Tuesday, December 31, 2002

2002 BAT

Any of you who are familiar with this site know that my stance on BATs is quite contrary to most other collectors. As such, I would venture to say that many readers are gearing up for another of my negative articles regarding BATs, their very concept, or the toy execution of such. However, I found myself quite surprised earlier this year when I opened my Wave 4 BAT figure. While I had first thought the Shipwreck figure to be the highlight of this pack, I was quite disappointed in that figure. However, the BAT (that I had intended to simply go into the back of the drawer like all his other versions) figure actually grabbed my attention. For many reasons, the figure just worked better in this incarnation than it had in any of the vintage versions. While this is a great departure from my normal stance on these figures, I've found that even my new found like for this new figure has not warmed my opinion of his ancestors. Regardless, I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts on the figure.

As a sculpt, this figure works perfectly. Past BATs have failed (In my opinion) due to their sculpts making the too human like. (That's why I continue to use the '91 version as a human pilot.) This figure, though, is definitely a robot. First off, the figure is sculpted taller than the humans in the line. As such, in terms of proportionality, this BAT would be about 7 feet tall. From a realism perspective, I like this better. The exaggerated proportions allow for the character to be more believable and fit in with what robotics of this sort would actually look like. On top of that, the body does not retain human dimensions. The figure has long legs, an elongated torso and a sleek, small head. Again, this makes the figure look like a the robot it is supposed to be. The thin, electronics covered arms finish off the sculpt in a way that makes this figure more real to me.

My favorite part of this figure is his accessories. I know most people are long time fans of the removable BAT attachments. I, however, am not. I always preferred to use the hands on my BATs and give them real guns. The concept of a Laser or Flamethrower attachment never really did much for me. This BAT simply has two human-like hands. He comes with a small, newly sculpted rifle that meshes with him perfectly. I see the gun as more wieldy that a heavier weapon and more manageable for a robot with limited dexterity. Tucked behind his large elbow joints, the gun just seems balanced. For an automaton, these features would be indispensable. On top of that, the figure comes with a black version of Torch's backpack. One of the gripes I had with the old BATs was their power source. Batteries, while rechargeable, would be heavy and have limitations. A fuel powered robot, though, would have multiple uses. (I know this runs counter to the filecard, but I've never been one to be limited by established Joe continuity.) First off, the fuel tank would provide a more measurable operation time for BAT units. That would be imperative to Cobra battlefield commanders as they would be able to time when BATs would simply run out of gas. Next, the exposed gas cannisters make BATs perfect walking bombs. One feature of the BAT that I've utilized since 1986 is the fact that they burst into flame when hit from behind. As BATs have this tendency, Cobra would always be behind them. With the fuel tank on the BATs back, the trailing Cobra Troopers would be able to simply blow the BATs up by shooting the fuel tanks. This would make the BATs work as both infantry cannon fodder as well as poor man's sappers. The duality of purpose makes the BATs more valuable to Cobra field soldiers as well as more dangerous to any potential foes.

This BAT has another hidden little feature that you can see below. Rather than resurrect the oft lost chest holograms from BATs past, Hasbro instead gave collectors a little Easter Egg on this BAT. His chest plate is removable and hides the BAT's inner workings inside. It is a neat little feature (and a piece that will be oft lost on those BATs that now below to children) and shows that a great deal of thought was put into this figure. It is this level of detail that keeps the new sculpt figures very interesting. I liken the new sculpt figures to the POTFII line. The characters are similar, the designs are familiar, but the figures have a more modern feel to them that is more amenable to display. Wave 5 appears to continue this trend. As long as there are details that allow these new figures to separate themselves from other retail lines, I think that the line will create quite a legacy for itself.

BATs are still relatively available for retail prices. Beyond that, there are rumours that we will see another BAT in an upcoming figure wave. (My guess is that it will be a slight repaint of this version with new arms and, possibly, removable attachments.) If that still doesn't solve your BAT needs, there is the upcoming BAT Army Building Pack that will include 6 figures and sell for all of $15. All that should help sate some of the demand for BATs that seems to have been building for several years. In the meantime, I enjoy this figure for what it is. Atop my shelf, standing behind the new sculpt Dr. Mindbender, this figure looks regal. I think this is why I like the new sculpts. For display, they work great. For use, though, I'm still a classic mold enthusiast. Regardless of your figure construction preference, though, this BAT is nicely done. In that regard, I'm glad I was decided to acquire one when I did. Surprisingly, it is a not a choice I regret. If you've been putting off the acquisition of this figure, I don't think you will regret his purchase, either.

I'm well set for BATs. However, I could use one of the variant accessories. If you have one you would be willing to part with, let me know.

2002 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, Variant, JvC

2002 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, Variant, JvC, Gung Ho, Duke

Monday, December 30, 2002

1988 Blizzard

Back in 1988, I was pretty much out of Joes. I picked up three figures and figured my Joe collecting days were done. My younger brothers, though, continued to acquire new Joes, though not with the same fervor that I had employed. Over the course of the year, they managed to acquire about half of the available Joes. Some of the figures did very little for me. However, others, were excellently done. The Iron Grenadier, Repeater and Shockwave became some of my favorite figures that I didn't, technically, own. Some other figures, though, had their situational nature work against them during that summer. However, when winter rolled around, I discovered one of my youngest brother's figures that was about the best arctic trooper I had ever seen: Blizzard.

The main thing that made Blizzard so cool was (and still is) his accessories. He was topped with a mediocre helmet that didn't work all that great, but his pack was truly one of the most innovative concepts of it's time. Blizzard included both skis and snow shoes. It was possible to attach both of these accessories on his pack at the same time. With the skis in place, the pack could be used as a miniature snowmobile as it was equipped with handlebars complete with hand brakes. This little piece combined great styling and detail with an incredible amount of fun. It gave this figure a usability beyond even that of the original Snow Job figure. The figure was then filled out by two excellent weapons: a white uzi that featured molded cloth wrappings to keep it from freezing and a small white pistol. Both of these weapons were well done and perfectly fit the figure. The overall complement of accessories was among the best released that year ('88 saw a nice run of well accessorized figures) and remains the pinnacle or arctic mission gear.

The concept of arctic army builders entered in my Joe world early in my childhood. As 1983 was a big year for Joe toys in my house, both I and my brother ended up with Snow Job figures. Some time that winter, I remember seeing some terrible made for TV movie where some American soldiers, dressed nearly identical to Snow Job, were killed by some enemy force. Seeing this, though, forever turned Snow Job into a nameless army builder in my Joe world. From here, things progressed. In 1985, Frostbite became the leader of the arctic Joes. In 1986, he was joined by Iceberg and from the Snowcat, they commanded a legion of snow soldiers who supported the Joes. To this day, Snow Job remains an army builder. However, as the line progressed and arctic Cobras became more sophisticated, I needed a new level of arctic soldier who was more skilled and better equipped than the tired old Snow Job figures. In this role, Blizzard fit fantastically.

The Blizzard mold has had an interesting life. After his release in 1988, Blizzard made his way to both Europe and Brazil. Some time around 1990 or 1991, Blizzard was released in Europe in an exclusive Tiger Force color scheme. While I don't normally consider yellow and orange to be typical arctic colors, the figure is still very well done and very aesthetically pleasing. From there, this mold made its way to Brazil. Around 1992, Blizzard was released down there as a new character named Nevasca. However, like the '93 Beach Head mold, Nevasca was now a Cobra! I am not familiar with the figure itself, but I don't think it had any modifications made to it that would denote the figure's change in affiliation, but seeing Blizzard alongside the Hydro Viper, Raptor, the Crimson Guard Immortal and the '91 Cobra Commander is rather interesting. Unlike the other molds in this series of Brazilian Cobras, though, it does not appear that Blizzard was sent to India. In 1995, Blizzard's body was used for the Arctic Assault Guile from the line of Street Fighter, the Movie figures. This body is painted similarly to the original Blizzard but is something a little different that you may come across in your collecting travels. To top this off, Blizzard was to be included in the 1997 Arctic Mission Team with Snow Job and Iceberg. In fact, the cart art depicts Blizzard as one of the members. However, Hasbro could not locate the tooling for Blizzard and went with the '93 Frostbite mold instead. (Missing tooling was a common problem in 1997. Cobra Commander and Destro were originally intended to be their V1 molds while Snake Eyes was planned as the V2 mold. However, these could not be located so we got the figures many have come to loathe instead.) This was unfortunate as a new interpretation of Blizzard (along with his original accessories) would have been a great asset to the line.

In my collection, Blizzard remains an army builder. He is the step between the basic grunts portrayed by Snow Job and the hard-core, highly trained soldiers portrayed by the '93 Frostbite figure. He is more of a middle ground. His accessories allow him to be more self sustaining than Snow Job's, but not too the point where they would force him into an "elite" status. In this role, this figure has flourished. While he does not see use throughout the year, he is always among the first figures to come out of hibernation every winter. In the snow and cold, this figure works great. His accessories make him playable without sacrificing any detail. That's the way I like some figures to be. Joe is about diversity. Blizzard is one of the many figures who, while not a major character or oft-discussed mold, remains a vital part of the Joe world. He is the supporting character who fleshes out the line and keeps it so fresh even 20 years after the concept's original launch.

Blizzard figures are very easy to find. However, getting one that is not discolored and complete is a bit harder. As such, mint complete Blizzards can fetch upwards of $12 or so. For this price, the fig isn't too bad. However, even missing one accessory (like a handle on his pack) Blizzard's selling price drops off quickly. In fact, it is economical to army build Blizzard figures who have just the helmet and gun. For a short while, this was something I enjoyed. However, after about 6 of them, the novelty wore off and I kept my Blizzard army at that modest sum. However, he still remains one of my mainstays on arctic missions. While Snow Job and Frostbite get all the press, Blizzard is the definition of forgotten. I don't foresee him ever gaining any great amount of collector interest, but that allows those who have yet to acquire him to still do so reasonably. As more and more new collectors discover the Joe line, figures with these qualities will become fewer and further between. As long there remain a few, though, I think that Joe will stay an accessible collectible line well into the future.

I'm well set for Blizzard figures. However, I am in need of a European exclusive Tiger Force Blizzard. If you have one of those for trade, I might be inclined to part with a carded Cobra Infantry Team. If this intrigues you, please let me know.

1988 Blizzard, 1998 Firefly

1988 Blizzard, 1993 Snow Serpent Mail Away, 1997 Snow Job

1988 Blizzard, 1991 Snow Serpent, 1998 Snow Serpent

1988 Blizzard, 1991 Snow Serpent, 1998 Snow Serpent

1988 Blizzard, 1991 Snow Serpent, 1998 Snow Serpent

Thursday, December 19, 2002

2003 Snake Eyes (Blue Version DVD Exclusive)

I've profiled this Snake Eyes mold before. Many of the thoughts that I proffered forth in that profile remain true about this mold today. However, much like my earlier profile of the 2002 New Sculpt Snake Eyes when I see a new interpretation of a character that radically changes the existing notion of a mold, I feel compelled to profile that figure as a reward for innovation. (Yeah, like Hasbro or anyone else cares about my "rewards" for their work.) As I was duly impressed by this special version of Snake Eyes, I felt he would be a perfect fit for this milestone profile.

At the 2002 G.I. Joe convention in Norfolk, Hasbro showcased most of their product for 2002. Among these items was a set or original mold figures (Scarlett and Snake Eyes) that would be offered as an exclusive from Toy Fare magazine. While I won't pontificate on the choice of the distribution vehicle and it's notoriously poor track record in handling exclusives, it was the figure choices themselves that really left a sour taste with me. You see, rather than reinterpret this highly over-used molds into something a bit more interesting, the set is almost a straight recolor of the figure's original decos. Frankly, that was something that was about as boring as I could possibly imagine. Seeing the same figure, with a slight paint change, is just a waste. At least the repaints in the Joe vs. Cobra line have been major and almost always produce a striking contrast. These proposed figures, though, did not.

Then, a few weeks ago, something interesting appeared. It was the Toy Fare Snake Eyes, only molded in blue plastic. This immediately got people talking as the blue was reminiscent of Snake Eyes cartoon appearance. Of course, a black Snake Eyes (similar to the prototype shown at the convention) also appeared. Now, the speculation began. Which figure would be released? Slowly, information leaked out that seemed to indicate the blue Snake Eyes was a prototype and all of the Toy Fare figures would be the mundane black. However, in the past week it has become known that the blue Snake Eyes will ship with a DVD set some time next year and will be available to retail outlets. While this has helped many people to acquire this figure right now, I think that many more will enjoy the opportunity to be able to find this figure in its intended release format.

While this little history is interesting in itself, it is really the figure that has captured my attention. The reason being he is so different from the other incarnations of Snake Eyes that are out there. Let's face it, the original Snake Eyes mold has been used to death. Beyond the now 6 times it has been used in the U.S., it has also seen release in exclusive color schemes in Europe, Argentina (2), Brazil and India (at least three major versions). (Plus, they released 5 versions of Snake Eyes in 2002. This figure and the black Toy Fare version already make 2 for 2003!) Scarlett is the same way. As such, I would much rather see these figures retired instead of having them rehashed again and again with only slight paint differences. (Look, now Snake Eyes has green arm pouches instead of gray! Whhooooo!!) This blue Snake Eyes, though, is something that has not been previously seen in any of the incarnations of this mold while still remaining true to the character. The fact that Snake Eyes was produced in something so different was enough to make me actually look for this figure. He showed the type of differences that I usually enjoy in a figure.

As such, I see this figure joining my other '97 original Joe repaints on display. The original paint decos are just too bland for me. Many of the '97 updates make for better display pieces, especially when intermingled with other figures from 1983 and 1984. This Snake Eyes will fit in much better than either of the other '97 versions and will better mesh with the overall appearance without taking away from his intended character. The mold is definitely Snake Eyes while his sharp color, detailed paint mask and quality accessories (including the return of Timber!) also make him a good figure. While I've long used other versions of this mold as nameless, filler characters, I think this figure will finally see use as the real character. It is just different enough that I think it will look nice out on display and add some depth to any posed scenes I may attempt.

When this figure first appeared, some people freaked out that it was going to be a limited production test run. As such, a few samples of this figure sold for well over $100. However, the Asian source for many of these figures kept getting more. As the figure became more plentiful, the price dropped to about $15 and shipping from Asia. Now, though, news has come out that this figure will be shipped as an extra in a Joe DVD set. How much this set will cost is anyone's guess. It could be $11.99 at Costco or $39.99 at Target. Either way, if you can get this figure for around $15 or so, that is a good deal. There are no versions of this Snake Eyes mold that don't sell for around that amount when they are mint and complete. As such I don't think this figure will ever be readily available for a whole lot less than that. I do think, though, that this guy will end up as a lesser produced figure. However, as collectors are now acutely aware of his existence, they will acquire him now, when he's available. That will severely limit his long term value potential. Personally, I like this figure just because he is so different from the traditional American interpretations of this mold. However, I don't ever see him becoming a vital part of my collection. He will simply join other repainted '82 figures in their rare appearances outside of their respective year figure drawers. Other collectors' opinions of this figure and his value to their collection will differ greatly. However, we now have the chance to acquire this figure for a relatively low cost with relative ease. It is a great way for those who have always wanted this mold to get one without resorting to alternative methods. For the rest of us, this figure is a nice departure from traditional Snake Eyes figures and offers us something a little different. On the rare occasions when that occurs, I think everyone wins.

As an addendum, the DVD that includes this figure is now available at Amazon.com for $35.99.

While I've got all of the later release versions of this Snake Eyes mold, I still need his swivel arm version from 1983. If you can help, let me know.

2003 Snake Eyes, DVD, 1997 Stalker, Scarlett, 1983 Cobra Trooper, Cobra Officer, 2002 Stormshadow

2003 Snake Eyes, DVD, 1997 Stalker, Scarlett, 1983 Cobra Trooper, Cobra Officer, 2002 Stormshadow

2003 Snake Eyes, DVD, 1997 Stalker, Scarlett, 1983 Cobra Trooper, Cobra Officer, 2002 Stormshadow

2003 Snake Eyes, DVD, MIB, Bagged

Friday, December 6, 2002

2002 Skullbuster

As 2002 has progressed, we have seen some awesome newly molded figures, some pretty poorly designed new sculpts, and a smattering of repainted classic figures that have been hit or miss. As the year winds down, though, I look back at the nearly 100 figures released (it will be more if Wave 5 is considered part of the '02 line, though my personal opinion is that it should not) and think that 2002 has been a pretty good Joe year. There have been plenty of army builders, lots of new characters, and plenty of old favorites have been revisited with remarkable success. Not everyone out there is pleased with the direction the line has taken, but there really has been something available that should have appeased all factions of Joe fandom. As such, I'm greatly anticipating 2003 as I think we will continue to see some great new stuff combined with special offers of classically molded figures that should keep collectors' interest high. I really don't think much else could be expected for the line's future.

In the recently released Wave 4, Hasbro tossed two bones to collectors of classic sculpts: a new version of the Shock Viper and a newly created character that utilized the original Range Viper mold who is named Skullbuster. Skullbuster has already been much maligned even though he utilizes one of the greatly under appreciated molds in the history of the line. This figure has been called wonderful names like "Mardi Gras Viper" as a slam to his metallic purple base color. However, in an admission that is sure to be a shock to every long time reader of this site, I like Skullbuster's color scheme and think he is another high quality aesthetic addition to the Joe line.

Skullbuster has a primary color of metallic purple with copper highlights. It is very pleasing to the eye, even if it is not something you would normally consider a "Cobra" color. (Also not the highly detailed Cobra logo on Skullbuster's leg. It is a very nice addition to the figure.) However, it is the white face masking that truly stands out. On the 2001 Rock Viper, the skull like face was painted white in an attempt to accentuate the mold's detail. On this figure, the effect was decent, but the stark contrast on Skullbuster really allows for the effect to be appreciated. It allows the figure to portray the fearsome helmet that was obviously designed with this intent. While the figure is nice looking, though, he is poorly accessorized. Rather than including the full complement of Range Viper equipment like the aforementioned Rock Viper did, Skullbuster includes a version of Low-Light's backpack without the knife or flashlight to fill in the holes. He also includes a version of the 1992 Destro's pistol. The underwhelming accessories leave a sour taste, especially when the originally intended accessories are known to exist. However, on a good note, the awesome 2002 Headman figure comes with a Range Viper rifle. As I outfit my Headman with Mutt's silenced pistol, I have a spare weapon for my Skullbuster to use. With this in hand, he fits in well with original Range Vipers, recent Rock Vipers, or the Acid Vipers you see in the photos below.

Skullbuster is not an army builder. Instead, he is the leader of the Range Vipers. It is nice that we have been given a new named Cobra who had such a specific purpose. However, the utilization of a mold that already has been used for two previous army building figures makes this guy a little harder to accept as an individual character. As such, I don't know if I'll be able to use him as the intended character. Instead, I foresee this guy becoming a ceremonial Range Viper. In my Range Viper profile, I mention how I use them as basic Cobra troops. They aren't only for wilderness use. As such, having one in purple makes sense from a differing uniform perspective, even if the color is not something that would be heavily utilized in the field. As such, I foresee this figure filling out dioramas and melding with my other Cobra hierarchy as a way to augment their visual appearance. In the field, though, I still find uses for oddly colored figures. So, while I don't foresee it now, Skullbuster will probably make future appearances in some of my dioramas.

Skullbuster may suffer from what I, and many others, consider the biggest packaging error in the line's history. Rather than including Skullbuster with another repainted old sculpt figure, or a repaint of a new sculpt figure from a previous wave, they included a Wave 1 Heavy Duty figure. Now, this isn't even the repainted Heavy Duty from Wave 1.35. This is an exact copy of the original Heavy Duty figure that anyone who built a Cobra Claws army has dozens of. This is the same Heavy Duty that is still VERY available in his original pack all over the country. Why he, of all figures, was included with Skullbuster makes no sense. However, I have a theory as to why this was done. Again, this is only my theory and not something that has been confirmed or anything. You see, there are many old sculpt only collectors out there. Hasbro knew that all of them would buy this Skullbuster figure. In an attempt to get them to at least try the new sculpt figures, Hasbro packed the old molds in with new molds so those who had been avoiding the new figures would have to buy at least two. The only problem with this theory is that why would they include Heavy Duty? He is an okay figure, but there are many others from earlier in the line who are better. As such, you would think that if my theory were true, they would have at least offered a high quality figure as the attempted enticement.

Skullbusters availability is yet to be fully determined. However, this figure only ships one per case. As Wave 5 is now starting to ship from Hasbro, it seems that Wave 4 may have had a truncated production run. What truncated means, though, is open to debate. Regardless, if you find a Skullbuster figure and want one, I would buy it when you see it. I don't think that Wave 4 will have the recurrence of some previous waves. On top of that, when a Wave 4 case does appear, the Skullbuster figure is the second fastest to go behind the BAT/Shipwreck pack. Long term, I think this will make the Skullbuster figure one of the lesser produced 2002 figures, but as they are available now and the figure is not a true army builder, I don't think the he will see any major price increases in the future. For me, I'm content with one of these guys. The lack of accessories and inclusion with Heavy Duty is enough to keep me away from any beyond the one you see below. While I like the figure, I don't hold him in high enough regard to spend money for another example that would be better spent on additional versions of other, more desirable, figure packs. Regardless, I'm glad that we got this figure. While he is certainly not the most important figure I've come across, he is cool enough to warrant residence in just about everyone's collection.

Skullbuster is a decent figure. I'm looking forward, though, to seeing this mold in Python Patrol colors. What about you?

2003 Skullbuster, Range Viper, Viper

2003 Skullbuster, Range Viper, Viper, 1990

2003 Skullbuster, Range Viper, Viper, 1990, 2002 Convention Paratrooper Dusty, 1993 Beach Head

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

1998 Thunderwing

Back in 1998, Hasbro released a small assortment of figures that were the follow ups to the modestly successful 1997 15th Anniversary figures. Among these figures are several gems that are currently highly desired by collectors everywhere, some decent figures that are nice updates to old molds, a few new characters that collectors have warmed to, and a slew of forgettable vehicle drivers who really offered little to the overall line. While I first thought that Thunderwing might fall into the final category, my further examination of the figure has lead me to a different conclusion.

Thunderwing is a straight repaint of the Thunder figure from 1984. However, he is a totally different character who was introduced due to the copyright loss on the Thunder name. While this, in itself, is forgivable, the Thunderwing figure really lacks any defining characteristics that would elevate him beyond forgettable status. He is cast is a solid dark green color that, while aesthetically pleasing, makes him rather indistinct. The figure is also lacking one of Thunder's most dominating features; his red hair. Thunderwing's hair is black and just doesn't have any flair. As such, this figure has found himself as a non-descript armoured vehicle operator.

However, when I pulled this figure out to profile him, I realized that the paint scheme isn't that bad. The grey vest offsets the green very nicely and this figure showcases a very nice level of painted detail that was usually lacking on any figures released between 1997 and 2001. Truthfully, this figure reminds me more of an original run Joe than just about any other figure from the re-release era. He has brighter, sharper colors that actually complement each other and create a nice overall package. As I started to examine the figure, my appreciation for him grew and I'm starting to think that Thunderwing may become a more important part of my collection.

I've chosen to profile this figure for another reason than just to showcase him. He is simply a catalyst for something of which I think people need to be aware. You see, as Joe collecting has become more popular, the demands by online collectors for up to the minute information about upcoming releases or new product has grown exponentially. As such, a few avenues of "inside" information have opened up. While this is a good thing, collectors must be cautious of which information they believe and act upon. There are many people out there who's motives are less than scrupulous and who do not care if they dupe Joe fans into doing something they would not otherwise do. As such, I've found it wisest to know the source that information is coming from.

However, even that can be problematic. Earlier this year, I found out the five figures Funskool had planned for release this year. (Wild Weasel, Cross Country, Major Bludd, Grunt, Metal Head) However, when it came time for Grunt to appear, Funskool produced a Law figure instead. (If you don't have one of these guys, get one. He's a really nice figure!) The Grunt figure has disappeared with no word as to what happened to him. Did I receive bad information? Well, I don't know. However, I believe the source of the information to be reliable. As this info was obtained in nearly 6 months before the figure was planned for release, though, my personal feeling is that the Grunt figure was intended for release but was changed to Law. (The Law packaging and accessories cross sell about 6 different figures so the marketing opportunities were attractive.) However, company plans can change, especially when information is proffered forth so far removed from the actual figure release.

The end result of this is that people need to be cautious before they raise their expectations too high for a newly announced product. There will be lots of information coming out in the coming months. Most of it will be reliable. Some of it will be utter crap. Collectors just have to be careful that they don't get excited about the crap and know that the reliable information is what they should pay attention to.

As a recent release, loose Thunderwing figures haven't really penetrated the second hand collector market, yet. However, as most current collectors have had a an opportunity to pick him up, he is not highly desirable. As such, you can usually find him mint and complete for under $7 or $8. For a fig like this, I'd suggest you just spend the extra buck or two and get a nice, original Thunder. He is a better looking figure and is a lot easier to find. Beyond that, this fig may have a use as an updated Thunder, but I don't see the Thunderwing character ever becoming a fan favorite. All told, I'm kind of undecided on this figure at this point. He has some merits, but I still think that the original Thunder is better. However, if I did not have this guy in my collection already, I highly doubt I would spend any time or effort to track him down. He's okay to have, but not so nice that I would recommend him as a new acquisition to anyone's collection.

I'm set for the 1998 figures save for the Ace that came with the Conquest. If you have him available for trade, email me.

1998 Thunderwing, Gung Ho, 1993, Beach Head, 1997 Lady Jaye

1998 Thunderwing, Gung Ho, 1993, Beach Head, 1997 Lady Jaye

1998 Thunderwing, Gung Ho, 1993, Beach Head, 1997 Lady Jaye

Friday, November 15, 2002

1993 Battle Corps Beach Head

Back in the summer of 1996 I was a Joe buying fool. As the line had been cancelled, I was on a mission to find every different figure I could before all the toys disappeared from retail. As such, I often did not discriminate as to the figures I bought as I simply followed the mantra that if I didn't have them, I needed them. Of course, the strategy landed a number of less than stellar figures in my collection. However, it also gave me a keener appreciation for many of the figures that were released at the end of line. These figures that I bought at retail became the backbone of my collection as my older stuff was all buried away in a closet at my parents' house. As such, I used these later figures in a variety of capacities and really expanded their characterizations as they had to fill many roles in my collection. Among these figures is one that I have long thought a decent mold and excellent colors, but never really used beyond a niche capacity: the 1993 Beach Head.

1993 is generally considered one of the worst years ever for Joe figures. Though there were nearly 100 original figures released, most were horribly colored or utilized lame gimmicks that really had no place in the Joe line. In my opinion, it was the '93 figures that really killed the line. The '94 lineup was very solid and showed a return to what made Joe great. However, by that time, it was too late. The aftertaste of the '93 assortment was just too great and there was no saving Joe from its original cancellation.

However, while '93 as a whole had its problems, it did give us some very nice figures. The recent Mirage repaint has shown there were some decent molds released in 1993. They were just poorly colored. There were a few places, though, where the figures were done right. Cutter, Duke, Spirit, Cobra Commander, Snow Serpent and this version of Beach Head all utilized decent color schemes on solid molds. The fact that they were all known characters should have helped them. Unfortunately, though, Beach Head's look was so ingrained that this figure has become a point of collector scorn. If you look at the mold itself, though, it is a nice update the Beach Head character. He retains the face covering while adding a protective helmet. The chest is a bit bulkier than earlier figures, but has detailed web gear that suggest the character's abilities. (My one major beef with '93 and '94 figures is that the molds were well detailed, but those details were left unpainted. As such, a cursory glance at the simple paint jobs leaves many people with the impression that the later molds don't have as much to offer as their predecessors. This is simply not the case. The detail is there but is obscured in simple paint schemes.)

As with most of the '93 and '94 figure molds that were well done, Beach Head suffers from one fatal flaw: his accessories. He includes a tree of bright, neon yellow guns that ruin what could have been a great figure. However, as accessories are easily replaced, this slight drawback can be easily remedied. Personally, I like outfitting this figure in the same manner as the original mold. This used to be fairly difficult as the original Beach Head is a highly sought after figure that many collectors consider to be a key component of any Joe collection. However, there is currently a Beach Head figure available in the Wave 3 new sculpt figure wave. He comes with the Beach Head pack and and a nice, black version of the gun that looks even better with this figure. As we move away from Wave 3's retail availability, though, there is another option. For about $4 and change you can get a Funskool Beach Head figure that comes with excellent accessories that fit this figure perfectly. (Plus, you get the ammo pack that is missing in the newest American release.) With these new accessories in place, this figure's value quickly rises and he can become a welcome addition to any collection.

For me, this figure has had a myriad of uses. First and foremost, I used him as a maritime Joe army builder. He represented random troopers who specialized in harbour, shoreline, and ship to ship combat. They weren't divers, but soldiers who were trained to repel boarders, operate aquatic vehicle mounted gun stations, patrol harbours and docks, and just keep maritime operations flowing. In this capacity, the figure served the longest. In fact, his first duty was manning the side gun stations on the Shark 9000. He later branched off onto the Whale gun stations. From there, though, the figure stagnated. However, the recent interest in Beach Head gave me occasion to revisit this figure. When I pulled him out of the '93 drawer, I was amazed at the level of detail the mold was given. At that point, I decided to re-classify this figure as a new, original character. (Topside has also replaced this guy as my maritime Joe army builder.)

Going forward, I see this figure in a role closer to what was Beach Head's originally intended specialty. He will be more of a self sufficient commando and soldier who is utilized in self supporting missions. I haven't come up with a name for him, yet, but will probably match him up with a characterization in my database in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I'm still determining just how important a role he will play. This figure has long intrigued me, but was never able to really grab my attention. Now that he has, it will be interesting to see how long he holds it. Keep checking the dioramas and profile pictures on the site for the next few months. If you see this guy lurking among them, then you know that his popularity has survived beyond the proverbial 15 minutes.

This figure mold has a bit of an interesting history. First off, he utilized the legs of the highly popular 1988 Shockwave figure, only they are reversed. Second, this figure was repainted in 1994 and released with a bright yellow vest. Third, the figure appears to have been planned for a 1995 release. There exists box art for a planned set of "Arctic Commandos". It was intended to be a retailer exclusive product that was to be offered as part of the 1995 line. The box art shows silhouettes of two figures that appear to be the Sub Zero mold and this Beach Head figure. The intended color scheme is not shown, but I think this figure could have been quite nice were he done right in an arctic scheme. Finally, this mold was also released in Brazil as Armadilha. This figure is nearly identical to the American release, but has one important difference: the figure was released as a Cobra. However, the figure itself has no markings indicating the change in affiliation for the mold.

As far as availability goes, the 1993 Beach Head is pretty easy to find. Over my Joe buying years, I've picked up about 5 of them. Even mint and complete, you can get them without too much effort. Even carded, the figure should barely cost over $12. For that price, this guy is a great addition to any collection. Sure, the accessories suck, but what you save in the cost of the figure can be applied to any of the options listed above to properly accessorize this figure. While I know that many people simply will not be able to associate this figure with the Beach Head character, the figure itself is simply a great addition to a collection. I use this figure as a new character, faceless maritime soldier, or aquatic gunner. The lack of distinguishing facial features allows for more leeway in play and has made this figure one that has seen a lot of use in my collection when you consider that it's only been recently that he's become a true, original character. I think, given a chance, this version of Beach Head can prove a nice member of any collection, regardless of his use.

1993 Beach Head, Ar Puro, Tiger Force Airtight, Brazil, Estrela, Forca Tigre, Toxo Zombie

1993 Beach Head, 1987 Worms

1993 Beach Head, 1994 Major Bludd

Sunday, November 10, 2002

2002 Convention Exclusive Paratrooper Dusty

Much has been made of the exclusive figures that were offered as part of the 2002 G.I. Joe Convention package. The Crimson Strike Team really struck a nerve in the collecting community because the set was so nicely done and was collector friendly. However, for everyone that loved that set, there were two or three other fans who were angered by the fact that the price point ($210 for the boxed set and an additional $90 for a supplemental, bagged set) was beyond their budgets. Many people wondered how Hasbro could allow for something that collectors would have salivated over as a retail release ended up as a higher priced exclusive item with a very high price point. While these issues continue to be debated, a little surprise slipped by everyone. On top of the Crimson Strike Team set, Convention attendees were also given a nicely re-deco-ed version of the 1991 Dusty figure. The purpose was to throw him off the roof of the hotel as part of the convention's annual parachute drop. While few collectors paid this figure heed in the barrage of info that was the convention, I realized that Hasbro had quietly slipped collectors a little gem: the convention exclusive Paratrooper Dusty.

It's really a shame that a figure of this quality never had the opportunity to see a regular, retail release. While the 2000 version of this mold was well done and remains one of my preferred figures, the greens on this guy make him much more useful as a field trooper. As soon as I saw this paint job, I knew that a superior version of this mold had been released. In that vein, I had a problem with the figure. I didn't like the fact that a repaint of this quality: one that would have been well received as a retail release, was so limited in availability and production. One one level, I'm happy that the collecting community was given the opportunity to see more classic repaints. However, on another, I'm disappointed that I'll never be able to have 6 to 8 of these guys roaming my collection room as a squad. As such, I'm still conflicted about the convention exclusive figures. I missed out on the Crimson Strike Team and have faced the reality that they will not call my collection home for many years. However, seeing those who did get them so pleased with the outcome of the sets really reinforces the fact that collectors have a place in this new line. It may not be as exalted as we would like, but it appears that our whims and desires are heard and efforts are made to appease them. Not all will agree with the methods through which collectors are satisfied, but the fact that an effort has been made to include our wants does inspire hope in the line's long term future.

From the reviews I've seen and read about the convention exclusive Crimson Strike Team figures, it seems that they are of exceptional quality. Dusty was created in the same vein. This figure feels like the '00 version, but has tight paint masking a some detailing that was sorely lacking on that first release. The soft greens and browns meld well together and are offset by a white undershirt and a maroon cloth stuck in his shoulder strap. His legs continue the tradition of marbleized plastic, but is done here with some subtlety that almost makes you miss it. The figure is capped off by black boots. The remarkable detail about these, though, is that there are brown laces actually painted onto the figure. This little detail (that is showcased in the final picture on this page) adds greater depth to the figure and shows that the ability to paint small details on classic molds was not lost during the release period of 2000 and 2001, it was simply ignored. Aside from the details, the figure came with little in the way of accessories. Included with him were a green Jinx backpack to which a silver parachute was tied. The parachute reads "Toys R Us" and is obvious overstock from long ago. For me, these inclusions are simply packed away and my figure is outfitted with a wider variety of weapons that are more befitting his role in my collection.

In my collection, this figure joins my ranks of Joe army building type figures. The '00 Dusty, both versions of the '02 Mirage, Salvo and many other figures are used as faceless equivalents of the Cobra Viper ranks. The Mirage figures are the lower end soldiers who are closer to cannon fodder. The '00 Dusty is a higher end commando who is more highly trained and more dangerous a foe. This Dusty simply provides me a more interesting color scheme for that specialty. As such, I tend to use this figure more in the field while the '00 version stays around bases and convoys. This look is closer to what I had envisioned a soldier in this defined role looking like. So, this Dusty sees more than his fair share of outside time in any number of activities. You will notice from the photos below that there are four unique days spread over several months represented. This shows the figure's diversity and his place of prominence in my collection.

As this figure was a convention exclusive, his production numbers are probably lower than just about any other figure from the vintage line. I've heard numbers as low as 1,000 units for this figure, but think the real number is probably closer to 3,000. However, many of these guys were thrown off a roof of a hotel. As such, many suffered terrible fates as their parachutes either failed to open or became entangled with other participants in the parachute drop. Any way you look at it, this figure is one of the least produced original figures to ever be offered. Right now, loose figures with the pack and parachute can be had for about $20. Bagged figures range from the same price all the way up to double that. It just depends on the day. You would think that all that would add up to a figure with great long term value potential. However, there is one little wrinkle that I think will keep this guy near his current price point. You see, by being a convention exclusive figure, Dusty was created for the collector market. As such, most serious collectors either have this figure already, or have no desire to acquire him. As he is not considered a regular release figure, his long term popularity will suffer and I see Dusty becoming a truly forgotten member of the Joe family as we are further and further chronologically removed from the '02 convention. As such, I don't think he will ever near the price point he would have achieved were he a regular, retail release with the same production numbers. However, as we are still only a few months removed from the convention, those who have this figure but no longer want it are liquidating them now. This means that if you were unable to attend the convention, you can still get one of these guys with relative ease. In a few years, while I don't see the figure getting very pricey, I do not think this will be the case. I think this figure will become very obscure and join the ranks of Gears, V2 Techno-Viper, and the 1994 Ozone as low production, hard to find figures that really don't garner much collector interest.

I like this figure. While I'm not willing to pay much for any more of them, I am interested in how much you would pay for a convention exclusive figure. I'm also interested in hearing your thoughts about convention exclusive figures and whether or not you think it is something that you think Hasbro should continue. Let me know.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

2001 Fast Blast Viper

Back in early 1997, I had just finished college and was living with my parents in order to save some money before I moved to Arizona. During that time, I was mainly into Star Wars figures and spent my toy-finding time searching for them. However, one day while in my local comic store, the clerk (who knew I was a long time Joe fan) told me they had just gotten some G.I. Joe figures in and asked if I might be interested in any of them. At that time, my Joe collection was limited to what I had left over from childhood and what I had acquired at retail in the recent years. As such, there were many figures from the early '90's who I was not familiar with. As I searched through the three dozen or so figures they had, I found three Cobra figures that I did not have in my collection: the Range Viper, 1989 Alley Viper, and the Annihilator. All three of these guys were, in my opinion, very cool figures who needed a great purpose in my collection. Over the course of subsequent weeks, I devised a new direction for my Joe world where Cobra created Urban Death Squads: bands of highly trained troops who were capable of destroying a small town in a matter of minutes and then disappearing without a trace. The purpose was twofold: to strike fear into the hearts of Americans and also to create ghost towns that Cobra could then buy up (using their Bermuda based reinsurance operations as the financier) and then rebuild into surveillance and recruiting centers. Naturally, the three aforementioned Cobras comprised the bulk of these forces.

By 1998, though, I had started acquiring many new Cobra trooper figures. As such, the roles of the Urban Death Squads were expanding. They were now attacking larger urban centers and needed new types of troops to deal with new situations. Among these were the original H.E.A.T. Viper figures. They were specialists who were able to crack fortified positions such as police headquarters or military outposts. However, I found their bright yellow color scheme a bit too over-the-top and did not like how it meshed with the figures who populated the unit. In the summer of 2001, though, my problem was finally solved. The H.E.A.T. Viper was finally replaced by a figure that utilized the majority of his mold and accessories, but was done in a much more useful color scheme: the Fast Blast Viper.

First off, let's face it, the name Fast Blast Viper just sucks. There's no getting around it and no amount of justification will ever make it work. I know there are a number of collectors out there who simply call them Blast Vipers and that works. Personally, I just refer to them as H.E.A.T. Vipers. They have had the original colors updated and made more useful for urban environments. That way, they are not a new unit in Cobra, just one whose uniforms have been modernized. To me, this makes the figure more useful and gives him greater roots to Cobra's long history.

The best part about this figure is the coloring. The FBV is a nice blend of dark black, subtle smoke grey and a bluish hued grey that create a nice, dark figure whose details are not lost in the opacity. I think that is one of the reasons why I like this figure so much. His color scheme is very different in that it is vibrant and alive. So many figures in the '00-'01 A Real American Hero Collection were very bland and dead to the eye. The FBV does not fall into this category, though, as the colors don't have the muted tones that are so common on his contemporaries.

His accessories, while nice, don't quite live up the the H.E.A.T. Viper's legacy. He lacks the peg on both his head and on the shoulder tab that were the plug-ins for the H.E.A.T. Viper's weapons. As such, you are left with a large missile launcher that has an attached hose with no place to plug it in. I have made up for this by simply attaching it the backpack, but it is not an ideal solution. Still, it works and still allows for a wide variety of uses for the figure. One thing of note, though, is that this figure includes 6 missiles that attach to his legs. At first glance, these would appear to be the type of thing that will be easily lost over time. However, as a little bonus to collectors, both versions of the 2002 Wave 1 Neo Viper include these 6 missiles. That little Easter Egg will ensure that there are plenty of these accessories to go around as we become farther and farther removed from this figure's release date.

The final piece of note on this figure's physical appearance is dually a criticism and praise. For an unknown reason, the original H.E.A.T. Viper's head was not reused on this figure. Instead, it was replaced with a black Undertow head. This sleek head is far more visually appealing than the oddly designed H.E.A.T. Viper's. However, this head is only covered by a thin mask. As such, you would think that the gear carried by an artillery trooper would pose a danger that would not be covered by so skimpy a head covering. It is a small point, but one that was cause of some initial criticism of the figure. I've just assumed the mask to be fire-proof and able to provide the type of protection these characters would need. (On that note, it is unknown if the FBV was amalgamated due to the loss of the original H.E.A.T. Viper's head [the mold was released in Brazil in the early '90's] or just a design update. The H.E.A.T. Viper's head has long been an oddity, so it may have been deliberately excluded in an effort to create a more visually appealing figure.)

In my collection, this figure has some different uses. First and foremost, he is the hand held artillery specialist who still supports the Urban Death Squads. Beyond simple fortification destruction, the FBV also takes on anti-aircraft responsibilities. I have him as the primary attacker of the low flying G.I. Joe gunships like the Dragonfly, Tomahawk or Night Attack Chopper. In addition to the field duties, I also use the FBV as Cobra's primary gunner. When I was younger, I always wished Cobra had a gunner figure. Someone who could operate the turrets of the H.I.S.S. Tank or the A.S.P. As I had a number of the figure, I used the Hooded Cobra Commander in this capacity. Eventually, though, I just wanted something more. The FBV fills this role well as he looks good in most Cobra weaponry and his true specialty is closely related enough for people to accept him in this role. For this reason, I like the figure on a couple of different levels and am able to better utilize him in more situations.

Fast Blast Vipers are still not that expensive to acquire. However, they are a little harder to find that the ubiquitous Laser Viper. This is mainly due to the fact that the FBV pack was pulled after its shipping allotment and was not carried forward to future figure waves like the Laser Viper was. As such, if you did not get this guy during his short window of availability, he is harder to find than many other of the A Real American Hero Collection figures. However, by 2001, the collecting community was already aware of the quick disappearing act as so many collectors had missed out on the Firefly/Undertow pack from 2000 and were watching it reach nearly $75 for a MOC specimen. As such, once news about the Wave IV case assortment leaked out, many dealers and collectors went out and bought up droves of FBV's in an attempt to take advantage of potential later shortages. However, these haven't really materialized as many Wave III cases with the FBV ended up at clearance and warehouse outlets. I know that the Meijer store in my area had an ample supply of FBV's at $4.99/pack through Christmas of 2001. As such, this figure has not become the highly sought after second hand market item that many had planned for and is still available for around $12-$15/pack from many online dealers. As such, if you missed out on this guy, you can still acquire him without too much time, trouble or expense. I have found this figure well worth his original retail price. Even at aftermarket pricing, I would get one of them now as he is worth it just to have. Army building, though, is a different story. I have 2 loose FBV's and have found that enough. I still have 3 carded figures that I haven't opened as I have not had a need for the figures, yet. When I do, I'll open them. However, as the FBV is the type of figure that lends himself to smaller numbers, I don't know when that will be. Still, he is a quality figure and one that is important to my Cobra army. Given a choice between this figure or the original H.E.A.T. Viper, I'd take the FBV every time. I think that many collectors out there will agree with me.

While I'm well set on V1 Fast Blast Vipers, I do not have a 2002 FBV that was available in the BJ's exclusive set. While I don't want one for the ridiculous amounts I've seen them sell for, I would be open to trades. If you have one and want to work out a deal, email me.

2001 Fast Blast Viper, Funskool Night Viper, 1993 Nitro Viper, 1992 Parasite

2001 Fast Blast Viper, Funskool Night Viper, 1993 Nitro Viper, 1992 Parasite

2001 Fast Blast Viper, Funskool Night Viper, 1993 Nitro Viper, 1992 Parasite

2001 Fast Blast Viper, 1987 Worms, Rip It

2001 Fast Blast Viper, 1987 Worms, Rip It

2001 Fast Blast Viper, Laser Viper, Funskool Major Bludd, 2000 Firefly

2001 Fast Blast Viper,1985 ASP, 1997 Destro, 1998 Cobra Trooper

2001 Fast Blast Viper,1985 ASP, 1997 Destro, 1998 Cobra Trooper

Friday, October 25, 2002

TNT (Argentine Plastirama Exclusive)

Many years ago, now, I was completely against adding foreign exclusive Joes to my collection. They were too expensive and my impression of them was that they primarily consisted of horrible repaints of molds that I didn't like all that much to begin with. My early forays into foreign figures mostly affirmed that ascertain and kept me uninterested in any foreign exclusive figure. However, my American collection slowly grew near the point of completion. As such, the only figures I was missing were often versions that fit the same criteria as the foreign releases. I was kind of at a crossroads when I managed to acquire both the Chinese Major Bludd and Tiger Force Outback in a short time span. These figures sparked my interest in international exclusive releases. In the coming months I managed to acquire many Funskool figures before they made their widespread appearances in the U.S. From here, the natural progression took me across just about every country that produced Joes. Many of the figures I have tracked down are wonderfully done and are excellent additions to any Joe collection. Others, like the Argentine exclusive TNT, are simple affirmations of my early impressions of non-U.S. Joes.

TNT was intended as an EOD specialist. He is a unique character who was only released in Argentina in the mid to late '80's. He is made up of Blowtorch's mold with Doc's waistpiece. The figure is the exact same mold the was used to produce the Argentine version of Blowtorch and the harder to find Argentine Backstop. (Which can be seen in the photos below. Thanks, Tel!) TNT came with a blue version of Doc's helmet, a yellow version of Blowtorch's backpack and one of at least three weapons. TNT is most often seen with a version of Stalker's rifle that you see with my figure. He has also been seen with a black version of Torch's torch as well as a version of Footloose's M-16. None of these various weapons, though, really makes all that much of a difference. The figure is still a very bizarre montage of light blue, silver and yellow that makes it hard to use him in any sort of capacity.

A few years ago, finding a MOC TNT was quite a coup. In the past two or so years, though, a large cache of later series Argentine figures was found. Among the various interpretations of Alpine, Eels, Sgt. Slaughter and Crazylegs were also a trove of exclusive figures such as Sparta, Satan, Ninja-Ku, Sokerk and TNT. As such, many of these formerly difficult figures became available in the US for decent prices. Now that much of the stock has been absorbed by the collecting community, you are starting to see the exclusive ninjas rise back to unaffordable levels while also seeing some of the other exclusives labor in discount bins. TNT falls somewhere in the middle. He is tougher to find and is a bit more desirable due to his exclusive nature of both character and design. However, once you own him, he is probably less useful than just about any other Argentine exclusive figure.

Be wary of opening any carded TNT figure, though. While there has been a flurry of this series of Argentine figures made available in the US, it is probably best to leave these figures carded. It seems that these figures have had a hard life. As such, the plastic has become brittle, hard and very fragile. Many people who have opened figures from these latest finds have often had the figures limbs break upon their first movement. I don't know if this was caused by poor storage methods, or if these figures were just not meant to last carded. I do know that my TNT figure, that has been opened for many years and pre-dates the recent warehouse finds is actually very nice. He moves well and is not brittle in any way. Although, he has become a bit "oily" to the touch. It could be that this is the first stage of the plastic breaking down. (Oily feeling figures are becoming commonplace in the vintage Star Wars figure collecting world as the original figures near 25 years in age.) It could also be due to other factors. Whatever the reasons, though, the degradation in figure quality in the most recently imported carded figures is widely documented. As such, if you spend money for one, I would certainly not expect it to last under the rigors or normal use. In fact, I would almost expect the figure to suffer from some lapse in quality.

In my collection, TNT is relatively useless. I could see him as part of a support or firefighting team that would include Blowtorch. However, even in this regard, there are so many other figures who are superior for this purpose that I never really pull TNT out of his bin. Visually, though, he is kind of nice. When mixed with some other of the earlier foreign figures in a display, TNT does stand out a bit and is an okay concept. Beyond that, though, the figure really doesn't have much play value. (Perhaps that's why he's relatively easy to find.) Even going forward, I don't see many other purposes for TNT. He's the kind of figure you acquire and then forget. I know that I have.

As Argentine figures go, TNT isn't terribly tough to find. Most online dealers carry him and there are always several available via auctions. As he is one of the true exclusive characters, though, you will still usually pay upwards of $20 for a MOC figure. For a figure like this, if you are not a completist, that is a bit much. I've found very few uses for this guy and would take a regular Blowtorch over him any day. The odd choice of colors makes for a neat foreign oddity, but does not mesh well with most people's visions of Joe. With that TNT, remains one of the many bizarre foreign Joes in my collection. He rests with monstrosities from Brazil and India that create a mish-mash of bright, neon colors. Every now and then, I'll pull him out for a base diorama or something. But, he mostly stays tucked away. As I enjoy figure examples like TNT in my collection, though, I am happy to have to him. However, your collecting focus will probably be the best determination of his collecting value to you.

While I'm set for TNT, I would still like an Argentinian exclusive Satan or Ninja-Ku figure. Also, I'm still trying to determine if Flint was released in Argentina. If so, I'd be interested in one of him, too. If you can help, email me.

TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, Backstop, Persuader, Blowtorch, Scrap Iron, 1984

TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, Backstop, Persuader, Blowtorch, Scrap Iron, 1984

TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, Backstop, Persuader, Blowtorch, Scrap Iron, 1984, 1993 Gristle, 1990 Vapor

TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, Blowtorch, Charbroil, 1988, 2003 Inferno BAT, Overkill

TNT, Plastirama, Argentina, Blowtorch, 1990 Law, Cobra Officer, Cobra Trooper, 2000

Friday, October 18, 2002

2002 Snake Eyes (O-ring Versions)

Most people out there know that I'm not the most canonical Joe follower out there. In fact, my Joe world is probably about as different from the traditional stories that are out there as anyone's. However, while I keep my universe separate, I still maintain an interest in Joe canon. I think that this casual interest has lead to my dislike of many of the canonical mainstream figures and characters. However, while I may not use the more popular figures in their traditional roles, I've always been able to appreciate them for the quality they portray. This tradition continues with the new Joe vs. Cobra line and is most recently embodied by the brand new 2002 O-ringed version Snake Eyes figure.

This figure already exists in two distinct paint schemes. One is a combination of purple and grey and the other is the classic black uniform with silver highlights. As there is a significant reason for these variations (which I will delve into in a later paragraph), I felt it proper to profile both of them at this point. I have not made up my mind as to which I like better, overall, but have found smaller niches where one figure is superior to the other.

The purple Snake Eyes mold's strong points are mainly in presentation. The subtle purple, grey, silver, and black all meld into an aesthetically pleasing figure that has a nice look. The broader color scheme also showcases the detail on this figure. In that sense, it is remarkable. This figure is finely detailed on just about every level. His head sculpt shows a tight mask that barely covers Snake Eyes' mouth and nose. It gives the figure a dramatic flair by having such a detailed head. The figure's torso is covered in complex web gear that perfectly matches Snake Eyes' role as a commando. The arms follow this with a series of complexly molded patterns and gauntlets that depict Snake Eyes' heritage as a swordsman. The figure's wrists are even articulated as a nice little added posability bonus. The waist and legs are done in similar style and showcase a level of detail we haven't seen on any Joe figures for quite some time. (Be sure to check out the small knife molded onto the back of Snake Eyes' belt.) The final showstopper is that the figure's ankles are articulated as well. While I've not been too sure about adding articulation to Joes, I have to admit that I like the swivel wrist. The ankles do less for me, but are still kind of a fun little feature to have on a figure.

The black version of this figure is also pleasing to the eye, but in a very different way. While the other figure is more subdued, the black version is very striking in appearance. The dark black color combined with the silver highlights make for a figure that is bold and powerful. While the black color draws attention away from the mold's details, it more than makes up for it in sheer dominance. This look is more classically Snake Eyes, though the darkness of the black seems deeper than even Snake Eyes' classic molds.

The figure is well accessorized with a backpack-style scabbard that holds the figure's sword. It is a toned down version of what the first new sculpt Snake Eyes figure had and is a welcome change. It makes the figure appear as less a ninja and more a commando who happens to use a sword for certain purposes. However, the accessory area is also where some criticism is due. The figure does not include an Uzi. Instead, he comes with a sound chip laden rifle. Frankly, Snake Eyes without his Uzi just seems off. Fortunately, the original new sculpt Snake Eyes is still readily available and the guns from that figure are easily swapped out with this one.

One other minor area of criticism is the molded holsters on the figure's legs. As you can see from the photos below, the holsters are rather bulky. They even have gun handles that are molded so that they pull away from the figure rather than just hug the leg like the vintage molded holsters did. When I see this, I have to ask why these were not make working holsters a la the Wave 1 figures. As we are seeing working holsters return with Wave 4, I wonder why this figure did not incorporate them. Perhaps it had something to do with a different design team. (Which created this highly stylized wave of figures. I still think this figure, when posed, looks like Spider-Man.) It is a small point and one that, I'm sure, will be rectified on some future version of Snake Eyes that will appear at some point in the line.

A recent issue of ToyFair broke the story that there were going to be two versions of this figure mold. They showcased the first picture of the black Snake Eyes and reported that Hasbro determined that the purple version would be produced for the first 20,000 pieces of the mold, then all subsequent pieces would be done as the black version. 20,000 is a substantial amount of figures and many collectors feared that the black Snake Eyes, which they thought would be more desirable, would end up being hard to find. As such, Hasbro then reported that the Firefly/Nunchuk repaint pack that was planned to ship 1/case in Wave 4 had been cancelled and replaced in the case packs with a black Snake Eyes vs. Cobra Commander pack. This would ensure collectors would have more of a chance to acquire this figure. However, after that, the Director of Marketing for the G.I. Joe line made this post in the newsgroup. I read this as an affirmation that there could be considerably less than 20,000 of the purple Snake Eyes figures out there. As I found my purple Snake Eyes at retail on October 4, 2002 (only a few days removed from the first sightings of them) and the first findings of the black version happened within days of my find, I am suggesting that either one of two things has happened. Either: there are cases containing the purple Snake Eyes that are stuck somewhere in a warehouse and have yet to ship to retail. I do not find this very likely as the new waves of Joes seem to be selling through very well. If the purple Snake Eyes figures were all stuck somewhere, it is doubtful we would be seeing cases with the black Snake Eyes figure, either. Or: the purple Snake Eyes was changed much earlier than the 20,000 figure estimate and he exists in numbers far smaller than what was originally anticipated. To me, this is the much more likely scenario. Again, I have no proof of this. However, based upon my observations and knowledge of the quantities of 20,000 pieces would look like at retail, I am very convinced that the purple Snake Eyes figure was produced in much lower quantities than was originally reported.

What does this mean? Well, I don't know. The Black Snake Eyes is far and away the more popular with collectors. As such, in the long term, more people will want that figure as a key piece. Also, right now, the new Joe line is relatively young. As we have seen 5 versions of the Snake Eyes character released in 2002 alone, I would suggest that we will see him at least once or twice more in 2003. Any of his future figures could easily outdistance this one in terms of collector desirability. As such, it is hard to say that this figure will remain the definitive version of Snake Eyes over the line's duration. The purple Snake Eyes, if he really was produced in numbers lower than was reported, will always remain an elusive variation. As more people become completists, or simply track down rarities, this figure could become very hard to find. As such, if you do not have the purple Snake Eyes figure and find one at retail, I would certainly buy it now. I have a feeling that those who now pass on him will regret it in a year or so....

***12/22/08 Update***

OK. So, I miffed this one. Neither of these Snake Eyes versions is expensive or popular. In fact, they can be had for less than retail price today. Hasbro released the black version a few more time and the purple version again. On top of that, the mold was used for several other figures, too. On top of all this, the new sculpt style of figures have been wholly replaced in the collector conscience with the Anniversary style figures. As such, there is no market for figures in the new sculpt style and modern collectors can complete a set of the new sculpt figures for a fraction of what it would have cost at retail. It's both a sad and fitting fate for many of these figures, though. There are some decent members of that style, but others were nothing short of horrible. This Snake Eyes, though, is highly emblematic of the entire new sculpt era and retains some relevance for that. But, when all is said and done, it will be these new sculpt figures that are the truly forgotten members of the Joe pantheon.

*** End 12/22/08 Update***

As a collector, I like the black Snake Eyes as a representation of the character. However, I like the purple Snake Eyes as a visual oddity. (Those who are familiar with the site know that I like oddly colored figures.) As such, both have found a home in my collection. Each will have his uses depending upon the situation. I find both of the versions to be a great representation of the Snake Eyes character and the first mold since the '85 that adequately combines his role as a ninja and a commando. From what I've seen out there, I'm hardly alone in this assessment. For now, I think this figure will become the definitive Snake Eyes for many newer collectors who do not wish to plunk down the $25 or more that a decent conditioned '85 seems to always cost. With that in mind, I see this figure remaining popular for its entire retail run, regardless of which version becomes more prevalent. Time will tell if that remains the case when we are a few years removed from his release. However, this figure certainly has all the trappings of a truly classic mold.

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

2002 Snake Eyes, Variant, JvC, Stormshadow, Neo Viper, Claws, BAT

2002 Snake Eyes, Variant, JvC, Stormshadow, Neo Viper, Claws, BAT

2002 Snake Eyes, Variant, JvC, Stormshadow, Neo Viper, Claws, BAT

2002 Snake Eyes, Variant, JvC, Stormshadow, Neo Viper, Claws, BAT