Friday, March 31, 2017

International Joe Month

April is International Joe month.  I don't know why.  It just is.  So, my plan is to have some foreign Joe content online every day for the month of April.  I've got some new profiles of foreign figures and vehicles.  I'll take a look at some international cardbacks.  And, I'll even toss up a few filecard translations.  I'll try to roundup as much international content as I can from many sources.

Hopefully, it will be a fun way to showcase some of the cool, terrible and otherwise interesting Joe items that were released overseas.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

1986 Mission to Brazil Mainframe - Around the Web

The Mission to Brazil set is a childhood favorite that was instrumental in the formation of the stories that make me a collector today.  The Mainframe figure is probably the weakest entry of the set.  But, he's still visually appealing for something different.  Here's the best of him on the web.

Mission to Brazil Mainframe Profile

MTB Mainframe at 1

Mission to Brazil Mainframe at

MTB Mainframe at 2

Mission to Brazil Mainframe at

MTB Mainframe at 3

Mainframe at Joe Wiki

Mainframe at Destonnes2Toys (French)

1986 Mission to Brazil Mainframe, General Hawk, Funskool Beach Head, India, 1987 Payload, Toys R Us Exclusive

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

2005 Comic Pack "Fred" Cobra Commander

In the summer of 1984, comic book readers were introduced to the Crimson Guards.  The clean cut, orange haired, suit clad warrior was designed to blend into American society and take it over from within.  His code name was given as "Smith" and, in the words of Cobra Commander, he would "be but the first" of the CGs to undertake covert missions all over the U.S.  In subsequent issues, "Fred" began to take on more of a role in the comic.  He even went as far as appearing alongside Destro and Firefly in issue #31 as almost their equal.  As the comic progressed, though, the notion that many Crimson Guards underwent plastic surgery to look alike and become "Freds" became a continuing plot point.  A Fred even became Cobra Commander for a while.  The Fred character remained a recurring theme in the comic for many years afterwards.  So, when Hasbro came up with comic book packs as a way to sell some G.I. Joe action figures, looking to a character like Fred was perfect synergy.

Being Hasbro, though, they were loathe to release the head on an army builder in the comic packs.  To be fair, the comic pack product was designed as a character driven vehicle and any army building inclusions in the packs were usually met with collector derision since they would have to buy multiple non-army builders to get the numbers of the trooper that they wanted.  So, Hasbro came up with a decent idea.  They cast the Fred head and put it on a 1987 Cobra Commander body.  They sculpted up a helmet that was more true to the comic than the 1987 figure's head and released the head as Cobra Commander.  In this regard, fans got both a Cobra Commander from the Cobra Civil War era and the Fred head that they could use on spare Crimson Guard figures.

Fred was released in comic pack #74, along with a top notch Zartan update and a less spectacular Zarana figure in 2005.  His pack was among the first items released in the "DTC" banner where Hasbro sold the figures directly to the consumer through web vendors.  So, the only way to acquire the figure was online: requiring the customer to pay shipping costs.  When that program collapsed in failure, though, Toys R Us stepped in and bought all the overstock from Hasbro and put it into their stores.  So, that gave collectors a chance to find the figures locally.  But, the collector base that had grown strong in the early 2000's was fractured and destroyed by the time these figures rolled out.  This pack, along with the others from the time, sat and sat, unable to sell out.  Online retailers started dropping prices and only after the packs dropped to around $4 each was the stock finally able to be absorbed.

But, for me, these cheap prices were the enticement.  While I didn't need multiples of Zartan or Zarana, both molds had proven to retain some value to customizers and collectors.  But, I did want a few extra Fred heads.  Fred is a great match for the 2000's era Crimson Guard and Crimson Shadow Guard figures.  It was impractical to buy $10 packs to make three or four lazy headswap customs.  But, for $4, it was much more possible.  The Fred head also fit onto these remade Crimson Guard mold figures quite well.  I bought up several spare packs and quickly swapped the heads onto other bodies.  The repaint era Crimson Guard masked face head was even a decent fit for the spare Cobra Commander bodies.  Many other collectors, most with far more customizing talent and vision than I have, partook in the same clearances for similar ideas.  Many collections are flush with alternate headed troopers and even new characters that utilize the head.  So, I was not alone in finding the cheap packs a great way to distinguish an army of repaint era Siegies.

As an out of the box figure, Fred is ok.  Obviously, the head is excellent and the only reason to pick up the set.  But, the rest of the figure is kind of boring.  The head sits atop the 1987 Cobra Commander body.  While this is comic accurate, it's also predictable.  I've never been a huge fan of that body.  But, the worse part is the color.  The figure is cast in a light blue.  It's a definite downgrade from the 1987 figure.  The silver isn't as sharp or metallic as the 1987, either.  The figure fits with the aesthetic of the comic pack colors.  But, when looking for a good toy, I find this figure somewhat lacking.  Without the new head the figure would be a downgrade from the 1987 and even 2001 versions of Cobra Commander.  But, the alternate helmet and new head are worthwhile additions.

The figure's accessories, though, help.  Fred includes two new sculpt era weapons.  One is a small sub machine gun that came with a large number of figures.  It's small and blocky and not a weapon I really enjoy.  The other, though, is a top notch small rifle you see in the pictures below.  It's a great weapon for many Cobras and often goes with the head onto the CG bodies when I make a headswap.  The figure also includes a newly sculpted helmet.  It is tight fitting and true to the comic.  It's actually not bad.  But, it's made of flimsy plastic.  As such, many of the helmets have small tears in them just from being put on the figure's head.  So, be on the lookout for that.  If you are keen on details, there was a remade 1987 Cobra Commander pistol that was released with the 2002 Snow Serpent figure.  If you can find it, it's a perfect match for this figure, too.

The 1987 Cobra Commander body has a long and storied life.  It was released in the '80's, India, the 90's and the 2000's.  The Fred head, though, never made another appearance.  It would have been cool to see it atop some new Crimson Guards.  But, Hasbro really didn't have any slots for ARAH style figures after this comic pack's release.  Collectors would have really liked the head for a Wade Collins figure.  One could have been cobbled together from known good molds in the late 2000's and he would have been a perfect match for a convention release.  But, that didn't happen.  However, the head's compatibility with the molds to which collectors most associate it was a welcome bit of kismet and keeps this figure very useful.

In the sea of uninspired comic pack figures from this time, the Fred figure stands out a bit.  Despite being heavy clearance fodder for quite a while, the supply of figures has tightened up.  MOC comic packs sell in the $25 range and loose, mint and complete Fred figures usually run between $7 and $8.  In the grand scheme of the line, that's pretty cheap.  But, when you consider that many of Fred's contemporaries can be purchased for 1/2 that, he's a lot pricier than he could be.  You will, though, find the figure is many lots of comic figures and, in those, you can get him substantially cheaper, though you'll get a lot other figures, too.  But, this Fred figure fulfilled one of the great gaps from the vintage years and the head works perfectly as easy custom fodder for the multitude of Crimson Guard figures that were released during the time, too.  So, the collector popularity is rightly justified.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

2006 Convention Overlord - Around the Web

This Overlord exists as an oops to the collecting community after the group responsible for it got backlash.  They mistakenly thought collectors didn't like the 1988 Destro mold and skipped it in the 2005 convention set.  So, rather than fix the blunder the right way, we got this Overlord using the Destro body in gaudy colors.

But, this figure isn't terrible and kind of works.  The colors are tough to integrate.  But, still, aren't bad.  And, the general look is good for the character and it was nice to see Overlord return in some capacity.  So, lemonade out of lemons, I guess.  Here's the best of him around the web.

Overlord Profile

Overlord at 1

Overlord Review at

Overlord at 2

Overlord at

Overlord at TNI

Overlord at HalftheBattle 

Overlord at 3

2006 Convention Overlord

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

1989 Downtown

The Joe line somewhat rebooted in 1985.  For the first time, Hasbro updated a character design, we saw redundant specialties appear and even the comic went so far as to suggest that the original Joe lineup would be replaced.  That didn't really happen.  But, Hasbro was left with the dilemma of what to do with valuable characters whose figures had outlived their retail usefulness.  1986 was worse.  Dial Tone, Beach Head, Sci Fi, Wetsuit, Iceberg, Leatherneck and Lifeline were all common specialties from prior characters.  (Not to mention the Viper as the upgrade over the Cobra Trooper.)  General Hawk and Roadblock, though, joined Snake Eyes as existing character upgrades.  The trend abated a bit in 1987 (likely due to the movie driving new characters) but both Cobra Commander and Gung Ho were updated.  1988 brought around more redundancy, with only Stormshadow getting the character upgrade.  Then came 1989.

In 1989, there were 10 Joes in the basic carded line.  Four of them, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Deep Six and Rock and Roll were updates of older characters.  Countdown, Dee Jay, Scoop and Recoil stand on their own as specialties and characters that we hadn't seen in the standard, carded lineup of Joes.  Then, there's Backblast and Downtown.  These two figures are interesting comparisons to Zap and Short Fuse.  While Backblast isn't a Bazooka trooper like Zap, he is an anti aircraft trooper carrying a weapon that looks a lot like a modern take on the bazooka.  His head design could easily be an updated Zap based on Zap's comic appearance.  Downtown is even more suspect.  He shares the exact specialty as Short Fuse as a mortar trooper.  Beyond this, he even features blonde hair, just like the Joe's original mortar specialist.  It's possible these two characters might have been planned as updates to Zap and Short Fuse.  Or, the similarities were just coincidence.  But, in Downtown, Hasbro managed to make a really nice figure.

I was out of Joe in 1989.  I had quit after the first couple of months in 1988.  Yet, I still bought the comics.  From them and the cardbacks of the odd figure my youngest brother would still pick up that year, I was able to get a good sense of the figures released.  I thought the '89's looked really nice and would have been a lot of fun to play with.  But, being in high school, that wasn't really an option for me.  However, in the fall of 1989, I recall being moved to the back of the row in Spanish class.  The pretty girl I had talked to every day was moved to the front.  So, bored out of my mind, I started writing a G.I. Joe story using the 1989 characters.  It was a way for them to be part of my collection, even though they weren't.  I filled several pages of a notebook with character sketches and sample action sequences.  Downtown was a key part of the mission, even though he was not in the main force.  He provided the cover for the Joes to escape to the waiting Tomahawk.  This, though, was the end of Downtown's influence on my youth.

When I started collecting again in the mid 1990's, though, Downtown was on the short list to acquire.  1989 figures weren't nearly as common as those from 1987 and earlier.  But, as they were less popular, there was also substantially less competition on lots that were heavy on that figure year.  Within a short time, I had picked up a few lots of mint and complete 1989 figures for an average price of under $2 per figure.  Included in this were more than one Downtown.  With the figure in hand, though, some of the coloring limitations came to light.  Downtown wasn't this nicely designed military figure.  He was aqua blue, brown and red: hardly an eye pleasing combination.  So, Downtown quickly fell out of favor.  It's odd for a figure I had so anticipated to fall so hard.  But, I was acquiring lots of new figures when I first got a Downtown and he simply didn't surpass many of them.  I planned to profile this figure as far back as 2000.  Yet, it took me 17 years to finally get around to it.  That pretty much sums up my feelings on Downtown.

Gear wise, Downtown is loaded.  His mortar is three pieces, a mount, tripod and mortar, that make his signature weapon far more versatile than Short Fuse's original piece.  The mount and tripod allow the mortar to swivel 360 degrees as well as raise and lower.  In addition to this excellent design, Downtown features a massive backpack.  It's surely full of all the survival gear a field trooper could need.  The real reason for this size, though, is so that it can securely stow the 6 mortar shells that are included with the figure, too.  These affix securely to the pegs on the pack and make for an excellent storage design for accessories that would have otherwise been easily lost.  Downtown's final pieces of gear are his helmet and pistol.  The helmet really isn't that special.  It works for the figure.  But, the design is somewhat blocky and odd and it's cast in red plastic.  Downtown's revolver is cooler, though the overall design seems too large and the trigger hole is definitely exaggerated.  But, his overall complement of gear is perfectly matched with the figure and makes for a solid ensemble.

The Downtown mold did not get a lot of use.  After the 1989 release, the mold disappeared until 2004.  Here, it made a welcome appearance as an updated Short Fuze in the Toys R Us exclusive Night Force set.  The paint job is easily the best release of the figure.  But, he included no gear.  Arming him with spare Downtown gear, aside from the red helmet, really brings that figure to life.  The head, torso, waist and legs were then used on the 2007 Convention Starduster figure.  That figure includes a helmet that makes for a better Downtown.  But, the rarity of the release and aftermarket price really aren't conducive to owning spares to make a better Downtown figure.  The mold disappeared after that.  It's a decent amount of uses, especially since the 2004 paint job was actually an upgrade over the vintage version.  But, Hasbro could have included some accessories with the later version and probably have repainted it one more time without too much collector complaint.

Downtown's aren't overly cheap.  Dealer pricing tends to be in the $13-$15 range with lots of sales.  Mint and complete with filecard versions tend to sell in the $8 range.  But, finding one that's complete is a lot harder than paying a couple of bucks more from a dealer.  (Lookout for Windmill pistols with "complete" Downtowns, too.  The accessories are often confused by sellers.)  For an obscure character from a common year that is after Joe's "sweet spot of '82 - '87, that's fairly pricey.  But, the amount of gear and general quality of the figure keeps interest higher than it might, otherwise be.  For me, the figure is great to have around.  Yet, I never use him.  I find that he's tough to visually blend with other figures from his time period.  That limits his photo opportunities and has lead to him being a relatively rare background figure in my collection.  But, the overall design is solid and the figure is definitely worth owning.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Red Laser Army Photo Contest

Red Laser's army is having a photo contest on Instagram:

Click this link to see the details.

You can win a set of released figures or a brand new figure that is only available as a contest prize.

Check it out and post away!

Funskool Supercop, India, Red Laser Army, Bootleg, Viper, Law

Red Laser Army, Bootleg, Viper, 1998 Cobra Officer, TRU Exclusive

Red Laser Army, Bootleg, Viper, 1998 Cobra Officer, TRU Exclusive

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Diorama - Bat Factory

There was a time when I bought a lot of new sculpt figures.  They were cheap and plentiful and were a way to buy something at retail.  The Joe world was a lot of fun in 2002 and 2003 as the community was especially vibrant.  2004 started a downturn, though.  These photos were taken in 2004 when the single pack figures started showing up at local CVS stores.  By the end of 2004, I had abandoned collecting anything other than vintage style Joes as Hasbro made collectors jump through too many hoops to get the figure they wanted.

Ultimately, sold my entire new sculpt collection to fund the purchase of some bootleg Cobra Troopers.  I don't regret that decision at all.

You will notice the unpainted Neo Viper pre-production piece below.  At the time, it was cheaper to get figures like this than it was to buy retail figures.  How times have changed on that front.

2003, Tele Viper, Dr. Mindbender, BAT, Battle Android Trooper, Cobra, Pre Production, Prototype, Midnight Chinese

2003, Tele Viper, Dr. Mindbender, BAT, Battle Android Trooper, Cobra, Pre Production, Prototype, Midnight Chinese

2003, Tele Viper, Dr. Mindbender, BAT, Battle Android Trooper, Cobra, Pre Production, Prototype, Midnight Chinese

2003, Tele Viper, Dr. Mindbender, BAT, Battle Android Trooper, Cobra, Pre Production, Prototype, Midnight Chinese

Thursday, March 16, 2017

1985 Barbecue - Around the Web

Barbecue is the G.I. Joe team's only firefighter.  But, what a release he was!  The 1985 mold is excellent and features superb accessories.  Here's the best content on him around the web.

Barbecue Profile

Barbecue Video Review

Barbecue Dio 1

Barbecue at HalftheBattle

Barbecue Dio 2

Barbecue at

Barbecue Dio 3

2004 Whirlwind, TRU Exclusive, 1985 BBQ, Barbecue, Firefighter

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

1992 Barricade

As I filled out my collection of Joes from the remnants of retail in 1995 and 1996, I had only the cardbacks to go by to determine what figures had been released.  In my hodge-podge collection, I was pretty sure which figures were 1992, 1993 and 1994 releases.  But, as it was not unheard of to find figures from any of those three years in the various clearance and overstock aisles, any figure that appeared on the card was a potential find.  Through the years, I found pretty much all of the figures depicted: with a few notable exceptions.  To a figure, these were Cobra army builders which, even at the time, proved popular.  The Alley Vipers, Flak Vipers and Headhunter Stormtroopers were nowhere to be found.  These figures all had a general theme, though.  Some very popular characters like Cobra Commander were understandable, too.  A few other no shows, however, made no sense.  Among those was the Barricade figure.  From the small artwork on the back of the 1992 and 1993 cards, the figure looked cool.  But, through my travels I never came across one.  In retrospect, it makes some sense now, though, since the 1992 Barricade is a pretty decent figure.

My first exposure to the Barricade figure, though I didn't know it at the time, was through the 1993 Shark 9000 Cutter figure.  He included a black version of Barricade's gun.  At the time, I assumed the gun was unique to Cutter.  But, I thought it was great.  I liked the newer accessories that were included with the '90's figures since they were so different from what I had grown up on in the '80's.  The Cutter figure became important just because of that gun.  So, when I learned that it was originally included with Barricade, it made the figure more desirable to me.

When I got my first Barricade, though, I was disappointed.  The figure is two-tone with the blue base and gold armor.  There are no painted highlights or details.  So, the he is rather bland.  His helmet is also pretty bad.  It's not that interesting, doesn't make a lot of sense and uses red and gold as the base.  Since his head is so large, the helmet makes Barricade appear unbalanced.  In short, it's no where near the Robo Cop inspired design from the card art.  The rest of his accessories, though, aren't bad.  The battering ram is huge.  But, that is forgiven since it's actually useful and works with the spring loaded launcher.  The fact that it fits onto Barricade's pack is a great bonus since combinable accessories were starting to get scarce in 1992.  But,the combined gear is way too large and the figure can't stand with it attached to his back.  So, it has practical drawbacks, too.

As Barricade entered my collection at a time when I was adding dozens of new to me figures every month, he was quickly lost in the shuffle.  He just wasn't as strong as other figures, even those from his own release year.  So, into the drawer he went and he pretty much stayed there for a long time.  In a 1992 display, though, Barricade fits in nicely.  He can work well with DEF figures or the regular release carded figures.  Among his peers, the figure looks less out of place and the unsophisticated paint application isn't as noticeable.  It is here where Barricade has found his limited use for me.  He is good background filler when you have out later release figures.  Beyond that, though, I find that is last release is really the only version of him to use.

The Barricade mold got some interesting uses.  It was released in the blue 1992 paint job as well as a bright reddish orange 1993 repaint.  In 1994, the entire figure was used for the Star Brigade Gears figure.  We would not see the mold for another decade.  But, it was dusted off in 2004 and made a surprise return in the now classic Anti-Venom set.  Coupled with the retail, tan version, were two different unproduced color schemes for Barricade that were offered by Asian Joe sellers.  There is both a light blue and dark blue paint job Anti Venom Barricade figure.  As these were readily available to the collecting community for a few years, they are worth noting as alternatives for Barricade fans.  Parts of his mold were used with come convention and club figures, but the Barricade character never returned.  Being such a late release, you could argue that the first three releases are sub par and that the figure was never truly used to his potential.  But, with 6 versions of the mold out there, it would have gotten a bit overused had Hasbro continued to repaint it ad naseum.

To call this figure worthless would be an understatement.  Loose, mint and complete with filecard figures sell in the $5 range.  But, so do carded figures.  The only reason the loose figure is so expensive is because sellers won't handle them for under $5.  The figure was released at a time of lesser popularity, was heavily clearanced into the mid 1990's and had large amounts of overstock bought by the toy dealers of the time who had visions of $100 Joes dancing in their heads.  But, the character never clicked with the collecting community and the figure, when taken out of his 1992 context, isn't all that special.  So, the complete collecting community malaise towards Barricade is perfectly logical and unlikely to change any time soon.

But, this leaves the modern collector with opportunity.  You can get both the 1992 and harder to find 1993 versions for nothing.  They are worthy additions to any collection and the 1992 figure does work very well with the DEF figures from that year.  Barricade's gear is fun and his design is strong.  The figure has flaws, but most Joes do.  If you're looking for good dio filler or just a way to bring something different to your collection, Barricade is certainly a strong candidate.  Had I found him back in the '90's, I think he would have been among my favorite figures.  But, I appreciate him now as part of that era.

1992 Barricade, 1988 Hardball

1992 Barricade, 1988 Hardball

1992 Barricade, Shockwave, Bulletproof, DEF, 1988 Desert Fox, 1983 G.I. Joe Headquarters, HQ

1992 Barricade, 1989 Night Force Repeater

1992 Barricade, 2005 Comic Pack General Hawk, Tomahawk, Clayton Abernathy

Saturday, March 11, 2017

1983 Cobra Trooper - Around the Web

Cobra is full of army builders.  An individual collector's preference for their default Cobra ground forces, though, is heavily dependent upon when they first found the line.  As I started from the beginning, it is the iconic Cobra Trooper who not only comprises my favorite forces but also defines Cobra for me.  He's one of the most popular figures ever created and there's lots of info about him out in the world.  Here's some of the best from around the web.

Cobra Trooper Profile

Cobra Trooper JC Penny Variant 1

Cobra Trooper at Nekoman's Viper Pit

Cobra Trooper JC Penny Variant 2

Brazilian Cobra Soldado Comparison

Cobra Trooper at

Cobra Trooper Dio 1

Cobra Trooper Dio 2

Cobra Trooper Dio 3

Cobra Trooper Pre Production at

Black Major Custom Cobra Trooper Dio

Cobra Trooper Dio 4

Cobra Trooper Dio 5

1983 Cobra Trooper, Hiss Tank, 1982

Thursday, March 9, 2017

1983 Dragonfly

In the spring of 1982, I started mowing lawns for some spending money.  I made a whopping $7 per week.  But, in the context of 1982, that was a mint.  I was 8 years old.  I didn't really spend money on anything other than toys.  And, I really couldn't spend it without my parent's at least tacitly agreeing to my purchase.  In 1983, my earnings remained the same.  I was then shuffled off to relatives for several weeks in the summer, so I didn't really have much spending money.  But, once I returned home, I began to fill the coffers again.  By the early fall, I was back into the swing of things.  I also felt a bit more empowered to spend my money.  After seeing my brother's friend get nearly the full gamut of 1983 Joes for his birthday, I was hooked on one item in particular: the Dragonfly helicopter.

My fixation began as the Dragonfly and the Skystriker were the only two toys that this friend around the block didn't get for his birthday.  I wanted to be the first to have something.  So, I set the Dragonfly in my sights.  I knew that the newly opened local Kohl's store near our home had them in stock.  I saved my money for a few weeks and finally convinced my mother to take us there so I could buy my prize.  I didn't really know how much the Dragonfly would cost.  But, I had enough money to buy it.  (My mother then promptly bought both my brothers a figure, Torpedo and Trip Wire, so they didn't feel left out.  I got to spend my money, they got stuff for free.  But, I'm not hung up on that all.  Not at all.)  I took it home and slowly opened it in the front door alcove of our home.  The front door was open and the cool fall air and the scent of the softly falling rain wafted in through the screen door.  In this setting, I assembled my Dragonfly.

1983 Dragonfly, 1985 Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, TTBP, 1986 Sci Fi, Lift Ticket, Mainframe, Dialtone, Footloose

Upon it's completion, it was almost everything I had wanted.  I was disappointed that the seats were not removable.  I don't know why this mattered to me, but it did.  Other than that, the toy was all a nine year old could have desired at the time.  My brothers crowded me for a chance to play with it.  But, I kept it to myself for the first few days and promptly made it the focal point of my play.  The Dragonfly remained in this capacity until December when I got the Skystriker.  Once that was in our collection, the Dragonfly fell off its pedestal and my brothers were able to play with, and severely damage my existing toy.  The skids were broken.  The canopy was snapped and the rotor was finally torn off the fuselage.  The once proud capstone of my collection was quickly relegated to the heap of broken toys that filled a toy box in our room.

As a toy, the Dragonfly was really awesome.  It was light years ahead of other toy helicopters of the era.  It was an excellent color and sleek design.  The rotors turn with the sliding of a small, unobtrusive white switch on the side.  The ergonomics were perfectly executed as it's easy to hold the toy aloft and spin the blade.  Great fun for any kid.  Aside from this, the Dragonfly is armed to the teeth.  It had 4 missiles, 2 bombs, a swivel (and, if you got it early enough) and raising chin gun and, finally, a skid mounted cannon that plugged into the chopper's body.  The Dragonfly could fight air to air with the missiles and guns as well as devastate ground troops with the cannon and bombs.  Underneath the copter's body was a working winch.  It included a long rope and hook.  It could be used for figures or vehicles.  (I always figured Airborne's card art featured the rope from a hovering Dragonfly.)  And, just for giggles, Hasbro threw in removable engine covers that hid the solid design of the inner machinery of the chopper.  They were totally unnecessary pieces, but provided the additional play capabilities and value that more than justified their higher price point over the bargain store, generic military toys that were common in the day.

You could stand a figure on the peg that jutted from each side of the Dragonfly's skids.  This allowed the chopper to move troops into battle.  Doc's stretcher fits on the skids, too.  The cockpit, though, was always a bit confusing.  The box art clearly showed Wild Bill in the front seat.  The stickers on the outside, beneath the seats denoted Lt. William Hardy (AKA Wild Bill) being in the front.  Yet, if you put Wild Bill in the front seat, it was difficult to get the canopy to close all the way.  But, in the back seat, Wild Bill fit perfectly.  All the comics of the time showed Wild Bill piloting the Dragonfly from the back seat, too.  So, I switched Wild Bill to the back and he's been there ever since.  Airborne was the natural fit for the front, gunner position.  Though, Duke also quickly found a home there.  Since Flint's filecard denoted he was a helicopter pilot, he would also spell Wild Bill as the pilot in the Dragonfly from time to time.  But, he would also see time in the gunner's seat.  However, Joe figures started getting bulkier in 1984.  So, for many figures made after the Dragonfly's release year, the cockpit is a very tight fit.  And, most of the late line release year figures will not fit into it at all.

Between Christmas of 1983 and through the 1984 birthdays and holidays, though, we ended up with three Dragonflies in our home.  Each of my brothers got one for some occasion.  (Both of these later arrivals had the solidly molded chin guns.  A variant I quickly noticed since the static piece was such a downgrade over the moving weapons from my original purchase.)  As their interest in the chopper quickly faded, I was able to put together a solid version that remained the stalwart of my Joe air force for a while.  Into the latter part of 1985, we had two Dragonflies with intact rotors.  I recall this because I had them re-enact the scene from Marvel Issue #40 where two copters hold the Tactical Battle Platform aloft.  I was able to carry the TTBP with two winches for a few feet.  But, one of the hooks snapped and my TTBP fell to the floor, relatively unscathed.  But, even these could not last.  Once again, my brothers intervened and the last salvaged Dragonflies suffered the same fate as my original: scrap in a box of broken, unloved toys.

Around 1986, though, the kids down the street and I pretty much merged parts of our collections.  They would bring boxes of toys to my house and I'd take some to their house.  We'd have various adventures in our respective yards since each brought some different terrain to the table.  One of the toys they had was a well preserved Dragonfly.  This would become the final Dragonfly I would play with as a kid.  As I tried to put my toys away, my youngest brother would keep getting them out and playing with them.  He'd hide them from me so that I wouldn't know he was in my room.  And, as such, that final Dragonfly took a beating, too.  It wasn't until 2000 that I finally got a high quality Dragonfly for my collection.  But, fate keeps intervening and even that copter has suffered some damage from 17 years of moving and being stored out in the garage.

Oddly, specific memories of the Dragonfly are few and far between.  My most memorable battles were always fought by ground troops.  And, were usually dominated by the the characters rather than the action or the machines.  But, the Dragonfly was often around.  It was used to bring new warriors to the battle and carry away the wounded.  It would rarely stay around and fight, though.  When the Rattler came into being, the Dragonfly would end up battling it from time time.  The Dragonfly's missiles were more than a match for the slow flying Cobra aircraft.  In retrospect, it's odd that the chopper didn't get more time as a combat weapon.  The cannons are perfect anti-infantry weapons and the bombs and missiles were excellent eradicators of Cobra armor.  But, it's likely this arsenal that made the Dragonfly less useful.  In reality, it would come in and annihilate a poorly organized and covered ground force.  And, my play adventure would have been swift.  As that didn't fit the way I developed my stories, the chopper was relegated to a lesser role.

Once the Tomahawk entered into my collection, though, that changed.  The Tomahawk became a combat workhorse for the Joes: one to which Cobra had no answer.  A lot of this was built from the late 1980's focus on Vietnam and the images of the support choppers that appeared both in the Joe comic and other media as well.  Also, around 1986 or so, my local Boy Scout troop got to use a military helicopter as part of our campout.  One of the troop's older members' wife was one of the top ranking military officers in the state.  She arranged for a support chopper to land in a field on one of our camping trips.  We then got to climb over and play in it.  The same chopper then dropped a crate of food onto the top of a local mountain.  We hiked up and got to eat the air dropped food.  (The crate shattered upon landing and food was scattered everywhere.  But, that was less important than the fact that it was a helicopter drop.)  So, this real life experience drove more interest in later choppers and really made the Dragonfly a toy I appreciate more as an adult than I ever did as a kid.

The Dragonfly was a staple of G.I. Joe releases around the world.  It saw exclusive versions in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico.  Hasbro released versions in Europe and Japan.  It was repainted for the Tiger Fly in 1988 and the mold was used again around 1995 in the Street Fighter Movie line.  (Though with some modifications.)  The mold returned as the Locust in 2000.  But, then the Dragonfly disappeared.  Granted, the Locust ended up as discount store fodder.  But, pretty much all of the 2000 vehicles did.  It makes no sense that neither Hasbro nor the club found a slot for another Dragonfly release.  Collectors would have fawned over a Night Force or even Sky Patrol themed version.  But, none of that ever came to pass.  There's a lot for collectors of the mold out there.  But, there could have been so much more.

Mint and complete Dragonflies see a wide variance in price.  You can get them on the open market for under $40.  But, some will sell for as much as $100.  It depends on how many are out there.  Dealer pricing tends to hover over $65.  But, there's a lot to choose from around $40 from casual sellers.  You'll see some pricing fluctuation based on the chin gun variants, the clarity of the canopy and there are a lots of small and easily broken parts that can be obscured or hidden in photos.  So, you have to be aware.  But, there's a lot of different price ranges from which an interested buyer can choose.  I'm not sure I'd pay over $60 for a Dragonfly anymore.  It's cool.  But, I can live without it.  However, I'm saying that with a decent one in hand.  Were it gone, I might have a different opinion.

1983 Dragonfly, Wild Bill, Starduster, Mail Away, Clutch, Flash, G.I. Joe Headquarters, HQ

1983 Dragonfly, Wild Bill, Starduster, Mail Away, Argentina, Plastirama, Airborne, Backstop, Blowtorch, Lift Ticket, Condor, 1994, Lifeline, 1987 Hardtop, Steel Brigade, Version B, Version C, Midnight Chinese, Night Force, Flint, Toys R Us Exclusive, Unproduced, G.I. Joe Headquarters, HQ

Saturday, March 4, 2017

2007 McQuarrie Signature Series Stormtrooper

Ralph McQuarrie was the artist that George Lucas used to help visualize the Star Wars universe.  Many of his concept paintings filled books and helped to increase interest in the ideas behind what we saw on screen.  Naturally, as the Star Wars line was searching for new characters upon which to draw for figure inspiration, it eventually found the McQuarrie concepts fertile ground.  In 2003, a McQuarrie Stormtrooper figure was released to great fanfare.  It was a huge success.  That paved the way for an expanded slate of McQuarrie offerings in the 30th Anniversary Collection that shipped in 2007.  Many McQuarrie designs made their way to plastic action figures.  Darth Vader, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca and Boba Fett were among the artist's renditions that graced retail shelves.  Hasbro also decided to re-release the 2003 Stormtrooper mold.  Instead of a straight re-release, though, the figure got an updated paint job and was included in the standard figures line.

This figure was sculpted and first released in 2003 as part of the Fan's Choice promotion.  When you consider the era in which he was designed, the figure is quite well done.  He features articulation at the shoulder, elbow, one(?!?) wrist, head, hips and waist.  His knees are not articulated, which limits his movement.  When he was re-released in 2007 in the Thirtieth Anniversary Collection, the sculpting and accessories remained the same, but the paint applications were upgraded.  Unfortunately, the 30th Anniversary figure line brought super articulation to the Star Wars mainstream.  Even boring, collector themed figures were given far more articulation than they could ever need.  So, this sculpt, despite being just 4 years old at the time, was dated from the moment it hit the shelf.

As a figure who would stand on display, this trooper isn't bad.  He can be posed in a few ways that are kind of fun.  But, the complete lack of lower body articulation is really limiting.  By the time this figure was re-released in 2007, super articulated Clone and Storm troopers were standard price retail releases.  You could get this figure or a super articulated movie accurate Stormtrooper for the same price.  So, the figure seemed somewhat lazy.  A new lower body probably could have been cost justified and would have been a welcome upgrade.  But, the fact that the figure still pretty much sold out on sight tells you that extra money spent on a new design would have just been profit that Hasbro flushed down the drain.  Considering the wide array of obscure characters who did get excellently done figures in that time period, I like to think that the money saved on this trooper was spent on something else we would never have otherwise gotten.

As a kid, I bought a few packs of the Star Wars Topps trading cards.  I mostly remember the Empire Strikes Back cards as I bought a few "rack packs" because there were scenes from the Hoth Battle peeking through the cellophane packaging.  In these packs, though, were special artwork cards that showed some of the concept art from the Star Wars universe.  At the time, I really didn't understand these cards as they showed items that were different from the movie.  (I was 6.)  But, this was my first exposure to the concepts that grew into the big screen world I loved so much.  As Star Wars became more of a cultural phenomenon in the 1990's, I was able to see more of McQuarrie's work.  It opened up the Star Wars universe in a lot of ways and was a visual representation that there was more to the universe than we saw on screen.

Looking at this figure, there is a lot going on.  The Stormtroopers still have the standard blasters that would define them.  (But, look at the size of that holster!)  In addition, though, they have a shield and a lightsaber.  Since we have seen lightsabers cutting through blast door level metal in the Star Wars universe in the time since this drawing was made, the notion of a shield to defend oneself in a lightsaber duel seems foolhardy.  But, it does tie the trooper to more of a knight theme and would have made them decent adversaries for Jedi had the universe included them as enemies in great numbers.  The shield itself does feature blast marks rather than sword cuts.  So, it might have been envisioned as a means to protect against enemy fire rather than an opposing swordsman.

Unfortunately for me, whenever I see this trooper wielding his sword, I don't think of it as a traditional Star Wars lightsaber.  Instead, I see the policeman and police robot from Futurama who ignite laser swords and then use them to beat upon suspects with the swords functioning as batons.  So, I see this trooper clubbing someone on the head rather than slicing off an limb.  Even thinking about it makes me laugh.  I don't associate that image with any other lightsaber wielding Star Wars character.  Just this trooper and I don't really know why.

Other than that, I found this figure somewhat disappointing.  There was a time when I wanted to army build these guys and have them patrol the corridors of some unseen playset that I was sure Hasbro would, eventually, release.  After getting one figure, though, the lack of articulation made him more interesting as a collector piece rather than a toy I wished to acquire en masse.  As an homage to what could have been, this figure is excellent.  The sculpting is true to the artwork and the gear is an interesting ensemble.  But, his value is limited beyond that.  Were Hasbro to ever release a fully super articulated version of him, I'd probably buy one.  But, the higher prices of such figures these days and my general downturn in army building tendencies would likely limit him to just one.  So, I'm pretty content with this figure as the sole representative of the character in my collection.

The 2003 McQuarrie Stormtrooper was fairly hard to find at retail.  The leftover "Attack of the Clones" figures clogged the shelves and the lower, non movie year production runs left many army builders short of their desired goals for the figure.  Its repaint and release in 2007 was a welcome relief.  Even in the swarms of retail figures that bombarded stores in 2007, though, the McQuarrie Stormtrooper was a rare find.  They were very popular and the McQuarrie figures tended to sell out  quickly.  This lead to high aftermarket pricing, even while the figure was shipping.  But, time heals most over-inflated prices.  Today, both the 2003 and 2007 figures can be had, MOC for around $7.  (Note that most dealers will ask at least $15 and they will sell them at that price.  Patience is the key with figures like this.)  If you can find them in lots, you can get them for 1/2 that.  Loose figures tend to sell around the same price, just because there is less selection.  But, you will find loose army building lots where you can get the figures for $2 or $3 each.  It's a paltry sum to pay for a figure of this quality.  It's a conversation starter with any collection and that's worth paying, basically, retail price for something that's 10 to 14 years old.

2007 30th Anniversary McQuarrie Stormtrooper, 2006 The Vintage Collection Tusken Raider, Sandperson

2007 30th Anniversary McQuarrie Stormtrooper, 2006 The Vintage Collection Tusken Raider, Sandperson

2007 30th Anniversary McQuarrie Stormtrooper, 2006 The Vintage Collection Greedo, Garindan

Thursday, March 2, 2017

1989 Night Force Repeater - Around the Web

The 1989 Night Force Repeater was one of the first Night Force figures I acquired as a collector.  It's an excellent alternate look for a figure that was really well done the first time around.  Here's the best of him around the web:

Night Force Repeater Profile

Night Force Repeater at

Night Force Repeater at

Repeater at Half The Battle

1989 Night Force Color Ad at

1989 Night Force Repeater, Toys R Us Exclusive, TRU, 2004 Whirlwind, 1985 Heavy Metal

1989 Night Force Repeater, Toys R Us Exclusive