Monday, September 16, 2013

Reptil Do Ar (Brazilian Exclusive Crimson Guard Commander)

In the pantheon of exclusive Cobra figures from Brazil, there are some who fly completely under the radar due to their late release date and overall obscurity. Most of these figures feature only slight differences from their American counterparts and are, as such, burdened by the same neon colors that sunk the American version of the figure. Among these is the Reptil Do Ar figure. A straight up repaint of the 1993 Crimson Guard Commander, the Reptil Do Ar is a figure that few collectors know about and fewer still count as part of their collection. But, as the figure doesn't offer much that you can't get from the American version of the mold, it hasn't been a figure that has become a point of interest in the collecting community. Of course, that doesn't mean that it isn't a decent figure and one that adds some depth to any collection.

Back in 2001, there wasn't much info regarding Brazilian figures available to the public. At that time, a group of collectors who were fairly new to the hobby took it upon themselves to delve into Brazil and slowly catalog many of the more obscure figures made by Estrela. It was a daunting task to be sure. But the results were an influx of new Brazilian figures and a plethora of new information regarding the figures who were available in Brazil. For many collectors, this opened the door for them to start collecting foreign figures and ushered in an era of greater understanding of foreign Joe releases. Personally, when I first discovered the Reptil Do Ar, I wanted one. But, the few that appeared were out of my price range at the time. By 2005, though, Joe collectors had largely abandoned foreign Joes to focus on other things. This brought prices crashing down on many formerly hard to find foreign Joes. In turn, availability did dry up to an extent, too. But, with patience, many great deals came around and it was possible for the enterprising collector to pick up some hard to find foreign figures for decent prices. Now, figures like the Reptil Do Ar pretty much never appear for sale. And, there is some pent up demand to accompany that drop in availability. As such, we've seen many of the higher quality and harder to find foreign figures start to climb in price again. It makes me glad that I was able to acquire many of these guys back at the beginning.

The Reptil Do Ar has a fairly cool name. The Sky Reptile sounds much better as Reptil Do Ar. But, it still works rather well. But, like many of the final release Brazilian figures, the figure does not live up to the name. It seems that Estrela was largely done with their most elaborate and unique repaints by 1994 and 1995. Instead, they mostly focused on figures that were similar to the American versions. It is possible that Hasbro tightened control on Estrela after the waves of highly unique figures like the Forca Eco, Forca Fera and Patrulha do Ar series from the surrounding years. We have learned from Funskool executives that there are certain characters and molds where Hasbro insists that their appearance be standard throughout the world. These are mostly with major characters. But, there are some oddballs thrown in. If a Funskool release in the '00's looked like the American figure, it was because Hasbro wanted that figure and character's look to remain similar the world over. (Think the Funskool Major Bludd.) But, if the figure was a dramatic departure from the American look, it was a character about whom Hasbro did not care. (Think Funskool Big Brawler.) It is likely that such an arrangement existed between Hasbro and Estrela as well. The vast majority of Estrela releases are similar to the American versions of the figures. And, in most cases where the departures are dramatic, the Brazilian exclusives use parts from American figures who are not well regarded. Obviously, there are exceptions like the Cobra De Aco, etc. But, this seems to be a common trait of many of the Brazilian exclusive figures that were released.

The Reptil Do Ar replaces the classic crimson color and replaces it with an orangish red. The result is a much brighter figure than the American Crimson Guard Commander. Beyond that, the general coloring is modeled after the Crimson Guard Commander. The Reptil Do Ar includes a version of Muskrat's shotgun in black. The only difference is that the plastic used by Estrela is more brittle. You can tell the Estrela accessory from an American version very easily in hand. But, the subtle differences are hard to convey via photo. The figure was available carded with a glider. I consider the glider to be more vehicle than figure accessory. But, it makes carded figures very awkward to handle since they are on much larger cardbacks. This figure was one of the final Estrela releases in the 1994/1995 timeframe. As late as 1998, the Estrela website still showcased photos of their Joe line: including the wave of which Reptil Do Ar was a part. It seems that many of the late Estrela figures were either sold off to other countries in South America or made available to toy dealers the world over. But, those deals seems to have been limited to the various subsets. The glider figures were pretty much unknown in the US until the early 2000's. And, even then, they were largely ignored by collectors since the colors were so similar to the US versions and, at the time, collectors were more focused on domestic collecting than international additions.

There's really not much to do with this figure. He is cool enough and does stand out in any display since he's different enough from the Crimson Guard Commander for viewers of a photo to take note. But, that is about the extent of his value. The brighter colors make him an inferior choice for a diorama than the standard Crimson Guard Commander. And, not many collectors want to invest tons of energy into creating a characterization for a figure that is more orange than crimson. So, this really leaves the Reptil Do Ar as a collector figure. He is one that a collector will want for completion's sake. But, there is little use beyond that. But, in the scheme of all Joedom, that isn't a bad thing. It's nice to have some oddball and obscure figures to track down that aren't so different that they become overly desirable. Reptil Do Ar fits that criteria. He is a figure that a few people will track down once they are made aware of his existence. But, for most collectors, he will fall off the radar. There is little chance that the Reptil Do Ar joins characters like Relampago, Gatilho, Abutre Negro or Escorpiao Voador as characters that even casual collectors desire to own.

The Crimson Guard Commander was released in the US in 1993. Hasbro quickly sent the mold down to Brazil and the Reptil Do Ar likely first appeared in late 1994 or early 1995 in Brazil. That sums up the history of the mold. It is fairly quick and easy. However, Reptil Do Ar's contemporaries Asa Negra and Vandalo have reappeared in the US in the 2008 convention set. As such, it is highly possible that this mold is available. If there is a Cobra from 1993 that needs a repaint it is the Crimson Guard Commander. This mold, done up in crimson with black and silver highlights instead of bright yellow would be an instant classic and a figure that collectors would flock to. Done in more classic Cobra blue, this figure could be something entirely new. That would energize collectors, too. But, as the days of ARAH Joes appear to be over, we are left to the talented customizers of the world to come up with interesting new takes on this mold.

Reptil Do Ar figures have become extremely hard to find. A few years ago, they could be had for under $30 each. These days, you'll likely pay well over $100 for a loose, mint and complete version. Carded, these figures can sell for three times that amount. That's a fairly high price for a figure who is probably inferior to the American release of the same mold. But, it is also in line with expected prices for exclusive Cobra figures from Brazil. Personally, this is not a figure I would army build. I'll reserve my need for multiples of this mold to the American Crimson Guard Commander. But, as a way to distinguish a collection, the Reptil Do Ar is a great figure that helps to differentiate Crimson Guard Commander molds. It is a figure that is worth tracking down since he is somewhat visually distinctive. But, one whose priority is below some of the other, unique Brazilian exclusives that are out there.

Reptil Do Ar, Crimson Guard Commander, Brazil, EStrela, Skycreeper, 1991 Skymate, 2005 Winter Operations Snake Eyes

Reptil Do Ar, Crimson Guard Commander, Brazil, EStrela, Strato Viper, 1986, Night Rave, 1994 Cobra Blackstar

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