Friday, September 27, 2019

2011 Polar Sharc and Ice Storm - By Past Nastification

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra was such a horrible movie.  So horrible that it had sinking ice in it.  As in literal chunks of ice that were heavier than the water around them and the sunk towards the bottom of the ocean.  That bad. I saw a screening of it opening night across the street from the Wizard World convention in Chicago in 2009. About 4 minutes into the movie I realized that the movie I had waited 27 years to see wasn’t what I was going to be seen that evening.

Even got the extra fancy seats, too.  Such a waste.   

At least the movie provided collectors with a GI Joe toy line.  That toy line was a mixed bag.  The Polar Sharc is a perfect example of it. 

The Polar Sharc is a forgettable and undersized vehicle that looks like it drifted into the wrong packaging from a Star Wars line.  But the driver, Ice Storm, is a great if unnoticed figure. 

The Polar Sharc did appear in the movie, in the scene with the sinking ice, and even looked like the toy but larger.  The design doesn’t look like it belongs in any GI Joe landscape.  Not in the standard toyline, not in any of the comic books continuities or cartoon continuities.  We’ll put that on the film studio and not Hasbro.  Hasbro even did a good job of translating it into a toy.

It’s worth pointing out that the Polar Sharc’s release was delayed and it was hard to come by.  This is probably why there isn’t much like or dislike for it or Ice Storm.  I never saw it in Ross stores, and had even kept an eye out for it. 

More aquadynamic in overall form than the 1984 Sharc, the Polar Sharc has lots of crisp details.  In fact, if you love rivets, then this will be your favorite GI Joe vehicle ever.  It has hundreds of sculpted rivets across its hull.  The cockpit appears to be a padded mattress-style strip with no definitive head/foot areas, so a driver can be placed one of two ways:  on its back looking out the casket-style hatch, or placed belly-down with its face looking out the underside nose porthole, an obvious callback to the 1984 Sharc.  The cockpit/interior is nicely done, with lots of knobs and buttons, exposed control lines, and wiring.   There’s a removable torpedo-launching weapon on the underside.  The underside also sports a backpack peg for a figure, another 1984 Sharc callback. 

The more I look at the Polar Sharc, the more I should like it.  But I don’t.  It looks too much like something Obi-Wan Kenobi might have used on an adventure.   

Ice Storm, by contrast, is a figure I shouldn’t like, but I do. 

Ice Storm didn’t specifically appear in the film, although the Sharc did.  The 25A line provided us with at least three different versions of Deep Six, so I didn’t mind the creation of a new character at all.  The 2011 convention exclusive of this character (although a different figure with a different file name in technically a different continuity) backfills his story.  Now a sailor, he had originally been in the Coast Guard first, adding some complexity to his character.  I guess Cutter is destined to be the only dedicated Coast Guard member on the team? 

The figure is made of recycled 25A parts topped with a new head, and the body parts aren’t even that spectacular.  It looks nothing like a driver for the Polar Sharc should look.  Since I easily mentally separate this figure from the vehicle, that’s not an issue.  Ice Storm looks like a cold weather rescue specialist, and might even be wearing a drysuit under the cold weather uniform. 

The headsculpt is ridiculously awesome.  Ice Storm wears a textured knit cap pulled down low over the ears and eyebrows.  Although the face is sculpted, much of it hidden by the high jacket collar.  We only see Ice Storm’s face from the eye line to the mouth, giving a sense of seclusion and mystery, with dashes of introversion and sullenness.  This is my favorite ROC action figure.  Unlike existing characters that had to be “interpreted” into the ROC continuity, Ice Storm was a blank slate who didn’t get weird for no reason (I’m looking at the sculpted lips on your mask, Snake-Eyes).  In fairness, other interpretations in ROC were actually pretty solid ideas, like Storm Shadow wearing a white suit.     

The Polar Sharc and Ice Storm are both highly detailed and well sculpted.  The Polar Sharc fails because it’s a bad design at its core that no amount of craftsmanship could save, like the sinking ice in the movie.  It could never look good because it was a bad idea.  Ice Storm succeeds because the character was unique and fresh to the GI Joe mythos, plus it also felt like it shouldn’t even exist within the ROC continuity.  Always a plus.       

2011 Polar Sharc and Ice Storm

2011 Polar Sharc and Ice Storm

2011 Polar Sharc and Ice Storm

2011 Polar Sharc and Ice Storm

2011 Polar Sharc and Ice Storm

2011 Polar Sharc and Ice Storm

Thursday, September 26, 2019

2002 Gift Set Fast Blast Viper - Around The Web

The BJ's gift set had a lot of problems.  At the time, though, there was a good consensus that the Fast Blast Viper was the cream of the set.  17 years later, this still holds true.  For some reason, the color really works on this mold.  Asian overstock and clearance sales helped to sate collector demand and have left this figure available.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

2002 Gift Set Fast Blast Viper Profile

Fast Blast Viper at JoeWiki

Fast Blast Viper at Half The Battle

Fast Blast Viper at General's Joes

2002 Crimson Fast Blast Viper, BJ's Exclusive

2002 Crimson Fast Blast Viper, BJ's Exclusive

2002 Crimson Fast Blast Viper, BJ's Exclusive

2002 Crimson Fast Blast Viper, BJ's Exclusive, 2000, Major Bludd, Firefly, 2001, 1986 Cobra STUN

2002 Crimson Fast Blast Viper, BJ's Exclusive, 2000, Major Bludd, Firefly, 2001, 1986 Cobra STUN

2002 Crimson Fast Blast Viper, BJ's Exclusive, 2000, Major Bludd, Firefly, 2001, 1986 Cobra STUN

2002 Crimson Fast Blast Viper, BJ's Exclusive, 2000, Major Bludd, Firefly, 2001, 1986 Cobra STUN, Palitoy, Red Shadows, Shadowtrak

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Luke Skywalker - Yavin Ceremony (2007)

As a young child growing up in the original Star Wars era, I found the toys of Luke Skywalker problematic.  The only Luke that was available for the first two years of my young playing days was the Tatooine Luke with the sculpted lightsaber on his right arm.  For the instances where Luke needed a sabre, this was perfect.  But, for me, Luke having a blaster made far more sense.  It was not until 1980 and the Empire Strikes Back that I was able to get a Luke who included both a blaster he could hold and a separate lightsaber.  With this figure in hand, Luke and Han embarked on epic adventures.

As I got older, the fact that a lot of time passed between Star Wars and Empire became more obvious to me.  During this undocumented time, Han, Luke and Leia must have had spectacular adventures as they evaded the Empire.  The Luke of this era would not have really been aware of his Jedi powers and would have been closer to the character he would have become had he left Yavin IV with Han rather than blowing up the Death Star.  That era, though, was not really explored if you didn't read EU books (which I did not).  But, it seemed a time that was full of great stories that showed Luke's growth from the kid on the trench run to a full flight commander just a couple of years later.

I watched the Star Wars Holiday Special when it aired on TV.  I remember as my parents knew it was on and we had to hurriedly leave the Glendale Mall in Indianapolis to make it home in time to see the show.  While I have distinct memories of seeing Han and Chewie in person, I don't recall seeing the cartoon.  It could be that we got home too late to see that part and missed it.  Or, I simply forgot about it because of seeing the real characters on the screen.  When I found the cartoon in the late 1990's, it was the first appearance of Boba Fett that initially got my attention.  But, Luke's look was also interesting.  It was obviously based on Luke's appearance at the end of A New Hope and put him on par with Han as a swashbuckling adventurer rather than the Jedi he would later become.

When Star Wars returned to retail in 1995, the Ceremonial Luke was one of my most desired new figures.  When he was finally released in 1997, I had to get him.  And, Hasbro's first attempt at the character was one of their better efforts of that time and the first Star Wars figure to appear on this site back in 2000.  In the POTFII era, that Ceremonial Luke was a highlight and remains one of the few figures I have left from that time.  This new version from a decade later, though, showcases all of the advances that Hasbro made during that interval.  The sculpting is better, the figure is more in scale and the accessories and articulation are simply spectacular.

After I saw Rogue One on its release night, I was stoked about Star Wars.  I started buying figures again.  I scoured online sites and started getting up to speed on many of the items I'd missed over the years when I was focused 100% on Joe.  But, when I was gearing this profile up for publication, I realized that it's been a really long time since I've looked at a Star Wars figure.  It's been about that long since I bought one at retail.  I haven't bought any of the new vintage collection figures because I haven't been able to actually find any of the characters that interest me.  Now, I get lambasted for this by "serious" Star Wars collectors who only order online from places that guarantee condition, etc.  But, my interest in Star Wars is relative to the ease with which I can collect it.  Buying cases online takes the fun out of it.  And, searching to NEVER find anything is equally appalling.  So, I've spent no money on Star Wars for nearly two years.

The truth is, Hasbro couldn't care less.  One collector spending $200 per year is irrelevant to them.  The big thing, though, is that I have three boys who are of the age when action figures should be drawing them into a property.  They have no interest in Star Wars toys, either.  Losing a generation should concern both Hasbro and Disney.  Though, if Hasbro gives up the Star Wars license (I'll believe it when I see it, though.), they have no reason to care about the future.  The point for me, though, is that the joy of collecting is gone from Star Wars.  It's an adult oriented, go through the motions hobby with a few joyous clearance finds.  That's a far cry from my burgeoning adult collector days in the late 1990's when Star Wars ruled retail. 

So, in looking back at this figure, I recall a more fun time of Star Wars collecting.  The prequels were over and collectors were settling into an era of no new media, but overwhelming retail support for the Star Wars property.  Every month, it seemed, new waves of figures were being released.  And due to the strong sales, it wasn't really hard to find anything.  It was fun because collecting wasn't hard.  You could get the toys you wanted in the quantities you wanted.  But, all things must end.  And, I find myself, once again, at the end of the line for my Star Wars enthusiasm.  It's possible my oldest boy will take up the mantle.  But, his interest in Star Wars is less toy driven.  So, he may love the property, but never actually play with any action figures.  Again, it's something very different from what I'm used to.  But, that's OK and I'm at a point where if Star Wars figure collecting becomes a relic of my past, I'm OK with that, too.

Like many of Luke's 30th Anniversary brethren, this figure is now worthless.  You can still get carded figures for about what you'd have paid at retail in 2007.  In lots or with patience, you can get them for even less.  To the best of my knowledge, Luke in this outfit has never been released on a vintage cardback.  (Though, one is coming soon if it's not out already.)  I'd actually buy that.  But, this figure is good enough for me.  It's not perfect.  But, few Star Wars figures actually are and Hasbro continues to improve certain characters and figures in increments that leaves you with you many close but not quite perfect releases of the same character.

Ceremonial Luke Skywalker, 2007, 30th anniversary, Yavin Ceremony, Greedo, Bossk, Vintage Collection, Black Series

Ceremonial Luke Skywalker, 2007, 30th anniversary, Yavin Ceremony, Greedo, Bossk, Vintage Collection, Black Series, Stormtrooper, Han Solo

Friday, September 20, 2019

Married With Children Set - By Past Nastification

The world of 1:18 figures has had a nice influx of Joe-friendly brands and figures the last several years.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Back to the Future, many of The Twilight Zone figures, Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey & Amy Poehler (which I wrote about on, The Big Bang Theory, and today’s review, Married with Children have all joined the ranks.

I should define “Joe-friendly”, as the reviews here are obviously aimed at Joe collectors.   Because the Bundys, unlike 1:18 scale Game of Thrones figures, can plausibly be used by collectors in dioramas as civilians without raising an eyebrow, I view them as “Joe-friendly”.  Sure, they’re more character specific than Fischer Price Adventure People, but if you dotted them throughout a Springfield diorama, an average person (that is to say, a normal grownup who doesn’t own toys) might not even notice what they are.  The figures could also be used for customizers with no problem. 

1:18 scale Al Bundy is Joe-Friendly; 1:18 Jar Jar Binks is not.  There is some grey area for sure, like the Star Wars Endor trooper(s).  They look real-world soldiery enough to slide into the grey zone.

This set is called “Married with Children” by Funko and it contains Al Bundy, Peggy Bundy, Kelly Bundy, and Bud Bundy.  This set is labeled as a “2018 Fall Convention Exclusive”.  Being an Amazon purchase, it couldn’t have been too exclusive, but I’m not sure if that means that there are variations in packaging or figure colors. 

The head sculpts set the tone for figures like this.  Whereas Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight Zone figures go for a broad “why pay for likeness rights?” feel more than an actual likenesses, these figures actually have enough nuance and detail to look like the actors on whom they’re based (Ed O’Neil as Ed Bundy, Katey Sagal as Peg Bundy, Christina Applegate as Kelly Bundy, and David Faustino as Bud Bundy).  Unfortunately, the work put into the faces/heads wasn’t fully realized in production because the plastic is bit on the waxy side (think Stars and Stripes Forever) and the paint could be improved (Al and Bud don’t have eyelashes, creating blank stares on their faces).  On the upside of this, though, is that the unrealized potential makes them even more Joe-friendly.

Each of the figures is dressed and sculpted appropriate to the character.  I can’t say if the outfits are episode or opening credits accurate, but they look exactly like they need to.  The Kelly figure is begging to be customized into a Dreadnok, by the way.  Subtle details by the sculptor(s) show a good eye for detail.  Bud, for example, has one sneaker fully under the pant leg and the other one with the pant leg partially stuck into the sneaker.  Al, of course, sports a grin of frustration.  Peggy’s B-52 haircut and leopard print sandals (or are they cheetah print?) are wonderful.       

The figures are scaled correctly to each other, with Bud being about the same height as Kelly.  There are no accessories, and the lack of a canine Buck Bundy stings just a little bit.  This set should have come with a couch. 

The articulation on these figures is good, with 9 points of articulation on each figure.  The figures appear to have “swivel arm battle grip” at the elbows, but they don’t.  An extra piece of plastic is inserted into the bottom of the lower arm instead of being part of it.  The elbows only hinge.

Funko is using an interesting technique on some parts.  Instead of painting things to match, parts are molded in the correct color and then glued/locked into place.  Bud’s hands don’t swivel, but were molded in a flesh tone and then plugged into the end of the sleeve.  I managed to break one of Bud’s wrists thinking it swiveled.

The coloring on the figures isn’t photo realistic, but it’s about in the right range for Joe figures.  Kelly’s blonde hair, for example, isn’t simplistic Crayon yellow, but it’s not realistically platinum blonde (with a metallic wash for that lifelike look) either.  Instead, it’s a dull yellow tan that works for this caliber of figures.

Most likely a one-and-done figure line, we probably won’t get treated to Marcy D’Arcy, Jefferson D’Arcy, Buck Bundy, or Steve Rhodes.

These figures were clearly designed with a respect for the source material and are higher quality than similar “based on a TV show” figures.  They obviously work as intended as Married with Children figures, or even as Joe-friendly diorama pieces.       

Thursday, September 19, 2019

1997 Destro - Around the Web

At the time of his release, the 1997 Destro figure was relatively derided for being the wrong mold and the wrong colors.  More than two decades later, though, this figure holds up pretty well and his chromed head is now a relic lost to time.  I've found this figure has grown on me and is one of my go to Destro figures.  There's not a lot out there on this figure, but here's what I found around the web.

1997 Destro Profile

Destro by Ironman3719

1997 Destro by thedustinmccoy

Destro by Fun Time at Serpentor's Lair

1997 Destro, Scarlett, Toys R Us exclusive

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

2000 General Tomahawk

Early 2000 was a fun time to be a Joe collector.  The line was starting to gain new collectors at a good pace that made the community exciting, but not overly dramatic.  Vintage Joes were plentiful and insanely cheap: most still going for less than retail prices had you bought them in the '80's.  You could find toys online, at toy shows and even at garage sales.  There wasn't much new going on.  But, the influx of new collectors kept discussion brisk and the community fun.  In May of that year, though, things changed.  Hasbro surprised everyone with the announcement that G.I. Joe would return to retail stores in the fall.  Collectors suddenly had new toys coming and the community was abuzz over the possibilities.  Shortly after the announcement, the first figure samples were shown at a toy show.  The figures were good.  But, not great.  Collectors lamented a few of the mold choices (we didn't yet understand Hasbro's reticence to actually look for more collector friendly molds) and found some of the colors off-putting.  In October, the figures began appearing at retail.  Collectors flocked to them and bought them en masse.  I've looked at most of the figures in this wave many times over the years.  But, for today, it is the General Tomahawk figure that has my focus.

Collectors jumped on the new Joes at retail.  The first appearances were at Toys R Us stores where the packs were $7.99 each.  This seems paltry now.  But, at the time, $4 per figure seemed high and some collectors balked at paying that for army builders like Undertow who were packed with a character.  In time, though, Wal Mart began stocking Wave I for a lower price of $5.84 per pack.  This was like giving Joes away.  And, as I saw Dusty, Law and Dial Tone all as army builders, I went hog wild buying up as many of them as I could find at various Wal Mart stores around town.

Having extra Tomahawks proved fortuitous in 2001.  When Wave II of the A Real American Hero collection hit in late December of 2000, Firefly/Undertow, Cobra Commander/Chameleon and Dial Tone/Tomahawk were all discontinued.  As 2001 brought massive amounts of new collectors to G.I. Joe, those discontinued packs were suddenly in demand.  This coincided with a time when I couldn't buy as many retail figures as I wanted.  So, I was able to trade mint and complete Tomahawks for other figures I needed.  And, I was able to sell carded sets of Tomahawk/Dial Tone for $35 each.  (Remember, this is 2001.  That money would have bought you a Starduster with enough left over for an Headhunter.)

There are two main features of this figure.  The first is that Tomahawk's back inherited the flat back that was required for the figure to wear the massive Talking Battle Commanders backpack from 1992.  The figure can wear a standard backpack.  But, the back of the figure lacks details since those were redacted out to get the original subset gear to fit.  It kind of ruins this figure for me.  But, from the front, you can't tell the limitations on the figure's back.  The second feature is that the marbelized plastic makes no two General Tomahawk figures the same.  Figures have varying degrees of each of the colors.  I've seen some that were dominated by white while others are almost totally brown.  This gives you the freedom to search out the visual representation of the figure that best suits you.  But, it also means that every single figure is unique and that detail is going to drive two or three guys out there nuts since they'll never have every variant.

One of the great aspects of the A Real American Hero Collection was that most of the figures included their original accessories.  General Tomahawk was no exception.  While his sonic fighters backpack was, thankfully!, gone, the figure did include silver versions of the 1992 figure's pistol and rifle.  By 2005, both of these weapons would have been done to death and generally hated by collectors.  But, in 2000, the weapons seemed new and fresh.  The pistol is comically large.  But, it is well detailed.  Since 1992 figures in general and Talking Battle Commanders in specific were out of favor among the collectors of 2000, the pistol seemed new.  The rifle was something that I found more useful with Dusty and, later, the 2002 Mirage releases.  The rifle is interesting and works well in the silver color.  It's a weapon that hasn't really found a fanbase in the collecting world.  And, it's a bit large for a general.  But, it's something I enjoy and have found useful over the years.

This Tomahawk mold has had a good life.  It originated in the Talking Battle Commanders in 1992.  It then appeared on this 2000 Tomahawk.  It was repainted at retail in 2002 in a tan and teal combo that is, probably, the best paint job on the mold.  The mold then appeared as part of a Tiger Force transforming Zartan set that was a convention exclusive in 2004.  It's a bizarre color scheme and isn't very popular, despite the low production run.  Various parts of the mold have appeared on other figures through the 2000's: appearing in both comic packs and on vehicle drivers.  All of them uses of this mold are decent enough.  None are perfect.  But, all of them show the basic limitations with the mold.  It's big, somewhat bulky and has some odd designs that don't work as well as they should.

Tomahawk pricing is all over the place.  Dealers will sell the figure between $10 and $15 and sell a fair number of figures at this price.  But, here's the thing, you can find carded figures between $10 and $15 pretty easily, too.  And, in that case, you get the solid Dial Tone figure, as well.  Left to the open market, Tomahawk's are $2 to $7 figures.  They are more available than some of the other A Real American Hero Collection figures.  For those prices, there's no real reason for anyone to not own the figure.  It's a far cry from the days when this was a super desirable figure.  But, the mold has it's limits and there are far better figures for both General Hawk and even this exact mold of Tomahawk available.  For a pittance, this figure is worthy of an acquisition.  But, beyond completion's sake, there's little reason to spend time looking for this guy.

2000 General Tomahawk, Hawk, 1992 Barbecue, Eco Warriors, ARAHC

2000 General Tomahawk, Hawk, 1992 Barbecue, Eco Warriors, ARAHC, Heavy Duty, Toxo Viper

Friday, September 13, 2019

2012 Retaliation Night Fox

After stumbling onto a 2012 Clutch figure, I embraced the low points of articulation (poa) Retaliation vehicle drivers.  Yes, it is Hasbro cutting corners to make an official GI Joe product.  But the sculpting impressed me so much I begrudgingly approved and went on to acquire a Night Fox.    The format, though cheap, has its appeal. 

Night Fox was included with the Ninja Combat Cruiser as its driver.  As that vehicle was a reworking of the VAMP, Clutch might have been a more appropriate driver.  Clutch may have actually appeared in Retaliation as the driver of the Tread Ripper.  However, my retinas can’t handle another viewing of that stankfest (and I’ve only seen it once), so there won’t be “research” to find out.

The Ninja Combat Cruiser merits its own review.  Mini-review:  surprisingly fun!

Night Fox first appeared in 2010 as the driver of the AWE Striker.  That figure and this version of Night Fox share a flaw.  The head is obscured by a mask.  I’ve gone on this rant before:  good guys (other than Snake-Eyes) should have visible heads.  Or at least ones with removable helmets or exposable faces.  ARAH Fastdraw works because the flip-up visor revealing his mug.  25A Beachhead works because there’s an alternate pop-on head.  And unlike the 2010 Night Fox, this one’s eyes are entirely obscured by goggles.

Speaking of obscured heads and the Retaliation driver figures, there’s also the Duke figure included with the Ghost Hawk II.  In my review of Clutch, I failed to list that as one of the low-poa Retaliation figures. 

In my Retaliation Clutch review I said I’d be fine with low poa Cobra Troopers as freebie pack-ins with vehicles or playsets.  This Night Fox would be the figure to use.  The head is realistically sculpted, but it doesn’t register as a specific Joe because it’s far too anonymous.  Mold the figure in Cobra blue, mold the vest in black, throw red on the mask and you’ve got an inexpensive Cobra Trooper.

Much like the original Night Fox, this one is calling out for a customized head swap.  Hasbro has given us alternate pop-on heads before.  Given that Hasbro already saved a buck by reducing the articulation, an extra unmasked head would’ve been a generous and appreciated move. 

The head is one of the few heads in the entire GI Joe run, ARAH through Modern Era, that has no paint applications.  It’s solid black.  Aside from a few Snake-Eyes (it seems like at least one NS Snake-Eyes was solid black in addition to the first ARAH one), the “hologram” Comic Pack Cobra Commander, and the clear GI Joe Collector’s Club Zartan, it’s very rare for a Joe figure to have zero paint applications on its head.

Like Retaliation Clutch, the sculpting on Night Fox is fantastic, assuming you can accept that it’s low poa.  The bend in the arms and at the knees, along with the outwardly angled feet, give Night Fox a fluid stance.  The uniform is crumpled and baggy.  The pouches on the vest are crisp and detailed, including one that’s marked as being a first aid pouch.  There’s even sculpted “extra” thigh strap material that lies drooping.  The arms are prepositioned to hold a rifle Palitoy Action Force style.  Which also means that Night Fox is also an unsafe, one-handed driver.  No “ten and two” hand positioning on the steering wheel for him.  Unlike his fellow Retaliation driver figure Clutch, Low Light has arms that are long enough for his proportions.   

The figure itself is molded in black, with only a dab of light khaki on the back of the neck.  This is only there to complete the illusion that the backpack runs across the shoulders.  The vest is dark khaki with some details popped out with light khaki paint.  I’ve read and seen complaints about the lack of paint applications on the body.  However, the figure’s codename does include the word “night” in it, so all-black isn’t unreasonable.

Please note that the action figure’s plastic is a bit darker than these images, which have been adjusted somewhat in Photoshop to show the detail.  Otherwise the figure would look like a solid black shape.

Night Fox’s accessories include a rifle and the removable vest.  This particular figure is missing its rifle, so I’ve substituted a Demro Wasp from Beachhead.  The vest is removable, but it’s not interchangeable with other figures because it’s keyed specifically for the Night Fox torso.  Odd, but it looks good on the figure.  The figure looks deformed without it, so going “vestless” isn’t an option. 

If you can accept low-poa figures, you’ll probably enjoy this figure.  If you can’t, it’s understandable.  Hasbro should be ashamed.  I’m just forgiving.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

1987 Maverick - Around The Web

Maverick is one of the better Battle Force 2000 figures.  His colors work with aircraft and he can be used with the JUMP or other, smaller flying vehicles.  The code name is a rip off of Top Gun.  But, G.I. Joe ripped off more that most collectors realize.  I still think his helmet is one of the cooler ones of the 1980's.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1987 Maverick Profile

Maverick Video Review by HCC788

Battle Force 2000 By Toys & Bacon

Maverick at

Maverick at

Maverick by Slipstream80

Maverick Variants by Hit and Run

1987 Maverick, Battle Force 2000, 1990 Retaliator, Crazylegs

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

2004 Comic Pack Double Clutch

2004 was very much a Joe tranistion year for me.  The year started off with a bang as both the Venom Vs. Valor series of figures showed up almost immediately while both the Night Force and Cobra Infantry sets saturated Toys R Us stores around the country starting in January.  As the year wore on, though, Hasbro kept announcing more and more products.  And, many of those simply didn't resonate with me.  Those that didn't, featured some commonalities: they were all JvC sculpt figures.  The ARAH style figures that were released that year continued to hold my attention...even if I wasn't enamored with the entire slate of them.  In the spring, the first images of the new Joe comic packs were shown.  On one hand, these were exciting and amazing as they offered something collectors had longed for.  On the other hand, the packs had some problems that were apparent from the get go.  In the first wave, there were some figures that intrigued me.  But, the new version of Clutch from Comic Pack 3 was the most interesting.  The figure was big and bulky and brought us a Clutch that was more compatible with figures from the late 1980's and early 1990's.  The figure was a valiant attempt at something different.  And, like all of Hasbro's attempts to break out of a narrow definition of what a vintage style Joe should be, collectors largely punished Hasbro's efforts.

I refer to this figure as Clutch throughout the profile.  The reality, though, is that this character is named Double Clutch due to the copyright issues.  It's meant to be the same character as Clutch, though.  So, I stick with the standard name that I grew up with rather than attempt to justify the mouthful that is the Double Clutch name.  Hasbro losing copyrights was annoying.  But, I can understand it...especially when you consider how much the Kenner acquisition tried to purge G.I. Joe from the Hasbro annals.  In 1995, it was unlikely that Joe would ever return to retail.  But, the success of the Star Wars line proved that adult collectors could be enough of a force to drive retail fortunes and help bolster a toy line while it found its way into kids' consciences, too.

This leads to the figure itself.  The first wave of Comic Packs introduced the comic book green and yellow scheme to G.I. Joe figures.  In and of itself, the scheme isn't awful.  The green is deep and rich and different than most anything else found in the line.  But, like most things Joe in the 2000's, Hasbro overdid it.  The color became too common and casual consumers couldn't differentiate figures on the shelves and the sameness ultimately squashed the line's chances of retail success.  But, when Clutch debuted, there were just two figures (he and his packmate Hawk) that featured the new base color.  So, for Clutch, it works.

The Clutch figure is made from surprising parts.  Aside from the new head (which was available in a smaller size, too, from Asian sellers), the figure then used the rest of the parts from 1993 figures.  Collectors were told that the 1993 figures that appeared in Brazil were lost, never to be made again.  Then, this Clutch showed up using the 1993 Mace body.  Mace was among the "lost" Brazilian figures.  Turns out, the molds weren't lost.  Hasbro just didn't want to look for them.  So, collectors were left with some cool uses like this Clutch, but missed on tons of other excellent repaints of 1993 figures as Hasbro couldn't be bothered to look at their mold inventory.  In addition to the Mace parts, he also featured the arms from the 1993 Duke.  A 1993 Duke repaint was planned for 1995.  Yet, Hasbro never released the full 1993 Duke during the 2000's.  Another opportunity lost for collectors. 

Clutch's gear is awful.  But, it's awful in that it's not unique.  Clutch didn't include a helmet.  This is a double feature of Hasbro not having to sculpt one for the head.  (Saved expense.) And, it's also a way for Hasbro to show off their vintage style sculpting.  (It's known that Hasbro designers of the time HATED working on vintage Joes since the old designs didn't pad their resumes.)  The newly designed heads in 2001 were just terrible.  But, these 2004 offerings were much improved and far more detailed than the balding, pasty white guys that define the 2001 fiasco.  Clutch also includes 3 weapons.  Since the vintage figure lacked a weapon, these are just bonus.  He did include a black version of Snow Job's classic XMLR rifle.  For cartoon fans, getting this weapon with a character like Clutch was a nice Easter Egg.  He also includes a terrible JvC era weapon that has a scope and grenade launcher, but no stock.  The lack of stock means that the soft hands of the 2004 figures don't hold the weapon well and that renders it useless, even if the appearance has some merit.  The final weapon is a 1990 Big Ben rifle.  By 2004, collectors had all of this weapon they would ever want.  So, it was just overkill in the pack.  But, more guns are better than less.  Though, it would have been nice if Clutch had included the newly sculpted M-16 that debuted with General Hawk in this pack.

While the first cases of the comic packs that reached retail were only packs #1 and #2 and were missing pack #3.  This caused some initial panic that the three figures might end up short packed or hard to find.  And, collectors paid $20 for a set for a short time.  But, rather quickly, pack #3 saturated retail and was a common sight.  Though, the set did sell through before the remaining 2004 overstock hit clearance in early 2005 and lead to the short run of the Oktober Guard 3 packs.  However, in 2005, large amounts of overstock of packs 1 through 3 started showing up at discount stores.  You could easily get spare comic packs for $5 all over the country.  Naturally, this lead to massive disinterest in the figure.  And, as many collectors bought up extras to use Stalker and General Hawk as fodder, it left a surplus of Clutchs on the market.

This manifests today.  While many comic pack figures have drastically appreciated in value, Clutch has not.  You can easily get a mint and complete version for $10 from dealers.  And, about 1/2 that on the open market.  You don't see the carded sets with the frequency of a few years ago.  And, those will sell for $40 from dealers.  Again, though, you can find them at half that price if you are patient and wait out the market.  At $5, this figure is a must have.  While the 2007 Convention Clutch is better, it's also a lot more expensive.  This Comic Pack figure is a cheap stop gap that gives you a Clutch that better fits with 1990's era vehicles and figures without breaking the bank.

2004 Comic Pack Double Clutch, 2005 Winter Operations Snow Job, Whiteout

2004 Comic Pack Double Clutch, 2005 Winter Operations Snow Job, Whiteout, 2003 BAT, Anti Venom Stretcher, Lifeline

2004 Comic Pack Double Clutch, 2005 Winter Operations Snow Job, Whiteout, 2003 BAT, Anti Venom Stretcher, Lifeline, Barricade, Monster Blaster APC, 1993, Mega Marines

Friday, September 6, 2019

2008 Cobra Hostile Environment Trooper By Past Nastification

Included as part of the Extreme Conditions:  Desert Assault Squad set, the Cobra Hostile Environment Trooper took the Flash/Grand Slam body and topped it with the Cobra Officer Gas Mask helmet.  The helmet appears to be a reworking of the ARAH head of the Comic Pack set, which was turned into a removable helmet.  It was also released in Cobra Blue for use as the Cobra Air Trooper.   

At a first glance, this is a great figure.  The helmet alone pretty much would make any figure look great.

The color set used for this figure are perfect for a Cobra trooper.  A creamy tan for the uniform, with black boots and gloves, plus brown padding (in some indoor light the padding looks more burgundy- or maybe I just really really want it to). 

But at second glance reveals problems.  In 2008, when almost everyone was going crazy for the new 25A body style, its flaws were overlooked.  Those hands.  Those teeny tiny hands manage to screw up the proportions for the rest of the figure.  And then there’s the upper torso articulation point.  I’ve never liked these, but I can live with them when they’re hidden.  This body is frustrating because had the chest padding been removable, like many of the other webgear sets of the time, the upper torso articulation point would be largely hidden.   As it is, a streak of tan slices through the chest padding.  It’s visually disruptive.

But the bigger problem is that this is a Grand Slam/Flash body.  Color it however you like and top it with that amazing helmet… it’s still a Grand Slam/Flash body, which means it looks like Grand Slam or Flash.  Much too iconic to identify as a Cobra trooper, especially when kept complete.  Maybe mixing in different arms or legs would have offset the source body.  There were several 25A bodies that would have been passable without looking like Grand Slam/Flash clones at this point in the line. 

A silver Cobra biohazard logo is printed on the upper portion of the chest pad, but as good as it is, it can’t compete with the very intricate grid pattern already sculpted onto the padding.  The logo gets lost.  Despite its precision, it looks like a glop of silver.

As far as being biohazard-ready, this outfit doesn’t look like the highest level personal protective gear outfit.  It’s the “get you by until the Toxo-Vipers arrive” level.  For Cobra, this feels about right, so it’s okay.   

The head (under the helmet) is the 25A Cobra Trooper head, with tan hair painted on what was originally a bald scalp.  I don’t really have an issue with this because some people keep their heads nearly shaved, but other collectors find it a sticking point.  It probably should bother me, it just doesn’t.     

In addition to the helmet, the Cobra Hostile Environment Trooper comes with a Demro Wasp rifle (Beachhead’s rifle), a standard Cobra helmet, and Barbecue’s backpack w/hose and nozzle (this was before a modern era Airtight had been created, so his gear didn’t exist to utilize).

The fantastic helmet isn’t quite enough to make this a fantastic figure.     

2008, Past Nastification, Cobra Hostile Environment Trooper, 25th Anniversary,

2008, Past Nastification, Cobra Hostile Environment Trooper, 25th Anniversary,

2008, Past Nastification, Cobra Hostile Environment Trooper, 25th Anniversary,

Thursday, September 5, 2019

1993 Mail Away General Hawk - Around The Web

The 1993 General Hawk is one of those fun repaints that shouldn't make sense.  But, he works due to the fact that you can make him Star Brigade and he fits right in.  The figure is a straight repaint of the 1991 figure and the body mold was used in 1993 and 1994 for the Star Brigade Roadblock.  So, it was kind of a common mold to see at the time.  This lead it to be a dud and overstock was offered as a Convention exclusive.  The unsold figures were then liquidated in the Northern Ohio warehouse dump in the mid 1990's.  As such, what should be a hard to find figure is still quite common and can be bought even bagged for a pittance.  It's a really fun version of Hawk, though.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1993 General Hawk Profile

Mail Away Hawk By toysandtomfoolery

Convention Hawk by thedragonfortress

Convention Hawk by yihad77_

Mail Away Hawk by SpecialMissionForce

1993 General Hawk, Convention Exclusive, Mail Away, Duke, Battle Corps, Star Brigade, Mega Marines, Monster Blaster APC

1993 General Hawk, Convention Exclusive, Mail Away, Duke, Battle Corps, Star Brigade, Mega Marines, Monster Blaster APC, 1984 Deep Six, Cutter, DEF

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Action Force Enemy Battle Gear

A while back, DragonFortress wrote a great blog post about weapon trees.  While some consider them the scourge of 1993 and 1994, they had a certain charm to them and did allow for figures of the time to include a much larger array of accessories.  In the comments from the article, it was brought up that the first appearance of weapon trees was actually in the European Action Force line.  Palitoy took the idea of Battle Gear and applied it to their toy offerings.  Rather than pack a bubble full of loose accessories, though, Palitoy dropped a few of their weapons onto trees, too.  The presentation of the toy was similar to the way Hasbro approached their weapons supplements.  But, Palitoy offered a far more diverse range of offerings by branding smaller sets of battle gear with the sub set of figures with which the gear was meant to be paired.  While there were several sets of Battle Gear released around 1983/1984, I wanted to look at the Red Shadows set and its connections to both Joe and Star Wars.

At its core, this Enemy Battle Gear set includes just 7 pieces.  I'm not sure of the retail pricing in relation to single carded figures from the same series.  But, each set included far less gear than an American Battle Gear pack.  The pieces, though, are all excellent.  They include a small, clear figure stand, two weapons that were exclusive to Palitoy releases, a Palitoy backpack and two repainted accessories from the 1982 Joe line.  The set is Action Force in a microcosm and perfectly showcases the various inspirations for the Action Force line, its evolution into the European G.I. Joe line and the unique European-ess of the original pieces.

The Red Shadows were the main antagonist in the Action Force mythos.  They have been heavily co-opted into the G.I. Joe story at this point and some of their early European roots have been lost.  While most consider them a pre-cursor or European branch of Cobra, the Red Shadows were designed as a stand alone villain in the same veins as both the aforementioned Cobra as well as the Galactic Empire from Star Wars.  In short, they were a cross over of Nazi era extremism, uniformity and discipline while being just enough super villain to not run afoul of the still festering wounds left on the European continent by World War II.

We'll begin with the two G.I. Joe repaint weapons included in the set.  The first is a black Zap bazooka.  This thick handled version is a thumb breaker for G.I. Joe figures.  But, for the softer plastic hands of Palitoy Action Force figures, this was less of an issue.  The black color is unique to Palitoy releases and was included with the standard Red Shadow army building figure.  Red Shadows were ubiquitous for years.  But, the retconning of Red Shadows into G.I. Joe has driven interest and the Red Shadow figures are now more expensive and harder to find.  Most collectors can identify the black bazooka as a Palitoy release and will charge for it accordingly.  It's not a rare accessory by any means.  But, you'll pay a premium for it relative to its availability.

1983, Action Force, Palitoy, Red Shadows, Battle Gear, Sten Gun, Bazooka, Mortar, SA-80

Rounding out the Hasbro molds is a red version of Short Fuse's mortar and stand.  You will note the mortar is the half-handle version with the thick handle.  This helps identify the timeline of the weapon's release.  I'm not aware of this red mortar being released with any Action Force figure at retail and believe it exclusive to this set.  This makes it much harder to find than the black bazooka.  But, as the red is a vibrant and bright color, there is less desirability here.  The black bazooka looks good with a host of Cobra and Joe figures.  The red mortar is less useful.  But, it still helps to make the weapon more Cobra and take away some of the association with Short Fuse and his signature weapon.

1983, Action Force, Palitoy, Red Shadows, Battle Gear, Sten Gun, Bazooka, Mortar, SA-80

We then move to the red backpack.  Palitoy Action Force figures were based on Kenner's vintage Star Wars line.  They had five points of articulation and softer plastic hands.  Palitoy's designers took more risks with the figure posing and many of the figures had arm and hand positions that were designed for a specific accessory.  In addition to borrowing the Kenner figure design, Action Force also borrowed their design for backpacks.  After the Empire Strikes Back was released, Kenner introduced a mail away offer that included some new, soft plastic backpacks that affixed to figures via flexible plastic bands that closed and attached to the figures by plugging soft knobs into holes on the pack arms.  The same design is seen here with the included bright red backpack.  The pack seems to be an infantry pack with fun detail, but little specific purpose.  (There are other packs in the Action Force line, such as radios and diving gear that are purpose driven.)  The pack will fit on Action Force figures.  But, its use for Hasbro G.I. Joe figure is hit and miss.  This pack will not fit on either a 1983 Cobra Trooper nor any factory customs based on its mold.  It may fit on other figures from the 1982-1984 timeline.  But, the straps are tight and don't have much leeway.  Regardless, it's a fun piece of gear to help round out a diorama.  But, again, it's bright red.  This pack mold certainly appeared with other figures in the Action Force line, but I believe this color is exclusive to the Battle Gear set.

1983, Action Force, Palitoy, Red Shadows, Battle Gear, Sten Gun, Bazooka, Mortar, SA-80

The final two weapons are included in the carded set attached to the weapons tree.  I do not know if this tree was used for all Action Force weapons of these molds.  Or, if this was a new mold created from the originals to quickly and cheaply add some additional gear to this set.  Either way, it includes two black rifles: a STEN gun and an SA-80.  These are noteworthy because they were definitively British weapons of the era.  So, while G.I. Joe focused on the American-ness of its weapons (the M-16, M-60, etc.), Action Force focused on its British roots for the unique gear.  The inclusion of these weapons help to round a Joe armory from the early '80's and provide some nice diversity for the modern collector.

The STEN gun is interesting.  The real weapons are cool and would be a visual treat for Joe figures.  The toy, though, doesn't translate that well.  The side clip is small.  And, the weapon feels like more of a pistol than a famous rifle.  It still looks good with a variety of figures: especially early Joes based on the 1982 sculpts.  But, it's something that I was disappointed with and definitely expected to be more fun than it actually was.  The black version of the weapon was included with at least one Action Force figure that I can find.  It also appeared in other colors in various sub sets of the Palitoy line.

1983, Action Force, Palitoy, Red Shadows, Battle Gear, Sten Gun, Bazooka, Mortar, SA-80

The final weapon in this set is the doozy.  Not because it's any better than the others.  But, because of where else it was used.  The black SA-80 in this set was included with a few Action Force figures, but always in different colors.  I can't find another Action Force figure who has the black version.  (I don't know Action Force off the top of my head like I do Joes, though, so please correct me in the comments if I'm wrong.)  But, there are other colors accompanying carded figures, including a silver version that I think looks better.  But, this black SA-80 was also released with the super rare German YPS Hoth Stormtrooper figure.  Basically, this is a Kenner Snowtrooper (missing some country of origin info and including a specific skirt) that includes the SA-80 instead of the Kenner large blaster rifle.  This little detail makes all the difference.  What was a relatively common Action Force weapon is now highly sought after among Kenner Star Wars collectors.  This gun, alone, can command over $100 to Star Wars fans.

1983, Action Force, Palitoy, Red Shadows, Battle Gear, Sten Gun, Bazooka, Mortar, SA-80

Pricing on this set is troublesome for this reason.  While the SA-80 is super desirable, that is a more recent development.  Many Joe collectors were able to snatch up the huge quantity of overstock carded Action Force figures and gear sets for super cheap prices over the years.  So cheap that many of the sets were opened and incorporated into either Red Shadow or Cobra armies.  Many Joe collectors are not aware of the Star Wars connection and will sell the set to other collectors, ignorant of the single gem inside.  You can still get carded sets in the $70 range.  But, again, finding the right collector might get you one for a fraction of that.  While the SA-80 is cool, it's not cool enough to warrant the price tag.  If you want the rest of the gear, you should be able to get it cheap since it lacks the desirability of the signature piece.  And, you can get better colored SA-80's for the same price as other Action Force gear and that allows you to have the mold in your collection without breaking the bank.

For me, I always love getting Joe gear in different colors.  The black bazooka is one of my favorite international repaints of a Hasbro weapon.  The Palitoy exclusive weapons are also excellent and work surprisingly well with Joe figures.  I have found many of these weapons to be a great accoutremout to the factory custom figures that use so many early 1983 parts as their inspiration.  The unique weapons help to separate these figures from many of their brethren that use similar construction.  (I also like the bazooka and mortar as a call back to the JC Penny three pack of Cobras that included the weapons.  But, the black and red are more Cobra than the weapons that accompanied the Penny's figures.)  There are many other weapons in the Action Force line that cross over to Joes as well.  Without the Star Wars connection, many are available for relatively cheap: especially if you buy a lot of junk Action Force figures.  You might get 15 figures with 5 accessories.  But, that can be worth it when you consider the price you are likely to pay.  I've found parts of this set in American collections, too.  So, keep an eye out when buying up collections that were amassed in the early 2000's as Action Force figures and weapons do appear in these from time to time.

1983, Action Force, Palitoy, Red Shadows, Battle Gear, Sten Gun, Bazooka, Mortar, SA-80, Red Laser Army, Black Major, Viper, Cobra Trooper, ASP, Hiss Tank, Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Prototype, Unproduced, 2003

1983, Action Force, Palitoy, Red Shadows, Battle Gear, Sten Gun, Bazooka, Mortar, SA-80, Red Laser Army, Black Major, Viper, Cobra Trooper, ASP, Hiss Tank, Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Prototype, Unproduced, 2003

1983, Action Force, Palitoy, Red Shadows, Battle Gear, Sten Gun, Bazooka, Mortar, SA-80, Red Laser Army, Black Major, Viper, Cobra Trooper, ASP, Hiss Tank, Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Prototype, Unproduced, 2003, Tank Troopers, Cobra Commander, 1997