For the most part, Estrela toys in Brazil produced G.I. Joe figures (or Commandos em Acao) that were very similar to their American counterparts. Usually, there were slight color differences that could be attributed to the disparity in construction materials used by the different companies. Every now and then, though, Estrela produced a figure on their own that was either radically different in appearance or combined different original molds. The first of these figures was the infamous Cobra De-Aco. An interesting figure that utilized a silver Snake Eyes v1 head with a Flash v1 body that had yellow pads. As time progressed, though, Estrela came up with a variety of more interesting variations. Perhaps Hasbro loosened their grip on the license, or Estrela just decided to take advantage of some new ideas. Whatever it was, Estrela was able to offer some remarkable exclusive figures that have become highly sought after by American collectors.
If you are a long time patron of the site, you may have noticed the several other Brazilian exclusive Cobra figures that I've profiled. Continuing in this tradition is the figure you see here: Letal. Letal is simply a neon repaint of a 1989 Frag Viper who was released in Brazil as part of the Forca Electronica. He continued the tradition of the somewhat more offbeat Cobras that were exclusive to Brazil. Like many of his counterparts, Letal is visually distinct and is easily recognizable by anyone who is even slightly familiar with non-U.S. Joe releases. He is certainly not in the vein of more realistic Cobra named villains from the American line's heyday, but he is a cool figure, nonetheless. As such, he has found a role in my collection.
Who is Letal? In my collection, he is a known bio and eco terrorist based out of South America. He got is start in the early to mid '90's in some pollution related schemes that got Cobra's attention. While never contacted by Cobra, he was thought of as a possible operative if they ever needed someone in South America. During these early years, though, he encountered the former Joe Airtight. They two became acquainted when Airtight was leading an international team of experts to clean up some radioactive sites in South America. Letal was interested in stealing some of the radioactive material that was still on the site. Not realizing Airtight's background, Letal attempted his heist, only to be defeated. While he escaped, several of his co-horts were killed. He then disappeared to regroup for a few years. However, in the late '90's Letal resurfaced with a new focus on nerve toxins, biological warfare, and battlefield chemicals. This was enough of a resume for Cobra to make its overtures. That the character portrayed by the Flying Scorpion figure was now into his South American campaign only made Letal a more attractive operative. Letal joined Cobra and was quickly placed in charge of their research facilities hidden throughout remote areas of the South American rain forests and mountains. Here, he helps teams of Toxo-Vipers develop biological weapons that are capable of being delivered via live hosts, or more traditional methods.
As research is his primary forte, Letal is not a combatant. If there is the danger of a military unit finding Letal's position, Cobra employs a freelance operative to protect him. This person is responsible for Letal's safety. If he can keep the research facility intact, then that is just all the better. However, while Letal is considered part of the Cobra hierarchy, his work is segregated to the point where he has only research assistants as his direct underlings. This is why it is only freelance bodyguards who are assigned to him. While Cobra has an interest in Letal's activities, that interest is not so great as to risk one of their own, combat soldiers or field generals. The Flying Scorpion character is very shrewd and maintains control of the South American operations. While Letal is not lost to the fact that he only rates hired protection, he also knows that he will have nothing without the massive funding (and research specimens) that Cobra provides. While not a symbiotic relationship, it is provides a level of mutual distrust that keeps both sides honest. However, should Letal's facilities produce something of importance to the greater Cobra cause, his position within the organization would quickly rise.
As you can see, I've got a fairly elaborate background story for this character. That being said, though, Letal will most likely remain a "situational" figure. He will rarely be used except in very specific situations. I have, though, come up with a story line that will elevate Letal from his now lowly status. However, that story involves Airtight and Letal's transformation beyond his current incarnation and his reappearance (with his countenance no longer fully hidden) as Corrosao. That is correct. I plan for this guy to be Letal V1 while the Brazilian Corrosao figure (an Eco Warriors repaint of the Dee Jay figure that was released in Brazil as a Cobra) will be Letal V2. Both of the figures lend themselves to the same specialty and having two distinct South American bio-terror experts working for Cobra just seems a little too convenient for my tastes. (Of course, I have to acquire a Corrosao figure first. If you can help me out, let me know.)
Sure, the Letal figure is neon green. However, so is the '93 Firefly and I like and use that figure. In this case, though, the neon green is more of a functional color than anything else. A character who deals with chemicals and biological elements would have to be used to catastrophes where contaminants would escape from whatever their container of choice may be. In situations like this, having brightly colored clothing would better allow rescuers to find someone. As such, I don't have a problem with the figure's color. In function, the Frag Viper mold (which is highly under appreciated in the U.S.) works great as a bio hazard suit. The trappings convey the idea and the excellently done helmet allow for explanations that this character has build in recycling gear to protect him from his experiments. When I add a Toxo-Viper V1 backpack and hose to plug into the helmet, the effect is complete. (On another note, the Funskool Toxo-Viper pack is almost a perfect match for Letal. The colors are extremely close and work well. I'd take advantage of that figure's current availability if you want to ever outfit a Letal figure in this manner.) The figure then looks like a Cobra version of Airtight. While this isn't quite the manner in which I use Letal, it is enough of a match that anyone who saw the figure would know his purpose.
Like many of the later edition Brazilian figures, Letal isn't too tough to find. He is one of the few Brazilian figures you can find both loose and MOC for affordable prices. One thing to remember about Letal, though, is that he was featured in the 30th Anniversary Trading Card Set. As such, many collectors knew about him early on and some old school dealers will still try to sell Letal figures for prices that were normal 5 to 7 years ago for Brazilian exclusive figures. As more Brazilian Joe fans have come online, figures like this guy have become easier to find. As such, prices on them have fallen. While Letal will cost you a bit more than a typical American figure, I've seen him loose mint and complete sell for under $15. For a foreign exclusive figure of this quality, you really can't beat that. If you should have occasion to add a Letal figure to your collection, I would highly recommend it. He may not be as usable a figure as some other Brazilian exclusive Cobras, but he is a figure that I think you will enjoy.
I'm set for Letal figures. However, I am interested in a Marfim, Corrosao, Albatroz, or Marujo. If you have any of those figures available, email me.