Tuesday, March 27, 2018

2004 Urban Assault Firefly

At the 2003 Convention, Hasbro announced that Toys R Us would carry a six pack of Cobra Troopers as their 1st Quarter, 2004 exclusive.  This gave collectors great hope that Hasbro finally understood army building and that future TRU sets would be the army building bonanzas of which collectors had always dreamed.  When the first news of the 2nd TRU exclusive set leaked, a Cobra Urban Strike set, collectors imagined six urban specific army builders: maybe Alley Vipers and Headhunters with no characters to be seen.  Then, the specifics of the set came out.  It had three army builders and three named Cobra characters.  Immediately, collectors were angered over the poor character assortment and many wrote the set off due to Scrap Iron, Stormshadow and the focus of this profile: Firefly.

This, though, was a mistake.  The 2004 Urban Strike set was actually extremely well done.  The army builders in the set were all great.  The Stormshadow was a cool paint job: but of a bad mold.  It was good to see Scrap Iron again.  But, the lack of accessories and too similar to the vintage coloring didn't do him any favors.  Firefly, though, was the class of the set.  But, because collectors were burned out on Firefly after Hasbro had used the mold too many times, the amazing figure that was included for the Firefly character was largely ignored.  So, the Urban Strike set languished.  It was even discounted from $20 to $15 in Toys R Us stores.  This was the first real sign that the Joe line was already in trouble after a tremendous 2003 and was a harbinger of the line's impending decline into cancellation over the next year.

As for Firefly, though, Hasbro dropped a convention quality figure into a retail release.  While the TRU sets were mostly known for poor accessories, the level of paint application was, usually, pretty strong.  This Firefly, though, includes his full array of gear.  And, on top of that, he features a full seven colors on the figure mold.  The selling feature is that Firefly's base is Cobra blue.  It's the only Firefly ever released with blue as part of his color scheme.  This immediately allows him to better integrate with classic Cobra Troopers and Officers.  He also heavily utilizes grey and black.  So, you have an homage to his original release, too.  The figure is adorned with rich brown details that make his straps and pouches appear to be leather.  It's a subtle feature that makes the mold pop even more than it did before.  You can fully see the details of the Firefly mold that even the vintage version left unpainted.  Toss in some white, flesh, silver and red and you see the amount of color that Hasbro used to give this figure a chance to be appreciated by collectors.

The figure might be taken as a little busy by some.  There is a lot going on with the overall coloring and camo.  The real black mark against this Firefly, though, was that it was too much, too quickly.  But, almost 14 years after his release, I find that this is pretty much my go to version of Firefly if I'm not using the vintage version.  He meshes well with many Cobra army builders and even looks good among the vintage Cobra hierarchy.  The full complement of gear also gives a sense of legitimacy to the figure.  In short, it feels that Hasbro gave Firefly his due with this release, even if other figures in the set were shortchanged on paint applications or accessories.

For me, this figure wins on a couple of points.  First, it's a great look for Firefly.  If Hasbro had to repaint a character nearly 10 times, I'm glad they offered at least a couple of versions that were of great quality.  Secondly, though, 2002 through 2004 was a pretty good time to be a Joe fan.  You could walk into Toys R Us stores and find the Joe exclusives without too much trouble.  The sets were readily available online, too, for collectors who didn't live near a TRU store.  And, while a lot of the releases weren't Hasbro's best work, there were a lot of good figures that did see release.  Hasbro was releasing over 100 figures per year back then.  So, it was very easy to find something that appealed to every collector.  In some ways, Hasbro's attempts to be all things to all collectors backfired.  But, when they took a more focused approach in the anniversary era, the results were actually weaker than they had been in the early 2000's.

Like all the Urban Strike figures, Firefly has an unreleased variant.  The unproduced Firefly uses more red as a basic camo color.  In the grand scheme, it's a vastly inferior figure to the one that was actually released.  What was once a common variant to find, though, has gotten rather tough to track down and overly pricey.  It's not a great figure to own.  But, if you're looking for something different that will set a Firefly collection apart: it's definitely something that's different and relatively rare.

Hasbro used the Firefly mold too many times.  In their zeal to capitalize on a fan favorite character for whom they had the mold, they gave us too much of a good thing.  The 1998 version was an awesome repaint since it moved Firefly into an environmental theme.  The 2000 figure was less great.  The cammo was good.  But, the bare hands and paint wipes didn't do him any favors in the long term.  The 2002 version is so terrible that it's fun.  The 2003 Convention figures are excellent.  But, are hard to find and will cost you quite a bit of money.  The Tiger Force Wreckage figure is interesting and a cheap way to get another Firefly in a different scheme.  The 2005 Crimson version is just this Urban figure with the blue replaced with red.  And, the 2005 Comic Pack figure has a pretty good argument as the best overall Firefly figure of all time.  In between that, there is also a Funskool release and all the slight variants that accompany any vintage Funskool figure.  Collectors have their pick of Firefly figures.  I think this version is great.  But, realistically, can only rank it as the third best Firefly figure.  But, it is nice to have a Cobra blue version that can blend with more classic Cobra troopers.

Urban Firefly figures have gotten somewhat tough to find.  Dealers routinely get between $10 and $15 for a mint and complete figure.  You don't fine too many open market sales.  But, that's because the figure doesn't generate much interest in that regard.  If you can find such an opportunity, you might pick up this figure for under $5.  Hasbro's overuse of the mold rendered this version superfluous and pretty much killed any aftermarket demand for the figure.  That means, though, that a patient collector can get an excellent Firefly figure (maybe the best) for a pittance.  I never scoff at quality figures that are cheap.

2004 Urban Strike Firefly, Toys R Us Exclusive, Night Creeper, 1984 Stinger

2004 Urban Strike Firefly, Toys R Us exclusive, Nullifier, Flak Viper


  1. Hasbro always seemed to ensure they did the Firefly figures with a degree of quality that was better than other figures. A while back A-Man mentioned that the Urban Set was voted on by fans, with knowledge that Stormy and Firefly would be in it. I distinctly remember voting for it as I thought it would be the 88 Storm Shadow mold.

    I wonder what caused G.I. Joe to fall off the rails in 2004. There was a steep decline in quality of the new sculpt figures (and the Valor vs. Venom idea was really stupid!), and the 80s nostalgia wave wasn't very strong, and seemed to end around the same time Reagan died.

    1. There was Hasbro questionnaire in 2002? Maybe it was. It was online, too and talked about, yet I cannot find it or threads about it. Asking about characters we wanted to see ("Destro's General" being mentioned), mutli-packs...and this was when it sounded like more 8-packs were considered...as opposed to the novelty one we got.

      Anyway, at least half the Cobra Urban line up was given. The third figure may have been Night Creeper or Alley Viper.

      I was looking at stuff regarding the cancelled 2005 Rise of Robots/Robot Rebellion series and it was said sales of 3 3/4" weren't bad, but sales of the 12" JOEs were, and retailers looked at the line as a whole. I dunno, I remember the 12" stuff from the time, it wasn't popular with collectors, but I don't recall it clogging up the aisles especially.

    2. I just remember January of 2004 being the line in the sand. From August through December of 2003, Joes shipped constantly and sold out everywhere. Wal Mart, Target and TRU all had full wall displays of them with hundreds of packs. My local stores would rotate through cases every week. Online retailers had orders cancelled so that Hasbro could fulfill the needs of big box stores. It was crazy.

      Then, as soon as VvV stuff showed up in January, it all just sat and sat. I think part of it was partly just retail fatigue from a line that had been successful for a two full years. Other parts were probably cultural as 2004 brought a lot of new issues to the political forefront. But, Hasbro also got lazy. Look at the 6 packs and how the figure and accessory quality progressed. The main line declined, too. I think that had the DCT stuff been released in late 2004, it might have saved the line for another year or two. Though, I do recall Joe selling well enough during the 2004 holidays. But, the 2005 stuff sat and sat. Even the Crimson Guard set ultimately reached clearance.

    3. The VvV mainline stuff was a real step down sculpting wise from a lot of the Spy Troops line, and it doesn't help that Hasbro also went to gimmicky features and overt sci-fi. The second G.I. Joes stop having traditional construction, the line is in trouble- the 90s, 04, whenever they started putting out 5POA figures in the modern error.

    4. I remember as a kid really losing interest in Joe when the VvV line came out. The entire concept of the line seemed really dumb to me, and the majority of the figures looked like 1994 by way of New Sculpt. Lots of really dumb new characters, and the color variety didn't seem particularly good either.

      Hasbro went overboard with Firefly figures during the 2000's, but I have to admit there isn't one I don't like at all. This figure and the CP version are my favorites.

    5. In 2002-2003 some new sculpt figures got beefy and tall. For VvsV they over-corrected and many new figures started looking puny. The overall problem with the era was the lack of consistency in the new stuff. You have figures that you wonder how they ever got approved (the Valor vs Venom Alley Viper!).

      And yeah, the theme was lacking. A lot of redundant monsterized Cobras and yet another model of BAT. Joes that already had current figure redone, while fan favorites went unmade.

  2. I missed out on the $15 Urban strike sets. I think. I know I got two sets, though. Yes, the 50% character ratio was a factor, but there was a lot of stuff to buy at the time. In terms of urban forces, I was full of Alley Vipers from 2002 (and the heavily clearanced wave 1.5).

    Too much Firefly and Storm Shadow at the time, ARAH and new sculpt, that even the good ones gets overshadowed. Hasbro missed out the chance to make the 6-pack they think everyone wanted:
    Tunnel Rat
    Storm Shadow

  3. The paint applications that were employed during this era--specifically skin tone, makes them less desirable compared to the figures from RAH. They stick out and I think it is more of a plastic coloring, or different plastic being used. That compounded by the switch in molding, spy troops and valor vs venom. I collected them but the figures didn't fit in with the rest of the collection and they faded out. I recently got back into the figures from 82 to 94, I am thinking of selling my 25th/modern era collection to bulk up on the classics.