Monday, October 31, 2016

2001 Manimal Warwolf

I suppose something's not really a tradition if you've only done it one time in 17 years.  But, a Halloween Manimal profile is something that makes sense.  (And, did it first this year.)    Slythor was my first back in 2013.  So, I'll showcase Warwolf now and you can expect Iguanus in 2019.  That will bookend nicely.

The Manimals are the most infamous legend in G.I. Joe lore.  In 1994, each figure in the Joe line was numbered.  The Manimals were numbered lower than the second series of Star Brigade figures that were released.  So, they were intended to make it to retail: which was reinforced by their appearance as coming soon on the back of the series 2 Star Brigade figure.  This is why so many loose and carded samples of the figures exist.  Hasbro had every intention of releasing them.  But, when it was time to start cancelling the line, the Manimals were the first to go.  (Many collectors were very unsure if the 2nd series Star Brigade would make it out to retail, too.  Hasbro was less than committal on what would and would not be released as the line died out.  For most collectors, finding the series 2 Star Brigade on retail shelves came as an immense surprise.)  It's possible that the higher price point of the Manimals in terms of production costs may have been the reason they got the ax while the Lunartix made it out.  In terms of concepts, the two aren't that far apart and the Manimals are more in line with other, more popular toy lines of the mid 1990's than the Lunartix are.

As a mold, Warwolf is, in my opinion, weaker than Slythor and Iguanus.  His "transformation" is somewhat boring and the wolf head doesn't really pop like Slythor's snake head.  The teeth are well detailed, though.  The selling feature, though, is that Warwolf has an articulated tongue.  While the usage of this is probably nil, it is a neat little feature that shows the care applied to the Manimal design.  Outside of this, though, there's not much to be impressed with.  The figure has no o-ring and, instead, features the slide joint legs that were starting to appear in the mid 1990's.  The hands just have holes poked through them for the Kenner POTF era pre-cursor rifles to fit into.  The artwork shows eyes painted onto the side of Warwolf's head.  Those eyes do not exist on the figure itself.  It's a wasted paint application.  But, had the eyes been painted on, they would not have likely looked good.

The planned deco for the 1994 Warwolf is vastly different than what we saw in 2001.  The retail figure features a human flesh colored head.  It's likely meant to be a "disguise" for Warwolf to blend with humanity.  The 1994 figure, though, was completely different.  The head was a much darker color and he had red eyes.  The appearance was much more alien and worked to a far greater level than the flesh colored figure we saw in 2001.  Instead of the production green and blue body, the original used light purple and maroon as the color base.  In general, the 1994 was a far better figure.  But, better is relative.  The coloring would have been an upgrade over what was released.  But, the different construction and general theme remained the same.

Manimals were an utter retail disaster.  At $10 per figure, they were almost double the cost of a retail 2 pack from the ARAHC at Wal Mart.  They clogged the pegs at KB Toy Stores around the country for several years.  KB immediately cancelled the 2nd series of figures due to poor sales of the first wave.  KB also refused to clearance them and it was only through sheer attrition that they finally disappeared from retail.  In the following years, aftermarket pricing was so low that few sets would go up for sale.  Usually, the price for a set was below retail.  A decade a half after their release, though, pricing has started to rise.  Carded, the figure sells between $20 and $30.  (The other two Manimals seem to be similarly priced.)  Loose, mint and complete figures are not commonly found.  But, those sell in the $15 to $20 range.  Though, this price is likely predicated on the lack of options and if you have multi year patience, you might get them for less.  As a $20 figure, Warwolf doesn't hold up.  As a $10 figure at retail in 2001, Warwolf didn't hold up, either.  If you're a glutton for the horror that could have befallen the Joe line, this figure is worthwhile.  But, even a Star Brigade aficionado like me has little interest in the figures.  As a window into history, they have value.  But, it's tough to put that value into action.

Personally, I am ambivalent towards the Manimals.  They are decent enough toys.  They are G.I. Joe.  But, they are just so odd and differently designed that they don't feel like they belong with vintage G.I. Joe figures.  Mine sat unopened for years.  I finally opened them up and dropped them into bags in order to save some space.  They have sat in those bags for over a decade.  Slythor came out one time in 2013 for a profile.  Warwolf has come out just this one time for this profile.  And Iguanus has never come out of the bag.  It's possible that, someday, they could make their way to a Star Brigade display.  But, even then, I don't see them being anywhere but in the back of the display, out of sight and out of mind.  Most other collectors have similar feelings and you rarely see these guys displayed any way other than MOC.  They're just too bizarre to ever be relevant to the majority of Joe collectors.

2001 Manimal Warwolf, 1994 Action astronaut, Unproduced

2001 Manimal Warwolf, 1994 Action astronaut, Unproduced

2001 Manimal Warwolf, 1994 Action astronaut, Unproduced

2001 Manimal Warwolf, 1994 Action astronaut, Unproduced

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Diorama - The Landing

One rainy night after work, I saw the water collecting in the ditch behind my house.  I had a few spare minutes and had been sorting my Eels earlier in the week.  So, I quickly decided to get them out into the water.  The plan was for Big Brawler to be witnessing the scene.  This photo set was going to be for his profile.  But, I ultimately decided to not profile Big Brawler until the Funskool version was released: mainly due to the fact that the Big Brawler photos from this set didn't turn out.  The Eel photos did, though.

This was one of my most popular dioramas from the old site.  I used it in banner ads and the like back when such a thing was popular.  The photos seem quaint today.  But, for 2001, posting a bunch of Eels in action was something you didn't see every day.

1985 Cobra Frogman, Eel, Eels

1985 Cobra Frogman, Eel, Eels

1985 Cobra Frogman, Eel, Eels

1985 Cobra Frogman, Eel, Eels

Thursday, October 27, 2016

1989 Night Viper - Around the Web

Between the beginning of 1988 and the end of 1992, I bought just one G.I. Joe figure.  It was the Night Viper.  Check out the best of him on the web to understand why.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

1989 Dogfight

I did not buy G.I. Joe toys in 1989.  Even my youngest brother was pretty much out of them.  I had my ill-gotten 1989 Snake Eyes figure and he got a Scoop.  But, that was it.  I did, though, follow the comics and was at least keeping up with the toys that were released.  From the comic, I was aware of many new characters as well as spectacular new vehicles.  I wanted to buy them.  But, I was in high school and such a thing was simply not acceptable.  When I finally returned to Joe collecting, I discovered 1989 as one of the best years of Joe toys.  It was full of top notch figures, interesting characters, lots of army builders and spectacular accessories.  In their zeal to modernize the Joe team, though, the designers of the time offered a throwback as well.  Dogfight isn't a figure that's captured all that much attention.  But, his anachronistic appearance was something that deserves another look.

At his core, Dogfight is a guy wearing 1970's era headphones and a bomber jacket.  He's got an antique flight cap and the aviator glasses that hearken him back to the pilots of the heydays of aviation.  Practically, Dogfight is nothing more than a guy dressing up at an airshow.  Aesthetically, though, Dogfight is visually interesting and fits right in with some of the outfits chosen by Joes much more popular than he is.  (I'm looking at you, Shipwreck!)  His design shows some attention to detail and an eye towards historical homages.  He has character.  Which is something that's greatly appreciated on a figure that, on its surface, was a throw away inclusion in a low price point vehicle.

1989 was a year of character remakes.  Snake Eyes, Stalker, Rock and Roll and Deep Six all got new figures.  A few of the other retail figures from that year, though, appeared to have either been originally intended for existing characters.  Or, were heavily based upon them.  Backblast and Downtown are the two most obvious examples.  Both could have been named Zap and Short Fuse and no one would have batted an eye.  Dogfight is another.  This figure could easily have been Wild Bill.  The aviator glasses, bodacious mustache, orange hair and retro outfit all fit perfectly with the characterization of Wild Bill.  It had also been a while since Wild Bill had a figure and he retained a great deal of popularity in the comic.  It might be that Dogfight began his creative process as a Wild Bill update.  Or, the coincidence is just easy to spot after the designers had to come up with hundreds of unique character designs in the vintage days.  But, as Wild Bill, I think this figure would have been more interesting.

For me, Dogfight's primary value was his pistol.  In the early 1990's, his sighted weapon appeared in my collection.  One of my brother's friends likely left it at the house.  But, I was enthralled by the design.  The weapon made its way to the Track Viper that also appeared.  When I started collecting again and found the weapon was Dogfight's, I was somewhat disappointed.  But, it made the figure more relevant to me since I had the childhood connection to his accessory.  In early 2000, I wanted to get a Mudfighter and Dogfight figure.  It was just a lark, but one I quickly followed through on as they were available and cheap.  I found the Mudfighter to be a cheaper toy than I would have liked and it fell into obscurity.  Dogfight, though, was decent.  However, his resemblance to Wild Bill was too great to put him into the Dragonfly.  And, I had other figures to man the co-pilot chair on the Tomahawk.  So, despite his quality, Dogfight was forgotten, too.

But, every now and then, I find the figure and am reminded of his quality.  The brown jacket and white undershirt are a strong contrast that give Dogfight some visual appeal.  His blue pants are more Cobra than I'd like.  But, they work with the brown upper body quite well.  The head is very distinctive with lots of sharp paint applications.  He has molded flight wings and a radio transmitter molded to his chest.  He's something different is the battalion of Joe pilots.  He may not, practically, work in the Skystriker.  But, he does work in a lot of other aircraft, especially the helicopters.  His subdued color scheme just makes him a better fit for earlier Joes vehicles, as well.

Dogfight's mold was just used for this original figure before it sat fallow for 18 years.  In 2007, it made a surprise appearance on the Convention Steeler figure.  It was cool to see an unused mold at the time and the Steeler figure was excellently executed.  But, Dogfight's appearance was also bittersweet.  It showed that Hasbro had more molds available to them then they ever admitted to.  I would have loved to have seen the Dogfight head used in a wildly colored Dee Jay remake.  That would have been the type of figure that would have made the line fun.  But, those things never happened.  Still, it's tough to lament too much.  The mold is good, but not spectacular and the Dogfight character was never going to matter.  If this was supposed to be a new Wild Bill, I'd have enjoyed at least an attempt to remake him in that vein.  But, having just this one Dogfight isn't bad.

Mint and complete with filecard Dogfight figures tend to sell for slightly over $7.  For about double that price, you can get the figure along with his Mudfighter.  As it's not a bad vehicle, that may be more worthwhile.  As a figure alone, Dogfight is worth having just to fill out a pilot corps.  He looks good in the co-pilot seat of the Tomahawk and has value in that capacity.  The main thing is that he's distinctive.  Many of his contemporary vehicle drivers are lost in a sea of banality.  That can not be said of Dogfight.  He has a look you remember and a general appearance that lends itself to display.  There's great value in that.  So, Dogfight remains one of those figures that you own, appreciate and never, ever use due to his obscurity.  But, when you find a spot for him, you can start to realize that there's enough going on here to have hold a more prominent position that he might otherwise occupy.

1989 Dogfight, Mudfighter, Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal, Airtight, 1991, 1985, India

1989 Dogfight, Mudfither, 2010 Convention Paratrooper Flint

1989 Dogfight, 2008 AWE Striker, 1990 Pathfinder

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Diorama - The Arrival of the Commander

I took this picture in early spring in 2002.  It was still pretty cold out and we got a late evening rain on a Sunday.  I went out and set this up as the sun was setting.  Mainly, I wanted to show off the Air Devil figure and my Crimson Guard Immortal figures.  This was in my grove of trees where I'd get a nice lake with every rainstorm.  Most of my Indiana photos were taken in this spot with various trees or rocks added to showcase the water.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Gold Head Steel Brigade - Around the Web

The Gold Head Steel Brigade is generally considered the rarest full production vintage Joe figure.  He's cool, hard to find and rather expensive.  As such, you don't see him around too often.  Here's some of the best content around the web regarding the figure.

Gold Head Steel Brigade Profile

Gold Head Steel Brigade at Joe A Day

Gold Head Steel Brigade at Joe A Day - 2

Gold Head Steel Brigade at

Gold Head Steel Brigade at TheTerrordrome

Gold Head Steel Brigade, Mail Away, Rare G.I. Joe Figures, Fumaca, Estrela, Brazil, Ripcord, Dragonfly, 1993, 1983

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

2010 Convention Exclusive Flint - Orange Parachute Drop Figure

In 2002, Convention go-ers were surprised when they picked up their 15 figure Crimson army building sets.  Along with the announced Vipers, twins and Baroness figures, Master Collector snuck in a special release.  A repainted Dusty figure was showcased as the first parachute drop figure.  This parachute figure would become a convention tradition and every set going forward would feature a special parachute figure as a bonus for each 15 figure set.  Some have been great.  (See the Air Viper.)  Others have been really bad.  Most, though, follow along with the general convention figures where they are neat, but not spectacular.  In 2010, the final vintage style parachute figure was released: Flint.

I like orange figures.  I have since I first saw a photo of the 1994 Star Brigade Roadblock.  I am distinctly in the minority on this opinion, though.  Orange is not a popular color among Joe collectors outside of maybe BBQ or Wet Suit.  In general, it is loathed.  The Club's decision to produce an all orange Flint was both odd and interesting.  But, collectors quickly seized on the color and disparaged the figure from the start.  To be fair, the criticism is warranted.  While the orange is bright, eye catching and unique, it also makes for a figure that's tough to use in any capacity.

It was made apparent in 2010 that the convention exclusives would be the swan song for vintage style Joes.  Personally, I hoped for a tremendous send off that would be fitting of the line's legacy.  The first figure to leak out, though, was the terrible Red Shadow Torch figure.  Immediately, that raised flags that the set might not be great.  Slowly, the other figures were revealed.  The Interrogator and the Black Major were typical convention figures: not bad, but not great, either.  They just sort of exist.  The Red Shadow figures, though, made up for it all.  They were, generally, perfect for what collectors wanted.  (And, aftermarket pricing continues to prove that.)  The figure to which I was most looking forward, though, was Flint.

The minute I heard Flint was the set, I had dreams of a V1, Action Force green Flint figure.  Flint was a major player in the Action Force comic and getting his classic look in the iconic European green would have created a figure that I would have army built.  This, though, was not be be.  When the first Flint was revealed, it was a a redone V1 head on a 1993 Duke body.  My first reaction was terrible disappointment.  There was simply no way that any figure other than the V1 Flint mold was going to hold my attention.  To me, the mix of a classic 1985 head and a 1993 body didn't seem very congruent.  And, in many of the photos of the figure, the construction looked awkward.  So, my interest in Flint was diminished and I put the figure out of my mind.

When the convention occurred, though, the images of this parachute drop figure surfaced.  Again, the construction looked a bit odd, but the figure was bright orange!  To some, this was a detriment.  To me, it make the figure interesting.  We hadn't seen an orange bodied figure outside of Tiger Force: and even that had been six years prior.  This oddity was exactly the type of figure I tend to enjoy.  And, he was of my favorite character to boot.

In hand, the figure is less awkward than he often looked.  The Flint head on the Duke body is an imperfect fit.  And, the figure has brown hair instead of black.  That seems like a fairly lazy mistake.  But, the overall package isn't bad.  The bright orange makes for something visually interesting.  Since we have the mold combination in more militaristic green, too, the figure doesn't seem like such a waste of  a figure slot.  Many saw the figure as a prisoner.  But, the silver grenade and leg pistol kind of make that an implausible use.  What's left, though, is a solid Flint figure for a base or co-pilot position.  It's not the most glamorous role.  But, it allows for some usage of the Flint character without taking up one of his higher quality releases.

As a figure, this Flint is OK.  The paint masks are sharp and crisp.  But, they are also sparse.  You have the black highlights, the silver metal implements, a white undershirt and a splash of red on the figure's beret.  Collectors tend to expect more from convention releases in terms of paint masks.  But, this is a case where less i more.  The green, regular set Flint is a mish-mash of cammo with a green base and black splotches all over him.  It's a busy disaster that takes away from the potential of the mold.  (It may also be a subtle homage to a planned 1995 repaint of the Duke figure that was supposed to be in green cammo.)  This orange version is cleaner and showcases the general character without burying him in unnecessary colors.

Accessory wise, this Flint isn't great.  But, mostly, parachute drop figures have only included a parachute pack (usually a recolored Jinx backpack) and a parachute.  And, that's exactly what was included with Flint.  The strings from the silver parachute can be tied to the sword holders on the Jinx pack to simulate an open parachute.  It works for what it is.  In a perfect world, it would have been cooler to get a Parachute Pack complete with air mask for the figures.  But, that's the type of pipe dream that was squashed in the early 2000's when it came to repainted vintage Joes.  It's easy enough to arm this figure from the multitude of extra weapons included with the figures from 2002 and forward.

I can not get enough Flint figures.  Hasbro could have repainted all of his molds multiple times and I would have bought them all, unless they included that terrible head from the Comic Pack version.  I feel the V1 Flint figure has at least 4 solid repaints left in it.  The Eco Warrior version could have been done in this color scheme and I'd have several.  The 1994 Flint got a solid repaint in 2001, but could have come back at least once more.  Frankly, it would have been cool to just get a full Duke repaint for this figure by foregoing the Flint head.  That would have been another character and given this underappreciated Duke mold one final use.  But, the Flint is a nice treat.  You'll likely see him manning my HQ for years to come as the color lends itself to that setting.  The mold and colors blend nicely with other 1993 and 1994 figures.  So, this is a good way to bring the classic Flint head into a group shot of these later molds.  Beyond that, though, the figure's use is limited beyond the visual feast of an orange clad Joe.

The orange Flint figures have somewhat disappeared and you don't see them like you used to.  But, that doesn't mean they are overly pricey.  You can get MIB figures in the $30 range.  If you can find figures sold at open auction, you can get them much cheaper than that.  But, you'll wait for a while before you find one.  Being bright orange is going to be a detriment to the figure's popularity and will always make him less desirable than the green version.  But, there are not a lot of new collectors joining the ranks of those of us who focus on vintage style Joes.  Figures with late release dates, like this one, are already heavily concentrated in the collector base.  As such there is simply no demand for many figures like this one.  The general rarity helps to keep the prices somewhat higher.  But, we've seen that modern remakes of vintage Joe molds don't see the upward pricing trends that are more common on different sculpting styles from the same era.  The downside is that figures like this are harder to find.  But, when you do, you can get them cheap.

2010 Convention Paratrooper Flint, Cobra Flying Scorpion, Escorpiao Voador, 1986 Sears Dreadnok Stinger, Alado, Plastirama, Crazylegs, Vibora, Python Patrol Cobra Trooper, Estrela, Brazil

2010 Convention Paratrooper Flint, 1993 General Flagg, 1994 Beach Head, Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines, 1994 Lifeline

2010 Convention Paratrooper Flint, 1993 General Flagg, 1994 Beach Head, Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines, 1994 Lifeline

2010 Convention Paratrooper Flint, 1993 General Flagg, 1994 Beach Head, Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines, 1994 Lifeline

Monday, October 17, 2016

More ARAH Content

Here's a new blog dedicated to vintage Joe content: Mobile Strike Force

Check it out.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Diorama - Firefly in the Woods

As 1996 wound down, it got harder and harder to find vintage Joe items at retail.  What was easy to find, though, was Sgt. Savage toys.  Big Lots, KB Toy Liquidators and most close out type stores had walls and walls of the toys.  I must have picked up a figure over a dozen times, trying to convince myself that they were compatible with 3 3/4" Joes.  In desperation to keep the glimmer of retail Joe alive, I bought a couple of Sgt. Savage vehicles.  The P-40 Warhawk was the first.  It's not bad for a '90's era toy and works well enough.  The gem, though, was the Iron Panther tank you see in the photos below.  Buttoned up like you see, the tank is a perfect match for Cobra.  Sadly, the insides are not detailed and figures just flop around, which makes it feel kind of cheap.  But, for photos, it can work very well.

Below is another quick scene taken in the fall of 2002.  I was trying to upgrade the photography of my 1993 Firefly profile and adding the Iron Panther was a way to make him more interesting.

1993 Firefly, Sgt. Savage Iron Panther Tank, 1995, Fast Blast Viper, Viper

1993 Firefly, Sgt. Savage Iron Panther Tank, 1995, Fast Blast Viper, Viper

1993 Firefly, Sgt. Savage Iron Panther Tank, 1995, Fast Blast Viper, Viper

1993 Firefly, Sgt. Savage Iron Panther Tank, 1995, Fast Blast Viper, Viper

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

2004 Urban Strike Nullifier

While 2003 ended on a whirlwind of G.I. Joe releases, 2004 was equally frenetic.  Hasbro bombarded retail with massive amounts of product.  Sadly, the general retail line was met with relative malaise and stagnated badly.  But, the vintage style exclusives that were offered at various retailers were more successful.  The year started with a bang with both a Night Force set and the collector favorite Cobra Infantry Forces.  The next wave of 6 packs at Toys R Us were greatly anticipated, but were unknown until very shortly before their release.  While the initial reception to the packs was cool, collectors came to realize that Hasbro had put together a couple of solid sets in the Cobra Urban Strike and the G.I. Joe Anti Venom releases.  Of the 12 overall figures, though, it is the Urban Strike Nullifier who stands as one of the stronger vintage repaints Hasbro ever offered.

Hasbro released the Flak Viper in 1992.  This version is decent enough.  The mold is great, but the colors are non-traditional Cobra.  The 1993 repaint added orange highlights.  Neither figure stands among the Cobra army building greats.  But, like many of the 1990's molds, the Flak Viper had a lot of potential.  Hasbro decided to use the mold again in 2004.  Only, this time it was not the Flak Viper.  Instead, the figure was named the Nullifier.  The original Nullifier was an Iron Grenadier character released in 1988.  Why Hasbro chose to use the Nullifier name instead of the Flak Viper is unknown.  It likely had to do with copyright issues since the figure retained the Flak Viper's specialty and filecard info.  The confusion somewhat obscured the quality of the Nullifier's release.

But, as a figure, the 2004 Nullifier is top notch.  The best part was the classic Cobra coloring.  (Though, oddly enough, the figure's filecard seems to show him in the 1992 Flak Viper color scheme.)  Hasbro had heavily avoided Cobra blue prior to 2004.  But, it came back in the Infantry Set and made another appearance in the Urban Strike set.  The Nullifer features a rich, deep Cobra blue base color.  He's a perfect match for the early days of Cobra and perfectly complements the Hiss Tank.  He is offset by black highlights.  It's tough to go wrong with blue and black for a Cobra army builder.  But, this figure really worked.  As a slight added bonus, the figure also has a leather brown colored shoulder pad and thigh pouch.  It's just enough color to break up the blue and black combo without being intrusive of the figure's overall palette.  The result is a figure that fits perfectly with 1998 Cobra Troopers and can enhance the backbone of your Cobra army without straying too far from the classic color scheme.

Gear wise, though, the Nullifier's accessories stink.  None of the mold's classic gear is available.  Instead, Hasbro threw in 3 rather non-descript weapons.  One is a black version of the 1986 Lifeline's pistol.  It's not a great fit, but also not a terrible weapon.  The second is a new sculpt mold that is a weapon without a stock, but including a grenade launcher.  Personally, I detest this weapon.  But, many collectors really like it, as well.  But, it came with so many figures in its era that it seems generic.  The final weapon is based on an AR-15.  It's also a new sculpt weapon that was most famously included with the 2005 Crimson Guard set.  I like this weapon quite a bit.  But, again, it was so ubiquitous that it's lost any real connection with the Nullifier.  You will see a silver version of the Flak Viper rifle in the photos below.  This version of the rifle was included with the M. Bison figure from the Street Fighter Movie line.  It's tough to find on it's own.  The Flak Viper's full complement of gear returned in 2006 on the desert Flak Viper.  This figure featured a black version of the classic rifle.  It should be impossible to find these loose.  But, large amounts of Asian overstock has appeared and into 2016, you can buy overstock versions of the black, 2006 Flak Viper rifle for very reasonable prices.  So, these are options to re-accessorize your figures should you so choose.

The Urban Strike set was both popular and unpopular.  When it was announced, collectors were less than enthused.  Hasbro was coming off of the collector favorite Cobra Infantry set and anything that was not 6 army builders in classic colors was going to be met with derision.  Once the set came out, though, collectors warmed to it.  The characters were decent and the army builders were excellent.  But, for many collectors, buying three characters for the three army builders made the set less attractive for mass accumulation.  Shortly after the set's release, though, the first signs of trouble in the Joe line surfaced.  Toys R Us dropped the price of the set to $15 in their brick and mortar stores.  It seems this was a promotion, but it was indicative that Joe's popularity was dipping.  For this reduced price, many collectors were enticed into an extra set or two.

Personally, I find this figure pretty much the best repaint of that era.  He had everything you could ask for from a repaint with the exception of accessories.  (Which, by 2004, were pretty much never again going to happen.)  The Nullifier looks great in the Hiss, manning an ASP (Though he is a bit large for the cockpit.), or holding down a gunnery position on any number of Cobra vehicles.  He also looks good as a general infantryman.  Sure, the helmet is a bit Robo Cop.  But, the design still works on a lot of levels.  It Hasbro had released every army builder in this color scheme, they would have become a sea of banality like the drab green color did for that era's Joes and even red did for the Cobras.  But, as the releases in the classic blue were so few and far between, those who got it really stand out.  More than a decade later, this Nullifier rises above nearly all of his contemporaries as a figure that every collector should have.

The Flak Viper got decent use.  There were the two vintage versions from 1992 and 1993.  Hasbro released this figure in 2004.  Then, in 2006, Master Collector used the mold (this time with his full complement of accessories) in the Flaming Moth series of figures.  This desert colored Flak Viper is another solid repaint and has the bonus of the original gear.  While I would have, personally, liked to have seen another repaint or two, this is a case where Hasbro really took advantage of a mold.  Collectors have the vintage figures to showcase the potential and the modern figures to fulfill it.  I can't really ask for anything more from the mold at this point.  This is a rare case where Hasbro really got it right and gave collectors satisfactory repaints.

Urban Strike sets have gotten somewhat popular on the aftermarket.  Finding boxed sets can be problematic these days.  And, when you do find them, they are often $60 or more.  Individually, the figures can be equally popular.  Right now, the Alley Viper appears to be the figure du jour from the set.  But, that seems to fluctuate quite a bit.  Finding excess Nullifiers can be tougher now than it was a few years ago.  As the figure's accessories suck, you can get incomplete figures for under $5.  But, complete with filecard versions tend to run between $9 and $12.  That's a lot for a modern army building figure based on an obscure 1990's mold.  But, it's also a testament to the figure's quality and the desire of collectors to integrate the figure into their classically colored Cobra armies.

2004 Urban Strike Nullifier, Flak Viper, TRU Exclusive, 1984 ASP

2004 Urban Strike Nullifier, Flak Viper, TRU Exclusive, 1984 ASP

2004 Urban Strike Nullifier, Flak Viper, TRU Exclusive, 1984 ASP

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Diorama - Tomahawk

Another shot from a fall day in 2001.  I was setting this up as a series of photos for some profiles.  Few of those came to pass.  But, I got this dio with the Tomahawk.   I really liked the visual of Snake Eyes on the rope at the time.

1990 Freefall - Around the Web

A neighbor kid had a Freefall figure that saw in the summer of 1990 or 1991.  I thought he was awesome and had him pilot the kid's Locust.  When I started collecting again, I found the figure was as good as I remembered.  He definitely a worth successor to Ripcord.  Here's the best I found on him around the web:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

1993 Monster Blaster APC

In the mid 1990's, Joe was starting to disappear from retail.  Its space in the toy aisle was being pressured not only by shrinking toy departments in general, but also by the new, flashier and bulkier toy lines that were omnipresent at the time.  Joe was fading into obsolesce at the hands of a toy style that would prove to be less sustainable than the Joe designs from the 1980's.  But, if you were persistent, frequent and willing to tenaciously search the nether-reaches of stores at the time, you could still find some interesting stuff.  One of my finds was the Monster Blaster APC.

In the midwestern United States, there is a regional retailer named Meijer.  They were an early innovator in the concept of one store fits all.  They featured a full grocery on one side along with a full retail store on the other.  The upside was that any grocery run could also be a toy run.  The downside was that the massive warehouse space of the store made it such that combining these two errands meant a minimum of 15 minutes spent inside the store.  Meijer's sales model for toys was interesting.  While they stocked most of the currently in production toys of the day, they also carried overstock and surplus from the various toy manufactuers.  As such, in 1995, it was possible to go to a Meijer and find the currently shipping wave of Star Wars POTFII figures along with an old case of 1993 Battle Corps Joes.  It was though the model that I came across the Monster Blaster sitting on the bottom shelf of the action figure aisle.

When I first saw the Monster Blaster, I was not overly interested.  The name was off-putting and the box art really didn't do anything for me.  Plus, it did not include a figure, despite the relatively expensive price tag.  I had not bought any Joes in a while, though, and had some money in my wallet.  So, I decided to just go for it and acquire the vehicle.  I figured it would include a catalog that would help me place the release year and might offer some insight into other things to look for in my quest to snatch up the last remnants of the Joe line at retail.

When I got home and opened the Monster Blaster, though, I discovered a gem.  The vehicle was colored rationally enough that I could integrate it with my existing collection.  But, the real value was the size and play features.  The vehicle can hold a full 8 figures inside protective enclosures.  In addition, two other figures can man the rear gun mounts.  And, if you really want to weigh it down, 6 more figures can ride on the rails on the vehicle's side.  In short, the Monster Blaster held about my entire collection of figures at that point in time.

It was the type of vehicle I had always wanted.  As a kid, the APC had been a favorite of mine.  It could hold all the Joes I needed for a mission and their gear.  But, the cloth covering didn't offer a whole lot of protection for the group inside.  By the time the Warthog came out in 1988, I was done with Joe.  So, the Monster Blaster finally offered me the ability to move a bunch of figures around, while providing them the armaments and armor necessary.  It was about the only vehicle I had at the time so, it got a lot of use.  I even chose it over the Mauler in a late night spring loaded missile battle with a friend of mine in 1996.

The general design of the vehicle holds up well.  The main driver cockpit is roomy and detailed.  It holds the bulky 1994 figures with no issues.  (To this day, I prefer the 1994 Lifeline driving mine.)  The canopy provides cover, but allows some visibility of the figure.  The gunner station isn't as protected, but still works.  The large gun is not overly detailed.  But, figures fit on it well.  Any figure seated with the gun covering the opening is secure from oncoming fire.  The six passenger seats are large, too.  You can fit figures into the vehicle without too much crowding and still have room for a small complement of accessories.  The back gun stations are so large that their movement can be hindered by any figure in the mounts.  The guns show a science fiction bent and aren't as realistic as I'd like.  But, they are better detailed than many of the contemporary vehicles.

The best part of the Monster Blaster is the body detailing.  The main gunner station has a small ladder and the side passenger compartments have footholds to ease access to the high walled body.  The entire vehicle is encased with foot rails for figures.  They are separated enough from the vehicle body that fully loaded figures from the '90's (with spring loaded weapons and all!) can fit onto them without the awkward posing often required on some earlier releases.  There are various hand holds and armor points around the body as well.  It's about as realistic as you could expect from a rolling, armored cannon that's designed to fight genetically altered monsters.

The back roof has a catching mechanism that allows you to prop it open for display, play or elevated missile launches.  The roof fits tightly onto the chassis, though, and it a nice bit of engineering.  The spring loaded cannon is not overly obtrusive.  But, having the actual main cannon of the vehicle being tied to raising and lowering the roof (and exposing the troops inside!) is a bit off-putting.  The spare missiles that rest on the roof are well placed, though and do not detract from the overall appearance of the vehicle.

When I got the vehicle home and found how awesome it was, my thoughts on the Mega Marines in general began to soften.  My local Toys R Us had several each of the Mega Marines Gung Ho and Clutch hanging on the pegs.  I had not been driven to buy them, despite the black weapons, just due to the higher price point and really gaudy neon colors.  With this vehicle in tow, I decided it was time to break down and finally add them to my growing collection.  The next time I was at TRU, though, the figures had sold out.  After sitting unsold for months, they all sold out in just a couple of weeks once I decided I wanted them.  But, that was how it was back then.  At least I have them now.

The Monster Blaster was just released by Hasbro.  However, there is a European variant that has much deeper green lower half/interior.  It's an interesting piece that's not easy to find, but also not very expensive.  After those two vintage uses, the Monster Blaster APC mold disappeared until 2004.  At that time, Hasbro re-painted it, switched the vehicle's affiliation and released it as a Toys R Us exclusive BAT Transport.  This should have been a huge winner of a repaint.  But, the actuality was that the BAT Transport was a huge flop that hung around at retail for a very long time, even though it included 3 army building figures at a time when collectors could not help themselves buying every army builder that Hasbro released.  The BAT Transport, though, was released during an onslaught of new toys in the final few months of 2003 and first few months of 2004 and was caught up in the whirlwind that the retail Joe line became during that time.  It was a sad fate for a vehicle of this quality.  But, even I'm to blame.  While I did buy a BAT Transport when it was released, I sold it off rather quickly.  The recolor simply was too poor to justify and I found that having the repaint took away from the enjoyment I got from my original vehicle.  It's likely that, had Hasbro released the repainted Monster Blaster as a companion to the underrated Night Rhino vehicle that it might have generated more interest.

Monster Blasters are not popular.  Mint in the Box versions sell around $50 from time to time.  But, those prices are heavily dependent upon lack of competition.  Left to it's own device, a mint, complete Monster Blaster might sell between $10 and $15.  Of course, you'll pay that much or more in shipping.  So, the price can be a bit misleading.  Regardless, the vehicle is cheap to acquire and well worth the price.  It integrates well with the neon figures from the '90's as well as the more classically colored figures from previous years.  My nostalgic bent on the vehicle keeps it important to me.  But, an empirical review still allows the mold to hold up.  It's a toy that's worthy of any collection and is still available at a price point where even marginal interest makes the money worthwhile.  I'm glad I got this vehicle when I did.  I otherwise might have passed it by.  And, based on the quality, that would have been a shame.

1993 Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines, Mirage, Eco Warriors Outback Variant, Bazooka

1993 Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines, Mirage, 2004 Anti Venom Barricade, Comic Pack Clutch

1993 Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines, Mirage, 2002 BJ's Gift Pack Exclusive Dial Tone

Sunday, October 2, 2016

2016 Rogue One Imperial Ground Crew

I have not seen "The Force Awakens".  As a kid, I saw each of the original trilogy movies in theaters three times.  In 1997, I was there opening night for each of the Special Editions and saw each of them three times, too.  In 1999, I took the first Friday that "The Phantom Menace" was playing off and saw it.  I then saw each of the three prequels three times each in theaters.  Yet, I have not seen the highest grossing movie in the franchise.  Mainly, it came out during the busiest time of year for me and I simply couldn't find free moments where going to see the movie exceeded my desire to do something else.  The regurgitated story didn't excite me, though the visuals from the onslaught of commercials were fairly interesting.  When it came out on DVD, I didn't want to spend $20 for a Blu Ray.  I see it on demand, but just haven't felt the need to drop the $5 or so it would cost.  Again, finding a 2+ hour window of time is tough.  I thought I might catch it on premium cable.  But, it showed up on Starz, which I don't get.  So, in short, I don't have a lot of interest in seeing it or else I would have.

One year later, there is a new Star Wars film on the horizon: a stand alone story titled "Rogue One".  The appealing aspect of this is that the timeline is set just before "A New Hope" (or "Star Wars" as it was known when I was a kid....) when the Rebels steal the plans for the first Death Star.  The appeal is that the timeline and Imperials should be more familiar and the story more in line with the established film cannon.  But, we all know that won't be the case.  The first look at both the film trailers and the toys that have been released show an overly shoddy galaxy with an eclectic mix of Imperials that are more akin the source Clone Trooper flavors than the standard Stormtroopers of the original films.  But, there were Space Troopers in Star Wars, Snow Troopers in Empire and Biker Scouts in Jedi, so the baseline has always existed.

Which brings me to the figure at hand, the Imperial Ground Crew.  When choosing a figure to buy, I didn't really have any expectations.  The days of a large, super articulated selection of figures are long gone.  In their stead are smaller waves of 6" super articulated figures, 3 3/4 super articulated figures and 3 3/4 5 points of articulation figures to which this Ground Crew figures belongs.  While the lack of articulation is still a sticking point for someone like me who remembers walls of high quality, mostly well articulated figures at retail outlets in 2006 though 2008, the sculpting and look of these less articulated figures far exceeds what we saw on most Star Wars figures just a decade ago.  Plus, to me, many of the characters have a similar look that's somewhat Star Wars, but also somewhat not.  Diversification is good.  But, the look of the new films appears to be shabby and that's already gotten old.  It feels that Lucas' intention of a less than pristine universe has now been transformed to the reductio ad absurdum of his original vision.

For the Imperials like the Ground Crew, they have retained the militant precision of both the Republic and the Empire.  You have the standard Stormtroopers and guys like this.  The Ground Crew looks like the visions of an evil overlord coming to your homeland and oppressing you.  So, he fits with the Empire motif.  The dark grey base and black overlays convey fear.  Of course, they also conflict with his specialty.  If this guy is routing the take off and landing of Imperial spacecraft, you'd think he's be wearing something that would be more visible: especially at night.  But, this is where aesthetics of a movie and toy line supersede the reality you would expect.

Imperial Ground Crew - Rogue One
Imperial Ground Crew

Diorama - Secret of the Ooze

In the fall of 2001, I took these pics out in the yard.  I hadn't really brought out the Toxo Vipers in over a year and I wanted to showcase them more.  Plus, it was always good to use Cesspool.  I had the idea of finding the Toxo Zombie as a deceased Toxo Viper and it gave me chance to finally get some photos of that figure, too.

This was the first real fall I'd seen in 4 years and it re-affirmed that season as my favorite.  These pics are 15 years old, now.  The entire vintage Joe line could have been released with room to spare in that time.  Sadly, these figures are all gone from my collection.  At the time, no one cared about them and you could get them cheap.  Now, they are much harder to find.

1991 Eco Warriors Cesspool, Toxo Viper, Toxo Zombie, 1992, 1990, Bullhorn, 1989, Rock and Roll

1991 Eco Warriors Cesspool, Toxo Viper, Toxo Zombie, 1992, 1990, Bullhorn, 1989, Rock and Roll

1991 Eco Warriors Cesspool, Toxo Viper, Toxo Zombie, 1992, 1990, Bullhorn, 1989, Rock and Roll