Thursday, November 16, 2017

1984 Zartan - Around the Web

Zartan is one of the most popular and enduring Joe characters.  His original figure is revered and the character is considered among the titans of the line.  Through the years, I've often neglected Zartan in my photos.  His original figure rarely appears, even though I quite like it.  I'm not sure why.  I've just never felt that I've been able to capture the essence of the character in a photo.  But, I still consider him among the best figures Hasbro ever produced and he is a perfect example of how Joe could veer away from harsh military realism and still be enjoyed.  There's lots of content on Zartan out there.  But, here's some of my favorites from around the web.

Zartan Profile

New York Times Article from December 6, 1984 regarding Zartan's filecard change

Zartan at JoeaDay.com

Zartan @ 3DJoes.com

Zartan at WikiPedia

Zartan Video Review

Zartan at the Cobra Temple

1984 Zartan, 1985 Cobra Tele Viper

1984 Zartan,  Firefly, 1983 Destro, Stinger

1984 Zartan,  Firefly, 1983 Destro, Stinger, Stinger Driver

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

1997 Cobra Commander

In late 1997, I found the Toys R Us exclusive Stars and Stripes figure set.  I quickly bought it: excited to see new Joes at retail.  As 1998 dawned, though, Hasbro started releasing wave after wave of excellent new Star Wars figures.  Simultaneously, they were pumping out army builders galore.  In short, Star Wars consumed most of my collecting time and money.  On top of that, I had been disappointed in the Stars and Stripes set.  It hadn't captured my attention enough to really sell me on Joes.  So, trip after trip to Toys R Us, I'd pick up a G.I. Joe pack and each time, put it down, leaving it behind.  When Hasbro finally bungled some Star Wars case assortments in the summer of '98 and basically killed the line, I turned back to Joe.  Now, though, I was buying vintage Joes online.  I simply didn't see the need to buy the Toys R Us figures when I could get more vintage figures for the same price.  Again, the '97 Joes were left behind.

When the 1998 Joes shipped, though, everything changed.  Star Wars became an afterthought and G.I. Joe became my number one collecting priority.  Still, though, I never went back and bought the 1997 Joe packs.  I don't really know why.  But, I think my looking at them for a year had left them as old news, even if I didn't actually own them.  Plus, I found it more satisfying to buy additional Cobra Infantry or Polar Assault packs than I did to get repaints of characters I wasn't overly interested in at the time.  In 2000, the 1997 Joes dried up from retail.  They even got hard to find online.  As 2001 began, 1997 Joes were starting to get expensive and were kind of hard to find.  I snapped up a poorly labeled lot of figures that included all of the 1997 figures I had left on the shelves.  At first, I didn't pay them much heed.  In time, though, I found the gems in the release year.  Now, 20 years later, I find many of the '97's to be among Hasbro's best post-vintage work.  Yes, Hasbro was hamstrung by missing molds and a tight design window.  But, the sets feature a lot of fun and interesting figures that were never replicated.  The 1997 Cobra Commander fits that mold.

Originally, the 1997 Cobra Commander was to be a repaint of the 1983 battle helmet Cobra Commander mold.  It would have been in dark blue with gold highlights.  (There are photos of handpainted samples out there that showcase the idea.)  However, Hasbro could not find the Cobra Commander mold.  This was somewhat odd since Hasbro had used it in 1994 for the Chinese exclusive run of Cobra Commander figures.  But, with no mold, Hasbro had to find another idea.  They settled on the 1987 version whose mold had just been returned from Funskool.  They gave this mold the same dark blue and gold theme and released him in a three figure back with Destro and the Baroness.  This three pack featured artwork from the 1983 versions of both Cobra Commander and Destro, even though neither original mold was present.

The effect of the dark blue plastic, though, was actually quite striking.  Visually, this version of Cobra Commander is substantially different from the original release of the mold.  It gave collectors a version of the Commander who could wear his late '80's iconic outfit and yet still blend in with Vipers and other figures utilizing the classic Cobra blue.  The gold and red highlights give the figure and regality.  This figure looks like something that Cobra Commander would have worn and is an excellent alternative for the silver and light blue of the original mold colors.  I rank this version as the 5th best release of the character, behind the original, the Hooded mail away, the 1993 and the Star Brigade figure.  Your mileage will vary.  But, this is a figure I can appreciate.

Gear wise, this figure is pretty sparse.  He includes the requisite figure stand (which was a great inclusion in 1997) as well as a version of the classic Cobra Commander pistol.  Sadly, the pistol looks out of the place with this mold.  The greater detailing and bulkier sculpt makes the weapon look puny.  An original 1987 pistol is a much better fit.  Oddly, Hasbro never released the 1987 pistol with any subsequent versions of the mold from the same year.  Yet, they did release the weapon in silver in 2002.  So, you can track down a cheap 2002 Snow Serpent and steal the silver version of his weapon and give it to this figure or one of the later 1987 Cobra Commander repaints as a way to reunite the figure with his intended weapon.  For me, classic figures look out of place without their appropriate guns.  Likewise, later figures look out of place with reissued early weapons.  So, I prefer an alternative weapon for the figure and save the classic 1983 pistol for other uses.

This figure's biggest flaw (other than not being the V1 mold....) is the lack of the helmet hose.  For some reason, Hasbro did not include the hose from the 1987 figure on this 1997 version.  Those hose had appeared on the international versions.  But, not here.  Hasbro modded the head to not have the page on the helmets left side to which the hose affixed.  They also made the mouth hole shallower.  As such, if you have a spare 1987 hose lying around, it barely fits onto this figure and easily falls off.  In the photos below, my Cobra Commander has a spare hose.  But, you can see the how ill fitting it is.  In 2001, the hose returned with this mold.  So, it wasn't a missing piece.  Hasbro just didn't feel they needed to include with the 1997 figure.  To me, the head looks incomplete without the hose.  So, I have to have one.  I have not tried a 2001 hose to see if it fits better.  But, the 1987 version is not a great match.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the 1987 Cobra Commander mold.  It's a cool enough figure and was a valuable addition to my collection in 1987 since my original Cobra Commanders were all worn out and broken.  But, the figure quickly fell into disfavor.  I didn't like any character wrapped in invincible armor.  Nor did I like the direction that the comic took with the Cobra Commander replacement.  So, to me, Cobra Commander wearing this suit never approached an iconic visage for the character.  That lead to this 1997 figure getting lost in the sea of acquisitions that comprised my collecting in the early 2000's.  It has only been recently that I've really grown to appreciate this release.  The rich colors, excellent paint details and general diversity from other uses of the parts has created a figure in whom I find great value.  This dark blue version of the battle armor is my favorite appearance of the Commander in this get-up.  While I overlooked him for years, it's nice to find him now.  It's proof that the vastness of the Joe line can obfuscate solid figures right before your eyes.

This Cobra Commander mold was used rather extensively.  Hasbro released the figure in the U.S. and Europe starting in 1987.  From there, they mold was sent to Brazil.  Estrela released the figure in colors nearly identical to the American release.  When Estrela was done with it, the mold went to India.  Funskool then also released this Cobra Commander in colors nearly identical to the American release.  The main difference in India was Cobra Commander's weapon.  Instead of the unique pistol from his earlier releases, he was given a stock-less Crazylegs rifle in India.  Hasbro got the mold back in 1996/1997 where it was used for this figure.  Hasbro released it again in 2001, again colored similarly to the 1987 release.  In 2005, the mold appeared twice.  First, it was used for the Comic Pack "Fred" Cobra Commander.  This release featured a new head and helmet, but was also colored similarly to the 1987 figure.  The body was also used on the Imperial Processional Guard figure.  At least this body was colored differently. For Cobra Commander releases, this 1997 figure remains the only significant repaint of the mold.

Time was, 1997 Joes were expensive.  This Cobra Commander was a $15 figure, 15 years ago.  Now, though, pricing has softened.  While there aren't any real alternatives to this mold in this color scheme, this version of Cobra Commander has been generally forgotten by the collecting world.  You see lots of dealers who will get $10 for this figure just because you don't see many offered for general sale.  However, you can get a carded set with the Baroness and Destro for $20 these days.  So, before you pay half that for just this Commander, I'd buy the full three pack and get all three figures.  They all have their charms and are well worth the $20.  This Commander is worth even the $10 just because he's the only way to get the updated take on the character in classic Cobra colors.  It just seems so odd that among so many releases of the mold, this one would stand apart as the singularly different release that was true to the Commander's roots.  But, that's the main reason I've grown more fond of the 1997 releases in the decades since their release.  They tried to be vintage.  While that's not always a perfect strategy, it was far better executed than the neither vintage nor interesting figures that tended to follow in the 2000's.

1997 Cobra Commander, Skeres, Midnight Chinese, Stormshadow, 2004 Operation Crimson Sabotage, Crimson Guard, 2006 Viper Pit, Cobra Viper, Crimson Guard Commander, Hiss Tank, 1983, Hiss DRiver, Alley Viper

1997 Cobra Commander, Skeres, Midnight Chinese, Stormshadow, 2004 Operation Crimson Sabotage, Crimson Guard, 2006 Viper Pit, Cobra Viper, Crimson Guard Commander, Hiss Tank, 1983, Hiss DRiver, Alley Viper

1997 Cobra Commander, Skeres, Midnight Chinese, Stormshadow, 2004 Operation Crimson Sabotage, Crimson Guard, 2006 Viper Pit, Cobra Viper, Crimson Guard Commander, Hiss Tank, 1983, Hiss DRiver, Alley Viper

1997 Cobra Commander, Skeres, Midnight Chinese, Stormshadow, 2004 Operation Crimson Sabotage, Crimson Guard, 2006 Viper Pit, Cobra Viper, Crimson Guard Commander, Hiss Tank, 1983, Hiss DRiver, Alley Viper

Thursday, November 9, 2017

2003 Python Patrol Lamprey - Around the Web

The Python Patrol set in 2003 received mixed reviews.  Collectors loved the fact that you got 5 unique army builders.  They also loved that Python Patrol was returning.  But, the actual figure releases didn't really fly.  While the figures matched the vintage vehicles: few collectors in 2003 really focused on the them.  The figures not being compatible with the vintage Python Patrol was a detriment.  So, while collectors did buy quite a few sets, the Python Patrol stuck around at retail for quite a while.  Due to its pegwarming, the Cobra Infantry set in 2004 only got a production of 20,000 sets instead of the Python Patrol's 25,000.  Now, though, this set is more appreciated by collectors and has gotten a bit harder to find.  For me, the highlight of the set was the Lamprey.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Lamprey Profile

Python Lamprey at JoeBattleLines.com

Violentfix's Python Lamprey

OGToys.com Python Lamprey

2003 Python Patrol Lamprey, 1987 Maggot, Toys R Us Exclusive

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

1994 Action Pilot

1994 was supposed to be a great Joe year.  The retail line had been struggling for a couple of years.  But, it was G.I. Joe's 30th Anniversary.  And, Hasbro had big plans to celebrate the milestone of one of their flagship lines.  Along with a stable of 12" figures, Hasbro shrunk down some of the classic G.I. Joe icons into their more popular 3 3/4" scale.  This resulted in adult collectors of the originals to both bemoan the injustice done to their childhood classics but also rush out and buy them up with hopes of future riches dancing in their heads.  In short order, though, it became apparent that Hasbro's approach of melding the 3 3/4" scale with the 12" Joe mythos didn't create a lasting collectible.  The 12" collectors abandoned the 3 3/4" renditions in favor of the new 12" offerings.  And, 3 3/4" collectors found the homages boring toys that lacked the characterization that drove the A Real American Hero franchise.  The result is a group of neglected figures from the final year of the Joe line that are generally unloved.  Among them, though, are some solid molds that work for generic army building.  But, there is one figure for whom I have found little use in my collection: the Action Pilot.

The Action Pilot looks very dated.  In an of itself, this isn't bad.  All of the four figures are dated and the diver is equally bad as the pilot. But, pilots have come a long way since 1964 and the Action Pilot looks out of place with the futuristic pilots that have been Joe's hallmark since Ace in 1983.  The real problem, though, is the helmet.  The helmet and gas mask are not the same mold from the 1992 Ace.  They are similar, but not the same.  This air mask is much smaller and does not fit as tightly with the helmet.  So, the main redeeming quality of the figure (the helmet and mask) are mostly useless and make the figure even more out of place in the cockpit of any Joe fighter plane.

When I pulled this guy out for photos, I was shocked at how much the head looks like Sterling Archer.  So, for any customizer out there, this figure is a great piece of source material to make a custom Archer figure.  The 60's style, slick black hair, strong cheeks and jaw and the blue eyes all fall into the archetype of a heroic figure from that time period.  It's hard to fathom that this Action Pilot is an homage to a figure that's now over 50 years old.

In 2000, my Joe collection was bursting at the seams.  I was buying up large lots of figures every week and supplementing these purchases with smaller, targeted acquisitions.  For a few weeks in 2000, I got on a 1994 Action Series kick.  I needed all 4 of the figures to complete my collection.  And, I thought that they may make for decent army builders.  So, in a very short time, I made the Action Series figures the focus of my acquisitions.  In very short order, I acquired seven or eight figures.  All were MIB as that was the only way you could find them at the time and they were dirt cheap: you could get all 4 for under $25 shipped.  As I opened the figures, though, I found myself disappointed in them.  The Soldier and Marine were cool enough.  But, their bulky sculpts were annoying.  The Diver was retro cool.  But, again, there were aspects of him that simply didn't hold up against the Joe divers of the '80's.

The Pilot, though, was the biggest disappointment.  His large body made it difficult to get him into any vintage aircraft.  And, he was cramped in those into which he would fit.  His helmet and mask were definite downgrades from the 1992, 1993 and even 1997 Ace figures.  In short, he was an utter disappointment.  I had planned on purchasing many more of the Action Series figures as 2000 wound down.  But, after finding them so limiting, I turned my focus to other things and the Action Series figures in my collection today can all be traced to that short window in 2000 when these guys initially grabbed my attention.

Since then, the Marine and the Soldier have appeared in various photos and dios.  They were decent enough filler and were a nice match for the Joseph Colton figure that I like more than I should.  They worked as generic army builders that helped to balance out the Cobra armies that would be attacking.  The Sailor has appeared less frequently.  Every now and then, he makes an appearance since he's a nice addition to maritime forces.  If I had a Flagg, he'd be a staple on it.  The pilot, though, has really never left his drawer.  I tried using the mold a few times in the early 2000's.  But, his poor fit in most early Joe aircraft was a drawback from which he could not recover.  I like the notion of a pilot far more than I like the figure.  Even the Action Astronaut finds more use than the pilot.  That's a tough lot for a figure that is a pretty decent homage and includes decent accessories.

The Pilot's gear is cool and kind of lame.  He includes the requisite rifle and pistol that also appeared with the Marine and Soldier.  But, this time, they are cast in green plastic.  There is the helmet and ill fitting air mask.  The pilot then, though, includes a parachute pack based off of the 1985 Parachute Pack mail away.  The pack itself is a deeper green than the earlier offerings.  But, the main difference is that there are no manufactured in markings.  The parachute is plain white.  And, the belt is all new and no longer sports the nifty plug in for the Ripcord air mask like the mail away release.  It's always nice to get more parachute packs.  And, the green accessory color is a subtle difference from the more commonly seen black and brown.  But, when you have the other figures, the common accessories start to get a bit stale and the bulk of the chute prevents it from working on the pilot in his intended specialty.

The Action Pilot actually has three variants.  The yellow version was released as part of the single, boxed figures.  The figure was then recolored in blue and released in special 5 figure set that included the exclusive Action Astronaut.  The blue version isn't really any better than this yellow version and I'm not sure why the Pilot was chosen to get such a drastically different paint job in the set.  But, it's also a useful figure to have hanging around the Flagg.  The final version, though, is among the rarest G.I. Joe figures ever made.  It is an all black version of the Action Pilot that was only available at the 1994 G.I. Joe Convention.  This was a special figure offered by Hasbro to celebrate the 30th Anniversary.  It is an incredible obscure and rare release and easily crosses into a triple digit price tag now.  The pilot was among the figures that showed up as keychains around 1998.  That keychain was colored similarly to the boxed 1994 figure with another blue keychain figure available in a boxed set that was an homage to the 5 figure gift set figure from 1994 as well.

Right or wrong, collectors don't care about the 30th Anniversary Action series of figures.  Even now, they are shockingly cheap.  While you don't see dozens and dozens of unsold samples like you used to, they are not hard to find.  Mint in Box versions of the Action Pilot run $10 and that's only because no one leaves them to open pricing.  If they did, they'd be even cheaper.  Bought in a lot with other boxed figures, you can get pilots for $7 or $8.  Loose, mint and complete versions are few and far between because only a small contingent of collectors opened these guys up.  Most are still boxed.  Pretty much every Action Series figure in my collection was opened from a boxed sample.  It's just easier to get them that way and the price makes sense.  As an oddball one off, the Action Pilot is worth having, especially for the price.  But, unlike the other three figures in the set, I find little value in army building him.  The ill-fitting helmet and mask limit the figure's usefulness.  So, that really relegates the Action Pilot into the realm of figures I own to check off the list rather than figures I find fun to own.

1994 Action Pilot, Dial Tone, Lifeline, 1993, Mudbuster, 30th anniversary

Thursday, November 2, 2017

1990 Metal Head - Around the Web

The 1990 Metal Head was one of the figures from the 1990's that I saw as a teenager.  A kid down the street had him and I thought he was awesome.  To this day, Metal Head's design and specialty are a great addition to Cobra.  You just don't see as much of him as you'd expect.  He's one of those lost gems from 1990 that straddles the line between the generation of kids who grew up around the G.I. Joe Movie and those who latched on in the neon years.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Metal Head Profile 2002

Metal Head Profile 2006

Metal Head at 3dJoes.com

Metal Head Pre Production at YoJoe.com

Metal Head Video Review

Metal Head at Joe A Day

Metal Head Video Review 2

1990 Metal Head, Iron Grenadiers

1990 Metal Head, Iron Grenadiers, 1991 Heavy Duty, Mercer

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Red Shadows Shadowtrak - European Action Force Exclusive

Everyone knows about the repainted G.I. Joe vehicles that were incorporated into the European Action Force line.  There are two lost gems from this line, though, to which G.I. Joe collectors pay little attention.  The first is the excellently sculpted weapons that were exclusive to the European line.  The second was the Palitoy exclusive vehicles that were created to accompany the figures.  It is the vehicles to which this profile is dedicated.  And, while there are are several exceptional Palitoy exclusive vehicles that were released, I find the Shadowtrak the one example that most fits with an American Joe collection.

The Shadowtrak was affiliated with the collector favorite Red Shadows faction of the Action Force line.  And, while it was designed for use with the 5 points of articulation Palitoy figures, the similar 3 3/4" scale G.I. Joe figures also work with the toy perfectly well.  The vehicle is also cast in red and charcoal black: giving it a wonderfully vintage G.I. Joe feel.  While you can tell the Shadowtrak isn't a Hasbro release, a casual observer would definitely mistake the vehicle for something straight out of Cobra's earliest years.

1984, Red Shadows, Shadowtrak, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Crimson, Black Major, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Plastirama, Ninja Ku, Argentina, Sears Exclusive, SMS, ASP

1984, Red Shadows, Shadowtrak, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Crimson, Black Major, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Plastirama, Ninja Ku, Argentina, Sears Exclusive, SMS, ASP

The Shadowtrak has about the same footprint as a Hiss Tank.  It is much lower in height, though.  And, despite the appearance of a lot of area for figures, the vehicle only actually holds two individuals: one in the driver's seat and one in the rear facing gunner's station.  For some reason, the driver's seat folds down to create a larger space in the vehicle.  But, since the driver is now precluded from sitting at the controls, the seat doesn't seem to serve much purpose beyond being one of those little nuances of a toy that make it appear to do more than it actually does.  You can put the driver in a prone position with the seat down, making the Shadowtrak work much like the 1987 G.I. Joe Low Crawl Vehicle.

1984, Red Shadows, Shadowtrak, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Crimson, Black Major, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Plastirama, Ninja Ku, Argentina, Sears Exclusive, SMS, ASP


1984, Red Shadows, Shadowtrak, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Crimson, Black Major, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Plastirama, Ninja Ku, Argentina, Sears Exclusive, SMS, ASP


The Shadowtrak is well armed.  It includes 2 mounted machine guns.  They can be configured differently around the Shadowtrak's various post holes.  You have have them forward facing or as weapons for use by the rear facing gunner.  If you can find either reproduction machine guns or extra originals, you could easily double the armaments for the Shadowtrak.  It also features two small missile caps on the side mounted bars.  Just the tips are removable and they are somewhat small and can often be missing from Shadowtraks found in the wild.  There's also an antenna that fits into the posts and can be moved around to fit your tastes.

Among the parts included with the Shadowtrak is a removable tow hook.  The hook isn't the standard G.I. Joe hook introduced in 1982.  It is just a single spike.  The upside is that is more versatile than the Hasbro designed hook that was really engineered to only be compatible with other Joe toys.  The downside, though, is that it's not standard Joe height.  Neither an ASP nor the SMS can be affixed to the hook as it sits too high: which is a shame as they both are great companion pieces.  But, as neither design was given to the Red Shadows, you can see why the precision of the hook with all Joe vehicles may not have been as much of a concern.  The Laser Exterminator, though, does fit onto the hook.  So, this makes the two Red Shadows vehicles perfect companions for each other.

1984, Red Shadows, Shadowtrak, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Crimson, Black Major, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Plastirama, Ninja Ku, Argentina, Sears Exclusive, SMS, ASP

1984, Red Shadows, Shadowtrak, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Crimson, Black Major, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Plastirama, Ninja Ku, Argentina

1984, Red Shadows, Shadowtrak, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Crimson, Black Major, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Plastirama, Ninja Ku, Argentina

The Shadowtrak was first released by Palitoy in 1983.  That version was released in a window box.  Around 1984, the packaging was changed to a card box, more similar to G.I. Joe vehicles from the U.S.  The vehicle itself, though, is a modified release of the Action Force AF5 vehicle that first appeared around 1982.  This vehicle was a flying car that included a lot of snap on accessories.  The body was used again on the Cosmic Cruiser around the same time as the Shadowtrak was released.  The versatility of the mold is shown by these three releases.  You will note there are a lot of unused holes on the Shadowtrak.  On the surface, these allow for the owner to configure the guns and antenna in different combinations.  But, they also allowed for Palitoy to get more uses out of the base body mold without the toys appearing to be just straight repaints.  This is both a marvel of engineering and design as well as a genius way to get more out a single toy mold.  Hasbro really never took this approach.  To a causal observer, the AF5, Shadowtrak and Cosmic Cruiser would appear to be different toys.  But, the use of the removable parts helped to obscure the fact that the base body was used several times.

It also allows you to move the guns and antenna around and set the Shadowtrak into different configurations. I love vehicles with rear facing weapons as you never know when the bad guys will start chasing you.  But, it's also practical to have the weapons forward facing for attack positions.  With the Shadowtrak, you can move the guns around to your preferred setting depending upon the situation.  It's a neat little detail that gives the vehicle more flexibility without sacrificing too much aesthetic.

1984, Red Shadows, Shadowtrak, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Crimson, Black Major, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Plastirama, Ninja Ku, Argentina


The Shadowtrak included a driver named Red Vulture. Red Vulture was a straight re-release of the single carded Red Shadow figure with a minor difference.  Red Vulture has black gloves painted on his hands.  It's easy to remember that the driver is wearing driving gloves.  There are instances where the vehicle included the standard Red Shadow figure, too.  Fortunately, the vehicle being designed for a 5 points of articulation figure doesn't preclude vintage Joes from fitting inside it just fine.

Shadowtraks are both easy and hard to find.  In the U.S., there are few people who sell them.  Those who do, want inordinate amounts for them.  You'll often see opened box samples offered for $100 or more.  They don't sell at that price.  However, if you can find sellers in Europe or, especially, the UK, the prices fall precipitously.  You'll often see mint and complete Shadowtraks in the $30 or so range from non U.S. sellers.  Unfortunately, many of them will not ship to the United States.  If you can find one who does, the shipping isn't terrible as the vehicle isn't overly large and is relatively lightweight.

While we don't know for sure what happened to the Action Force toy molds, it's a pretty safe bet that they no longer exist.  When Hasbro acquired Palitoy in the early '80's they shifted Action Force away from the Palitoy proprietary molds towards repainted Hasbro molds.  Then, the forfeited the repaints and just released American toys on Action Force cards.  These transitioned into differently logo-ed G.I. Joe cards and boxes and the Action Force roots slowly faded away.  It's doubtful that Hasbro had any incentive to save the Palitoy molds.  They could have sold them off or licensed them out like they did with G.I. Joe.  But, this would have likely cut into Joe's international revenue stream and there was little incentive for Hasbro to compete with its flagship toy line.  So, the molds have been MIA since these releases.  I'd have loved for a few of them to have popped up in the 2000's.  But, since Hasbro didn't know where most of its own molds were, it is unreasonable to think they had access to the old Palitoy offerings.

For me, the Shadowtrak is an excellent way to expand an early Cobra army.  You have seen mine outfitted with Crimson Cobra Troopers from factory custom Joe makers.  They are a perfect match for the look and feel of the Shadowtrak and allow me more flexibility when putting together a Cobra convoy using figures and vehicles from prior to 1985.  On top of that, the vehicle fits the Cobra aesthetic.  It's kind of odd and loaded down with lots of weapons that may or may not make sense.  But, that is Cobra to a "T".  The Shadowtrak is a nice addition for a Laser Exterminator and looks good among other Cobra vehicles.  It offers anti-infantry capabilities that were lacking on the Hiss Tank and Stinger.  And, the different configurations lend themselves to army building Shadowtraks without them all appearing the same.

The Shadowtrak has opened the door of Action Force vehicles to me.  There are a wide variety of Palitoy offerings (mostly on the good guy side, though) that look very cool and fill a niche that Joe could use.  The problem, of course, if that some of them are very hard to find in good condition and complete.  While this Shadowtrak can be affordable, many of the other Action Force exclusives are less so.  But, the additional value this item brings to my collection far exceeds it's monetary cost.  I'm not really sure how I went so long without a Shadowtrak: especially when you consider they were rather common from U.S. sellers in the early 2000's.  But, I have the Shadowtrak now and it's become a vital part of my collection.

1984, Red Shadows, Shadowtrak, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Crimson, Black Major, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Plastirama, Ninja Ku, Argentina

1984, Red Shadows, Shadowtrak, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Crimson, Black Major, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Plastirama, Ninja Ku, Argentina

1984, Red Shadows, Shadowtrak, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Crimson, Black Major, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Plastirama, Ninja Ku, Argentina

Thursday, October 26, 2017

1988 Destro - Around The Web

I've always thought of the 1988 Destro as a perfect upgrade of a classic character.  They made him different enough to stand out.  But, he still retains enough of his original personality to know that this is Destro.  As such, I've always been fond of the figure, even if he lacks some paint details.  However, I've found that many collectors don't share my fondness for the mold.  There's surprisingly little content on the figure out there.  Here's the best I could find around the web for a figure that I quite enjoy.

1988 Destro Profile

1988 Destro Pre Production at YoJoe.com

Destro Dio 01

1988 Destro at JoeBattleLines.com

Destro & Despoiler Video Review

Destro Dio 02

1988 Destro, Despoiler, M Bison, Street Fighter Movie

1988 Destro, Despoiler, M Bison, Street Fighter Movie

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

1984 Clutch - VAMP Mark II Driver

All G.I. Joe vehicle drivers have to live up to Clutch.  I state this as fact only for the simple reason that, in the fall of 1982, Clutch was the coolest figure that my brother got for the birthday that introduced G.I. Joe into our lives.  While he was a vehicle driver, the awesome factor was mostly driven home by the complexity of his design and the fact that his chest was not shared with other figures from the time.  So, it is my own bias that puts Clutch as the standard for vehicle drivers.  But, through the line's early years, vehicle drivers often showcased designs that were equal, if not superior to, most of the carded figures from the year.  As the original Clutch's chest was not shared with other figures, Hasbro had less chance to recoup their costs from his design.  So, in 1984, when they produced an updated VAMP, Hasbro took a bit of a cheap way out and gave kids a newly repainted Clutch as it's driver.

As a kid, this Clutch was the only Clutch who really saw use.  Both of the original VAMPs from my childhood were acquired in 1982.  So, the standard Clutch figures were both straight arm.  By 1984, straight arm figures were used for parts or cannon fodder since they couldn't measure up to the swivel arm versions.  So, the only real representation of the character for me was this Clutch release.  And, as a kid who read the comic more and more as 1984 wore on, I simply had to have a Clutch figure. 

Clutch was one of those characters that simply stuck with you.  Larry Hama did a great job with Clutch's development.  And, as Clutch remained a mainstay of the comic for many, many years, it's likely that he was a favorite of Hama's.  Clutch was the guy who everyone should hate.  He was slightly misogynistic and completely full of himself.  But, he did it in a way that people liked him.  Scarlett felt that Clutch was relatively harmless and that made his swarm charming.  It's difficult to create a character like this.  Usually, the dichotomy is too much and the character ends up actually being unlikable.  But, Clutch retained his comic popularity and is a collector favorite to this day.

The VAMP Mark II is a solid vehicle.  It didn't live up to the VAMP in my childhood.  But, it was OK and served its purpose.  All of the original Joe vehicle drivers really just "fit" with their vehicles.  As such, Clutch was really the only choice to drive the updated VAMP.  Putting anyone else behind the wheel would have been disingenuous to the character and to the kids to associated the two together.  So, in this case, such an early repaint was entirely forgivable.  And, since I didn't have a good version of the original, it was an excellent way to keep Clutch in my collection.

As the VAMP Mark II didn't last all that long in my collection, I often found this Clutch figure other vehicles to drive.  There weren't many desert vehicles back in 1984 and 1985.  But, Clutch was the perfect driver for my APC.  This vehicle lacked a true driver.  So, Clutch was a good choice, especially if his jeep was out of commission.  In 1985, my younger brother got a toy jeep (non-military) that was a golden brown color.  It was slightly too large for Joes.  But, the fit well enough.  Clutch and Dusty had many an adventure in that jeep.  Clutch was Dusty's personal driver for the few weeks when Dusty was my newest figure and was the main focus of my play.

Like all the pre 1985 Joes, though, Clutch's days were numbered.  Starting in the second half of 1985, I became much more careful with my figures.  While I still played with them: I was more cautious and conscientious about keeping my figures nice.  The Joes who pre-dated this turn in my mindset found themselves on the outside looking in as the newer, nicer versions of figures became my focal point.  But, by 1986 and into 1987, the reality was that Clutch was dated.  He was a smaller, less detailed sculpt than the new offerings.  And, I was heavily swayed by recency in my collection so the newer figures always took precedence over the older models.  So, Clutch went into a box and became an afterthought.

When I first started up Joe collecting as a adult, though, Clutch was one of the first figures I sought out.  I remembered him vividly from my childhood.  A friend of mine at the time, who was only casually interested in G.I. Joe, could still recite Clutch's filecard: more than a decade since he had last read it.  That was the impression the Clutch character left behind.  So, now, both the original and this desert Clutch are vital parts of my collection.  You will often see them around as background characters in photos.  They may be driving a VAMP or other vehicle.  But, they may also be involved in general combat duties.  I'd viewed Clutch as a field trooper since day 1 of Joe in my life.  So, he remains more than just a driver to me.

Despite this early repaint, Clutch didn't see too much use.  After the original release and this 1984 repaint, the mold disappeared for about a decade.  Both the VAMP and VAMP Mark II were staples of release around the world with notable variants in Brazil.  Yet, Clutch didn't make the journey.  In the early 1990's, though, Clutch finally reappeared with his jeep when Funskool released their version of the VAMP.  There are several versions of the Clutch figure: all in various shades of green with a few instances of the Clutch body with a Short Fuze head: but with black hair.  The Funskool figures are very hard to find: especially in good condition.  But, they are very similar to the U.S. release and don't offer anything outside of different shades of what we already got through Hasbro.  Both the VAMP and Clutch appear to have gone out of circulation in the mid 1990's.  That implies that Hasbro may have gotten his mold back when they re-acquired the Funskool figures that made up the bulk of the 1997 and 1998 Toys R Us exclusive figures.  But, the Clutch mold was either not among the returns, was too damaged to be used again, or simply dropped into a Hasbro warehouse where it was forgotten again: never to return.

I'd love to see a factory custom Clutch.  While the Clutch character could be repainted into Night Force, Tiger Force and every other sub team imaginable, his parts would have other potential.  (If you want to see the potential for Clutch repaints, check out Chad and Matt's Clutch customs.)  Clutch's chest and arms could be combined with Cobra Trooper waist and legs and a Hiss Driver or Cobra Officer head.  This would be a great Cobra driver for Stingers or Hiss Tanks.  Again, the repaint would lend itself to a panoply of colors.  The head could be used for new Breaker or Rock and Roll figures.  Or, repainted into a color the head never appeared in and used to make a new figure in early Joe style.  In short, the possibilities are endless.  Hopefully, one of the factory custom makers is listening.

In the vintage line, Hasbro really didn't do too much with repaint until the very end of the line.  Sure, there were Tiger Force, Night Force and Python Patrol.  But, they were always supplements to the main figure line rather than parts of it.  As an adult collector, I lament the fact that Hasbro didn't do the entire original 13 in a desert scheme to make a variant, unified team.  As a kid, though, I probably would have hated it since I would have lost out on other figures.  (Though, getting the gear I had lost from the original figures would have been a welcome perk.)  In the collector era starting in 1997, though, Hasbro really had no reason to not revisit the original 13 Joes and do some sort of specifically themed team.  The 1997 Stars and Stripes and the comic packs from the mid 2000's were the two closest attempts.  But, the Stars and Stripes was more about getting the molds out to appease collectors.  The comic packs were closer.  But, the odd greens and mix matched parts from different eras created a mis-match that's probably worse than the Stars and Stripes set.  I keep hoping that factory custom Joe producers will look to bring some desert variants of original 13 Joes into the fold. More and more parts are available.  And, I'd love a tan Flash, Grand Slam, Hawk, Stalker and the rest.  But, since I've played with and collected Joe since 1982, I have a more nostalgic bent to these original figures and my preferences may not play well in a larger market.

The desert Clutch is about middle of the road as far as Joe figures go in terms of price.  Mint and complete with filecard figures can be had for $10.  But, dealers will charge $20 and you'll see more sell at that price than they should.  But, you don't see as many desert Clutch figures as you used to.  And, the lower supply leads to more dealer sales.  For $10, this figure is a no-brainer.  You buy him and move on.  He's a great companion to the Tan Grunt and his parts can be used in conjunction with that figure to make a perfect Tan Breaker, too.  When these guys were cheaper, they were desired for the custom possibilities.  Now, though, they are desired for the figure itself.  Collectors like Clutch and they like his desert repaint.  It's awesome to get an iconic character in environmental themed colors.  It's just too bad we didn't see a few more of the early Joes get this treatment.

1984 Clutch, 1982 VAMP, 1997 Grunt, 1984 Thunder, Zap


1984 Clutch, 1988 Desert Fox, 1983 Rock and Roll, Steel Brigade, Mail Away

1984 Clutch, 1988 Wild Card, Mean Dog, VAMP Mark II
Clutch doesn't take kindly to Wild Card stealing his parking spot.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

1995 POTFII Boba Fett

While I quit buying Joe figures in 1988, I never really left the hobby.  Aside from a few month hiatus from the comic, I was still acquiring something related to G.I. Joe every month.  At the end of 1992, I bought a few figures at retail, again.  I'd check the toy aisle on various shopping trips.  As I was in college, though, those trips were infrequent at best as my primary focus was on college life.  In 1995, though, that changed.  The driving force behind my newfound interest in toys was the retail return of Star Wars figures.  Hasbro's newly acquired Kenner division returned the classic franchise to 3 3/4" figure form in the latter part of 1995.  At first, I was not a fan of the bulky, oddly posed designs.  Slowly, though, nostalgia took over and I wanted the figures.  I picked up a few odds and ends as I found them in the sparse retail environment of my college town.  My girlfriend of the time bought me all the ships for my birthday.  But, she had not been able to find any figures.  This would be the theme of Power of the Force II's retail beginnings.  Over Christmas of 1995, I went home where a friend of mine had found 4 figures that I didn't know existed: Princess Leia, Luke X-Wing Pilot, Lando Calrissian and Boba Fett.  He had found them for a huge mark up at the local FAO Schwartz store.  Otherwise, these figures simply did not exist at retail.

As the calendar turned to 1996, my frustration with retail Star Wars continued.  I managed to find a solitary Luke X-Wing at a K-Mart on my way out of Cincinnati in early 1996.  But, there was no sign of the figure I most wanted: Boba Fett.  After failing for months to find him, I decided I was going to buy one from a second hand dealer over spring break.  I had my dad stop at a local comic shop on the drive home from school.  There, the store had a carded Boba Fett for $6.95.  I had planned on paying up to $8 for the figure.  So, I didn't balk at the inflated price and purchased my first Boba Fett figure since my childhood.

I sent away for a Boba Fett mail away in 1979.  My parents actually went to buy a new figure to get enough proofs of purchase.  His arrival in the mail marked the first package of toys I had ever received.  I played with the figure constantly...even taking him on a family winter trip to Pokagon State Park in northern Indiana.  Here, I forgot my original Boba Fett figure.  The fact I remember where and when I lost figure (37 years later!) shows how important he was to me.  (On a side note, if you find a vintage Boba Fett in the Pokagon lodge lost and found, it's probably mine.)  In time, another Boba Fett showed up in our vintage collection.  I'm pretty sure both my brother and I had our own.  So, the adventures continued despite that early loss.

My acquisition of this figure in 1996 brought Fett back into the fold.  And, this figure was light years ahead of the other options from the time.  The added bulk of the POTFII figures made more sense within the context of Fett's armor.  Plus, Fett being a later release, he benefited from the lessons learned of the less than stellar Luke and Han that came before him.  Plus, I was willing to be forgiving for a character that I so wanted to be in my collection again.  The added details of the backpack, cape and Wookie scalps and his updated rifle were exactly what I wanted out of a modern Star Wars line.  The panoply of colors looked like they walked right out of the movie.  But, then again, in 1995, we only had VHS copies of the movies that played on old, pre-HD TV sets.  Even the internet was so nascent that there was little reference material for the character available and most of that was either a blurry screencap or low resolution scan of an old trading card or magazine.  So, the nitpicky details that doom this figure today were less obvious upon his release.

As 1996 progressed, I picked up a couple of extra Fett figures.  I also bought the Shadows of the Empire repaint in a two pack with IG-88 when I found it at the Oxford Wal Mart while I waited to get an oil change so I could drive half way across the state to attend my cousin's wedding.  I really couldn't get enough of the mold.  At the time, Star Wars was a novelty.  People my age grew up with it and were starting to carry that love into early adulthood.  The Special Editions were still months away.  And, the Prequels were just a pipe dream.  The all Star Wars/all the time world we live in now was simply unfathomable.  And, because of that, Star Wars was still something that was somewhat fringe.

At the height of my Star Wars collecting days in the late 1990's, I probably had half a dozen or more of these figures.  I had a couple loose.  I had an orange carded version, the green carded version, the freeze frame carded version and multiples of many of them.  I fancied myself a "serious" collector even though I really didn't buy everything and I collected some of these items just to brag I had them.  In 2007, it came time to move my Star Wars collection.  I was back buying figures at retail and was upgrading all of the old POTFII era figures.  In my zeal to remove the clutter, I got rid of everything: often for about 1/5 of what I had spent at retail for it: nostalgia be damned.  A decade later, I had pangs of regret.  This was driven by the fact that I now had young kids and those early POTFII figures would be great for them as they were indestructible, cool and worthless.  I managed to find a bag of high quality figures at a local thrift shop.  I only bought the bag as it also had a high quality, unbroken 1982 Straight Arm Snake Eyes figure in it.  But, Boba Fett returned to my home.  The fig below belongs to my boys who enjoy playing with him and I don't have to give Hasbro $8 for a crappy 5 POA figure they made in 2017.

There was a time when Boba Fett figures were rare, expensive and popular.  People would pay huge amounts for this figure if he had one of the glove paint variants or the right cardback.  The mid 1990's were a silly time when it came to collecting toys.  But, Boba Fett is probably the most popular character among collectors and Hasbro obliged not only by releasing this figure many, many times: but also constantly making new and better Boba Fett molds.  As such, calling this figure worthless is an understatement.  Mint on Card versions of this Boba Fett sell for under $5.  (Though lots of dealers will sell a few for $10.)  Loose versions aren't easy to find because who wants to handle a figure for a buck or two?  And, frankly, if you're going to buy a Boba Fett figure to show off, there are dozens of better figures made subsequently that are equally easy to find and cheap.  This figure was in production for years and was shipped in many case assortments.  Hasbro was actually really good at keeping high demand characters on the shelves in 1997 and 1998: before the bottom fell out of the market.  But, seeing this figure again reminds me of why I loved it so two decades ago and why I also got rid of it when better Fetts came along.  It was fun, though, to recollect those mid 1990's toy runs.  It was a great time in my life and this figure reminds me of that.

1995 POTFII Boba Fett, Darth Vader, AT-AT, Kenner

1995 POTFII Boba Fett, Finn, Millenium Falcon, Kenner, The Force Awakens

Thursday, October 19, 2017

1983 Major Bludd - Around the Web

The 1983 Major Bludd figure is one of the iconic Cobra characters from the earliest years of the line.  His unique look, cool name and fun accessories added up to a villain for the ages.  This original release of Major Bludd works perfectly well with the other contemporary Cobras of the time.  Though, he is a bit out of place when posed with later figures.  But, being a classic character means there's lots of content out there on him.  Here's the best of Major Bludd from around the web.

Major Bludd Profile

Major Bludd Review at Whenitwascool.com

Major Bludd at JoeADay.com

Major Bludd at ARAH Gallery

Major Bludd At 3DJoes.com

Major Bludd Video Review

Major Bludd Pre-Production at YoJoe.com

Major Bludd at JoeDios 1

Major Bludd at JoeDios 2

1983 Major Bludd, 1984 Cobra Stinger, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Black Major, Crimson Trooper, Snow Serpent Trooper, Desert Trooper

1983 Major Bludd, 1984 Cobra Stinger, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Black Major, Crimson Trooper, Snow Serpent Trooper, Desert Trooper

1983 Major Bludd, 1984 Cobra Stinger, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Black Major, Crimson Trooper, Snow Serpent Trooper, Desert Trooper

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

1991 Ozone - Eco Warriors

Time heals all wounds.  Or, so they say.  In 1991, Hasbro released the Eco Warriors figures.  As collectors came online a few years later in the late 1990's, they generally hated the concept of neon Joes and, in particular, hated the Eco Warriors for being the harbinger of the bright colors.  Well into the 2000's this opinion remained true.  But, as the calendar turned to the 2010's, the stance began to soften.  This was due to the fact that many hardliners (those who felt the Joe line ended after 1987, or even 1985) had either left the hobby or had decided the later vintage Joes weren't bad since they had nothing else new to collect.  But, it was also due to an influx of younger collectors for whom the neon years had defined their childhood Joe experience.  While I won't go so far as to say that Eco Warriors are now popular, they are accepted and collectors find some value in them.  In looking back at the molds used in the Eco Warriors subset, they still exhibit the same high quality sculpting and design that Hasbro retained through the vintage Joe line's entire run.  This brings us to Ozone: an excellent addition to the Eco Warriors ranks and the subject of today's profile.

Ozone is known to me as an Astronaut.  The first time I came across the figure was in the spring of 1995 when I found the 1993 Star Brigade version of Ozone, Countdown and Payload for $2 each at a KB Toy Liquidators on the West side of Indianapolis.  The mold looked like an astronaut and it seemed perfectly reasonable to me that the figure was new to the Star Brigade assortment.  As collecting resources came online, I found that Ozone actually debuted two years earlier as part of the Eco Warriors assortment.  As I liked my 1993 figure, I made it a point to find an original Ozone figure.

In the late 1990's, though, finding figures from the 1990's on the second hand market was actually kind of tough.  Not too many kids had gotten to the point of selling their figures.  So, it took a good amount of time before I found a lot that included a complete Ozone.  Once in hand, though, I found that I still got more use out of my later Ozone releases.  The blue and yellow color was visually appealing.  But, I was more interested in Clean Sweep as a new acquisition.  And, as I was familiar with Ozone from Star Brigade, I had difficulty in seeing the original release of him in the Eco Warriors light.  Plus, the figure I got was very stiff.  So, he was difficult to fit into the Razorblade (my aircraft of choice at the time) which limited his display use.

Ozone's design is very strong.  His distinctive visage is one of the highlight.  The figure itself is named after a Hasbro designer of the time named David Kunitz.  The helmet is tight fitting and well placed without being a true danger of rubbing off the head's paint.  The rest of the body is somewhat bulky: befitting for a figure who would be wearing lots of protective gear.  He has lots of armor bits around that add depth to the mold, but really can only be explained away as aesthetic choices.  Ozone features an array of 6 neon green grenades on his chest.  They provide a visual break to the blue and yellow background.  And, they are a nice complement to the neon green accessories.  The overall color scheme works well despite the non-traditional bright colors.  Sure, Ozone is blue.  But the hue would never be mistaken for Cobra.

Ozone's accessories are a mixed bag.  His helmet is awesome.  It fits well and is in scale with the rest of his body.  The water squirting backpack is, essentially, the same as the device included with the other Eco Warriors figures.  For the time, it's a solid toy.  But, the weapon and hose are large and can easily snap thumbs.  The sniffer is a cool device.  However, in my first Eco Warriors lot I acquired, the sniffer was placed into the bag with Clean Sweep.  I never bothered to look up each figure since all the figs in the lot had their correct accessories.  So, until 2016, I considered this piece of gear to belong to Clean Sweep.  I've always seen it as an extension of the nice pack and controls setup included with that character.  So, seeing this vacuum gun with Ozone still seems odd to me.  But, the quality and oddity of the weapon remains the same regardless of which figure you have use it.  The bright green is a nice offset from the subtle blue and yellow of the figure.  So, I find it very aesthetically pleasing: even if it is very bright.

The Ozone mold got a lot of life.  Hasbro created it for the Eco Warriors in 1991.  It was then released in two variants as part of Star Brigade in 1993: a tan and a brown version.  Hasbro recolored Ozone into a dark brown and included him as a shortpacked figure in the second series of 1994 Star Brigade figures.  The mold then appeared in India around 1999 or 2000.  There, Funskool released a Star Brigade Ozone based on the 1993 American release of the figure.  There are a few variants of the Funskool figure to track down as some have different arm construction or differing shades of grey coloring.  Funskool still had the mold in 2010.  As such, it's more possible that Ozone's mold still exists.  Though, it's doubtful that he'll ever appear again.

Mint and complete with filecard Ozone figures are cheap.  While dealers sell them for $10, you can get them with the filecard for around $6 without too much difficulty.  You can still get carded figures in the $25 range without too much searching, too.  So, while the figure isn't as hated as it once was, it's still not loved by collectors.  However, for the price, Ozone isn't a bad buy.  The colors are different and vibrant.  The mold is solid.  And, the character is a relative blank slate that can be incorporated into any collection with no media baggage.  You can use the figure in a variety of settings and the panoply of later colors allow for some diversity when using the character.  Personally, I don't mind either Eco Warriors or brightly colored Joes.  I've been this way for 20 years, now.  But, the nostalgia of the neon years is strong with me as it was when I actively became a collector.  So, the value you derive from an Ozone figure may differ quite a bit.  But, I'm glad to have this guy in my collection.

1991 Eco Warriors, Ozone, Countdown, Outback, 1993, Star Brigade


1991 Eco Warriors, Ozone, Countdown, Outback, 1993, Star Brigade, 1991 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, tracker, Clean Sweep, Mercer

1991 Eco Warriors, Ozone, Countdown, Outback, 1993, Star Brigade, 1991 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, tracker, Clean Sweep, Mercer



1991 Eco Warriors, Ozone, Countdown, Outback, 1993, Star Brigade, 1991 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, tracker, Clean Sweep, Mercer

Thursday, October 12, 2017

1994 Ice Cream Soldier - Around the Web

For a bright neon figure with a terrible code who was released in Joe's final year: there sure is a lot of content around the web for Ice Cream Soldier.  It seems he's kind of the poster child for all that went "wrong" with the last years of the line.  But, the mold is still decent and the bright colors are kind of fun.  Here's the best on the 1994 Ice Cream Soldier from around the web.

Ice Cream Soldier Profile

Ice Cream Soldier at JoeADay.com

Ice Cream Soldier Video Review

Ice Cream Soldier at 3DJoes.com

Ice Cream Soldier Pre Production at YoJoe.com

Ice Cream Soldier at Half the Battle

1994 Ice Cream Soldier, Flamethrower, 1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Outback, Eco Warriors, Mud Buster

1994 Ice Cream Soldier, Flamethrower, 1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Outback, Eco Warriors, Mud Buster

1994 Ice Cream Soldier, Flamethrower, 1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Outback, Eco Warriors, Mud Buster

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sigilo - Plastirama Quick Kick (Argentina)

The character of Quick Kick never really appealed to me.  Despite first appearing in the classic 1985 series, I never found the figure all that interesting.  As such, through the years, I mostly ignored Quick Kick's existence.  I acquired a complete one in an early lot of figures I bought and never really thought much about him.  However, as I turned towards foreign Joes as the major growth area for my collection, I found that Quick Kick had a large contingent of international releases.  Again, though, I heavily avoided these: spending my time acquiring figures I liked more instead.  In time, though, I realized that I would "need" to get the Quick Kick variants at some point.  So, when I found a dealer selling several Plastirama figures I was missing from my collection: I went ahead and added the Argentine version of Quick Kick (named Sigilo) to my collection.

Quick Kick was never really important to my childhood collection.  There's a few reasons for that.  The first is that his look was just too far out there.  A guy with bare feet and bare chest was tough for me to really get behind.  The second was that he only included a sword and nunchuks as weapons.  Had he been released in 1984 as an enemy to Storm Shadow, I might have found Quick Kick more interesting.  But, with the 1985 Snake Eyes as Storm Shadow's foil available the same calendar year, Quick Kick never stood a chance.  The final reason is more trivial.  But, one of my friends simply loved Quick Kick.  He was annoyingly attached to the figure.  (I suspect it was because he could not find the 1985 Snake Eyes at retail.  So, he didn't have Storm Shadow's natural enemy.  I recall him ordering Snake Eyes from either Sears or JC Penny's: getting several figures he already had since he couldn't find the figure he wanted at retail.)  He had Quick Kick out duel Snake Eyes.  This, to me, was ludicrous.  And, it helped sully the Quick Kick figure for me.

Yet, I did find uses for Quick Kick.  One of my favorite Special Missions adventures centers around Quick Kick and Stalker being trapped by South American terrorists.  From stories like this, I found that Quick Kick could have some value.  Yet, I found the figure constraining.  So, in time, Quick Kick joined the legion of nameless, faceless minions who would represent enemies of both Joe and Cobra.  He might be a radicalized student, a dissident or just a general terrorist.  He was joined by my broken figures, Dreadnoks and other knock offs in this role.  He also served as a stand in for Viet Cong soldiers during the time I was obsessed with "The 'Nam" comic book.

Beyond that, though, the figure never found a place.  Even as an adult, Quick Kick hasn't grabbed my attention.  I have few photos of him on the site and he rarely even makes a background appearance.  If I'm rattling off the 1985 lineup, Quick Kick will be the one figure I forget: even over the obscure Listen & Fun Tripwire.  The bare chest and feet don't really lend themselves to much usage.  And, Quick Kick's lack or firearm further limits his value.

The main differences between this figure and the American release are subtle.  Sigilo's (the name means Stealth) skin tone is definitively pinker than Quick Kick's.  That's the most noticeable difference.  He has a red belt with silver pockets.  These work better than the American colors and are more unifying in appearance since they also tie with the silver wrist gauntlets.  If you come across a loose Sigilo in the wild, he's different enough that an experienced collector will instantly recognize him as being different from the American figure.  But, he's still similar enough that he doesn't really bring anything to the Quick Kick character that you don't get from the Hasbro version.

Sigilo's accessories are the same as Quick Kick's.  The Plastirama backpack is a shiny black color.  (It's the common color of many Argentine accessories.)  The sword and nunchuks are still silver and are functionally indistinguishable from the Hasbro versions of the same gear.  Quality Control for these Plastirama figures can be spotty, though, and it's not uncommon to see carded Sigilo figures missing the nunchuks. The black pack is something different for the figure, but isn't really enough to be interesting.  But, at least the figure contains the full complement of gear.

Quick Kick was quite the world traveler.  Despite that, though, he never really got an interesting variant.  After his release in the U.S., Quick Kick appeared in Argentina and Brazil.  The Estrela release from Brazil is notable because Hasbro actually had Estrela produce a large quantity of Quick Kick figures that were made available to North American collectors via Hasbro Direct.  So, anyone who had a later mail away Quick Kick figure actually has the Brazilian variant.  Despite this major difference, these mail aways remain remarkably cheap.  Though, massive amounts of overstock were put into the collecting community that helps sate demand.  From Brazil, Quick Kick migrated to India.  There, Funskool produced a Quick Kick figure for many years.  Like both the Brazilian and Argentine versions of the mold, the Funskool figure is a very similar to the American release.  There are a few very difficult to find variants of the Funskool Quick Kick, the most famous being a version with a light pink sash.  It does not appear that Hasbro got the Quick Kick mold back from Funskool in the 2000's and it could still be there.  Frankly, I'd go for at least one variant of Quick Kick that gave us a substantially different visual from the other figures that were released around the world.  But, that's never going to happen, now.

In the early and mid 2000's, mint on carded Sigilo figures were ubiquitous on online auction and dealer sites.  They would sit, unsold for $10.  If you were patient, you could get them for half of that.  Sgto. Slaughter, Alado, Fuego and Sigilo comprised a quartet of completely undesirable figures that collectors ignored.  Slowly, though, the supply of all the Plastirama overstock has dried up.  These days, MOC Sigilos are around $25 figures.  Loose, they will run around $15 or so.  That's still pretty cheap.  But, there are tons of Quick Kick figures out there and most of them are similar enough that once you have one, you have them all.  But, you simply don't see Sigilo (or any of the once easy to find Plastirama figures) with the frequency you did just a decade ago.

If you are a foreign figure junkie like I am, this is good since you can still get a foreign variant for really cheap.  If you don't really care, it's good, too, since this Sigilo doesn't really offer anything you don't get with the regular Quick Kick version.  Since I'm still not a Quick Kick fan, this Sigilo just sits in a box with some other Plastirama figures.  He's fun to display with Sgto. Slaughter and Alado from time to time.  But, I rarely have occasion to pull him out and use him on his own merits.  Quick Kick is a character that's never resonated with me and the figure has kept him buried in my collection.  Having a foreign version of him is kind of fun.  But, in the end, this Sigilo is still constrained by the same issues as the American figure.  For those who like Quick Kick (and, he has a lot of fans) that's a good thing since it allows them more ways to collect a figure they enjoy.  For me, though, this figure checked a box and that's about the extent of his value to me.

Sigilo, Quick Kick, Argentina, Plastirama, Cobra Mortal, Cobra De Hielo, Ice Cobra, Stormshadow, Black Major, Bootleg


Sigilo, Quick Kick, Argentina, Plastirama, Cobra Trooper, VAMP Mark II, 1985, 1983, Dusty, 1984

Sigilo, Quick Kick, Argentina, Plastirama, 1985, Worms, 1987, General Hawk, 1997, Lifeline 1986

Sigilo, Quick Kick, Argentina, Plastirama, 1985, Worms, 1987, General Hawk, 1997, Lifeline 1986