Tuesday, July 31, 2001

2001 Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal (Indian Exclusive)

Earlier this year, one of the preliminary name lists for the new Joes that surfaced listed Zartan and a Crimson Viper as one of the upcoming packs in Wave 4 that would see release this fall. This Crimson Viper immediately spawned rampant speculation and widespread anticipation of what could be a great new Cobra figure. Needless to say, controversy broke out. Official lists from trusted sources said the figure was definite. Other people who had internal Hasbro sources said that neither a figure of that name, nor any of the speculated molds would be coming out. This even lead to a prominent Joe site issuing a public challenge to anyone who thought this figure would come out. Alas, Zartan is going to be shipped with a repainted Astro Viper who will be called the Shadow Viper. For many collectors, this was a huge disappointment. The Crimson Guard family is probably one of the most loved hierarchies in the entire Cobra army. The fact that a new Tomax and Xamot are coming out later this year as well, just added to the frustration levels. However, a couple of weeks ago, some information was released to the Joe community. There would be a new Crimson Guard figure released this year. There was just one caveat, the figure would not be released by Hasbro, it would be released in India by the Funskool toy company.

I've profiled Funskool figures before. As most of you know, there are now many American importers who sell Funskool figures for about the same price you pay for the new Joes at Toys R Us. This has enabled many collectors to build armies of many figures that would otherwise have been impossible to find. Many of you have seen my profile of the Funskool Desert Scorpion and know how much I like that figure. If you've paid attention to many of the photographs contained in many of this site's profiles, you may have noticed that one of the figures I like to use to fill out my dioramas is the mighty Crimson Guard Immortal. While I've profiled the other 2 versions of the Crimson Guard here, I've never had the occasion to add the final member of the triumvirate. With the release of this new Crimson Guard Immortal, though, I've finally decided to break down and profile one of the best molded figures who was ever released in the line.

The great thing about the Funskool CGI is that he is very similar to the American version. Like the Funskool Night Viper, he is very true to his roots. The red in his uniform is slightly darker and more blood in color. He has a few different paint highlights, but they are all tastefully done and keep the figure very nice. The biggest difference is the head. The head of the Indian figure is painted gold. It's an odd look, but it still works. The gold dome makes this guy look like he could be the leader of all the CGI's and the colored head denotes his rank. Conversely, the gold could also denote the rank and file CGI's as the harder to find American figures could be the leaders. Either way, this figure works. The weapon colors that were given this figure are also decent. He has silver launchers and a black ammo belt. They work very nicely. The yellow missiles are a forgivable choice, but the orange backpack is not. However, as you can see from the picture below, the figure works great without the pack. Of course, I've never liked the CGI's accessories anyways. That's why a visit to Raven's Castings is in order. He does great work and I've found his versions of the original Snow Serpent AK-47 to be a perfect fit for all CGI's.

Right now, I don't what I'll use this guy for. He is a figure of whom I'll build armies. When the first pictures of this guy surfaced, I heard some Joe collectors only half facetiously say, "I'll take 65!". That sentiment alone tells you how anticipated this figure has been. Collectors have been clamouring for a cheap alternative to the Crimson Guard for years. Now, for the first time, that has been made available. Sure, Funskool figures are of lower quality plastic than American figures. However, that will keep this guy's thumbs from breaking. I've already got three of these guys and see my army growing to around 12. As these guys are newly released, they should be around a for a good long time. Still, though, there are lots of people, like me, who will snatch up large numbers of these guys. If you have the chance to add them to your collection now, I would do so. You never know what the future will hold. How many people passed on extra Firefly/Undertow two packs and now regret it?

The American Crimson Guard Immortal is a very tough figure to find. Even if you can easily afford his $25-$30 price tag for a mint, complete specimen, you usually can't find enough of them to really build a nice army. Also, the American version is also very brittle and is subject to broken crotches and thumbs. It makes finding them even more troublesome. There are also reports of a European variation of this figure. It seems, somewhere in Europe, the Crimson Guard Immortal was released with a repainted Rock Viper head. I've never personally seen one of these, but would like to one day own one. As for this Indian figure, well, his availability is just starting. He is a newly released figure in India and will be available from many American sellers. In fact, I acquired this figure from The Store On 44. The owner is a good guy and is an active Joe fan who participates in the Joe community. He sells tons of Joe stuff at his site, including this figure and many other Funskool exclusive figures, for very reasonable prices. Head over to his store and let him know I sent you. Once you have this figure, you will find him a nice piece of your collection. He is sure, over time, to become one of those foreign figures that most contemporary collectors will consider a necessity for any collection.

If you've got one of the European variants of this figure and want to trade it, email me.

2001 Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal, India, Variant

2001 Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal, India, Variant, Cross Country

2001 Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal, India, Variant, Cross Country

2001 Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal, India, Variant, Cross Country

Thursday, July 26, 2001

1992 Eel

A long time ago, I profiled the best Cobra diver figure ever offered from Hasbro, the original Eel. Since then, I've also offered my thoughts on the original Undertow and the only incarnation of the Hydro Viper. Besides the newly released version of Undertow, I've covered just about all the Cobra diver figures. However, there is one figure that has eluded my profiles for some time. Until recently, I really had no inclination to ever profile him. However, I saw the picture of the Funskool Eel at SmallJoes.com and was reminded of the American version of this figure. A couple of weeks later, I received a carded American '92 Eel as part of a lot. I opened this figure, as I do most of my carded purchases, and was amazed at the mold. I had a couple of the '92 Eels packed away but had never really given them much thought. Now, though, I've decided to finally add the figure that is definitely the second most obscure Cobra diver ever released: the 1992 Eel.

There are a lot of things that should be wrong with this figure. First, he is neon. He is not a little neon like the '94 Stalker. He is all neon. The thing is, it works. This guy is a diver. Bright colors are forgivable on three or four types of figures: astronauts, divers, rescue troops, and firefighters. Because of this, the figure works. The Eel's second problem is his lack of accessories. The original Eel came with the diver accessories against which all future divers have been judged. This guy only comes with a lame, neon speargun that looks like a knockoff of Monkeywrench's original gun, 2 flippers, and a surprisingly cool robotic shark that houses a missile launcher in his mouth. Beyond the flippers, there is nothing really redeeming about the accessories and no amount of propaganda will take away from the fact that they mostly suck. However, it is the figure's mold that makes up for this. This figure is large and bulky. It makes sense that he could have recycling gear built into his suit. While it would have worked better to have it be part of the mold, like on the '94 Shipwreck, it still allows me some leeway as to the whereabouts of this diver's air tanks. Aside from the figure's bulk, he has these ridges molded onto his arms and legs. It was this feature that was most intriguing to me. I use these as razor sharp appendages that make these guys close quarter, underwater combat specialists. While the original Eels and the other divers are more combat oriented. This version of the Eels jumps into waters infested with opposition divers and takes them out with slashing blades rather than the the traditional spear guns. These guys are the ruthless division of the Cobra diver corps. Less highly trained, but more bloodthirsty.

1992 actually gave us some very nice figures. Joes like Shockwave, Ace, and General Flagg were great foils against Cobras like the Headhunter and Flak Viper. Most collectors, though, write off any year much past 1991. (Some write of any year past 1987, but that's another story!) It's a shame. There are tons of great figures, many of them profiled throughout this site, that were released in Joe's final years. While this guy may not live up to his 1985 counterpart, he is still a great figure. Rather than get caught up comparing eras, I like to take each individual figure for what it is: a figure. If a figure is good, who cares whether it's supposed to represent a better figure from years before? I think that's why I get such great joy out of my collection. I don't get hung up on what's realistic, or who's better, or what came first. I just focus on what's cool to me. It's a strategy that has served me well for many years now and not one that I see myself changing. It's just something to think about.

After its two uses by Hasbro, this mold was sent off to India where Funskool released it in colors similar to the '92 Eel for many years. Production stopped around 2003 and it is likely that the mold was returned to Hasbro. As such, this figure would make a great candidate for re-release. Colored like the V1 Eel, I think this mold would get a lot of collector attention and would make for a worthy substitute to the long missing V1 Eel mold. Perhaps that will one day come to pass. Until then, we can enjoy this figure in all his neony goodness.

1992 Eels are not hard to get. You can usually get them carded for under $10. Right now, this is the easiest way to find them. In my days of prolific Cobra army building, though, I've only managed to get 3 of these guys. Like most '92 figures, you have to really search for them before you can acquire significant amounts of the figure. However, in the first paragraph I mentioned that this guy is the second most obscure diver in the Cobra ranks. Who is the first? Simple, it's the 1993 version of this figure. He is nearly identical to this figure, only he is less neon. (Check YoJoe.com for details.) That figure is incredibly tough to find. I've never even seen one. However, since it is nearly impossible to discern the '93 from a '92 until you have them both in front of you, they may not be as difficult to find as this might make it seem. Either way, though, this figure is definitely one of the most unsung figures in the entire line. He is a guy that I've grown to like. He is certainly not the original Eel, but I've never even tried to compare the two. The figures are too different and serve much different purposes. Both have important homes in my collection and can coexist in your collection as well.

While I've got some '92 Eels, I would like a '93. If you've got one with which you wish to part, email me.

1992 Eel, 1993 Payload, Eco Warriors Deep Six

1992 Eel, 1993 Payload, Eco Warriors Deep Six

1992 Eel, 1993 Payload, Eco Warriors Deep Six

1992 Eel, 2001 Wet Suit

1992 Eel, T'Jbang, Ninja Force

1992 Eel, 1988 Bugg

Monday, July 23, 2001

1983 Zap

Back in the spring of 1983, my youngest brother was given, for his birthday, a Zap by our grandparents. Zap was about the only original Joe we hadn't yet acquired, so this was pretty cool. What was odd, though, was that this was a straight armed Zap that my grandparents had managed to find after the swivel armed version had already been released. My brother opened him in our van as we were on the way to the park. He promptly attempted to put the large bazooka into Zap's right hand and was met with disastrous results as the thumb broke before the handle had even started to get close to being fully inserted. I immediately took the figure and chastised my brother for being so stupid as to break a new figure the first time he tried to use the accessories. I promptly told him to let me show him how to have the figure properly hold the gun in his left hand. I barely slid the handle into this Zap's left hand when that thumb snapped off as well. Thus ended the illustrious reign enjoyed by Zap in our collection.

I'm not kidding. I broke that Zap back in 1983 and haven't managed to get a new one until just about 2 weeks ago. Due to that early incident, I always considered Zap to be an inferior figure who wasn't worth getting since he would easily break. As an adult collector, I've not been too keen on acquiring any of the early figures. I just don't like them enough to spend the type of money it usually requires to add one of these guys to my collection. Recently, though, this has changed. I'm now down to under 70 figures that I need to have a complete set of domestic Joes. With this in mind, most of the figures I do not yet have are not very high on my list. In fact, I've found it hard to get excited about the search for just about any of them. That's why I've moved more towards foreign releases as my primary way of adding new Joes to my collection. The few new American Joes I have added, though, have tended to be the swivel armed rereleases of the original 13 Joes, and a few of those original straight armed figures. I've just been missing a few and they are now among the figures I like the most of those which I am missing.

The thing I like about Zap, though, is that he's different. All those early Joes are the same color and have little difference between each other. Zap, though, really stands out. His color scheme is dramatically different from the other originals' and his accessories have actually better withstood the test of time. Because of this, I actually started looking for Zap. I decided that I liked the figure and might actually have a use for him. Unlike Breaker, I think that Zap may actually be a part of my collection rather than an homage to it. I don't normally go for these early figures, but Zap has become kind of an exception. His look blends well with other, more modern figures and they never really introduced a bazooka trooper who was better than this original Zap. (His second version, though, is a great figures as well. I nearly had to flip a coin to see which version would be profiled. The second's less than stellar accessories, though, made this guy the winner.) The figure has the unique blend of color and aesthetics that make him stand out when posed with the original Joes. He is the odd ball. That alone is enough reason for me to like him.

I see Zap becoming one of those background figures that I tend to like. I don't think he'll get used as a primary trooper. Those roles are relegated to figures that are more infantry and less specialty in nature. Zap, though, will be a guy who stays with the chopper or transport and is called in when the core unit gets into trouble. Kind of like the '89 Rock and Roll, Zap isn't the type of guy who goes traipsing through the field. His weapons are just not conducive to that. He is the type of figure, though, that is necessary when things get really bad. He is the foil to the Heat or new Fast Blast Viper. He is required to be present on missions, but you hope his services are never needed. I like guys like that. They are what gives the line the diversity it needs to be realistic. If Hasbro had only released the same type of trooper over and over again, the line would have floundered and died out very quickly. Hasbro would do well to learn from their past success with the new line. Many collectors have bemoaned the Wet Suit/Wet Down two pack. They don't like the divers. It is this type of diversity, though, that makes the line fun. We now have divers that can be used for water missions. If Hasbro only releases green colored infantry figures, the line is going to go stale very quickly. I would hope that the announced Gung Ho/Leatherneck two pack remembers this. Those two characters, while being similar specialties, had very different looks to all their incarnations. If the figures just look the same, I know my interest will be severely limited. I like diversity of form and function in my Joe ranks. It just keeps the line fresh. Fans with short sighted "realism" points of view need to remember that.

As an addendum to that last paragraph: I wrote those words on July 18, 2001. The very next morning I turned on my computer to find pictures of the next wave of Joes. What do I find? All of the things I warn about have come true on the future releases. All the new head sculpts look the same. The figures all have similar paint schemes and are indistinguishable from each other. I find it hard to get excited about waves 4 and 5 since the figures aren't really all that different from what we've already seen. Oh, well. At least the army building bills will be much lower.

Zap is a weird figure. Lots of kids broke their originals, be they swivel or straight armed. In fact, Hasbro updated Zap's bazooka three times. The first, and rarest, is a double handed job that is very cool, but tough to find. The second is the version we are most used to seeing, but it has a fat handle that still broke thumbs. The third version has a thinner handle and helps keep the figure intact. A mint complete Zap, regardless of which bazooka he comes with, will still set you back a decent sum. Recently, this guy has been fetching $20-$25 for a mint, loose, complete with filecard specimen. This makes him the third most expensive original figure behind Snake Eyes and Scarlett. Like all of these original Joes, though, Zap's price is subject to change. A couple of months ago, Scarlett's could be had for under $10. Now, they're getting $30. Zap is just in favor right now. In a couple of months the people looking for him will have all gotten a sample and his price, like the price of just about every figure, will fall a bit. The key to getting a good deal is to know when the peaks and valleys are. Of course, this is always the case. Zap, though, is a figure I'm actually happy to have. He will get some use in my collection, though not what other, more recent figures will see. He is a guy, though, that fits well with figures from all years. The line has precious few figures who can boast that claim.

Zap is cool, but I'm not too keen on building armies of these early figures. If you have a straight armed Zap with no damage, though, I would be interested. If you can help, email me.

1983 Zap, Short Fuze, Cobra Trooper, Cobra Officer, Stalker, Grunt, Original 13

1985 Footloose

Back in the early days of the site during my profile of Airtight, I related the story of the first two 1985 figures I added to my collection. Now, years later, I realize the folly of my choices and would certainly, given the chance again, have picked very different figures as my first purchase for that year. However, hindsight is 20/20. Back then, I was the happiest kid in the world when I brought home Airtight and the figure I'm profiling today: Footloose.

When I first got Footloose, he instantly became my favorite figure. He led all the troops off the Whale, scaled mountains with Alpine, and commanded any armored vehicles I had. I just loved his look. He was a bit bulkier than the other '83 and '84 figures I had, plus he had the added head articulation. He became the one figure that all my friends grew to hate. I made this guy such a great, powerful soldier that none of them liked playing with me when Footloose was a member of my team. Of course, that didn't matter to me. He was the figure I was going to use. Even if that meant that I had to come up with some rather creative rules whenever my friends and I chose up our figure teams. He was just too much. In fact, I came up with some lame song that he sang every time he came into battle.

I still remember early adventures from the spring of '85. I would take Footloose, Alpine, a couple of older Joes and my new Crimson Guard and Eel figures out to front of my parents house. There they had a small hill with a concrete walkway that divided the yard in two. The walkway had about 4 steps near the beginning to compensate for the hill. This was the same place my brother and I had played extensively back in late '82 when he got his first Joe figures. More than once, during my adventures, I would dig up a remnant of those autumn days from a few years earlier. Of course, that became part of the fun. I took Footloose's helmet off of him (I always thought he looked bad with it on.) and had him hiding in the reeds down by the "river". As Alpine climbed the hill to take out the Cobra stronghold, Footloose would cover him and keep the Cobras from killing his friend. There were variations on this theme, but Footloose was always the central infantry man who did the dirty work. Even after I got Flint, the first figure I really, really wanted, Footloose remained the great fighter that I had made him to be. Not even his less than stellar appearance in the comic was enough for him to fall out of my favor.

Around early 1986, my original Footloose's gun broke. This spelled the end for that figure and I took him apart and created my first "custom" figures. Fortunately, Footloose was still available at retail so I bought another one. This figure survived for another year or so before I noticed that his thumb was starting to crack. As Footloose was no longer available at retail, I packed my figure away so I didn't risk further breakage. It was here he stayed until a few years ago when I pulled out all my old figures and upgraded or replaced them. At that time, though, I was busy adding new figures to my collection and didn't have time for old favorites. All the new Footlooses I acquired just went into the '85 drawer. When I moved back to Indiana, though, I stayed at my parents' house for a couple of months until I could find a place of my own. While back here, I was reminded of many of these early adventures and the figures I used as a child. This got me thinking and when I got my collection back out, I dug out a Footloose. Almost immediately, I was reminded of why I had liked him all those years ago. Now, I think he will regain at least part of his former glory. I haven't had one for so long that he is like a new figure to me. This always bodes well for any figure in my collection.

Just a quick side note. Footloose is another old character we would have seen make a reappearance in the 1995 Battle Rangers line. He was slated to be released along with Flint, the Baroness and Dr. Mindbender. He would have been cast in a great military green with a molded hat similar to the '93 Bazooka's. He would also have utilized the '93 Duke's arms, waist, and legs. The only prototype of Footloose that I have seen did not have the arms and legs attached. For that reason, I don't think he made it as far in the production process as the other three mentioned Battle Rangers members. Perhaps, one day I'll track one of these prototypes down. He is really the last one I'm after. When I do, you can be sure you will see him here.

The Footloose mold saw pretty good use around the world. After he was released in the US, the mold was sent to Argentina where a figure in similar colors was released as Coyote. From there, the mold went on Brazil. There, Footloose was released in colors similar to the American figure and then again in Slaughters Marauders colors. The final release of the figure occurred when those Brazilian Slaughters Marauders figures were packaged up and imported to the US. After that, Footloose's mold has never been used again. It is likely that the mold died in Brazil and is now long gone. Really, that's too bad as Footloose is a character and figure that most collectors would like to see return in some form. The mold could be repainted for a variety of environments and collectors would welcome some diversity for the character.

Footlooses are pretty easy to find. In fact, even mint and complete, this guy is insanely available. Now, over 15 years after his release, people just don't like the figure. While lots of people have favorites that aren't Flint and Snake Eyes, they rarely choose Footloose as the figure they like. Really, it's unexplainable. Footloose tends to have brittle thumbs and his accessories had lots of interacting pieces that made them prone to breakage as well. I guess it's just because this guy didn't have the characterizations of other '85's that makes him what he is today. That is a nice thing, though. Often a good, solid infantry soldier will cost you a lot of money. As that isn't the case with Footloose, he can be used and used without the fear that his loss or destruction would cause financial hardship. That's the way Joes should be.

Footloose may be hokey. You may hate his character. The fact is, I like the figure. What do you think?

1985 Footloose, 1984 Spirit, 1991 Heavy Duty, Alpinista, Brazil, Estrela, Hit and Run

1985 Footloose, Mauler, Heavy Metal, 2005 Stalker, Snake Eyes, Classified, Comic Pack

1985 Footloose, Snake Eyes, V2, 1986 Mission to Brazil Claymore, Toys R Us Exclusive, 1988 Wildcard

1985 Footloose, 1994 Viper

Thursday, July 12, 2001

1990 Stretcher

Back in around 1994 or 1995, I made a trip to Trader's World flea market near Dayton, Ohio. I went there with my roommate to find some old Atari 2600 games that he was going to use in his "lair". (Don't ask!) While there, though, I rummaged through just about every toy dealer's table I could find. Back then, I only had my childhood Joes and was missing many, many figures. At one table, a guy had a huge box of figures for $1 each. In here, I found an '83 Ace and a Stretcher figure. When I dug them out, the proprietor of the table promptly launched into a lecture of how only "mint" figures would ever have any value. He pontificated for about 10 minutes while I searched for more Joes I needed. When I paid, he asked if I thought I was going to get rich selling the figures I had just bought. I replied, "No. I just think they'll be fun to play with." and walked off. At any rate, it's just a random memory of my first acquisition of the figure to be profiled here: Stretcher.

That first Stretcher figure I bought had no accessories and was kind of beat up. I had also bought an original Dusty that day, so I decided to give that original Stretcher Dusty's gun. I liked the look and teamed this guy up with the '92 Wild Bill, '94 Flint, Mercer, and the'86 Hawk. They were a small band of mercenaries who were stuck in Cobra controlled land and had to fight their way out against the hordes of Vipers and Crimson Guard Commanders. It was great fun and lead to my greater appreciation of this figure. In fact, he became such and integral part of my everyday Joe world that back in '97 he was part of a team of mercenaries and terrorists who hijacked a Tomahawk chopper to escape the raiding hordes of Range and Alley Vipers that has lead to a storyline that still continues to this day. That's the type of versatility I liked to get out of figures back then.

In early '99, I finally acquired a mint, complete version of Stretcher. At that point, I took the figure for what he was: a medical specialist. Stretcher isn't a medic, he's the guy who pulls the wounded out of the fire and gets them to proper medical attention. It's a cool specialty, and one that makes for a more exciting figure than a typical medic, but still not one that would make this guy a necessity to any collection. Stretcher is from the same vein as guys like Airtight, Alpine, Barbecue, and Topside. He is a supporting figure who is necessary in certain situations but isn't a guy who you would always take along with you. Again, he's that supporting figure that made the line great. The only problem is that the entire Joe year of 1990 was full of supporting role players like this guy, Bullhorn, and Pathfinder and didn't have the strong, main characters that were the hallmark of the great Joe years.

Because of the ever evolving nature of my Joe collection and the focus I apply to it, Stretcher's star has faded. I pulled out that old, beaten up figure the other day and realized that I haven't used him in almost a year. Like most collectors, I no longer have the time to mess with my collection like I did only a few years ago. Life catches up with you, I guess. Hopefully, one of these days when I get all resettled, I'll be able to pull out some old figures like that Stretcher and use them again. Until then, though, this figure holds some fond memories for me. For me, a figure gets played out. Once I've had a guy for a couple of years and have used him heavily, I look for something new. I think that's why the figures that I tend to use the most are the ones that I have most recently acquired. For now, Stretcher has had his moment and I'm looking forward to using some new figures in my collection. My collecting cycle is a big circle, though, and I will, one day, come back and use this figure again. I just hope it's sooner than later.

While the Stretcher character has gotten no love from the modern Hasbro, his mold has. The Stretcher mold except for the head was used in early 2002 on the Sideswipe figure. That figure, though, saw a very short production run that was only available online. However, if you missed that, the mold was used in its entirety in 2004 as the Anti Venom Sgt. Lifeline. This figure is significant as it changes the race of Stretcher's head to a Caucasian. It is also significant as there exist many pre-production light blue Anti Venom figures that feature Stretcher as an African-American. So, at some point, Stretcher was probably planned to return but was scratched in order to give the Anti Venom set a bit more star power by including the more well known Lifeline character. The good news about both these figures, though, is that they included all of Stretcher's original accessories. So, if you can't find a Stretcher, you can pick either of the later figures and get the full complement of accessories.

Apparently, Stretchers can be pretty tough to find. I know many people who are looking for him. Since he's not at the top of most people's list, though, there isn't a great demand for him. Still, he, like most of the '90 figures, came with tons of accessories that are both very breakable and very losable. I managed, through the acquisition of three separate figures, to finally put together one complete Stretcher. It was some effort, but fit in with my collecting strategy at the time. Now, you can still buy mint, complete, and sometimes even carded, Stretchers for under $10. It is a price well paid for a figure of this quality. I love 1990 figures because they are the true forgotten year in Joedom. As such, you can get great figures for a very small price. Perhaps, with publicity like I give them, the days of cheap '90 Joes may come to end. Still, it will be a while. Just don't wait too long to fill those gaps in your collection. You can be sure, that if you do, it will cause you much more grief down the line.

If you have any questions, or comments, email me.

1990 Stretcher, Footloose, Roadblock, Lifeline

1990 Stretcher, Footloose, Freefall, Big Ben

1994 Mexican Exclusive Star Brigade Carcass - Lunartix Alien

Fans of this page know that I'm a Star Brigade junkie. I've profiled several astronauts, both Joe and Cobra. It's been a while, though, since I graced the Forgotten Figures section with a Star Brigade figure. I've been wanting to showcase the one area of Star Brigade that I've been missing, the Lunartix empire, but have not had the loose figures of which to take pictures. I've said before that I've got a complete set of carded '94 Star Brigade figures, but I only had Carcass loose. However, a couple of weeks ago, I got a chance to add this much less seldom seen version of Carcass to my collection. It is from Mexico, and one of two exclusive color schemes done to Lunartix figures that were only available down there. While the Mexican Predacon is cool, I like the American one better. That is not the case with the figure you see below. While both versions of Carcass leave something to be desired as figures, it is the exclusive Mexican variation that is much, much cooler to see.

I'll just get one thing out in the open right now. Most Joe collectors are not too happy about the inclusion of space aliens into their beloved line. Personally, I don't think it was the direction the line needed to go in order to perpetuate itself. However, I do believe that Hasbro had its reasons for doing this. Also, the fact remains, these three Lunartix aliens are part of the G.I. Joe line. To some people that's about as appealing as the fact that Street Fighter is a part of the line is to me. The point is, the debate about Star Brigade, its place in the line, and whether or not it destroyed Joe has been done to death. Of course, this is my web site so I get to spout off about my opinions. If you don't want to hear them, just skip the next paragraph.

Personally, I think that Star Brigade and G.I. Joe were going to take two different paths in 1995. From all indications, Hasbro was going full tilt into the Star Brigade concept. Several concepts and prototypes for the proposed 1995 line have survived to this day. They show a continuation of the traditional Star Brigade concept, more Lunartix aliens, the infamous Manimals, and a new concept called the Replicators that would have made the Manimals seem plausible. Add to that the fact that the Star Brigade logo was becoming more prominent on the packaging and there is a lot of evidence that makes me think that had Joe survived into 1995, Star Brigade would have become its cousin rather than its brother. The 1995 Battle Rangers line was taking Joe back to its military core. I think that line would have kept going under the G.I. Joe banner while the Star Brigade stuff would have become a more distant cousin that just shared a few old characters until the newly developed characters who were just for Star Brigade had a chance to be established. I will say that the only evidence I have of this is my own observation. However, I would like to hear different interpretations. Email me with any comments or commentary you might have about your opinions of where the line may have gone. Please don't email me just to say, "Star Brigade sucks." At least show some originality. ;->

Frankly, I like these aliens. Their place in the Joe universe is suspect, but they are very cool figures. Of the three, Carcass is the weakest. His arms are just a "poseable" mess of rubber. You can do much with them beyond what you see in the photo below. Aesthetically, this guy is cool. The black body with the colored organs inside the translucent chest piece is a start contrast that shows off the level of detail given these figures. Hasbro spent some bucks to design these guys. It's a shame that so few people have them, or even know about them, now. This Mexican variant showcases the figure's features in a way the American version can't. The red American Carcass simply all blends together and doesn't really make you stand up and notice him. The Mexican version is the most visibly striking of all 5 variants of the Lunartix figures. It's just a shame that the arms take away so much of the playability.

The thing about all the '94 Star Brigade figures is the colors. As you can see in the picture below, these guys utilize some color schemes that are both pleasing to the eye and visually bold and striking at the same time. The vibrant oranges, reds, greens, and blues set against subtle hues of black and grey give these guys a unique appearance that is not found on any other set of figures. On astronauts, you can get away with that. I think that's the single most important reason of why I so like the '94 Star Brigade figures. They look great out on display. It's also why I couldn't, even after I had made up my mind otherwise, bring myself to open my carded set. The visual effect of them all together is just much stronger than any other group of carded figures in Joe's history.

Updated 4/26/07

Modern collectors have since learned a lot more about the origins of these Mexican exclusive aliens. It seems that the Mexican exclusive figures were the first figures produced for the Lunartix line. However, these colors that came back from the factory were so different than the card art, Hasbro nixed them, went back to the factory and got the colors right. However, there were enough of these figures made that they warranted release. So, Hasbro dumped them wherever they could. All of the Mexican figures are on American cardbacks. Hasbro simply taped a Spanish language sticker over the essential parts and sent the figures off to Mexico where they sold as overstock.

One other thing has happened in the nearly 6 years since I first visited this figure. Mexican Lunartix figures have gotten expensive! Recent sales of the Mexican Predacon put a carded figure well over $100 and a mint, complete loose figures near $60. Carcass trails a bit behind but carded Mexican Carcass figures now fetch over $60 and loose, mint complete figures will break $30. The reality is that these figures probably saw a VERY small production run. It was surely a fraction of the American Lunartix and it is generally accepted that they were limited to 10,000 pieces. As such, you are going to pay a bit more of a premium to add these figures to your collection today.

End 4/26/07 Update

This figure isn't too tough to find. He usually appears for sale every other month or so. He can easily be purchased MOC for under $20. I know that the American Carcass was shipped 3 per case in his initial run, making him the most common series 2 Star Brigade figure. I don't know if the Mexican assortments kept the same ratios. At any rate, this guy is Star Brigade and Star Brigade means cheap. No one really likes these aliens (Just look at how the Manimals now clog the pegs. Ouch!) and so there are very few people looking for them. In fact, most toy dealers who have these guys aren't really Joe dealers and have no idea of what they have. I've gotten Mexican carded Star Brigade figures mixed in with American Star Brigade figures on more than one occasion. To be honest, I think most of these guys, like the Chinese exclusive figures, are now in America. That's nice since it allows you to pick up some different versions of obscure figures with relative ease and inexpense. Those are the types of foreign figures I like. They are unique and eye catching, but they won't ruin your budget. Now, if I could only get some Brazilian figures the same way!

I like this guy, but have the only one I want. If you have a Mexican Predacon that you want to get rid of, let me know.

1994 Mexican Exclusive Carcass, Star Brigade, Lunartix Alien

1994 Mexican Exclusive Carcass, Star Brigade, Lunartix Alien, Roadblock, Countdown

1989 Night Force Muskrat

A couple of months ago, I profiled the Night Force Repeater. In that profile I stated that while the Night Force figures were nice, they were rarely improvements upon the figures' original versions. While Repeater was an exception to that, most of the figures are not. Another figure, though, whose specialty is very cool, has a good mold, solid accessories, but was in desperate need of a new colour scheme is the Joes' swamp fighter: Muskrat.

Back in '88, I wasn't buying too many Joes. I picked up a Tiger Force Roadblock and a Hit and Run, but that was about it. I've always liked swamp fighters, though, and thought that Muskrat would be a figure I would enjoy. When I finally saw one, though, my enthusiasm waned into genuine apathy towards to the figure. The color scheme, while nice, was just too bland and lacked the chutzpah factor that would have motivated me to make a purchase. Don't get me wrong, I like green cammoed figures, but the original Muskrat was just too bland. He just sort of blended together and his features were washed out in the similar colors. As such, I passed on Muskrat and didn't actually own one until the late '90's.

I never really thought much of Muskrat until a few years ago. I saw pictures of the Night Force version and thought it would be a neat figure to own. Alas, I just didn't put it near the top of my priority list and allowed this figure, like all the Night Force figures, to remain unacquired for many years. A couple of weeks ago, I finally managed to snag one of these guys for a decent price. After I received the figure, though, I realized that the small amount of wear the seller had described was actually a bit greater than his original description. Still, I feel like I paid a fair amount for the figure I got. Had it been in the condition I was expecting, then I would have gotten a great deal. Oh, well. Anyways, as soon as I got him, I remembered why I had wanted this figure. The not quite black grey of his basic uniform really allows for the military green to showcase the figure's detail. The black pants also allow for some offsetting color that brings this figure to life in a way the original never could. It is for these reasons that I consider the Night Force Muskrat superior to the original mold.

The one facet that nearly caused me to break down and purchase a Muskrat figure back during his original retail run was his gun. He has a shotgun that just works perfectly for dozens of different figures. Fortunately, this gun is very easy to find since it was offered on several weapon trees that came with '93 and '94 figures. It's this gun, though, that brings me back to this figure. His weapon really suits him. Much after '89, accessories were cool, but they didn't fit the figure the way many of the earlier accessories had. Muskrat is one such figure. I have no problem envisioning him stomping through the swamp with his shotgun always ready. For some reason, the weapons fit the figure in a way that is rare in the Joe line. I think that's just another reason why I like this guy so much. He works very well in his environment. Of course, though, that limits his usefulness to me. That, though, keeps this guy from getting played out. Many figures hold my attention for a couple of weeks, months, or even years. By and by, though, the figures I use most now, become the forgotten figures of tomorrow. That's why I can often write so much about so many individual figures. Most Joe figures have had their time in the sun in my collection. It is the specialists, and niche guys, though, who always remain constant. I won't have an underwater mission without the '94 Shipwreck but he only goes on missions of that type. That way, the figure stays fresh. My hope is that this version of Muskrat will do the same.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Night Force figures are tough to find. Unlike the Repeater who was later offered via mail-in, Muskrat only saw production as an exclusive. The nice thing, though, is that his shotgun was still black and the black machete was released on the generic weapon trees of the line's final years. His black surfboard, though, poses a unique challenge. Because of this, Night Force Muskrats can get expensive. Fortunately, he isn't as sought after as a couple of the more high profile figures such as Outback and Shockwave. Still, mint and complete, this guy will set you back $25-$30. Again, that's way too much. He simply isn't worth that much, though the market seems, and has seemed for quite some time now!, to support that price on a consistent basis. It is frustrating, but one of those things that keeps the Joe collecting hobby more challenging. If every figure were easy to get and very cheap, there wouldn't be much fun in this. When a decent figure like Muskrat starts costing the same as other, much cooler figures, though, you know you've entered into a time when your days on having an incomplete collection are drawing to a close. It's a reality I'm not sure I want to face, but with the new releases and tons of foreign variations (many made cheaply available to you by several excellent fan based dealers) thrown into the mix, I don't see my days of searching for Joe figures coming to an end anytime soon. If they can keep many of those figures at least as good as the Night Force Muskrat, you can be sure I'll be around for quite a while!

I would like a better example of this guy. I'm also after a couple of other Night Force figures. (If I haven't profiled them, then I probably need them!) If you can help, email me.

1989 Night Force Muskrat, TRU EXclusive, Funskool Hydro Viper

1989 Night Force Muskrat, TRU EXclusive, Funskool Spearhead

1989 Night Force Muskrat, TRU EXclusive, Funskool Spearhead

Chinese Exclusive Tiger Force Flint (AKA Tiger Force Falcon)

Back when I profiled the Chinese Major Bludd, I recounted the tale of my first encounter with this figure. Now, years later, I've finally taken the time to add this guy to my collection. Like the Bludd figure, the Chinese exclusive Tiger Force Flint brings a new dimension to an predominantly American Joe collection.

You will notice that I've subtitled this figure Tiger Force Falcon. The reason is simple. Many collectors use this figure as Falcon since the head is just a repaint of the original's. The arms are from Flint but the rest of the body is from Dusty. The cool shotgun that is included with him is from the Headhunter figure while the pack is a uniquely colored version of the pack that comes with most figures that have been released since 1998, most notably with the Cobra Trooper. Basically, though, this guy looks like Falcon and fits well into the Tiger Force concept. He lacks the yellow paint that really made many of the American and Brazilian Tiger Force figures unusable and has subtle, muted color tones that really allow him to blend into a typical forest environment. Frankly, anyone who didn't know any better would easily mistake this figure for a typical American release.

I think that's why I like this figure so much. He is different from the American Tiger Force figures but has a functionality to him that outshines his European exclusive brethren. I see this guy as a quintessential combat figure. He will work well with tanks, jeeps, helicopters, or infantry. He has the versatility that I find to be of utmost importance to the figures I tend to use most. As such, I think this guy will become another new character in my Joe world. I foresee him taking the role that Falcon used to occupy. Of course, though, he may also see some use as a newly promoted Captain Falcon should I ever decide to undertake a dio-story. Either way, I know that I'll get more than my money's worth out of this guy.

Other than that, there's really not much too this figure. Frankly, had this guy been released in the U.S., I don't think I would have ever profiled him. He would be a common stock soldier like many of the figures from the mid-'80's tend to be. I think everyone would have him and he would be like Outback or Tunnel Rat: people would really like him, but not go out of their way to promote him. I think this is where some foreign figures can really help. Some people would never have this figure because they only collect the American Joes. In fact, for the first several years that I was actively building my after market collection, I was one of them. Now, I realize what I missed out on. Figures like this guy and the Major Bludd are really required components of any full collection. (Though the Bludd is now less so after the '01 release finally gave us an updated version in his traditional colors.) They are great figures on equal footing in terms of quality, accessories, construction, and aesthetics as all of their American counterparts.

The Chinese Flint isn't too hard to find. Usually, you can easily find one in only a couple of days. There are a number of online Joe dealers who keep this figure in stock. The really nice thing is that he isn't expensive. Like the Bludd figure, a carded version of this guy will usually go for less than $20. With that in mind, it's easy to buy one and open it up. That's how I got both my Bludd and this Flint. It's just too much hassle to acquire them any other way. Of course, though, you might want to act now. Recently, this figure has gone up in price. He was purchasable for under $15 only a year ago. With the interest in foreign issued Joes increasing, and a diminishing supply of these figures on the second hand market, it is foreseeable that this guy could one day be rather expensive. Personally, I wish I hadn't waited for so long to pick him up. He's a great figure that works well in any collection. I'm really looking forward to using mine.

With the acquisition of this guy, I've got all the Chinese figures I'm after. However, I'm still after a bunch of Brazilian and Argentinian exclusive figures. If you have some of those that you wish to part with, email me.

1994 Chinese Flint, Tiger Force Falcon, Unproduced Caucasian Desert Strike Stalker, Midnight Chinese, Prototype, TRU Exclusive, 2005 Night Watch Officer, Trooper

Chinese Exclusive Flint - Tiger Force Falcon, 1990 Bullhorn