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 him...at 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.