Tuesday, September 5, 2017

2016 Female Cobra Officer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. Great post, Mike. Boy oh boy, where do I start? Quite honestly, Joe is in trouble for many, many reasons. Let's start with the figures themselves. Horrible, horrible quality. I quit buying them because I've had hands fall off, joints snap , etc. They become extremely "wobbly" probably due to the soft plastic. While that stupid chest joint actually makes sense on the female Cobra, it mostly looks ugly, and unnecessary. The heads are generally too small for their bodies.
    I got into Joes again because of the 25th, so I have a certain fondness for it, It made me get back into o-ring. Let's face it- the people who were most excited for the 25th probably saw it as a better and cheaper way to collect their favorite childhood Joes.(including me!)
    Snake-Eyes actually died last year, in the revitalized ARAH IDW run. I agree with you, G.I. Joe is stuck in a rut. One of the problems is the characters are stagnate, especially on the Cobra side. I was in the Army and National Guard for quite awhile. There is considerable turnover. I realize Joe is an elite unit, but people should get hurt, killed, transfer, retire whatever. Not nearly enough turnover in the ranks.
    Nobody wants to say this, but amongst half the (liberal) population, being "patriotic" is deeply uncool, look at Antifa protestors and how they treat veterans.
    As far as Cobra,does anybody remember the early Marvel issues where they fought other groups beside Cobra? Who wouldn't like to see some generic Russian and Middle Eastern soldiers to fight Joe in o-ring style? If you look at Hasbro's last o-ring offerings, the quality was terrific. Remember that version two comic pack Covergirl?

  2. I'm with you on a lot of accounts. She's a fun figure, for sure. I too kind of hate the early Modern Era figures. Weird proportions, rehashed designs, limited articulation... I traded off pretty much all of them within about a year or so. When the movie and especially Pursuit of Cobra happened, I was HOOKED. New designs, new characters, super functional articulation, oodles of accessories... Those were the days.

    As for Joe in the future, I think the "Adventure Team" style is a wise choice. The current comics are taking a similar approach, and I like what they're doing with it. Make them soldiers who occasionally fight bad guys, but are for the most part dealing with monsters and stuff. Plus, they have a Decepticon on their team!
    I doubt the new movie will be very "American" since whether you like it or not, movies are made for a global audience now. Gotta get those Chinese movie ticket dollars, you know?

  3. As a fan of the "Neon 90s" I'm in no place to condemn other collectors' tastes, but this modern stuff just isn't for me. In general I only make exceptions for characters like Arcee or Pythona that deserved a vintage toy but never got one.The Anniversary line always felt more like "collectibles" than real toys IMHO. I bought a few but later purged them on eBay.

  4. There's a few modern figures whose heads are stuck looking downward. Burn-Out from the Deadnoks pack sucks for this reason. There's also Taurus from the Marauders set (who has permanently bent knees thanks to poor parts usage). The way-too-loved-by-fans Cobra trooper single carded and other releases. I'm not much of a modern collector so I don't even know them all.

    Hasbro took a lazy customizer's approach at times, like "these parts are from the same toy line, so they must all be compatible."

    This is the same company that kept reissuing the 1997 Viper with the messed up neck, so I guess things haven't changed.