Thursday, August 30, 2018

1990 Updraft - Around the Web

I've long considered Updraft an undiscovered gem in the Joe line.  He's a perfect pilot for the Tomahawk.  Though, his Retaliator is a darn nice toy, too.  For a figure that's generally unknown, there's a decent amount of content on him out there.  Here's the best of the 1990 Updraft from around the web.

1990 Updraft Profile

Updraft Variants by Hit and Run

Updraft at

Updraft at JoePedia

Updraft by neapolitanjoe

Updraft at

1990 Updraft, Retaliator, 1994 Viper, Battle Corps

1990 Updraft, Retaliator, 1994 Viper, Battle Corps, Freefall, Bullhorn

1990 Updraft, Retaliator, 1994 Viper, Battle Corps, Freefall, Bullhorn

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

2017 General - Red Laser Army Factory Custom

Factory custom figures exist in many flavors.  Prior to 2017, though, those flavors were almost exclusively army builders.  The few characters (Mortals, Invasors and De Acos, mostly) were Cobra themed and based on rare and expensive figures that most collectors would never own.  In 2017, though, this started to shift.  First, Starduster figures appeared.  An exclusive Bombadier figure also showed up.  At the 2017 G.I. Joe Convention, though, Red Laser's Army released a massive set of figures that was a mix of new army builders as well as some brand new characters that were loosely based on early Joe concept or comic artwork.  In general, collectors took to these releases and you began to see the figures show up in various photo forums.  There were many top notch figures.  But, one I found the most interesting was the character of the General.

This figure is Hawk.  We all know it's Hawk and really don't hold any pretext that this figure is anyone other than Hawk.  He's got the blonde hair and vintage style head mold.  The distinguishing feature are the figure's base colors.  Gone is the drab, monotone of the 1982/1983 figure.  Instead, collectors are offered an panoply of colors that make this figure stand apart.  For the first time, I have a representation of Hawk that fits his role as leader of the G.I. Joe team.  One of my great laments of the 2000's era repaints was that Hasbro never gave us a first appearance 1986 Hawk figure with a black jacket and blonde hair.  It was such a simple repaint.  Instead, we got 2 uninspired repaints of the '86 Hawk figure and two equally uninspired General Tomahawk figures.  The General fills that void and puts him in the style of the early Joe figures.

The figure is based on an early comic appearance of Hawk.  The black upper body positioned against the bright green with brown highlights is a great color combo.  (It was later used to great effect on Outlaw, too.)  To me, this looks like a 1983 or 1984 repaint of the Hawk character.  It's something that would have made the vintage line that much more spectacular.  Getting it 35 years later is a treat.  I like the brighter colors against the classic 1982-1985 Joe vehicles.  They help the figure stand apart from the vehicles, but also still fit in with the overall aesthetic of the classics.  It's a tough line to walk, but this figure pulls it off with aplomb. 

In terms of gear, the General is sparse.  He includes a knife and pistol.  The pistol is a thick handled number of which I'm not overly fond.  In my opinion, the figure needs a helmet.  To me, none of the '82 head molds look right without a helmet.  I've found that the helmet and visor from the Tiger Force Starduster factory custom figure is an excellent fit for the General.  And, you'll see it on the figure's head in photos below.  Others have found some different takes on the vintage helmet that work equally well.  But, this figure needs a helmet.  At least it's a little easier to find some alternatives for one, now.

The single greatest question in regards to the factory custom figures is always centered around the quality.  Through the years, some figures have been ok, some have been good and some have been terrible.  The General, though, comes in on the good scale.  Mine has vibrant colors, excellent paint and tight joints.  The hands are a bit tight.  So, I'm leery of placing most accessories into his grip.  But, others have done so with no issues.  These are not quite vintage Joe quality.  But, they are not vintage Joe brittle, either.  That's a tradeoff that I find to be worth it since I can take these figures out for photos and not worry about the plastic shattering when I move a leg joint.

This figure is now over a year old.  While 2017 brought us nearly 100 factory custom releases in just over half a year, we have yet to see any 2018 offerings.  Supposedly, there is an issue with factory paint in China that is delaying any new figures.  The Red Laser Army 2018 offerings look to have many figures that continue in the vein of this General figure.  With a few of them, a collection of pre-1985 swivel headed figures will be diverse enough to stand as a line unto itself.  I like that.  But, some of the parts are also reaching the end of practical paint application.  You can only repaint a limited number of parts so many times before things start to run together.  There are already reports that collector interest in some of the factory custom repaints is starting to dwindle...perhaps the point where some figures are not sustainable as offerings.  Regardless of what the future holds, though, I enjoy being able to take advantage of figures like this General that bring much to my collection.

Red Laser figures are $12.  They have been $12 since their release and continue to be priced as such.  The General has been readily available for nearly a year.  Lots of people have him.  But, there's no telling what kind of supply is left.  We have seen a couple of Red Laser figures pretty much disappear from sales forums.  In time, pretty much all of the factory custom figures dry up.  Whether they will appreciate or depreciate remains to be seen.  For a figure like this General, it can go either way.  He's an awesome figure that perfectly updates a classic collection.  So, there's a ton of demand for the figure.  But, he's also not an army builder and everyone can pretty much be content with one version of the figure.  So, that also tempers demand.  For $12, though, you can't really go wrong.  It's a fair price for a high quality figure that updates a classic Joe run in the way that most collectors dreamed of until the release of the 1986 Hawk figure.

2017 General, Red Laser Army, Factory Custom, Bootleg, Commando, Snake Eyes, 1982 MMS, 1983

2017 General, Red Laser Army, General Hawk, Funskool, Big Brawler, India, Sky Patrol, Steel Brigade, Odin, Black Major, Dreadnok Thunder Machine

2017 General, Red Laser Army, General Hawk, Bombadier, 1985 Mauler

2017 Red Laser Army General, General Hawk, FActory Custom, Bootleg, Auriken, Mexico, Mexican Exclusive, Mutt, Flash, Stalker, Comic Pack, 2006, 1984 Recondo, Breaker

2017 Red Laser Army General, General Hawk, FActory Custom, Bootleg, Star Duster, Tiger Force, Black Major, Steel Brigade, AWE STriker, 2008, Mail Away

Thursday, August 23, 2018

1992 General Flagg - Around the Web

This General Flagg figure was one of the first retail purchases I made as a "collector" back in 1992.  It's a great mold with solid colors and an awesome weapon.  I was surprised at how much I found on this guy out there.  But, it really is a good figure.  Here's the best of General Flagg from around the web.

General Flagg Profile

General Flagg at

General Flagg at the G.I. Joe Comics Homepage

General Flagg by Jonah

General Flagg at Half the Battle

General Flagg by GIJoeCollector

General Flagg Pre-Production at

General Flagg by yihad77

General Flagg by GI_JoeisThere

General Flagg at

1992 General Flagg, 1993 Payload, Headhunter Stormtrooper, Headhunter, DEF, Star Brigade, Battle Corps

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

2004 Cobra Infantry Trooper

Hasbro never released a perfect army building set for collectors.  They came within a hair of it in 1998 with the Cobra Infantry Team.  A three pack of classically colored Cobra Vipers complete with a full complement of gear for $10 at retail was as close to nirvana as army builders could get.  While I still hold this set as the best Cobra army building set of all time, the figures were missing Cobra logos and lost that little something from their absence.  It would be 5 years before Hasbro went down the army building rabbit hole again.  The 2003 BAT Pack had three good figures, two mediocre figures and one terrible figure.  For $15 or so, it was a deal.  But, it wasn't perfect.  The next big chance came in early 2004.  Hasbro released a 6 figure set of classically colored Cobra Troopers and Officers through Toys R Us.  For $20, you got an army in a box.  The figures used enough of the classic molds to be relevant and were perfectly colored.  There was, though, a fatal flaw.  The figures included terrible gear and the set loses some validity for that mistake.  In retrospect, that bad choice of weapons has shaped the figures from the set.  But, at the end of the day, the classic Cobra Troopers in the release remain an excellent example of Hasbro getting a simple idea just about right.

There are two main types of Joe collectors: those who view Vipers as the backbone of the Cobra army and those who view Cobra Troopers as the pillar of Cobra's strength.  Neither are wrong.  And, most collectors who were kids in the early to mid 1980's were fortunate in that their collecting years overlapped both iconic figures.  The Cobra Trooper was the bad guy who started it all.  The nazi-esque imagery, covered face and Soviet weapons encompassed every 1980's villain cliche into one package.  But, while Vipers had seen several repaints in the Joe resurrection, the Cobra Trooper was ignored.  Ostensibly, this was due to a missing mold.  (Though, that later proved problematic.)  But, Hasbro had enough molds to keep collectors at bay for a few years.  Eventually, though, the weight of the army building contingent of collectors forced Hasbro's hand and the Cobra Trooper returned to the line.

This Cobra Trooper is a kitbash of new and existing parts.  While the new head is the most famous new part for the figure, Hasbro actually resculpted the torso, too.  Hasbro could not find the vintage molds for the Trooper and Officer (oddly, they would find them later in the year for the Comic Pack figures....) and recast a new torso based on the vintage design.  The arms were from the 1984 Thunder figure.  While they do work with the mold and give it far more depth that was noticeably absent on the later uses of this mold, they also cost the Trooper some of his most iconic details like the garrote and bullets that are sculpted on to the arms of the vintage figure.  Personally, I'm OK with both this variation of the character and his original incarnation.  They're both something nice to have.  Though, I am loathe to mix them.  I prefer my troops to be uniform and having two figures of the same character but with radically different heads is something I tend to avoid.

In looking back at this set, it seems Hasbro didn't like money.  While the Infantry set was relatively available at brick and mortar stores from January through April of 2004 (and online several times during that span, too!) it was easily the best selling set of the Toys R Us era.  You would think that Hasbro would have returned to the classic enemy well a few more times.  Crimson or Stinger repaints of the figures would have sold just as well.  Even desert or Arctic examples would have moved well.  But, Hasbro never saw fit to release this version of the classic enemies again.  They did find the original head molds and released one comic pack version of the Trooper and Officer in 2004 and then released them again in the 2005 Night Watch set.  The club never even entertained the idea of classic enemy repaints and collectors were left wanting for just basic repaints of the molds.

Fortunately, in the past decade, factory custom figure makers have filled Hasbro's void on Cobra Troopers.  You can now get all the colors of that mold that Hasbro should have made.  But, that doesn't take away from the fact that Hasbro could never really figure out army building.  They kind of got it.  But, they simply couldn't get the products that collectors really wanted into their hands in an efficient manner.  While I didn't want to see an army builder only line at the time, many of the releases we did get, especially in 2005, really seem like wasted slots.  And, with Hasbro going through the expense of almost entirely resculpting this figure, just the one retail appearance of the molds seems like resources weren't fully utilized.

Originally, this 6 figure set of Cobra Troopers and Officers was going to be the second offering in the "Internet Exclusive" figure line.  The first set was the 2003 BAT Pack.  Despite strong, initial, collector interest, that set died on the vine and had to be clearanced out to Amazon and places like Tuesday Morning stores.  With that concept dead, Hasbro had the decency to move the set into the first Toys R Us slot in 2004.  This ensured that collectors got the figures they so wanted and gave Toys R Us a hit in their slowest sales time of the year.  From a collector standpoint, the avenue of release didn't make much difference.  It's likely that online dealers would have had stock available for longer than the brick and mortar stores did.  But, it's also likely that they would have charged a premium for this due to the pent up demand.  So, in that case, it was good that the set was given to Toys R Us.

The new head molds that were created for this set went through some changes prior to release, too.  The original design for the heads included a removable helmet.  There are samples of these heads out there.  They are kind of tall and skinny...even moreso than the single piece head that was released.  In this case, I think collectors got the better deal with the second iteration of the heads.  While the tall and skinny new heads are different, they work well enough.  They are better than the original, removable helmet design and have saved a generation of army builders from having to track down and corral dozens if not hundreds of tiny little helmets that were not likely to have fit onto their heads all that well.

It's also worth noting that there are four variants to this figure.  There is a red haired, blonde haired, brown haired and dark skinned variant for the mold.  The idea was to make a "diverse" army while also maintaining uniformity.  I like the slight differences since it does help make the Cobras seem less like clones.  But, at the same time, if these different paint colors cost us useful accessories, then they were probably better spent elsewhere.  The figures also feature various unit and rank insignia.  Many collectors who bought dozens of sets have swapped out arms to denote Troopers of different ranks.  If you run into these, they are a result of kitbashes rather than variants.

We'll talk about the accessories since they are this figure's worst feature.  For some reason, Hasbro chose to release the entire set with 6 large Rock Viper rifles and 6 hollowed out SAW Viper backpacks.  The gear is oversized, out of scale, cheap and terrible.  The gear is not useful in any way, shape or form.  So, this leaves you to outfit your troopers through different means.  One upside of Hasbro's terrible weapons choices of that time was that it created a market for enterprises like Marauder's Gun Runners.  They could made accurate, detailed weapons that were perfect figs for figure sets like the Cobra Infantry.  And, Marauder sold quite a few weapon sets with AK-47's and Dragunov snipers that were specifically aimed at army builders of this Cobra Infantry set.  Within a couple of years, though, Asian sellers started offering overstock 2000's era accessories.  Through them, you could acquire large quantities of weapons like Red Star's AK-47 that were perfect fits for these figures and also used classic Joe molds.  Modern factory custom makers have put large quantities of remade 1982 AK-47's and Dragunov Snipers into the collecting world, too.  So, we now have a huge range of weapons available to solve the accessory issue with this set.  It's still a hassle, though, that we had to go to the aftermarket to get reasonable gear for otherwise exceptional figures.

These days, Cobra Infantry Troops are kind of middle ground.  You'll see mint, loose figures with no gear sell in the $7 range.  If you can find a lot of several of the figures, you can get them for less.  Dealers sell mint and complete with filecard figures in the $12 range: and do move a fair amount of them.  You can find deals on complete sets.  But, even left to the open market, loose sets tend to fetch over $10 per figure.  That's a far cry from buying the figures for $3.33 each at retail.  But, it's also been nearly 15 years since the set was first available.  Since the Trooper's real gear sucks, you're better off buying cheap figures and then outfitting them with weapons from other sources.  It's far more fulfilling and you avoid the cheapness of the real gear.

For me, these figures were first.  In time, though, I found an army of them wasn't all it was cracked up to be.  The figures can have stiff joints, especially in the legs.  This made them difficult to pose and use in various combat situations.  Trying to find weapons for an army was a hassle, too.  It was easy to get a few decent weapons from the JvC sculpt figures of the era.  But, that was frustrating and seemed unnecessary.  As the factory custom Cobra Troopers came online, I found myself using these 2004 versions less and less.  Today, though, I do like them as more specialized units.  The softer hands allow the figures to use more weapons and I like a unit of Cobra Troopers with a SAW, bazooka, mortar, sniper type weapons and heavier assault rifles.  It makes Cobra more dangerous.

In the end, it was fantastic that Hasbro released these figures.  Their entry into collector helped finally quell the built up army building demand.  By the end of 2004, army builders were getting tired out and figures like those in this set started to sell for below retail for a bit.  I would have loved for Hasbro to either have offered a Stinger repaint or two in this set or done a release of repaints that would have given us some new colors.  But, in this case, these figures were perfect for what they were intended to be.  The gear sucked.  But, the figures don't.  Looking back on 2004, that was probably better than could be expected from Hasbro when it came to vintage style Joe releases.

2004 Cobra Trooper, Cobra Officer, 1993 Detonator, Battle Corps, Toys R Us Exclusive, TRU

Thursday, August 16, 2018

1991 General Hawk - Around the Web

I've not been feeling well for the past week.  So, content is sparse.  If I'm feeling better, things will be back to normal next week.  For now, here's some sparse stuff I was able to find in regards to the excellent 1991 General Hawk figure around the web:

1991 General Hawk Profile

1991 Hawk at the Dragon Fortress

Funskool's take on the 1991 General Hawk

General Hawk Pre-Production at

General Hawk at

1991 General Hawk, Zap, Super Sonic Fighters, 1985 Mauler

1991 General Hawk, Zap, Super Sonic Fighters, 1985 Mauler

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

1991 Sludge Viper - Around the Web

The Sludge Viper lacks spectacular colors.  Even someone like me, who can forgive bright hues can find this figure less than stellar just because of the soft pastels.  But, the mold is actually quite good and definitely on par with Hasbro's best work.  Surprisingly, there's a lot out there on this obscure Cobra.  Here's the best of the Sludge Viper from around the web.

1991 Sludge Viper Profile

Sludge Viper by ScarrViper 1

Sludge Viper on Instagram

Sludge Viper Pre Production at

Sludge Viper at

Sludge Viper by Nekoman

Sludge Viper by ScarrViper 2

Swamp Base Dio

1991 Eco Warriors Sludge Viper, Bulletproof, 1992, DEF, Shockwave, Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines

Thursday, August 9, 2018

1986 Mainframe - Around the Web

In 1986, computers were novel and big.  But, it shows how forward thinking that Joe was when they included Mainframe as a computer specialist.  The figure is solid.  The grey body was a rarity at the time and the silver and black highlights make for a pretty solid figure.  For me, Mainframe was always an older guy who had great wisdom that was of benefit to the Joe team.  There's a decent amount of material on the figure/character out there.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Mainframe Profile

Mainframe Video Review

Mainframe at

Mainframe at

Mainframe at

Mainframe & Zarana by GI_JoeisThere

Mainframe by Otto the Otter

Mainframe by Flatline

1986 Mainframe, 1985 Flint, Mauler, Bazooka, Snake Eyes

1986 Mainframe, 1985 Flint, Mauler, Bazooka, Snake Eyes

1986 Mainframe, 1985 Flint, Mauler, Bazooka, Snake Eyes, TTBP, Dial Tone, Sci Fi

1986 Mainframe, 1985 Flint, Mauler, Bazooka, Snake Eyes, TTBP, Dial Tone, Sci Fi, Beach Head, HAL

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

1993 Frostbite

I really became a Joe collector in the summer of 1995.  I had touched on toy aisles through the years.  I had bought a few Joes at retail between 1992 and 1994.  But, in 1995, it was apparent the Joe line was done.  (I didn't follow any toy news magazines so my only indications were dwindling retail stock.)  As such, I decided I should buy as many Joe figures as I could find at retail before they were gone, again.  So, armed with a summer internship that paid 50% more than I had ever made in my life, I spent the summer sweeping through stores wherever I could in an attempt to snatch up the last bastions of retail G.I. Joe.  As the stock was still fairly plentiful when I started, I was choosy and bought the figures I felt were the coolest first.  As I acquired those, I went down the rungs and picked up any figure with black weapons and finally anyone I could find who wasn't Armor Tech or Ninja Force.  However, as I usually searched for toys on my lunch hour, my time was limited and that usually meant stops only at Toys R Us or Target.  One weekend, though, I was near the mall and decided to check out KB Toys.  They still had a small section of Joes left.  But, their stock featured several figures I had not seen before.  Among them was the 1993 Frostbite figure.

One of the nostalgic bents for this figure is I have still have the stack of cardbacks from all the figures I found at retail in the mid 1990's.  I kept them all and saved them first in the box of a Razor Blade and later in the discarded box from the Cobra Parasite.  They remain bundled together even today, more than 20 years after their purchase.  In pulling out Frostbite's card, I see the $3.49 price tag for the figure.  KB Toys was always more expensive than either Toys R Us or Target when it came to Joe figures.  But, the $3.49 price was closer to the $2.79 price tags from the other stores than I thought.  Still, I recall balking at paying the higher prices, even back then.  But, since I had never seen Frostbite before (nor the Backblast or Keel Haul who I also purchased that day) I bit the bullet in the chance I'd never see the figure again.  And, sure enough, this remained the only 1993 Frostbite figure I would ever see at retail.  So, his purchase was fortuitous.

Upon opening the figure, I found a signature accessory: the figure's mask.  When I was a kid, I was always a fan of removable helmets or masks.  Frostbite's mask was unlike anything I had seen before on a Joe.  The faceless expression left the figure as a perfect arctic army builder.  And, since he included a white version of my favorite MP-5 inspired rifle from that era, this Frostbite became an army of troopers capable of defeating Snow Serpents.  When I found the Blockbuster a while later, this Frostbite joined the crew of Windchill and various Snow Storm repaints and they became a wrecking crew capable of mowing through any well equipped army of 1994 Vipers and 1993 Crimson Guard Commanders who comprised the entirety of my Cobra forces at the time.

As a mold, though, this Frostbite is more than just the mask.  He is not overly detailed with tons of extra items that make him cluttered.  The figure has a well textured winter coat complete with a fur collar, some web gear and three grenades strung across it.  He's interesting enough without being too far gone.  Sure, the aqua blue webbing and orange grenades are somewhat gaudy and don't make much sense in a snowy environment.  But, it was 1993 and a figure that was mostly properly colored with just some splashes of brightness was OK.  Besides, the colors broke up what had, traditionally, been similarly colored figures.  The figure's head is a bit large, but that was how Hasbro was sculpting Joes at the time.  It allows for greater detail on the face and beard.

For gear, Frostbite featured a white weapon tree.  I can accept white weapons for an arctic themed figure.  Plus, the tree used for Frostbite included the 1988 Muskrat Shotgun, the Tracker submachine gun and a machete.  (It also included the 1991 Grunt's weapon.  But, I've never liked that gun and left it on the tree.)  He has the requisite missile launcher and missiles, too.  The mask was what made the figure stand out.  But, getting some weapons whose color matched the figure and his specialty was also useful.  While many of the 1993/1994 weapon tree colors didn't make much sense, all of the arctic figures included white weapon trees which complemented the figures very nicely.

While 1993 can be classified as a year full of repaints, the reality is that most of the newly molded figures to be released that year never saw another repaint.  Frostbite is among them.  This was the only appearance of this mold in the vintage line.  We know that Frostbite was going to return in the first wave of the Battle Corps Rangers line in 1995.  But, that figure would have been an all new mold that featured a removable hat.  (You can see him on the box art of the Battle Station and Sea Wolf.)  So, it's unlikely that Hasbro had any further plans for this mold.  In 1997, though, this Frostbite mold made a surprise appearance in the Toys R Us exclusive 3 packs, though named Blizzard.  (He was a last minute replacement when Hasbro couldn't find the 1988 Blizzard mold.)  This figure features far better paint but worse accessories.  So, a combo of the 1993 and 1997 releases will get you the best version of the figure.  The mold never appeared again, despite Hasbro releasing a couple of arctic vehicles and figure sets.  But, at least the lone repaint was decent.

Frostbite follows the pattern of most Battle Corps Joe affiliated characters.  Dealers will sell the figure for around $10.  And, the figure sells at that point.  On the open market, though, Frostbite will fetch close to $8.  So, you don't have a huge disparity between dealer and market pricing.  Carded Frostbite's can be had for around $20.  And, you can easily find the figure in lots where you'll pay only a couple of bucks for each figure if you don't mind picking up some other brightly colored '90's Joes in the deal.  On some levels, I feel those prices are high for a late release, unpopular Joe figure.  But, at the same time, collector ranks are now comprised heavily of adults who grew up in the 1990's and for whom figures like this Frostbite are their childhood favorites.  So, that plays a big part.

For me, had I now found this figure at retail when I did, it's likely he would have slipped through the cracks.  As a post retail collector, I've always lived in places where arctic figures don't have tremendous use.  (Finding a way to photograph this figure when it's 110 degrees outside certainly doesn't help!)  So, I would have missed a quiet gem had I not stopped into that KB Toys that summer 23 years ago.  Looking back at this figure helps me remember why I started and why I still collect Joe figures.  A lot has happened in the ensuing decades from this figure's release that makes this hobby difficult.  But, looking back to a simpler time helps to put that into perspective.  This Frostbite represents a time when I collected for the sheer joy of the hobby.  It's important for me to recall that every now and then.

1993 Frostbite, Battle Rangers, 1994 Snow Storm, 1986 Iceberg

1993 Frostbite, Headhunter Stormtrooper, DEF, Battle Corps

Thursday, August 2, 2018

1992 Headhunter - Around the Web

The Headhunter is simply a great figure.  He's got a spectacular mold, solid colors and exceptional gear.  Back in the late 1990's, he was also nearly impossible to find as a loose figure.  Slowly, though, that changed and pretty much everyone can enjoy this figure today.  So much so that they're pretty popular and expensive.  But, they remain a favorite of mine.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1992 Headhunter Profile

Headhunters at the Dragon Fortress

Headhunters at IceBreaker's HQ

Headhunters in Marvel Comics

1992 Headhunter at

Headhunters at

Headhunter Dio

1992 Headhunters, DEF, Cloudburst