Tuesday, January 30, 2018

1993 Dr. Mindbender

As Joe slowly disappeared from retail in the mid 1990's, I scoured every retail store I could find in an attempt to build my collection as much as I could before the figures disappeared forever.  As money was limited, so were my purchases.  In the early days, I was more choosy and would only buy the figures that most fit with my vintage collection.  Then, as those disappeared, I picked up figures who were poorly colored, but had good gear.  Once those were gone, I pretty much bought every figure I could find since it was rare to find more than two or three figures at any given store.  There were a few figures, though, where I bent the rules.  In most cases, it was simply due to the fact that the character was one from my childhood and that was enough for me to consider the new figure: even if the coloring was, shall we say, poor.  This leads to the 1993 Dr. Mindbender figure.  A yellow and purple nightmare mish-mash of color with eye-burning yellow accessories was not the type of figure I'd usually buy.  But, I was always fond of Dr. Mindbender as a character.  So, seeing a new version of him on retail shelves brought a nostalgic wave strong enough to overcome the coloring limitations.  So, this Dr. Mindbender became one of the earliest figures to get added to my small collection of retail Joes.

I'd love to sing the praises of this Mindbender mold.  And, it is extremely well detailed and shows a remarkable advance in sculpting over figures released earlier in the line.  But, truthfully, this mold is kind of bad.  Through the years, I've seen a great many customizers take a crack at this mold in an attempt to redeem it.  But, most of the solid paint jobs only accentuate the fact that this mold has severe limitations.  It's big, bulky and makes Mindbender look like an aging body builder.  The head looks like Mindbender.  But, it could have been used for another Cobra character and no one would have really associated it with Mindbender.

Dr. Mindbender's gear is atrocious.  His weapons are all bright yellow and completely useless.  But, taking the color out of it, you are still left with an assortment of accessories that is fairly lame.  While Mindbender got 5 guns and a knife, the choices for him are poor.  He includes versions of the weapon originally included with Dee Jay and the gun from Voltar: both among the poorer weapon sculpts in the line.  He get's the 1991 Sci Fi rifle.  But, no hose to connect to it's peg.  When I found weapons like this on in 1993 and 1994 figures, I was left to wonder why the peg was there.  I wasn't familiar with any weapons past 1988.  So, I wasn't sure if the weapon was taken from another figure with a pack that attached, or if the figure I was buying at retail was supposed to include a pack and hose that were omitted for cost cutting reasons.  He includes a yellow pistol modeled after that from the 1988 Iron Grenadier.  But, the handle is much thicker and it's difficult for him to hold.  The otherwise awesome 1989 Snake Eyes Uzi is the same.  It has the thick handle and bad coloring.  I did like the zigzag knife from the 1988 Hydro Viper.  But, preferred the red version that came with the 1994 Viper.  Plus, he has the crappy spring loaded launcher that was ubiquitous in 1993.  Really, there's no reason to track down the figure's gear at all unless you're a completist.

For me, this figure was never Dr. Mindbender.  In the summer of 1994, I sketched out the future of my take on Cobra on a set of index cards while minding the office of a real estate company.  These characters all needed figures.  And, the new takes on classic Cobras that came out between 1992 and 1994 filled many of these slots I needed for these custom characters.  As such, I have a fondness for these neon monstrosities that extends beyond visual appeal.  To me, they are intricately intertwined to my entire Joe mythos.  This Mindbender was not the classic Dr.  Instead, he was a new, technologically savvy villain who aided my younger Cobras achieve incredible success in South America.  These characters represented the idealism of my youth when I still thought anything was possible and that a new generation could make a real difference in the world.  I was smart enough to equip these young turks with a grizzled mentor who aided and guided them in their military and political careers.  But, his death left them on their own where they were able to take Cobra to unprecedented highs.

This Dr. Mindbender mold is mostly chastised for the fact that it uses the 1986 Viper legs.  Starting in 1997, the Cobra Viper repaints were all missing the original legs because they were separated from the Viper mold and added to this Dr. Mindbender.  When Hasbro went to reform the Viper, they could not find the legs and the V1 Bat legs were substituted: to the angst of collectors for the next decade.  Hasbro claimed the legs were lost before finally resculpting parts of them.  Personally, I never got the issues with the BAT legs on Viper repaints.  I still found the 1998 Cobra Trooper one of the best figures Hasbro ever released.  But, this Dr. Mindbender was cursed a million times in the 2000's by collectors who lamented the loss of the legs from the prized Viper mold.

This entire Dr. Mindbender was sent down to Brazil where he was released in colors nearly identical to this American figure.  The Brazilian Dr. Mindbender is noteworthy for the fact that he includes near identical weapons to the European Tiger Force Blizzard figure.  In the early 2000's, the Estrela Dr. Mindbender was very easy and cheap to find MOC: far moreso than the Tiger Force Blizzard.  There was a fear that the Estrela gear and the Euro gear would get switched to make complete figures.  You can tell the difference in materials between the two by simple touch and sound, though.  The mold disappeared after the Brazilian release.  While Hasbro claimed those molds were lost, some of Dr. Mindbender's contemporaries appeared in Hasbro releases in the 2000's.  So, it's likely they had access to the mold and could have brought a vintage Dr. Mindbender mold to the repaint era.  But, Hasbro was too lazy to undertake a project like that and Dr. Mindbender remains the most important Cobra named character that Hasbro never revisited.

As a character, Dr. Mindbender showed some remarkable consistency.  The original figure featured a monocle over his right eye.  This figure has the cybernetic enhancements over the right eye.  The figure's filecard specifically mentions these enhancements as something Mindbender had done.  The planned 1995 Dr. Mindbender, though, had these mechanical bits removed with the scars to match.  It was an amazing little detail that showed the designers love for the line.  No kid would have cared about matching scars for a character.  But, there they were on the unreleased Battle Corps Rangers figure.  I wish that attention to detail had continued with the post vintage Joe releases.  But, it was lost when the original Joe team was scattered to the wind.

This figure is pretty much worthless.  You see lots of dealer sales in the $8 range.  But, that's heavily a function of few loose mint and complete figures being available.  You can get a carded figure for around $10 without much trouble.  Most 1993 figures remain easier to find MOC than they are loose, mint and complete with filecard.  If you can find a loose one, it will run you in the $6 range with just loose figures, sans accessories, selling for as little as a buck or two.  So, there's no reason to not get a version of the figure and really no reason to not pick up a second one in an attempt to customize the mold.  If you just want one representation of the Dr. Mindbender character, though, go with the 1986 figure.  Were it not for the nostalgic pull of this figure, I'd probably hate him.  There's not a lot of redemption available to the mold.  But, he is a rare second take on the Mindbender character.  And, it's always better to have alternatives for a character, especially if they will never get too expensive.

1993 Dr. Mindbender, Battle Corps, Interrogator, Mail Away

1993 Dr. Mindbender, Battle Corps, Night Creeper Lead, Firefly

Thursday, January 25, 2018

1993 Spirit Iron Knife Mail Away - Around the Web

The 1992 Spirit figure was a great mold update of a classic character.  But, he was included in an obscure release with lower production numbers.  So, Hasbro repainted the figure in 1993 but also released it in an obscure mail away promotion.  The result is an excellent repaint that's rather hard to find.

This is my de facto Spirit figure.  The colors are strong and he looks good with an array of accessories. There's not a ton of content on this figure out there.  But, being an obscure release from the line's latest years generally leads to a dearth of information.  He remains one of my favorite figures, though.  Here's what I could find on him from around the web.

Spirit Profile

Spirit Dio 1

International Action Force at JoeADay.com

1993 Spirit by dreadnokdread

Menace in the Wilderness Insert at YoJoe.com

International Action Force at 3DJoes.com

Spirit Dio 2

1993 Spirit, Col. Courage, Mail Away, International Action Team, Night Force Falcon, 1988

1993 Spirit, Col. Courage, Mail Away, International Action Team, Night Force Falcon, 1988

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

1984 Deep Six

The early years of the Joe line were nothing but hit after hit.  With each subsequent year, the inventory of great toys increased.  As a kid during this time, there were basically no toys I didn't want when I looked at the catalogs.  In retrospect, there were a couple of items that aren't great.  The MOBAT never clicked with me as it was big and only held one figure.  The gliders weren't any fun because they didn't really work and they fell apart with the first crash.  In 1984, though, I was introduced to the first real disappointment in the Joe line: the SHARC.  From the catalog photos, the SHARC looked pretty strong.  In hand, though, it was a series of disappointments.  Biggest of all, though, was the included figure: Deep Six.

I started buying G.I. Joe comics in the summer of 1984.  My first three issues were numbers 27 through 29.  One of the main characters in those issues was Deep Six.  He was wearing a very different outfit from his figure.  But, I thought he looked cool and the character was interesting.  When my youngest brother got the SHARC one summer day, I was excited from seeing both its and Deep Six's appearance in the comics.  Upon holding the toy, though, the limitations became immediately clear.  First and foremost among those was the Deep Six figure.  Gone was the articulation that made the Joe line.  Deep Six was a bulky 5 points of articulation figure who couldn't hold any accessories.  Everything that made the Joe line the toys of choice was absent on Deep Six.

That isn't to say, though, that the figure is without merit.  He fits perfectly into the SHARC.  Unfortunately, though, this makes the SHARC suck more than it makes Deep Six a cool figure.  But, for a guy who would be a true deep sea diver, this bulky suit and helmet kind of work.  Given the limitations of figure sculpting in 1984, the figure is a passable job.  The 1989 Deep Six figure showcases how Joe sculpting improved over the years, though it's not a 100% recreation of this figure.  The basic elements of the figure, including the clear bubble are kind of fun.  I recall a couple of times when Deep Six would get, well, deep-sixed, when he was on a mission deep underwater and his suit would fail.  But, those were few and far between.

When I was a kid, I wasn't much of a customizer.  However, I did frankenstein many of my broken or worn out figures into new characters.  The issue with this, though, was that I often ended up with two figures who had the same head: the correct Hasbro figure and the new custom I made out of an old version of that figure.  Many, many times I looked at the Deep Six head and thought it would be a great way to create a new character.  Several times, I stuck a screw driver into the seams on the figure's body and began to pry him apart.  Each time, though, I chickened out.  I didn't want to break the Deep Six figure, even if I had no use for him.  So, the head sat, unused, until the figure was put away.

I had such contempt for Deep Six that I didn't actually consider him a figure.  While I packed all my figures away so they would be preserved, Deep Six wasn't given such consideration.  Instead, he was dumped into a shallow box full of broken and mismatched vehicle parts.  Here, he sat in my parents' attic for over a decade.  When I dug him out, he was covered in shingle dust from a roof replacement.  He was dropped back into the box and left there.  Even as I became a collector, Deep Six was neglected.  I didn't even put him in the 1984 drawer.  He was kept with spare parts.  Today, he's at least moved up to join the other 1984 figures in their storage container.  But, that's about the end of him.  This profile is the first, and likely last, time I've photographed the figure.

To this day, I despise the SHARC.  I wanted it to be so cool and fill the gap of both airplane and submarine that needed to battle the Water Moccasin and the FANG.  But, it was so disappointing that I consider it an utter failure to this day.  Not everyone agrees and there are collectors who quite enjoy the SHARC.  But, I don't and this Deep Six is a big reason why.  I would have loved Hasbro to have given us a decent land based Deep Six using the Topside body as a base.  Then, I could have enjoyed the character from my first comics.  But, instead, this figure is just a lump of plastic that inhabits space in my collecting room.  When I look at him now, I don't see a reason for the contempt with which I hold this figure.  But, grudges from childhood die hard and this Deep Six is one that I'm still disappointed with.

Deep Six was actually used more than once.  The figure was released in Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina.  All the foreign releases are nearly identical to the American figure with just slight color variations.  And, all were released with their respective foreign variants of the SHARC.  In the early 2000's, there were a ton of Plastirama Deep Six figures that were available from American dealers: often for just a couple of bucks.  Like the rest of the once common Argentina overstock, though, those figures have largely dried up.  I would have loved to have seen Deep Six's head reused on another Joe figure at some point in the line.  (He would have been a better choice for the Starduster head.)  But, that never happened. And, the fewer uses of this mold, the better.

There is a question as to what makes up a complete Deep Six figure.  Do you consider the bellows and hose to be part of the SHARC or part of the figure?  In the end, though, this is largely irrelevant as the parts in question are easy to find in either regard.  You can get Deep Six figures with the bellows for around $8.  You can get Deep Six figures with no gear, but still on the bubble for about the same price.  If you just want the figure, they drop to $5 and below.  In short, the figure is cheap.  But, outside of having him for completeness, there's really not other reason to own the figure.  The articulation is poor and he is completely useless outside of his vehicle.  Fortunately, Hasbro didn't really tread into driver/vehicle fusion like this again.  And, one misstep in the early days isn't too bad of a track record.

1984 Deep Six, SHARC

1984 Deep Six, SHARC, 1985 Airtight, 1993 General Hawk, Cutter, Mail Away, Convention Exclusive

Thursday, January 18, 2018

2006 Comic Pack "Classified" (Snake Eyes) - Around the Web

The Comic Packs ushered in an era of unbridled optimism when they were announced in 2004.  But, by the end of that year, the luster had worn off and the packs fell into the same trap as the rest of the Joe line with generally uninspired ideas and shopworn products.  So, the Joe line died at retail and was reborn as a Direct to Consumer product sold by Hasbro.

The DTC waves contained a huge amount of amazing toys and figures that greatly surpassed anything released at retail.  But, the PR damage done to the line by Hasbro was too great and the footprint of the online only sales was too small for the line to overcome.  Eventually, it was all sold to Toys R Us where it rotted on the pegs in their stores for a couple more years.

Lost in all this were quite a few good figures: this Classified version of Snake Eyes among them.  It's a completely different take on Snake Eyes and a smart way to overcome the limitations of the character design in the comic.  There's less out there on this figure than I thought there would be.  Most of the old review sites are long gone and few non-Joe sites really bothered with the DCT toys for review.  So, here's the best I could find on this figure from around the web.

Classified Profile

Classified at JoeADay.com

Classified review at GeneralsJoes.com

Classified review at JoeBattleLines.com

2006 Comic Pack Classified, Snake Eyes, DTC, 1997 Baroness, Marvel Comic G.I. Joe #26

2006 Comic Pack Classified, Snake Eyes, Marvel Comic G.I. Joe #26

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Outlaw - Red Laser Army So Cal Joe Show Exclusive

If you collect vintage Joes exclusively like I do, you have been abandoned by Hasbro for over a decade.  Even the club turned its back on you eight years ago.  In short, there is, officially, nothing new to collect for aficionados of this figure style.  However, factory custom figure makers have filled that void.  Starting shortly after Hasbro told vintage Joe collectors to get bent, factory custom makers have filled in massive army building gaps for those of us who have a desire for something new.  In 2017, the game was upped when army builders were joined by a phalanx of "character" figures who offered collectors even greater diversity in their collecting options.  The last of these figures to be released in 2017 was originally exclusive to the So Cal Joe Show held in Southern California in the fall of 2017.  Outlaw used existing parts that were created by factory custom figure maker Red Laser's Army that were then combined into an exclusive amalgamation and color scheme.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a huge fan of a Torpedo head on a figure that's not a diver.  Mostly, this is bias leftover from childhood.  Torpedo was THE diver on the Joe team.  And, while he that awkward appearance in G.I. Joe 16 wearing his dive suit on land, I simply couldn't see the figure as anything other than an aquatic adventurer.  So, I see the Torpedo head on this Outlaw as a bit of a detriment.  However, the covered face also offers a bit of leeway in the character's design.  Red Laser's Army has produced the head from the 1982 Flash/Hawk/Steeler figures.  It's been used a couple of times already.  So, giving this figure the same head would simply make him appear to be either Hawk, Flash, Steeler or Starduster.  None are great options.  The 1982 Snake Eyes head (which Red Laser also used to great effect on his Commando figure) is too iconic.  It's appearance always holds ties to Snake Eyes or the foreign characters of Cobra De Aco or Cobra Mortal.  So, using Torpedo as an alternate head was a bit of creative chance that worked out fairly well.

2017 Outlaw, Steel Brigade, Red Laser army, Black Major, FActory Custom, Bootleg, JUMP, RAM, Dial Tone, 1986, 1982

The thing I like about the character Factory Custom figures we have seen so far is that they look like they could have been released in 1983.  The colors are basic, but consistent with what Hasbro used.  If toys would have required two or three repaints in order to turn a profit back in the 1980's, I could see the Joe line filled with figures like the Red Laser Army offerings that mixed up parts and brought some additional colors to the Joe ranks.  For someone like me, who still holds the early Joe years as my most nostalgic, these figures are the perfect addition to my team.  Even the bright green paint on his head is a match for the 1983 Zap's highlights.  The use of black and grey chest pieces also adds some depth to the figures and helps them stand out among 1982 and 1983 figures.  Yet, they are still true enough to their roots that they blend in, too.

The main reason I have interest in this figure, though, was that something about it reminded me of Joe Colton.  I saw this configuration of parts and color and thought that a vintage Clutch head on this body would be a nice rendition of a 1970's era Joseph Colton.  He's part military, part adventurer and part covert ops. You can see my lbc in the photo below.  I need to touch up the head.  But, I think the head is just a bit too big for the body.

2017, Outlaw, Bootleg, Red Laser's Army, Factory Custom, VAMP, 1982, 1983, Rock and Roll, Zap, Clutch

This notion of Colton is a way to bring that character into the early Joe team, before he went to work for other branches of the government.  I like characters like this since they would have been around as the Joe team was being formed in the late 1970's and early 1980's.  Colton likely would have input into the team's purpose and design.  While he, ultimately, left to pursue other interests, he was still a part of the group who made Joe the international force they would grow to become.

There is a very small, but vocal, minority of collectors who are opposed to these factory customs.  Early on, it was populated by groups of collectors who defended Hasbro.  But, Hasbro has shown they don't care about the existence of these figures at all.  Now, the detractors are heavily people who worry about the values of their collections.  And, if I had 10's of thousands of dollars invested in toys, I might have concern about value, too.  One of the things we've seen in toy collecting in the past couple of years, though, is greater and greater price disparities between loose and carded or boxed items.  This is almost exclusively driven by the fact that carded or boxed items are far rarer than loose and it's extremely unlikely someone's going to find massive amounts of carded or boxed overstock vintage G.I. Joe toys sitting in a warehouse.  I've felt that the chasm between loose and boxed/carded will grow wider in coming years.  Packaged items will be the "collectibles" that are used for investment.  While, loose items will be the domain of casual collectors who run mostly off of nostalgia.  In that regard, I don't mind factory custom items.  They are all easy to tell apart from the originals and they offer casual collectors a way to enjoy some items that are harder to find or too fragile to ever take out of their protective cases.

In terms of gear and construction, Outlaw isn't stellar.  He includes just two small pistols.  They have very fat handles and are definite thumb-breakers.  The weapons, though, are two tone.  I didn't look closely enough to see if the paint was factory or aftermarket.  But, the pistols are different from the similar weapons included with the Red Laser Army flavors of Steel Brigade figures.  Returning to the thumbs, Outlaw's hands are small and closed.   I fear forcing any large weapon into the hand for fear of breakage.  It's a common issue with many of the 2017 releases.  And, as many include fatter handled weapons, it's a legit concern.  But, the Joe groups are full of pictures of the various figures holding their weapons.  So, it can be done.

The factory paint on the figure is very nice.  You do see some issues with the eyes from time to time, though.  But, the grey/black shirt, leather brown straps, green pants and grey highlights add up to a visual feast.  A six color figure is better than what Hasbro offered to collectors at retail between 2003 and 2005.  Plus, the colors complement each other and don't create a look that's too busy.  He has enough color to be interesting while being generic enough to not get lost in visual overload.

Outlaw figures were first available at the So Cal Joe Show.  Unsold figures were then sold in the $15 range to general collectors.  As of now, that's about the price you'll pay for one of these guys.  Factory custom figures have generally gone two routes on the aftermarket.  They either become really cheap and easy to find.  Or, they dry up and see a good bit of appreciation.  As the creators of these figures have gotten better at both estimating collector demand as well as creating figures that collectors get excited over, we've seen the more recent figures tend to take the latter path.  But, with another large year of figures ahead for collectors, some solid designs are sure to get lost in the shuffle.  As such, I have no idea on the future for Outlaw.  I bought mine so that I could make the Joseph Colton custom figure. Others bought him for his exclusive nature.  And, others bought him because he's cool.

Whatever the reason, this is a figure that's well made, designed correctly and should hold collector interest over time.  Low production numbers will keep him from being overly common in the subsequent years.  But, I also don't see this guy being among the most popular figure offerings, either.  Basically, he's the perfectly average figure.  Which, frankly, was one of the most important aspects of the vintage Joe line.  Not every character or figure was a superstar.  But, the other characters existed as both support and as entry points for kids who liked firefighters, dogs, mountain climbers or pilots.  I see Outlaw in that vein.  Plus, he's designed in such a way as to make him conducive to photographs.  So, that's a lot going for a figure that would otherwise, likely, be forgotten in a couple of years.

2017 Outlaw, Steel Brigade, Red Laser army, Black Major, FActory Custom, Bootleg, JUMP, RAM, Dial Tone, 1986, 1982

2017, Outlaw, Bootleg, Red Laser's Army, Factory Custom, VAMP, 1982, 1983, Rock and Roll, Zap, Clutch, Snake Eyes, 1985, 1986, General Hawk, 2006 Shipwreck, Cobra Mortal, Stormshadow, Black Major

Friday, January 12, 2018

Rogue One Shoretrooper - The Black Series

Since 1995, I have collected Star Wars figures in an on again, off again fashion.  Through that time, though, I've usually kept one eye on the collecting world, even if I wasn't actively buying the figures.  One theme that's run through the years is that if Hasbro makes something, they usually make a lot of it.  Hasbro isn't in business to spend their resources on small production runs.  So, even if circumstances dictate that a particular release gets backed up at retail or can't get out in significant numbers, Hasbro has, likely, produced the full production run of that item.  The result is that, in time, the items will filter out.  Though, they may be through deeply discounted clearance sales, online only offerings or, the more common route in recent years, through the overstock and discount retail store pipeline.  The result is that, if you have the patience, just about everything Star Wars will show up at retail somewhere.

There were two new flavors of Stormtrooper introduced in Rogue One: this Shoretrooper and the Death Trooper.  Everything I've known about toys for the past 20 years pointed me in the direction that the Death Trooper would be the overwhelming collector favorite.  There had not been a ton of black Stormtrooper figures through the years.  The Death Trooper had the cooler name and higher profile in the movie.  And, typically, environmentally themed figures are less popular than those that can be used in multiple settings.  But, I turned out to be spectacularly wrong.  The Shoretrooper took on the greater collecting life and every instance of the Shoretrooper that saw mass retail release was more popular than the Death Troopers.  I asked some fans why they felt this was the case.  And, the answer generally seemed to be that Star Wars hadn't seen any desert themed figures before.  (The oddly popular Sandtroopers were just Stormtroopers with more gear.)  So, they were "new" to the world while the Death Troopers were something fans had seen before.  (Hell, even I had an all black Stormtrooper from circa 2008.)  So, the Shoretroopers resonated more and found more popularity.  How this will play 10 years from now, though, is anyone's guess.

In 2016, Rogue One rekindled my interest in Star Wars.  Despite the figures mostly being 5 points of articulation, I found many of them good enough.  So, I started buying a few: mostly the characters I really liked.  The late spring of 2017 brought about a great many clearance sales on Star Wars figures.  During that time, I was able to get many of the more highly priced 3.75 Black Series figures since they were at a price I found more palatable.  But, I also picked up a few more of the 5 points of articulation figures that were 1/2 price.  Among these were both a Deathtrooper and a Shoretrooper.  After owning the Black Series Deathtrooper, the 5 POA figure was pretty dismal.  But, since I didn't have another Shoretrooper option, the 5 POA didn't bother me as much with that release.  I found the design more interesting than I originally thought I would.  This, of course, lead to great frustration as I knew that Hasbro had produced a 3.75 Shoretrooper in super articulated form.  I simply couldn't find one.  I found remnants of his case several times: but the army builders were all cleared out by other collectors.  So, I resigned myself to simply never getting this figure.

The initial shipments of the Shoretrooper wave sold out quickly.  While serious collectors were able to find them and buy them up, the more casual fan (a group I consider myself in these days) would only find them with incredible luck.  As the calendar turned to 2017, the shipments of the figures seemed to dry up and boxed Shoretroopers became $30 figures on the secondary market.  In the spring, though, Wal Mart reduced the price of Black Series figures to almost 60% off the previous retail.  This caused some serious sell down of stock as the Black Series figures were now lower priced than the basic carded figures.  (Though, to be fair, at my 2 local Wal Marts, they had only a smattering of Jyn Erso and Princess Leia figures available.)  It also, though, pushed most of the remaining stock through the distribution chain.  Collectors reported finding cases and cases of the Shoretrooper wave for the discounted prices.  While my nearest Wal Mart never got any more stock, I missed the Shoretroopers by one day at the second that's closer to work.  I searched in vain, but never found the missing figure.  Despite the mass quantities of Shoretroopers showing up around the country for under $6 each, the aftermarket pricing didn't soften all that much.  So, I gave up owning this figure and moved on.

In November of 2017, though, I saw scattered reports that people were still finding the occasional new case of Shoretroopers at various Wal Marts.  I didn't think much of it, though, as I didn't really have the desire to look very hard and my local Wal Mart hasn't had any new Black Series figures since December of 2016.  The Sunday before Thanksgiving of 2017, though, I ran out to pick up a few gifts for the boys that were in stock at the store near my office.  It was later in the evening.  I had a feeling that I might find a Shoretrooper because the circumstances of my being at the store were odd.  Sure enough, when I went to the toy aisle, there was a lone Shoretrooper hanging from the peg.  After nearly a year of searching, I had the last piece of my Rogue One collection and I had found it at retail.

As for the figure, it's fairly solid.  I hold the 3.75 Black Series Death Trooper in extremely high regard.  I consider it one of the finest Star Wars figures ever made.  This Shoretrooper is close, but not quite that quality.  While he has all the joints you need, he is a bit stiffer in some places and more wobbly in others.  He's better than many of the super articulated figures I acquired in 2008 and 2009.  But, he's not quite Death Trooper level.  His gear was also somewhat of a disappointment.  He just includes the one blaster.  The 5 POA Shoretrooper figures include the new blaster that was introduced in Rogue One.  It would have made sense to include one of those weapons with this figure, too.  But, at least some of the 5 POA figures are clearance fodder and you can buy them up for an extra gun.

Overall, I'm somewhat torn on the character.  To me, any Stormtrooper not in the standard white armor seems like a relic from the Clone Wars era.  I hold many of the Prequel Clones in high regard.  But, they are not really iconic to me.  I see this Shoretrooper similarly.  He's neat.  But, he's never going to be the backbone of an Imperial army.  So, I have one with little desire to acquire any more.  It doesn't mean he's a bad figure or a weak design.  I just grew up with the standard Stormtroopers and see deviations from their base white and black color scheme as one off type figures.

I don't know how to play out a long term prognostication for this figure.  Currently, the figure is still over $20 on the aftermarket.  Rogue One is fading from memory and its doubtful that the Rogue One timeline will be revisited by Disney again at any point in the near future.  So, it's likely that the Shoretrooper's moment in the limelight has passed.  But, collectors are a loyal bunch and many original trilogy fans hold Rogue One in high regard: keeping the characters from the story more popular than they might otherwise be.  Most collectors assumed the Shoretrooper would be among the first figures re-released on Vintage packaging in 2018.  But, it seems the Death Trooper will get that honor.  And, with the generally lame lineup of the next vintage waves coupled with Disney's movie release schedule, it looks like the Shoretrooper could have a tough time finding a release slot.  And, even if he is re-released, it's an easy figure to recolor into one of the ranked troopers: leaving this release as a distinct figure variant.  Or, he'll get dumped into a clearance wave and pegwarm for a year at discount stores.  With the modern Star Wars line, you never know.

Around the same time that I found this Shoretrooper, I also acquired the 3.75 Black Series Sandtrooper figure.  I've vacillated on the Sandtrooper over the years.  In the '90's, he was a must have new figure.  But, by the late 2000's, the character was overexposed.  And, he continues to be so.  (Supposedly, the Sandtrooper is a personal favorite of a high ranking Hasbro executive which is why we see the Sandtrooper more frequently than the standard Stormtrooper.)  But, when you can buy a super articulated Star Wars army builder for 1/3 of retail, you do so.  The proximity of the acquisitions lead to both the Sandtrooper and Shoretrooper lying next to each on the floor.  It was then that I realized that the two figures were, basically, the same color.  The Sandtrooper's dirty overspray made him nearly an identical tan color to the Shoretrooper.  (You can see them in photos below.)  Oddly, this made me more fond of the Shoretrooper figure.

As an aside, I had planned this profile for a December 15th, 2017 posting date.  The expectation was that I'd see "The Last Jedi" the night before and have this up as a celebration the following day.  I have fond memories of seeing Rogue One at the same time in 2016.  But, I then read "The Last Jedi" spoilers.  With those, any interest I had in seeing the film died.  And, with it, most of my interest in Star Wars as a concept was sapped, too.  I won't speak to the merits of the film as I haven't seen it.  But, there is one plot point that I simply had no need to see.  I get it that characters get old and that we need new characters, younger characters, to replace them.  But, when the only way to make a new character valid is by killing off the old character, the new character probably isn't all that worthwhile.

My childhood was defined by the heroes I saw in Star Wars.  I have enough reminders that I'm getting older.  Seeing those childhood giants needlessly die for some obtuse "closure" doesn't work for me.  But, knowing that the characters with whom I spent copious amounts of time in my formative years are now gone from the story I love leaves me little interest in following the story any more.  Star Wars is now for younger generations.  Maybe my kids will like it as more than a novelty.  But, even with the property's marketing saturation, I only have one child who has any interest in the franchise: and it's rather fleeting.  We'll see where I'm at in a few months.  But, with Hasbro's inability to create products that excite collectors and knowing the films are no longer for me, I'm not overly optimistic that my Rogue One collecting Renaissance will ever be repeated.

2016 Scarif Trooper Squad Leader, 3.75 Black Series, Shoretrooper, Rogue One, Star Wars, Wal Mart Exclusive, Bistan, Ponda Boba, Walrusman, Sandtrooper, Edrio Two Tubes

2016 Scarif Trooper Squad Leader, 3.75 Black Series, Shoretrooper, Rogue One, Star Wars, Wal Mart Exclusive, Bistan, Ponda Boba, Walrusman, Sandtrooper, Edrio Two Tubes

2016 Scarif Trooper Squad Leader, 3.75 Black Series, Shoretrooper, Rogue One, Star Wars, Wal Mart Exclusive, Bistan, Ponda Boba, Walrusman, Sandtrooper, Edrio Two Tubes

2016 Scarif Trooper Squad Leader, 3.75 Black Series, Shoretrooper, Rogue One, Star Wars, Wal Mart Exclusive, Bistan, Ponda Boba, Walrusman, Sandtrooper, Edrio Two Tubes

2016 Scarif Trooper Squad Leader, 3.75 Black Series, Shoretrooper, Rogue One, Star Wars, Wal Mart Exclusive, Bistan, Ponda Boba, Walrusman, Sandtrooper, Edrio Two Tubes

2016 Scarif Trooper, Shoretrooper, Rogue One, Star Wars

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2000 Chameleon

In the late 1990's, one of the most expensive figures in the entire line was the 1984 Baroness.  There was a perception that female figures were extremely limited.  So, dealers marked the figure up to stupid prices and it was common to see Baroness figures offered, and even sell, for around $50.  In 1997, Hasbro released a new repaint of the Baroness as a way to help get her into collector hands.  This figure, though, did little to sate the demand.  While the internet was slowly showing collectors that vintage Baroness figures were neither rare nor even hard to find, Hasbro's plans for Joe's relaunch in 2000 pretty much had to include the character as a way to show that the line was "for collectors".  However, Hasbro decided to go in a different direction.  Rather than just release a Baroness with colors that were inspired by the unproduced 1995 Battle Corps Rangers Baroness figure, Hasbro created a new character.  Thus, was born the twin sister of the Baroness named Chameleon.

There are many problems with the notion of the Baroness having a twin sister.  First off, the Baroness's hatred of Snake Eyes was entirely a result of his incorrectly blaming Snake Eyes for her brother's death.  The relative closeness of the family would imply that any twin sister would have been present when the Baroness and her brother were together.  Being a twin in a rich, European, aristocratic family pretty much dissolves any hope of Chameleon being a long lost sibling.  The Baroness's reliance upon her family in her origin makes a mysterious twin a soap opera like suspension of belief.  But, more importantly, the Baroness is an incredibly evil and conniving person.  She would not be so sloppy as to leave an identical twin out in the world were she not 100% sure of that twin's allegiances and feelings.  If the Baroness felt any sibling would have put her in jeopardy, she would surely have eliminated that threat.  So, the existence of a twin sister for the Baroness is basically anti-thetical to her character and is, on it's face, ridiculous.

But, that doesn't mean the character doesn't have some merit.  For me, the very early Joe team was somewhat desperate to learn more about Cobra: especially as Cobra was expanding.  One of the main intelligence gaps was that Joe did not know how Cobra obtained their funding.  It was believed that they were financed by foreign governments.  But, that had limitations, especially as the Russians also found themselves opposed to Cobra.  So, Joe intelligence had to find a way to determine Cobra's money making arm.  Joe double agents were usually sniffed out.  And, the fanatical followers of Cobra who were captured would give their life before meting out secrets of Cobra's operations.  This left few options.  But, the Baroness's unfortunate injury in the Hiss Tank explosion in Washington, D.C. gave Joe an in.  Joe operatives were able to acquire medical records for the Baroness: including x-rays detailing her facial bone structure.  This meant that the Joe team could create a credible doppelganger for the Baroness: especially since few Cobras would have seen her new face in the first few months after she returned to action.  The Joe team just had to find a volunteer....

This is where I've inserted the Chameleon character.  General Austin and General Flagg were able to find a woman with similar bone structure to the Baroness who had been convicted of confidence crimes and was serving a life sentence.  In exchange for freedom, the woman agreed to undergo the surgery to take on the Baroness's countenance and use it as entry into Cobra where she could find the source of their money.  This Chameleon took on the challenge and infiltrated Cobra operations in the Pacific Northwest.  In short time, she was able to gain entry to a small cell and start providing intelligence back to the Joes.  But, after General Flagg's death, General Austin was not close enough to the ground to fully understand Cobra Commander's paranoia.  In short order, Chameleon was found out.  Cobra Commander killed her and sent her body, packed in ice, to General Austin at the Pentagon.  Chameleon was not successful in her mission and lost her life in the process.  Austin took this failure to heart and began to re-assess the long term plans for the Joe team.

As a figure, Chameleon is fairly well done.  The black base is hard to screw up.  But, the red paint is applied very judiciously.  The crimson highlights bring out the intricacies of the Baroness mold in a way that the basic black never could.  The Cobra logo is created in relief.  It is another way that the figure differs from the original and helps set this figure apart, even though the basic color palette is similar.  Chameleon has some visual depth to her without being too busy.  She is a solidly balanced figure from an era where Hasbro could go from too bland to too busy within the same two figure pack.

Accessory wise, Chameleon is fine.  She includes the original Baroness accessories, also cast in solid black.  There is a difference in plastic so that you can tell them apart from the originals.  In 2000, Baroness rifles had yet to become the bane of collector existence.  And, as it was tied to this figure mold, it was great to see the complete set of gear available.  Along with a black figure stand, Chameleon also included a black version of Firefly's phone.  In 2000, the only release of this phone was with the original Firefly and the Battle Gear packs.  Getting it in black was of great interest to collectors of the day.  And, having Hasbro include it with multiple figures made the accessory more desirable.  Within a couple of years, the black phone would be overused.  But, the newness of it with Chameleon helped give the figure a little something extra.

If you simply take this figure as a Baroness repaint, it has quite a bit of merit.  The Baroness's original, all black look was both iconic and limiting.  Hasbro's planned 1995 figure, though, introduced a splash of red to the Baroness wardrobe and helped keep her grounded in her original look, but also making her slightly different.  Chameleon takes that idea and uses it effectively.  She easily works as a new version of the Baroness or can be used as Chameleon.  This figure takes no risks, but is different enough that it gave collectors something different in 2000.  Hasbro somewhat played it safe with the ARAHC releases.  And, that backfired as the line quickly stagnated at retail.  But, to be fair, this Chameleon was part of the problem.

The first wave of the A Real American Hero collection was shipped in cases of 12.  But, there were only 5 unique packs in the wave.  The result was an uneven case ratio.  All the packs were shipped 2 per case except for Snake Eyes/Stormshadow and Cobra Commander/Chameleon who were each three per case.  The ninja pack was a good choice.  Snake Eyes and Stormshadow were two of Joe's most popular characters.  And, the pack, even at 3 per case was quick to sell out.  Had it not been carried over to wave 2, it would, likely, have been even more expensive than the Firefly/Undertow pack in 2001.  Cobra Commander/Chameleon, though, was a bit of a miscalculation.  Hasbro was still going from old stereotypes of collectors from the mid 1990's.  So, they eschewed army builders and focused on characters they thought were considered "rare".

But, they miscalculated the demand for Chameleon.  She quickly backed up retail throughout the U.S. and was the only Wave 1 figure pack that didn't sell out and remained available into 2001.  Unlike the hordes of Big Ben/Whiteout packs that became the scourge of collectors for the remainder of 2001, though, the Chameleon pack, eventually, sold out.  The terrifying influx of new Joe collectors in 2000/2001 was able to absorb the overstock.  (People talk about 2007 bringing in a rash of new collectors.  But, it paled in comparison to the deluge that flooded the community in 2000/2001.)  So, Chameleon did disappear.  But, she never found any cachet as a "desirable" figure since she spent so many months collecting dust on retail shelves.

The Baroness mold didn't have much history until the 1990's.  It was used by Hasbro and released in the U.S. and Europe in the '80's.  In the mid 1990's, she showed up in India where Funskool used her for their Baroness release.  (Funskool also sold her under the Nilco brand in Egypt.)  It turns out, Funskool also used her for the Rednok figure that was released under the Complan Commandos banner.  Hasbro got the mold back in 1997 where they used it in the 15th Anniversary releases.  This Chameleon showed up in 2000.  In 2002, the Baroness was used in a Convention set and has both Crimson and Fuchsia versions available.  In 2004, Hasbro sculpted a new head for the Baroness body and released it in a comic pack as well as the Cobra Imperial Processional set in 2005.  So, modern collectors saw the mold quite frequently: even if the overall general appearance of the figures were not overly diverse.  There's still some potential left in the Baroness mold.  But, it's unlikely we'll see any of the fulfilled any time soon.

Chameleon figures are neither popular nor hard to find.  Due to the over packing in her original case, the figure never saw aftermarket appreciation like the Firefly/Undertow and General Tomahawk/Dialtone packs did after they were discontinued in 2001.  Even today, the figure is cheap.  You can easily get a mint, complete with filecard version for $5.  You can even get carded versions for that price from time to time: though those usually run in the $12 range.  For the price, the figure isn't bad.  There's really no way to use the figure in any capacity other than the Baroness.  But, this figure works as an alternative look for Cobra's original villain-ess.  I'd go so far to say that this might be the best repaint of the Baroness mold.  (The crimson convention release is pretty strong, though.)  She is true to the character's roots, but different enough that you kind of want to own her.  Were it not for the stigma of it actually being the Chameleon character, I think this figure would be substantially more popular.

2000 Chameleon, Baroness, 1985 Mauler, ARAHC, Steel Brigade, Red Laser Army, Cobra Stinger Troopers, Black Major, Bootleg

2000 Chameleon, Baroness, ARAHC, Black Major Factor Custom Blue Stormshadow, Bootleg, 1984 Firefly

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2003 Toy Fare Scarlett - Around the Web

In 2003, Toy Fare magazine managed to secure a G.I. Joe exlcusive.  Toy Fare's past handling of collector exclusives had been extremely poor and a bit shady.  So, it was with great trepidation that collectors approached this exclusive set.  While well done, though, the set was a complete and utter bomb.  It was overproduced and included figures that collectors were somewhat sick of seeing.  Overstock hung around for years and the set remains a bargain even today.

The Scarlett figure from the two-pack, though, is one of the better Scarlett figures ever released.  She has amazing paint details, solid enough colors and a large amount of gear that fits the character.  In short, she was a repaint done right.  Take a walk down memory lane with the best of this figure from around the web.

Scarlett Profile

Toy Fare Set Review at GeneralsJoes.com

Toy Fare Set Preview at Toy News International

Scarlett at JoeDios.com

2003 Toy Fare Scarlett, 1983 Snake Eyes, Black Major, Bootleg, FActory Custom, Cobra Trooper, Urban Cammo, 2004, VAMP TRU Exclusive

1983 Snake Eyes, 2003 Scarlett, Toy Fare Exclusive, VAMP, Bootleg Cobra Trooper, Black Major

2003 Scarlett, Toy Fare, Mail away, 1984 Thunder, 2007 Zap, Convention Exclusive

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

1989 Aero Viper - Around the Web

When I first saw a picture of the Aero Viper on YoJoe.com, I had to have one.  I then spent months scouring the depths of internet, trying to find one.  At the time, the figure was basically impossible to find away from his Condor jet.  But, eventually, I was able to track down a few samples of the figure.  And, the Aero Viper's run of popularity in my collection ended rather quickly. 

The distinct visuals of the Aero Viper within Cobra was as strong draw.  But, it wasn't enough to keep the figure at the center of my collection.  Today, I still appreciate this figure for the cool design and oddball facial hair.  But, he doesn't hold a position of great importance any longer.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Aero Viper Profile

Aero Vipers by Outrider

Aero Viper at 3DJoes.com

Aero Viper at JoeADay.com

Aero Viper at JoeWiki

Aero Viper Dio 1

Aero Viper Dio 2

1989 Aero Viper, Night Viper, Hiss Tank, 1983

1989 Aero Viper, Night Viper, Hiss Tank, 1983
1989 Aero Viper, Night Viper, Hiss Tank, 1983, HEAT Viper, Slaughter's Marauders Mutt

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Top 10 - 2017

2017 was a great year.  Over 100,000 people visited the site during the year: a huge increase from 2016.  All that traffic was spread over 18 years' worth of posts.  But, a few pieces stood out.  In some cases, a social media post caused a frenzy.  In other cases, the quality of a figure sparked interest.  And, in some cases, I have no idea why a post is popular.  So, enjoy your day off with my top 10 posts from 2017 based on the site's traffic:

10.  G.I. Joe #123 - Shots in the Dark

This was one of my first posts of 2017.  I found this comic issue at a local shop over lunch one day.  I did a quick write up.  It was picked up by several large comic sites and they drove a lot of traffic to the review.

G.I. Joe #123, Shots in the Dark, Marvel Comics

9.  1983 Dragonfly

The Dragonfly is one of those early, iconic Joe vehicles that defines the line.  It really is the de facto Joe helicopter and all subsequent choppers had to live up to the standard it set.  As such, it was a hugely popular profile and continues to get lots of search engine views.

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

8.  Red Shadows Laser Exterminator

The Laser Exterminator was a big draw during International Joe Month in April.  Red Shadows are always popular and the striking red color makes for excellent photos that grab attention.  This is one of my favorite international items.  Especially when paired with an item that will show up later in the list.

Action Force, Red Shadows, Red Laser, Laser Exterminator, HAL

7.  1988 Lightfoot

Some things, I can't explain.  Like, Lightfoot's appearance here.  His profile got a lot of traffic over several weeks.  I suspect that he got some residuals from the Tactical Battle Platform that you'll see later in the list.  But, he was among the top ten profiles of the year, beating out several vehicles and figures who I would have thought were substantially more interesting than Lightfoot.

1988 Lightfoot, Sgt. Slaughter, IMP

6.  2002 Alley Viper

There was a time that collectors didn't much care for this figure.  He was easy to get and Alley Vipers had been overdone at retail.  But, 15 years later, this figure has become a nostalgic favorite.  Many collectors really like it and he's appreciated on the secondary market.  So, it was a very popular subject for a profile.

2002 Alley Viper

5.  Sonya Blade - Mortal Combat Movie Edition

This Sonya Blade figure gets of a lot of hits from search engines.  Lots of people search out Mortal Kombat figures and she shows up in those.  Plus, this is a solid female figure from the vintage timeline and those are few and far between.

1995 Mortal Kombat Movie Edition Sonya Blade

4.  Imperial Death Trooper - 3.75 Black Series

At the time of this profile, Rogue One was still in theatres and was cementing its place as a great story set in the time of the original trilogy.  The Death Trooper was relatively hard to find at the time and is a spectacular sculpt.  He remains a large driver of search engine traffic.

3.75 Black Series, Rogue One, Star Wars, Imperial Death Trooper

3.  Canadian Exclusive Cobra M.S.V.

The super rare Cobra M.S.V. is one of the most popular posts in the site's history.  It was a triple whammy with it being part of Rarities Month, it being a incredibly hard to find and expensive VAMP repaint and, it being front paged at HissTank.com.  All of that added up to a popular entry and one of the most visited sections of the site.
Canadian Exclusive Cobra M.S.V., MSV, VAMP, MMS, Black

2.  1985 Transportable Tactical Battle Platform

I can thank my friends at HissTank.com for this one.  They front-paged it on their site and that drove a huge amount of traffic.  It also helped that the TTBP is insanely popular and many collectors adore it.  It's a really fun playset and the type of thing everyone should have in their collection.  It still draws a lot of traffic every month just to the popularity of the playset.

1985 Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, TTBP, Action Force Stalker, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Spirit, Olhos de Fenix, Estrela, Comandos Em Acao, Blowtorch, Plastirama, Argentina, Antorcha, Hawk, 1983, 1985

1. Red Laser's Army Sightline

This one is not surprising.  Sightline was a huge story at the 2017 Joe convention.  And, the limited availability, homage to a well liked collector and sheer awesomeness of the figure all added up to something that lots of people wanted to see.  Sightline is the 2nd most viewed page in the history of the site.  But, the figure is easily worthy of that honor.

2017, Red Laser's Army, Sightline, Convention Exclusive, Gary Goggles, 1983 Rock and Roll, Dragonfly, Steel Brigade

With that, 2017 is a wrap.  It was a pretty good year for collectors just due to the volume of factory customs.  It will be interesting to see what 2018 provides in that regard.  But, there is already a 3rd factory custom maker who has appeared.  So, we'll certainly be seeing a few new items in 2018.

As for me, 2018 holds a lot of promise.  I've got a few vehicles lined up for profiles as well as some figures: both obscure and otherwise.  The very popular Rarities Month will return in June.  I've got close to 20 entries all ready to go with updates to previous items and lots of new stuff.

Thanks for stopping by and spending time on my site.  I appreciate all the visitors and feedback I receive for the work I put in.  Here's to a great 2018!