Thursday, December 27, 2018

1994 Stalker - Around the Web

I found this Stalker figure at retail back in the mid 1990's.  I was immediately taken with the design.  It was true to the Stalker character and included a ton of excellent accessories that were new to me at the time.  Since then, the figure has retained its importance to me.  It's one of the best Stalkers and is a great update to a character who debuted in 1982.  He remains my go to version of Stalker and sees tons of use in various photos.  Here's the best of the figure from around the web.

Stalker Profile - 2000

Stalker Profile - 2013

Stalker on Flickr

Stalker Pre Production at

Stalker by Slipstream80

Stalker at

Stalker by Slipstream80

1994 Stalker, Battle Corps, 1993, Ace, General Flagg, Beach Head, Razorblade

1994 Stalker, Shipwreck, Joseph Colton, Mail away, Mauler, 1985, Action Soldier

Thursday, December 20, 2018

1983 Ace - Around The Web

I first got Ace for my 10th birthday.  He immediately became a the point I lost his helmet twice in the first week I owned him since I took him everywhere.  Both times, I found the helmet and Ace continued to be a key part of my youth.  Eventually, Ace morphed from a pilot into a deep sea diver.  But, time took its toll and Ace faded away: replaced by better pilot figures.  There's a decent amount of content on Ace out there.  So, here's what I found around the web.

1983 Ace Profile

Ace at Toys From the Past

Ace by Flint

Ace at Joe A Day

Ace at

Ace By The Michael Mercy

Ace Pre Production at

1983 Ace, Skystriker

1983 Ace, Skystriker, Grand Slam, Wild Bill, Short Fuse, Skyhawk, 1984

1983 Ace, Skystriker, Grand Slam, Wild Bill, Short Fuse, Skyhawk, 1984, General Hawk, Viper Pilot

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

2017 Tiger Force Starduster - Factory Custom

Starduster is one of those odd figures who should not work.  But, he does.  When you sum his distinctive appearance with his rarity, though, you get one of the most expensive figures in the entire vintage line.  Had he been released in 1992, no one would care about the figure.  But, the early release year and classic construction combine to make a figure that collectors enjoy.  The character did not appear again until 2007 when he was included in a convention set.  For those who like the character and the figure's design, there was little to track down beyond hard to find and expensive variants that are, basically, the same figure.  In 2017, though, collectors were offered some new Starduster factory custom figures.  Among the rainbow of flavors of Starduster was a Tiger Force version.

This figure has a lot going on.  The black shirt is a great juxtaposition against the yellow pants.  Yes, yellow pants.  But, you don't really notice them because of the black stripes and detailed holster on the figure's legs.  The silver grenade and insignia pin give him some additional color.  The brown bandoleer and gloves, though, are a nice leathery color and provide the final color swash to the figure.  The figure works well with classic Tiger Force figures.  But, it can also be used by itself.  The black torso isn't something you saw often in the vintage Joe line and it works on this figure as it does in most of its appearances.

Starduster includes not just the jetpack, grenade launcher, helmet and visor based on the originals, but also a recolored JUMP gun and cord that connects it to the launcher.  There are some notes on the figure's gear.  First, the jetpack and gun are a deep blue color.  They aren't quite Cobra blue, though.  But, they work with the figure's colors.  The helmet is yellow with the star.  It looks great on the General figure from Red Laser's Army.  The visor is black like the original figure, but is of different plastic and easy to differentiate from an original.  The grenade launcher is somewhat controversial.  It, though, is a much shinier silver than a vintage Starduster launcher.  But, if that isn't obvious enough, the gun has a different handle from the original mold.  There really isn't any way to confuse a vintage Starduster gun from the Black Major versions and the fear around these weapons is massively overblown.

The figure is also available with both Starduster torsos.  You can get both the Duke chest and the earlier Recondo variant chest.  What's odd to me is that I find different colors of the figure to work better with different chest pieces.  For the Tiger Force variant, I prefer the Duke chest.  Things like this are completely subjective.  But, it's nice to have options for the figure construction as it gives you slightly different looks for various occasions.  The figure also has brown hair instead of the black hair from the vintage figure.  Since Starduster wears a helmet, this doesn't bother me all that much.  But, it allows you to use the figure as a different character should you so choose.

The key to this figure is that you get a way to use Starduster in different settings.  I find the earliest Joes to remain among my favorites since they formed a large part of my childhood memories.  Having a chance to add some additional characters and paint jobs in this construction style is great.  I like that so many new figures in the classic swivel head design have come out in recent years.  They allow for far more diverse set ups and have brought some remarkable new color schemes to what is actually a relatively small subset of Joe figures.  While I have found that too many repaints can make a mold stale, there are usually two or three color variants that hold my attention.  For Cobra Troopers, it is the Soldado.  For Cobra Mortal, it is the blue version.  And, for Starduster, it's this Tiger Force version.  For others, that's likely to vary.  But, for some reason, the notion of a Tiger Force Starduster resonated with me.

These Tiger Force Starduster variants remain available for original price.  You can get them between $10 and $15 depending upon how many different figures you order, how much you pay for shipping and if you take advantage of various sales and promotions.  Your mileage from this figure may vary based on the price you pay.  For me, getting a Starduster in a slightly different configuration is a fun way to add him to more photos and scenarios.  Pricing on vintage Stardusters is getting to the point where I don't want to take my original figure out for photos for fear of damage.  These factory customs help solve that dilemma and allow me to use the character in more diverse arrangements.  I can't ask for much more from a custom figure in this day and age.

2017, Tiger Force Starduster, Mail Away, Jet Pack, JUMP, Gold Head Steel Brigade, Black Major, Red Laser Army, Bombadier, 1993, Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines

2017, Tiger Force Starduster, Mail Away, Jet Pack, JUMP, 1983, Recondo, 1984, Mutt, Zap

2017, Tiger Force Starduster, Mail Away, Jet Pack, JUMP, 1983, Recondo, 1984, Mutt, Zap

2017, Tiger Force Starduster, Mail Away, Jet Pack, JUMP, 1983, Red Laser Army, Black Major, The General, Hawk, Odin, Cobra Trooper

Thursday, December 13, 2018

1988 Nullifier - Around the Web

The Nullifier was originally intended as a Cobra-La character.  He retains some of the horror of that faction.  But, the figure is heavily armored and works in various capacities.  My younger brother had him and he and his AGP were around for a while.  In fact, my Hit and Run got lost in the ivy of my grandparents' back yard when I had him evading the AGP.  There's some nice content on the Nullifier out there.  Here's the best of the Nullifier from around the web.

Nullifier Profile

Nullifier by Color-Viper05

Nulllifier at Joe A Day

Nullifier by Golden Cobra 79

Nullifier at

Nullifier Pre Production at

Nullifier by toysandtomfoolery

1988 Destro, Iron Grenadier, 1997 Flight Pod, Nullifier, AGP, Trouble Bubble

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2005 Iron Anvil - Convention Exclusive

I first looked at this figure 5 years ago.  But, I didn't feel that profile really did this figure justice.  The 1994 Viper mold is a design gem that was obscure behind poor color choices in it's only release year.  Seeing the sculpt in fully paint glory showcases how amazing the final years of the Joe line could have been.  And, it also shows how spectacular the 2000's era repaint line could have been were these molds better utilized.  In short, you see a lot of missed potential in those statements.  But, the Iron Anvil figure from 2005 is one of those items that we should celebrate since it exists, is relatively common and remains one of the cheaper convention army builders out there today.

You can not discuss the 2005 convention set without touching upon the controversy that surrounded it.  Many months before the convention, a list started to circulate around collecting circles.  It quickly became the worst guarded secret in all of fandom.  But, it was the list of 2005 convention exclusive figures that were planned.  At the time, Master Collector was weirdly secretive and were quick to discredit the list when it appeared publicly.  But, the final set ended up being pretty much what the list showed.  The Iron Grenadiers had to get a new head that fit onto a Night Viper body.  And, the redone Condor never saw the light of day.  What was odd, though, was that the advance knowledge of the convention theme and possible items actually made the set more desirable and many collectors were given incentive to save up for the set since they had ample notice of the theme.  Despite that glorious bit of marketing intelligence, the leaks were plugged and the convention sets remained under wraps after that...heavily diminishing much collector interest.

The Iron Grenadier set, though, remains many collectors' favorite set of the convention era.  It had a solid theme, was in line with the vintage figures and included figures that were different from the originals, but also were well done.  In many ways, it was a set done right.  And, the Iron Anvils are my personal set highlight.  I've been a fan of the 1994 Viper since I found my first one at retail in 1995.  I found another near the end of the summer and began army building them before I knew what army building really was.  I found the design in the comics and always wanted a repaint of the mold with the green body and golden helmet.  As the mold was new for 1994, it's very possible it would have been repainted in 1995.  But, that didn't happen.  And, as Hasbro was releasing Viper repaint after Viper repaint, it never occurred to them to bring back the 1994 mold to offer collectors something different.  So, the mold's appearance in the Iron Grenadier set felt like someone had finally realized the mold's potential.

Starting with the base black color, the Iron Anvil is designed to work with classic 1988 Iron Grenadiers and the 1988 Destro figure.  He even matches the Iron Grenadier vehicles.  The gold and red highlights would be overwhelming.  But, they are toned down by the grey boots and gloves the figure is wearing on his extremities.  The gold and red, though, both feel somewhat fragile to me.  And, I've never been too keen on using these figures in similar ways that vintage figures are exploited.  I'm not sure if that's just fear or genuine experience from dealing with decades of figures with fragile gold paint.  Overall, though, the figure is just four colors: which is somewhat light for a convention release.  But, showing off the color, zipper and goggles makes the colors seem more complex than they are.  You get to see the details of the figure's sculpt without it being too busy.

The Iron Anvil's accessories are well done.  He includes a grey version of the wicked lightning knife that debuted with the 1988 Hydro Viper but was also released in red with the 1994 Viper.  It's a cool looking weapon and makes the figure a bit more dangerous.  The Iron Anvil's weapon of choice is the sub machine gun that originated with the 1989 Annihilator figure.  Again, it is an under-utilized weapon that is well sculpted and really deserved more releases.  It's also a perfect fit for the figure's specialty of para-trooper.  The final bit of gear is the convention issue backpack and parachute.  This combo of metallic vinyl parachute and recolored Jinx backpack originated in 2002 with the Paratrooper Dusty and remained a convention staple after that.  It's not spectacular.  But, it's not bad, either.  Working parachutes are always fun and this chute's colors match the figure. 

I think my opinion of this figure is over-inflated.  I love the 1994 Viper.  I wanted to see repainted 1994 Vipers.  And, the Iron Grenadier set was pretty nice.  So, I have a soft spot for this figure where others may not.  Collectors of the 2000's punished Hasbro for releasing any mold made after 1990.  The club fared a little better.  But, they received a lot of criticism for their use of later molds, too.  Everyone would have loved to have seen the Annihilator get released as the Iron Anvil.  (By the way, the Iron Anvil name is stolen from the obscure Iron Panther driver from the ill-fated Sgt. Savage line of toys.)  But, this Viper repaint is a suitable replacement.  Seeing an under-utilized mold was greatly appreciated by me, even if not every collector felt the same. 

Despite this, I don't have too many of these figures in my collection.  While they are great figures and not overly expensive, I'm not a huge Iron Grenadier fan.  And, I usually don't go overboard buying up specialty army builders, especially if they fall outside of my core Cobra vision.  Though, it's not from lack of trying.  Through the years, I've sought to pick up small lots of these guys.  But, I never get around to it.  They were cheap and common and that drove me seek out other opportunities that I feared would not present themselves again.  Even with a sparse few samples in my collection, I don't go out of my way to use the figure.  While I like the 1988 Destro, I see the character primarily as a member of Cobra.  So, him having his own forces didn't make much sense to me.  It doesn't diminish the quality of this figure.  But, it does reduce my desire to own him in bulk.

Like pretty much all the once common convention figures, Iron Anvils have gotten harder to find.  You used to see tons of lots of 3 to 6 of them that would sell for around $10 per figure.  While those days are gone, the figures are still among the cheaper army builders of those early convention sets.  The Iron Grenadier set was well received.  But, many collectors liquidated surplus army builders as a way to recoup costs.  These days, dealers sell the figures in the $30-$45 range.  Few sell at that price.  But, the more limited supply leads to some desperation purchases.  At open pricing, these are $15 figures: which is a very solid price for a figure of this quality.  But, the Cobra transitioning to an Iron Grenadier and the late year mold are mitigating factors in the figure's popularity.  I find they are worth their price, even if it takes a while to get an army.  With convention army builders, you never know what the future holds.  But, this figure hasn't taken off in almost 15 years.  So, I'm not sure why he would now.

2005 Iron Anvil, Convention Exclusive, Iron Grenadiers, 1985, Mauler

2005 Iron Anvil, Convention Exclusive, Iron Grenadiers, 1985, Mauler, 1994, Star Brigade, Roadblock

Thursday, December 6, 2018

1997 Stalker - Around the Web

The 1997 Stalker is one of my favorite repaints.  It used a classic mold that was done right the first time, but did enough different with it that you have an updated take on a classic character.  This version is the perfect combo of good enough to replace a 1983 Stalker if you're missing him while also being a nice complement to the original.  Sadly, Stalker was about the only figure in the 8 figure Star & Stripes set who was created this way.  But, this leaves collectors a great piece to add to their collection today.  There's criminally little content on this figure out there.  But, here's the best I can find of him from around the web.

1997 Stalker Profile - 2012

1997 Stalker Profile - 2000

1997 Stalker by Scarrviper

1997 Stalker at Joe A

1997 Pre Production at

Stalker by Slipstream80

1997 Stalker, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 Wolverine, Snake Eyes, 2017, The General, Red Laser Army

1997 Stalker, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 Wolverine, Snake Eyes, 2017, The General, Red Laser Army, 2005, HAS, Cobra Soldado, Black Major, Cobra Trooper

1997 Stalker, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 Wolverine, Snake Eyes, 2017, The General, Red Laser Army, 2005, HAS, Cobra Soldado, Black Major, Cobra Trooper, 1987, Coastal Defender, Duke, Grunt

1997 Stalker, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 Wolverine, Snake Eyes, 2017, The General, Red Laser Army, 2005, HAS, Cobra Soldado, Black Major, Cobra Trooper, 1987, Coastal Defender, Duke, Grunt, cobra Commander, General Hawk, Torpedo

1997 Stalker, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 Wolverine, Snake Eyes, 2017, The General, Red Laser Army, 2005, HAS, Cobra Soldado, Black Major, Cobra Trooper, 1987, Coastal Defender, Duke, Grunt, cobra Commander, General Hawk, Torpedo

1997 Stalker, Stars & Stripes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 Wolverine, Snake Eyes, 2017, The General, Red Laser Army, 2005, HAS, Cobra Soldado, Black Major, Cobra Trooper, 1987, Coastal Defender, Duke, Grunt, cobra Commander, General Hawk, Torpedo, Zap

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

X-Ray Eye - Power Commandos

There are many G.I. Joe knock offs out there.  Most were cheap items designed to simply be a military themed alternative for budget minded gift givers.  Some, though, are spectacular in the lengths they went to mimic Hasbro's successful, flagship brand.  The Power Commandos by the Lucky Bell company are one such knock off line.  They not only stole ideas like filecards, package design and characterization, but they also deliberately sculpted their figures directly after existing Joes and even copied Joe accessories and mashed them together to form new weapons that are instantly recognizable to Joe fans.  The effort to do this was commendable and the power commandos remain one of the more ambitious Joe knock off brands.  The first series of figures were packed in 2-packs of one good guy and one bad guy from the "Terror" faction.  Today, we look at the menacingly named X-Ray Eye.

As a kid, I didn't like knock offs.  To me, they didn't work with Joes and looked far too different.  On the cheap knock off figures, the entire ensemble was a poor rip off of Hasbro sculpting.  But, on the better knock offs, it was usually the head and gear that were dead giveaways.  Usually, the heads are not properly sized or lack the details of a Joe head.  The gear may be intricate, but it lacked Hasbro quality.  So, I had very few of these items in my childhood toy room and those that were received as gifts usually ended up lost or destroyed rather quickly.  As a collector, though, I've grown to appreciate what many of these knock off lines attempted to do.  Most made at least a token effort to offer something different from the Joe line.  And, while much of the figure construction still leaves these items absent from my collection, there are exceptions where the figures most closely mimic G.I. Joes.

The quality of the X-Ray Eye figure itself is fairly high.  The paint masks are very crisp.  And, you have green, silver, flesh, black, gold, blue and red for a total of 7 colors on the figure.  Very few vintage Joes ever featured that many.  I suspect that the gold paint on the figure's hands is every bit as brittle as gold paint used in the vintage Joe line.  The sculpting is also very precise.  Usually, you'd find soft details on other knock offs.  But, the Power Commandos are so closely modeled after Joe parts that they retain the hallmark Hasbro quality.  It's likely that these molds were either based on or created from actual Joe molds.  You can see the Tele Viper's chest bright as day on X-Ray Eye.

I find the heads to be of two camps.  The covered head, like X-Ray Eye, aren't too bad.  While they are bigger than vintage Joe heads and still look a bit out of place with vintage Joes, you can forgive the flaws since the countenances are covered and the head coverings could hide any number of things.  The human heads, though, are less well done.  X-Ray Eye's packmate, Submarine, has a pretty terrible head sculpt that looks like the knock off he is.  It ruins a figure that is a close proximate for the 1986 Cobra Viper.  X-Ray Eye's head, works, though.  The single eye covering is no more bizarre than any number of Cobras.  And, his colors work in combo to make for a decent looking bad guy.  (Terror characters are supposed to be from outer space.  But, X-Ray Eye has a distinctly human fleshtone which helps ground the character in a more traditional Joe role.)

It is in this capacity that I find value in X-Ray Eye.  Getting a new, named Cobra is now impossible.  Even the foreign releases have been barren for over 15 years, now.  So, figures like X-Ray Eye work as new bad guys who can keep Cobra fresh.  I see his axe as the figure's defining feature.  X-Ray Eye is more or a cross between a Halloween movie villain and a Cobra baddie.  I've gone down the failed executioner road.  But, that limits the character quite a bit.  So, I'm focusing on the axe as an ornamental weapon that only appears in close quarters combat.  Though, I'm sure I'll one day have a photo of X-Ray Eye chopping off the head of some poor Steel Brigade figure.

The Power Commando accessories are extremely odd.  In the CORPS! line, we saw some exact matches for Joe accessories appear: only with subtle differences.  (Flint's pack was missing a grenade.  Blowtorch's pack had a slightly different pattern on the tubes, etc.)  The Power Commandos took that a step further.  Their weapons are almost exact copies of 1/2 of two different Joe accessories.  These two pieces are put together into something new.  Any Joe fan will instantly recognize the weapons as Joe related.  But, will also see how the designers made them different enough to avoid any legal issues.  X-Ray Eye's primary rifle is a combination of the 1984 Baroness' rifle butt combined with the classic 1984 Firefly rifle barrel.  The claw attachment is the BAT claw with a stick added as a wrist attachment.  And, the big axe features BBQ's blade stuck onto Alpine's pickaxe handle.  There are tons more strange hybrids in the line that make the gear worthwhile as an addition to any collection, even if the figure's aren't your cup of tea.

To make collecting Power Commandos more fun, there are some figure variants.  The first wave of figures are common.  But, there were later waves that featured re-releases of the Wave 1 figures.  But, most of the 6 figures featured some type of variant.  For X-Ray Eye, the differences are subtle.  The variant figure features orange boots and a slightly darker red torso.  It's not much of a variant.  But, it exists, nonetheless.  And, if you don't have anything to do, it gives you an unsatisfying variation that will consume way too much of your time trying to find.

I'm not sure of the origins of the Power Commandos.  The figures were manufactured in China by a company named Lucky Bell.  They feature a 1992 copyright date and it seems perfectly logical that they fit into this timeframe.  The cards are all in English.  (Though, the Mexican overstock features Spanish language stickers.)  I am not certain as to where all the figures were released.  Many origins can be traced to South America.  But, this seems to be more a case of a product being dumped into any market that would take it.  The all English packaging lends credence to them being designed for the American market.  But, their similarity to G.I. Joe may have caused them grief at customs when the not coincidental designs were seen and reported to Hasbro.  It's another of those stories that we'll likely never know.

In my early collecting years, all Power Commandos were hard to find and somewhat pricey for what they were.  In the 2010's, though, large amounts of overstock Power Commandos began to appear: mostly in Mexico.  This lead to both greater availability and softer pricing for the first 6 figures.  The series two figures remain both rare and pricey, especially since a couple of them are dead ringers for 1986 Cobra army builders.  You can get a carded X-Ray Eye/Submarine pack for around $20 with a little looking.  You might even be able to find a loose, mint and complete figure for 1/2 that amount.  But, you can also still get a complete set of 6 carded figures for far less.  It's likely those will disappear soon as they aren't as prevalent as they were a couple of years ago.  So, now is the time to acquire these guys as we've seen recent examples of Joe adjacent items rapidly climbing in price as soon as some found stock is absorbed.

1992, X-Ray Eye, Power Commandos, Terror, Lucky Bell, 1995, Mortal Kombat Movie Edition, Dhalsim, 1997, Silver Mirage, TRU Exclusive, Odin, Red Laser Army

1992, X-Ray Eye, Power Commandos, Terror, Lucky Bell, 1991 Crimson Guard Immortal, 1993, Firefly, Cobra Commander

1992, X-Ray Eye, Power Commandos, Terror, Lucky Bell, Black Major, Night Viper, 1993, Detonator

1992, Lucky Bell, Power Commandos, X Ray Eye, Submarine, MOC, Carded, Filecard

Friday, November 30, 2018

1988 Toxo Viper - Around the Web

The 1988 Toxo Viper was Cobra's first foray into biological warfare.  While the figure has its oddities, it has also endured as a classic design of the Cobra army.  The removable helmet and interesting pack/weapon combo are a perfect array of accessories for a well designed sculpt.  Despite collector sentiment against anything Eco Warriors adjacent, there is a strong amount of content available on the Toxo Viper.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1988 Toxo Viper Profile

Toxo Viper by Golden Cobra 79

Toxo Viper at

Toxo Viper by JDoubleBigApe

Toxo Viper Pre Production at

Toxo Viper by DreadnokDread

Toxo Viper Video Review by HCC788

Toxo Viper Photo Feature at Joe A Day

Toxo Viper by thedustinmccoy

1988 Toxo Viper, Imp, 1991 Eco Warriors, 1993 Detonator

1988 Toxo Viper, Imp, 1991 Eco Warriors

1988 Toxo Viper, Imp, 1991 Eco Warriors

Saturday, November 24, 2018

1991 Low Light - Around The Web

Low Light became a classic Joe immediately upon his release.  The combination of sculpt, specialty and colors ingrained him into the psyche of the Joe community.  In 1991, Hasbro revisited the character.  And, while the trademark blonde hair was gone, the sculpt and design of the figure was easily on par with the original release.  This Low Light featured more gear and kept the dark color scheme that defined the character.  He remains a popular remake of a classic character.  Despite this, there isn't a ton of content on this version of the figure around the web.

1991 Low Light Profile

1991 Low Light at

Low Light by JogunWarrior

Low Light at

Low Light by instachamp

1991 Low Light, 1985 Mauler, Super Sonic Fighters Zap

1991 Low Light, 1985 Mauler, Super Sonic Fighters Zap, 2002 Dial Tone, Gift Set

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

2001 Pathfinder

I'm a Pathfinder fan.  On one hand, this makes sense since he's a good figure from a solid year of G.I. Joe releases.  On the other hand, though, Pathfinder was released long after I had stopped collecting toys and he never played a part in the comic.  (My only G.I. Joe consumption of the time.)  So, there's no real connection to the figure that explains my affinity.  Mostly, Pathfinder seemed exotic.  When I first started collecting Joes, all of the 1990 and 1991 figures were actually quite hard to find.  You never saw them in photos, beyond the fact that Pathfinder's head was often used in customs of the members of the LRRP that also included Snake Eyes, Stormshadow and Stalker.  When I first acquired a Pathfinder, it was as part of a large lot of figures that I had never owned before.  And, Pathfinder stood out among all the new acquisitions.  He remained a personal favorite for a while and kept his generally obscure stature in the collecting world until 2001: when Hasbro created this repainted version as the driver of a Toys R Us exclusive AWE Striker repaint.

At first, it was great to see Pathfinder.  In 2001, Hasbro hadn't really let the extent of lost vintage molds be known.  So, seeing a figure like Pathfinder gave us hope that many more exotic gems would follow.  (Spoiler, they didn't.)  But, in and of himself, Pathfinder was a good release that gave many collectors their first exposure to the sculpt.  Of course, though, he dark black and grey colors joined the muted look of his contemporaries and he faded into any group shot due to the over-saturation of various color hues.  But, seeing Pathfinder included with a vehicle gave hope that there was more great stuff to come in the line.

As a character, Pathfinder is a blank slate.  His sunglasses obscure his eyes and give him an eerie, mysterious look.  But, his specialty does not really lend itself to anything other than a standard infantryman who took on the dangerous work of blazing the trail for his team.  There's probably something slightly off about someone who would volunteer for point duty while wearing a massive buzzsaw that would be heard from miles away in a combat zone.  So, should I ever undertake a Pathfinder characterization, that will be my likely starting point.

This coloring of Pathfinder was largely seen as a "Night Force" incarnation of the character.  While there was nothing official to denote this, collectors of the era took the figure's colors in conjunction with the all black AWE Striker as a direct Night Force homage.  For that reason, this Pathfinder did see a bit of online notoriety for a couple of weeks.  But, that soon petered out and even the AWE Striker repaint fell off the radar.  There was simply so much going on in the Joe world of that time that new releases (unless they were spectacular) fell to the wayside once most people had them in hand.

Pathfinder has few variants for collectors to find.  There is the 1990 figure.  It has a European accessory variant, though the figure is the same.  The figure was planned for release in 1998 in a pack with Outback and Dial Tone.  But, that pack got cancelled.  We got this figure in 2001 and then a re-release of that same figure, though now with accessories in 2004.  The "Chocolate Chip" Pathfinder is a great miss for the collecting world as that set would have been great.  And, the 2004 figure could have been something different.  But, he was released in a set of two vehicles and three figures for $20, so there probably wasn't much budget to get something new.  Hasbro kept the Pathfinder mold after Funskool had stopped producing Joes, so there are no foreign repaints.  So, we get to enjoy two solid Pathfinder figures even if we could have gotten more.

While many vehicles from the 2000's have risen dramatically in price, the AWE Striker has not.  This is likely due to the mold's later overuse.  And, that disinterest in the vehicle has dragged this version of Pathfinder down, too.  Loose figures can be had for $1-$3.  (You'll pay around $9 for a 2004 version complete with the repainted accessories, though.)  You can get AWE Strikers with the figure for between $10 and $20.  Of course, neither the figure nor the vehicle are as common as they were a few years ago.  But, it's worth tracking down a version of Pathfinder for a couple of bucks.  He's something different, even if the 1990 figure is substantially better.  And, he's aged better than you would have thought back in 2001 just because we didn't see him again and the colors appeared with less frequency in subsequent years.

2001 Pathfinder, AWE Striker, 2008, Toys R Us Exclusive, Anti Venom, Mutt, 2004

2001 Pathfinder, 2002 Mirage, ARAHC, Clutch, 2004, 1988 Mean Dog

Saturday, November 17, 2018

1990 Range Viper - Around the Web

The Range Viper is one of the first figures I ever reviewed.  He was also one of the first figures that I never had as a kid who captured my attention.  Like many of these early collector age figures, though, the Range Viper's profile fell after a few years: his spot taken by newer figures.  Plus, Hasbro kind of ruined the uniqueness of the mold by repainting it so often in the 2000's.  But, the Range Viper is still a very solid release and remains an enemy I enjoy having around.  There's a good amount of content on the Range Viper from around the web:

1990 Range Viper Profile

European Spring Loaded Weapon Exclusives

Range Viper at the Viper Pit

Range Viper at

Range Viper at Half The Battle

Range Viper by Cobra Freak

Range Viper at JoeWiki

Range Viper by 00zxcvb

1990 Range Viper, 1983 Hiss Tank

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

1989 Hot Seat

I quit buying G.I. Joe toys in early 1988.  By 1989, even my younger brothers had mostly quit as they moved on to other things, too.  This left me only one real avenue by which I could see the new Joe releases for that year: the comic book.  But, in late 1988 through 1989, even my comic purchases fell off a bit and I actually missed a few months as things like Nintendo took up more of my leisure time.  I did start to catch up in 1989.  But, my interest in those stories fell off from earlier issues.  I retain a general knowledge of each Joe comic through issue 65 or so.  These early issues were key elements of my childhood and I read and re-read them dozens (if not hundreds!) of times.  This left an imprint that lingers with me to this day.  After that, though, the comics and stories tend to blend together.  But, there are individual scenes in the comics that I recall.

One such scene occurred during the arc that introduced the Raider.  At one point in the battle, the Raider raised up its hidden missile racks and destroyed a Razorback, killing the stunned drivers who didn't know the capabilities of the Raider.  Seeing this new vehicle in action made me wonder what the toy was like.  But, it would be nearly a decade before I saw an actual Raider.  Seeing the toy lead to the discovery of the Raider's included driver figure: Hot Seat.  Hot Seat was an incredibly obscure figure that was fairly difficult to find in the late 1990's.  But, I managed to find one and really, really wanted to like him.  But, the figure never really grabbed my attention and it's taken nearly 20 years to get around to profiling the figure, even though I had plans to review him nearly from the start of this site.

Hot Seat's uniform isn't badly sculpted.  His chest seems larger, like he's wearing armor to protect him inside the Raider's exposed, glass canopy.  The tan undershirt with rolled up sleeves is a nice contrast to the black gloved hands.  Hot Seat looks like he's at work, which I like in a vehicle driver.  The dark green flak jacket offsets both colors nicely.  Alas, the figure falls apart from here.  While the legs are nicely designed, they are orange with red canisters painted on the legs.  The orange is bright.  It is ostentatious and it simply overwhelms the figure.  All hope of Hot Seat being a cool, undiscovered gem is erased with one look at the figure's lower half.  It's just an odd choice and doesn't really fit with Hasbro's typical work of that time.  It was rare to see a figure that had such a disparity between his top half and his lower body.  But, in Hot Seat's case, it pretty much spoils the toy.

The best part of Hot Seat is the super bizarre helmet.  Hasbro went all in on the one eyed helmet designs in the Joe line.  (They were a hallmark of the late 1980's and must have had a fan on the design team.)  The practicality of such a design may be debatable.  But, aesthetically, Hot Seat's helmet works in it's uniqueness.  I know that I tend to like weird Joe designs more than many collectors, though.  So, the odd helmet's look on Hot Seat is something of which I tend to be more forgiving.  But, the helmet gives Hot Seat character.  My only real beef with it is that is covers Hot Seat's only other memorable trait: his grey hair.  There are not many grey haired characters in the Joe world.  Even the 1986 Hawk, represented someone who was at least in the mid 50's, had rich, auburn hair.  So, seeing Hot Seat's hair gave him an air of an elder statesman for the team.  It's about the only real defining aspect of Hot Seat's design.

Sadly, Hot Seat never showed up again.  Neither the character nor the mold ever made another appearance in the Joe line.  Really, just one release with better colored pants would have made for a great repaint.  1989 vehicle drivers either ended up dying with Olmec toys and their failed Bronze Bombers or showing up as 2000's era Convention releases.  But, Hot Seat saw neither of these fates.  A single repaint would have been cool as the figure could have worked in a late model vintage vehicle.  (He could have become a new Steeler or Thunder release without anyone batting an eye, too.)  With nothing else out there, Hot Seat remains a character and figure who will likely never see appreciation over what he has today.  (Though, Hot Seat did reference fear of brain injury from repeated head trauma in 1989.  So, he has that little factoid in his back pocket, too.)

Hot Seat figures are not popular.  While dealers will sell them for $10 to $12, they sell for half that on the open market.  (You can get a figure still in the bubble for $10 if you look hard enough and have some patience.)  The tight fitting helmet helps keep the volume of complete figures high.  And, the character's complete obscurity hides him from most collectors.  I've long wanted to like this figure.  But, it took me 15 years to finally get around to profiling him because I just never got motivated to get some solid pictures of Hot Seat out and about.  Even now, I kind of ran out of things to say about the figure or character.  I've had him as a vehicle driver from time to time.  But, it's a deliberate choice to include Hot Seat and not an organic decision where he is the best choice for a photo.  That's likely Hot Seat's ultimate fate and this is his lone moment in the spotlight.

1989 Hot Seat, Raider, Slaughters Marauders Mutt, Desert Fox, 1988

1989 Hot Seat, Raider, 2002 Night Rhino, Warthog, 2004, Anti Venom, Stalker, 1988, Repeater, Barricade

Saturday, November 10, 2018

1997 Snake Eyes Around the Web

The 1997 Stars and Stripes set was meant to be an homage to the original 13 Joes.  The execution was not realized, though.  But, there were some decent figures in the bunch.  The release of the version 1 Snake Eyes mold was well received by collectors as he was one of the most popular figures in the line and was one of the pricier Joes of that era.

The 1997 figure introduced new paint applications to breathe more life into the mold.  In the next decade, the mold would get overused, though.  But, in 1997, this Snake Eyes was a great addition to the Joe line.  Here's the (very limited) best of him from around the web.

1997 Snake Eyes Profile

1997 Snake Eyes Dio

1997 Snake Eyes Pre-Production at

1997 Snake Eyes, Toys R Us Exclusive, Star & Stripes Forever, Stalker, Zap, 1983

1997 Snake Eyes, Toys R Us Exclusive, Star & Stripes Forever, Stalker, Zap, 1983

1997 Snake Eyes, Toys R Us Exclusive, Star & Stripes Forever, Stalker, Zap, 1983

1997 Snake Eyes, Toys R Us Exclusive, Star & Stripes Forever, Stalker, Zap, 1983, 1985 Flint, Bazooka, 1986 Lifeline, Leatherneck

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

1993 Mudbuster

In the beginning, vehicles were the reason for the G.I. Joe line to exist.  These amazingly detailed mazes of plastic were incredibly profitable for Hasbro and provided the funding to keep the line moving.  It's likely that it cost Hasbro less or only marginally more to make something like the VAMP than it did to make a figure since the figures required so much construction prior to being ready for sale.  Joe vehicles remained combinations of model kits and toys for many years.  But, as the years progressed, corners began to be cut.  This was mostly due to changing tastes among kids.  Large, complicated vehicles and playsets became less important and action gimmicks became more important.  So, Joe vehicles changed with the times.  It's most noticeable after 1990.  By the line's final two years, vehicle releases were both less frequent and less impressive than those that had preceded them.  Which isn't to say that they don't have some fun, redeeming releases that are worthy of any collection.  The Shark 9000, Blockbuster and Cobra Detonator are all large vehicles that belong in any collection.  But, I find one of their smaller contemporaries: the Mudbuster, to be a hidden gem among the line's final years.

It is very probable that your opinion of the Mudbuster is entirely tied to your view of 1993 and 1994 G.I. Joe releases.  If you don't mind those figures, their colors and the new, bulkier sculpts, then you are probably OK with the Mudbuster.  It's no VAMP.  But, it's a toy that works great with the figures from the era.  If you're more of an '80's Joe fan, then you probably hate this vehicle.  But, the Mudbuster does perfectly encapsulate the changing purpose and design of vehicle toys from the 1980's to the 1990's.  The first waves of Joe vehicles were glorified model kits that were relatively cheap to produce and were long on details and playability.  By the 1990's, though, vehicles were something that needed to be in ready to play condition right out of the box.  This lead to toys that were easy to manufacture and assemble in factories (to keep costs down) rather than cheap to manufacture and package: leaving the construction labor to the consumer.  It's a rather drastic paradigm shift for toys and Joe straddled the changing consumer tastes.

It is a near certainty that I came across a Mudbuster at retail in the mid 1990's.  However, as it did not include a figure, I would have also quickly passed it by.  At the time, I didn't really have room for new vehicles.  And, since I had my full complement of childhood vehicles in decent enough condition, I felt I had no reason to acquire anything new unless it included a figure.  As all Joes disappeared from retail, this thinking started to vanish and I did pick up a couple of figureless vehicles.  When I got my first Mudbuster in 1999/2000, though, I realized that I would have loved it a few years earlier and I shorted myself by passing it by.  

One of the nice attributes of these later vehicles is that they were sculpted with the bulkier, later figures in mind.  Over the years, the basics of Joe figure construction remained unchanged.  But, the size and detail of some of the parts did.  By 1993, torsos and legs were bulkier, arms were more detailed and heads were rounder than those of the 1980's.  This is most visible when you attempt to put a 1993 or 1994 sculpted figure into a 1983 vehicle.  They will not fit into the Dragonfly and you can't get two of them to sit comfortably in the VAMP.  The later vehicles, though, accommodate the increased girth of their contemporary figures.  Part of the reason why the vehicles are larger is to interact with the figures of their era.

As a toy, the Mudbuster works.  My criteria for jeep type vehicles is that they can hold several figures with no hassle and that they have a play feature.  Sure, the Mudbuster features the de facto spring loaded cannon from the 1990's.  But, the design is good enough that it's believable.  And, the cannon can shoot a giant grappling hook with attached rope.  To me, this is the play feature that gives the Mudbuster its cachet.  The hook can be used to snag enemy vehicles and reel them in.  It's the ideal vehicle choice for law enforcement and it's in that capacity that the Mudbuster has found the greatest use in my collection.

But, the Mudbuster also works as a general, all purpose vehicle.  The turquoise coloring allows the Mudbuster to blend with both bright figure from the line's final years as well as those who came in more muted colors.  It's an odd versatility.  But, because both the figures and vehicles were designed in tandem, they are meant to complement one another and you see ghosts of the symmetry between figure and vehicle that was such a calling card of the 1980's Joe line. 

Some of the parts are reused from earlier vehicles.  That both gives the Mudbuster a generic quality that's tough to overcome.  But, it also shows that some different colors and a few new parts can make for a useful new toy.  (Something Palitoy pioneered in the Action Force line.)  The cockpit holds two figures with ease and there's even room for a weapon or two.  You can stack a couple of figures on the back, though it's tough to get more than one in the bed if that one is manning the gun.  There are nice storage holes for extra missiles.  And, the coup de gras is that the vehicle will extend with force as an action feature.  There is a rubber band that allows the vehicle to collapse and expand depending upon how you wish it to work.  It's not a very useful feature.  But, it was the type of thing that worked as a selling point in the 1990's.

Mudbusters aren't all that common to find.  The final year vehicles saw lower production numbers and weren't the ubiquitous parts of collections like their 1980's brethren.  But, they are also substantially less popular than the earlier offerings.  So, while it's fairly uncommon to stumble upon a perfect Mudbuster in the wild, you can find them for cheap with a little effort.  Boxed versions will run you under $30 and you can get loose, mint and complete Mudbusters for around $10.  For that price, the vehicle is a no-brainer if you have any interest in 1993 or 1994 figures.  So, there's no reason for anyone to be missing the Mudbuster aside from sheer lack of interest in the vehicle.

1993 Mudbuster, Mega Marines, Cyber Viper, Mega Viper, Duke, Battle Corps

1993 Mudbuster, Mega Marines, Cyber Viper, Mega Viper, Duke, Battle Corps, Mirage, Eco Warriors, Outback

1993 Mudbuster, Mega Marines, Cyber Viper, Mega Viper, Duke, Battle Corps, Mirage, Eco Warriors, Outback, General Flagg

1993 Mudbuster, Tiro Certo, Brazil, Estrela, Cerebro, Raio Verde, HEAT Viper, Mace, Bulletproof, DEF

Saturday, November 3, 2018

1984 Recondo - Around the Web

It's tough to wrong with Recondo.  He remains one of the most iconic Joe figures ever released and is a favorite of many collectors.  As a kid, I wanted to love the figure.  But, something about him never really clicked.  I've never been able to put my finger on it and I do enjoy the figure now and use him in photos quite often.  There's a couple of different variants of the figure out there where his leg camo is greener or browner that gives you something to track down.  Plus, there's an Auriken version from Mexico and an Estrela version from Brazil to find.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1984 Recondo Profile

Recondo at

Recondo Video Review

Brazilian Recondo (Leopardo) Profile

Recondo Pre Production at

Recondo at

Recondo at Joe Wiki

1984 Recondo, Spirit, 1983 VAMP

1984 Recondo, Spirit, 1983 VAMP, Tiger Force, Black Major, Starduster, Mutt, Mail Away, Bootleg, JUMP, Factory Custom

1984 Recondo, Spirit, 1983 VAMP, Tiger Force, Black Major, Starduster, Mutt, Mail Away, Bootleg, JUMP, Factory Custom

1984 Recondo, Spirit, 1983 VAMP, Tiger Force, Black Major, Starduster, Mutt, Mail Away, Bootleg, JUMP, Factory Custom, Clutch

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

1994 Mexican Lobotomaxx - Lunartix Empire

Halloween is a fun time.  It's not something you'd normally associate with G.I. Joe.  But, as the line progressed, Hasbro was kind enough to introduce various monsters and aliens to the mythos that gives me fodder for profiles nearly 25 years later.  Most of these are tucked into the Lunartix aliens theme that was introduced in 1994.  Technically, we only have 6 members of the empire: 3 aliens and 3 Manimals.  But, there's much more.  In terms of rarities, there are 9 unproduced Manimal figures.  But, there are also three exclusive Lunartix alien repaints that were released as Mexican exclusives in 1994.  There were days when these figs were super common.  But, they have become scarce (likely due to extremely low production numbers) and desirable among collectors.  The Carcass and Predacon repaints are notorious for their drastic differences.  The Mexican Lobotomaxx is less distinguishable, but still an interesting addition to a collection.

Supposedly, the Mexican variants on the Lunartix alien figures were actually factory mistakes.  When the first samples returned from Asia, the aliens' colors did not match the card art.  So, they had the figures recolored and released in the U.S.  The miscolored figures were then packaged up and had Spanish language stickers slapped onto them before they were sold in Mexico.  I do suspect that some of these figures were actually sold in the U.S., too.  In the early 2000's, it was not uncommon to find Mexican Star Brigade figures intermingled with American Star Brigade figures when you bought from dealers. There are also factory samples of the figures with US cards that are incredibly rare, too.  But, these were among the final figures Hasbro ever produced so some ambiguity is forgiven since the guys who had given their life to make the Joe line so amazing had suddenly found themselves out of a career.

As a figure, Lobotomaxx is weird.  He's a four legged monster with a third hand on his tail.  On top of that, half of his head was removed when Predacon whacked him with a laser sword.  This detail as well as Space Shot being a Han Solo clone were likely inside pot shots at the newly acquired Kenner team that was working on returning Star Wars to retail in 1995 and would, ultimately, take the jobs of most of the Joe designers in the boys action figure division.  It also leaves Lobotomaxx as an awkward action figure.  The lower legs are actually two feet attached to one joint rather than four, separate feet.  The figure lacks the classic o-ring construction and has cut, swing joints for the hips.  A casual collector could come across this figure and really have no idea that he's from the G.I. Joe line.

But, as a piece of sculpting, the figure is an achievement.  The hands and tail are well detailed.  And, the entire figure's body features strings of veins running through it.  Lobotomaxx looks like a monster with no real ties to a humanoid form.  Thirteen years of knowledge and experience culminated in the Lunartix figures.  And, if you forgive the concept, you can see the attention to detail and quality on each character.  For this reason alone, the figures are noteworthy.  Even if their concept is too far from left field to really incorporate into the Joe mythos.

My first encounter with Lobotomaxx was in 1998.  I had just returned to G.I. Joe collecting and online resources showed off the exotic releases from 1993 and 1994 that I had never found in stores as I scoured the last bastions of Joe at retail stores.  The Lunartix aliens fascinated me because they were such a departure from the Joe I had grown up with and collectors, generally, hated them so much.  One of my first purchases at that time was a carded American Lobotomaxx.  I paid a princely sum of $15 for it.  (Remember, at the time, bagged version D Steel Brigade figures wouldn't sell for $5 and mint and complete Hardtops could be had for under $10.)  The figure than sat at my parents' house for several years while I acquired other, far cheaper versions as online supply of late run Joes exploded between 1999 and 2001.  And, that was pretty much the extent of Lobotomaxx for me.  At some point, I came across a loose sample and found the limitations of the figure weren't enough to keep it around when I had carded versions stashed away and this Mexican version remains the only loose Lobotomaxx left in my collection.

As for usage, there's not really a way to incorporate the Lunartix into the Joe world.  I had a story where the monsters were experiments of Dr. Mindbender gone awry.  As a one off idea, this can work.  You'll see a variant on that theme in the photos below.  But, it's not really a way to use Lobotomaxx as anything other than a de-humanized monster.  I suppose you could make him super intelligent as a by product of Mindbender's recklessness.  But, even that would play out rather quickly.  Really, the only use for figures like this is a conversation piece.  And, that's mostly what you see Lunartix reduced to in the modern collecting world.

There are a couple of notable differences between the Mexican and American Lobotomaxx figures.  The easiest to spot is the fact that the Mexican figure is a darker green.  However, as Lobotomaxx isn't a figure that most collectors are intimately familiar with, this detail can be obfuscated by unfamiliarity.  If you have a loose sample, the easiest way to tell them apart is the back of the figure.  While the American Lobotomaxx is clean, the Mexican figure features a silver overspray you can see in the first photo below.  This is the tell tale sign of a Mexican Lobotomaxx should you come across a loose sample in the wild.

While the Mexican Predacon figure has gotten pricey, you can still get both loose and carded Lobotomaxx figures for decent prices.  It's worth noting that the Mexican Lobotomaxx's accessories are slightly different in color from the American figure.  So, that's something to watch for.  But, you can get a figure for around $70 MOC and as low as $50 loose.  There are still lots of poorly labeled Lobotmaxx figures out there since few realize the color variant and you can get lucky to this day.  But, as American Lobotomaxx figures are $50 for a MOC figure these days, the luck only takes you so far.  For the price and the type of figure this is, I find him worth it because I'm a Star Brigade apologist.  For others, that probably isn't worth the price.  But, he's an odd duck to have in a collection for a variety of reasons and that's always worth a premium.

1994 Mexican Exclusive Lobotomaxx, Lunartix, Star Brigade, 1993 Mega Vipers, Mega Marines

1994 Mexican Exclusive Lobotomaxx, Lunartix, Star Brigade, Viper, Major Bludd, Battle Corps