Friday, May 10, 2002

1997 Stars & Stripes Scarlett - TRU Exclusive

I've made it no secret that I don't have much use for female figures in the Joe line. Of nearly 180 profiles, this is only the second female figure I've covered. The reasons for this are many. Suffice it to say, as a kid I didn't relate to the female figures and just didn't really see any reason to incorporate them into my Joe world. This is not to say, though, that I didn't enjoy the characters around whom the figures were based. While the Lady Jaye figure was relegated to bottom of my collection, I appreciated the character and always enjoyed her interaction with Flint. As the comics were my main source of Joe media, though, it was interaction between Snake Eyes and the subject of this profile that drove much of the story. While collectors now often bemoan the old Joe comic, you can't deny that it was compelling at the time. As such, I felt the time was right for me to offer my views on the most recognizable Joe female: Scarlett.

For me, the original Scarlett figure was terribly bland. Her colors, while unique when taken against her peers, were just not eye catching. As such, she was the only member of the original Joe run that I left out of my collection until late 1984. As a late entry, and one in whom I had little interest, that original Scarlett got almost no use at all. By the time I acquired her, figures had progressed so far beyond that first year that even an original color scheme like Scarlett's wasn't enough to measure up to the current offerings. As such, Scarlett's run in my collection was painfully short. In fact, beyond the day I first acquired her, it was non-existent. Naturally, this has lead to that original version of Scarlett being a figure that I have not sought out as an adult collector. My apathy towards her figure then has remained with me and it was only due to completion's sake that I've ever acquired any additional versions of her.

For many people, Scarlett is one of the most important characters in Joedom. She was introduced in the first issue of the Joe comic and remained in a starring role through the bitter end. Her connection to Snake Eyes made for a strong plot point and was utilized for many years. Of course, because of this, there are many people who dislike the character. You can usually tell a comic fan from a cartoon fan by whether they prefer Scarlett or Lady Jaye. Regardless of your preferred Joe canon, though, you have to admit that Scarlett is a character who is readily associated with Joe. Being the first female on the team at a time when the concept of female combat soldiers was pretty far out there made Scarlett stand out. The way she was utilized in advertising and other Joe media helped make her a mainstay in most people's minds when they thought of Joe. It was her run in the comic, though, that really cemented her in the mindset of most of today's adult collectors. She was so intertwined with Snake Eyes and Stormshadow that it was impossible for any fan of the comic to escape her. As such, this has made Scarlett a collector favorite in the modern collectible world. Like Lady Jaye, Scarlett will always have her fans and there are many collectors out there who, if they only own three or four figures, ensure that Scarlett is one of them.

This version of Scarlett remains my favorite. The deeper colors are a bit more striking and create a contrast of color that leaves more of an impression upon me than the original color scheme. You can be sure that I'm in the minority on this! As many of you know, though, I like figures who are bright and vibrant. This figure certainly fits those criteria. As such, I consider her a nice update to a classic figure. While I won't go so far as to say she is better than the original, this is certainly the version that I prefer. Her 1993 Ninja Force figure is not terrible, (In fact, the head sculpt is quite good and is often put to use by many advanced customizers.) but lacks the characteristics that fit the character. This version retains Scarlett's combat motif while giving the figure enough of an update that the character has some variety in a collection, even if the mold is the same. Had the entire Stars and Stripes set been done to even this level, (I think Stalker was the best of the bunch, though!) it would occupy a more honored place among today's collectors. Most people now dismiss it for the bland updates and poor figure quality. While this is, for the most part, true of the set, it is a figure like Scarlett that makes me glad I did buy one back when they were released.

Most of you now know that there is a new Scarlett figure being packaged with a new Zartan that will be released later this year. I will admit that this figure looks awesome and will definitely be one that I add to my collection. That being said, though, the new Scarlett will still be a pegwarmer. I know that most every Joe collector out there does not agree with me, but she will be. In 1997, the Commando Team with Lady Jaye was a pegwarmer even though she was packaged with both Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. The Baroness was packed with Cobra Commander and Destro and was an even larger pegwarmer than Lady Jaye. In 1998, the Rattler Jeep with Vypra was collecting dust for over a year while her female contemporary, Volga, was the greatest pegwarmer of the modern Joes as she was readily available at Christmas time 2000, over a year since she had last shipped. In 2000, Chameleon was packed with the definitive version of Cobra Commander and clogged the shelves in every store that received the Wave I's. Had it not been for dealers snatching up overstock due to perceived scarcity, she would have rivaled Big Ben and Whiteout as the most pegwarming repainted 2 pack. You see, there's a long history of female figures being pegwarmers. Despite all the fans out there who clamour for a new Scarlett figure and who will buy this new version up, she will still be the largest pegwarmer of her wave and will probably be available for some time. The bottom line is that female figures don't sell. I know there are fanboys out there who want female Vipers, Crimson Guards, and every other Cobra Trooper under the sun. The fact is, they won't sell. If Hasbro produces figures that don't sell, the line will end. As such, it is no ones best interest to release figures like this as anything more than occasional fill ins. Anything beyond that spells disaster.

As figures go, the 1997 Stars and Stripes set was pretty lame. As such, it was a remarkable pegwarmer back when it was released. Unfortunately, yesterday's pegwarmer is today's hot collectible and Star and Stripes sets are now fetching outrageous sums on the second hand market. What's even more frustrating is that there aren't too many people who broke this set up. And, if they did, they tend to hold onto the Snake Eyes, Stalker, and Scarlett figures. As such, finding this version of Scarlett is actually more difficult than it is to find either of her original incarnations. It is a maddening prospect, but serves as a good lesson to not let stuff pass you by when you have the chance to acquire it. For me, this Scarlett is a figure that I'll use as filler in dioramas and such. I just don't see her occupying any roles beyond that.

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

1997 Scarlett, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive V2 Snake Eyes, 1985

1997 Scarlett, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive V2 Snake Eyes, 1985

1997 Scarlett, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive, Quarrel, Undercover Scarlett, European Exclusive, Action Force, Z Force, Palitoy, 1984 Duke, 1983 G.I. joe HQ

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