Tuesday, December 31, 2019

1988 Windmill

It's the last day of the year and the decade of the 2010's.  Really, the past 10 years haven't been great for collectors of vintage Joes.  It started off strongly as vintage pricing was way down, availability was way up and factory custom makers were starting to come online with their wares.  But, that was really the high point.  While we've seen great factory customs come to dominate the vintage Joe space, we've also a radical uptick in vintage pricing that's making the hobby much less fun since figures are now seen as valued commodities instead of the toys they are.  All that being said, though, I still have time to fit in a final profile of the year.  There's a well known strategy where you dump unpopular items at an unpopular time so that you don't waste the more valuable slots with content that isn't likely to generate any interest.  With that in mind, I present the 1988 Windmill.

Windmill has only been a part of my collection due to Funskool's take on the mold.  With that figure in hand, there is simply no reason to look elsewhere for the character.  But, the Indian figure exists because Hasbro sculpted this figure in the late 1980's and tossed him into a vehicle.  Windmill is a far cry from the days of Crankcase, Heavy Metal, or even Backstop.  He's not the worst figure in the line.  But, he's in the discussion.  The figure's colors, design and overall sculpting show a slippage in the quality Joe aficionados had come to expect.  In reality, Windmill was nothing more than another example of the diminished paint applications that were the hallmark of the entire 1988 series.  But, to a collector who only discovered him as an adult, Windmill has an insurmountable amount of detriments in his way to ever gaining appreciation.

I'm not real sure what happened with the 1988 vehicle drivers...at least on the Joe side.  The Cobras are passable and not really any worse than other years.  But, the Joes really took a turn for the worse.  Skidmark and Windmill introduce bright green and orange to the pantheon of vehicle driver colors.  Armadillo is another terrible figure.  Wildcard is poorly done (though he has great gear!).  Ghostrider seems acceptable just due to the horror of his contemporaries.  Though, he suffers from many of the same issues as Windmill.  Only the Sgt. Slaughter figure really stands out.  A few of the molds could be salvaged with better paint.  But, that's asking a lot from a crop of figures that really nosedived in quality.

My first issue with Windmill is that he's two tone.  His body is just pea-green and orange.  None of the mold details are painted.  He features an interesting sculpted air mask on his chest.  (The same idea was used on Ghostrider so it seems Hasbro was testing out some new ideas to save money on these figures.  Fortunately, the abandoned it and real air masks returned in subsequent years.)  But, the mask is not even painted.  With a few paint applications, Windmill would be substantially better.  But, the cost savings really hurt the figure's overall appearance.  My main issue, though, is the figure's head.  I'm not sure what's going on here.  But, the horns neither make sense nor look cool.  If the helmet was removable, the figure might be salvageable.  But, the head sculpt is just so terrible and atop the subpar body, we're left with a terrible representation of a figure.

The good news is that Windmill includes a big honking revolver.  With him, it looks a bit out of place.  However, it is a good fit with some other figures...especially the 1988 Sgt. Slaughter.  The most notable thing about the weapon is that it is incorrectly placed with about 64.3% of the "complete" Downtown figures that you see for sale these days.  The upside is that, occasionally, you'll get a Downtown pistol listed with a complete Windmill, too.  The gun, though, is relatively unique and is something worth having.  Even if it's out of place with Windmill, it works well enough in a broader collection and it's worth buying a Windmill just to get the weapon.

Windmill appeared just twice.  This original version and aforementioned Funskool version mark the only appearances of this mold.  The 1988 and 1989 vehicle drivers suffered cruel fates.  Hasbro sold a large chunk of them off to Olmec toys in the 1990's where they were used as the Bronze Bombers.  Those who survived that purge were very likely to appear in India.  Funskool produced a large number of vehicle driver molds.  And, had their line continued, there would have been more of them released in the standard series.  Hasbro didn't do much with the few molds they had left and the 1988 figures were not among the molds Hasbro recalled from Funskool.  (Not that it would have mattered since Hasbro never used most of the molds Funskool gave back...depriving collectors of additional production years of many of our favorites.)  But, really, this mold isn't worth trying to remake into something cool.  The fact that a foreign repaint exists is more than this mold deserves but gives those who enjoy Windmill something else to find.

Today, you'll see collector grade Windmills fetch $15 from time to time.  But, if you take 10 minutes to look, you can get the same, mint and complete figure for about $6 without too much trouble.  Nobody really likes this figure.  And, the pricing is just indicative of the growing power that dealers have in the Joe marketplace.  Since he's worth peanuts, there's no reason to not own one...except, you know, because the figure sucks.  But, Windmill is a relic of his time and shows how the Joe line was starting to change with the marketplace as a new generation of kids came of age in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

1988 Windmill, 1986 Low Light, Retaliator

1988 Windmill, Skidmark, Wild Card

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Dhalsim - Street Fighter Movie Edition Around the Web

Dhalsim is an interesting figure and one of the few Street Fighter figures that calls my collection home.  Really, my interest in him is limited to the lab coat.  But, the character could be interesting.  In looking for content on him, you get tons of Street Fighter sites.  But, none of them ever talk about this 25 year old action figure.  It's too bad because the figure is fun to have and proves a good foil for several Joes.  There's really no content I could find on the figure.  So, here's some updated photos I've taken through the years.

Dhalsim Profile

Dhalsim at The Unofficial Street Fighter Movie Fan Site

Dhalsim - Street Fighter Movie, 1995, 1986, Sgt. Slaughter, Dreadnok Thunder Machine

Dhalsim - Street Fighter Movie, 1995, 1986, Sgt. Slaughter, Dreadnok Thunder Machine, Power Commandos, Lucky Bell, x-Ray Eye

Dhalsim - Street Fighter Movie, 1995, 1986, Sgt. Slaughter, Dreadnok Thunder Machine, Power Commandos, Lucky Bell, x-Ray Eye, 1988 Tiger Force Tripwire, Bazooka

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

2002 Big Ben - Wave 2

In 2002, Hasbro had a massive plan to bring G.I. Joe back to retail.  The figures were re-designed into a more modern aesthetic and were given a marketing overhaul to usher in a third generation of kids to the G.I. Joe mythos.  But, on the way to glory and riches, Hasbro hit a little snag.  It turns out that a vocal group of adult collectors were not 100% on board with the new direction the figures were taking.  At the time, companies still didn't know how to properly gauge internet outrage.  But, they were wary of it.  And, a few Star Wars missteps had given Hasbro a blueprint on how to handle adult collectors.  So, interspersed among the new figure styles were a smattering of repainted vintage Joe figures.  These repaints helped lower the costs of the retail line while keeping collectors engaged.  However, you could easily argue the efficacy of their efforts as the repaints quickly turned into repetitive figure releases done in oddball colors.  One figure that best showcases the blending of old paint mask costs versus the blase design was the 2002 Big Ben.

Big Ben was released twice in 2002.  (Which made less sense when you realize that Big Ben/Whiteout 2 packs from the early 2001 figure waves were still collecting dust at stores around the U.S. and Canada.)  The first release was a very solid tan and green design who meshed well with General Tomahawk and Sure Fire from the Wave 1.5 releases.  This wave was a bone thrown to vintage Joe collectors to sate their appetite for classic molds while also buying Hasbro time to update the sculpting on the Wave 2 "new sculpt" figures to now include the iconic o-ring.  The wave was well done, but massively overproduced.  Even the two highly desired army builders were abundantly available.  The second Big Ben, though, was included as a shortpack in the Wave 2 cases.  Again, Big Ben, Alley Viper, Mirage and the Cobra Viper were perks for long time vintage Joe collectors.  Collectors were given new army builder repaints while also getting updated paint jobs on some solid Joe molds.  The second Big Ben, though, featured an odd color scheme that makes him stand out in both good and bad ways.

This figure uses some of the same colors and paint masks as the Wave 1.5 figure.  The greens are compatible (which actually helps if you army built both figures) and the bullets feature a rich golden color that's better offset by a black bandolier.  Big Ben's head, though, is one solid color.  If you mix and match heads, you can get some more interesting combos of Big Ben.  But, both 2002 releases feature paint masks missing on the other.  It's kind of weird.  His pants are a fairly ugly brown.  But, they don't really clash with the blue coat.  So, it kind or works.  Big Ben's hands are meant to be gloved.  And, all the releases prior to 2002 featured gloved hands.  Hasbro went with flesh hands on both 2002 releases and it doesn't really work.

What do you do with a figure who's primary color is baby blue?  Big Ben's arctic type design works in his favor in regards to the color choice.  There is a surplus of blue ice in many arctic environments.  So, Big Ben could blend into the background in locations like that.  Otherwise, the color is one of many in the history of the Joe line that make little sense but are kind of fun to look at.  But, that's the reason I like him.  The early 2000's vintage Joe repaints were heavy on green and brown and all kind of blended together.  A figure like this Big Ben stood out for how different it was.  Sure, that difference means it's completely forgotten today.  But, it also broke up otherwise banal releases of that era.  The vintage Joe line was a panoply of color.  Many collectors choose to not remember it that way.  But, looking at carded figures arranged by year proves that figures like this Big Ben were the norm from the beginning.

The soft plastic used on the early 2000's era Joes is turning out to be somewhat problematic.  Many figures from this era, even properly stored, are starting to discolor.  Whites are starting to tinge yellow.  (Star Wars figures from that time used similar plastic and Stormtroopers and Clones from that time are starting to drastically yellow.  It's sad to see mighty Imperial armies fade away due to shoddy materials.)  But, light blues are proving to be especially hard hit.  Figures like the Comic Pack Scarlett, Scrap Iron and Thrasher all discolor with slight provocation.  And, collectors are starting to find that even figs packed away in dry basements are starting to turn.  This Big Ben uses the same colors and you see many samples where fading has already kicked in.  It's probably inevitable that these figures will turn in time.  You can only take measures to postpone the degradation.  But, you see lots of Big Bens where the arms or chest are losing their original color and it's only going to get worse.

The 2002 Big Ben figures include the same gear.  But, the colors are slightly different.  This blue Big Ben includes his classic rifle, satchel and two grenades.  Hasbro included a bonus Snow Job rifle with the figure to make up for the missing bi-pod and backpack.  The absence of the pack is a nuisance.  But, the Gift Set Dial Tone from the same year (and Recondo that was released in 2003) both include black versions of the original Big Ben pack that work perfectly with this blue release.  It should be noted that Big Ben's weapons and grenades are a unique, graphite color.  They have a bit of a sheen to them that makes them distinct.  (This color was used on the weapons included with the Alley Viper, Viper and Mirage, too.)  Black versions of Big Ben's gear are more common and many collectors who tossed gear into bins during this era are likely to think the two Big Ben's have the same weapons.  So, when buying this Big Ben, be sure to confirm the weapon color to ensure you're getting the correct versions.

This Big Ben figure was only packed one per case in Wave 2 of the 2002 G.I. Joe vs. Cobra line.  Despite the shortpacking and his inclusion with an all powerful army builder, this figure was fairly easy to find.  G.I. Joe had a huge retail push in 2002 and stores received plenty of cases.  Brisk sales also ensured that stock was replenished.  I was still finding this figure at retail into the early months of 2003.  But, the shortpacking has somewhat caught up with this figure and you do not see him with anywhere near the frequency that you can find his far more common Wave 1.5 brethren.  But, since this is a very undesirable look for the character, you can still get mint and complete with filecard versions for $4 - $6.  In this day of stupid Joe prices, that's a relative bargain.  But, better Big Ben figures are just as cheap.  So, outside of the oddity of this figure's color scheme, there's no real reason to track him down.  But, I'm a sucker for $4 Joes.  So, that alone makes him a worthwhile pick up.

2019 Python Patrol Snow Serpent - Black Major, 2000 Firefly, 2002 Big Ben, Red Laser Army

2019 Python Patrol Snow Serpent - Black Major, 2000 Firefly, 2002 Big Ben

2002 Big Ben, General Tomahawk, 1988 Desert Fox, 2003 Mirage

2002 Big Ben, General Tomahawk, 1988 Desert Fox

Friday, December 20, 2019

Suited Figures: Toht & Cobra Commander (Toht body) - by Past Nastification

An ongoing complaint I’ve had with 1:18 figures is how they never quite land when it comes to dress attire.  The ARAH format was particularly bad due to its many points of articulation, which completely destroy the “flow lines” of a suit.

I’m starting a new subset of occasional reviews I’ll call “Dress Attire!” 

A good starting place for 1:18 scale suit-wearing figures isn’t even within the world of GI Joe.  It’s Toht, from Kenner’s 1982 Raiders of the Lost Ark line.  Wearing a double-breasted suit and a Homburg-style hat, Toht is about as 1930’s/1940’s as one could get.  This is important because the dress attire from that period, almost a century ago, still lines up with men’s suits today.

Granted, the dress attire/suits of yesterday and today aren’t exactly the same.  The double-breasted suit took its last modern breath in the early 90’s, but a handful are still out there.  As for the hat, no one under 90 wears hats with suits anymore.  In fact, only hipsters wear hats -the formal kind that haberdashers would sell- these days, and that’s usually paired with skinny t-shirts and scarves (as pointed out numerous times by Adam Carolla).

But a Toht figure wouldn’t look out of place next to a GI Joe figure, despite the differences in articulation and build.   Kenner succeeded with Toht because there is no waist/hip articulation.  Some of you probably see that as an automatic failure, and if high articulation is your thing, I respect that.  But to my eye, the unbroken line of the suit down to its bottom edge works perfectly.  Some of the suit bottom is sculpted onto the tops of the legs, which works fine for the t-crotch design.  The closest ARAH style suit figure, Headman, really reveals the failure of the format to capture the look of a suit. 

This is a good figure, but for this review I’m seeing it as a figure in a suit, not through the lens of all-things-Indy.  I’m sure Indiana Jones collectors have reviews reflecting that viewpoint.  Just so you know why I’m not talking about how film accurate it is or isn’t.  I also regret that I can’t show you Toht’s amazing draped-around-the-shoulders trenchoat because I lost it.  In 1984 I placed it on a Major Bludd figure, where it looked even more amazing.  When I organized my Joe collection in 1998, I must have separated it from Bludd without putting it back with the few Indy figures I had.   Bummer.     

This is a seven POA figure.  Neck, arms shoulders (no lateral movement/no elbow articulation), legs at hips (t-crotch) and knees.  This is the same recipe Kenner used for MASK’s Miles Mayhem’s military dress uniform, a format that would have looked better on 1:18 Joes in dress uniforms. 

But wait, there’s more!

Hasbro brought back Toht’s look for its Indiana Jones line with modernized articulation.  Although Toht didn’t get to production until several years later*, the Toht body did see use for a convention Cobra Commander in 2008.  The arms and legs have additional articulation.  Lateral shoulder movement, swivel/hinged elbows, swivel wrists, a swiveling waist (hidden within a rubber “skirt” portion of the suit), t-crotch hips, swivel/hinge knees, and swivel/hinge ankles.  All of these are technically improvements over the original figure, but the original 7 POA body is just fine like it is.   It’s worth noting that the modern figure doesn’t have the inside-the-hand burn mark of the original figure.  Hasbro may have substituted different hands for that reason, but I doubt it.* 

The torso on the modern Toht body is disrupted by the waistline articulation.  Other than adding a spot to attach the “skirt” portion, it doesn’t accomplish anything.  Better suit figures have simply made the entire torso part of the suit as its own animal, and that usually looks better.  The sculptor didn’t do his/her research either, and pushed all of the breast buttons below the belt line, which looks unintentionally silly and just a bit vulgar.

Even with far fewer points of articulation, Toht has a simple grace and fluid look that work nicely for a figure in a suit.  The newer format Toht body shows many articulation improvements if that’s your style preference, but offset by a poor torso. 

*yojoe.com states that the left hand (the figure’s right hand) was used from an Indiana Jones figure and that Toht was finally released later, in 2011.   

Thursday, December 19, 2019

1987 Worms Around The Web

Most collectors know the Worm figure due to the hard to find antenna and Rocketeer style helmet.  If you get past that, though, the figure is a solid design in a color not often used for Cobra.  Helming a Maggot with a full crew of them is fun and really makes for good photos.  Here's the best I could find of the Worms figure around the web.

Worms Profile

Maggot Profile

Worms And Maggot by Strike Force Code Name

Worms by Scarrviper

Worms by Outrider 01

Worms at JoeBattleLines

Worms by Outrider 02

Worms by guiltridden

Worms by Outrider 03

Worms by Outrider 04

Worms by Fantom

1987 Worms, Maggot, Black Major, Crimson Guard, CORPS!, Lanard, Firefighter

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

2018 Shadowtracker

Thousands of G.I. Joe figures have been released in either the JvC or anniversary construction format.  A huge number of them, though, were little more than rehashes or homages of vintage figure designs.  In the cases where Hasbro tried something new, more often than not, the design fell flat and produced a dud of a figure.  Every now and then, though, Hasbro hit on a new, original figure concept that both produced a high quality figure and resonated with collectors.  Such was the case with the 2011 release of Shadowtracker.  This new character caught on during Joe doldrums due to his interesting design, high quality gear and the fact that he was kind of hard to find.  In 2018, Red Laser's Army pulled a reversal and offered a vintage Joe styled remake of Shadowtracker as a way to bring the character to those of us who collect only classic Joe models.

Let's face it, Shadowtracker is a Predator knock off and not a really good one at that.  But, simultaneously, he brought an interesting look to the Joe line and provided a needed splash of color to figure designs that tended to be overly reliant on black and green.  The filecard is a mixture of Predator and Gnawgahyde.  So, he's not a very deep character.  But, most of the Cobra villains of the '80's were superficial supplements to the three or four core villains who got all of the depth. So, in that respect, Shadowtracker fits right in.  He's interesting enough to have around.  And, visually, he's diverse enough to bring some color to a Cobra display.  But, he's not a guy who's going to supplant Destro at Cobra Commander's side.

For this Red Laser figure, the most notable difference is that the dreadlocks are lone gone.  There was really no way to incorporate them into a figure like this.  But, the bald look works for this figure, too.  The skull mask design is more greatly accented by the smooth dome. And it is that skull mask that is the figure's calling card.  When I first saw the concept art, I was concerned as to how the actual paint mask of the skull would translate to a figure.  But, did it ever work!  The black face on yellow head makes for a striking visage and allows this figure to pop, even with the missing hair.  The coloring was a bold choice (though backed by the original figure's design) and it paid off with a new villain who looks different than others in his figure style but is still also incredibly cool.

For me, figures like Shadowtracker are a great way to explore early Cobra.  Before Cobra really took off, Cobra Commander would have had to associate with a variety of criminals who could both provide military expertise as well as general menace to keep the troops in line.  These people would have been more unsavory than the Commander would have liked.  But, they would also have been the type of cretins he could afford to employ before Cobra really took off.  Shadowtracker fits into this mold.  He's not a guy who's a great tactician or even a student of military history.  He's a guy who likes to hurt others and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty.  So, the Commander had a use for him for a while.

Like most of these new factory custom figures, though, the character of Shadowtracker was short lived.  Once Cobra began to grow and the Commander could afford the talents of Destro, Firefly, Zartan and Major Bludd, the need for these ancillary hangers-on was lessened.  In a perfect world, contractors like Shadowtracker would have been let go and freed to work for others.  But, Cobra Commander is not so forgiving.  He couldn't risk at large former Cobras being captured by the Joes or other foreign governments and having them spill Cobra secrets to cut a deal with their captors.  But, killing them outright also sent a message to others out in the market that Cobra would be their last employer.  So, the Commander simply sent men like Shadowtracker on increasingly dangerous missions.  Eventually, the occupant stamped bullet would find Shadowtracker and others of his ilk.  This left Cobra in the clear since they didn't murder their superfluous contractors but also cleared out the dead wood so that the new guard could ascend.

Shadowtracker's gear isn't great.  He includes the ammo pack from the 1982 Snake Eyes and Scarlett's crossbow.  I get the idea of the weapons.  But, they don't click with the figure for me.  I've, instead, armed him with silver AK-47s from Black Major, grey Mac-10s from other Red Laser figures or Marauder, Inc. weapons.  Really, anything that's not the gear with which he was included.  Usually, I consider bad weapon choices a detriment to a figure.  But, in this case, the figure quality overcomes the lacking gear and is able to transcend his poor accessory choices.  So much so that even picking up a loose figure with no gear is a solid acquisition since you can find better weapons for Shadowtracker without a lot of effort.

Shadowtracker isn't overly expensive.  He is a bit harder to find than he was during the first six to either months of his release.  You should be able to find one anywhere between $10 and $20 depending upon how long you want to look for a sample.  For my money, this guy was a must buy.  The black and yellow is a color combo that doesn't exist on 1982/1983 Joe parts and the skull face works far better on top of the yellow base color than any of the other figures released in the same wave that use the same paint mask.  He's an excellent update to my pre 1985 villains and supplements a sparse Cobra hierarchy from that time.  I've found most of the Red Laser unique figures to be solid entries into my collection.  Others' mileage may vary.  But, Shadowtracker is usually among the figures around which there is a consensus that the figure is well done and a worthy addition to any collection.

2018 Shadowtracker, Red Laser Army, Starduster, Black Major, Tank Trooper, 2017, 2016, Factory Custom, Bootleg

2018 Shadowtracker, Red Laser Army, Starduster, Black Major, Tank Trooper, 2017, 2016, Factory Custom, Bootleg, Gold Head Steel Brigade

2018 Shadowtracker, Red Laser Army, Starduster, Black Major, Tank Trooper, 2017, 2016, Factory Custom, Bootleg, Gold Head Steel Brigade

Thursday, December 12, 2019

20th Anniversary - Key Moments 1994 Dial Tone

On May 5th of 2000, I posted up a profile of the 1994 Dial Tone figure.  In and of itself, this profile isn't overly significant.  Dial Tone is cool and this version of him is both interesting and unloved.  So, he was a perfect choice for an early profile.  The real reason this profile was significant, though, was my note of the news that Joes would be returning to retail in the fall.  Sure enough, about 5 months later, G.I. Joe was back at retail.  For the next six years, Joe would be a constant retail presence.  And, after taking a "hiatus" for a few months, the line then came back again with heavy releases from 2007 until it petered out in 2016.  So, while we adore the original 12 year run of the G.I. Joe line, it also ran, mostly uninterrupted for 16 years in the 2000's.

The difference, though, was lack of cohesion.  You can look at this 1994 Dial Tone and see the resemblance to a 1982 figure that introduced the world to the G.I. Joe concept.  There are improvements and the figures have some differences.  But, this Dial Tone fits into most early vehicles and is compatible with gear from 12 years prior to his release.  That was simply not the case in the 2000's.  Joe went through many iterations and the last figures that were released had no resemblance at all to the wave of 10 figures that was alluded to in May of 2000.

In looking at the profile of Dialtone, though, I see a much younger me.  At the time, Joe was new, but dead.  Collectors had little to look forward other than scoring cheap collections from guys our same age who were getting kicked out of the parents' house.  The online world of the time had a few hang outs.  But, they were heavily populated by the same people and, the community was small.  Within a few weeks, any active participant of the online discussion would interact with pretty much the entirety of the collecting world.  Within a year, that would drastically change.  2001 would usher in an unprecedented wave of G.I. Joe collectors who would rediscover their childhood passion from the more prevalent retail figures or from the resurgent comic book.

The important step for me was that the site started to grow into a space for commentary about the online Joe world of the time.  Years later, it's interesting to see things written without the benefit of hindsight.  The collectors of the time had grandiose ideas of what Joe's return to retail would mean.  In some ways, none of them came to be.  But, in others, we got everything we could have wanted and more in the 2000's.  It just wasn't all in the same form.

1994 Dial Tone, 1993 Shark 9000, DEF

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Funskool Flint - Around The Web

The version 1 Flint figure is my favorite design in the entire line.  Funskool offered a unique repaint of the classic Flint in their line.  In early 2002, Funskool re-released their take on the mold and he was available for around $4 for many years.  During this time, I would often pick up an extra Flint when ordering other, newer figures.  And, though the years, I found several variants on him in just that short 2002-2003 release window.  To this day, the Funskool Flint is near the top of figures who get used in photos.  Having nicely painted versions, fully showcasing the gold, is a great way to appreciate Flint without trying to find and being worried about damaging a now $50 original version.  There's a little bit of Funskool Flint content out there where you can see the quality of the figure showcased.  Here's the best of Funskool Flint from around the web.

Funskool Flint Profile

Flint Mold Around The World

Funskool Flint By The Dragon Fortress

Funskool Flint at the Viper Pit

Funskool Flint at JoeDios.com

Funskool Flint by Slipstream80

Thursday, December 5, 2019

2000/2001 Sidetrack - Around The Web

Back in late 2000, Hasbro dropped the second wave of the A Real American Hero collection.  I'd argue now that it was actually better than the first wave as it included a ton of molds collectors had yet to see and they, mostly, included all their original gear.  I'm hard pressed to really pick which of the 6 figures in the wave is the best.  But, the Ambush repaint renamed as Sidetrack is easily up there.  It's a great mold from the 1990's that was hugely under-appreciated at the time and was colored significantly differently from the original figure.  Here's the best of Sidetrack from around the web.

2001 Sidetrack Profile

Sidetrack by Past Nastifiction

Sidetrack at GeneralsJoes.com

Sidetrack by wigramjoe

Sidetrack at JoeBattleLines.com

Sidetrack by battlearmordad1

Sidetrack at JoeADay.com

2000, 2001 ARAHC, Sidetrack, Ambush

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

1997 Short Fuse

Some characters just get short changed.  Short Fuse is one such Joe character for me.  In 20 years, I've looked at one Short Fuse figure from the 2005 Comic Book Pack.  I like the character so much that I not only misspelled the title of that character in that profile, but I also misspelled it 22 additional times in the body of the profile.  It's not that I hate Short Fuse.  It's just that the character and his various figures over the years really haven't resonated with me.  While a mortar was a useful idea in childhood play, the practicality was limited since it was tough to use the weapon in close quarters that dueling action figures require. So, Short Fuse never much mattered to me.  And, while this 1997 repaint is a solid upgrade from the original, it's also somewhat uninspired and hasn't helped the character catch on with me.

As a figure, Short Fuse suffers from his introduction to my collection.  The original Short Fuse was owned by my youngest brother.  As he was four at the time, any figure that was given to him was quickly destroyed.  Somehow, he received both Short Fuse and Zap in early 1983.  And, with both figures, their thumbs were destroyed even before the figures really entered in our play rotation.  So, Short Fuse was really never part of those early Joe memories.  At some point, the same brother got a swivel arm version of Short Fuse.  This figure was better cared for...I pulled him aside to save him.  But, by the time he was introduced, 1984 figures were on the shelves and Short Fuse seemed dated and relatively useless.  As he wasn't much of a player in the comic, Short Fuse never really mattered much to me.

So, upon finding the Stars and Stripes set at a Toys R Us in Scottsdale, Arizona in December of 1997, I still paid Short Fuse little attention.  I was enamored with Stalker and appreciated the Snake Eyes figure.  In time, Scarlett and even Zap would find some use in my collection.  Short Fuse, though, remained forgotten.  Even though the new red hair gave Short Fuse some characterization that separated him from the other blonde uses of his 1982 sculpted head, I didn't have much use for him.  I found one photo shoot from the fall of 2001 where he appeared.  But, that was about it.  (It's the photo below with Short Fuse on the Swampmasher.)  The figure just didn't catch my eye and he remained packed away until it was time for photos for this profile.

All of which, though, isn't to say that this is a bad figure.  Aside from the red hair change, this Short Fuse is pretty much the same as the original release.  His upper body coloring is close to that of the 1983 Zap figure...further tying these two together.  But, the lower body is a lighter green with a slight cammo pattern that gives this Short Fuse far more depth than the original 1982 figure.  He has both black and brown accents.  This breaks up some of the cohesion of the figure.  But also allows for more colors in the palette.  In short, this is a better Short Fuse than the original.  But, he's still kind of boring and not visually interesting enough to overcome his lack of characterization or difficult to use specialty.

I've long felt that Downtown was meant to be a Short Fuse update.  In 2004, Hasbro agreed and brought around the first appearance of Short Fuse since 1997.  This repainted Downtown that was released in the 2004 Night Force set was a good way to breathe some life into the Short Fuse character.  Alas, while that figure is excellently painted, his gear is atrocious and that lessens the value of him quite a bit.  So much so that not even that solid take on the character was enough to get him to crack into even some of the lesser used figures in my collection.

Short Fuse's gear is fairly well done with a few caveats.  First off, he includes a retake on his original mortar and stand.  The mortar is the thick 1/2 handled body and the stand still works perfectly.  He has his classic pack in a green color that matches the figure's body.  The rockets are painted black, though, to give it much greater depth.  He includes the clearer 1997 visor and a green take on the classic helmet.  Alas, the 1997 helmets are crap and don't really fit onto any of the figures in the set.  So, Short Fuse is doomed to an eternity of awkwardness.  The one fun update to Short Fuse, though, is that he also includes a green bazooka from the the original Zap.  The practicality of carrying both a mortar and bazooka into battle is nil.  But, from a toy perspective, the inclusion of this extra weapon brought a great deal of playability to Short Fuse that his original release was missing.

Short Fuse traveled a bit.  After the figure's Hasbro release, the swivel arm mold went to India.  (The straight arm mold was released in South America.)  There, Short Fuse was released in a few major color variants as well as several minor green shading differences.  Some, like the blue Short Fuse, command high prices.  Others will sell for less.  But, Hasbro got Short Fuse back for the Stars and Stripes set in 1997 and the figure was never released again with the full body or complement of vintage gear.  Hasbro could have gotten more mileage out of this mold (and the other Stars and Stripes figures) with a few creative repaints.  I'd have bought any original 13 member in desert, Night Force or even Tiger Force paint schemes.  But, we're just left with this 1997 version as an update to the original figure.

1997 Short Fuse figures aren't terribly hard to find.  Many dealers carry them in the $15 range...selling quite a few.  Left to the open market, it's about an $8-$10 figure.  That's not too bad for something that's more than 20 years old, is colored nicely and includes a ton of classic gear.  For the price difference between this figure and a 1983 version, the 1997 is definitely the way to go.  I've found time to be kind to the 1997 series of figures.  It wasn't well liked upon its release.  But, when considered against all that came after it, the 1997 figures have held up far better than many of their post vintage contemporaries.  For me, this figure is still Short Fuse and I don't have much use for the character.  But, this 1997 version gives me an appearance that's more interesting than the 1983 and is also far less brittle.  That's not much value that he brings.  But, it's enough to justify owning one, for sure.

1997 Short Fuse, Toys R Us Exclusive, Mortar Soldier, Stars & Stripes Forever, 1983 Rock and Roll, Scarlett

1997 Short Fuse, Toys R Us Exclusive, Mortar Soldier, Stars & Stripes Forever, 1983 Rock and Roll, Scarlett, Sightline, Red Laser Army, 2017, Factory Custom, 1984 Thunder

1997 Short Fuse, Toys R Us Exclusive, Mortar Soldier, Stars & Stripes Forever, 1983 Rock and Roll, Scarlett, Sightline, Red Laser Army, 2017, Factory Custom, 1984 Thunder, Lady Jaye, Crankcase, 1985