Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rarities and Oddities Month - Take 2

In June of 2016, I offered up 30 days of rarities and oddities from the Joe line.  Well, I'm going to do it again this year.  Starting tomorrow, Rarities and Oddities month part two will commence.  I'll be showcasing some rare, odd and hard to find items from the Joe line from all over the world.

I don't have quite enough for every day.  So, I'll be taking Sunday's off and maybe looking back at something from last year.  As always, these are photos I've collected over the years and are not items from my personal collection.  But, all are interesting pieces of Joe history that you don't often see.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

1983 Wolverine

The first two years of Joe vehicles shared a common look and theme.  They were cast in military green and designed to interact with the figures.  Each figure and vehicle was sculpted in a way to ensure total compatibility so that any figure would work with any vehicle.  There is a uniformity to their design that disappeared as the line moved forward.  To this day, many of the most iconic Joe vehicles were released in these starting years.  Among the VAMP, HISS and Skystriker, though, is the Wolverine.  While not as famous as other vehicles, the Wolverine is still popular enough.  As a kid, though, I did not appreciate nor like this vehicle.  Now, that is no longer true.  The Wolverine has a place among the classic Joe releases and is well worth a look.

The Wolverine entered my collection at Christmas in 1983.  We got a lot of toys that holiday and pretty much wrapped up the Joe line for that year.  As the Wolverine, technically, belonged to my younger brother, though, it was lost in the sea of toys that we had received.  Within a few weeks, though, the novelty of my acquisitions was wearing down.  I looked to the Wolverine as something new to check out.  I tried integrating it with my Joes.  But, I found the toy limiting.  From a play value standpoint, it had to major issues that I really could not reconcile.  First, it could only hold one figure.  For me, figures were the reason why I played with the toys.  Give me three or four characters and I could entertain myself for hours, vehicle or no.  It was nice that the Wolverine could hold a driver.  But, it didn't even have foot pegs for another figure.  I tried setting figures all over the vehicle in a variety of ways.  But, as soon as the convoy rolled out, the extra figure would fall off.  I did not like vehicles that were so limiting and that was a mark against the Wolverine.

The second issue was the lack of guns.  As a kid, the missiles just weren't any fun.  For a 10 year old, guns had unlimited supplies of ammo.  This, to me, was not unreasonable.  However, it was an issue that the Wolverine could only shoot 12 missiles.  Once they were expended, there was no place to hold any more on the vehicle.  This seems silly in retrospect as there are any number of ways to plausibly reason that the Wolverine carried at least another set of projectiles.  But, I think the real issue is that I didn't find missile fun to play with.  I'd pull one out of the launcher and have it destroy a Cobra vehicle.  But, that took the Hiss Tank out of commission, which limited my fun.  Plus, as figures were the focal point of my adventure, it was impossible for a missile to take out an individual person who was constantly moving around.  So, the Wolverine quickly found itself played out.

There were, though, two upsides to the vehicle, too.  The first, of course, was the tow rope.  I found that extremely useful.  I'd use it to tow vehicles from other toy lines, or attach to a string I rigged on the APC.  In short, it found more uses than the Wolverine itself.  But, the brittle nature of the tow rope was quickly manifested and one of the ends was snapped off.  Once this happened, the tow rope was phased out.  The second part of the Wolverine that I liked was the engine cover.  To me, these were sleeping bags and supplies for the troops out in the wild.  For some reason, I wanted my figures to have long term survival gear.  The larger backpacks of 1983 made this a reality.  But, I had lots of figures who didn't have their own gear.  I'd take the engine cover off the Wolverine and store it in my APC so that there was more supplies for the entire Joe team.

The Wolverine's final death knell in my childhood collection, though, was when my brother broke the cap to the missile launcher.  This held the missiles in place.  Once it was broken, the entire launcher just sagged and pointed right at the vehicle's body.  There was more than one occasion where the Wolverine blew itself up due to this defect.  In later years, I kept the Wolverine around as a way for the Joes to defend their headquarters.  It served as anti aircraft defense.  This way, it could hold a broken down figure and be out of the way.  It never went into the fray as its ordinance was expended trying to stave off attacking Cobra aircraft.  In this capacity, my Wolverine died out and was tucked into the attic for a decade before I pulled out the parts and tried to salvage what pieces I could.

Now, though, I appreciate the Wolverine more for what it is.  Having mobile missile launchers would be a key strategic point for the Joes.  They could use them offensively to attack.  Or, defensively to defend a position or base.  A dozen missiles is a pretty good amount of firepower, too.  Beyond that, the vehicle is incredibly detailed, well colored and doesn't maintain too large of a footprint.  It fits well with the early year figures and is that perfect blend of design that makes you think the Wolverine actually did exist in this size.  The vehicle's driver, Cover Girl, is decent enough.  (I lost her in childhood, though.)  Now, she is as tied to the Wolverine as Clutch is to his VAMP: a perfect blend of machine and operator.

The Wolverine mold had a very good life.  After the U.S. release, the entire vehicle was recolored in black and released as the SAS Wolverine.  (It included the highly sought after Hunter figure.)  After that, Hasbro released the toy in the various international markets they served including Europe and Japan.  (The European Wolverine is a darker green than the American toy.)  The mold then made it's way to Brazil.  Estrela released a Wolverine for a while.  It's similar to the American version, but the green is a different shade.  In 1989, the Wolverine base was used for the Lynx tank.  After that, the mold disappeared.  If you like the same vehicle in different shades of green, there's a lot for you.  The black Action Force version is nice, too.  So, Wolverine fans can keep themselves busy with the various versions that were released.

As the Wolverine is an early Joe vehicle and has a reputation for a few hard to find pieces, you will see a lot of high priced dealer offerings in the $70 to $80 range.  These are overpriced, though.  Lots of Wolverines were produced and many of them survived.  Plus, the vehicle isn't one that collectors tend to army build or hoard.  So, you have ample supply.  With a little patience, you can get a mint and complete Wolverine for around $45.  That's a lot for what the vehicle is.  But, if you want to sacrifice the tow rope, the price drops into the $20 range.  Frankly, I find both prices too high for this vehicle.  But, my opinion of it is heavily colored by my childhood disappointment with the toy.  So, collector mileage may vary.  For me, the Wolverine remains part of my desire to have a complete collection of figures and vehicles from my core childhood years.  Beyond that, I don't find much use for it.  But, lots of collectors do enjoy the vehicle.  So, taken with fresh eyes, the Wolverine can still be fun to have around.

1983 Wolverine, Cover Girl, 1984 Clutch, Desert, VAMP, Scarlett, Stalker, G.I. Joe HQ, Steel Brigade, Mail Away, Red Laser Army, Viper, Thunder, 1994 Lifeline

1983 Wolverine, Cover Girl, 1984 Clutch, Desert, VAMP, Scarlett, Stalker, G.I. Joe HQ

1983 Wolverine, Cover Girl, Rock and Roll, Tripwire

1983 Wolverine, 1987 Starduster, JUMP, Jet Pack, Mail Away, 1985, Dusty, Backstop, Plastirama, Argentina

Thursday, May 25, 2017

1986 Beach Head - Around the Web

Beach Head is a classic Joe from the line's glory days.  In some ways, he was a little too close to Snake Eyes's appearance with his covered head.  But, the rest of the figure more than made up for that similarity.  He's a perfect blend of mold, coloring and accessories.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Beach Head Profile

Beach Head at

Beach Head Dio 1

Beach Head at 3D

Beach Head Video Review 1

Beach Head Dio 2

Beach Head Video Review 2

Beach Head Dio 3

Beach Head Dio 4

1986 Beach Head, 1985 Flint, 2008 AWE Striker

1986 Beach Head, Mainframe, 1982 HAL, Heavy Artillery Laser

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

1986 Viper

In the 17 years that have passed since I first looked at this figure, my feelings on him have changed.  In 2000, I was a wide eyed, neophyte collector.  Much of the Joe line was new to me and the excitement over owning something I had never owned before far outweighed my nostalgic feelings.  Now, though, there are few vintage figures with whom I'm not overly familiar.  And, in an effort to streamline my collection a few years ago. I trimmed down much of what I had to heavily focus on the years from my childhood.  The 1986 Viper came near the end of my toy playing days.  And, as such, has many memories associated with him.

I spent most of 1985 buying pretty much every Joe toy.  For Christmas that year, I turned to the SMS as the last Joe toy I'd get that year since my parents would not get us a Flagg.  As 1986 dawned, a kid in my brother's class got most of the new Joes in February.  I spent the rest of the year trying to catch up.  In short order, I had most of the new figures.  But, if anyone got a figure before I did, I was compelled to create an exciting, multi part adventure for that figure that would drive me to find the figure for myself.  Such was the case with the Viper.  My brother's best friend got one before I did.  On days we got out of school early, we'd go over to this friend's house.  There, in his toy room, I concocted a story where the new Cobra Vipers, armed with their massive new rifles, overtook a group of Joes.  They shot Hawk: giving him a sucking chest wound that Lifeline had to deal with using his spectacular air mask.  For the next few weeks, the Joes were on edge, waiting for these new Cobras to show up again.  Finally, I found a Viper at retail and he quickly became the mainstay of my Cobra army.

Before too long, that Viper's right thumb and crotch were broken.  I ended up buying another one to have a decent Cobra soldier in my collection.  The beat up figure found a home in one of the gunner stations of the STUN.  For a 1986 figure, though, this type of abuse was rare.  I had spent the first part of 1985 heavily beating up my figures.  But, the latter half of the year, I was much more likely to treat them well.  I spent the summer of 1986 buying new versions of the 1985 figures that I had worn out.  But, rare was the 1986 figure who suffered the same fate.  This shows how important the Viper was to me.  He got lots and lots of use, often dying spectacular deaths that lead to the breakage of his weakest points.  But, having a spare was also a great insight into the value of army building.  It was nice to have the same figure fill multiple roles within Cobra.  And, between the STUN and Thunder Machine, I had a wide array of uses for a beat up Viper who could no longer hold a weapon.

In looking at this Viper from a purely objective standpoint, he has great points and some limitations.  Color wise, the figure is about perfect.  You have the basic Cobra blue matched with dark red, all offset by black.  He's, basically, the poster child for everything you could associate with Cobra.  But, looking a bit deeper, this figure is also pretty basic.  The most glaring point is the goggles on the helmet.  (Why a person wearing a full face shield needs goggles, too, is another questionable aspect of the figure.)  They are just painted solid black.  The lenses lack an additional paint application.  The same is true of the grenades and clasps on the figure's body armor.  When you get down to it, this figure has only three paints masks: black, silver and red.  In the 2000's, we ridiculed Hasbro for going so cheap on the Viper.  Yet, the original figure was really the reason for this.  At his core, the fig is pretty generic.  He only has two accessories: neither of which are all that complex.  Despite this, though, the figure works.

If you want Vipers, there are tons and tons of them out there.  Hasbro released repainted 1986 molds in 1989 in Python Patrol colors and in 1990 in the Super Sonic Fighters line.  There are then 12 repaints of the Viper that were released between 1997 and 2006.  (These all have mold variants, but are clearly Vipers, even if some are Cobra Troopers and Officers.)  If the new sculpt figures are your bag, the character appeared three times in that format.  And, if you like anniversary figures, Vipers have appeared at least 13 times in that format.  If that's not enough for you, Red Laser's Army has created modern bootlegs of the figure who appear in more and more colors every few months.  So, basically, you can spend a lot of time just collecting Vipers without even talking about army building them.

It should be noted that while the Viper never showed up in any international collection, his legs did.  Hasbro used the figure's legs and waist for the 1993 Dr. Mindbender figure.  When that mold was sent to Brazil, the legs for the Viper were "lost".  This explained the later figures all taking lower body parts from BATs or having them resculpted.  There are also two variants to the Viper.  The red coloring on the figure can vary slightly from one to another.  If you get a bunch of them together, you can see the slight differences as both variants seem to exist in equal quantities.

There's something about this original figure that really defines Cobra.  There are nearly 20 different variants of this mold available.  Yet, you'd be hard pressed to find any collector who wouldn't agree that the original is still the best.  Even the 2006 repaints who were designed to improve upon the 1986 figure failed to deliver.  The blue body, black armor, red highlights and silver face shield armed with the white rifle make for an imposing enemy.  And, even for me, they retain a soft spot in my collection.  This guy was first enemy who could match the Joes in firepower, armor and field capabilities without being overly specialized.

In the early 2000's, as the army building craze was going full force and collectors had fewer repaint options for the this character, Vipers were $25 figures.  Due to that old pricing, many dealers still ask, and get around that price for mint and complete with filecard figures.  On the open market, though, Vipers are around a $13 figure.  And, if you can find them in small army building squads, that price falls further.  But, the ubiquity of the later repaints of the Viper character helped to sate collector demand.  When you could buy 1 Viper or a set of 6 Vipers that were painted like the originals for the same price, something had to give.  Still, collectors love to army build this figure and he will always be popular.  While I vastly prefer the original Cobra Trooper as the backbone of my Cobra army, there is something about a squad of Vipers, armed with better gear, that does put the troopers to shame.

1986 Viper, Cobra, BAT, Battle Android Trooper, 1984, Stinger

1986 Viper, Cobra, BAT, Battle Android Trooper, 1984, Stinger

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Diorama - Scrap Iron Ambushes the Joes

These photos were taken in the fall of 2001.  The intent was to get shots of both Blocker and the 2000 Dial Tone figures.  At the time, the Persuader was recently recovered from my parents' house and was new to my collection.  I had liked it as a kid.  But, the limitations soon shown through.  It was rare for me to use Vipers at the time, but they mixed well with Scrap Iron and were INSANELY popular figures back in 2001.  I added in some 1998 Cobra Troopers with the 1997 Rage for a second attack on the Joes.

1984 Scrap Iron, 1997 Rage, Slugger, 1998, Cobra Trooper, 1986 Viper, Beach Head, Blocker, Battleforce 2000, 2001 Gung Ho, Recoil, 1989, 1987, Falcon

1984 Scrap Iron, 1997 Rage, Slugger, 1998, Cobra Trooper, 1986 Viper, Beach Head, Blocker, Battleforce 2000, 2001 Gung Ho, Recoil, 1989, 1987, Falcon

1984 Scrap Iron, 1997 Rage, Slugger, 1998, Cobra Trooper, 1986 Viper, Beach Head, Blocker, Battleforce 2000, 2001 Gung Ho, Recoil, 1989, 1987, Falcon

1984 Scrap Iron, 1997 Rage, Slugger, 1998, Cobra Trooper, 1986 Viper, Beach Head, Blocker, Battleforce 2000, 2001 Gung Ho, Recoil, 1989, 1987, Falcon

Thursday, May 18, 2017

1983 Gung Ho - Around the Web

Gung Ho was one of the most memorable characters to be introduced in 1983.  His bayou background was a great offset of his military training and showcased how G.I. Joe was going to be very different from other toylines on the shelves.  Here's the best of him around the web.

Gung Ho Profile

Gung Ho at 1

Gung Ho at

Gung Ho at 2

Gung Ho Video Review

Gung Ho at 3

Gung Ho PreProduction at

Gung Ho at 4

Gung Ho at

Gung Ho by PlasticBattles

Gung Ho at 5

Gung Ho at 6

Gung Ho at 7

1983 Snake Eyes, Gung Ho, 1984 Tan Clutch, Ripcord, Fuego, Argentina, Plastirama, 1988 Desert Fox

1983 Snake Eyes, Gung Ho, 1984 Tan Clutch, Ripcord, Fuego, Argentina, Plastirama, 1988 Desert Fox

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

1997 Sgt. Zap

The 1983 Zap is a classic figure.  The 1997 Stars and Stripes version of Zap is not.  But, the 1997 figure does bring some design elements to the character that give collectors something a little different than the original figure.  He features some chromatic diversity and better colored accessories.  But, like most of the Stars and Stripes set members, he does not surpass the original figure in any way.  Yet, the figure has some redeeming uses and I've fund him a strong alternative Zap.

The Stars and Stripes set was supposed to be so much more than it was.  But, missing molds and some poor color decisions rendered the execution of the set substantially inferior to the intentions.  But, one thing that was brought to the table was vastly enhanced paint masks.  This Zap is no exception.  The figure features a tan chest with a deep green waist and legs.  The chest features a black overspray that adds some depth to the upper body.  He has additional paint applications on his boots and leg pouches.  The figure is much richer than the more monotone original figure.  He's not quite desert colored.  But, his overall look can be used with some different figure themes.

Alas, the quality of the 1997 figures also left something to be desired.  The collector sentiment of the time was heavily against the figures as they were the first series to feature the new, softer plastic.  Not everyone liked this.  Though, the less brittle thumbs and crotches were a welcome side effect.  But, paint masks could be very sloppy.  And, the figures themselves could break just due to shoddy quality overall.  This lead the figures to be generally dismissed among the collectors of the time.  The 1997 figures and the Stars and Stripes set in particular were pegwarmers and were available well into 1999.  But, they did sell well enough to warrant a vastly superior 1998 series of figures which sold better and was the catalyst to Joe's retail return in 2000.  You'll also note that this figure is Sgt. Zap instead of Zap: an early indicator that Hasbro had not retained the full rights to their figure names.  Sgt. Zap is fine as he can just be Zap.  But, this was among the more innocuous changes to names with many, much worse changes to later appear.

This version of Zap includes the same gear as the vintage version: a bazooka, helmet and backpack.  The 1997 Stars and Stripes set featured the figure accessories individually bagged, within a larger bag.  Through the years, this has created confusion as the Short Fuse figure in the set also included the same backpack mold as Zap and a bazooka.  This has lead to many people mismatching the packs and bazookas for the two figures.  The most common Zap gear is a thick handled, dark green bazooka and a black pack with green painted missiles.  There may be some accessory variants in terms of bazooka color in the set depending upon its production date.  Sets with the black Rock and Roll figure are the most likely to have the variants.  It should also be noted that the figure's helmet does not fit on his head.  You can see the poor fit in the photos.  The '97 helmets were terrible.  (Though, getting clear visors was great!)  So, you're best left to storing the helmet away and having poor Zap's noggin exposed.

The Zap mold showed up around the world in a few different incarnations.  The straight arm figure popped up in Argentina, Mexico and Brazil.  The swivel arm version was released in grey in the European Action Force line as Dolphin and in several different colors (including emerald green) by Funskool in India.  Hasbro got the mold back in 1997 and released it in this set.  Zap appeared again in a comic pack in 2005, but the original chest was replaced with the grenade/knife web gear chest.  Hasbro had the molds to make many of the original 13 in various color schemes (like desert) but failed to ever solve collector gaps in that manner.  Instead, we got a lot of uninspired re-takes on classic characters.  At least this 1997 version gives collectors something cheap and easy to acquire.

When I first got this figure, he pretty much got dumped in a drawer.  20 years later, though, this figure is a bit more interesting to me.  I like having some different colorings of the early figures and, at this point in time, these are the best remakes that Hasbro has ever or will ever make.  And, this Zap provides something that no bootlegger would ever consider while still having redeeming qualities for a collector.  I like rich, green colors on a figure.  So, this Zap works for me.  He fits well enough with original 13 figures that I can use him among them without having to risk damage to my original Zap figure.  And, he brings the same type of visual diversity to a setting of original characters that the first Zap figure does as well.

Mint and complete with filecard 1997 Zap figures sell in the $6 range.  Dealers will get some sales at $12 and even $15.  But, there's a lot of stock available at the lower end and the figure is pretty easy to find these days.  Considering that vintage Zap figures have gotten rather expensive and have very brittle thumbs, this 1997 is a cheap alternative that is still true enough to the vintage look and feel.   The softer plastic ensures that this figure's thumbs will be far less likely to break, even with the fat handled bazooka. The ill fitting helmet is a problem, though.  As Zap, this figure is a decent homage and can match up with some classic figures.  But, if budget is no issue, the original Zap reigns supreme.

1997 Zap, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Bazooka, Toysrus Exclusive

1997 Zap, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Bazooka, Toysrus Exclusive

1997 Zap, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Bazooka, Toysrus Exclusive

1997 Zap, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Bazooka, Toysrus Exclusive

Thursday, May 11, 2017

1985 Footloose - Around the Web

Footloose and Airtight were the first two 1985 figures I acquired.  Seeing a classic infantryman with the full complement of excellent gear which Footloose included was enough to get me to bypass many of the other figures that were on the shelf.  I've never regretted that early acquisition as the figure is of exceptional quality and design.  He remains a staple of my collection and a figure who I enjoy having around, even in multiples.  Here's the best of Footloose from around the web:

Footloose Profile

Plastirama Footloose Profile

Footloose Pre Production at

Footloose at 1

Footloose at

Footloose at 2

Footloose Video Review 1

Footloose at 3

Footloose Video Review 2

Footloose at 4

Footloose Video Review 3

Footloose at 5

1985 Footloose, Lift Ticket, Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, TTBP

1985 Footloose, Flint, Bazooka, 1993 Monster Blaster APC

1985 Footloose, Flint, Bazooka, 1993 Monster Blaster APC

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

1988 Voltar

In 1988, Hasbro pivoted the G.I. Joe brand a bit.  Cobra was de-emphasized for that year and a new villain for G.I. Joe was introduced: the Iron Grenadiers.  Lead by the popular Destro, the Iron Grenadiers brought a third dynamic to the Joe world.  They were given several figures and large run of highly complex vehicles.  The figures and vehicles were unified by a black and gold theme.  However, there was a single deviation from this palette in 1988.  Along with the army building figures and Destro, Hasbro also released Destro's top general for his troops: Voltar.  Voltar featured a unique color base with some unifying elements.  He is a figure that suffers from poor color choices, but still remains somewhat popular.

My younger brother got a Voltar figure at some time in 1988.  He was the least interested in Joes and quickly left the figure and moved on to other things.  At the time, I was not buying or playing with Joes.  But, I kept an eye on anything my brothers acquired.  The same brother had gotten an Iron Grenadier figure the same year and I had found that design incredibly cool.  When I saw the Voltar figure, I initially thought he was pretty nice looking, too.  I found him discarded in our spare room one day and put him together with all his gear.  As I looked at the assembled figure, I thought he was very nice.  However, in short order, I found that he wasn't all that much fun to use.  The bizarre color and golden accessories were just a combo that didn't really work for me.  I tried to incorporate Voltar into a story, but he couldn't retain my attention.

In the comic, Voltar was kind of the same.  He wasn't all that interesting and his appearance did little to increase my interest in the character.  So, Voltar quickly fell into obscurity.  When I opened up my box of Joes in 1997, there was a nicely conditioned Voltar still there.  However, as I was looking for figures to represent the characters I had designed a few years earlier, Voltar was never really considered.  He couldn't beat out the 1992 Firefly, 1994 Metal Head or the 1993 Dr. Mindbender for a coveted spot on my new Cobra roster.  That speaks volumes to my opinion of the figure.

Voltar's gear is odd.  His gun is a rather terrible sub machine gun.  I've never liked it and grew to hate it when Hasbro kept recoloring it as part of 1993 and 1994 weapon trees.  The gold color is gaudy and somewhat fresh for a 1988 release.  But, the design is really limiting.  Voltar then includes a golden backpack.  It is large, but doesn't really seem to do anything.  It's designed as a communications pack.  But, that seems out of place for a general.  It has a handle on it as well as a protruding arm.  The arm is actually a perch for Voltar's most unique accessory: a vulture.  The bird is well designed enough to recognize as a vulture.  And, it has a red head to further the illusion.  As animal companions go, it was better than Spearhead's bobcat.  But, not quite up to Polly or Freedom standards.  The figure looks much better with his full load of equipment and they match his look quite well.

The introduction of the Iron Grenadiers in 1988 is somewhat peculiar, too.  The G.I. Joe Movie was released in 1987 and, at the time that the 1988 figures would have been in pre-production, it was not yet known that the Transformers movie would flop and G.I. Joe would be relegated to off hours TV airings and VHS sales.  We do know that Cobra La would have continued into 1988 and some of those designs (the Nullifier specifically) were co-opted into other parts of the line.  But, this was a rebranding of already designed toys.  So, Destro and his Iron Grenadier cohorts was likely always planned for a 1988 release.  It may be that Cobra Commander's movie fate lead the brand stewards to bring about a new enemy with a new leader while they tried to get everyone to forget about the Commander.  In the comic, the introduction of the Iron Grenadiers brought another interesting dynamic.  They were not, specifically, enemies of G.I. Joe.  Really, they were just a third faction out for themselves and, at time, the personal interests of Destro himself.  They were a nice diversion as the '80's wound down to help break up the continuity.  But, when Destro returned to the Cobra fold, it felt like the comic was finally getting the band back together and all was right in the Joe world.

The Voltar mold was used just once in the U.S. for this 1988 release.  He was also packaged into a two pack with Muskrat and sold as an "Ultimate Enemies" set.  That figure is the same as the standard carded figure, but has an orangish/yellow filecard like the parachute pack Hit and Run. Around 1993, though, the figure appeared in Brazil where he was released as Mestre Rapina.  The Brazilian figure is a lighter purple color and is probably a better version of Voltar than Voltar himself.  The mold never appeared again after that.  Collectors would have welcomed a Voltar repaint during the 2000's.  But, it never happened.  In 2005, the Iron Grenadier themed convention set would have been an excellent way for the character to return.  Instead, though, a new character named General Mayhem was created.  The new character was created to be different and stand on his own.  But, he seems to at least have a bit of an homage to Voltar's original design.

Voltar's mold, though, is a staple of the vintage customizing community.  One of the rights of passage for any customizer seems to be a more realistic take on Voltar.  Some of the customs are good.  But, mostly, they show the limitations of the design.  The figure's head is tough to disguise and, while it does look better in some different colors, it's difficult to overcome the basic mold limitations.  In the end, Voltar is kind of a mess and even enhanced paint applications can't cover that up.

Voltar figures are relatively popular.  The easily broken vulture helps to prop up pricing.  Mint and complete with filecard Voltar figures usually sell in the $8-$10 range.  Dealer pricing tends to run between $12 and $15.  So, there's not the gap for high quality figures between market and dealer sales like you see on other figures.  There's ample supply of the figures and if you are willing to sacrifice the vulture, you can get Voltar's for almost nothing.  But, in the end, the limitations of the figure persist.  To me, Voltar is just a figure that I have.  Even when Iron Grenadier figures were prominent in my collection, Voltar was an afterthought.  The pink hue of his uniform and overall absurdity of his golden trimmings pretty ensure that he will always remain one, too.

1988 Voltar, Iron Grenadiers, Toxo Viper

1988 Voltar, Iron Grenadiers, Toxo Viper

1988 Voltar, 1986 Sgt. Slaughter, 1984 Thunder, Street Fighter Movie Edition Dhalsim

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Jyn Erso - Rogue One The Black Series

I enjoyed "Rogue One" as a movie.  I thought it had a lot of fun points and was visually entertaining.  As I left the theatre, I was still conflicted, though, about the two main characters: Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor.  Cassian, in particular, didn't resonate with me.  I felt that he was kind of there and didn't really have much going on.  Frankly, I think they should have combined his and Bodhi Rook's character into one and it would have made him a bit more interesting.  Jyn, though, had a little more going on.  I felt that they did a decent enough job of introducing her, getting you to care and then sacrificing her at the end.  But, with her story self contained in the single film, I wasn't heavily invested in the character.  Unfortunately, if you want to buy Rogue One toys, Jyn and Cassian comprise a disproportional amount of the figures offered.  Without any real connection to the characters, I avoided their figures and bought a few other characters who did resonate with me instead.  After my profile of the Black Series Death Trooper, though, I had several people reach out to me singing the praises of the quality of the Jyn Erso figure in the same wave.  As she was pegwarming at my local Wal Mart, I broke down and picked one up.  And, I am glad I did.

I've collected Star Wars figures on and off since 1995.  In that time, they've gone from horribly dated, muscular sculpts to superb super articulated offerings and back to 5 points of articulation like the vintage days.  Being a G.I. Joe collector first and foremost, I've long just accepted the difference in construction and articulation.  In fact, I enjoy the difference between the lines as it makes them different.  But, the limitations in posing Star Wars figures as opposed to Joe does restrict them.  For the most part, Star Wars figures look good on a shelf while Joes, to me, need to be played with.  But, the super articulation era of the late 2000's really changed that for me.  So many figures from that era were excellently articulated and it spoiled me as a fan of the figure franchise.  So, seeing the new movie figures in the Disney era mostly 5 points of articulation was a huge disappointment.  But, the Black Series figures have kept the spirit of the 2000's alive. And, the articulation on this Jyn actually surpasses that of G.I. Joe figures.

This Jyn has joints everywhere.  Her ankles, knees, thighs, hips, waist, shoulders, elbows, wrists and neck all are articulated.  There are few poses you can't put her in.  But, unlike the modern G.I. Joe figures, I don't find the articulation to take away from the aesthetic of the overall figure.  The joints are part of the design and aren't the dominating visual feature.  The joints move well and allow the figure to hold her weapon and stand without too much trouble.  The one limitation is that her trigger finger isn't well formed.  On the figures from the 2000's, you could position their finger through the trigger guard of the various weapons.  With Jyn, that's not possible.  They kind of started it, but doesn't seem they followed through on their desires.  It makes for a bit of an awkward positioning of her gun in her hand.  But, for figures with holsters, I prefer the weapon to be sheathed anyways.  So, it's less of a concern than it would be for a Stormtrooper.

This figure's accessories aren't great.  She has a pistol, rifle stock and rifle barrel.  Supposedly, the guns in Rogue One were a big deal as they could be put together and taken apart for various functions.  It was only after I read this that I really noticed it in the movie.  From a toy perspective, Jyn's weapon is over-engineered as a piece.  Just having her pistol that fits into her holster is enough for her.  It would have been nice to get a few other items from the film...especially when you consider the price point of the figure.  But, the fact that the parts can be combined into one weapon is interesting and the accessory is well detailed and painted.

The figure's likeness is ok.  Jyn's eyes generally appeared darker in the movie and this figure's face is more a doll than the tougher, weary eyes from Jyn in the movie.  As a human face, the sculpting is fine.  It's not bizarre or badly proportioned like many Hasbro Star Wars figures can be.  But, it's also not really true to Jyn.  Finding the head in a bin of parts, I'd be hard pressed to match it up to Jyn.  It lacks the experience you see in Jyn's countenance in Rogue One.  She's young, but been through a lot.  This figure appears too wide eyed and gentle to match up with someone willing to give their life to salvage their father's legacy.

For a collector like me, 2017 will not bring much in the way of exciting new toys from Hasbro.  But, 2018 promises the return of super articulated figures to retail release.  The downside is that they are likely to be almost restrictively expensive.  I love picking up a couple of figures for my kids.  That's about $25 right now to do.  If that becomes $50, though, is a different story.  You can buy a lot of kid's toys for $50 and three Star Wars figures don't really hold up to the value that money can get you from other lines.  But, if the 5 points of articulation figures continue for kids, then that will be fine.  Even as a collector, though, the higher price point poses a problem.  At $15+ per figure, I'll be very selective as to which characters I purchase.  You can buy almost every vintage Joe for under that price.  So, if Hasbro releases 30 or more figures per year, it's unlikely I'll pick up even a third of them as the rest of the money would be better spent finishing up my vintage Joe run.

This Jyn shipped in the same case as the Death Trooper.  They didn't seem to ship for very long as they started in October and seemed to be pretty much out of the system by Christmas.  But, even the Death Troopers proved to not be overly difficult to find at the time.  This Jyn, though, pegwarmed massively.  Wal Mart reduced its overstock Black Series figures to $5.83 in March of 2017.  (This clearance also seemed to bring the rest of the missing stock for Jyn's wave to retail, putting even more on the shelves.)  Even at this price, the figure was embarrassingly available.  So, based on this and the fact that Jyn hasn't seemed to resonate with fandom like some other movie leads, I would expect this figure to remain relatively worthless for a long time.  But, there are many cases where a high quality figure pegwarms and collectors ignore it, thinking they can get it any time.  It then disappears on clearance and suddenly the figure takes on a great aftermarket run.  Usually, though, these are highly obscure and collector oriented characters.  So, I find that unlikely for Jyn.  But, should she show up again in some other Star Wars media...well...weirder things have happened.

Jyn Erso, Black Series, Moroff, Pao, Rogue One

Jyn Erso, Black Series, Death Trooper

Jyn Erso, Black Series, Director Krennic, Scarif Trooper

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Sonya Blade Mortal Kombat Movie Edition

In the late 1990's, there were a few staple customs in the Joe world.  Red Star's body was used to create most of the Oktober Guard.  Stormshadow was painted red for a Red Ninja.  And, any half decent custom of Daina used the head from the Sonya Blade figure.  Originally released in the Mortal Kombat line, Sonya Blade has since become a figure that can stand on her own and has found a home in many Joe collections.

The Mortal Kombat line was Hasbro's foray into licensing in the post G.I. Joe world.  The popularity of multi player fighting games provided them with an avenue to use existing molds and technology on a line with a built in fan base.  As a strategy, it wasn't terrible.  The games were immensely popular, especially among kids who were prime ages to still be interested in toys.  And, the figures produced are perfect complements for the Joe line due to their usage of G.I. Joe parts.  Originally, the Mortal Kombat figures were going to be part of the Joe line, much like the first series of Street Fighter figures.  But, that plan was scrapped and we got stand alone Street Fighter Movie and Mortal Kombat lines: even if they borrowed from what G.I. Joe would have been.

The original line consisted of a few video game characters.  Included in this was a Sonya Blade figure wearing a green outfit.  This figure was a full body repaint of the 1987 Jinx figure with a new head.  Shortly after this series of figures debuted, Hasbro released the Mortal Kombat Movie Edition figures.  Included with this series was a newly repainted Sonya Blade wearing an all black ensemble.  Along with the color change, she also featured one part swap on the lower legs.  Gone were the Jinx legs with her foot exposing slippers.  Instead, the Movie Edition figure uses the lower leg molds from 1994 Flint figure.  She also sports dirtier blonde hair.

Sonya Blade Mortal Kombat Movie Edition MOC
The Movie Edition Sonya Blade includes some familiar accessories.  Her knife is a repaint of that originally included with the 1989 Stalker figure.  Her gun is a black version of the odd weapon that debuted with the 1991 Cobra Commander.  She also includes a dark blue missile launcher and grey missile.  The launcher first showed up in 1993 in different colors with the 1993 Dr. Mindbender figure and the 1993 Alley Viper.  It was recolored again in 1994 with the Viper and the Alley Viper.  But, Sonya's launcher is a unique color to her.  The missile was first colored in black with the 1992 Headhunter figure and also came with the 1993 version of that character.  This is the first release of the mold in a grey color.

The Mortal Kombat line borrows heavily from what G.I. Joe would have been in 1995.  The packaging  window uses the full card width to better show off the figure and accessories inside the bubble.  We saw this coming on the packaging mock ups for the 1995 Ninja Commandos.  Speaking of those Ninja Commandos, the Mortal Kombat line also gave us 3 of the 5 planned body molds from the cancelled Ninja Commando line.  Famously, the Movie Edition Shang Tsung uses the entire mold that would have been the Ninja Commando Budo.  But, the Movie Edition Rayden uses the body from the Ninja Commando Flint and the Liu Kang figure uses parts of the Ninja Commando Road Pig.  These are great insights into how far some of the '95 Joe line got into the production process.

As for Sonya Blade, she got two figures in the line and disappeared.  The Jinx body that comprises most of her was released again by Hasbro as Vypra in 1998 and then appeared again in 2004.  The Flint figure from which her lower legs were taken was used in 2001 before disappearing again.  Sonya Blade's head, though, kind of made another appearance.   In 2010, a convention exclusive figure of Natalie Poole was released.  While the figure was based off an Action Force character from Europe and the UK, the figure's head was based on Sonya Blade.  Sadly, this figure is really, really terrible and only its scarcity keeps it from being more ridiculed.  It was a sad fate for this Sonya Blade head and Hasbro might have found better uses for it as an updated Quarrel or new female character.  

The Mortal Kombat figures are kind of tough to find in the wild as part of loose, childhood collections.  They were late run figures and most kids who had them acquired them as gifts of non-Joe related purchases.  However, by 1995, there were tons of toy dealers who scoured liquidation and close out stores for bargains.  When KB Toys lowered the prices on their vast inventory of unsold merchandise, the dealers were there to gobble it up, box them, place them in their storage area of choice and sit on it: hoping for a pile of gold.  Well, enough of them did that that the Mortal Kombat figures are actually very easy to find still MOC, even 20+ years later.  Green Sonya Blades figures can be had for around $10 MOC.  The Movie Edition figures are a bit harder to find and will usually sell in the $20 range.  Though, you can get them cheaper if you are patient.  As novelties of the era, these aren't bad prices.  And, as Sonya uses 1980's Joe molds with the new head, she's a much better fit into a classic Joe collection than some of the ninjas from the line who used later molds from the 1990's and incorporated actions features.

Sonya Blade Mortal Kombat First Series Figure MOC
As there is a dearth of female figures in vintage Joe style, have Sonya Blade available is helpful.  Being, mostly, a Jinx repaint does limit her.  But, the vastly different color scheme and the new head help to mitigate that.  This black Movie Edition figure works as a unmasked Vypra since the 1998 Vypra figure uses black as the base for a Jinx repaint, too.  The green version can work as a Joe, too.  So, there's quite a bit of versatility with the figure variants that are available.  The figure's head is a bit large, though, for the body.  So, be aware of that.

For me, figures like this are fun to have and nice ways to grow a collection.  At this point, I'm not a completist and don't consider these figs to be essential to my personal Joe collection.  But, as my Joe needs are crossed off, I'm sure I'll be looking to both the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat lines for a way to keep growing.  I like Sonya Blade as she's a figure that's useful to have around since she can be used as either a Joe or Cobra and she's cheap to acquire.  That's a solid combo for any figure.  Since she's not, technically, a Joe figure, the interest in her will always be muted.  That allows for the modern collector to still get a bargain on a figure that doesn't show up as often as you might expect in the collecting world.