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.