Thursday, October 25, 2001

Action Force Blades - European Exclusive

Back in 1986, I went to my local comic shop on my weekly visit. Of course, I always bought the new G.I. Joe comic when it came out, but every now and then, I would pick up some other books for some variety. On one particular day when I went into the store I noticed a very large magazine with Zartan on the cover. The banner across the top of the magazine was done in the style of G.I. Joe, but read Action Force. This magazine was an issue of the UK issued Action Force comic book. Of course, I bought it. I wasn't so interested in the reprints of the American comics; it was the new, UK exclusive and centric stories that really piqued my curiosity. Their take on the Joe team was very different from what was portrayed in the American comic and cartoon. (I remember one story where Lady Jaye was holding a bomb and Crankcase was setting up a blast shield so only she would be killed. The story was so different from anything we got in America that I was hooked.) What I did not know, though, was that Action Force had originally been a Star Wars articulated line of military figures that were released in Europe. From those figures, they branched out to include repainted American Joes in certain vehicles. After that, they released American Joe figures on the generic Action Force card. Finally, Joe figures were released on cards very similar to those from the States. Of this process, it is the repainted figures that came with vehicles that concerns me today. I have chosen the pilot of the Action Force Fang repaint, Blades, to be profiled.

When you first saw that I was profiling a figure named Blades, I'm sure at least someone out there thought it was a late issue Ninja Force member. That couldn't be further from the truth. Blades is a straight repaint of the American Tripwire figure. Rather than be a mine detector, though, this figure is an SAS pilot (though the figure did come with recolored Tripwire accessories). He came with a black and yellow Cobra F.A.N.G. repaint. (I should also note, though, that Blades was available as a convention exclusive at one of the annual G.I. Joe conventions that was held here in the states. Because of that, there are bagged samples available that come with later issue weapons.) As you can see from the photo below, he has a yellow SAS logo on his chest. This logo is EXTREMELY fragile. I'm not talking normal logo fragile, this thing will scratch just as easily as the Viper Pilot's logo will. As you can see, even an otherwise pristine figure like mine will often exhibit some slight paint wear on the logo. At any rate, though, the logo is an incredible feature and just a small part of what makes this figure so cool.

I was never really big on the Action Force repaints. Red Laser, a repaint of the classic Cobra Commander, Hunter, a repainted Cobra Officer, Quarrel, a repainted Scarlett, and Blades are the few that held any real interest for me. I liked them because the color schemes were radically different from the American releases of the molds, but were still nice enough that they would fit into my normal figure usage. Unfortunately, I didn't actively pursue these guys for a long time. Even after I decided that foreign Joes were going to be the next area of my collection, I went after the European Tiger Force exclusives before I really looked for these early guys. The older early '80's molds just didn't excite me and I saw more uses for the oddly colored later releases than I did for these early guys. A couple of months ago, though, and opportunity to acquire a Blades figure arose. I knew that he was a neat figure, but only after I got him did I realize how superior a repaint this version of the Tripwire mold really was.

I've always used the Tripwire mold as a common, generic trooper figure. The original drove my APC for many years. Since then, he and the Listen and Fun variation have become the computer operators in my headquarters. They just look the part. I have yet to acquire the '01 Tripwire, but I see him occupying much the same role. The poor Tiger Force Tripwire sees very little time in my collection. This figure's black and grey uniform, though, really looks nice. It has the subtlety of color that makes it aesthetically pleasing while still maintaining its functionality. This guy is a perfect addition to any night ops force. While the bright yellow logo is there, it is not too much to take away from the figure's playability. That is what I most like about Blades. He is fun to play with and use. The color scheme nicely fits with other figures, as can be seen below, and allows this guy to be used by even the most discriminating collector.

There is one big reason why I wanted to profile this figure. With the addition of a European exclusive figure, this group of 20 profiles now features unique Joes from four different continents. Asia, South America, North America and now, Europe are all represented in what has been my most international group of profiles yet. I enjoy foreign Joes. Many collectors out there share my sentiments. Many others, though, do not. Either way, it really doesn't matter. Everyone has a different end to their Joe collection. What matters most is if you enjoy it. Having figures like Blades that I can turn into whomever I want is what makes Joe fun for me. I think that's the most important part of collecting. Everyone has different ideas about Joe and has a different aspect of it that they latch onto. While it may be frustrating at times, it is important to remember that in the end, we are all fans of the same toy line.

Now for the really bad news. Blades are very tough to find; especially so if you want a mint SAS logo. Those that can be found usually fetch $40.00+ for a mint specimen. Those that are still MOC can go upwards of $70.00 in a hurry. For that reason, most people aren't too keen on adding this guy to their collection. Sure, he is visually awesome. But who wants to spend that kind of money on a figure that only sits there and is never used or appreciated? Still, if you the opportunity to add this guy to your collection, I think you should take advantage of it. The European Action Force repaints are almost all well done and fit in nicely with American figures. I know that I enjoy having this guy, even if his only use is sitting in my headquarters. His look is enough for me to appreciate him. I think that given the chance, you will as well.

Blades is really cool. In fact, all of the Action Force repaints are. If you have a Red Laser, Quarrel, Red Jackal, Jammer, Gaucho, Hunter, Dolphin, Moondancer, Tiger Force Hit and Run, Tiger Force Sneek Peek, Tiger Force Tunnel Rat, Tiger Force Blizzard, Black and Red Spirit, or Stalker (repainted Snake Eyes) with which you wish to part, let me know.

Action Force Blades, Tripwire, European Exclusive, Listen and Fun Tripwire, Tiger Force Psyche Out, TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, G.I. Joe HQ, 1994 Joseph Colton, 1985 Keel Haul, 2000 Tomahawk, Law

Action Force Blades, Tripwire, European Exclusive, Listen and Fun Tripwire, Tiger Force Psyche Out, TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, G.I. Joe HQ, 1994 Joseph Colton, 1985 Keel Haul, 2000 Tomahawk, Law

Action Force Blades, Tripwire, European Exclusive, Listen and Fun Tripwire, Tiger Force Psyche Out, TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, G.I. Joe HQ, 1994 Joseph Colton, 1985 Keel Haul, 2000 Tomahawk, Law

Action Force Blades, Tripwire, European Exclusive, Listen and Fun Tripwire, Tiger Force Psyche Out, TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, G.I. Joe HQ, 1994 Joseph Colton, 1985 Keel Haul, 2000 Tomahawk, Law

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

1994 Action Astronaut - 30th Anniversary Set Exclusive

Back in my profile of Carcass I told of how this site's humble beginnings were heavily based on the promotion of Star Brigade figures. I've said many, many times how I really like astronaut figures. All of the regular Joes who were released as astronauts, though, were kept modern in design. They were more science fiction in appearance, though they all had their basis in some form or reality. For a unit like Joe, this was perfect. They were an ultra modern fighting force that would have utilized the latest technology. However, 1994 Hasbro decided to pay an homage back to G.I. Joe's 12 inch tall roots. They released four commemorative boxed individual figure sets of a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, and Pilot. All of these 3 3/4 inch figures were based on classic era military designs. As a special bonus, Hasbro also released a 5 figure boxed set. This contained the same 4 figures, though the sailor and pilot were recolored, as well as an exclusive figure that was not available by himself. The Action Astronaut was that extra figure and is a guy that I think deserves some notoriety.

As a figure and compared to the other 1994 Star Brigade figures, the Action Astronaut is very bland. He has no expression on his face, and the mold lacks any great detail. Of the 5 30th Anniversary figures, I would say that he is most mundane. However, he is supposed to be that way. The early astronauts did not have the modern trappings of his contemporary figures. Also, he is not a combat astronaut, he is a scientist, explorer, and adventurer. When viewed in his historical context, this figure is very well done. The simple helmet with face shield and the small control box on his chest are all the extra molding and accessories he has. They make the figure seem like an astronaut from the space program's early days. In this capacity, he succeeds marvelously.

This figure has some other small significance to the Joe line. It seems, back in '94, Hasbro was going to release this figure along with a full sized Mercury rocket. The rocket would have been very tall, and very detailed. It was going to be a supplemental to the 30th Anniversary set. However, high costs of production kept the rocket from ever becoming reality. Instead, this figure was released, along with his space capsule, in a boxed set with other figures. No 30th Anniversary playsets ever made it to production. The story is a sad reminder of Joe's final days when Hasbro felt that large toys were retail death. It also shows that despite many modern collectors' gripes about the '94 line, there was still great inspiration behind it. It was corporate stupidity that never allowed many of the possibly great toys from being released. Again, though, it is another look at what might have been.

It seems this profile has run out of steam. It's happened to me before, though not for quite some time. At any rate, while this figure seems very cool upon initial appearances, I really don't have many uses for him. While he might work in the Defiant Space Shuttle or even the Crusader, there are so many other, better astronaut figures in the Joe line that I don't have any real need for this guy. He looks great and has an air of authenticity that fleshes out dioramas and displays. As a toy, though, the figure can't live up to his better molded contemporaries. There's no shame in that. This figure wasn't designed as a toy. He is one of the few figures released in the Joe line with that distinction.

In 2005, Hasbro brought this mold back in the comic packs as Flash. The figure features a new head, though it is similar to the original Action Astronaut's. But, the figure's body is pretty much the same as this original version. As such, if you're looking for a cheap and easy to find alternative, well, the Flash really isn't it as he was part of the series of comic packs that were short produced at retail. So, while neither of the figures that use this mold are expensive, they can take longer to find than most collectors are willing to spend for a mold of this type.

Back in '94, these guys were sold as "collectibles". They were marketed as a keepsake rather than a toy. Now, 7 years later, you can still easily purchase boxed sets of the 30th Anniversary team for right at, if not under, their original retail price. I'm sure many speculators and dealers got severely burned on this set, but that just shows how volatile the toy market is. Now, these sets are easily acquired. Of course, finding a loose one is fairly tough. It took me nearly 2 years to do that. It cost me considerably less than a boxed set, though even those can be had for under $30. With that in mind, people don't really want these guys. While the figures are good, they are not really in line with other Joe figures. As such, collector interest really isn't there. Some years from now, I still don't see these guys being highly sought after. While this guy and the repaints of the Sailor and Pilot are certainly among the least produced figures in the entire line, the figures are rather bland and uninspiring. What made Joe was the characters. Without these personalities, these figures are doomed to a lifetime of obscurity. Of course, that means that for people like me who find these guys eerily cool, they can, and will be able to, be had for cheap prices in desired quantities for some time to come. That's the way Joe figures should be.

I've now got all 7 versions of the 30th Anniversary figures. Surprisingly enough, I don't want any more. However, if you have a 1987 Payload that you want to trade, email me.

1994 Action Astronaut, 30th Anniversary Set, Lifeline, Blackstar

1994 Action Astronaut, 30th Anniversary Set, Lifeline, Blackstar

Thursday, October 4, 2001

2000 Wild Bill

Many times, I referred to the days when I first returned to Joe collecting. It was in '92 and '93 and I didn't buy too many new figures. Mostly, I stuck to character that I knew or figures that looked really cool and had good accessories. One of the figures I picked in late '94 or early '95 was the 1992 Wild Bill. He had a decent look, cool enough accessories, and a nice hat that I thought was really cool. I sided this guy with my 1994 Flint and my '87 Mercer. They were a mercenary team that helped Joe, but wasn't really on their side. Naturally, this lead to a great deal of use for this figure and made him one of my favorites for a short time.

Like most of the figures I acquired back in the mid 90's, Wild Bill is still a sentimental favorite of mine. I only purchased a few figures at retail back then and my collection was very small. I wanted to find most of the figures that were showcased on the package art, but by then, most Joe figures were gone from retail. The few you could find, I snatched up even if it meant paying for the figure in dimes and nickles. That scenario, though, afforded me a greater appreciation for the figures I could find. I was able to let my imagination run wild with my small contingent. I only had a few Cobras at retail so I had to use some other figures in more creative ways to really expand my horizons. Wild Bill was an integral part in this and saw use in a wide variety of areas. He started as a villain. He then became a secret agent that was on the Joe's side. After that, he became a maverick that really only looked out for himself. Keeping the character represented by the original figure allowed me to use this guy any way I wanted.

When I first saw the picture of the 2000 repaint of the '92 Wild Bill mold, I was excited. It was very cool and something that I thought I would want. As per my M.O., though, I passed on the Locust for a long time after it came out. I finally got one for Christmas and was really amazed at how well done it was. There was a lot of collector sentiment against the Locust. The colors were bizarre and not everyone was as sold on the use of this Wild Bill mold as I was. This gave me rather low expectations for the Locust, but I was happily surprised. The chopper is actually very nice and fun to use. The fact that Wild Bill was a better colored version of my favorite mold of his was just an added bonus. I've been very happy with the inclusion of many later year Joe molds in the new line. Many were well done, just poorly colored. Now that they have a chance to do them over the right way, we are really seeing the potential many of these previously forgotten molds held.

Back in 1994 or 1995, I created another faction for Joes to fight. In other profiles I've alluded to how Cobra has moved to South America and started their operations down there. During the initial phases of this plan, Joe was out of the picture. Cobra's movements were so secret that the Joes had no clue what was going on. During this, I introduced a new contingent of mercenaries who were operating is former Cobra controlled areas. Cobra was quiet and didn't want to bring attention to themselves, so they called in the government for help ridding them of these mercenaries. Wild Bill and the 1994 Flint were two of the best, most important, and most mysterious mercenaries in this bunch. While the Joes pursued these guys, so did the remains of the Cobra forces. The three faction story where everyone is enemies made for some interesting times. However, there was a slight twist. The character portrayed by Wild Bill was secretly in cahoots with a high ranking military officer represented by General Flagg. By using Wild Bill, Flagg was able return under the command of his old acquaintance General Hawk. Basically, Flagg represented a splinter group I had created in my childhood. By using Wild Bill, I was able to tie together a number of old elements of my Joe world before I really launched into the whole South American invasion that has been my primary focus for the past 7 years.

The 2000 Wild Bill was only available with the Locust helicopter. Now, almost a year later, you can still occasionally find one of these buried on a store shelf. Target stores, though, clearanced them out at $3.24. With that kind of a deal, you can't afford to not add this guy to your collection. As time goes on, I think some of the original wave 2000 series Joes will really start to become tough to track down for affordable prices on the second hand market. I don't see Wild Bill in that category. The cheap Locusts were a boon for customizers everywhere. I've seen dozens of people who took a Locust and converted it to something much more exciting. You can be sure that all those extra Wild Bills will one day find their way into the hands of people who never bothered with the vehicles. Like all things available retail, though, I still think that if you're waiting to buy this guy, you should act now. You can never predict what product that is available at retail today will become the hard to find on the second market tomorrow. In fact, history has shown that the figures and vehicles that have been pegwarmers and clearance fodder of the past few years have become tough to find after they disappear from retail. Tough to find doesn't always equate to expensive, but that's not a chance I would want to take. At any rate, I've got my figure and really enjoy him. I think you will as well.

P.S. If you are a fan of the original Wild Bill mold, keep your eyes out for a planned Funskool release from India. There is an original mold Wild Bill figure planned for later this year. I don't know what it will look like, but when Funskool is involved, there's always great potential.

This is a nice figure, but not one of whom I build armies. Did you get all the Wave I army builders you wanted? Let me know.

2000 Wild Bill, ARAHC, Dragonfly, 1993 Ace, Funskool Night Viper

2000 Wild Bill, ARAHC, Dragonfly, 1993 Ace, Funskool Night Viper

2000 Wild Bill, ARAHC, Dragonfly, 1993 Ace, Funskool Night Viper