Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Funskool Zartan

Ahh, the Funskool Zartan: an infamous release in many ways and one that was, at the time, among the most anticipated new figure offerings that collectors would see. It was a figure that whose release led to fights and an early splintering of the community. But, as a design, it didn't disappoint those who had waited so long for a new version of the mysterious Cobra Chameleon. Today, the figure isn't as special as it once was since the mold has subsequently been used a few more times on solid releases. But, this figure remains a testament to Funskool's ability to, every now and then, produce a figure that was almost universally accepted by the American collecting community.

As a figure, the Funskool Zartan isn't that much different from the American figure. (Though he no longer changes color.) He is cast in the same basic maroon and black that is the hallmark of the American original. But, there are a few, subtle differences that allow this figure to stand out and offer a little something more for the Zartan fan. Aside from the additional paint mask on Zartan's boots, the main difference is the face paint. The American figure features dark makeup around Zartan's eyes. On the Funskool figure, the paint is more subtle. But, the face paint only accentuates the truly noticeable difference in the figure: the eyes. The Funskool Zartan features a pair of beady yellow eyes that give the figure a more monsterish look. This Zartan is even more bizarre than the character who debuted in 1984 and the eyes add a creepiness to Zartan that only enhances that aspect of his personality.

There is a reason that the Funskool Zartan is similar to the American figure. It is the same reason why many iconic Joe characters who appeared in the Funskool line are similar to their American counterparts while other, less iconic figures, tend to take on wacky and bright color schemes. As Funskool was a Hasbro licensee, they were bound by Hasbro's whims when it came to figure design. There were certain characters that Hasbro wanted to keep consistent across all their releases. These are the big name, iconic characters who appear in cartoons, coloring books and comics. This gives the brand a universal appeal, but also allows for licensees like Funskool to re-use other aspects of Joe media as a cross selling tool for their products. As such, these core characters were kept close to their American designs so that the figures would maintain their consistent look. (You will note that while Funskool deviated from this in many of their early figure offerings, in almost every case, they also released the character in colors more similar to the American original.) Characters or figure molds about which Hasbro had little concern in regards to branding were allowed to be redone by Funskool in the bright, atrocious colors that have become the calling card of Funskool designs. As such, it is easy to spot characters about whom Hasbro cares by looking at which Funskool figures stayed true to the original character. Those who saw massive deviations were figures about whom Hasbro had little long term interest.

This Zartan isn't without his problems. Like most Funskool figures made in 2001 and 2002, early Zartans suffered from poor quality. The distinct and desirable eye paint was usually botched the worst and that rendered many figures unusable since the most desirable characteristic was ruined by the factory. If you could get a good Zartan figure, the accessories were also problematic. The Funskool Zartan's hood is not glued to his head like the American figure's is. To make matters worse, the hood is a hard, rigid plastic that is not pliable and does not take the shape of the head. So, it is often wobbly and loose on the figure. Most collectors got around this with a dab of glue. But, that posed another problem. While this Zartan does include his trademark face mask, the mask is also of hard, rigid plastic. So, if the hood is glued in place, you can not easily bend the mask to fit into the hood as it was intended. But, since Zartan didn't include his original backpack to hold the mask, that can be less of an issue. The highlight of the accessories is the body armor that Zartan wears. The Funskool version is solid black and that adds a bit of depth to the figure when it is affixed. However, the leg pads especially are notorious for not fitting into the figure (though, to be fair, the comic pack Zartan from Hasbro in 2005 has this same issue...) and they do tend to pop off at inopportune times. This version does include the original pistol (which Hasbro has thus far failed to return to the market) but it is colored bright red. So, as a package, the Funskool accessories are a definite detriment to the figure. But, if you have some spare American Zartan accessories around, those do work quite well with this figure. One other point of interest is that this figure isn't glued together like the American figure. So, customizers can easily use his parts on any other Zartan inspired creations they might have.

In my collection, this figure remains popular. He is not, though, used for the Zartan character. Instead, this is a figure who commiserates with the Funskool Red Dog and Funskool Mercer as criminals on the outside of all factions. They are sought by law enforcement of both Joe and Cobra as their activities are to the detriment of both entities. This Zartan figure always wears his mask. (Thus, making him distinctive from the real Zartan in my collection.) What's beneath the mask remains an enigma and many speculate that he is, in reality, a high ranking member of either Cobra or Joe who has gone rogue and uses his inside knowledge to stay one step ahead of his pursuers. Essentially, I have taken the elements of the Dreadnoks that I liked best and put them into characters who, I feel, have more depth and range. It is something I have always done with my various foreign figures and is probably why those releases play such a prominent role in my collection today.

The Zartan mold was used in the US for the original figure. From there, Zartan was produced by Hasbro for various countries. (The most famous being Japan where Zartan was released as a single carded figure.) The mold was not used again until late 2001 when it appeared in India for use on this figure. (As a note, there is a variant on this figure: some early Zartans have black elbows and others have flesh elbows. This is a common Funskool variant that affects many figures. It's not terribly interesting, but should be noted.) In 2004, Hasbro reacquired the mold and used it for a Convention exclusive Zartan figure. This bright orange creation simply never caught on in the collecting world and remains largely unsold. Hasbro managed to redeem the character with the comic pack version that was released in 2005. While the original head was replaced, the figure still included all the chest and leg armor that make the figure so unique. Really, there isn't much interesting you can do with the Zartan mold. So, at this point, there really isn't any reason for it to be used again.

The Funskool Zartan figure used to be available from a variety of dealers for about $4. But, like most of the more popular Funskool figures, the supply of Zartans dried up after Funskool got out of the Joe business. These days, collectors have to turn to aftermarket dealers or Ebay to find a Funskool Zartan. But, while they may be a little harder to track down these days, they aren't much more expensive. You might pay upwards of $8 for a MOC figure but that's still pretty good for so important a release. If you're in the market for the figure, though, be sure to find Zartans produced in 2003 or later as those will be the best quality. (There are bagged versions that are the best, but they don't include any accessories so you still need the carded figure for those.) This is a great version of Zartan if only for the creepy eye factor and remains the version of the character that is most often used in my collection. Even at the now higher prices, this is definitely a figure that every collector should own.

2001 Funskool Zartan, Street Hawk, Roadblock, Mercer

2001 Funskool Zartan, Red Dod, Budo

2001 Funskool Zartan,

2001 Funskool Zartan, Variant

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

2005 Unproduced Alternate Daina - Oktober Guard

Beginning in late 2003, collectors began to see a stream of unproduced and alternate color scheme Joe figures coming from Asian sellers. While some of these may have not been actual Hasbro approved items, many others were legitimate unproduced or alternate color scheme figures that were changed for their production release. In all, there are probably more than 100 of these figures that were available in both ARAH and new sculpt style. Some are incredibly rare with only a few dozen samples known to exist. Others were quite common and can still be had today for just about nothing. In some cases, these figures were nothing more than wacky variants. In others, they were just subtle repaints that, at first glance, are indistinguishable from the retail figure. In others still, the alternate figures are drastically different than their retail counterparts and offer something completely unique to a collection. Among these figures is this alternate version of Daina.

If you look at the comic that introduced the Daina character, this figure is more accurate to the comic appearance than the figure that was actually released. Instead of the dark green jacket (that is too much like Lady Jaye for my liking), this figure is cast in a base tan. As such the cammo pattern pops out on the figure in a more striking way than you see on the production version. If this figure was actually intended for release is unknown. However, it is rare to find unreleased figures that are this different that don't have some sort of Hasbro origin. Perhaps the figure was changed because Hasbro felt the colors were too similar to her pack mates. Maybe someone just wanted more green. At this point, we'll likely never know. But, as this figure more closely matches the actual comic appearance of the character, it is likely that, at least at some point, it was the intended paint scheme for retail release.

While Daina is the most famous and the most different from her retail figure, it should be noted that there are pre-production versions of the rest of the Oktober Guard figures, too. Mostly, these differences are related to missing date stamps or copyrights or country of origin information. A few have very slight skin tone differences. But, if you are after all the unreleased figures, these are out there in addition to the Daina, though they might be slightly harder to find.

While Daina's body mold is based on that from Lady Jaye, the reality is that it is an all new mold. Daina is substantially smaller than the vintage Lady Jaye. As such, she appears more different than she otherwise might. On top of this new body mold, Daina features a newly sculpted head. It is actually quite well done and is light years ahead of the 1998 Volga head. The look is true to the character, though the hat can be a bit limiting. However, as the figure was molded after a specific comic appearance, you can understand why Hasbro went this route. The smaller mold also matches with Daina's slight frame. In the comic, she was always drawn as rather small in comparison to the other Oktober Guard figures. The vintage Lady Jaye mold would not have retained this effect since it is much taller and bulkier. Now, when standing among her comrades, Daina is a more accurate presentation of her comic portrayal.

As a character, Daina doesn't have much use in my collection. Since the Oktober Guard were not part of my childhood collection, I never really considered them a large part of my Joe world. As I grew older, Col. Brekhov took on more of a symbolic role. But, since it was easy to use Red Star as Brekhov, he at least had some sort of figure to represent the character. Stormavik had always been my favorite member of the Oktober Guard. But, even his figure sits largely unused in my collection today. Daina, as a character, though, is a bit more interesting to me. First, she was not Russian: she was a Czech. As such, you could always sense a bit of distrust between Daina and Brekhov. You could see that he respected her abilities, but was not sold on her loyalty to the Russian Communist Party as she was from a satellite nation rather than Russia itself. I think this is partly why, when Larry Hama killed off the Oktober Guard, he kept Daina. In the post Cold War world, having her as a Czech made her a bit more relevant. (Or, maybe he had a thing for blondes. Who knows?) The later appearances of Daina kept her true to her character and made her the soldier who was well worthy to carry the legacy of the deceased Oktober Guard members. When I finally get around to displaying my Joes, the Oktober Guard will have a place of some prominence. It will be this Daina that joins the other figures, though, rather than the retail release. Beyond that, I don't see much use for the figure going forward. She fills a gap in the modern collection. But, without the childhood connection, her toy loses some significance.

As accessories go, Daina is outfitted rather poorly. She includes a knife, the standard new sculpt AK-47 that is far too large for this mold and a black version of Beach Head's rifle. In the comic, she was a sniper and much fanfare was made of her proficiency with a Dragunov Sniper Rifle. As such, it made no sense that Hasbro chose to NOT include a sniper rifle of any kind with the figure. Hasbro largely failed in the accessory department with their comic pack figures. But, Daina was notable because her weapon of choice was part of her character. For the modern collector, there are adequate sniper files in the line that can be given to Daina. The original Cobra Trooper even includes a Dragonuv sniper rifle. Surprisingly, this works quite well with Daina. But, as those weapons aren't exactly easy to find and most people use them for their Troopers, that may not be the most realistic option. Your best bet is to visit Marauder Inc. and buy an sniper rifle there. That was the path of choice for most collectors at the time of Daina's retail release and remains the most affordable and easiest option today.

The smaller Daina body mold was used only for Daina and then the 2006 Lady Jaye figure. It was also used, to great effect, on the 2007 convention Doc figure. Each of these figures showcases unique head molds and all of them are colored differently enough that they can be used in conjunction with each other. For whatever reason, Hasbro has not returned to revisit the Oktober Guard in any other format other than their original comic pack releases. It is likely that collectors would welcome a new Oktober Guard series that featured the return of Daina and Horrorshow, at least. It seems likely that, in time, Hasbro will come back to these characters since the molds exist and there is some pent up collector demand for a new take on these characters. I would welcome a new Daina in a different color scheme that would give the character some diversity. But, if that never comes to be, at least there is this figure as an alternative to the retail figure.

The only way to acquire this figure was from Asian Joe sellers. During 2005, at the height of this figure's availability, Daina's would often go unsold for $10. In time, though, the supply began to run dry. Once that happened, prices went up to $20 and then $30. After that, the first run supply of these figures disappeared.

Since then, collectors who want this figure have had to pry them from collectors who were around in '05 and who either had the foresight to acquire extras or no longer want the figure in their collection. These days, pricing of this figure is somewhat hard. With few public sales, there is no real record of actual prices. I've heard offers in the $50 range, but no confirmation that anyone actually agreed to sell one at that price. In terms of the alternate, unreleased Asian figures, Daina is probably one of the more common. However, more common might just mean there are 600 of them instead of 400 of some other figure. As such, regardless of her scarcity in terms of other unproduced figures, she is one of the rarer figures in the history of the line. So, if you're in the market for one, be prepared to offer money accordingly. Personally, this is a figure that I sought out from the early days of its first appearance. It was a popular character and a design that was more legitimate than some of the other figures we were seeing from Asia. It is a neat footnote, but, in truth, doesn't really offer anything that the production Daina does not. Still, it's a figure that has a place in my collection and, due to its rarity, probably gets more use than it otherwise would were it just a standard, retail release figure.

2005 Daina, Oktober Guard, Comic Pack, Unproduced, Anti Venom Mutt, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Desert, Custom, Black Major

2005 Daina, Oktober Guard, Comic Pack, Horrorshow, HAS Roadblock, 1991 Stalker, 2001 Desert Striker

2005 Daina, Oktober Guard, Comic Pack, Horrorshow, HAS Roadblock, 1991 Stalker, 2001 Desert Striker

2005 Daina, Oktober Guard, Comic Pack, European Exclusive Slaughters Marauders Low Light, Serpentor, Scrap Iron

2005 Daina, Oktober Guard, Comic Pack, Schrage, Tiro Certo, Bulletproof, Estrela, Brazil

2005 Daina, Oktober Guard, Comic Pack, Custom, Black Major, Cobra Mortal

Thursday, September 11, 2008

2006 Overlord - Convention Exclusive

It has been more than 5 years since I last looked at the Overlord character. Since that time, my use of the character has changed dramatically. That is entirely the fault, though, of the figure which I am now profiling. Unlike that original Overlord figure that appears more ceremonial than combatant, this new version showcases the character as a dashing military leader. That was not the vision I had of the Overlord figure back in 2003 when there was only version to choose from with no updates on the horizon. This figure, though, has made the actual character of Overlord a relevant player in my collection. Now, this this mold at my disposal, Overlord is another military leader upon whom Cobra Commander relies.

This Overlord figure uses the torso of the 1988 Destro figure. While I've often ridiculed Master Collector for their lack of understanding that the '88 Destro figure was desirable, the fact is that had they used the mold for Destro in the 2005 set, it would be unlikely that we would have ever gotten this Overlord figure. The head was newly molded exclusively for this figure by Master Collector since it was likely the original mold died in Brazil. The rest of the body is taken from Barricade. As such, the figure can stand next to the '88 Destro but still appear different enough for them to be relevant. The helmet is a recolored version of the helmet included with the DTC Major Bludd and the trademark claw is actually from the 1988 Storm Shadow figure rather than the original Overlord. The result, though, is a complement of accessories that hearken to the original figure but that also seem like an upgrade over the old designs. This figure is instantly recognizable as Overlord. Yet, it also has a look unlike anything else in the Cobra army. That is a rare combination for a figure produced after 2001 and shows that, with a little ingenuity, great figures can still be produced from the library of ARAH style figure molds.

The paint details on this figure are exquisite. The highly detailed Destro chest is now painted to its full glory. You can see the shoulder pauldron, neck brace and strapping now that they are highlighted with full color. This figure is striking contrast of Gold and Green. There is just enough black and gray thrown in to make the figure stand out among retail released figures. The gold highlights are also a nice throwback to Overlords original color scheme and help tie to the two looks together. The green might be a little bright for some. But, it fits with the gaudy gold armour that Overlord wears and isn't a color that has been overdone in the Joe line. The Barricade legs, arms and waist fit nicely with the Destro torso. Overlord's gold mask does blend a bit too much into the figure's body when you remove his helmet. But, the silver monocle makes up for that as it brings more color to the figure's head. The COIL logo on Overlord's helmet is a nice touch. And, as the logo is two snakes, it still fits with the Cobra theme and allows this figure to be used as a full Cobra rather than some outside impostor.

This version of Overlord was meant to command the COIL Troopers. I don't know anything about the COIL. Supposedly, they were some lame Devil's Due creation to spark their always slumping sales. There is reference on Overlord's filecard to them being his new army. The result, though, is a figure cast in a non-traditional Cobra color of green. In a way, it works since it kind of ties to Serpentor's classic look. It is also a nice bit of diversity in the ranks of the high ranking Cobra command. Overlord's actual COIL troopers from the same convention set are done in the same colors. But, as figures, they are somewhat boring and have really failed to capture any sort of collector attention and can now be routinely purchased for less than their original price.

Now that the actual character of Overlord is coming back to my collection with this mold, I have to figure out a way to fully integrate him. I see Overlord as loyal to Cobra Commander rather than anyone else. My Commander needs more military commanders in his stable to offset the number of high quality generals loyal to Ramen. I see Overlord as a political climber who feels that military credentials are the fastest way to long term power. Unlike the conniving politicians who now surround the Commander, Overlord is someone who has little interest for politics. He sees himself become more of a military dictator rather than a legislator who rules through subversiveness and legalese. He is loyal to Cobra, though. I don't need any more enemy factions. Cobra is the organization with power and it's better to be a high ranking officer in Cobra than it is to control your own, smaller faction.

This has brought the character new life in my collection and made him a recent figure of some importance. The distinct look coupled with the classically underutilized character makes for a figure that retains some relevance. Many of the convention Cobra characters have been well done...but, they haven't exceeded earlier figures of the same character. As such, when choosing the iconic version of a figure, I find that the con figs are often left behind. This is not so with Overlord. To me, he is the highlight of the 2006 convention set and is worthy of replacing the vintage Overlord in my collection. Based on the exposure he sees in the modern collecting world, though, it seems that I'm in the minority on this point. But, it still gives me access to another high quality figure, so I'm happy. :)

Truthfully, I see little reason for another version of Overlord to appear. It is likely that Master Collector holds the exclusive rights to the head mold, so any figure utilizing the existing mold would likely have to come from them. While some might like to see this combination of parts appear in another color scheme that better integrates with Iron Grenadiers or standard Cobras, I wouldn't want to waste one of the few remaining ARAH style Joe slots on another repaint of a figure that was done so well with this release. I will grant that this figure isn't for everyone due to the colors. But, it is something different that adds more depth to a Cobra command.

Right after the 2006 convention, Overlord figures were cheap and plentiful. Slowly, though, they dried up and seemed to settle into the $25-$30 range for a while. As with all convention figures (except the 2002 Crimson figures), though, as new sets were released, demand for the older figures softened. These days, you can get a mint, complete Overlord in the $15-$20 range without too much effort. Given patience and a little luck, you can even get them for about 2/3 of that from time to time. Even at the high end, though, this figure is a must buy. It is the best version of Overlord and is the only rendition of the character that accentuates his roots as a military commander. For many collectors, though, the very nature of this figure being a convention release puts the figure out of their preferred price range. But, this is a rare case where the high price is well worth it for the quality of figure and importance of character.

2006 Convention Exclusive Overlord, Funskool Streethawk, 1990 Rage, 2006 Viper Pit, COIL Trooper

2006 Convention Exclusive Overlord, Funskool Streethawk, 1990 Rage, 2006 Viper Pit, COIL Trooper

2006 Convention Exclusive Overlord, Funskool Streethawk, 1990 Rage, 2006 Viper Pit, COIL Trooper, Tomax and Xamot

Friday, September 5, 2008

1987 Outback

Outback remains a fan favorite and is a figure that collectors have clamoured for since Joe first returned to retail. However, for whatever reasons, Hasbro has largely failed to deliver the character in a format that has been widely available to collectors. As such, the character remains one of the holes from the vintage line that could desperately use an update of some sort. This isn't to say that the original figure is bad. Not at all. But, Outback remains one of the few highly popular characters who has not appeared in the modern line. Even a full year into the Anniversary figures has yet to produce an Outback. Despite this, or because of it..., Outback has remained one of the figures that fans have most requested for nearly a decade now.

1987 was really the last year I bought Joes as a kid. But, that year was one of the bigger years for me in terms of figures and characterization. At the time, I was engrossed in the Joe comic and used it as a guideline for my personal collection. Simultaneously, I was old enough to take of my toys and build a complex Joe world that lead to my continued interest in the hobby. This lead to my most lasting memories of Joe from my childhood largely centering around the figures who were important to me in 1987. This isn't just relegated to figures released in 1987, but all the figures who were important parts of my collection at that time. When I returned to Joe, I focused my buying efforts not on these figures from my last years. I still had all of those in decent condition. Instead, I spent my energy on figures that I had never previously owned. I spent many of the early years of my adult collecting life enjoying many of these post '87 figures for the first time. As I slowly absorbed most of those later figures, though, I saw my collecting focus returning to the items to which I had the greatest childhood connection. The classic figures from the line's first 6 years are the ones that have recently become the center of my collecting attention.

As a figure, though, Outback never lived up to my expections. Sure, he had an amazing gun with a strap, the cool web gear, the removable flashlight and the awesomely oversized survival pack. But, he also had a white shirt. And, at the end of the day, that was tough to get past. When I had my patrol of Joes moving through the grass, Falcon, Tunnel Rat and Beach Head were all hard to spot. Outback, though, stuck out like a bright beacon. Even the web gear wasn't enough to mute the figure's appearance and it was difficult for me to see a survival expert living in the wilderness wearing a garment that would make him so easy for the enemy to spot. But, in a nod to the figure's characterizations, these limitations weren't enough to sour the figure for me, entirely. In fact, as a kid, Outback was one of my more used Joes during the last days of my childhood. It was as an adult that I began to feel his limitations a bit more. I always felt that Outback should have been a perfect complement to Falcon in terms of coloring. However, in retrospect, I can see why Hasbro went the way they did. The beginning of Joe's great success came when Hasbro moved away from coloring all the figures the same and gave each figure a distinct look. Had Outback been cammo'ed up, he would have been too similar to Falcon and he likely would have faded into the background. By going with the tee shirt, Hasbro gave Outback an identity. Because of this, the figure has transcended other, more realistically colored figures like Recoil and Hit and Run in the collector conscience.

Outback's accessories have always made the figure. His huge backpack is the type of thing, as a kid, that I felt a suvivalist would need. (Now, the reality is that a true survivor would likely take less into the wild with him.) His web gear was a great addition that built upon the figure. With it, Outback was more complex and seemed to have more happening as a toy. Without it, the white tee shirt was all too noticable. His Hekler and Koch machine gun was also a great addition. It was big, but easy for him to hold and pose. It had the strap that was large enough to fit over the figure when you had him climbing a vine or wading through a river. Plus, it was well detailed and looked like the menacing type of weapon that a character like Outback would carry. And, to top things off, you had the little flashlight that could be removed from a peg in the figure's leg. It was this little detail that allowed me to pair Outback with Tunnel Rat on many missions. (In fact, when I wanted Tunnel Rat to hold one of the flashlights from his pack in a dark place, I would give him Outback's accessory as a placeholder for his own so that the large Tunnel Rat flashlights didn't risk breaking the figure's thumbs.) It was these little details that make many of the '87 figures better than even their high quality molds and color schemes would indicate.

To this day, I am awaiting a perfect Outback figure. The Night Force version is decent. But, I've never liked the way the orange hair worked with the dark colors. The Tiger Force version is cool, but suffers from the same issues as this original figure in terms of coloring. (Though, the white hair is a cool addition to the character and makes for more of a conversation piece.) The Big Brawler mold is decently colored, though somewhat bland. But, it still needs the classic Outback gear and head to make the figure really work. If this mold is available to Hasbro, it is surprising that it has not been used. But, as it was last seen in a late Funskool release, it is likely that this mold is either not available or is no longer in a state where it can be fully utilized. That's too bad as any full blown Outback figure will likely see great collector interest. Maybe the head will show up on a new body in a future convention set. These days, that's about the only hope we have.

The thing that kept Outback a prominent member of my collection, though, was his characterization in the comic. From his initial appearance, Outback had that rogue quality that made him more than a cookie cutter Joe. However, it was his use in the first Borovian arc that really sold me on Outback being a bit darker than you might otherwise believe. While he had great loyalty to his team-mates, Outback still had to go out on his own and fight his way out of Borovia. It was this grit (with the pressure of knowing that his friends' only hope for rescue rested on his shoulders) that really cemented the Outback character for me. As such, Outback was able to transcend the shortcomings of his figure and remain a vital part of my collection long after many of his contemporaries had faded into obscurity. It is this comic vision of Outback that has largely fueled his long term popularity. Few of the '87 Joes say as much use as Outback in the comic during that time. So, that showcase was the ticket to lasting popularity for the character.

In my collection, Outback saw a good deal of use...even though the figure was really only part of my collection for about a year before I packed all my Joes into a box in my closet. The figure you see pictured below is my original and he exhibits a good amount of wear when you consider his late date of addition to my Joe world. But, that is evidence of the importance I gave to the figure. Outback was always one of the first figures I grabbed whenever it was time to take the Joes outside, into the yard. His gear and specialty made him someone that I always felt any mission could use. He worked great as a stand alone fighter, a member of a team or as vehicular support. He was perfect as the guy who could rescue Joes stranded behind enemy lines or he could be a member of a patrol, keeping watch on the flank as the Joes moved on a Cobra position. In either capacity, the figure blends well with others from all years of the line but still stands apart enough to give a photo or dio a bit more character.   Today, Outback has seen a resurgance of appreciation in my collection. While you still don't see him in photography to the extent you might see Flint, Recoil or Beach Head, he is still a figure that sits at the front of his drawer, always ready to be pulled out for appearance in some dio. Something about the wild nature of his appearance has always made Outback less of a by the books soldier and someone whose maverick attitude would be best utilized in an elite unit like the Joes. I saw Outback as somewhat of a rogue who would rather be on his own for extended periods of time. But, by the end of his isolation, desperately craved intervention with other people. It was these extremes that drove Outback's other traits and was how he was able to be so ruthless when he needed to be. It drove an independent spirit that seemed to resonate with me and helped make Outback a more memorable part of my early collecting years.

The Outback mold saw a decent amount of use over the years. It was used twice in the US and then in Europe. After the Euro Tiger Force Outback was released, the mold went down to Brazil where it was released in colors similar to the European figure as Forastiero. After that, the mold made its way back to the US. In 1998, Hasbro intended to release Outback in desert colors and white hair and include him as part of the planned G.I. Joe Headquarters. However, this never came to fruition and the figure was scrapped. A few of them are available in the collecting world and are among the rarest figures in the history of the line. (They'll fetch over $2,000 each when one appears for sale.) In 2001, Hasbro released the Outback body with a new head as Big Brawler. This tease was made all that much worse when Hasbro sent the mold to Funskool in 2002 and it was used for the laughable Funskool Big Brawler. Now, it is likely that Hasbro has the Outback mold. But, they still have yet to use it. Were a new Outback to appear in a convention or other exclusive set, collectors would embrace it. But, for now, Outback remains one of the glaring holes in the modern era or ARAH-style Joe releases.

Back in 2001, a mint complete Outback would easily cost you over $20. At that time, most of the major characters from 1985-1987 were fetching similar prices as the Joe market exploded. Within a few years, though, the aftermarket for these figures cooled considerably and prices fell into the $12-$15 range. These days, that's about what you'll pay for a high end, with filecard version of the figure. If you're willing to give up a little condition or even the gun strap, though, you can get Outbacks for half that. Personally, that's not too bad a price for a figure that is hard to find in mint condition, has many easily breakable or losable accessories and that is still, very popular with collectors. For my money, though, this Outback version has never lived up to the hype. As such, the Outback character remains very under-developed in my collection and will likely remain that way until someone comes along and re-imagines this mold in more usable colors.

1987 Outback, 1994 Stalker, 2004 Night Force Short Fuse

1987 Outback, 1990 Range Viper

1987 Outback, 1992 Wild Bill, 1986 Dial Tone, 1990 Super Sonic Fighters Tunnel Rat

1987 Outback, 1986 Leatherneck, 1988 Tiger Force Flint