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

Airborne at the Attica Gazette

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

Friday, July 5, 2019

2000 Side Track - By Past Nastification

Before I begin the review, let me acknowledge Rob at Joeaday.com and his generosity in letting me post my articles there over the last few years.  With Joeaday on hiatus, Forgotten Figures has graciously given me the opportunity to post my stuff here.

Thanks to both sites for being so open.
And now, the review!

Ambush was a very unique figure during the late ARAH run.  With the puffy swept hair up top and the lambchop sideburns, the headsculpt for Ambush was quite distinguished in the line.

The body was solid, too, featuring a diagonally slung grenade bandolier on the chest and a sweater worn under a shirt with rolled up sleeves.

But the figure in this review isn’t Ambush.  It’s 2000’s Side Track.  It looks like Ambush, but with darker hair, because it’s a head-to-toe repaint.  So lazy, so stupid, so Hasbro.

As to be as objective/generous as possible, I’m going to just pretend this is another version of Ambush.  The dark riches greens used for the base uniform are a 180 from the desert color palette of the 1990 figure.  The camouflage of the 2000 figure was created through marbling the plastic, whereas the 1990 figure featured a painted/printed pattern.  The two approaches make sure that they are entirely distinct from each other, something not always seen when a figure is recolored.  It’s beautiful.

The gear from the 2000 figure is almost the same as the 1990 one.  The helmet is different and the colors are unique to each figure.

You may notice that I’ve displayed the 2000 figure short one weapon.  I wouldn’t have ever noticed were it not on Yojoe.com.  That’s because when the figure was released it was packaged with a Duke figure, and I sorted that weapon to Duke.  I hadn’t realized that same accessories had come with Ambush in 1990, as that was after my exit time for GI Joe back then.  But I’m leaving it as is.  It didn’t bother me 19 years ago, and I’m good with it now. 

Viewed as Ambush, this figure is great.  It’s one of the figures from 2000 that had a good opaque quality to the skin, not the semi-translucent milkiness some of them had.  The hair color should be lighter, but it has painted whites of the eyes, so it’s a decent trade off.

Okay, time to switch gears and view this as Side Track.

The head just kills it.  Hasbro had created a new head for Volga when GI Joe returned and topped a Lady Jaye body with it.  Using a new head on an old body isn’t as good as using a new head with a body made from MIXED body parts, but it’s still better than a head-to-toe repaint.  But in 2000 Hasbro stuck with complete HTT figures, dumping Side Track, Chameleon, Whiteout, and Thunderwing (for a second time, I think) on us.

Here’s a silly thought:  if you can’t make a new head, at least use a different one.  One you can disguise if possible.  For example, a Quick Kick head with rusty hair and facial stubble on the Ambush body would have been a much easier pill to swallow as Side Track.  Did Hasbro even have access to the Quick Kick head in 2000?  I don’t know.  It could have been almost any head that wasn’t Ambush, with that head painted with a different hair color than its original figure.  A Low Light V1 head with black hair.  Anything would have been better than what we got.

We can’t talk about this figure without mentioning the 2002 Sidetrack (spelled with no space between “Side” and “track”), which was a different character (because it had a different spelling and a different file name).  At least that figure featured an original head on an old body.

Ever since Hasbro brought GI Joe back in ’97 with the Stars and Stripes Forever set, the design team/quality control people never really seamed like they put their hearts into it.  Naming issues, nonsensical part choices, bad color sets.  In 1982 Hasbro created a high quality product with an imbedded spirit that spoke to the fans.  Somewhere before the original ARAH run stopped, that magic-in-a-bottle had evaporated.  It’s never really come back.  You don’t need to look any further than Sidetrack for a demonstration.           

2000, 2001, Ambush, Sidetrack, Side Track, 1990, ARAHC

2000, 2001, Ambush, Sidetrack, Side Track, 1990, ARAHC

2000, 2001, Ambush, Sidetrack, Side Track, 1990, ARAHC

Thursday, July 4, 2019

What is G.I. Joe?

What is the essence of G.I. Joe?  Due to the military theme and the drab greens of the 1982 series, there is this misconception that G.I. Joe is realistic military.  However, if you really look at the 1982 figures and vehicles you find a laser cannon, a jet pack, a soldier carrying a high powered laser rifle on his back, a silent commando dressed in all black and a female combat soldier.  All of which is to say that G.I. Joe never really was a "realistic" military line and was firmly in the realm of military fantasy.  (Really, G.I. Joe is just a superhero vs. super villain trope from comic books that happens to be set on a military base.)

You see lots of people making posts that G.I. Joe would make tons of money if it returned to retail.  Except, Hasbro is too "scared" to bring it back.  The implication is that G.I. Joe would draw the ire of a small group of vocal people and that alone is reason enough for Hasbro to abandon the property.  I have several issues with this idea.

The first is that G.I. Joe had "protests" back in the '80's.  They've always been around and have never really been credible.

Second, Hasbro has tried to revive G.I. Joe 4 times since the original line was cancelled.  (And, that's not counting the collector-geared 1997 and 1998 releases.)
  • 2000 brought Joe to retail where it had great initial success.  But, bad case assortments doomed it in 2001.
  • But, this lead to the real renaissance of the G.I. Joe brand that started in 2002.  2002 Joes were everywhere.  By the end of 2003, Hasbro couldn't keep Joe on retail shelves.  But, things petered out in 2004 and the line was cancelled by 2005.  
  • The 25th Anniversary figures started in 2007.  These succeeded in finding a smattering of adult toy buyers who had ignored the previous Joe releases.  But, the figures sold in substantially smaller numbers than the 2002-2004 line and, again, lost retail steam.
  • Finally, Hasbro tried the movies.  The two Joe movies were forgettable devices with banal designs.  The toys flopped and never found a retail audience that could sustain them beyond the pre-release hype.
Third, collectors often have a warped view of what makes something successful.  We think that because we bought toys in the '80's due to a cartoon, or whatever, that kids today should too.  It's an idea that's born of the fact that if younger people don't like something or behave a different way, that's an indictment of how we lived in the '80's.  It's not.  People constantly evolve and the world we live in now is vastly different from the 1980's.  Economics, demographics, technology, population density, retail environment and general approaches to parenting have drastically changed in 30 years.  Pretending that a toy line can achieve similar success to what it saw 30 years ago is simply misguided.  And, to think that doing things the same way thet were done in the past would work simply because it's not being done now also showcases naivete.  

Finally, it simply makes no sense that a publicly traded corporation would deliberately not release a property they thought that would be profitable because of: "SJW's", "millenials", "political-correctness", "protests" or any other reason that fits into some persecuted world view.  If Hasbro thought for one second they could make money on Joe, Joe toys would be sold at retail right now.

Hasbro's internal product staff are compensated by selling toys.  A hit could be a career maker and even a surprise profit could get a person substantial bonuses.  Again, if these people (who have access to excellent market data and other resources) aren't willing to put their neck out for Joe, that tells you the market simply won't support the line.

I have young kids.  They are about the age when I first found action figures and started a life long love of playing with and collecting them.  My kids don't care.  They think old G.I. Joe or Star Wars toys are neat.  But, that's not what they want to do.  My kids and, by observation, their friends would rather play games or sports than with toys.  My boys play with some old Star Wars stuff that I have around. But, that lasts for a few minutes before they turn to any of the myriad of other options they have available to them.

It's funny when you look at the toys of the 1950's.  Kids who grew up in the '80's had no interest in those.  And, the way toys were marketed to kids in the 1980's was drastically different than the '50's.  Yet, here in the 2010's, we feel that everything should be exactly as it was in the '80's.  And, maybe those born in the 50's felt the same way in the '80's.  They just didn't have Facebook to gripe about it.

Joe has had an incredible retail run.  The fact that there's a vibrant community nearly 40 years after the line's original release is a testament to that.  But, the era of the action figure is coming to an end.  You can find plenty of charts and graphs online that show how interest in the format is sliding and how kids today aren't connecting with the medium in the same way that we did.  Again, though, that's not bad.  It's just different.  As collectors, we have decades worth of stuff to track down.  Sure, it could be nice to see one final retail run full of all the stuff that we've wanted since we were kids.  But, it would take a miracle for that to occur.  We can be grateful for what we've seen.  But, we also need to be realistic about why Joe (and toys in general) are handled the way they are today.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

2000 Rip It

The 1983 Hiss Driver isn't really an iconic figure.  He often sits in his tank and simply hides in the cockpit: away from prying eyes.  But, as an early release, he is often held in higher regard than he would be were he released a decade later.  Since the figure is relatively common (it was a mail away for years and the Hiss was super popular) there has never been a great clamor for multitudes of repaints.  But, the Hiss Driver was also a case where Hasbro accommodated early collectors by dropping a repaint into the A Real American Hero collection.  The new character of Rip It was an interesting take on the Hiss Driver mold that was somewhat neutered by the fact that a classic army builder was now a character.

Collectors immediately attacked Rip It's name.  Being released at a time when most collectors were in their early 20's ensured that the juvenile jokes doomed the character.  18 years later, you don't hear as much of the ridicule.  But, Hasbro's new characters of the early 2000's were so embarrassingly bad that they have been rightfully discarded on the line's scrap heap.  Rip It was no different and the opportunity to create a new Hiss Driver Commander was wasted on a guy who will leave his unit to fight G.I. Joe on his own and who learned his expert tank operation skills by playing golf.  (I wish I was making that up....)

At his core, the Rip It figure was designed to be more "Cobra" in the sense that Cobra was understood by Hasbro in 2000.  But, the practical release of Rip It was not Cobra blue and, instead, a purplish blue that really doesn't fit with any other Cobra releases of the day.  Offset by globs of red paint, Rip It seems like a really cheap knockoff of the Hiss Driver instead of something interesting and fun.  Because the figure screams of minimum effort and unfulfilled potential, though, he perfectly fits with the ARAHC figure of 2000 and 2001.  This line had so much promise...which was never delivered.  Collectors were so happy to have figures at retail that many of the flaws were overlooked at the time.  But, by 2001, the cracks were there and the Hiss III (something that should have been a sure thing at retail) stuck around at nationwide Toys R Us stores for months. 

While Rip It is considered a 2000 release, he didn't actually show up until January of 2001.  But, the timing of the 2nd wave of the ARAHC happened to coincide with the new year.  I had found all of the Wave II figures in late December of 2000.  So, the Hiss III was was the only thing really new to me as 2001 dawned.  I found it at a local TRU store and quickly bought one.  But, as soon as I got it home, the paint job and driver underwhelmed.  At the time, vintage Hiss Tanks and Drivers were plentiful and cheap.  The Hiss III was a downgrade from the original Hiss and Rip It was a flawed figure. My original plans to buy 5 or 6 of the new Hiss Tanks quickly turned to just the one and I never really regretted not picking up more for the $9.99 retail price.

It should be noted that Rip It features a different waist than the original Hiss Driver.  It's not as noticable as some other waist replacements on figures from the 2000's.  But, is something that creates a bit of incongruity if you army build both original Hiss Drivers and any subsequent release.  Rip It also has no accessories.  But, as he's supposed to be encased in the glass cockpit of a cheap and disposable tank, you can forgive the lack of gear. 

Rip It figures started cheap and remain so to this day.  Aside from the fact that the Hiss III was available for quite a while at Toys R Us, large quantities of Rip It figures were available for many years from Asian overstock sellers.  It was easy to buy up lots of 5 or 6 Rip It figures for a couple of bucks.  Many collectors of the mid 2000's partook in these lots and then proceeded to RIT dye the figures in various color combinations.  You can still find photos of many of these creations and they all showcase the unfulfilled potential of the Hiss Driver mold.  Hasbro used it just three times: in 1983, for this Rip It and then again on the 2007 Convention release.  There is also the 2003 unproduced Wal Mart Hiss Driver that is out there.  But, in the end, two of the four Hiss Driver uses are rare and exceptionally pricey.  He remains a possibility for factory custom makers just because there would be demand for all black, real crimson, desert and arctic repaints of the figure.

If you want a Rip It, dealers often price him high: mistaking the pricey Convention and unreleased Wal Mart figures for interest in the character rather than being indicative of their rarity.  You'll find plenty of loose figures at $18 price tags: with no buyers.  Left on his own, this is a $5 figure.  But, he's a lot harder to find on his these days.  Sadly, boxed Hiss III's have climbed in price.  So, it's not really feasible to buy up boxed items and open them to get cheap loose toys.  With patience, you can build a nice little army of Rip It figures.  But, there's no real reason to do so.  The figure lacks iconic colors, has flaws and sits in the shadow of the 1983 Hiss Driver.  But, it's at least an alternative paint job for a classic mold.

2000 Rip It, 2001 Hiss Driver, ARAHC, 1987 Maggot, 2018 Alley Viper, Night Viper, Black Major

2000, Rip It, 2001, ARAHC, Hiss Driver, 1983, Hiss Tank, Firefly, Red Laser Army, Cobra Trooper, JUMP, Jet Pack

2000, Rip It, 2001, ARAHC, Hiss Driver, 1983, Hiss Tank, Firefly, Red Laser Army, Cobra Trooper, JUMP, Jet Pack

2001 Rip It, Hiss Driver, Hiss IV, Worms, 1987, 2002 Shock Viper