Wednesday, October 12, 2005

1989 Annihilator - Redux

I originally profiled the Annihilator in December of 1999. In the nearly 6 years since I wrote that profile, little about my interest in the Annihilator has changed. I still consider him a great forgotten army builder from a year that is already full of great army builders. My re-examination of the figure stems from the fact that as one of my earliest profiles, my take on the Annihilator was not "finished". It felt lacking as the profile had no depth and did not fully cover the usefulness of this figure. Plus, the Annihilator's role in my collection has expanded as my Cobra now focuses its operations in manners that suit the Annihilator.

The Annihilator is a very well done figure. His mold is sleek and streamlined: just as needed for a trooper whose primary duty is operating an individual helicopter pack. His accessories are amazing with the fully detailed and spinning chopper as well as one of the most distinctive guns in the original run of the line. He suffers, though, from poor color choices. The orange and purple simply don't allow this figure to be as popular as the mold and accessories would suggest. The side benefit to this, though, is that the figure is cheaper than many of his contemporary Cobra army builders. 1989 is generally considered one of the best years for Cobra army builders in the history of the line. It is so good that most people would not consider a figure like the Annihilator (who would be the class of several other figure years) to be even in the top 5 army builders released in his own year. That helps to further denigrate this figure and pushes him lower on the popularity scale than he probably deserves.

In my collection, Annihilators are not Destro's troops. They are a highly specialized branch of my Cobra Urban Death Squads. My Cobra learned a few years ago that the best way to terrorize the citizens of various countries was to show them how tenous their civil safety really was. To accomplish this, Cobra targeted several small but densely populated but still rural towns and cities. In a matter of minutes, Cobra dispatched highly trained Alley Vipers to basically run over a small geographical portion of the town: killing everyone and everything they came across. The raids simply underscored how easy it was for a terrorist organization to strike at anyone in the country at any time. No one was safe: not even in the small, almost off the map towns that have reputations as havens from urban crime.

The Urban Death Squads who carried out these macabre orders are comprised of highly trained Alley Vipers. They are trained to shoot first and kill everything. In order to cut down on their friendly fire fatalities, though, Cobra outfitted the brigades in bright orange. While this may seem like it would make them easy targets, the reality is that these troops descend quickly upon towns with small, undertrained and underarmed police forces and no military presence. So, they have little to worry about in terms of opposition soldiers shooting at their orange visages. Instead, they know that anything they see moving that is dressed in orange is one of them and they can sedate their killing tendencies for that one instance. It helped reduce friendly fire deaths but also allowed me a way to explain away the V1 Alley Viper's orange color.

The Annihilators came into play after the third Urban Death Squad attack. During that attack, the Joes had a covert operative in the town. As the Death Squad descended, the operative managed to signal a Tomahawk to come rescue him. The Alley Vipers watched in vain as the chopped picked up the operative and carried him to safety. (Actually, the chopper was hijacked on the roof as it picked up the operative but that's a story for another profile!) This lead to the first surviving witness to a Death Squad attack. Cobra could not afford that and they invented the Annihilators as means to patrol the skies and prevent any more helicopter rescues. While keeping opposing choppers away is part of the Annihilator duties, they are also the first line of offense in a Death Squad attack. When Alley Vipers burst out of their hiding places and come running through the town, the Annihilators appear over the horizon and start landing much as is described in their filecards. They are simply an extension of the Alley Vipers. While some stay airborne the entire time to act as spotters or to mop up any survivors who try to run through the attack line, Annihilators, typically, land on the rooftops of larger buildings to work their way down through the top floors to meet with the Alley Vipers coming through the bottom at some point in the middle. They also land in the center of the attack area and fan their way out to also meet up with the Alley Vipers who are closing in from the outside. It makes the attacks much more efficient and allows them to finish much more quickly. The hallmark of an Urban Death Squad attack is that it is over, everyone in the area who isn't a Cobra is dead and any Cobra fatalities or injuries are cleaned up in under 15 minutes. That way, by the time authorities arrive, there is simply no evidence of who perpetrated the attack but there is a devastating amount of civilian death and destruction left behind.

As the concept of the Urban Death Squad is rather prominent in my Joe world, the Annihilators get used rather frequently. As my Death Squads have matured, they have begun to take on military installations and some Annihilators now fight against real armed foes rather than panicked, unarmed civilians. Here, they don't fare as well. But, the experience learned from the civilian attacks has given Cobra a much more experienced army: especially in South America. As my Cobra looks to expand its operations into Africa, I can see the Annihilators remaining an important part of Cobra's military strategy. The personalized choppers give Cobra a mighty force with the portability to retain the element of surprise against their quarry and a reliable means of extraction if something goes wrong. That is a good combination for them to have as it meshes with their planned style of guerrilla warfare.

After its use in the US, the Annihilator mold was sent to Brazil. There he was released with slight color variances and different accessories. The figure has not been seen since. The Brazilian Forca Electronica series of which the Annihilator was a part also included molds from the '89 HEAT Viper, '88 Muskrat, '87 Outback, '89 Frag Viper, '88 Toxo Viper, '88 Repeater and the '89 Scoop. These don't offer many useful clues as to the status of the Annihilator mold as 2 of the figure molds have been subsequently used in the US, 2 were used in India and the other three have yet to appear anywhere else. So, it's difficult to say whether or not this figure is available. The fact that he was not repainted as part of the 2005 Iron Grenadier themed convention set, though, leads me to believe that the Annihilator mold is gone and this is a figure forever doomed to his orange legacy.

Personally, I would like to see a repaint of the Annihilator. This is a mold that could be painted in a multitude of ways and all would be more useful than the original. The figure could be painted Cobra blue and integrated into Cobra or offered in black and gold as part of the Iron Grenadiers. Either way would work. Unfortunately, as we have yet to see this happen, I doubt it will ever come to pass. Even so, I don't mind that as much as it allows the Annihilator to remain one of the undiscovered gems of the vintage line. I think that some figure molds should be left alone and never repainted. Usually, though, those are only figures that were done right the first time. As the Annihilator was flawed in his original incarnation, though, he would be a perfect candidate for repaint and a figure I would have considered long before many of the repainted molds we have actually received.

Annihilators are actually rather easy to find. Mint versions can be tougher since he the gold paint on the chest does tend to fade easily. However, even a figure with slight paint rubs is still very useful in a collection and makes for a great army. Even complete, you can easily acquire Annihilators for around $10 each. If you want them with less than their full complement of accessories, you can get them even cheaper than that. The fact that this figure is not, technically, a Cobra and the multitude of other 1989 Cobras who outshine the Annihilator help keep him lower in price. He remains a vintage army builder with a great mold and awesome accessories that is still affordable. While his color might scare some away from spending too much time acquiring the figures: I have found it to be an integral part of his specialty. I doubt my use of the figure will change the perception at large in the collecting world about this figure. But, if he gets even just a little more respect, it's worth it to me.

1989 Annhilator, Iron Grenadier, Destro, 1988, 1992 Spirit, 1990 Salvo

1989 Annhilator, Iron Grenadier, Destro, 1988, 1992 Spirit, 1990 Salvo

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