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


  1. Awesome story regarding that Boy Scout hike and copter drop. That must have felt like an actual Joe adventure! I had the Dragonfly as early as 1983 but got mine with the solid molded chin guns. I never knew about the earlier variant until a friend gave me his G.I. Joe collection around 2002. Like yourself, I was confused at first as to where Wild Bill should sit, but went by the comics since Airborne was clearly his gunner and the comics were canon for me. Man, that Dragonfly was a sweet vehicle for all the reasons you cited. Along with the VAMP and APC it was my workhorse, all-purpose ride on every mission my Joes undertook.

  2. Nowadays the blades droop on most samples

  3. I recently got the Street Fighter version. I swapped out the bombs for some missiles/bombs from the Tiger Fly and slapped on some Z-Force labels. It's pretty much become my new favorite vehicle.