I first looked at this figure 5 years ago. But, I didn't feel that profile really did this figure justice. The 1994 Viper mold is a design gem that was obscure behind poor color choices in it's only release year. Seeing the sculpt in fully paint glory showcases how amazing the final years of the Joe line could have been. And, it also shows how spectacular the 2000's era repaint line could have been were these molds better utilized. In short, you see a lot of missed potential in those statements. But, the Iron Anvil figure from 2005 is one of those items that we should celebrate since it exists, is relatively common and remains one of the cheaper convention army builders out there today.
You can not discuss the 2005 convention set without touching upon the controversy that surrounded it. Many months before the convention, a list started to circulate around collecting circles. It quickly became the worst guarded secret in all of fandom. But, it was the list of 2005 convention exclusive figures that were planned. At the time, Master Collector was weirdly secretive and were quick to discredit the list when it appeared publicly. But, the final set ended up being pretty much what the list showed. The Iron Grenadiers had to get a new head that fit onto a Night Viper body. And, the redone Condor never saw the light of day. What was odd, though, was that the advance knowledge of the convention theme and possible items actually made the set more desirable and many collectors were given incentive to save up for the set since they had ample notice of the theme. Despite that glorious bit of marketing intelligence, the leaks were plugged and the convention sets remained under wraps after that...heavily diminishing much collector interest.
The Iron Grenadier set, though, remains many collectors' favorite set of the convention era. It had a solid theme, was in line with the vintage figures and included figures that were different from the originals, but also were well done. In many ways, it was a set done right. And, the Iron Anvils are my personal set highlight. I've been a fan of the 1994 Viper since I found my first one at retail in 1995. I found another near the end of the summer and began army building them before I knew what army building really was. I found the design in the comics and always wanted a repaint of the mold with the green body and golden helmet. As the mold was new for 1994, it's very possible it would have been repainted in 1995. But, that didn't happen. And, as Hasbro was releasing Viper repaint after Viper repaint, it never occurred to them to bring back the 1994 mold to offer collectors something different. So, the mold's appearance in the Iron Grenadier set felt like someone had finally realized the mold's potential.
Starting with the base black color, the Iron Anvil is designed to work with classic 1988 Iron Grenadiers and the 1988 Destro figure. He even matches the Iron Grenadier vehicles. The gold and red highlights would be overwhelming. But, they are toned down by the grey boots and gloves the figure is wearing on his extremities. The gold and red, though, both feel somewhat fragile to me. And, I've never been too keen on using these figures in similar ways that vintage figures are exploited. I'm not sure if that's just fear or genuine experience from dealing with decades of figures with fragile gold paint. Overall, though, the figure is just four colors: which is somewhat light for a convention release. But, showing off the color, zipper and goggles makes the colors seem more complex than they are. You get to see the details of the figure's sculpt without it being too busy.
The Iron Anvil's accessories are well done. He includes a grey version of the wicked lightning knife that debuted with the 1988 Hydro Viper but was also released in red with the 1994 Viper. It's a cool looking weapon and makes the figure a bit more dangerous. The Iron Anvil's weapon of choice is the sub machine gun that originated with the 1989 Annihilator figure. Again, it is an under-utilized weapon that is well sculpted and really deserved more releases. It's also a perfect fit for the figure's specialty of para-trooper. The final bit of gear is the convention issue backpack and parachute. This combo of metallic vinyl parachute and recolored Jinx backpack originated in 2002 with the Paratrooper Dusty and remained a convention staple after that. It's not spectacular. But, it's not bad, either. Working parachutes are always fun and this chute's colors match the figure.
I think my opinion of this figure is over-inflated. I love the 1994 Viper. I wanted to see repainted 1994 Vipers. And, the Iron Grenadier set was pretty nice. So, I have a soft spot for this figure where others may not. Collectors of the 2000's punished Hasbro for releasing any mold made after 1990. The club fared a little better. But, they received a lot of criticism for their use of later molds, too. Everyone would have loved to have seen the Annihilator get released as the Iron Anvil. (By the way, the Iron Anvil name is stolen from the obscure Iron Panther driver from the ill-fated Sgt. Savage line of toys.) But, this Viper repaint is a suitable replacement. Seeing an under-utilized mold was greatly appreciated by me, even if not every collector felt the same.
Despite this, I don't have too many of these figures in my collection. While they are great figures and not overly expensive, I'm not a huge Iron Grenadier fan. And, I usually don't go overboard buying up specialty army builders, especially if they fall outside of my core Cobra vision. Though, it's not from lack of trying. Through the years, I've sought to pick up small lots of these guys. But, I never get around to it. They were cheap and common and that drove me seek out other opportunities that I feared would not present themselves again. Even with a sparse few samples in my collection, I don't go out of my way to use the figure. While I like the 1988 Destro, I see the character primarily as a member of Cobra. So, him having his own forces didn't make much sense to me. It doesn't diminish the quality of this figure. But, it does reduce my desire to own him in bulk.
Like pretty much all the once common convention figures, Iron Anvils have gotten harder to find. You used to see tons of lots of 3 to 6 of them that would sell for around $10 per figure. While those days are gone, the figures are still among the cheaper army builders of those early convention sets. The Iron Grenadier set was well received. But, many collectors liquidated surplus army builders as a way to recoup costs. These days, dealers sell the figures in the $30-$45 range. Few sell at that price. But, the more limited supply leads to some desperation purchases. At open pricing, these are $15 figures: which is a very solid price for a figure of this quality. But, the Cobra transitioning to an Iron Grenadier and the late year mold are mitigating factors in the figure's popularity. I find they are worth their price, even if it takes a while to get an army. With convention army builders, you never know what the future holds. But, this figure hasn't taken off in almost 15 years. So, I'm not sure why he would now.