Thursday, April 24, 2003

1990 Overlord

While most people shun the '90's as a very dark time in the history of the Joe line, there are many figures from those years that are among the best ever made. 1990 in particular, though, is chock full of high quality figure designs. As more people who discovered Joe in late '80's are now making their way into online collecting circles, you are starting to see more and more discussion about how 1990 was actually a year on par with many of the '80's. Most of the figures from that year are well done and worthy of some recognition. Overlord is no exception.

Like Mercer, Overlord has become a favorite character for authors of fan fictions and dio-stories to use. Overlord's only canonical biography occurred on his filecard. This hinted at his great ambition and showed some great potential in the character. He never appeared in the comic or cartoon, though, and remains a character who was never utilized. As such, he is pretty much a blank slate who character is free for authors to explore. This makes him among the most used obscure Cobra villains in the fan realm as authors do not have to worry about Overlord's history and are free to develop him as they wish without the risk of offending those who adhere strictly to the established Joe continuity. This has allowed Overlord to take on a greater life long after his release than he ever experienced during his production time. Overlord is one of the few major characters out there who was never fully utilized in Joe media.

For some reason, I have never really used Overlord in my collection. I got him very early in my return to Joe, but he never got used as any of my newly created named Cobras. Basically, he just went into a drawer and never emerged. At different times in past few years, I've been reminded of Overlord and thought about pulling him out and finding a use for him. However, I was usually sidetracked by some other newly acquired figure to ever really take any action. Now, though, I think Overlord will play a vital part in my Joe world.
If you have read this site, you know that my Cobra hierarchy is somewhat different. While Cobra Commander was once a major player, I now use him as an older, lecherous shadow of his former self.

While still the leader of Cobra, CC is more of a figurehead and doesn't really bother himself in day to day operations. Vying for the Commander's power is the character portrayed by the Sea Slug. He is slowly taking power away from the Commander while Destro and other older guard watch. On the other side is the Flying Scorpion character who also wants the Commander's power, but is seeking it through military triumphs rather than politicking. The Sea Slug character, though, has realized that the best way to usurp the Commander quicker is to attach himself to the successes of the Flying Scorpion. As such, Sea Slug has started interfering in the battle plans of the Flying Scorpion's South American campaign. In order to neutralize Sea Slug's interference, the Flying Scorpion character took a drastic, and unexpected, step.

Rather than eliminate the Sea Slug, the Flying Scorpion arranged so that Cobra Commander was killed in battle. With CC dead, the Sea Slug was appointed the new commander and quickly set himself to run Cobra's operations from Cobra Island. With the Sea Slug now preoccupied with taking over Cobra, the Flying Scorpion is free to control the South American operations without interference from Cobra Island. Here, he can bide his time until he is ready to take on the Sea Slug character and rule Cobra.
While you all may wonder what that has to with Overlord, well, I think I'll be using this figure to represent the Sea Slug character now that he is, officially, Cobra Commander. The look of the figure, with the regal colors, simple ornamentation, serpentine motif, and ceremonial look is a perfect match for the image the Sea Slug character would portray in his newly acquired role.

Early conceptual art for Overlord shows the design named as Cobra Commander. It seems that at some point in the process of this character's creation, his unique look was going to be for a new Cobra Commander figure rather than a unique individual. However, that changed. Cobra Commander was delayed and saw two figures of him released in 1991. The original conceptual designs then morphed into a new character. Seeing this happen in this case makes you wonder how many other Joe characters might have started out as someone else. Joe made a habit of recycling characters throughout its run, so it is very possible that many other later characters were originally conceptually designed as an update to an existing character. Perhaps we will one day find a stash of more artwork or internal Hasbro documents that might shed more light upon situations like this. Until then, though, it is fun to speculate.

I think that, done differently, a remake of Overlord could create a remarkable figure. His mold is dripping with potential for a great repaint. Alas, though, it is not likely that his mold is available. Along with his American release, Overlord was released in Brazil as Ciclon. There, he was part of the Iron Grenadiers (a nice match with his color scheme and overall look) and was available as an individually carded figure. Most of Ciclon's contemporary figures have since showed up in India or have been confirmed as lost by Hasbro. As such, it is unlikely that we will be able to see a return of this Overlord mold any time soon. (Though Hasbro's attempts to find old molds could always turn up some forgotten gems like this guy!) I, though, wouldn't mind seeing a new Overlord figure. Done right, he could make an excellent new sculpt figure and would be a welcome addition to the new Cobra ranks. He has the name and look of old that would entice old collectors but lacks the defining characteristics that would too firmly entrench him in the line's legacy. That would free him up to become a fuller character in the new line without having to worry about the character's legacy.

A few years ago, it was pretty hard to find a mint, complete Overlord for a decent price. As more people who collected in 1990 have sold their collections, though, Overlord has become more common. Now, you can get him mint and complete for under $10 on a consistent basis. (Sometimes you'll even get his vehicle at that price point.) It turns out that Overlord is rather common and was a figure that many people had. It just took them a while to make it to the second hand collecting market. For a character with as little backstory as Overlord has, that price might be a little high. He just isn't a player in the Joe world nor is he an army builder or all that rare. As such, only the sheer quality of the figure's mold keeps Overlord from being among the cheap named Cobras from the '90's. (Cesspool, Headman, etc.) Still, Overlord is a nice figure and a great character to add to any collection. He allows for some great leeway in characterization that can quickly turn him into a favorite member of your Cobra Cabal. I like that type of flexibility in my figures. It is what allows me to enjoy them without feeling any hindrances brought on by perceptions of how a figure should be characterized. With that being said, if you don't have an Overlord, I would highly recommend getting one. While his place in my collection is still being determined, the story to get him there will be lots of fun.

Overlord is a neat figure and I need his helmet to complete mine. I would also like a carded Ciclon from Brazil. If you can help with either of these items, let me know.

1990 Overlord, 2003 Skullbuster, Dreadnok Stinger, Sears Exclusive, 1993 Headhunter Stormtrooper, 1990 Freefall

1990 Overlord, 2003 Skullbuster, Dreadnok Stinger, Sears Exclusive, 1993 Headhunter Stormtrooper, 1990 Freefall

1990 Overlord, 2003 Skullbuster, Dreadnok Stinger, Sears Exclusive, 1993 Headhunter Stormtrooper, 1990 Freefall

Friday, April 18, 2003

1993 Ninja Force Zartan

Zartan is one of the most important characters in the Joe universe. His original figure is considered by many to be one of the best toys ever offered in any line, much less Joe. For all the hoopla around that figure, you would have thought that the Zartan character would have been revisited at some point in the line's subsequent years. However, while Zartan's brother and sister were released, along with several later Dreadnoks, the actual Zartan character did not see an updated incarnation of his figure until the second to last year of the line. While many would have welcomed a nicely done updated Zartan, the figure that was released left many people flabbergasted. Zartan was released as a spring loaded, neon adorned, anachronistic punk rocker in the 1993 Ninja Force line. Needless to say, this figure has not earned a place of respect among collectors.

When I first saw this figure hanging as a leftover on retail shelves sometime in 1995, I simply passed him by. The colors were just too ridiculous and the look of the character offered no flexibility in his use. As such, I focused my attention on other figures from the more standard subsets that were still available. By the time I finally realized that I really ought to buy the figure before he was gone, he was. As such, I didn't acquire this figure until 2000. When I did, I realized that, perhaps, my initial impressions of the figure might have been a bit unkind. While this figure didn't look like the Zartan I knew and enjoyed, he was rather interesting. His mold, while not articulated with an O-ring, is actually very detailed and actually creates a very complete package. His head mold is also well done. The mohawk is a nice little feature that is much more detailed than the hair of earlier Dreadnoks and almost makes the figure work.

It is the look of the figure, though, that causes the most problems for people. After the incredible first Zartan figure that we saw nearly a decade before this version and Zartan's large role in the ongoing Joe comic, most collectors had built up an idea that Zartan was a major player in the Joe world and was worthy of a fitting redesign. (Along the lines of the '92 Destro and 93 Cobra Commander.) This figure, though, did not deliver. This was the impression I held, too: for a while. The more I thought about it, though, the more this look for Zartan made sense. Sure, the neon color is a bit unforgivable, but the orange hair works for the design of what this figure is intended to be. I see this figure as a younger Zartan, from his pre-Cobra days. While the comic gave us a glimpse of Zartan's origin, it left a lot unexplained. I use this figure to represent Zartan in the days when he first met the Dreadnoks, was still coming into his abilities and had yet to meet Cobra Commander or work under the mystic sword-smith. To me, that makes the figure work. He is a younger, angrier Zartan who had yet to learn the riches his talents could bring him. It is a different take on the character, but one that expands the character and allows me to utilize him in a different way.

This figure should have been a case study to Hasbro of how changes to basic Joe articulation does not work. The Ninja Force figures all feature spring loaded arms designed to simulate "martial arts action". A byproduct of this is that they are not articulated with an O-ring. This makes them impossible to repair and rather immobile. (It makes no sense how figures designed to be ninjas would actually be less flexible than other figures in the line.) These construction changes made all the Ninja Force figures pegwarmers who were available at retail for years after they were discontinued. Going forward, experiments like this should be remembered. The Joe line has never been about gimmicks. Instead, it has been about a conflict between good and evil that revolves around well developed characters. Sticking with that formula will give the new Joes the best chance at a long life. Deviating from it simple leads to disaster.

I've always felt that Zartan has the most unexplained origin of any character in the Joe world. While Cobra Commander, Stormshadow and Snake Eyes were done to death, only snippets of Zartan's beginnings were revealed. I think this is why the character has so few detractors in the modern collecting world. Other characters were revealed to a point where there was no mystery left. Those who did not like the full explanations were left with a bad taste for a previously favorite character. With Zartan, though, there was less chance to be disappointed. His origin with the Dreadnoks and a full explanation of his abilities was never proffered forth. As such, Zartan is still free to be characterized in any way a fan may desire. I think that is one of the secrets to Zartan's long term popularity. He was never "spoiled", if you will, by having too much about him known. This figure, to me, is a perfect way to explore those lost days of his in any different manner I may choose.

As far as this figure goes, he is pretty easy to find. If you've got about $10, you can get him MOC. Finding him loose, mint and complete can take a bit longer, but he is still cheap. Not too many people, even die-hard Zartan fans, are really after this figure. His non-standard construction, neon color, and out of character look just don't make him a figure that people want to add to their collection. This is nice, though, for those who can see some worth in this figure. It keeps him readily available for very affordable prices. I think that had this figure been released with more standard construction, many customizers and collectors would want this figure. The mold and the look have some untapped potential. Could Hasbro retrofit this mold like they did the '92 Stormshadow and give it an O-ring, I think it might have some potential as a (limited!) new release. At this point, though, I doubt that will ever happen. As fans have come to associate Zartan with is hooded look, I would imagine that any future classic construction Zartan figures will either be the original mold (should Hasbro re-acquire it from Funskool) or the '01 Zartan figure. That's kind of a shame as this mold could make a nice Zartan figure that would be a little different from his standard persona while still being true to the character. Still, if it never happens, at least there is one version of Zartan out there that you can use to represent the character in his days before Cobra or have him better intersperse with his Dreadnoks. On that level, the figure works. Beyond that, though, I don't see this figure ever being popular among collectors and fans. To me, he is not a major figure nor one that I would use outside a specific situation. He is, though, a decent mold and interesting idea that could, if done right, be worked into the Zartan character.

I could use a mint, complete with filecard version of this figure. If you have one available, let me know.

1993 Zartan, Ninja Force, Mongoose,

1993 Zartan, Ninja Force, Mongoose,

1993 Zartan, Ninja Force, Mongoose,

1993 Zartan, Ninja Force, Mongoose,

Thursday, April 17, 2003

2003 Black Out

So far, in my opinion, 2003 has been a stellar year for new figures. While 2002 had its highlights, this year has really started to show some of the magic that was the hallmark of the original line. The figure sculpts are starting to come into their own. Each figure is well accessoried and is having accessories other than guns included with them. The colors are strong and show the diversity necessary to keep the line fresh. We have gotten a nice combination of old favorites coupled with some well thought out new characters who are expanding the Joe universe. Among these is the new Black Out.

As a character, Black Out is rather interesting. You see, he is the brother of Barrell Roll; a new character introduced in Wave 5. They are both the brothers a now mysterious female character named Cadet Bombshell. (What is this, M.A.S.H.?!? How about a little subtlety!!) This little twist brings a new element to the Joe world. While Cobra has had a couple of siblings working for it in the past, this marks the first time that relatives have been on different sides of the conflict. (Remember, Stormshadow and Snake Eyes were not blood relatives.) This provides a point of conflict that could prove compelling should it be played out in canonical Joe media. The different levels on which the familial conflict can be portrayed brings some depth to these new characters and makes the prime candidates to become a more well-liked faction of the new Joe continuity.

As a figure, Black Out is remarkable well done. He is cast in a combination of black, silver and brown and looks like the type of night op sniper who could wreak havoc when left untamed. As is becoming standard on newer figures, Black Out is nicely detailed but with a purpose. He has web gear, small grenades, and other minimalist trappings that make the figure appear realistic without being overdone. He also includes very nice accessories. He has the now common plastic "holster" attached to his waist. While this looks decent, it doesn't serve much purpose as it can't be removed and does not serve as a working holster for his small pistol. He also includes a newly molded sniper rifle that has the interesting detail of having a working bi-pod being attached to the top of the rifle. Again, the weapon is well detailed and fits the figure well. Perhaps the best accessory included with Black Out, though, is his goggles. These fit snugly on his head, but are not so tight that they will damage the figure. With them on, Black Out looks like a Cobra villain and has the menacing look you would expect of someone in his profession. While a small accessory, they are really what makes Black Out. They just add that little something extra to a decent figure that pushes him over the edge and makes him something a little more special.

One of the things I like most about the newer Cobra is that they are coming with exposed faces. Scalpel showcased this feature nicely and Black Out continues in this new tradition. While one of the hallmarks of Cobra was that they were a faceless enemy, having the new characters openly flaunting their countenances implies a little more air of arrogance among the new breed Cobras. It's almost a catch me if you can attitude where these new villains feel no need to keep the ability to hide among the masses. To me, this makes them more dangerous. An unknown enemy can cause problems as you never know who you can trust. An enemy you know, though, can be much more desperate as he has absolutely nothing to loose. If he's caught, there are no denying his crimes. This leads to a much more ruthless opponent and gives Cobra that little hint of danger that it's characters had been missing for some time. While I don't think that every new Cobra character should have an exposed face (in fact, it is necessary for the nameless troop builder figs to be masked) having one every wave or two gives Cobra back a little of the attitude and swagger they have been lacking in recent years. I like that.

In my collection, Black Out is an up and coming younger Cobra who still has something to prove. The fact that his brother is a Joe only makes him more suspect in the eyes of the Cobra hierarchy. As he completes more dangerous and challenging missions, the level of trust held in him will grow. Until then, though, he is a lone operative who does not command Cobra troops and is assigned a small, though often somewhat important, task that is part of a larger operation. In time, I could see this character having more responsibility. However, while his family ties give him some depth at this point in his young fictional life, I see them holding back his characterization at some point. The main reason is that once you've had your climatic scene with the brothers, there is no where left to go. You can either end it once and for all or simply repeat it ad naseum until it simply becomes a parody of the original story line that was compelling. As such, I can see me either killing off Barrell Roll or Black Out at some time. Their feud will grow tiresome and neither character will be able to grow without the monkey of the other off of his back. As we go forward and see what sort of roles these characters will play in other Joe media, I will decide their ultimate fate in my Joe world.

While Blackout is probably the coolest figure offered in Wave 6, he is also the most plentiful. In some of the Wave 5.75 cases that shipped sans the Sand Viper, Blackouts replaced the missing army builder pack. Of course, Wave 5.75 wasn't all that plentiful, so the total overproduction of Blackout figures is probably under 10% of the total production run. What this means, though, is that if you want a Blackout, you can find him. Wave 6 is just shipping to retail en masse right now. As Wave 7 is still a ways off, we should see Wave 6 cases ship for a long enough time that everyone will be able to get their fill of these figures. (And to make the Dart/Dr. Minbender pack a tremendous pegwarmer.) As with all new releases, though, I would recommend not putting off a Black Out purchase. After the Sand Viper, I can see this figure being the second fastest seller out of the case. While I don't think they will ever be scarce (and we are certain to see at least 1 more Black Out repaint at some point in the future), if you pass them by now, finding one later can be a hassle that is best avoided. To me, this is a nice figure that shows the remarkable improvements the line has seen in the past year. At this point, Black Out is one of the best new sculpt figures released. As Hasbro will continue to improve these figures, though, that distinction may not last. For now, though, Black Out is a nicely done figure and one that I am happy to own.

Blackout is a cool figure and one I'd like to see repainted at some point in the more distant future. In what color scheme do you think he would look best? Let me know.

2003 Blackout, Spy Troops

2003 Blackout, Spy Troops, Flint

2003 Blackout, Spy Troops, Flint

Friday, April 11, 2003

1987 Sneak Peek

Poor Sneak Peek. Among the hated figures from all years of the line, he consistently draws the most fan ire. For many reasons, he is among the most disliked figures ever created in the Joe line. What's even odder is that, unlike most of the ridiculed figures in the line's history, Sneak Peek came out in a year that most fans still consider "classic". What went wrong with Sneak Peek? While I'm not sure of the entire answer, I think his reputation just might be a bit worse than his figure.

My first encounter with Sneak Peek was back in the spring of 1987. My parents took me to Toys R Us on a Saturday and I found the Sneak Peek figure. While his colors weren't the greatest, his accessories were enough to get me to pick him over the Techno-Viper that my brother got. That afternoon, I took Sneak Peek out in the yard with a few of my other '87 figures and vehicles. That lead to a day long story line where Cobra attacked a Joe convoy and Joe's newest recruits had to prove their ability against the threat. I kept the story going well into the night and distinctly remember sitting in the family room of my parent's home at nearly midnight, still playing with my Joes as Saturday Night's Main Event came on. Sneak Peek was the catalyst on that mission. He was in command of the convoy and was primarily responsible for fighting off the Cobra attackers. On top of that, he was also in charge of finding the mission objective. Out in my parents' backyard, Sneak Peek's telescope peeked above the grass and was able to spot the Cobra bunker that the convoy was meant to attack. The fact that these first days of Sneak Peek's presence in my Joe collection are so memorable could be the primary reason why I've never really understood all the ill-will collectors seem to have towards this figure.

As a figure, Sneak Peek really isn't that bad. His mold is very simple, but would allow for the necessary mobility a person with his specialty would require. He lacks the great details that were prevalent on other 1987 figures but more than makes up for it in accessories. His colors, granted, aren't perfect. The red and grey combination isn't all that conducive for a field operative whose job is to go un-noticed. However, it isn't nearly as gaudy or ostentatious as many other figures from even his same year. He is a nicely muted, subtle mold that can be used for a variety of tasks. Even without the trappings that most other figures enjoy, Sneak Peek can have a niche on many Joe missions. He meshes well with many of his contemporary vehicles and makes for a solid infantry trooper with his very cool rifle (originally available with Footloose) and other accouterments.

Okay. Now, while I've outlined some of the reasons that Sneak Peek isn't a bad figure, I'll go into the many reasons why fans simply do not like him. First off, Sneak Peek had really bad card art. His facial expression gave many people that bad first impression that they have never been able to shake. Secondly, he is a specialty that is hard to really get an affinity with without having some major characterization behind the figure. A loner who does a relatively boring job makes for a pretty boring figure. On top of that, the figure does not stand out among his peers. Most of the other figures from 1987 that weren't all that spectacular had strong characterizations in various Joe media. This made even poor figures more desirable and kept them from earning a negative legacy. Sneak Peek, though, was afforded no such background accentuation and became a figure that collectors neglected. As such, he is one of the most common figures to acquire on the second hand market. Of course, the vast majority of these figures are incomplete, but his sheer ubiquitousness has made him the bane of many collectors as they have acquired dozens of Sneak Peek figures in their collecting days and can't even trade them off as custom fodder.

There is a neat little Easter Egg on Sneak Peek's filecard. His file name is Owen King and he hails from Bangor, Maine. He is named after the son of horror master Stephen King as Owen was a fan of Joe in his youth. It was an homage for Stephen King's creation of the Crystal Ball character.

While I still use Sneak Peek in his intended specialty, the figure also has another use in my collection. For some reason, back in the mid-90's when I first returned to Joe, I used my Sneak Peek figures (I had 2 of them) as non-Joe no-name military commanders. There were the leaders of other military units who would either help the Joes when they encountered Cobra, or have to be rescued by the Joes after they allowed themselves to be overrun by Cobra forces. To me, the figure (minus accessories) looked like the type of commander who could be either incompetent or highly capable depending upon my mood. (I also made a few of them corrupt and had my security forces take them down.) The figure offered the range that I was looking for in a no-name character. For that reason, I've continued to like the Sneak Peek figure and I still enjoy having him in my collection.

It is likely that the Sneak Peek mold is gone. After Hasbro used it in 1987 and 1988, it appeared again in Europe around 1991 where the figure was released in Tiger Force colors. From there, the mold appears in parts in Brazil around 1993. Sneak Peek was used to make exclusive Brazilian Eco Warriors and Sky Patrol figures. As other molds that were contemporaries of Sneak Peek's release in Brazil have not been reused, it is likely that Sneak Peek's mold is lost and will not return again.

Sneak Peek figures are ridiculously easy to find. Getting them mint and complete, though, can be a challenge. Sneak Peek's paint wears easily and is often scuffed or scratched in a variety of places. On top of that, he comes with a little microphone. While not as hard to find (or expensive) as Heavy Metal's mic, this is still a tough accessory to find. In my collecting days, I've had nearly a dozen Sneak Peek figures pass through my hands. I only have the one mic you see in the photos below. However, this does not mean the figure is expensive. An online Joe dealer recently offered a mint, complete Sneak Peek for sale for $5.99. At that price, he was available for nearly a week. That just shows that even if a figure is tough to find complete, but the figure still sucks, the price is not indicative of rarity. This is a good lesson to remember, but probably also provides a model for future "hot" accessories. If you can buy when the market is low, you can get some really good deals. In the case of Sneak Peek, getting a mint, complete figure for under $8 is a good deal. If you can find one for that price, I recommend picking him up. While Sneak Peek will never be a key figure to any collection, he fills a nice niche specialty and is a nice addition to situational play. While not a figure I use frequently, he remains one that I like having around.

I'm set on American Sneak Peek figures. However, I could still use a Tiger Force Sneak Peek. If you have one available, let me know.

1987 Sneek Peek, 1991 Falcon, 1997 Stalker, 1985 Flint, Brazilian Cobra Flying Scorpion, Estrela, Escorpiao Voador, 2002 Shock Viper, Rare G.I. Joe Figures

1987 Sneek Peek, 1991 Falcon, 1997 Stalker, 1985 Flint, Brazilian Cobra Flying Scorpion, Estrela, Escorpiao Voador, 2002 Shock Viper, Rare G.I. Joe Figures

1987 Sneek Peek, Rumbler, Knockdown, Backstop, Road Toad, 1983 wolverine

1987 Sneek Peek, Tunnel Rat, 2004 Desert Patrol Gung Ho

1987 Sneek Peek, Law, Chuckles, Street Fighter Movie Balrog, 2002 Headman

Friday, April 4, 2003

Quarrel (Action Force Exclusive) - AKA Undercover Scarlett

To many, the V1 Scarlett mold has now been overused. We've seen it many times and it no longer carries the impact that it once did. This was not always the case, though. While most collectors do not feel the original Scarlett figure is adequate to her character, they do associate it with Scarlett. There just aren't enough females in the line to make the differentiation. However, there is another variation on the Scarlett mold that is certainly not Scarlett. It is a unique character to the European Action Force continuity. I've found, though, that Quarrel makes for a great addition into my Joe world.

Most of you familiar with this site know of my stance on female figures. In the case of Quarrel, I still feel that the figure is not all that great. It is an interesting repaint of a classic mold and is done in a way that disassociates the mold with all the American versions. Beyond that, though, the mold still has limitations. What has make the Quarrel figure interesting to me, though, is the character I created for her. Like so many other Action Force exclusive figures, Quarrel is pretty much a blank slate who exists without much supporting characterization. As such, her character can be created in any direction one would please. This is where her strength lies.

Most of you know that I have my own Joe continuity. In it, Joe is lead by a new character represented by the General Flagg figure. (Cobra is still lead by Cobra Commander though other factions are lead by newer figures and personally created characters.) The Flagg character is a flinty old soldier who served in many operations that are too secret to imagine. In his days of international espionage, he routinely worked with a British female operative. She was known for her unconventional ways of achieving results, but was respected for her work. She was the envy of most of her male counterparts and felt that most of them were beneath her. She and the Flagg character got along, though, as they kept their relationship professional and never allowed any hint of personal feelings to interfere with their mutual work. Naturally, this British female is Quarrel.

Quarrel is not named Quarrel in my world. Well, at least that's not the main name she goes by. During the time she spent tracking down Red Laser and stopping him from forming the European arm of Cobra, she was known as Quarrel. When she worked as a spy inside the former Soviet Union, she went by a different name. When she tracked down eco-terrorists in Brazil in the mid-90's, she went by something else. Her character is a master of disguise and dialect. While her natural hair color is blonde, there are many men inside foreign counter-intelligence agencies who would only recognize her with a different hair color and style. In fact, many of them would be surprised to know that she was British as she can pass for native of most South American, European and former British colonial countries.

I've taken to referring to the Quarrel character as the "British Witch" or Britch for short. That is the name the Flagg character calls her by, though she will knock unconscious any other man who refers to her by that name. Her personality just will not allow her to be on level terms with anyone who hasn't earned her respect. I think she could best be described as equal parts Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana and Koo Stark with a little bit of Ma Joad thrown in. She is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish her mission and had the attributes to pull it off. Of course, this has caused many people to look down upon her, but this character's sense of duty overrides all else and she will do what has to be done for the greater good.

While Quarrel was only available at retail in Europe in the mid to late '80's, she was also available at a G.I. Joe Convention in the U.S. in the mid '90's. Here, she was called "Undercover Scarlett" rather than Quarrel. In 2003, there was going to be an exclusive Quarrel/Stalker 2 pack (Stalker being the European name for the Snake Eyes mold) that would have been packaged the same as the Toy Fare exclusive 2 pack of Snake Eyes and Scarlett. However, this product was nixed in the midst of the 2003 product shuffling and collectors were deprived, once again, of easy access to the Quarrel character.

As Action Force exclusive figures go, Quarrel is about the easiest one to find. She was included with a lower price point repaint of the RAM motorcycle and probably saw a much greater production run than many of the other exclusively repainted Action Force figures. Still, that does not mean she is easy to find. A couple of years ago, European exclusive figures were very easy to track down. At the same time, South American exclusive figures were very hard to find. Now, the opposite is true. Brazilian and Argentine figures are relatively easy to find while nicely conditioned European exclusives are seldom seen. I don't really know the reason for this. It could be cyclical or it could be that most old guard collectors have had the chance to pick up the Euro figs and no longer spend the time to bring additional samples to the U.S. Whatever the reason, it will take some time to track down a Quarrel figure.

When you find one, though, they aren't too expensive. Nicely conditioned ones sell for under $50 and can be had as low as $30 if you look around. To me, that's a bit much for this figure. To others, though, it could very well be quite a bargain. I'll just say that collectors value figures like this very differently. That's what makes collecting fun. Either way, I'm glad I have Quarrel in my collection. Her character has made her a neat little element to add to my Joe world. A little creativity can make even the blandest figure very interesting.

I'm set for original Quarrel figures. However, as the character has been resurrected at this point, I would definitely like to see her introduced into the new Joe canon via a new sculpt figure. How about you?

Quarrel, Undercover Scarlett, Convention Exclusive, European Exclusive, Action Force, Palitoy, Z Force, 1984 Clutch, 2001 Desert Striker, Steeler, Snake Eyes, Grunt, Stalker

Quarrel, Undercover Scarlett, Convention Exclusive, European Exclusive, Action Force, Palitoy, Z Force, 1984 Clutch, 2001 Desert Striker, Steeler, Snake Eyes, Grunt, Stalker

Quarrel, Undercover Scarlett, Convention Exclusive, European Exclusive, Action Force, Palitoy, Z Force, 1984 Clutch, 2001 Desert Striker, Steeler, Snake Eyes, Grunt, Stalker

Quarrel, Undercover Scarlett, Convention Exclusive, European Exclusive, Action Force, Palitoy, Z Force, 1984 Clutch, 2001 Desert Striker, Steeler, Snake Eyes, Grunt, Stalker, Plastirama, Backstop, Argentina

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

2002 Wet-Suit (Gift Pack Exclusive)

I've already profiled two other versions of the Wet-Suit character and this mold. However, those profiles were done in close proximity back in the site's earliest days. As such, I thought I would take an opportunity to profile one of the more recent interpretations of the original Wet-Suit mold. The fact that the repaint is done in great colors and finally gives the mold the final color scheme it needed is just an added bonus.

This Wet-Suit mold is classic. Made during the height of Joe's original popularity, it features all of the experience from the first 4 years of the line coupled with the availability of resources that were present when Joe was the toy king. As such, we are left with a timeless figure. What past incarnations of the Wet-Suit have lacked, though, has been proper coloring. While never bad, the bright orange and teal from the '86 and '98 versions kept the figure from being just about perfect. (The Mission to Brazil Wet-Suit fixed this but came with bright orange accessories.) This figure solves most of those problems. The figure is cast in a basic black with grey highlights. Rather than use bright colors for his secondary hue, though, this Wet-Suit has a dark blue chest. The result is a figure that finally looks like a combat diver.

Not that this figure is without its flaws. For one thing, the paint details are lacking. While not like the '94 figures who were simply painted in 2 colors, this figure does not have all the details that his earlier versions have enjoyed. This is most noticeable on his head. The piece is solid black with the only break the exposed skin around Wet-Suit's eyes. While not bad, you lose some appreciation for the mold's detail when points that were previously accentuated by differently colored paint are now melded into the figure's overall color appearance. It is a minor point, but something you notice when you compare this figure to previous uses of the Wet-Suit mold.

For me, though, this is about the perfect Wet-Suit figure. I've long used the original as a rescue and exploratory diver. He hasn't really seen the depth of combat that other, more suitable colored divers have experienced. The Mission to Brazil Wet-Suit filled this void when I was a child. Now, though, the expense of acquiring multiples along with the less than subtle accessories have made me look elsewhere. This figure will be able to act both as deep sea support as well as back up my S.E.A.L commandos in more shallow water based operations. His colors make him perfect for rising out of a murky depth and surprising a passing Cobra contingent.

This figure, like just about all the figures in gift-pack, suffers from a fatal flaw: his accessories. Wet-Suit is a diver. On top of that, he is a diver whose mold was designed to be used with his specific accessories. His head has the pegs for his breathing hose molded into it. However, the gift-pack did not include the proper accessories with the figures. Instead, each figure got the complement of accessories that was originally given to the original figures that comprised Wave 2 of the 2002 new Joe releases. While in some cases (Dial-Tone) the choices were okay, it left figures like Undertow and Wet-Suit with terrible choices of accessories like chainsaws and field packs. Wet-Suit includes a silver flare gun (from the 1994 Lifeline) a silver sound attack version of Tunnel Rat's gun, and a black backpack. None of these are the type of accessories that you would associate with a diver! He has no air tanks, breathing hose or fins. The lack of accessories leaves this figure almost useless in his intended capacity. Fortunately, if you can find them, the pack and hose from the '98 Wet-Suit figure, they perfectly match this color scheme and help make this figure useful. (You can see them on the figure in the pictures below.)

If you wanted to acquire the 8-figure Joe gift-pack of which this Wet-Suit was a member at retail and you live in the Midwestern United States, you were completely out of luck. The set simply was not made available to stores outside of the East and West Coasts. While this (apparent) lack of availability got one toy magazine to name this set as a good potential "investment", it frustrated many Joe fans who knew they weren't going to be able to find this set locally. Fortunately, many online Joe dealers were able to pick up some stock from Hasbro and offer the sets online. While this allowed many collectors who were geographically cut out of the availability for this set to actually acquire it, it did not really endear the entire situation to a great segment of the Joe collecting world. (The set was poorly boxed in a way that made it very expensive to ship for just 8 figures.) To add insult to injury, many BJ's warehouses got overstock gift pack sets after the Christmas holiday. As they don't like to stock toys during the non-holiday buying time, they clearanced the sets out. Many collectors got extremely lucky when they came across caches of the sets with a clearance price of $10-$12 each.

While this thwarted many of the non-Joe collecting speculators out there who were hoping to cash in on the set, it only further infuriated those who could not acquire it as they heard stories of people finding these sets for ridiculously cheap and passing them by. The only good thing about these clearances was that a few dealers were able to pick up loose figures for very reasonable prices. As such, you can now get a loose Wet-Suit figure for about $4. However, despite the figure's lack of accessories, at that price, they tend to sell out quickly. Many dealers still have the Snake Eyes figure and an army builder or two from the set but do not have Wet-Suit. This strikes me as a bit odd (especially considering how collectors flock to anything army builder these days) but speaks to the quality of the figure. Personally, I've long army built Wet-Suit figures and would like to be able to add a few more of this guy to my collection. He is the best colors of this mold that are not too expensive to drop into a mud hole and actually use. If you can find the right accessories to accompany him, I think your collection will welcome this version of Wet-Suit as well.

I'm well set for the gift-pack figures. Would you like for Hasbro to produce another set of this type for 2003? Let me know.

2002 Gift Set Wet Suit

2002 Gift Set Wet Suit

2002 Gift Set Wet Suit, 1989 Python Patrol Viper

2002 Gift Set Wet Suit, 1989 Python Patrol Viper