Wednesday, October 5, 2005

2003 Crimson Guard Immortal

There has always been just one word that I've used to describe the Crimson Guard Immortal mold: mighty. It seems the only fitting adjective for a mold that radiates power not only in character of the man wearing the uniform but also the might of the weapons associated with it. I have long been fascinated by this mold and spend a lot of time in the late '90's trying to acquire many of them. Back then, though, it was rather difficult to find complete CGI's. But, in 2001, Funskool came through and released a very nicely done version that was made available to American collectors for cheap prices. Sometime in early 2003, though, Hasbro re-acquired this mold from Funskool and threw it into a craptacular KB Toys exclusive vehicle. The new color scheme didn't make much sense considering this is a CRIMSON Guard, but the result was a figure that is actually very nice and worth owning.

The CGI mold remains my favorite appearance for any Crimson Guard. The armour plating, cool helmet and overall combat feel of the mold make one that just exudes power and might. The mold is intricately detailed with ammo pouches, knives and clips holding the armour in place that show an attention to design that was advanced even for the vintage Joe line. It is a shame that the most common version of the mold is actually the version that was intended to only be released in India. Armies of CGI's of any color look good, but are hard to find. Few collectors who have been able to amass large quantities of non-Funskool versions of this mold take the time to display them.

When I first got this figure, I didn't have much in the way of a story for him. At the time, he was just another figure I needed to complete my collection. However, as I looked at him, I wondered what I could do with him that would explain his odd uniform color. As I mentioned in my Cobra Commander profile, I don't think highly of the Crimson Guard concept any more. Mostly, they are corpulent slugs who have degraded into a disease festering on Cobra Island. However, even the most corrupt and vapid organizations have bright spots. Surely there would be a few decent members of the CG left. Shortly after I acquired this figure, I began to map out the plans for the next story arc in my Joe world. Cobra had spent the past decade in South America and was wrapping up their operations there. The next target had been selected and my South American commander, Ramen, was beginning his exploration of Africa.   Lead by Skeres, Operation Dark Cloud is Cobra's push into Africa. Their motives there are unclear to all but Ramen and his cabal, but their success in South America has given them the freedom to retain that type of secrecy. Skeres leads the 1st Afrikaaner Division in Africa. They are a cadre of Cobra's most battle hardened troops: most of whom earned their wares in South America. They are a close knit group who are skeptical of anyone who has yet to prove himself. But, are fiercly loyal once someone is welcomed into their group. They believe whole-heartedly in the Cobra cause and are willing to sacrifice their lives for the fulfillment of the aims of Ramen's Cobra.

This all leads to the origin of this figure. I use this figure as a man who was a newly appointed CG. As part of the initiation in the Crimson Guard, new recruits are left as Crimson Guard Immortals. Basically, this means they are still on combat duty and are often assigned to head up combat operations at small Cobra installations. It is a way for the new recruits to grow into their responsibilities as well as mature within the nepotistic system of the CG's that rewards politicking more than it does valor. This CGI was appointed to guard a remote Cobra research installation in South America. It was a mundane duty that became suddenly dangerous when a group of American commandos stormed the compound. The CGI had orders from the Crimson Guard hierarchy to save himself in the event of an attack, but his sense of duty lead him to personally fend off the attackers while the Toxo-Vipers in his charge successfully destroyed all evidence of their facilities' purpose and then escaped to a just arriving Cobra transport chopper. As the pilot prepared to take off, the head Toxo Viper ordered him to wait for the CGI. The CGI managed to escape, carrying the limp body of the lone Toxo-Viper who had been left behind.

These heroic actions caught the attention of both Skeres and Ramen. They invited the CGI to the South American headquarters and asked him if he was interested in joining with the Afrikaaners. The CGI tentatively accepted and then returned to Cobra Island. Here, he was accosted by the Crimson Guard hierarchy and pressured to join the Afrikaaners as a spy for the Crimson Guard. The CG were leery of Ramen's success since they were not part of any of it and they looked at this opportunity as a way to finally infiltrate Ramen's most trusted circle. The CGI agreed and promptly left Cobra Island to return to South America. Shortly thereafter, Afrikaaners had a confrontation with some Crimson Guards in a Cobra cafeteria. It escalated to a point where the CG's felt it was time to announce their plant within the Afrikaaner forces. When they called for this CGI to appear before them and Skeres, he came as requested. Only, instead of wearing the crimson uniform of his unit, he had changed his uniform color to this grey-blue as a symbolic break from his Crimson Guard past.  Disgusted that members of his organization were more concerned with political power than overall organizational success, he then fully joined the Afrikaaners and is now a trusted high ranking member of Ramen's most effective combat unit. (Shortly thereafter, the Crimson Guard Rebellion took place on Cobra Island. It is thought that the defection of this CGI was one of the last straws in the Commander's lack of patience with the CG's.)

As is the case with most figures for whom I have developed an intricate backstory, this figure is now an integral part of my collection. He is almost a named Cobra, but not quite. It is my expectation that at some point, he will become a named Cobra, but he is still learning and it will be a while before he sees another promotion. (Plus, I have to find a new figure to represent him. I have pretty much exhausted all the available Cobra molds from around the world that could be used as unique characters. Hopefully, Hasbro will put out a figure or two at some point that will be useful in this capacity.)

The CGI mold has a well traveled history. He was released by Hasbro in 1991. He was not carried over to 1992, though. He was released in Europe almost simultaneously, but a few of the European figures were released with the V1 Rock Viper's head in lieu of the CGI head. From there, the mold may have gone to Brazil where it was intended to be released as Flagelo. It is unlikely, though, that this figure ever saw production beyond the artwork in Brazilian catalogs and cardbacks. However, in 1993, Hasbro resurrected the head for use on the hot pink Create a Cobra mail away figure. In 2001, the mold appeared in India where Funskool used it for about 18 months before Hasbro re-acquired it. It was used by Hasbro for this figure in 2003 and then again for the convention exclusive Destro body in 2005. Most notable, though, is the mold's absence in the Operation Crimson Sabotage set, the Crimson Guard 6 pack Toys R Us exclusive set and the Crimson Shadow Guard. Hasbro passed by three prime opportunities to use the mold again. With the overall number of ARAH releases dwindling and the fact that the mold was used in a convention set, I would say that it is highly unlikely we will see this mold used in any sort of army building set in the near future. That is unfortunate as this mold isn't as stale as some of those that will certainly be used but also nice in the sense that the mold won't get overused like the Cobra Trooper, Cobra Officer and newly sculpted Crimson Guard molds have.

This figure's availability was annoying at best. First off, the Crimson MOBAT was made a KB exclusive. This alone would have made it tough to find. However, KB ended up only offering this vehicle on their website. As such, it became a de facto online exclusive. This made it very expensive to acquire as the Crimson MOBAT was $20 and very expensive to ship. This deadly combination resulted in the tanks sitting on KB's website for some time. Finally, in 2004, KB began to clearance the tanks. First, they went down to $15. Then $10. Finally, they sold out at an $8 price tag. For that price, many dealers and collectors were buying them, tossing the tank and just selling or keeping the figures. The result is that this figure is now more widely available for decent prices than many might have originally anticipated. It doesn't hurt that many collectors have also done as I have and use these figures either as individuals or highly specialized army builders so they don't require more than 1 or 2 examples in their collection.

Now, you can usually get this figure for around $10 or so. Frankly, that isn't a bad price considering that Hasbro has now produced 3 subsequent Crimson themed sets and this mold has not appeared in any of them. The CGI mold is very high quality and would be hard to produce in a bad color scheme. This silverish blue version is a great way to use the mold outside of the ranks of the Crimson Guard and offers some diversity that most of the other Crimson themed molds have always lacked. I enjoy this figure for what he is and for what I have made him in my collection. It seems that many other collectors do, too.

2003 Crimson Guard Immortal, KB Toys Exclusive, 2005 Night Watch Trooper, 2003 Convention Exclusive Air Viper

2003 Crimson Guard Immortal, KB Toys Exclusive, Skeres, Cobra Trooper, Officer, 2004 TRU Exclusive

2003 Crimson Guard Immortal, KB Toys Exclusive, Skeres, Abutre Negro, Brazil, Estrela, Patrulha do Ar, Black Vulture, 1991, Tomax and Xamot

2003 Crimson Guard Immortal, KB Toys Exclusive, Cobra Trooper, 1983, Lt. Clay Moore, 2007 Convention Exclusive, Viper, Iron Panther, Sgt. Savage

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