Wednesday, February 5, 2003

2003 Tiger Force Wreckage

Back in my profile of the Tiger Force Recondo, I recounted some of the history surrounding the Tiger Force subset. Specifically, I mention the unproduced character of Sabretooth who was originally planned to be a member of the Tiger Force team. However, Sabretooth was never produced and fans were left with a bit of a hole in Joe toy continuity. Through the lean years, customizers filled the gaps by often producing their interpretations of Sabretooth. Then, at the 2002 G.I. Joe Convention, Hasbro showcased a Toys R Us exclusive Tiger Force set that was going to bring the popular sub-group back to the collecting community. Among the figures shown were Jinx, Stalker, Big Brawler and Dial Tone. It was the fifth member of the set, though, that really had everyone talking. Hasbro decided to throw fans a little Easter Egg and include a new character in the Tiger Force set. This figure, in an homage to the unproduced Sabretooth, utilized the 1984 Firefly mold and was named Wreckage.

Wreckage really shows that the current Joe team at Hasbro has a sense of history about the line. Sabretooth was a character that many long time collectors wanted to see. While that name may have not been available, the inclusion of Wreckage in this set was an obvious nod to collectors to let them know that Hasbro is capable of fulfilling some of their wants. While the new line's main focus has been the new sculpts, the few classic repaints that we have seen have been very collector focused. Themed sets, army builders and the return of classic molds seems to be a winning combination on the collector market. The fact that the figures have been well done as well, though, only helps matters even more.

As the classic Joe repaints have progressed, many collectors have heard rumblings about how a certain favorite mold was "lost" or damaged. While the lost molds can more easily be explained, it the damaged molds that most people have a problem with. When looking at my Wreckage figure, though, I discovered a few points about the mold that will give a bit more insight into how these molds can decay. First, look at the pictures below:

Firefly Mold Comparison, 1984, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2002

This picture shows the right arms of all 5 American releases of this mold. (Also remember, this mold was released in Europe, Japan and India.) As you look at the cuffs of Firefly's sleeve, you can see some differences. On the 1984 figure, the lines are sharp and clear. While it's hard to see, the same is still true on the '98 figure. However, in 2000, you start to see some "flatening" of the lines. The crispness of the earlier molds is starting to disappear. On the 2002 figure, it is a bit more pronounced and Wreckage's is the "softest" yet. You can see the same thing on the finger lines on the figure's hand. You can also notice it on the molded knife. The '98 knife is much sharper and the '03 knife. There is more, though.

 Firefly Mold Comparison, 1984, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2002

This photo shows the molds' left legs. The mold has 2 small dial-like details on the thigh. On the earlier Firefly molds, there are raised > signs on the dials. On the '84 and '98 figure, these are very sharp. However, on the 2000 and 2002 figures, the arrows start to disappear. Now, on Wreckage, the arrows are almost impossible to see. Now, my first thought on this was that the differences in plastic that exist between the '84 figure and the '03 figure could be part of the problem. The newer plastic is softer and may not take to details as well as the harder stuff used in '84. However, the '98 figure (which also used softer plastic) still shows most of the detail you see on the '84 figure.

Basically, this is a great example that shows how molds can deteriorate over time. While the mold is hardly unusable, you can start to see some degradation of the details. After hundreds of thousands of injections with hot plastic over nearly 20 years, you would expect to see some loss of detail. However, it appears that once the process starts, molds can go quickly. Seeing a timeline like you can on Firefly, though, helps give collectors more insight into how some of our favorite figures can be gone forever. What the future holds for the Firefly mold, is still unknown. Personally, I've got all the Fireflies I'll ever need. You have him in 2 camo versions that are true to the character. You also have an arctic version for the specialized environment and a crimson version for those pompous ceremonies that Firefly needs to attend. Beyond that, you can still use Wreckage as yet another version of Firefly. With all these, if this mold were retired, I would feel that it got more than enough use.

Wreckage's greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. While using the Firefly mold is a great way to fill a gap in the line's history, the mold has simply outpaced Sabretooth's intended place in the line. At this point, this mold is definitively Firefly. Any collector who looks at any incarnation of the mold immediately knows that the character is supposed to be Firefly. Despite Firefly's later appearances, it is his original mold that is forever tied to the character. As such, Wreckage's use is severely limited. It's just too much of a stretch for a figure looking like this to be anyone other than Firefly. (Although, Wreckage could just be Firefly in disguise. It would follow the Spy Troops theme.) So, while this figure will probably be sought after in the short term, I don't foresee Wreckage ever becoming an icon among the collecting world. More likely, he will see his most use as a simple variation of Firefly's traditional uniform. It's not a bad lot and will probably keep this figure more in the limelight that it would otherwise have been.

Wreckage's use in my collection is still undetermined. I have written that I used the '00 Firefly figure as good guy SWAT troopers. (I just ignored the Cobra logo.) As such, I could see Wreckage falling into that role. His colors are nice and his accessories are top notch. (Though they didn't include a cover for his pack.) It would be unfortunate to not use the figure in some capacity. However, the character of Wreckage just doesn't fit into my Joe world well enough for him to become a player. The Joe team has enough demolitions specialists where one more, especially one that is a new creation, doesn't seem necessary. As such, I foresee Wreckage simply being a nameless, faceless Joe army builder. He will have some uses, but most of them will end with his death at the hands of the Cobra attackers. While it may not seem very glamorous, it does give the figure more use and keeps him out of the bottom of my newly founded 2003 Joe drawer.

If you want a Wreckage figure, the time to get one is now. You can still order the Tiger Force set from for $19.99. If that's not your style, word is that these sets are starting to appear in brick and mortar Toys R Us stores for the same price as well. Spending $20 for five figures is a good deal, regardless of what you might read on various message boards. In the long run, though, I think Wreckage will be the most popular figure from this set. Jinx has a pretty strong fan following, but I don't think it will be enough to overcome the coolness factor displayed by Wreckage. The other three figures are nice additions to a collection, but hardly the type of figure that people will seek out in the future. Still, Firefly molds usually remain fairly popular over time. While this is not Firefly, enough people will see him as such to make this figure more sought after than most of his contemporaries. When you know this is the case, it is always best to take advantage of retail availability. The entire Tiger Force set is well done. I enjoy it's inclusion in the line and will mingle these new figures with my existing Tiger Force collection, both foreign and domestic. Judging by the reception this set seems to have found in the collecting world, you can be sure I'm not alone.

I've got all the Wreckage figures I need. Are you ready to see this mold retired? Let me know.

E2003 Tiger Force Wreckage, TRU EXclusive, European Exclusive Tiger Force Tunnel Rat, 1992 Shockwave, G.I. Joe HQ, 1983

2003 Tiger Force Wreckage, Sgt. Stalker, 2001 Desert Striker

2003 Tiger Force Wreckage, TRU EXclusive, 1990 Ambush

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