Wednesday, March 28, 2001

1990 Pathfinder

Much has recently been made of this figure. Most of that hullabaloo, though, centers around the '01 rerelease that comes with the new A.W.E. Striker. While I have yet to acquire that figure (stupid toy moratorium!) I point you to General Hawk's Page and, specifically, his profiles section. There he has a very nice write up on the new version of Pathfinder as well as his new vehicle. While the good General laments the lack of accessories on the new figure, I decided that those would make an excellent subject for a profile of my own. Couple that with the fact that I just recently acquired a new Pathfinder in a large lot of figures, and you can see why I might choose this guy to help shift the balance from Cobra in this section of profiles.

1990 was the year of accessories. Most of the figures (Bullhorn, Salvo and Big Ben) came with tons of great accessories that often overshadowed the figure itself. Such is the case with Pathfinder. Most people know about his accessories but care little for the figure. In fact, were the mold not such a ringer for one of the members of Snake Eyes' and Stalker's LRRP, I don't think you would ever see him. It is for this reason that Pathfinder definitely fits into the forgotten mold. He is just another of the bland, over-accessorized carbon copy Joes that came out in the early '90's. Because of that, though, he is also a figure that can draw attention to himself when he appears in fan fictions and dioramas. People don't really remember him and can be drawn by his presence.

While I do find Pathfinder kind of cool, I really don't have all that many uses for him. His machine guns, while kind of neat in design, aren't really that much fun to play with. His buzzsaw is the same. It just really isn't a fun accessory. In some instances, like the photo below, Pathfinder works very well. Most of the time, though, I have no use for him. In fact, until this most recent acquisition, my other Pathfinder figures had not seen the light of day since the day I first acquired them and put them away into their drawer. He's one of those figures who looks pretty cool when he is on display, but really isn't that much fun to actually have. I found myself really wanting Pathfinder, Rampart, Ambush, Stretcher, and Topside back when I first returned to Joe collecting. Now, though, I can't remember the last time I used any of these figures. The abundance of accessories make the figures appear cool, but they take away from what the figure itself has to offer. I've said before that sometimes an accessory does a figure make. In this case, though, the opposite is true. A huge amount of accessories take away from what is really a nice figure. Had this guy come with a hand held gun and a traditional Joe pack, he might have found himself very comfortable in many collections. Instead, you rarely hear about him.

While Hasbro has access to the Pathfinder mold, they haven't really used the most of it. There was a decent repaint in 2001, but that was all we saw of the figure. The exact same figure as the '01, only this time with a full complement of black accessories, was released a member of the 2004 VAMP exclusive set. Other than that, Pathfinder's chest was used with great effect on the 2007 Convention Clutch figure. However, beyond that, the mold really hasn't been utilized. I feel that, properly colored, a Pathfinder repaint could be the type of inspired figure that collectors would enjoy. But, if that never happens, at least there is one other version of the figure to give the character some depth.

Pathfinders, like most of the 1990 figures, are kind of tough to find. Especially if you want him mint and complete. He is, though, very cheap. A complete one will probably run you under $7. You really can't beat that. It took me, though, about a year to get one. Since then, I've only acquired 2 others. When you consider that I focus on lots containing '89-'92 figures, you start to realize that there aren't too many Pathfinders out there. Perhaps that is why we saw him as the driver of the new AWE Striker. People would have forgotten about him and not seen the reissue as Hasbro just pawning off popular molds on all too eager collectors. He is a figure that has its place in a collection. For me, that place is tucked away with most of my other obscure and seldom used Joes. Perhaps, though, that will change. One of the great things about profiling figures is that often times I rediscover them as well. Maybe this will be the case with Pathfinder.

What do you think of this figure? I've found many of the 1990 figures to be forgotten by just about everyone. Who is your favorite? Email me.

1990 Pathfinder, Ambush, 1991 Rampart, 1986 Beach Head, Tomahawk, 1998 Heavy Duty

1990 Pathfinder, Ambush, 1991 Rampart, 1986 Beach Head, Tomahawk, 1998 Heavy Duty

1990 Pathfinder, Ambush, 1991 Rampart, 1986 Beach Head, Tomahawk, 1998 Heavy Duty

1994 Joseph Colton Mail Away

Back in 1993 and 1994, Hasbro offered tons of mail in figures. Basically, the line was ending and they wanted to eliminate all of their old stock. As such, there were tons of mail in exclusive figures in 1993. 1994, however, was a bit different. To commemorate the 30th anniversary of G.I. Joe, Hasbro offered the one figure every kid in the early '80's thought was represented by Grunt: the one and only G.I. Joe.

I'm not much of a Joe historian beyond the 3 3/4 inch line. Frankly, I don't care about the 12 inch figures. As such, I was not real certain as to who this Joe Colton was supposed to represent. 5 years earlier, for the 25 anniversary, the comic had offered a nice little story about some guy named Joe. That was the extent to which I knew who this figure was supposed to be. When I saw the figure advertised on the inserts that came with many of my late 1994 figures, I was intrigued. The figure looked militaristic enough that it might be cool. What I was really interested in, though, was his gun. The insert art showed Colton with a very cool gun. The picture of the figure inside, though, showed the over sized machine gun you see in the bag with the figure below. Once I decided that this was the gun you got, and not the cool one he was drawn with, my interest for the figure waned and I never ordered him.

Now, years later, I've never really regretted that decision. Colton, like most of the mail ins offered in at the end of the line, is a very simple find that won't strain your budget. He is a figure, though, that I think is still kind of cool. The basic drab coloring without the trappings of unpainted extras that plagued so many '94 releases is a refreshing change. Aside from the Action Soldier, this was as basic a figure as they released in the entire line. In that simplicity lies the splendor of the figure. He works well as an officer, a basic soldier, or even an honorary persona. He's a guy who, if I had a loose specimen, would often play the background role. You would see him milling about in dioramas to add realism, but he would never be the major player. I think that is the reason the figure works. He is very different from most Joes in the line, but is still a nice enough mold to find uses among just about all the other figures.

The primary reason I wanted to profile this figure is because he is an oft recognized mail in figure. One of the things that made toy lines so much fun for me as a child was the mail in offer. From the first Boba Fett offer back in 1979 all the way through the Mace Windu offer in the fall of 1998, I have loved the concept of the mail in figure. Unfortunately, it seems Hasbro has moved away from this. Several high profile Star Wars collectors have bemoaned the fact that there are currently no plans to offer an Episode II sneak preview figure. Turning you back on 22 years of history and precedent is not becoming trait for a company that is still trying to foster strong relations with the collector community. One of the sinister corporate motives of the mail in figure is to eliminate overstock. I know that as a child I often needed one or two additional flag points to be eligible for a mail in offer I was interested in. This was often the only incentive to purchase less than stellar figures and add them to my collection. As they were what I needed for the mail in, I would buy them even though the figure would never be used. How else can you explain the presence of Crystal Ball, Raptor and, especially, Big Boa in my childhood collection? I think the Joe line was an instance where the mail ins were able to offer different generations of Joe fans connections that allowed the continuity of the overall story line to remain intact. Losing out on something like this will take away from much of what made Joe so successful. I wouldn't mind if all we were offered was the return of the Steel Brigade, newly amalgamated figures, or even straight repaints of current molds. (That would be a perfect way to distribute that tan version of the '00 Dusty rather than release a new version of him at retail.) As long as there is something available for order either by mail, or via an Internet enabled web form, I think that the collecting community and the line as a whole would be better served.

If you want a bagged figure, Joseph Colton is pretty easy to find. Like most late mail ins, he was more hoarded and kept MIB by collectors than he was opened by children. As such, you don't often see loose Coltons. He is a figure, though, whose popularity ebbs and flows like the tides. Some days you will see bagged figures fetch $25. Other times, he will sell for under $10. With a little patience, you can get a bagged figure for under $15 on a consistent basis. At that price, he is still cheap enough to actually open the bag. (Not something I've done, yet. I like bagged figures and have well over 100 of them. There's just something about the bag that makes me like them. I've opened a few bagged figures, but keep most of them in a special storage bin always ready for future use.) This is a figure, though, that I can see becoming like the Hooded Cobra Commander. He will not be rare or even semi-difficult to find, but will command a higher price tag because dealers and hoarders think he should be one of the tougher figures to acquire. Like Windchill, this guy may have low production numbers, but they still far outstrip the demand for him. With that said, I see this guy remaining like he is for some time. Collectors don't seem too keen on the mail in figures. Most of them are poorly colored resculpts (see Deep Six) that lack decent accessories. While Colton is a cool figure, he is often lumped in with the Action Series 30th Anniversary figures. He is a neat anomaly in the line, but doesn't really fit the overall continuity.

I would love for there to be mail in offers for the new Joe line. How about you? Would you like to see mail ins for the new line? If so, what type of mail in would you like to see? Email me. This might be the type of info that would be worth sending to Hasbro.

1994 Joseph Colton, MIB, Bagged, Mail Away, 1997 Alley Viper, 1997 Viper, TRU Exlcusive

1994 Joseph Colton, MIB, Bagged, Mail Away

Thursday, March 15, 2001

1998 Firefly

While there has recently been much discussion about the '97 Joes and their scarcity, few people have commented upon the '98 offerings. Sure, you can still find Oktober Guard and even an occasional Navy Seal team at most Toys R Us stores around the country. However, the 2 Cobra sets, the Cobra Infantry Team and the Cobra Polar Team, have almost completely disappeared from retail shelves and have been gone for well over a year. (I will tell you, though, that TRU does have huge warehouses full of toys that they periodically clean out. People have, as recently as last week, found both Viper and Polar packs at retail. It always pays to check.) While collectors fawn over the Infantry Teams, the Polar Teams have become the bastard step children of the TRU exclusive line. While the set is a bit bland, they are Arctic troops and really wouldn't want flashy colors on their uniforms. Of these three neglected figures, I have chosen the Firefly as my featured profile.

While I have already profiled one Firefly figure, I didn't really touch upon the character as he was intended. The return of the classic 1984 mold showed that, perhaps, Hasbro was trying to forget about the fiasco that was the Joe line in '93 and '94 and was instead focusing on the positive turn the line would have taken had it not been cancelled. By bringing back one of the most popular molds of the entire line, Hasbro helped to solidify itself with the collecting community and created a better position for the return of Joe to retail this past year. They also helped ensure that the '98 line would be an even greater success than the '97's had been. While I will be quick to criticize Hasbro for many of its decisions, especially regarding its Star Wars line, I have found that the new Joe releases are well thought out with great deference to both the collecting community as well as the children's market. While the '98's were most assuredly aimed at collectors, it was the inclusion of great molds, awesome accessories, and realistic colors that helped attract a new generation of fans to the Joe brand. While it burns collectors up that they aren't featured in long term strategy meetings at the major toy companies, I think that the new, leaner Hasbro should be able to keep collectors happy for several more years all the while attracting a new base of Joe followers. They just need to make sure that they don't do repaint after repaint, or even over produce the same characters in different outfits.

All that being said, this mold of Firefly has always been among my favorites. Back in '84, Firefly was the first new figure I acquired. He became the ultimate villain. No matter how many times I lost his accessories or broke him, I always found a way and a place for Firefly to be a real nuisance to the Joes. Now, that '84 figure still occupies a role very similar. I have never really seen Firefly as a leader of troops. (Despite what you see in the scene down below.) Instead, he has been a loner. I've always used the named Joes as more loner soldiers. Firefly was one of the few Cobras who were used in that capacity as well. I always felt that Firefly's filecard hinted at a personality that would be truly terrifying and nearly impossible to stop. Unfortunately, the ninja garbage got in the way of his characterization in the comic. In my world, though, Firefly remained a non-ninja, unstoppable force.

Of course, I rarely use this version of the mold as the actual Firefly character. In scenarios like you see below, I use the Arctic uniform as a necessity. Most of the time, though, Firefly is the '84. The '98 is traditionally used as an Arctic commando or even a S.W.A.T. trooper. Yes. I use the '98 Firefly as a good guy. He lacks Cobra sigils and I think his uniform lends itself to a highly trained and specialized commando unit. Yes. I also use the '00 Firefly in this same capacity. These guys lend themselves to this sort of thing. (Plus they were relatively easy for me to build armies.) They are the type of figure that has the versatility in both uniform and accessories to really allow for some deviance from his intended character. It also allows me to use both of these very cool figures in many more situations that just keeping them as Firefly. I think this is where the strength of the new releases lies. The figures they have produced so far really lend themselves to a variety of tasks. Giving children the opportunity to expand their play has always been a hallmark of the Joe line. As long as that continues, I think the new releases will remain a success.

Like the Cobra Infantry team, these guys were only shipped 1 pack per case with the '98 figures. Many collectors, though, didn't hoard these guys like the did the Viper packs. Few people use Firefly as an army builder and the Arctic Night Creeper wasn't all that cool. Add to that the fact that Arctic figures tend to be less popular, and you should have a set that is very easy to find on the second hand market. Alas, this isn't quite the case. Sure, carded Polar Teams are easily found, but loose '98's are a tough find, regardless of for whom you are looking. Most collectors bought just as many as they wanted. I know that I held off buying a couple extras of these packs because I didn't really want the extra two figures that came with it. If people did buy extras of these guys, they have kept them carded. That's why you can easily find carded Polar Teams, but loose figures are relatively tough finds. '98 Fireflies are also starting to get expensive. Sure, he won't set you back the $40 an '84 Firefly will cost you, but he does usually get between $10-$15. Considering that you can usually buy carded Cobra Polar Teams for about $20, I think this is the route to take. Like the aforementioned Cobra Trooper, though, I think this guy is a figure that you will lament not acquiring right now. The carded Polar Teams are not too expensive for you to buy one and open it. As those days could come, I would say to act now. This is a figure for whom I have found many uses. I think you will as well.

Fireflies, I've got. I would, though, be interested in '98 Snow Serpents. If you have some of those you want to trade, let me know.

1988 Arctic Firefly, TRU Exclusive, Snow Serpent, 1991, Maggot, Worms, 1987, Wolf, Ice Viper

1988 Arctic Firefly, TRU Exclusive, Snow Serpent, 1991, Maggot, Worms, 1987, Wolf, Ice Viper

1988 Arctic Firefly, TRU Exclusive, Snow Serpent, 1991, Maggot, Worms, 1987, Wolf, Ice Viper

Friday, March 9, 2001

1985 Shipwreck

All right. I will give that this guy looks life a refugee from the Village People. He is also the butt of just about as many bad jokes and puns as Skidmark. However, the 1985 Shipwreck is, for many people, one of the key figures to considering their collections complete. While I profiled the figure from 1994, I did nothing to touch upon the Shipwreck character. He was certainly one of the Joes whose personality carried him above the mundane background figures like Barbecue, Airtight and Alpine and made him a fan favorite.

Shipwreck is one of the few characters I distinctly remember from the cartoon. He, like Flint and Lady Jaye, was introduced by the cartoon a year early. Naturally, it built up high expectations for the figure. The only way it disappointed me, or any of my friends, though, was that Hasbro did not release the cool boat contraption that Shipwreck used in the cartoon. (In retrospect, the vehicle was pretty hokey, but would have been cool when I was a kid.) The figure itself is very nice. He has a basic, blue uniform with the cutesy little sailor hat. What made shipwreck cool, though, was his accessories. His gun, while a bit retro, was very cool. Polly, his parrot, was a gimmick that seems to have captured the attention of even many modern collectors today. His best accessory, though, was the rope. As he showcased in the comic, this rope was not just for functions, it was for combat. (While the panel of Shipwreck breaking the Lamprey's helmet with the small anchors was very cool, it didn't translate all that well into the scene below. Oh, well. Hopefully, you can still get the basic idea.) It was the rope that kept Shipwreck in my collection for many years. Alas, though, it was the loss of this accessory that ended Shipwreck's run of popularity. Only with a recent acquisition of the specimen you see below (Thanks, Sam!), has Shipwreck began his return to prominence.

Back in the '80's, a Sears catalog showed the U.S.S. Flagg with several Shipwreck figures manning different stations. This has become a great past time for many people. Simple headswaps allow this basic figure to see wide reuse as the crew for Joe naval stations. As such, people tend to hoard Shipwreck figures. I've got 4 or them and find that number being among the smallest when I talk to other Joe collectors. This is the type of figure, like the Action Sailor, that allows you to build armies and create faceless legions for the Joes. He also can work similar to a figure like Hardtop in that he can provide the valuable support staff who keeps Joe and their equipment in fighting shape. It was in this capacity that Shipwreck had fallen in my collection. The couple that I had were simply dockmen who moored the Shark 9000 or Hovercrafts and were quickly killed in any Cobra attack.

This was vastly different from the swashbuckling hero Shipwreck was in my youth. One of my oft enacted scenarios was similar to what you see below. Shipwreck used his rope to climb aboard a hydrofoil and take out the crew. (Of course, back in those days, I had only one Lamprey so it was other hapless Cobras who suffered Shipwreck's wrath.) He could then turn the Cobra craft back against it's allies in a surprise attack. Sure it was cliched. But back in 1985, things like that didn't bother me. The figure was fun and adventures like that kept me entertained for hours. Joe's most enduring trait has been its versatility. Over the years, as my adventures morphed and became vastly more complex, the Joe line offered everything that you would need for even the most bizarre undertaking. While the comics and cartoon offered some established story lines and character formations, it was the ability to put any given figure into any role that you desired that allowed for the long term run the Joe line enjoyed. None of my friends used the same figure in the same way. Sure, we all had Snake Eyes and Stormshadow be super ninjas, but we all had them with various limitations that would cause endless fights whenever my friends and I would attempt a Joe adventure.

Shipwrecks are pretty easy to find. He was a hugely popular figure that was available during the height of Joe's popularity. He is readily available on the second hand market despite the fact that many people own him in great multiples. Finding him complete with all his accessories, though, is a bit tougher. Both Polly and his gun tended to break. The rope was oft lost and easily knotted. Still, mint and complete, this guy still won't cost you more than $10. If you only want them for crewmen and don't care about the accessories, though, you can get this guy for next to nothing. As I move towards display of figures, I think I'll like having a couple of these guys. Should I ever acquire a U.S.S. Flagg, I'm sure that Shipwreck could start to rival even my most ubiquitous Cobras in sheer numbers. For that reason, I casually add these guys to my collection. It is easy to do since he is out there in such great numbers. It is nice, for once, to be able to showcase an army builder where there is no sense of urgency in his acquisition. Still, though, should Joes popularity skyrocket, figures like this could start to dry up. Should that happen, there will be many collectors, myself included, who will stew over lost opportunity.

Shipwreck's are cool and lend themselves to army building. Still, though, I'm only really after one of the Brazilian Tiger Force Shipwrecks. If you have one of those with which you are willing to part, email me.

1985 Shipwreck, 1986 Devilfish, Funskool Beach Head

1985 Shipwreck, Moray, Hydrofoil, Lamprey