Saturday, February 29, 2020

20th Anniversary Key Moments - 1995 Unproduced Dr. Mindbender

In 1999, I dropped way too much money on a figure that was sold as a 1995 Battle Rangers Flint prototype.  I missed out, though, on the figure I really wanted: the unproduced 1995 Battle Rangers Dr. Mindbender.  The person who bought it had every intention of hiding it away and keeping it from collectors.  But, a cool thing happened: turns out the dealer selling the prototypes had an extra Mindbender and he sold it to another collector who kept photos of it in the community.  As luck would have it, this person wanted to sell his right at the time I was in position to buy one.  And, with a little negotiating, the 1995 Dr. Mindbender entered my collection in May of 2001.

I like weird figures.  G.I. Joe's appeal to me was that it wasn't just some random military line where every guy was in the same color and basic uniform.  Really, it was super heroes that happened to be in the military.  And, wacky figures that stretched the boundaries of realism were what attracted me to the line and kept me in to this day.  This Dr. Mindbender would have been the culmination of that tradition.  The figure is an homage to the self-mutilating 1993 Dr. Mindbender while also having roots in the iconic 1986 version.  It would have been the perfect benchmark villain for 1995.  But, that never got to be.

The Joe line died before this figure saw the light of day.  Many collectors deride the 1990's as moving off topic of the classic Joe of the 1980's.  But, really, only 1993 heavily strayed from the military fantasy of the bygone decade.  1994 did have Star Brigade and Hasbro was going to go heavy on the aliens and Manimals in later 1994 and 1995.  But, the core of the Battle Corps Rangers would have matched with the 1994 Battle Corps in that it was pretty true to the line's roots.  And, 1995 would have seen many classic characters return to the line...just like we saw in 1994.  In short, it wasn't the neon or a loss of focus on Joe's core that derailed the line.  G.I. Joe had just run it's course after 13 consecutive years of retail release.  1995 would not have saved the line.  But, had it seen production, it's likely that collectors of 2020 would be hugely over-paying for the lower production runs that surely would have accompanied the 1995 retail releases.

This Mindbender really started a trend for me showcasing more and more rare figures.  Mostly, I branched into foreign Joes as those became my focal point after my acquisition of this Mindbender.  And, from the summer of 2001 through 2004, the site became known more for foreign and rare releases than the actual lesser appreciated figures that had driven the first 18 months of the site's life.  It was a reputation that lasted for a long time.  In the past 5 years, though, I've exhausted my supply of rare releases.  So, I've turned more to the site's roots of finding uncovered gems or just odd figures that no one cares about.  Each focus was aligned with my collecting philosophy of the time.

I no longer own this Mindbender.  He was a casualty of my collection purge in the early 2010's.  I simply didn't have a need to own him any longer and got a good enough offer that it made sense to liquidate him.  In some ways, I regret it.  This figure is great and it was always fun owning a piece of Joe history.  But, in other ways, it made no sense to hold onto a figure that was barely a display piece.  My collection is focused on loose toys as that's what I played with as a kid and appreciate today.  This Mindbender wasn't painted and, therefore, wasn't all that useful to me beyond being a conversation piece.

Since 2001, a lot more of these figures have surfaced.  We even have found hand painted samples.  And, Hasbro released the intended card for this figure a few years ago.  So, we know a lot more about him than we did 19 years ago.  But, the age of social media is swallowing the Joe knowledge that's out there.  And, photos, info and stories of figures like this Mindbender are lost in private groups and the poor search functions that plague sites whose only purpose for existing is to get users to constantly share new content (so they can sell ads).  The Joe world is losing its collective archive and most of the discoveries of the past decade are not well documented in a place that's easily accessible to Joe fans.  I bought this Mindbender to help prevent that from happening.  For a while, things were OK.  But, the past few years have turned the tide and the secretive nature of the Joe world has won out and collectors of today simply don't have access to the recesses of the Joe line's history and many gems like this Mindbender will simply never be known to the Joe collecting public.  And, that's too bad.

1995 Dr. Mindbender, Battle Corps Rangers, Unproduced G.I. Joe

1995 Dr. Mindbender, Battle Corps Rangers, Unproduced G.I. Joe

1995 Dr. Mindbender, Battle Corps Rangers, Unproduced G.I. Joe

1995 Dr. Mindbender, Battle Corps Rangers, Unproduced G.I. Joe

1995 Dr. Mindbender, Battle Corps Rangers, Unproduced G.I. Joe

Thursday, February 27, 2020

1986 Dial Tone - Around The Web

I've told the story of my brother finding Dial Tone on some shelf of towels back in early 1986.  My insane jealousy over this still resonates today and I never feel like I appreciate Dial Tone enough in my collection.  He's a great figure and one of the highlights of Hasbro's iconic years.  His gear is amazing.  His colors are fun and work well.  And, he just fits with the rest of the line.  Here's the best of the 1986 Dial Tone from around the web.

1986 Dialtone Profile

1986 Dialtone by Danish Dude

1986 Dialtone by yorktownjoe

1986 Dialtone by Flint

1986 Dialtone by gi_joeisthere

1986 Dialtone by el_fototoygrafer

1986 Dial Tone, 1991 Red Star, Oktober Guard, 1993 Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines

1986 Dial Tone, 1991 Red Star, Oktober Guard, 1993 Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines, JUMP, Steel Brigade, Black Major, Factory Custom


1986 Dial Tone, 1991 Red Star, Oktober Guard, 1993 Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines, JUMP, Steel Brigade, Black Major, Factory Custom, 1985 Footloose

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

1989 TARGAT

It's really tough to pin down the "greatest" year of the vintage Joe line.  Really, there were examples of creativity, quality and disaster in each and every year.  Some years were more heavy on one of those attributes than others.  But, overall, every vintage year has some gems.  1989 is no exception.  In fact, it's probably one of those years that super high on quality and creativity and low on disaster.  In the case of the 1989 TARGAT figure, even the less than stellar design is made up for by the amount of creativity that went into the character.  And, while I consider the TARGAT to be among the least valuable enemy troopers, the design still has quite a bit of usefulness.

1989 saw a solid slate of Cobra army builders released.  The iconic Alley and Night Vipers remain among the most popular figures with collectors and have seen factory custom makers take the sculpts to new heights.  The Frag Viper, Annihilator and HEAT Viper all serve important functions within Cobra and feature both fun designs and amazing gear.  On the outside looking in, though, is the TARGAT.  The TARGAT not only features an odd specialty, he has clashing colors and his gear, while numerous and bulky, isn't all that cool.  In a down year of Joe, he might have slid by, unnoticed.  But, in a year full of great figures like 1989 was, TARGAT stands out as a bit of a misfire.

Space was big for Hasbro in 1989.  On the Joe side, Countdown was released as a single carded figure and cheaper version of the space shuttle, the Crusader, was released with a new Payload as well.  Cobra still had the 1988 Astro Viper and Stellar Stiletto on the shelves.  So, there was a good amount of space toys for a kid.  TARGAT was themed with those releases.  He is a Trans Atomspheric Rapid Global Assault Trooper (T.A.R.G.A.T.) who is launched out of a space shuttle and streaks to earth like a meteor to attack their enemies.  On some level, this is the type of insanity that is perfectly in line with other Cobra specialties.  It also have kids another figure who could battle the Joes in space or be a land based jet pack trooper who could quickly deploy to a battlefield.

In 1989, I was out of Joe toys.  I was buying the comic.  But, TARGAT had no memorable appearances there.  (At least, none I can remember.)  My only exposure to the TARGAT figure was when we spent a week at a friend of my mother's home up in Vermont.  Their kids were a bit younger and had the full contingent of 1989 Joe figures.  From their toy bins, I assembled the Alley Viper, Annihilator and TARGAT figures.  I put their gear together from either a catalog they had in their toy room or a cardback.  I got some of the weapons wrong.  But, it was close enough to realize that 1989 had some cool figures.  But, being a teenager but but still too young to drive, it would be another year before I'd break down and buy a retail Joe figure from a local Kohl's store while on my lunch break.

When I became a full fledged collector and was focused on lots containing figures from 1988-1992, TARGAT was not a figure I included in the calculation of whether a lot was worth it or not.  Once I had a single version, I had no need for further TARGATs.  Instead, I focused on the 1993 version that could be acquired carded for a buck or two back then.  At one point, I had half a dozen or so TARGATs acquired through acquisitions focused on other figures.  But, they didn't survive my collection purge and I only retained one complete figure to maintain my 1989 run.  In looking back through the site, I don't find any photos of the 1989 TARGAT figure.  That's a rarity as I usually try to include as many figures as I can in photos and pride myself on having at least one photo of close to every vintage Joe.  So, that tells you my interest level in the TARGAT figure.  Heck, it wasn't until this profile that I realized he was actually an Iron Grenadier release instead of Cobra.  Just another testament to this figure's lack of significance in my collection.

TARGAT's accessories aren't all that exciting.  When you compare his bulky jet pack with either the JUMP or even the Annihilator's helicopter pack, the TARGAT's gear is just huge.  It might make sense with him being deployed from space and all.  But, it lacks the subtle nuance of most vintage Joe accessories and comes across as something whose impressiveness was all tied to its size.  The figure's face shield does work well and is a cooler piece than even Fast Draw's mask.  It is a nice pilot helmet and the TARGAT does work in the Hurricane and other Cobra jets.  The two small pistols are boring, though.  They aren't cool enough to belie their tininess.  When compared to the Alley Viper's gun or the Night Viper's rifle, the little pistols seem very inadequate.

In the 20+ years I've had this site, I've profiled hundreds of Joe figures from all areas of the line.  The site started as a way to give exposure to figures made after 1988 because, at the time, the collecting world pretended that the vintage Joe line pretty much ended in 1987.  In time, though, I morphed into showcasing figures that I personally liked.  Through the years, I hit most of those and have moved into obscure releases and figures that I'm not as keen on.  In some ways, this frames the line in a light of negativity as many of my subjects are figures with whom I find fault.  But, it's a natural progression of both doing the things you love first and then having the thing you love convert into something lasting.  I search long and hard for figures that I really enjoy to showcase. They're tough to find.  But, sometimes, I discover some good in a figure that I've long either ignored or outright disliked.

That being said, we once again find the community at a crossroads.  Lovers of the new figure scale are doing exactly what the anniversary collectors did in 2007.  They ignore legit criticism of the product and quickly turn to off putting tactics to shut down criticism they don't want to hear.  It's as if they hear anything negative about the toys they want to love that it will undermine their ability to collect them.  The 6" Joes are something new.  The people who will collect them are not, for the most part, actual G.I. Joe collectors.  They are guys who collect that scale.  It's a large demographic and any Joe collectors that Hasbro gets to tag along for the ride are just gravy for them.  But, don't fool yourself.  Look at the G.I. Joe packaging, figure design and presentation and compare it to Marvel or Star Wars or even the niche Ghostbusters releases.  You know who the red-headed stepchild of Hasbro is.  And, it won't be long before we're reminded of that again and again.

The TARGAT mold has 5 main uses: this original figure, the 1993 Star Brigade repaint, the Funskool TARGAT (based on the 1993 figure), the Funskool Street Hawk figure (Which is now so expensive that it's, essentially, unattainable.  Seriously, does no one remember SmallJoes.com having them for ~$7 for years and never selling out?!?) and the 2006 convention Coil figures.  When the Funskool figures were plentiful, this left enough variations and availability to create all sorts of cool kitbashes among the various releases.  Now, that's far less common.  While I'd have loved to have seen a 1994 Star Brigade repaint of this mold or even a use in a Toys R Us six pack, I can't complain too much.  This mold isn't a favorite of mine and all of it's colorings work when you consider the environment in which the TARGAT's specialty should be used.  (Oh, yeah.  This body mold was also used for the 1993 Create a Cobra.  Thanks to the comments for that!)

These days, mint and complete with filecard TARGATs are about $20 figures.  You can find incomplete versions for half that amount and even get discolored complete versions for much cheaper.  Oddly, 1993 TARGATs run about the same price for mint and complete versions.  So, there's no real savings there if you want a high quality example of the figure.  Even in the days when TARGATs were dirt cheap, though, I had no desire to really army build them.  And, few other collectors did, either.  The figure is one of those that most people acquire for completeness and then forget about.  There isn't really a good way to display Cobra astronauts.  And, that limits the TARGAT.  For current pricing, I'd pass this guy by as he's certain to fall in price during the next Joe interest lull.  When that happens, I might pick up a couple of extras to just have around.  But, if I don't, it's no big loss as this isn't a figure that's ever really piqued my interest.

1989 TARGAT, Iron Grenadiers, Mummy Mask, Lucky Bell, Power Commandos, Bootleg


1989 TARGAT, Iron Grenadier, Python Patrol, Tele Viper

Thursday, February 20, 2020

1986 Leatherneck - Around The Web

1986 introduced even more new characters who featured redundant specialties of the earlier Joe team.  Leatherneck was the new marine, meant as a supplement/enhancement/replacement for Gung Ho.  Quickly, though, Leatherneck began to stand on his own.  He retained some of the gruff characteristics of a marine.  But, the figure and his gear were different enough make him unique from Gung Ho.  Here's the best of his original paint job from around the web.

1986 Leatherneck Profile

1986 Leatherneck by specialmissionforce

1986 Leatherneck at JoeBattleLines.com

1986 Leatherneck by steelbrigade

1986 Leatherneck by wigramjoe

1986 Leatherneck by HCC788

1986 Leatherneck at JoeADay.com

1986 Leatherneck by Scarrviper

1986 Leatherneck by Hit and Run

1986 Leatherneck by Otto The Otter

1986 Leatherneck, Beachhead, 1985 Mauler


1986 Leatherneck, Beachhead, 1985 Mauler, Claymore, Mission to Brazil, Toys R Us Exclusive

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

1985 Lady Jaye

In the beginning of 1985, I was in competition with a couple of my friends to find the newly released Joes.  At various points, one of us pulled ahead of the other.  But, usually, we all found the same figures around the same time.  And, realizing that the end game was that we all had the same stuff, the quest turned more to finding a figure first.  My most famous find was when I came across a recently opened case of figures at the local Toys R Us store on the Friday afternoon that Spring Break began in 1985.  From it, I plucked a Snake Eyes.  None of my friends would find him for months.  But, luck struck again a few weeks later when I came across a Lady Jaye at the local Target store.

We all knew Lady Jaye from the 1984 cartoon series.  Her figure, along with Flint and Shipwreck, was one of the most anticipated 1985 releases.  She made a cameo in the final comic (#33) of 1984 and then took a starring role in the first issue released in 1985.  Upon finding her figure, though, I was somewhat shocked at her appearance.  Gone was her signature javelin quiver.  The rifle was still there.  But, it seemed empty.  More glaring, though, was that the figure was wearing a hat.  She had never had a headcover in the cartoon.  So, the look was jarringly different from the character we had come to know.

This wasn't all that relevant for me, though.  You see, the Sunday before we found Lady Jaye, I came across a Dusty figure at the local KB store.  I begged my parents for him and even promised to not ask for any more figures for a while.  They bought him for me.  So, when I found Lady Jaye and the Snow Serpent (the last figure for whom we learned the code name in 1985) at that Target, my younger brothers each got a figure and I did not.  As Lady Jaye belonged to one of them, she didn't quickly join the various adventures I played out in my room each day after school and right before bed.  Losing this crucial time when the figure was new somewhat limited Lady Jaye for me.

The other thing that soured me on the figure was that I had two friends who simply loved her.  Annoying loved her.  Not only would she be their first choice for a mission, but they would endow her with super powers and make her an unbeatable superwoman.  Playing with others who took this tact got tiresome and left me uninterested in Lady Jaye.  My frustrations with them were transferred to Lady Jaye and she never managed to take off as a viable character in my Joe world.  Even now, she's not really a figure I tend to display with my other 1985 figures as I see her as somewhat out of place with my childhood favorites.

As a figure, Lady Jaye works well enough.  She is a somewhat bright green.  One of the great things about the vintage Joe line was that the designers had an eye for how the figures would appear when randomly stocked on store pegs.  They made sure to choose complementary colors and not create too many figures that looked like one another and would be indistinguishable from one another.  This allowed kids to quickly recognize the figure they were seeking.  So, Lady Jaye uses green.  But, it's a different green from Flint, Footloose or Alpine.  This keeps her "military-esque" and makes her more visually distinctive than releases from when Hasbro foolishly abandoned this practice in the 2000's.

Lady Jaye's gear isn't all that interesting.  But, it is definitely essential to the figure.  The harpoon gun is Lady Jaye's and Lady Jaye's alone.  It looks perfect with the figure and doesn't really work with any other figure.  Her backpack is scaled to Lady Jaye's sculpt and, again, works well with her while also not really working with any other figures.  Her final piece of gear is a video camera.  It's comically dated now.  But, in 1985, something so small was novel.  And, as a kid, I found more uses for the camera than I did even Lady Jaye herself.  It found itself a vital piece of equipment for spying on Cobra, taking video of the Dreadnok nefarious deeds or even catching a Joe double agent at work.  The camera found its way into the hands of many figures while the rest of Lady Jaye's gear really only works for her.

Lady Jaye had little first life, a somewhat chaotic second life and then a collector based final life before the mold was retired and replaced by a completely new one.  Hasbro released just one Lady Jaye in 1985.  From there, the mold went to Funskool.  She was released in India for many years in the mid 1990's and has several minor variants of body shading and accessory colors.  Funskool also used her for the Canary Ann figure in the Complan Commandos line.  Hasbro got the mold back for the 1997 anniversary figures and released her in an excellent black and grey paint job.  The body was used again in 1998 with a less than stellar head as the new character Volga.  Despite collector demand for Lady Jaye, Hasbro didn't use the mold again until 2003 when she appeared as a Convention release.  This was the final usage of the original mold.  In 2005, Hasbro created an all new body mold that was used on Daina.  It was used again on the 2006 Comic Pack Lady Jaye and the 2007 Convention Doc.  For a character as popular as she was, Lady Jaye really didn't get many releases.  Scarlett and Baroness dominated the slots for female characters in the 2000's and Lady Jaye was really neglected.

There was a time when collectors believed that because Lady Jaye was a female figure that she existed in drastically lower numbers than other figures.  Time has proven that if that was true, it has had no impact on the figure's availability today.  There are always tons of mint, complete and with filecard Lady Jaye figures available.  They sell anywhere from $15 to $30, with the bulk of them in the $25 range.  That's a lot.  But, there aren't a lot of other options for the Lady Jaye character.  And, the original version is easily her most iconic look.  I'm not a huge fan of this figure.  But, I'm also not as against it as I was in earlier days.  Lady Jaye has her place in the collecting pantheon.  But each collector finds her useful or not.  I'm glad I have one from my early collecting days.  But, I'd also not miss her were she absent.

1985 Lady Jaye, Heavy Metal, Mauler

1985 Lady Jaye, Heavy Metal, Mauler, VAMP, 1982, Commando, Snake Eyes, Firefly, 2004, Urban Strike, Red Laser Army

Thursday, February 13, 2020

1998 Ace - Around The Web

Ace was the Joe Team's original fighter pilot.  His white and red uniform defines the character.  But, in 1998, Hasbro updated the figure with a darker color palette and the result is a release that has since become rather sought after.  The grey and black 1998 Ace is a perfect Night Force pilot.  But, he's also so well done with intricate paint applications and colors that he works better than the original figure in all but a handful of use cases.  Here's the best of the 1998 Ace from around the web.

1998 Ace Profile

1998 Ace by Slipstream80

1998 Ace by yotothejoe

1998 Ace by ironman3719

1998 Ace at JoeADay.com

1998 Ace by Slipstream80 02

1998 Ace by yotothejoe 02

1998 Ace, 1994 Razor Blade, Funskool Night Viper

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Red Shadows Cobra Invasor - Black Major

When G.I. Joe was exported to Brazil, most of the major characters went with it.  On the Cobra side, though, the Estrela toy company forewent Cobra Commander (likely because Hasbro kept the mold) and created two new characters for their toy line.  The Cobra De Aco and Cobra Invasor would later be joined by the Cobra Mortal from Argentina to make a triumvirate of exclusive Cobra characters from South America.  They all used Snake Eyes parts as all or part of the mold.  Across the Atlantic Ocean, a slew of repainted Joe figures were incorporated into the enemy faction of Action Force: the Red Shadows.  The two combined to make great extensions for enemies of G.I. Joe.  In 2010, though, the Black Major forged the two together and released a Red Shadows Invasor using a repainted Snake Eyes body but colored all in red and with the iconic skull and bones logo of the European Red Shadows.  This figure tied together some fringe elements of Joe canon and gave collectors a spectacular way to expand their collections.

The Snake Eyes repaints were the second mold produced by the Black Major.  They followed the Cobra Troopers and had some of the same issues as the Cobra Troopers did.  The body mold is slightly smaller than a real Snake Eyes figure.  So, the figure will neither fit onto vintage Joe figures stand nor be able to wear a backpack.  On top of that, the figure uses the large crotch that appeared on the 1982 straight arm figures rather than the more streamlined piece that debuted with the swivel arm upgrades.  It creates an odd visual for the figure.  And, the greater likelihood of breakage is still there.  But, these are collector figures so there aren't many kids who have gotten a chance to break them apart.

There are a large number of Snake Eyes variants.  Some were Invasors.  Some were Cobra Mortals.  Some had obscure logos tampo-ed on their chest.  Some were useful in odd ways like the desert Snake Eyes variants.  Others were just over the top.  But, this Red Shadows Snake Eyes is the one that works best for me.  The main reason is that this figure seems like something that could have existed.  A repainted Snake Eyes figure was released in the Action Force line.  And, Red Shadows features repaints of Cobra figures.  To me, it's within the realm of possibility that a repainted Snake Eyes could have been used in the Red Shadows line.  (He wasn't, though.)  So, in looking at this figure, he seems less like a fan creation and more an extension of what Hasbro and its licensed subsidiaries might have developed.

From that visual appeal, though, this Invasor works for me on a different level.  In the early issues of the Joe comic, we saw several anonymous Cobras whose look differed from standard troopers and officers.  The characters  appeared in background panels starting with the first issue.  It stands to reason that early Cobra would have had several "named" leaders to help corral the troops and lead Cobra military operations.  In the days before Destro, Major Bludd and Zartan, Cobra Commander still needed top operatives to carry out his orders.  This is where characters like the Invasor, Mortal and De Aco come into play for me.

I see the Invasor as one of those early Cobra operatives who was brought over in the Red Shadows merger.  For the Shadows, he operated all over the world.  But, once within Cobra, the Invasor was relegated to European duty.  Here, he recruited defectors from the Cold War east and shuffled them into Cobras ranks.  Their malleable personalities, military training and anti-American upbringing made them perfect pawns to take up arms against the U.S. military.  However, by the time Cobra Commander ended the Red Shadows as a faction and globally branded his evil enterprise as Cobra, the Invasor was long dead.  I've yet to come up with a story that ends with his demise.  So, I'm still unsure if he dies at the hands of the Joes or due to a double cross from his own allies.  But, the Invasor is no more and is completely forgotten within the modern ranks of Cobra.

Red Shadows Cobra Invasors are no longer easy to find.  They appear very infrequently.  Typically, you will pay around $40 for one.  But, left to open market, the figure will likely go for more.  Back in 2010, all of the Invasors and Mortals were pretty easy to find.  So, if you were around back then, you could have easily bought one for around $10.  There's just not as many of those guys still around as there used to be.  Which is why this Invasor and many other flavors don't show up all that often.  I'm grateful I had a chance to get this figure and have found him to be one of the best acquisitions I've made in the past decade.

Red Shadows Cobra Invasor, Black Major, Snake Eyes, Factory Custom, Action Force, Bootleg, Hunter, Cobra Officer


Red Shadows Cobra Invasor, Black Major, Snake Eyes, Factory Custom, Action Force, Bootleg, Hunter, Cobra Officer, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Cobra Commander, Destro, Steel Brigade

Red Shadows Cobra Invasor, Black Major, Snake Eyes, Factory Custom, Action Force, Bootleg, Hunter, Cobra Officer, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Cobra Commander, Destro, Steel Brigade, Laser Exterminator, Cobra Trooper

Red Shadows Cobra Invasor, Black Major, Snake Eyes, Factory Custom, Action Force, Bootleg, Hunter, Cobra Officer, Red Laser, Red Jackal, Cobra Commander, Destro, Steel Brigade, Laser Exterminator, Cobra Trooper, Cobra Mortal, Shadowtrack

Thursday, February 6, 2020

1993 Mail Away Deep Six - Around The Web

The 1984 Deep Six is a terrible figure.  But, the 1989 repaint is one of the greatest updates to a character that Hasbro produced.  The 1993 repaint is a bright, but still a fun update to the new mold.  And, in today's market, it's a stupidly expensive figure.  Everyone seems to have forgotten that there was massive bagged overstock of this figure available for years.  You could get them for $10 on Amazon less than 5 years ago.  But, collectors are dumb some times.  I like this figure because I've had it for years.  I like it because I army built them for $3 each.  And, if I had to pay today's prices, I wouldn't have one because he's not that good.  But, since I do have a few, here's the best of him from around the web.

1993 Mail Away Deep Six Profile

1993 Deep Six by thedragonfortress 01

1993 Deep Six by Slipstream80

Deep Six at G.I. Joe Wiki

1993 Deep Six by thedragonfortress 02

1993 Mail Away Deep Six, Shark 9000, 1994 Star Brigade Payload

1993 Mail Away Deep Six, Shark 9000, 1994 Star Brigade Payload, 1988 Bugg, 1992 Eel

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Funskool Buzzer

Light blue plastic sucks.  It sucks because, while it can be a useful color to represent things like jeans, it tends to fade, discolor or turn brittle.  All of these things are heavily evident upon G.I. Joe figures produced in the 1980's that used the light blue colored plastic.  In some cases, though, foreign toy companies were able to surpass Hasbro by using different plastic mixtures.  Some whites stay white.  And, some blues stay blue.  You still see odd instances of massive discoloration.  But, many times, the foreign figures hold up better than their American originals.  Such is the case with the Funskool Buzzer.  When Funskool first re-released this figure in 2002, it had been 17 years since the release of the U.S. version.  Now, it's been 17 years since the release of the most heavily imported Funskool Buzzers.  Most of them are holding up very well.  Though, it's also a relative case of selection bias since most of the Funskool Buzzers that showed up in 2002 through 2003 were held by collectors and well cared for.  Regardless of this, the Funskool release also gives me a chance to revisit the one Dreadnok character that I really enjoyed as a kid: Buzzer.

For me, Buzzer was the only Dreadnok who had any long term usage.  While Ripper and Torch were turned into nameless minions who would easily die in firefights, Buzzer remained a viable Cobra character.  Most of this stems from issue #35 of the comic when Buzzer tried to take command of the team and stole Zartan's motorcycle.  This gave Buzzer more depth since he wasn't just some brainless thug who wanted to perform violent acts.  Buzzer's actions had more purpose.  (Issue #30, though, proved he could be an idiot, too, when violence overtook his sense of judgement.)  Buzzer being smart helped keep him around.  Often, I would pair him opposite of Zartan.  But, in my world, Buzzer was a fighter and not a gang member hell bent on wanton destruction.

Much of this was based on the comic appearance of Buzzer.  However, some of it was also a function of Buzzer's look and his gear.  Of the three original Dreadnoks, Buzzer was the most "normal" looking.  He had a pony tail and didn't wear sleeves.  But, that was superior to the more bare chested looks that both of his team mates tried to pull off.  While Ripper's gear was probably better than Buzzer's, I found Buzzer's to be the most fun.  Buzzer could slash away with his blade on a chain and easily cut down close quarter foes.  He found himself a foil to Quick Kick where the blade would battle Quick Kick's nunchuks.  The chainsaw could be used with great effect against opponents in similar quarters.  He could also damage Joe vehicles and planes.  And, since Buzzer didn't have a long range weapon, he was easy to assimilate into the Thunder Machine or other Cobra vehicle.

For that reason, Buzzer lasted in my collection for a good many years.  We even had more than one of him as I used his torso with a Duke head to create one of my early custom figures.  Even into my final days of play in late 1987, Buzzer had relevance.  He would ultimately side with Zartan when my personal Cobra hierarchy split.  Due to the poor condition and long gone axe, though, when it was time to pack my Buzzer away, he didn't get much care.  In the mid 1990's, when I had just a small box of Joes that I had salvaged from various boxes of old toys from our house, Buzzer was among the figures I found.  The blue pants had long ago faded to a ghost of their former selves.  But, the character lived on and was among one of the few 1985 figures that I definitely wanted to replace as I became a collector.  This Funskool version has given a more vibrant variant of the character I found at a Sears store in December of 1984. 

It's hard to believe how long it's been since the Funskool imports started showing up.  I logged onto my work computer one morning in February of 2001 and found that East Coast collectors had already pounced on the announcement that YoJoe.com was selling Funskool figures for $5 each.  I bought a few stragglers.  But, by the summer of that year, there were multiple Funskool sellers and the competition drove the prices down to $4 each.  Over the next few years, Funskool figures were heavily imported...so much so that figures like this Buzzer got oversaturated and eventually found themselves on clearance as the Joe world died out in the late 2000's.  Seeing people fawning over figures that sat unsold for $4 is tough to see.  But, many of today's collectors weren't around in the early 2000's and are unaware that these Funskool figures were sold by many dealers for cheap prices and even, in some cases, pegwarmed.  The fact that something doesn't appear all that often for sale is very different to it not being available.  And, there are still collectors with boxes of cheaply purchased Funskool figures sitting in their storage areas: completely unaware that the extras they bought for army building or custom fodder have now found grotesquely increased value.

Buzzer got a good amount of use.  While the mold saw just one vintage release, Funskool released the character for many years.  There are many Indian variants.  Some are incredibly rare and very expensive.  Others are almost indiscernible from this common 2002 era figure and sell for peanuts.  If you are a Funskool collector, there are likely enough variants to keep you busy for a while.  In April of 2003, Hasbro re-acquired the Buzzer mold.  He immediately went into a 2004 convention set where he was released with his full gear.  (This proved that Funskool likely returned all the accessory molds with their figures molds and Hasbro just chose to not use them on their retail releases.)  In 2005, Buzzer was given a new head and released in a comic pack.  There are 4 major Buzzer variants to track down (Red Funskool, Blue version (Hasbro or Funskool), Convention and Comic Pack.)  Each has value and is useful for the Buzzer character.  But, looks based on his 1985 appearance are the most popular and useful.  So, this Funskool version remains a viable option for anyone looking to get a classic Dreadnok into their collection.

The upside of the 2000's era Funskool releases was that the figures based on their original coloring often included vintage accessories.  It was really only the final Funskool releases that started to deviate from the original gear.  So, Buzzer includes his chainsaw, gas can backpack and chain axe.  As the axe was something I quickly lost as a kid, I always hold it in high regard.  So, it was always nice to get the full array of gear with Buzzer.  And, yes, I know he's not holding his chainsaw "correctly" in any of the photos below.  But, that is how I've had Buzzer hold his saw since I first opened my Hasbro version in December of 1984.  And, my Buzzers will hold it that way until my decendents find pools of blue and tan goo inside an acid free baggie in 60+ years.

Funskool Buzzers come in a couple of flavors.  And, that flavor defines the pricing.  The Funskool Buzzers made between 2002 and 2003 are pretty cheap.  You can buy carded versions for under $20 and still find loose, mint and complete figures for under 1/2 that price.  Earlier carded Buzzers might command a premium.  But, loose versions are difficult to differentiate from their later counterparts...unless there's a significant variant.  Funskool released a red vested Buzzer with dark hair.  That figure will command hundreds of dollars.  But, it's also rare and was long out of production before massive Funskool imports to the U.S. began.  So, if you want the subject of this profile, he's cheap and easy to find.  U.S. dealers clearanced him out and that's still affecting his pricing today.  At some point, though, that will change.  And, you may wish you'd acted on the Funskool Buzzer availability.  Until then, the figure is useful, but not necessary if you have a Hasbro version of the character.

Funskool Buzzer, Dreadnok, Quick Kick, 1985, Weapon Transport

Funskool Buzzer, Dreadnok, Quick Kick, 1985, Weapon Transport

Funskool Buzzer, Dreadnok, Quick Kick, 1985, Weapon Transport

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Palindrome Day - Tomax and Xamot

Today is 02/02/2020.  It is the first palindrome day since 11/11/1111, over 900 years ago.  It's one of the weird things that doesn't mean anything, but is a fun mathematical anomaly.  So, I'll just put this out there with a call out to the mirror image twins of Cobra: Tomax and Xamot.

1985 Tomax and Xamot

2005 Tomax and Xamot

1985 Tomax and Xamot Around The Web

1985 Tomax and Xamot, Crimson Twins, SMS, Sears Exclusive, Black Major, Crimson Guard, Tank Trooper, Cobra Trooper, MMS


1985 Tomax and Xamot, Crimson Twins, SMS, Sears Exclusive, Black Major, Crimson Guard, Tank Trooper, Cobra Trooper, MMS, 2005, Toys R Us Exclusive, Crimson Shadow Guard, Fred