Thursday, February 22, 2007

Risco - Argentine Exclusive Alpine

Alpine has long been one of my favorite obscure Joe figures. He was one of the first few figures I purchased in 1985 and, as such, I still have many fond memories of playing with the figure in my childhood home. As he was never re-released, though, my exposure to the figure has been diminished over time. Once I acquired a new version early in my collecting days, the figure simply hasn't been high on my use list. That has recently changed, though. The acquisition of a foreign version of Alpine has rejuvenated my interest in the character and brought that figure into a place of prominence in my collection. That foreign version is the subject of this week's profile: the Argentine exclusive Risco.

Risco is very similar to the US version of Alpine. He features slightly brighter green plastic on his upper body and lacks paint details on his upper arms. He is missing a few accessories that were included with Alpine, but is otherwise remarkably similar to his American counterpart. Hasbro was very careful with many of their Joe characters. As such, they controlled the look of those figures in releases the world over. It kept a consistent look across the brand and ensured that things like the comic or cartoon could be used in various countries as a cross sell for the figures since Hasbro could guarantee the toys would match the character's media appearances. As such, you find that the vast majority of foreign figures are nearly identical to their American counterparts. Of course, collectors have flocked to the figures that are more famously different than the toys offered in the US. I've grown to appreciate the subtle differences in figures like Risco, though. The slight nuances in color or paint applications really makes a figure stand out and helps to mature a collection overall.

Alpine's accessories are among the most fun pieces of equipment ever released in the line. Risco, though, did not include all of them. Risco only comes with 1 of the grappling hooks and does not include the rope that made Alpine so much fun. Oddly, the second hook and the rope appeared with the Brazilian Everest figure that was released subsequently to Risco. The other odd thing about Risco is that he features a unique file name. Instead of Albert M. Pine, Risco's real name is Arthur Gray. There is no explanation given, though I'm sure the pun of Alpine's real name would have been lost when translated to Spanish.

The character of the G.I. Joe Mountain Climber was originally intended to be a 1984 figure release. The production art that exists for this character shows a head very similar to Alpine's but using Scrap Iron's body. In fact, on the Scrap Iron figure, you still see the remnants of his origins as a mountain climber. On the figure's leg, he has climbing pitons that were part of the Joe Mountain Climber's original design. Why was this concept abandoned, though? There really is no evidence and we are left to conjecture. Perhaps Hasbro needed another Cobra for the 1984 assortment and quickly drew up Scrap Iron and just used the body parts they had already sculpted. Maybe Hasbro looked at Alpine's artwork and realized that the ball headed joint that was to debut in 1985 was a better fit for a mountain climbing character whose head would tend to be tilted up. As such, they put the design on hold and whipped up Scrap Iron's head very quickly (which would explain it's odd look) and threw it onto the previously sculpted body so they would not waste their work. Whatever the reason, it remains one of the many mysteries of the original Joe line.

Risco is also of very high quality. While the early Argentine figures suffered from poor quality at best, Plastirama had refined their production by the time of Risco's release and the figure has very tight paint masks and is made of higher quality materials. (The same can not be said of the card and bubble stock, though.) I was pleasantly surprised by Risco's quality as he is one of the few, later Argentine figures in my collection. He is not quite up to American standards, but will still fit in nicely with a collection of American figures.

Alpine holds many fond memories for me. I still remember cold, early March afternoons in 1985 when I took Alpine and my new Cobra Eel outside to play on the small hill in front of my parent's home. Alpine always used his ropes to escape the spears fired by Eels submerged in the sidewalk "river". The grappling hooks stuck nicely in the soft mud created by the early spring thaw. Later in the summer, the figure climbed the limestone walls that surrounded the front stairway of my Grandfather's Buffalo, NY home. He braved the gunfire hailed down on him by Scrap Iron and the Crimson Guards as he navigated the sheer incline. When the '85 Snake Eyes came home, Alpine joined Bazooka, Footloose and Airtight as the Joes who were chosen to accompany that figure's first mission. They sat atop the Bridge Layer as they rode to the Cobra outpost. By winter, the figure joined Frostbite in the Snow Cat as they chased Snow Serpents out of the forest of newly planted pine trees in wilds of my childhood backyard. He was a figure for whom I was always able to find a use. Every mission needed a guy who could climb up on top of something.

The other memory I have of Alpine is more of an observation on the vintage Joe line as a whole. While all the Joe figures released had a military slant to them, it was figures like Alpine, Torpedo, Ace, Doc, Ripcord and many others that made the line much more than the simple group of green army men which were the line's beginnings. You see, with figures like those, I didn't need to go outside of the Joe world when I wanted a play pattern that moved away from strictly military themes. Ace could be an astronaut in any world. Rather than having to dust off some Fisher-Price diver family, I could have Torpedo and Wet-Suit combs the depths of the neighborhood pool where they could fight off plastic sharks and squid or search for buried treasure. Snow Job could be a world class downhill skier who was simply racing in the Alps. Barbeque could be a firefighter rescuing Sylvanian Families from any toy house. Alpine could climb any mountain to rescue an injured skydiver. The result was the Joe line became self contained. While it meshed with other toy lines of the day, it also stood on its own and gave kids figures that they could use in any storyline they could imagine. I think that, above all, was what created the brand loyalty to the Joe line and was an integral part of why the line had such an amazing retail run. Kids only had to buy G.I. Joe figures to be able to have any adventure they wanted. It's an idea that is unlikely to be repeated but shows the foresight and deep understanding the original Joe design had of their audience.

It is those memories that make this figure interesting to me. His great sculpt, solid colors and incredible accessories make the figure collectible, but the memories I hold of Alpine are why a figure like Risco holds such cachet for me. You see, I have several Alpine figures. With the acquisition of each, I failed to find the sense of excitement that had as a child. These were simply upgrades since I still had my childhood Alpine figures. (Yes, I had 2 Alpines as a kid. After I lost my original's gun, I purchased a second. It was great to have your own income as a kid since you could do things like that without your parents giving you grief over buying something you already owned.) Risco, though, is something new and exciting. It's like adding Alpine to my collection all over again. Maybe that's the reason why I like foreign Joes so much. They bring me back to those fond memories of childhood where I'd spend weeks dreaming up uses for figures I had yet to find for sale. While I would never go back to those days, it is fun to reminisce about them. Figures like Risco allow me a nice escape in my current world to stop and reflect on good times. It is a nice respite in an otherwise busy world.

The Alpine mold was released in the US in 1985 and 1986. After that, it appeared as Risco in the late '80's. From there, the mold went to Brazil where it was released as Everest. After that, the mold has disappeared. Everest's contemporaries featured 4 popular molds that have never reappeared and 2 that later surfaced in India: but only after Estrela had used them again to produce the Slaughters Marauders figures. As such, it is likely that Alpine mold is lost for good. My feelings on this are split. I'd love to see an Alpine figure that did away with the white t-shirt underneath his heavy coat and that better matched the unique rock formations in my geographical area. But, I would hate to see the mold dusted off and released with minimal paint applications and missing his trademark accessories. As that is the more likely way Alpine would return, I'm happy to see the mold remain lost for the time being.

A few years ago, Ebay was flooded with carded Riscos. He was part of the assortments of Plastirama figures that had been found in a warehouse in Argentina and heavily imported into the US. At the time, you could easily acquire the figure for under $10 shipped. Now, though, Riscos have largely dried up. You don't see them for sale nearly as often as you used to. However, that does not mean the price has increased. While some of the once common Argentine figures have experienced drastic price climbs when they disappeared, Risco is still very affordable and, when they do appear, they rarely sell for more than $15 shipped for a MOC figure. For that price, this figure is a no brainer. He's a great way to offer some variety for fans of the Alpine character and doubles as a conversation piece that makes for nice background filler. Cheap foreign exclusives are always of interest to me and the day will come when more collectors feel the same. The downside is that when that happens, it will become very difficult to find the foreign exclusives for cheap. So, now is the time to make figures like Risco a part of your collection.

Risco, Plastirama, Alpine, 1985, Argentina, Funskool Flint, Mauler, Long Range, 1989

Risco, Plastirama, Alpine, 1985, Argentina, 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Zap

Risco, Plastirama, Alpine, 1985, Argentina, Relampago, Python Patrol Ripcord, Brazil, Estrela, Blades, Action Force, SAS, Palitoy, European Exclusive

Risco, Plastirama, Alpine, 1985, Argentina, 1990 Rock Viper

Risco, Plastirama, Alpine, 1985, Argentina, Sokerk, Fuego, Condor, Alado, Crazylegs, Ripcord, Airborne, 1986 Tomahawk


  1. What part of Buffalo did your grandfather live? I grew up there,also.I like this figure over the US version.

    1. Lacawanna. He was near the big Basilica and gardens there.

  2. Oh yeah Lackawanna home of Father Baker-it's an urban legend around here that if you were bad your parents threatened you they were gonna send you to live at Father Baker's school!

    1. Funny you mention that. When my kids misbehave, I tell them I'm going to send them to Father Baker's. I chuckle to myself and they completely don't get it.