Thursday, April 26, 2018

1991 Lifeline - Rice Krispies Mail Away

In the early 1990's, the Kellog's cereal company wanted to do a G.I. Joe promotion.  They tied it to their Rice Krispies brand of cereal.  The result was a mail away offer where you could get a "free" G.I. Joe figure if you ate enough cereal.  The figure offered was an exclusive version of Lifeline.  The figure was based on the 1986 figure and colored the exact same way.  But, there is a major mold difference.  Gone are the original legs from the 1986 figure.  They were replaced with the legs from the 1985 Frostbite figure.  The created an unique variant of Lifeline and an interesting modification for modern collectors to track down.

Kellog's had an aversion to guns.  As a company, they didn't want to promote guns on any of their promotions.  Why they chose to partner with a military themed toy line, then, seems rather odd.  But, Hasbro was game to accommodate Kellog's wishes. So, they offered a medic figure as the premium.  And, they modified to the parts used so that the gun and knife on the legs of the original Lifeline were now gone.  This was the only reason for the parts change in the figure's construction.  A few years later, Kellog's aversion to weapons appeared again.  In 1996, Kellog's offered an amazing (for the time!) Han Solo in Stormtrooper Disguise figure as a promotion for their Fruit Loops cereal.  The figure was sculpted to hold a two-handed blaster based on the Stormtrooper rifle.  But, Kellog's would not allow the weapon to be used.  So, Hasbro nixed the blaster and the figure just came with a helmet.  Finally, in 1998, the blaster appeared with a Princess Leia figure.  The Han Stormtrooper was a figure that I was happy to finally get in 1996.  So, when I see this Lifeline, I associate him with that Stormtrooper figure and it always brings a smile to my face.

Lifeline's purpose in my collection has mostly been as a nameless, faceless army builder.  The non-descript head with the molded helmet and green glasses helps fit his aesthetic into that role.  So, having a slightly different version of the figure isn't a bad thing.  I've always seen Lifeline as a field medic: often in the line of fire when trying to save a fallen comrade.  So, having him not be a character was conducive to the purpose I found for the figure.  There would be times when the medics would perish when trying to reach their victims.  Other times, they would be force to fight as Cobra overran their position.  But, mostly, they were guys doing a job that was extremely dangerous and very unrewarding.  I had more than a few medic characters who struggled with the fact that so many men they tried to save ended up dying.  It was a simple fact that medics were doomed to witness the final moments of life for many of the wounded to whom they tended. 

In 1991, it wouldn't have been out of the ordinary for there to have been a box or two of Rice Krispies in the house.  It was a cereal my family ate.  And, as there were three boys in the house then, we ate a lot of cereal.  I'd like to think that if I'd seen this figure being offered as a mail away, I'd have remembered it...even if I wouldn't have sent away for it.  But, as I already had a good Lifeline, it's possible that I did see the premium and simply ignored it since it was for a figure I already owned.  Either way, this isn't a figure that was ever overly enticing since I had the original figure and that version was solid.  But, I miss the days when cereal boxes would have decent mail away toys.  The fun of sending away for something and then pining for weeks while you waited for it to come was a right of passage for any kid of this era. 

Aside from the mold change, this Lifeline version also came with fewer accessories.  Obviously, the pistol from the 1986 was missing.  But, more importantly, the oxygen mask from the original figure was also absent.  To me, the mask is what makes Lifeline and it's one of my favorite accessories in the entire Joe line.  Seeing Lifeline without it makes the figure seem far lesser to me.  I'll buy a beat up Lifeline with a mask over a perfect figure with no mask.  The mail away version only included the white medical case and the silver backpack.  This gear is decent enough.  If I had no knowledge of the 1986 figure when I acquired this version, I would think the gear solid.  But, knowing there are accessories that are not included makes this figure seem cheap.  It should be noted this figure also has no filecard.  He was just bagged.  While it's almost guaranteed that any filecard that would have been included would have been identical to the 1986 text, the fact that it's missing makes this Lifeline even more of an oddball.

The Lifeline mold got good use.  Hasbro released him in 1986 and then this 1991 variant.  In 1988, the original mold was colored in Tiger Force colors and released on a single card in that subset.  The mold went to Brazil where Estrela released the Tiger Force Lifeline as Paramedico.  After that, the mold went to India.  There, Funskool released several variants of the figure in the late 1990's and early 2000's.  The basic premise was based on the Tiger Force release.  But, the colors are much brighter.  There are various color variants of the Funskool Lifeline, with some being rather hard to find.  After that, the mold disappeared.  Hasbro was good at getting medical themed figures into the early 2000's Joe repaints.  But, they were Stretcher and the 1994 Lifeline molds.  It would have been cool to see one more repaint of this figure, just because all of the other versions are rather extreme in color.  But, I'm also just fine with the uses we did get of the mold.

Massive amounts of overstock mail away Lifeline's found their way into the collecting world.  As such, a mint and complete figure will run you about $5.  You can still get bagged versions for under $10 and there are even sellers who offer them in bulk.  At these prices, there's no excuse for a collector to not own a high quality version of this figure.  One thing we've learned through the years, though, is that, eventually, common bagged overstock will get absorbed.  Bagged Steel Brigades used to sit unsold for $5.  Interrogator/Major Altitude packs were practically given away.  Even the multitude of common figures from the Hasbro Canada find have pretty much disappeared.  Some day, that will happen to the Lifeline figures, too.  It's doubtful it will anytime soon.  But, there's really no scenario where these figures get more common and cheaper than they are today.  So, if you want one, act now.

For me, this figure is an inferior version of the original Lifeline.  And, since even the originals remain relatively cheap, there's no compelling reason to get this figure (other than to "complete" a collection) over the original.  As a piece that tells an interesting story of the line, the figure has merit.  But, the value ends there.  The unadorned legs and lack of air mask leave this figure as lesser than the original.  But, I am a sucker for offbeat, slight variants.  So, that's why I have the figure.  The nice thing is that he remains cheap.  That alone is enough to warrant this figure a second look if he's missing from your collection.

1991 Lifeline, Mail Away, Rice Krispies, 1986 Lifeline, Comparison

1991 Lifeline, Mail Away, Rice Krispies, Funskool, Flint, Steel Brigade, Black Major, Factory Custom, Starduster, Tiger Force

1991 Lifeline, Mail Away, Rice Krispies, Low Light, Dial Tone, 2002, Mirage, Mega Marines, 1983 APC

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

1987 Techno Viper - Around the Web

I didn't have a profile ready for today.  So, I'm going to switch things around and see if I can something ready for Thursday.  In the meantime, here's a look at the 1987 Techno Viper.

The 1987 Techno Viper has become a staple of the Cobra army building corps.  While his purple color was fairly out there in 1987, it has since become just another de-facto Cobra color like blue and crimson.  The figure isn't spectacular.  But, he has great gear and is generally well regarded by collectors.  His popularity leads to a decent amount of content on him around the web.

1987 Techno Viper Profile

Techno Viper Dio 1

1994 Techno Viper Profile

Techno Viper at ARAH Gallery

Techno Viper Dio 2

Techno Viper at

Techno Viper Video Review

Techno Viper Dio 3

Techno Viper at

Techno Viper Dio 4

1987 Techno Viper, 1986 Cobra Stun, 2017 Black Major Factory Custom Techno Trooper, Bootleg, Total Madness Custom Zombie Trooper

Thursday, April 19, 2018

1997 Sgt. Zap - Around the Web

I'm a fan of the 1997 Zap figure.  The original Zap is great.  And, it's probably a better figure than this one.  But, the original is also really brittle.  They fall apart if you look at them too hard.  So, if you want a vintage style Zap to take outside and photograph, the original is a tough sell.  So, enter the 1997 version.  He has some more distinct colors.  And, his accessories are much richer in color than his vintage versions.  He's also made of softer plastic that is less likely to break and is about 1/10 the price of a high quality vintage Zap.  There's not a ton of content on the 1997 figures in general out there.  But, here's what I could find of Zap.

1997 Sgt. Zap Profile

Zap Bazooka Variants

Custom Zap by Scarrviper

Zap at ARAH Gallery

Zap Dio 1

Zap at HalftheBattle

Zap Dio 2

Sgt. Zap PreProduction at

1997 Sgt. Zap, Toys R Us Exclusive, 1985 Mauler

1997 Duke, Zap, Viper, TRU Exclusive

1997 Duke, Zap, Viper, TRU Exclusive, 1982 VAMP, 1983, Grunt, Clutch

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

1987 Red Dog

In the mid 1980's a ritual in the first couple of months of the year was to find and spend hours pouring over the new yearly G.I. Joe catalog that was included with the vehicles.  1984 was full of amazing new figures and the awesome Whale.  1985's figures were somewhat known, but the surprise of the USS Flagg was amazing.  1986 brought more character replacements, but in awesome new characters who could stand on their own.  And, 1987 introduced the Defiant.  What was missing from the 1987 catalog, though, was any indication of the G.I. Joe movie.  Except, buried in a small photo in the middle of the catalog was a special three pack of figures: Sgt. Slaughter's Renegades.  They figures didn't get much attention (their photo is the same size as the the photo of the motorized battle packs) and seemed an afterthought of the 1987 releases.  When I found the pack at retail, I bought the figures in the zeal of newness.  Mercer quickly became the only figure from the set who found a home in my collection.  But, through the years, I have come to appreciate a second member of the Renegades: Red Dog.

As a kid, Red Dog could not find a place in my collection.  He and his pack mate, Taurus, simply never worked as Joes for me.  They were too far out there to be Cobras.  And, they didn't really fit with the Dreadnoks.  So, I ended up using them in various civilian, criminal and terrorist roles.  Here, they could die with impunity and I didn't have to burn a good Cobra or Joe figure in the process.  Their gear was the type of oddball stuff I'd associate with an ill funded foreign terrorist organization.  And, Taurus would later remind me of the character "Horst" from the Special Missions comics.  So, Red Dog received no special characterization from me and simply became a lost figure in my Joe room.  He would fill various roles as I needed someone.  But, the greatest value of the figure was his pistol.  Beyond that, I paid the figure little attention.

In late 2001, though, that changed.  Funskool released their version of Red Dog at this time.  Their albino version of the character brought Red Dog to life and he became a vital part of my collection.  With him, though, I really had no use for the original version.  The two figures were distinct enough that they could co-exist.  But, with the cool, villainous Funskool Red Dog in hand, the need for another version of the figure dissipated.  So, Red Dog went MIA in my collection for many years.  It's only been recently that he's returned.  And, that was mostly just to complete my collection and, to take photos for this profile.

But, I've found that the figure isn't as terrible as my 1987 self thought.  Red Dog is full of personality.  His head is well detailed and distinctive.  While the football uniform is kind of lame, it does bring a different vibe to the character.  The clothes look like hand me downs or something rescued from a dump of unsellable merchandise.  To me, this makes Red Dog a better character.  Instead of having a professional athlete background, he is more of a scavenger who grew up poor and now takes on military jobs as they pay well and appear to a sense of danger.  The rest of the mold is also well detailed and gives Red Dog a much greater appeal than when he was just another random guy in a 3 pack.

Oddly, Red Dog was Hasbro's "person of color" release for 1987.  Stalker was released in 1982Doc in 1983Roadblock filled the role in 1984 with Alpine following in 1985.  A new Roadblock and Iceberg were released in 1986 and Hardball was released in 1988.  Every year of the vintage line other than 1987 featured at least one African-American character who was sold on a single card.  Technically, the Fridge was released in 1987.  But, only as a mail away.  This left Red Dog as the one non-caucasian figure released at retail that year.  Red Dog's Samoan heritage is overdone.  But, it was nice to see some additional skin tones added to the Joe line beyond the white and black faces that dominated the team's racial makeup.

Red Dog's gear isn't great.  He includes just a pistol and backpack.  The backpack is a recolored release from the 1985 Dusty figure.  The color works with Red Dog well enough.  He also includes a pistol.  The pistol is larger than most of the pistols of his era.  This is nice as it isn't as easily lost as the weapon from the 1986 General Hawk or 1987 Chuckles.  The weapon is detailed enough.  As a kid, I used it as super powerful pistol since it was so large.  I see the weapon as Red Dog's, exclusively.  For some reason, it's just too tied to the Red Dog figure for me to use it with anyone else. The pistol worked with my function for Red Dog.  It was unlikely that a random terrorist would have access to military weapons.  So, a powerful pistol worked much better when he would get close and take a shot at Duke or Flint.  But, the lack of distinctive gear also hurts the figure.  Just a repainted pack and small gun aren't enough to overcome the other issues with the Red Dog mold.

The Red Dog mold didn't see much use. After the American figure's release window closed in 1988, the figure showed up in Europe on an Action Force card.  This is noteworthy since Red Dog was sold as a single carded figure.  Through the years, I've heard there are very subtle color differences between the American and European release Renegades.  I've never compared known country of origin samples to confirm or deny that, though.  After this release, Red Dog disappeared until 2001 when he appeared in India.  Funskool produced him for a few years.  There is no evidence that Funskool returned him to Hasbro in the early 2000's and they may still have the mold.  There are a couple of Funskool variants (most notably flesh or white colored elbows) for collectors to track down.  In 2006, the club recast a Red Dog head and released it as part of a convention attendee set.  The head was painted and was, generally, poorly received.  Even today, this figure is incredibly cheap for a convention attendee release.  The character was revived in the Anniversary era for a release, too.  So, Red Dog fans have a decent array of options for the figure.

If you're looking for a Red Dog figure, he's pretty easy to find.  Usually, though, he is sold along with his Renegades team mates.  In recent years, large quantities of lower quality carded Renegades sets have shown up.  So, you'll see people pay up to $40 for a mint and complete set of the three Renegades with carded versions selling for only $50.  On his own, Red Dog isn't expensive.  However, it is getting increasingly difficult to find a sample with no paint rubs.  The notoriously fragile gold paint on his head, neck, belt and, especially, arms is usually flaked or rubbed.  Decent versions with the filecard tend to sell in the $10 to $12 range.  But, the filecard is the expensive piece.  Just a complete figure will run you $7 or $8 with incomplete figures easily available for $5 or less, depending on paint wear.  There is a huge supply of the figures available (the benefits of being released in 1987) and once that's combined with a low demand, you get a cheap figure.

For the price, there's no reason to not own the figure...especially now that the Funskool version has gotten a lot harder and more expensive to find.  For me, Red Dog is used to complete that childhood collection that ended in 1987.  But, other than that, he has little use.  He does look nice when posed with Mercer.  But, the oddball of Taurus limits the notion of the three of the figures as a team.  So, the Funskool figure (who I use as a bad guy) remains my Red Dog of choice.  For those who grew up on the animated movie, though, this figure may have substantially more significance.

1987 Red Dog, Sgt. Slaughter's Renegades, 1982 VAMP, 1988 Hit and Run, Sgt. Slaughter

1987 Red Dog, Funskool Red Dog, 2001, 1991 Mercer, Sgt. Slaughters Renegades, Dreadnok Thunder Machine, 1986

1987 Red Dog, Mercer, Sgt. Slaughter, TTT, Triple T, Sgt. Slaughter's Renegades

Thursday, April 12, 2018

1988 Shockwave - Around the Web

The 1988 Shockwave figure has long been a collector favorite.  His sculpting is pretty strong.  He had great accessories.  And, his non-traditional color made sense for his specialty.  There was a time when he was, easily, the most sought after 1988 Joe character.  He's still pretty popular.  But, most collectors have him and have found some of his later repaints to be better figures.  But, the original still has a lot of cachet.  But, due to his codename having a lot of real world applications as well as being shared with a classic Transformer, his content gets buried.  So, I didn't find a whole lot on Shockwave out there.  But, here's what I came up with:

1988 Shockwave Profile

Shockwave at

Shockwave Video Review

Pre-Production Shockwave at

Night Force Shockwave Profile

Shockwave Dio

1988 Shockwave, 2005 HAS Snake Eyes, TRU Exclusive, 1983 APC

1988 Shockwave, 1992 Big Bear, Oktober Guard, 2017 Black Major Factory Custom Alley Viper, Bootleg

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

1993 Slice - Ninja Force

Slice and Dice are kind of like Tomax and Xamot.  You simply can't look at one without acknowledging the other.  So, today's profile is a tag team effort with The Dragon Fortress.  He's going to review Dice while I take a look at Slice.  This way, both characters get their due and retain the tie that binds them together.

When I first saw Slice and Dice in the G.I. Joe comic book in late 1991, I was immediately drawn to the Slice character.  His sleek look and excellent head showcased something that I thought would translate well to toys.  I went looking for G.I. Joe figures at retail just one time in 1992.  That visit was sensory overload as the aisle was packed, everything was new to me, and I was on a time crunch since it was over my lunch hour and it took 20 minutes each way to get to the store.  So, the thought of looking for a Slice figure never really entered my mind.  In the ensuing years, it's entirely possible that I came across a Slice figure in my retail encounters.  Ninja Force figures were usually some of the last Joes on the pegs.  But, as I was generally not interested in them since there were other figure options available to me, I paid them little mind.  As an adult collector, I finally picked up a Slice in a general figure lot.  But, as the figure lacked standard articulation, I, again, gave the figure little credence.  Now, two decades later, I've found a quiet quality in the Slice figures Hasbro released.  The sculpting is good, the articulation isn't as off putting as it can be on other figures and, there are some striking color variants: none more so than the bright orange 1993 Ninja Force Slice.

In the summers of 1995 and 1996, I worked near the local Toys R Us store.  Especially in 1996, I would often go to this store 3 to 4 times per week.  I was mostly looking for Star Wars figures.  But, as those were almost always the same pegwarming Luke Dagobah and Han Hoth figures, I spent a lot of time looking at the straggling supply of Joe figures.  I had bought most every figure I wanted.  And, the good figures were few and far between.  What was not in short supply, though, were Street Fighter and Ninja Force figures.  As the Battle Corps finally sold out, I was left with few options for new Joes.  I picked up countless versions of the Street Fighter figures and would always put them back, unpurchased, as I simply could not get over the look of the figures.  One night, in 1996, I finally succumbed and bought a Ninja Force Night Creeper figure.  As soon as I opened it, I regretting buying him.  (Though, my stance on that figure would later change.)  This doomed any other Ninja Force from being added to my collection.

As the 1990's wound down, my Joe buying efforts were all over the place.  I bought early figures, I bought middle figures and I bought late figures.  I was desperate to get as much of the line as I could.  But, through all that acquisition, Ninja Force figures were few and far between.  It might be that I steered clear of lots that contained them as they didn't have enough, other material to make their purchase worthwhile.  Or, it might be that kids of the day didn't like those figures any more than I did.  Whatever the reason, it was a rare occasion to find a Ninja Force figure.  While I did manage to get a handful of the 1993 Ninja Force figures, this Slice was never among them.  While I obsessed over other, orange figures.  I left this Slice alone because of my lack of interest in Ninja Force in general.

In 2002, Hasbro released a Slice repaint.  Having this figure in hand reminded me of my comic interest in Slice.  But, it also got me thinking about the figure.  I wanted to find a use for Slice.  But, again, the non-standard construction was a limiting factor.  Now, though, as my collecting needs have dwindled to a very small pool of figures, I find Ninja Force figures generally more acceptable.  And, of the Ninja Force mold, I find Slice to be the best.  He lacks much of the bulk that the non-standard construction required and his movements don't necessitate blocky hips or legs.  He looks like a standard Joe figure and fits in with them just fine.  While some of his poseability is limited, he's not as stuck as other figures like Snake Eyes or Scarlett.

This had lead me to finally appreciate the Slice figure as much as I liked the original character in the comics.  The mesh face mask was always a look that I thought was extremely cool.  And, Slice's choice of headwear does translate into the figure.  The rest of Slice's body is relatively plain: befitting a ninja.  The contrast of the sleek, unique head and the standard, robed body helps to keep Slice from being too busy.  I now find him a near perfect rendition of a martial artist and an excellent foil to Snake Eyes and, if you're inclined, Storm Shadow.  It's taken me more than 25 years to finally come around the mold.  But, mostly that was due to inaccessibility.  With the figure in hand, you see that Slice has some decent uses and is fun to have around.

Slice's weapons are actually rather decent.  While the weapons trees of 1993 and much maligned, Hasbro did hit a home run every now and then.  For starters, Slice's weapons are cast in black plastic.  This makes a world of difference and not only aligns them with the figure's accent color, but also makes them more palatable to the eyes.  The weapons themselves, though, are nicely designed.  They are a bit large for the scale of the Slice figure, but still work.  For someone like me who grew up on the flimsy Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes swords, these larger, bulkier items took a bit of getting used to.  But, they work well with the figure.  The two sided knives are extremely cool looking.  The large sword with the hooked end is, as well.  There is also an axe, knife and spear that are both well detailed and in scale with the figure.  In short, Slice includes a ninja arsenal and all the weapons make sense.

There is a lot and a little done with the Slice mold.  The mold was used quite a bit in the vintage days.  In fact, I believe that Slice is the only character/figure mold to be released in three consecutive years (1992, 1993 and 1994) in three unique paint schemes in the vintage line.  (The 1992 Stormshadow mold was used three consecutive years, but the 1993 incarnation was as T'Gin Zu and not Stormshadow.  The 1992 Eco Warriors Barbecue was turned into Payload for the 1993 and two 1994 recolors.)  In that time, Hasbro did the original, red version, this orange version and a translucent Shadow Ninjas version.  While these figures were on the shelves, Hasbro also used the body for the two versions of the Ryu figure from the Street Fighter subset.  (If this figure was standard construction and could support simple headswaps, dropping a Slice head on either Ryu figure would make for a solid rendition of the Slice character, too.)  The body then also shows up in the Mortal Combat movie line where it was the basis for Reptile, Smoke, both versions of Scorpion and both versions of Sub Zero.  If that were not enough, the entire figure reappeared in 2002 in a 2 pack with Sure Fire.  That was the end of the mold, though, and Hasbro didn't come back to it, even though it could have found a home in the Toys R Us Ninja Pack or a later comic pack release.  But, there are no less than 12 retail appearances of the mold, plus a few international packaging variations.

This Slice version is pricier than I would have thought.  Mint and complete with filecard figures tend to sell in the $10 range.  Carded figures will also sell at nearly $20.  For a bright repaint of an obscure mold that's buried in an unpopular subset, that's kind of high.  However, in my years and years of buying up lots of 1993 figures, I never came across a loose Slice.  In fact, all of the '93 Ninja Force were scarce and I only got Zartan, Scarlett and Snake Eyes in one huge lot that also included a large number of other, harder to find figures.  But, if you take some time, you can find the figures at cheaper prices.  Many toy dealers who don't specialize in Joe will sell carded versions for $10.  So, you can take advantage of those deals before the supply dries up.  I don't know if Ninja Force is going to become the next cheap Joe subset to increase in collector popularity.  It seems that collectors fall into two camps on the subset.  They either were an early adopter who likes ninjas and has had the figures from the beginning.  Or, they have completed everything else and find Ninja Force the last, unexplored bastion of the vintage Joe world.  I squarely fell into the second camp.  But, I have found myself enjoying these figures, even if it's just because they are something new and interesting.  They are cheap and relatively easy to acquire.  And, that's goes a long way.  Were these $30 figures, I'm not sure I'd be spending the energy to get them.  But, at current pricing, I'm finding some joy in these late run oddities.

1993 Ninja Force Slice, 2005 Winter Operations Snake Eyes, TRU Exclusive

1993 Ninja Force Slice, 1989 Snake Eyes, 1988 Stormshadow

1993 Ninja Force Slice, 1989 Snake Eyes, 1988 Stormshadow

1993 Ninja Force Slice, Carded, MOC, Cardback, Filecard

1993 Ninja Force Slice, Carded, MOC, Cardback, Filecard

Thursday, April 5, 2018

1994 Shipwreck - Around the Web

This Shipwreck figure proves that Hasbro could still make awesome figures: even at the end of the line.  The mold, colors, character and accessories all combine into an excellent release that should be owned and enjoyed by every collector.  I found and purchased two of them at retail in the mid 1990's and would have bought more if I had been able to find them.  I army built the figures for a time and am glad that I did as this figure has started to get a bit harder to find and more expensive.  Despite the high quality, there isn't much on this figure out there.  Here's the sparse bit I could find on this figure around the web.

1994 Shipwreck Profile

1994 Shipwreck at

1994 Shipwreck Pre Production at

1994 Shipwreck Dio 01

1994 Battle Corps at The Toy Box

1994 Shipwreck by thedustinmccoy

1994 Shipwreck, Battle Corps, 1985 Mauler, Action Soldier

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

1988 Star Viper

As 1987 wound down and 1988 began, my interest in Joe diminished.  In the fall of 1987, I discovered Baseball cards.  From then on, sports cards took on a far greater importance in my life.  This pushed Joe out.  I only bought a handful of figures at retail.  And, when I found that my local comic book store sold sports cards, my interest in comics dipped, too.  I stopped buying all the super hero books that had been a great source of entertainment for me in the mid 1980's.  And then, for a very brief period, I even stopped buying the G.I. Joe comic.  This happened to coincide with a story in the comic referred to as the "Star Viper arc".  As I returned to the comic after a short absence, I tried to make sense of this character.  But, my local shop was missing a few issues that I had missed.  So, it took a couple of years before I finally caught up on the whole story.  Sadly, the character's story far outshone his figure.  The 1988 Star Viper wasn't a mold that caught my eye.  But, through the years, obscure releases that I've ignored tend to come back and grab my attention for a few weeks.  And, the Star Viper's turn finally arrived.

In 1988, Hasbro brought in their space Cobras.  The Astro Viper and Stiletto with Star Viper were Cobra's answer to the Defiant that Hasbro hoped many kids had gotten for Christmas in 1987: just ahead of these 1988 releases.  The timing makes sense.  And, Hasbro's re-release of shuttle parts as the Crusader and the 1989 Countdown figure also dovetailed to keep these space Cobras relevant to 1989 consumers.  This was the type of planning and forethought that kept the vintage line fresh.  The good guys and bad guys both had complementary weapons that lead to interactive play.  But, Hasbro also didn't release too much, too quickly that would have lead parents to only buy one airplane or boat in a given year and leave their kids without the alternative piece.

For me, the Star Viper isn't of much relevance to my collection.  My only real childhood memory of the figure was seeing Stilettos still on sale at a local Kohl's store in 1990.  (The day I bought my Night Viper.)  He's never been all that interesting of a figure.  And, while I enjoyed his run in the comic, the character was never one that I felt was really necessary for me.  So, even in my heady army building days, I only had one Star Viper.  I never really considered him part of Star Brigade.  So, he didn't find relevance there, either.  Today, he's someone I have.  But, not someone I use.  There are better Cobra pilots.  Some day, I hope to find a junker Defiant and customize it into a Cobra space ship.  This would give the Star Viper (maybe even 2 of them) a home and a purpose.  Until then, though, he's just a box I no longer need to check in my lazy goal of a complete Joe collection.

As a mold, the Star Viper isn't all that interesting.  He's basically two colors  with a third for his face shield.  Most of the 1988 vehicle drivers suffered from sparse paint applications and the Star Viper is not immune.  He's the got weird thing on his chest.  It's not really all that interesting.  But, it does serve as the hallmark of the figure.  The head is odd at best.  The oval helmet bears a passing resemblance to a space helmet.  The really oddball element of the helmet is the flair at the bottom.  This little detail takes away some of the roundness of the helmet.  It also makes the Star Viper's head look like a rocket ship.  I don't know if this was the intended design.  But, the head and body don't really combine for something cool  Really, the Secto Viper (released in the same year) makes for a better astronaut than the Star Viper.  So, that's kind of an indictment of the figure's design.

Star Viper joins most of the Iron Grenadier figures from this time period in the gold paint club.  Gold paint is notoriously easy to rub off.  So, finding a figure that prominently features golden paint in mint condition is very difficult.  And, since the Star Viper's golden highlights cover black plastic, any dings or wear is noticeably evident.  And, in the case of the Star Viper, you get the golden paint on the hands and middle of the chest: the two places most likely to experience heavy handling and wear.  So, finding a perfectly golden Star Viper can take some doing.  Fortunately, he was packed in a common, low price point vehicle and is an army builder with whom most collectors are satisfied at just one example.

The Star Viper character just appeared this one time.  A Star Brigade repaint would have made perfect sense.  But, that didn't happen.  The mold's head disappeared after this use.  But, the chest and arm pieces were used again: but this time on a Joe.  The 1991 and 1993 Major Altitude figures.  They are colored differently enough that they don't intrude upon the Star Viper.  But, the chest is also distinctive enough that you do notice the related parts.  The Star Viper's legs showed up on the 2003 Black Dragon Trooper figure: implying Hasbro had access to the mold in the 2000's.  But, collectors of that era would not have been kind to a repainted Star Viper.  But, a different Cobra mold using some of his parts might have been somewhat welcomed.  The Star Viper figure, though, is well enough done with an obscure enough specialty that not seeing another version isn't that big of a deal.

Despite the propensity for paint wear, mint Star Vipers are neither overly difficult to find nor very expensive.  You can find large quantities of high quality, though not quite mint, Star Vipers in the $4 - $6 range.  You'll find a mint one in this range from time to time since the figure isn't that popular.  For some reason, though, large quantities of overstock 1988 vehicle drivers have found their way into the collecting world.  Among those figures is the Star Viper.  While not as common as they used to be, bubbled Star Vipers are a pretty easy find and can still be purchased for around $10 each.  For a gem mint figure, that's the way to go.  For a quick army that's good enough, though, there are a lot of cheaper alternatives out there.

1988 Star Viper, 1990 Super Sonic Fighters Law, 1983 G.I. joe HQ, 1991 Cloudburst

1988 Star Viper, 1994 Star Brigade Countdown, 1994 Star Brigade Payload, Variant, 1983 G.I. joe HQ