Wednesday, April 23, 2008

2008 AWE Striker

The AWE Striker is a mold that I have liked since I was a child. I first acquired it in the summer of 1985 and it became my de facto jeep: surpassing my aging VAMP. It was immediately put into action and was the main small vehicle I used during that time. Unfortunately, that original AWE Striker didn't last too long in my collection. And, for some reason, the AWE Striker was one of the few vehicles that I did not re-acquire during my heavy Joe buying days in the late '90's. As such, this vehicle remains a sentimental favorite of mine and is a piece that I've long wanted but never obtained. Now, a retail version in colors similar to the original has become available for the same price as the last straight re-release from 7 years prior. That was a deal too tempting to pass by and, for the first time in more than 2 decades, I have a nicely conditioned AWE Striker in my collection.

This version of the AWE Striker is a much brighter green than the original version. If seen only in a distant picture, the green could easily be mistaken for the Funskool AWE Striker that is rather common in the collecting community. It is definitely a brighter color than most collectors would have chosen, but still works in the context of the vehicle. Hasbro also did some retooling of the base vehicle. The main difference is that the footpegs in the side rails have been redone to fit the feet of the Anniversary sculpt figures. They are far to skinny for ARAH style foot pegs and this does impact the usability of this new version with vintage figures. Fortunately, the seats were not affected and ARAH figures are still the same tight squeeze in the seats they have always been. There are other slight modifications to the mold, but they are not the type of thing that really impacts the toy one way or another. The vehicle is true to the vintage design (which the 2004 version was not) and retains the spirit of the original release.

As a toy, though, the AWE Striker is somewhat fragile. Shortly after I first acquired the AWE Striker, I was playing with it in my room. At the time, we had these ancient beds. They didn't have covered box springs since the metal coil springs were directly underneath the mattress and were part of the basic bed frame. For sleeping, these were terrible. For playing, though, they were great. The coiled springs worked perfectly as jail cells for Cobras or Joes. Hidden underneath the bed was a platform where figures could hide and that could serve as the command center for any faction. Naturally, this became my default Joe base. On this day, I had my fairly new AWE Striker trying to outrun a HISS Tank. The Joes were heading straight for the bed "base". I zoomed my AWE Striker as fast as I could and had it just make it under the bed ahead of the HISS tank's cannons. Unfortunately, I forgot to measure the clearance under the bed in relation to the height of the AWE Striker's cannon. When the AWE zipped into safety, the bottom of the bedframe sheered the top cannon right off. Fortunately, the toy wasn't completely broken. But, the clasp that holds the cannon in place was damaged and my AWE Striker's gun forever drooped after that. For a time, this wasn't much of an issue. But, the more I used my original AWE Striker, the less integrity the gun mount retained. Within a few weeks, the top cannon would simply fall off. Back then, I wasn't too keen on gluing things into place, so this defect lead to the AWE Striker's ultimate popularity demise.

The missing gun wasn't enough to deter my younger brothers, though. They still used the AWE Striker somewhat frequently. Ultimately, the broke the front axles that allow the front wheels to move. This lead to the wheels resting in different directions. However, one of my brothers did come up with a rather ingenious way of fixing this problem. He took the steering mechanism from an old Ferret and inserted into the front of the AWE Striker. It actually fit and he then had a jeep with the wheels and front axle from a Ferret. It was an odd combination of colors and the smaller Ferret wheels make the AWE Striker look like one of those jacked up custom cars you see in magazines. My original AWE Striker remained this way until I finally stripped the usable parts and threw the main body into the dumpster just a few months ago.

In 1987, my interest in the AWE Striker was re surged when I started buying the Action Force comics that my local comic shop was importing. Action Force ran about 2 years behind the American line and at that time, the 1985 figures were being featured in all the original stories and toy advertising that was in those comics. I distinctly remember a short dio on the back cover that featured the AWE Striker. By this time, though, the AWE Striker was gone from American retail shelves and I was left with my beat up, old version that had been retired 2 years prior. This made me want an AWE Striker more than ever. But, I was not able to acquire one before I pretty much quit collecting in 1988. When I returned to Joe collecting, though, complete AWE Strikers were relatively expensive. As such, it wasn't an item I went after since I was focused on buying up figures and vehicles that I had never owned rather than trying to replace the broken items my childhood. By the time the 2001 release came around, though, I was in a bad spot and couldn't buy it. I managed to trade for the included figure, so that was enough. The 2004 version was just too terrible for to have any interest. So, the chance to acquire this version was one I decided to take advantage of. Now, I have an adequate display model for my 1985 figures. It is nice to have this vehicle back in my collection. Now, I just have to find the space to display it with the appropriate figures.

These days, I'm more interested in vehicles that display well rather than those that, necessarily, play well. As such, some great vehicles like the Whale and Mauler don't make the cut in my display collection because they take up large amounts of space and only display a few figures. The AWE Striker, though, does not have that problem. It adequately displays 4 figures (at least two of whom can be fully accessorized) and only occupies a small footprint in a display case. It is the type of vehicle that I enjoy since it isn't a space hog and allows the focal point of the figures to be adequately viewed. In this regard, it surpasses the VAMP since the VAMP can only hold 2 figures and they are not as exposed as the driver and passenger in the AWE Striker. (Though, in combat, I could see the VAMP being the preference since the driver and crew are not nearly as exposed as they would be in the AWE Striker.)

It is no secret that I'm not a fan of the Anniversary style figures. In total, I don't really care about them as they don't really affect me either way. However, one of the things that irks me to no end is the constant praise heaped upon these figures by collectors. You would think that each and every figure was a pristine piece of art. Nowhere to do you see people taking Hasbro to task for the mistakes and poor quality that does appear in the line. I think that many collectors feel that the constant praise will either make Hasbro notice them and allow them to be become an "insider" or that any negative comments will end the line and we will be back to more peaceful days of late 2006. Regardless, the Crankcase figure that is included with this vehicle is simply terrible. That isn't bitterness or spite talking: this is just a bad figure. Now, it could be that this is a result of the fact that this figure was cobbled together on the cheap to meet a price point on a low production run. But, the other 2 figures in the exclusive vehicles are straight up repaints and it makes no sense why some of the parts were chosen. When compared to the other Anniversary figures I've sold off, Crankcase is a complete loser. First off, the figure's right fist is molded shut. This not only means that he can't hold an accessory, but it also means he can't grip the steering wheel of his vehicle. Were this just a single carded figure, it would be one thing. But, this figure was specifically included in a vehicle that features a molded steering wheel. Using a mold that precluded the figure from gripping the wheel is a tremendous mistake and one that simply can not be excused in this modern day of toymaking. Aside from that, the figure looks like he has a pot belly. The horrid chest joint matches with the torso to create a bulge and Crankcase looks like he ate too much at Thanksgiving. Aside from these 2 glaring defects, the figure is at least true to the original spirit of Crankcase and it is nice to see such an obscure character make an appearance in the new line.

The AWE Striker has seen a good life. After it was discontinued at retail in the U.S. in 1986, it showed up in Brazil. The mold reappeared again in 1991: only this time in Eco-Warriors colors. Hasbro dusted the mold off again around 1995 when they retooled it slightly for use in the Stargate Movie toy line. Subsequent to that, the mold was sent off to India where it was released by Funskool for many years. Hasbro either re-acquired the mold or had another one available and released the mold to retail in the U.S., only this time in all black, in 2001 as part of the A Real American Hero Collection. It was then released again in 2004, this time with a retooled top gun and with Dial Tone as the driver. This 2008 release marks the 3rd time we've seen this vehicle at retail in 7 years. Frankly, that's enough. There are enough other vehicle molds that have yet to appear at retail since the vintage days that would be much more exciting than yet another AWE Striker. But, of the releases of this mold, we have yet to see an AWE Striker really live up to to its "All Weather and Environments" tag. I could stand to at least see this make one more appearance in desert colors since the dune buggy aspect of the toy's design would lend itself to desert terrain. We've seen from other lines as well as the recent Joe releases that Hasbro isn't shy about repainting usable vehicle molds. So, it is entirely possible that we'll see another AWE Striker before too long.

Target ordered roughly 16,700 of each of the three exclusive vehicles. To put this into historical perspective, previous exclusives like the Operation Crimson Sabotage, the TRU VAMP and the TRU version of the AWE Striker all saw production runs of around 10,000 units each. As such, these Target vehicles have been produced in larger numbers than we have historically seen. But, we have also not seen vehicles released under the 25th Anniversary banner. However, it seems that the hallmark of the 25th Anniversary toy sales is the packaging hearkening back to vintage days. While single carded figures seem to sell strongly, items that feature non-vintage inspired packaging like the comic packs languish at retail. (The box sets were even clearance fodder while single carded versions of those same figures released during the clearances still sell strongly.) I know that my local Target store had an endcap of 2 cases of these exclusives by the registers. On the third weekend they were there, I bought this AWE Striker and it was the first vehicle they've sold. (The cashier who works in front of the endcap even remarked as such.) As such, I don't think these items have strong long term value potential. Usually, it is the figures that drive aftermarket pricing and Hasbro has already proven they are very willing to re-release 25th Anniversary style figures ad naseum until market demand is sated. As such, even if one of the figures from these sets become popular, it is pretty much a given that we will see that figure either singly carded, repacked with a new vehicle/comic/gift set or retooled into a superior version at some point in the future. As for the vehicle itself, this is the third modern release of the AWE Striker and there is no indication that it will be the last. Hasbro has the mold and will continue to use until it simply won't sell anymore. For me, $10 was too good a price to pass up for a new AWE Striker that was true to the original. While this vehicle could be released many more times, it will certainly not be at a price point below $10. So, for that type of bargain, this vehicle really is a no-brainer for even a hard core vintage fan like me.

2008 AWE Striker, Crankcase, 1989 Night Force Lightfoot, TRU Exclusive, Target Exlcusive

2008 AWE Striker, Crankcase, 1985 Flint, Heavy Metal, Footloose

2008 AWE Striker, Crankcase, 1989 Night Force Lightfoot, TRU Exclusive, Target Exlcusive, 2007 Convention Exclusive Clutch

2008 AWE Striker, Crankcase, 1989 Night Force Lightfoot, TRU Exclusive, Target Exlcusive, 1991 Dusty, Desert Scorpion, 1987 Mercer

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