Thursday, July 24, 2003

1986 Low Light

I have already examined the Lowlight character twice before. While this original Lowlight sculpt is more widely regarded by collectors as the definitive Lowlight look, I've always preferred his second mold that was released in 1991. (I examined the Dino-Hunters version as more of an example of a rarity than a true figure I might use.) However, the original Low Light mold remains a very nice figure that has a decent collector following.

I can still remember the day I got my first Lowlight figure. My parents had taken my brothers and I to a park for the day. On our way home, we stopped at an out-of-the-way Children's Palace store. (Sadly, while that CP has been closed for nearly a decade now, the building still sits there, vacant and decaying. You can still see the outline of the Children's Palace sign on the building's facade. It's very much a ghost of the past.) As this was the late spring of 1986, when I went into the store, I had a choice of just about every figure who was released that year. At this point in the year, though, I already had the majority of the cooler figures and was looking for someone I still needed. While I had previously passed Lowlight by for other figures, the time seemed right for me to add him to my collection.

Once I had the Lowlight figure, though, I found using him somewhat difficult. His specialty made him useful on certain missions, but I found it limited his effectiveness on an infantry mission. Many was the time when I would strategically place Lowlight into a tree or bush with the intention of having him snipe away some Cobras during a battle. Inevitably, though, I would forget about Lowlight and not remember him straddling a branch until it was time to go inside and my count of figures was off by one. As such, I've long felt that the idea of Lowlight was actually a lot more fun than using the actual figure. Sure, I had some one on one sniper battles and some scenarios where Lowlight had to take out a Cobra leader and then escape with his life. However, these were more one-off situations that were undertaken due to time constraints rather than full-blown parts of my childhood continuity. This left me with the notion that the Lowlight figure just wasn't very useful.

Now, not much has changed on that front. However, I do appreciate the figure more. His high quality sculpt that utilizes only a few colors to create an aesthetically pleasing figure full of detail is a perfect combination with his excellently done accessories and leaves us with a figure that has only one real shortcoming. That, of course, is the figure's head. I've just never felt that Lowlight's head fit with the rest of his body. It seems disproportionately large for his body and the shock of blond hair just doesn't go with Lowlight's overall night motif. Yes. That means I'm in the definite minority where I feel that Lowlight is better represented by his dark haired molds rather than his blonde coif. Aside from this, though, the figure is one that I would consider a must have for anyone whose collection stretches beyond the most basic characters.

This mold of Lowlight has been around. After his initial release in 1986, the mold went off to Brazil. There, Lowlight was issued in colors very similar to his American release. In 1989, Estrela produced a series of figures for Hasbro called the Slaughter's Marauders. While the colors have left a sour taste in many modern collector's mouths, the mold selections have not as the Marauders featured a host of characters that had been out of production for some time. As those figures were produced in Brazil, though, there are some quality issues with them and many SM figures to this day suffer from broken thumbs and crotches. After this American release, Estrela released Lowlight again, though in his Slaughter's Marauders colors. This leaves 2 distinct versions of each of Lowlight's color schemes for collectors to track down. From there, this mold was not seen for over a decade. However, in 2003, it was shown as part of a planned exclusive figure set that eventually morphed into a Wal-Mart exclusive paratrooper themed venture. However, this set has now been cancelled and the return of this mold is left in doubt. I know that many would like to see the original Lowlight at least one more time. If the mold is in Hasbro's possession, hopefully they will consider that.
One other thing of note. Lowlight's gun has a variation. Early Lowlight's had a gun with a very thick handle. This lead to lots of broken thumbs. In their efforts to improve the figure line, Hasbro fixed the gun and later versions have a thinner handle that isn't so hard on the figure's hands. Neither version seems particularly harder than another to find, but it is something to keep an eye out for.

Finding a Lowlight figure isn't too hard. He was produced in ample quantities during the height of Joe's popularity. Even the fact that he has very brittle paint and lots of places where it wears poorly doesn't make it difficult to find a mint figure. His accessories are a bit harder. Actually, just one accessory is hard, the bi-pod to his gun. While no where near as difficult to track down as Dusty's bi-pod, this little piece that attaches to the end of his gun barrel can be problematic. The good news, though, is that Lowlight was released twice in the U.S. and that helps the overall availability of his accessories. As such, mint, complete Lowlights shouldn't cost more than around $10 or so. For a figure like this, though, I'd still recommend finding a nice '91 version to represent the character. He is cheaper, cooler (at least in my opinion) and has better accessories. Still, as this original version is still very affordable, there aren't any compelling reasons not to add him to your collection. While I still appreciate the mold, I just don't use this guy anymore. I think I'm still in the minority on this point.

While I prefer the '91 Lowlight mold, I wouldn't mind this figure seeing another repaint. Would you? Let me know.

1986 Low Light

1986 Low Light, 2002 Crimson Viper, Convention Exclusive, Abutre Negro, Black Vulture, Estrela, Brazil, Patrulha Do Ar, Sky Patrol

1986 Low Light, 2002 Crimson Viper, Convention Exclusive

1986 Low Light

1986 Low Light

Friday, July 18, 2003

1990 Night Creeper

Around 1995 or so, I was just getting into buying second hand Joes. Some friends of mine and I went to Trader's World flea market near Dayton, Ohio. We were mostly looking for other things, but I happened upon a toy dealer who had a bunch of Joe figures for great prices. I dug through his box but found that most of the figures he had were ones that were already a part of my collection. Now, at the time, I was relatively new to collecting. As such, I passed on the CG, Eel and just about every other cool Cobra army builder from the first 5 years of the line since I already had at least one of those figures and was more interested in getting a figure that was new to me rather than one I already owned. In this mix of almost exclusively pre-'87 figures, though, I found one lone example from the line's later years. It was the figure that I recognized from his appearance in the comic and thought might have been a cool toy: the 1990 Night Creeper.

Back in 1990, I had been out of Joe collecting for a year or so. I hadn't bought the comic book in a while and was pretty much out of anything Joe related. However, after about a year's or so absence, I decided to start buying the comic book again. Some of the first issues released after my return featured an interesting new sub-set of villains. The Night Creepers were a mysterious additional faction that was added to the Joe world when Cobra Commander hired them. They were corporate ninjas: a very post-Reagan take on the whole '80's ninja fad. However, this approach worked for me. I had never been too strong on ninjas, but these guys were clever enough creations that I wanted to see more of them. Even now, the issues that featured the Night Creepers are among my favorites. How this interest did not pass down to the figure, though, remains an enigma to me.

As a figure, the Night Creeper is very well done. His mold uses a different type of simplicity that masquerades as strong detail. Upon examination, you realize the Night Creeper is a very basic sculpt. However, the use of daring color to accentuate what details exist gives the mold some depth not indicative of the mold. The deep purple juxtaposed against silver and black give the Night Creeper a strong look without carrying him over into the ridiculous color schemes that plagued later ninja figures. His head gear is really what makes the figure as it melds classic, old world ninja style with modern technology. It makes the Night Creeper a more dangerous enemy without sacrificing the overall throwback look. His accessories are also decent, though unspectacular. The Night Creepers included a re-colored 1989 Snake Eyes backpack that was capable of holding the figure's curved sword. The Night Creeper also included a barbed stick that, while projecting menace, really did not work all that well with the figure as the handle was a bit too short. The figure also included a large crossbow that looked very nice. It is, though, a bit large and does tend to break the thumbs of vintage Night Creeper figures if you are not careful.

I've never really used the Night Creeper figure. From time to time, I'll pull them out as combatants for Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow. I've toyed with using them as Cobra Commander's bodyguards, but haven't found them as useful in that capacity. For some reason, I've actually sold off more Night Creeper figures than I actually have. Way back when, I got rid of almost every Night Creeper that came into my collection. It wasn't so much that I disliked the figure as it was that he didn't fit into what I was doing with my collection at the time. (The same is true of several Rock Vipers. I wish I had those guys back!) Going forward, I see the Night Creeper getting a bit more use. I really like the mold and want to find a way to better incorporate these guys into my Joe mythos. I can eventually see them as Cobra assassins. I've had a long running story that Cobra trained a group of elite assassins about 15 years ago. The pupils were young and of diverse backgrounds. They were cloistered away from society where they could learn their deadly art in solitude. (And away from the Cobra hierarchy!) While tucked away, though, something happened. Cobra lost touch with the school. When they finally reached it, they discovered most of the students and all the teachers were dead. The records had been destroyed and there were a few highly dangerous and, possibly, mentally unstable trained killers on the loose. As that origin is a bit dated, though, I can see the Night Creepers becoming the second generation of Cobra trained assassins. However, this time, the students are taught in the open and are carefully monitored so no one can become unbalanced without drawing the attention of the better trained staff. From here, I think the Night Creeper's role in my collection could grow.

After this mold's original appearance, it went dormant. The Night Creeper character was revived in 1993 and given a new, shall we say, interesting mold. In 1998, the Night Creeper mold was dusted off and used in a peculiar way when he appeared as the now referred to Snow Creeper in the Cobra Polar Assault figure pack. Aside from that, the mold has not seen any major releases outside of the United States. Going forward, though, I think the Night Creeper an excellent candidate for a repaint. This figure could be done up one more time in a theme that either better tied the mold to Cobra or made them appear closer to their name. As Night Creepers could be molded into a number of different story lines, they would make for a nice repaint figure. With the character's appearance in Wave 7, the Night Creeper could attain enough popularity that something like this could be feasible.

**12/18/07 Update

Hasbro did come through with the Night Creeper one more time in 2004. The incredibly done Urban Assault Night Creeper is probably the definitive take on the mold. As such, if the Night Creeper never appears again, then there is at least one nearly perfect figure available to collectors.


Night Creepers really aren't that tough to find. Until recently, they never really seemed to click with the collecting world. This made them not only highly available, but also cheap to buy. Even now that there has been a slight upturn in the Night Creeper's popularity, the figures are still out there. Most collectors are not after these figures in large quantities and are content to own just a few. This leaves the Night Creeper as a relatively affordable army builder, especially when you consider how well done the figure is. I like these figures even though I don't use them that often. Had I a few more, I could see them becoming something akin to the Red Ninjas from the comic. In the meantime, I can still use the Night Creeper in a variety of different settings and have him bring some diversity to my Joe ranks. Should you add one to your collection, I think you'll find him useful as well.

I'm well set for vintage Nightcreeper figures. Are you anticipating the new Nightcreeper figure that will be coming with Wave 7? Let me know.

1990 Night Creeper, 1991 Snake Eyes

1990 Night Creeper, 1991 Snake Eyes

1990 Night Creeper, 1991 Snake Eyes

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

2003 Funskool Big Brawler

Big Brawler is not a character you hear a lot of positive comments about. If you take that and paint him in an abdominal mish-mash of bright yellow and blood red, you quickly realize that even a somewhat solid mold can be completely ruined. Such is the case with the Funskool Big Brawler figure. He is an unpopular character now painted in a terrible color scheme. However, while this figure will never see much use in real settings, he does have a kitsch about him that makes the figure fun to own.

For many Joe fans, the character of Big Brawler is a bit of a sore subject. Aside from the fact that Big Brawler has been a replacement for the fan favorite character Outback, he is also named after a real life G.I. Joe fan. Be it caused by jealousy or the organization with whom this individual is affiliated, fans have simply not liked the existence of the Big Brawler character. To me, the character doesn't much fit into my Joeverse. His various figures do have uses, but more as nameless cannon fodder than original characters. It's not due to any of the issues I referred to above. Were I given the chance to have a Joe figure named after me, I would jump at it without giving a thought to how other collectors might perceive it. My reasons are that the Big Brawler figures that have been released so far have been unspectacular. I've always felt the V1 Outback mold was relatively bland without his web gear attached. As that accessory has been omitted in Big Brawler releases, it leaves the figure as uninteresting. The same it true of the Tiger Force Big Brawler. Had he come with Salvo's accessories, then the figure might have been better received.

There are a few peculiarities about this figure. First off, the figure uses the entire body from the V1 Outback figure. However, instead of the standard Big Brawler head, it uses the head from the Ambush. This is important as it points to two distinct molds that we can now confirm are in Funskool's hands. Ambush and Outback now join Law and Major Bludd as recently produced American figures who have been shipped off to Funskool. The figure also has one unique feature. The flashlight hole that was originally sculpted on Outback's leg has been filled in. It's a small detail, but something to note about the mold. The final little oddity about the Funskool Big Brawler is his card art. If you look at his pose, it is eerily reminiscent of the 1985 Torch card art. In looking at other Funskool exclusive art, it appears that Funskool either uses original Joe art as a template or mimics the old art to keep their look consistent with other Joe product that is available in the world. (Grunt's art resembles that of the 1985 Tele-Viper.)

Big Brawler has picked up a bit of a fan following. The netizens of have taken a liking to him. It is more of a tongue-in-cheek thing, but it allows Big Brawler to join Steve Urkel and Ralph Wiggum in the realm of lovable losers. This version has only made the figure a bit more popular. This loud color scheme only enhances Big Brawler's reputation as a buffoon. However, in situations like this, the more there is mock, the more there is like about this character. In time, this could pass, but, for now, it gives Big Brawler a bit of limelight that isn't negative.

With this in mind, I don't ever see this version of Big Brawler becoming popular in my collection. Unlike the recent Funskool Grunt who is colored in an equally odd way, I don't see a use for this figure. To me, the combination of the mold and the colors just don't work. As such, I see this figure being a comical interlude rather than a major player in my collection. When I want my Joes to simply do something wacky, this will be a figure I reach for. He is a whimsical approach to the hobby that is something very different from what we see from Hasbro. In that sense, the figure is okay. For about $4, he is a great way to bring a little color to your collection. (Plus, the carded version comes with Budo's sword. Big Brawler can now also be a ninja!!!) He's not someone who is imperative, but is kind of fun.

As far as availability goes, Big Brawler is available from most of your major Funskool dealers. In time, he will join figures like Captain Grid-Iron and General Hawk on the Funskool scrap heap as figures that really have no purpose. However, as collectors seem to have gotten more serious in recent years, a figure like this provides a fun diversion. He has no use except in over-the-top humourous situations. As such, he provides a bit of levity to a hobby that is all army-builder this or variant that. That's an innocence that is hard to capture and is, at least by me, greatly appreciated.

Sure, this figure is ridiculous, but that's what makes him fun to own. Will you be getting one of these guys?

Funskool Big Brawler, Streethawk, Wild Weasel, Metal Head, TARGAT

Funskool Big Brawler, Streethawk, Wild Weasel, Metal Head, TARGAT

Funskool Big Brawler, Streethawk, Wild Weasel, Metal Head, TARGAT

Thursday, July 3, 2003

1989 Long Range

Back in late 1998 and early 1999, I was just starting to massively grow my Joe collection. At that time, Ebay was simply the place to go as you could buy lots of 25-50 mint, complete figures for about $2 per figure. These were mostly what I would term "first run collections" in that they were people who were selling their childhood collections, not collectors who had spent time putting a collection together. As such, you tended to get a good mix of figures with few duplicates. The downside was that figures who were "rarer" (meaning mail away or who were only included with larger, more expensive vehicles) tended to be harder to get. Rarely were there more than one or two of them in a lot that might be otherwise complete for a specific time period. In one of my earliest lots, though, I managed to get lucky. Not only did I get a Major Storm and Decimator figure, the lot also contained the subject of this profile: Long Range.

Long Range is the driver of the ThunderClap. It is, basically, a massive cannon mounted in between two towing units. As a toy, though, it is kind of neat to see. However, after I managed to pick up a really poorly conditioned example, I realized that the idea of the ThunderClap was better than the execution. The toy was simply too small for what it was intended. Not enough figures fit onto the vehicle and the some figures will not even fit into the cockpit of one of the towing units. This really soured me on the whole thing and left me wanting another artillery vehicle for Long Range to use. To this day, though, I have not found a replacement. The ThunderClap was intended to be a Joe equivalent of the MAGGOT, only on steroids. No other vehicle that I have managed to acquire really fits that bill. Sure, Joe has tanks and such, but none of them are truly set artillery pieces like the ThunderClap. Perhaps the release of the Patriot tank later this year will fill that void. Time will tell.

As a figure, Long Range is actually well done. Even as late as '89, Hasbro was still putting solid efforts into the lower production vehicle drivers. His blend of greys and soft greens actually works and to create a figure who is a lot different from most other Joes out there. He stands out not only in color but in mold. Long Range appears to be wearing body armour that would be befitting someone whose main job entailed sitting on top of a HUGE gun and all the ordinance it needed. Aside from the molded accoutrement's on the Long Range mold, he also came with a helmet and a small pistol. The pistol is about the size of Chuckles' gun but has a scope mounted on the top. It is an awesome little weapon and makes for a great piece that meshes with many other figures in the line. His helmet is less interesting. It is rather large and futuristic and makes Long Range's head appear too large. Based on the artist renditions of Long Range that are out there, though, this appears to be more a case of the toy creation technology at the time not being able to produce the level of desired detail on a piece that small rather than a true conceptual design problem.

My first encounter with Long Range was in the comic. At the time, I was not buying the toys so I had no idea of what his figure was like. However, his odd portrayal as a math nerd kind of stuck out and I remembered the character for some time. In looking at his filecard again, it seems to me that, had things gone a little worse for him at some earlier stages of his life, Long Range might have turned into a Dr. Mindbender type villain. Instead, Long Range turned out good, though he still remains highly eccentric. With this characterization, I've found uses for Long Range as one of the many, peripheral, support characters who appear from time to time in my Joe world. He is not a major player, but is someone who is brought in for specific missions. He is another example of the secondary characters who make the Joe line so enduring. He adds depth to the line without having to be involved in every aspect of Joe's activity.

The first Long Range figure I acquired did not have his helmet. I actually found this beneficial as something about his countenance struck a chord with me. As such, I used the figure as a senior officer who often found himself battling Cobra. He was not a Joe at the time, but was usually in charge of installations that Cobra kept targeting. As he showcased his leadership and was able to repel a few of the Cobra operations, the character was invited to join the Joes. At that point, I assimilated the character and gave him a new figure to represent the character. After I managed to pick up another Long Range that included the helmet, I was able to start using Long Range as the artillery operator he was intended.

Mint, complete Long Range figures are actually kind of hard to find. In addition to him being a lower production run figure, Long Range includes one of the smallest (and coolest) pistols in the history of the line. As such, finding a complete figure takes some time. The good thing, though, is that collectors do not seem to have discovered Long Range, just yet. That has kept him from garnering too much attention and has kept his figure affordable. In time, I'm sure that Long Range will have his moment in the sun (kind of like Major Storm is now) and that will increase the attention collectors pay him. Until that time comes, though, Long Range remains an affordable figure, though one who can be problematic to find. For me, I'm glad I've got this figure. He remains one of those guys that I enjoy using, but often forget about until it's too late. As I don't have a ThunderClap, it's often easy to overlook Long Range when I'm setting out an armour crew. Maybe, now, I'll be a little more thorough and remember this hidden gem in my '89 figure drawer.

I'm set for Long Range figures. What do you think of this guy? Would you like to see him repainted in the modern line? Let me know.

1989 Long Range, 2002 Rock and Roll, Flint

1989 Long Range, 1990 Major Storm, 1987 Hardtop, 1993 Big Ben

1989 Long Range, 2003 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, 1988 Tiger Force Roadblock, 1987 Persuader

1989 Long Range, 2003 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, 1988 Tiger Force Roadblock, 1987 Persuader

1989 Long Range, 1994 Stalker, 2004 Unproduced Night Force Tracker