Tuesday, May 31, 2016

G.I. Joe Rarities and Oddities Month

Every day in the month of June, I'm going to post a picture and brief description of various rarities and oddities that I've seen over the years.  Note that these are not from my collection.  But, they are interesting tidbits of G.I. Joe lore that I find fascination and have culled from various public postings over the years.  Starting tomorrow, you'll find new posts under the Rarities tag.  These will continue through the month.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

1983 Viper Pilot - Around the Web

On the surface, the Viper Pilot is just a slightly repainted Cobra Trooper.  But, that silver logo makes all the difference.  And, the figure's general rarity has driven him to be well considered by collectors.  Here's some of the best content on the web for the character:

Viper Pilot Profile

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

1998 Torpedo

For vintage Joe collectors, there are two eras that define collecting: the vintage era from 1982 - 1994 and the repaint era that stretched from 1997 through 2006.  (The Post 2006 convention releases are included in the repaint era, but they were so small that they are afterthoughts rather than part of a full release.)  While both have their highs and lows, you'd be hard pressed to find any collector who would rank the repaints over the originals: in general.  Specifically, though, the late 1990's and early 2000's did see Hasbro revisit some molds who had suffered from lousy color choices in the vintage run.  While Hasbro didn't do this often enough, they did start right from the beginning in 1997 by choosing a later Alley Viper and Destro mold.  In 1998, Hasbro outdid themselves.  While the overall 1998 line was smaller, each figure was well done with solid accessories and exceptional paint masks.  While collectors have long focused on the Cobras and Oktober Guard from this year, it is from the underappreciated Navy Seal pack that find the focus of this profile: the 1998 Torpedo figure.

In 1992, Hasbro brought back the Wet Suit character.  He featured a sleek, militaristic appearance that was in line with the figure styling of the time.  It was a solid mold that was accentuated by the black base used for the figure.  Unfortunately, Hasbro chose to accent that black with bright orange.  While the figure is striking, it is also a bit gaudy.  As bright colors were a thing in the early 1990's, though, Hasbro followed up on the orange 1992 figure with a bright yellow repaint in 1993.  Neither are bad figures.  But, they are a product of their time.  The true value of the figure, though, was that it introduced a removable helmet that showcased a solid head underneath.  While Wet Suit has a mullet, you have to remember that he was likely sculpted in 1990 or 1991 and that you can only tell when you look at the figure from behind.  Finally, a classic character had a face that was not obscured by a helmet.

To this point, though, this profile is about Wet Suit.  But, the character profile is Torpedo.  The reason for that is one of the great introductions of the 1998 line was molds being renamed.  Thunderwing is the most obvious example.  But, this figure mold originally used for Wet Suit became Torpedo.  In 1997, the original Torpedo was released with a repainted Cobra Night Landing.  For the 1998 Navy Seal set, Hasbro wanted the big three divers in the vintage line.  Shipwreck was released as a repaint of his under-rated 1994 mold.  Wet Suit, deservedly, was released with his original mold.  This left Torpedo.  As 1997's were still on the shelf when this wave was rolling out, using the same mold as the prior year made little sense.  So, Hasbro commandeered the 1992 Wet Suit and renamed him Torpedo for this set.

While the 1997 figures have a lesser reputation among collectors for their quality, the 1998 line does not.  It seems Hasbro learned a bit and produced a higher quality product without having to raise their prices.  The highlight of the 1998 figures, though, is the intricacy of the paint masks.  If you look at the original releases of the molds that Hasbro dusted off in 1998, most of them had fairly basic paint applications.  The original uses of this body mold featured just one paint application on the body and are among the most basic figures you can find in the line.  Hasbro created at least one additional mask for the Street Fighter line.  But, that was still a fairly simple overall design.  For this 1998 version, though, Hasbro pulled out all the stops.  Not only did they paint up the details, but they also painted details within the details.  The figure's black base is accentuated with aqua blue, grey, silver and a dark bluish/grey color.  The result is a figure that showcases everything that's great about the mold.  And, while the aqua blue is a somewhat audacious color, it's limited use helps to highlight the figure without overpower the overall ensemble.

When I first learned about the 1998 Joes, it was this Navy Seal pack that most interested me.  I loved the 1994 Shipwreck figure and even bought two of them in the mid 1990's as Joe was fading from retail.  As these sets came out, I bought some extras for army building.  I liked the base figures and accessories and molds were enough to get me to come back.  In total, I think I bought three sets that I opened and a 4th that I kept carded.  While this number was still lower than the overall number of Cobra sets I bought from that year, it was substantially more than the Oktober Guard.  I quickly realized, though, that I was likely the only collector who liked this set.  And, even I had to admit that the Mission to Brazil Wet Suit and the 1994 Shipwreck were better figures than the repaints of those molds released in this set.  The same could not be said of this Torpedo figure.  Somewhere, I have photos of this figure in the pool from my first house that I took in the summer of 2000.  It was this Torpedo who got taken out and used.  While I liked the idea of the other two figures, the actuality was that there were better versions readily available to me.  So, to me, this figure is always Torpedo and remains the highlight of the Navy Seal set...even though I like the other two molds more.

This mold had a fairly decent life.  It had the yellow and orange releases of the Wet Suit in 1992 and 1993.  In 1995 or so, the body was used for the Navy Seal Guile figure in the Street Fighter movie line of toys.  This Torpedo appeared in 1998.  In 2004, the figure's head was used on the high quality VAMP Chief Torpedo figure.  After that, the mold disappeared.  The black highlight variant of the Navy Seal Guile and this 1998 Torpedo are probably the best uses of the overall body mold.  While it might have been nice to see something a little different in terms of base colors, you can't say the mold was under-utilized.  And, this Torpedo figure was about the best way possible for the mold to fade into obscurity.

In late 2000, G.I. Joe's popularity amped up drastically.  Collectors discovered the newly released A Real American Hero Collection and started returning to vintage collecting in droves.  While both the 1997 and 1998 Toys R Us sets had been well received, they also hung around retail for quite a while.  As the new blood of 2000 and 2001 rushed in, though, these sets began to disappear and rise in price.  The Navy Seal set, though, was not part of this.  While the 1998 Cobras had long disappeared from retail and were fetching $50+ on the secondary market in 2001, Navy Seal packs still hung from Toys R Us shelves around the nation.  The set was stuck due to it being packed 2 per case (the Cobras were 1 per case) and it being divers with an aqua blue highlight package.  In short, the figures were duds.

18 years later, not much has changed.  While collectors do appreciate these figures a bit more, they are still not overly popular.  Mint and complete with filecard sets of the Seals can be had for $15.  Finding the individuals sold separately is a bit harder.  Dealers will sell this figure mint and complete for $10-$12, but you find no takers at that price.  If you can find out on his own, he shouldn't cost more than $4 or $5.  But, it's much easier to find all three figures together.  For the price, the figure is worth owning.  He's a solid update to the mold: whether you want to call him Torpedo or Wet Suit.  He's cheap to pick up.  And, you're not going to see another repaint of him ever again.  So, Torpedo has a lot going for him, even if he's not the type of figure you would otherwise seek out.

1998 Torpedo, TRU Exclusive, 1987 Dodger, Battle Force 2000

1998 Torpedo, TRU Exclusive, 1987 Dodger, Battle Force 2000

1998 Torpedo, TRU Exclusive, 1994 Action Marine, 30th Anniversary, 1993 Mega Viper, Mega Marines

Thursday, May 19, 2016

1983 Luke Skywalker - Jedi Knight

There is one reason I collect vintage G.I. Joe figures today.  That is the vintage Star Wars line.  In 1978, I was four years old.  My spotty memories of toys from that time are mostly of die cast cars, fire trucks and little plastic firefighters.  The toys were not overly memorable, not overly forgettable.  In the spring of 1978, my youngest brother was born.  He was born with a heart defect that left him hospitalized for months.  During this time, my younger brother and I were shuffled between Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and family friends.  One rare moment, my father was home on a Saturday.  He took me to the local Children's Palace toy store and let me pick out anything I wanted.  I don't know what drew me to the Star Wars figures.  I was not familiar with the story or franchise.  But, the packaging and figure size drew me in.  I purchased a C-3PO figure.  By Christmas of that year, I had completed the original 12 figures and was ecstatic when the second wave of figures showed up at the local Ed Shrock's Toys at the Glendale mall.  For the next five years, Star Wars toys would dominate my childhood.

In late 1982, though, that changed.  My younger brother got a slew of new G.I. Joe toys for his birthday.  With little on the Star Wars horizon, I became captivated by these new action figures.  As the calendar moved into 1983, my interest in Joe trumped anything Star Wars.  But, as the summer drew near, buzz started building around Return of the Jedi.  My brother's friend around the block found a Biker Scout at the local Children's Palace.  This cardback opened up huge new possibilities and excitement over the new movie.  Shortly before the film's release, Time Magazine published a full spread and article on the movie and whetted my appetite even further.  I saw the film upon it's release and was immediately back into Star Wars full time.

My youngest brother's plight intervened again, though.  He had additional surgeries scheduled for the summer of 1983.  With school out, I was sent off my Grandparent's house in Dayton, Ohio for a few weeks.  My younger brother would then join me for a week before we went to an Aunt and Uncle's home for the final weeks before my youngest brother could return home.  In 1983, my Grandfather was retired.  He and my Grandmother had a few friends in their neighborhood and would play cards or visit with them most days.  But, this left them copious amounts of free time.  Combining this with my Grandmother's innate need to spoil me rotten, they made it a point to take me out shopping every single day.  At the time, I had few of the new Return of the Jedi figures.  So, they took me on a quest to complete my collection.  Each day, we'd hit a different store, look over their stock and buy me one new figure to add to my collection.  Sometimes, the choice between many figures was difficult.  Other times, there was just one figure that I did not own who was available.  (This is how I ended up with General Madine.)  The one figure I most wanted, though, was Luke Skywalker in his Jedi Knight outfit.

The 1983 Star Wars line was a huge upgrade over previous offerings.  While the basic five points of articulation remained, the figure's accessories were upgraded to heights previously unexplored.  Gone were the vinyl capes that were the hallmark of earlier years.  Instead, full cloth goods were offered on many figures.  A few characters featured removable helmets to authentically recreate specific scenes.  And, there was a wealth of new weapon molds made to mimic those seen in the movie.  The Luke Skywalker figure appealed to me on a few of these fronts.  First, he had a cloth cloak with a hood to recreate his Jedi look.  He also included the completely awesome pistol that many of the creatures in Jabba's Palace had used.  But, in general, the figure was an exceptional recreation of the titular character from the film.  Plus, he had a lightsaber he could hold.

The minute I acquired this Luke, he became my go to figure.  No else was allowed to play with him and I kept his gear pristine.  He was unbeatable as he could shoot far away bad guys or slice them up close with his lightsaber.  In the days that followed my acquisition of the figure I found a version at a local K-Mart store with a blue lightsaber.  I couldn't believe Kenner had made such a gaffe.  I thought about buying it as a way to finally correct my Bespin Luke's yellow saber.  But, now that I had the Jedi Luke, there was no need to return to that Bespin figure.  Luke's reign as top dog in my collection was short lived, though.  As the summer wound down, I finally returned home.  Here, playing with my Star Wars figures up in my brother's room one day, I discovered an Airborne figure.  With that, Star Wars began a decline and Joe began its ascendancy to top spot in my toy world.

When I started coming back into the toy world as an adult, though, it was through the relaunch of the Star Wars line by Hasbro in 1995.  While I had bought Joes here and there in the prior years, it was the new Star Wars figures that really piqued my interest in toys in general and ignited my collector passion.  In the fall of 1996, I picked up Hasbro's new take on the Luke Jedi figure in their POTFII line.  It rekindled my interest in this figure.  As Ebay came around in the following years, one of the items I decided I needed to have was a carded, vintage Luke Jedi.  It represented so much of my childhood and really was the last great Star Wars figure I had owned.  At the time, carded Star Wars figures were starting to get expensive as we really didn't understand just how much vintage stock there was out there.  So, I sacrificed a bit of quality in order to fulfill expediency and acquired the carded figure you see below.  While I don't remember the exact price, it was likely between $40 and $50 after shipping.

In the late 1990's, I actually had quite a few vintage carded and loose Star Wars figures.  I had plans to complete my loose collection as a side hobby between buying Joes.  But, in the early 2000's, my Star Wars figures could not survive the space freeing imperative that I had.  Almost all of my vintage Star Wars toys were sold off to make way for Joes.  The one that remained, though, was this Luke Jedi.  I simply can't sell it.  The figure retains a few memories for me.
  • The first is the card photo.  Back in 1983, finding photos of Star Wars characters was rough.  So, having a card that showed so many background characters was great.  
  • The second is playing in my Grandparent's front yard with this figure after I got him.  I don't remember the adventure.  But, I remember their perfectly manicured bushes that lines the sidewalk that lead to the driveway.  It's a great contextual memory that keeps their home fresh in my mind even though it's been out of the family for over 25 years now.  
  • The final is an odd memory of the figure's gun.  At some point, I lost it.  Without the gun, the figure began to fall into disuse.  On fall day, I went to close a window in my parent's family room.  The window didn't close all the way.  On top of the sliding pane, I found Luke's gun.  It was close enough in color to the window to not be seen on a cursory look.  But, how it ended up there, I will never know.  The handle to the gun was stressed from getting pinched between the wooden frames of the panes.  But, I quickly went to get my Luke, gave him his gun and used him for a few more days until Joe retook my imagination.
It is memories like these that give these toys value.  While I don't want to be stuck in the past, it's useful to also not forget where you came from.  Seeing this figure immediately reminds me of my grandparents.  There are few things I own that do that as all the mementos from their home were destroyed while I was in college.  As toys were a big part of my interaction with them, I have fond memories of them that are associated with the playthings that should not, otherwise, hold that much meaning.  It's a bit sentimental and sappy.  But, as my kids never knew their great grandparents, it's a way to provide them a connection and make their ancestors seem a bit more real.

With the release of Revenge of the Sith, I started buying modern Star Wars figures again.  I was not a completist and my purchases were limited to figures and characters that I found really cool or interesting.  The one figure that I desperately wanted, though, was a Luke Jedi done in modern style, but based on this vintage figure.  Hasbro released a few figures that were close.  But, there was always something about them that wasn't good enough for me.  This continued all they way through my forays into the Vintage Collection into 2011.  I haven't checked since then to see if there's a modern take on this figure that meets my meticulous demands.  But, my interest in owning such a piece has likewise diminished accordingly.

It is no secret that the fan anticipation and media blitz that accompanied The Force Awakens brought a huge uptick in vintage Star Wars pricing.  Items that were one acquirable by the average collector have taken on pop culture relevance that has risen prices of many items beyond what long term collectors feel they are worth.  Whether this is sustainable or not remains to be seen.  Disney has managed to keep the Marvel world going for 11 years so far with no signs of slowdown.  Will Star Wars keep pace, even with a film per year?  I don't know.  But, I do know that my dreams of one day having a complete set of vintage Star Wars figures has taken a hit.  Graded samples have priced themselves beyond what I'm interested in paying.  And, the flood of repro and aftermarket accessories makes a dive into loose figures much more precarious than it was just a decade ago.

As such, pricing this figure out is difficult at best.  The figure actually has a slew of variations beyond the green/blue saber, some being substantially more desirable than others.  Then, there are a huge number of cardback/cardfront variants, each having it's own, distinct subset of desirability.  Best I can tell, based on which variants you want, a mint and complete loose figure will run you anywhere between $25 and $75.  But, your mileage may vary.  Carded, its even harder to tell.  It appears you can get a figure in a package better than what you see here for well under $100 while high graded variant figures seem to top out around $400.  It's a lot for a small piece of childhood.  But, Star Wars is on the cultural phenomenon that has transcended generations.  It's as equally likely that someone bidding against someone my age who owned the toy as a kid is instead someone 20 years younger whose fascination with the Star Wars universe was forged with the first Prequels.  That's not a bad thing as I've always felt a vibrant market was the key to a strong collector community.  (Which has somewhat died with Joe.)  But, it is frustrating to see things at two to three times the prices they were just 5 or 6 years ago.  Do you jump now and the market keeps going?  Or do you anticipate a decline in interest and, correspondingly, prices?  It's a tough choice and only time tells you if you're right or wrong.

Personally, this figure retains the memories of my childhood and relatives long gone.  As a memento, it's value far exceeds the cash it would bring were I to part with it.  It remains the last bastion of vintage Star Wars in my possession and is an item I will not part with easily.

Luke Skywalker Jedi Knight Outfit, Kenner, 1983, Vintage Star Wars, 77 Back, Carded, MOC

Luke Skywalker Jedi Knight Outfit, Kenner, 1983, Vintage Star Wars, 77 Back, Carded, MOC

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

1991 Eco Warriors Flint

The early 1990's brought about a mainstream environmentalism.  It was more of a subtle consciousness rather than a blunt truth, but was effective in making kids aware of their environment.  By this time, the Joe line was no longer the innovator in the toy aisle.  While it had defined the action figure space in the 1980's, that was no longer the case as we entered the century's final decade.  Hasbro was chasing gimmicks in a vain attempt to capture lost market share.  But, the Cold War was over and kids were looking for something new.  In 1991, Hasbro obliged them with the introduction of the Eco Warriors subset.  This team of environmental warriors featured bright, neon colors, paint that would show "battle damage" based on temperature and working water guns.  It was a gamble to compete against the brightly colored toys that defined the time.  The result is a group of figures that collectors generally disdain, even though their design is easily on par with figures from many other years.  The leader of the Eco Warriors was the fan favorite character Flint.

I can't look at this figure and not see a rebel pilot from Star Wars.  Turn the green orange and the yellow white and you've got yourself a close enough facsimile of the classic pilot.  Really, I would have loved a repaint of the mold in that vein.  Due to that resemblance, my first uses for this figure were as a pilot.  He fit nicely into the Razorblade and was, for a time, my go to pilot for that chopper.  As soon as I had a 1992 Ace figure, though, that role for Flint disappeared.  But, the general design and good helmet kept him around as a generic pilot for other aircraft until I was able to acquire enough Ace figures to render Flint's involvement moot.

The real value of the sculpt, though, is the head.  Flint's head is exceptional.  It has fine detailing in the hair, chin, cheeks, nose and eyes that you didn't see in the 1980's figures.  It was a leap forward in terms of figure sculpting and showed that nearly a decade of experience had really upped the designer's game in terms of new figures.  The rest of the body follows.  While the overall suit isn't greatly detailed, it has lots of folds and creases that denote movement and wear.  They are little, often overlooked, details that showcase the thought that went into the figure's creation.

My first exposure to the Eco Warriors was in the comic.  I was in high school and not collecting toys, but still read the comic fairly regularly.  The villainous Cesspool seemed interesting and the entire concept of Eco Warriors was, in my opinion, handled fairly well there.  When I started collecting Joes again a few years later, I found the brightly colored figures.  Neon paint doesn't frighten me away from a figure.  And, after I acquired a large lot of figures that included a complete set of Eco Warriors, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the molds.  They were all well done (I was familiar with Ozone from the Star Brigade figures I found on clearance in the mid 1990's.) and the colors meshed well together.  They were a departure from the more traditional Joes.  But, part of what makes the Joe line so great is that there is a wide variety of figures from which to choose.  If you don't want the neon, there are plenty of good figures who don't use it.  But, when you have over 1,000 unique figures, you don't want them all to be the same.

The figure's accessories are OK.  The helmet is well designed.  But, the mesh covering on the lower half of Flint's face is lost in transaction.  Rather than showcasing this different idea, the helmet appears to be a bulkier, fully protective piece.  This isn't bad as it's probably more practical.  But, it would have been cool to see the actual mesh worked out on the figure.  The rest of Flint's gear is the standard water backpack, hose and squirting gun that are the hallmark of the Eco Warriors line.  The weapons are interestingly designed.  And, they are quite compact for what they actually are.  (Oddly, they showed up both with the Brazilian Forca Eco figures, some Street Fighter Movies figure and again in the Bronze Bombers set from Olmec.)

The Eco Warriors Flint mold was used just one time in the vintage line.  The parts never showed up again anywhere else in the world.  In 2001, Hasbro showcased a new vehicle based on the VAMP named the Desert Striker.  The initial photos of the vehicle included a new version of Dusty as the driver.  The prototype was a repaint of the high quality 1991 Dusty mold.  When the vehicle appeared at retail, though, the Dusty was gone and was replaced with a desert repaint of this Eco Warriors Flint mold.  While the Flint head is high quality, the desert color really didn't lend itself to the mold and the figure just seemed odd.  Plus, the Desert Striker didn't include any accessories.  Had it included even a black helmet, it might have been better accepted.  The failure of the Desert Striker figure pretty much doomed collectors to never see the Eco Warriors molds again.  Really, this Flint would have been an excellent member of the Anti Venom set.  A repainted Clean Sweep would have also been welcomed.  Hasbro did dust the mold off a final time in 2010 when the body was used for the truly terrible Red Torch convention figure.  This figure was ruined by an awful head that didn't match the vintage style.  But, at least this mold saw some reuse.

Eco Warriors figures are very unpopular.  As such, they are stupidly cheap.  MOC figures can be purchased for around $10.  Mint and complete with filecard figures sell for around $5.  In lots, you can get them even cheaper.  No one really wants the figures and most people who have it keep it packed away.  The bright colors, less than popular subset and general collector disdain will forever doom this figure to obscurity.  If you're looking for an underappreciated gem, though, this Flint is a perfect example.  The sculpting is good, the coloring is a sign of the times and the mold has a lot of value.  It's just never going to be monetary.

1991 Eco Warriors Flint, 1993 Cyber Viper, Mega Marines, Interrogator, Mail Away

1991 Eco Warriors Flint, Clean Sweep, Funskool Toxo Viper, 1988, India

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

1997 Baroness

There was a lot to love about G.I. Joe's return to retail in 1997.  Back were many collector favorite, classic molds.  Most of them included their original accessories.  But, there was also a lot to hate about the line's return.  While there were some good molds, many of the most iconic character versions were missing.  This created mismatches with the artwork that made you realize what couldn't be done.  Along with that, the construction and plastic quality was greatly degraded over the materials used for the Joe line in 1994 and the ancillary lines like Street Fighter and Mortal Combat movie lines in 1995.  An upside, though, was that the paint masks were more like the vintage figures than the dual colored figures that dominated 1994.  The overall result of the wave was mixed.  There were some great figures, some good figures, some OK figures and, some really bad figures.  The retake on the Baroness character, though, definitely falls into the good figures, and maybe even the great figure category.  She featured the return of the classic 1984 mold, but in an updated color scheme that was both new but also retro enough to fit in with the Cobra motif established in the vintage years.

In 1997, there were only a couple of really expensive G.I. Joe figures.  The 1984 Hooded Cobra Commander was one as people believed he was rare since he was only a mail away.  Version 1 Stormshadow was another as he's just awesome.  The rest, though, were all female figures.  The conventional wisdom of the time was that females were produced in much lower quantities and were rather rare.  As such, you'd often see Baroness figures offered at $50 at toy shows.  (All the while, bagged Stardusters and Steel Brigades would sit unsold for $5.)  So, when given a chance to reproduce molds for collectors, Hasbro sagely chose to remake Scarlett, Lady Jaye and the Baroness all in the same assortment.  Each was uniquely different from her original release, but included the full mold and accessories that offered a cheaper alternative for the frugal minded collector.

One of my laments about the repaint era was that, if you had to only repaint figures, at least make them both different from the original, but still decent.  In 1997 and 1998, Hasbro followed this mantra fairly well.  This Baroness is a perfect example.  She is different from her all black original figure, this time decked out in deep blue.  But, the color is both true to the character and aesthetically pleasing.  In short, she is just about the perfect approach to a figure repaint.  No one who had the original Baroness would feel this figure treaded upon her iconic look.  But, no one who only had this figure would feel that their only version was inferior.  They are both excellent looks for the character.  (It could be said that the 2002 Crimson version also fits these criteria.)

The 1997 figure includes several paint masks that were not available on the vintage version.   The Cobra logo is set against a circular background to help offset it from the opaque blue base.  The Baroness actually has silver buckles and accouterments while sporting additional red detailing.  Her legs retain the black boots.  But, they are set against the dark blue pants.  The overall color scheme showcases in the mold in ways the vintage figure never did.  The blue is a good mesh for Cobra Commander figures and the black matches the V1 Destro figure.  So, depending upon whom your Baroness is aligned with: you now have choices to showcase her allegiance.

For years, I ignored this figure.  I had her in a drawer.  But, I had the original version and that was good enough for me.  When it came time to cull my collection, though, this figure caught my eye.  She was a great repaint of a classic mold.  But, unlike many of the 2000's era repaints, she offered something different enough from the original that she was worth keeping around.  As such, this Baroness survived my reduction and has remained since.  This figure fits in with most any Cobra display, be it classic or modern re-do.  You can see this mold as a vintage release, while also taking advantage of the modern upgrades in paint masking.  In short, it's a figure that is good enough to justify having two versions of it in your collection: even if you are a minimalist collector.

The Baroness mold got a lot of use.  It saw only one release in the vintage, Hasbro line.  But, the mold then went to India.  Funskool released a Baroness figure that was nearly identical to the American version.  But, they also released a red version of the figure in their Complan Commandos line under the name of Rednok.  It's a very rare figure, but not interesting outside of the rarity.  Hasbro got the mold back in 1997 for this release.  She then appeared in black and red as the Chameleon character in 2000, in both Crimson and Fuchsia in 2002 Convention sets, with a new head in the 2004 Comic Pack #1 and with the new head again as a member of the Imperial Processional set in 2005.  While you could argue that there are Baroness repaints to be still explored, there are plenty of versions out there (most of them high quality) for collectors to track down.  So, the mold certainly got its due.

In the early 2000's, the 1997 figures reached insane pricing heights.  There was a time when this was a $20 figure...if you could find her.  Now, that's not the case.  Loose, mint and complete with filecard figures can be had for around $7.  You can get a carded three pack of Baroness, Destro and Cobra Commander for between $20 and $25. It's a sharp fall for items that were, at one time, stupidly expensive.  But, there are lots of Baroness figures available now that were not around in 2002 and 2003.  Plus, the collector fascination with the character has somewhat sated and the Baroness in general is less desirable than she once was.  This Baroness has some issues with skin color and overall quality.  But, the general color scheme and vintage head make it a must have version of the character.  For what she'll cost you these days, she's a steal.

1997 Baroness, Toys R Us Exclusive, Fuera De La Ley, Destro, Argentina, Plastirama, 1987 Chuckles, Cobra De Hielo, Storm Shadow, 2002 Convention Exclusive paratrooper Dusty, Black Major, Red Laser, Blue Crimson Guard Bootleg

1997 Baroness, Toys R Us Exclusive, 2008 Convention Headhunter BAT, Battle Android Trooper, 2006 Major Bludd, 2005 Winter Operations Snake Eyes

Thursday, May 5, 2016

1987 Law and Order - Around the Web

Law is a great figure.  A highly detailed MP, Law's colors are generally forgiven by collectors and he remains a favorite.  Here's some of the best content on the web for the character.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Funskool Blaster

It has been 16 years since I last looked at the Blaster character and figure.  To put that into perspective, the 1987 Blaster figure was only 13 years old when I profiled him.  This Funskool figure is more than 15 years old now.  The reality of the situation, though, is that Blaster hasn't changed much in that decade and half.  The figure has yet to retain any of the prominence he gained as my childhood Joe years came to a close.  The one change was the acquisition of this Funskool Blaster.  And, while it was a way to revisit the character, I've found this figure to be more interesting in other roles in my collection.

As a character, Blaster was incredibly important to me during the final months of my childhood Joe run.  Acquired in December of 1987, Blaster was introduced as a General and was one of the old guard who guided the Joes in their final, epic battles with Cobra.  He had been a science officer in his younger days, which explained his powerful energy weapon.  For the few months where Blaster was an integral character, he made his presence felt.  But, as I packed my childhood collection away, with it went Blaster's place of prominence.  When I unpacked the toys as a collector in the '90's, the newness that drove Blaster's popularity had worn off.  Instead, there was a dark green figure, missing his trademark mask that wore garters on the outside of his uniform.  He wasn't terrible.  But, Blaster's reign as a major character was done.

Which brings us to this Funskool release.  For the first couple of years that Funskool figures were heavily imported, I had little in the way of resources to purchase them.  So, I focused mostly on the army builders, major characters and the new figure that came out every quarter or so.  In the mid 2000's, though, I realized that the Funskool supply was starting to dry up and I went on a quest to fill the remaining holes in my collection.  This brought me some bad figures like Dodger, some boring figures like Psyche Out and some oddly fun figures like Blaster.

At his core, the Funskool Blaster is heavily based on the American coloring of the figure.  The base is green, though it is brighter, and the general feel of the figure isn't that much different from the American version.  Where the Funskool version excels, though, is in the accessory department.  Along with the mask and standard energy weapon, the Funskool Blaster included some additional gear that make all the difference for the figure.  Aside from the appreciated battle stand, Blaster also includes the massive machine gun that was only available in the U.S. with the very hard to find 1992 Recalled Roadblock figure.  (This weapon is a mainstay of Funskool releases, though, and is found with the Funskool Roadblock and Red Dog figures as well.)  The figure also includes a grey version of Lifeline's backpack.  When put together, the Funskool Blaster is very reminiscent of a generic Sci Fi, futuristic soldier.  The mask cloaks his identity in a way that allows for the figure to be used as an army builder.  He is a great element to battle against the Mega Marine Cobras and the Monstro and Bio Vipers or even as a foil to the Blackstars or Lunartix from Star Brigade.  Yes, he's a bit outside of the traditional Joe norms.  But, this Blaster offers something fun to a collection and a way to expand upon some of the later, more marginalized Joe themes.

This is the fate of my figure.  I don't really have a use for the Blaster character.  And, the American figure works for Blaster in my collection.  As a diorama filler, though, this Funskool version works out well.  His gear is in scale with the figure and fits his overall design.  While I'm not a huge sci fi guy in terms of my overall collection.  I do like astronauts and can see this Blaster fitting in as a crewman on the Defiant or Crusader.  But, he would be a nameless one who would likely perish during the invasion by aliens or Astro Vipers. It's not much of a role, but works for the figure.  I guess I like the idea of owning a Funskool Blaster more than the practicality.

The Blaster mold found a lot of use around the world.  In the U.S., he was released on the TRU Exclusive single cards and then on the 2 figure blister packs.  Once these releases were done, though, Blaster, along with most of the rest of Battle Force 2000, next appeared in Brazil.  There, Blaster was released as Atomizer.  This version is based on the American figure and is in a slightly different green color.  He features a silver version of the Tele Viper's gun.  Though, there is much anecdotal evidence to point to him also including a version of the American figure's weapon.  From there, Blaster, Blocker and Dodger all made their way to India.  Funskool started producing Blaster around 2000 or 2001.

He continued through the Funskool years and was a rather ubiquitous figure with his parts appearing on some of the Funskool mold changes such as being used for Flint's arms.  Hasbro, though, never re-acquired the mold.  Blaster was among the few figures that Funskool brought back around 2009 or 2010.  This version was packaged with an explosion background instead of the digitized explosion and features a different main gun than the older figure.  It is likely there are small color differences between the production times as well.  Around 2002, Funskool also produced a Blaster figure that was only available as a vehicle pack in.  This incredibly hard to find variant uses dark green plastic as the base with orange paint splashes.  He also features a sliver helmet.  (Basically, it's the same color scheme as the Funskool General Hawk and may have been a result of a color test for that plastic and paint combination.)  There are not many of these figures out there, but it is something for the Blaster fan to track down.

Today, Funskool Blasters are cheap.  He was heavily imported in the early 2000's and was not among the more popular figures of the day.  Now, you can acquire carded versions for between $5 and $15 depending on whether you want to wait or not.  Loose, mint and completes are listed all the time for around $7.  They sell because there aren't a lot of them sold at open auction.  Those that are, though, often sell for under $4 each and will go in lots for even less.  The figure is not popular and is priced accordingly.  As a necessary figure for completion, this price is worth it.  But, even as just an oddity, it's worth picking up a figure.  (Be sure to get one with the mask.  There are some that do not include it, so always check before buying a carded figure.)  The Recalled Roadblock machine gun is always a great addition to a collection.  But, the complete ensemble of Blaster's gear works for the mold.  When you can get something like that cheap, even if it's not something you'll really enjoy, it's still worth it.  You might just find a hidden gem.

1994 Viper, Funskool Blaster, India

2000 Funskool Blaster, India, 1994 Viper, Battle Corps

2000 Funskool Blaster, India