Monday, September 17, 2012

Albatroz - Brazilian Exclusive Sky Patrol

The Joe community goes in cycles of popularity.  A few years ago, European exclusive Joes were all the rage.  Availability was low, prices were extremely high and collectors were crawling over each other to acquire just a few samples of toys unique to Europe.  During that time, Joes made by Plastirama from Argentina were quietly being absorbed into the collecting world by those who realized the great supply and low prices were finite.  Similarly, Estrela made Joes from Brazil were readily available and very cheap.  Savvy collectors bought them up and completed large portions of their foreign collections.  Now, the tables have turned.  European Joes have plummeted in price in recent years (Don't get me wrong, they're still pricey, but lower than they were a few years ago.) while availability has increased.  Joes from South America, though, have seen their popularity skyrocket right as the supply has gotten tighter.  The result is that many Joes from Argentina and Brazil have gotten very hard to find and exorbitantly expensive, especially when you compare them to just 5 or 6 years ago.  Such is the case of the Albatroz figure.  Once a step-brother to the highly desirable Patrulha Do Ar Cobra figures, Albatroz has become not only very desirable for collectors to own, but also very expensive to acquire.

The Brazilian Patruhla do Ar is probably the single most popular subset in the Estrela series of Joes.  It has several things going for it:

1.  It is a small, late issue set with only 4 figures released around 1994.
2.  Sky Patrol is one of the most popular American subsets
3.  Each figure features not only unique colors, but unique construction from any American figure
4.  All of the figures feature distinct names that are relatively easy to recall
5.  The set features 2 of the most distinctive and famous exclusive Cobras in all the world

As such, collectors often use this small series of figures as their first foray into Brazilian Joes.  Abutre Negro and the Escorpiao Voador are usually the figures first sought by collectors.  They are great additions to a Cobra collection and work both within and outside of the Sky Patrol theme.  Albatroz and Aguia Comando are usually then sought to complete the set.  Both figures feature stark colors, strong molds and good accessories.  They would fit right in with the American Sky Patrol or as stand-alone characters grouped with other foreign exclusives.

Albatroz is actually brighter than he often appears in photos.  The figure is a mish-mash of orange, maroon, silver and grey.  But, it all actually comes together in a nice package that makes the figure usable.  The orange is a bit loud.  He's not as bright as the Star Brigade Roadblock, but isn't quite a subtle pumpkin color, either.  The overall result is a figure that blends with vehicles like the Tomahawk, but would be out of place in the Skystriker.

Albatroz includes a helmet, backpack, parachute as well as a black version of Blaster's pistol and the Alley Viper's gun.  It is odd to see a Joe with such a Cobra centric weapon.  But, it works with the figure.  The real failure of Albatroz, though, is the helmet.  On the surface, the silver version of Maverick's helmet on Maverick's head should be perfect.  The helmet looks like it would work for a paratrooper.  Albatroz also features the high collar of Sneak Peek.  If the helmet fit over the collar, the figure would be almost perfect.  But, the helmet does not fit.  As such, Albatroz can not wear his helmet at all!  It sits about half way down his head before the bottom of the helmet is block by the top of the collar.  You can see it in a photo below.  The helmet simply doesn't work.  If Albatroz is holding it, is does look really nice.  But, not being able to wear the helmet almost renders the figure moot.  It is a glaring deficiency on an otherwise solid figure.

For me, Albatroz is an interesting figure.  He lacks any characterization, so he has great potential.  He can be used as an alternate Maverick.  But, let's face it, Maverick didn't have much characterization, either.  He can be a new member of Sky Patrol, but that also leaves you a lot of leeway in defining him.  So, for those who enjoy having characters of their creation in the collection, Albatroz is a perfectly blank slate.  However, I have yet to really do anything with the character.  While I created long backstories for the Brazilian Sky Patrol Cobras, I never had the same interest in the Joes.  As such, Albatroz remains just a background characters in my collection.  He looks cool on display, but I don't see him as a major player in way beyond that.

Albatroz translates as Albatross in English.  The Albatross is one of the most superstition laden birds in all the world.  Coleridge's Ancient Mariner set the tone for future sailors to not even heed the name of the bird.  As such, it seems an odd code name for a Joe.  Being a member of an organization that undertakes the most dangerous military missions in the world should be enough of a risk that tempting supernatural spirits with a cursed name would be hyperbolic overkill.  But, maybe Albatroz likes to tempt fate.  Anyone who jumps out of planes into enemy fire for a living probably has to feel an aura of invincibility anyways.  So, things like old sailor's fears would seem inconsequential.  This might be the most interesting aspect of the Albatroz character and the trait I would delve into should I ever look to build his character.

In terms of quality, the Estrela figures from this time period are definitely more brittle than a vintage American figure.  The plastic feels lighter and more fragile...but only slightly so.  If you were going to give this figure to a child, it would probably be broken only slightly faster than a vintage US Joe.  From a collector standpoint, though, the brittleness is likely of small concern since the figure would only be displayed or stored away.  This is the first Brazilian figure I've owned, though, that did not feature degradation of the helmet plastic.  All of the prior Estrela figures I've owned that have included helmets had issues with the helmet plastic "weeping" as it broke down.  My Albatroz does not have this issue, though.  I don't know if it's a result of better storage in it's life prior to calling my collection home, the silver plastic used to make the helmet or just dumb luck.  But, for now, this helmet is the best of the Brazilian headpieces I have possessed.

10 to 12 years ago, you could all of the Patruhla do Ar figures carded for under $40 each.  But, times have changed.  The subset is among the most desired of all foreign Joe subsets and collectors are desperate to acquire each and all of the figures.  Today, loose mint and complete with cardback Albatroz figures sell as high as $170.  Carded, the figures can go upwards of $300 each.  Really, those are prices that make this figure more expensive than most figures in the world.  Sure, he's cool.  But, likely not worth those kind of asking sums.  If you're looking for an Albatroz, though, it takes a good bit of time.  During the Cobra crazed heyday of the early to mid 2000's, many collectors sought out and acquired the Flying Scorpion and Black Vulture figures.  Years later, they are going back to complete the set and finding the Joes to be much more difficult to track down.  This explains the high prices, but does not, necessarily, make the figure one of the most desirable of all time.  Personally, I had the figure for years and am happy he's part of my collection.  But, I'm not sure I would pay the current prices to own him.

Albatroz, Brazil, Estrela, Sky Patrol, Patrulha Do Ar, European Exclusive Tiger Force Tunnel Rat

Albatroz, Brazil, Estrela, Sky Patrol, Patrulha Do Ar,

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