Saturday, November 30, 2019

20th Anniversary - Key Moments 1990 Decimator

As part of my 20th Anniversary, I'm going to look at 12 key figures from the site's history.  Most are just important to me or they commemorate something that was occurring in the Joe world at that time.  The obvious place to start this discussion is with the very first figure that ever appeared here: the 1990 Decimator.

Now, the Decimator is a well known Cobra army builder who is somewhat frustrating to find and also rather expensive.  In 1999, though, he was a super obscure figure that most collectors didn't own.  Those who did really didn't pay any attention to him.  And, because of this, there was some confusion about the figure that erupted in the final months of the year.  At the time, the photo of the Decimator on was of a fairly low quality.  In the photo, it appeared that Decimator had black pants.  Since no one really cared about the Decimator, though, it wasn't an issue.  Then, though, a Canadian collector noticed this when he went to identify figures in a lot he had acquired.  He noticed his Decimator's pants were a dark green.  And, rumors quickly went about that there might be a variant.  As few people had the figure, the fire was not quickly quelled.

I posted up a photo of my figure to better showcase the green pants.  Being 1999, my only option to get a photo of the figure was to lay him on top of a scanner and scan him in.  You can see the antiquated grey background of a scanner photo below.  So, I scanned the figure in and went to post it on some webspace I had lying around.  Around that time, Evilface's site ran a feature called Figure of the Week.  He posted a photo of a random figure and wrote a line or two about how the figure was "kewl".  I wanted something that gave more details on a figure and had more content to consume.  So, in addition to posting the photo of the Decimator, I also did a little write up.  And, with that, my first profile was born.

As I felt that having just one article up was too sparse, I also wrote up a profile of my unproduced 1995 Battle Corps Rangers Flint figure and posted it at the same time.  This was a hubris-filled move to brag about the figure.  But, I also wanted information about this figure out in the community.  At the time, most really rare Joe items were hoarded away and kept hidden from the collecting community.  (This sensibility still pervades the Joe collecting world and shows our utter lack of maturity.)  So, I wanted my rare figure to be out there for all to see.  Even today, I still get nasty messages from collectors who are genuinely pissed off that I posted something rare for the world to see.  They want this information only available to a select few. I don't get it.

From there, I kept on scanning and writing.  At the time, I was busy at a start up company and needed a way to release stress.  Writing a quick update on some Joe figure was a good way to blow off steam and have a creative outlet.  In short order, I had a full fledged website full of photos and figure write ups.  As 1999 turned to 2000, a few other fan run sites also started up.  By 2001, the Joe world was a vibrant community of content creators who churned out new stuff for the community to enjoy at a constant rate.  This was easily the most innocent time in the Joe collecting timeline.  Most guys were just starting out and the competition for desirable items didn't really show up until the army building crazy really took hold in 2001.

In looking back at my Decimator write up, I find that my use for the figure from back then is long gone.  Now, I see him as just another cool looking Cobra figure that I really don't get out and use often enough.  Maybe that will change in 2020.  In some ways, I hope it does.  Seeing the old photos brings back memories of a earlier time in my life where the future was so distant.  It's good to remind myself of those days as it helps put the hustle and bustle of my current life into perspective.  Much of what I dreamed of back then has come true.  Some things I never imagined have happened.  And, of course, there have been disappointments.  It's useful to look at the road traveled, though, to help guide you on the journey ahead.

1990 Decimator, 1988 Secto Viper

1990 Decimator, 1988 Secto Viper

Friday, November 29, 2019

Tracked Assault Vehicle by Past Nastification

If you’re still shaking your head about the extra stupid Tread Ripper in 2013’s GI Joe Retaliation, this vehicle will either make your head shake more furiously, or stop shaking it all together.

If it frustrates you that Midwood Brands LLC can make something similar to -but better than- Hasbro’s Tread Ripper, then shake that head a little faster.  But if it makes you happy to see a basically unheard of company outperform Hasbro, then stop shaking that head, because the Tracked Assault Vehicle (TAV) is a good cheap toy.

Does Midwood Brands LLC design the products it sells, or just import them from China?  I have no idea, but I’ll be generous and approach this review as if they design the toys. 

Midwood Brands LLC is a toy supplier for Family Dollar, and is the maker of the “Imitation Vamp” and “Heroes Playset Fortress” from the last few years.  Technically, there isn’t even a name for the TAV, as it’s simply included in a “Military Vehicle Set 2pk”.  The other vehicle, if you’re curious, is a narrow-framed dune buggy (also technically unnamed).  I’ve referred to Family Dollar’s 1:18 vehicles as “GI Joe knock-offs” before in my reviews a  But now that Hasbro doesn’t even have GI Joe product on store shelves, it’s more like Midwood Brands LLC is a juvenile trying to hold down the fort while Hasbro is out binge drinking.  That’s bad parenting, Hasbro. 

The TAV takes the Tread Ripper’s concept of having a driver cradled between two treads, but does it right.  The Tread Ripper has a more-or-less exposed driver’s seat in a strange position with a roll cage.   The TAV has the driver’s seat more centrally located and protected by a closing armored canopy (there isn’t any clear plastic to represent ballistic glass, but I’m willing to see it as an “imagination choice”).  Whereas the Tread Ripper driver could have a grenade easily lobbed at his/her feet, the driver of the TAV is as snug as a bug in a rug.

The overall bodylines are angular and triangular, with crisp detail.  There’s even a slight texture on the body, which is intentionally missing from some of the panels.  It’s a great attention to detail.  The TAV looks like something that a SWAT team would use to get into a fortified position inside of a city or other close-quarters environments.  Its design is compact but durable.  The front of the vehicle features an angled breaching blade, like an upside-down cattle plow from a train.  There is a very well detailed rotating/elevating machine gun mounted behind the canopy.  The strangest design element is an oversized paddle wheel along the centerline of the rear of the vehicle.  What would it do that two treads already couldn’t?  I have no idea, but I’m not opposed to its inclusion in the design- it rolls on the ground with the “hidden” wheels under the treads.  The TAV looks like a larger version of the real world Badger, which itself appears to have drawn on the look of the ’83 HISS tank.  Art imitates life imitates art?

Given the discount toy nature of the TAV, the plastic of the body is beefier than you might expect it to be.  The “technical details” on the paper stickers are nonsensical and there’s not much detail inside of the canopy.  The treads, of course, don’t actually move, but have the above-mentioned rolling wheels on the bottom.  This vehicle could very easily have been a one-piece shell, like Hasbro’s Cobra RAT, but it’s made of multiple pieces interlocked and screwed together.  Much better construction than I would have expected.  Full shame-filled disclosure:  I like the RAT.

The tan and black color scheme is a good starting point.  I could see customizers decking it out in Cobra blue/black or Joe olive drab, and maybe adding some “glass” to the canopy.

The TAV is probably a $3.00 vehicle, as the entire set sells for $8.00 (which includes the TAV, the narrow-framed dune buggy, a throw-it-in-the-trash action figure, and several oversized weapons).  At its price point, the TAV easily outshines Hasbro’s Tread Ripper.

The Tread Ripper looks like something a seven year old designed and a Hasbro executive somehow approved.  I’m aware that given the Tread Ripper’s movie origin, it may have been thought up in Hollywood instead of Rhode Island, but it’s still a ridiculous design.  The TAV, even with its paddle wheel, looks like a toy version of a plausible specialized real world vehicle.  Unlike the Tread Ripper, it’s also fun.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

1990 Bullhorn - Around The Web

Bullhorn is one of those Joes that doesn't get a lot of press.  But, when he's brought up, everyone loves him.  From the solid colors to the amazing gear, the Bullhorn figure has something for pretty much every Joe fan.  There's some good content on him out there.  Here's the best of Bullhorn from around the web.

1990 Bullhorn Profile

Bullhorn by Scarrviper

Bullhorn at

European Exclusive Missile Firing Bullhorn

Bullhorn by Falcon Chile

Bullhorn Commercial by

Bullhorn Diorama

Bullhorn by 7inch_gang

Bullhorn at

Bullhorn by Nekoman

Bullhorn at

Bullhorn Video Review by Formbx257

1990 Bullhorn, 1992 Cloudburst, 1988 Mean Dog

1990 Bullhorn, 1992 Cloudburst, 1988 Mean Dog

1990 Bullhorn

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

1993 Ninja Force Snake Eyes

The 1993 Ninja Force Snake Eyes figure is one of those releases that has so much potential masked by the sculpt's limitations that it is frustrating to own one.  You see the figure lying there, look at the head, and think about how great that it looks.  Then, you get this splash of aqua blue color that's tough to reconcile.  But, if you can get past all that, you are stuck with non-standard Ninja Force articulation that spoils any hope this Snake Eyes ever had of being a valued part of a G.I. Joe collection.  Were this figure released with grey highlights instead of blue and done up in classic Joe style, you'd have one of the more sought after figures from 1993.  But, he wasn't and the result is a figure that's kind of fun but also severely limited. 

The more I look at the Ninja Force Snake Eyes, though, the more I convince myself that there is a gem hidden somewhere in this figure's design.  The easiest place to start is the head.  Really, the head is perfect.  It's a blank, more mysterious look for Snake Eyes and is different enough from his other vintage appearances to stand apart.  I like this better than I do the visor or goggles.  There are some nice Snake Eyes customs out there that use the Ninja Force head.  (And, a really cool Ninja Force Snake Eyes that used a Black Panther head from a Marvel figure.)  The look and actual release of the head as is has value since it's just the standard black with the powerful white eyes.  The head gives Snake Eyes a sense of aloof danger that was always alluded to with the character.  The comic book renderings of Snake Eyes from this time show that the design could have worked had the figure been approached differently.

The rest of the body, though, is dripping with potential.  The body is covered in straps and pockets.  They, though, hearken back to Snake Eyes' commando roots.  He has grenades and a pistol as part of the sculpted accouterments.  With better coloring and standard articulation, this figure has the potential to excellently bridge the gap between the warring factions of Snake Eyes' specialties.  That's a tough line to thread and the fact that a figure in a ninja specific subset is still able to bring a sense of Snake Eyes' original duties to the table is quite an accomplishment.  Again, the comic used a design loosely based on this Snake Eyes appearance in both capacities.  The ninja aspect was more played up, as it made for more sensational story telling.  But, Snake Eyes' military training was still evident and this figure design married to the two for consistency.

To accommodate the Ninja Force action features, the Snake Eyes torso is big and bulky.  This is most prominent on the figure's shoulders.  They are set high above the arms and make it appear that Snake Eyes is either very deformed or wearing some type of armor.  This little design flaw has a visual impact on the figure and further limits his value. The odd legs create a blocky lower body that looks more like a vintage Star Wars figure than something 15 years more advanced.  All of this was to accommodate the inner workings of the spring loaded action features.  Sure, this Snake Eyes can chop his arm down: but he looks terrible.  However, by 1993, action features like these were a bigger selling point than 10 years of consistent figure design. 

Snake Eyes includes a bunch of blue ninja weapons that match the highlights on the figure.  Affixed to standard weapon tree, these blades are cool and fit well with the figure's aesthetic.  All of the 1993 swords are large, bulky and useful for dueling between figures.  One of my laments of the 1980's edged weapons was that they were small for the figures and difficult to play with.  The Ninja Force sculpts solve this issue with a total lack of subtlety.  If you needed spare swords to play with, this Snake Eyes solved the issue by including 3 of them, a knife, two claws and nunchuks.  With Snake Eyes removed from his package, every 1993 era kid had all the swords he needed to stage a nice battle.

This Snake Eyes body was used in 1993 and the re-released as part of the Shadow Ninjas subset in 1994.  The mold then died and was never seen again.  The 1993 figure, though, was released in a few different international packaging variants: though the figure is the same.  Snake Eyes didn't appear in the Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat Movie lines: where many Ninja Force molds went to squeeze a few more pennies out of the parts.  A really enterprising Hasbro in the 2000's might have found use for the figure's head.  But, that would have taken a bit too much effort.  The 1993 head on the 1989 body might have made for a fun update to a mold that got quickly tired by 2002.  But, leaving just this figure and the color changing 1994 version is more than enough for any collector. 

Ninja Force Snake Eyes are cheap.  Way too many carded figures sell in the $40 range when sold by dealers.  But, the market price seems to be about $20 for a MOC version of this figure.  Loose, mint and complete samples run about $10.  Just a couple of years ago, you could get a carded version for that price.  And, you don't see the Ninja Force figures with the regularity that you did half a decade ago, either.  All of which is to say that, if you want one, they're still pretty affordable, but they're also drying up.  Personally, I find this figure a lot of fun and a great look for Snake Eyes...even if the construction and colors leave something to be desired.

1993 Ninja Force Snake Eyes, Dhalsim, Mortal Kombat Movie Edition

Thursday, November 21, 2019

1985 Mauler M.B.T.

The Mauler, simply put, is the most popular Joe tank ever produced.  It's sleek design, realistic color and desirable release year all add up to one of the greatest Joe land vehicles ever produced.  The Mauler is a collector favorite and has been among the most requested re-release items of the various Joe resurgences.  For me, the Mauler is a childhood favorite.  It was my main Joe armored vehicle for the bulk of my long ago adventures.  And, it managed to survive fairly intact through that period of my life and into adulthood.  Despite all of this, I do feel that the toy has some limitations and, in some ways, the Mauler's reputation far exceeds it's actual play value.  But, even today, I find the Mauler a staple of my photos due to the cool design, excellent color and general popularity of the vehicle.

My introduction to the Mauler came in the 1985 Joe vehicle pack in catalog.  The tank looked great and was a huge upgrade over the disappointing MOBAT.  I then have no real memory of finding the Mauler or seeing it at retail until the fall of 1985.  It's possible I just don't recall seeing something that I couldn't buy at the time.  Or, it's possible that some vehicles didn't ship until later in the year.  (I have distinct memories of vehicles appearing after figures.  But, it could just be that they either sold out more quickly than figures or retailers didn't order them until it was closer to the holidays.)  But, somehow I knew that the Mauler was out at retail in the fall.  I finally found a Mauler at a local Service Merchandise store.  The notion of Service Merchandise seems quaint now.  But, at the time, it was a powerful retail presence.  I went to the local store, filled out the form and waited for my Mauler to come down the conveyor belt so I could pay and take it home.

Once in my hands, I experienced my first pang of disappointment.  The Mauler box didn't have the glossy photo of the toy on the back.  This was par for the course with Hasbro's larger toys.  But, I had some expectation that the Mauler would be small enough to have the full photo.  I opened the toy in the front seat of my mom's car.  As soon as the box was open, the box photo was forgotten and I was enthralled by the tank I found inside.  I put it together in the car on the drive home.  I opened the bagged Heavy Metal figure, lost his mic instantly, and then found it again on the carpet of the car.  By the time we got home, the Mauler was assembled and ready for action.

The Mauler remains my definitive Joe heavy armor.  While the design and toy have limitations, it remains the best tank Hasbro made for the vintage Joes.  The look is sleek while the weapons are useful and powerful.  All of the constraints of the MOBAT are gone and collectors are left with a toy that resonates 35 years after its release.  The tan color was something that I thought would be somewhat off putting at first.  But, the color was different from the military drab green that constituted the majority of Joe vehicles release up until that point and it brought a bit of diversity to the ranks of the Joe armor without being too far off from the "realistic" standard that the line tended to adhere to at the time.  It also ended up making the Mauler even more distinctive and, seemingly more important with the unique color.

The Mauler's main feature is its sleekness.  The tank isn't very tall.  Or, at least it seems that way due to the lower profile of both the body and the turret.  It isn't the blocky mess that was the MOBAT.  And, due to that, it's much more aesthetically pleasing.  The base, though, is just a rectangle with the turret placed on top.  But, Hasbro did so much with that rectangle that you lose sight of the simplicity of the design.  The turret and base fit together seamlessly.  The removable side panels that shield the treads help disguise the inner workings of the toy and add needed depth the tank.  But, they are so well disguised that they don't detract from the look of the Mauler, either.

The Mauler's accessories and parts are what make the tank.  At its core, the tank includes few pieces.  But, each is so well thought out that the entire ensemble suffers for a single missing piece.  The turret is adorned with smoke grenade launchers on each side.  As a kid, these provided extra attacking weapons for the tank.  But, they were more of a last resort type weapon than anything that could be used proactively.  There are two antennae on the back of the turret.  While seemingly superfluous, they both raise the profile of the Mauler but also give it the air of realism that was the hallmark of early Hasbro vehicle designs.  The main cannon raises nearly a full 90 degrees: making it much more realistic and useful than the MOBAT.  And, two figures can sit atop the Mauler's turret, allowing for a full crew of 4 figures.  Alas, the molded seats and pegs aren't the most graceful perches for 1985 figures and the idea of their usefulness was far greater than their practical usage.

The lower half of the tank looks like there are few parts.  Aside from the mudflaps: which form an integral part of the tank's look while also not really serving any play purpose, there is the tow rope.  The tow rope is one of the more valuable parts of the tank as it is often broken or missing.  As a kid, I found the look of the rope on the Mauler to be necessary.  But, the practicality of the actual toy was proven futile with the same item from the Wolverine from two years prior.  The Wolverine's rope snapped when I tried to use it in any capacity.  So, I was more cautious with the same accessory on the Mauler.  The multitude of broken and missing ropes now, though, prove I was the rare child who did that.  The rest of the pieces on the main body of the tank are the aforementioned side panels,  removable engine covers, two removable storage panels and the cockpit doors.  That's it.  (To this day, I check inside the storage panels of every Mauler I find since all the kids I knew hid Heavy Metal's mic in there and you never know what you'll find.  In the early 2000's, when Heavy Metal's mic first skyrocketed, a dealer bought up tons of Mauler shells in search of mics lost inside the tank.  He found a couple.  But, after 15 additional years, that's probably much more difficult these days.

As a kid, the Mauler dominated the less powerful Cobra armor.  One of the patterns that later developed in my adventures was that Cobra vehicles had to be fast since they couldn't overpower a Mauler.  So, speed driven quick attacks became the hallmark of the Cobra mechanized infantry.  (The STUN really cemented this home.)  The Joes had the more powerful weapons and armor.  But, the Cobra vehicles were so fast that they were tough to hit.  Maulers might take out a few HISS Tanks.  But, enough would get through, drop off off their pair of infantrymen, and escape that Cobra remained a threat in the face of superior firepower.  Despite this, the Mauler endured many battles with Hiss Tanks, STUNs and Thunder Machines...usually winning out.

My last real memory of the Mauler occurred in the mid 1990's.  My childhood Mauler had survived relatively intact.  One night over winter break, an old friend came over.  We started digging through old toy boxes in my basement and found all the old G.I. Joe vehicles.  We pulled them out, set them up and used the missile launchers from my adult collecting time frame 1990's figures to have a mini battle: just like old times.  It was one of those times when you could forget that you were supposed to be too old to have fun and we were able to capture a fleeting feeling of being a kid again for just a few minutes.  After that night, I rescued my old Joe vehicles from the basement and started taking better care of them.  Most have since been replaced.  But, that night proved to me the value of collecting something and retaining that link to a simpler time.

The Mauler was also a popular export around the world.  After the American release, the tank showed up in both Mexico and Brazil.  The color is a bit lighter than the American tank.  But, the general idea is the same.  These releases had the motor removed.  The altered body mold was then used for a Slaughter's Marauders Equalizer in 1989.  The real story begins after the Joe line's vintage run ended.  In 1997, the Mauler was planned to be the 15th Anniversary line's flagship release.  It was going to be colored in military green.  But, Hasbro could not find the mold.  So, instead, they repainted the Cobra Rattler into the planned color and released it as the A-10 Thunderbolt.  In 2007, the club attempted another Mauler release.  There were going to be two tanks: one Joe and one Cobra.  However, there was an issue and the tanks weren't ready in time for the convention.  So, just the drivers were sold.  A few months later, it was announced that the Mauler mold was damaged and could not be re-cast.  So, the tanks were cancelled.  Despite fan demand, Hasbro never remolded the vehicle during the anniversary era...despite them updating several other, less popular vehicles.  Part of the Mauler's mystique is tied to it's vintage only release and the fact that every attempt to return it collectordom has spectacularly failed.

With popularity comes expense.  And, the Mauler is pricey.  A mint and complete with all parts and unbroken tow rope tank will run anywhere between $110 and $125.  Even a tank with just the launchers and mud flaps will top $80.  Individually, the tow rope will sell for $40 and the smaller antenna will fetch similarly high prices.  Even shells that are missing all the attachments will sell for $30 plus shipping.  So, there's really no deals to be had unless you can find an uninformed seller or acquire one as part of a larger lot.  I'm not sure if I'd pay anywhere near that for a Mauler if I didn't have one.  It's a fun toy that holds a lot of nostalgic value for me.  But, it's also something that has limitations as a toy.  So, the high price tag would be tough to justify.  I'm just glad I don't have to make the choice.

1985 Mauler M.B.T., Heavey Metal, 1990 Bullhorn, Salvo, Ambush

1985 Mauler M.B.T., Heavey Metal, 1990 Bullhorn, Salvo, Ambush, 2017, Red Laser Army, The General, Hawk, Flash, Bombadier, Action Force

1985 Mauler M.B.T., Heavey Metal, 1990 Bullhorn, Salvo, Ambush, 2017, Red Laser Army, The General, Hawk, Flash, Bombadier, Action Force

1985 Mauler M.B.T., Heavey Metal, 1990 Bullhorn, Salvo, Ambush, 2017, Red Laser Army, The General, Hawk, Flash, Bombadier, Action Force, Lady Jaye, 2004 Urban Strike Nullifier, Flak Viper

1985 Mauler M.B.T., Heavey Metal, 1990 Bullhorn, Salvo, Ambush, 2017, Red Laser Army, The General, Hawk, Flash, Bombadier, Action Force, Lady Jaye, 2004 Urban Strike Nullifier, Flak Viper, Snake Eyes, Crankcase

1985 Mauler M.B.T., Heavey Metal, 1990 Bullhorn, Salvo, Ambush, 2017, Red Laser Army, The General, Hawk, Flash, Bombadier, Action Force, Lady Jaye, 2004 Urban Strike Nullifier, Flak Viper, Snake Eyes, Crankcase, 1987 Rumbler, 1986 Mission to Brazil Leatherneck, Toys R Us Exclusive

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

2004 Comic Pack Steeler - Around The Web

The Comic Packs got a bit stale rather quickly.  But, a figure like Steeler was nice because it took a classic character and updated him with later parts that made him more compatible with a larger group of vintage figures.  Steeler had some good gear, even if the parts weren't perfect.  Being a later release, there's a good amount of content on him from around the web.

2004 Steeler Profile

Unproduced Yellow Gloves Steeler

Comic Pack #5 by

Steeler by guiltridden

Steeler by Otto the Otter

Steeler by Cobra Freak

Steeler by

Steeler at General's Joes

Steeler at

2004 Comic Pack Steeler, 1985 Bomb Disposal, 2017 Red Laser's Army Commando, 1984 Thunder, JUMP, Jet Pack

2004 Comic Pack Steeler

Thursday, November 14, 2019

1994 Star Brigade Gears - Around The Web

At his core, Gears is just a poor repaint of the 1992 Barricade figure.  But, the green helmet and all blue body make for an effective blend with the rest of the 1994 Star Brigade figures.  The Gears figure is somewhat obscure and rather hard to find these days.  He's not a figure that's really necessary.  He's also not a figure that has a lot of content available.  Here's the best I could find of Gears from around the web.

Gears Profile

Gears by Slipstream80

Gears Pre-Production at

Gears at Half The Battle

Gears by ToneGunsRevisited

Gears at

1994 Gears, Star Brigade, 1989 Payload, 1991 Retaliator

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

1983 Cover Girl Around The Web

I first got Cover Girl for Christmas in 1983.  But, shortly after that, she completely disappeared from my collection.  I don't know where she went.  Cover Girl was then absent through my childhood Joe adventures and only reappeared when I started collecting and filling in the gaps in the early Joe years.  As a figure, she's probably not as well done as Scarlett.  But, Cover Girl is both an important character and a fan favorite.  Here's the best of her from around the web.

1983 Cover Girl Profile

1983 Wolverine Profile

Sparta (Argentina Cover Girl) Profile

Cover Girl by steelbrigade

Cover Girl by Trina Colada

Cover Girl by Slipstream80

1983 Cover Girl, Wolverine, Funskool, Flint, Plastirama, Argentina, TNT, SOS, Doc, Blowtorch, Locust, 2000, Dragonfly, 1984 Clutch, VAMP, Scarlett, Stalker

1983 Cover Girl, Wolverine, Funskool, Flint, Plastirama, Argentina, TNT, SOS, Doc, Blowtorch, Locust, 2000, Dragonfly

Sunday, November 10, 2019

20th Anniversary

On November 10th, 1999, I posted two write ups of G.I. Joe figures on some obscure web space that was given to me by a friend.  These two little blurbs were created as a response to the prevailing attitude among collectors of the day that anything made after 1987 was terrible and anything made after 1989 was even worse.  I felt that there were many gems from all years of vintage Joe releases.  And, categorically dismissing something due to the release year was shortsighted by fans of the time.  So, I came up with a way to spotlight some of the more obscure, but still insanely cool figures from all Joe years.

The site's history has taken many turns.  From that early webspace, I moved to a new domain of my own.  This held up through 2004.  At that point, my old web host went out of business and the site disappeared.  In the summer of 2005, though, Beav at offered me some blogging space on the domain.  Here, new profiles were resurrected and I happily blogged away until 2007.  At that point, I moved to another web hosted domain and reposted all of the site's archives.  All was fine here until 2009 when the site went dark.  At the time, I was pretty down on Joe and mostly removed myself from the community.  I didn't think I'd come back.

In 2012, though, that changed.  I had some time in the beginning of the year and was also able to buy several of the figures that I had always wanted but never tracked down.  I discovered several new Joe sites that were producing amazing content and that a few of my old favorites were still around.  I started writing about Joes again in April of 2012.  Shortly thereafter, I put my old archives back online and even published many of my unfinished drafts and incomplete ideas.  The two blogs hit a technical snafu in 2014 and I lost most of the work.  But, a discovery of an old back up in 2015 brought me back online with this current iteration of the site.

I lament missing a couple of years.  But, that's mostly because the year by year chronology at the right of the screen has gaps in it.  (I did attempt a slight comeback in 2010.  I posted up two or three profiles on a new site.  But, I had 10 MB of image storage.  So, that didn't last long.  But, it is also home to my lost Grand Slam profile along with a slew of photos that were unique and excellent and can never be recreated.)  But, everyone needs some breaks from the hobby.  And, with over 1000 posts over the past 20 years, I've still averaged about one item per week for two decades.

In looking back at the two decades I've spent doing this, I can see my progression as a collector.  In 1999 and 2000, I was a wide eyed optimist who found the great in all the Joe world had to offer.  From 2001 through 2003, I was getting a bit jaded.  But, still toed the "Hasbro" line.  In 2004, though, I started to get fed up with Hasbro's choices.  At that time, I stopped buying the JvC sculpts and focused, instead, on solely vintage style releases.  From 2005 through 2009, I was bitter at Hasbro and generally unhappy with the way the community had gone.  In 2012, I refreshed my thinking and that helped me appreciate the hobby one again.

But, since then, I've slowly become the grumpy old man of Joe collecting who hates the club, despises Hasbro's treatment of the line and its collectors and doesn't see anything wrong with factory custom producers recreating anything and everything to help keep the hobby alive.  I'm not a fan of the new breed of super collector who wants every Joe figure to be a $100 collectible that's kept locked in a case, away from hands and eyes.  I think the toys are now very over-priced and don't like that many items I have owned since I got them for less than $1 each are now worth 50 to 70 times that.  Dropping a box of Joes used to mean $50 and a week's worth of time to replace them.  Now, it's two months of my mortgage if my 1993 army builders get broken.

1990's G.I. Joe collectors were early 20-somethings trying to find ourselves and feel out what being a collector meant.  The early 2000's brought the greatest resurgence of Joe collecting we'll ever see.  Massive retail releases and late 20's careers meant that collectors established themselves as a force.  The 25th Anniversary brought in hordes of toy collectors who didn't really care about Joe.  They nearly ruined the hobby.  The movies made it worse and poisoned the Joe brand for a decade.  The post 2018 price surge has been brought by trash pickers trying to make a buck off a community that isn't as mature as it's age would dictate.  We stand on the precipice of a new movie attempting to (once again!) resurrect the G.I. Joe brand.  It's doubtful that Joe toys will become a retail force again.  But, it's also unlikely that a movie will pass without at least some attempt by Hasbro to sell toys.

By then, I'll have started my third decade of writing about the line, what it means to me and how the community stands at any given time.  For sure, the tools that I use and the avenue to reach collectors will change again.  I'll follow the technology as it matures and will hang around, doing this, for as long as I can.  I'm at a point now where the reminiscing about the line and days gone by are my primary joys of collecting.  Having tons of toys in boxes and tubs is a pain.  Moving them is worse.  But, I still enjoy taking the figures outside and photographing them.  The blog gives me an avenue to post the pictures with some thoughts about the figures within them.  The photos have an organization that prevents them from falling into the black hole of social media noise.  I get a bit of satisfaction from that.

I end this anniversary post with a thank you to all the collectors who stop by every day.  Since coming back in 2015, pages on this site have been viewed nearly half a million times.  Thousands of collectors have stopped by through the various iterations.  Each visit is something very important to me as they let me know there are others out there to whom Joe means a great deal.  That is something we all share.  I let my grumpiness get in the way of that, sometimes.  But, it's the bond that keeps this community alive through the thick and thin.  I've seen my share of each but intend to stick around to see even more.

Thanks for all of your support through 20 years!

1990 Decimator, 1995 Battle Corps Rangers Flint

1990 Decimator, 1995 Battle Corps Rangers Flint

Thursday, November 7, 2019

1987 Sneak Peek - Around The Web

The 1987 Sneak Peek figure is not popular.  Were it not for his oft-lost microphone, no one would care about him at all.  The figure is named after the son of Stephen King.  But, again, no one cares.  But, I've long found this figure to be extremely useful and fun to have around.  I've used him both as an army builder and an individual character.  There's a decent amount of content out there on him, though.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1987 Sneak Peek Profile

1987 Sneak Peek by thedustinmccoy

Sneak Peek by Hit and Run

Sneak Peek by Flint

1987 Sneak Peek Packaging at

Sneak Peek by Jogun Warrior

Sneak Peek Video Review by FormBX257

1987 Sneak Peek

1987 Sneak Peek, Crazylegs

1987 Sneak Peek, Crazylegs, 1989 Backblast

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

1991 Heavy Duty

Generally, there is a divide in collector opinions about the vintage Joe line.  There persists the belief that the '80's Joes were realistic military while the '90's Joes are brightly colored sci fi.  The truth is that the '80's Joes feature large amounts of science fiction as well as bright colors.  While, the 1990's releases have a large number of figures that are true to Joe's military roots.  However, the 1990 and 1991 series of figures are, to my eye, identical to the Joes released in the '80's.  Hasbro was not yet cutting corners to save a few pennies on each figure.  And, the spring loaded gimmicks were just rearing their head as figure accessories.  The early spring loaded weapons, though, were ingeniously designed toys that disguised the action features as part of the figure's general accessory complement.  This is showcased no where better than with the 1991 Heavy Duty figure.

At first glance, Heavy Duty follows the design of many '80's Joes.  He uses military colors and has a uniform that appears to be militaristic.  Of course, for characterization, Heavy Duty has the added flair of torn sleeves and a backwards cap.  It's just enough to keep Heavy Duty as an incredibly useful figure to have around.  He's fun and not too caught up in regulations while still retaining an air of realism.  But, beyond that, the overall sculpting of the figure is well done, too.  Heavy Duty features many small details (from grenades to a wrinkled shirt to his tattoos and the magnificent "JOE" on the front of his hat) that show the care the designers took when creating this figure.

The main calling card of Heavy Duty, though, is his gear.  1991 was all about the accessories as most figures included large amounts of weapons, packs, hoses, sleds and other accouterments that gave the figures some panache.  Heavy Duty is no different.  While he lacks a traditional pistol or rifle, Heavy Duty is outfitted with a massive cannon that affixed to his backpack and is worn around his waist.  The main structure is made of many parts including a cannon, ammo canisters and harness with handles to operate the guns and two removable spring loaded missile launchers.  (The launchers from this era were more discreet than those that came later and better blend into the overall design of the figure's other gear than the stand alone pieces that would dominate 1993 and 1994.)   All of this connects to Heavy Duty's backpack on a large swivel post.  The top of his pack features a plug in for a red, semi-translucent sight.  It's all one interconnected contraption that is unwieldy, odd, unrealistic and also very, very fun and cool.

Heavy Duty's filename is Lamont Morris.  Lamont Morris is the name of a Hasbro employee and Heavy Duty was sculpted in his likeness.  In the mid 2000's, Hasbro also designed an Endor Rebel Trooper in Lamont's likeness.  This makes him a very rare visage that has appeared in both the G.I. Joe and Star Wars lines.  You can see the 15 years of age difference (as well as improvements in action figure head design) when comparing the releases. Hasbro liked to honor their employees with appearances in their toy lines.  And, Heavy Duty is one of many vintage Joes who is named after a real Hasbro employee.

For me, Heavy Duty is a perfect background figure.  I had his weapon rig for years.  But, I never used it.  Instead, Heavy Duty was equipped with M-203's, M-60's and even bazookas and rocket launchers.  His look gave him the diversity necessary for such varied roles.  The gun emplacement is fun to use in certain situations.  But, it's impractical at best and hides many of Heavy Duty's best features.  As such, I rarely use it with the figure.  Heavy Duty, though, gets used a lot.  I found him in the background of many figures' pictures going back to 2001.  He's generic enough to complement many other Joes and not look out of place in photos.  His rough and tumble appearance allows for use in vehicles, infantry divisions or even as an artilleryman.  Heavy Duty carries on the tradition of Alpine, Dial Tone, Repeater and Recoil as a second tier character that has a ton of play value without being a major character. 

The Heavy Duty mold didn't get a ton of use.  After this original release, it disappeared until 1998.  Then, Hasbro repainted the mold in muted earth tones and released Heavy Duty as a member of the MOBAT crew with Thunderwing.  The exact same figure/vehicle combo was re-released in ARAHC packaging in 2000.  The character of Heavy Duty became a staple of the JvC line starting in 2002.  But, the character did not see another release in vintage Joe form.  All of the mold except for the head was redone for the Operation Flaming Moth Chuckles figure in the mid 2000's.  It's a harsh repaint that doesn't work for Chuckles at all.  But, the drastic color differences help to hide the fact that the body is from the original Heavy Duty.  Due to the character's ubiquity in the JvC line, collectors didn't really clamor for more Heavy Duty repaints in the vintage homage lines.  But, there is still unused potential with the design and at least one more repaint would have been welcomed.

Finding mint and complete Heavy Duty figures can be problematic.  The figure itself and all of the gear except for one piece is actually fairly common.  But, the red sight that attaches to the gun station is the part that creates issues.  Often, this piece is just missing.  However, even when it is there, the small peg that actually attaches the sight to the pack is almost always broken.  If you find a dozen complete Heavy Duty figures, the attachment peg will probably be broken on at least 10 of them.  For savvy dealers, this is an exploitation point and you'll see them offer and sell a few figures in the $30+ range.  At open market, though, unbroken figures are $16-$18 purchases.  It might take a few weeks to find one.  But, collector disinterest in the figure and general malaise towards the character keep prices lower than such an oft broken part would otherwise suggest.

1991 Heavy Duty

1991 Heavy Duty

1991 Heavy Duty

1991 Heavy Duty, Toxo Viper, Eco Warriors, 1993 Eel, Battle Corps, 2000 General Tomahawk

1991 Heavy Duty

1991 Heavy Duty, 1990 Pathfinder