Friday, August 27, 2004

2004 Barricade (Anti-Venom)

For years, I have felt that Hasbro's approach to repaints has been misplaced. They have largely focused on releasing figure molds that have been repainted a number of times and represent major characters. In some cases, this approach has worked. Most of the time, though, collectors are left with a figure that is inferior to the original paint job, yet not something different enough to overlook the poor color schemes. There have been a few times, though, where Hasbro has really gotten it right. In select cases, Hasbro has pulled out an obscure mold from the '90's who was poorly painted the first time around and given the mold a new lease on life through a superior repaint. In my opinion, most of the figures released prior to 1991 were properly colored and are difficult to improve upon. (There are, of course, exceptions.) It is the high quality molds from 1992, 1993 and 1994 that were poorly painted the first time around that are in so desperate need of a quality repaint. While Hasbro has, for the most part, ignored this tactic, they do pull a specific example out every once in a while. The most recent example is the Anti-Venom Barricade.

The Barricade mold has appeared on this site only once before, but as the character Gears. That figure was profiled for its rarity, not the quality of the mold. This figure is showcased for the simple reason that is a repaint done right. While Barricade mold has always been very detailed, it took this figure to finally offer collectors a version with a paint application that brought that detail to life. The metallic olive paint on Barricade's body armour showcases that particular feature in a way that breathes realism into this figure mold and accentuates, for the first time, the level of detail that was given to this character. The cammoed tan base color allows this figure to be used in both desert and urban settings and offers the versatility in color that I look for in a Joe figure.

I've long used Barricade as more a specialist on the Joe team. I've never looked at the Joe team as being totally comprised of the best of the best of the best at everything. In a setting like that, egos would be massive, toes would be stepped on and the team as a unit would have inherent dissension that would undermine its effectiveness. As such, I've viewed the Joe team as a different hybrid. There are a few "superstars" on the team: guys who are capable of amazing feats who are highly gifted and even more highly trained. However, the bulk of the team is guys like Barricade. They are people who are the best at one particular task. Taken out of their specific element, they are entirely average. As such, the team has the environmental or situational specialists who are along to perform a specific task or series of tasks on a particular mission. After they are done, the other Joes know they can be counted on to do their best when the circumstances call for improvisation. But, the other Joes also know that these specialists are not ideally suited for changes in a mission and can not be expected to perform on the same levels as other specialists might. This creates a more realistic symbyism for me as it makes the Joes more human and keeps the team more in line with what you find in the real world.

The Anti-Venom set is a mixed bag. To me, it succeeds on a few levels, takes some daring chances but still fails spectacularly in one of the most important elements. First off, the character selection of this set is well done. It is a given that all Joe sets of this nature are going to require the presence of some major characters. Whether collectors like it or not, this is how it is going to be. As such, this set features the mainstays of Duke and Roadblock. The Roadblock is the high quality 1992 version. This figure hasn't been seen in the US in over a decade. However, the fact that he was a widely available Funskool release coupled with Roadblock's presence in the Night Force set makes this figure less likable. He is, though, a solid color scheme and a useful figure. The same can not be said for Duke. Duke is the highly dated V1 mold from 1984. (There are some modifications to the construction, but they are minor.) He is just goofy and his lack of accessories make this figure absolutely useless. Hasbro just used part of the 1993 Duke in a Comic Pack. Why the lousy '84 mold was chosen over that one is beyond me.

The next two characters are Lifeline and Mutt. Both of these figures are what I would consider secondary characters. They have a fan following, but are not in the first tier of popularity. As such, they are great inclusions as they do increase interest in the set. The Lifeline figure is actually the Stretcher mold. In what I think is a first for a US figure, though, the black complexion of Stretcher was changed to a Caucasian Lifeline. This is a rather daring maneuver on Hasbro's part and I think it worked. The Lifeline figure is not easily confused with Stretcher and Hasbro added some new looks to Lifeline's persona. As this figure includes all of Stretcher's original gear, it makes it a top notch figure. The Mutt is less so, though. Mutt is mostly the 1984 version with some new parts. That mold still looks good and is a welcome sight since the V2 Mutt mold was just used in the Convention set. Mutt's colors are solid and he does include Junkyard. Where he fails, though, are in his accessories. But, more on that later.

The final two figures are what makes this set so interesting. Charbroil and Barricade are two obscure characters who have almost no fan following at all. The fact that Hasbro dusted them off for this set is really a treat after we have been subject to rehash after rehash of the same tired Joe molds for nearly 3 years. Charbroil is visually interesting but not spectacular. However, his mold is difficult to really energize. He does include most of his original accessories and this is a great way to put an older, forgotten character back in front of collectors. Barricade is the star of the bunch, though. He is painted in a way that accentuates his mold without being overbearing. He does not have the contrasting colors that you see on other figures in this set and includes his original gun. He is a perfect update to an underutilized original mold.

Where this set fails as a whole, though, is the same area in which the other 6 packs have failed: the accessories. This set starts strongly enough with Roadblock including the original Browning .50 cal (even if it is now overused) and backpack. Lifeline has all the accessories that were included with the mold's original release. Charbroil has most of his original accessories and Barricade has his original gun. Duke and Mutt, though, were simply given overstock weapons of which we have seen too many. They lack the special accessories that are integral parts of their character. Mutt is defined by his mask. Lacking that, the character seems half finished. The biggest sacrilege of all though is the helmets. All the figures save Lifeline include a hollowed out Steel Brigade helmet. In and of itself, this is OK as the accessory is new. However, putting 5 Joes into the same, nondescript helmet run counter to the very notion of what Joe is about. G.I. Joe is not about anonymous army guys fighting bad guys. Instead, it is about the characters and the personalities who comprise that team. Putting these helmets on these figures strips them of their individuality and firmly carves out the very thing that made Joe so popular for over 2 decades. On top of that, these helmets were included in lieu of 3 distinct helmets: Charbroil, Barricade and Mutt that defined the characters who wore them. As such, this entire set fails as it takes these characters out of their element and makes them closer to the generic military lines that clog the clearance aisle of every discount store in America.

No version of Barricade is expensive. While the red version from 1993 can be tougher to track down, you can still buy one for under $8. This version of Barricade will be no different. Toys R Us ordered somewhere around 20,000 of these sets and, as there are no army builders in it, they will be hard pressed to sell them all without the Christmas holiday. Collectors who want this set can easily find it (You can get them from, too.) and will get their fill at this point. As such, I don't foresee there ever being a collector demand for this set that will push the figure prices to much over the original retail cost. That isn't to say, though, that this figure isn't one that collectors could enjoy. He is one of the best Joe affiliated figures to be released in a 6 pack in a long time and is a great update to an obscure character. That alone makes him worth adding to your collection.

2004 Anti Venom Barricade, TRU Exclusive, 2004 Urban Assault Firefly

2004 Anti Venom Barricade, TRU Exclusive, Lifeline, 1991 Rampart, 2001 Laser Viper

2004 Anti Venom Barricade, TRU Exclusive, 2004 Urban Assault Firefly

2004 Anti Venom Barricade, TRU Exclusive, 2004 Night Force Flint, Funskool Ripper

2004 Anti Venom Barricade, TRU Exclusive, 2002 Night Rhino, Stalker Desert Strike, 2005 Night Watch Trooper, Officer, 1988 Repeater

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Corrosao (Brazilian Exclusive Cobra Eco-Warriors Dee-Jay)

The history of this site is riddled with foreign exclusive Joe figures. Foreign Joes are one of the areas where collectors can continue to grow their collections even after the American line has run its course for them. While many countries have produced exclusive versions of G.I. Joe figures, those from Brazil tend to be the most unique. Indian figures are, for the most part, just recolors of American characters. The same is true of those figures from Europe. (Except for the Action Force repaints.) Argentina produced a few exclusive characters, but the line there was very small. In Brazil, though, the Estrela toy company produced unique repaints of American figures but also churned out many characters who were exclusive to that country. Among them is a hidden gem of my collection: Corrosao.

Who is Corrosao? If you read my profile of Letal, you would know that Corrosao is the same character in my Joeverse. I just can't have two South American bio-terrorists in my collection. As such, it makes more sense for Letal and Corrosao to be one person. The Letal suit is for when he is either in the field or working directly with dangerous chemicals while this suit is more suited for his lab work or after hours business dealings with the Cobra hierarchy. This gives the character more versatility in my collection and gives me uses for both the Corrosao and Letal figures. Corrosao is not a major player in my collection, but he fills the role of a lesser character who helps to flesh out my Joeverse. One of the strengths of the Joe line is the diversity in character. You can find a figure to fit just about any niche, no matter how obscure or specialized. The minor characters give the story depth and prevent the major players from becoming overexposed. While marketing data suggests that kids enjoy major characters, I don think that Hasbro should continue to explore other, lesser players in the Joe world. That will allow for a more diverse line that will maintain the attention of toy buyers for a much longer time. (The same holds true of army builders. All army builders and no characters makes for a dull line!)

Like the other Brazilian exclusive figure the Cobra Black Vulture, Corrosao uses a Caucasian version of the Dee-Jay head. Dee-Jay was released in the U.S. as black but was twice used as a Caucasian villain's head in Brazil. Unlike the Vulture figure, though, Corrosao utilizes the rest of the Dee-Jay and is not amalgamated from other figure parts. Were Dee-Jay a more popular figure, I think this would pose a problem. However, Dee-Jay may be the single least sought after in the entire American Joe line. His obscurity allows me to use his mold on Corrosao without having to worry about both Corrosao and Dee-Jay appearing in the same scene. (Such is not the case with other Brazilian exclusives like Urzor.)

The Dee-Jay mold was released in the U.S. in 1989. Shortly thereafter, it was sent down to Brazil. Here, it was used as part of exclusive amalgamations. However, in 1993, Hasbro re-released Dee-Jay as the 4th member of the Arctic Commandos mail away set. This new Dee-Jay was produced in bright, neon colors that would have made him easy to find in the ice and snow. However, the Dee-Jay figure was bagged separately from the other three members of that set. The reason was that the Dee-Jay figure was actually produced in Brazil for use by Hasbro. Rather than re-acquire the mold, Hasbro contracted Estrela to manufacture the new Dee-Jay figures. They were then bagged and sent to Hasbro who packaged them with the other figures to make the set. As such, you may notice a few similarities between Corrosao and the arctic Dee-Jay. The reason is that they were produced by the same people. (Whether Estrela got to choose the color scheme for the arctic Dee Jay, though, remains a mystery.)

While this figure is interesting enough, I don't feel the need for Hasbro to ever release the Dee-Jay mold again. I think it is one of those that is best left on history's scrap-pile. However, I do think that Hasbro could look to some of the foreign figure concepts as a way to expand the ARAH-style Joe mythos. While I don't want Hasbro to re-release their renditions of foreign figures, I do think they could look at how some of the other Joe producing cultures have interpreted the line. I think that, done right, a Cobra Eco-Terrorism figure set could be very well done. Toxo-Vipers are cool figures that have long suffered from a color scheme that collectors tend to dislike. BATs are perfect for toxic waste duty. (And Cobra can then avoid unpleasantries like the Toxo-Zombies!) And, it would be fairly easy for Hasbro to create a new Cobra villain who would lead such a brigade. In my opinion, a set like this could draw upon the international legacy of the Joe line while still capturing the essence of the American story-line. It could also tie the new toys into some of the more glaring realities (like bio-terrorism) of the modern world. I think that this would be an interesting avenue for Hasbro to attempt with their ARAH-style Joe re-releases. Done right, I think collectors would respond favorably.

If you look at Corrosao's card art, you might think it seems familiar. While the artwork itself is unique, the pose on the card is not. It is a near match for the art on the American Toxo-Zombie figure. If you look at the other Brazilian Eco-Warrior's cards, you will notice the same phenomenon. In fact, Funskool continues to mimic Hasbro art poses to this day on their exclusive card art. Chances are, the Hasbro art templates that were used to create these eye-catching sketches were (and still are!) used by foreign toy companies as the poses could easily be adapted without the artist having to re-evaluate the space available to him on the canvas of the cardback. The poses worked in their intended space so foreign companies could use them to save design time. (You will note that Brazilian Eco-Warrior cardbacks are oversized, just like American Eco-Warriors figures.) This also kept a unified look of Joe releases the world over. Even if an American were not familiar with the "Commandos Em Acao" moniker, the design of the cards were such that they would remain familiar despite the language barriers.

Corrosaos can be difficult to find. A few years ago, a large toy dealer got ahold of a large amount of carded Brazilian Eco Warriors. The dealer sold these off for reasonable prices. The stock lasted for quite some time and many collectors had ample opportunity to acquire all 5 exclusive Force Eco figures. However, as is typical in the Joe community, the unique Cobra figure, Corrosao sold out first. As such, he became the hardest to track down of the 5 figures and remains the most highly sought after member of this subgroup today. That isn't to say, though, that Corrosaos are all that expensive. He can still be had MOC for under $35 and loose, complete figures (if you can find them!) can be had for under $20. While that may seem a bit pricey, it is cheaper than many other Brazilian exclusive Cobra figures. Even were I not an aficionado of odd, brightly colored figures, I would think this a good deal for a figure this unique. Like other foreign oddities, Corrosao works since he was released in Brazil. This exotic pedigree allows for some leeway in color choices and keeps this figure as one of the favorites in my collection.

Corrosao (Brazilian Exclusive Cobra Eco-Warriors Dee-Jay), 1991 Toxo Viper, Tigor, Forca Eco, Forca Fera, Recoil

Corrosao (Brazilian Exclusive Cobra Eco-Warriors Dee-Jay), 1991 Toxo Viper, Tigor, Forca Eco, Forca Fera, Recoil, funskool Trip Wire

Corrosao (Brazilian Exclusive Cobra Eco-Warriors Dee-Jay), Forca Eco, Estrela, 1993 Mega Marines Cyber Viper