Thursday, January 30, 2020

1992 Big Bear - Around The Web

Big Bear was the second entry of the Oktober Guard in the vintage line.  He's a great mold with solid colors and fun gear.  The character is obscure.  But, he's also very well done.  The later repaints of the mold were also excellent.  Here's the best of this 1992 version around the web.

Big Bear Profile

Big Bear by strikeforce_codename

Big Bear the thedustinmccoy

Big Bear by HCC788

Big Bear at

Big Bear by Nekoman

Big Bear by Flint

1992 Big Bear, Oktober Guard, 1994 Razor Blade

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

2006 Range Viper - Operation Flaming Moth

You can make a strong argument that the first Joe desert figure appeared in 1983 with the tan Grunt repaint.  The 1984 VAMK Mark II and the tan Clutch figure appeared the next year.  But, officially, the first Joe desert fighter appeared in 1985.  From there, Dusty appeared again and there many other Joes done in base tan colors.  Cobra's first desert fighter, though, didn't appear until 1991.  And, that was it.  The desert was an area where Cobra was under represented.  Even the repaint era did nothing to rectify this.  Finally, in 2006 Master Collector offered some environmentally themed sets featuring vintage molds.  As Joe collectors of the age were army builder crazy, most of the figures were classic army builder molds.  There was a jungle set, an arctic set and a desert set.  The desert figures featured a tan repaint of the 1990 Range Viper.  The character made sense in this new color scheme and a full array of gear helped sell him.  Yet, the figure failed to sell pretty much at all.  14 years later, we can look at why something that should have been so successful simply was not.

At its core, a desert Range Viper makes perfect sense.  The Range Vipers were generic "wilderness" troopers.  And, deserts make up 33% of the land on earth.  So, having Range Vipers who could operate in the vast deserts that appear all over the world is a logical outreach for the figure.  I could see Range Vipers who are adapted to pretty much all the major world eco systems.  They may not be experts like Desert Scorpions.  But, I can see some Range Vipers getting desert training so they can move into the more specialized units.  As such, the notion of a desert Range Viper worked for me.  I do enjoy environmentally specific moderation.  But, it made no sense to have desert camo clad Joes battling bright red or dark blue Cobras in a setting where most of the color is brown, agave or grey.  

In looking at the Range Viper, you see the quality of the design.  This figure brings out the details of the mold, but in more subtle colors than the original use in 1990 or either of the JvC era repaints of it that appeared in 2000 and 2002.  I like the fact that the skull like face isn't white.  Playing up the skull motif worked for the Rock Viper and Skullbuster.  So, it was good to see it abandoned on this figure.  It allows him to more stand as the desert specialist.  The green eyes are nice, too.  They bring a splash of color to the Range Viper.  But, they don't detract from the overall design.  (You can make a case they are tinted lenses to help deflect harsh, desert glare.)  The base of the figure is brown and tan with a subtle camo pattern on the legs.  It's all offset by some darker browns and the silver bullets across the figure's chest.  The design is understated, but entirely effective.  The figure looks like a desert trooper without any fancy trappings that try to upsell his duties.

Normally, this is the spot where I harp on the club's failures with this figure.  But, I've pontificated enough on those bungles.  Instead, I wanted to take a dive as to why these Operation Flaming Moth figures failed so miserably.  Ostensibly, the sets should have been winners.  Collectors loved army building figures and the paint masks that shamed retail figures along with excellent accessory complements should have been very appealing.  There is an easy answer: it was 2006 and Joe had pretty much died due to Hasbro and the club's negligent handling of the brand.  However, there was still a strong collector base out there, especially for vintage style figures.  The price point of the figures, of course, is the next most obvious culprit.  In 2006, very few army builders crossed the $15 per figure threshold.  So, these Moth figures were competing with '86 Vipers, '83 Cobra Troopers, Alley Vipers and Crimson Guards for collecting dollars.  The appeal of the retail army builders was the $3 per figure price point.  The appeal of the convention sets was the appeal of the event itself.  Without the con-going experience tied to the figures and the price point that was 5 times the retail rate, these figures were doomed.

But, why were the figures so expensive?  Defenders of the club quickly point to the additional paint masks, greater accessory complements and low production runs as the primary drivers of the figures' cost to collectors.  And, all of these are a a point.  At the time, Hasbro produced the Toys R Us 6 figure packs in numbers varying from 16,000 to 20,000 of each set.  These were sold to Toys R Us for between $8 to $12 a set wholesale where TRU turned them around for a $20 retail price.  So, Hasbro was selling figures for a profit to a retailer for around $1.33 to $2 per figure.  Its probable that the lower production runs (we don't really know the club numbers, but it was certainly less than 20,000, maybe even less than 5,000) raise the price.  But, it's reasonable to assume the figures cost under $5 or $6 to the club with the actual number probably being far less.  The issue, of course, comes in the box that the club insisted on including with the figures.  For full retail releases, generic packaging tended to add about 33% to the overall cost of the figure.  The Flaming Moth boxes were far more expensive than retail packaging and likely doubled the cost of the figures.  This cost was passed on to the consumer and help quell demand for army builders at a time when army building was holding its last stronghold of popularity. One of the strengths of the convention releases is that you could buy a bagged set for a discounted price.  While the initial cash outlay was greater, for loose collectors, this helped to reduce the cost per figure and gave them superfluous characters that could be sold: usually for higher than retail prices.  Had the same strategy been employed with Moth figures, they might have been more successful. 

This leads us, though, to the reasoning behind the boxes.  For collectors of vintage Joes, the primary attraction has always been loose figures.  This is due to the fact that collectors grew up playing with the figures.  While we loved the card art, it was a selling point in the store while the main reason for buying a figure was to take it out of the packaging and play with it.  Those who collected vintage Star Wars are the same.  Loose is the entry point as it's the nostalgic factor.  Sure, collectors do move to carded.  But, if you started collecting vintage Joes any time after 1994, you had 100's of carded figures to track down.  To this day, carded collectors are former loose collectors who got bored and switched, collectors who have small carded collections, based on their childhood favorites or those who supplement their loose collections with carded items.  In 2006, there were far fewer carded collectors than there are today.  The club had this weird notion that they were going to force 3 3/4 Joe collectors into carded/boxed collecting.  And, the shoved expensive boxes down people's throats from the beginning in 2002.  While some collectors enjoyed the boxes, the fact is that the higher price point that the boxes created drove down demand for the club's figures.  Had the club accepted this at an earlier point in their life, then many of the products like Flaming Moth would have been far more successful and it's possible that we would have gotten a few more releases.

2007 really changed that, though.  With the advent of the anniversary Joes, collectors had a chance to be in on the ground floor of carded collecting.  In 1995, the same thing happened with Star Wars collecting.  Those who had loose vintage sets simply decided to collect the new releases carded.  This bore out of both a collecting mentality (the carded would be worth more in the future) and a reality that adults don't really play with toys and having them loose didn't do anything but save space and create hassles with missing gear, falling figs, etc.  With the anniversary Joes, Joe collectors had the same chance since the anniversary packaging hearkened back to the vintage designs and was starting over.  This release, while substantially less popular than the 2002 relaunch in terms of retail sales, brought in a huge number of new collectors.  Most of these were retail toy collectors who bought anything that was based on a vintage property.  (Which is why they abandoned the line when it turned into a movie line and no longer had that retro appeal.)  For them, packaging was a key component of the release since they had no desire to open something.  With this, the club mandate of packaging became more accepted and we see their packaged options now being very popular at original release and on the aftermarket.  This is all fine and good.  But, the anniversary and vintage collectors were a very different group of consumers.  Even today, though they have merged more and more, people have different expectations of vintage figures versus anniversary style releases.  Had the club understood this, or listened to their customers who were telling them this only to fall on deaf ears at the time, they could have created multiple offerings that appealed to both groups and found success across all lines.  But, certain club members were on record about their hatred for the 3 3/4 vintage figures and seeing them fail had bring some schadenfreude to them...especially as the anniversary items worked with their vision of what collectors should enjoy.

The Flaming Moth figures were a disastrous failure that spelled the the end of the club's forays into vintage style figure releases that weren't convention sets or membership figures.  Eventually, the figures were clearanced by the club at both conventions and in their online store.  Many army building collectors cashed in at that point to fill out their armies.  Many dealers also swooped in to buy cheap stock in the hopes that it would quickly appreciate and they could make their money back.  That didn't really happen, though.  By the early 2010's, boxed sets still sold for original price or less with loose figures barely commanding $10 each.  This was aided by the fact that huge amounts of Flaming Moth figure overstock was found in Asia and sellers there flooded the American collecting market first with cheap figures (though missing accessories) and later with complete or partially complete figures.  As recently as 2018, you could find both the Range Viper and Flak Viper, mint and complete, from Asian sellers for around $12 each.  While stock has started to dry up, now, the demand hasn't caught up.  You can still buy boxed sets of the Range/Flak Viper for around $30.  To be fair, though, it remains the cheapest of the Moth sets and others do sell for more.  So, the figure's lack of popularity also hurts pricing.  But, convention figures were cheap and plentiful for years and years.  Then, since the onset of 2018, they have steadily risen in price and started to disappear from online sales.  It's possible the Moth figures will follow suit since the Asian supply seems spent and those who bought armies have already liquidated or are content to keep their figures.  But, in the end, these remain obscure repaints from a time when the collecting world was, basically, dead.  So, it seems unlikely that they will suddenly become the figure du jour in the collecting world.  But, stranger things have happened.

2006 Range Viper, Operation Flaming Moth

2006 Range Viper, Operation Flaming Moth, 2017 Gold Head Steel Brigade, Black Major, Bootleg, Factory Custom

2006 Range Viper, Operation Flaming Moth

2006 Range Viper, Operation Flaming Moth

Friday, January 24, 2020

2009 Agent Helix - by Past Nastification

With the 2009 release of The Rise of Cobra, Hasbro pumped out many, many figures.

I’m just assuming that most of you didn’t like the movie.  If you did, that’s okay.  It just makes it easier for you to embrace its toy line, I’d assume.  The ROC toy line stayed with the 25th Anniversary/Modern Era format, but felt like a unique subset within the GI Joe brand.  But for me, at least, I try to look at the ROC figures as their own things and just ignore the movie that spawned them.     

Many of figures were inherently good, like most of the Baroness figures, which visually lined up other existing versions of the character. 

Some were them were good if you could imagine they existed outside of the movie’s continuity, like The Doctor as being a not-Cobra Commander character.

Then there were figures dropped into the ROC toy line whose characters weren’t even in the movie, but didn’t exist anywhere previously. Agent Helix is one of these figures/characters.

Agent Helix has a look that reads “techno saboteur” more than soldier.  Given that the title “Agent” is part of the character’s name, this is obviously what Hasbro was aiming for. 

The sculptor(s) did some top notch work on the figure.  The head features an attractive if slightly long face with a neutral expression.  The hair is a separate piece in what’s probably best described as a “Rachel from Friends” layered haircut.  It’s further accentuated by a two-tone color scheme, obviously mimicking the unnatural color-streaking fad of a decade ago.  The face and the hair are nicely done and infuse the figure with a lot of its charm.   

The uniform is not quite a bodysuit, but very tight shirt/pants over a lanky frame. It features a harness/body armor system that manages to provide protection to the abdomen, but leaves the upper torso completely exposed, which looks interesting at first but becomes ridiculous when you realize it’s very bondage-like.

“But the Baroness-”  Stop.  Don’t say it, because I am aware of the Baroness’ outfit.  But its armor plating appears to cover the entire torso, and even pops up on other parts of the body.  Agent Helix just wears a bulletproof girdle.   And besides, I’m always okay with Cobra designs being a bit sillier than Joe ones. 

Bondage harness aside, this is a good design.  The mustard yellow on the upper portion of the shirt gives a color pop against the otherwise dark and cold colors of uniform.  The silver of the pouches (or whatever they are) adds another slice of visual interest.  It looks clean in an antiseptic way that doesn’t contrast with the other colors, and even works with them.

There are plenty of great details on the figure.  The overall sculpting is top notch, as it was on most of the ROC figures.  There’s a techno-kibble device on the figure’s right upper arm.  The floating utility belt allows for the pouches to dangle over the hips.  The compression-style kneepads are perfect.  The sleeves are three-quarters length, like some sports jerseys.  The long boots have side pouches.  These are all little details that show that someone put effort into making this figure.   

Agent Helix’s gear is plentiful, though largely unnecessary.   The futuristic rifle and two sidearms would have been enough, but the figure also has the obligatory oversized missile launcher (that looks like at best like a Nerf toy and not a representation of anything close to real world), and even a machete.  Everything is nicely colored, which is better than neon green or safety orange, so there’s that.  And any accessories you don’t want to display with the figure can go into a baggie, tray, or parts bin.   Or even a trashcan if you’re like that. 

Had this character been introduced into the GI Joe mythos by ARAH format when I was a kid, I’m sure it would have been a welcomed addition. 

Time for a side rant.

Even 37 years since 1:18 scale GI Joe began, there are only about 30 different female characters that have one or multiple figures, and that’s including exclusive GI Joe Collectors’ Club figures.  This number is based on characters, not total figures.  So although there may are many multiple versions of Scarlett, the Baroness, and Lady Jaye in different formats, that still only adds up to 3 characters.  My point is that we’ve gotten less than one new female character per year on average.  Collectors even appreciate head-to-toe repaints representing new characters, like ARAH Jinx as Vypra or later as the swordsmith Araskikage sisters (also stupidly named Vypra), or ARAH Baroness as Chameleon.

Thanks, I feel better.   

A totally new figure/character, especially one done so well, is greatly valued.  Agent Helix might be the most important character to come out of the ROC toy line.  Just don’t think about the bulletproof girdle. 

2009 Agent Helix, ROC

2009 Agent Helix, ROC

Thursday, January 23, 2020

1987 Dodger - Around The Web

I'm still not a huge fan of Battle Force 2000.  Dodger remains one of the highlights of the set and is a figure that can find uses outside of his subset.  These days, he's about the only BF2000 member who sees any time in my collection.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1987 Dodger Profile

1987 Dodger by thedustinmccoy

Dodger by formbx257

Dodger at

Dodger at Toys and Bacon

Dodger at

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

1988 Tiger Force Flint

The 1985 Flint figure is my favorite release in the entire history of the Joe line.  He had the distinction of being released right during the height of my childhood and bridging the time between when toys were played to death and the time when they were cared for.  To this day, that figure remains one of the most important to me and a version of that Flint will be among the final figures that I ever own.  Because of Flint's popularity in the comics and, especially, the cartoon, though, Flint himself didn't really get many retakes on his original design.  In the world over, there is really only one vintage version of the 1985 Flint mold that is materially different from the original: the 1988 Tiger Force Flint.

In 1988, I was done with Joe.  I bought three figures very early in the year: Hardball, Hit and Run and the Tiger Force Roadblock.  I bought the Roadblock just because our 1984 Roadblock accessories had long been destroyed and I could not pass up the opportunity to get Roadblock's weapons back into my collection.  Lost accessories were a staple of Flint, too.  I had lost several 1985 Flint rifles and had acquired no less than three versions of the vintage figure: vowing each time to not lose the shotgun that defined him.  But, inevitably, the shotguns were lost.  (The final one was lost in my grandparents' basement when my younger brother kicked it away while picking up some carpet squares.  I tore their basement apart, but never fount it.)  So, had the Tiger Force Flint been on the shelves that day in 1988, I'd have surely purchased him instead of Roadblock.  Destiny intervened, though, and this Flint didn't join my collection for another decade.

When this Flint finally did show up, though, he struggled to find a role.  With the 1985 Flint so prominent for me, that was always my first choice of figure to take out and photograph.  I ended up giving this Flint's shotgun to a custom law enforcement figure that I had lying around at the time.  It turns out that the shotgun will fit into Chuckles' holster.  So, this custom got both pieces of equipment.  In 2001, though, this holster and shotgun combo was transferred to the Funskool Supercop figure.  He still wears them in my display today.  The figure itself still doesn't get much use.  While the 1985 Flint still finds his way into tons of my photos (The Funskool Flint, too!) this 1988 version is less popular.  I only had one or two photos of him in my archive.  Which, when you consider that I got the 1988 figure drawer out for many photo shoots in the past three year, was even more surprising.  But, favorites usually win and my obsession with the 1985 figure has let a quiet gem slip by me.

One of my main points of interest on the Tiger Force Flint is that he showcases many of the details that are actually painted onto the 1985 Flint, but are usually long worn away.  The 1985 Flint features quite a bit of gold paint on the chest and belt buckle of the figure.  Even on otherwise mint figures, though, this paint tends to be either heavily worn or even gone.  Most collectors aren't aware that the 1985 figure is supposed to be adorned with the golden color.  And, you see huge numbers of Flints advertised as "mint" that have almost no golden paint on the figure at all.  But, the Tiger force version makes us for this with a much stronger blend of gold paint that is not nearly as susceptible to wear as that used in 1985 and 1986.  Because of this, you can more clearly see the adornments on Flint's chest and the details of his belt buckle.

As Tiger Force figures go, Flint is one of the least ostentatious.  While he does feature subtle black cammo lines on his shirt, they are not overly obvious.  His base colors are an excellent muddy brown for the upper body and a distinctive dark green for the legs.  He is accented by grey gloves and boots.  Out of the Tiger Force context, this Flint works fine intermingled with other Joes.  Were it not for the near perfection of the original, the Tiger Force Flint would work as a stand alone figure.  The painted details add to the quality of the figure overall.  In short, this Flint is every bit as useful as the original Flint colors.  It was exceedingly rare for a repaint to accomplish that.

Flint's gear is the same as the 1985 figure.  He includes just a backpack and his iconic shotgun.  Both are now, though, colored in an off grey hue that is easily distinguishable from the 1985 and also, at the same time, more realistic than the green version from three years prior.  Flint's lack of gear is interesting.  He's one of only three 1985 releases to include just two accessories.  (Torch and the Crimson Guard are the others.)  It's likely that some of these lower accessorized figures were small cost cutting moves by Hasbro so that figures like Alpine, the Eel and the Snow Serpent were able to have all the gear that makes the figures so compelling.  But, Flint's gear is iconic to the mold.  His shotgun is for him and the pack is one that I can only use with a Flint figure.  So, if you're not going to get much, at least make it memorable.  And, in this case, Hasbro accomplished that.

I now have a shout out to The Attica Gazette.  In his review of this figure, he points out that the Tiger Force Flint card art now shows Flint wearing a neckerchief.  There's no real reason for this piece of flair.  And, the coloring was not transferred to the figure.  We've long known that Hasbro overpainted the original artwork of the Tiger Force figures to create the Tiger Force artwork.  So, maybe this addition was to cover up a flaw on the original that was introduced after it was used to make the 1985 and 1986 Flint cardbacks.  Now, I can't unsee that neckwear.  It affects my view of the artwork.  But, I'm grateful that it was not carried over to the figure.

There are also some changes to Flint's filecard.  While most of the text is verbatim from the 1985 release, the Tiger Force version features a few changes. First, Flint's rank was changed from an E-6 to a W-3.  Though, I suspect this was to correct the discrepancy between his title of Warrant Officer versus his E-6 rank. Flint's attendance of Flint Warrant Officers School is changed to Warrant Officers Flight School.  Flint's name is in all caps to begin the body of the Tiger Force card, too.  The most significant is a change in the last line of the body.  While the general tone of the final sentence remains the same, the "let alone admitted to" reference is all gone from the 1988 figure.  This changes the filecard from 8 lines of text to 7 lines of text.  There's no real reason for this since the Tiger Force card now features empty space at the bottom.  So, the card wasn't made more readable by omitting it.  It's possible that the discovery of the Iran-Contra affair between the releases may have lead Hasbro to be a bit more careful about implying that the government undertook truly secret missions.

Flint was released all around the world and if you've read the multitudes of other Flint profiles on this site, you know all about his US, European and Japanese releases.  And, you are fully aware of the subtle exclusive versions available in India and Brazil.  In short, Flint appeared a lot.  But, this Tiger Force version is really the only different color difference for the mold.  Hasbro gave us two repaints in the 2000's.  But, neither really caught on.  There's tons of potential left in this mold and I'd love for a series of factory customs that finally give us a desert Flint, arctic Flint and an Action Force green Flint.  But, those are pipe dreams that will, simply, never come to be.

Tiger Force Flints are expensive.  I'm not really sure why.  He's no more rare than any of the other single carded Tiger Force figures.  He doesn't have any easily lost accessories.  And, he's not really any bigger of a character than Duke or Roadblock.  Yet, a near mint version of this figure that's complete with his filecard will run you between $40 and $50.  Note, I said near mint.  Those prices usually still mean cracked elbows and even some paint wear on the easily rubbed golden details.  For this reason, carded Tiger Force Flints are $150+ affairs these days and truly mint figures could approach ridiculous prices.  And, there's not much relief available.  Good conditioned, incomplete figures will still fetch $20.  Heck, the shotgun alone will sell for $20+!  Again, there's no reason for this.  But, this Flint got expensive a few years ago and hasn't come down.  For the money, buy either a 1985 Flint or a Chinese Flint or a couple of Funskool Flints.  To me, they are better figures.  But, better is relative and this Tiger Force version holds up on its own fairly well.

1988 Tiger Force Flint, 1989 Night Force Psyche Out, 2002 Night Rhino, Warthog

Saturday, January 18, 2020

20th Anniversary - Key Moments Tiger Force Outback

On September 8th of 2000, this site took a major step.  On that day, I profiled the very first foreign figure to appear on the site: the European exclusive Tiger Force Outback.  In looking back at my thoughts on the figure at the time, my approach to foreign figures is almost laughable.  My naivete shone through and I had no idea that foreign Joe collecting was going to come to dominate not only the most popular posts on the site, but also the near entirety of my collecting focus for the next four or five years.

In reality, the Tiger Force Outback was my second foreign figure that I acquired.  The Chinese Major Bludd had arrived into my collection a few weeks earlier.  But, there was something about the Outback that spoke to me.  The look of the figure was so different from the American offerings of the character that it captured my attention in a way that few figures ever had.  Even after acquiring a vast amount of other foreign figures, Tiger Force Outback remains one of my favorite foreign releases.

I acquired this figure from a European collector in a trade for a V1 Sgt. Slaughter figure.  In the late 1990's/early 2000's, many European exclusive figures were rather common among the European based collector set.  And, at the time, there were still many figures that had never been released in Europe that were very desirable for continental based collectors.  Trading an incomplete Sgt. Slaughter straight up for a Tiger Force Outback seems outrageous today.  But, in 2000, it was an even trade that left both of us extremely happy.

In 2000, it was unheard of for most American collectors to own foreign Joes.  Some of the Action Force exclusives such as Quarrel and Red Laser appeared most often.  But, most of the other figures that were exclusive to Europe remained over there.  Less than six months after I profiled this figure, though, two avenues of foreign Joes became more available and opened the floodgates of American collector interest in items released outside the United States.  The first, and less obvious, event was the discovery of a horde of Plastirama figures in Argentina.  This brought tons of MOC figures to the U.S.  Even the now desired Ninja Ku and Satan could be bought for $15 each for a time.  Others were even less.  Just as those started to saturate Ebay of that era, the first mass imports of Funskool Joes began at the YoJoe Depot and, later, and other dealers.  These cheap figures offered collectors a chance to expand their collections in new ways.  And, by 2002, foreign Joes were a staple of pretty much everyone who participated in the online Joe community.

Today, foreign figures remain highly desirable and many have exploded in popularity and price.  Everyone knows Tiger Force Outback.  But, nearly 20 years ago, he was a novelty that few collectors cared about.  In some ways, those days were more fun since there was so much to be discovered.  Now, though, it's a lot easier to find guys like this.  You'll just pay a WHOLE lot more than you would have in the early days of collecting.  But, this figure is the one that started my fascination with foreign Joes and it's an area of collecting that I still overly enjoy today.

Tiger Force Outback, European Exclusive, 1991 Retaliator, Star Brigade, 1994 Gears

Tiger Force Outback, European Exclusive, 1991 Retaliator, Star Brigade, 1994 Gears, Estrela, Cobra Soldado, Cobra Trooper, Black Major, Bootleg, Factory Custom, Night Viper

Thursday, January 16, 2020

1989 Backblast - Around The Web

I still maintain that at some point in his origin, Backblast started as a new version of Zap.  But, instead, we got a new character that's extremely well done.  Backblast features excellent colors, an amazing array of gear and is one of those obscure Joes who make the line.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1989 Backblast Profile

1989 Backblast by thedustinmccoy

1989 Backblast by ironman3719

1989 Backblast by thedustinmccoy 02

1989 Backblast by formbx257

1989 Backblast at

1989 Backblast by Falcon Chile

1989 Backblast by Slipstream80

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Action Force Panther Jeep - European Exclusive

To say that the VAMP is one of the most popular G.I. Joe vehicle molds is an understatement.  Aside from the elite status it still enjoys in the collecting world today, the VAMP was also a staple of Hasbro's worldwide export of the Joe property.  Flavors of the VAMP appeared just about everywhere G.I. Joe toys were manufactured and sold.  Heck, new variants of the base mold were still appearing in India in 2018!  VAMP collectors have dozens of body changes, updated colors and international packaging variants to chase down.  Some will cost thousands of dollars.  Others are more affordable.  One of Hasbro's first forays into international VAMPs was the Panther Jeep that was released in the European Action Force line.  This black and yellow repaint meant for the SAS subset remains one of the most distinctive VAMP repaints and still goes surprisingly well with a host of recently released Joe toys.

Joe collectors love their stickers.  As a young child, I did, too.  But, as I got older, I hated the stickers.  And, the vehicles I acquired after 1984 rarely have more than 50% of their stickers applied.  By, 1987, I may not have put on any at all other than the those for internal controls.  Mine dislike for stickers was a combination of not wanting affiliations all over my vehicles.  (Why would an elite, covert unit announce their presence by plastering their name all over their vehicles that anyone with a pair of binoculars could see miles away?!?)  But, it was also that I felt most of the stickers didn't add anything to the look of the toy.  In the Action Force line, though, the vehicles feature arrays of unique stickers that were more akin to the type of thing that would have survived my childhood scrutiny.  The Panther's stickers are a great example.  While there's a great deal of detail added to the vehicle by the stickers, the best one to me is the additional controls behind the passenger.  It makes the vehicle seem more than a simple combat jeep.

For me, this helps distinguish the Panther.  I see it as a more advance scouting vehicle that is less utility and more specialty.  The fact that the vehicle is a nice match for recent factory custom figures, though, is a nice bonus.  While there are SAS inspired Cobra Troopers, they are of less interest to me.  Instead, I see the Panther as a nice match for any of the multitude of new Joe inspired characters.  These feature many blacks and greens that work well with the black and yellow.  Plus, later figures are a tight fit in the VAMP.  Earlier molds both fit better with the size of the cab seats but also the aesthetic of the vehicle.

One of the things missing from the factory custom makers is vehicles.  It makes sense since multiple repaints are hard and some vehicles have assembly points that would be difficult to scale at a price point collectors would be comfortable with.  As the Action Force vehicles are relatively new to me, though, they help fill this void.  The vehicles are compatible with the figures and provide an alternative look for classic Joes...just like the factory custom figures do.  I'm at a point now where I see classic Joes as almost out of place among vehicles like the Panther.  It's just a personal association that's born of when these items began to enter my collection.  But, it helps give these alternative paint jobs a home that is important to me and continues to grow.

The Panther has a couple of variants.  The most notable difference is that the roll bar can be either yellow or black.  There are also very hard to find versions that have the SAS logo painted on instead of being a sticker that could be applied.  The roll bar variants don't seem to be nearly as difficult to find.  The Panther was available in both a window box and a picture box.  And, there are release country variants of the packaging, too.  One other important difference on the Panther from the VAMP is the wheels.  The Action Force tires are not the hard plastic found on the Hasbro release.  They are more rubbery and soft.  It's a tiny little detail that adds a tremendous amount of additional value to the vehicle.  The wheels feel more realistic and are more substantial.

The Panther is from the SAS series of Action Force toys.  The base black color scheme is one that collectors enjoy.  But, the yellow highlights make the toys more problematic.  The Panther was more ostentatious than the Wolverine repaint.  (Which is why the SAS Wolverine commands a premium today.)  But, it was in line with the FANG re-release.  The SAS figures, tend to be loved.  Both Blades and Hunter have become extremely valuable figures that collectors adore.  But, Stalker, the figure included with the Panther, has not.  The fact that he's a vintage Snake Eyes repaint hasn't helped him, either.  These days, it would be cheaper to buy a Stalker and remove all his paint than it is to buy a standard 1983 Snake Eyes.  That doesn't make sense.  But, it speaks to the overall availability of the Panther and its driver.

Depending upon the variant colors and inclusion of the figure or not, Panther jeeps are still affordable.  Mint and complete versions can be purchased for around $50...sometimes still including the figure.  Most of these deals are from European sellers.  So, shipping will significantly add to the overall cost.  But, for an Action Force exclusive repaint of a super popular mold that is done in collector approved colors, that's a pittance.  You'd have paid more for a complete Panther 20 years ago than you do today.  That's an extreme rarity.  But, the original popularity of the toy coupled with large volumes of overstock that found its way to the modern collecting world leave collectors with a cool repaint that is still priced at a level where most collectors can afford to buy one.  Items that fit that description are getting harder and harder to find.

Action Force Panther Jeep, VAMP, SAS, Palitoy, 1983, Red Laser Army, Hollowpoint, Commando, Snake Eyes, Stalker

Action Force Panther Jeep, VAMP, SAS, Palitoy, 1983, Red Laser Army, Hollowpoint, Commando, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Shimik, Outlaw

Action Force Panther Jeep, VAMP, SAS, Palitoy, 1983, Red Laser Army, Hollowpoint, Commando, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Shimik, Outlaw, General, Funskool, Flint, Brazil, Blowtorch, Tocha, Estrela

Action Force Panther Jeep, VAMP, SAS, Palitoy, 1983, Red Laser Army, Hollowpoint, Commando, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Shimik, Outlaw, General, Funskool, Flint, Brazil, Blowtorch, Tocha, Estrela

Action Force Panther Jeep, VAMP, SAS, Palitoy, 1983, Red Laser Army, Hollowpoint, Commando, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Shimik, Outlaw, General, Funskool, Flint, Brazil, Blowtorch, Tocha, Estrela, Odin

Action Force Panther Jeep, VAMP, SAS, Palitoy, 1983, Red Laser Army, Hollowpoint, Commando, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Shimik, Outlaw, General, Funskool, Flint, Brazil, Blowtorch, Tocha, Estrela, Odin, Tigor, Tiger Force Blizzard

Thursday, January 9, 2020

2001 Laser Viper - Around The Web

In 2001, collectors were army builder crazy.  So, when early images of a figure in blue and red showed up online, we went bananas thinking of all we'd do once cheap alternatives for Cobra Troopers were finally available.  In the end, though, the Laser Viper somewhat disappointed.  While people did army build him to a great degree, the new head wasn't perfect.  And, as better army builders continued to pour out of Hasbro over the next couple of years, the need for massive amounts of the Laser Viper in a collection diminished.  But, overall, this version of the Laser Viper did offer some things that would never be seen again.  Hasbro took more chances with their earlier figures.  But, collectors punished them for doing so.  In time, figs like the Laser Viper became quaint reminders of what we didn't really want more of.  I've grown to appreciate this figure more in the past 18+ years for this reason.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

2001 Laser Viper Profile

2001 Laser Viper Pre-Production

2001 Laser Viper by gigamech

2001 Laser Vipers by dreadnokdread

2001 Laser Viper by kushviper

2001 Laser Viper by yotothejoe

2001 Laser Viper by gijoe_rama

2001 Laser Viper, 1987 Maggot, ARAHC

2001 Laser Viper, 1987 Maggot, ARAHC

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

1992 Eco Warriors Barbecue

One of the earliest figures I looked at on this site was the 1993 Payload figure.  That release was one of my first collecting purchases in the mid 1990's and held a special place in my collection at the time.  The mold was good.  The colors were strong.  And, the figure just, generally, felt in tune with the figures from the '80's that had been part of my childhood.  As figure resources came online in the subsequent years, I learned that the 1993 Payload was actually a repaint of a 1992 release.  The original use of the mold was an update of a character I had loved as a kid.  He featured colors that worked for his specialty and also worked very well with the new sculpting.  On top of all that, he was a Eco Warrior: a subset I really enjoyed.  Despite all that, it's taken more than 20 years for the 1992 Eco Warriors Barbecue figure to show up as a profile subject.

As a kid, Barbecue filled a very specific purpose.  While the Joe team, generally, needed a firefighter around, I found the figure's best use was a required crew member on the Whale.  While Cutter and Shipwreck would, usually, man the cockpit, Barbecue would be seated behind them.  Here, he was would await a call when he might have to put out a fire that threatened the missile launchers, main controls, bridge or depth charges.  Barbecue's heroics saved the Whale more than a few times.  Though, there were situations where other firefighters (in more on off stories) would die after failing to control the fires that broke out.  Or, the firefighter would be killed by a skilled Moray gunner and then the Whale would explode after a fire got to the depth charges.

Paint wise, this Barbecue is pretty basic.  The body is red, yellow and black.  That's it.  For a vintage figure, that's pretty basic.  Not even the pistol molded onto his right leg is painted black.  It's the same yellow as his holster.  In some ways, Barbecue seems like a figure where Hasbro cut some costs.  The basic three colors, though, really work.  There's enough color that Barbecue doesn't feel skimpy.  (Especially when compared to the 3 color figures that would debut in the 2000's.)  The less is more approach works for Barbecue.  The bright colors work, too.  Red and yellow are a natural fit for a firefighter.  And, while the 1985 release was a bit more muted, he was also bright for the time.

Barbecue's accessories are not great.  He carries over the squirting water gimmick from the 1991 Eco Warriors series.  This time, though, the pack is red and yellow with an bright yellow launcher.  For a firefighter, this gear can actually work and I find it more acceptable for Barbecue than I do any other figure which whom it is also included.  But, there's a cool little hack for giving this figure better gear.  The once ubiquitous Funskool Barbecue figure includes classic 1985 gear but in colors that exactly match this 1992 Eco Warrior figure.  So, you can slap a spare set of the famous firefighting gear on this 1992 figure for a much improved look.  In the days when Funskool Barbecues were $4, this was easier to do.  But, carded Funskool Barbecues remain available in the $20 range today and this additional use of the gear helps to justify that price.  I posted my first photo of this figure wearing the Funskool gear back in May of 2002.  17 years later, it's still my preferred way to use the 1992 Barbecue figure.

It was rare for G.I. Joe figures to feature accessories on the card artwork that didn't make their way into the actual figure release.  Mainframe's computer stand is probably the most famous.  Barbecue, though, is shown on his card artwork using a zip line.  I'm not aware of any real evidence that suggests that Barbecue was originally intended to include the rope and a zip handle.  But, he is the only Eco Warrior Joe who does not include any gear other than the water squirting pack.  (Toxo Zombie also got the shaft in 1992 and only included the water cannon with no other gear.)  I'm not sure of any reason why Barbecue would have gotten the rope.  But, I was a sucker for ropes as a kid and would have liked this figure to include a zip line accessory set just because I'd have found it fun.

Eco Warriors have a fun/irritating gimmick.  They change color when differently temperatured water is sprayed on them.  The color change was meant to denote "battle damage".  For a young kid in 1992, this was probably a neat feature that was used once or twice.  For a collector in current times, it's a blight upon the figure's veneer.  Most of the color change spots have now permanently changed color.  So, most Barbecue figures now feature dark spots all over the figure's torso.  It takes away from the figure's appearance.  So, finding a unblemished figure is worth the extra time (and, sometimes, extra expense) it takes to acquire one.

As Joe prices rose at unsustainable rates in 2018 and 2019, this Barbecue got caught up in the hype.  The 1992 Eco Warriors do not exist in the same numbers as standard 1992 carded figures.  But, even with the lower production run, they aren't as difficult to find as they sometimes appear.  After flirting with $30+ prices for a bit, this Barbecue is now more affordable.  We're starting to see Joe prices soften on many of the less popular, non army building figures of the 1990's.  And, Barbecue is an example.  While dealers will still sell a few figures for $25, you can get mint and complete with filecard versions for $15 or so without too much trouble.  That's probably a fair price for the figure.  Though, I would expect that to fall as Joe's popularity begins to sag.  If you sacrifice the filecard or the water cannon, the price falls further.

I find the price worth it for a figure of this Barbecue's quality.  But, the bright colors and late design year are off-putting to many old school collectors, too.  If I could only have one representation of the Barbecue character in my collection, I'd take the 1985 version and let this mold be Payload.  But, the overall quality of the sculpting means that some coloring of this figure mold belongs in every collection.

1992 Eco Warriors Barbecue, BBQ, Funskool Tunnel Rat, General Flagg, Flint

1992 Eco Warriors Barbecue, BBQ, 1994 Lifeline, DEF Shockwave

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019 Top Ten Posts

In general, site traffic was down this year.  Each new post got about 1/2 the volume that the winners in prior years had seen.  Most of this was attributable to algorithm changes by big search engines...especially in regards to how social media sites link to content.  But, still, over 115,000 people clicked on various links and stopped by to say hello.  The year was dominated by Black Major figures with several making the top 10.  Rarities Month was kind of a dud, but one post managed to pop up.  The rest of the most popular posts are the usual, somewhat eclectic mix.

10.  2019 Black Major Slaughter's Marauders Snake Eyes

Black Major shows up on the list right away.  This Slaughter Marauders inspired Snake Eyes is one of the highlights of the Snake Eyes repaints.  The Marauders are the forgotten subset of the Joe world and have gotten little love since their original release.  So, this Snake Eyes was a welcome addition.

2019 Black Major Snake Eyes, Slaughter's Marauders, 1989, 1988 Sgt. Slaughter

9.  1984 Firefly - Around the Web

The Around the Web features are a fun way for me to publish new photos of figures that were profiles years and years ago.  Generally, they are about 1/3 the popularity of full on profiles.  But, in 2019, the first Around the Web features popped into the top 10.  For Firefly, it makes sense.  He's one of the most famous and loved figures in the line.

1984 Firefly, 2018 Shadowtracker, Red Laser Army

8.  2018 Black Major Python Patrol Storm Shadow

Black Major shows up again.  This time, it's a Stormshadow repaint.  Getting a V1 Stormshadow in Python Patrol inspired colors was a great way for me to expand my early Python Patrol collection and bring a new character into the fold.

2019 Black Major Python Patrol Stormshadow

7.  2005 Comic Pack Zartan

I remember profiling this figure at some point in the past.  But, I couldn't find it.  So, I wrote up a new one.  And, due to Zartan's enduring popularity and the fact that this version is pretty close to the vintage in appearance, this post showed up in the top 10.

2005 Comic Pack Zartan, 2018 Red Laser Army Asa Negra

6.  Mortal Kombat Movie Edition Shang Tsung (Ninja Commando Budo)

Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter Movie Edition figures ebb and flow in popularity.  However, since the Mortal Kombat Movie Edition Shang Tsung was originally intended as the 1995 Ninja Commando Budo, collectors have long coveted it.

Mortal Kombat Movie Edition Shang Tsung, 1995 Ninja Commando Budo, Unproduced G.I. Joe Figures

5.  Rarities - Unproduced 2002 Shock Viper

The 2019 Rarities month was kind of a dud.  There were some things that happened behind the scenes that lead to that.  So, while prior years saw several Rarities posts in the top 10, there is just one from 2019. This Shock Viper repaint would have been better than the copper colored one we actually got at retail.  We never got the story as to why Hasbro changed it, though.

2002 Unproduced Shock Viper

4.  1986 Zandar

The Zartan family is very popular.  And, that carried over to Zandar.  I had postponed profiling this figure for a long time.  But, when I finally got around to it, Zandar found an audience.

1986 Zandar, Zartan's Brother, Funskool Road Pig, 1988

3.  Funskool Chuckles

Of the 2000's era Funskool releases, Chuckles is probably the most obscure.  He was only available on a Russian card and was never offered by any of the American Funskool sellers.  Fortunately, he's still affordable and easy to find today.  As foreign repaints go, this is barely one.  But, it's always fun to track down some of the less popular Funskool variants.

Funskool Chuckles, Russian Funskool, 1987

2.  2019 Black Major "Purple Haze" Cobra Invasor

The final Black Major figure on this list is also still my favorite release of the past year or so.  This purple Snake Eyes repaint, sold as an Invasor, is a great update for the Snake Eyes mold and is a lot of fun to have around.  This figure was very popular at the beginning of the year.  But, he kind of faded away as newer paint variations were released.  It will be interesting to see how this figure holds up over time.  But, he remains a personal favorite.

2018 Black Major Purple Haze Cobra Invasor, 1985 Snake Eyes

1. 1983 Cobra Commander

Cobra Commander was part of the Cobra Convergence event in the summer.  This is a collaborative effort of Joe content creators put together by HCC788.  All of the cross promotion lead to the most popular post on the site in 2019. The combination of one of the most famous figures in the line's history and the cross promotion from one of the biggest video reviews of G.I. Joe figures out there figured into this profile's placement.

1983 Cobra Commander, Black major, Cobra Trooper, Viper Pilot, Stinger, Vypra, 1998, 1984

Thanks again for dropping by in 2019.  2020 will see the continuation of my Anniversary series looking back at key moments in the site's history.  Rarities Month will return in June with a broader selection of content for this year.  Guest Reviews will appear.  And, I've got a nice slate of profiles planned as the year plays out.  I hope you and your families all have a great 2020!