Saturday, August 29, 2020

2005 Comic Pack Short Fuse - By Past Nastification

 A swing and a miss!  That’s the best way to sum up the 2005 Short-Fuze, a comic pack figure.  It’s one of Hasbro’s re-animated uses of the ARAH molds to create figures directly inspired by their comic book appearances.   

Some of the figures done in the sub-series (for lack of a better word), were pretty decent.  Stalker really captured the look/feel of the early Herb Trimpe artwork.  Short-Fuze is a good effort, but a low reward.  

Short-Fuze’s head was new.  After not having his spectacles for 22 years, Hasbro finally decided to set this right.  The headsculpt has a center-part haircut, a somewhat pensive facial expression, and the glasses.  Two problems plague the head, though.  First, it’s underscaled.  If it were 15% larger, it would be perfectly scaled to the ARAH body.  Secondly, Short-Fuze’s glasses are painted as sunglasses, not regular glasses.

The glasses could have been sculpted “clear” like those of the Baroness, with no actual lenses, way back in 1984.  Or at least colored in a “clear substitute” color, like sky blue or dove grey. 

Problems aside, this is still the best original/un-shared Short-Fuze head.  It might be the only original head Short-Fuze has had.  The original ARAH head was the Hawk/Steeler/Flash/Short-Fuze head.  In the mid 2000’s, both Downtown and Blizzard heads were used.  Poor Short-Fuze didn’t even show up in the New Sculpt era.  In the 25A line, Doc’s head was used.  At least he’s not Grand Slam, the only OG13 figure to never have an original head.   

The body is a retread of sorts of the ’82 body (with the larger belt) paired with ’83 swivel-arm battle grip arms.  The uniform color is green, but it is a forest ranger green, not olive drab.  Admittedly, it’s close to the green used by Marvel for the OG13 uniforms, but it manages to somehow look very… plastic, if not waxy.  The chest harness, belt, and boots are painted in a wonderful dusty tan color, and it somehow offsets the badness of the forest ranger green.  Hasbro earns big points for painting the turtleneck red.  Good work, H!   

By the way, says that the body (except for the head and lower arms) are resculpts based on the ’82 figure.  Hasbro did a good job on this.  I didn’t notice and probably never would have. also put a sidearm in the package (shared with Flash and Rock ‘n Roll) as belonging to Short-Fuze.  I must not have agreed at the time, although looking at the package it clearly was intended as for Short-Fuze, because it didn’t make it to the storage tray. 

The obvious accessories I was smart enough to properly retain were the backpack and the mortar.  These pieces are frustrating.  In 1997, the correct ones were released in the Stars and Stripes Forever set.  Seven or eight years must be a long time in toy world, because this Short-Fuze came with a Roadblock backpack and a mortar.  I had always assumed it was a Downtown mortar, but it’s not.  It’s also not a Sub-Zero mortar.  Was it a new one made just for this Short-Fuze?  I don’t know.  I would have preferred the ’82 gear again, but these are acceptable. 

 Speaking of accessories, Short-Fuze didn’t have a helmet/visor.  This figure was obviously designed to showcase its headsculpt, but that shouldn’t have precluded a helmet/visor.  

After 1983, Short-Fuze didn’t see much comic book usage.  One of his few additional appearances was in issue #25, when he was part of the transport team that took Storm Shadow to Alcatraz.  That uniform featured a collared button-up shirt with pockets.  Given that Hasbro made some obscure comic pack versions (karate gi Scarlett or astronaut Flash or undercover Grunt), this might have been an interesting choice.    

Instead of nailing Short-Fuze’s comic book look, Hasbro took small missteps.  Sadly, they’re ones that add up and detract from the figure’s overall quality.  


2005 Comic Pack Short Fuse

Thursday, August 27, 2020

1984 Stinger - Around The Web

The Stinger is the second highest profile Cobra land vehicle behind the Hiss Tank.  As a kid, though, I wasn't overly partial to it since it was kind of fragile and, once the missiles were gone, also rather defenseless.  And, standing two figures right in the missile exhaust was dumb even in 1984.  But, it looks cool and is more useful now, from a collecting perspective.  Here's the best of the Cobra Stinger jeep from around the web.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

2001 Double Blast

In early 1984, I found my first three new G.I. Joe figures of the year.  I bought myself Firefly because even back then Firefly was awesome.  My youngest brother got the Baroness.  And, my younger brother got Roadblock.  Roadblock was an amazing figure at the time.  And, while he was somewhat engulfed by the sea of awesomeness that was the 1984 series, he stood apart as something that blended with the prior years of figures while also bringing something new to the Joe line.  He was introduced with Duke in the comic book and quickly became a major player.  In time, though, my Roadblock's accessories broke and he became less and less a part of my daily play routine.  As I got older, limitations of the mold started to be more obvious.  But, as a nostalgic favorite, Roadblock held up pretty well.

Due to his oversized personality in both the comics and cartoon, Roadblock became a fan favorite.  When it came time for G.I. Joe to return to retail in 1997, Hasbro showcased a repainted 1984 Roadblock as one of the proposed Joe figures.  But, 1997 came and went with no Roadblock appearance.  The 1986 Roadblock body appeared on other characters.  But, Roadblock was a no show.  The same was true in 1998.  Then, when Joe returned to retail in 2000, Roadblock was again absent.  By then, we'd seen two Fireflies, multiple releases of the Baroness mold and even some new characters without a Roadblock.  In mid 2001, the version 1 Roadblock mold finally returned to retail.  It came, though, with a twist.  Roadblock was gone and the iconic figure was rebranded as Double Blast.

The reasoning behind Double Blast was copyright loss.  At least, that was the story.  Double Blast featured a file name for a prominent G.I. Joe collector of the era who was well connected with the folks in Hasbro who also created Sure Fire and Big Brawler.  In 2002, though, the Roadblock name was back, though that figure also featured the collector homage file name.  And, it was not until 2003 that Roadblock with the Marvin F. Hinton name returned.  The issue, though, was that this homage figure did not feature a new head.  So, it became rather difficult to use both Roadblock and Double Blast together.  So, the notion of Double Blast died out as collectors adopted this figure as just another Roadblock repaint.  

Double Blast uses the exact mold of the 1984 Roadblock.  So, the lack of size from the original figure carries over.  And, for a man who is supposed to be massive, this Roadblock is rather scrawny.  But, as a kid, you didn't worry about such things.  And, my entire view of the original Roadblock mold is shaped by the opinions of it that I forged as a ten year old.  The figure's arms, though, would become the bane of early 2000's Joe collectors as Hasbro reused them on, seemingly, every single figure they could.  But, in 2001, it was nice to see the full figure return to retail.  He looked a bit out of place among the figures with larger physiques who were later releases.  But, the mold's strength is tied to its release year and Double Blast fits in well with all Joes made of 1984 and earlier molds.

Double Blast's gear, ostensibly, is the same as Roadblocks.  You get the Browning .50 cal machine gun, but in black.  Subsequent to 2001, this weapon would become ubiquitous.  But, this was the first appearance in this dark color.  You get the tripod on which Double Blast can mount the weapon.  A facsimile of Roadblock's original helmet is included.  With it, the massive cranium of the Roadblock figure is less of an issue.  (As far as I can remember, too, this was the final appearance of any helmet based on the original 1982 design.)  Roadblock's backpack is included.  Now in an olive green color, the backpack mold was modified.  First, the peg on which the tripod was hung for easy storage is gone.  No longer can Roadblock realistically carry all his gear.  The second change is that the ammo pack that was removable from the bottom of the pack has been either glued or fused into place.  So, the pack is now a single piece.  This isn't a huge deal as the ammo pack didn't really work and was a fairly obscure feature of early Joe figures.  

The figure's colors, though, are drab and boring.  The original Roadblock featured green and brown, but it was more dramatic and pleasing to the eye.  Double Blast used the dark, drab olive and browns that were all too common in the A Real American Hero Collection figures from 2000 and 2001.  So, the figure disappeared in a sea of sameness of the retail offerings of that era.  Now, it's less problematic.  But, given a choice, I'm going to pick the original Roadblock over this figure every time.  The only upside to this figure is the softer plastic which makes broken thumbs and crotches far less common.  But, it also allows the hands to stretch out and not hold weapons all that effectively.  Double Blast also features the marbelized plastic for the legs.  As such, no two Double Blasts will be identical and you'll find different mixes of colors on different figures.  That's, probably, the only thing really interesting about this figure.

And, that leads to the fact that there's really no purpose for this figure.  Roadblock is a better character.  The vintage Roadblocks are fairly available and are far superior to Double Blast.  Due to the similarities, you can't use the two characters together.  You could take a 1986 or 1992 Roadblock mold derivative and use it in companion with Double Blast.  But, why?  Rock and Roll is a better companion and far more interesting character.  There's no reason for this character to exist.  But, I have to admit that it was better to get this version of the original Roadblock mold with all his gear and the wrong code name than not getting him at all.  (The same is not true of the other homage figures.)  At, in 2001, original Roadblocks were somewhat pricey.  So, collectors of the era were offered a cheap alternative to a mandatory figure in everyone's collection.

Wave III of the A Real American Hero Collection, of which Double Blast is a part, didn't ship for long.  It debuted in the summer of 2001: right as retailers were mightily struggling with massive pegwarmers from Wave II.  (Mostly Big Ben and Whiteout.  But, even the Rock Viper/Major Bludd pack was available everywhere.)  Wave IV would end up at discount, close out and bargain bin retailers.  But, Wave III did not.  While few collectors missed it at retail, the actual release window was short.  Fortunately, the dominant army builder of the wave, the Laser Viper, was carried over into Wave IV.  (The Fast Blast Viper was seen as a specialty Viper by collectors of the time and few people bothered with more than a couple of them.)  But, as Wave IV shipped so quickly after Wave III, the Double Blast wave never really had time to permeate the Joe ethos of the era.  The members of the wave were quickly forgotten and you rarely saw them in photos or dio stories of the day.  

I saw this figure as a Roadblock hack job.  And, as Roadblock had been a childhood favorite, I had no use for Double Blast.  Looking back at photos of the time, he rarely appears.  And, I was always trying to find ways to incorporate new releases into photos during that time frame.  All of the Wave III Joes, though, are relatively scarce.  The wave never resonated with me as the figures were barely rehashes of the vintage figures.  Had Double Blast adopted something like a Sky Patrol or Eco Warriors motif, he would have at least been interesting.  But, Hasbro was falsely lead to believe that collectors only wanted "realistic military" at the time.  And, that was a big reason why the A Real American Hero Collection ultimately failed and was replaced by the JvC era which brought back a far greater panoply of colors and re-invigorated G.I. Joe at retail.

It is my perception that this Roadblock was done to death.  But, truthfully, it saw two vintage uses: in 1984 and in 1988 for the Tiger Force version.  Double Blast debuted in 2001.  The character was then finally changed to Roadblock in the 2002 BJ's Gift set.  He appeared again in the 2004 Night Force set.  After that, Hasbro got the 1992 Roadblock mold back from Funskool and used it for the character with a break in 2005 when the body was used for a terrible Comic Pack figure that featured a new head.  That doesn't seem like much.  But, both the BJ's Roadblock and the Night Force Roadblock have alternate, unproduced variations.  On top of that, Roadblock parts were cannibalized for many other figures including the 2001 Leatherneck, 2004 Flint and even the 2006 Tommy Arashikage.  The arms appeared on too many figures for me to bother to look up.  All of these uses in a short time oversaturated the mold and it lost much of its vintage luster.  But, if you want a good Roadblock, this is about your only non-vintage option as all subsequent releases were missing gear and had limiting paint jobs.

In the weird G.I. Joe world of 2020, carded Double Blast and Crossfire packages sell for about $15.  Yet, at the same time, dealers sell a metric butt-load of mint and complete with filecard Double Blasts for the same price.  Left to the open market, he's about an $8 figure.  So, you're far better off buying and opening up a carded sample to get the figure.  (Crossfire sucks.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  He's one of the worst releases of the repaint era.)  As a Roadblock clone, this figure is relatively worthless.  But, as a new version of Roadblock done in softer plastic, it works perfectly.  And, the price isn't too high where the figure no longer makes sense.  Double Blast is definitely a release that, were I not collecting and buying Joes at retail during his release window, I would not own.  He's not interesting enough to track down for anything other than completion.  But, boring figures can still be nice figures and I do find this version of Double Blast useful to have around for background filler and other mundane uses.

2001 Double Blast, ARAHC, Roadblock, 2005 Stormshadow, Tommy Arashikage

2001 Double Blast, Roadblock, ARAHC, Night Force Snake Eyes, 2019, Black Major, Bootleg, Factory Custom

Sunday, August 23, 2020

20th Anniversary Key Moments - 2004 Unproduced Caucasian Desert Stalker

 In the early to mid 2000's, tons of weird Joe figures started appearing for sale from Asia G.I. Joe sellers.  At first, the community wasn't sure what to make of these figures.  Slowly, though, it became obvious that many of them were legit unproduced concepts that were changed prior to production.  Of course, these figures caused a rift in the community.  Some said they were stolen or that Hasbro would repossess them.  The Club got super duper butt hurt when some of their convention figures leaked early from Asian markets.  Others, though, loved the chance to get something different than what was released at retail.  And, some of the figures ended being far superior to anything ever released in stores.  These figures were a staple of mid 2000's Ebay and were even available from some kind of sketchy websites for a few years afterwards.  Among the releases, though, were a wide disparity of offerings in terms of rarity.  Some figures were insanely common, always available and sold cheaply...even if they were excellent figures or army builders.  Others, though, were far less common and only appeared infrequently or not at all on public sites.  One of the rarer figures is this Caucasian Stalker figure from the Toys R Us Desert set from 2004.

There's no way this figure was ever considered for release.  The figure's white skin and blonde hair is an obvious holdover from when this mold was used for Duke.  It is possible that these figures were mold tests to see how the colors worked out.  Aside from the skin tone, the other obvious change is that the straps, holster and gloves of the figure are in a leathery brown color scheme instead of the much darker, greyer color of the production figures.  And, while this figure is an oddity, it's a fun oddity because it's both so different from anything released but uses one of the best Hasbro figures of the era as its base.

For a while, I was heavily into the alternate, Asian releases.  The figures were cool in some ways.  But, I'm someone who likes lots of variety.  So, having figures in alternate color schemes was fun.  Sadly, most of those figures were sold during my collection purge from a decade ago.  And, now, there's no way I'm paying 10 times the original prices to get them back.  Few figures offered something different enough from the production figure to be worthwhile.  This Stalker isn't one of them.  The retail figure is far superior.  Though, this look makes for an interesting display piece.

These days, the once common Asian figures have dried up and have gotten pricey.  This Stalker will sell for stupid amounts and many modern collectors will talk about how there's only a "few" of them: not realizing how common most of these figures (even the Tiger Force Steel Brigade) were in the mid 2000's.  But, the figure is a conversation starter and, even at the time of its creation, was rarer than most of the other "Midnight Chinese" figures that overran Ebay.  

2004 Caucasian Desert Stalker, Unproduced, Midnight Chinese, Sokerk, Plastirama, Argentina, Tan Ripcord, Tiger Force Sneak Peek, European Exclusive, Palitoy

Thursday, August 20, 2020

2005 Winter Operations Snake Eyes - Around The Web

So, what happens when one of the best figures from the entire repaint era is an environmentally themed release that has been ignored for many years and is now kind of hard to find?  Well, you're left with decade and a half old reviews of this figure from the few Joe sites left who were around in the line's collector fueled heyday.  It's too bad as this is one of the best Snake Eyes ever released.  It's also one of Hasbro's finest efforts of the 2000's.  The parts combo and coloring combine for one of the most distinctive and unique Snake Eyes figures.  He stood out in the Winter Operations set as the rest of the figures were rather mundane and boring.  Here's the sparse info I can find on him from around the web.

Winter Operations Snake Eyes Profile

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

P-40 Warhawk - Sgt. Savage

As the Joe line died in 1994, Hasbro tried a lot of different things.  One such concept was the Sgt. Savage line of toys.  Originally, Sgt. Savage was designed as an "entry" line to the G.I. Joe world.  In retrospect, this seems silly.  Sgt. Savage was based on a World War II timeline, was a slightly different scale than the ARAH Joe line and really wasn't a kid friendly theme.  It was, instead, a more gritty line firmly rooted in military realism that hearkened back to adult's vision of what G.I. Joe was "supposed" to be.  Even at the time, it seemed to me to be an attempt to pull the burgeoning 12" collecting community into the world of smaller Joes.  Despite the generally decent ideas behind the Sgt. Savage line, it was an utter retail disaster.  The toys did not sell and throughout 1995 and 1996, walls of them appeared at every discount retailer in the country.  While collectors tend to lament G.I. Joe Extreme and the damage that concept did to the brand, Sgt. Savage might have been a worse retail scenario that decimated the Joe's brand appeal even more than Extreme.

The 1994 G.I. Joe line was short on vehicles.  The main line had just 4: the Blockbuster, Manta Ray, Scorpion and Razor Blade.  There were 2 Star Brigade mechs and a space capsule, though I really don't count that as an actual vehicle.  So, one area where the Sgt. Savage line did do OK was in their vehicle assortment.  While it only had three full vehicles released as companions to the figures, that was fairly substantial when you consider how small the line was overall.  The line featured the Grizzly jeep (which would later be released under the standard G.I. Joe header in India by Funskool), the IRON Panther which was a bad guy vehicle salvaged from the unfinished 1995 G.I. Joe line and the P-40 Warhawk plane.  In my desperate days of searching for the last dregs of G.I. Joe at retail, I twice succumbed to buy a Sgt. Savage vehicle.  First, it was the IRON Panther.  It was a staple of my Cobra army for a while.  But, it's not a great toy and was, eventually, sold off.  The second was the P-40 Warhawk.  With it, I found a toy that was more fun than many planes from my youth.  But, also found my full frustrations with the Sgt. Savage line as a whole.

It's pretty likely that I bought this P-40 at a KB Toyworks store in Lafayette Square mall in Indianapolis in the summer of 1996. It could have been 1995.  But, 1996 is the more likely timeframe.  Either way, at the time, there was a huge endcap of Sgt. Savage toys.  The endcap was floor to near ceiling of figures.  Stacked on either side of the endcap were boxes and boxes of vehicles, also stacked to nearly the ceiling.  It was the only G.I. Joe product in the store.  But, this massive overstock of Sgt. Savage toys was not unique to KB.  Local Big Lots stores had the same endcaps full of figures with vehicle boxes stacked nearby.  There was no greater tease than approaching the toy aisle in a discount store and seeing the glint of familiar G.I. Joe packaging colors only to get closer and realize that they were, entirely, Sgt. Savage toys.  These walls sat for quite a while, slowly dwindling until Sgt. Savage finally just went away, taking the last tie to the vintage Joe line with it.

During the mid 1990's I would still have fun with my toys now and again.  Usually, I'd blow off steam as various characters met horrible fates.  Many of these involved pilots getting destroyed in aircraft.  The fascination with this is two fold.  First, Star Wars remained an indelible film memory.  And, the notion of the Rebel pilots getting incinerated in space was simply captivating.  The second reason, though, is more personal.  In the late 1980's I learned that my grandfather had died on a bombing run over Anzio in World War II.  He was a bombardier and his plane was shot down on a mission.  I spent much time contemplating that.  Imagine being trapped in a crashing warplane, knowing death was imminent, but unable to do anything to stop it.  How would your last moments be spent?  As I explored the thoughts and emotions that would go into events of this nature, toys like the Warhawk helped me visualize scenarios.  

In my collection, items that arrive into it in near proximity become linked.  It still happens to this day.  When I got the Warhawk, some recent figure purchases were a few 1993 Star Brigade figures.  Quickly, the 1993 Ozone found himself as the pilot of the Warhawk.  If you spread his arms and legs just so, he would fit into the cockpit without flopping around.  Here, he died a great many deaths.  Most of them involved him leaning forward Star Wars style as his plane exploded from behind him.  At times, he'd be shot down over water and would plummet to a resting place far below the surface, still trapped inside.  Crews from the Shark 9000 would try to save him while a few Cobras might attempt to shatter the canopy...instantly pulping the pilot under the massive water pressure.  In this regard, the Warhawk was kind of interesting.  I had no real other planes available to me at the time.  So, the Warhawk filled a role.  And, it being the sole aircraft around, was more forgiven of its limitations than other toys would be.

One of the great follies of the middle stages G.I. Joe management was that they desperately tried to tie the legacy of the 12" figures to the 3 3/4" line.  In the early to mid 1990's, the burgeoning 12" G.I. Joe collecting community was vibrant.  And, for a while, Hasbro catered to them in terms of new products as they chased adult collecting dollars.  One thing Hasbro never realized was how different 12" G.I. Joe collectors were from what 3 3/4" Joe collectors would become.  Toy concepts like Sgt. Savage show how threading that needle was fraught with peril.  12" collectors didn't really flock to the brand as it was too much like the 3 3/4" figures.  But, kids and the emerging 3 3/4" collectors ignored it because the throwback didn't really resonate.  So, Hasbro missed the mark on both fronts and created an epic ocean of pegwarmers that damaged the brand for a couple of years.  Really, it took until 2002 before retailers were ready to fully take on the brand again.  But, even then, Hasbro's failure to understand a new generation of collectors bit them and the community was heavily alienated just three years later.

As a toy, the P40 is pretty nice.  It has an interesting blend of old school and more modern play patterns that work for enthusiasts of both genres.  You get some standard missiles that are on pegs under the plane's wings.  But, you also get two that can launch from the guns on the bottom of the wings, too.  The propeller and gun move when you push a button under the tail.  The gun lights up, shoots missiles and makes noise.  And, if I remember correctly, it makes a lot of noise.  It also features sturdy landing gear that fold up and tuck nicely underneath the wings.  The entire body, though, is massive.  While it only fits one figure, it takes up a huge footprint.  You can get an idea of the scale of the entire aircraft in the photos below where you see it towering over figures in ways many other vintage Joe planes did not.

The plane is an odd evergreen color.  The early prototypes and catalog images show the toy in a deeper, more military olive green.  While that color is more historically accurate, the released color makes this feel less like a then 50 year old design.  The mold is detailed and the entire plane is bulky and well put together.  I've not really cared about the Warhawk in 25 years.  It's been moved dozens of times, often in less than stellar packing just because I take shortcuts on toys I have little interest in.  Yet, the plane has survived to this day in better condition than my Shark 9000 or Blockbuster: two vehicles that I did care for through my nomadic existence.

The Warhawk included a pilot figure.  I desperately wanted this figure or his accessories to be compatible with my classic Joes.  But, he's not.  The 4.5" construction is just too big to work with vintage Joes.  The WW II era inspired machine gun included with him looks great.  But, it's out of scale for vintage Joes and will snap thumbs without hesitation.  The figures are differently articulated than vintage Joes.  They move differently and have unique joints.  Really, they are more akin to 2020 era action figures than even the JvC figures from 2002 to 2006 are.  All the details that drove the quality in the vintage Joe line are present in the Sgt. Savage figure designs.  But, the oddball new scale leaves them out of place with anything but themselves.

The Sgt. Savage line included many concepts that would have been found in the 1995 G.I. Joe line.  The IRON Panther being one.  But, many of the figures in the Savage line included gear planned for 1995 Joe figures.  The Arctic Stormtrooper in particular included gear intended for the 1995 Frostbite figure.  Along with that, though, the full window packaging that was used to showcase the figures and all their gear during the retail shelf presentation would have also been a hallmark of the 1995 Joe line.  (You see the same style in the Street Fighter Movie and Mortal Kombat figures, too.)  I can only imagine a world where the sea of discounted overstock Sgt. Savage toys were actually 1995 Battle Corps Rangers, Ninja Commandos and Star Brigade figures.  I had the money to buy back then and enough space that it's likely I'd have had quite a collection of the line's final year.  And, instead of a review about this P-40 Warhawk, it would be something about the Sea Wolf.  But, we don't live in that timeline.  And, instead, I have the disappointment of Sgt. Savage to fill memories of otherwise spectacular years of my life.

Dealers sell an appalling amount of boxed P-40's for around $130 or more.  But, left to the market, boxed sets are about $60: a huge disparity.  Finding a mint, loose sample is pretty hard as the toys are heavily concentrated in the "serious collector market" that left them boxed or the kids who had cheap parents and bought them on clearance camp who pretty much decimated the toy.  Really, the P-40's value is pretty limited.  It doesn't really fit with the aesthetic of G.I. Joe and it's not really compatible with them, either.  I still feel I overpaid for it back in the '90's and I would have been much better off buying overpriced vintage Joes at the flea market.  But, having something like this is another mnemonic device to bring back floods of memories from 25 years ago.  

1995 Sgt. Savage P40 Warhak, 1990 Freefall, 1992 Eco Warriors BBQ, Barbeque, Barbecue, 1991 General Hawk, Funskool, 1997 Ace, Sky Patrol, Airwave, 1990, Countdown, 1993, Star Brigade

1995 Sgt. Savage P40 Warhak, 1990 Freefall, 1992 Eco Warriors BBQ, Barbeque, Barbecue, 1991 General Hawk, Funskool, 1997 Ace, Sky Patrol, Airwave, 1990, Countdown, 1993, Star Brigade

1995 Sgt. Savage P40 Warhak, 1990 Freefall, 1992 Eco Warriors BBQ, Barbeque, Barbecue, 1991 General Hawk, Funskool, 1997 Ace, Sky Patrol, Airwave, 1990, Countdown, 1993, Star Brigade

1995 Sgt. Savage P40 Warhak, 1990 Freefall, 1992 Eco Warriors BBQ, Barbeque, Barbecue, 1991 General Hawk, Funskool, 1997 Ace, Sky Patrol, Airwave, 1990

1995 Sgt. Savage P40 Warhak, 1990 Freefall, 1992 Eco Warriors BBQ, Barbeque, Barbecue, 1991 General Hawk, Funskool

1995 Sgt. Savage P40 Warhak, 1990 Freefall, 1992 Eco Warriors BBQ, Barbeque, Barbecue, 1991 General Hawk, Funskool

1995 Sgt. Savage P40 Warhak, 1990 Freefall, 1992 Eco Warriors BBQ, Barbeque, Barbecue, 1991 General Hawk, Funskool

1995 Sgt. Savage P40 Warhak, 1990 Freefall, 1992 Eco Warriors BBQ, Barbeque, Barbecue, 1991 General Hawk, Funskool

1995 Sgt. Savage P40 Warhak, 1990 Freefall

Saturday, August 15, 2020

1984 Zartan - Random Photos Of The Day

Zartan's one of those figure who is everyone's favorite.  You simply don't see dissent on it being a classic.  Yet, it's hard to get good photos of him in action.  I've learned that my figure no longer changes color in the sunlight.  But, that's OK since I never really liked that feature anyways.  As a kid, I thought Zartan was one of those guys who were just too cool to really play with adequately.  No matter how epic his adventures, I felt they were letting the actual figure down.  Even today, I struggle to get good photos of him.  But, here you go.

1984 Zartan

1984 Zartan, Funskool Road Pig, 1986 Zandar

1984 Zartan, Funskool Road Pig, 1986 Zandar, Copperhead, Dreadnok Stinger, SEARS Exclusive

Thursday, August 13, 2020

2017 Tiger Force Starduster (Black Major) - Around The Web

The Black Major Starduster figures were well done.  They offered collectors a chance to both own a cheap version of the original Starduster, but also in a variety of different colors, many of them homages to classic Joe subteams.  My favorite of this bunch is the Tiger Force Starduster figure.  To me, this looks like the type of thing that Hasbro might have done back in the '80's.  Plus, his helmet is a perfect match for the Red Laser Army The General figure.  Here's the best of this figure from around the web.

Tiger Force Starduster Profile

Tiger Force Starduster by Dreadnok Dread

Tiger Force Starduster by badgerscratch

Tiger Force Starduster by mondotoybox

Tiger Force Starduster by specialmissionforce

Tiger Force Starduster by badgerscratch 02

2017 Tiger Force Starduster, Black Major, Factory Custom, Outlaw, Red Laser Army, Commando

Tiger Force Starduster, Black Major, 2017, Factory Custom

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

2002 Gift Set Stormshadow

In the vintage line, major characters were redone: but relatively rarely.  You could argue about Stormshadow's overall rank in the pantheon of Joe characters.  But, pretty much everyone would be in consensus that he's top 5 at least.  Despite that, Stormshadow only got three unique molds in the vintage line: 1984, 1988 and 1992.  It is this 1992 mold that is of interest to me this week, though.  This figure was repainted several times in the vintage line, both as Stormshadow and other characters (including Street Fighter repaints).  In 2000, though, Hasbro dusted off the mold, made some modifications and released it with a real o-ring.  At first, collectors liked this idea.  But, the novelty wore off and Hasbro then proceeded to repaint that update twice more.  The first of these repaints appeared in 2002 as a member of the BJ's exclusive gift set.  While the figure was released as Stormshadow, the figure was given an all red paint scheme and was quickly adopted as a classic red ninja by the collecting community.

In late 2002, when this figure was released, it was the best red ninja that Hasbro had ever made.  The 1993 Red Ninja figure was just terrible and, even in 2002, somewhat expensive and hard to find.  No one (except one person!) wanted to army build them.  In the summer of 2002, a red Slice repaint was made available.  Some collectors adopted this as an army builder.  But, that Slice was released with a Joe character and there was little incentive for most collectors to army build him when his wave also included a Viper and Alley Viper. When this Stormshadow appeared, collectors (who were army builder nuts at the time) quickly adopted him as the classic army building villain.  This was partly due to the fact that BJ's set included other army builders and collectors were desperate to find uses for the other figures that would help justify additional set purchases so they could get more Undertows and Fast Blast Vipers.  So, this Stormshadow was quickly rebranded by dealers and Ebay sellers as a red ninja.  Heck, even I got in on the game as I bought a few spare figures from sellers who were trying to recoup a couple of bucks for their real army builder splurges. 

As a red ninja figure, though, this Stormshadow kind of worked.  He matched the 2000 Stormshadow and allowed collectors to have a themed army behind a classic character.  And, as many collectors of the era saw their collections comprised of mostly recently released to retail figures, such a configuration was often the only representation of Stormshadow that many people had in their collections.  You'd see photos of four to six of these figures from time to time.  But, the reality is the limitations of the mold quickly manifest themselves and make this figure the neglected release he is today.

The basic body construction of the figure is the main problem.  The original figure was modified so that this version has an o-ring.  The waist and chest separate.  While this is the more classic vintage Joe construction, the reality is that this figure has no back screw.  So, if the o-ring breaks, you have no recourse to repair it.  This also makes the figure somewhat stiff and difficult to pose.  If that weren't enough, there are two blocky tabs on the bottom of the figure's torso.  These fit inside the waist and hold the waist and torso together as one part.  So, if you want to pose this figure in similar manners to vintage Joes, you have to clip those tabs off the figure or have them awkwardly protruding from the figure's waist.  It was a noble attempt to bring a solid mold into standard construction.  But, in some ways, they made the figure worse than if they'd kept the standard 1992 design.

My initial impressions of this figure were favorable.  The red is deep, dark and fits with most people's visions for Cobra.  As a display piece, the figure works well.  And, for a short time, I went about acquiring a few extras of the figure to have a small army.  Once in hand, though, the limitations of the figure became more obvious and pronounced.  The poor mobility really limited this figure.  And, once the Red Ninja Viper was released in late 2004, there were now better Red Ninjas for collectors that were cheaper and more available.  So, this figure fell out favor with me and was relegated to the bottom of his drawer.  Due to the fact that he was absolutely worthless in the early 2010's, though, I held onto my samples during my collection purge since there was no value in selling them.  I'm grateful for that as this figure is visually interesting, even if he's kind of otherwise limited.

The BJ's set figures came in two flavors: well deco'ed and basic.  Stormshadow falls into the basic category.  The figure only features black body and leg highlights and a white Cobra logo.  The figures hands, boots and mask are a somewhat brownish/black color.  It is tough to see.  But, fits with the non-traditional color choices that permeated the BJ's set.  The figure does have white eyes with black accents.  But, it's about as basic as figures of this era came.  In this case, the simplicity kind of works as Red Ninjas are supposed to be about their primary color and not tons of accouterments.  This Stormshadow is visually striking due to the stark contrast of the base red and the smattering of additional color. 

The BJ's set featured terrible accessories.  There really isn't a way to properly communicate how terrible they were.  In most cases, it would have been better if the figure included no weapons at all.  Stormshadow, sadly, included some of the better gear in the set.  Of course, it was only better because you could use it elsewhere and his weapons, mostly, made no sense.  His first weapon is the JvC era crossbow that first appeared with Scarlett.  The weapon is in 3 pieces: rifle, bow and arrow.  It seems cooler than it is.  But, it's tough for a figure to hold and falls apart on a whim.  Were it better designed, the weapon might have made sense.  But, with the added sound attack tab, it was just a terrible choice.  Stormshadow's other weapon is the Red Star AK-47.  In late 2002, the inclusion of this weapon was welcomed.  At the time, the rifle was still relatively scarce.  And, collectors had just bought dozens of repainted Alley Vipers and Vipers who had terrible weapons.  So, this Stormshadow became a weapon donor to other army builders.  In time, these weapons became more common and it's inclusion with this Stormshadow is no longer the rarity that it was upon the time of the figure's release.  Fortunately, if you bought retail Joes in the early 2000's, you were likely to have tons of spare ninja weapons.  So, it's not impossible to outfit this figure with better gear.  It's just frustrating that you have to do so.

This Stormshadow mold has a long history.  It debuted in 1992 in the Ninja Force subset.  In 1993, it was repainted as T'Gin Tzu.  In 1994, the mold was released in translucent plastic as part of the Shadow Ninjas subset.  In 1993 and 1994, the body mold was used for the Street Fighter Ken Masters figures.  There is a red version and blue version that feature new heads.  Was this mold able to be customized, those Ken Masters bodies would have dominated custom figures of the late 1990's and early 2000's.  But, as the bodies were fused together, there was no incentive for customizers to really explore the LBC possibilities.  In 2000, Hasbro modified the mold with an o-ring and released an 1984 homage paint job.  This red version was released in 2002.  And, there is an Urban Assault version that is grey and black that was released in 2004.  Fortunately, that was the end of the mold as the 1984 and 1988 Stormshadow molds became the de facto Hasbro releases for the short remainder of the repaint era.  If you're a fan of this mold, you have good paint jobs, classic homages, terrible paint jobs and gimmicks to track down.  But, few collectors are fans of this mold and pretty much all of its uses are ignored.

None of the BJ's figures are expensive.  Despite it being a relatively difficult release to acquire for many collectors, it hasn't found the aftermarket life that most of the other ARAH style figures from the early 2000's have seen since January of 2018.  This Stormshadow will run you $8 to $10 for a mint and complete with filecard version.  If you want spare figures, they run about $5.  And, if you check lots of miscellaneous 2000's era figures, you can often find this guy offered even cheaper.  Huge amounts of overstock figures that were available from Asia as well as massive clearances on these sets, though, have made figures like Stormshadow far more available than they might have otherwise been.  And, there are substantially better Stormshadow molds out there that have gotten the red paint treatment: either from Hasbro or by factory custom makers.  That leaves this figure as a relic of his era.  I haven't even pulled this guy out for a photo shoot since late 2002.  So, he doesn't even really register with me and my whole shtick is figure releases like this.

2002 BJ's Exclusive Stormshadow, ARAHC, Gift Set, Shock Viper

2002, BJ's Exclusive, Stormshadow, 1997 Scarlett, 2003 DVD Snake Eyes

2002, BJ's Exclusive, Stormshadow, 1997 Scarlett, 2003 DVD Snake Eyes

Thursday, August 6, 2020

1988 Sgt. Slaughter - Around the Web

Sgt. Slaughter has been a fascinating case study in the Joe world.  In the early days of online collecting, Sarge's figures weren't well liked.  But, as Slaughter embraced his place in the Joe line's history, collectors embraced him.  And, now, Slaughter remains one of the most popular figures in all of Joedom.  While all of his figures are true to the character, this 1988 Warthog driver version is the best.  It features an excellent sculpt with solid colors that are a step above the other 1988 vehicle drivers.  The removable hat is just icing on the cake.  Even in this market, these figures remain relatively affordable.  And, being the best Slaughter version makes this figure simply a must own.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1988 Sgt. Slaughter Profile

Sgt. Slaughter by jc_toys_collector

Interview with Sgt. Slaughter on Being the Face of G.I. Joe at

1988 Sgt. Slaughter at

Sgt. Slaughter by master_of_toys

1988 Sgt. Slaughter and Warthog Video Review by HCC788

Sgt. Slaughter at

Sgt. Slaughter at

Sgt. Slaughter by Hanover_h.a.v.o.c.

Sgt. Slaughter by fun_time_at_serpentors_lair

1988 Sgt. Slaughter, 1989 Backblast

1988 Sgt. Slaughter, Tiger Force Outback, Recondo, European Exclusive, Steel Brigade, Black Major, Gold Head Steel Brigade, GHSB, Flint, Tiger Force

1988 Sgt. Slaughter, Mean Dog, Repeater, 1990 Ambush, Desert Fox, Hardball

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

1982 MMS (Mobile Missile System)

From 1978 through 1982, I only cared about Star Wars toys.  From the minute I got my first C-3PO figure in 1978 through the latter waves of Empire Strikes Back figures, Star Wars toys dominated my childhood.  From time to time, other things would come into our house.  But, their value was 100% tied to how well they could integrate with Star Wars figures.  In October of 1982, though, that changed.  For the first time, G.I. Joe figures came into our play when my younger brother got most of the original lineup for his birthday that year.  In what was, likely, a perfect storm of malaise from Star Wars (waiting 3 years between movies was an ETERNITY...), Reagan era Cold War propaganda and the new possibilities opened by greater figure articulation, G.I. Joe figures grabbed me more powerfully than that first golden robot I'd bought 4 1/2 years earlier.  By the time December rolled around, my only interest was in new G.I. Joe figures and vehicles.  Alas, my birthday ended as a disappointment with only Breaker and the RAM become my first Joe toys.  But, shortly thereafter, at Christmas, things changed.  Under the tree, I found Snake Eyes, the VAMP and a new vehicle that we had yet to own any copy of: the MMS.

There is a reason we didn't already own an MMS.  My brother had gotten multiple VAMP's and HAL's for his birthday.  And, my mother forbid us to get the MOBAT since we never played with some crappy Radio Shack radio controlled motorized tanks from the year prior.  (They were out of scale and lame.)  Despite that, the MMS never really entered the picture.  The main reason being that it wasn't very exciting.  It didn't have guns.  It had no place for the operator to sit on it.  In short, it just stood there, fired three missiles and was instantly useless.  Looking at the MMS 38 years after its release, I see it through the lens of a collector who can appreciate the sculpting and details.  But, for a kid in 1982, the MMS was pretty much the most boring Joe toy you could find wrapped under the tree.

But, on Christmas morning, 1982, the MMS was pretty great.  I was able to hook it up to my VAMP and have Hawk and Clutch drive around with Breaker in tow on the RAM.  However, this left an odd man out: Snake Eyes.  Despite owning three vehicles and only 4 figures, I didn't have a place for Snake Eyes to go.  This lead to many odd attempts to later modify the VAMP to add a gunner seat, or somehow affix a figure to the MMS while it was in transit.  But, none worked.  As we had gotten three Snake Eyes figures by the end of Christmas morning, though, Snake Eyes found himself in a common position in the pre-Cobra Joe collections.  He was now the villain.

In the spring of 1983, Return of the Jedi was released.  As the toys flooded the market, I lost interest in Joe.  The 1982 figures were simply overwhelmed by the new Kenner figures.  Removable helmets, excellent monsters and cloth capes transcended the advances in accessories and articulation that Joe had made.  My Joes were relegated to the bottom of the toy box as I spent the spring and early summer acquiring and playing with every new Star Wars figure released.  Then, on a fateful day near the end of the summer, I discovered an Airborne figure that had been brought over to our house by one of my brother's friends.  The oversized backpack and swivel arm battle grip pulled me back to Joe.  And, from then on, G.I. Joe dominated my toy interests.  But, the straight armed 1982 figures now seemed passe.  The swivel arm battle grip was what persuaded me to Joe.  (And, is the reason I, to this day, don't collect straight arm figures!)  So, figures without it were left behind.

And, while the VAMP pulled forward and became a staple of my 1983 and onward adventures, the MMS did not.  It simply didn't have the cachet to warrant finding all the parts and bringing with me.  There were so many better options for towable vehicles in 1983.  And, the MMS' limited use was of little appeal.  It was left behind in the toy box where it would sit with other unloved toys for a few years.  In early 1986, though, I finally had reason to dig out the MMS.  For Chistmas in 1985, I had received the Sears Exclusive SMS.  This revived memories of the MMS and I fished out the old shell and parts that were on the bottom of a red caboose shaped toy box that dominated our toy room.  (I'll have to find occasion to talk about that some time, too.)  But, the toy still saw little use.  By the end of 1986, though, the SMS became central to a key story line.  When it was finally resolved, the Joes now had reason to use the MMS as a repaint of a captured Cobra SMS.  This was fun for about two minutes.  But, it did bring the MMS back for a short, final run as a childhood plaything.  

To this day, I see the MMS mold as, primarily, a Cobra weapon.  My association with the mold entirely stems from the SMS release of it in 1985 instead of the original.  I rarely will remember the MMS as part of the 1982 lineup until I also recall that Hawk was released with it.  So, it's rare for me to really take it out.  Since it can't hold a figure, it has little display value.  And, the play value is entirely exhausted once the missiles are spent.  The HAL is far larger and is better for hiding figures behind in a firefight.  But, the MMS can have a bit of value there.  In short, the MMS never proved to be a decent or fun toy and it's lot hasn't really improved in almost 40 years.

But, the toy is a neat little piece of engineering.  Aside from the tow hook that perfectly matched to the VAMP or MOBAT, the MMS was able to fold out to be a stand alone piece, too.  The front legs were movable legs that folded and locked into place when the MMS was ready for towing.  The back legs were one piece that both kept the legs in positional lockstep and ensured that no kid could lose just one without breaking it.  They folded nicely into the body of the MMS itself to also allow for towing.  The lone play feature on the base is a command center.  The computer is attached to the body with a nylon cord that was tough to break.  It has a stand that affixed to the bottom to allow for the controls to be figure height.  You can take the stand away, insert it into a space on the back, bottom of the MMS and it helps seal in the back legs.  The computer then perfectly fits into a slot over the tow hook.  Here, the controls are also figure height, ensuring that anyone who lost the stand could still use the controls.  Seeing those features shows how much care the designers took in their development of the MMS, even if it is otherwise lackluster.

The MMS got a fair bit of use.  Aside from the 1985 Sears excusive SMS, there is also an Action Force repaint in black and grey.  The most desirable release actually occurred in Canada where the MMS was repainted in all black and released as part of the MSV exclusive boxed set.  The next stop for the MMS was India.  There, Funskool released several variants of the MMS for many years.  There are versions that are similarly colored to the U.S. release.  But, there are also orange and yellow variants that sell for stupid prices (and included the blue Hawk repaint).  After that, the mold ran cold.  In the Anniversary era, Hasbro retooled and released the MMS mold as an SMS homage that was released in 2009.  With that, there's really nothing more that could be done with the mold.  Sadly, many of the best repaints of it are fairly rare and rather expensive to acquire today.  But, the original is done in classic military colors and really doesn't need any additional releases to be useful.  

Ostensibly, MMS's should be expensive.  It's a classic vehicle from Joe's first year that has one easily lost part and several easily broken parts.  Yet, it's not.  Dealers will sell mint and complete MMS's for around $30.  (Many will ask upwards of $50, but these rot and rot...unsold.)  Left to the open market, high quality samples sell in the $20 range.  And, if you're willing to deal with a broken missile fin or buy a sample along with other toys, that price falls even more.  The early Joe vehicles were sold in scale at the perfect price point for gifts, casual rewards or just a random purchase.  The massive quantities of them holds true today and vehicles like MMS which don't have much reward in owning multiples (unlike say, the VAMP) tend to be pretty cheap.  Even with the uptick in Joe pricing that has vaulted many of the 1982/1983 figures into three figure acquisitions, these vehicles remain priced at levels that are attainable to pretty much any collector.  The question is whether it's worth it.  The MMS isn't a great display piece and doesn't really interact with nor enhance the display of figures.  By 1983, G.I. Joe had better and more fun missile delivery vehicles and, also, better toys that could be towed by the primary armor in the line.  So, the MMS was kind of obsolete before it completed its retail cycle.  

1982 MMS, Mobile Missile System, 1983 Flash, Hawk, VAMP, Clutch

1982 MMS, Mobile Missile System, 1983 Flash, Hawk, VAMP, Clutch, Steeler, Steel Brigade

1982 MMS, Colonel Hawk, 2017 The General, Red Laser Army, Factory Custom, Commando, 1983 Destro, 1984, Firefly, Scrap Iron
1982 MMS, Colonel Hawk, 2017 The General, Red Laser Army, Factory Custom, Commando

Saturday, August 1, 2020

1985 Footloose - Random Photos Of The Day

I take a lot of Joe photos.  Through the years, I've taken, literally, thousands of them.  I use them for profiles.  And, after those are done, I'll use them for an Around the Web feature.  And, then, well, after that, I have no real outlet for the new pictures.  I post them to Instagram (which has a great Joe community!).  But, Instagram is designed to be a fire and forget app and a week after something's posted, it disappears, never to resurface again.  So, I'm going to start up a Random Photos of the Day feature.  On weekends, I'll toss up some pics of figures that have used up their other feature allotment.  They will be new pictures, or alternate angles of old shoots.  It's for nothing else than than that.  Maybe I'll have little write ups, maybe not.  I don't really know.

For now, enjoy some photos of the 1985 Footloose:

1985 Footloose, Flint, Lamprety, 1989 Recoil, 1990 Bullhorn

1985 Footloose, Flint, Lamprety, 1989 Recoil, 1990 Bullhorn

1985 Footloose, Flint, Lamprety, 1989 Recoil, 1990 Bullhorn