Thursday, July 30, 2020

2006 Gas Mask Trooper - Around The Web

In 1997, if you had told collectors they'd be able to buy two classic army builders crafted after the Cobra Officer and a newly sculpted Lady Jaye for $10 they'd have been ecstatic.  If you told them that the set would be a massive pegwarmer and be widely clearanced, they'd have never believed you.  But, that's what happened.  This Gas Mask Trooper is a solid, if unspectacular release.  He works well with the other Comic Pack army builders and was something a little different.  Sadly, many of these figures are starting to degrade due to the cheap plastic Hasbro used during the 2000's.  So, enjoy the best of him from around the web while you can.

2006 Gas Mask Trooper Profile

2006 Gas Mask Trooper by strikeforcecodename

2006 Gas Mask Trooper by u.n.i.t_gijoe

2006 Gas Mask Trooper by falcon_c

2006 Gas Mask Trooper by strikeforcecodename

2006 Gas Mask Trooper by joerizzo2025

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

1985 Catalog

In the 1970's and 1980's, kid's toy lines were built around cross selling.  The whole point of packaging and inserts for the toys was to get the child excited about buying more toys from the same line.  Single figures featured all the other available figures on the cardbacks.  And, vehicles and playsets went a step further by including small product booklets that showcased not just the figures but all of the other vehicles and playsets that you could buy.  The best part of these catalogs was that, if you got them early enough, they were the only window into future releases that any kid would have.  There was no internet.  Toy magazines were years away.  If you needed to start lobbying your grandparents for a magnificent Christmas gift in May, the insert catalogs were great ways to show them what you wanted.  The G.I. Joe line included these catalogs from the very beginning in 1982.  Each year, a new one would appear: showcasing all the new toys for that year.  While the most culturally significant of these catalogs for me was the 1984 edition, the 1985 edition brought a greater array of surprises and ushered in the golden age of colossal toys.

The hallmark of a G.I. Joe catalog was the presentation.  The 1984 release featured a prominent Duke card art.  1985 went with a painting of the new class of Joes all raising fists in font of a stone logo with planes flying over it.  This always seemed unimpressive to me as the characters were so small.  But, the artwork seems to be a collector favorite.  

1985 Catalog

When you open the 1985 edition, the first thing you see is Tomax and Xamot.  Alongside them are Zartan and the Dreadnoks.  It's likely that this place of prominence was intentional.  Zartan had been a keystone item in 1984.  And, recent documentation that shows there were over 1.7 million Zartans produced backs that up.  It's likely that Hasbro wanted Tomax and Xamot to follow in Zartan's footsteps as one of the line's top sellers and were given top billing for that reason.

1985 Catalog, Tomax and Xamot, Zartan, Dreadnoks

The next logical unfold from there reveals the figures.  The new, 1985 releases are in the top photo with the carryovers in the bottom picture.  My great lament for this 1985 figure lineup is that the photos are simply too small.  1984 gave kids a pretty clear view of the figures that were released.  The dark background, spread out lineup and offsetting text left the 1985 photos too small to get a good view of the line's bread and butter figures.

1985 Catalog, Tomax and Xamot, Zartan, Dreadnoks, Stormshadow, Flint, Lady, Snake Eyes, Shipwreck, Crimson Guard

From here, the lineup is a bit less impressive.  You see the small battlefield playsets and vehicles.  This isn't to say that these aren't great toys.  But, when you opened up this catalog for the first time, the small pictures of these little items that didn't include figures weren't all that interesting.  Once you absorbed later pages, though, you could come back and drool over the little gems that were included here.

1985 Catalog, Tomax and Xamot, Zartan, Dreadnoks, Stormshadow, Flint, Lady, Snake Eyes, Shipwreck, Crimson Guard

1985 Catalog, Tomax and Xamot, Zartan, Dreadnoks, Stormshadow, Flint, Lady, Snake Eyes, Shipwreck, Crimson Guard

1985 Catalog, Tomax and Xamot, Zartan, Dreadnoks, Stormshadow, Flint, Lady, Snake Eyes, Shipwreck, Crimson Guard

Once the catalog was opened, though, you could flip it over.  And, here, the stalwarts of the 1985 line take shape.  It starts with the new Snow Cat and AWE Striker at the top.  But, since you were likely taking in the whole thing, this top panel was quickly skipped in favor of later sections.

1985 Catalog, Tomax and Xamot, Zartan, Dreadnoks, Stormshadow, Flint, Lady, Snake Eyes, Shipwreck, Crimson Guard

The next section features some carry forwards.  I find it odd that the Bridge Layer actually gets more real estate than the Transportable Tactical Battle Platform.  The TTBP was one of Hasbro's top notch playsets.  But, the Bridge Layer had a fun action feature and was an early release retailer exclusive to boot.  So, it may have gotten more prominence since it was likely already on the shelves when the first catalogs started appearing.

1985 Catalog, Tomax and Xamot, Zartan, Dreadnoks, Stormshadow, Flint, Lady, Snake Eyes, Shipwreck, Crimson Guard

After this, the catalog delivers the goods.  We get our first look at the Cobra Moray.  The purpose of the Moray becomes clear two panels later.  But, this is our first look at Cobra's naval flagship vehicle.  No kid was going to be able to resist the Moray.  But, just in case water toys weren't your thing, the second to last panel introduces the Mauler.  The Mauler was the tank that the MOBAT always wanted to be and filled that primal military need in any collection.

1985 Catalog, Tomax and Xamot, Zartan, Dreadnoks, Stormshadow, Flint, Lady, Snake Eyes, Shipwreck, Crimson Guard

1985 Catalog, Tomax and Xamot, Zartan, Dreadnoks, Stormshadow, Flint, Lady, Snake Eyes, Shipwreck, Crimson Guard

While all of that would be enough of a toyline to give a modern collector a yearly fill, Hasbro saved the bottom panel for the whopper: the USS Flagg.  Something so big and impressive was beyond reckoning to kids in 1985.  But, there it was in all its glory.  You'll note the fun little disclaimer in the bottom left saying some items (meaning the Flagg) wouldn't be available until the fall of 1985.  For, for any kid who got this under their tree, it was an unforgettable toy release.  But, if you were like me, the closest you got to a Flagg was this catalog picture.  Here, I envisioned all the adventures I'd have with the Flagg.  But, 35 years later, I still don't have one.

1985 Catalog, USS Flagg, Tomax and Xamot, Zartan, Dreadnoks, Stormshadow, Flint, Lady, Snake Eyes, Shipwreck, Crimson Guard

One thing G.I. Joe catalogs are known for is the many pre-production and prototype figures that appear in them.  As the catalogs were done well in advance of the year and included some items that wouldn't appear on the shelves until later in the season, it was common for some of the toys to still be in the prototype stage.  1985 is no exception.  The most notable and featured differences are the Tomax and Xamot figures.  They appear with the first unfold of the catalog.  Prominently featured, these figures also sport unproduced heads.  The heads are larger and fatter.  To me, they appear as if they may be modified Ripcord heads.  The bodies are slightly different, too.  The figures also feature silver colored weapons...a color that their oft used accessory still has never appeared in.

One other fun item for me with the catalogs are what I call continuity gaffes.  Throughout some catalogs there are figures pictured missing accessories or posed with the wrong gear.  When collectors do this, it is usually either necessity due to missing gear or choice due to personal preference.  With the Joe catalogs, I have to attribute some to laziness and others to the fact that the photographers who took the reference material photos were likely disinterested in their subject matter and were more concerned with getting it done than getting every detail correct.  In the 1985 catalog, the most glaring mistake is on Zartan.  While the figure is actually a production figure in this catalog, he's posed on his Swamp Skier with his chest plate falling off.  It seems a silly error to not correct.  Especially for such an important release in the line's history.  

1985 Catalog, Tomax and Xamot, Zartan, Dreadnoks, Stormshadow, Flint, Lady, Snake Eyes, Shipwreck, Crimson Guard

Aside from Zartan, Steeler appears in the Air Defense photo: wearing the wrong helmet.  In the Skyhawk photo, Roadblock is holding his gun by pivot that inserts into his missing tripod.  The Armadillo features now discontinued Zap as the driver.  But, he and Mutt have switched helmets.  The Silver Mirage is especially out of place as it's being ridden by Rock and Roll, Stalker and the 1982/1983 Snake Eyes figures: all out of circulation in 1985.  Cobra Commander also appears on the Ferret.  On the back side, Thunder is missing his head gear.  Major Bludd is holding Destro's pistol in the Moray spread.  Recondo is holding Stalker's rifle in the Mauler photo.  But, he has his correct weapon in the G.I. Joe HQ picture.  If you look closely, though, the 1985 Snake Eyes is inside the jail cell of the HQ, too.  

1985 Catalog, Snake Eyes

The 1985 catalog features several items that carried over from 1983.  The first is the Cobra Trooper.  He was released in 1985: a rare figure who say three full years of retail release.  (4 if you count the straight arm figure.)  Torpedo, Destro, Gung Ho and Snow Job join him as holdover figures.  (As Torpedo was a late 1983 release, his appearance in 1985 kind of makes sense from a cost recoupment standpoint.)  The FANG was Cobra's small vehicle to carry over.  As the Dragonfly was also continued an extra year, this makes sense, too, since it had crossover potential with the Tactical Battle Platform.  The Skystriker (one of the most popular vintage vehicles and a required cross sell for the U.S.S. Flagg) and the G.I. Joe HQ (a playset to placate those who would not get the Flagg) were also carried over.  As a kid, I know I acquired my first Cobra Trooper in 1985.  (Bought him and the ASP at a Kohl's store that was attached to  a mall.)  I have recollections of the Skystriker.  But, as I had the other items, I would have paid them little retail attention.  My focus was always on the items I did not own rather than previously released items that were still hanging around.

G.I. Joe paperwork can be expensive...if it's something rare.  The standard yearly product catalogs are not.  Included with every vehicle sold that year (including the items carried over from the year before), the catalogs are generally ubiquitous.  As kids, we tended to unfold and refold them dozens or hundreds of times.  But, if you bought a couple of vehicles and had four or five of them, at least or two would survive in great shape.  Time was, sellers would include items like old catalogs as a freebie when you bought something.  Those days are mostly gone.  But, these 1985 catalogs in great condition sell for between $1 to $5.  If you grew up with great memories of looking through these inserts, there's no reason not to own them.  But, like many things, the luster of these catalogs has faded with time.  Our resources now are so much better for photos and info that the catalogs are a quaint reminder of how things used to be.  There are high resolution photos of the catalogs online that are far better visual experiences than the real deal.  Hasbro toys in the late 1990's and early 2000's still had some semblance of catalogs.  But, they were not nearly as grand as these vintage items.  Even the later run Joe catalogs in the early 1990's quickly regressed from the highs of the 1980's heyday.  But, that's OK.  There's fewer and fewer items that are cheap reminders of bygone days.  

If you have fond memories of the catalogs, share them in the comments below.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

20th Anniversary Key Moments - 1993 Cyber Viper

The Cyber Viper has occupied two prime slots in my timeline.  The first time I reviewed the figure was back in 2004 for the site's 5th anniversary.  That was the final profile of my site as it existed in that format under that domain name.  After that Cyber Viper profile, it was a full 6 months before I wrote about another figure.  And, it was now under the domain instead of my own.  The second time I looked at the figure was nearly 10 years later: on January 1st, 2014.  In both instances, though, the figure's bright colors, excellent mold and untapped potential dominated my perception and expressions.

The Cyber Viper is a perfect analog for my site simply because he has always been somewhat hard to find, is ridiculously colored and also has a ton of untapped potential.  I've long wanted figures like the Cyber Viper to get the respect they deserve.  And, in the 2000's, I was a staunch advocate of Hasbro repainting 1990's molds instead of the 1980's figures that so many other collectors clamored for.  In the cases where Hasbro did look at someone from the 1990's, they often produced a high quality repaint.  But, in almost every instance, collectors ignored it.  The community just wasn't ready for repaints of the newest vintage Joe molds.

I'm a critic of the 2000's era Hasbro because they so thoroughly wasted their mold library with far too many releases of the same molds over and over again while ignoring many figures like this Cyber Viper who had amazing potential, but poor initial colors.  However, the reality of the time must be factored in.  Hasbro did attempt to bring back a few of their later molds in better colors or retconned as more popular characters.  In each and every instance, though, these releases failed.  Big Ben was a retail disaster despite the fact that each repaint of him was very good to excellent.  Nobody cared about the convention repaints of the Ferret, Mega Viper or 1994 Viper.  Mirage pegwarmed even though he was packed with a Viper repaint!  Collectors punished Hasbro for innovation.  So, they had zero incentive to actually try to find obscure molds like the Cyber Viper and update them in better colors.

Now, we're left with a fun, ostentatious figure that has started to fall out of the range of many collectors.  And, that's too bad.  Everyone should be able to revel in the '90's wackiness that invaded the Joe line.  But, this Cyber Viper is also useful and fun.  He goes well with '90's vehicles and does look good in a variety of displays.  His colors pop in photos and the details of mold are always appreciated by collectors who either overlook him or simply can't find one for a price they are comfortable with.  

In looking back at my writings on Cyber Vipers, I mention both times that the figure is hard to find.  Looking at the $12 price point for a mint, loose and complete figure in 2004 and the $22 price for the same in 2014, you see two prices that seem cheap now, but were actually rather high for those time periods.  Now, mint and complete Cyber Vipers routinely fetch $70+.  That's way too much for a figure who lacks name recognition, is poorly colored and has non-descript accessories.  But, in 2020, collectors are paying for scarcity, be it real or artificial.  So, you see high prices for both the Cyber and Mega Viper figures since the Mega Marines were produced in lower quantities than other 1993 releases.  It's a sad state of affairs as figures like this were fun when they were cheap.  At current pricing, you lose some of the silliness factor that drove the early 90's neon era.

1993 Cyber Viper, Interrogator, Mail Away, DEtonator

Thursday, July 23, 2020

1991 Dusty Around The Web

The 1985 Dusty figure is one of the line's iconic looks.  When Hasbro revisited the character in 1991, they created another strong entry to the line's desert forces.  But, the obscure release year and general ignorance of the release by early collectors has doomed the later version to a lifetime of being forgotten.  In recent years, more collectors have found value in the mold, though.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Dusty Profile

Dusty by toysandtomfoolery

Dusty by thedustinmccoy

Dusty by funtimeatserpentorslair

Dusty by thedustinmccoy 02

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Funskool Croc Master

I last looked at Croc Master over 20 years ago.  The 1987 Hasbro release was one of the earlier profiles on this site.  And, in reading it now, you can hear the wide eyed young collector who was still feeling out what this site would become.  The original write up is full of optimism of a time when everything was still possible in the Joe world and, at the same time, everything old was easily available and attainable.  The profile is notably lacking in details on other releases of Croc Master from around the world.  In an interesting bit of kismet, right around the time I first published that treatise on Croc Master, I also got a package from Malaysia that included the first 8 or so Funskool figures that I had imported from abroad.  At the time, I had no knowledge that, in just two months, Funskool figures would invade the U.S. and be a key component of the early 2000's collecting experience.  Included in the saturation of the collecting market was a new version of Croc Master.  Though not materially different from the American figure, the Funskool Croc Master would become one of the mid tier Funskool figures that both found a following and was also ignored.

As a kid, I was fascinated by swamps.  Growing up in the Midwest, swamps seemed exotic locales that were far beyond anything we had in our environment.  Our closest semblance were small bogs filled with frogs and mosquitoes when the spring rain water pooled up.  Twice during my childhood, we visited Florida.  Here, the natural environment was amazing.  The fact that deadly creatures like alligators were just part of daily life was incomprehensible to me.  We went to an alligator farm where my parents had to constantly pull me back from getting too close to the animals as I attempted to take pictures of the creatures in a close approximation of their natural habitat.  One of these trips was in the spring of 1987.  I have no recollection of whether I yet owned a Croc Master in late March of 1987.  (Though, it's doubtful I did based on more springtime memories of getting Outback, Law and the Techno Viper later in the season.)  But, I do know that the visit to Florida helped to make Croc Master a more important member of my Cobra hierarchy than he probably warranted.  

In the comic, Croc Master was mostly relegated to Cobra Island security.  And, considering his specialty, that wasn't a bad role for him.  He had a niche purpose.  But, that purpose was also extremely important.  But, for me, Croc Master was more useful as the archetypal comic book villain.  He was a character who had abilities that seemed supernatural.  And, weapons like his whip were way more effective against men with guns than any grounded-in-reality accessory could ever hope to be.  But, that was also what made him fun.  By 1987, I was near the end of my childhood toy run.  So, while Croc Master only got a few months of being a key player in my collection, they were the last few months I ever played with toys.  So, his importance was heavily shaped by recency bias.  

For a time, though, Croc Master was one of my key Cobra operatives.  He resurrected the importance of Copperhead.  And, the two of them were a team who could dominate the swamps.  During the summer months of taking my toys outside, this was extremely important.  The lush gardens of early summer were a perfect setting for these two figures.  By the dog days of August, though, the drier vegetation helped reduce their use.  And, as the final battle of my childhood unfolded, I don't recall much of a role for Croc Master.  Like many figures, the fact that he was new was what made him useful.  As that newness wore off, the figure faded away.  

Acquiring the Funskool Croc Master gave me a new occasion to appreciate the Croc Master character.  To this day, I consider Croc Master the best of the new, named villains released in 1987.  But, seeing as how I rank Raptor, Big Boa and Crystal Ball among the worst figures ever released, that's hardly high praise.  But, even today, I do see the value in the Croc Master design.  He's not a guy I use every day.  But, he is a figure that definitely works in some specific environments.  The Funskool version is a lighter green with softer yellow on weird alligator eyeball belt buckle.  In a lot of ways, it's actually a better coloring than the olive American release.  But, the similarity is close enough to be inconsequential, too.  

For Funskool to keep colors similar to the American Croc Master, though, means that Hasbro had at least some interest in the character.  Any figure released true to the American coloring was almost always at Hasbro's request.  It was a way for them to ensure consistency among the looks of their characters around the world.  And, seeing as how Croc Master appeared as a character in both the JvC era and the Anniversary sculpt figures, Hasbro did have some use for the character.  This is too bad as Croc Master is a mold that would have lent itself to an orange or yellow and red repaint that was completely bat shit, Funskool crazy.  But, getting him on a card, with all his gear, for cheap in the early 2000's was nice, too.

The Funskool Croc Master includes the same gear as the U.S. figure.  For me, the important piece is the whip.  That makes the figure.  It is a finely detailed accessory that is best whip offered in the line.  (It is, to the best of my knowledge, the only whip offered in the vintage line...)  The plastic alligator isn't impressive.  A six foot tall beast is nothing to trifle with.  But, alligators can grow to twice that size.  So, if the reptile is your calling card for this figure, you're best left to find one of the many other options available in other toy lines for a properly scaled, man eating beast that was modified by Dr. Mindbender.  The chained collar for the alligator is here and is another piece of gear I find useful.  Though, I use it as a shackle for prisoners as they are being moved around.  It works well lashed around Chuckles' neck as various Law figures take him to a lifetime of doom.  The final piece is one collectors most fret over since it is most often missing from American figures: the face hose.  It is included with the Funskool figure.  But, the hose is extremely rigid.  As such, it's pretty much impossible to affix the hose to the figure's head and his shoulder mounted harness without breaking it.  So, you get the hose.  But, it's practically useless.  

Croc Master had a decent life.  After the Hasbro release, the figure went to Brazil.  There, Estrela released a Croc Master figure that is extremely similar to the U.S. version.  After that release, the mold went to India.  Funskool then produced a Croc Master figure for many years.  Croc Master was also released on a Russian card and was even part of the 2009 series of Funskool re-releases.  Again, this figure is fairly similar to the American figure.  (There are some waist piece and coloring variants of him.)  But, Funskool also produced some variants of Croc Master that were included in promotional lines.  The Maltova line included a Croc Master colored very similarly to the single carded Funskool release.  Only, it had bizarre straight arms that were, for some reason, standard on the Maltova figures.  The real plum, though, is a variant figure included in the Calcium Sandoz line of promotional figures.  This is a frightening all black version of Croc Master with silver highlights.  Sadly, he also includes the straight arms.  And, he is rather rare and hard to find.  But, if you're a Croc Master fan, there are enough variants of the character to keep you busy for some time.  

The black repaint shows there is some life in the Croc Master mold.  Alas, Croc Master was not among the molds returned to Hasbro in 2003.  But, the fact that Funskool was still producing him as late as 2009 offers hope that the mold may still exist.  (Though, if it does, there's almost no chance it will ever be put to use again.)  Hasbro did offer up some repaints of the Croc Master mold that were made for the anniversary figures.  The figure's look was based off of the 1987 original.  And, the red repaint, again, proves that Hasbro could have pulled at least one or two serviceable repaints of their original mold had they the inclination.  The hope for new o-ring styled repaints is long gone, though.  And, even if we see the format return, it will almost certainly be "retro" themed offerings that are designed to mimic the originals in coloring and construction rather than offer something new like Hasbro attempted in the early 2000's.  

Funskool Croc Masters have gotten less common.  But, they are still not overly desirable.  Left to their own devices, they are about $20 MOC figures.  Dealers seem to sell them in the $30 range, though, and they're easier to find at that price.  Considering that a high quality, complete, loose US figure sells for around the same price, you can make a determination of where to best spread your collecting dollar.  In the days of $4 Funskool figures, guys like Croc Master were a must have.  They were cheap ways to get slightly altered versions of your childhood favorites at a pittance.  And, as we went for nearly a decade with figures like this Croc Master being both cheap and ubiquitous, it's hard for me to now look at them as collectibles.  Sure, figures like this Croc Master are now older than the "rare" early Funskool figures were in 2001 when this guy showed up at every American dealer who could Frontpage a web site.  But, the wholesale importing of them ensures that they are neither scarce nor unattainable.  

Funskool Croc Master, Road Pig, 1987, 1988, 1989 Python Patrol Copperhead

Funskool Croc Master, Road Pig, 1987, 1988, 1989 Python Patrol Copperhead

Funskool Croc Master, Beachhead, 1991 Mercer, Eel

Funskool Croc Master, Beachhead, 1991 Mercer

Funskool Croc Master Compare 1987 Croc Master

Friday, July 17, 2020

1985 Battle Gear #3

In very early 1983, I found the first G.I. Joe Battle Gear on a peg at a toy store in Buffalo, New York.  The weapons were similarly colored to the guns included with the carded figures.  But, the helmets and backpacks were drastically different.  In 1984, a new set was released.  This filled in the gaps from the prior year with the inclusion of Zap's bazooka and Short Fuse's mortar.  As 1985 dawned, I was excited for the Battle Gear pack that would surely be released.  The 1984 series of figures were amazing.  And, through heavy play, I had lost gear to Mutt, Firefly, Scrap Iron and Blowtorch, broken gear for Roadblock and simply wanted more Ripcord parachute packs and masks.  The Battle Gear would solve many of my desires for a reasonable price.  Then, though, I found the actual pack that was released.  Looking at the list of figures above, you can imagine my disappointment.  None of the gear I actually needed or wanted was included.  Despite this, we had at least three of the sets in my childhood collection.  And, when reviewed outside the context of my childhood disappointment, this set has some redeeming factors.

The 1985 Battle Gear includes a lot of 1984 gear.  It is also missing quite a bit.  The first Battle Gear pack did not include three pieces: Zap's bazooka and Short Fuse's mortar and stand.  The 1984 release was missing Tripwire's mine detector and all of Torpedo's gear.  1985, though, omitted quite a few pieces of gear.  Included in the set was red versions of: Baroness' rifle, Firefly's rifle and walkie talkie and Scrap Iron's pistol.  There were tan versions of Recondo's backpack and rifle, Spirit's rifle and pack, Roadblock's pack and ammo box as well as Blowtorch's backpack.  There were 4 grey helmets: Mutt's, Blowtorch's, Ripcord's and a standard 1982 style helmet for use with Duke or Roadblock.  There were 2 green battle stands.  And, finally, a deep, rich green array of weapons and gear that include Mutt's pistol, Torpedo's spear gun, Blowtorch's flamethrower, Ripcord's rifle, Zartan's pistol, Duke's binoculars, Thunder's monocular and two new visors.  The visors were not opaque versions of the classic 1982 release.  They featured a nose notch like the goggles included with Thunder.  But, Thunder's piece required his earmuffs and their elongated pegs to affix the visor to the helmet.  These visors were stand alone.  The black version of them is similar to the one included with Starduster.  But, the design debuted in this 1985 Battle Gear set and never appeared again.

What's missing from the set, though, is more notable.  Thunder's earmuff's and visor are absent.  There are no Cobra backpacks at all.  So, Baroness, Firefly, Scrap Iron and Zartan are left unaccessorized.  No animals were included: nixing Freedom and Junkyard.  None of Duke's gear aside from the binoculars (and helmet) is included.  None of the masks included with Mutt, Ripcord or Blowtorch are present.  Roadblock's machine and tri-pod are absent: despite the inclusion of his backpack.  Ripcord's parachute pack is a no-show, as is Mutt's nightstick.  But, the most glaring omission is that there is no repainted Stormshadow gear in the entire set.  In 1985, edged weapons for Joes were nearly impossible to track down.  Getting a repainted Stormshadow sword or two would have been great.  Everyone lost or broke Stormshadow's bow.  But, it's not here.  (It's my guess that Stormshadow was popular enough that kids would get parents to replace that figure entirely so his accessories weren't wanted in Battle Gear that might blow another figure sale.)  It's an appalling amount of missing gear for a set and it started a trend that would continue through the rest of the Battle Gear's retail life.  This was a likely function of the fact that 1984 figures started including more gear and many pieces that were far more intricate than anything that had come before.  But, it was an unfortunate shift for kids of the time.

As 1985 began, I had lost my Zartan's pistol.  Firefly's walkie talkie and backpack cover were long gone.  Mutt's mask and night stick were distant memories.  Roadblock's pack peg was broken, a stand was broken away from his tri-pod and his machine gun had been snapped in two.  A friend I was outgrowing had stolen my Scrap Iron's missile table.  And, Blowtorch's air mask had ripped and was no longer usable.  Of the 10 items I needed to rehabilitate my 1984 Joes, this Battle Gear pack included just 3.

What was great, though, was that the set did include some pieces that were useful.  I loved Recondo's backpack.  I wanted more of my figures to wear packs that carried more supplies.  The neutral color of the pack make it more useful for many other figures.  (It's also still commonly mistaken for Recondo's real gear by dealers who aren't Joe specific since the colors of the pack and the Recondo figure match up.)  Having a few additional walkie talkies was fun since it gave all my figures ways to communicate.  The long range sight devices were another useful inclusion since advance teams always needed them.  (The binoculars also became standard issue in the cockpit of the Whale for Cutter to use at any time.)  Additional Mutt and Zartan pistols were also nice since the color wasn't terrible and small pistols were always getting lost.

The biggest value of this set, though, was realized when I started to take apart my old, broken Joes and frankenstein together some new figures.  At first, Battle Gear helped to simply flesh out figures who had no other gear.  But, as 1985 moved into the summer, I began to paint many of my creations into new designs.  Along with this, I painted accessories.  I didn't want to waste "real" gear on this endeavor.  So, Battle Gear was the logical choice.  My favorite was a Ripcord helmet painted blue with white "fur" lining the edges.  As I used cheap paint, the helmet quickly chipped.  But, this became part of the character of the commander who wore it.  Slowly, that character turned into the leader of the Joes and became the character that is represented by the General Flagg figure today.  I actually still have 2 pieces that I painted as a kid, including that Ripcord helmet that you can see below.

1985 Battle Gear, Recondo, Ripcord

In the days when slightly off condition Joe figures were cheap and plentiful, Battle Gear weapons were far more useful.  Customizers abounded and they were always in search of cheap gear they could paint, cut apart or combine into new pieces.  Battle Gear was a cheap and easy way for the customizers of the early 2000's to build out and re-accessorize their creations.  Now, they are weird colored items that take up space and cross an item off a list.  In this era of factory custom figures, though, things like the helmets, visors and even weapons will match up with some of the figures we've seen.  That has given these sets a new niche in which they have value.  But, there's still so many of them that even new uses does little to move the large surplus of these items that are still out there.

While some individual items from this Battle Gear pack are more desirable than others, the truth is that the entire set is not overly expensive.  You can still get complete sets for around $10.  Duke's binoculars, Zartan's pistol and the green visors are, far and away, the most expensive and desirable items.  And, they are often the pieces most often missing from sets.  But, the non-standard colors and general ubiquity of the gear has left it an undesired piece of Joe collecting.  If you bought collections of figures at any time in the past twenty years, you have plenty of Battle Gear weapons lying around.  I still find the deep green a fun visual treat.  But, they don't really work with any figures.  The childhood disappointment still clouds my vision of this set: 35 years later.  But, you have to give Hasbro credit for understanding that kids lost gear and trying to give them a way to fix that.

1985 Battle Gear, Recondo, Ripcord, Spirit, Thunder, Action Force, Palitoy, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Zartan

1985 Battle Gear, Recondo, Ripcord, Spirit, Thunder, Action Force, Palitoy, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Zartan

1985 Battle Gear Visor, 2018 Kickstart

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Zeros - Mark V

Once again, for your 4th of July boredom, I present the Zeros.  These are the least popular posts of the past year.  I see a bit of a theme this year.  And, seeing what's really popular kind of reinforces my theory.  Obscure releases and foreign figures seem to be waning a bit in popularity.  While simultaneously, stuff that's relatively common seems to get big traffic.  I suspect it's a function of the influx of new collectors who are drastically overpaying for the common stuff they remember from childhood.  They like stuff they're familiar with, but aren't yet going into the depths that Joe collecting offers.  We'll see how that trend holds up through the the rest of the year.

Without further ado, here are the least popular posts from the past 12 months:

Everyone loves Blowtorch.  Estrela figures from Brazil tend to be very popular.  Put them together and you get a dud of a profile that no one cared about.  I think this figure is cool.  But, he's also pretty much indistinguishable from the US release.  

Tocha, Estrela, Brazilian Blowtorch, 1984, Action Force, Panther, VAMP

A somewhat obscure and hard to find army builder who's repainted in a classic way?  Check.  A profile ignored?  Check.  Not sure why no one liked this write up.  But, it's overall engagement was very low.  Generally, classic Cobra army builders do well, regardless of the color scheme.  But, this high quality figure flew under the radar.

2002 Convention Crimson Viper

As unproduced figs go, this one is pretty lame.  The yellow gloves make no sense.  And, the 2004 figure of Steeler is generally unloved, too.  So, I get this guy's low numbers.

2004 Unproduced Comic Pack Steeler, Midnight Chinese

Neon 1990's figures have finally found their popularity in recent years.  The releases from this time have gotten harder to find, substantially more expensive and appear far more frequently in fan created content.  Despite that, this Eco Warriors BBQ figure was ignored.  Few people stopped by to read about him.  I guess not all brightly colored 1990's figs can be popular at the same time.

1992 Eco Warriors Barbecue, BBQ

Dreadnoks tend to be popular.  And, Buzzer is probably the best done of the crew.  But, this Funskool repaint didn't garner any attention at all.  In some ways, early Dreadnoks have become passe.  And, common Funskool figures don't get much love these days.  So, this profile amounted to a big dud.

Funskool Buzzer, 1985, Dreadnok

Looking ahead to the rest of 2020, I have a lot more in store.