Friday, August 30, 2019

Jonny Quest- 1996 Quest Porpoise By Past Nastification

You might be wondering why the 2002 Cobra Mantis Sub is in banana yellow.

This is the original version of that toy, the 1996 Quest Porpoise, a sporty two-person submarine in Galoob’s Jonny Quest line.  The Jonny Quest toy line ran from 1995-1996, parallel to Hanna-Barbera’s The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest cartoon (which itself was a reboot of the 1960’s Jonny Quest cartoon).  The figures were ever so slightly smaller and squatter than ARAH Joe figures, but they still feel like 1:18 figures.

By 1995, I had already left collecting toys behind for several years and wouldn’t cycle back as an “adult collector” until the Stars and Stripes Forever Set of 1997.  I didn’t have any awareness of Jonny Quest toys when they were new, so my first exposure to them was probably picking up a few pieces mixed in with GI Joe lots on eBay.  The Jonny Quest toy line is wonderful in that it generated what are essentially “civilian” action figures plus a smattering of weird translucent figures (the Matrix-like “Questworld” figures) and some hammy bad guys.  Many of the figures have an updated Adventure People feel, but with articulation and sculpt much closer to ARAH Joe.  The vehicles are so good that I never would have realized that the Night Landing Craft and the Quest Porpoise were rebranded had it not been for pointing it out.     

The Quest Porpoise and the Quest Wave Ranger were two vehicles Hasbro recycled as GI Joe/Cobra vehicles after acquiring Galoob.  The Quest Porpoise became the Cobra Mantis Sub; The Quest Wave Ranger became the Night Landing Craft.  Despite the slight scale mismatch between Jonny Quest and ARAH Joes, the vehicles would work just fine when repurpose for Joes 6 years later.

This particular Quest Porpoise is missing its antennae and part of its grabber claw, but you can still see the overall design.  It looks vaguely dolphin-like, much like the real world Seabreacher vehicles, but those didn’t come in existence until 2009 or so. Galoob was about 20 years ahead of the curve with its sleek design.

Ignoring that it was destined to become a Joe vehicle, comparisons to the GI Joe Sharc seem inevitable.  Both vehicles are submarines, although the Quest Porpoise isn’t a flying one (or I don’t think it’s supposed to be).  The shape of the QP looks more natural and aquadynamic than the Sharc.

The bright colors capture the tone of the Jonny Quest line.  Fun, carefree, and adventurous. 

The QP’s cockpit could even hold two back-to-back figures (think Empire Strikes Back Snow Speeder).  An ARAH Joe won’t fit in the rear-facing seat, so I believe there was some slight modification for the mold’s re-use as a Cobra vehicle.

The QP is decked out with features:

*Grabber claw
*Torpedo (sorry, no picture to show)
*Swiveling lights
*Opening canopy
*Two small side propellers and a large wind-up rear propeller
*Side mounted light array
*Underside hatch with line and claw
*Mostly hidden wheels

That’s a ton of details.  Unlike early Joe vehicles of the early 90’s, the features on the QP feel organic to the vehicle, not clunky or randomly thrown on.

As this vehicle came from the Jonny Quest line, a quick look at the included “Deep Dive” Jonny Quest figure is in order.  It’s not too deep a dive, because Jonny’s only wearing a wetsuit, not a full-on Deep Six style pressure suit.  The wetsuit is banana yellow to match the QP.   As a teenager, the Jonny Quest figure is smaller than the “grownup” figures in the line (as well as ARAH Joe figures).   The body has 11 points of articulation, but suffers from having swollen elbows and inexplicably wide hips.  If you’re not familiar with the bodies in this toy line, they are similar to ARAH ones, but lack lateral shoulder movement and the front/back is one piece from the bottom of the neck to the bottom of the crotch.  There is no separate waist piece or o-ring.

The wetsuit features a dive belt, a dive knife, and un-zipped zippers at the sleeve and pant leg cuffs (a simple, but nice touch).  Jonny has a scuba tank with a mask that looks more like a space helmet.  And two flippers for his feet.     

This is a great vehicle.  It’s easy to see why Hasbro repurposed it.  The figure, given that it’s not a Joe, isn’t too bad, either.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

2001 Major Bludd - Around the Web

Sometimes, Hasbro gets it right.  And, in late 2000/early 2001, one of those rare perfect repaints was released.  The 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Major Bludd was a good mold, but in different colors.  Hasbro repainted it into Bludd's classic motif and a star was born.  Sadly, though, Bludd's wave of figures was overproduced and eventually clogged the pegs so badly that it lead to the cancellation of the ARAHC figures.  It's an unfortunate fate for one of the best repaints of the 2000's.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

2001 Major Bludd Profile

Major Bludd at Half the Battle

2001 Major Bludd Prototype at Treasure & Toys

Major Bludd by Nekoman

Major Bludd by Past Nastification

Major Bludd by thedustinmccoy

2001 Major Bludd, Cutter, Big Brawler

2001 Major Bludd, Cutter, Big Brawler, 2005 Snake Eyes, Stalker

2001 Major Bludd, Cutter, Big Brawler, 2005 Snake Eyes, Stalker

2001 Major Bludd, Cutter, Big Brawler, 2005 Snake Eyes, Stalker, 2002 Fast Blast Viper, 1986 STUN, Firefly, BJ's Exclusive

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

2018 Red Laser Shimik

In the very early 2000's, foreign Joes were an unknown element of collecting.  There were a few early adopters who did the initial research into the international releases.  But, many figures were unknown and a few were known yet simply did not exist to buy.  Over the next decade, two things happened.  First, foreign Joes became much more the point where pretty much every collector owned at least one.  Second, massive amounts of research was done and foreign characters and designs began to infiltrate Joe media, convention figures and even the anniversary line.  The veil was lifted off of foreign Joes and any collector could learn about them with relative ease.

Learning about them, though, and actually acquiring a certain figures, though, was drastically different.  While Series 2 Plastirama figures were very available in the early 2000's, they remained expensive both due to the lack of quality samples as well as the perceived rarity.  For collectors of vintage style Joes, though, there were no other avenues to acquire these foreign characters outside of customs.  Finally, with the advent of factory custom figures, collectors have access to the famous characters who were one to rare to afford and, certainly, use in any meaningful way.  With Red Laser's release of Shimik, I finally had a chance to acquire a character I'd wanted since 2002.

Shimik was interesting to me for a couple of reasons.  Having additional diversity on a team comprised of original Joe molds based on the 1982 figures was nice.  And, Shimik brought some color to the team that complemented Snake Eyes without copying him, directly.  The Grand Slam head in black looks different enough.  And, the painted on mustache gives Shimik additional uniqueness that sets him apart from other Joes of the same parts.  The bandoliers of bullets across his chest also give Shimik an identity.  There's no reason for this ammo.  But, it's there and adds an air of mystery to the character.

It should be stated that there is small group of collectors who were VERY against Red Laser releasing these Argentine homages.  So much so, that Red Laser actually went out of his way to alter the coloring on the figures just enough that they won't match the vintage figures.  Mind you, the vintage Series 2 Plastirama figures are all straight arms, Master Collector themselves released a Cobra Mortal 12 years prior and that Plastirama figures use different plastic with much poorer quality paint masks than Red Laser.  In short, these complaints had no basis.  Except for the fact that some people very much wanted to keep these characters out of the hands of other collectors who didn't want to bother with the originals.  The fear of factory customs isn't rooting in fakes or the integrity of the community.  It's rooted in the fact that a few deep pocket guys want to keep their collections special and prevent other collectors from having access to some cool items.  Those are the type of people who govern many online conversations and private groups about Joe.  Don't forget that.

One of my great collecting regrets is from 2002.  At that time, an incomplete Shimik sold for a whopping $17. I missed it.  A few sold for more than that, but still really cheap prices for a few months before prices crept back up again.  But, for a fleeting moment, I thought Shimik could be mine.  I've long loved race changing figures and the Rock and Roll chest was criminally underused in the vintage Joe line.  So, this all added up to a figure that simply had to have.  Slowly, I created a character for him and started to integrate him into story ideas.  But, as prices rose, the reality of owning a Shimik moved further and further away.  So, I never completely fleshed out Shimik's role in my collection or where he would really fit.

With this Red Laser figure in hand, though, my dilemma was finally solved.  Not only was Shimik cheap and available, but he was also upgraded with swivel arm battle grip.  (A reason I've not partaken in any Cobra De Aco repaints.)  The character could now join my early Joes and fulfill the role that I started to create for him more than a decade and a half ago.  Paired with Manleh (the only other character from the Second Plastirama Series I really wanted), Shimik helps to round out the team of international heroes who helped to track Cobra as they spread their coils around the world.  My vision of early Cobra is that there were many operatives in different countries who never lived to see the Commander's vision come to fruition with Cobra Island.  Many of them lost their lives to Shimik, Manleh and others who weren't G.I. Joe team members.  But, who were dedicated to stopping Cobra's spread around the world.

The Red Laser Shimik only includes an M-32 modeled after the one originally included with Stalker.  This is based on the original figure including the same weapon.  However, that Argentine release also included a backpack, helmet and visor from Steeler.  It would have been nice to get a helmet with the Red Laser figure since it's not easy to find original 1982 style helmets in black these days.  But, the weapon works well with Shimik.  Many other figures in the 2018 Red Laser Army series include M-60's, though, should you want to give Shimik a weapon to match his ammo strapped across his chest.  In the photos below, you'll see I've outfitted him with Action Force weapons.  It makes no sense that a guy wrapped in bullets would carry a radio.  But, it's a weird look that's grown on me and is about the only way I display Shimik any more.

Shimik is a character I've long wanted.  After Manleh, he was my most wanted unique foreign character.  So, having a chance to get one was an opportunity I could not pass up.  While the Argentine homages have proven very popular, they are still available.  You can get a Shimik anywhere from $10 to $18: depending upon various sales.  I'm not too keen on paying ~$20 for factory custom figures.  But, that's where they start and you miss some waiting on prices to come down.  For me, the higher price was worth it.  For others, though, the $10 price range might be the sweet spot for a figure like this.  With factory customs, I always recommend paying what you think is fair with the full knowledge that some of them plummet in value while others shoot up.  If you pay what you think is a deal, then future price changes become less of an issue and figures like Shimik retain their value to you, even as it fluctuates for other collectors.

Shimik, Argen 7, Plastirama, Argentina, Red Laser Army, Bootleg, Factory Custom, Funskool, Flint, Action Force, Palitoy, Estrela, Brazil, Blowtorch, Starduster, Black Major, Mail Away, Hollowpoint, Panther Jeep, VAMP

Shimik, Argen 7, Plastirama, Argentina, Red Laser Army, Bootleg, Factory Custom, Funskool, Flint, Action Force, Palitoy, Estrela, Brazil, Blowtorch, Starduster, Black Major, Mail Away

Shimik, Argen 7, Plastirama, Argentina, Red Laser Army, Bootleg, Factory Custom, Funskool, Flint, Action Force, Palitoy

Thursday, August 22, 2019

1992 Eel - Around The Web

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

1992 Eel Profile

1992 Eel by Slipstream80

1992 Eel at

1992 Eel by Toysandtomfoolery

1992 Eel at

1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six

1992 Eel, 1994 Shipwreck, Eco Warriors, Deep Six

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

2005 Sgt. Misha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 16, 2019

2001 Major Bludd - By Past Nastification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 15, 2019

1997 Scarlett - Around The Web

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

1997 Scarlett Profile

Scarlett by gijoe_infantry_division

1997 Scarlett at

1997 Scarlett Pre-Production at

1997 Scarlett by gijoe_infantry_division

1997 Scarlett by fun_time_at_serpentorslair

1997 Scarlett by gijoe_infantry_division

1997 Scarlett, TRU Exclusive, 2004 Vypra, Ninja Strike

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

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

1986 Zandar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 8, 2019

1987 Backstop - Around the Web

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

Backstop Profile

Argentina (Plastirama) Backstop Profile

Backstop by Purple Cobra

Backstop by Slipstream80

Backstop at

Backstop by thedustinmccoy

Backstop by Edwin80s

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

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

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

1992 Headman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1992, Headman, DEF, 1993, Headhunter Stormtrooper

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

Friday, August 2, 2019

2012 Retaliation Clutch - By Past Nastification

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

The low articulation of Clutch is problematic.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 1, 2019

2005 Convention Gung Ho - Around the Web

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

Gung Ho Profile

Gung Ho at

Convention Gung Ho at

Gung Ho at IceBreaker's HQ

2005 Convention Gung Ho, Mega Marines, Hard Rain Cammo

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