Thursday, February 28, 2019

1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander - Around The Web

Cobra Commander is one of the most important characters in the Joe mythos.  He has tremendous releases.  But, there's also a few duds.  Depending upon your view of Star Brigade, you may hate this version of Cobra Commander or love him.  I feel that this is a great look for the Commander in the context of space combat.  The colors are strong and the figure's head is criminally under-used in customs.  Here's the best of the Star Brigade Cobra Commander from around the web.

Star Brigade Cobra Commander Profile

Star Brigade Review

Star Brigade Cobra Commander Video Review

Star Brigade Cobra Commander Art by Ron Rudat

Star Brigade Cobra Commander at

Cobra Commander Pre Production at

Cobra Commander by ironman3719

1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander, 2003 Tiger Force Dial Tone

1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander, 2003 Tiger Force Dial Tone

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

1993 Long Arm

We all know that 1993 had a significant amount of figures that were poorly colored.  We also know that the year featured some of Hasbro's best sculpting.  But, it was extremely rare when the excellent design was matched with quality colors. More frequently, Hasbro released spectacular figure sculpts in bright and even clashing colors.  This lead to great unrealized potential in the line.  26 years later, though, the bright colors definitely stand as a relic of their release time. The figures who received the bright hues have even found renewed collector interest as younger collectors who grew up in the 1990's now make up a larger segment of the collecting world.  For an old timer like me who haunted retail in the line's dying days, though, some figures bring back memories while others were nothing more than a picture on a cardback.  The 1993 Long Arm figure is one such windmill.  When I first saw his tiny portrait, I was intrigued.  But, I never found the figure at retail and it was several years before I finally added the figure to my collection.

I really had no knowledge of the figures that would have been the 1993 series of DEF figures until December of 1995.  A friend of mine found some Joes at his local K-Mart in Bloomington, Indiana.  I finally got down to see him and went to the store.  There, at the back of an aisle, scattered among random toys were two carded Joes I had never seen before: Muskrat and Mace.  I paid the $3.44 each for them, despite the bad designs.  Both of the figures left much to be desired.  But, after they were opened, I spent some time looking at the cardbacks.  There were several figures on the back that I had never seen, but looked far superior to the two I had found at the store.  Among these was Long Arm.  Any figure with a full helmet that appeared to be removable was going to be something I liked.  So, I made a mental note of Long Arm in the hopes I would find him one day.  Alas, though, that was not to be as Joe was mostly gone by then. 

When I started buying online in the late 1990's, lots with loose figures from 1990 through 1994 were almost impossible to find.  (You could get all the 1980's collections you wanted, though, for maybe a buck or two per figure.)  But, as I was one of the few collectors who cared about such figures, I found little competition for the few lots that did appear.  Through one of these random purchases, I acquired my first Long Arm figure.  I pulled the figure aside to look at him.  But, he was quickly outclassed by other new acquisitions who were also better figures.  My desire to find a Long Arm was overcome by the sheer volume of newness I was adding to my collection in those days.  So, Long Arm was packed into a drawer and never really appeared. 

And, here he stayed for nearly two decades.  I tried to place him in Star Brigade.  But, there were so many new astronauts to my ranks that Long Arm couldn't compete.  He could have worked as a deep sea diver.  But, I had an army of mail away Deep Six figures who were better at that role.  Even Mace found himself more useful than Long Arm in general DEF type duties.  In short, I could not find a purpose for the Long Arm figure.  And, that remains true today.  Long Arm is simply a lost figure in my collection.  He's a guy who can't find his way home.  That's rare for me...especially with a mold and color scheme that lend themselves to holding my attention.  Had I found the figure that day in 1995, I think Long Arm's fate would be different. 

In the early 2000's, Long Arm was a favorite answer to the question of what 1990's figure would you most like to see repainted.  Even when 1992 and later figures were hated, Long Arm's design could attract attention.  But, the line died before Long Arm could ever appear.  But, then in 2008, the mold appeared as a convention exclusive.  This is the only other repaint of Long Arm and is a highly desired and expensive figure.  The only other Long Arm collectible is an Australian release of the figure.  There, Long Arm was packaged on a DEF card back: mimicking the original intention of the figure's design.  There was a time when this was a highly desired international variant.  But, it has lost its lustre in recent years.  Long Arm could have been a cool release in Star Brigade, but that never happened.  At least there's one good version of the mold.  It would have been cool were there more, though.

As a visual entity, Long Arm is pretty basic.  His body is all bright orange.  It is broken by a smattering of golden highlights on his chest.  He has black boots and gloves.  And, that's the end of the figure's paint applications.  But, the helmet is a solid design and the blue faceplate helps bring some additional color to the figure.  The real surprise is the excellent head sculpt on Long Arm.  The face and hair are well detailed and show a great amount of character.  Since Long Arm is mostly seen with the helmet on, it's surprising to me that his head is not more used on custom characters.  Few collectors would recognize it outright.  But, the figure's late release year and general obscurity seem to diminish his appearance on customs.

Long Arm's gear is non-descript.  His red weapon tree contains accessories that are both uninteresting and poorly colored.  It's not a good combination.  You do get the red version of the 1992 Roadblock knife.  But, the 1991 Grunt and 1991 Sci Fi rifles are bad weapon choices.  Long Arm does have the novelty of a shield that affixes to his spring loaded launcher.  While the visual isn't fantastic, the play value is there and I recall thinking the concept of these shields was cool...even if the execution wasn't great.  Long Arm would have been better with bomb defusing tools.  The green color of the Clean Sweep's accessories aren't a perfect match for the orange.  But, they do add some life to Long Arm.

Long Arm pricing can be all over the place.  The figure has a bit of cachet due to the convention release.  You'll see dealers selling carded versions for $40+ and they'll even sell at that price as they are not as common as they once were.  Left to market pricing, though, carded figures sell for under $15.  You can get loose mint and complete figures for around $15, too.  So, if you want one, you're better off waiting for a carded figure and just opening it up.  You can, of course, get incomplete figures for drastically less.  And, since the figure's weapons suck, that's the way to go.  That way, you get a fun figure to own and spend an amount that makes sense for a guy who's bright orange.

1993 Long Arm, Battle Corps, DEF, Star Brigade, Duke, 1994, 1991 Condor Hawk, Power Commandos

1993 Long Arm, DEF, Flak Viper

1993 Long Arm, DEF, Flak Viper, Funskool Red Dog, 1988 Night Force Tunnel Rat

1993 Long Arm, MOC, DEF

Thursday, February 21, 2019

1986 Sgt. Slaughter - Around the Web

The mail away Sgt. Slaughter was my first exposure to the character.  But, Sarge came into his own once I got the V2 figure.  After seeing him in the comic, I gave him Rock and Roll's M-60 and quickly moved him into my primary figure rotation.  To this day, the 1986 TTT version is my favorite release of Sarge.  It's military enough without being over the top.  And, he looks good with Joe gear.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Sgt. Slaughter Profile

Sgt. Slaughter at ARAH Gallery

Sgt. Slaughter on Instagram

Sgt Slaughter on ARAH Gallery 2

Sgto. Slaughter from Plastirama (Argentina)

1986 Sgt. Slaughter, TTT, Overlord, 1990, Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines

1986 Sgt. Slaughter, TTT, Overlord, 1990, Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines, Renegades, Red Dog, Mercer

1986 Sgt. Slaughter, TTT, Overlord, 1990, Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines, Renegades, Red Dog, Mercer

1986 Sgt. Slaughter, 1995 Dhalsim, Mortal Kombat Movie Edition, 1986 Thunder Machine, Dreadnok

1986 Sgt. Slaughter, 1984 Action Force Stalker, Snake Eyes, Spirit Iron Knife, 2003 Scarlett, Thunder

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Funskool Chuckles

Funskool started producing G.I. Joe figures in the late 1980's.  Through the years, production stopped and started and figures would fall in and out of production.  Hasbro first recalled molds from Funskool in 1997.  Many of the 1997 and 1998 Toys R Us figures had most recently been used by Funskool and still featured Funskool stamps.  What this meant, though, was that when Funskool figures started getting mass imported into the U.S. by toy dealers in early 2001, many of the collector favorite molds like Firefly, BAT, Baroness, Lady Jaye, Snow Job and Gung Ho were long out of production and not available for cheap prices.  There were some additional figures that were out of production in 2001.  But, in 2002, figures like Flint, Ripper, Buzzer, Zarana, Scrap Iron and Beach Head went back into production...offering collectors cheap options for what had been collector favorite, but hard to find molds.

At some point in either 2002 or 2003, an odd Funskool offering showed up.  A lot of currently in production Funskool figures but on Russian language packaging appeared for sale.  At first, they got a lot of attention.  But, as Funskool was overly common and generally unappreciated at the time, the figures quickly fell by the wayside since they tended to be slightly more expensive than the same figures that were in stock at every online G.I. Joe dealer of the era.  Hidden in the set of Russian Funskool figures, though, was a single odd release.  While the rest of the figures were currently shipping from India, there was one figure that was never available during the standard Funskool era of 2001 through 2004: Chuckles.

As a figure, the Funskool Chuckles would have been perfect for the early 2000's Joe era and also a disappointment.  At the time, collectors loved the Funskool offerings that were nearly identical to the American release.  The reason was that Joe was in it's first Renaissance period in the early 2000's and prices of popular figures and characters were quickly rising.  It simply made no sense to buy a Flint for $15 when you could buy a Funskool version for $4 and get, basically, the same figure.  Our current collecting sensibilities dictate that the two figures were too dissimilar for these collector feelings to be valid.  But, during a time when collectors were more budget restrained, choices such as the one above were more common.

So, were Chuckles one of the widely available figures during the Funskool import era, he would have been extremely popular.  His parts are good for customizing.  And, his holster and pistol remain sought after accessories to this day.  He would have been a strong seller.  I'd have certainly bought at least one.  And, maybe a few more.  During that time, I army built Chuckles figures.  So, getting a few for $4 each would have been attractive.  (I used the figures as prisoners and retain a large squad of Chuckles to this day.)  But, at the same time, Chuckles would have been a bit of a disappointment.  The figure is just too similar to the American version.  So, while I would have liked the figure, I also would have lamented that he wasn't something more unique so that he stood apart.

Which isn't to say that this figure doesn't have differences.  In general, the colors are richer.  The Funskool Chuckles' hair is a bit darker and the blue of his shirt is a slightly deeper shade of blue.  His pants are slightly different, too.  Side by side, it's easy to tell the figure apart from an American release.  Even the gear is the same.  The Funskool holster is a much darker brown and isn't as pliable as the Hasbro version.  The pistols are nearly indistinguishable.  In short, the Funskool version is a perfect Chuckles.  But, it's also a perfect Chuckles that you can more easily find in the Hasbro version.

We know quite a bit about how Funskool worked in the 2000's.  During that era, anyone who had money to spend and was willing to pay for at least one day's worth of production run (around 3,000 figures) could have a figure made for them.  (Small quantities of Ripper were available in the U.S. because a retailer in India ordered a custom run and the limited overstock was offered to an American dealer.)  So, it's likely that some retail outlet or individual wanted to produce toys for the Russian market and found Funskool a willing partner who could accommodate them.  The fact that overstock continues to be available today would suggest that the toys weren't all that popular upon their release.  But, we also have no idea of the production numbers.  But, they remain very common today and massive amounts of the Russian series have been imported into the U.S. by collectors.

My one regret about Chuckles is that there was never a version made of him that was materially different than the original American figure.  Sure, there are tons of Funskool variants with slight color shade differences.  (There are actually carded Funskool Chuckles figures that feature hand painted flowers on his shirt.)  But, there's not a version that deviates from the blonde hair and blue shirt.  Even the terrible collector's club version was basically the same.  (Another disastrous blunder by the club.)  I would have loved to have seen a version with a red shirt, green shirt, really anything other than a blue shirt.  But, that never happened.  At least this Funskool version offers something different to track down.  But, in the end, if you have the American figure, you have all the Chuckles you need.

Prior to the advent of the Russian Funskool figures, Funskool Chuckles figures were both hard to find and rather expensive.  The Russian figures brought Chuckles to the market and dropped the prices, even though there weren't really tons of them that showed up.  The Russian figs then dried up for many years.  But, a lot of dealer stock popped up again in the late 2010's and that once again brought Funskool Chuckles to the market.  Today, you can get loose figures for around $15 and carded figures for around $30.  You'll find them cheaper every now and then.  But, at the same time, the figure has gotten much harder to find than it was even at the beginning of 2018.  And, as foreign Joes have gotten desirable, you're seeing even slight drops in availability shoot prices through the roof.  If you want a Funskool Chuckles, it's probably best to get one now.  I waited too long and had to pay more than I should have.  But, since this is a character that's equally represented by the American figure, you can save your money and just get the 1987 release.

Funskool, Chuckles, Russian, MOC, Carded, 1992 Headman, DEF, 2008 Headhunter Guard, Convention Exclusive

Funskool, Chuckles, Russian, MOC, Carded

Funskool, Chuckles, Russian, MOC, Carded

Thursday, February 14, 2019

1990 Overlord - Around the Web

Overlord was originally conceived as a new version of Cobra Commander.  Fortunately, Hasbro rebranded him as a new character.  But, the original blue and black color scheme from the concept art would have made for a great figure.  The gold and copper/orange base for Overlord, though, works as an autumnal tribute in Cobra's hierarcy.  With his helmet and claws, Overlord can be fun.  He is visually distinctive.  But, he doesn't get the play you would expect for a character with his lineage and unique look.  There's little out there on the character.  But, here's the best I could find around the web.

Overlord Profile

Overlord at

Overlord by Sithviper

Overlord at

Overlord at JoePedia

1990 Overlord, Clutch, 2007, Convention Exclusive, Mega Marines, 1993 Monster Blaster APC

1990 Overlord, Clutch, 2007, Convention Exclusive, Mega Marines, 1993 Monster Blaster APC, 2003 Scarlett, Toy Fare Exclusive

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

1990 Rapid Fire

While most collectors demarcate the Joe line between the '80's and 90's, the truth of the matter is that 1990 is far closer to the quality associated with the 1980's than than its actual decade.  In fact, in looking at the year, there are really only three problematic figures against which you could argue their suitability to the classics.  The Sonic Fighter Lamprey (he of neon orange) and Captain Grid Iron are the first two culprits.  Both have some redeeming factors, though.  The final figure in the triumvirate of oddity is Rapid Fire.  Here, you have a straight repaint of the 1988 Mail Away Super Trooper figure, only colored in pastel green and orange.  Add in the fact that he was only packaged with a VCR tape and you get the most obscure and forgotten member of the class of 1990.

Rapid Fire's only claim to fame is that he was packaged with an episode of the DIC G.I. Joe cartoon.  While I'm not a toon fan at all, I did watch the original Sunbow cartoons when they aired after school each day.  However, by the time the DIC cartoons came out, my only Joe media exposure was the comic.  So, I was not privy to the horrors inflicted upon the world from that segment of Joe history.  I, of course, have the tape included with Rapid Fire.  But, I also have no means to watch it.  I haven't owned a VCR in well over a decade.  VCR tapes don't seem all that antiquated.  But, by 2003, Hasbro was including DVD's with retail figures.  And, that was 15 years ago.  The tape is simply a relic of a bygone era and something that my grandkids will wonder about when they have to liquidate my collection in another 60 or 70 years.

Rapid Fire is a straight repaint of Super Trooper from 1988.  This made the figure cheap to produce and likely made the product feasible.  Super Trooper, himself, is an amalgamation of Knockdown's head, Outback's chest, Wet Suit's arms and waist and Zandar's legs.  At least Hasbro put some effort into the parts to make them seem like a new figure.  But, the combo of arms, chest and armor are not a perfect match and Rapid Fire's arms don't rest at his sides.  In this regard he resembles the Joes of 1994.  He also includes some of Super Trooper's gear: the helmet and rifle.  Both are in pastel green.  They look odd and are the only appearance of this color on accessories in the line.  

As a character, Rapid Fire is boilerplate for throwaway characters Hasbro would made from time to time.  He was top of class...excellent...highly motivated...yada, yada, yada.  In short, he has nothing distinguishing about him other than the Easter themed color palette.  Even for me, the character has no real cachet.  Super Trooper was interesting because the chrome made him visually appealing.  Rapid Fire is different.  But, his outlandishness neither fits with the neon themes that became prevalent in later years nor with the sparse oddballs of the line's earlier years.  He's just kind of there and doesn't do much other than fill a hole in my collection.

I can see Rapid Fire as a maritime figure, though.  His colors are a good enough proximate for Wet Suit and he would work in nautical settings.  I'm not sure what he would do.  But, Rapid Fire even looks ok aboard something like the Whale.  Here, his oddball design might be a better fit.  Though, his metal armor would spell certain watery doom should he he ever fall overboard.  Outside of that, though, I'm at a loss for Rapid Fire's use.  Visually, the figure is interesting as a novelty.  But he has no real uses.  In pretty much every use case I come up with for Rapid Fire, I find that the Super Trooper figure just works better.

Rapid Fires may be obscure and relatively difficult to find in general collections: but, they are also cheap.  The poor colors and odd method of release have left the character a neglected member of the Joe team.  You can find carded figures with ease for $35.  With a little patience, you can get a mint and complete with filecard figure for under $15.  Though, as always, dealers sell them for nearly double that will sell a few due to impatient buyers who misinterpret the figure's rarity.  It's a lot to pay for a figure that isn't that useful, has bow arms and reuses parts in an uninteresting way.  Were I not a completist, it's doubtful I'd own this figure.  Truthfully, had I not found him for standard pricing at a local shop, I would not own him.  But, he was there, the price was right and the figure had all the parts that meant I could cross him off and never have to think of him again.  I'm a big believer in that there's good, fun, odd figures that make the line interesting.  Then, there's ones that simply don't fit and aren't interesting enough to outstrip their poor quality.  Rapid Fire falls definitively in the latter camp for me.  Others mileage may vary.  But, his sparse appearances in collector photos or dios tends to support my stance that he's among the least popular figures Hasbro produced in the vintage line.

1990 Rapid Fire, 1988 Super Trooper, Mail Away, Blizzard

Thursday, February 7, 2019

1985 Tollbooth - Around The Web

A friend told me of the Bridge Layer long before I ever saw it.  I had no real idea of what the vehicle looked like.  But, I found it stacked at either a Sears or JC Penney store in Dayton, Ohio right around Easter of 1985.  My grandparents bought it for me and the Bridge Layer became one of the key vehicles in my collection for a long time.  Tollbooth wasn't a great figure, though.  In the swivel head construction style, he seemed archaic when compared to the other 1985 figures.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Tollbooth Profile

Tollbooth at the Viper Pit

Tollbooth by badgerscratch

Tollbooth at

Tollbooth by theDustinMcCoy

Tollbooth by bouncy_bengal

1985 Tollbooth, 2004 Whirlwind

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

1988 Tiger Force Bazooka

1985 is a spectacular year of Joe figures.  But, every year has some characters or figures that simply don't resonate with the collecting community as much as others.  For 1985, Bazooka remains the least popular figure and character from his year.  (You might make a case that a vehicle driver like Crankcase or Frostbite are less popular than Bazooka.  But, Bazooka was a carded figure which gives him the edge.)  That isn't to say that Bazooka is unloved.  He definitely has his fans.  And, being the worst figure of 1985 is way better than being one of the best figures of 2005.  In 1988, Hasbro revisited Bazooka when they included him in the Tiger Force subset.  While this figure isn't perfect, it's also probably a better version of the character than his original incarnation.  

In trying to name all members of Tiger Force from memory, Bazooka is the most likely member I'd omit.  Skystriker would get recalled for rarity.  I'd definitely recall a few of the European members before Bazooka.  And, I'd even bring up the 2003 team members before getting to Bazooka.  This isn't because the figure is bad.  It's because Bazooka isn't a character that ever really resonated with me.  And, the Tiger Force look is so subdued that it's almost non-descript.  Other Tiger Force members feature ostentatious designs that seer into your mind.  Bazooka does not.  His mostly white shirt and and pre-dominantly green pants hide his Tiger Force affiliation more so than any other team member.  He features yellow stripes on his pants to give him away.  But, this entire ensemble looks as if Bazooka has home and away jerseys for when he fights Cobra.

It's the sports theme that really limits Bazooka, for me.  As a kid, the character didn't resonate much with me.  And, Bazooka was mostly limited to second seat duty in the Bridge Layer or Mauler.  Here, he could utilize his secondary specialty of tank operator and still come off the bench to blow up a Hiss Tank or two.  This was an extremely limited role.  And, as such, my childhood Bazooka found himself taken apart and his legs given to custom figures which had more potential uses.  Bazooka's legs were used on several of my favorite custom figures and it was only my acquisition of all new retail figures in 1986 that lead me to replace the original Bazooka with another version to be used as the intended character.

I quit buying Joe figures in 1988.  I did, though, pick up a Tiger Force Roadblock, just to get the Roadblock accessories that had been broken on my original figure for a few years.  I have no recollection of whether I saw Bazooka that day, or not.  I bought both the Roadblock and Hardball.  I remember thinking I'd like a Flint since my original Flint's shotgun had been lost several times and was currently MIA.  But, the thought of picking up a new Bazooka was never really entertained.  But, in the Tiger Force colors, Bazooka is actually more useful.  With the bright red jersey now gone, Bazooka's muted colors better disguise his sports theme.  He still has no straps on his shirt to denote any real way to wear his backpack.  But, the overall look of the Tiger Force Bazooka is definitely superior to the original version.  

Gearwise, Bazooka includes the same weapons as his original figure.  The backpack is in a darker green that was common in Tiger Force and is very similar to the green color commonly used on Brazilian accessories.  The deep, rich color is a nice difference from the lighter 1985 hue and gives the pack more depth.  The brown helmet is, again, a stark contrast to the 1985 helmet.  It also brings some additional color to the figure, overall.  The helmet color is relatively rare in Joe accessories.  So, it's a refreshing break when reviewing accessories.  The rocket launcher is, basically, the same as the 1985 release.  I still have my Bazooka hold the weapon with the handle at the rear where the pointy end faces Bazooka's body.  I get constant grief from this on every photo I publish of Bazooka.  This posing is a holdover from when I was a kid and is the way Bazooka will be posed in my collection until the day I die.

Bazooka got little use.  There were only three figures that ever used the mold.  Though, his legs did appear on the 1987 Rumbler figure.  We have the 1985 Bazooka, this Tiger Force version and a Brazilian version based on the 1985 that was released by Estrela.  The only real difference for the Estrela version is that the green accessories are the darker, Brazilian green.  So, fans of Bazooka have two looks for him: the original and Tiger Force.  There were many figures in the carded 1985 lineup who only saw release in the U.S. and Brazil.  The Crimson Guard, Tele Viper and Dusty join Bazooka as figures released both in a U.S. repaint subset and in Brazil.  It's possible the mold disappeared there.  But, with so many other figures from that year going on to India, it's possible that Funskool got the mold, but never produced the figure.  Regardless, Bazooka would have been a great repaint candidate in the 2000's.  But, the character's shoddy treatment in media of the time didn't really lead to a great amount of collector demand.

Tiger Force Bazookas aren't nearly as common these days as they should be.  We're about a year into a massive upswing in G.I. Joe prices.  And, figures like the Tiger Force Bazooka are getting swept up in the wave.  Dealers sell an appalling amount of the figures for $40.  Left to market prices, though, mint and complete figures can be had for $20 to $25 each.  You can get deals, though, from sellers who don't pay much attention to current trends and find them for $12 from time to time.  At $12, this Bazooka isn't bad.  But, at $20+, this guy is an easy skip.  Still, he's more useful than the original Bazooka figure.  And, if you're a fan of the character, this version is a much better match with a Mauler to fit Bazooka's tank operator secondary specialty.

1988 Tiger Force Bazooka, Night Force Crazylegs, 1982 VAMP

1988 Tiger Force Bazooka, Night Force Crazylegs, 1982 VAMP, Wildcard

1988 Tiger Force Bazooka, Night Force Crazylegs, 1982 VAMP, Wildcard, Tiger Force Tripwire