Thursday, June 14, 2001

1984 Mutt

In the past couple of days, I've been rereading all of my Joe comics. I had left them at my parents' house so this is the first time in about 4 years where I've been able to catch up on them. For whatever reason, I started with #41 and worked forward. After that, I went back and reread the first 40 issues. While reading issue #25, the immortal Zartan introduction issue, I was fondly reminded of the summer of '84. I had most of the figures that had come out that year and used them all incessantly. While '83 had seen my scant toy dollar spread between Star Wars figures and Joes, '84 was the first year that was Joe only. As such, I was able to buy many of the vehicles and figures myself and didn't have to rely on the holidays to fill the gaps in my collection. As I bought most of the figures with my own money, I kept my figures in very nice condition. My brothers, however, had no qualms about destroying any figures they were given. Among the figures who they owned and destroyed was the Joe dog handler, Mutt.

I've already visited the Mutt character. However, that figure was one I acquired as an adult and, though I do enjoy it, it is a figure that never saw use as the intended character like this original version did. You see, when we first got Mutt, I had also just discovered the comic. I started at issue #27, but was able to fill the gaps rather quickly by simply going to the neighborhood comic store. Seeing Mutt's important role in issues 25-27 made me like him much more than I would normally have. The reason I let my brother get this figure was because of the dog. I didn't like dogs and saw no use for them. (Don't tell the two dogs I currently own this, though!) Since I considered Junkyard a waste, I wasn't too keen on owning the figure myself. Once my brother got Mutt, though, I was hooked. The military colors, awesome, silenced pistol, nightstick, and muzzle made for a figure that just had to be used. Unfortunately, since Mutt was not mine, his condition quickly deteriorated beyond usability. We lost his accessories and Mutt's thumbs broke. After that, this guy went on the junkheap and stayed there for many years.

When I returned to Joe, one of the figures I decided I wanted was a nice Mutt. However, I had plenty of other armies to build. Since I was focusing on figures like Chuckles, Law, Dial Tone, Range Vipers, and divers, I didn't ever get any lots that included a nice Mutt figure. At some point, I did manage to get a nice figure, but he was missing his accessories. About a year ago, though, I acquired a magnificent lot of Joes (see the Viper Pilot) that included a mint, complete Mutt and Junkyard. As soon as I saw his nightstick in the bin of accessories, Mutt once again joined my collection.

I hold a very important distinction between Mutt and Law. Law was the MP, a cop who happened to also use a dog. Mutt was a military commando who also used a dog. Many of my friends just assumed that Law replaced Mutt on the Joe team. However, Law never really partook in any totally military operations. Mutt was often involved in military style raids, not only in urban settings, but also in the actual field. While there are still many people out there who still lump these two figures together, I think they represent totally different specialties that wouldn't really cross over all that much. While the photo below does show the two figures together, I still use Mutt primarily as a soldier. He accompanies figures the character represented by the '97 Snake Eyes and Bullhorn on commando style raids in urban environments. He is one who clashes with my Cobra Urban Death Squads that are fronted by Alley and Range Vipers. He just works well as a tough, no nonsense, urban commando. Plus, his bulkier sculpt allows to him stand right alongside any other year of figures and not look out of place.

Mutt figures aren't too tough to find. Finding complete, unbroken Mutt figures along with the original, brown bellied Junkyard, though, can pose a challenge. Still, this guy is remarkably cheap for just how cool of a figure he really is. Mutt's thumbs are prone to breakage, as his his crotch. His small accessories are also easily and often lost. His nightstick is one of the more troublesome accessories to find out there. Even with all that, though, Mutt is a Joe and Joes tend to sell for far less than Cobras. Mutt is a figure, though, that has some popularity. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to someday see either this classic mold, or the '92, make an appearance in the new releases. He is a character that many old time collectors enjoy and possesses a mold that is very updatable and would fit well with any new release. At any rate, though, Mutt is a classic character and one that I know many people like. He is once again a nice part of my collection and one of the few non-ball headed figures I use. Given a chance, I think you could find a nice spot for him in your collection as well.

I like Mutt, but don't need any more of him. I would, though, like one of those black and red European exclusive Mutt's. From what Joe year do you hold your fondest memories?, Let me know.

1984 Mutt, Cutter, Whale, Hovercraft, 1986 Wet Suit

1984 Mutt, 1993 Mail Away Big Bear, Armadillo, 2004 Zap

1984 Mutt, 1990 Topside, 1987 Chuckles

1984 Mutt, 2000 law, Action Soldier, Star Viper

Friday, June 8, 2001

1990 Topside

Back in the mid '90's, I was returning from school to my parent's house for a winter break. En route, my dad and I stopped off at a little antique mall in Circleville, IN. (Circleville is on a sneaky little backroad between Indianapolis and Oxford. The roads back there were a great way for a car with Ohio plates to bring kegs of beer from Richmond, Indiana to Ohio.) Now this was back in the day when the only toys antique malls carried were some '70's Barbie dolls and maybe some 6 Million Dollar Man stuff. There were, of course, lots of sports card, though. While my dad was browsing through the furniture and such, I found a little book that simply enthralled me. It was the DeSimone guide to 3 3/4" Joes. I had never seen this book and paged through it for about an hour, looking back at all the figures I had stashed under my bed at my parent's house, buy mostly at the figures released from '89 through '91. I had never really seen many of these guys and thought they were very cool. After absorbing so much in such a short time, few figures really stuck in my mind. One of these guys was Topside.

When I first started buying up large lots of figures back in '98, I really focused on lots containing figures from '89 - '91. Those were the guys I didn't have and had never had. In fact, you may see a bias on this site towards figures from the latter half of the line. The reason for this is that they are the ones I have sought out and not had time enough to grow tired of. To me, many of the original figures are worn out. It's guys like Topside who keep the hobby interesting. With nearly 600 unique figures in the Joe run, there is always something new to keep me from getting bored. I think that's why the vintage Star Wars, and now POTFII, bore me. There is just not enough going to keep my interest. With Joes, you can always find new combinations, or new series of figures who mesh well together. At any rate, though, for some reason, those lots never contained a Topside figure. While I quickly amassed Stretchers and Sub Zeros, Topside remained elusive. I also couldn't find just a simple loose one that wasn't horribly expensive. Finally, I managed to snag one. Then, like rabbits, Topsides began to multiply in my collection. Soon, I had the 5 who now call my collection home.

There are a number of reasons that I like this guy. First: he lends himself to army building. I've said many times before that I like army builders for my Joes as well as my Cobras. Topside is a perfect figure to fit that role. Like Shipwreck, he works as a simple, faceless longshoreman or as a fully named Joe. Second: his mold is great. He has the life jacket and naval uniform that look very convincing as a naval commando and make me want to use him as crewmembers of the Tactical Battle Platform, Hovercraft, or Shark 9000. The third reason this guy is so cool is his accessories. His gun is compact, two handled machine gun that looks like something a commando would use. His helmet adds that element of military trooper to him that really allows for a great expansion of his role. His missile launcher backpack isn't an accessory I use all that often, but is a nice add on, nonetheless. (Be careful with this pack. A complete Topside actually has 3 missiles. Of course, his pack only holds 2 and he has no other place to put the 3rd. It is kind of silly, but something of which to be aware.) All of these things add up to a figure that really should be a lot more popular than he is.

From the moment I got my first Topside, he has been a rather prolific member of my collection. I like to center a lot of my use of my toys around water based themes. The reason is that boats are much easier to play with than large planes, but still allow leeway that ground based adventures do not. For that reason, figures like Topside get lots of use. He is both a defender of a Joe position and an attacker of Cobra held installations. In either scenario, the figure works perfectly. I've said before that I hope to someday have a USS Flagg. When that day comes, I'll have a squadron of Topsides who will act as the ship's first strike commandos. Until then, though, I've still got plenty of places where this guy will get more than his fair share of use.

It is also with great sadness that I write this profile. The reason is simple. Topside will be the final figure I profile that has pictures taken from my Arizona home. As most of you may know, I'm no longer a desert rat. I'm not just another ordinary, average mid westerner who lives in no place special just like most other people in this country. As to how this affects this Joe page and my fandom, well, it doesn't. Basically, it means that all the cool pictures of the tropical jungles, pool, cracked desert floor, succulent plant life and, most importantly, the waterfall, are no more. Once I have a new house, then I will once again have the settings for some new dioramas based on mud puddles, overgrown grass, messy leaves, and, Heaven for fend, snow. At any rate, this ushers in a new era in Joe collecting for me. I will still post a few, scattered AZ pics from time to time, but, for the most part, they are up. As a kid I had dreamed of a backyard like that one. Now, at least I was able to have the memories....

Topsides are not hard to find. In fact, they can usually be had for next to nothing. He is just a figure that I had trouble finding at a time when all '90 and '91 figures were tough to find. Now, he can be had with just about no effort at all. Of course, this is not a bad thing. I love having figures like this guy available for reasonable prices. While some other figures from Topside's year, Bullhorn, have become remarkable expensive and very frustrating for cheap bastards like me to acquire, Topside offers a nice opportunity to build armies without breaking your budget. I've heard many collectors complaining that the new releases are too focused on aquatic troops. (They have released a lot of divers.) Frankly, I don't mind this. I've always used water as an integral part of my adventures. In fact, I'm already looking into installing a pond and fountain in my new backyard so that I still have some elements of home around. Toys and water mix and mix well. When a lack of aquatic troops will keep us from getting figures of Topside's quality, then I think we, as collectors, will have lost a great deal.

While I like Topside armies, I've got enough of these guys for now. What do you think of this figure? Let me know.

1990 Topside, 1998 Cobra Trooper

1990 Topside, 1998 Cobra Trooper

1990 Topside, 1998 Cobra Trooper

1990 Topside, 1998 Cobra Trooper

1990 Topside, 1998 Cobra Trooper

1990 Topside, 1998 Cobra Trooper