Sunday, December 28, 2003

Funskool Flint

Sure, I've already profiled this mold and the Funskool version is, basically, identical to the American figure. However, Flint is one of my favorite characters and this mold of him is one of my all-time favorite figures. Plus, it's been quite some time since I've profiled any Flint figure. Finally, Flint won the most recent Feature Character Spotlight at and I needed a version of him that I had readily available to showcase.

As I've said before, Flint is, to me, the epitome of Joe. He is the rugged soldier who is not only capable of leading troops to battle, but also of inspiring them to outperform even their most lofty expectations. This figure perfectly captures what is, to me, the essence of the character. His look is slightly military, but has enough uniqueness to it that you can see Flint's strong personality show through. His countenance is brash and shows great insight into his characterization while not being too over the top. His colors blend well together to allow for his use in forests, night ops, jungles, urban campaigns or just about any other environment. His accessories complement him perfectly and stick out from the traditional fare that most Joes seem to utilize. It is his uniqueness that makes the figure, to me, indispensable.

I consider Flint the hardcore combat leader of my Joes. If there is a mission that is considered too hairy, Flint is the first to volunteer. He is open to operation in any climate and works well as the leader of just about any Joe. To this day he remains a figure that is a staple in my dioramas. Having this Funskool version widely available has made it possible for Flint to retain that position of prominence for some time. I'm no longer worried about paint wear or lost accessories as I can easily replace them now for under $5. In fact, I would never have attempted a few of the pictures below were the Funskool Flint not so easy to acquire. The fear of damaging so important a figure in my collection would have been too great.

Back in February of 1985, I found my first cases of new Joe figures. While it was sensory overload at the time, I managed to convince myself that I wanted Footloose and Airtight. I was familiar with Flint from the cartoon that aired the fall before and actually wanted him most of all. However, the Flint's I saw all had their heads drooping in the package. As I did not know that the Joe head articulation had changed for 1985, I thought these figures were broken. So, I passed him by. That proved to be a mistake as I didn't find another Flint for many, many months. He became my Holy Grail of the day as I desperately wanted to add Flint to my collection. When I finally did acquire him, Flint became a mainstay in every mission I undertook. In fact, he was so used that I wore out my original figure and had to replace him in the same year. I ended up buying another Flint from a friend in early 1987 as I had lost both of my existing Flint guns. Even that third one ended up in bad condition. He was just a figure that I had to keep at the top of my collection.

In late 1987, my local comic shop got in a few issues of the UK "Action Force" comic. Naturally, I bought an issue to see what it was. I was fascinated by the UK exclusive stories and really liked their portrayal of Flint. That continuity used Flint as the leader of the Action Force and had him less American that his G.I. Joe portrayal. If you have occasion to pick up some of those old "Action Force" issues, I highly recommend it. Some of the stories are very well done, use some different characters, and are quite a bit different from the American fare.

When the Funskool Flint was re-released in 2002, an interesting thing happened. At that point in time, a mint, complete American Flint figure typically cost around $20 or so. Within a month or so of the Funskool re-release's arrival in the U.S., though, that price plummeted to nearly half the quoted rate. The reason was simple: many collectors who wanted a nice, complete Flint figure for their collections now had an acquisition alternative other than Ebay. This essentially took hundreds of collectors out the market for American Flint figures which then dropped the price. This is not a bad thing. However, it does provide a model that can be extrapolated to some of the new Hasbro released figures as well. Many collectors out there only collect one of every character or one of every figure mold. As Hasbro pulls out more and more and more ARAH-style molds and repaints them in exclusive figure sets many collectors will have a shot at some molds that might have previously eluded them. In turn, this will remove many collectors from the market for the repainted mold's original figure. In the case of many Joe figures, that will not really be of major significance, but it is something to remember as old molds are dusted off and put into production.

There are actually several variations of the Funskool Flint figure. After this mold's run in the U.S., it was scheduled to be released in Argentina. (Flint appears on some of the latest Argentine cardbacks.) He was not, to the extent of my knowledge, though, released there. He was, however, released in Brazil. From there, the mold was send on to India. At some point in the Flint mold's history, the arms were either lost or rendered unusable. As such, all Funskool Flints have variant arms from the American figure. (If you look at the prototype Night Force Flint from the 2003 Convention photos, you will see that he also has new arms.) The earliest figures used lower arms from the '92 Roadblock. At some point after that, Funskool switched the arms and some late '90's or so Flint figures actually have the lower arms from Zandar. (Both of these figures are also available with elbow joints that are black: matching the upper arm rather than the flesh colored forearm.) In 2002, Funskool reverted back to the '92 Roadblock arms. Not satisfied with these variants, though, in 2003, Funskool decided to change the upper arms of the new Flint figures to feature the mold originally used for Blaster. These figures also feature much brighter green on the paints, lighter brown on the gloves and visually distinctive backpack colors. Not to be outdone, though, Funskool produced a final batch of figures in early 2003. These figures were only available bagged but use the upper arms from Blocker. The forearms are still Roadblocks, but the upper arms differ. You will also notice slight color differences in Flint's based on their time of production. Usually, they are subtle and hard to recognize if you don't have the figures sitting next to each other. It should also be noted that Flint's accessories vary in color. They can range from a dark green like the American weapons all the way to a light brown. The variants on both the figure and accessories are minor and are hard to notice. However, it does give Funskool collectors something else to track down. (You can see the three modern variants and some of the accessory differences in the comparison photo below.)

Funskool Flints are not too hard to find. Funskool re-released him in 2002 and then again in 2003. As such, you can get either carded or bagged Flints from most online dealers. However, now that the mold appears to be back in Hasbro's hands, the supply of Funskool Flints will, eventually, dry up. As such, now is a good time to acquire any of these figures that you might desire. He is so close to the American mold that this figure is interchangeable with the original figure and provides a cheap alternative that meshes well with any collection. I've basically retired my American Flint figures and only use my Funskool version. The figure is of excellent quality and provides an easy way for new collectors to revisit a truely classic mold.

While I'm well set for Funskool Flints, I do need one with Zandar's arms. If you can help, let me know.

Funskool Flint, Law, Caucasian Iceberg, 2002 Desert Striker

Funskool Flint, Law, Caucasian Iceberg, 2002 Desert Striker, Hiss IV, Viper, 2003 BAT, Night Rhino

Funskool Flint, Law, Caucasian Iceberg, 2002 Desert Striker, Hiss IV, Viper, 2003 BAT, Night Rhino

Funskool Flint, Law, Caucasian Iceberg, 2002 Desert Striker, Hiss IV, Viper, 2003 BAT, Night Rhino, Dreadnok Stinger, Sears Exclusive, Hit and Run, Stalker, Big Ben, Mirage

Funskool Flint, Law, Caucasian Iceberg, 2002 Desert Striker, Hiss IV, Viper, 2003 BAT, Night Rhino, Dreadnok Stinger, Sears Exclusive, Hit and Run, Stalker, Big Ben, Mirage, Hydro Viper, Python Patrol Lamprey

Funskool Flint, Law, Caucasian Iceberg, 2002 Desert Striker, Hiss IV, Viper, 2003 BAT, Night Rhino, Dreadnok Stinger, Sears Exclusive, Hit and Run, Stalker, Big Ben, Mirage, Hydro Viper, Python Patrol Lamprey

Funskool Flint, Law, Caucasian Iceberg, 2002 Desert Striker, Hiss IV, Viper, 2003 BAT, Night Rhino, Dreadnok Stinger, Sears Exclusive, Hit and Run, Stalker, Big Ben, Mirage, Hydro Viper, Python Patrol Lamprey

Funskool Flint Variants, India Exclusive

Sunday, December 21, 2003

2004 Urban Neo-Viper (Wal Mart Exclusive)

If your Joe eye has blinked any time in the past 120 days, you have missed quite a lot. Through the first 8 months of 2003, Hasbro released, essentially, 12 figure packs to retail. This was the beginning of the Spy Troops theme and offered some excellent new characters and molds. The drawback, though, was that these figures were available at retail for a long time and there were only 2 army building figures among the 12. The last 4 months of 2003 have seen a flurry of Joe releases. First, there was the highly anticipated Wave 7 (Though that, technically, appeared in late August.). Before that wave really had a chance to settle into retail, the first cases of Wave 8 were released. While collectors were still trying to finish acquiring that wave, the most anticipated wave of the year, the army building wave was released. That wave, though, quickly disappeared, leaving many collectors without the figures they wanted. The reason for the quick hook was that Hasbro wanted to get the 2004 Venom vs. Valor figures on the shelves before Christmas. This lead to Wave 9's appearance at retail in early December. This, alone, made for 24 figure packs that were released in the final third of this year: twice as many as were released in the previous 8 months. There was one last surprise, though. Hasbro offered Wal-Mart an exclusive 6 figure repaint wave that was to be released under the Venom vs. Valor banner. This wave was 3 desert Joe repaints who were paired with 3 urban themed Cobra army builder repaints. This brought the total to 27 figure packs released in the final 4 months of 2003. A huge number of these figures are army builders so budget conscious collectors have had to make some tough choices. The saving grace is that these figures have been the best new sculpts to date and the repaints, in this case, are inspired. As such, I felt it appropriate to profile the Urban Neo-Viper from these Wal-Mart exclusives.

In my opinion, this Wal-Mart wave is a perfect example of repaints done right. Hasbro has tried to theme some repaints in recent waves, but I don't like that approach. What we've ended up with is a hodge-podge of characters that don't really fit into a theme. The Night Force repaints are scattered and it's hard to piece them together as a cohesive unit. (Especially with the long time between some of the wave releases.) Offering repaints as an exclusive is a great way to fit a number of like-colored Joes and Cobras together without making a full release figure wave too bland. Rather than the full 12 figures that comprise a normal, full retail wave release, this exclusive wave only offers 6 figures. That is the perfect number as it doesn't allow the theme to overtake the importance of the entire line, but does offer collectors and children alike some variance in their figure purchase choices. Going forward, I would prefer to see smaller exclusive waves like this for repaints rather than having them spread through full retail release waves. That will keep the full releases fresher and allow Hasbro to better time their releases for 2004.

This Wal-Mart exclusive figure wave features 6 figures: Duke, Roadblock, Gung-Ho, Iron Grenadier, Cobra Claws and this Neo-Viper. The Roadblock is a straight repaint of his Wave 6 release. The Gung-Ho, reuses the awful non O-ring mold from Wave 1 of 2002 and, as such, is really out of place in this wave. The Duke is more interesting as he is an amalgamation. He features the Wave 4 Duke head on the Wave 3 Snake Eyes body. I like this approach as the figure is not a straight repaint and offers something more exclusive than just figure color to this wave. The IG is nicely cammoed re-do of the figure we've already gotten at retail twice in 2003 and the Claws is the O-ring version. (And is, in my opinion, the best version of Claws to date.) The three Cobras mesh well together and work well as an urban assault force. All the Cobras feature their basic accessories that we've grown accustomed to. However, the dreaded sound attack weapons make an appearance in these sets. While the Cobras at least have guns that are usable, some Joes do not. Duke only has a sound attack gun and that, to me, makes him less desirable than he should be. These figures also feature spring loaded missile launchers. (Yes, these sets feature 2 of the most hated additions to the Joe line, spring loaded missile launchers and sound attack weapons!) The nice thing is that the figures are evenly packed in the cases and are shipped in ratios that make it possible, should you find these guys, to build an army in short period of time.

I have always liked the Neo-Viper mold. From the first non O-ring figure from 2002 to this figure, the mold is just solid. He looks like the updated Cobra trooper he is supposed to be. He is articulated in a manner that allows for some nice action poses and makes him the type of figure that is easy to display in a variety of ways. The inclusion of the unique rifle and pistol with this version really make him a more desirable alternative to army building than many of the Neo-Vipers of the past. His colors really allow for some diversity in his use. The marble, white, black and bright red Cobra sigil work in a way that allows this guy to be used in arctic, urban or mountain environments. To me, this makes this version of the Neo-Viper the most useful of all his incarnations.

In my collection, Neo-Vipers are the replacements for Vipers. I was somewhat disappointed to see the Viper character appear in Wave 9 as I felt that it was the Neo-Viper who really occupied this position in the new Cobra. I feel that it is the Neos who make the basic grunts of the Cobra legions and their different uniforms allow for their appearance in all situations. Going forward, I think I'll keep that concept intact and use the Viper as a higher ranking trooper who is a bit more elite than the standard Neo-Viper. My new Cobra will be a bit more streamlined than my ARAH-sculpt based Cobra as I feel that Neos will comprise the bulk of my troops. The other Viper types will be more highly specialized and exist in far fewer numbers.

This figure's availability is not yet determined. It could be that Wal-Mart will completely sell out of this wave before Christmas and those who don't have this guy will be left in the cold. However, that is unlikely to happen. I would imagine that this figure will be available at retail well into the start of 2004. As he ships 4 to a case instead of 2, it will take longer for even a small shipment to sell out. Plus, there are thousands of Wal-Marts in the U.S., and even the most remote American collector usually has access to more than one. That should allow collectors to get their fill of this figure. International collectors, though, are less lucky. As this is a Wal-Mart exclusive, it will only be available in the U.S. Online Joe dealers won't be able to get these figures without buying them at retail and passing the markup on to foreign buyers. This is unfortunate as this is a nicely done Neo-Viper. Hopefully, 2004 will see Hasbro take at least some steps to help overseas and remote collectors who can not find items at retail. For, when they start producing even repaints of this quality, Joe's popularity can only be supported.

What do you think of this method of repainting army building figures? Let me know.

2004 Urban Neo Viper, Wal Mart Exclusive, Claws, Iron Grenadier

2004 Urban Neo Viper, Wal Mart Exclusive, Claws, Iron Grenadier

2004 Urban Neo Viper, Wal Mart Exclusive, Claws, Iron Grenadier

2004 Urban Neo Viper, Wal Mart Exclusive, Claws, Iron Grenadier

Sunday, December 14, 2003

2003 Tele Viper

Several years ago, I profiled the original Tele-Viper. In that profile, I remarked at how important this character would be to any organization like Cobra. However, I was less enthused about the figure's actual design. Now, that has all changed with the release of this new sculpt Tele-Viper. He has all the functionality of the original with a look that should make this figure one of the more popular new sculpt Cobra army building molds.

This version of the Tele-Viper is both an homage to the original figure and an improvement upon him. You will note that the Tele-Viper's distinctive vest is still present on this version. It is, however, more subdued and is just the base for the figure's design rather than the entirety of it. Added are a number of small details that make this figure look more handy. You can tell this figure's specialty just by looking at his body. Gone is the original Tele-Viper's less than stellar head. This version features a sleeker design with a movable comm device and smaller goggles. He still has some of the Cobra blue base, but now features more purple. The visual effect is still the same and you can place this figure as a Cobra with only a quick glance.

The Tele-Viper is nicely accessorized. He includes a small pistol that is now becoming a bit too common along with a well proportioned grenade launcher. Instead of including a traditional backpack, though, the Tele-Viper sports a custom fitted shoulder mounted communications pack. It fits into two holes molded onto the figure and looks decent. However, as this item was custom made for the Tele-Viper, it means that this accessory can not be shared among other figures. One of the hallmarks of the original line was that almost every accessory worked on every figure. The new line is moving away from that as we are seeing more and more custom accessories. The Tele-Viper also includes one of the smallest accessories ever released. He has a small, hand held radio. If, fifteen years from now, there is the same type of nostalgia for the new sculpt Joes as there is now for the original line, I can see this accessory being among the hardest to find. (Assuming it isn't released again at some point.) It's a neat feature, though, and makes the Tele-Viper a figure that has lots of play value.

One thing of note is that the Tele-Viper has a packaging variation. He is available with either a figure called Halo Jumper or Sgt. Airborne. A lot has been made of this and some people have gone bananas trying to get both versions. I'll just say this: this is a packaging variant and, historically, those have not proven to be all that collectible in the long term. Sure, people will pay more for a carded Cobra Red Star, but not a whole lot more. And, he is hardly a sought after figure. Every figure from 2002's Wave 1 had a packaging variation, but no one is really interested in those. As such, I don't put much stock in a variation like this. Were I looking for something that will be significant down the road, I'd be on the lookout for the Gung-Ho with the variant facial hair. Actual figure variations tend to have much more collectibility than packaging variants.

Normally, this is where I tell you how this recent release should be widely available at retail outlets as well as online Joe dealers. However, that is not the case. The Tele-Viper joins the rest of his wave as well as the infamous army builder wave as figures that were not fully produced. The production runs seem to have been cut short and many collectors have not had the chance to acquire these figures at retail. Adding insult to injury is the fact that online dealers only got a fraction of their army building wave shipments and no shipments of Wave 8. This means that, for the most part, foreign Joe collectors were totally frozen out of these figure waves. The worst part about this is that these two figure waves were the most anticipated new figures of the year. The army building wave was probably the most anticipated figure wave ever and, due to some odd decisions by Hasbro, has become the one wave that a lot of people do not have and most people do not have enough of. This is incredibly frustrating as Hasbro produced the army building wave as a way to appease collectors. Now, it has turned into another black mark against them. There is a lot of anti-Hasbro sentiment among the collecting world at this time. (Much more so than normal.) It is running high due to the perception that Hasbro has really treated collectors like the proverbial mud on their shoe. The problems with the army building wave, Wave 8 and the Crimson Guard 3 pack seen to indicate that collectors aren't high on Hasbro's priority list. As this has happened, though, there is little we can do at the present time. I think that this version of the Tele-Viper is one of the lower produced molds in the current new sculpt figures. As such, I think it is a certainty that we will see this mold again in some form in the next 6 months. It may be a repainted figure or this color scheme again. As Hasbro spent a lot of money developing this mold, though, there is no way they are going to let it collect dust when there is still collector demand for it.

What do you think of Hasbro's recent decisions regarding figure availability? Let me know.

2003 Tele Viper, Spy Troops

2003 Tele Viper, Spy Troops

2003 Tele Viper, Spy Troops

2003 Tele Viper, Spy Troops, BAT, Dr. Mindbender

2003 Tele Viper, Spy Troops

Thursday, December 4, 2003

1987 Payload

Just about every collector out there has a "Holy Grail" in their collection. It is that one piece that they have sought after for a long period of time but, for some reason, have not been able to acquire. Usually, a grail is either a very rare or very expensive piece that either does not appear for sale all that often, or requires a great deal of saving over time. In other cases, though, a grail is just an item that should, on the surface, be easy to find. This was my situation. Long time readers of this site know that I used to post my collecting goals for each year. Some goals were ambitious. Others were less so. One common goal that ran through my attempts at defining what I wanted to do with my collection in a given year was the acquisition of a 1987 Payload figure. Most of you know that I am a Star Brigade junkie and consider space themed figures my favorite subset of the line. The original Payload figure is the pinnacle of the space themed Joes. Aside from starting it all, he features a great mold and is rather difficult to find. I narrowly missed acquiring a Payload almost a dozen times. Often, I just didn't want to pay more than $15 or so for him and would end up outbid by just a dollar. Other times, I would get distracted at the time the auction was ending and miss my sniping opportunity. After a while, though, Payload became that elusive grail item in my collection. For years, he stood as my number most wanted figure. When the time came that I finally added him to my collection, I found the wait most worth it.

Payload figures were only available with the Defiant. Unlike Keel-Haul or the AVAC, Payload was never available as a mail away figure. (There are some bagged Payloads out there, but these are more likely salesman samples rather than actual mail in figures.) The Defiant was also a harder find than earlier large playsets. The USS Flagg was fairly ubiquitous at retail in late 1985. The Terrordrome was less so, but I still remember seeing them. The Defiant, though, was not as common. It is the most ambitious playset Hasbro ever created in the Joe line and was the most expensive. While it was grand in scope, though, its reception at retail was not so. The Defiant failed to make the impact on toy buyers that the USS Flagg and even the Terrordrome had. Even among collectors today, far more can boast of complete Flaggs or Terrordromes in their collection than can for Defiants. For a myriad of reasons, the Defiant was never the stalwart of the Joe line that I'm sure Its designers had hoped for. All this has made Payload and Hardtop among the rarest figures of the entire line.

After its release in 1987, the Payload mold was pulled out again in 1989. A yellow version of Payload was released with the Crusader Space Shuttle. My feeling is that this vehicle was released as a way to help recoup more of the design costs for the Defiant. It was much cheaper than the Defiant and offered a way for Hasbro to make money back on both the figure mold and the vehicle. Shortly after the Crusader was done in the US, it was released in Brazil. Payload was included with this international release, too, though in colors nearly identical to the '89 American figure. Again, this would help offset design costs. The final appearance of this figure mold, though, came in 1993. This version of Payload was supposed to be released instead of the recolored Eco-Warriors Barbeque. Early 1993 Star Brigade packaging shows a green and black '87 mold Payload. However, if you look at the photo closely, you can tell that the picture has actually been airbrushed to look black and green. (They couldn't even hand paint an existing figure!) Hasbro never had the mold back in their possession so they scrapped their plan and just went with later edition mold that they had handy. My guess is that this mold is still down in Brazil and is not available for Hasbro to re-use.

I had an '89 Payload in my collection long before I acquired an '87. As such, I was able to appreciate the mold even though I did not yet have the figure I consider to be the most important piece of any Joe astronaut collection. It is this original Payload, though, that I use most. His better colors and greater historical significance have made him a much larger part of my collection that his more brightly colored successors. His mold makes him look more like a traditional astronaut than the more combat-oriented Star Brigade figures. As such, he is a more realistic portrayal of a true shuttle pilot and is more in line with the Joe releases of his time. He is not the whacked-out science fiction type character who goes off to battle aliens. Instead, he is a more traditional astronaut who looks the part in both mold and accessories.

My lone remaining Holy Grail of Joedom is a complete Defiant playset. At some point I hope to have one and finally be able to put my legions of Star Brigade figures to constant use. Until that point, my Payload won't see a whole lot of use. He is simply biding his time until he can take his rightful place at the helm of the Defiant. In the meantime, I use Payload as a test pilot or consultant. He is a Colonel and would be among the highest ranking Joes. So, Payload can be seen, from time to time, conferring with my Joe leadership. However, as I don't have him out of his space suit, he does look a bit awkward. He also gets used, albeit seldomly, as a radioactive worker who deals with nuclear elements that Cobra tries to steal. That is mostly an excuse so I can use the mold in an earthly setting. The figure is just so well done that leaving him in his drawer seems like a waste.

If you want a mint, complete Payload, be ready to pay for him. These days, a really nice one will set you back at least $50 with some going for even higher. The good news is, if you can find one in a second hand shop, a lot of those places may not know what they have and will sell him for less. I will say, though, that doing that is going to be tough. There just aren't a lot of Payload figures out there. If you just want the character or the mold, I recommend finding an '89 Payload figure. The figure and accessories are the same. He is just a different color and a lot cheaper. For those completists out there, if you don't have a Payload, I wish you luck. While he's not impossible to find, he is a challenge and the competition for a nice specimen can be fierce. He is, though, worth it as Payload remains the pinnacle of the Joe space-themed figures. Now, I just wish I could pick up a few more of them!

With Payload in my collection, my Joe astronaut series is complete. Is there a specific area of the line you concentrate on? Let me know.

1987 Payload, Defiant, Star Brigade, 1994 Predacon, Gears, Rare G.I. Joe Figures

1987 Payload, Defiant, Star Brigade, Rare G.I. Joe Figures

1987 Payload, Defiant, Star Brigade, Rare G.I. Joe Figures

Thursday, November 20, 2003

1990 Freefall

Back in 1991 or so, I baby-sat for the kids next door. At the time, I was out of Joe toys and was not buying anything. These children, though, had a nice contingent of 1990 and 1991 Joe toys that were completely new to me. Many of the figures that they had were nicely done in both coloring and accessories. As I've said in previous profiles, I was nearly prodded to go out and buy a few of these new Joes at the time, but I never did. As such, when I returned to Joe collecting in the late '90's, I made those figures released between 1989-1994 my top priority. At that time, it was somewhat difficult to find large quantities of these figures, but I purchased nearly every lot I could find. Even now that my Joe collection is equally represented from all eras, it is the figures from these later years of the original run who still hold the most of my attention.

One thing the Joe line did well during its original run was update original specialties. While these might sometimes be an updated version of a previous character, Hasbro also offered us new characters who filled previously existing specialties. Such is the case with Freefall. He is a para-trooper who filled the shoes previously worn by Ripcord. It's not clear if Freefall was originally intended to simply be an updated Ripcord figure or if he was always intended to be an original character. Truth be told, were he a new Ripcord, I think this figure would be better regarded among collectors today. Freefall, as a character, is all but forgotten. What little media exposure he did receive was from sources that most collectors hold in contempt. That has lead to Freefall's decreased role in modern day collections.

Ripcord and Freefall are an interesting mix in the Joe para-trooper figure realm. Where Ripcord succeeds as a figure, Freefall fails. Yet, where Freefall succeeds as a figure, Ripcord fails. Both figures feature nicely done camo patterns that make the figures useful. They also both include decent guns that are unique and a good match for the specific figure. It is the rest of the accessories, though, that differ. Ripcord included a nicely done parachute pack that wrapped around his torso. Its centerpiece is a gas mask that attaches to the rig and can then be placed around his helmet. This is one of my favorite accessories in the line and, for me, makes the Ripcord figure. Freefall only includes a standard backpack that really doesn't resemble a parachute. His helmet, though a bit more ornate than Ripcord's, does have some sort of breathing device that attaches to it. This then connects to his pack by the ubiquitous black hose. The rig makes Freefall appear less a paratrooper and more an infantry trooper. It's not bad, but if they were going to make a new paratrooper, he should have been an overall improvement. Freefall's accessories certainly were not.

However, the primary drawback I had with the Ripcord figure is that once you remove his parachute pack, the figure is actually too bland to use. He has no trappings or details on him and is boring. Freefall fares better as his mold does have a bit more detail to it. It allows the figure to be used in more settings and doesn't make him so mundane once he hits the ground and begins his behind-the-lines maneuvers.

In my collection, Freefall has filled many roles. When I first acquired one, he joined Bullhorn as part of my riot police squad. The gas masks employed by both were a nice accessory that I wanted to use at that time. Freefall later evolved into a more standard infantry trooper. His accessories were not so binding that I could use him on the ground. He was often a filler soldier who was part of a larger unit. Sometimes he was a major player, sometimes he was not. Now, Freefall sees the most time in his intended specialty. I've noticed that mint Ripcord figures are getting harder and harder to find. Rather than risk ruining mine, I replaced him with Freefall. Freefall now sees time aboard a Tomahawk or Dragonfly as either a gunner, first mate, or infantry support who is always ready to drop out of the sky to help a unit in trouble. Time was, I rarely used Joes in their intended specialties. As I'm getting older, though, I catch myself more and more pigeon-holing figures into the roles for which they were intended. That's not, necessarily, a bad thing. I think it's just my imagination being further squeezed out of existence by the demands of adulthood.

The Freefall has been used only this one time. He was released in Europe, but not with any type of exclusive color scheme. He did not make it to South America and has yet to pop up in India. As Hasbro has used a variety of 1990 molds for repainted figures in the past few years, it is very possible that they still have access to the Freefall mold. If that is the case, perhaps he can appear again at some point in the future as an alternative to the Big Bens and Mirages that still seem to appear all too often.

Once upon a time, it was a bit of a challenge to find mint, complete Freefall figures. In fact, at the time, it was a challenge to find just about any figure from 1990 or 1991 mint and complete. Now, though, times have changed and you can easily acquire mint, complete Freefall figures for just about nothing. For his price, he is well done and worth acquiring. I wouldn't mind seeing this mold return as part of a repaint set. I think the mold is well done and could easily be called Ripcord with little fanfare among the collecting world. (The Ripcord mold appears to be long gone in South America.) That would at least allow for some additional diversity among the repainted vintage mold ranks and would give Ripcord a way to return. This figure is well enough done that I feel he deserves more respect from collectors. Perhaps, with a little more publicity, he can earn that.

I'm set for Freefalls. Would you like to see a Freefall repaint? Let me know.

1990 Freefall, Pathfinder, Salvo

1990 Freefall, Pathfinder, Salvo

1990 Freefall, Updraft, Undertow, Night Creepe

1990 Freefall, Updraft, 1991 Skydive, Sky Patrol, 1986 Tomahawk

Friday, October 31, 2003

Sparta (South American Exclusive Cover Girl)

After Cover Girl won the most recent Feature Character Spotlight sponsored by, I was left wondering how I was going to profile the character. As a child, my Cover Girl figure disappeared only weeks after I acquired her. As such, I have no memories of her role in my childhood collection. As an adult, I have had little use for Cover Girl as her figure is rather horrid and really doesn't offer anything special to a collection. This didn't leave me with many options until I remembered a figure I acquired several years ago and had just packed into a box, never to really be seen again. Back in late 2000, I acquired a few Argentine exclusive figures for bargain basement prices. One of the figures I picked up was the Argentine release of the Cover Girl figure named Sparta.

The first thing about Sparta that attracted my attention was her exclusive card art. Many of the early Argentine Exclusives featured original card art that was only available in South America. When you couple this with the exclusive color schemes and the different use of figure molds that were previously only available as vehicle drivers in the US, the Argentine Joe line becomes a nice way to broaden a collection. I will state that the figure quality is hit and miss and the Argentine stuff I've had is not quite as nicely done as the Brazilian exclusive figures as the paint apps can be a bit off and the figures can be brittle to the touch. Still, if you take these figures for what they are and aren't too hard on them, they can be integrated into a predominantly American Joe collection.

Sparta's specialty is a "Secret Agent". While that may be a bit broad, I think that it allows her some leeway in character that could make her quite interesting. As I've done with Quarrel, Sparta has become a different character for me who is busier when she isn't being used as a figure than when she is. It is the idea of her infiltration skills that makes her appealing and useful in my collection. As a figure, she isn't all that spectacular. The idea of her as a South American born spy who is living on Cobra Island and reporting Cobra activity back to the Joes, though, is more interesting. She is a character that gives the Joe team a little more depth and makes them more of a truly international anti-terrorist force. In this day and age, I think the inclusion of foreign Joes is imperative to their overall success. Cobra is surely a global organization and having a team of only Americans working against them would allow Cobra great advantages in it's operations outside of the US.

Sparta does sport an exclusive color scheme. It was obviously based on Cover Girl's, but is slightly different. One thing to note is that the Argentine and Brazilian figures are slightly different and you can tell the difference between the two. Their card art is the same, but the Brazilian figure's package is also distinctively different. Plus, the Argentine figure has an accessory variation where some include Stalker's gun and others include Footloose's gun. Still, regardless of the differences, Sparta figures are simple to track down and are a more cost effective method of diversifying your female Joe ranks.

Both Brazilian and Argentine Spartas are easy to find. You can still get either of them MOC for under $20 or so. One thing to note, though, is that most of the Sparta figures that are readily available on the second hand market are from overstock that was not properly stored in South America. This means that many of the figures may not be of indicative quality as compared to other contemporary South American releases. Many Spartas are brittle and require care when handling them so they do not break. This is a function of being stored in high temperature environments for a long period of time and is something to remember when you go to add Sparta to your collection. Still, for the money, Sparta is a great way to pick up a carded version of a mold that was never offered that way in the US. The exclusive art is just icing on the cake. I'm not sure what role Sparta will ever play in my collection, but she is an interesting part of international Joe history and makes a solid addition to any collection.

Sparta is a decent character who I wouldn't mind seeing integrated into the American line.

Sparta, Plastirama, Argentina, Agente Secreta, Cover Girl, MOC, Carded

Saturday, October 25, 2003

2002 Shock Viper V2

In early 2002, the infamous Wave V was released to select online retailers. This wave has one of the lowest production runs of any group of Joe figures and has become rather sought after. The most expensive pack from that wave is the Serpentor/Shock Viper pack. In an attempt to help out the large number of collectors who were either not able to acquire a Shock Viper at all, or just not amass enough of them, Hasbro decided to release a re-colored Shock Viper at retail in late 2002. While most will agree that this V2 is not as nice as the V1 figure, I have been strangely captivated by the V2 figure since I first acquired one and have found myself using it even more than I do the V1.

Technically, the Shock Viper is a Cobra flamethrower. However, as I've said in previous profiles, I have little use for human flamethrowers any more. The BATS take care of that duty, now. As such, I've had to find some other uses for the Shock Viper. While I had a specialty in mind for my V1 figures before they were even in my possession, I've found that this figure does not really fit into the role I've assigned for the V1 figure. Mostly, I use these guys as gunners or Cobra armour troopers. I've found they look nice in the turret of the Strike Hiss Tank. I also use them, from time to time, in place of Track Vipers at the helm of my original Hiss Tanks. I also, though, find myself just using these figures as common Cobra soldiers. Their look indicates they wear a bit more body armour than traditional Vipers that are used in my collection and that, to me, makes them the type of soldier who can be used in more dangerous environments. Their look is also not as familiar as that of the more traditional Cobra troopers and allows me some diversity in my Cobra ranks.

In the summer of 2002, at the annual Joe Convention, Hasbro first announced that the Shock Viper would be coming to retail. However, the figure they showed was a nice blend of black and grey and looked like a really different type of Cobra figure. For some reason, though, this color scheme was changed prior to release and the retail Shock Viper is a near-orange and copper concoction. I think that this color change really dampened some of the enthusiasm that awaited this figure and turned many collectors off to this version. One criticism of Hasbro's recent retail release army-building figures has been that the color schemes applied to them appear to be rather skimpy. This figure is cast in just 2 colors. That's the type of laziness that was indicative of the line in 1994. Personally, it seems to me that the lackadaisical color choices are a subliminal message sent by Hasbro. In '94, the lack of colors were indicative that Hasbro no longer cared about the line. Following that logic, it would seem that Hasbro really does not care about ARAH mold releases. The Viper, Alley Viper and vehicle driver releases have been poorly colored at best. What is more frustrating, though, is that figures like the Convention exclusives are highly detailed and show a more meticulous approach in their design. Hopefully, this trend was just a passing fad. However, the lack of paint detail on the 2003 Viper and Alley Viper seem to indicate the opposite. It is unfortunate that some otherwise nice figures are treated like second-hand citizens of the Joe world when we know that Hasbro is capable of so much more.

Aside from the two-tone coloring, the Shock Viper also fails in the accessory department. He comes with a copper, sound attack gun that is, essentially, useless as well as the Fast Blast Viper's gun. This weapon doesn't really fit this figure, either. Though, it can work in a pinch. I've mostly used various other weapons that are lying in my 2002 Joe drawer with this Shock Viper. If you have extras around, he also looks very nice with the 2001 Laser Viper accessories. Some work, others don't. You can see the diversity of weapons in my photos below. Mostly, my choice of accessories depends upon the role I've assigned for the figure at the time of use.

While this Shock Viper is more easily acquired than the V1, it also suffered from less than full retail saturation. For some reason, this figure was shortpacked in Wave 4 cases and, thusly, was less available than many collectors would have liked. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Hasbro was not able to ship all of their Wave 4 cases to retail. As such, a large number of them were bundled into "Value Packs" (which were 2 2-packs wrapped in a special package and sold for a lower price) that were only shipped to brick and mortar Toys R Us stores. Effectively, this raised the price point for many Shock Vipers and left collectors with a larger number of extra, unwanted figures if they wanted to army build this figure. The end result is that this figure isn't, exactly, all that common to find, either. His lack of overall popularity helps keep him affordable, though, and you can still pick up extra Shock Viper packs at a few online retailers. Personally, I like the figure enough to pick up a few more, but not enough that I'm going to spend any significant time looking for them. He is a neat addition to a collection, but not a Cobra army builder that I would deem imperative.

These Shock Vipers were decent. However, I would still like to see the grey version that was showcased at the 2002 Joe Convention in a retail release. Would you?

2002 Shock Viper, Funskool Metal Head, Viper, Hiss IV

2002 Shock Viper, Funskool Metal Head, Viper, Hiss IV, Beach Head, Blocker

2002 Shock Viper, Funskool Metal Head, Viper, Hiss IV, Beach Head, Blocker

2002 Shock Viper, Funskool Metal Head, Viper, Hiss IV, Beach Head, Blocker

2002 Shock Viper, Estrela, Brazil, Letal, Forca Electronica

Sunday, October 19, 2003

1984 ASP

Back in the summer of 1985, I went to a Kohl's store. As my mother browsed for clothes, I strolled back to the toy department. In those days, stores like Kohl's had fully stocked toy departments year round. As they weren't a traditional toy store, though, they usually had a few toys left over from prior years. Among the older stock that they still had in stock was a swivel arm Cobra Trooper and an Asp. As I had some lawn mowing money, I decided to pick up both items. I had long wanted the Cobra Trooper and the Asp just looked like it would match him. When I got it home, I quickly realized just how neat the Asp really was. I had had Whirlwinds when I was younger, but had never really fully appreciated their uses. By the time I had the Asp, though, I was able to utilize it more effectively.

The Asp is unique in that it is one of very few portable weapons that were ever offered for Cobra. One of the great innovations of the Joe line was the addition of tow hooks to vehicles. This little design feature allowed for Hasbro to create a line of supplemental vehicles that could be towed behind the primary jeeps and tanks that comprised the basic line. While the Joes got several of these in the line's earliest years, Cobra was neglected. However, the Hiss Tank did have a tow hook on it. So, when the Asp was released in 1984, Cobra had its only mass-retail released battlefield emplacement that could be hauled into combat behind their flagship tank.

The Asp is a simple concept. It is just a gun emplacement that really isn't all that innovative. However, the level of detail and movement gives this toy something that was severely lacking as the line moved forward. The Asp can swivel 360 degrees. The main cockpit can also raise up to facilitate better sight angles for the gunners and to allow easier access to the unit. It gives the toy a lot more play value than was offered on the Whirlwind. The other thing it gives the Asp, though, is some bulk. The extra features mean the Asp is larger than it might need to be and would allow for pilots to better pinpoint Asp emplacements from the air. The deep blue color, while in stride with the Cobra theme of the time, is also difficult to hide in many settings. This does not diminish from the overall coolness of the Asp, but is something to be considered. (Especially if the Asp mold has been recovered from Brazil. This would look great and be well received as a repaint!)

In my collection, the Asp is used in multiple ways. I use them as the primary anti-aircraft defenses at any Cobra installation and envision them being placed all over Cobra Island as both a deterrent to any aircraft as well as defense against any enemy. I also use them, though, as part of Cobra's roving armies that are placed all over the globe. The Asp provides portable firepower for these smaller units without taking up too much space. In these settings, they are used both as anti-aircraft weapons as well as first strike weapons that are used to soften a non-military target before the Alley Vipers move in.

In their day, Asps retailed for around $5 or so. Now, they still aren't that expensive. Even with all the little parts, you can get complete Asps for decent prices. As I consider them essential to my Cobra defenses, I've found myself with multiple Asps. They do work great in multiples, though, and I've found them a valuable addition to any Cobra convoy I might put together. Hopefully, as we go forward, the new Joe line will move away from the smaller vehicles like the Venom Cycle and look to towable items like the Asp as future offerings. I think a gun station like this could be designed in a way that fits with the newer vehicles but would still offer collectors some realism. I know I would welcome the attempt.

Asps are a neat idea and the type of thing I think could be integrated into the new line. Do you?

1984 ASP, 1986 Viper, Cobra Viper, BAT, Battle Android Trooper

1984 ASP, Assault Systems Pod, 1983 Cobra Trooper, 2003 Python Patrol HEAT Viper, 1994 Razorblade

1984 ASP, Assault Systems Pod, 1983 Cobra Trooper, 2003 Python Patrol HEAT Viper, 1994 Razorblade

1984 ASP, Assault Systems Pod, 1983 Cobra Trooper, 2003 Python Patrol HEAT Viper, 1994 Razorblade

Friday, October 17, 2003

1991 Super Sonic Fighters Zap

One of the great things about the Joe line was that its original members were never really forgotten. Almost every one of the original 13 Joes had a remake in the original line. Some of them were "interesting" while others were almost perfectly done. The inclusion of these original characters, though, allowed new Joe fans to connect with the line's history and established a sense of continuity that collectors were able to relate with. I think one of the primary reasons Joe has been so successful for over 20 years is this familiarity. If you collected in 1982 or 1983, you can still find some of those same characters, albeit updated with a more modern look, on retail shelves today. This is not done to excess, though, so the line has not become stale with releases of the same, repetitive characters over and over again. (Yet!) This version of Zap is another example of an original character done right.

If you have any knowledge of the Joe line, you can immediately recognize this figure as Zap. While the original figure was rather non-descript and used parts that were shared with other figures, this version of Zap really allows his character to appear. This figure shows the ethnicity and distinct personality that made Zap a unique and valued member of the original team. As such, this figure corrected many of the "errors", if you will, of the original figure. This mold allows Zap to be seen as an individual. This means he can be more effectively used by collectors who always felt that the original figure did not do the comic-created character justice.

This Zap succeeds on many levels. First off, his mold is excellent. It is nicely colored and has the trappings you would expect from a bazooka soldier. His accessories are also well done. The large bazooka is a great weapon that not only looks awesome on its own, but fits in perfectly with the figure. This combination allows for this figure to be used in a base, vehicular or infantry setting. It allows for the diversity that makes a figure usable and keeps them around in my collection. I use this Zap in a variety of ways and he has become my favored anti-armour trooper. The dark green and silver blends well with a variety of other figures and allows me to use Zap more effectively than, say, Bazooka.

Earlier this year, Hasbro offered collectors a little glimpse of this figure when they used his body on the Python Patrol Major Bludd figure. What was really nice, though, was that the body also worked for Bludd and made that figure the best American rendition of Bludd in some time. However, after this use, I can't say I'd be all that excited to see this Zap figure appear again. The original figure is too well done for Hasbro to improve upon it much. When this is the case, my feeling is that the original figure should be left alone. If a repaint is not an improvement, then it shouldn't be done. As the mold was also used on a Cobra, it would be harder for me to accept this Zap figure so close to Major Bludd's release. Maybe sometime in 2005 this figure would make a good member of a repaint set. (Though a convention exclusive that featured the updated outfits of many of the original 13 Joes would be cool. I wouldn't want any '82 or '83 molds, but the later, more modern looks that many of the characters received.)

If you want a Zap, it's really not too hard to find one. They are out there, even mint and complete. However, if you're just hoping to randomly acquire one of these figures, that can be a bit problematic. As Zap was a Super Sonic Fighter, he saw lower production and less interest at retail. (All of the '91's were a bit absent at retail, but the SSF's were more so.) This meant that a lot of people did not have this figure and he was the type of thing you did not amass were you to randomly acquire lots of figures. Were he a Cobra army builder, I think you'd hear a lot more clamour over the scarcity of figures from this series. As a Joe aligned individual character, though, Zap remains pretty much forgotten.

This Zap is a nicely done figure that is exemplary of how a re-design of a figure can be done right. Would you like Zap to appear as a new sculpt figure? Let me know.

1991 Super Sonic Fighters, Zap, 1994 Stalker

1991 Super Sonic Fighters, Zap, 2000 Funskool General Flagg, 1988 Hit and Run

1991 Super Sonic Fighters, Zap, 1983 Hiss Tank, 2002 Shock Viper

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

2003 Funskool Incinerator

Back in September of 2001, I profiled the original Incinerator figure. At the end of that profile, I mentioned that I would like to see this mold used again, even if it was by Funskool. Well, I got my wish! At the time, I made my prognostication based on the fact that Funskool had pulled a lot of 1991 molds out of the warehouse and put them into production. It only made sense that they would likely have the Incinerator mold. Fortunately, the figure they finally released was not too "Funskooled" out and makes a nice addition to a Cobra army.

This version of the Incinerator figure is nearly identical to the American release. As the original figure was rather brightly colored, though, I'm not certain if the similarity is due to Funskool liking the loud colors or if it was contractually mandated. The only real differences are that the face shield of the Funskool figure is orange as opposed to the American red, the Funskool figure has a black Cobra sigil rather than a red one, the Funskool figure has small yellow highlights on his upper chest straps, the Funskool figure has a black belt buckle, and the Funskool version has fully painted black feet whereas the American figure has some orange patches sticking through. Truthfully, the Funskool figure is actually more detailed than the original American figure in this case. The real difference lies in the accessories. In this arena, the Funskool figure fails. Rather than including the well done original Incinerator accessories, the Funskool figure comes with a neon green version of the Toxo-Viper backpack and a bright blue version of Dodger's gun. Properly colored, these weapons might have worked. However, as they are in useless hues, this Incinerator figure will have to be re-accessorized. The nice thing, though, is that many of the new sculpt figures include accessories that would work for this figure. As such, finding accessories that fit him won't be too much of a problem.

As I said in my original Incinerator profile, I use these figures as supporting troopers. They are called into situations where typical Cobra infantry has run into trouble and needs the Incinerators specialty. However, I have felt that the notion of a flamethrowing soldier is a bit out dated. Even the best protective gear will not save a poor soul whose pack full of highly flammable fuel is set ablaze by a stray bullet or shrapnel. As such, the job of setting something on fire is left to fearless BATS. As I still like the Incinerator mold, though, I have found other uses for them. Their color makes them less useful as gunners, but they do work well with Alley Vipers and I often mix the two together. Incinerators carry HEAT Viper weapons (as they are readily available from many 2002 figures) and serve as heavy weapons soldiers in support of the Alley Vipers. From time to time, I also use them as a subset of the Toxo-Vipers whose suits are a bit more protective. I could also see them filling as pilots in some of the newer Cobra aircraft. Really, the mold is versatile and can be adapted to many uses. This is a feature I really look for when I'm assessing a figure's value to my collection.

In my view, one of the areas where Funskool most helps American collectors is in the area of non-standard army builders. American collectors have been feasting on the overkill of Viper and Alley Viper repaints for the past year. As such, many people have been able to build nice Cobra armies, though only of a few figure types. This isn't a bad thing, but, if you are like me, you want at least some diversity. While the Python Patrol set from earlier this year helped that some, there really hasn't been any other alternative for some non-standard Cobra army building figures. This is where Funskool has played a major role. Their offerings of Night Vipers, Toxo Vipers, Crimson Guard Immortals, Eels, Hydro Vipers, Desert Scorpions and Incinerators have given the American collector a chance to build his Cobra army with some different figures. In just about every case, these figures are similar to their American counterparts and fit into an American collection with few problems. Going forward, I hope Funskool continues in this role. I don't want to see them focused primarily on army builders, though I doubt that would happen as all the American Funskool sellers combined do not even sell one day's worth of figure production for any one Funskool mold in an entire year, but I would like for them to continue to offer alternatives to the traditional American releases. In this capacity they can be very beneficial to American collectors and will serve as another way for us to supplement our collections as Hasbro moves away from producing a diverse selection of ARAH-style figures.

Soon, Incinerators will be everywhere. You can get them from all of your favorite online Joe dealers for about $5 or so. To me, this is a great way to supplement my Cobra army. I don't ever see myself having a dozen or so of these guys, but I could see myself ending up with 4 to 6. The nature of the Incinerator makes him more prone to smaller quantities in collections. But, as he is one of the few non-standard army builders out there available at retail, I could see me ending up with more of them as time progresses. As I usually do, I really like this latest offering from Funskool. He is of near Hasbro quality and is quite a change from the typical perception of Funskool figures. In this case, the figure is similar to the American version and blends perfectly with any of those you might already have in your collection. If you've been wanting to check out the new higher quality Funskool figures but have been put off by the likes of Grunt and Big Brawler, you should really try the Incinerator. He is a well done figure that makes an excellent addition to any Cobra army.

2003 Funskool Incinerator, India, 2002 Metal Head

2003 Funskool Incinerator, India, 2002 Metal Head

2003 Funskool Incinerator, India, 1991 Incinerator, Comparison

Thursday, September 11, 2003

1984 Recondo

Recondo was a later addition to the Joe storyline. While he made his initial appearance in the Joe comic in late 1984, he did not get his own storyline until the summer of 1985. But what a storyline it was! As a youngster, I was enthralled by Recondo's comic appearance. The idea of a small team of Joes really played out well. The story showcased how the Joes could work together with their environmental specialist as the lead. The next year, Marvel launched a whole new comic, G.I. Joe Special Missions, to better explore stories like this one that could exist outside of the main comic's focus. While I never really felt that Special Missions captured the magic of those Recondo issues, it did heavily influence my play. Before, I usually had all my Cobras attacking all my Joes at once. After reading the Recondo issues, I started using my figures a bit differently. I divided my Joes into smaller, more specialized units. From here, I was able to develop my own characterizations of certain figures more deeply as they had to face greater odds under mounting pressure. My feeling is that this really allowed my creativity to flourish as I moved beyond describing a situation or action to actual character development. In looking at my Joe world as it exists today, many of the characters who have been around for some time have their characterizational roots in the story lines I proffered forth in the mid to late '80's.

Today, Recondo sees little use in my collection. I feel that he has been surpassed by many figures who came after him. While his cammo and accessories are okay, they don't measure up to the jungle busting saw that came with Pathfinder, the pack with removable knife and antenna that Falcon used or web gear and strapped gun that were the hallmarks of Outback. This has left Recondo as kind of a forgotten member of my Joe ranks. Even on jungle missions, he is passed by. On the rare occasion when I do pull him out, though, I am quickly reminded why he never really struck a chord with me. While Recondo's gun looks cool, I've always felt that it looks awkward when held by the figure. This prevents Recondo from being posed in ways that are conducive to play. I've just always thought that the entire mold looked a lot better than it played. Recondo has a stocky chest and arms. These don't allow the entire range of movement you find on other figures. While not something you overtly notice, it is something that, to me, held the figure back. I think that the idea of Recondo is a lot more fun than his actual figure.

The Recondo mold has had a long history outside of the U.S. Aside from its two releases here, Recondo was also released in Brazil. The timing of this release is odd, though, as the Brazilian figure appeared around 1986, in between the American releases. At some point in 1987 or so, Hasbro produced a short run of Starduster figures that used Recondo's chest. This was quickly changed to the more common Duke chest, though. It stands to reason that Hasbro lent this mold to Estrela for use in Brazil, but then reacquired it in 1987 or 1988 to produce the American Tiger Force figure. It could be that the short production run on the Recondo chest Starduster was Hasbro's way of testing the mold after it's return from Brazil in an effort to assure that the mold would still produce figures that were in compliance with American toy safety standards. This is even more peculiar since Hasbro wanted to use Wild Bill in the '88 Tiger Force. If Hasbro could not re-acquire the Wild Bill mold, how was it that they were able to get Recondo back? This is one of those little mysteries that is probably long lost and will never be fully explained. Aside from this, though, Recondo was also being released in Europe in his Tiger Force colors. This, in and of itself, is not all that odd. However, Recondo was called Wild Bill. The European Tiger Fly included a figure of the Tiger Force Recondo mold and color, but was named Wild Bill. After all this, though, Recondo's mold disappeared and has not been seen since. It could still be under Hasbro's control or off in India.

I think, as a character, Recondo had great promise. However, as the Joe team expanded, the more specialized Joe members could no longer be given the spotlight for more than an issue or two of the comic or an episode of the cartoon. Even by 1985, the Joe team had grown to the point where specialties were repeated and older characters were updated. While the large size of the Joe team allowed for greater popularity as it offered something for everyone, it also meant that the lesser characters got neglected in mainstream Joe media. This is nice for the modern collector as it keeps many of the best figures in the line more affordable than their media darling brethren. As Recondo has been introduced in the new sculpt figures, it is possible that he could, at some point, make an appearance in the newly created Joe media. Hopefully, if this happens, the creators will be able to look back at Recondo's previous appearances and can capture some of the traits that flashed his potential.

Recondo figures are not too hard to find. He is a Joe and was released during the height of Joe's popularity. Even complete, you can find a Recondo without spending a whole lot of time. Recondo figures do not wear well, though, and mint specimens can be tough to track down. His thumbs tend to break, the fragile black paint tends to flake or chip and his joints tend to go weak. As such, even those who took immaculate care of their figures may still end up with a non-mint Recondo. This does not, though, mean that mint figures are expensive. Most collectors have had more than ample time to track down a Recondo and are no longer after another specimen. This means that modern collectors can still pick one up without spending a small fortune. Personally, I'm kind of done with Recondo. He is a neat figure, but his look is not enough to overcome the details about his mold that I consider shortcomings. Recondo is a perfect example of a figure who was eclipsed by those who came after him. Hopefully, the new sculpts will, at some point, offer us a real reinterpretation of the Recondo character. (The one they released really doesn't count!) Done right, I think Recondo could be updated in a way that would make collectors take notice. Hasbro has proven they have the ability. Now, do they have the desire...?

I don't need the figure, but I do need his gun. If you can help,email me.

1984 Recondo

1984 Recondo, 1989 Night Viper

1984 Recondo, 1983 Steeler

1984 Recondo, 2001 Desert Striker, 1985 Dusty

Thursday, August 28, 2003

1987 Falcon

It's been a long time since I profiled a Falcon figure. Despite the fact that I like this mold and think that most of his figures were well done, I simply haven't been compelled to showcase this mold. I've long preferred Flint as the bereted leader of my Joe forces and have often considered Falcon to be second fiddle. This is not meant to demean Falcon or his place in the Joe mythos. I still use the figure and have a place for the character. I just try not to use him in conjunction with Flint as their looks and uses are very similar.

As a mold, Falcon is really hard to beat. He is about as realistic a soldier as was ever released in the line. His cammo pattern is top notch (and hard to spot if you drop him in the grass) and fits in perfectly with the incredible detail on the mold. Falcon really showcases the toy designers of the time's skill as he packs a large amount of detail into a mold without it becoming distracting. On top of this, he came with excellent accessories that complemented him perfectly. His pack, with the removable knife and antenna, added a new dimension to the figure and made him much more valuable as a field trooper. His shotgun was designed to be used in different hand positions so that the figure could be posed realistically and still used in a way that was more conducive to play. These little features were the type of things that allowed Joe to transcend its contemporary toy lines and become such a giant on the retail shelves.

As a character, Falcon had some airplay. However, in regards to this, I have a confession to make. I have never seen G.I. Joe: The Movie. I know that Falcon was a major character in it, but I have never seen it and can't comment on what part he really played. My reasons for this are varied but mostly lie with the fact that, as an adult, I think I would find the movie hokey and would find myself grimacing throughout the tale: unable to enjoy it even on a nostalgic level. (This is the same reason I'll avoid the new Joe Spy Troops movie and any cartoon that arises out of that. I simply do not have the interest in any endeavor.) The nice thing about this is that I have been able to avoid much of the comic vs. cartoon debate that seems to permeate throughout fandom. I'm sure that I've missed something by not seeing the movie. I just don't wish to jeopardize my take on Joe by associating something I would not enjoy with something I do.

Falcon's role in my collection has evolved over the years. He started out as a young officer trying to make his mark. From there, he developed into a solid soldier who, while able to lead, was not overly comfortable in positions of responsibility. Now, Falcon is more of a veteran and my new Joe commander (portrayed by the General Flagg figure) is hell-bent on turning Falcon into a top-notch field commander. This means that Falcon often finds himself over his head and stuck with green recruits. He has to prove that he can lead his men out of situations like this if he wants to grow as a commander. My new Joe leader knows that the fate of the Joe team (and their ultimate success) lies in their ability to develop leaders from within. That way, the Joes know the strengths and weaknesses of those who lead them and are not as susceptible to surprises in combat.

The Falcon mold was used three times: this figure, the 1988 Night Force version, and the previously profiled Super Sonic Fighter figure. His legs were then used on the 1993 Leatherneck figure. So, when Hasbro pulled the mold back out for the 2003 Convention release, they found the legs were separated from the rest of the body and ended up substituting them with legs from '82 figures. In my opinion, this didn't work all that well. Should Falcon ever see a return engagement in a more widely available repaint set, I would hope that the advance time would allow Hasbro to track down the original legs (assuming they are not in Brazil!) or, at least, more suitable replacements that don't make the figure look disproportional. If this can be done, I'd welcome another Falcon release. The figure is solid, though he has been colored in so many ways that it would be difficult to find a way to give him some uniqueness. Perhaps an arctic Falcon would be a way to go. I don't mind repaints that give us something new. Having a repaint that is too similar to the original just leads to blandness in the overall line and collector malaise towards a previously liked mold.

A few years ago, a mint, complete Falcon would have set you back $12-$15. At that point, most collectors were still after their "core" figures and considered Falcon an integral part of a collection. Now, though, most collectors who want a Falcon have one. As such, you can now get them for substantially cheaper. While some Joe prices have gone through the roof in the past few years, a lot of Joe affiliated figures, like Falcon, have fallen in price. This is nice as it allows new collectors an opportunity to acquire figures like this without breaking the bank. (That will come when it's time to acquire Cobras!) Going forward, I don't think we'll see a reversal of this trend. As this still allows collectors to get into Joe without a major financial commitment, it is good. I like the Falcon figure and use him fairly often. (He's one of my second-tier figures who comes out when I'm tired of the main guys.) As this figure is well liked, I'm not alone in this.

While Falcon is a major character, I would prefer to not see his ARAH mold again unless it is something new. However, I do think he would make an excellent candidate for a new sculpt. Hopefully, that will be something we will get to see in coming years.

1987 Falcon, 1988 Hit and Run, 1994 major Bludd, 1998 Cobra Trooper, 1988 Night Force Crazylegs, 1993 Beach head

1987 Falcon, 1988 Hit and Run, 1994 major Bludd, 1998 Cobra Trooper, 1988 Night Force Crazylegs, 1993 Beach head

1987 Falcon, 1988 Hit and Run

1987 Falcon, 1988 Tiger Force Flint, 1984 Stinger Driver

1987 Falcon, 1988 Tiger Force Flint, 1984 Stinger Driver