Thursday, September 29, 2005

Muralha - Brazilian Exclusive Flint

Flint has long been one of my favorite Joe characters. Over the years, I've profiled many versions of him but still consider the original mold and paint scheme to be my favorite. As I examined that figure twice on my original site, it was difficult to come up with a way to re-evaluate the character without going back and re-doing something I had already done. Instead of doing that, though, I found a different way. And, in the process, found a new version of Flint that is just different enough from the American version to be interesting. I present Muralha: the Brazilian version of Flint.

To me, Flint is the consummate Joe figure. The main reason is that while his look is grounded in military design, he also features elements that give him personality. The cocky beret, short sleeves with gloves and shotgun shells on his chest give Flint a look that makes him iconic in the Joe line. Flint shows a thoughtfulness in design that transcends his own remarkable release year and makes him one of the most recognizable figures in the history of the line. He is what made the Joe line enduring. You can look at Flint and see he is a military toy. However, you can also look at him and see a character that is not just a nameless soldier. It is this combination of realism suggesting fantasy that made the vintage Joe line successful while its imitators fizzled away.

In my collection, Flint is still one of the most important characters. Regardless of which version I choose to use, Flint is almost always one of the leaders on any significant mission. He is a field commander who holds the respect of his men but also a cunning warrior who is probably the most dangerous man in any combat situation. That idea is what makes Flint so interesting to me. I see Flint as someone who is incredibly talented and whose actions appear to border on recklessness. However, he fully knows what he is capable of achieving and does not take unnecessary risks. I have this as an element that has held back Flint's career since some view him as arrogant and full of himself. More savvy battlefield officers, though, would take Flint as their first choice when choosing a combat unit. This leaves Flint with a cadre of hardened fighters on his side while the more cautious, politically inclined officers tend to view him as a liability. This creates internal conflict in Flint as he always viewed his military career as a stepping stone to greatness. Now, he finds his advancement blocked by those whose careers he has elevated due to his service under their command. It is a hard lesson and one that slowly embitters Flint as he continues to risk his life out of a sense of duty yet knowing that he will most likely never be able to achieve his ultimate goals for the very same reason.

Muralha is actually of very high quality. It seems that Brazilian figures grew more brittle as the line went on. Muralha feels like an American figure and would be nearly indistinguishable from most American figures of his time. If you really know what you're looking for, though, you can feel that the plastic is a slightly more brittle than the American figure. Muralha's colors are obviously meant to mimic the American figure. The green on his legs, though, is actually a shade darker than the American Flint and gives the figure a more muted appearance. It is a subtle difference and not on you would notice if you did not have an American figure against which to compare it. Muralha's accessories are the same as Flint's. They are a darker green as well, though. Muralha's accessories are pretty much the same color as the Tiger Force Recondo's backback. These would actually stand out were a collector to aquire them unknowingly. The final picture at the end of this profile shows the 3 main versions of Flint: the American Flint, Muralha and the Funskool Flint. Side by side you can see the subtle color differences in the figures and the accessories and gain a greater appreciation for the nuances in each country's release.

Muralha, Brazil, Flint, Estrela, Funskool, 1985

Personally, I'm not done with this Flint mold. While it may seem overused to an extent, the reality is that this version of Flint has really only appeared in 3 basic color schemes: the original with it's slight variations, Tiger Force and Night Force. All three of those paint jobs lend themselves to the same type of environments as well. As such, I would be happy to see Flint re-appear in a desert or arctic theme. His mold is such that it could be adapted for those types of paint applications without a major overhaul. Plus, the figure mold is one that collectors still enjoy. Unlike Duke, Stalker or Snake Eyes, Flint has yet to be overdone to the point where collectors are sick of him. The fact that he's a major character only furthers my case.

The Flint mold has had a long history. It was first used in the US in 1985 and then again in 1986. After that, the figure was repainted in Tiger Force colors in 1988. At this time, the date stamp on the figure was changed from 1985 to 1988. Around late 1988 or early 1989 Flint began to appear on the backs of Argentine figures made by Plastirama. However, he was never actually released as Plastirama ceased operations around that time. In either 1989 or 1990, Muralha was released in Brazil. This figure features the 1988 date stamp as well. Sometime in the mid 1990's, the Flint mold then made it's way to India where it was released by Funskool. In India, though, the figure was never released with the original Flint forearms. Those appear to have gotten lost or damaged at some point between the use by Estrela and the mold's arrival in India. As was common practice for them at the time, Funskool blurred out the date stamp on Flint's legs. You can still see a faint mark of the 1988 date stamp, though. In April of 2003, Flint was returned to Hasbro and the mold was used in the 2004 Night Force set. This mold, though, featured a prominent 1988 date stamp on the figure's leg. This is significant since the Night Force Beach Head figure that was in the same set also featured a mold returned to Hasbro by Funskool in April of 2003. The Beach Head mold featured a rubbed out date stamp but the Night Force Beach Head featured a prominent 2003 date stamp.   So, the question is why did Hasbro update the date stamp on the Beach Head but not on Flint? While we will probably never know for sure one of the more probable explanations is that there was an additional mold for Flint's legs that had remained under Hasbro's control since 1988. Flint was a very popular figure and character so it is possible that his original figure was created from multiple molds. Regardless, though, it shows the subtle changes that can occur in molds as they move across continents over the decades.

Time was, figures like Muralha were almost impossible to find. The Brazilian postal service is not the most reliable resource in the world and trading with Brazilian collectors always posed a unique challenge. While Brazilian figures were desirable, the inherent risk in sending high value packages to and from Brazil made many collectors nervous. One lost package was enough to stifle a collection for a long time. Those who wanted Brazilian figures, though, had few other options. Those American collectors who did have multiples of the Brazilian figs usually wanted a great deal in exchange for them. As such, collectors were often shut out of the figures like Muralha as they didn't feel the figure justified a $40 price tag but could rarely find it for less without incurring the risk of trading to Brazil. Now, though, that has changed a bit. Finally, the Joe collecting world has become big enough to support a dealer network that is capable of bringing figures like Muralha to American collectors for decent prices. I highly recommend checking out online dealers for figures such as these as they have been one of the first reliable dealers to continually stock the lesser known Brazilian figure variants. I feel every collector owes to themselves to have at least one or two foreign figures in their collection. If only as a conversation piece. Foreign figs add depth to a collection and give it a bit more personality. Time was, they were going to cost you. Now, though, a small investment will bring some foreign figures to your collection. I feel it is one of the most worthwhile purchases you can make.

Muralha, Brazil, Flint, Estrela, 1985, Snake Eyes V2, Footloose, 2001 Desert Striker

Muralha, Brazil, Flint, Estrela, 1985, Snake Eyes V2, Footloose, Eel

Muralha, Brazil, Flint, Estrela, Plastirama, Argentina, Coyote, Condor, Fuego, Risco, Alpine, Footloose, Airborne, Ripcord, 1986 Tomahawk

Muralha, Brazil, Flint, Estrela, Plastirama, Argentina, Coyote, Condor, Fuego, Risco, Alpine, Footloose, Airborne, Ripcord, 1986 Tomahawk