Wednesday, October 28, 2015

1983 Cobra Officer

I was late to the G.I. Joe party in 1983.  But, I spent the second half of the summer catching up with all the kids in the neighborhood who had gotten on the Joe bandwagon sooner than I had.  There was one kid who lived around the block who pretty much had everything that was released at the time.  Each time I went to his house I found more new items that just further cemented my interest in the property.  As the summer wound down, he went to visit relatives and was gone for a week.  When he returned, he brought back several new figures to show off.  The most interesting were the Cobra Officers and Cobra Troopers.  He got multiples of each, though they were the straight armed versions.  I remember playing with them at the local pool.  I liked both figures.  But, figured that the Officer was the more basic grunt character since he had a less interesting mold and included an AK-47: which was the standard "bad guy" assault rifle of the time.  I did not like the fact that the cooler figure that I wanted to use as a character was actually the grunt and the figure I wasn't interested in was the higher ranking officer.

This disappointment was enough to sour me on the Cobra army builders of the time.  I focused my efforts on Cobra Commander, Destro and Major Bludd.  The Cobra characters were much more interesting.  At some point in 1984 or 1985, one of my younger brothers acquired a Cobra Officer.  However, they quickly lost his gun, rubbed away the logo and generally destroyed the figure.  The Cobra Trooper entered my collection in 1985, just before he disappeared from retail.  The Trooper saw quite a bit of use until the standard Viper was released the following year.  The result is that the Cobra troops in general were not a big part of my childhood.  And, the Cobra Officer was much less a part of it than the Trooper.

The Cobra Officer mold is classic 1983 awesomeness.  In the simplicity of a blue fatigues wearing terrorist is what makes the figure enduring.  The simple web gear, standard masked face and molded on helmet portray the character as a definitively evil.  They also, though, give him an air of danger as he is definitely wearing a uniform: suggesting that the organization who employs him is vastly more dangerous than a bunch of extremists in the woods with weapons that are relics of a bygone age.  The Officer is at the forefront of an organization that not only wants to take over the world, but has the money, technology, equipment and training to do so.  It was a frightening concept and helped create an initial dichotomy between the Joes and Cobra that cemented the hero vs. villain archetype.

The Officer also succeeds in combining the two most real sources of evil and paranoia of the early 1980's.  The early Cobra in the comic book had a heavy Nazi-esque look and feel to them.  They were designed to instill the sense of evil that was brought on by Nazi imagery.  Replace Cobra blue for Nazi colors and you have a pretty stark similarity between the two.  On top of that, the Cobra Officer was given an AK-47.  At the time, this was the personification of the Russian military.  Outfitting Cobras with Russian built weapons implied they were in league with the communists.  There was no better way to visually saying these were the bad guys in Reagan era American than by including the iconic Russian weapon.  The combo ensured that Cobra was the villain and that G.I. Joe was here to save us from the bad guys...with the subliminal message being that the U.S. would triumph in the Cold War.  It was this level of visual subtlety that helped to cement Joe in the conscience of American boys in the 1980's.

As a part of my collection, though, the Officer continues to simply not be overly relevant.  One of the great things of the vintage comic was that there were ancillary characters who helped bring stories to life without expending the usefulness of primary characters.  Scar Face was one notable example of this.  And, it was through Scar Face that I have seen the Cobra Officers as a group more worth exploring.  While the Cobra Troopers and Vipers are faceless legions of largely uneducated, easily manipulated thugs: Officers have more of a backstory.  They were the disenfranchised military from around the world who found something about Cobra intriguing.  Maybe they were wanted criminals.  Or, they simply grew tired of the low pay and high cost of serving in the military of an established government.  But, the Officers were among those with access to the early Cobra Commander.  Here, they established Cobra's military theory and practice.  Many of them showed the scars of combat experience.  But, there was something about them that distinguished them to the Commander and made them his trusted least until more named characters came along.  Had the Cobra Officer been presented more in the this vein, I think he would be more interesting to me than a higher ranking faceless legion who wears a different uniform than the cannon fodder which he oversees.

The Cobra Officer mold was also a world traveler.  The straight arm mold was sent to South America where versions of the Officer that are similar to the American figure were released in Argentina, Mexico and Brazil.  The swivel arm version was used by Palitoy in Europe in the Action Force line.  There, the mold was released as a good guy vehicle driver named Hunter.  Hasbro got back the Officer mold and continued to produce him for years as a mail away.  (It was also repainted in 1984 as the Stinger Driver and 1989 as the Python Trooper. - Mr. Acer's comments below!)  In 2004, Hasbro remolded parts of the body for release in the Toys R Us exclusive Cobra Infantry pack.  Less than six months later, though, Hasbro announced they had actually found the vintage molds and parts of it were used for the 2004 Comic Pack Officer and in 2005 for the Cobra Night Watch sets as well as 2006 for the Comic Pack Gas Mask Trooper.  The chest appeared a final time in 2010 on the Convention Exclusive Jammer figure.  All in all, there are a lot of Officers out there.  While it would have been nice to get a Crimson Officer or all black Officer, that was never to be.

It is no secret that the silver Cobra logos used in 1983 are extremely fragile.  Viper Pilots are notoriously brittle and finding mint figures is very difficult.  The Cobra Officer likely has a similar ratio of damaged logos versus non damaged logos.  However, two factors play into the Cobra Officer's greater availability.  First, the Officer was produced in much greater quantities than the Viper Pilot.  The Officer was extremely popular and Hasbro probably produced untold numbers of them.   The second factor is that the Cobra Officer was available for many years as a mail away figure.  This allowed kids to acquire the Cobra Officer for a long time after the figure was discontinued at retail.  This also lead to overstock that simply never sold.  In 1999, collectors found some of this overstock at Hasbro Canada.  Thousands upon thousands of bagged figures were released into the market for $1 each.  Among these were tons of Cobra Officers.  This allowed collectors of the time to both pick up bagged versions, but also open them and build up mint condition armies.  In the 16 years since that find, the overstock Officers have mostly been absorbed.  But, there are a lot of mint condition figures out there that can trace their beginnings to the Hasbro Canada find.

Mint and complete with filecard Cobra Officers tend to sell around the $30 range.  In comparison with the Cobra Trooper, that is a substantial price increase.  However, the more easily damaged logo combined with the fact that there are large numbers of bootleg Cobra Troopers in the marketplace explains away the disparity.  What's odd is that sacrificing just a little bit of logo condition only lowers the price by $8 or so.  Usually, gem mint figures with logos like the Officer sell for premiums and slight condition degradations fall off a pricing cliff.  The result is that I find the Officer to be overly expensive for the value he brings to a collection.  I'd rather get two, mint and complete Cobra Troopers instead of one Officer.  And, as such, I have just this one Officer in my collection, commanding the more than a dozen Cobra Troopers (more if you count bootlegs).  Others may prefer the Officer mold to the Trooper.  But, for me, one is enough.  I'm sure that had I bought a dozen of these from Hasbro Canada, I'd be happy with the lot.  But, since I didn't, I don't feel the need to go out and get any more of the figure.  I'm content with my Cobra army command structure.  For others, the mileage from this mold and character may vary.

1983 Cobra Officer, Cobra Trooper, Viper Pilot, 1984 Stinger, Black Major, Bootleg, Custom

1983 Cobra Officer, Cobra Trooper, Viper Pilot, 1984 Stinger, Black Major, Bootleg, Custom, European Exclusive Spirit

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

1991 Super Sonic Fighters Psyche Out

Hasbro introduced the Super Sonic Fighters line of figures in 1990.  These higher price point items included light up and sound producing accessories that were designed to be more "interactive" with the children of the era.  The bulk it took to achieve the sounds is comical now.  But, was pretty decent for 1990.  The added price, though, made these figures a tough sell.  But, the overall quality of the offerings in relation to the rest of the lineup from that year was right on par.  Some of the 1991 figures, such as Zap, Major Bludd and Falcon were excellent upgrades to existing characters.  Road Pig and Rock and Roll, though, were brightly colored repaints of pre-existing molds.  The final figure in the set, Psyche Out, is a hybrid.  The figure has a strong mold, an excellent head, somewhat lame accessories and a color scheme that leaves something to be desired.  The end result is a figure that is worth a place in any collection, even if that niche is somewhat small.

The Super Sonic Fighters figures retailed for around $7 each in 1991.  That was more than twice the going rate for a standard, carded figure.  Given the choice between getting 1 figure or 2 with some change for the same price, you can bet which way most parents and kids leaned.  The result was that the figures hung around for a while and were very hard to find on the second hand market for a long time.  Even today, the Super Sonic Fighters figures exist in substantially lower quantities than the other figures from the era.  It is only their reduced popularity among modern collectors that keeps them from being substantially more expensive.  It is that lower production, though, that also helps to keep the figures obscure.  You don't often see the figures utilized in dios or photos.  At this point, most collectors are aware of the figures, and may even own them.  But, they don't consider them among the more important figures that Hasbro released.  It's a fair fate for the Super Sonic Fighters.  But, there is hidden quality in the 1991 offerings that can not be ignored.

The Psyche Out character was rather popular, being released in his original incarnation, repainted in the American Night Force subset and then also appearing as a European Exclusive Tiger Force member.  This Super Sonic Fighters version updated the character and gave him a new uniform.  This entire mold then reappeared in India where Funskool released him for many years.  With 5 distinct vintage style releases (granted, two of them are foreign exclusives), Psyche Out was far more popular than most of this 1987 classmates.  So, there are likely more versions of Psyche Out than most collectors care for.

This 1991 version, though, is a drastic departure from the 1987 incarnation.  Gone is the 1950's era headgear.  And, in its place is a much more modern helmet and uniform that brings the character into a much more contemporary appearance.  The greatness of the figure is the headsculpt.  The helmet covering one eye is visually interesting.  But, with the communications device attached, the headgear is a visual treat and something that is not overly common on Joe figures.  The figure's body is less intricate as its, basically, a jumpsuit with some pockets and a strap.  The strap, though, is well placed so that some radar dishes can be added to the figure's torso to give the body added depth.  The legs are equally barren, save for a silver leg holster.

The overall appearance of the figure becomes somewhat problematic.  You have this great head on a fairly banal body.  And, the figure's primary base color is a dark aqua blue.  So, there's something definitely "off" about the complete package.  It's certainly not a Psyche Out you would include on a field mission.  But, the uniform does lend itself to several Joe specific environments.  He works in the HQ as a technician or adviser.  But, the best use would as a companion to Hardtop: either manning the ground control of the Defiant or being onboard as a specialist.  In this setting, the figure takes on more significance since the look fits the motif.  Sure, it's a specific use.  But, it is a way to use the excellent qualities of the figure within a setting that is more plausible.

Psyche Out's accessories are plentiful and voluminous.  But, they aren't great.  The headset/microphone piece is amazing.  It, alone, makes the figure worth acquiring.  But, the rest of the accessories fall off a precipice from there.  There are two small radar dishes that attach to Psyche Out's body.  It's neat to have an attachable accessory.  But, the are bulky, tend to fall off and generally don't add much to the overall appearance.  Psyche Out's "weapon" is a massive, sci-fi E.C.M. laser rifle.  It is huge, and blocky and really only works sitting the floor.  There's no real way for the figure to handle it smoothly.  The weapon is rounded out with a large radar dish that attaches to the barrel and a hose to connect to the backpack.

Psyche Out's backpack is massive.  All of the Sonic Fighters packs are large to accommodate the light and sound technology of the day.  The nice thing is that they can be used as sort of stand alone playsets.  For more of the figures, this is a stretch.  But, for Psyche Out, it works.  His technological bent and laser rifle fit into the motif of the pack and make it somewhat usable...even if the size would make it useless as a field weapon.  The grey pack features three plug in accessories: a small radar dish, a larger radar dish and a small antenna.  With these on the pack, it takes on more of a playset vibe.  (Of course, they also make getting a complete figure that much harder!)  Of final note is that the pack has two variants: one with a peg for the hose to attach to.  And, another where there is just a hole into which the hose plugs.  They appear with similar frequency (I have acquired 2 Psyche Out's in my decades of collecting and got one of each without even trying.) and really don't have an impact to the figure's pricing.  My personal preference is the hole model as the peg is rather large and most hoses will quickly detach until you've stretched them out to the point where they are useless for other figures.

This figure's pricing and availability are problematic.  Psyche Out is actually rather hard to find if you want him mint and complete.  A figure with all his gear and filecard will cost between $20 and $25 these days.  Carded versions will be more expensive.  But, the figure isn't easy to find in either incarnation.  The small accessories and obscure release make it difficult to find this guy in mint condition and complete.  However, the Funskool version included the same accessories (though the antenna is grey instead of black) and was available for a long time for under $5 in the U.S.  It's likely that this Funskool version helps keep the price of the American figure down a bit.  Which is good as the mold is worth acquiring and the gear just makes the figure that much better.  The Funskool versions are pricier now, though, and will often run $10 plus shipping for a carded figure.  But, that's still a lot less money and hassle than finding the American version.  So, I recommend that as an alternative.  But, every collector should have a version of this figure.  He's oddball, but in a good way.

1991 Super Sonic Fighters Psyche Out, Ozone, Clean Sweep, Eco Warriors

1991 Super Sonic Fighters Psyche Out, 2005 Comic Pack Cobra Commander, Holographic, Hologram, See Through

1991 Super Sonic Fighters Psyche Out, Heavy Duty, 1993 Monster Blaster APC, Beach Head, Flint, 1994

1991 Super Sonic Fighters Psyche Out, 1986 Dial Tone

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

2003 Inferno BAT

In 2003, collectors were army builder mad.  Any figure that could be used as an army builder, was.  Even marginal figures that had "Viper" after their name were highly sought after and could be resold for profits on the second hand market.  It was a nutty time in many ways.  For whatever reason, though, Hasbro was loathe to really explore the army building possibilities.  While they had released the greatest army building pack of all time in 1998 with the Cobra Infantry Team, they simply refused to revisit the notion of more than one army builder in a pack.  As such, collectors were left frustrated with dozens, or hundreds!, of extra Destro, Cobra Commander, Mirage or Big Ben figures.  The rationale from Hasbro was that they were still targeting kids and kids gravitated towards these characters.  It was a battle collectors simply were not winning: until December of 2002.  At that time, Hasbro showcased a collector themed army building pack that would be an Internet exclusive.  The BAT pack was designed for army builders in terms of figure selection, price and distribution method.  Collectors were least until they saw the sample figures proposed in the 6 figure pack.  While the BAT figures were acceptable, the Inferno BAT figures left many collectors cold.  The result is a figure that is generally disliked, but a concept that may have found its time.

This figure makes sense.  I get why Hasbro came up with it and why it was released.  Really, it was a good idea and was something the Joe line had not seen since the highly unpopular Shadow Ninjas from 1994.  A translucent figure was a way to bring something different to a line of repaints that had become rather stale.  For the BAT character, the notion of see through plastic was plausible and within the realm of acceptable stretches for collectors.  Despite that, though, the figure just  While the see through red material is interesting, the reality is that seeing the O-Ring and internal construction is somewhat  limiting.  Had Hasbro taken a step to outline the insides of the figure with something that would have simulated machinery or circuitry, the figure would be light years better.  Of course, it would have also been light years more expensive.

The Inferno BAT is a straight up repaint of the 1991 BAT figure.  That sleeker mold held a lot of potential that was largely realized through the black repaint that was included in this 6 pack.  The Inferno BAT just being a repaint of the same mold that was repainted in a more collector friendly way in the same pack likely played into collector malaise in regards to the character.  But, the '91 BAT mold hadn't been seen for 12 years and, at the time, '91 BATs were not overly common.  Also included with the figure were some repainted V2 BAT accessories.  Instead of the full '91 BAT gear, though, Hasbro only opted for the hand and a laser/flamethrower attachment.  Gone was the backpack on which to store these items as well as the missile launcher that gave the original figure some chutzpah.  The hand and laser attachment are decent enough.  But, with no backpack in which to store them, the figure seems unfinished.  With this diminished accessory complement, it would have been nice to see the figure include a rifle of some kind to arm him a bit more.  It should also be noted that the hand attachments, especially on the Inferno BATs, can fit rather loosely and are prone to falling off if you put something in the figure's hand.  It won't break the hand or the peg, but is annoying if you are trying to display a large number.  (Or, take a photo of him in the plants, holding up a Skyhawk part!)

When Hasbro came up with the idea of an army building 6 figure pack that would be distributed through online dealers, they had grandiose hopes.  They imagined this would be the wave of the future with online dealers ordering massive quantities to ship to eager collectors.  Future 6 packs were planned, even before the BAT pack was released.  However, the orders for the BATs were tepid at best.  While small, Joe specific dealers ordered heavily, their notion of ordering heavily was very different from what a Target, Wal Mart, KB Toys or Toys R Us would have purchased.  Plus, the minimum buy on BAT packs was $10,000.  At a wholesale price of $8 per pack, dealers had to purchase 1250 BAT packs at a minimum if they wanted to sell them at all.  That priced some dealers out of the game, and hurt the overall sales.  Within days of the BAT packs going on sale, the Head of Boys Toys at Hasbro stated that the packs hadn't sold as well as expected and future offerings would be cancelled.  

Collectors, by and large, weren't swayed with the packs.  Despite dealers pricing them at $15 per set (only after what many might call collusion where the prices were proposed as high as $22.99 per pack prior to release) collectors didn't find the 3 decent black BATs, 2 Inferno BATs and an Overkill in every pack really worth the time or money to splurge indiscriminately.  Rather than buying out dozens of packs each, many collectors were content with 4 or 5 as they didn't like the black BATs enough to justify the, worthless, extra Infernos and Overkills.  The result was that dealers, who hadn't ordered enough to meet Hasbro's expectations, were now left with massive overstock of unsold sets.  And, only a few months after the BAT pack release, Hasbro showcased upcoming Cobra Troopers, Officers and Crimson Guards that would be available at Toys R Us in 2004.  (The TRU exclusive Cobra Trooper/Officer 6 pack would have been the 2nd Internet Exclusive had the BATs been successful.  Truthfully, had that pack been offered to collectors first, it would have sold well enough to at least justify a second attempt by Hasbro at the Internet dealer distribution.)  Collectors moved on and BATs languished for years at many dealers. blew BAT packs out for around $6 each just to move the stock.  And, BAT packs ultimately showed up at Tuesday Morning stores for $6 as well after Hasbro dumped their unsold surplus to the overstock liquidator.

This failure soured Hasbro on the ability of collectors to sustain any line.  That was unfair since the product, really, wasn't awesome.  But, the Hasbro people of the time were generally down on collectors and viewed them, and the legacy ARAH figures with contempt.  The reality of the Inferno BATs is that they have remained rather unpopular.  While you don't see as many for sale as you might have 7 or 8 years ago, those that are out there are generally ignored.  Many dealers try to sell the figures for $6 to $7 if they are still bagged.  But, those go heavily unsold.  You can get them for $3 or so if you buy in lots or are willing to be patient for someone to sell them for market price.  Either way, the figures are cheap, unappreciated and generally a forgotten part of the repaint era Joe line.

Hasbro's plan was to sell 10,000 of these BAT packs.  The dealers of the time simply did not purchase that many.  It's likely, though, that the overall production of 10,000 was still realized and the overstock sales to Tuesday Morning and were clearance dumps for Hasbro to rid itself of unsold inventory.  So, at 2 Inferno BATs per pack, that puts their production numbers at an estimated 20,000 figures.  Depending on your point of view, that may seem rather large, or rather small.  But, it was in line with the number of figures produced in the Toys R Us exclusive 6 figure packs of the era.  The figure for whom this info is useful, though, is Overkill.  At one per pack, that figure had around 10,000 units produced. For a mass release, that is the smallest number of any figure of the repaint era.  The fact that he's concentrated with collectors and, frankly, kind of sucks, though, prevents that low production for having any real affect on his availability or pricing.

For me, this figure is a novelty.  Visually, it's interesting, especially as a one off conversation piece.  But, that's about the extent of the figure's value to my collection.  It is a high quality piece in terms of paint application and design.  But, it's also rather limited.  I find the black BAT figures from the set more useful.  But, even they are limited due to the lack of backpack or firearm.  As such, this is not a figure that has seen any meaningful use since 2003 when they were new.  I don't think it's a bad figure at all.  But, not all solid releases are worthy of heavy use or army building.  Some are good to appreciate on their own for what they were.  The Inferno BAT encompasses that perfectly.

The concept of the Inferno BAT, though, has lived on.  There is an exclusive update of the character to be offered in a figure subscription service.  Collectors have generally received this figure with great positivity and seem to be genuinely anticipating its arrival.  But, the new version uses a sculpt that is more true to the vintage BAT and includes many more, substantially better detailed accessories.  In general, it's a better designed figure.  If someone were to take the 2008 Headhunter BAT and repaint that mold as an Inferno BAT, it would also, likely, be better received than these 2003 versions.  But, that's not going to happen and collectors are left with just these Inferno BATs to represent the character in vintage form.  The fact that they are cheap is good.  And, because of their low price, they are worthwhile figures to have moderation.

Really, only one Inferno BAT survived my modern army builder purge in the late 2000's.  One for display was all I needed.  For others, mileage may vary.  Many collectors took advantage of cheap Inferno BATs at the time of the figure's release (often as low as $1 per figure) and built up large armies.  Personally, I think this a figure best left at a quantity of 1.  Others will have differing opinions.  But, the figure is something distinctive released at a time when that was not the norm.  In reviewing the figure now, I see the quality that was obscured by the disappointment of his release in 2003.  But, I still have no interest in owning any more of them.  He's a decent figure who has, likely, seen his final use in my collection.

2003 Inferno BAT, Battle Android Trooper, Mail Away, Internet Exclusive, 1984 Sky Hawk, Steel Brigade

2003 Inferno BAT, Battle Android Trooper, Mail Away, Internet Exclusive, BAT, V2

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Funskool Bomb Disposal

At various times in both my youth and as an adult collector, I have become somewhat obsessed by certain aspects of the Joe line.  Throughout my collecting years, I have found Star Brigade, 1993 repaints, foreign figures and army builders to be the singular focus of my collection.  For whatever reason, something about a particular subject grabs a hold of me and a portion of collecting that I had, previously, largely ignored becomes the single most important part of my collecting experience.  I can trace this behavior, though, back to my childhood, too.  Even in the mid 1980's, I would occasionally find some obscure aspect of collecting that had never been any of my concern and see it completely dominate the way I spent my collecting dollars.

In late 1986, that obsession turned to the small vehicles and playsets that I had seen hanging on the shelves of Toys R Us and Target for several years.  Items like the machine gun playset, the mortar range and the Mountain Howitzer had been toys I had seen at the stores.  But, their lack of figures and small size left me uninterested in them.  (Much of this can be traced to my absolute disappointment with the Pac Rats and SNAKE Armor from 1983.)  As '86 wound down, though, I had purchased all the figures and vehicles that were feasible for me to acquire.  (The Terrordrome and USS Flagg were simply too expensive for me to buy on my own.)  With little left to buy, I started eyeing these playsets and vehicles that were largely used to keep dust off the floor at the local toy shops.  With no other options left for new toys, I started buying up these small items.  Within my first purchase, though, I realized how cool these low cost supplements to a collection really were.  So, for the final part of the year, I spent my time tracking down as many of these sets from '84 through '86 that I could find.

One of the hidden gems was the Bomb Disposal.  Ostensibly, it was a vehicle used to defuse undetonated ordinance.  Once I had it in hand, though, huge realms of play were opened up to me.  The vehicle was perfect as a means of carrying bombs and missiles to awaiting aircraft.  It could be used as a bulldozer.  The arm could carry a captured prisoner.  But, the best use was as a mobile shield for Joes.  The huge, armored plates that protected the driver from explosions were also perfect for shielding Joes as they advanced on a position.  A small team of soldiers would line up behind a Bomb Disposal as it drove towards an enemy positon: the bullets harmlessly bouncing off the forward facing armor.  With this little vehicle, the Joes had a way to take out Cobra installations without facing harsh fire.  It was a great way for them to deal with entrenched Cobras and made the Bomb Disposal a vehicle that Cobra often targeted for destruction at the beginning of an engagement, often ahead of vehicles like the HAVOC or Mauler.

As a vehicle, the Bomb Disposal is well detailed.  It features little items like a smoke stack, dual control rods and corrugated steel face plates.  On top of that, it was given a tow hook as well so the Bomb Disposal could tow Whirlwinds, Howitzers, HALs or any the other Joe playsets that were not self propelled.  It was a great way to integrate the Bomb Disposal into the line's existing construction and allowed for much greater play possibilities since it was easy to incorporate the Bomb Disposal with existing vehicles.  The arm and bulldozer blade have gripping teeth and realistic patterns that give them depth.  The actual arm would have been much cooler if it had more moving joints (though that might have made it too floppy for play) but the sliding slots on the vehicle's base that allowed for the arm to move forward and backwards and grip different sized missiles was a neat little addition that made the vehicle seem more valued than it's low cost would suggest.

It was the detail on these little vehicles and playsets that kept me enthralled with them through my final childhood years.  Things like the bullet holes on the wall of the mortal playset, the stacking sandbags and the ammo dumps crate opened the Joe world up immeasurably.  They were the little things that, when coupled with the larger vehicles and playsets, really set the Joe line apart.  The Hasbro Machine Gun nest wasn't brittle, cheap molded plastic.  It was mold injected plastic with assembled parts that all had layers of small details that, when put together, looked like a full blown toy.  No G.I. Joe HQ was complete without a Checkpoint Alpha, Law, Machine Gun Nest and many others surrounding it.  It took a great playset and made it epic.  It also kept the Joe line integrated with itself, even years after a toy had been discontinued.  The Bomb Disposal was a part of those small details that greatly accentuated the main figure and vehicle line.

The main difference between the Funskool and Hasbro Bomb Disposal vehicles is the color of the arm and shields.  The Hasbro versions are a standard charcoal color that was common on vehicles of the era.  The Funskool version, though, released these parts in jet black.  It is a striking difference: especially when combined with the deeper green color that Funskool gave to the base vehicle body.  The result is that the Funskool release is far more visually striking.  It has a sharp contrast between green and black.  In comparison, the American version is more subdued.  And, likely, more realistic.  But, as a toy, I prefer the Funskool's versions deeper color palette.  It is something different (though the color is common to Funskool vehicles) that appeals to colors I enjoy.

The Bomb Disposal was released in the U.S. in 1985 and 1986.  It then saw a second life as a mail away for several years.  It is likely, though, that the mail away items were overstock, or a single production run that simply took a while to sell off.  In the late 1980's, the vehicle showed up in Argentina where it was released by Plastirama in colors similar to the American vehicle for a while.  About a decade later, the Bomb Disposal appeared in India where this Funskool version was produced.  Funskool produced the Bomb Disposal for many years.  It's possible that there are variants of this vehicle within the various Funskool production runs.  But, they are most likely "unintentional" variants where the plastic mixture was slightly different and the hues of the base colors have some differences.  (This is common on Funskool figures that were produced at different times in different production runs.)  However, there have not been any variants defined at this point.  The mold likely died in India and it is either still there, or was destroyed by Hasbro.  It would have been nice to see some sort of additional color scheme on this vehicle.  But, since its role is one of support and background work, it's not a great travesty for it to have never been repainted.

Through the 2000's, Funskool Bomb Disposals were fairly cheap.  Many American toy dealers had access to them and you could get sealed, boxed versions shipped for under $15.  In the years since, though, the supply has dried up and you see higher prices.  Granted, not too many sell for those higher prices.  But, getting one on a whim for cheap is extremely difficult without substantial patience these days.  If you want the vehicle, the American version has more realistic colors, better availability and is much, much cheaper.  So, that's the best way to go.  But, as an alternative, this Funskool version is very nice.  The deeper green is a color that I enjoy and it helps bring some diversity to a vehicle collection.

Funskool Bomb Disposal, TNT, Argentina, Plastirama, 1983 Zap, Tripwire

Funskool Bomb Disposal, TNT, Argentina, Plastirama, 1983 Zap, Tripwire

Funskool Bomb Disposal, 1984 Clutch, Steel Brigade, Mail Away, Action Force Stalker, Snake Eyes, Palitoy, European Exclusive

Funskool Bomb Disposal, 1984 Clutch, Steel Brigade, Mail Away, Action Force Stalker, Snake Eyes, Palitoy, European Exclusive

Funskool Bomb Disposal, 1998 Thunderwing, Heavy Duty, Toys R Us Exclusive