Tuesday, September 19, 2017

1984 Sky Hawk - Mail Away Version

As a kid, the Skyhawk didn't, initially, click with me.  My younger brother acquired one in the latter half of 1984 and the toy simply didn't seem all the interesting to me.  I had a Skystriker that was still in decent enough shape.  And, the Dragonfly was still going strong.  On the Cobra side, though, I had few, if any aircraft.  So, my play pretty much all centered around ground and naval adventures.  Aircraft simply didn't see a lot of time.  Slowly, my brother broke his Skyhawk apart and it was relegated to the junk box in our toy room.  In late 1986, though, this changed.  First, my youngest brother acquired the magnificent Cobra Night Raven.  While the plane was awesome, it was also overly large.  But, the drone that attached to the back was the perfect size for what I wanted from a Cobra aircraft.  This weapon gave Cobra air superiority.  Around the same time, though, my younger brother also acquired the Sears Dreadnok Air Assault set that included a repainted Skyhawk.

I was never big on Joe vehicles becoming Cobra.  I liked each group to have its own equipment.  So, the Dreadnok Skyhawk was quickly requisitioned to Joe and became my default Joe aircraft.  It was the perfect size to battle drones.  In early 1987, I was given a new, original, Skyhawk when I acquired a collection from the kids down the street.  This joined my Dreadnok version and the Skyhawks became more specialized: the Dreadnok version was the aquatic version while the original was the "land" version of the vehicle.

For the remainder of my childhood play, the Skyhawk's dominated my aerial combat missions.  Usually, they were piloted by my Silver Pads Grand Slam who wore a Lifeline Airmask.  The pilot and vehicle were army builders and would routinely be shot down by Cobra's top notch Strato Vipers behind the helm of a drone.  (In my final days of play in late 1987, the Mamba drones joined with the Night Raven drones against the Joes.  The Mamba drones had better weapons.  And, there were two of them!)  There were dogfights, undersea rescues of a downed pilot and horrible crashes that resulted in long term plot devices.  In short, the Skyhawks were integral to my final years' Joe experience.  Of course, this resulted in both version of the Skyhawk taking a beating.  I put them away with the rest of my Joe toys in early 1988.  But, as both aircraft had been integral to my adventures, I often found my youngest brother would take them from my storage place and play with them.  The result was two battered toys.

In the late 1990's, when I started to rebuild my Joe collection, I found the old Skyhawks.  But, the old designs didn't hold as much sway as they had used to.  By that time, I owned a Razorblade helicopter and it more adequately filled the role of small Joe attack aircraft that I wanted.  But, the dilapidated condition of the original Skyhawks was bothersome to me.  So, they were just left in boxes and didn't really matter much, anymore. The husks of the vehicles were moved around and, eventually, parted out to other collectors.

I paid the Skyhawk little attention until the spring of 1999 when it became known that Hasbro Canada still had a massive amount of overstock Joe mail away toys from the early 1990's.  Among the items you could purchase were both the Cobra Firebat and the Skyhawk.  For a couple of bucks each, I couldn't pass these items by.  I ordered only around 20 or so figures from the find.  But, I picked up two each of the Firebat and Skyhawk.  Upon receiving them, it was obvious that the Firebat was the brighter, mail away version.  When I looked at the Skyhawk, it appeared it was also the mail away version.  But, I paid this little mind.  I had a new Skyhawk and it took a place of prominence in my collection.

In the summer of 2000, I stumbled into one of those deals that every collector tells you about but never seems to happen to you.  A guy posted to the Joe Usenet newsgroup that he had a collection he wanted to get rid of.  I was the first to respond.  He said to send him my address and, once I got the toys, simply reimburse him for shipping.  I figured it was no risk and I'd get a few, beat up items.  About a week later, I came home to three huge boxes that were blocking my front door.  Upon opening them, I found nearly an entire collection of 1983 to 1985 figures and vehicles, mostly in mint condition.  I quickly wrote a check for $40 to cover the shipping, thanked the former owner and marveled in the fact that my collection had exploded.  I hadn't been too keen on vehicles since I had been living in apartments and moving frequently at the time.  But, this new collection coincided with the fact I had recently purchased my first home and had some room to store and display toys.  As I took all the goodies out, I found a mint and complete Skyhawk.  I set it up on a shelf next to the one from Hasbro Canada and, for the first time, noticed the stark differences between the retail and mail away versions of the vehicle.

The mail away Skyhawk is a much richer and deeper green color.  The retail version is more olive drab.  In terms of realism, the original is probably more in line with the traditional military colors of the early Joe vehicles.  But, the darker green of the mail away is much more visually pleasing to me.  I'm a sucker for the color I call "Brazilian Green".  It's a dark, vibrant green color that appears on the accessories included with many Joes from the Brazilian Comandos Em Acao line from Brazil.  Estrela used the color on pretty much every green accessory they released.  And, as this mail away Skyhawk was made in Brazil, too, it features the dark green color that I so enjoy.

Aside form the color, the black missiles, engines and skids are a slightly different shade of charcoal and appear slightly more glossy than the American, retail versions.  The other main difference is that the Hasbro copyright markings on the inside of the cockpit have been removed.  (See the photos below for details.)  Estrela did this on most of the early releases.  The first waves of figures made in Brazil had the production stamps altered to reflect the toys were made in Brazil.  As the line wore on, this was less common.  I'm not sure why they would do this.  But, Funskool in India altered molds similarly, all they way through their final figure releases.

As a toy, the Skyhawk isn't bad.  It's not very large and holds just one figure in the cockpit.  Even some 1984 figures are too large to fit in there, though.  You can place two figures on the skids.  It's a decent feature that was kind of fun as a kid.  But, the practicality of such a feature is rather ludicrous.  The aircraft features two missiles and a swiveling chin gun.  It's a nice amount of armament for a vehicle this size.  There are also two smaller cannons molded into the sides of the vehicle.  As a kid, these were incendiary rounds that would turn a Cobra drone into a fireball instead of a dying bird as it fell from the sky.  For Cobras who wore parachutes, the fireball was a psychological deterrent.  Outside of that, the removable wings give the toy some visual appeal.  But, they also cause a great many wings to be missing from wild Skyhawks.  In short, it's a great, low price point vehicle from a time when Hasbro really tried to have toys available for every budget.

Original Sky Hawks are easy to find and relatively cheap.  You can get mint and complete versions of them for around $11.00.  Dealers, though, will often ask for at least $25 and sometimes even more.  The mail away version, though, is much harder to find.  Properly labeled, the mail away versions will sell in the $40 range.  But, as many collectors won't recognize the color differences, you can find mislabeled mail away Sky Hawks with a little looking and get them for a bargain.  You see collector interest in mail away vehicles wax and wane over the years.  And, something that's really hard to find and expensive today may drop in price and be relatively easy to find tomorrow.  The huge amount of mail away Skyhawks released into the collecting community through the Hasbro Canada find helps to sate demand and has made this variant much easier to find that if they were only available through those who acquired one as kids.

For me, either version works just fine.  If I hadn't gotten the mail away version in the manner that I did, it's doubtful I'd have tracked one down.  But, as a visual distraction, the mail away version is nice.  I used it with my foreign figures quite often: just for something a little different than you average Joe diorama.  Individual collector value will vary in regards to these items.  If you just want a Skyhawk as a toy, buy the retail version and save money.  But, since you can still find the mail aways from time to time, they are just as good.  The quality is there and the colors are just different enough to be fun.  I've found that the Skyhawk mold is still an excellent complement to the figures from the line's early years.  Now, that's where they see the most use.  It's a far cry from their days as my de facto aircraft.  But, the fact that this mold remains relevant to me after more than 30 years is a testament to it's overall quality.

1984 Skyhawk, Mail Away, Starduster, 1987, Grand Slam, Silver Pads, TNT, Fuego, Argentina, Plastirama, Ripcord

1984 Skyhawk, Mail Away, Estrela, Brazil, Blades, Sokerk, Quarrel, Silver Pads Grand Slam, Palitoy, Action Force, Plastirama, Argentina

1984 Skyhawk, Mail Away, Estrela, Brazil, Blades, Sokerk, Quarrel, Silver Pads Grand Slam, Palitoy, Action Force, Plastirama, Argentina

1984 Skyhawk, Mail Away, Estrela, Brazil, Blades, Sokerk, Quarrel, Silver Pads Grand Slam, Palitoy, Action Force, Plastirama, Argentina

1984 Skyhawk, Mail Away, Estrela, Brazil, Blades, Sokerk, Quarrel, Silver Pads Grand Slam, Palitoy, Action Force, Plastirama, Argentina

Thursday, September 14, 2017

1986 Lift Ticket - Around the Web

I was always excited to get new vehicle drivers.  Their exclusivity made them seem cooler than they probably were.  Lift Ticket, though, was somewhat of a disappointment.  You got a decent body and the cool microphone.  But, his head was a bit too big with a goofy expression on his face.  But, he's a classic figure and pretty much is a necessity if you have a Tomahawk.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Lift Ticket Profile

Lift Ticket Variations

Lift Ticket Dio 1

Lift Ticket Dio 2

Lift Ticket at Icebreaker's HQ

Lift Ticket Dio 3

1986 Lift Ticket, 1985 Dragonfly, Footloose, 1983, TTBP

1986 Lift Ticket, 1983 Dragonfly, Unproduced Night Force Flint, Midnight Chinese, Star Duster, Starduster, Mail Away, Steel Brigade, Plastirama, Backstop, ARgentina, Condor, Airborne, 1994 Lifeline

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

1990 Super Sonic Fighters Law

Law is a staple of my collection.  He has been an army builder instead of a character ever since a snowy day in late 1987 where I took our two Law figures out into the snow, manning a motorized 6 wheeler and carrying Grunt's M-16 rifles from the original Battle Gear pack.  From that day, Law has been a security officer, policeman, prison guard and MP in all his forms.  The orange and blue original was a staple of my army building years and I'd often acquire lots of 1987 figures just because Law and Chuckles were included.  In 2000, I was ecstatic to see Law return to the line in a convention law enforcement color scheme.  With him, I now had Law as a vintage MP and a modern police force.  But, this left one open area: a real military version of Law that would be closer to the front lines and combat.  It was then that I found the 1990 Super Sonic Fighters Law figure.

This Super Sonic Fighters version of Law is about as perfect a repaint as Hasbro ever created.  The original Law figure was defined by his unique colors.  He was a bit bright.  But, that worked in the context of his specialty.  This 1990 figure uses the paint masks from the original figure, but swaps out the blue and orange for olive and standard green.  The result, when combined with the light tan pants, is a figure that looks much more at home on a military base.  He has enough color to be visually appealing.  But, the colors are more in line with traditional military appearance.  It's not that he's better than the original Law: he's different.  And, in this case, different is excellent.  With this figure, I am free to use the figure or character in different settings with different looks without resorting to gimmicks like Tiger Force.

1990 ushered in a new concept for G.I. Joe: the premium format figure.  Through the years, Joe had a line of single carded figures at a price point and then a variety of vehicle and playset offerings that hit a variety of cost attachments.  There were the odd ball figure releases through the years like Tomax and Xamot, the Listen and Fun Tripwire and the Battle Force 2000 multi packs.  But, Joe was pretty much single carded figures priced around $3 and vehicles.  The Super Sonic Fighters and 1990 Sky Patrol series changed that, though.  Now, in addition to the basic figure line, there was a set of higher priced figures that included special gimmicks that hung on the pegs next to the standard line.  The concept must have worked.  Hasbro released Super Sonic Fighters again in 1991, along with the Eco Warriors. 1992 continued the Eco Warriors, introduced the DEF and saw the Super Sonic Fighters evolve into the Talking Battle Commanders.  1993 introduced the Mega Marines and the Star Brigade Armor Tech line: though Hasbro cancelled the Eco Warriors and DEF figures that were planned and released them in the regular Battle Corps series.  1994 was muted as only the Shadow Ninjas received the large format cards and it seems that Hasbro planned to phase out much of the card differentiation in 1995.

Law has an interesting set of gear.  Of course, he includes the comically large Super Sonic Fighters backpack.  It's terrible and awful and useless.  He is also now missing his K-9 companion, Order.  The good part is that he has his original helmet: complete with the MP logo imprinted upon it.  His guns are a hodge-podge of rehashes from other figures.  The upside is that they are all cast in black.  The downside is that some are from Maverick and Avalanche.  Those weapons are kind of useless.  However, you also get a black version of Lifeline's pistol and a black version of the 1986 Roadblock's massive machine gun and tripod.  I've never been overly fond of Lifeline's pistol.  I always felt it was a poor imitator of Hawk's 1986 pistol.  The Roadblock gun is overly massive.  But, the tripod makes it useful.  Having it in black is a nice difference.  And, if you have the 1997 Rock and Roll figure, makes a good substitute weapon for that release.

For me, this figure is a great faceless legion to augment the Joe team.  I don't see any particular reason for the Joes to have MP's on their own team and Law's character has never really appealed to me.  Instead, I find value in multiples of the figure.  Once Joe defeated a group of Cobras, there was no longer any reason to be involved with their handling and processing through the legal system.  If the Joes captured a named Cobra, it would be different.  But, when a group of Vipers surrendered, they would be taken off by a multitude of MP's to face trial and long imprisonment.  The beauty of this was that it afforded a whole new angle of adventures for me as a kid.  The MP's could be inept, extremely good, criminally corrupt or just unlucky.  It also allowed for Cobra to kill some of the good guys: making them a much more effective enemy.

Law was decently used by Hasbro.  He got his 1987 and this 1990 release.  The character returned for a planned DEF release (that was changed to Battle Corps when DEF was cancelled) in 1993.  That figure is nothing like the iconic Law, though.  In 1998, Law's name appeared as a candidate for release with a planned desert repaint of the 1983 G.I. Joe Headquarters.  However, that release never materialized.  But, in 2000, Law was released in a solid blue repaint in a two pack with other 1998 release candidate Dusty.  As Hasbro was planning on scrapping the vintage Joes in 2002 and replacing them with the JvC sculpt figures, they then sent the mold off to Funskool.  In 2002, Law was released in India.  The figure is in a nice, dark brown color scheme.  The coup-de-gras, though, is that the Funskool figure features a painted mustache on Law's face.  After that, the mold disappeared and Law never saw another release.  But, all four of the releases of this 1987 mold are top notch and they do work well together.  So, I do feel the mold's potential was realized.

Mint and complete with filecard Super Sonic Fighters figures have gotten a bit harder to find and more expensive.  Left on the open market, mint and complete with filecard versions run around $10.  Dealers often sell him in the $16 range.  And, due to a generally limited supply, you'll see a few move at that price.  As there are many versions of Law out there and all are good and a few others are cheap, it doesn't make sense to spend a lot army building this version.  He works well as a Captain of the MP forces that are comprised of more common 1987 and 2000 versions of the figure.  But, as a stand alone offering, this Law is a must have.  He provides a great, alternate look for a classic character without being too sub-team specific.

1990 Law, Super Sonic Fighters, 1987 Chuckles, 1988 Desert Fox

1990 Super Sonic Fighters Law, Bullhorn, 2002 Headman, Cold Front

1990 Super Sonic Fighters Law, Bullhorn, 2002 Headman, Cold Front, 1993 Gristle, 2005 Convention Exclusive Dragonsky, Oktober Guard

1990 Super Sonic Fighters Law, Bullhorn, 2002 Headman, Cold Front, 1993 Gristle, 2005 Convention Exclusive Dragonsky, Oktober Guard, Dial Tone

1990 Super Sonic Fighters Law, 1993 Cyber Viper, Mega Marines

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Diorama - Nullifiers

The Cobra Urban Strike set is just about my favorite Toys R Us 6 pack that was released.   The Nullifier figure was just excellent.  In those days, I was up very early to beat the traffic to my office.  In the mornings, I'd go out and water the plants, though.  Usually, the sun was only partly up.  So, you can see the shadows and lack of light on the periphery of the photos.

This was also a way to highlight my recently acquired Paratrooper Guile.

2004 Nullifier, Flak Viper, Urban Strike, TRU Exclusive, Street Fighter Movie Paratrooper Guile

2004 Nullifier, Flak Viper, Urban Strike, TRU Exclusive, Street Fighter Movie Paratrooper Guile

2004 Nullifier, Flak Viper, Urban Strike, TRU Exclusive, Street Fighter Movie Paratrooper Guile

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

2016 Female Cobra Officer

I do not collect anniversary style G.I. Joe figures.  (I consider there to be three styles of Joes: ARAH style: beginning in 1982, Joe Vs. Cobra style: beginning in 2002 and Anniversary style: which began in 2007.  Each has improvements that occurred through their runs.  But, each style has a visual and engineering similarity and pedigree that binds like figures together and separates the different designs.)  Back in 2007, I thought they just looked terrible.  At the time, this was not a popular opinion and a very small but vocal segment of collectors made the community in general very unpleasant in their blind support of these figures.  Now, those guys are mostly gone and collectors that are left consider those early anniversary figures to be generally, terrible as newer releases from the 2010's surpassed those early figures in quality.  To me, though, the style of those early figures remains.  The sculpting and design of the Hasbro releases in the past few years are vastly improved from those early days.  But, they are still not the type of thing that holds any interest to me.  You will the last anniversary item on this site is from 2008 and it was a vehicle.

But, if you are a collector of this figure style, you actually have more to collect than those of us who only focus on vintage figures.  Among Hasbro's intent to appease collectors, offer vintage homages from different eras, promote their movies and spread their offerings into new areas, collectors of the vintage style have a far greater variety of solid items from which to choose than us vintage guys.  Of this, I am extremely jealous.  Had Hasbro put anywhere near the amount of thought they dropped into the anniversary line into the relaunch of vintage Joes in 2000, that line would have been substantially more successful.  I'm not sure it would have lasted longer than it did.  But, we would certainly have fonder memories of that era and far more product.  But, as the 2010's wind down, Hasbro's ability to get Joes to retail has been substantially restricted.  The brand's faltering after the movies has diluted the G.I. Joe name and prevented any sustained retail presence.  But, that hasn't stopped Hasbro from getting some fan favorites out and into the marketplace.  At the end of 2016, Toys R Us carried a second year of exclusive figures offerings.  Included in this short line of only figures were quite a few rehashes.  But, also, quite a few new items that greatly appealed to collectors.  One of them was the highly anticipated female Cobra Officer.

Joe collectors have been clamoring for female Cobras troopers since the early 2000's.  But, Hasbro never came through.  The closest items were the terrible 2007 Night Stalker figures that were only available as a convention exclusive item.  Hasbro did get a lot of female characters into the line: both hero and villain.  But, plain Jane, generic soldiers were a no go.  So, collectors were quite taken when Hasbro first showed this figure at the 2016 G.I. Joe Convention.  It had all the modern sculpting collectors wanted, a great deal of gear and would be sold in a 3 pack with two other decently done army builders.  There was a flaw, though, the figure's open face.

I, among others, inquired about this odd feature.  Cobra legions have, traditionally, covered their faces.  It is the hallmark of Cobra.  The Hasbro answer was that they wanted everyone to know this was a female.  That was just bunk.  The figure obviously has a female body.  And, the long, flowing blonde pony tail made it evident to anyone that this was a female figure.  The more likely answer was the sculptor wanted to showcase his skills on a female face and add that to his portfolio.  There's nothing wrong with that and a truthful answer would have been appreciated.  You could say that Hasbro didn't want to spoil the club's exclusive 3 pack of figures using this body with masked faces and different hair colors that would be revealed the next day.  But, even a response of "You'll understand tomorrow" would have been more ingenuous than the flippant and condescending answer we received.

However, the unmasked face actually kind of works when you take this figure in context with the Cobra Troopers from the club.  She is an officer.  And, you could see her being one step away from becoming a named Cobra.  As such, having an uncovered face would be a mark of rank and power.  Really, if they had gone with that angle, the face would be a much better feature of the figure.  But, the sculpting on the Officer's face is top notch.  She looks mean without being exaggerated.  Her eyes are intense and stern.  In general, she looks like a bad guy: which is very rare to see on a female sculpted face.

2016 female Cobra Officer, Toys R Us Exclusive, 50th Anniversary, Alpine, 2014, Cobra Trooper

When I took this figure out the package to do this profile, it was the first time I've handled an Anniversary figure in 9 years.  I don't encounter them in the wild and ignore them.  I had my impressions of the designs from back then, but wanted to start afresh.  Hasbro had a lot of time to make improvements.  And, in that time, I've owned lots of Star Wars figures that at least share some functionality and design elements as Joes.  My first impression of the figure is that she's spindly.  I felt I was going to pull her apart just removing her from the package.  I thought this might be a function of the smaller arms and torso of the figure. But, the other army builders in the pack felt the same.  The softer plastic and abundant joints create lots of failure points.  If you're taking her out of the package for display or to put away in other baggie or case forever, this isn't much of an issue.  But, if you gave this to your young kids, they'd tear it apart in a few days, if not faster.  For the price, that's an issue.  Fortunately, these were marketed for collectors and even Toys R Us stocked them in the "collector" section of their stores.  But, any parent who drops money on a toy their kid tears apart will never buy that brand again.

The other massive flaw with this figure is the head.  While the sculpting is great and the ponytail is a strong design, the head only looks down.  (Note the pony tail is designed in such a way as to not interfere with the figure's backpack which is a nice bit of foresight.)  It's a major problem since it completely limits the ways in which the figure can be posed.  I'm not sure how such a limitation passed muster with Hasbro.  As such, it's tough to pose the figure since she's always staring at her shoes.  I'm not sure if this is a phenomenon that's unique to this figure in the anniversary sculpting style.  But, it's a major disappointment for a figure that's supposed to be the pinnacle of action figure design.

2016 female Cobra Officer, Toys R Us Exclusive, 50th Anniversary, Alpine, 2014, Cobra Trooper

The rest of the sculpting and articulation is pretty strong.  I'm still not a fan of the torso having articulation but the waist not being able to move.  But, in general, the figure has a lot of joints.  Some are pretty small, though, so the figure can be tough to move.  Some of the gear also impedes movement.  I find that overly annoying since it makes no sense to me to create articulation that is then precluded by sculpting details.  Star Wars figures suffer from it, too.  So, it seems it's just commonplace in the world of modern action figures.

Like most of the Anniversary figure, this Cobra Officer includes a ton of gear.  Aside from her rifle and helmet, she also includes a bazooka and a backpack.  The backpack is odd.  It is hollow inside with a flap which allows a view through it.  But, I can not figure out how to open the pack.  (I'm assuming it doesn't open.)  It's nice that the pack has less heft as it allows for greater posability.  She also has a ton of other accessories such as mines, a pistol and sight in her holster, a boot knife, web gear and another detachable bomb on her left leg.  It's great to get so much gear with a figure and it helps the perceived value when the toys cost over $10 each.

2016 female Cobra Officer, Toys R Us Exclusive, 50th Anniversary, Alpine, 2014, Cobra Trooper

In the end, I found that my bias against the anniversary style figures remains.  I've seen lots of interesting photos using them and many of the releases are the type of repaint I'd have loved in vintage Joe construction.  But, I simply don't like this style of figure.  I think that's heavily derived from the fact that they don't feel like sturdy toys.  Vintage Joes could take a beating.  Older Star Wars figures could, too.  But, Star Wars figures from the 2000's morphed from toy to collectible.  And, while the sculpting and design improved exponentially, the play value died.  This was OK, though, as Star Wars has always been about display for me.  Joe is not.  So, these figures are not for me.

The Female Cobra Officers are a bit hard to price out right now.  As now one's really sure if more of these will show up at discount outlets, we've seen some pricing fluctuations.  Before the summer of 2017, this was pretty much a $15 to $20 figure.  And, even now, you'll see a lot of them sell from dealers in the $16 range.  However, at the same time, you can get a carded 3 pack for around $25.  Seeing how both the BAT and SAW Viper with whom she shares her 3-pack have value, that's far and away the route to take.  Long term, who knows?  The club figures using this mold are far more expensive than this release due to their lower production numbers and higher initial cost.  It's still possible that thousands of these sets will show up at Ross and TJ Maxx for Christmas.   This mold could show up in the next Hasbro line.  It's also possible that these are all done at retail and we'll never see this mold used ever, ever again.

All of that leads into the future of the Joe line.  We know that Joe is, basically, dead at retail.  We also know, though, that Hasbro considers G.I. Joe the second linchpin in their grand Hasbro Shared Universe behind the Transformers.  As such, it is all but certain that we will see G.I. Joe again once Hasbro figures out how to weave all the various properties into a story that will sell.  I, for one, am skeptical of their ability to do this.  Joe is in an odd place.  If you want military realism, there are far better properties out there in movies and video games for that.  If you want super heroes, there are far better offerings from Marvel and DC in their multi-media empires.  Joe, always treading the middle between military and super hero doesn't fit into either.  And, that hybrid of the two doesn't really have a market these days.  So, where does Joe go from here?

From a toy perspective, it's an almost certainty that any future toys will be in anniversary style.  (The reduction to 5 points of articulation in the Star Wars line has been a failure and Hasbro will be abandoning it after The Last Jedi merchandise become clearance fodder across the nation.)  But, the theme of the new Joe will be different.  I don't have a lot of faith that Hasbro will come up with something that will take ahold of the pop culture market the way Joe did in the '80's.  But, there are some things I think they could do.  The most radical, for me, would be to eliminate Snake Eyes.  I don't mean kill him.  I mean to simply retcon him out and have him not exist.  That solves the inherent problem of a silent hero in a visual world.  It also removes ninjas from the Joe mythos.  This would free Hasbro to make a ninja movie about the ninjas  (Something of which there aren't a lot, though the few that have come out in recent years have been flops.) if they wanted Snake Eyes.  But, not tie their hands for any Joe adventures due to a mute lead character and love interest.

I could get behind Joe returning to it's adventurer roots.  The problem here is that the team would be small.  And, you'd basically have a cross between the A-Team and Indiana Jones.  But, it could make for some fun toys.  The other angle would be to eliminate Cobra and have Joe be the bad guys for a while.  I could see the Mask franchise teaming up and becoming the "drivers" of Transformers who would then fight against the "government" that would be represented by Joe.  You then, also, set up the great Joe face-turn when Cobra and Decepticons appear about five years into the reboot.  It would be a new direction for the franchise.  It would be dangerous.  So, that's probably out.

The other option would be to go the other way.  For the past 30 years, the prevailing theme in entertainment has been to take the children's properties of the current adult generation and turn them "serious and gritty" to appeal to now-adults.  It's been done with everything and is now cliched.  I'd like Hasbro to go the other way and make Joe a campy, self reflective parody of itself.  I'm talking full blown characters breaking the 4th wall to say "Knowing is half the battle", Serpentor raging in full Serpentor mode and massive amounts of gunfire with no one ever dying.  The catch is that the actors, movie and audience all need to be in on the joke.  It's incredibly hard to do right and will most likely backfire.  But, it could also re-invigorate the Joe brand since they would be the only ones doing something like that.  It would take a perfect cast and script.  But, by the time it was successful, the super popular sequel would likely get out before any imitators.  And, since a success for Hasbro likely has a far lower bar than a similar success for, say, Disney, it is more likely they could pull it off.  But, I'm sure we'll get a super complicated story about Cobra and Joe that's super gritty with lots of black uniforms and technology that looks like every other movie that comes out in the summertime because, well, it's Hasbro.

2016 female Cobra Officer, Toys R Us Exclusive, 50th Anniversary, Alpine, 2014, Cobra Trooper

Thursday, August 31, 2017

1989 Wild Boar - Around the Web

The Wild Boar figure isn't all that spectacular.  He's a bit oddly shaped, has few paints masks and is extremely susceptible to paint wear on the few parts that are painted.  He had potential, though, There's more content on him than I thought there would be.  Here's what I could find:

Wild Boar Profile

Wild Boar at JoeADay.com

Wild Boar Dio 1

Wild Boar Video Review

Wild Boar at Joe Wiki

1989 Wild Boar, Iron Grenadiers, Frag Viper, 1987 Worms, Maggot

1989 Wild Boar, Iron Grenadiers, Frag Viper, 1987 Worms, Maggot, Hiss Tank, 1983, Night Viper

1989 Wild Boar, Iron Grenadiers, Frag Viper, 1987 Worms, Maggot, Hiss Tank, 1983, Night Viper, Aero Viper, HEAT Viper, Slaughters Marauders Mutt

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

1993 Nitro Viper

The Nitro Viper was one of my first profiles.  At the time, we were only six years removed from his retail release and the figure was both relatively unknown and hard to find on the second hand market.  In the 16 years since that original profile, though, the figure remains relatively unknown and somewhat hard to find.  I guess not that much changes.  The Nitro Viper, though, is a figure's who has remained a fun part of my collection.  The bright orange base color isn't for everyone.  But, when you accept the fact that he's bright, his integration with his vehicle and the stark, contrasting colors create a figure that is very useful.

The Nitro Viper is a straight repaint of the 1989 Track Viper.  As molds go, the Track Viper was decent, but flawed.  The Nitro Viper retains those original qualities, but covers them in a bright orange wrapper.  But, the result isn't as bad as you might think.  The orange is a solid contrast against the black and silver details.  The figure has a "shiny" appearance and is a perfect match for his vehicle.  The dark black contrasts so well with the orange and silver that the figure pops in any display.  He's hard to integrate with earlier Cobra vehicles and figures.  But, he actually matches up quite well with most of the Cobra hardware produced after 1991.

In the fall of 1996, I was finishing up my final semester of college.  I had a good amount of spending money from the summer before and, for the first time, had a car on campus that I could use to get out of town.  Many nights, I would run some toy rounds at the local stores.  My college town only had a Wal Mart and it was usually picked clean by up all night students.  But, a short drive away took me to Hamilton, Ohio where there was another Wal Mart, a Meijer and, in an older, run down building, one of the few remaining Hills stores around.  Here, I would shop for groceries while also searching out the new Star Wars figures that were being released.  Joes were a rare find by then as most stores had long clearanced their remaining stock.  On my final way out of town just days before Christmas of 1996, I stopped at said Hills store.  The toy aisle was nothing more than boxes haphazardly strewn onto shelves.  Most of the toys were older items that had not sold and closeouts of unpopular toy lines that traditional retailers had not bothered to purchase.  Here, I found a Talking Battle Commanders Stalker figure.  (Actually, three of them.)  It cost me $4.95, but I hadn't found any Joes for months and figured I shouldn't pass an opportunity by.  With him in hand, I strolled to the very back of the store.  Here was an aisle full of every knick knack imaginable.  It was heavily stocked with toys that had been opened.  There I found my first Detonator.

The box was opened and there was no figure inside.  Even for $10.00, I couldn't bring myself to buy it with no figure.  I stopped by the store a few more times in early 1997 on the occasion that I went to visit friends still in school.  That Detonator was always there.  Now, I regret not buying it.  The vehicle is very nice and I'd like to have more than one.  But, who knows if my fascination with the Nitro Viper would have ever occurred had I first acquired his vehicle.

That fascination began simply enough.  In the spring of 1999, a Joe collector discovered that Hasbro Canada still had overstock G.I. Joe mail away toys.  There were huge amounts of figures and vehicles, all available for insanely cheap prices.  I dutifully checked off the figures I wanted and mailed them a check.  A few weeks later, a package arrived at my apartment.  In it were most of the figures I had ordered.  But, also a few replacements for figures that were either not available or had already sold out.  Among the replacements were an Air Devil, Cloudburst and my first Nitro Viper figure.  At the time, I was obsessed with finding 1994 Star Brigade Roadblock figures.  For some reason, the orange and black combo enthralled me.  Finding a Cobra in a similar color scheme was an amazing discovery.  But, I had just the one figure.  I couldn't bring myself to remove him from the plastic mailer bag.

This began an obsession to find as many Nitro Vipers as I could.  But, it was 1999.  Finding any lots of Joes made after 1991 was actually pretty hard.  While you'd see many Night Force and V1 Steel Brigade figures all the time, you might find one or two lots of 1992 or later figures in any given month.  Pretty much the only way to get a Nitro Viper was to buy an overpriced dealer's boxed Detonator and pay $20 in shipping to boot.  Near the end of the year, though, I found a huge lot of 1992 and 1993 figures.  I was mainly interested as the lot contained Headhunters.  But, also in the menagerie of neon goodness were both a Detonator and my first, loose Nitro Viper.

The Nitro Viper had two early appearances.  In the 1993 G.I. Joe product catalog, the figure was blacked out.  The figure model that was used for the silhouette was the 1991 Toxo Viper.  It's possible that a repainted Toxo Viper was considered for the driver.  Both have the large face shields.  Frankly, seeing the 1991 Toxo Viper in bright orange with black highlights and a silver facemask would have been awesome.  But, it might also have just been a placeholder.  The Nitro Viper appears again in some Hasbro product photography.  This early figure features more silver paint on the figure's chest and more closely matches the artwork on the Detonator box.  It's likely the additional paint applications were removed to save money on a low production run figure.  This more silver Nitro Viper appeared on the photo of the Funskool Detonator, too.  This sometimes leads new collectors to believe that Funskool produced not only a Nitro Viper, but also an Alley Viper in close to 1993 paint schemes.  Funskool produced neither figure, though, as they reused Hasbro stock photography for the box of their Detonator release.  (The Funskool Detonator only included random pack in figures that were also produced in the regular, carded Funskool line of the time.)

The Nitro Viper mold was sold by Hasbro to Olmec toys in the mid 1990's.  At the time, Hasbro had used it twice and had no intention of ever producing classically molded G.I. Joe figures again.  Olmec used the mold in the infamous Bronze Bombers set: as the body base for a few good guys.  As such, there are four uses of the body for collectors to track down.  Though, just two of them are Hasbro produced and include the head.  The original paint job of the Track Viper was decent and the Nitro Viper is fun.  In Cobra blue, this figure would have made a great driver for an updated Hiss II or even original Hiss.  The mold is simple and isn't the type of thing that warrants being out of his vehicle.  But, there are two solid versions of the figure for collectors, so that's something.

Nitro Vipers used to be stupidly cheap, but really hard to find.  Now, they are still relatively affordable.  While many dealers will try to get $25 or more for a mint and complete figure, the reality is that the market price seems to be between $8 and $10 if you can find them out in the wild.  The Nitro Viper didn't have a legitimate filecard (A collector wrote one that Hasbro "sanctioned" in a toy magazine and that will sometimes attract a good price but the figure does not have a Hasbro produced filecard.) so the figure is complete with just the pistol.  You still don't see tons of Nitro Vipers for sale.  Many that do see were sourced from the Hasbro Canada Find in 1999.  So, a lot of these were pumped into the collecting community and made more available than were they only available with the Detonator.  Personally, I like army building the figure and wish I had more.  I have a soft spot for the 1993 and 1994 figures due to my searching them out as a young adult.  That makes the Nitro Viper more forgivable to me.  But, more and more collectors have found the figure fun and interesting.  If you can find a cheap one, you should buy it and see if you feel the same.

1993 Nitro Viper, Detonator

1993 Nitro Viper, Detonator

Thursday, August 24, 2017

2002 Shock Viper - Around the Web

When the Joe line was cancelled at retail in late 2001, Hasbro was pretty far along with the final wave of the A Real American Hero Collection.  Rather than let it go to waste, Hasbro produced a very limited run and sold them to online G.I. Joe resellers.  The result was a wave that was hard to get in large numbers.  For the most part, this wasn't an issue: except for one figure.  Packaged with Serpentor, the 2002 Shock Viper was one of the best army builders of the ARAHC era.

The figure is a repaint of the 1994 Ice Cream Soldier mold.  But, the sculpting, combined with new colors, lent itself to a Cobra repaint to such an extent that most people now refer to this as the "Shock Viper Mold" instead of the Ice Cream Soldier mold.  For most collectors, it was tough to get more than 6 of the Shock Vipers due to sold out stock and online dealer purchasing limits.  But, time has somewhat evened that out.  Even though, the figure still remains relatively hard to find.

Despite being one of the best army builders of the era, there's not a ton of content in regards to the figure out there.  This is a combination of his relative scarcity and the fact that collectors tend to prefer the more standard Cobra army builders when setting up displays.  But, here's the best content for the 2002 Shock Viper form around the web.

2002 Shock Viper Profile

Shock Viper at Half The Battle

Shock Viper at GeneralsJoes.com

Shock Viper Dio by Outrider

Shock Viper Dio by ScarrViper

Shock Viper Dio by Outrider 2

2002 Shock Viper, ARAHC, Wave V, Dial Tone, 2000, 1983 G.I. Joe HQ

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

1985 Transportable Tactical Battle Platform

The G.I. Joe line was originally conceived as a series of vehicles.  They were high profit toys for Hasbro.  However, the figures that were designed to interact with those vehicles turned out to be massively popular.  But, the vehicles remained a vital part of the line's overall profitability.  As the line progressed, the scale and audacity of the vehicles grew as well.  Each year, Hasbro was able to produce vehicles that outdid the year before.  In 1985, though, the bar was raised as high as it could go.  Along with the excellent Moray and Mauler, Hasbro pumped out the unprecedented USS Flagg.  The 7 1/2 foot behemoth remains the flagship for the Joe line: both literally and figuratively.  Lost in between massive carrier and the amazing higher end vehicles, though, is the Transportable Tactical Battle Platform.  Despite its lack of an included figure, the TTBP (for short) is on par with Hasbro's other releases and is an excellent example of the overall vehicle quality that dominated the Joe line.

My younger brother got the TTBP for his birthday in October of 1985.  Unfortunately, the one he got had a production defect where the control room windshield was warped and didn't fit into the base.  This heavily colored the toy for me since it was frustrating to not have a cool feature like the window be available.  So, I didn't really pay the TTBP much mind.  Of course, I had my recently purchased Mauler and hope of a Christmas USS Flagg (that never materialized) to divert my attention.  One of my best friends, though, loved the TTBP.  Whenever I'd go to his house, he'd pick it first and have it be the focal point of his play.  He had his mom get him longer string and kept it on a small table.  The longer string could reach all the way to the floor and he'd use this as the means of making his base impenetrable.  I finally starting bringing my JUMP pack over so I'd have a way of attacking him other than the Skystriker, Rattler or Dragonfly.  (At his house, it wasn't Joe Vs. Cobra, it was me vs. him with each of our armies.)  But, that was about the extent of my interaction with the TTBP.

In late 1986, the TTBP finally found a calling.  Having given up my dreams of a Flagg, I looked to other options for an aircraft carrier.  So, I used my bed.  I set up the 1983 HQ at one end and put the TTBP at the corner of the other end.  The HQ was the ship's bridge and command center.  The TTBP was the air traffic control who launched the fighters and spotted approaching Cobras.  This made the TTBP the action center when it was time to fight.  Cobra would attempt to destroy it first, so the Joes couldn't launch any more aircraft.  Usually, the TTBP would last for a while: its missiles taking out the first few Night Ravens or Rattlers.  But, eventually, Cobra would take it out.  Once that happened, the battle turned into a sea fight with Hydrofoils and Hovercrafts while the ground crew on the ship tried to sort out the carnage while also trying to fend off boarding Eels.  Some of these battles were so elaborately set up that I'd sleep in my parent's guest room for a few days so I didn't have to move all the toys each night.

This scenario, though, was a recurring theme throughout 1987 and continued as a key plot point until my final days of playing with toys.  Having a massive command ship opened up large opportunities for play.  In that regard, the TTBP held its own.  The bridge, helipad and mounted gun and missile launcher offered a myriad of different stories.  If the missiles shot down the Cobra aircraft too soon in the battle, the next attack would be differently formulated to avoid this problem.  It allowed for an ever escalating conflict to remain fresh.  And, with large surface area of the "ship", I was able to combine sea, air and land vehicles into one battle.  This was perfect as it allowed me to use all of my toys and keep my favorites in the mix, even when it wouldn't, on the surface, appear that a Mauler tank would be all that useful at sea.

The TTBP has a few key elements to the design.  It's set up so there are multiple play areas that can either act alone or in concert with each other.  The primary point is the command center.  This is a large, open pit with a control room piece that surrounds the space.  Inside is a mounted spotlight and the whole area is enclosed by a windshield.  There is just a single seat.  But, there's lots of other space to pose figures around the controls or in command.  It has an opening to a tunnel that connects the command center to the cargo area.  It's nicely tucked along the back of the toy and is a somewhat forgotten feature of the TTBP.

The cargo area is another wide open space that allows for lots of figures.  The keystone is a crane.  It has a winch with rope and hook from the Dragonfly.  It has a small ladder to allow characters to climb in and out of the depressed pit.  The lowered floor allows for figure posting around the edges.  There's some small details on the floor.  But, in general, the space is open and uncluttered.  You can easily store some of the mundane pieces of the Joe line like weapon crates, gas cans and other battlefield necessities in the space.  It's something that's overly practical on a base like this, even if it doesn't seem like much fun out of the box.  (Oh, and as Jeremy reminded me in the comments, there is also a 5 weapon rack that fits across the outer wall.  Included with the TTBP were slightly differently colored versions of Stalker's M-32, Grunt's M-16, Snow Job's XMLR, Airborne's XM-16 and a very differently colored version of Ripcord's SLR-W1L1 rifle.   The weapons were attached to a tree and slightly lighter in color than the versions packed with the figures.  It's a great additional detail that adds some more play value to the cargo area.)

Between the command center and cargo area is a helipad.  It is accessible by a small ladder.  (The entire playset uses ladders to great effect as they don't take up much real estate and provide great realism.)  The helipad can hold either a Dragonfly or a Skyhawk, depending upon your preference.  You could also set a JUMP platform up there.  Thought that's overly redundant.  You will notice small hooks on the dec.  In the comic, two Dragonflies attached their hooks to these and carried the TTBP out to sea.  As a kid, I re-enacted that scene with two Dragonflies.  It actually held for a while and I could the whole thing.  But, eventually, one of the hooks gave way and snapped under the weight.  So, they aren't overly useful bits, but are kind of fun to remember from the TTBP's introduction in the comic.

Across the front the TTBP are three main details: a gun turret, missile stand and ramp.  The ramp is somewhat interesting.  The slot for it is about the exact size of the 1985 Armadillo vehicle and it's a perfect piece to combine with the ramp for extra defenses.  The missile launcher uses slightly recolored versions of the missiles that were available on the Skystriker.  The Skystriker missiles are darker and you often see TTBP missiles sold on complete Skystrikers.  So, that's something to watch for.  The gun is massive and can shoot up in the air or straight.  Not being able to point down is a bit of a letdown.  But, it's still cool to see a gun station on a Joe base.  Each weapon sits on a small platform and has a hatch that is covered with a tab.  You can remove it to see additional mechanical details.

The overriding theme of the TTBP is space.  There's lot of open area to display figures.  In that regard, it's an excellent toy.  You can showcase pretty much an entire year's worth of figures without being overly cramped.  For something with a small footprint, that's a real rarity.  And, adding in the fact you could also showcase a Dragonfly and Armadillo on it, it has a full range of possibility.  As such, you often see TTBP's as showcase items in many collections.  They aren't there to show off the possession of a TTBP: like you see with both the Flagg and Terrordrome.  They are a clean way to show off a collector's favorite Joes while being able to use a fun playset.

The TTBP is slightly reminiscent of a Maunsell Fort from World War II.  There are pictures of samples that are in colors similar to the TTBP's.  The notion of a water fortress has been ingrained in man since early warfare.  So, getting something like this in the Joe line was just another example of how the early designers were tuned into real military concepts.

The TTBP was only ever released by Hasbro.  It saw production in American, European, Canadian and Japanese packaging.  But, all the toys were made from the same facilities.  It was never exported out of the Hasbro family.  In 1995, Hasbro planned to repaint the TTBP and release it as the Battle Station.  It appears this would have been an Arctic themed release that was mostly white.  So, not all that much different from the original release.  But, it would have included a couple of figures: Snow Serpent and Big Ben.  Had it been released, I probably would have bought it just to get the two figures.  But, it would have been cool to see another take on this mold.

Transportable Tactical Battle Platforms have lots of small pieces that are easily lost and broken.  On top of that, you have a windshield that tends to yellow.  And, the base itself is easily discolored white plastic.  As such, truly mint and complete TTBPs are pricey.  Usually, they'll run between $60 and $80 depending on the number in the market and the brilliance of the white base.  You can get them a lot cheaper if you sacrifice a few pieces or are fine with some discoloration of the plastic.  There are some spectacular custom TTBPs out there made from discolored parts.

As a playset, the TTBP is tough to beat.  It can display a lot of figures, and even hold a vehicle or two.  It can use the storage footprint to offset other toys and becomes a relative bargain as a display piece in terms of space used.  Plus, it's a great way to incorporate figures from across G.I. Joe generations since many different figures integrate well with the design.  In short, it's one of those toys that pretty much every collector has: but none really love.  It's awesome to own.  But, once you have your setup complete, there's no real reason to come back.  Other, more popular vehicles of the vintage era are returned to by collectors time and time again due to their complexity and general spectacular design.  The TTBP is kind of like an Alpine or Footloose figure.  They are rarely anyone's favorite.  But everyone has them because they are great toys.  They are just eclipsed by other figures from their time that were better.  That's the TTBP's fate.  But, that's OK since that will keep something that's attainable and useful for pretty much everyone.

1985 Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, TTBP, Comando Trevassia, Brazil, Estrela, General Hawk, 1986, Mission to Brazil Wetsuit, 2006 Shipwreck, Footloose, 1983 Dragonfly, Lift Ticket, Convention Paratrooper Dusty, 2002, cutter, Mainframe

1985 Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, TTBP, Comando Trevassia, Brazil, Estrela, General Hawk, 1986, Mission to Brazil Wetsuit, 2006 Shipwreck, Footloose, 1983 Dragonfly, Lift Ticket, Convention Paratrooper Dusty, 2002

1985 Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, TTBP, Comando Trevassia, Brazil, Estrela, General Hawk, 1986, Mission to Brazil Wetsuit, 2006 Shipwreck, Footloose, 1983 Dragonfly, Lift Ticket, Convention Paratrooper Dusty, 2002

1985 Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, TTBP, Comando Trevassia, Brazil, Estrela, General Hawk, 1986, Mission to Brazil Wetsuit, 2006 Shipwreck, Footloose, 1983 Dragonfly, Lift Ticket

1985 Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, TTBP, Comando Trevassia, Brazil, Estrela, General Hawk, 1986, Mission to Brazil Wetsuit, 2006 Shipwreck

Thursday, August 17, 2017

1997 Stormshadow - Around the Web

I've grown to appreciate the 1997 Stormshadow figure much more.  His 1992 Ninja Force inspired look isn't overbearing.  But, is different enough from the original.  His construction and paint quality is pretty strong and he includes the full array of vintage Stormshadow accessories.  Plus, you can get him cheap.  All of that adds up to a solid figure release.

I still consider this figure "new" even though he's 20 years old, now.  But, he's held up much better than many of the later repaints and show that the 1997 Hasbro team was much more in tune with what collectors would want than their later counterparts.  There's not much out there on this guy as the bulk of the character content is focused on the 1984 figure.  But, here's what I could find of him around the web.

Stormshadow Profile

1997 Stormshadow Pre-Production at YoJoe.com

1997 Stormshadow Dio 1

1997 Stormshadow Dio 2

1997 Stormshadow, Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Gung Ho, Short Fuse, Black Major, Bootleg, Blue Stormshadow, Ninja Viper

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

1993 Gristle

G.I. Joe's Drug Elimination Force has always been somewhat problematic in the collecting community.  The association of G.I. Joe with the anti-drug sentiment of the late 1980's and early 1990's isn't all that out of the ordinary.  Joe would have been a logical partner for the proponents of that movement.  The real issue in the collecting world is that subsets in general are not overly popular: especially one that introduced a new enemy to the Cobra/Joe/Iron Grenadier dynamic.  But, the DEF is also spared the harshest criticism because the figures that were released under its banner are some of the highlights of the 1990's era Joes.  They are well sculpted, excellently colored and include a great array of accessories.  Really, the only issue with them was the higher price point.  But, it was this price point that doomed the subset as the Joe line began its final descent into obsolescence.  So, with the figures not generating the retail interest that was needed, the 1993 DEF subset was scrapped and the figures who were to be released under that banner were instead incorporated into the general Battle Corps single carded figure line.  Among the new characters for 1993 was Gristle.

I never liked Gristle.  There was something about the figure that simply made me want to avoid him.  During my copious trips to toy stores between 1994 and 1996, Gristle was a figure who was overly common.  I found him at Toys R Us.  I found him at KB Toys.  I found him at Walgreen's.  He was so unpopular that he pegwarmed wherever Joes were sold.  Despite this, I never bought one.  The figure was simply so detestable to me that I passed him by, even going home empty-handed rather than pick him up.  Never, even as my desperation for finding new figures increased, did it occur to me to buy a Gristle figure.  Even when he disappeared from retail, I felt no pangs of regret over passing him by.  I didn't like the figure, I didn't want the figure and I wasn't going to own the figure.

By the late 1990's, though, my stance changed.  With the advent of me finding collectordom, I strove to be a completist.  So, despite my misgivings over a figure, I would, eventually, own one to complete my collection.  As I was one of the few people interested in the sparse loose figure lots that heavily featured figures made after 1990, I was able to acquire many collections: including two that contained Gristle figures.  With him in the fold, I put him out of my mind.  As the 2000's progressed, though, I became a more and more vocal proponent of the 1990's molds as preferred candidates for Hasbro repaints.  Even a figure like Gristle, whose sculpt I did not like, was well designed and would have been well suited to a modern repaint.

This lead me to another re-examination of the Gristle figure.  I thought it was possible that I'd missed a pretty solid figure in my mid 1990's resistance to the character.  But, with the figure now in hand, I found that I still wasn't impressed by him overall.  If I wanted a gritty street thug with bad hair, I had the vastly superior Headman figure for that.  If I wanted a Dreadnok wanna be, there were many options to that better filled that role, too.  The general look of the character didn't fit with any of the new Cobras who I had created.  I was always on the lookout for underutilized Cobra figures that I could co-opt to a new character of my own design.  But, I didn't feel that Gristle's look really fit with my vision of the characters I had created.  In short, Gristle still wasn't a figure that I found overly useful in my collection.

Gristle is big.  As the line progressed, Joe figures added bulk to their sculpts.  Gristle's head is exceedingly large.  This allows for the great facial detail that was designed for him, though.  His hair, glasses and face are all among the best examples of head sculpting that Hasbro produced in the vintage line.  But, it's hard to find pieces onto which the head will fit.  The rest of the body is also well done.  The chest knives and skull belt buckles are exceptionally done.  Gristle has a lot of details.  But, not so many as to take away from the quality design.

The colors, though, kill him.  The maroon and black base really aren't that bad.  While the red tone is somewhat bright: it's also in line with established Cobra colors.  The problem, of course, is the bright yellow.  It provides too great a contrast for the darker red and black and, likely, makes the red more gaudy as the brightness is drawn out by the yellow.  If you replaced all the yellow with silver, Gristle would be among the better Cobra characters from the 1990's.  He would fit with Headhunters and Headhunter Stormtroopers almost perfectly.  But, the yellow relegates him to the scrapheap of the line.

Gristle didn't get much use.  But, he has some significant variants to him.  The most famous Gristle release is from Australia.  There, Gristle was released as a member of the DEF as he was originally intended.  The only difference is the card art.  But, it's a release that has long been popular since it completes Hasbro's intentions for the character.  Gristle was also released in Brazil as Vandalo.  This figure is a bit darker red than the American figure and includes a maroon version of the Headhunter's shotgun.  It is an interesting figure that used to be pretty common but has dried up in recent years.  In 2008, the club repainted Gristle in their convention set.  This figure was colored black and arsenic.  With the painted details, it is the definitive Gristle release.  If you only want the best representation of the character in your collection, get this convention version.

Gristle is a case where being a pegwarmer in the 1990's has lead to being left behind in the 2010's.  MOC figures can be purchased in the $10 - $15 range.  Loose mint and complete with filecard figures tend to sell in the $6 - $8 range from dealers.  The unpopularity of the figure limits supply of non-dealer sales and you'll see lots of complete figures being offered at $12 or more.  However, you don't see any sales at that price.  You can get the figure for a buck or two if you're patient.  For the price, buy a MOC version of the figure.  You get the card art and the neon splendor that defines the early 1990's G.I. Joe figure.

For me, this figure has taken on an interesting place in my collection.  I still do not like the figure and it's rare that I would use him.  However, because Gristle reminds me of those days in the 1990's when I left him hanging on the pegs, he actually has some fun memories associated with him.  I recall friends from long ago rolling their eyes as I jumped over the toy aisle at a drug store when we stopped to buy booze.  I remember going to a store with my girlfriend's father and debating whether to be too obvious about looking at the toys with him in tow.  And, I recall standing in a TRU aisle with a friend and laughing at figures like Gristle and remembering when G.I. Joe was better.  The ridicule I've long had for the figure stands.  But, the memories of making fun of him now make the figure worth something to me.  I can't really recommend Gristle as he's not a figure I like.  But, he, like all the Joes from the last years, has his upside and there are collectors who have found him a good addition to their collections.

1993 Gristle, Battle Corps, DEF, Crimson Guard Commander, 1986 STUN

1993 Gristle, Battle Corps, DEF, Crimson Guard Commander, 1986 STUN, Countdown, Star Brigade, Headhunter, Headhunter Stormtrooper

1993 Gristle, Battle Corps, DEF, Crimson Guard Commander, 1986 STUN, Countdown, Star Brigade, Headhunter, Headhunter Stormtrooper

1993 Gristle, Battle Corps, DEF, Crimson Guard Commander, 1986 STUN, Countdown, Star Brigade, Headhunter, Headhunter Stormtrooper

1993 Gristle, Battle Corps, DEF, Crimson Guard Commander, 1986 STUN, Countdown, Star Brigade, Headhunter, Headhunter Stormtrooper