Tuesday, November 24, 2020

1997 Ace

As a kid, I loved pilot figures.  Most of this was holdover from my obsession with Star Wars and the Rebel pilots attacking the Death Star.  The problem, though, was that the Joe pilots of the 1980's left me wanting more.  The original Ace was cool.  But, I had long lost his helmet before my mania over pilots really set in.  Slipstream simply didn't work.  And, Lift Ticket was too specific to his chopper.  I tried Airtight.  But, that didn't seem right.  What I really wanted was a pilot with a removable helmet and an air mask.  You know, like every pilot in every military movie that was produced in the 1980's.  But, it never happened during my childhood.  Only after I was long out of Joe, in 1992, did Hasbro produce the near perfect fighter pilot figure.  This figure was a version of the classic Ace character.  But, it had the removable helmet, flight suit and air mask that I had always wanted as a kid.  I felt I missed out on a figure that would have driven a large part of my childhood adventures.  But, I was also grateful that the 1992 Ace existed.  In 1997, Hasbro resurrected the mold, painted it in a more drab color scheme and offered the 1997 Ace, one of their best pilot figures ever created.

This 1997 Ace is nicely colored but also somewhat lacking.  In 1992, neither Ace's chest details nor the overall straps were painted.  In 1993, Ace was given an upgrade.  Here, his flashlight and pouches were painted to showcase the details on his chest.  But, the overall straps were left the same color as the rest of the figure.  This 1997 figure finally paints the shoulder straps and buckles.  It's a great detail that helps break up the color on the top of the figure's torso.  But, the chest details are left unpainted.  The perfect Ace would have had both the straps and chest gear highlighted.  So, the figure is still imperfect.  And, it seems like a waste to make new paint masks for the straps and buckles but not use the 1993 chest details, too.

The main difference between the 1993 Ace and this 1997 figure is the color of the green used as his body base.  The 1997 figure is far more brown and drab.  He's dark enough that the green highlights tend to be lost.  The 1993 figure is much more vibrant and visually distinctive.  While the photos below show the color contrasts on the 1997 Ace figure, they do tend to be more muted when looked at in less than ideal light.  The biggest issue with the figure is that, with his helmet on, he loses the contrast of his skin and hair color.  The helmet is just one color with no paint.  As it matches Ace's body color, the figure blends together into a brownish green mass.  Were the goggles painted (as they were on every other release of the helmet), this figure would appear far more distinctive when the helmet is worn.  

 Ace's gear is OK.  Gone is the sidearm that was a selling point of the 1992 and 1993 figure.  One odd point about this Ace is that his air mask pretty much always has white stress marks on the plastic.  This is a relic of how the figure was packaged.  But, finding a real 1997 mask with no stress marks is difficult...if not impossible.  Ace's helmet was not painted at all.  The 1992 and 1993 figures featured painted goggles and helped make the helmet a selling point of the figure.  With this 1997 helmet on, Ace appears unfinished.  Having goggles the same brown as the rest of the helmet seems cheap.  And, it makes it so this Ace actually looks better without his helmet than with it.

Back in 1997, I was blase about the newly released Joes.  I first found them in December of that year.  But, at the time, Hasbro's Star Wars line was in its full glory.  New figures were showing up every six weeks or so.  And, as 1997 turned to 1998, Hasbro improved the quality of their Star Wars sculpts, fixed many availability issues and offered collectors characters and outfits that had never before been imagined.  So, when it came time to divvy up my collecting dollars, Star Wars got the bulk of them.  The 1997 Joes seemed expensive since you could get vintage versions of the toys and figures for the same or, in some cases, even lower than retail prices.  There was no reason to drop $25 for a retail Thunderbolt with Ace and Hawk when I could spend the same money and get a vintage Rattler: often with Wild Weasel and maybe a gunner.  

At the time, though, 1992 and 1993 Ace figures weren't easy to find.  (The 1992 figure would become ubiquitous in 1999, though, after the Hasbro Canada find put tons of bagged versions into circulation.)  Despite that, the repainted figure wasn't enough of an enticement for me to buy a Thunderbolt.  As the 1992 and 1993 figures entered into my collection, my need for a 1997 diminished.  I did acquire one, though, as part of a lot in early 2001.  Once in hand, I warmed to the Ace figure.  While it wasn't as good as the 1993, it was good to have a version that was close enough and featured the softer plastic of the 1997 releases.  

From there, the 1997 figure slowly became an army builder.  Ace flew my A-10 for a while.  But, his ideal home was among the smaller aircraft that joined my collection in the 1990's.  Here, Ace found himself at the helm of underwhelming planes.  But, it was these types of flying machines that defined my childhood more than something like the Skystriker.  So, it was a place of importance for the figure.  In the years since, though, this figure has taken a backseat to the 1993 Ace.  I like the brighter colors better and just find it a better figure for photography than this 1997 release.  But, just because a mold has a better color scheme doesn't mean the current one is bad.  And, that's the case with this 1997 figure.  He can be the best Ace in a collection but still not the best Ace figure available.

This Ace sculpt debuted in 1992.  It was quickly repainted in 1993.  In 1995, the body mold appeared on the Street Fighter Movie Paratrooper Guile figure.  This orange and green figure included a new head, but did feature the standard helmet and mask.  This 1997 was the final full usage of the mold.  In 2003, though, Hasbro produced a Slipstream figure that used a new head and a modified Ace body mold.  The coloring was solid.  But, the head was terrible and the modifications to the figure's body rendered future offerings of Ace moot.  This is too bad as the figure would have used a 1983 color scheme update, and still had life for a Sky Patrol or Night Force paint job, too.  

1997 Aces are an odd duck to price.  Too many of them sell for $50+ from various dealers.  Many non-Joe specific dealers, mistake the figure for something undesirable and sell him cheaper.  You have to be quick, though.  Left to his own devices, a mint and complete 1997 Ace runs between $20 and $25.  That's more than double his packmate of the 1997 Hawk: showing Ace's popularity since that Hawk is a nicely done figure, too.  But, seeing as how 1993 Aces (the best use of the mold) are now $35 figures and even the 1992 figure scratches $30, this is the cheapest alternative collectors have for this Ace mold.  And, that's really too bad as this figure sculpt is amazing and every collector should have a shot at it.

1997 Ace, A-10 Thunderbolt, Toys R Us Exclusive, 1995 Sgt. Savage P-40 Warhawk, 1990 Sky Patrol Airwave

1997 Ace, A-10 Thunderbolt, Toys R Us Exclusive, 1995 Sgt. Savage P-40 Warhawk

1997 Ace, A-10 Thunderbolt, Toys R Us Exclusive, 1995 Sgt. Savage P-40 Warhawk, 1990 Sky Patrol Airwave



Tuesday, November 17, 2020

1987 Fast Draw

Every now and then, I like to look back at something I wrote in the early 2000's.  I was a wide eyed collector in those days and was full of boundless optimism.  Reading some of my older work makes me wonder what happened over the years.  But, when you think about all that the Joe brand has gone through in that time, it's easy to see why I lost the youthful joy that accompanied even the most mundane acquisition.  Many of those early profiles, though, just graze the surface of why a figure was important to me.  In those days, certain figures still held over much of their significance from either the end of my childhood days in the '80's or my return to collecting as a college student in the '90's.  Returning to a figure allows me a chance to dig a bit deeper as to why a particular figure was important enough to be included among my earliest writings.  In most cases, though, that early enjoyment of the figure has been long eclipsed by newer and better figures that now call my collection home.  Such is the fate of the 1987 Fast Draw.

Fast Draw is one of those figures who looks really cool.  He's colorful, bulky, has tons and tons of amazing gear and was released during one of the last "premier" years of the vintage line.  But, as a toy, he's limited.  Once you get him out of the package, you realize that his missile rig is overly large, is difficult to use and tends to fall apart.  In short, he's one of those figures who looks way better than he actually plays.  And, as a mobile missile launcher, that was hit fate in my childhood collection.  I'd bring out Fast Draw, he's fire his two missiles, usually miss since I didn't want key Cobra equipment destroyed that early in the adventure and then disappear.  It wasn't much of a fate for a figure that, ostensibly, looked great.

In time, though, I found use for Fast Draw.  At first, I had his two hand held missile launch triggers double as pistols.  This was fun for a few hours.  But, it didn't add much to the figure other than a self defense mechanism.  It was as a gunner manning a battle station on the Havoc, SLAM or G.I. Joe Headquarters, though, that Fast Draw found his purpose.  In this role, Fast Draw's heavy suit was not a hindrance.  Instead, it was a vital piece of survival equipment.  Gun stations like the SLAM produced lots of hot and noxious gases.  Without a strong suit with built in recycling gear, any operator would asphyxiate in short order.  Neither running the guns in short intervals nor the gunners dying quickly was a viable option.  So, Fast Draw's sealed suit became the hallmark of Joe gunnery defense stations.  He could survive the blasts for as long as the weapon had ammunition.  And, since gun stations were primary targets of Cobra aircraft and long range weaponry, wearing heavy armor also protected him from nearby explosions.

With this role, Fast Draw became an army builder in my collection.  I had at least two of them as my childhood play days ended in late 1987.  They were then free to be blown to bits by a missile that perfectly targeted a SLAM.  They might be overrun by Cobra troops and unable to run away fast enough due to the heavy armor.  Sometimes, they'd overheat and perish from the physically demanding work of operating a SLAM.  They had a terrible job.  Doing it perfectly meant that people were safe.  But, a single mistake often resulted in death.  So, gunners had high stress rates which would, sometimes, play out on the battlefield when they'd simply snap and either went beserk on their own side or simply cracked and were unable to perform their duties.  The cultural permeation of the aftermath of war on soldiers from Vietnam of the late 1980's seeped into my Joe world in several, sometimes subversive, ways.  

My other Fast Draw memory was from his introduction in G.I. Joe #60.  This issue appeared in late spring of 1987...right as I was still acquiring new figures from that year.  Seeing a bunch of new Joes in action was a great way to get me excited about missing toys from my collection.  And, the story in that issue was a welcome diversion from the Raptor lead issues of the prior couple of months.  But, when I read the story in #60, it was the artwork that stood out to me.  It was odd and seemed out of place among Joe comics.  A few years later, I was astounded to see #60's placed in important places for sale at comic shops due to the artist of that issue, Todd McFarlane, finding great fame for his later work.  My impression as a young teen was that the art was inferior to what I expected of G.I. Joe.  So, that shows what I know, I guess.  The other part of the issue was Fast Draw extending his hand to General Hawk, only to be rebuffed.  Knowing that Fast Draw was a Joe, I thought it a dick move by Hawk.  But, understanding what Hawk knew at the time, it was a understandable slight.

Fast Draw had his lone release in by Hasbro in the late '80's.  After that, he went to Brazil where Estrela produced an exclusive version for their market.  This figure, named Reaktor, uses the same basic colors as Fast Draw.  However, the green is the darker shade of "Brazilian" green that is common on Estrela figures.  His other colors are slightly different, too.  Side by side, you'd notice a difference in the figures.  But, they serve the same function since their colors are meant to mimic one another.  The mold then disappeared.  Of the 13 other standard carded figures that shared a Brazilian cardback with Reaktor, 8 later appeared in India.  The other 5, Monkeywrench, Tele Viper, Leatherneck, Sci Fi and Mercer did not appear again.  However, Fast Draw did show up again around 1993 when he was part of the Rapid Deployment Force mail away set.  For some reason, he was released without his gear and with two Night Force figures (Shockwave and Repeater.)  It's unknown if these figures were simply overstock from the 1980's Hasbro runs or if Hasbro got the mold back and ran a new set of figures.  Either way, Fast Draw is a character who could have gotten at least one cool repaint.  The mold is good and some new coloring might have really showcased his quality.

Fast Draw's card art has an interesting feature.  It does not actually show the hose from his faceplate to his backpack.  There is a hole on his mask for the hose.  And, a corresponding mark on the pack.  (Though, it does not appear to be a hole for the hose.)  But, the hose is missing.  It wasn't uncommon for early card art to feature items that were late removals from a figure's gear complement.  But, it was rare for something included with the figure to not also show on the card art.  There is also a variant cardback in that some Fast Draw's include printed instructions on the colored "wall" behind the bubble that show kids how to set up Fast Draw's gear.  Others do not.  Figures from 1987 exist in both variants.  So, it's something for Fast Draw collectors to watch out for.

So, Fast Draws aren't really figures that have gotten caught up in the surge of collectibles pricing that has accompanied the pandemic.  While dealers will get $35 for a mint and complete version, you can still get them for around $18.  But, $10 of that is the stupid blue hose.  Without that, the rest of the figure is, maybe $10.  And, you can get high quality, but unaccessorized figures for $5 or less.  So, if you want a figure that's good enough to man a gun statioin on your HQ, Defiant, Rolling Thunder or Slam, Fast Draws are still an option for you.  This is nice since 1987 figures seem to be of a vintage that demands high prices.  So, having an option available for a good price gives me hope that we'll come out of this pricing spike and see things return to something closer to normal.  Until then, I'll enjoy Fast Draw for what he was to me.

1987 Fast Draw, Sneak Peek, 1993 Headhunter Stormtrooper, 1986 Sears Dreadnok Ground Assault, Dreadnok Stinger

1987 Fast Draw, 1989 Backblast, 1983 G.I. Joe HQ, Headquarters, 1982 MMS, Mobile Missile System

1987 Fast Draw, Sneak Peek, 1993 Headhunter Stormtrooper, 1986 Sears Dreadnok Ground Assault, Dreadnok Stinger


1987 Fast Draw, Sneak Peek, 1993 Headhunter Stormtrooper, 1986 Sears Dreadnok Ground Assault, Dreadnok Stinger, Crazylegs

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

1984 Chameleon

 Everyone loves Zartan.  Everyone.  The original figure remains one of the best toys of the 1980's.  While everyone focuses on the Zartan figure and his amazing gear, there was a reason that the figure was sold only in a boxed set.  In the U.S., you could not buy a Zartan figure without also acquiring his Chameleon Swamp Skier.  Though the years, the Chameleon has remained an iconic piece of Zartan's characterization.  But, it has also fallen wayside to the sheer dominance of Zartan's character.  In short, it's something that is definitely tied to Zartan.  But, really has never taken on a life of its own nor been co-opted by other characters.  But, after 1984, it was also a piece of Zartan's character that rarely made an appearance.

As a toy, the Chameleon kind of sucks.  It's small.  The driver has to ride it awkwardly.  It doesn't have any weapons.  It has no defensive capabilities.  And, even new out of the box, it was really delicate and brittle.  But, none of this mattered.  The Chameleon and Zartan were peas in a pod and every kid I knew kept them together.  Zartan would always ride in on his Chameleon and outmaneuver the Joes.  The vehicle was fast, could jump and was capable of gliding over every surface. The water sprayer was impossibly strong and could wipe out an entire line of Joes.  The ink jets in the back were poisonous and could even stop a Whale as it would cover the entire vehicle and crew with opaque liquid.  This was the joy of youth.  The ridiculousness of something like the Chameleon didn't matter because it looked cool and was an essential part of one of the best figures in the Joe line.

The Chameleon established the odd blue and green color scheme as one for the Dreadnoks.  It was the first vehicle to use these colors.  Dreadnok vehicles then used the color for the Swampfire and Sears Dreadnok Ground Assault.  This creates a nice symmetry with the entire Zartan and Dreadnok set and helps it all blend together.  There was really no reason for the colors to be chosen, initially.  But, the green was likely chosen to match up with the swamp theme and that was one of the aspects of the Zartan character that most appealed to me.  There was many a time when the Joes would be hot on Zartan's tail and he's escape into the swamp or over quicksand on his Chameleon while the Joes were left with no way to cross the landscape.

So, it also turns out that I don't have anything left of a Chameleon other than some random parts.  I used to have a nice one.  But, it either got sold or is stashed in another box that I many not open for another decade.  So, the photos below show the discolored pieces of Chameleons that I have left.  I'm missing the front ski, the handlebars and the back bracket for the skids.  In short, you see junk below.  But, that was also part of the Chameleon's gimmick.  You could take it apart, toss it into an included junk bin, affix Zartan's "disguise" mask to his hood and you had a random swamp scavenger instead of Zartan.  The commercial from 1984 played up this feature.  But, it never really appeared elsewhere.  In the comic, Zartan used holographic disguises far more than masks and makeup.  As a toy, this gimmick was dumb enough to work and be somewhat fun.  And, having a carrying case for Cobra gear was a nice bonus.  But, the take apart aspect of the Chameleon is somewhat of a forgotten feature of the toy.

As a kid, the Chameleon's appeal was that it was unique to Zartan.  But, as my childhood Chameleon's fell apart, I had no special affinity for it.  In time, the Chameleon was mostly junk parts that the masked Zartan would drag through the swamp.  As the mid eighties turned to the late eighties, though, I also found value in having the Chameleon actually be junk.  By that time, I had created a world where there were lots of civilian enemies of both Joe and Cobra.  They would live in the rubble ruins of urban areas: leeches on the remnants of society that had been ransacked by war.  They would take bins of junk and try to sell them for scrap to various Joe or Cobra outfits that were nearby.  Sometimes, it was legitimate.  Other times, it was a ruse and a hidden terrorist would pop out of the junk cart and shoot somesone.  But, most often, the junk was a ruse to get someone onto a base where they'd then free a prisoner trapped in the local jail.  These one off stories brought some diversity to my Joe world.  And, they helped keep innocuous designs like Zartan's Chameleon more relevant, even after the toy was broken beyond use.

The Chameleon never appeared again.  It was included with Zartans sold in the European market.  In the 2000's, Hasbro recreated a mini version of it and carded it with a version of Zartan.  But, that was the closest approximation to the original.  Zartan appeared on a single card in Japan, but no Chameleon.  Funskool also produced a Zartan figure.  But, again, no Chameleon.  Hasbro produced over 1.7 million boxed Zartans, though.  They got their money's worth on the mold for sure.  On one level, the original was enough.  It wasn't a great vehicle or toy.  But, collectors would have loved a new version to be included with repaint era Zartan figures.  

It's actually kind of hard to find a mint and complete Chameleon without Zartan.  If you do, you can spend upwards of $30 on it.  Considering mint Zartan figures go for far more, that seems like a bargain.  There's lots of little pieces and a few key parts are extremely brittle.  Plus, even the large parts are very prone to discoloration.  Hunting around might yield you a sample for slightly over $20.  But, in this Joe market, that's a pretty small disparity between dealer and open market pricing.  As a piece of Zartan, though, the Chameleon is kind of essential.  But, on its own, it has little value.  

1984 Zartan and Chameleon, 1986 Thrasher, Sears Exclsive Dreadnok Ground Assault, Stinger

1984 Zartan and Chameleon, 1986 Thrasher, Sears Exclsive Dreadnok Ground Assault, Stinger, 2001, Funskool Zartan


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

2020 "Retro" Hiss Tank

Back in April, I looked at the "Retro" Bespin Luke Skywalker.  This figure fits the retro moniker because it's in the exact style of vintage Kenner Star Wars figures and, to the untrained eye, is a near exact copy from a figure created 40 years earlier.  At the time, I mentioned that G.I. Joe would also see a retro series of figures this year.  Lo and behold, those figures dropped.  And, if you had any glimmer of hope that they would be vintage Joes, you were sorely disappointed to find the releases nothing more than anniversary style rehashes from recent years.  So, that made the figures an easy skip for me.  But, there was a catch.  Hasbro also dropped two vehicles in the assortment.  The Joe vehicle, an AWE Striker is an easy skip.  Vintage AWE Strikers are a dime a dozen.  The mold was then repainted ad naseum in the 2000's.  And, in 2008, Hasbro modded the vehicle for anniversary figures.  I bought that version because it was cheap.  The other vehicle released for 2020, though, was a Hiss Tank.  While I really don't need another Hiss Tank that's actually more expensive than loose, vintage Hiss Tanks, I also decided that getting a crisp vehicle was kind of worth it.  Especially since I'll be able to sell the Driver in a year or two for at least half, and maybe the full retail price of the tank.  But, for now, I have my first new Hiss at retail since 2004.

The calling card of the Retro collection is the packaging.  This is odd, though, as the figures have only vintage style cardbacks.  The massive bubbles help to visually separate them from anything resembling real vintage Joes.  The vehicles, though, are complete throwbacks.  You get the standard, vintage box art.  The back shows the toy and has the Driver's file card.  While not an exact replica of the 1983 tank's packaging, this 2020 rendition is close enough and will scratch any itch a pent up adult has in regards to re-living their childhood for the few minutes it takes to buy the toy and put it together.

2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Rip It, Sky Patrol, 2020 Wal Mart Retro Hiss Tank, Boxed, Box Front, Box Art

2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Rip It, Sky Patrol, 2020 Wal Mart Retro Hiss Tank, Boxed, Box Front, Box Art

This Hiss is not the vintage Hiss Tank.  During the anniversary era, Hasbro either modded the existing Hiss Tank mold, or created a new one.  This is the mold used by this 2020 release.  It is problematic for vintage Joe collectors since the foot pegs are too small for vintage figures and the cockpit has been modified to fit anniversary figures with their weird proportions.  The upside, though, is the vintage figures still fit into the cockpit.  So, that helps keep this tank useful for those of us who refuse to move on from Joe's classic designs.  The lack of useful footpegs is annoying.  But, I always used my Hiss Tanks as weapons with just the driver and gunner.  They were rarely employed in moving troops around.  Plus, vintage Hiss tanks are cheap enough if you want to place some classic Cobras in a small display.

2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Rip It, Sky Patrol, 2020 Wal Mart Retro Hiss Tank

In 1999 and 2000, I wanted an army of Hiss Tanks.  There were some grainy Polaroids of big collections online at the time and seeing four or five Hiss Tanks (a HUGE collection at the time!) together was enticing.  Slowly, I picked up a few and got a small army together.  Then, in late 2000, came the announcement that the Hiss would be returning to retail as the Hiss III.  Priced at $10.00 with a figure, this was a deal.  I planned to buy several.  I found them at my local store in early 2001 and bought...one.  Once in hand, my excitement over more Hiss Tanks faded.  Sure, they're awesome.  But, after a couple, the returns diminish.  And, as the vehicle has been released in various forms since then, you can get a nice Hiss army without even repeating a release.

I got my first Hiss Tank for Christmas in 1983.  Nearly 37 years later, I'm able to buy another one at retail.  I'm not sure if that's great or kind of sad.  Not seeing Joe vehicles really progress for nearly four decades isn't a great look for the Hasbro design teams.  (Though, there are a couple of really nice DTC era vehicles that command premium prices today.)  Personally, I'd have far preferred a new Hiss II just because that mold is less common and has more potential.  Way back in the early days of online Joedom, someone made mention that for all we knew, some new item with a vague description in a retailers inventory system was a 1988 Warthog repainted and renamed as a new Hiss version.  I would not hate that and would probably buy a couple.  All of which is a roundabout way of saying that Hasbro could expand Cobra's armor divisions if they wanted to.  But, for now, the "retro" theme probably limits them in some capacity to truly explore.

Which brings to this vehicle itself.  Really, it's just the same Hiss we've seen multiple times.  It's all black, has a clear canopy and stickers.  There's nothing to really distinguish it from a 1983 Hiss if you're looking at a display from afar.  Aside from the foot peg changes and cockpit update, nothing about the Hiss has changed.  That familiarity is good and is exactly what Hasbro was going for in this release.  While vintage collectors didn't get much in the way of color diversity with Hiss releases, the anniversary line did produce some new Hiss colors.  I would not at all mind a few repaints of this vehicle.  As I do think that a desert Hiss and another arctic Hiss would have some demand.  But, an all black rehash of the classic is what collectors seemed to want and the quick sell outs around the country indicate that we're speaking with our wallets and should expect more rehashes instead of anything that deviates from a reproduction of an existing design.

In the 2000's timeline, vehicles came pre-assembled.  Most of this was a function of the window box packaging that was the marketing gimmick of that time.  Parents would know exactly what they were buying and no assembly was required.  You still see this today on many toys that don't have a collector influence.  This 2020 Hiss, though, came unassembled in the box.  While the tank only has a few parts (two treads, two wheels, tow hook, body, canopy and gun turret) it was still nice to put a Hiss together again.  The gun turret, though, did come pre-assembled.  So, there was less delicate work to be done on that front.  One of the joys of vintage Joes was taking all the parts out and putting them together into a cool toy.  That was fun to do...even if it's a one time thing.  And, now that my Hiss is assembled, it's not coming apart again.

2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Rip It, Sky Patrol, 2020 Wal Mart Retro Hiss Tank, Boxed, Box Front, Box Art

One thing I noticed about the Hiss as I took it out of the box and put it together was show crisp and shiny and clean all the parts were.  Nearly four decades of grime, dust and oils take their toll on even nicely maintained vintage Hiss Tanks.  So, seeing one pop out of the package was nice.  You'll note in my photos that I'm missing many stickers on the Tank.  I'm not a big sticker guy.  Even as a kid, I rarely put on any more than the bare minimum of stickers.  In most cases, I felt they were either overkill or could limit some far flung adventure I had in the back of my mind.  At some point, I may add on some additional Cobra logos or the 788 banner.  But, for now, I'm keeping the tank relatively sleek and unadorned with superfluous sticker application.

The Hiss Tank includes a driver.  Based on the classic 1983 Hiss Driver, the figure is in anniversary style.  This means that all the limitations of those figures that were present in 2007 and still present in 2016 have been carried over to these 2020 figures.  If you like anniversary figures, then this guy won't bother you.  He'll sit in a box for me until it's time to trade or sell him.  I expect I'll be able to trade him for one or two of the Black Major Hiss Driver repaints that are planned to drop in 2021.  So, the figure has value to me for that reason alone.  He hearkens back to the original Hiss Driver, though, and that helps maintain the "retro" aesthetic.

The Hiss Tanks first hit retail in early fall of 2020.  At first, they were hard to find.  And, as Wal Mart cancelled online orders, collectors feared that the Hiss Tanks would go the way of the Target Cobra Troopers and sell for seven or eight times retail on Ebay.  And, for a while, the tanks got a huge aftermarket markup.  Slowly, though, more stock hit.  These were quickly cleared out by fly by night scalpers looking to make a quick buck.  But, in the final week or two of October 2020, Hiss Tanks saturated the market.  Collectors reported finding 20 or more stocked at a time.  And, aftermarket prices plummeted.  As of this writing, it's actually harder to find AWE Strikers in the store than it is Hiss Tanks.  If you want a Hiss, buy it now as many collectors have access to extras that they'll pass to you for cost and shipping.

Maybe Wal Mart ordered more of the Cobra army builder.  We don't really know.  But, it's also likely that once this mass stocking is over, Hiss Tanks will get scarce again.  And, it's entirely possible that by early 2021, frustrated collectors will be overpaying for these items once again.  One thing we've seen with collector targeted vehicle releases in both Star Wars and G.I. Joe is that they tend to perform better on the aftermarket than even figures.  Everyone can find room for one more figure.  But, finding room for vehicles and playsets is harder.  So, you see more people skip those entirely, or just buy the one they want for their collection with none to stash for future trades.  At $25, this thing has gotten substantially more expensive in recent years.  But, stores charge those prices because they know collectors will pay it.  And, we are.  So, retail's gauge on our price tolerance is spot on.  Gone are the days of Hasbro selling toys for cheap.  There is a "collector tax" on items like this Hiss that reap big profits for Hasbro and Wal Mart.  And, we're all too eager to pay it if it means classic toys recycled for another retail go around.

On some level, I hope that the retro vehicles continue.  While I dearly miss vintage Joe figures, I also resigned myself back in 2010 that I'd never see them at retail again.  But, having a chance at some vehicles is nice.  And, while I'll probably skip a Skystriker, I won't let any Rattler repaint or new Tomahawk pass me by again.  We know there is at least one more item coming...a new FANG.  It's not enough to excite me.  But, it's a good bet there's a Joe vehicle to accompany it.  If it's a Skyhawk, I might buy one.  If it's another Armadillo, though, I'll let that collect dust at my local store.  I wish the first two entries to this line had been more imaginative than the AWE Striker and Hiss Tank.  But, everything starts somewhere.  And, while I have no expectations for the long term potential of this line, I'll also take advantage of items like this Hiss that give me a less brittle and newer made item to round out my photos.

2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Rip It, Sky Patrol, 2020 Wal Mart Retro Hiss Tank, Boxed, Box Front, Box Art, Vibora, Cobra Officer, 2004, Comandos Em Acao, Brazil, Estrela, Python Patrol, Stormshadow, 1984, Argentina, Plastirama, Cobra De Hielo, Ice Cobra

2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Rip It, Sky Patrol, 2020 Wal Mart Retro Hiss Tank, Boxed, Box Front, Box Art, Vibora, Cobra Officer, 2004, Comandos Em Acao, Brazil, Estrela, Python Patrol

2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Rip It, Sky Patrol, 2020 Wal Mart Retro Hiss Tank, Boxed, Box Front, Box Art, Vibora, Cobra Officer, 2004, Comandos Em Acao, Brazil, Estrela, Python Patrol