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

Monday, October 14, 2002

Supercop (Funskool Exclusive)

A little over a year ago, an online friend of mine sent me an email asking if I had ever heard of a Supercop figure from India and if I had any idea as to what it might be. At the time, I had not heard of the figure. I thought it might be a figure mold from the short lived toy line called Cops in the US. However, as Funskool had made the now infamous Superhero figure, I also hypothesized that it could be something completely different. A few weeks later when the first Supercop figure had its coming out party in the US, I learned that it was the second (and less constraining) suggestion that turned out to be the truth. After the initial furor over the figure died down, though, I realized that Funskool had actually put together something incredibly nice. The Supercop figure, while not really a part of the Joe mythos, has since become a vital part of my collection.

For foreign Joe variation collectors, Supercop is the best of both worlds. Not only does he utilize the parts from several different figure molds to create his amalgamation, all of those parts are also recolored from their original incarnations. The figure uses Sgt. Slaughter's head, Iceberg's arms and Hawk's chest and legs. He is totally recolored in a deep blue hue with white and gold accents. The end result is a figure that looks like a cross between the stereotypical small town sheriff you see in movies and an MP. It truly is a perfect blend of figure parts and colors that creates a figure whose purpose is immediately deductible from his appearance.

Based on the card markings, it appears that the Supercop figure first appeared around 1994. How long he was in production is really not known. However, all of his parts save the head were returned to Hasbro in 1997 and used to create the 15th Anniversary figures from that year. As such, the longest this figure could have been in production was for about 3 or so years. Aside from this carded version, though, Supercop was also available with the Super Cop Rescue Squad. This is a set of 4 recolored vehicles (Devilfish, Fang, Vamp, and Silver Mirage Motorcycle) to look like police vehicles. Like the carded figure, this set was widely imported in 2001. From this variety of sources, though, have arisen several variations in the Super Cop figure. Most of them are colorations and they are relatively minor. There has also been a waist piece variation as well. I would suggest you visit TNT's Web Camp. It is an excellent resource for both foreign and domestic Joe figure variations.

11/1/02 Addendum

The following information on SuperCop variations is courtesy of Ron Conner from TNT's Web Camp. So far, there are four versions of the SuperCop figure that he has confirmed. They are as follows:

* dark blue outfit - Flint waist - unknown upper arms (found carded) * dark blue outfit - Flint waist - Hawk upper arms (found in the box)

* dark blue outfit - Hawk waist - Hawk upper arms (found in the box)

* very dark bluish black outfit - Hawk waist - Hawk upper arms (found in the box)   The 5th version is picture on the box, but it might just be Funskool's prototype/mock-up. So there are no confirmed sightings of one in collections....yet.

* dark blue outfit - Scrap Iron waist - Hawk upper arms (found pictured on the box).   I would like to extend a bit thanks to Ron for the work he has done cataloging Funskool variations and for sharing that information so freely.

In my collection, Super Cop is a long running character. when I was a child, I once took apart my Dial Tone and Mainframe figures. I then gave Dial Tone Mainframe's chest and had him be a new character. (While some of my ideas were complex, others were horribly uninspired.) I used this figure most often as a security commander who was in charge of criminal investigations. He lead my two normal Dial Tone figures who were the security troopers. This purpose stuck to the figure and when I first returned to Joe collecting in the mid - '90's, I found this figure and once again used him in this capacity. I even went to far as to give him a Chuckles' holster in which he kept a Tiger Force Flint's shotgun. (As an interesting aside, the figure also includes a version of Chuckles' handgun.) This was his trademark. I named the figure Captain Farkus and had him be a tough as nails law enforcement officer who was sent on the most dangerous assignments.

Shortly after I moved that figure to Arizona, though, his O-ring broke. While hardly a catastrophic occurrence, it was enough for me to relegate the character to a lesser role. I had become disenfranchised with the look of that old figure and wanted something new. As per my M.O., I waited it out and kind of forgot about the character. However, the minute I saw Super Cop, I knew that Captain Farkus had returned. The look of the Super Cop figure was exactly what I was looking for in a Captain Farkus figure.

As soon as I opened my Super Cop figure, I attached the holster with the shotgun still in it and Captain Farkus returned to my collection. Now, he spends his time tracking down characters like those portrayed by the Funskool Red Dog and Funskool Cross Country figures. It is great fun and allows for some great expansion upon the traditional G.I. Joe themes. I think this is why I enjoy non-traditional figures like this guy so much. He allows me to expand my Joe world with traditionally produced figures that are not bogged down in "canonical" background stories.

While Supercop figures are not really that hard to find, they are also not that common. A great deal of them was imported to the U.S. in 2001. However, prior to that, this figure was pretty much unknown. As such, in the grand scheme of things, I think this figure will become relatively hard to find. Right now, though, he is still readily available for under $15 for a MOC specimen. As there is some serious bias against Funskool figures, though, I don't ever see this guy becoming a key to any collection. He is a great addition to any collection and is a figure I highly recommend. I know that others have no use for a figure like this, but I have found him to be very nice. Should an opportunity to add this figure to your collection arise, I would highly suggest that you seriously consider adding Super Cop to your collection.

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

Funskool Super Cop, Urzor, Brazil, Estrela, Forca Fera, Cross Country, Law, 2000 Law, 1983 G.I. Joe HQ

Funskool Super Cop, Urzor, Brazil, Estrela, Forca Fera, Cross Country, Law, 2000 Law, 1983 G.I. Joe HQ

Funskool Super Cop, Urzor, Brazil, Estrela, Forca Fera, Cross Country, Law, 2000 Law, 1983 G.I. Joe HQ

Funskool Super Cop, Carded, Filecard

Funskool Super Cop, Carded, Filecard

Wednesday, October 9, 2002

1990 Metal Head

Well over a year ago, I profiled a later edition of the Metal Head figure. While that figure now represents a new character in my Joe world, the Metal Head character is still alive and well. The primary reason for this is simply the fact that the original Metal Head figure is of such high quality. He offers a solid mold, good color scheme and a wealth of very cool accessories. As such, he is the subject of my latest profile.

For many people, the Metal Head character is simply considered a lamer replacement of Scrap Iron. while their specialties are similar and their gear is reminiscent, I consider the characters two distinctly different entities. Scrap Iron is the weapons creator while Metal Head is the slightly maniacal tester who uses Scrap Iron's creations in the field. I consider Scrap Iron more scientific in nature while Metal Head is the true warrior. As such, I can use the figures in conjunction with each other as a complement to each other's innate talents rather than have them as too-similar enemies.

Metal Head was supposed to report to Destro. As such, his color scheme more closely matches that of the Iron Grenadiers than true Cobras. However, the subtle mix of black and dark red works in a way that ensures you know this figure is a villain. His off white accessories complement him well and make the figure very realistic and usable. Like most 1990 figures, Metal Head comes with tons of accessories that, while frustrating modern collectors looking for a complete figure, allow the figure to be more useful than just the basic molding would indicate. Still, the figure itself is nicely detailed. It's just that the black hides most of them and gives the figure a banal appearance at first glance.

I like this figure for many reasons. Among them is the fact that I remember this character vividly from his first comic appearance. This was during a time when I was out of Joe toy collecting, so the comic was the only exposure I had to this figure. My first exposure to the Metal Head figure came in 1991 when I babysat a kid down the street. He had most of the '89 and '90 Joes that I had not seen. Among them was Metal Head. I quickly took to the figure for his sleek look, solid color scheme, and cool accessories. He was almost enough to get me back into buying Joe figures. Alas, I didn't so it was several years before I managed to add Metal Head to my collection. when I did, though, he was the figure that I remembered and enjoyed.
While I use the later Metal Head as a new character, I use this figure as Metal Head. His accessories make him the type of figure for which I have to find a use. I use him in his capacity as a walking anti-armour weapon. He is not among my new, younger Cobras. Instead, he is more of an older warrior who works for the character portrayed by Sea Slug. He mainly works alone, but does lead some troops, like the new Fast Blast Vipers, into battle. For the most part, though, his weapons make him the type of character who works better on his own rather than as a leader of troops. (Though I would hate to see what a launch of those missiles by his head would do to him were he not wearing his helmet!)

Metal Heads, for the most part, aren't too tough to find. However, getting him mint and complete can be frustrating. There are two distinct Metal Head molds. One has very brittle, thin pegs on his legs to hold his missile launchers. The other has thicker, more sturdy pegs. Neither seems more difficult to find than the other, but the thinner pegs tend to break easily, especially when they are used for their intended purpose. Still, even mint and complete, Metal Heads won't cost you too much to justify. He is a lesser known villain figure and not one who has a terribly strong fan following. He is, though, a great figure and one that adds a little Cobra variety to your collection. I've long used him and see him remaining an important part of my collection for some time.

I'm set for American Metal Heads, but will probably need some help in acquiring the Funskool Metal Head that is slated for release later this year. As we're a ways out from that, though, what would you like to see the Funskool figure look like? This version or the '94? Let me know.

1990 Metal Head, 1997 Viper, 1994 Action Soldier, Joseph Colton, Mail Away

1990 Metal Head, 1997 Viper, 1994 Action Soldier, Joseph Colton, Mail Away

1990 Metal Head, 1997 Viper, 1994 Action Soldier, Joseph Colton, Mail Away

Friday, October 4, 2002

1985 Dreadnok Torch

Back in late 1984, Hasbro gave G.I. Joe aficionados everywhere a nice, early Christmas present when they released the first three figures from the 1985 figure assortment, the Dreadnoks, early. I managed to find all three Dreadnoks at a Sears store just after my birthday. Of course, being much younger at the time, I was only able to buy one figure for myself to have so close to Christmas. While Buzzer and Ripper looked very cool, I wanted a cutting torch like I had seen in G.I. Joe #29. As such, I bought Torch as my first Dreadnok figure.

Back in 1985, Torch's look was tough and intimidating. It was the perfect ensemble for a character like him. In more modern times, though, Torch now looks very dated and cliched. As such, he is kind of a joke among contemporary collectors. While Ripper and Buzzer still have some referential basis that keeps them semi-realistic, Torch's look has taken on a whole next context since 1985. Does that make the figure any less cool? I would have to say that, yes, it does. Of the original three Dreadnoks, Torch is far and away the least popular. Buzzer and Ripper have eclipsed him as have some later Dreadnoks such as Road Pig and Gnawgahyde. His sculpt is decent enough, but lacks the defining characteristics like Buzzer's ponytail or Ripper's mohawk. It has left Torch as the forgotten original Dreadnok.

In his heyday, my Torch was a one man wrecking crew against the Whale. (I acquired them around the same time.) His torch destroyed the hovercraft's attached weapons and left the crew defenseless against the attacking Rattlers. As I acquired the rest of the Dreadnoks, his destructive tendencies only increased. He joined his compatriots in escalating sprees of senseless destruction. Often, these were aimed at Joe convoys or bases. Everything finally culminated in early 1986 when the Dreadnoks took on a Joe team out in the snow. While the adventure was fun, I lost Ripper's gun in white wasteland. With this accessory gone and the '86 figures starting to show up at retail, I started to lose interest in the Dreadnoks as a whole. When I found Ripper's gun after the thaw, not even that was enough to return the Dreadnoks to prominence. Zarana, Zandar and Monkeywrench were of the different construction that helped push the original sculpt Dreadnoks into obsolescence.

As characters go, Torch is pretty basic. While Buzzer had the type of characterization that allowed for some storytelling, Torch and Buzzer were one dimensional foils who were interchangeable except for their look and their accessories. They were uneducated (actually, downright dumb), illiterate thugs who made the perfect blind follower for a charismatic leader like Zartan. In that capacity, Torch works as a supporting character who makes Zartan and Buzzer more complex and complete characters. However, it does not make him all that interesting on any level beyond as a member of his gang. This is not a bad thing, as it shows that part of Joe's overall complexity was heavily rooted in having simple characters. Using archetypes allowed people to use figures in different ways and develop a Joe universe of their own. This, above all else, was the key to Joe's enduring legacy.

In the mid '90's, I had very few Joe figures available to me. Among my newly acquired '92-'94 figures, I also had one small box of old, beat up figures. Among these was a Torch figure. This guy became my standard criminal fodder as I developed my security forces. He was either a quickly killed pawn in some criminal scheme or a malcontent rogue who was forced into flight by the relentless pursuit of my Joe security teams. Either way, Torch often ended up dead or in jail. It was a fun way to still use the figure without having him be a long standing Joe character. Beyond that, though, my use of the figure is limited. I like the Dreadnoks but find my Joe world gravitating towards Cobra and their military armies rather than smaller subgroups that don't have a military aim. From time to time, I'll take advantage of the Dreadnoks as a break from the standard Cobra fare. However, those breaks are fewer and farther between now. While the figure remain nice, they just no longer really mesh with my hierarchy.

Torch figures are pretty easy to find. Even complete, you can easily get them for under $10. However, the figure is prone to discoloration as well as paint chipping, especially on the skull necklace. As he was released during the height of Joe's popularity, though, I don't think there will ever be glut of Torch figures. He was released in both Argentina and Brazil, but in a color scheme very similar to the American version. He is one of the few Dreadnoks, though, who was not released in India. I've always found that odd and think the mold must be gone since he never appeared there. Regardless, Torch figures are never considered a key component of a Joe collection and are priced accordingly. For me, the original three Dreadnoks forever define their genre. As Torch is a part of that small group, he does have a place in my collection. However, it is just not a very prominent one, anymore.

I like Torch, but have all of them that I need. I would like to see him make an appearance in the new sculpts, though. Would you?

1985 Torch, Dreadnok, 2000 Locust, Law, Supercop, Funskool, Street Hawk

1985 Torch, Dreadnok, 2000 Locust, Law, Supercop, Funskool, Street Hawk

1985 Torch, Dreadnok, 2000 Locust, Law, Supercop, Funskool, Street Hawk

1985 Torch, Dreadnok, 2000 Locust, Law, Supercop, Funskool, Street Hawk

1985 Torch, Dreadnok, Buzzer, Ripper

Wednesday, October 2, 2002

2002 Sgt. Stalker

In my time in the online Joe world, I don't think I've ever seen a wave of figures that was more highly anticipated by collectors than the new Wave 2 Joes. Sure, the Wave 1 figures were big news, but most people greeted them with trepidation in lieu of anticipation. With Wave 2, the changes in construction and articulation created a level of excitement far beyond the simple repaints. Many collectors viewed this as Hasbro's final chance to prove that they could get Joe right. Other looked at this as a next logical step in the progression of the newly sculpted Joe figures. Others saw this as a prime opportunity to expand their collection of sole new sculpts. Whatever the reasoning behind it, though, there was quite a buzz in the online collecting world when these figures finally became available. While most others have long since expounded on the merits and limitations of these figures, I have chosen but one to highlight. It is the figure that I'm most impressed with, overall, and the one that, to me, showcases the line's still untapped potential: Sgt. Stalker.

My overall impressions of these figures is that Hasbro is oh so close to getting it perfect. These figures hearken back to the lines glory days in both creativity and overall quality. However, there is still something missing. At first, I had thought it was simply my adult skepticism that dampened my overall impression. However, I've come to realize that there are still some kinks inherent in the figures. When I opened Stalker, he felt very close to a newly opened vintage Joe. However, the sculpts still need some work. The room for improvement is there for these figures. The final judgements (and, probably, success) of the line will be based on whether this gap is filled or left void.   While the figures are well designed, they are still disproportionate. This issue goes beyond the bulky shoulders that are necessary for construction. Stalker has a very short chest. If you look at him, the figure is, literally, all legs. Now, much of this can be explained away by the history of this line. While Wave 2 is the first of the new sculpts to feature O-rings, they were not initially designed that way. This wave was originally to be in the same style as the Wave 1 figures. Collector backlash over the O-ring omission resulted in Hasbro rethinking that plan. However, future figure waves were already past their most conceptual design stages. As such, some of the problems that you see in the sculpting of these figures can be traced to the fact that these figures were changed mid-stream to have the O-rings. (That also caused the considerable delay between Waves 1 and 2 and gave us fine things like Wave 1.5 and the Wave 1 repaints.) As we move ahead into figure waves planned for 2003 (for which we have yet to see any prototype photos) I think these issues will resolve themselves. However, as Hasbro seems intent on including older molds in new colors in future waves, some of these old sculpt limitations will continue to manifest themselves as the line progresses.

Beyond these design problems, though, the figures are well done. Stalker has wonderful and the sharp, vibrant colors that make him stand out. While the Wave 1 figures were well detailed with numerous extraneous trappings, Stalker, and his Wave 2 brethren, are toned down in detailing to the point where the small sculpting makes sense. The details are reminiscent of those done on original sculpt figures as they enhance the figure and actually serve a purpose without taking away from the overall aesthetic feel. In this sense, the Wave 2 figures really show a more thoughtful approach to toy design. There was definite consideration put not only into the look of the figure, but also the function behind those details. The large knife on Stalker's chest is a perfect example. While Wave 1 figures were full of pouches and straps, the Wave 2 figures have a more subtle approach that better serves the long term interests of the line.

I will say, though, that the sound tech weapons have got to go. If the figures included one accessory that had the sound tech built in, I could live with that. However, seeing all these potentially wonderful accessories ruined by the sound tech chip protruding from the sides is a little much. The new figures have many weapons, some that have not been released since their original incarnations. Using these would be a perfect supplement to these figures. Having them sound tech, though, renders them useless. I refer the Hasbro designers to the Simpsons toy line by Playmates. Every figure in this line has a sound chip embedded in it. They are completely innocuous and do not detract from the look of the figure. Had this approach been taken, I would have no issue with the sound tech technology. Having it destroy the vast majority of the accessories included with every figure, though, makes sound tech a nuisance of the highest order. In later waves, I hope to see some improvements made to the execution of the sound tech chips if they are to be part of all future endeavors in the new Joe line.

On top of all that, this is a great representation of the Stalker character. He is reminiscent of the original Stalker figure and is a nice update that pays homage to the character's roots. As we are starting to see, this is an approach that Hasbro seems to be taking with the new line. Upcoming figures like Flint, Dr. Mindbender and Beach Head are all awesome updates to their original figures and show a great sense of history in the new line. This approach should keep collectors happy while still offering a great new generation of toys. As Hasbro is also continuing with some new characters who are interspersed with old favorites, this new line will not simply become a rehash of the original concept and will have a chance to stand on its own. While there will always be some naysayers about anything that is a not a Joe produced prior to 1987, I think this line is starting to show great strides towards becoming a toy line for the ages. It still has the long shadow of the original line's legacy looming over it, but I think that the Joe vs. Cobra line is showing the type of creativity and attention to detail that made the original line so enduring.

The future state of this figure, and this entire wave's, availability has yet to be determined. It appears that at least three waves of figures will hit U.S. retail shelves prior to the Christmas holiday. If these waves all ship exclusively, then I think that the one or two month shipping window for these figures will result in extreme shortages. However, my personal feeling is that waves 2 through 5 will ship concurrently. As such, it will probably be possible for some people to actually find wave 3 figures before they find wave 2. This does not mean that Wave 2 will not be available and I fully expect it to ship through the end of the year. As history has shown, though, not taking advantage of this longer, yet still short, window of opportunity usually results in many people missing out on a figure that they thought they could get at a later date. As such, if you have chance to acquire this figure, I would certainly do so. I have found him my favorite new sculpt figure and mark him as an excellent representation of the Stalker character. Whether you like the new sculpts or not, I think that this guy could win you over. I've found him a great addition to my collection and suggest him as an augment to yours as well.

Right now, I'm well set for this figure. I think he will be very available in the short term future. What do you think of these Wave 2 figures? Let me know.

2002 JvC, Sgt. Stalker, Firefly

2002 JvC, Sgt. Stalker, Firefly

2002 JvC, Sgt. Stalker, Firefly