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.