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

1 comment:

  1. The MMS was the one 1982 item that I didn't have. My brother did, so I was familiar with it (he had the missiles mounted the wrong direction), but not having it affected who I saw as leader of my GI JOE's, and that was Duke when he arrived via mail-in.

    The MMS was overkill for the first year. This is a system to take out large aircraft, something Cobra wouldn't have in toy form until 1984, just as the MMS was discontinued(but it was promptly available via mail offers). I suppose the MMS's missiles could intercept the Cobra Missile base's missile...if it were removable.

    No real toon appearances, and brief comic appearances...Hawk never even uses it! Deep Six does on a ship! Deep Six out of his pressure suit (aka a figure that didn't exist) uses a toy discontinued...not exactly great advertising.