Thursday, August 22, 2019

1992 Eel - Around The Web

I've grown to enjoy the 1992 Eel.  It's bright, ludicrous and the complete antithesis of the original 1985 figure.  But, the neon is something I find fun and the design has some merit.  Hasbro could have gotten this mold back in the 2000's and a repaint in 1985 colors would have been awesome.  But, it didn't happen and we're left with the super bright figure seen below.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1992 Eel Profile

1992 Eel by Slipstream80

1992 Eel at JoeADay.com

1992 Eel by Toysandtomfoolery

1992 Eel at 3DJoes.com


1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six

1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six

1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six, T'JBang, Ninja Force

1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six, T'JBang, Ninja Force, 1993 Shark 9000

1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six, T'JBang, Ninja Force, 1993 Shark 9000

1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six, T'JBang, Ninja Force, 1993 Shark 9000, 1988 Cobra Bugg

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

2005 Sgt. Misha

It's easy to forget now.  But, in 2002 and 2003, G.I. Joe was a hot property.  So hot that, as 2003 marched into the holiday season, Hasbro couldn't produce enough Joes to meet retailer demand.  The last two waves of the year ended up only being available to the big retailers because Joes were selling so briskly.  As the calendar turned to 2004, though, something changed.  While Spy Troops had flown off the shelves, the first wave of Venom Vs. Valor quickly stagnated.  The figures in the first wave were no different than the last waves of Spy Troops.  The packaging color remained the same with a few, cosmetic, changes.  But, Hasbro did ramp up production and VvV quickly appeared at big retailers, small retailers, grocery stores, specialty stores and online.  The cracks were there. 

Before the year was out, Hasbro had cancelled their 2005 theme, Robot Rebellion, and pushed the release of many products.  At the 2005 convention the death knell was announced as Joe went on "hiatus".  All was not lost, though, as Joe's death at retail preceded the creation of HasbroToyShop and the entire Direct to Consumer experiment.  Hasbro created a strong lineup of figures and vehicles that were to be sold at online dealers only.  Of course, this failed, too.  Joe doesn't have the brand viability to survive in a niche.  (It still doesn't!)  But, Hasbro pulled out all the stops for the final waves.  Among the last figures Hasbro released during Joe's first renaissance was an Oktober Guard pack featuring a new Dragonsky, Lt. Gorky and the subject of this profile, Sgt. Misha.

One of the great mysteries of the 2000's was that the Oktober Guard never saw another release.  All of the figures were released in comic packs.  The first wave from early 2005 saw a limited production run due to the unsold stock of Wave 1 and Wave 2 that were still being clearanced all over the U.S. at the time.  The Oktober Guard then appeared in this late wave comic pack.  It was always odd that the figures didn't appear in a convention set.  The figures were incredibly popular.  There were many collectors who could not find them at retail and were missing the characters from their collection.  And, the figure molds lent themselves to repaints.  The fact that not even collector favorite characters like Horrorshow or Daina ever appeared shows that either Hasbro was unwilling to release the figures or that the club simply failed to properly gauge the demand.  (Guess which scenario I think is more likley....)  Either way, the Oktober Guard remains an underutilized subset in the ARAH form.

While the Sgt. Misha figure looks spectacular, it does have a serious flaw.  Misha's hands are painted.  The paint globs on to the hands.  And, for some reason, the hands in general are somewhat small.  The result of a small hand mold and extra thick paint is that very few Misha's can actually hold weapons.  (It doesn't help that the figure includes a good looking rifle that has an extremely thick handle.)  This greatly limits the figure's usefulness since most weapons simply pop out of his hands shortly after you affix them.  You have to find weapons with small handles for Misha to hold.  You can, on occasion, get his rifle to stay in his grip.  But, it's usually short lived.

Misha uses a mish-mash of parts: most notably Red Star's chest and Snow Job's (among others) legs and arms.  The head is all new.  What was exciting, too, was that he included some new accessories.  First off is the hat.  Misha's hat is all new and is the main piece that drives the figure's uniqueness.  The removable bandolier is also exclusive to Misha.  Hasbro introduced two new chest straps in this comic pack: Misha's piece and Gorky's holster.  These two new pieces help to make Misha more unique than his overused parts otherwise suggest.  He's rounded out by the JvC AK-47 based rifle (which isn't bad) and a knife.

Misha's coloring is very well done.  The green base is more interesting than the bland colors of 2000 and 2001.  And, the cammo pattern is subtle and not overbearing like many of the convention cammo patterns can be.  His five colors aren't too bad considering the late date of Misha's release.  The mold details are well painted and help breathe life into the parts. But, the hands were designed as gloves.  So, seeing them flesh painted can be a bit off-putting.  Had the hands been black, the overall coloring would have been about perfect.

The fact that we actually got a Misha is astounding.  But, since the DTC experiment was heavily geared towards collectors, it made sense that there were more collector focused figures offered.  The sad fact, though, is that DTC was a monumental failure.  So much so that Hasbro ultimately sold all of their G.I. Joe overstock to Toys R Us who then sold it in stores.  The upside of this was that Misha became available at retail stores around the country and was sold to collectors unable or unwilling to buy online or who were just in the dark that the DTC option ever existed.  Most of the final comic packs ended up being clearanced out online.  I don't, specifically, recall $4 Misha sets.  But, I bought a lot of Gas Mask Troopers and Dreadnoks for about a buck per figure and I have a few sets of the Oktober Guard, leading me to believe I stocked up on them at clearance, too. 

Pricing on Misha figures is tough to determine, mostly because the supply of them is limited.  You don't see the masses of overstock and cheaply acquired doubles of the comic pack figures like you did just a few years ago.  So, desperate collectors overpay.  You'll see Mishas routinely sell between $25-$30...just because that's what dealers price them at.  Yet, carded sets of the comic pack will only sell for $20 when left to open auction...implying that Misha is probably really a $7 or $8 figure on his own.  But, it may take you a year before you come across a seller liquidating one on the open market.  For under $10, this is a solid buy and a must have.  But, at $25, there's no way I'd consider Misha at all.

2005 Sgt. Misha, Oktober Guard, Comic Pack, Shimik, Argentina, Red Laser's Army, Bootleg


2005 Sgt. Misha, 2006 Comic Pack, Oktober Guard, Stalker, Lt. Gorky, Black Major, Cobra Trooper, Techno Trooper


2005 Sgt. Misha, 2006 Comic Pack, Oktober Guard, Stalker, Lt. Gorky, 2016 Viper, Red Lasers Army

2005 Sgt. Misha, 2006 Comic Pack, Oktober Guard, Stalker, Lt. Gorky, 2016 Viper, Red Lasers Army


2005 Sgt. Misha, 2006 Comic Pack, Oktober Guard, Stalker, Lt. Gorky

Friday, August 16, 2019

2001 Major Bludd - By Past Nastification

2001 was the last all ARAH year following the sputtering start of the Stars & Stripes Forever Set in 1997.  There were the comic pack figures and the GI Joe Collectors’ Club figures and even some ARAH figures packaged opposite New Sculpt figures.  

But the New Sculpt figures, as hated as they are now, were the belle of the ball in 2002.  The previous figures from the start of the new century were sort of left to wither on the vine of collector enthusiasm.  Except for Big Brawler, a character everyone hated with fiery animosity.  There were some decent figures in 2000 and 2001.   

It’s taken a long time for me to appreciate them. The head-to-toe repaints (Double Blast, Chameleon, White Out, Thunderwing) were a plague.   The not-different-enough-from-the-original-color-sets figures (Cobra Commander, Snake-Eyes) were too.

But several figures were repaints meant to represent the old characters in new uniforms that worked very nicely.  Major Bludd is the best.

This Major Bludd is a repaint of the 1991 Sonic Fighters Major Bludd.  With its blue uniform, collectors like the 1991 version because it showed Bludd growing some allegiance to Cobra.  But he’s a mercenary who only has an allegiance to money.  So the 1991 figure recolored in Bludd’s traditional brown fits the character much better.  With its silver grenades and black gear, this is a wonderful figure.  The head sculpt is an improvement over the 1983 version.  If only it had a removable helmet...  The body is bulkier, and not puffy chested hunchback big like some of the later ARAH figures.  

A decade in limbo makes the mold really appreciated.  It’s a good one.  

The unpainted dog tags are a missed opportunity to showcase another callback to the first Major Bludd figure, but the painted whites of the eyes add a touch of realism to the face. 

Major Bludd’s accessories are up for some debate, as the figure was included with a “Rock Viper” (a Range Viper that Hasbro sloppily misnamed).  I’ve pictured the grenade launcher, a dagger, and a strange rifle.  The strange rifle looks like it would have originally been an underwater accessory for a Cobra character, but is a repaint of the rifle included with the 1991 Major Bludd.  At least now it’s black instead of yellow.    

This is a contender for the best ARAH-style Major Bludd done for an American release.      



Thursday, August 15, 2019

1997 Scarlett - Around The Web

1997 had a couple of really nice figures combined with some not great repaints.  While Scarlett's new look was drastically different from her original incarnation, the new color scheme was also a nice update the for the character.  In the past two decades, the basic purple color has become part of Scarlett's accepted colors.  Here's the best of her from around the web.

1997 Scarlett Profile

Scarlett by gijoe_infantry_division

1997 Scarlett at JoeADay.com

1997 Scarlett Pre-Production at YoJoe.com

1997 Scarlett by gijoe_infantry_division

1997 Scarlett by fun_time_at_serpentorslair

1997 Scarlett by gijoe_infantry_division

1997 Scarlett, TRU Exclusive, 2004 Vypra, Ninja Strike

1997 Scarlett, TRU Exclusive, 2004 Vypra, Ninja Strike, Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes

1997 Scarlett, TRU Exclusive, 2004 Vypra, Ninja Strike, Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Stalker

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

1986 Zandar

Some Joe figures have help up pretty well over the 20 or 30 years.  Others, have not.  There are several Joe figures that were designed in the '80's that are just too over the top to actually resonate with modern collectors.  The greatest example of this is Zartan's brother, Zandar.  The overall look of the character is nothing short of a series of terrible design choices from a bygone era.  While Zandar was likely meant to be a dangerous outlaw in 1986, his look is something completely different in 2019 and that renders the figure mostly useless outside the circle of Dreadnoks that comprise his "family".

I recently purchased an upgraded Zandar from a local store.  The saleswoman who sold it to me was probably in her early 20's at best.  Here is the conversation when she saw the Zandar figure:

  • SW: Whoa!  Look at that guy with his pink and blue and orange beret.  Wait, that's his hair?!?
  • Me: Yeah, the '80's were weird.
  • SW:  And, he's not wearing a shirt?  I thought it was just a weird color.  But, he's barechested?
  • Me: ....
  • SW: And, is that an ascot?!?  Isn't this guy just cute?!?
  • Me: Being a completist sucks....
So, it's not easy to explain something like Zandar to people who weren't around in the '80's and understood that Zandar's look was based on terrible stereotypes of the time that were largely passed by the time this figure was released in 1986.  As a reminder of that time period, Zandar is interesting.  As a toy in 2019, Zandar is ridiculous, lame and relatively worthless.

One thing about me, though, is that newer figures always rise to the top of my collection.  It's been that way since I was a kid.  This is particularly relevant in Zandar's case.  I have a recollection of acquiring Zandar on a family trip somewhere after I found him on the shelves of a drug store that we stopped at for some other reason.  But, this doesn't really jive as our big family trip in 1986 was taken during the summer and I brought only a box of comic books and no toys other than a few MASK figures my brothers had stowed into a box.  I do know that I had Zandar before school let out and he appeared in G.I. Joe #51.  I associated Zandar with the Dreadnok Swampfire since I acquired them around the same time.  And, with this vehicle, Zandar became a powerful enemy for the Joes.

I wasn't much for for big planes as a kid, either.  They weren't much fun to play with since you had limited options for action and you couldn't hold up a Skystriker and Night Raven at the same time and have much fun with them.  Smaller flying vehicles were fewer and far between...especially since things like the FANG hadn't held up too well from earlier years.  So, the Swampfire's ability to fly made it a dangerous weapon against Joes who were often on the ground.  Zandar was the only pilot I really entertained for the Swampfire and from its command perch he would terrorize Joes with both the Swampfire's cannon and his hand held spear gun.  Many Joes were speared by it, though most managed to survive.

In this role, Zandar was powerful.  Initially, the Joes thought he was an amazing villain since he inflicted so much damage from the skies.  But, once caught on terra firma, Zandar was proven to be a weak opponent at best.  His spear gun was unwieldy and took a long time to reload.  And, he wasn't much of a hand to hand fighter.  And, once the drone from the Night Raven came along at the end of the year, the value of the Swampfire and, by proxy, Zandar was reduced to near zero.  Zandar quickly faded away and had little relevance to my collection again.  Even as Zartan became a powerful ally to Cobra Commander, neither Zandar nor Zarana were anywhere to be seen.  I felt they reduced the Zartan character and having them rotting in a box was preferable to them embarrassing Zartan in front of the other Cobra hierarchy.

Zandar was released only twice.  The U.S. version was released in 1986 and 1987.  He disappeared until some time in the 1990's when he popped up in India where Funskool released him.  The Funskool Zandar is pretty similar to the American figure.  He tends to have paler skin.  And, most notably, he doesn't change color.  Funskool stopped producing Zandar shortly before the mass imports to the U.S. began.  For a time in the early 2000's, Funskool Zandars were impossible to find.  Slowly, though, more have come to light and Funskool Zandars are not unattainable: though they do remain pricey for what you get.

And, of course, Zandars are now stupidly priced, too.  You see tons of mint and complete with filecard figures selling for over $25.  That's dumb.  Sure, once the o-ring breaks, there's no real way to keep the Zandar mint while replacing it.  But, figures from his year are among the highest produced in the line's history.  And, with some patience, you can get mint and complete figures for around $10.  That's a better price for an awful figure that has aged more poorly than most other Joes. I suspect some of the price lift is from the anniversary style Zandar figure that was part of an expensive pack and has gotten people to think that Zandar is popular rather than just part of a very expensive set.  But, the Dreadnoks have always been unusually popular (except when released in a convention set) and Zandar is part of the group...even if the figure is a laughingstock these days.

1986 Zandar, 1984 Zartan, 1956 Buzzer, Ripper, Funskool, Dreadnok, 1988 Road Pig


1986 Zandar, Zartan's Brother, 1988, Funskool Road Pig, 1987 Zanzibar Air Skiff

Thursday, August 8, 2019

1987 Backstop - Around the Web

Backstop is one of the final figures from my childhood.  He and Persuader comprised most of my Joe heavy armor during the latter half of 1987 and he remains important to me for that reason.  The figure's yellow pants make no sense and there's no justifying them outside of childhood nostalgia.  But, he checks that box for me.  Backstop was surprisingly popular when I looked for content.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Backstop Profile

Argentina (Plastirama) Backstop Profile

Backstop by Purple Cobra

Backstop by Slipstream80

Backstop at 3DJoes.com

Backstop by thedustinmccoy

Backstop by Edwin80s

1987 Backstop, Persuader, Road Toad, 2005 Cobra Imperial Guard

1987 Backstop, Persuader, Road Toad, 2005 Cobra Imperial Guard

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

1992 Headman

There is a very real chance that I saw a Headman figure at retail during my one trip to Toys R Us in December of 1992.  I distinctly recall reviewing a cardback and seeing a Headhunter: thinking that he was a figure I wanted to own.  But, I did not find a Headhunter at the store.  I did, though, buy a Bulletproof: proving there were plenty of other DEF figures at the store.  So, Headman was probably there.  But, he left no lasting impression upon me and purchasing him was really not an option I entertained.  Over the years, Headman still never resonated much with me until a repaint showed up and was different enough that it allowed the character to stand out.  But, in time, things come around and Headman's complementary appearance with the Headhunters makes him useful

I acquired my first Headman figure in the late 1990's.  At the time, I was on a quest to find Headhunter figures.  And, in my purchase of lots that included the army builders, I also picked up a Headman figure.  The figure was there.  But, I did little with him.  Headman didn't really become part of my Joe world, though, until 2002.  That year, Hasbro released a Headman repaint in the overproduced Wave 1.5.   This orangish/tan redo on the character easily became my go to version of the character and also defined his character.  With this solid repaint in tow, I had little use for the original figure.  And, he didn't survive my early 2010's figure purge since the 2002 version was superior.  With that 2002 version, I created a replacement character for Tomax and Xamot.  That Headman was squarely situated in the business dealings of Cobra.  Now, though, I prefer Headman as a drug dealer.

I find it odd that there are collectors who have no issue with Cobra creating an army to overthrow the United States government but find that dealing drugs was too far for them.  Cobra needed funding.  And, while arms sales certainly pay the bills, drugs would provide a steady income stream as well.  Drugs also have the added benefit of creating discord in American society.  This would allow for conditions where Cobra could come in and easily brainwash people.  Larry Hama deftly visited this theme in some issues of the comic in the Millville arc.  Though, he avoided drug use/abuse as one of the themes that had the people worried.  Now, with opiods wreaking havoc across communities both large and small throughout the U.S., I can see Cobra getting their cut of the action to both better fund their activities and create opportunities for recruitment/takeover in neglected towns that are off the beaten path in the U.S.  Headman fits into this realm well.  He has a specific purpose in Cobra.  And, he's very valuable due to the revenue he generates.  But, Headman is also expendable.  It's relatively easy to find drug kingpins: especially when you have Cobra's resources of weapons and troops.  So, Headman has value and provides Cobra a valuable service.  But, he's careful not to tread too heavily lest he find himself replaced.  There's not a lot you can do with a role like this.  But, it gives this Headman some use and keeps him on the Joe's radar.  Cobra has interest in ensuring Headman isn't captured.  But, he also serves as a useful pawn that Cobra could sacrifice in an attempt to get the Joes to declare victory and move their resources away from Cobra's domestic funding operations.

As a design, Headman has pluses and minuses.  He is the only vintage figure sculpted in a suit.  In the 2000's, this became hugely important as it was quickly commandeered for both a new General Flagg and the desperately needed Tomax and Xamot in business suit figures.  Of course, now, all Cobras wearing suits went to the same tailor.  But, there's so few of them that it's OK.  The pinstripes are odd.  In some ways, they look nice.  But, even with the vertical striping, the figure looks too much like a prisoner.  The stripes are also gold paint.  We all know the limitations of gold paint and they become apparent quickly as even decently conditioned Headman figures will often show a bit of wear on the stripes.  The biggest design flaw is the head.  The figure's ponytail is a nice addition that gives the character some depth in design.  But, the face mask is simply too 1940's.  It makes the figure look like the Hamburglar.  So, any seriousness afforded to Headman as a character is quickly lost with that design association.

In the early 2000's, collectors were mostly enamored with 1987 and earlier characters.  A few Cobras from 1988 and 1989 managed to break into the general collector conscious.  But, 1990's Cobras were mostly ignored.  As the 2000's turned to the 2010's, you saw a few more of these 1990's characters enjoy moments of spotlight where the figures were shortly desirable.  But, the late 2010's have brought a greater appreciation to the 1990's Cobras.  Characters like Cesspool, Toxo-Zombie, Interrogator, Vapor and even repaints of Dr. Mindbender, Major Bludd and Destro have started to gain appreciation among collectors.  Headhunters, in particular, have taken off in popularity again.  (They had a brief surge around 2002-2003, but then fell out of favor.)  Headhunter figures have gotten very expensive and hard to find.  Even items that collectors tended to loathe (like the convention Headhunter Stormtrooper) have gained some popularity.  Headman, though, has not.  The character remains obscure and the only real market interest in him is driven on scarcity rather than popularity.  This is likely a function of the fact that Headman's look can be taken as a joke.  But, even meme worthy figures like Funskool Big Brawler have found some cachet among the collectors of the world.  Headman mostly remains lost.  He has yet to take ahold of the collecting hive mind.  This is likely a function of his absence in the anniversary line.  It's not bad that some characters fall behind since it leaves unturned gems for collectors to discover later.  But, in Headman's case, I wonder if it's going to happen for him since his design and look present such challenges.

Headman's gear is not great.  His main accessory is a gigantic missile launcher with missiles.  It's useless.  But, it's something that was used to increase the figure's retail price point.  He also includes a blocky, golden rifle.  Personally, I despise this weapon.  I think it looks terrible.  But, I have been surprised to find my opinion of it is in the minority.  Many collectors actually really like the weapon and consider it a key attribute of the figure.  I would have preferred that Headman included some type of cane.  (He sported one in the comics.)  It would have played up his stereo-typical design.  But, also would have been a unique feature of vintage Joe line.  I went looking for 3 3/4 canes.  But, I have yet to find any from the major dealers of compatible accessories.  So, if you know of a good one that's widely available, leave a note in the comments.

Headman was only made by Hasbro.  He had the 1992 and 2002 releases.  Then, his body was used in 2004 for General Flagg and in 2005 for Tomax and Xamot.  Oddly, he didn't appear in the 2008 convention set.  But, since we had a decent Headman repaint in 2002, it was a much better choice to include the previously unseen Gristle figure as the set's main antagonist.  When Hasbro repainted both the Viper/Mirage and Alley Viper/Big Ben sets in later 2002 figure waves, I desperately hoped that a repainted Headman would also follow.  I thought the mold still had potential for a stupidly wacky repaint (think purple or green suit!) that would have been a departure from Hasbro's 2000's norm of muted colors.  But, this never happened.  And, Headman remains an under-utilized mold from the vintage era.  I can't really say he was wasted.  But, I feel more could have been done with him.  But, since collectors seem to have left the character behind, it was probably the right choice to not re-visit him again and again.

2018 brought tremendous change to the Joe world.  There was an influx of new collectors.  This increase continues to drive prices of even common and undesirable figures much higher.  The other thing it's doing, though, is finally bringing to light the inequity in production numbers between regular carded figures and the carded sub set figures.  Themes like DEF, Eco Warriors and even Star Brigade are starting to show up with less frequency.  The lower production numbers on these sub-themes have always been known.  But, they have never really manifested when trying to acquire the figures on the after-market.  Now, though, it is becoming harder and harder to find loose samples of figures from these sub sets.  While you used to see plenty of lots featuring a few of the sub set characters each, you now find fewer and fewer dealers and collector/dealer hybrids are willing to do this.  They separate out the sub set figures and sell them alone.  This leads to the perception that the sub set figures are scarce.  And, while this is true, it's not as true as dealers want new collectors to believe.  You often see thinly veiled attempts to frame figures as rare from a person who, secretly, is selling those exact figures on another venue.  You see people talking about $40 Headhunters while watching the figure sell for $18 on an open sale.  Yes, the DEF figures exist in smaller quantities than the regular carded series.  But, they were also widely shipped and exist in far greater quantities than any Joe made in 1997 or later.  And, those who try to portray it otherwise usually have an agenda they are keen to keep discrete.

Dealers seem to get around $20 for a mint and complete Headman figure.  Left to his own devices, though, the figure isn't much cheaper.  You might find one for $15 or so.  But, they appear less and less frequently as open sales.  You can get carded versions of Headman for between $30 and $40.  And, those seem to be about as a available as loose samples.  However, incomplete Headman figures can be picked up for just a couple of bucks.  And, since his gear really sucks, I find that a much better option to add Headman to your collection.  (And, the 2002 version is still dirt cheap and it's, in my opinion anyways, a much better figure.)  I wouldn't pay that much for this figure.  He's neat and a needed member of the Headhunters faction.  But, I've never seen Headhunters as belonging to Headman.  Free from such constraints, Headman's value to me plummets even more.  Your mileage, of course, will vary.  Since DEF is a small subset, many collectors complete it out of boredom.  Headman hasn't really captured the attention of collectors.  If the second Joe renaissance continues, it's probable that we will, eventually, get around to Headman.  But, those surges are shortlived and I don't see Headman ever becoming more than what he is today.

1992 Headman, DEF, 2005 Crimson Shadow Guard, Headhunter Stormtrooper


1992, Headman, DEF, 1993, Headhunter Stormtrooper

1992, Headman, DEF, 1993, Headhunter Stormtrooper, Funskool Chuckles, 2008 Headhunter Guard

Friday, August 2, 2019

2012 Retaliation Clutch - By Past Nastification

The two live action GI Joe movies haven’t scratched the itch Joe fans wanted. They’ve provided a mixed bag of figures, too.  Some good, some bad.  Clutch, from GI Joe:  Retalition, was released as the driver of the Tread Ripper.  The Tread Ripper itself is another conversation and probably not a good one.

The low articulation of Clutch is problematic.   

When GI Joe debuted in ARAH format in 1982, the figures had an astounding 12 points of articulation compared to Star Wars, whose standard figures had just 5 poa’s.  Some Star Wars figures had even fewer.  For Joe figures the number jumped up to 14 with the inclusion of the “swivel arm battle grip” in 1983. Certainly Mego never gets the credit it deserves for bringing the o-ring(ish) design into the mainstream by licensing/selling Micronauts, or streamlining the concept for its the Black Hole, Buck Rogers, or CHIPs lines.

So GI Joe is somewhat erroneously credited, or at least remembered, as being the innovator.  And, yes, there’s the fact that the 1:18 scale Micronaut figures were conceptual downscales in Japan based on the original American 12 inch Joes… which were arguably based on the Barbie concept.  There are several episodes of Toy Galaxy on youtube or The Toys that Made Us on Netflix to see how many layers there are to the action figure onion.  It gets complicated very fast, with lots of cross-pollination and borrowing from one company/toy line to another.

All of which is a long way of explaining that most Joe collectors can’t stand Joe figures with low articulation.  Taking away the high poa count is depriving them of their design identity.  I agree in theory, but in reality… somehow I don’t care.  Maybe my appreciation of the early low poa Palitoy Action Force figures bleeds over to this figure.  That said, for the 1:18 scale, the inclusion of hinged knees should be a given.  Even Kenner’s MASK figures had that in the mid 80’s, and they were 2 inch figures.   

As a kid, I would have hated, hated, hated this Clutch.  As a grownup, though, I’m fine with it and the limited 5 poa format.  At this point in my collecting, sculpt is more important to me than articulation.

Clutch is so beautifully sculpted that the lack of articulation just doesn’t bother me.  Of course, that’s me, and I guess that 95% of Joe collector’s hate this figure.  It’s a point I really can’t argue.  For the handful of us that are immune to the low poa count that flies against everything that GI Joe is from a design standpoint, it’s easy to see the nice work in this figure.

It’s not perfect, and that’s assuming you can live with a five poa figure.  The arms are marginally short, but mostly hidden by the bent elbows.   As far as this figure automatically registering as being Clutch, it doesn’t. It should have a black beard or grey stubble to really be Clutch.

But this is the movie universe Clutch, so it is what it is.  But the detailing on the head alone is astounding.  The crisp baseball cap, the beard, and the up-to-the-minute sunglasses are flawlessly sculpted.  Customizers may hate the rest of this figure, but they love this head.

The uniform looks realistic.  Clutch sports a ton of sculpted pouches and webgear, including a pistol and a knife (both of which should have been painted black like the sunglasses).  The sculpting on the pouches is impressive because it’s so lifelike.  The pouches aren’t in perfect rows; each pouch is slightly canted and crooked compared to its neighboring pouches.  This is a detail that could have been easily overdone, but it wasn’t.  The bent elbows and slightly bent knees give the figure a dynamic posture that old Star Wars figures never had.  Plus, the sculpted detail would have been broken up by adding more articulation points.

The figure’s construction is peculiar.  It appears to be put together like a standard 5 poa figure (but with a pop-off head).  The backpack and most of the webgear appear to be a snapped-in-place piece on a carved-out section of the torso.   Oddly, the Night Fox figure, also a low poa Retaliation driver, features a removable vest, but it’s uniquely keyed to the figure.  So why was Clutch designed in such a unique manner?  Who knows. 

The use of subdued colors is a welcomed change from obnoxious coloring.  Honestly, though, an unexpected and nonsensical color pop somewhere might have added to the design.  A lone orange pouch or a yellow grenade could have worked here.   

Maybe it’s just the sunglasses, but this Clutch has a badass quality that no previous Clutch figures have had.  The pistol might not be removable, but it has no less that 6 pouched magazines ready to go for it.  At the 1:18 scale, I prefer non-functioning holsters as they look more correctly sized. 

There were several other 5 poa figures in the Retaliation line.  This included the previously mentioned Night Fox, a Snake-Eyes, a Cobra Commander, and a Swamp Viper.  I was surprised by how much I liked the Clutch figure, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for the rest out and see if they also have outstanding sculpting.  I stumbled onto this Clutch figure recently and until I saw it in person I was lackluster about it.   

If the low poa count is a deal breaker for you, I completely understand and respect it.  But if you’re someone who can accept it, this is an impressive figure.  If you need a nudge, here’s an image of the head swapped out with a “real” Clutch head, from the 25A line.  If nothing else, just try to appreciate the sculpting on this odd duck from the Retaliation line.

I’m curious, am I alone in liking this figure?  Does anyone else like it or the other Retaliation drivers?

Would anyone really object if Hasbro would have made mostly pre-posed/low poa Cobra Soldiers in this format and packed them in as freebies with vehicles and playsets?  No.  Well, at least I wouldn’t! 




Thursday, August 1, 2019

2005 Convention Gung Ho - Around the Web

Convention figures are a mixed bag for me.  They often used molds that didn't otherwise appear during the repaint era.  But, in their effort to be different and give the collector a feeling that the figures were actually work ~$15 each, the paint applications were often overly intricate: betraying the essence of Joe.  After a decade and a half, though, my stance has softened on many of these figures.  They're still not my favorites.  But, we never got anything better and having any repaints is better than none.  This Gung Ho shows the quality of the Mega Marines mold and proves that well done repaints of '90's figure molds would have worked at retail.  Here's the best of the 2005 Convention Gung Ho from around the web.

Gung Ho Profile

Gung Ho at GeneralsJoes.com

Convention Gung Ho at JoeBattleLines.com

Gung Ho at IceBreaker's HQ

2005 Convention Gung Ho, Mega Marines, Hard Rain Cammo

2005 Convention Gung Ho, Mega Marines, Hard Rain Cammo, Steel Brigade, 1994 Stalker, Battle Corps

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

2006 Joseph Colton - Viper Lockdown

Once the anniversary figures were released in 2007, the JvC era of G.I. Joe came to an end.  I define this period (generally) as 2002 through 2006 and it's also described as the "New Sculpt" era.  But, truth be told, the figures that Hasbro produced in 2006 were far cries from those who debuted in 2002.  The abandoned o-ring returned quickly.  But, the general figure proportions got better and the figures slimmed down.  Really, a 2002 figure is as far from a 2006 figure as a 2006 figure is from an anniversary figure that debuted in 2007.  The JvC line is full of good work, though.  It had innovative character designs, gear that could interact with the figure and a solid line up of classic characters and new recruits.  It's been a long time since I've looked at a figure from that era.  But, this Joseph Colton shows the evolution of that time that ultimately lead to the anniversary sculpt figures we still see today.

One of the things that the JvC era did well was they went easy on the vintage homages and reinterpreted characters in new ways.  In some instances, the figures were duds.  But, in others, the new takes were fun and interesting.  (I'm looking at you, Disco Destro!)  This take on Joseph Colton firmly falls into the latter category.  This isn't the Joe Colton we know.  But, it's not a radical departure for the character.  It's a fun toy, which is something that hearkens back to Joe's roots and was abandoned in the movie era.  Of course, being released in the DTC series, few kids actually had a chance to find him...until Hasbro dumped their unsold overstock on Toys R Us.  But, Hasbro at least tried.  I've long maintained that had Hasbro given the same level of thought to their vintage repaints of the 2000's as they did the JvC line, the vintage line would have continued at retail: long after the JvC stuff died out.

When the JvC era debuted, I was a willing and enthusiastic participant.  It was nice to get Joes at retail, again.  But, I was also blind in my support for anything Joe: naively thinking that support would lead to better things.  I religiously bought everything through 2003.  But, as 2004 dawned, I found my interest in the new sculpts diminishing.  I found that I rarely used them and always took out my vintage style Joes for photos.  As the 2004 continued, it became harder and harder to be a completist of the line.  Tons of retailer exclusives started popping up: often reissuing many existing figures along with one or two new figures.  I discovered that the effort of collecting the line wasn't worth the joy it brought to me.  So, I stopped collecting JvC.  And, with that, I lost any interest in a Joe figure that wasn't vintage style.  (You'll note that I profiled JvC figures throughout 2003.  But, in 2004, my new release focus shifted almost entirely to ARAH style releases.)

Over the years, I sold or traded off my entire collection.  This proved fortuitous as it allowed me to partake in the first batches of factory custom figures which are now much more expensive and hard to find than anything from the JvC era.  And, I've never regretted it.  That's the piece that's so odd to me.  I've long regretted selling or trading off vintage pieces.  But, I don't miss the JvC stuff at all.  I haven't had any in a decade, now, and I don't even have nostalgia for the era.  I fondly remember finding Vipers and Mirages on the shelves.  But, aside from the purple 2002 Snake Eyes, all of the JvC era stuff just flows together: even with that era and my purchases logged in the archives of this blog.

What is odd to me, though, is that we haven't seen the resurgence of collectors who were kids who grew up with the JvC era figures.  Collectors talk about the anniversary era being the heyday of modern Joe.  But, the best anniversary years sold about 2/3 the figures of the lower ends of the JvC era.  And a few JvC era waves saw production numbers that exceeded even the waning years of the vintage line.  These weren't all bought by collectors.  There were, maybe, 5,000 active Joe collectors of that era.  So, hundreds of thousands of Joe figures were bought and played with by kids.  Kids who would now be in their mid to late 20's...the prime years for them to be asserting themselves as the next generation of Joe collectors.  Sure, there a couple of them out there.  But, by and large, these kids didn't become collectors.  The second coming of the ARAH mythos was cool and sold toys.  But, it failed to penetrate the pop culture psyche of the kids to whom it was targeted.

This Colton is pretty basic.  The green and black camo pattern is nice and the maroon beret joins the silver highlights in offsetting the base colors, nicely.  But, he's so basic that, were I not familiar with him, I wouldn't recognize him as a G.I. Joe figure.  In fact, that's likely why he was lying at the bottom of a figure bin at a local comic shop where I found him.  One of the main features I loved about the JvC era was the working holsters and Colton's are perfect.  Aside from that, though, there's little to discuss about the figure.  But, that's OK.  The JvC era was dominated by intricate, well designed figures.  So, getting a few basic guys like this Colton gave the line a visual diversity that was reminiscent of the vintage line.

The Viper Lockdown is an interesting beast.  Upon its release, the set was well received.  Collectors always loved new Vipers.  And, getting an Interrogator and a G.I. Jane in the set were collector bonuses right as the line was dying.  Joseph Colton, though, was probably the least well received figure in the set.  In recent years, members of the set have gotten pricey.  But, the JvC era figures, in general, haven't seen the huge price surges that both vintage and anniversary figures have seen in the last 2 years.  While the Jane figure will fetch $20, Colton won't get 1/3 of that amount.  You can still buy carded sets for around $50.  So, if you want the whole set, that's the way to go.

2006 Viper Lockdown Joseph Colton, G.I. Joe v2, DTC

Saturday, July 27, 2019

2019 Slaughters Marauders Snake Eyes - Black Major Exclusive

Of the vintage sub sets, Slaughter's Marauders is the least represented on my site.  I didn't get around to the first member (Mutt) until 2008.  In 2014, I took a quick look at the European exclusive Low Light figure.  But, that's it.  Part of the reason for that is that I got rid of most of the figures years ago.  Another part of the reason is that every Marauders figure was a character and mold I had looked at in their original forms.  So, the need to look at the Marauders version was limited.  And, finally, Slaughter's Marauders came out in 1989...when I was totally out of Joe.  I have no real connection to them in any way.  As the years have gone by, though, things like that become less impactful in a collection.  Yet, I've never felt all that compelled to complete my Marauders team.  While Tiger Force got a solid cadre of characters as members, Slaughter's Marauders pretty much got Sarge and a few cast offs.  30 years later, though, this was finally remedied when Black Major introduced his factory custom Slaughters Marauders inspired Snake Eyes figure.

The first disclaimer, of course, is that the Slaughter's Marauders colors on this Snake Eyes do not match to the Hasbro figures from 1989.  It's brighter and more eye catching.  But, it's not going to match with your 1989 team.  On some level, that renders him less useful.  But, it also lets the figure stand more on it's own.  You can use him with the Marauders or just as an alternate coloring for Snake Eyes.  Snake Eyes being a lone wolf helps justify the color differences from the other Marauders.  But, it's important to note the difference.

This Snake Eyes is well painted and high quality.  It has two shades of green, blue black and brown.  The painted grenades help them stand out (something missing on the original figure) and give the figure details that help offset the color differences.  The green and blue base is not a color scheme that's traditionally associated with Snake Eyes and it's nice to get a bit of Snake Eyes diversity.  Sure, he needs to have his iconic black on most of his releases.  But, seeing some different colors for the mold gives you a chance to have some fun in photos and dioramas.

Slaughter's Marauders as a whole is an odd subset.  The colors look like they could be used in a temperate forest.  But, even there, the blue is just out of place.  But, the greens are a fun shade and the browns help the characters blend into certain terrain.  The subset's vehicles are the real calling card and the best part of the Marauders idea.  Hasbro never returned to the Marauders' color scheme in the 2000's on ARAH figure, even as Tiger Force and Python Patrol got their own themed sets.  I assume this was mainly due to Hasbro not wanting to pay Sgt. Slaughter for his likeness to appear.  But, the figures were also unpopular at the time and it's only been in the past decade that they have started to become staples of most every collection.

I don't know what you do with bright blue accessories.  They are very 1990's.  But, that's OK.  Factory customs have morphed from cheap army builders to artistic collectibles.  The blue weapons fit with the aesthetic of the Snake Eyes paint job.  At least you get the full complement of gear, too.  There's the Uzi, classic pack and iconic sword.  There's even a Timber.  I've said before how Timber means nothing to me and I've never cared for him.  For others, the Timber paint jobs are the selling point for the Snake Eyes repaints.  So, having him is a nice bonus.  The blue gear matches the figure, even if it makes no sense.  And, it makes spending around twenty bucks to get the figure more palatable as you feel the gear was matched to the figure rather than grabbed out of a vat of leftover weapons from previous runs.

The 1985 Snake Eyes figure had only two releases in the vintage line: the Hasbro version and an exclusive version released in Brazil.  The mold did not appear again for three decades.  Then, Black Major made the mold happen and we now have at least 20 new interpretations of this mold.  Most of them are Cobra affiliated.  But, it's fun to have a cornucopia of colors from which to choose of the Joe line's most famous character.  The most appealing aspect of the Slaughter's Marauders paint job was that there was no Cobra sigil and this was really Snake Eyes rather than the Cobra Invasor or Mortal.  It's relatively easy to remove the logos from the Cobra themed figures.  But, I'm loathe to modify figures that I collect and the Snake Eyes variants are too expensive for me to buy extras for customizing at this time.

This figure is available right now for $18.  Collectors have odd tastes and you never know which factory custom paint jobs are going to catch aftermarket fire and which will just fade into obscurity.  But, I suspect this paint job of Snake Eyes will remain one that's sought after: just because he fills a hole in a vintage subset.  But, I thought that about the Ghost Mortal, too.  And, he's faded into obscurity.  I'm glad to have this figure, though.  I've never been a Slaughter's Marauders fan.  But, having Joe's most famous character in his most popular costume as a member of the team gives it a bit more credibility.  We'll see where this figure is in a couple of years.  But, for now, he's one of my favorites of the new batch of paint colors.

2019 Slaughters Marauders Snake Eyes, 1985, V2, 1988 Sgt. Slaughter


2019 Slaughters Marauders Snake Eyes, 1985, V2, 1988 Sgt. Slaughter, 1993 Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines


2019 Slaughters Marauders Snake Eyes, Black Major, 1985, Bootleg, Factory Custom, 1989 Repeater, Backblast, Night Force

Thursday, July 25, 2019

2008 Headhunter Guard - Around the Web

Supposedly, lots of vintage Joe molds were lost.  Oddly, though, when someone went looking for them, tons of molds suddenly popped up.  Such was the case in 2008 when the Headhunter Stormtrooper, Gristle and the original Headhunter figures all appeared in the convention set.  It was a long awaited return for these figures.  The colors, though, weren't perfect.  Arsenic seemed cool.  But, it had some issues and didn't translate well on the Headhunter Stormtrooper figure.  The Headhunter Guard, though, was OK and was a nice complement to the original Headhunter figures.  There's not a lot of content on the figure out there.  But, here's the best of the Headhunter Guard from around the web.

2008 Headhunter Guard Profile

Headhunter Guard (And Awesome Custom Rage!) By Dreadnok Dread

Headhunter Guard at Half The Battle

2008 Convention Set Review at General's Joes

Headhunter Guard by Magoage

Headhunter Guard by Dreadnok Dread




Saturday, July 20, 2019

2006 Skull Squad Trooper - By Past Nastification

As a write reviews I find myself asking the question of questions “Where does the time go?”  This figure was released 13 years ago, a 2006 release by the GI Joe Collectors’ Club as part of its Cobra’s Most Wanted:  Mercenaries! box set.  Major Bludd and his Skull Squad Troopers were the bad guys of that set.  Well, some of the bad guys, that is.  It was an all-bad guy set also containing Cobra Mortal, Overlord, and Coil Troopers.   

Skull Squad Troopers are “freelance henchmen” on Bludd’s payroll, although the filecard sports a Cobra logo. 

Decked out mostly in brown and black as a clear callback to Major Bludd’s 1983 figure, a few touches of silver and grey complicate the color set just the right amount.  The red masks do scream “Cobra”, so that probably should have been avoided, if these aren’t to be viewed as Cobra soldiers. 

These figures are an example of how to recycle a body correctly to use as a different character.  The body is from 1987’s Avalanche.  But the once white/silver color set is so far away from the new brown/black color set that this figure doesn’t even make one recall Avalanche, poor forgotten Avalanche.  (Sorry for the comparison photo.  This is the only Avalanche figure I own, and I painted out the silver 32 years ago!)  Top the masked head off with a NS Major Bludd helmet and any thoughts of Avalanche completely disappear.  The helmet design helps identify the Skull Squad Troopers as being Bludd-adjacent as much as the color set does. 

It’s not a flawless figure.  The quilt pattern armor on the chest/back is sculpted for a figure wearing cold weather gear.  What passed as extra bulky clothing on Avalanche looks more like extra Hardee’s on the Skull Squad Trooper.  But it’s really not too bad.  Maybe the Skull Squad Troopers are in their 40’s?   

In addition to the helmet, the figures each include a rifle and a grenade launcher, plus a clear ARAH style figure stand.  Needless to say, the figures display well with the Major Bludd from the same set, but I think they look even better with the 2001 Major Bludd (a fantastic brown repaint of the 1991 Major Bludd). 

This set was a bit of a taunt and a treat to collectors in that it used several ARAH bodies not used or widely used by Hasbro during its early 2000’s run of ARAH figures.  The bodies or parts of Long Range, Barricade, TARGAT, Iron Grenadiers Destro, and Avalanche were used.  Wouldn’t it have been nice if a Long Range body had been used just once instead of the Big Ben body during this era?   

The Skull Squad Troopers are a concept that didn’t really catch on as far as I know.  A customizer (I can’t remember the name to give proper credit) worked up a “Bluddhound Gang” concept years before this, which might be why the GIJCC didn’t use that better sounding name for the subteam.  These figures never really gathered much attention, but they are well done.  Being part of an expensive boxed set probably didn’t help grow their popularity.  Sadly the GIJCC won’t get a chance to re-interpret the concept again in the modern era.   

2006 Skull Squad Trooper, Convention Exclusive, Major Bludd, Avalanche, 1987, Battle Force 2000

2006 Skull Squad Trooper, Convention Exclusive, Major Bludd, Avalanche, 1987, Battle Force 2000

2006 Skull Squad Trooper, Convention Exclusive, Major Bludd, Avalanche, 1987, Battle Force 2000

2006 Skull Squad Trooper, Convention Exclusive, Major Bludd, Avalanche, 1987, Battle Force 2000

Thursday, July 18, 2019

1983 Airborne Around the Web

Airborne is the reason I'm a Joe collector today.  He was my introduction to swivel arm battle grip and was the catalyst that drove Star Wars out of relevance for me.  The figure hasn't maintained his place of prominence since then.  But, it's still an excellent release.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Airborne Profile

Airborne by thedustinmccoy

Airborne by Scarrviper

Airborne by RTG

1983 Airborne, Zap, Tan Grunt, Locust, 2000, ARAHC, Ripcord, Argentina, Plastirama, Sokerk

1983 Airborne, Zap, Tan Grunt, Locust, 2000, ARAHC, Ripcord, Argentina, Plastirama, Sokerk

Thursday, July 11, 2019

2005 Crimson Shadow Guard - Around The Web

As a figure, the Crimson Shadow Guard is kind of cool.  The CG uniform looks pretty good in black.  But, as a 6 pack of the same figure with crappy weapons, the Crimson Shadow Guard set was lame and heavily clearanced in 2005 and 2006.  Today, the figures are more popular.  Though, I still find the greatest value in them by giving a Fred head to one and an Agent Faces head to another.  These guys make for high ranking Cobras who haven't, yet, earned the rank of a code name.  Despite that, I still have a ton of loose figures left over from clearance purchases.  They're not bad, but don't see much use.  A look around found a nice mix of review's of the figure from when he was released as well as some more modern takes.  Here's the best of the Crimson Shadow Guard from around the web.

Crimson Shadow Guard Profile

Crimson Shadow Guard by yotothejoe

Crimson Shadow Guard at Nekoman's Viper Pit

Crimson Shadow Guard at GeneralsJoes.com

Crimson Shadow Guard at JoeBattleLines.com

Crimson Shadow Guard by RelenaWarcraft

Crimson Shadow Guard at HalftheBattle

Crimson Shadow Guard by Flint

Crimson Shadow Guard by Otto the Otter

2005 Crimson Shadow Guard, HAS Snake Eyes, Comic Pack, General Hawk, Fred, Roadblock

2005 Crimson Shadow Guard, HAS Snake Eyes, Comic Pack, General Hawk, Fred, Roadblock, Headman, 1992, DEF

2005 Crimson Shadow Guard, HAS Snake Eyes, Comic Pack, General Hawk, Fred, Roadblock, Headman, 1992, DEF

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

1983 Cobra Commander

Prior to October of 1982, I was a Star Wars toy fan.  Pretty much the only toys that found any use in my house were Kenner Star Wars.  Kenner released a solid stream of new figures through the years and I would usually get vehicles for Christmas.  All of my play was centered around Star Wars and I rarely stepped out of that branded box.  But, in the fall of 1982, things began to change.  My younger brother received most of the 1982 Joe line as birthday presents that year.  In hand, I found the figures fascinating.  At first, the extra articulation as a bit off-putting.  But, the interchangeable accessories and more interactive vehicles soon won me over.  I spent most of October playing with my brother's spare figures.  I then received my own humble collection in December when Breaker, Snake Eyes, Hawk and Clutch formed a part of my Christmas and birthday present haul.  In the spring of 1983, though, the looming Return of the Jedi pulled my attention back to Star Wars.  I spent the sprint and early summer buying up all the ROTJ figures that were released.  In July of 1983, though, I discovered swivel arm battle grip had been added to Joes when an Airborne figure came my way.  I was then done with Star Wars and have been, primarily, a Joe collector ever since.

There is, though, an interesting period from January to around March of 1983.  During this time, my interest in Joe flagged a bit.  I was not aware of the existence of Cobra.  And, sans enemy, Joe got a bit boring.  As both my brothers and I had Snake Eyes figures, I used the three of them as an enemy force against the Joes.  But, that was short lived, too.  We had, though, received the mail in offer for a new figure named Cobra Commander.  As we had plenty of Flag Points left over from Christmas, we sent off for two figures.  In late January/early February, the Cobra Commander figures arrived.  They were straight arm versions, keeping them in line with the Joes we already had.  But, the new flashy colors, futuristic pistol, mysterious facemask and the back mounted weapon holder made Cobra Commander stand apart from any other figure we owned.  That day, I took most of my Joes up to my parents' bedroom and had them be captured by the two Cobra Commander figures.  The Joes were placed in a prison made by turning a laundry basket upside down.  The bars were "electrified" and only the protective suits of the Cobra Commander figure could prevent electrocution.  Of course, the Joes eventually escaped.  But, the memory of opening those two Cobra Commander figures and playing out the adventure on the deep purple carpet of my parents' room lingers with me more than 36 years after it happened.

After I turned to Joe full time in 1983, though, it was the swivel arm battle grip that drew me in.  As such, all of my old straight arm figures were simply obsolete.  Those two original Cobra Commanders were no exception.  They were dropped into a box with my unused Star Wars figures and forgotten about.  Destro and Major Bludd were all the villains I needed for a while.  Eventually, though, I had to get a new Cobra Commander.  I don't recall when it happened.  But, a swivel Cobra Commander eventually found his way into our childhood collection.  At this point, my only exposure to the Commander was through the cartoon mini-series that aired in the fall of 1983.  My figure was a combination of a leader, coward and incredible fighter.  In short, he could fill any need that the story required.  But, in 1984, the figure evolved again.

In 1984, I found the Joe comic.  I had seen a few issues that had been passed around the classroom in prior years.  But, in 1984, one kid in my class had a subscription to the comic and brought in all his issues.  I read them and was hooked.  I bought issue #27 at the local drug store and never looked back until the comic was cancelled.  (Save for one 6 month spell in late 1988/early 1989.)  The comic introduced me to the Cobra Commander who came to dominate my childhood.  The comic villain was much more ruthless and evil.  He was, especially in the first year of the comic, a villain much more true to his Nazi-inspired roots.  He murdered civilians, imprisoned his son, engendered loyalty to the death among his followers and was just generally cruel to those around him.  He was, in short, a classic villain of that era.

As more of Cobra Commander's origins came to light, the character softened a bit.  Some of this was surely due to kids buying up the comic in droves.  But, you sometimes have to sympathize with a villain, to a degree, to make them relate-able.  As we learned about Cobra Commander, though, his motivations and desires began to take shape.  At his core, Cobra Commander was the "little guy" who felt the world was against him.  He felt he should be able to pursue money by any means necessary.  Cobra started as a multi-level marketing company (we called them pyramid schemes back then, though) and the Commander was wary to avoid the U.S. government.  He culled his followers from the husks of old manufacturing and farming towns in the rust belt and midwest.  He promised them a better life in return for only undying loyalty.  At his core, the Commander was a radical Libertarian who wanted to be able to make money free from government oversight and then hoard military grade weapons as a means of protection against those who wanted to take his money away.  The Cobra army was also a way to have both financial and military power since politics were out of the question for a man who masked his identity.

Cobra Commander's mold got more use than pretty much any other figure in the vintage.  Yet, he was also criminally underused.  There are three variants of the light blue figure: the Mickey Mouse variant, the standard straight arm and this swivel arm figure.  The entire body was also used for the 1984 Hooded Cobra Commander who was available as a mail away through the line's retail cancellation in 1994.  In Europe, the Cobra Commander mold was used on the Red Laser figure from the Action Force line.  Around 1994, Hasbro released the helmeted Cobra Commander on a Chinese card.  Tons of these figures were sold by U.S. liquidators.  The figure has a different gun, but is materially the same as a vintage Cobra Commander.  To this day, you can buy a carded Chinese figure for less than a mint and complete with filecard Cobra Commander figure.  So, that remains an option.

Then, though, the figure disappeared.  In looking at the Chinese Joes that accompanied Cobra Commander's releaese, they have two general fates.  Many were resurrected in the late 1990's and early 2000's and used by Hasbro.  (Roadblock, Dusty, Lamprey, Dialtone, etc.)  Others found their way to Funskool.  (General Flagg, Lifeline, etc.)  But, there is no trace of Cobra Commander.  Hasbro planned a release of him in 1997.  This figure would have been dark blue with a golden face mask.  But, it never came to be.  Even as Hasbro remade seemingly useless figures in the 2000's, they never considered Cobra Commander.  The likely reason is that Hasbro had other, decent Cobra Commander molds to use and they felt it was easier to trot one of those out than to spend any money re-doing a figure collectors would have loved.  So, the Commander feels as if he were left behind and fans of this classic look have only the vintage figure to which to turn to find satisfaction.

The mold, though, remains ripe for repaint.  While I have suspicions as to why factory custom makers have been reluctant to embrace Cobra Commander, the simple fact is they have yet to adopt the character or mold.  This seems odd as there are many potential repaints that are possible.  Off the top of my head, the mold could be done with just the helmeted head in the following ways:

1.  Dark blue with silver trim
2.  Dark blue with gold trim
3.  Black with silver trim
4.  Black with gold trim
5.  Black with light blue trim
6.  Reverse Red laser with black body and red highlights
7.  White with black trim and mask
8.  White with silver trim and mask
9.  Crimson with silver trim

That doesn't include themed releases like a BAT themed Commander, a desert Commander, an Alley Viper Commander or even a Snow Serpent Commander.  And, if you have the hooded head, you nearly double that list.  Then, you can look at mimicking all the various anniversary era Cobra Commander repaints that Hasbro produced since 2007.  In short, the mold lends itself to a multitude of repaints and collectors would gobble them up.  Hopefully, it's just a matter of time until it happens.

This Cobra Commander has gotten expensive.  You see far too many nice versions sell between $75 and $100.  For a figure that was available for years during the line's height, that seems like overkill.  But, Cobra Commander has brittle thumbs, a brittle crotch, hands that are susceptible to paint wear and a silver face plate that will rub if you breathe on it too hard.  If that weren't enough, the light blue plastic used for the figure tends to discolor over time.  And, even samples stored in perfect conditions will discolor just due to the quality of the plastic.  (This is why you'll see a gem figure that has one badly discolored leg.  Or, the figure's back will yellow while the front remains pristine.)  So, the easily damaged figure goes for a premium.  You can still get high quality figures for around $50.  But, you have to be quick.

1983 Cobra Commander, Cobra Trooper, 1984 Stinger, Black Major


1983 Cobra Commander, Cobra Trooper, 1984 Stinger, Black Major, Viper Pilot, 1998 Vypra