Thursday, July 31, 2008

2008 Cobra Commander - San Diego Comic Convention Exclusive

To me, the character of Cobra Commander is the catalyst for the entire Joe line. Without him, G.I. Joe was just another bunch of green army guys. Once Cobra was introduced, there was a dichotomy in the line. There were clear cut lines between good and evil and the Joes now had a foil against which they could develop their characters. The Commander himself was always fascinating to me. He was a self made man who, by all accounts, was able to make incredible sums of money. Yet, this greed was motivated more by a need for power rather than a desire to be rich. Money bought power: not satisfaction. Yet, the character was deeply flawed. For a man who seemed to hate the U.S. and all its capitalist society represented, the Commander was quick to use that system to make himself fabulously wealthy. As such, you still have a contradiction in the Commander's character. It is small, but still there and a part of the character that was not fully explored. Over the years, we've seen many Cobra Commander versions. Most are variations on the similar theme of his standard look. This exclusive suited Cobra Commander is no different. It is the same hooded villain only this time, in a suit. Nothing really earth-shattering. But, there is something about the image that this figure evokes that makes this figure stand out in the sea of sameness that is the Commander. Thus, it is worthy of another look.

The early days of Cobra were heavily influenced by Nazi-esque imagery. In the first issue of the comic, the troopers were heavily blonde haired and saluted the Commander in a style similar to the Nazis. The army carried large golden banners in front of it. It was a way to evoke the true level of Cobra's evil. This figure plays right into that image. First, the exclusive podium follows the pattern of a persuasive dictator. Secondly, the suit the figure is wearing was actually designed for the Toht figure in the Indiana Jones line. As such, it was designed after a Nazi character. The combination is a look that hearkens Cobra back to its roots. This isn't the Cobra commander who wore an armored suit and used giant robots to kill his resurrected from the dead and brainwashed enemies. This is the Cobra Commander who went town to town, speaking at rallies, selling vitamins and built a loyal following of disillusioned youth and working class who needed someone to believe in. It is the charismatic leader who took over a town under the noses of the government and was able to build a military that was able to stand toe to toe with the elite units of the American (and other nations') army.

Love them or hate them, exclusives are part of the modern toy collecting experience. However, their handling is always open to scrutiny. In this case of this figure (and, the gold headed Pimp Daddy Destro from 2007) the handling of the exclusive is nothing more than a slap in the face to long term Joe fans who largely supported this hobby during the slow years. Just a few weeks prior to this figure's release, Joe fans were asked to attend the G.I. Joe convention in Texas. At that time, they had no opportunity to acquire this figure. It was saved for the San Diego Comic Convention. So, this means that hard core Joe fans were basically told by Hasbro that they either had to attend both conventions, skip the Joe con for the SDCC or miss the SDCC and pay ~$150 for 2 exclusive figures. As such, hard core Joe fans are punished by Hasbro for being unable or unwilling to attend two conventions that are in close date proximity to one another. Now, I'm not saying that the SDCC shouldn't have its own Joe exclusive. But, I do think that at least those who attended the Joe convention should have had the opportunity to pre-order these figures from Hasbro at the Joe con so their loyalty to the brand was rewarded and they wouldn't have to buy from the aftermarket speculators who make up so much of the SDCC crowd.

This figure is not actually a Joe figure in terms of construction. The figure uses the body from Toht from the Indiana Jones line of toys. This means that the figure has totally different construction from any other Joe figure. It features the standard ball joints on the limbs but is missing the horrid chest joint that ruins the aesthetics of most anniversary style figures. Due to the body construction, the figure is also more in scale with ARAH style or JvC style Joes and not the taller anniversary figures. As such, this is a figure with more versatility than if it was made in any of the other, distinctive styles of Joe construction. Plus, as this figure is pretty much meant to stand behind a podium, the lack of articulation isn't that big of an issue. As such, for an exclusive, this figure is acceptable. As a retail item, though, this figure would have been horrible. It's not really classifiable as any of the existing styles of Joe figures so it really is somewhat of a bastard step-child in the Joe world. But, the look is distinctive enough that most collectors could find a home for the figure in their collections.

There are two versions of this figure: this black suit and a blue suit with khaki pants version. The blue version was produced in much lower quantities and will be the more desirable figure down the road. Historically, the "variant" figure runs about 3 to 4 times more in terms of pricing than the "common" version. That trend will likely continue with this figure and you can expect to pay a substantial sum to acquire the blue suit version of this figure. The upside is that it's unlikely these figures will ever be re-released. The downside, though, is that Hasbro could, at some point, reuse the exclusive podium accessory and package it with a real anniversary style figure that features Cobra Commander in a similar outfit. At that point, this figure's exclusivity will no longer be relevant. But, that's the chance you take when you buy expensive modern figures in a line that is still active at retail.

The real highlight of this figure is the card art. The exclusive view of the Commander at his podium invokes the imagery of Cobra from the earliest days of the organization. To me, this is the most significant Cobra...before it was bogged down in superfluous characters, sci-fi plots and ninja overload. It is the Cobra of the Commander and his blueshirts. The cardback plays up the Commander's origins and is a nice addition to the figure's overall presentation. Personally, I found the value of this figure to be tied heavily to his complete packaging. Once removed, the figure's significance is somewhat diminished. But, it would still be nice to have CC standing at this podium in front of my loose Cobra army.

This figure's availability comes in two parts. Prior to the movie, the figure will be highly sought after and will likely top out in the $50 range once Hasbro filters out all the remaining overstock. Long term, though, I think this figure's appeal will diminish. Exclusives are always hottest right after their release. In time, they are forgotten as interest in a property wanes. As such, I think that in two or three years, you will be able to get these figures in the $20 range with relative ease. If you look at the history of exclusives, though, they can go both ways. Some have remained popular and expensive even though their toy lines have been long dead at retail. Others (most notably, Star Wars) have largely become clearance fodder and many of the exclusives are now available for below their original asking price. As for this figure, the reality is that since he's a hybrid of 2 lines, he isn't really an Anniversary style figure and he will be hard to place into collections as anything other than the display piece he was meant to be. That will limit his long term appeal. However, the distinctive card art and the display nature of the figure will also keep some interest in the design. (Though, Hasbro isn't known for making exclusive accessories for a limited run item so I'd say it's inevitable that we will see the podium packaged with another Cobra Commander figure at some point in the future.) Long term, this figure will probably settle into the $20 range. But, it will be a few years before it declines to that point. If you're willing to wait, I would do so as this is a figure that will likely be somewhat expensive in the short term.

2008 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Hooded Cobra Commander, Convention

2008 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Hooded Cobra Commander, Convention

2008 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Hooded Cobra Commander, Convention, Indiana Jones, Skeres

Thursday, July 24, 2008

2004 Chief Torpedo

If you look back at the years from 2002 through 2005, you see that during those years, Hasbro simply inundated the market with Joe releases. In each of those years, there were at least 90 unique figures that were released to retail. That volume guaranteed a few things: 1. A lot of those figures sucked. 2. Some of those figures were great. and 3. Collectors were sure to overlook some great stuff in the mass of product. Sure enough, all three of those points are true when looking at those years. The focus of this profile is to showcase one of the great overlooked and amazingly high quality figure releases that was dumped on us in the 4th quarter of 2004: the VAMP exclusive Chief Torpedo.

The VAMP set really was a winner. It was modestly priced for the amount of product it offered and the set featured some vehicles that had were welcome additions to most collections. For $20 you got: a new mold VAMP jeep in classic olive green, a Whirlwind in the same colors and three figures. Granted, one of the figures, Pathfinder, was the same paint scheme we saw with the A.W.E. Striker in 2001. But, this time he included his full range of original accessories in new, exclusive colors. Big Brawler is...well...Big Brawler. But, he did feature a new paint scheme. The Torpedo figure was the class of the set, though. A Muskrat body with 1992 Roadblock arms and a 1992 Wet Suit head made for a great figure. On top of the decently amalgamated mold, Torpedo also features incredibly detailed paint masks. The reason for this is because Torpedo features the exact paint masks that were used on the Convention Dreadhead figures. (At the time of his release, though, this was a detriment as the Dreadheads really didn't catch on with the collecting community and many collectors were tired of the Muskrat body after Dreadhead overload.) The result is that Torpedo is really a convention level figure in terms of quality.

As a kid, one of figures I most wanted Hasbro to produce was a Wet Suit and Torpedo in standard cammo and combat gear. After they appeared in these outfits in the Yearbook, it was obvious that they could be great additions to the line. Alas, Hasbro never produced either of these characters in anything other than dive suits in the vintage line. When Muskrat was released in 1988, I thought that he might make for a good representation of either of the divers based on their comic appearances. But, by 1988, I was pretty much out of Joes. As the modern line progressed, it became more and more likely that Hasbro would, eventually, visit one or both of these characters in alternate environmental gear. When Torpedo was finally released, the result was as good as could be expected with the parts available. I would have liked to have seen a boonie hat (maybe Crosshairs') included with the figure, but that might have been a tough call to find a head on which it would have fit. (Plus, by late '04, Hasbro had gotten lazy in their accessory complements with their exclusive figure releases. So, it's hard to condemn a figure released during that time for lack of accessories.)

This release of Torpedo brought new life to the character, though. As all the other Torpedo figures were stuck in underwater gear, it was tough to use them outside of an aquatic setting. For a while, Torpedo did see use as part of my hovercraft crew (inspired by issue #36 of the comic!) but that was short lived. With this new land based version, though, Torpedo could finally be the full SEAL he was meant to be. His greyish-tan base makes for a figure that can be used in the jungle, desert, forest or swamps. He retains a realistic color scheme without blending into the sea of olive drab Joes that were the hallmark of many of the '01 releases. The convention paint masks bring out the detail in the figure as pretty much everything is painted in some highlight color.

The figure has a few drawbacks. The most glaring is the mullet that was molded onto the figure's head back in the early 90's. It's hard to take this figure too seriously once you see that. It is a chilling reminder of the changes in style since the vintage Joe line. But could also be a fun character trait that other Joes could use to torment the fashionably challenged Torpedo. The figure also lacks any decent accessories. While the Pathfinder figure featured his full complement of vintage gear, the other 2 figures in the set were left to share a silver rifle that you see pictured with the figure below. This weapon works well enough for Torpedo. But, a SEAL just feels like he should include a pack, helmet and some other piece of equipment that showcases his level of training. At least it's easy to find surplus accessories lying around these days. But, at least some attempt at a decent accessory set would have been appreciated.

One of the gripes with this figure is that it should have been Wet Suit due to the use of the head. In that regard, I really can't disagree. Personally, when I see this figure, I see the Wet Suit character instead of Torpedo. But, the use of this head for Torpedo is at least consistent with the 1998 Torpedo figure. At this point, the head has been used for Torpedo as many times as it's been used for Wet Suit, so it's hard to really allow this one issue to preclude enjoyment of this figure. It would have been nice if Hasbro at least attempted some skin color variation to match Torpedo's Hawaiian ancestry. But, the overall looks still supports the character since it is unlikely that many collectors use the '92 or '93 Wetsuit sans helmet with any frequency.

The primary mold used for Torpedo is Muskrat. Aside from the Dreadheads and this figure, the Muskrat mold has not been used by Hasbro. While Muskrat appeared in both Brazil and India, those figures are very similar to the American figure in terms of color and paint masks. While this Torpedo figure gives collectors a way to at least have something new with the mold, the reality is that Muskrat himself would have been a great candidate for re-release at some point during the modern Joe line. Perhaps he'll one day return in a Convention set. Or, maybe we'll see Torpedo retain this body mold and appear again somewhere. But, this isn't a mold that's been played out. And, since it's been since 2004 that we've seen it, enough time has passed for the mold to be somewhat fresh and exciting again should it be used properly.

The last quarter of 2004 saw an tidal wave of Joe exclusive products. Aside from the standard retail waves that were shipping, Hasbro also offered 2 exclusive 6 figure packs and 2 exclusive vehicle packs. One of the figure packs was the highly army built Ninja Strike Set while the other vehicle set was the well done Operation Crimson Sabotage. Both of these sets were very desirable in multiples (at that time, there was no confirmation that the Toys R Us exclusive Crimson Guard army builder set would be released and the Sabotage set was the only way to get a quick Crimson Guard army) As such, many collectors simply found that their wallets could not keep up. When faced with the decisions of which toys to cut out during the holidays, most collectors left the Desert Patrol and VAMP sets sitting on the shelves as they bought up multiples of the Cobra army builders. Many collectors figured these two Joe themed items would be plentiful after the holidays and might even reach clearance.

But, a funny thing happened. The VAMP and Desert Patrol sets dried up at retail during the holiday season. As such, as we headed into 2005, there were many collectors who had missed out on these 2 items at retail. But, just when some chatter about how these Joe items had disappeared was starting to show up in collecting circles, the whole Oktober Guard availability issue hit and the 2004 Joe sets were forgotten as collectors scrambled to pick up the Russians. The result, for a time, was a pricey set. Many boxed VAMP sets were selling for nearly $40 plus shipping. Now, though, much of the wind has come out of Joe prices and you can get a boxed VAMP set and all three figures for under original retail price. When you can find a loose Torpedo by himself, he'll sell for under $6. For a figure of this quality, that's a steal. It's likely that there were only ~15,000 of these figures produced and this remains the only version of Torpedo that isn't in a dive suit. As such, it's a figure that belongs in every collection. And, at the current pricing, there really is no reason he shouldn't be.

2004 Chief Torpedo, VAMP, TRU Exclusive, 2003 Convention Exclusive Tiger Force Beach Head, Unproduced Night Force Tracker, 2004

2004 Chief Torpedo, VAMP, TRU Exclusive, 2003 Convention Exclusive Tiger Force Beach Head, Unproduced Night Force Tracker, 2004

2004 Chief Torpedo, VAMP, TRU Exclusive, 1988 Night Force Crazylegs, 2006 Viper

2004 Chief Torpedo, VAMP, TRU Exclusive, 2003 Convention Exclusive Tiger Force Beach Head, Unproduced Night Force Tracker, 2004

2004 Chief Torpedo, VAMP, TRU Exclusive, 1988 Charbroil, Desert Fox, 2004 Cobra Trooper

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

2001 Sub Viper

It's hard to imagine a time when collectors were excited over the prospect of a newly repainted release of the SHARC. But, back in 2001, new Joe product was so sporadic that we were keen on pretty much any toy that had a Joe label on it. In time, of course, this excitement abated and collectors were left with a couple of retail dud vehicles. But, unlike the Flint from the Desert Striker or Cutter from the Attack Boat, the Sub Viper was actually a figure that collectors wanted: even if his vehicle was not.

The Sub Viper is just a repainted Sludge Viper mold. Instead of the neon yellow and blue, though, the figure is cast is a more subtle silver and watery blue. It is a nearly perfect match for Lamprey figures whether the original or the 2000 version. This updated color scheme shows the potential of the mold. But, like the Sludge Viper, the Sub Viper is still a bastion of unrealized potential. While the base colors on the Sub Viper are excellent, the details of the mold are still left unpainted. As such, there is a wealth of small details that could easily be painted to bring whole new life to the mold, even if the base colors of the Sub Viper were changed only slightly. While the few paint masks that are on the figure work well, you are left with a sense of incompletion as the figure could have 2 or even 3 more paint masks that would have really brought the mold to life. But, in this case, simple still works considering the figure's purpose.

When the Sub Viper was released, it offered great hope that Hasbro was going to spend a lot of effort recoloring the mass of '90's molds that were poorly colored the first time around. The repaint line offered a great chance to bring back many of those spectacular molds: only colored right this time around. But, that was not to be. While Hasbro did offer us some great new takes on poorly colored molds, they did not do it enough to spark much interest in the repaint line. Master Collector has done a better job of this (especially more recently) but lacks the sheer number of releases that would showcase some of the molds that have so much potential. Now that the line has largely moved on from ARAH style figures, we are still left with a great void in the vintage style line. There is still so much that could be done to create some figures for the ages. Hopefully, the greatly diverse and inspired 2007 Convention set will be a harbinger of things to come with the few ARAH style figures we still do see. But, figures like the Sub Viper are easier to appreciate 7 years after their release date since they were such an anomaly in the modern line.

As a character, the Sub Viper isn't much. The filecards from the '00-'01 era are simply horrible and are not a basis for any of my characterizations. I use the Sub Viper as replacement for the Lampreys. I've always felt that the Lampreys were too cool to only be used as the pilot of a highly specialized vehicle. So, instead, they are the backbone of the Cobra maritime forces: basically the equivalent of Vipers but in maritime settings. As this leaves the Moray without a dedicated pilot, the Sub Viper is able to step in and fill that role. The Sub Viper is a fully trained Lamprey who is on his way to one day becoming and Eel. Learning to command a Moray is just another step to becoming one of the Cobras elite troopers.

Beyond that, the Sub Viper isn't all that useful. He isn't a figure that is easily adapted to other environments (though you could use him a Cobra firefighter or astronaut) or other specialties. But, he fits his assigned role so well that you can forgive him his limitations. The figure is simply a perfect fit for the Moray and the Lampreys. He has the classic colors that hearken back to the vintage line (which was one thing the A Real American Hero Collection figures of '00 and '01 did very well) but a mold that isn't overused. The result is a great way to update a display piece and give it more depth. For years I had several full crews of Lampreys for my Morays. Slowly, the gunner positions were taken over by the '00 Lamprey just to give the scene more depth. Now, the driver and co-pilot are Sub Vipers and the original Lampreys man the back gun stations. It's a great look that keeps uniformity while still offering diversity. In that regard the Sub Viper succeeds marvelously.

The Sludge Viper mold was only used by Hasbro in the US. (A few of the Sludge Vipers were carded by Hasbro for sale in other, Asian countries, though.) After its use for the Sub Viper, the mold has not been used again. Hasbro certainly has access to it and could pull it out at any time. But, at this time, we are left with only the Sub Viper as a sensibly colored alternative to the Sludge Viper mold. Personally, I'd love to see the Sub Viper return in some soft of set with a definitive Lamprey, a new Eel or Undertow and lead by a repainted Decimator. All those molds are available and could be easily used. The fact that Hasbro never used the Toys R Us exclusive 6 pack format to release a Cobra maritime set is one of my great regrets of the modern line.

Time has afforded us much perspective on the Joe line. If you look back at the figures released between 2000 and 2001 in the A Real American Hero Collection, you don't find many duds. But, you don't find many superstars, either. While I look back on that era of figures fondly, I also don't count more than one or two of them who are used in many of my dios. Some of these figures (like Firefly) were eclipsed by later releases. Others simply weren't significant upgrades over their original figures. And, most of the new characters were flat and didn't excite much more than camp value from their personalities. I look at those years largely as filler figures. They are what a collection needs to give it some diversity: but not the foundation upon which you would build something new. At its core, I think that the is the reason the ARAHC ultimately failed. For you to become invested in the toys, you had to have a vintage collection to augment them. For collectors, that worked. For kids, though, it was too difficult for them to get excited about something that required buying old, second hand toys in order for them to fully appreciate what the line had to offer. Hasbro fared better with the new sculpts, but still took long to finally get the core figures to market. With the anniversary figures, they have corrected that problem and the fundamentals of any collection have been largely released in the first year. I often wonder what would have happened if the ARAHC had been done differently and the first Toys R Us exclusives from 1997 had been the molds and colors first conceptualized. I don't know if we'd be in a different place these days, but we'd have certainly gotten some different figures in the early days of the relaunch than we actually did.

A couple of years ago, Sub Vipers were pretty hard to find on the second hand market: despite the fact that the vehicle was pretty much a retail dud was was widely available for well over 6 months. Typically, the figures ran about $10 each. As such, it didn't make much sense to buy the figure alone when you could buy the whole vehicle for the same price. Around 2004, though, a large supply of Sub Vipers appeared in Asia. This allowed many collectors to army build the figure in an economical way. For a time, you could get a Sub Viper for around $6 or so. That sated some demand for the figure, but prices have since risen closer to the $8-$10 mark. If you want the filecard, that's a bit harder to come by and most dealers will charge a premium for it. But, for the purposes of army building, Sub Vipers are slightly cheaper now than they were a few years ago. That's a good thing as the Sub Viper is a great complement to Lamprey armies and makes for a perfect crewmember of the best Cobra aquatic vehicles. He works with Eels and can be used underwater or on the surface. The Sub Viper is just a solid figure that is one of the few examples of how a horridly colored figure from the '90's can be made into something great with just a little effort.

2001 Sub Viper, 1985 Moray, Hydrofoil, ARAHC

2001 Sub Viper, 1985 Moray, Hydrofoil, ARAHC, Eel, Lamprey

2001 Sub Viper, 1985 Moray, Hydrofoil, ARAHC, Eel, Lamprey

2001 Sub Viper, 1985 Moray, Hydrofoil, ARAHC, Eel, Lamprey

Monday, July 7, 2008

2008 Convention Exclusive Hotwire

I was very high on the 2007 convention exclusive figures. I felt that figures like Zap, Lt. Claymoore, Flash, Grand Slam, Starduster, Steeler and Doc were all figures that can stand tall among figures from any year of the line. The 2007 figures featured a nice mix of molds that blended well to create fresh takes on stale characters. In short, it was the way I wanted to see convention sets continue. When the 2008 set was shown, I was under whelmed. While it was nice to see the Headhunter, Headhunter Stormtrooper and Gristle return, their colors left me flat. The set, overall, lacked the daring of the 2007 set. On the day of the Convention when the rest of the exclusives were revealed, the feelings were prolonged. While the Urban 3 pack is decent, I didn't find it as interesting as the Jet Pack Troopers from 2007. The Headhunter Driver is a nice re deco, but not a figure who is infinitely superior to the other Headhunter figures available. Of all the figures released, one really stood out to me, though. Just one figure seemed to follow the spirit of the 2007 set and showcased the originality that was so splendid in the prior year. It is a flawed figure for sure. But, Hotwire is something that is new and exciting in the ARAH style Joe figure world and that's worth something to me.

If you allowed me to create 1000 of my own ARAH style Joe figures, I would never have even considered Hotwire as a possibility. But, if you let me create 1000 ARAH style Joe figures, I would also have never even remotely considered this mold combination as a way to create a new and interesting figure design. While the difference in those statements is subtle, it is my way of saying that I didn't even realize I wanted a figure like this Hotwire until I saw him available. With over 1000 ARAH style figure available throughout the world, it's quite an accomplishment to come up with some creative and unique that fills a niche is the collecting world. While this figure isn't perfect by any means, it is a perfect example of how a solid idea can overcome limitations in the available molds and proves that there is still a significant number of high quality figures that can be made from existing ARAH style parts.

Hotwire was created using the torso of Hardball, legs, waist and arms of the Laser Viper and Blanka's head. The result is a surprisingly strong rendition of a mad scientist. It's not perfect, but works better than the use of Headman's body for the 2004 General Flagg. If you look at the body, though, it is also a dead ringer for Dr. Venom. One thing that Master Collector has done the previous conventions but did not do this year was recast some existing parts or sculpt new heads for their figures. They did this in 2005, 2006 and 2007. They did not do this in 2008, though...even though a new Dr. Venom head would have been the perfect topper for this body. However, at the convention, Master Collector mentioned that they were looking at a way to bring Dr. Venom to ARAH Joe form. Lamely, he's planned to tie into the Adventure Team as a means to force 3 3/4" fans to buy 12" Joe characters. But, if that figure does come to fruition, I'd wager that his parts combo will be very similar to Hotwire, only with that missing new head.

As a mold combo, the parts work quite well. The big news is the appearance of the Hardball mold. Every year, Master Collector pulls out some new molds for their exclusives and 2008 was no exception. As the original Hardball figure is a decent sculpt, but in less useful colors, a new version of that character would be a welcome future possibility. The figure also recycles the Laser Viper parts we saw in 2003 in the Python Patrol. The Blanka head is the oddball. It makes sense that Hasbro has access to many of the Street Fighter molds. But, many of them are likely less useful (though some Street Fighter heads worked well on the 2004 Dreadnoks and on Lt. Claymoore last year) and would be difficult to incorporate into realistic figures. Blanka's head falls into this category. But, in a way, it works. The newly colored mold looks like a cross between Eddie Munster and Igor. (The figure's German roots are an all too obvious homage to Frankenstein, too.) You can kind of see him as the claymation scientist from Robot Chicken, too. It is a somewhat cliched look, but works in the Joe context because it is something that is totally unique.

Now, don't get me wrong. The Blanka head is overly large for this body and is a bit caricaturish. The permanent smile with the bright white teeth is off-putting. But, it can be used as a point of characterization for Hotwire. You could see it as a maniacal smile, a grimace of intense pain caused by an unseen physical ailment (Maybe his large head is diseased and his teeth are forever gritted in agony.), or just a guy who can't keep his mouth shut. The included lab coat does help to temper the head's size. But, the larger 1993 part does stand out against the smaller, slimmer parts from 1988 and 1990. It is a small point, but one that will affect this figure's long term desirability. He is not perfect by any means and has some issues that will sour many collectors on the design. But, it is unique and not a part I would have even considered were I building exclusive figures.

The figure's colors are strong. The stark white is juxtaposed against standard Cobra blue pants with black details. The figure features 2 delicate Cobra logos. Included with Hotwire is the requisite battle stand, a grenade pistol and the flamethower from the 2003 Blowtorch figure. This weapon is a quite odd, but fits with Hotwire perfectly. It is the right size for a freakish scientist and has that oddball quality you would associate with someone like Hotwire. Both these weapons are cast in the standard Master Collector gray. The figure also includes a while, hard plastic lab coat. It is not pliable but works well with the figure. it isn't an overwhelming complement of accessories, but does match the figure.

As a character, Hotwire first appeared in the G.I. Joe Trading Card game. He was listed as the BAT mechanic. Originally, Hasbro's plan for 2005 was "Rise of the Robots" or "Robot Rebellion". Basically, the BATs were going to be an integral part of the story line. However, the Joe line tanked at retail, Venom vs. Valor was extended into oblivion and parts of the BAT toy line were interspersed into later DTC runs. (The mech included with Hotwire is the unreleased version that was planned for the BAT line.) It was likely that, had the BAT story line come to light, Hotwire would have been a new sculpt figure released at some point in 2005. It is unlikely that anything was ever sculpted for least in any meaningful way. So, this character was available for Master Collector to use. They kept the BAT Mechanic angle, but added more characterization and made him more of a mad scientist. I always viewed a BAT mechanic as being more techy than Gothic horror novel, but the new look does work within the context of the character's definitions.

For me, the character is a bit more difficult to use. BATs are not a significant part of my collection and really hold little interest to me. I have hated mechs since they were the SNAKE back in 1983 and find them useless in my collection. As such, I see Hotwire fulfilling his role as Dr. Mindbender's lackey in the bowels of secret Cobra laboratories. Here, he would conduct experiments on poor performing Cobra troops and help develop the next generation of Cobra weapons. The downside to this is that the figure becomes one that isn't used with any frequency. But, these days, that's less of an issue. Having him out on display is about the extent that can be expected of a lunatic in a lab coat. With a little more time, it's likely that I'll develop a better characterization for Hotwire. But, for now, I'm content to just have the figure in my collection.

Hotwire is going to cost you in the short term. The figure and mech sold out at the convention and post con pricing seems to run about $100 for the figure and vehicle. (You can be sure that most of that price is in the figure, though.) However, these figures aren't selling as quickly as some of the other exclusives. And, history has shown that most expensive convention items (that aren't Roddy Piper!) come down in price over time. As such, long term, I don't think this price is sustainable for Hotwire. Plus, if the body is reused for Dr. Venom at some point, that will further diminish demand for the Hotwire mold combination. If you really want the figure, find a price you're comfortable with. But, be prepared for this figure to be available for substantially cheaper in a few years. For me, there is no way I'd pay that kind of money for the figure. I initially balked at paying 1/2 that amount. But, the Joe market is still very odd these days with so many fair weather fans who are flocking to the hobby for a few fleeting moments. So, I try to buy items at fair prices. If I can get a Hotwire for $9 three years from now, so be it. In the meantime, he's a unique addition to my collection and a figure I can enjoy.

2008 Convention Exclusive Hotwire, BAT Mechanic,  2003 BAT

2008 Convention Exclusive Hotwire, BAT Mechanic,

2008 Convention Exclusive Hotwire, BAT Mechanic,  1986 BAT, 1987 Techno Viper

2008 Convention Exclusive Hotwire, BAT Mechanic,  Funskool Flint, 2005 HAS Snake Eyes