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.
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.
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.
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.