Wednesday, March 27, 2019

1994 Star Brigade Duke - Around the Web

The 1994 Star Brigade series is of top notch quality.  Even if you don't care for the theme of astronaut figures, the sculpting and colors are exquisite.  Take a look at the head on that Duke and you can see the amazing detail details that the designers got into the visage.  Despite this figure being relatively obscure, there's a good deal of content on him out there.  Check out the best of the 1994 Star Brigade Duke from around the web.

1994 Star Brigade Duke Profile

Star Brigade Duke by Kushviper

1994 Star Brigade Carded Series

Star Brigade Duke at

Duke by thedragonfortress

Star Brigade Duke Pre Production at

Duke at

Star Brigade Duke by slipstream80

Duke by toysandtomfoolery

1994 Star Brigade Duke, 1991 Condor Strike, Power Commandos

Thursday, March 21, 2019

1988 Muskrat - Around The Web

Muskrat is an excellent figure.  But, he was also released a year too late for me.  So, Muskrat was a figure who got away.  I wanted one, but never got one.  When I returned to collecting, Muskrat was one of the first figures I wanted to track down.  And, he did not disappoint once in hand.  The solid design, excellent colors and spectacular shotgun all added up to one of Hasbro's better efforts.  Sadly, Hasbro wasted this figure's return to their possession in the 2000's by never repainting him.  But, the first version and the Night Force release stand on their own.  Here's the best of the figure from around the web.

1988 Muskrat Profile

Muskrat by BackyardJoes

Muskrat Review at

1988 Muskrat Pre Production at

Muskrat at

Night Force Muskrat Profile

1988 Muskrat Video Review

1988 Muskrat, Night Force, Crazylegs, Hit and Run, 1982 VAMP, Tiger Force, Bazooka

1988 Muskrat, Night Force, Crazylegs, Hit and Run, 1982 VAMP, Tiger Force, Bazooka

1988 Muskrat, Night Force, Crazylegs, Hit and Run

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

1998 Wet Suit

There are over 1000 posts on this site.  The truth of that number is that I'm also running out of figures to showcase.  I only collect vintage style Joes.  And, while there are far in excess of 1000 different figures in this style from all over the world, the reality is that many of them are insanely similar in coloring.  Those that aren't tend to be rare and have gotten pricey.  And, while the repaint era of 1997 through 2006 brought us hundreds of new figures, most of them were repaints of existing figures.  And, in many cases, those repaints were repainted again and again.  This forces me to mine the depths of the line for obscure releases that I haven't looked at, specifically.  But, in most cases, I have profiled more popular colorings of the figure.  Such is the case in today's profile of the 1998 Wet Suit.  I've looked at this mold three other times.  (Though, it's been over a decade and a half since the last!)  I would suggest that all three are better figures than this version.  But, the 1998 is still interesting as its colors remain unique and the circumstances of his release are fond memories for me.

In the fall of 1997, I was mostly interested in Star Wars figures.  I had my first full time job with plenty of both time and disposable income to track down the steady stream of new Star Wars releases that year.  My online presence was mostly found in Star Wars groups where I kept up with the store reports and wave releases in the pre social media days.  One one of my trips to Toys R Us, though, I was shocked to find the 1997 Stars and Stripes set sitting on the shelves near the Star Wars figures.  The last remnants of the vintage Joe line had just disappeared in the last year.  But, here were new Joes.  I quickly snatched up the set since Joe had been real childhood love.  But, these figures didn't click with me.  A few were cool.  But, I was not compelled to pick up any of the remaining figure packs.  The beginning of 1998 brought an onslaught of new Star Wars releases.  So, I focused my attention strictly to those and ignored the Joes.  Though, I had now joined online Joe groups, too, to keep up on the news of future releases.

In December of 1998, the new series of Joes were released.  While I joined everyone else in anticipation of the Oktober Guard and Cobra army builder sets, I was also over-joyed at new divers.  One of the last great adventures of my childhood involved divers and underwater adventures.  The divers would be tasked to rescue a pilot trapped in his cockpit of a downed aircraft: his oxygen running out.  They would take Cobra prisoners to a secret underwater prison where they condemned were left to wait out their life in a cold, dark shell deep underwater where no one knew they even existed.  Or, they would sabotage Cobra ships, either setting explosives on the hull to scuttle them or boarding the ships and taking out the sparse crews of Cobra cargo transports.  These were quick stories where I could play in the few minutes before bed or after school.  Finding the 1994 Shipwreck when I returned to buying retail Joes just hammered home those old stories as I found him the perfect figure for all these scenarios.

So, I viewed the Navy Seal pack as an essential release.  In fact, I bought more of them than I did Cobra Polar Assault sets at first.  (The snow themed Cobras would surpass them by the summer of 1999, though.)  The figures didn't disappoint me.  While some collectors of the day weren't thrilled with the color scheme, I found the aqua blue trimmed black uniforms to be quite compelling.  The black was a darker base color than I had for Shipwreck or Wet Suit.  And, the Torpedo figure using the 1992 Wet Suit mold was actually a new figure to me since I had neither the 1992 or 1993 Wet Suit figures at the time.  Shortly after this figure's release, I purchased my first house.  Scattered around the site are old photos that I took there.  They are few and far between.  But, the 1998 divers appear in many of them since I took my newer figures into the pool for some photos with an underwater camera.

But, this hits on the real reason why I like this figure so much.  This figure's release coincides with many personal life milestones outside of collecting.  The day I bought these figures, I took them home to a new apartment.  (We took a break from moving due to a thunderstorm that prevented us from carrying anything from one place to the other and went to Toys R Us.)  Within a year and half of this guys' release, I had joined a startup, bought a house and moved in with the future mother of my children.  So, this guy kind of coincides with all that and therefore gets a childlike pass in the actual figure design department because he has associated memories with him that are far greater than just pressing a button and buying a figure online.

While this figure is a 1998 release, it should be noted that Hasbro actually shipped them more frequently in 1999 than they did 1998.  The 1998 series first showed up in early December of that year.  The figures shipped for a couple of weeks and sold well enough through the holidays.  But, after that, the pegs went bare aside from a few straggling Oktober Guard and Navy Seal three packs.  (The 1998's shipped in cases of 6 sets: 2 Navy Assault sets, 2 Oktober Guard sets and 1 each of the Cobra Infantry and Polar Assault sets.)  In early 1999, the Star Wars juggernaut was in full swing.  Hasbro rebooted the line ahead of Episode I to get classic characters onto the shelves and to help the saturation of obscure aliens and humans that had clogged the pegs since the summer of the prior year.  Then, the onslaught of Episode I figures hit.  You really can't look at the toy events of the Disney era Star Wars films and compare them to the insanity that was 1999.  The figures were everywhere.  By the summer, though, the frenzy was abating.  And, around July, Hasbro shipped new cases of the 1998 Joes to Toys R Us stores around the country.  Collectors rejoiced at building more armies and being able to find other figures that had mostly dried up.  Again, Oktober Guard and Navy Seal packs lingered, but not in alarming numbers.  Then, just ahead of Christmas in 1999, Hasbro shipped more cases and Toys R Us stores around the U.S. restocked 1998 Joes once again.  For army builders, this was the final boon to acquire as many Cobra Troopers as they wanted.  But, it was also enough overstock to back up Toys R Us and leave Navy Seal sets available at Toys R Us stores well into 2001.

This figure's gear is the same as the vintage figures' with the lone exception of the flippers.  Yes, this Wet Suit does not include flippers.  He has a black light, black pack, black sled and hose that define the Wet Suit character.  But, without the flippers, he feels incomplete.  The upside is that vintage Wet Suit flippers are common to find and are colored black.  So, they work perfectly with this Wet Suit repaint.  But, it seemed a simple mistake for Hasbro to skip such an important piece of gear.  At the time, the Navy Seal set was maligned for this omission and collectors found the lack of weapons and brighter coloring to be a major turn off to this group of three figures.

In 1998, the paint masks on the figure releases was just normal.  Within a few years, though, we would come to call it convention quality since retail releases were often lacking paint applications and convention figures often overdid them.  But, the 1998's feature tremendous paint detail.  This Wet Suit includes two shades of grey, aqua blue, black, red, yellow and silver paint.  He is easily on par with the vintage Wet Suit releases and shows that Hasbro could still make quality figures.  And, at three figures for $10 in 1998, the figure was a bargain.

This Wet Suit mold was used five times.  And, really, there are no badly colored versions of it.  The 1986 is classic and the Mission to Brazil has become the most expensive version of the mold.  The 2002 Gift set release is, basically, this 1998 in slightly darker colors.  And, the 2001 ARAHC version is heavy on greys and blacks.  You have a Wet Suit for every occasion and every budget.  That's nice since it gives fans of the character something to track down while also giving every collector a shot at a good Wet Suit repaint.  While you can make a case for other Wet Suit repaints, I'm content with what we got.

Today, dealers will get around $20 for a loose, mint and complete with filecard version of this figure.  Sans filecard, though, you can get them for $10.  Here's the thing, though.  If you have enough patience, you can still get carded sets for around $25.  That way, you get all three figures and the filecards.  You have to beware of carded 1998 figures, though, as the glue Hasbro used to seal the cards is not holding up well.  I have several carded sets where the glue simply gave way and I now have untouched figures in a bubble, separated from the cardback.  Many other collectors report the same.  But, seeing the disparity in price between a carded set and a loose, complete with filecard figure, it's still the way to go.  I find this diver set one of the last "fun" sets that Hasbro released during the collector era.  And, as the quality is top notch, this Wet Suit is a no-brainer acquisition for me.

1998 Wet Suit, Toys R Us Exclusive, 1992 Cobra Eel

1998 Wet Suit, Toys R Us Exclusive, 2018 Manleh, Red Laser Army, Plastirama, Argentina

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Risco - Plastirama Exclusive Alpine - Around the Web

Risco is an exclusive figure to Argentina.  He's barely a repaint of Alpine.  But, is still a cool difference from the classic, American figure.  Risco was a favorite of the late Outrider of fame and you will see some of his work in the links below.  Sadly, there's not a lot of content on the figure out there.  But, even I don't use the figure as often as I should.  Here's the best of Risco from around the web.

Risco Profile

Risco Dio 1

Risco at

Risco Dio 2

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

2005 Comic Pack Firefly - Around the Web

In 2005, we didn't need another Firefly.  He had been released far too many times.  But, the comic pack version came out and there was Hasbro's best version of the character.  This Firefly is better colored than the original and has more painted details.  The newly sculpted head shows a more mature Firefly.  You see green V2 Snake Eyes accessories from a Black Major release in the photo below and those brought even more life to the figure for me.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Comic Pack Firefly Profile

Comic Pack #49 at

Comic Pack Firefly at

Thursday, March 7, 2019

1988 Hit and Run Around The Web

I was pretty much done with G.I. Joe in 1988.  I bought a few figures at the beginning of the year before walking away from toys until I graduated from high school.  But, one 1988 figure grabbed my attention and was so cool that I had to buy him: Hit and Run.  The figure was all green camo and included an amazing new rifle.  On top of that, he also had a duffel bag with a grappling hook and rope.  In short, he was about everything I ever wanted in a Joe figure.  I bought him and was not disappointed.  The figure was so well designed that I hung him on a wall of ivy at my grandparents' house and lost him there for several months.  I've looked at the figure twice and will probably come back to him again.  Here's the best of Hit and Run from around the web.

Hit and Run Profile - 2000

Hit and Run Profile - 2012

Hit and Run Parachute Pack - Target Exclusive

Hit and Run by Edwin80s

Hit and Run Video Review by HCC788

Hit and Run at Joe Battle Lines

Unproduced Hit and Run at A Real American Hero Book

1988 Hit and Run, Parachute Pack, Target Exclusive, AVAC

1988 Hit and Run, Parachute Pack, Target Exclusive, AVAC, 2003, Night Rhino

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Mortal Kombat Movie Edition Shang Tsung

While there are lots of unproduced vintage G.I. Joe items, two sets have been widely known and sought after since the line's cancellation in 1994.  The first is the Manimals.  While they aren't most people's cup of tea, their unproduced status made them legendary and collectors who hate Star Brigade were still driven to seek out a Manimal.  The second set is the Ninja Commandos.  This planned 5 figure subset was going to be released in 1995 and got very close to seeing production.  Production level sample figures exist in the community.  And, toy magazines of the 1990's had photos of carded mock ups.  (Rumors that thousands of cases were produced, but not released persisted into the late 2000's.  But, they have never proven to be true.)  Unlike Manimals, though, much of the Ninja Commando tooling was actually used in 1995.  It was just not used in the now defunct G.I. Joe line.  Instead, the parts found use on various figures in the Mortal Kombat Movie line.  But, one figure in that line was more than a use of parts originally planned for the Joe line.  The youthful version of Shang Tsung was a straight repaint of the unreleased Ninja Commando Budo from 1995 and has remained a sought after supplement to many Joe collections.

In the mid 1990's, I was on a crusade to find any bastions of Joe figures that were left at retail.  In general, this required a lot of time and resulted in little reward.  This was due to the fact that most of the figures that you could find from the standard, retail line were the same figures over and over again.  So, once I acquired a Dr. Mindbender, I had no desire to buy him again, even though I'd find him at several stores.  It was also due to the fact that I simply disregarded any Street Fighter, Ninja Force or Armor Tech figure as a viable option for my collection.  These figures were not the standard construction of my childhood Joes and I had no interest in acquiring them...even if they were the only Joes left at retail.  In my toy store sojourns of that time, though, I would only look at one other toy line: Star Wars.  So, there was zero chance that I would run across these Mortal Kombat Movie figures.  Even if I had, though, they would have been dismissed for the same reasons as Street Fighter and Ninja Force.  It's possible that I would have acquired a Guile repaint or two, especially had I come across the Arctic Guile that used the Blizzard Body that would have been familiar to me.  But, as my stops in the toy aisle were limited to dwindling G.I. Joe shelf space and expanding the Star Wars aisle, I never saw these Mortal Kombat figures at retail.

But, I don't feel I really missed out on much by not finding this figure at retail.  The non standard construction and martial arts theme are a lethal combo that kills my interest in a figure.  Even as a kid, I was never big on Ninjas.  Stormshadow was fun for a while.  But, his swords were more of a novelty than anything really dangerous.  Stormshadow saw more use as an infiltrator or assassin than a ninja.  Quick Kick and Jinx never mattered to me. And, Snake Eyes was simply a commando who happened to also have a sword.  The bulk of both the figure and his accessories would have been a detriment to display, especially since the larger scale would have looked out of place were this figure opposing one of my childhood figures from the 1980's. While it's generally true for me that more figures are better than fewer figures, there are some who just don't really offer anything and would have been nothing more than newer cannon fodder.  

Shang Tsung includes three accessories: a large bladed weapon that was included with many other figures, a hooked, double bladed sword and a unique helmet.  It's likely that the Ninja Commando Budo would have included a dark green weapon tree full of various martial arts weapons that were common with Ninja Force figures along with some newly sculpted parts.  The weapons included with Shang Tsung were not part of that tree and were chosen specifically for this release.  (They were also included with many other Mortal Kombat Movie Edition figures and were likely produced in large quantities to reduce the cost of the figures.)  It is likely that the helmet, though, was designed to be included with Ninja Commando Budo.  It is unique to this Shang Tsung figure and is a fun addition that gives the figure more life.  It is well designed and fits the head very nicely.  It is also the most often missing piece of Shang Tsung's gear and is a piece whose absence makes the figure weaker.

Another cool element of the Mortal Kombat Movie figures is that they featured packaging that was similar to what G.I. Joe would have been in 1995.  The mock up carded Ninja Commando figure features a full display bubble just like that of the Mortal Kombat Movie figures.  While this is a drastic departure from the traditional side carded Joe figure juxtaposed from his card artwork, it is also visually striking.  I find myself hesitating to open carded Mortal Kombat figures because the card presentation is so nice.  (But, the beat up, bend cards help make that easier.)  You can clearly see the figure and most of his gear.  But, you keep some unique elements to the figure.  This Shang Tsung oddly features the artwork from the old man version of the character.  (Which is a different figure in the Mortal Kombat Movie line.)  It's much smaller than traditional Joe artwork.  But, it kept the homage to Joe's roots and would have been a cool way to showcase the 1995 G.I. Joe figures had they actually been released.

Shang Tsung figures have typically been more expensive than the other Mortal Kombat Movie figures of equal availability.  It's relatively easy to find a loose figure with no accessories.  Complete figures are tougher to come by and will run between $20 and $25 depending upon how well the figure is labeled.  But, you can get carded versions of Shang Tsung for around $30.  Lots of Mortal Kombat Movie figures found their way to dealer stock in the 1990's, though.  And, while most of it has since been resold into the collecting world, you can still find lots (from time to time) that have several MOC Mortal Kombat Movie figures that sell for substantially less per figure.  If you can be patient and are willing to spend time looking, you can still get cheap Shang Tsungs.  But, the Mortal Kombat Movie figures have gotten substantially less common in the past couple of years.  So, those deals are getting harder and harder to find.  Personally, I don't find the figure worth those prices as I view Shang Tsung as a curiosity more than a vital part of my collection.  It's nice to have him available and he gives photos of later ninjas some depth since he's so recognizable.  But, that's about the end of his value.

Mortal Kombat Movie Edition Shang Tsung, Black Major, Cobra Mortal, 2018, Snake Eyes V2, Purple Haze Invasor, Ninja Commando Budo, 1995

Mortal Kombat Movie Edition Shang Tsung, Black Major, Cobra Mortal, 2018, Snake Eyes V2, Purple Haze Invasor, Ninja Commando Budo, 1995

Mortal Kombat Movie Edition Shang Tsung, Black Major, Cobra Mortal, 2018, Snake Eyes V2, Purple Haze Invasor, Ninja Commando Budo, 1995

1995, Mortal Kombat, Movie Edition, Shang Tsung, Budo, Ninja Commandos, Unproduced

1995, Mortal Kombat, Movie Edition, Shang Tsung, Budo, Ninja Commandos, Unproduced