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.