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

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