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

No comments:

Post a Comment