Tuesday, April 30, 2019

2005 Comic Pack Zartan

I swear I profiled this figure.  I have photos of him from the 2007 or so timeframe.  I recall writing up something about him.  Yet, I have no record of ever completing a profile of this Zartan release from 2005.  I'm not sure how that happened.  Usually, I keep good records of my drafts and incomplete writings.  But, this one slipped through the cracks.  I do recall that, nearer the time of his release, my view of the figure wasn't strong.  The idea behind this Zartan was good.  But, the execution was lacking.  In hindsight, though, my stance has softened.  That's likely a function of the fact that Hasbro never released another Zartan and this figure's days as  peg-clogging clearance fodder are long behind it.  

The Comic Packs were an idea whose reality never achieved the promise of their intent.  While they were meant as a way to get cool updates of classic characters in vintage styles, the reality is that the Comic Packs produced a line of barely different, and often inferior, repaints with terrible gear and questionable figure inclusion.  Despite that, I can't overly fault the #74 pack for its figure mold choices.  While Zartan seemed overdone in 2005, much of that was recency bias.  We had only two releases of Zartan in the vintage line: one an alternate construction Ninja Force figure.  We then, though, saw Zartan 4 times between 2001 and 2005.  (The horrible 2001 Zartan, the excellent Funskool release, an uninteresting 2005 convention release and this comic pack figure)  And, that was just in vintage form.  For a character as important as Zartan, this isn't a lot of releases, especially when you consider the plethora of Snake Eyes, Duke, Cobra Commander and Viper figures that Hasbro keep regurgitating.  But, in such a short time, it seemed like a lot.  When you consider that only one of them (the "Tiger Force" convention release) was really all that different from a coloring perspective, you also see the overkill of the same look for a character over and over again.

The primary difference between this Zartan and the original figure is the comic book coloring.  The dark, maroon pants and cowl and replaced with brighter, more comic accurate colors.  The upside is that they neither detract from the original nor impede the update.  The colors both work, despite their differences.  The figure's chest and knee pads are solid grey plastic.  But, don't worry, they are as brittle as ever.  And, the knee pads stay on the figure no better in 2005 than they did in 1984.  The real difference, though, is the newly sculpted head.  Zartan's face is thinner and grittier.  I've always felt the original Zartan head had a bit of an otherworldly appearance.  This comic pack head removes that.  The face paint is more drastic and covers more of Zartan's countenance.  And, the cowl is much larger and covers more of the figure.  I like the new cowl as it looks more natural as an accessory than the original.  You definitely know Zartan's a weirdo.  But, the head is bizarre in a different way than the 1984 rendition.

For me, this figure is just kind of there.  It's very nice to have a cheap, decent Zartan figure available to me.  And, since this figure doesn't change color, you can take him outside for pictures without having him turn a bluish hue.  The design is close enough to the original that you neither gain nor lose anything by choosing one over the other.  That being said, though, all being equal, I'll choose the 1984 Zartan every time for a photo.  I just don't think of this figure all that often.  He's another of the bland comic pack releases that isn't memorable for anything other than how not memorable he is.  It's a fine figure.  But not one I need or even think that we're lucky to have.  He's not bad.  In fact, the figure, on his own, is quite good and is one of the highlights of the comic pack line.  But, he's not different or all that interesting, either.  It's a telling sign for both this Zartan and the comic pack line as a whole.

Comic Pack #74 was in the first wave of DTC Comic Packs that was originally only available from online toy dealers.  The DTC Joes were dead on arrival and clogged the storage shelves of these dealers for years.  Hasbro had to deeply discount the overstock and sell it Toys R Us for them to sell in their stores.  But, that only added to the problem since collectors could bypass expensive shipping and get all they wanted of the figures at local stores.  Online stores were force to clear out their stock with attractive sales prices.  The final sets finally selling out from Hasbro Toy Shop after they were reduced to $4 per pack for several weeks.  This lead to massive quantities of the figures on the secondary market.  Most collectors taking advantage of the clearance bought the packs for extra "Fred" heads.  So, they sold or traded their extra Zartans away: leaving a large surplus of figures on the market.  Even customizers got their fill of cheap Zartan bodies since many had already stocked up on extra Funskool Zartans that were also getting clearanced out at the time.  For nearly a decade, Zartan was a staple of unwanted Cobra command  figures of the early 2000's era.  He joined the 2001 Destro, 2000 Major Bludd, pretty much every Firefly and even the Comic Pack Zarana as a member of the Cobra hierarchy that simply no one wanted to buy.

Everyone wanted Zartan's original accessories.  His unique pistol, opening pack and false facemask were '80's toy icons.  But, all were missing on the 2001 release.  The Funskool figure that appeared later that year brought the mask and the pistol (though in an accessory pack like red color!) to the community.  But, all the Hasbro uses of the mold post 2001 were missing this classic gear.  (Yet, oddly, Zartan's chest and thigh pads were available.  But, as they were translucent plastic in 1984, they were likely on a different mold than the rest of Zartan's gear.)  But, Hasbro did OK with this Zartan figure.  Rather than get a gun and the disguise of his character's origins, Hasbro included a compound bow, quiver and arrows to showcase Zartan's archery skills that were fleshed out in comics after his original introduction.  The gear looks good with Zartan and brings a different era of the character's arc to toy form.  So, it was one of the rare replacements of original gear in the comic packs that both made sense and really worked well.

But, the late 2010's have brought about a Joe resurgence.  Usually, these last for just a short while.  And, they often result in new collectors overpaying for relatively recently released Joes about whom they have a false perception of rarity.  When this happened in 2001-2003, 1997 and 1998 Joe figures commanded a premium from collectors who had just missed them at retail.  15 years later, figures from these years sell for less (in real dollars!) than they did in the early part of the century.  Due to low supply, dealers routinely sell this figure for $20.  But, here's the rub.  If you can find a carded set left to the open market, it will rarely break $20.  And, you get the excellent Fred and a passable Zarana for the same money.  This Zartan alone will only sell for about $5 if you need to sell one today.  But, low availability leads to more dealer sales and a false sense of this figure's true value.  Personally, getting for $3.33 at retail seemed like a lot.  Getting them for under $2 per figure was better.  But, this figure isn't something I can't do without.  Original Zartans are far easier to find and worth the premium you'll pay over this release.  Even the Funskool Zartan remains so, too.  So, unless you find a cheap one, I'd let this Zartan go.

2005 Comic Pack Zartan, Toys R Us Exclusive, DTC, Hiss IV, Viper, Viper Pit, 2006, 1989 Track Viper,

2005 Comic Pack Zartan, Toys R Us Exclusive, DTC, Hiss IV, Viper, Viper Pit, 2006

2005 Comic Pack Zartan, Toys R Us Exclusive, DTC, Red Laser's Army, Asa Negra, Bootleg, Factory Custom

Thursday, April 25, 2019

1986 Lifeline - Around the Web

While Doc was the Joe's Doctor, Lifeline was their first medic.  His red outfit screamed his specialty.  But, the solid figure design and amazing gear cemented him as one of the highlights of the 1986 releases.  The figure still holds up today.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Lifeline Profile

Rice Krispies Lifeline Profile

Lifeline at When it Was Cool

Lifeline at 3DJoes.com

Lifeline by clairmontgeorge

Lifeline by rebelpelicano through G.I. Joe Nation

1986 Beach Head, Lifeline, 2004, VAMP, Toys R Us Exclusive

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

2018 Python Patrol Storm Shadow - Factory Custom

2017 was an amazing year for factory custom figures.  Dozens upon dozens of new figures were released and collectors had choices of incredible army builders, rare character repaints or all new amalgamations to choose from.  In short, it was a great year to be be a vintage style Joe collector.  As 2018 started, it was poised to continue the trends of 2017.  Many new designs were shown and collectors salivated over the prospect of new figures.  More new designs showed up and it appeared that 2018 could see even more new figures than appeared in 2017.  And, then: nothing.  Factory problems in Asia, trade wars, construction problems, paint issues and every other little snag under the sun transpired and none of the figures were ready until late in the year until the first crop of Black Major figures finally appeared.  Even then, the offerings were few and the quantities were limited.  But, sometimes, the wait is worth it.  

Stormshadow first appeared in the factory custom world in 2016.  The initial offerings were classics like black, tan, red and Cobra blue versions.  Camouflage versions appeared and there was, generally, a pretty nice assortment of repaints of one of the Joe world's iconic figure designs.  I never really thought I needed a Python Patrol Stormshadow.  I would never have asked for one.  But, one of the joys of having others produce the factory customs is that I get to see some things that I didn't know I wanted.  As soon as I saw the first mock up of the Python Patrol Stormshadow, I had to have the figure.  Usually, I'm not a huge Python Patrol fan.  But, I do enjoy Python Officer figures.  But, seeing Stormshadow in this color scheme appealed to me.  For some reason, it seemed reasonable that Stormshadow could appear like this.  This is, prima facie, ridiculous.  Yet, with the figure in hand, my interest in him remains high.  To me, Python Patrol is mostly the domain of 1984 and earlier molds.  So, seeing Stormshadow colored like this works for how I've always viewed Python Patrol.

The biggest "problem" with this figure is that the base green color used for the figure is substantially brighter than the green that was used on vintage, Hasbro Python Patrol figures.  So, Stormshadow is not a perfect match for any of the vintage figures.  This has been an issue with all the Python Patrol colored figures that have come out in 2017 and 2018.  But, all of the factory custom Python Patrol figures are compatible with each other.  So, you have that as an option.  Beyond that, though, this Stormshadow is amazingly detailed.  The paint masks are intricate and sharp and the yellow underwear is a call back to the vintage figures.  He has the full complement of V1 Stormshadow gear and is just bright enough to call attention to himself without being too overbearing or ostentatious.

So, what am I going to do with this figure?  I have no idea.  This paint scheme falls into the category of really cool figure for whom I have no specific purpose.  There are lots of Stormshadow figures.  But, I don't really use them that often.  Having a Python Patrol version gives me more options when breaking out a Stormshadow for a photo shoot.  I can match him with some of my other figures and he can join Relampago and Gatilho in the pantheon of named Cobra Python Patrol characters.  I could use him as a Ninja Viper to augment the Python Patrol ranks.  The point is, I have no specific use for him and he's a general enough design to work in various settings.  For a classic sculpt in homage colors, that works for me.  

When it comes to factory custom pricing, who knows?!?  These Python Patrol Stormshadows started out at $18 per figure.  Even with relatively limited quantities, the figures were available for long enough that anyone who wanted one could get one.  It's possible that someone who had an unknown stock could liquidate some time in 2019 for 1/2 the original asking price.  But, more likely, the figures will dry up.  When that happens, the demand factor takes over.  If collectors love the idea of a Python Patrol Stormshadow, the figure will get pricey.  If the community is relatively indifferent to the design, the figure will stay around current prices.  And, if the notion of a hugely popular character repainted in a hugely popular color scheme is hated, you'll find this figure for pennies on the dollar.  I find the last scenario the least plausible.  And, I always recommend picking up items at "retail" cost unless you know the item is a turkey.  Black Major figures tend to have a following and many old, out of production designs command significant premiums on the after-market.  For me, I found this version of Stormshadow to be worth $18 new.  Not everyone will since it's an odd figure for sure.

2018 Python Patrol Stormshadow, Black Major, Factory Custom, Red Laser Army, Bootleg, Asa Negra

2018 Python Patrol Stormshadow, Black Major, Factory Custom, Red Laser Army, Bootleg, Asa Negra

2018 Black Major Python Patrol Storm Shadow, 1983 Ace

Friday, April 19, 2019

1992 Flak Viper - Around the Web

I've always considered the Flak Viper figure to be relatively obscure.  Debuting in 1992, the original release is in decent colors and includes some fun gear.  The figure is very common and you don't find too many people who really go out of their way to collect them.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there's actually a ton of content on the 1992 Flak Viper that's available online.  There's blog posts, dioramas and memorials of the Flak Viper that make him more discussed than many classic Joes from the 1980's.  Here's the best of him from around the web!

Flak Viper Profile

Flak Viper at TheJTJ.com

Flak Viper By JogunWarrior

Flak Viper at 3DJoes.com

Flak Viper at Half The Battle

Flak Viper at G.I. Joe Chile

Flak Vipers by Cobra Freak

Flak Viper at Toys From The Past

Flak Vipers By Slipstream80

Flak Viper by Andrewcf1992

1992 Flak Viper, 1991 BAT, Battle Android Trooper

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

1993 Interrogator - Mail Away

While the neon color infusion that appeared in the Joe line in the 1990's has found far greater acceptance among collectors in the past decade, it still remains a divisive issue among the fan base.  Many collectors still hate the bright colors and consider the later figures invalid treads upon the hallowed 1980's versions of Joe characters.  Never mind the fact that Flash not only featured bright red in 1982, he also carried a hand held laser rifle capable of melting steel doors in a few seconds.  So, to me, the bright colors and sci-fi concepts of the 1990's are nothing more that a logical progression from Flash and Grand Slam.  But, of course, Hasbro probably went too far in 1993.  While some neon figures are forgivable, others were bright just for brightness's sake.  Such a case is the 1993 mail away Interrogator figure.

Just in case you thought Cobra had gone soft, Interrogator comes along.  Aside from the Darth Vader helmet, the mold is straight out of a nightmare.  He has a set of spiked brass knuckles strapped to his chest: just so any prisoner starts to think that Interrogator might go easy on them.  The original was cast in black, dark blue and grey: classic Cobra villain colors.  He is one of the highlights of the 1990's in terms of new Cobra characters and new figures in general.  This repaint, though, is less frightening.  Gone are the muted tones that allowed Interrogator to blend with the classic Cobra hierarchy.  Now, the Interrogator sports a nifty pastel, neon green helmet with matching bandoleers and gloves.

If you replace the yellow with red or dark grey, this Interrogator might be one of the best figures of the 1990's and on par with any Cobra villain from any year.  With the yellow, though, this Interrogator is a fun addition to a collection.  Truth be told, it might be more frightening to see an inquisitor enter a prison cell decked out in neon yellow.  You would really wonder what kind of psychopath would choose such a color.  And, it's in that vein that I find use for this figure.  Sure, the 1991 figure looks better.  But, this look for the character helps to make him more psychotic and unpredictable.  It's a mental torture that he saves for special cases.  But, when this suit is broken out, you can be sure that the Interrogator is preparing to break someone important.

Also, though, the figure looks great with other 1990's Cobras.  He is a nice complement to the 1988 Cobra Bugg, too.  I often have him among the grew just because his colors mesh so well.  The Interrogator works with Crimson Guard Commanders, 1994 Vipers, Cyber Vipers, Mega Vipers and even the 1993 Headhunter figures.  While none of those may be among the most popular Cobra troopers, they are excellent figures in their own right and having a character to lead them helps to flesh out some of the more drastically colored figures.  But, the neon yellow also isn't for everyone and there's no real denying that if you aren't a fan of bright colors, then this figure probably doesn't work for you.

I didn't really start re-collecting Joes in earnest until 1995.  During that time, I would get various mail away offers in vehicles or packaged with figures.  Many, many times I would stare at them and consider getting some classic figures or vehicles back.  Each time I went to order, though, the total price for the figures and shipping just seemed out of line.  I had held on to my childhood notion of mail aways being the domain of very cheap or even free promotional items and not realized that they could be a source of toys that had been gone from retail for over a decade.  But, at the time, money was tight and Joes were still plentiful at retail.  Plus, being 1995, I wasn't sure I would actually get any figures I ordered and I didn't want to risk sending in money that I'd never see again.  So, while I saw this Interrogator figure in the catalogs, I never got all that close to ordering him.

In some ways, that was a shame.  I would have found great use for this Interrogator at the time.  Even his oddly colored set mate of Major Altitude would have been useful: finding many ways to perish in the Razorblade.  The Cobra villains of the line's final years were heavy on re-imaginations of classic Cobra characters.  Interrogator would have been new to me and would have found a strong characterization as someone new who would have joined my cabal of young Cobras who were starting at the time.  It's probably good, though, that the figure didn't enter my collection.  His absence allowed me time to find the right figures to represent the Cobras I had created.  And, that was the driving force behind my early interest in foreign Joe figures.  So, sometimes there are hidden benefits to cost driven decisions.

The original Interrogator included an oddball grappling gun.  The 1993 version, though, only includes a knife.  It's a small, greyish weapon that was also included with the 1987 Steamroller figure.  It can work for someone who would incorporate torture as part of his repertoire.  But, to me, the figure needs his iconic weapon.  Fortunately, the black 1991 Interrogator weapons aren't overly difficult to find.  And, if you're more adventurous, you can track down a silver repaint of the weapon (seen in some of the photos below) that was included with a Street Fighter Movie Edition M Bison figure.  It adds a bit of flair to an already ostentatious figure while keeping him in sync with the weapon designed for him. 

Despite the neon colors, this Interrogator version is somewhat pricey.  Mint and complete figures will sell in the $50 range.  Though, without the knife, you can get them under $40 from time to time.  The figure isn't nearly as rare as many dealers make it out to be.  Bagged overstock of both this figure and Major Altitude were available not only from dealers for many years, but Lee's Action Figure Review also gave away sets of them with a subscription to the magazine well into the early 2000's.  So, while you may not see this figure with the regularity that you did 15 years ago, the reality is that a lot of them are out there and many of those tucked away in collections are bagged versions.  But, for today's pricing, this Interrogator is really only a must have for the die hard completist.  The original version is better in every way, is more common, has better gear and is about 1/4 of the price.  But, if you like terrible, oddball repaints of really good 1990's figures, this Interrogator is for you.

1993 Interrogator, Mail Away, Cyber Viper, Mega Marines, Detonator, Nitro Viper

1993 Interrogator, Mail Away, Cyber Viper, Mega Marines, Detonator, Nitro Viper, Black Major, Night Viper, Soldado, 1992 Gung Ho

1993 Interrogator, Mail Away, Cyber Viper, Mega Marines, Detonator, Nitro Viper, Black Major, Night Viper, Soldado, 1992 Gung Ho, Gristle

1993 Interrogator, Mail Away, Cyber Viper, Mega Marines, Detonator, Nitro Viper, Black Major, Night Viper, Soldado, 1992 Gung Ho, Gristle, 1991, Eco Warriors, Flint

Thursday, April 11, 2019

1993 Mirage - Around the Web

Mirage is a one of the great examples of excellent '90's sculpting that was ruined by less than stellar colors.  But, within a decade, Hasbro repainted the figure several times and created some of the best re-releases of the 2000's.  The Mega Marines have taken on a bit of an afterlife in recent years and have become somewhat popular.  Mirage always lead the way, though, and was the first Mega Marine to really get a following...mostly due to those 2000's era repaints.  Here's the best of the Mirage figure around the web.

Mirage Profile

Mirage at JoePedia

Mirage at 3DJoes.com

Mirage on Instagram

G.I. Joes of the '90s by General's Joes

1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Monster Blaster APC, Bazooka, Outback, Eco Warriors

1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Monster Blaster APC, Bazooka, Outback, Eco Warriors, Mudbuster, 1994 Ice Cream Soldier

1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Monster Blaster APC, Bazooka, Outback, Eco Warriors, Mudbuster, 1994 Ice Cream Soldier

1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Monster Blaster APC, Bazooka, Outback, Eco Warriors, Mudbuster, 1994 Ice Cream Soldier

1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Monster Blaster APC, Bazooka, Outback, Eco Warriors, Mudbuster, 1994 Ice Cream Soldier

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

2001 Cutter

When Joe returned to retail in 1997, Hasbro was deft enough to also release vehicles.  Fortunately, at the time, Star Wars vehicles were strong sellers and items sold at specific price points were highly profitable accouterments to a basic figure line.  While collectors of the age complained about the mold choices that were included in 1997 and 1998, history has proven that these releases were at least strong legacies of vehicles in general.  When the line returned to full retail in 2000, vehicles were once again included as a vital part of the retail experience.  (In fact, the vehicles actually hit most retail outlets first with figures following a few weeks later.)  Hasbro looked to release more vehicle offerings in 2001. This time, though, they dug up a Johnny Quest toy mold that was acquired when Hasbro gobbled up Galoob.  It created a lackluster release, especially when paired with a coolly received SHARC repaint.  The highlight of the vehicles, though, were the drivers.  Hasbro re-introduced two molds to the repaint theatre.  While the Sub Viper has found a following, his Joe companion has faded into obscurity.  While the character of Cutter is great, a barely repainted release of him in a terrible vehicle was not a figure that captivated the collecting community.

On his own, this Cutter is good.  He has a somewhat muted orange life vest and blue pants.  He looks like Cutter.  In fact, he looks almost EXACTLY like the 1984 Cutter figure.  The only real difference is that the colors on the 2001 version are softer.  You can see obvious difference with the two next to each other.  But, if you have a 1984 figure, there's no reason to own this 2001 (and vice-versa) other than completism.  The 2001 offers nothing new (aside from softer plastic) from the 1984 release.  For some reason, Hasbro started doing this in 2001 with this Cutter as well as Cobra Commander and Destro.  This made these releases simply seem like wastes.  Collectors got nothing new.  (At least the Cobra Commander and Destro molds had been drastically repainted for their 1997 releases.)  At the time, collectors wanted "realism" (whatever that meant) but they also wanted figures that weren't the same colors as those they could cheaply and easily acquire on the secondary market.  Cutter failed in that regard.  It was disappointing that one of the rare vehicle driver slots using a mold that hadn't been seen in years was basically the same figure we already had.  And, collectors responded in kind by massively skipping the Night Landing Craft since they didn't need this Cutter and the vehicle itself was pretty lame.

I'm very conflicted about the Night Landing Craft.  One the one hand, Hasbro tried something different and attempted to bring compatible toys into the Joe line to give collectors something different.  This should be lauded.  However, this vehicle slot could have gone to many other molds to which Hasbro had access at that time.  The Night Landing Craft is not a good vehicle and it's not a good toy.  (The 2002 release of the Mantis sub that also used a Johnny Quest mold was a decent toy that looked cool and fit better with Joes, though.)  So, its inclusion in the line sticks out as a bit of a sore thumb.  It doesn't really fit with standard Joe vehicles.  It feels like a cheap inclusion that, as a quick throwaway, might have been acceptable.  But, as a well planned retail release, the Night Landing Craft seems lazy and uninspired.  Retail agreed as both vehicles from this assortment hung around for quite a while and were, ultimately, clearanced out.

Very few of the ARAHC vehicle drivers included accessories.  In 1997 and 1998, this was not the case as Ace, Hawk, Thunderwing, Heavy Duty, Vypra, Alley Viper and Ace again all included some form of gear.  But, starting in 2000, vehicle driver accessories mostly disappeared.  It was likely a cost cutting move aimed at keeping the retail margin higher.  In the case of figures like the Desert Striker Flint, it's a choice that definitely hurts the figure.  But, the original Cutter lacked any gear so the absence of weapons with this version doesn't seem out of place.  As a kid, my Cutter carried a Battle Gear Scarlett Crossbow.  I cut the actual bow off of the accessory and viewed it as a harpoon gun used to thwart wayward Cobra Eels who would attempt to board the Whale.  I tied a thread to it so that Cutter had it slung at his side in the event he needed it, but it also stayed out of the way while he piloted his craft.  Should this version ever man the cockpit of a Whale, I could see him getting similar treatment.  But, as this guy is doomed to a life inside the 2001 figure drawer, that's unlikely to happen.

The Cutter mold is criminally underused.  The original 1984 release was a superb pairing of figure and vehicle.  But, as the Whale mold moved around the world, Cutter stayed behind.  He found some use as a mail away.  But, that was it.  When this 2001 offering showed up, it was this mold's first appearance in 17 years. But, then, it disappeared again.  In 2006, the Cutter body appeared in the Operation Flaming Moth sets.  This time, it was given a new head and released as Shipwreck.  This is easily the best coloring of the Cutter body.  Were it not for the fact that the excellent 1992 Cutter mold exists, the character would have been one of the most wasted opportunities in the vintage line.  But, the 1992 release breathed new life into the character and is, probably, a better version of the character.  The mold used for this 2001 figure could have easily been repainted a few times, even with a couple of different heads, and released as a naval character pack and collectors would have loved it.  Those opportunities, though, are long gone and collectors are left with very few ways to enjoy this sculpt.

This Cutter is worthless.  He's worthless for a couple of reasons.  First, he's not all that hard to find.  The Night Landing Craft and Wave Runner both hit clearance outlets all over the country.  Most collectors had access to $5 vehicles for quite a while.  Second, there were large lots of over run figures that were available from Asia, too.  These could be acquired for under $1 per figure.  A few enterprising collectors snatched up a few lots to use as custom bodies for a USS Flagg crew.  But, that was about the extent of the value of the figures.  Finally, this Cutter is very unpopular due to the fact that it's just an inferior version of the relatively common and vastly superior 1984 version of the character.  You don't see too many of the figure offered for sale.  But, loose, he's a $4 figure.  You can get boxed and sealed Night Landing Crafts for about $25 before shipping.  But, since it sucks and you pay a premium for the vehicle, it's better to just drop a couple of bucks for the Cutter.  The upside is that this Cutter is still cheap enough to be useful for customs or army building.  But, when that is a figure's claim to fame, you know you're dealing with a dud.

2001 Cutter, ARAHC, Flint, Rock and Roll

2001 Cutter, ARAHC, Flint, Rock and Roll, 2002 Shipwreck, Wave V

2001 Cutter, ARAHC, Flint, Rock and Roll, 2002 Shipwreck, Wave V, Big Brawler, 2000 Major Bludd

Thursday, April 4, 2019

1988 Spearhead - Around the Web

Spearhead was an interesting figure who came out after I had just quit collecting Joes.  As such, he always seemed cooler than he ended up being.  His gun, though, found its way to my brothers collection, even though we never had the figure.  There's a good deal of content on him around the web:

Spearhead Profile

Spearhead by wigramjoe

Spearhead Video Review

Spearhead at JoePedia

Spearhead Pre-Production at YoJoe.com

Spearhead at 3DJoes.com

Spearhead at JoeaDay.com

1988 Spearhead, Tiger Force Frostbite, 1982 VAMP

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Funskool Road Pig

At some point in either 1987 or early 1988, I saw a published interview with Larry Hama.  In it, he mentioned that one of the new characters to which he was most looking forward was a new Dreadnok named Road Pig.  I don't recall much other than that.  But, the mere mention of a new character name and the fact that he was a favorite of Larry Hama gave Road Pig all the street cred that he needed.  I was looking forward to seeing the new figure.  (I hadn't, yet, realized that I would be all but abandoning Joe toys as 1987 ended.)  Finally, the character appeared.  Almost immediately, I found the character uninteresting and annoying.  As 1988 moved into 1989, I dreaded any comic cover that featured Road Pig and any story where he figured prominently in the plot.

As I looked to fill in the holes in my collection in the late 1990's, Road Pig simply wasn't a figure I wanted to track down.  I still hated the character and didn't think his figure was all that interesting, either.  For me, the Dreadnoks worked best as offbeat characters who filled multiple roles.  As I had them in my childhood collection, I was more forgiving of them.  While I don't really think Road Pig is any more outlandish than Zanzibar, the fact was that Zanzibar was a figure I owned as a kid and, therefore, has value.  Road Pig's existence is just a reminder of my least favorite parts of the comic.

To this day, I'm not sure why Road Pig never resonated with me.  In terms of comic characters, he's really no more annoying than any of the other Cobra foils who were introduced just to sell their action figure.  I think it was the dual personality that ruined the character for me.  I didn't like the juxtaposition of the uber smart Donald and the neanderthal Road Pig.  To me, it was too much of a Hulk rip off in non superhero form.  (To be fair, I never much cared for the Hulk, either.)  I preferred characters who could develop arcs and who could grow.  I supposed that Road Pig's inner struggle to gain control of himself could have been an angle worth exploring.  But, by 1988, there were over 300 Hulk comics that already covered that ground.  And, again, since I wasn't actively collecting the toys, Road Pig never got the chance to get developed into something other than his comic character.

As a figure, though, Road Pig is well designed.  While I don't care for the Mad Max inspired design, it is well done and Road Pig is recognizable as a trope.  The figure's head is well sculpted and is in scale with the massive torso that conveys Road Pig's considerable bulk.  The legs are accented with darts and detailed boots.  While the black base of the figure isn't anything interesting, the combination of brown, silver and the flesh colored top help give the figure depth beyond what you'd expect from the color palette.  The white hair with a red stripe also convey the figure is a villain while also being different enough from any other Joe released to that point.

Gear-wise, Road Pig stands out.  While his gear isn't as useful as that of the 1985 Dreadnok class, they fit with his character.  Of course, the hallmark is the shoulder pads.  These aid in the Road Warrior-esque facade of the figure.  And, they give Road Pig something that also breaks up the bare chest to face.  He also has an arm shield and a wrist mounted crossbow that shoots explosive projectiles.  Road Pig having some sort of firearm allows him to be more useful in a combat setting.  The character's signature weapon, though, is a cinder block hammer.  The massive weapon makes no sense.  The head looks like the triple shot power up from the Castlevania game.  But, in the context of Road Pig, it works.  You have this over the top trope of a figure who carries around a hammer with a concrete block on the end.  The uses for such a weapon are limited.  But, in the right setting, they would be devastating.  For me, the weapons make Road Pig worth displaying.  But, to this day, I don't think I've ever really used the figure for anything.

The Funskool version of Road Pig is, basically, the same as the 1988 American figure.  The base coloring is close enough that there is no reason to own one figure over the other if you are trying to economize either money or display space.  Funskool Road Pigs are usually of decent quality, even the ones produced during Funskool's quality lapse in the early 2000's.  As he was a staple of online Joe dealers of that time, there are plenty of Funskool Road Pigs out there.  He was a rather popular figure during that time both due to the fact that Hasbro Road Pigs were somewhat expensive and the fact that customizers loved cheap versions of him to outfit their post apocalyptic customs.  Funskool also released Road Pig on a Russian card.  And, large quantities of those have continued to be available through the 2010's, keeping Road Pig more available than his popularity would otherwise dictate.

Road Pig got a nice bit of use.  This original figure was discontinued in 1989.  In 1991, though, the entire mold was repainted as the Super Sonic Fighters Road Pig figure.   Orange accessories notwithstanding, this isn't a bad figure when you consider he's a Dreadnok.  In his case, the orange hair and outlandish colors are more sensical than they'd be for other, more military inclined figures.  The entire Road Pig mold then showed up in India.  Funskool released this exclusive Road Pig, based on the 1988 figure, for many years.  He was a staple of the Funskool heady days of 2001-2004 and was a great way for collectors to get a version of the figure as he included his full complement of gear.  Road Pig was then one of the molds that Funskool returned to Hasbro in April of 2003.  He quickly showed up in the 2004 Dreadnok Convention set.  Again, he had his full array of accessories.  But, the figure wasn't too different from the 1988 release.  (Though, to be fair, you can't do too much with a guy who doesn't wear a shirt.)  The figure disappeared after that.  (The character did reappear in the Anniversary sculpt style in 2011.)  Road Pig was the only full vintage Dreadnok mold that appeared in the 2004 convention set that did not also later appear in a comic pack.  Considering how many comics featured Road Pig, this seems like it must have been an intentional omission.  But, collectors have three very unique versions to track down and one foreign version that's easy to find.  For a figure that doesn't really lend himself to massive repaints, that's not too bad.

Road Pig remains relatively popular.  American figures are among the more expensive 1988 carded figures.  But, the Funskool version remains a $15 to $20 acquisition if you want a MOC specimen.  It's relatively hard to find a loose, mint and complete Funskool Road Pig.  If you can track one down, you'll still pay around $10.  So, it's easier to just get a MOC figure and call it a day.   The figure remains a favorite of many customerizers who prize Road Pigs for their adaptability to other franchises' custom characters.  Personally, I couldn't pay that much for a figure that I don't really like.  But, I'm in the minority on Road Pig's appeal.  For many other collectors, he's a solid character and one of the characters who is a must own in some form: either as a way to complete the Dreadnoks or as a complement to Zarana.  Either way, the character and his original figure are popular.

1988 Road Pig, Dreadnok, Budo, Funskool India

1988 Road Pig, Dreadnok, Budo, Funskool India, Black Major, Ghost Mortal, Cobra Mortal

1988 Road Pig, Dreadnok, Budo, Funskool India, Black Major, Ghost Mortal, Cobra Mortal, MOC, Carded