vast majority of my profiles that feature '93 or '94 figures are about either astronauts or Cobras. While I've done a few Joes, I think that there are many more that were released in these final years that really deserve more collector attention. Among these guys is the 1993 Duke.

I've never been a Duke fan. I didn't like the original figure and I've never liked the character. However, Duke had a couple of excellent molds made up for him in 1992 (which will be returning with the newly announced version of Duke we should see either late this year or early next) and 1993. It is the 1993 mold, though, that was one of the few figures I had available to me back when I first returned to toy collecting. For that reason, this figure held an important role in my collection. Of course, I didn't use this guy as Duke. He was a new, younger soldier who was just learning the ropes. I had him be the new leader of the few new Joes I had. The problem, though, was that his new character turned sour. Originally, I had made him to be a highly trained, excellent soldier. This role grew tiresome, though, as I acquired many more new figures who were much cooler than this guy. As such, this figure fell from grace. He became a a martyr who was sacrificed to bring the Joe team back together. I found that as a martyred hero, this character worked much better.

With the fall of the character made for this figure came the fall of the figure as well. He just couldn't compete with all the new figures I began to add to my collection in the late '90's. He disappeared into one of my 2 drawers of 1993 figures (I have well over 125 1993 figures. I don't know why that year is so high, but I've got more '93's than any other year.) and has yet to emerge. I just don't have that much use for the figure any more. As I've stated in other profiles like the Desert Scorpion, I'm not too keen on desert figures. When this guy was one of about 5 figures available to me, I made due. Now that I've got dozens of properly designed figures who work in all environments, I use them rather than stretch a figure like this. Still, though, this figure is very nice. The mold is excellently detailed. Some people don't like the molded helmet, but I think it works very well. Were desert scenes a more popular arena in which to use Joes, I think this guy would be more popular. Hasbro really tried to cash in on the Gulf War and the desert gear that was ubiquitous in all media in the years following. Many of the figures and toys they created, though, are nicely done. This Duke is no exception.

This mold may also have been an interesting footnote in G.I. Joe history. In 1995, the Battle Rangers were going to be released. While I've already profiled Flint, there was also to be a Footloose and Duke figures who were to be part of this line. While Flint made it all the way to the final prototype stage, and Footloose at least had his original parts molded, I have never seen anything that points to a mold for the 1995 Duke. However, that version of Duke did appear on many different G.I. Joe promotional items that appeared in the mid '90's. From these pictures, it is easy to see that the planned Battle Rangers Duke would have been a figure with a mold very similar to this one. He would have been done in a green cammo pattern that would have looked much like the 1987 Falcon's. As prototypes for other Battle Rangers have been found, it could be that the Battle Rangers Duke was simply going to be a repaint of the 1993 mold. Had that been done and the figure reached production level, I think this 1993 version would be more appreciated. It is a good mold. The desert paint can be limiting, but the figure is very solid.

1993 Dukes are insanely easy to find both carded and loose. They appear in all sorts of lots, as well as by himself. You can usually get them for under $5 or $6. As he was a very popular character, I think Duke was shipped in greater amounts than other figures of his year. I know I found him on retail shelves until 1996. I don't think this figure will ever be appreciated. Collectors have a really love-hate relationship with the Duke character. Many really like him, many really hate him. As such, there are a lot of people out there that have little use for this figure and aren't interested in him. Personally, I've found that he makes great custom fodder. Of course, the figure as it is is also very fun to use. This is not Duke's most obscure version (that would go to either the '94 or '97 version) but it is a figure that is often seen but rarely has attention paid to it. Hopefully, that will now change a bit.

I like this guy, but have way too many of him. There are a few other '93 figures I am after, but I would really like a '94 Star Brigade Predacon or Lobotomaxx. If you can help, email me.

1993 Duke, 1988 Tiger Force Dusty

1993 Duke, 1991 Dusty, 2004 desert strike Gung Ho, 2002 Night Rhino

Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Chinese Exclusive Major Bludd

I first encountered this figure in the summer of 1996. I was at some scalp kiosk at a flea market looking for Joes and Star Wars figures. The only figures this guy had were four Chinese carded Joes for which he was asking about $25 a piece. The Flint figure intrigued me, as his shotgun was very cool. (At that time, I was not as versed in Joe as I am now. I did not know that gun was available in the U.S. with the Headhunter.) I thought the Major Bludd figure was also cool, but I figured that these guys were far too expensive and I would never have any of them. Fast forward four years and here I am profiling the Major Bludd on my website.

Normally, my feelings towards foreign figures are rather grim. I feel that most foreign issued Joes are overrated, over hyped, and overpriced monstrosities that lack the quality and basis in reality that drove the American, and even the European, line. Had other countries taken the molds and redone them in a fashion that was designed to mimic their own military, I think the foreign figures would hold more appeal to me. As such, I tend to avoid foreign releases. Every now and then, though, you do come across a foreign figure that just must be part of your collection. The one figure who most personifies this is the Chinese release of Major Bludd.

I've already profiled the Major Bludd character with the original figure. However, that guy has now found retirement. This version has become Major Bludd in my collection. He is just the perfect version that fits in excellently with the later figures. The 1983 version is a bit too thin and scrawny to look like the horror Bludd is supposed to be. This version, made from the 1991 version's head, General Flagg's chest, and Lamprey's legs and arms, is bulky enough to stand up next to the later figures without looking out of place. He makes an perfect companion to the 1993 Cobra Commander and either the 1988 or 1992 Destro figures. I don't know why Hasbro didn't release a remake of the good major in a paint scheme and mold that would at least pay homage to his roots. Like the Baroness, though, it was not to be for Bludd. Instead, he was relegated to poor resculpts like the 1994 version. While the figure itself isn't all that bad, the color scheme and accessories doomed it to a lifetime of discount bins. This figure's only shortcoming is his accessories. He comes with a version of Dodger's rifle that doesn't fit him at all. A quick swap with the original Major Bludd's accessories, though, and you have a perfectly outfitted figure.

It really is a shame that this figure was never released in the U.S. It is, without a doubt, the best version of Major Bludd. I really don't know how China, of all places, got a figure of this calibre, but it is unfortunate that American, and other, collectors never got to see this figure as part of a regular release. The nice thing is, this guy is all over the place. He is easy to get and can be found without too much trouble. I've known about this guy for quite some time, but only recently decided to add him to my collection. I have been leery of foreign figures, but consider this guy too cool a figure, for too small a price, to not have in my possession. He is now in a place of prominence, next to the Commander and surrounded by 1998 Vipers. Major Bludd had pretty much disappeared from my heavy use box. I just couldn't see him standing tall with many of the later figures I tend to like. (In fact, the only non-ball headed figures I still use with any regularity are the 1984 Firefly, 1984 Ripcord, and Scrap Iron.) Now that I have this figure, though, that dilemma is solved and Major Bludd will regain his rightful place among the Cobra elite.

Many collectors and dealers will try to fool you into the scarcity of foreign released figures. The fact is: foreign figures were released for mass consumption in their home countries. While the production numbers may not be as high as the American figures, foreign releases are by no means rare. As the internet makes the world smaller and helps break down language barriers that have traditionally existed between some countries that produced many of the most unique Joes, expect many new foreign variations, as well as the highly publicized figures about which we already know, to spring up with alarming regularity. That being said, this version of Bludd is very, very common. Many of the Chinese figures were imported to the U.S. in the mid '90's. You can find both the Major Bludd and Flint figures for about $8-$12 for a MOC figure. Finding them loose, though, is very tough. I got my Bludd by opening a carded sample. Now that I've done that, I can't ever see me going back to any other versions of the Major Bludd figure. I have no regrets and don't think you will either.

Just a quick side note, the next wave of new Joes have been shown in some toy publications. One of the new figures we will see either late this year or early next is a new Major Bludd. He is a repaint of the highly underrated 1991 version, but he is painted like the original. It seems some Hasbro designer has seen this Chinese version and decided that it was a great idea. Be on the lookout for that figure very soon. He will come with the Rock Viper, which is actually a repainted Range Viper. They are both very cool. Hasbro is doing a bang-up job on the new releases. It is certainly an exciting time to be a Joe fan!

This guy rocks! Who is your favorite foreign figure? Let me know.

Chinese Exclusive Major Bludd, Funskool Zartan, Tracker

Chinese Exclusive Major Bludd, Estrela, Brazil, Cobra Flying Scorpion, Escorpiao Voador, Lamprey, Sub Viper, 1985, 2000, 2001

Chinese Exclusive Major Bludd, Estrela, Brazil, Cobra Flying Scorpion, Escorpiao Voador, Lamprey, Sub Viper, 1985, 2000, 2001

Monday, November 13, 2000

1983 Breaker

Breaker was my first Joe. For my birthday in 1982, I received the RAM motorcycle. Of course, I had no Joe figures to ride it. My brother had a nice collection he had acquired for his birthday a couple of months earlier, but I had none. The day after my birthday, however, another one of my friends, who had been sick and unable to attend my party the day before, stopped by with a present. It was the '82 Breaker. To this day, I can't fathom the joy that figure brought. Breaker was the one who was shown on the RAM box art as being the driver of that motorcycle. He was also one of the few figures my brother had not yet received. All I had was that one figure and the motorcycle, but they got more use than I can remember.

From that day, Breaker remained a vital part of my collection. I used him on just about all my adventures. The RAM broke several different times, but I always glued it together so that Breaker would continue to have his motorcycle. When it finally died, though, Breaker found a new home alongside Clutch in the passenger seat of the VAMP. His communication device wire fit very nicely into a space behind the figure, so it looked like he was plugged into the automatic gun. Breaker was one of the few original Joes who managed to survive past the first couple of years. By 1984, I had enough newer Joes that the originals were all put away or broken. Breaker continued to get use for a couple of years. Once Dialtone came out, though, Breaker's days were done. Like all the original Joes, Breaker just couldn't complete against the better sculpting and accessories that continued throughout the line. Today, the figure looks very antiquated next to the vast majority of the Joe figures released. Those original Joes remain a vital part of action figure history, but to me, they are better left as display pieces.

Like all great figures, though, my Breaker ended up destroyed. I don't know what did it, but my original Breaker was pretty much gone by 1986. By that time, it was too late to still replace him at retail. For a number of different reasons, I never had occasion to replace that original figure. I've not been keen on purchasing most of the original Joes. I don't like them all that much as compared to later figures. As their price points tend to be higher, I've held off replacing my original Joes while I fill other holes in my collection. However, earlier this year, I was lucky enough to acquire a magnificent lot of figures. Among these is the Breaker you see below. The lot also included a new, mint RAM motorcycle. As soon as I saw the two together, I knew who the new featured Joe on my top shelf would be. While I doubt this figure will get any use, he will remain out, in place of prominence. He is the figure that started it all. While I can be a sentimental fool at times, I think this case is justified.

The Breaker mold was a world traveler. After his use in the US, he appeared in Brazil and Argentina. In Argentina, he was the driver of the Slugger. The mold was also used to create some members of the exclusive and elusive Series 2 Argentine figures that included Topson, Shimik, Redmack, Manleh and the infamous Cobra Mortal. Breaker was slated to appear in the 1997 Stars and Stripes set. But, the mold could not be found and they amalgamated a new Breaker out of Hawk and Roadblock parts. The character never made it to India and we have yet to see the original Breaker return in any format. Personally, I would like a new take on the character that is better than the crappy comic version from 2006. But, this isn't likely to happen at this point.

Breakers are kind of tough to find. Like all the original Joes, he is highly sought after and can command a premium when he is found mint and complete. His communication device is breakable and is often found sans the attachment cord or the mouthpiece. He did not come with a gun, but I gave him the accessory kit uzi you see in the scan below as soon as I got one way back in 1983. Personally, I feel this is a figure that should have a weapon of some sort, but that is an easily remedied problem once you have the complete figure. Breaker will always hold a special place in my collection as he was the one who began it all. While that figure is long gone, it is only recently that I have been able to acquire a complete replacement. He now sits on my new RAM, ready for action. At some point, I'll probably use him, but Breaker's best days are behind him. For now, he is one of my few homages to the early days of both the Joe line and my involvement in it. He certainly reminds of a simpler time when toys were much more fun. Of course, that does not diminish the figure in any way. Sentimentality aside, I still highly recommend Breaker as an essential part of any Joe collection. It just took me 17 years to realize that.

I'm after a couple of the straight armed figures. I need just about all of them. If you've got some available, let me know.

1983 Breaker, 1982, Original 13, 1993 Mutt, 1997 Ace, Biomassa, Eco Warriors Maverick, Brazil, Estrela

1983 Breaker, 1982, Original 13, Steeler, Rock and Roll

1984 Zartan

1984 is just a huge year in Joe history. While '83 had given us the first different characters, it was 1984 that showed what the line was capable of doing. Every kid in America had to have a Storm Shadow figure. While a couple of other figures were near that level of popularity, only one really rivaled the white ninja for line supremacy: Zartan. No one knew what to make of this guy who could change color and kept a spare face in his backpack. One thing everyone I knew was sure of, though, was that Zartan was cool and everyone had to have one!

Recently, a popular toy magazine named Zartan as one of the greatest action figures of all time. With exposure like that, he hardly fits the normal criteria for a Forgotten Figure. However, the moniker of coolest Joe could easily apply to Zartan and, as such, he is worthy of any and all praise he can get. The figure itself is still very aesthetically pleasing. The hooded head with the black eye makeup and sunken, yellow eyes is still the stuff of which classic villains are made. I think it is the mysterious head that has enabled this figure to capture the imaginations of so many Joe, and just toy in general, fans. You know there is something very deep, dark, sinister, and maybe even disturbing about this guy. What sort of modern day wizard hangs around with outcast Aussie bikers?

Part of Zartan's mystique is that he was a major player in both the comic and the cartoon. He is one of the few characters in Joedom who really crosses the boundaries between 'toon and comic fans. Of course, that makes his popularity double that of the run of the mill characters who only flourished in one medium and not the other. I think, though, that the character differences between the 'toon and comic Zartans keep this guy from being overly exposed. Comic fans don't tend to like the fact that everyone was connected to the Ninja clan. Since Zartan was, some people don't hold him in very high regard. They feel that the character was ruined by tying him to the ninjas. However, the comic's portrayal of Zartan's background was, in my opinion, very well done. I think the Zartan origin issues are compelling reading and among the best story lines the comic ever took on.

Personally, I had forgotten about Zartan. When I was younger, he was a staple in my Cobra collection. He was one of the few big time Cobras who always allied himself with the Commander. For this reason, Zartan got big time use. In the past few years, though, I had just let Zartan go. I had moved on to younger, more dynamic Cobras and Zartan didn't really fit that bill. Now, though, I have recently rediscovered him. He know stands proud among my Cobra hierarchy. He is a figure that I lament not using more, but I plan on him getting much more use as time progresses. He is one of those figures that is so cool, he transcends a time period and is one of the best figures that was ever released in the line. Most collectors know this. Now, I hope to not forget it.

One of the Holy Grails most Joe collectors have on their pie in the sky list is a carded Zartan. In most of the world, Zartan was only available in the boxed set with the Chameleon. However, he was available in Japan on a regular card that showcased his spectacular card art that was only available in the U.S. on 1984 cardbacks and the 1984 toy catalog. This figure rarely appears for sale and the price generally climbs over $100 whenever one does come up. It's one of those pieces that, were I a millionaire with an unlimited toy budget, I would easily buy. Until that day comes, it is a very interesting piece that I watch, but never buy. In late 2001, Zartan also became available on a single card in India. While that card art is very similar to the original, it is actually exclusive to India. The Zartan mold, though, is now safely back in the hands of Hasbro where it has been used twice since 2004.

Zartan is the center of some controversy. Like Buzzer, Zartan's filecard was altered. Originally, the filecard had a line about Zartan being an "extreme paranoid schizophrenic". Apparently, some mental health groups took exception to this line. Zartan's filecard was then edited so the entire bottom paragraph with the offending remarks was removed. Unlike Buzzer, though, it is this corrected filecard that is the much more difficult to find version. In fact, I didn't believe it existed until about a year ago. While it is about as mundane a variation as you can get, I have a scan of the corrected card here.

Zartan is one of the most popular Joe figures ever released. He also comes with an easily lost pistol, chest and leg pads that can fall off and disappear, and a false face. Finding one mint and complete will cost you some bucks. The other problem is, what constitutes a complete Zartan? Need he have all his pads, gun, pack, face, swamp skier, cart, and tow hook, or is just any combination of the sum total acceptable? Personally, I think the Swamp skier overrated and just look to the gun, pads, pack, and face to make a complete figure. Still, though, those aren't cheap. This is a figure, though, whose worth is easily measured once he is in your collection. I've found Zartan to be a vital part of any Cobra army. He also blends perfectly with both old and new figures. Personally, I'd let Zartan fall by the wayside. Now, though, he is back in a place of prominence among my Cobras. If you've forgotten about this guy, I highly suggest dusting him off and reuniting him with his Cobra counterparts. He is just a figure that really must be used in any collection.

I don't need any Zartans, but could use some advice as to how to repair a couple that I do have. Any suggestions may be posted as an addendum to this profile (with full credit to the suggester, of course).

1984 Zartan, Chameleon

1984 Zartan, Chameleon, Chinese Major Bludd

1984 Zartan, Chameleon, Buzzer

1984 Zartan, Chameleon, Filecard, Variant