Thursday, August 30, 2001

1988 Tiger Force Recondo

Back in 1984, I spent several weeks of the summer in Chillicothe, Ohio. This was a small town with nothing in it to do. I had taken a small contingent of Joes with me, but they had grown old after a couple of weeks. My mother finally took me to a K Mart around the middle of our stay. They only had 2 figures for sale: an opened Ripcord who was missing all his gear and Recondo, the Joes' new jungle trooper. Since Ripcord was opened, I picked up the Recondo and went on my way. By the time we drove back to my aunt's house where we were staying, I had already conjured up dozens of adventures for my new favorite figure.

I'm not sure where I got this particular version of Recondo. He appeared in my collection back in the late '80's before I ever thought of buying second hand Joes. He only came with the Tiger Fly, a repainted Dragonfly helicopter, and I never had one of those. None of my brothers know where he came from either. It's just one of those weird things. I'm sure some kid out there lost this guy the day after he got him and never found him again. That figure probably went through the same warp that my original Cover Girl and Nien Numb (Star Wars) figures went into never to be seen by me again. It just all evens out over the years. At any rate, though, this guy is a nice figure that I liked to use. '88 was near the end of my Joe buying days. I had only purchased a Tiger Force Roadblock, Hardball, and Hit and Run figures that year. Getting this guy was a nice bonus since my collection had so few new additions that year.

I had always liked my Recondo figure. He had a great initial run in the comic that kept my interest in him very high. However, my original one had broken and his replacement was pretty worn. Because of that, the figure had fallen out of favor with me. Once I had this guy, though, I was able to reintroduce Recondo to my Joe fold. For a very short time he was one of the figures I used most. However, I've already talked about how '88 was near the end of the road for my original Joe collection. In late '88 or early '89, I boxed up all my Joe figures and put them into a closet. I decided that I was too old to be playing with the figures, but I wanted to keep all of them since I feared my younger brothers would ruin the figures if they could get ahold of them. Recondo went into that box and stayed there until early 2000. Then, I finally consolidated my entire collection from my parents' house and the one I built in Arizona. When I did so, Recondo was reunited with his Tiger Force brethren, but quickly disappeared into the 1988 drawer and has just recently emerged. I don't know if he will remain a vital part of my collection. His swivel head construction puts him far behind many other, newer figures that I would like to use. When I need a jungle trooper, though, I will look to this version of Recondo far before I do the original.

Of all the subsets ever offered in the Joe run, Tiger Force is the most confusing. There are several reasons. Originally, Wild Bill was to be the pilot of the Tiger Fly. For whatever reason, though, that didn't happen and we got Recondo instead. Also, Ripcord was supposed to be a Tiger Force member. In fact, in the comic issue where they showcased Tiger Force, Ripcord was part of the story line. The most intriguing member of Tiger Force, though, was a character named Sabretooth. Basically, Sabretooth was a recolored 1984 Firefly who was a Joe. Not much more is known about him. For reasons that are now surely lost, Wild Bill, Ripcord and Sabretooth were pulled from the Tiger Force team and replaced with Tripwire, Bazooka, and Flint. On top of this, the set wasn't produced in the same numbers as other toys from that year. As such the figures, but especially the vehicles, are kind of tough to find. The fact that the Tiger Force idea was a very popular, though, doesn't help matters. Six exclusive Tiger Force figures were released only in Europe. China got a very cool remake of the Tiger Force Flint. In Brazil, Shipwreck and Airtight got exclusive Tiger Force figures while Dusty got a slightly different remake. And, finally, in India, the Lifeline figure reuses the Tiger Force card art and the figure is obviously inspired by the Tiger Force color scheme. All of this will surely keep any Tiger Force aficionado very busy trying to track down all the different figures and making customs of those who were not to be.

Apparently, the Tiger Force Recondo is a tough figure to find. He was only available with the Tiger Fly, so it now seems that not many people had him. Mint and complete, I've seen this guy fetch $25 on the second hand market. Usually, though, he is much more reasonably priced. His accessories, though, are a bear to find. While loose figures are seldom seen, complete loose figures are even more so. Don't even try to find him complete with his filecard. You're better off just buying a MIB Tiger Fly. It will save your sanity. Overall, though, I prefer this version of Recondo. The original is bland, while this guy has the aesthetic appeal that makes me want to use him. While Recondo no longer receives the attention he once did, this figure is growing on me. He is a forgotten character who has an even more obscure variation. Perhaps, now he will get some more due.

I'm only after a couple of Tiger Force figures. I need a mint Tiger Force Frostbite, a Tiger Force Hit and Run, Tiger Force Tunnel Rat, Tiger Force Blizzard, a Brazilian Marujo (Tiger Force Shipwreck) and a Brazilian Ar Puro (Tiger Force Airtight). If you have any of these figures you wish to part with, let me know.

1988 Tiger Force Recondo, Roadblock, Tripwire, Dusty, Bazooka, Duke, Flint, Outback, European Exclusive

1988 Tiger Force Recondo, Roadblock, Tripwire, Dusty, Bazooka, Duke, Flint, Outback, European Exclusive

Friday, August 24, 2001

2001 Laser Viper

Several months ago, some pictures surfaced of the Wave III Joes. The pictures were small, and tough to make out. I took one and blew it up to see if I could get some clearer details of the 4 new figures they showed. One of these guys caught my eye. It looked like a new version of a basic Cobra Trooper only it had a red face mask. As you can guess, this figure really intrigued me. A couple of days later, though, clearer pictures of the figures surfaced. This basic Cobra Trooper was actually a new version of a Laser Viper. Still, though, I thought he would have some great potential. Finally, after many months of waiting and listening to many other collectors finding this figure and using him for the exact purpose I had planned for him, I managed to find one. Once I held him in my hand, the original purpose I had intended for the figure was no longer desirable. While this version of the Laser Viper is cool, he could not be the basic troop I had intended.

This figure's look is perfect for a Cobra trooper. The basic blue uniform with a combat helmet and the red face mask really hearken back to the old comic days when there were only Cobra troopers and officers in the enemy ranks. It's a feel that shows there is some respect for the original releases. I would suspect that the molds for those original old blue Cobra troopers are long gone. As such, Hasbro offered us a new figure that would help us reminisce about the days when Joes were first plentiful on retail shelves. I'm happy with that. The '80's are gone forever. I know that many people wish Joe was just like it was back then. For me, though, I like progress. Seeing new figures like this guy keep the line fresh and maintain my interest. I'll admit, I have a much lower interest for straight repaints of earlier figures than I do for newly arranged or molded figures. I've been a big proponent of the new Joes since they were first released. With figures like this guy in the mix, you can bet that support is still going strong.

For some strange reason, I don't feel compelled to buy up more Laser Vipers. My main problem with him is that his accessories suck. He comes with rehashed '91 Sci Fi accessories that really aren't all that cool. Had he come with a Red Star AK-47, or a Low Light rifle, and a standard Viper pack, then I think I would feel a greater need to have a small army. However, once I used this guy, he no longer spoke army builder to me. I no longer see him as a generic Cobra trooper. I see him more as a high ranking Cobra troop who is a step below the rank held by Worms and Decimators. He is not a commander and is still required to be in the field, but he is the field leader and has troops report directly to him. In fact, I'm thinking that he will become the Cobra security commander. He will be in charge of my 1997 Alley Viper ranks who have become my "sweepers". They are called out for any security break and sweep the area to eliminate any potential leaks. The Laser Viper will be among a hand full of lesser Cobras who will answer to my Cobra Security Commander who is represented by a figure that will be profiled in the coming weeks. I think you will be surprised at who it is.

Lately, I've found myself moving away from my army building past and focusing more on characterizations. This figure really represents that. I have a very large Cobra army. I have found, though, that those figures rarely get used. Often, I will use one or two of an army builder, but rarely 6 or 7. The Laser Viper is going to become the first of my new breed of Cobra. No longer will they just be faceless legions. Now, those legions will have a unique leader who is not yet to the level of the named Cobras. It adds some depth to the Cobra forces and allows some figures who can play a major role, perish, and be replaced with no danger to the overall continuity. This fits my new collecting focus as well. Some day, I may regret not acquiring more Laser Vipers when I had the chance. I think, though, that I will appreciate this figure more for it, though.

Some people will tell you how tough the new Laser Vipers are to find. Fact is, they are still shipping. Wave III has not hit total market saturation, yet, and won't for a couple of weeks. Even after Wave III stops shipping, though, these guys won't pull a Firefly/Undertow. They will still ship 1 per case in the Wave IV figures that will come out this fall. With that in mind, though, there is no time like the present to build your armies now. For me, I've got enough of this guy. I know people, though, who have over 20 of them. Every time the collecting community feels a sense of security that a figure will be released in great enough quantities to satisfy their army building needs, that figure ends up disappearing from retail and making a reappearance on Ebay for prices 8 to 10 times the original retail cost. It's happened with every release since 1997. Just a friendly reminder. At any rate, though, the Laser Viper is a figure that I see having some use in my collection. Based upon collector sentiment that is out there, mine will not be the only one.

I dig the Laser Viper, but will buy more at retail should the need for them arise. How many of the '01 Cobra army builders do you have?

2001 Laser Viper, 1997 Alley Viper

2001 Laser Viper, 1997 Alley Viper, Funskool, Tracker, Tunnel Rat, Lifeline

2001 Laser Viper, 1989 Snake Eyes

2001 Laser Viper, Fast Blast Viper, 2000 Firefly

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Escorpiao Voador (Cobra Flying Scorpion) - Brazilian Exclusive

Back in 1994, I had a summer job at a small real estate company. Basically, I answered phones and just sat there in case anyone ever came in. Naturally, this lead to periods of incredible boredom. In order to pass the time, I would write stories that would keep me from falling asleep. In the main waiting room of the office, there was a floor to ceiling map of the Americas. One day, while walking around to keep myself awake, I started to stare at this map. Most notably, South America stood out. For most of my Joe stories, the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Russia were the focal locations. In fact, my Joes almost never left these theatres. I started thinking that Cobra would eventually grow tired of Joe's presence in these areas and move on. What better place for them to go than South America?

However, I had a problem. This new foray into new territory could not be done by the existing Cobra hierarchy. Cobra Commander was starting to age. Plus, he was tied up fighting off the charges of the character portrayed by Sea Slug. I needed a new breed of Cobras who were going to be the new leaders of the organization. After looking at the map, I sat down with 5 index cards and sketched out the groundwork for 5 new, dynamic Cobra leaders. The first was an old naval officer who was the mentor of the group. Immediately, I knew that he was going to have to die. In fact, the first story I came up with that involved these new characters was this particular character's death. The next was a ruthless fast attack commander who was portrayed by the 1993 Firefly figure. Another figure was a spineless worm who sucked up to both the Commander and the Sea Slug character. The next was another young, tactical genius. He would come to be portrayed by the 1994 Metal Head figure. The final character, though, was the most difficult. He was the mastermind behind the whole operation. He had yet to declare an allegiance, though he is mentored by Destro. He is a powerful leader whose motives are known only to himself. He has fierce loyalties to his friends, and to Cobra, but he has his own vision of what Cobra should be. The character has become the focal point of all my Cobra operations since that summer.

However, I could not find a figure that would adequately represent this character. All other named Cobras are too well identified with their real personalities to take them away. The few that aren't like that were already chosen for new roles. There was not a single figure I could find that fit my vision of this new leader. Then, a couple of months ago, a prominent Joe collector made an offhand remark about a Brazilian exclusive figure that was a unique repaint of Cesspool in the Commandos Em Acao line. I looked up the figure on and was amazed. I now had a figure who I could use for my new Cobra leader. It was only fitting that the head of the Cobra South American operation would be a figure that was only released in Brazil. I immediately began a six month search for the figure who finally could represent the most important Cobra character in my collection: the Escopiao Voador or the Cobra Flying Scorpion.

This figure represents what I think foreign Joes should be. Like my other previous foreign exclusive Joe profiles, the Escorpiao Voador shows a uniqueness and originality that would make you think the figure an American release as part of the regular line. His combination of parts: Scoop, Cesspool, and Recoil are a nice mix. His colors are subtle, though some might consider them bizarre. It is his head, though, that makes this guy a totally new character. The original Cesspool is a Caucasian character. To recolor his head in black to create a new figure makes him the only foreign figure to ever change race in this direction. (Stalker, Iceberg, and Bullet Proof were all released as Caucasians in various parts of the world over the years.) It also creates such a difference that most people would not be able to tell the figures were from the same mold were Cesspool and Escorpiao Voador seen standing next to each other.

With this figure, the final piece of my Joe collection is complete. I've been using the new characters for several years, now. Not having a figure to represent the new Cobra South American leader was frustrating, but also fostered some originality and creativity. I had to come up with reasons why this person was not present at the battles. I didn't want him to be a wimpy commander who had no trouble sending soldiers off to die in situations he would never approach himself. Instead, I was able to work around it by having his underling generals be too cautious and not letting him near combat. That way, he yearned for it in a way that would inspire and earn respect from the troops while not needlessly exposing himself to danger. A couple of weeks ago, though, I decided that it was time for some things to come to a head. Knowing this figure was coming helped push along my Joe world to a point where this guy could no longer stay out of the front. In the coming weeks and months, I see this figure being the pre-eminent Cobra figure in my collection as this new leader starts to make himself known to his own forces and the Joes. Naturally, it will be quite fun.

When I was taking the pictures you see below, something really struck me. The way I have my Cobra hierarchy run is heavily determined by different phases of my collecting life. Cobra Commander allied himself with Scrap Iron, Major Bludd, Firefly, and Zartan. All of these figures were from my earliest childhood and I would have had all of them at the same time. The next faction, led by the Sea Slug character, contains Dr. Mindbender, the Crimson Twins, and the high ranking Cobra soldier portrayed by the Worm figure. All of these guys came out in the second phase of my childhood and it makes sense that they are grouped together. The newest group of Cobra leaders that is headed by the Escorpiao Voador is made of figures I acquired during my adult collecting life. The final wild card is Destro. He has always kept in close touch with the Commander but has never been his public ally. With the new batch of leaders coming up, Destro, represented by the 2001 version of the figure, signifies the new direction in which Joe is going. Each phase represents a unique schism that coincides with my different phases of collecting. I had just never noticed it until I saw the photos.

One of collector's hang ups about foreign figures is the quality. We all know of the inferior quality the Funskool figures have to their American counterparts. Brazilian figures, though, are very similar to American examples. They have very nice paint masking that isn't sloppy. The figures themselves are of comparable quality to American figures, though they are slightly more brittle. You can feel it when you handle one. The plastic has a feel and a sound about it that lets you know it wouldn't stand up to the rigors that an American figure would, but it still feels sturdy enough to survive the toughest test a collector would ever subject a figure to. Just a note, Brazil produced several Joe figures for the American market. Slaughters Marauders, the Arctic Commando Dee Jay mail in, Rampage and many other mail in figures were all produced in Brazil. That helps explain why these figures tend to have broken crotches and thumbs at a greater frequency than other American figures, but we've all handled figures like these and know their limitations and capabilities. I have no qualms about using my Brazilian figures alongside those from Funskool, Palitoy, Plastirama and Hasbro. I don't think you will either.

Escopiao Voador was released as part of the Sky Patrol (Patrulha du Ar) subset in Brazil. The set includes 3 other exclusive repaints that are also kind of cool. None of them, though, is as drastically different as this guy. While these guys are hardly common in the U.S., they can be had fairly easily if you are willing to do a little legwork. They are not as easy to find as the Brazilian exclusive Eco Warriors figures, but they still appear, often carded, on the American second hand market. Like most of the later Brazilian figures, these guys can be had for under $40 for a MOC specimen. Considering many American collectors are now willing to spend almost that much for a mint, complete Crimson Guard figure that exists in much greater quantities, that's not too bad a price. Like most of these later foreign figures, though, I expect the ease of finding these guys to only increase. The world is getting smaller and many more people from South American, Asia, and Europe are now involved in online Joe collecting circles. Slowly, figures like this guy will filter in and become more available with each passing year. As I've finished with my American collection, only foreign Joes really attract my serious interest. Many other collectors are starting to report the same thing. With that in mind, the increased supply could still be outstripped by increased demand. And we all know that that means.

Escorpiao Voador (Cobra Flying Scorpion) - Brazilian Exclusive, Estrela, AVAC, 1984 Rattler, 1986

Escorpiao Voador (Cobra Flying Scorpion) - Brazilian Exclusive, Estrela, 1984 Rattler, Abutre Negro, Cobra Black Vulture, Black Buzzer, Black Buzzard, Patrulha do Ar
Escorpiao Voador (Cobra Flying Scorpion) - Brazilian Exclusive, Estrela, 1984 Rattler, Abutre Negro, Cobra Black Vulture, Black Buzzer, Black Buzzard, Patrulha do Ar, 1997 Alley Viper, 1983 Hiss Tank, Hiss Driver

Escorpiao Voador (Cobra Flying Scorpion) - Brazilian Exclusive, Estrela, MOC, Carded, Patrulha Do Ar

Thursday, August 9, 2001

1989 Gnawgahyde

It's been a long, long time since I've profiled a Dreadnok. With the new Zartan figure due in the next 4 to 6 weeks, though, I felt this would be a perfect opportunity to revisit one of the more popular, and the original G.I. Joe subset. However, which Dreadnok to profile was a problem. While the original 3: Torch, Ripper, and Buzzer are great, once I've profiled one, I've really explored them all. Monkeywrench and Thrasher really aren't options since they were pale comparisons to the original three figures. A case could be made for Zanzibar and I've already made my feelings about Road Pig known. That has only left the final, and most obscure Dreadnok for me to profile: Gnawgahyde.

As a character, Gnawgahyde leaves much to be desired. In fact, I can't think of a single appearance he made in any mainstream Joe medium. Because of that, he is very overlooked. Road Pig became a huge star in the comic. (Larry Hama said he was very fond of the character.) Gnawgahyde, though, fell by the wayside. By the time he came out in 1989, most of the kids who had Zartan, and even the original 3 Dreadnoks, were getting out of the hobby. The newer blood had no idea what these Dreadnoks were supposed to be. As this guy got no real characterization, he fell behind the awesome class of 1989 Cobras and became another of the line's afterthoughts. He is just another figure that no one really pay attention to and remains of the many forgotten named Cobras that was released after 1987.

As a figure, Gnawgahyde is fantastic. He has a look about him that is very pleasing to the eye. He also comes with tons of great accessories. His weapons perfectly fit his specialty as a poacher. He has the Aussie poacher hat, a huge sniper rifle complete with a scope and a nice bipod (often missing!), a bow, a quiver, a clip on machete, a mean looking warthog that even has its ear pierced, and a knife that fits into a sheath on his boot. This feature alone makes the figure worth owning. Add to this his face. The figure has a cartoonish look that makes him appear as a caricature of himself. Making him that over the top, though, fits with the type of figure that I've always envisioned this guy as. He is larger than life and would have the appearance to back up his personality. The sculpt of the figure itself is inspiring. It showed the level of detail that was the hallmark of Joe's golden years. It also shows, though, that many of these later figures are on equal footing with earlier figures. Collector bias is all that keeps them from the respect they deserve.

For me, though, Gnawgahyde has never been an integral part of my collection. He is a figure of whom I acquired many multiples in my days of Cobra army building, he is often included with lots of figures from '89 and '90, but never really used. I've said before that my days of using Dreadnoks are over. However, this guy did see some time as a prisoner and smuggler who served as a foil to my law enforcement figures. Lately, though, this figure has captured my attention. I'm not really sure why. Perhaps is the striking color scheme. It could also be Gnawgahyde's accessories. Whatever the reason, this guy has recently found himself sitting out of one of the 2 '89 Cobra drawers. (I keep all my figures in drawers separated by year. Years where I have lots of figures are then further broken down into Joe and Cobra drawers. Right now, '89 is the only year of which I have 2 Cobra drawers. That's how many '89 Cobras I've got.) I don't know if my focus on this figure will be long lived, but right now he is the only Dreadnok that isn't tucked away in storage. Time, of course, will be the ultimate determiner of whether or not this guy remains at the forefront of my collection. For now, though, Gnawgahyde is enjoying the ride.

Gnawgahyde's aren't hard to find. He will, though, cost you substantially more for a complete specimen than for one with even most of his accessories. Being an '89, though, means this guy is available. You can usually get them carded for under $20. This guy isn't nearly as popular as the other, earlier Dreadnoks. With that in mind, you can pick these guys up either by themselves, or in casual lots. Over the years, I've had nearly half a dozen Gnawgahydes. Lots of people had him and lots of people have him still. Regardless of how you acquire him, Gnawgahyde is a decent figure to add to your collection without dropping tons of money. With the resurgence of interest in Zartan and the Dreadnoks, though, figures like Gnawgahyde may even become more difficult and more expensive to find.

I've got all the American Dreadnoks that I want. However, I am after a purple shirted Ripper and a red shirted Buzzer from India. If you have either of those available ,email me.

1989 Gnawgahyde, Dreadnok Poacher, 1987 Zandar, 1991 Road Pig, Sears Exclusive Dreadnok Stinger

1989 Gnawgahyde, Dreadnok Poacher, European Exclusive Tiger Force Outback

1989 Gnawgahyde, Dreadnok Poacher, Outback, Low Light

1989 Gnawgahyde, Dreadnok Poacher, European Exclusive Tiger Force Outback