Tuesday, September 28, 2004

1995 Paratrooper Guile (Street Fighter: The Movie)

Many years ago, I profiled a lone Star Wars figure. At that time, I vowed to never showcase another Star Wars figure again. Since then, every figure I have profiled has been, at least in some way, affiliated with G.I. Joe. Technically, the subject of this profile is not a G.I. Joe figure. However, his body is taken directly from a Joe mold and he was released at a time when Hasbro was trying to squeeze every penny they could from every Joe mold they had since the end was near. In late 1994, Hasbro released an obscure line of figures that were to tie into the awful Street Fighter movie. Unlike the Street Fighter 2 figures that are part of the Joe line, these movie figures were completely separate from Joe, even though they shared many molds in common. Many of these figures are the martial arts type figures that have little use in my collection. However, there are a few hidden gems in the Street Fighter line. One is the Paratrooper Guile.

There were at least 7 versions of Guile that were released in the Street Fighter line that shared the same head. Most of the bodies was taken from a previously released Joe figure and was intended to give kids the opportunity to use the Guile character in just about any imaginable environment. The Paratrooper Guile figure used the body from the 1992 Ace figure. The Arctic Assault Guile used the body from the 1988 Blizzard figure. The Rock Trooper Guile used the body from the 1991 Dusty figure. The Night Fighter Guile used the body from the 1991 Snake Eyes figure. The Navy SEAL Guile used the body from the 1992 Wet Suit figure. The other 2 Guiles used slightly different construction that is similar to the later Ninja Force figures in the sense that the figure's articulation is limited. (Fused waist) It is the 5 figures who use the classic Joe bodies, though, who hold collector attention. Each is usefully colored and includes newly colored accessories from the vintage Joe line. Some (like the black helmet with the Night Fighter Guile or the green Snow Serpent guns with Rock Trooper Guile) are great repaints that can be easily integrated into any Joe collection. Others (the baby-blue Deep Six diving bell that comes with Arctic Assault Guile) make no sense and have little use.

The reason I like the Paratrooper Guile figure is mainly because I like the Ace mold from which he is created. I also like the bright orange color scheme. While orange has long been the bane of collectors (despite Hasbro's best efforts to use it) it does work in certain situations. Among those situations would be a rescue pilot. These troops would wear the bright orange as not only a symbol of their purpose, but also as a means to assist them in their duties. This is the role I have assigned to the Paratrooper Guile in my Joe collection. He is a rescue pilot who is also capable of serving in combat. He is certainly not a large part of my collection but remains a figure who can bring something different to the table in specific situations. The Joe line is so vast that figures like this comprise a large part of it. However, this allows the modern collector to find any niche and fill it with a larger sample of figures than most other toy lines allow.

Aside from the mold that was taken from the original Joe line, the Paratrooper Guile's accessories were as well. He included the helmet and mask that originally came with Ace. However, due to the design of Guile's head, the helmet will not fit onto his head properly. This makes the figure less useful. But, as Ace heads of that mold are easily found, a simple headswap makes either a new uniform for Ace or a covered Guile head that doesn't look ridiculous. On top of that, this figure also included a silver version of Big Ben's rifle. At the time, this was a cool accessory as the Big Ben rifle was still somewhat unique. Now, though, that gun has been used so many times in the re-releases that is seems overdone with this figure. The part of Guile that made him the paratrooper, though, is the parachute pack. The black pack with solid white parachute are of the same design as was available via mail order and with the Sky Patrol figures. All of the Street Fighter Movie Guiles included new takes on classic Joe accessories. Some of them are worth tracking down for just the included pieces as they are a new way to expand a Joe collection into something a little more unique.

As the Joe line ended its original retail run, Hasbro scrambled to utilize whatever molds it could in order to cut costs of other, lesser toylines. As such, G.I. Joe molds were used things like the Street Fighter and Mortal Combat movie lines. (In fact, the Mortal Combat movie line of figures contains many of the parts that were intended for use in the ill-fated Ninja Commandoes line of Joes: the only way for collectors to really acquire them.) Hasbro also sold off a few molds to the now-defunct Olmec toy company who produced them in a set of figures called the Bronze Bombers. Other, more obscure toy lines also re-used Joe parts. Many were licensed tie ins and the parts were recycled in order to cut the costs for toy properties whose shelf life was known to be limited. The Joe line was so large, though, that the wealth of molds offered Hasbro a chance to move into different things with reduced risk at a time when toys in general were looking for an identity in the marketplace. The nice thing about this is that it gives today's Joe collector a wider arena in which to find pieces that are not only Joe compatible, but actual re-uses of original G.I. Joe molds. When the current run of Joe products ends its production life, it will be interesting to see where Joe molds continue to make appearances.

For a time, it appeared that Hasbro did not have access to the Guile figure molds. In the chaos surrounding the end of the Joe line, they may have been misplaced, mislabeled, or just packed separately from the rest of the G.I. Joe stuff. However, since 1997, most of the Guile figure molds have been reused. (The NF Guile Snake Eyes mold will appear at the end of this year in the Desert Strike Force set.) The one who is missing is the Arctic Assault Guile who utilized the Blizzard mold. However, if Hasbro has tracked down all the other molds, it would stand to reason that Blizzard may be back in the fold as well. As the 2005 G.I. Joe Convention is in Minneapolis, Minnesota, an arctic themed Convention set seems like a good bet. If this comes to pass, perhaps the Blizzard mold will finally return. I can imagine that a good many collectors would like that.

Paratrooper Guiles (as well as the rest of the Street Fighter Movie figures) can be tough to track down. The movie was a flop and kids didn't really take to toys based on the video game. As such, these figures didn't see high production numbers. In fact, many of them ended up in the clearance bins of KB Toy Stores around the country. As late as 1997, you could still find an occasional beat up figure in the stores. What this means, though, is that Paratrooper Guiles are most often found in one of two conditions. They are either loose, incomplete and exhibit some paint wear as they were cheaply bought on clearance by a parent and given to a child who used the figure, or, they are MOC: usually salvaged by a toy dealer from the clearance bins in hopes that these figures would one day be popular. The end result is that while these figures are tough to find, they still routinely sell for under $20 for a MOC figure. Since these figures are not, technically, G.I. Joe figures, they are under most collector's radar and have remained in relative obscurity since their original release. They are, though, a great way to grow a collection and add something much more unique than many of the common Joe figures. You just have to take the time to find them.

1995 Paratrooper Guile, Street Fight, 2003 Viper

1995 Paratrooper Guile, Street Fight, 2003 Alley Viper

1995 Paratrooper Guile, Street Fight, 2004 Urban Nullifier, Flak Viper

Monday, September 20, 2004

2004 Urban Assault Scrap Iron

In the early days of this site, I profiled the only American release of Scrap Iron. I've never been satisfied with that profile and thought many times of showcasing the Funskool version so I could better examine the figure. However, Hasbro managed to spare me that when they announced a new version of Scrap Iron in the Cobra Urban Assault Team. While the figure is very similar to his original version, it still offers me another opportunity to re-evaluate the Scrap Iron character.

On the surface, this version of Scrap Iron isn't too much different from the original. His base color is black rather than Cobra blue, but his details are painted the same way and didn't stray too far from the original design of the figure. The most notable difference in color, though, is the helmet. Rather than be all black, this version draws from the original Joe cartoon and uses a grey helmet. This is enough of a difference to make the figure worth owning, but I would have liked to have seen a little more creativity in the overall figure's design as that would have made him more distinguishable from the original. However, there are some areas where this figure is definitely different. This version of Scrap Iron uses the legs from the Cobra Infantry Trooper and the arms from Thunder. It also appears that the Scrap Iron head is a totally new sculpt. It was obviously based upon the original, but there are slight differences which suggest that this is a completely new piece created for this set. The inclusion of these parts is interesting. Scrap Iron has enjoyed a long release life in India. However, anyone who has owned a version of the Funskool Scrap Iron that was made in 2002-2003 can tell you that the figure quality is not the best. As such, my guess is that the mold that was re-acquired from Funskool was no longer up to Hasbro quality standards and these other pieces had to be utilized to produce the figure in a way that would pass muster.

This version of Scrap Iron also suffers from terrible accessory choices. While many of the 6 figure packs have included horrid accessories, the Urban Set includes many accessories that make sense. Stormshadow, Firefly, Alley Viper and Night Creeper all have accessories that are at least partly their original gear. The Nullifier/Flak Viper does not have his original gear but does have a couple of guns that at least look decent with the figure. Scrap Iron, though, was the odd man out. He includes a hodge-podge of weapons that are unrelated to his specialty. Worst of all, his pack is bright green: matching nothing else in the entire set. It seems to me that Hasbro simply had a large stock over left-over accessories from various figures and included them with Scrap Iron to cut costs. Fortunately, the original Scrap Iron's accessories are rather easy to find. Or, you can just drop $4 and buy a Funskool Scrap Iron from your favorite online dealer and outfit your Urban Scrap Iron with proper accessories that way.

Unfortunately, this version of Scrap Iron removed one of the most distinguishing features of the Scrap Iron mold: those little spikes molded onto his leg. Many collectors have wondered about the purpose of those spikes as they came with no explanation. I have always used them as either bomb making tools or poison darts that he uses in close quarter combat. However, the mystery of those leg spikes has finally been revealed. Recently, a schematic of the Scrap Iron has appeared. However, the figure is not Scrap Iron. The drawing by Ron Rudat (of Dusty fame) is dated 3/24/83 and shows a design that uses the Scrap Iron body. However, the figure is a Joe. He is named Alpine Trooper and has a head that appears to be a hybrid between Alpine and Cross-Country. The figure has a rope over his right shoulder, though it is unclear as to whether this would have been part of the mold or a removable accessory. The spikes on Scrap Iron's legs are clearly mountain climbing equipment and fit perfectly within the theme of the figure had he been released in this format. For whatever reason, though, Hasbro chose not to pursue this design. It is unclear how far into the process this Alpine Trooper progressed into the production process. However, as Scrap Iron used his initial design, it stands to reason that he went further into the process than other unfinished concepts.

This brings forth the question of: what other Joe figures were originally designed with other purposes in mind? In my Tele-Viper profile, I discuss my feelings that that particular figure mold was either rushed or unfinished in its design. The Overlord figure design was originally intended to be a version of Cobra Commander. The appearance of this Alpine Trooper drawing indicates that changes to a figure could occur relatively late in the production process and that Hasbro was interested in using parts they spend money to create. Thus, there could be any number of other Joe figures in the line who were originally designed as either another character or for another specialty. Hopefully, as collectors continue to track down original Hasbro material like the Alpine Trooper drawing, more instances of this type of late change to a figure will surface. They are a fascinating look into the creative process for these early figures and show that there are still many untold stories of the Joe line.

Scrap Iron's place in my Joe world is a bit out of sorts. My main Cobra focus continues to be on younger, newer characters (who are often represented by Brazilian exclusive figures) rather than the established Cobra hierarchy. As such, I don't use Scrap Iron all that often anymore. However, that plays perfectly into the creepy persona I have created for him. On the original Scrap Iron's filecard, it makes reference to the fact that he wants to "blow up the world". I have taken this little tidbit and used it as a central point in Scrap Iron's personality. I see Scrap Iron as an older war horse who has seen more than his share of combat-borne misery. (The scar on his cheek hints at a life of great turmoil.) As such, he has become a jaded individual who now borders on insanity. He is, at his heart, truly evil: a man who would destroy all of civilization if for no other reason that doing so would cause so many others to suffer. Beneath his sunken cheeks, he has a glint in his eye. It shows the blackness in his soul that causes even the heathens in Cobra's employ to slink away in fear whenever Scrap Iron is around. As such, Scrap Iron is carefully tucked away in Cobra's weapons development laboratories where he oversees the creation of Cobra's newest mechanical monstrosities. On rare occasion, he does venture forth into the world. Often times, he accompanies Major Bludd on clandestine missions inside the continental United States. These missions are highly secret and usually result in the demise of whomever they come into contact with. These sojourns, though, are always brief as even Cobra's top commanders fear that, left to his own devices for too long, Scrap Iron would be capable of becoming a rouge and could cause some sort of calamity that would affect even the evil minds of Cobra. So, Scrap Iron is most often secured away in his lab, away from anything of true destructive power, where he can solemnly contemplate his dark thoughts without having access to the means that could make them a reality.

The Scrap Iron mold was left alone for a long time before it finally got some use. After the figure's original run in 1984 and 1985, it sat dormant for the better part of a decade before it was dusted off by Funskool and put into production in India. This figure was released in various intervals for many years. After Funskool stopped producing Joe figures, the character appeared in this Urban Strike set and again in a comic pack in 2005. The mold took an interesting turn in 2007 when it was used as the base for the Convention Zap figure. This version was colored differently enough that the Zap would not be confused with Scrap Iron and was a rare example of how to do a repaint into another character the right way. At this point, there isn't much to do with the Scrap Iron character or mold. Scrap Iron collectors have their fill and probably don't need any other, new versions. But, this is a character who has some potential and I could certainly stomach another Scrap Iron figure somewhere down the line.

The Urban Strike Teams seems to have been generally well accepted by collectors. The inclusion of the now overused Firefly, Alley Viper and Storm Shadow has kept it from being a great set. But, the other figures and overall color choices have made it a strong item with certain figures that will remain popular after it's retail sales period. Unfortunately, Scrap Iron is probably not among them. While a good figure, those who army built this set will have their fill of the Scrap Iron figure and trade away the extras. This will prevent this figure from remaining popular as he will be readily available for years to come. That is a bit unfortunate as the figure is well done and deserves a fate better than that of figures like the '01 Major Bludd who were also good repaints who became the bane of army-builders' collections. My guess is that any collector who wishes to acquire a Scrap Iron at some point in the future will be easily able to do so. And, they will be able to do it without spending a large amount of money. That isn't a bad thing as Scrap Iron is a cool character and a villain who deserves to be a part of every Joe collection.

2004 Urban Assault Scrap Iron, Cobra Trooper, 1995 Paratrooper Guile

2004 Urban Assault Scrap Iron, Cobra Trooper, 1995 Night Fighter Guile, Alpinista, Brazil, estrela, Hit and Run

2004 Urban Assault Scrap Iron, Cobra Trooper, 1995 Night Fighter Guile, Alpinista, Brazil, estrela, Hit and Run