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.
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.