Tuesday, December 29, 2020

1994 Night Creeper Leader - Around The Web

The 1994 Night Creeper Leader is one of the more obscure releases in the line.  He's a character that was introduced in 1993, though in a bright orange.  His 1994 repaint is more subtle.  But, it's kind of a hard figure to find.  I had to open mine off the card in the early 2000's to get one.  The 1993 figure is far easier to find and is the coloring that appears in the comic.  There's a lot more content available on the 1993 figure, too.  But, I was able to find a few gems that specifically related to the 1994 figure.  So, here's the best 1994 Night Creeper Leader content I could find around the web.

1994 Night Creeper Leader Profile

1994 Night Creeper Leader, Battle Corps, 1995 Ninja Commando Budo, Unproduced, Mortal Kombat Movie Edition Shang Tsung

Thursday, December 24, 2020

1985 SMS - Around The Web

I got the Sears exclusive SMS for Christmas in 1985.  At the time, it was a bit disappointing since I didn't get a USS Flagg.  But, very quickly, the SMS proved its value.  And, in time, the Crimson repaints of classic vehicles came to be an integral part of my collection.  And, the missile system became one of the key elements that drove my imaginative Joe world through 1987.  

I still have my original SMS.  It's one of the few toys from my childhood that I never upgraded.  I still like it for photos today as the red and black makes a great backdrop for many early Cobra figures.  Due to the rarity, there's not a ton of SMS content out there.  Here's the little I could find around the web on the SMS.

SMS Profile

SMS by badgerscratch

SMS by HCC788

SMS at G.I. Joe Pit

1985 SMS, Sears Exclusive, Crimson Guard, Hiss Tank, MMS, 2016, Black Major, Tank Trooper, Cobra Trooper

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

2005 Cobra Imperial Guard - By Past Nastification

Return of the Jedi gave us our first really good look at The Emperor (I’m talking about the time before the prequels).  Sure, he was cool.  But cooler still were his helmeted and cloaked personal bodyguards.  The Emperor’s Royal Guard were badass yet stoic*.

Someone at Hasbro saw value in the concept and imported it to GI Joe.  

Replace the Emperor with Cobra Commander, and replace the Royal Guards with Imperial Guards and you’re good to go.  The Imperial Guards (four of them!) were included in 2005’s Cobra Imperial Procession set, which also included a Cobra Commander figure and a Baroness figure.  Like the Royal Guards, the Imperial Guards are encased in their uniforms from head to toe, with no visible hints of humanity.  The Royal Guards’ uniforms are crimson and burgundy, and the Imperial Guards’ are not too far off, featuring mostly dark metallic fuchsia with dark bronze elements.

The Imperial Guard is a far better concept than it is a figure.  

The figure, in ARAH format, is made up of a Range-Viper head/waist/legs, and the chest/back/arms of Cobra Commander V3 (Battle Armor version).  Dropping CC’s personal bodyguards in a recolored bastardized version of his own armor is somehow fitting, but the Range-Viper head is far too iconic to work as anything but a Range-Viper.  A Cobra Officer head, with a retooled neck, might have been a more interesting choice.  

As far as accessories, Hasbro disappoints.  Each Imperial Guards got a flag.  Yes, a flag.  Because you can use a flag to defend your leader from assassination attempts.  The flags feature nicely done flagpoles.  So there’s that.

Although it would have been overpriced, I’m sure the GI Joe Collectors’ Club might have been able to do something interesting with this concept.  Hasbro tried, but not enough.  

*It’s important to point out the Royal Guard (or whatever the hell they were called) later shown defending Snoke in Star Wars The Last Jedi were horrible.  Disney tried to hybridize the Royal Guard with Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, creating some truly rancid designs.   

2005 Cobra Imperial Guard

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

2017 Alley Viper - Factory Custom (Blue and Black)

Joe collectors have been enjoying factory custom created figures since 2009 or so.  Cobra Troopers, Snake Eyes, Cobra Mortals, BATs, Stormshadows and Female Cobra Troopers comprised the molds that had been recreated.  Collectors were able to fill some glaring holes in their collection with these repaints and the figures were, generally, appreciated by the community.  Then, 2017 happened.  In 2017, the factory custom Joe makers stepped up their game to an unprecedented level.  Aside from massive new repaints of older molds, new figures were introduced into the market.  There were two big splash army builders based on 1989 releases: the Night Viper and the Alley Viper.  As the year ended, there are just a smattering of colors for these molds.  But, one: the blue and black Alley Viper stands above all else as a figure who simply needed to get released.

In 1997, Hasbro planned to release a 1989 Alley Viper figure with the Rage vehicle.  Unfortunately, Hasbro could not find the Alley Viper mold.  So, instead of using the 1989 figure, Hasbro cobbled together a new configuration of the Alley Viper using the 1993 head, torso and arms and the 1984 Duke legs.  Collectors didn't take to this new look for the Alley Viper at first.  And, in fact, the 1997 Alley Viper was genuinely hated at the time of its release.  In subsequent years, collectors finally resigned themselves to the new look for the Alley Viper.  But, the 1997 figure left a bitter taste among collectors' mouths because the figure pictured on the back of the Rage box was a repainted 1989 Alley Viper.  It should be noted that a prominent Joe collector of the era hand painted the sample Alley Viper and gave it to Hasbro.  It was intended as the basis for the figure's design.  But, the photo on the back of the box is the actual hand painted figure and Hasbro never even attempted a 1989 Alley Viper repaint.

20 years after the 1997 fiasco, Black Major rectified the Hasbro mistake.  Among his first volley of Alley Viper repaints came this black and blue version.  It is reminiscent of the planned 1997 figure and was the first time the Alley Viper was released in classic Cobra colors.  Upon seeing it, I had to have one for two reasons.  First, it was an homage to the intended 1997 figure.  Secondly, though, the Alley Viper has always seemed like a figure that required a release in standard Cobra colors.

Of all the Cobra specialties, the Alley Viper seemed like the most logical.  Cobra wasn't going to engage in expensive, long term military campaigns.  At least, not in the U.S.  Instead, they'd focus on localized quick strikes in urban areas or on targeted isolated locations.  (labs and whatnot.)  In that realm, the Alley Vipers would be Cobra's primary troops to use.  They would have the chops to handle the urban navigation of large commercial facilities that Cobra was either robbing or destroying.  They had the gear to battle both private security and police departments that might get involved.  And, they'd even be able to take on small military units that might be guarding these locations.  In short, they were the soldiers that Cobra needed the most of.  So, having them in standard Cobra colors seems like a necessity.   

I never minded the original Alley Viper.  In some ways, having a killing squad of swarming death in bright orange worked.  It helped the Alleys distinguish each other in a melee.  But, it is nice to finally have a few of Cobra's urban figures in different colors.  The fact that these figures match the 1997 Rage is nice, too.  It gives them a vehicle to match their specialty.  And, with this color scheme, I can better match Alley Vipers as part of a larger Cobra units.  I have never seen Cobra as an organization that would attack with just one type of trooper.  A platoon of Vipers would be supplemented by a few Alley Vipers to better handle tough situations.  HEAT Vipers would be stationed around the area, ready to swoop in and either destroy incoming armored police vehicles or blow up a particularly thorny bastion of holdout opposition.  So, having a few Alley Vipers that match the base army of Cobra helps in cohesion.

While Hasbro never repainted the original Alley Viper mold, there are now dozens upon dozens of repaints that are available via the factory custom route.  Some, like this black and blue version, are simply essential and awesome.  Others are weird and bizarre.  And, some don't really blend with vintage figures.  But, instead, they perfectly match the massive amount of Black Major releases.  So, you can get a larger Python Patrol in Black Major colors than you can get from the Hasbro and Estrela Python Patrol releases combined.  This gives the modern collector a ton of items to track down.  But, it also gives them choices in the figures they wish to buy.  I have just a few Alley Viper flavors.  I focused my buying on a few color schemes.  Others have built cool armies of different colors.  This has allowed for far greater diversity in the collecting world and moved us past the hegemony of the 2000's when we all owned the same stuff and every army building shot was retail Cobras standing in rows.

The Alley Viper quality is very high.  The figures have tight joints, crisp paint applications and great gear.  The gear fits onto the figure very well.  The only real issue that the face shields tend to be very, very tight and can be hard to get on.  I worked on mine for a while and, eventually, got a point where I just assumed I'd break a figure or two trying to get them on.  Fortunately, I didn't.  But, I did have to clean out the holes on the mask with a small knife tip in order to finally get them on the figure's head.  The gun and pack are great.  And, in a different time, I'd have bought a bunch of extras to outfit my 2000's Alley Viper units.  It's nice to get the full array of original gear, especially since Alley Viper gear is among the best ever released with a Cobra.

(As an aside, I originally wrote up the outline of this profile in early 2018.  As such, much of the info below this part is already very dated.  But, I wanted to leave it as is since this Alley Viper has kind of dried up and he was never available in the super cheap bulk deals like figures released prior to 2017 were.)

As the Alley Viper is a newer mold, super cheap repaints in bizarre color schemes haven't really hit, yet.  That may or may not happen in 2018.  However, there are several variants of the Alley Viper out there.  Not everyone finds this blue and black version to be the best, but I do.  As it's an early release and includes lots of delicate new gear, it's tough to find these Alley Vipers for under $12 each.  That may change in time.  But, the $12 price seems to be the sweet spot for sellers.  And, this configuration's popularity seems to have caused a relatively quick sell out.  You can still find them easily.  But, there aren't as many sellers or the large quantities publicly available like there were a few months ago.  You never know the long term prognosis on these types of figures.  But, a Cobra blue and black version of a hugely popular character whose only knock was the bad Hasbro colors will never be an unpopular figure.  I know I'd like about a dozen more of these guys now.  But, the sheer volume of new figures coming into the market has me more focused on diversifying, right now, rather than army building too much.  Few other collectors are under such constraints, though.  So, these figures will likely become harder to find as the supply goes into a personal army for the next 20 or 30 years.

2017 Black Major Black and Blue Alley Viper, Factory Custom, 1989, Bootleg, 2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Viper, ASP

2017 Black Major Black and Blue Alley Viper, Factory Custom, 1989, Bootleg, 2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Viper, ASP

2017 Black Major Black and Blue Alley Viper, Factory Custom, 1989, Bootleg, 2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Viper, ASP, Flint, Wild Bill, Dragonfly, 1983, 1985, 2000

2017 Black Major Black and Blue Alley Viper, Factory Custom, 1989, Bootleg, 2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Viper, ASP, Flint, Wild Bill, Dragonfly, 1983, 1985, 2000, 1997 Rage

2017 Black Major Black and Blue Alley Viper, Factory Custom, 1989, Bootleg, 2003 Unproduced Wal Mart Hiss Driver, Viper, ASP, Flint, Wild Bill, Dragonfly, 1983, 1985, 2000, 1997 Rage

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

2003 Convention Major Storm - Around the Web

Collectors anticipated the 2003 Convention set reveal with great zeal.  It was just assumed that the set would be a massive cadre of classic army builders in excellent colors.  The, the reveal came.  First, the army builders were not the Vipers, BATS or Cobra Troopers that collectors demanded.  But, even worse, the set included 3 G.I. Joe figures!  3 slots that could have been the Cobras collectors demanded were wasted!

The above is a bit facetious.  But, it was also representative of collector sentiment of the time.  The most baffling release in Operation Anacondo, though, was Major Storm.  At the time, he was an unknown in the community.  And, even his relative rarity due to his inclusion with the General wasn't a selling point.  17 years later, this guy stands as one of the great oddities of the convention set era.  He's not a figure anyone really cares about or spends time chasing down.  But, he exists and it was good that at least one oddball Joe got released in the 2000's.  Of course, there's little content on this guy out there.  But, here's the oldies but goodies on the Convention Major Storm.

2003 Convention Exclusive Major Storm, 1988 Tiger Force Flint, Sgt. Slaughter

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

1989 Darklon Around The Web

Darklon is just a weird figure.  His mold is insane.  His coloring is bizarre.  And, as a character, he doesn't really serve a purpose.  But, in some ways, all of those strikes against him make him work as a figure.  He's so mismatched in terms of color that he blends together into a wonderful tapestry of red, brown and green goodness.  His helmet is even somewhat redeeming and he looks kind of intimidating.  Darklon is more popular than I would have thought.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Darklon Profile