Tuesday, July 27, 2021

2001 Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal

Twenty years ago this month, the Funskool Crimson Guard figure debuted.  At the time, the Joe collecting community was large, vibrant and extremely army builder focused.  This created a perfect storm of collector desire matching up with a potential release.  Once the figure appeared at stores, it quickly sold out, despite dealers of the day over-ordering in anticipation of unprecedented demand.  Large armies appeared in various collecting forums and the figure appeared to have made an inroads in ways that no Funskool army builder save the Night Viper had done.  Time, though, has left this Funskool release a forgotten relic of the army building era.  Gone are the days of cheap access to this figure.  And, newer collectors see little need for a figure that is inferior to the American version while still costing about the same as one.  

In 2001, the Joe world was on fire.  Collecting forums sprouted up frequently.  And, many were able to grow quite large.  Aside from the larger retail presence Joe started seeing in early 2001, there was also a new comic book.  This fueled the fire, especially as the comic publisher opened a forum that quickly became the most visited Joe community online.  In those early days, collectors were relatively collaborative and tended to all be in the same place.  Most of us were relatively new to collecting and had a shared childhood duration that was heavily focused between 1982 and 1987.  The community always had things to discuss since every Joe topic had yet to be beaten to death.  And, more importantly, there was constant news being released about Joe: be it new Hasbro toys or some new comic.  This Crimson Guard Immortal figure, though, was the first new Funskool figure announcement.  When YoJoe.com started selling Funskool figures in February of 2001, every offering seemed new.  When SmallJoes.com came online a few months later, there was one new figure, the 1991 General Hawk, but photos of him surfaced during the website preview and his discovery was malaise rather than anticipation.  The Crimson Guard Immortal, though, was announced to the collecting world before he would appear for sale anywhere.  Images followed the announcement.  Then, the figure appeared.

Upon the CGI's release, he followed a pattern that would appear on highly popular Funskool figures of the day.  He'd initially sell out almost instantly.  Then, when more stock arrived, he'd last a few days.  After that, the figure was a solid seller, but rarely sold out.  Collectors who had anticipated triple digit CGI's in their collection found themselves not fulfilling that boast.  First, the figure itself has some limitations.  Orange and yellow gear combined with the golden head and spotty 2001 era quality on the initial figures all helped to temper some collector demand.  But, the bigger factor was that right around the time of this guy's release, Hasbro also released the Laser Viper and Fast Blast Viper.  It was followed with the less popular Shadow Viper before Hasbro announced the sculpting change for G.I. Joe figures that debuted in 2002.  In short, the CGI quickly became old news in an era when Joe updates were fast and furious.  In time, you saw more and more collectors saying they "should" get some more CGI's.  But, since the figure was always available, there was no hurry.  By the time Hasbro's heavy army building releases relented in 2005, Joe interest faded away with them.  And, despite having been out of production for a few years, CGI's were still available at retail prices at Joe dealers all over the internet.

In some ways, this was a sad fate for this figure.  The Funskool CGI is pretty solid and a nice replacement for the harder to find and rather brittle Hasbro CGI.  Even the off color accessories aren't really that bad since you can limit the figure to his silver launchers and they match his silver accents quite well.  In the days of cheap army building, there were only 4 or 5 options that surpassed the Funskool CGI that had any kind of legs.  And, as this figure was many collectors first exposure to the CGI mold, it had the added value of expanding some people's vision of the Joe line past figures that were made prior to 1988.  The comeback for this figure is that he remains relatively cheap and easy to find, even while all the other 2001-2004 new Funskool releases have gotten hard to find and even rather expensive.

In general, the Funskool CGI is pretty similar to the Hasbro figure.  The red is a deeper maroon color and is not a match for the crimson red of the 1991 figure.  The Indian version also has much more silver paint used to accentuate the mold's highlights.  The biggest visual difference is the golden paint on the figure's head.  There's no real reason for this paint application to exist.  And, the gold paint isn't as great a match for the figure as the silver.  And, a silver head would have probably worked better for this figure's overall appearance.  But, in general, the Crimson Guard Immortal is a pretty solid design that fits with other 2000's era army builders.

The Crimson Guard Immortal has a short history.  The original figure was released in the U.S. in 1991.  From there, the figure was released in Europe, too.  Some European examples, though, have a 1990 Rock Viper head instead of the head originally intended for this mold.  This is a rare figure.  And, large numbers of fakes were produced in Asia around 2010-2012.  They were bagged and still float around, passed as originals, with alarming regularity.  The CGI's gear was also recolored and released with a 1991 General Hawk in Europe, too.  It's possible that the Rock Viper head CGI's are a function of the fact that the CGI head appears on the 1993 Create a Cobra mail away figure, too.  The mold was meant to go to Brazil.  Estrela cardbacks feature a figure named Flagelo, using the CGI mold.  But, this figure was never actually produced.  (An American CGI is incorrectly listed as Flagelo in some early international Joe guides.)  Funskool then got the mold that went into production in 2001.  Funskool CGI's can have gold painted bullets on their left leg, silver painted bullets or unpainted (black) bullets.  The silver and black are the harder variations to find.  Funskool dropped a final production run of CGI's in April of 2003, right before they returned the mold to Hasbro.  Most of these were bagged, but are the highest quality CGI's that Funskool made.  

In 2003, Hasbro quickly got the mold into production and released it as the driver of the KB Toys exclusive CAT Tank.  This blue version was different.  But, wasn't overly popular with collectors of the day.  In 2005, the body mold was used for the convention exclusive Destro.  It's an odd look for Destro.  And, again, didn't make for a really popular figure.  The mold then disappeared...never seeing use either the Crimson Guard set from 2004 or the Crimson Shadow Guard from 2005.  Hasbro getting the mold back seemed like wasted opportunity...especially since it removed the Funskool CGI's from production.  But, the ubiquity of the Funskool figures has helped soften that blow.

The Crimson Guard Immortal mold has a lot of life left in it.  A Cobra blue repaint seems a no-brainer.  But, a black and silver paint job to match the Shadow Guards would also be a hit.  Alas, these are never to come from Hasbro.  In the late 2010's, though, a factory custom maker floated the idea of CGI repaints.  Spec sheets appeared that showed the CGI in a variety of colors.  Among the excellent blends of classic Cobra colors were also some oddball items with the CGI painted up as Boba Fett and Darth Vader.  I'm not sure of the board appeal of something like that.  But, I'd have probably bought at least one Boba Fett CGI for the curiosity of it all.  As of 2021, though, these figures have yet to materialize.  They may be pipe dreams at this point.  But, they do show that the mold still garners some collector interest and many realize the untapped potential of the design.

So, in an odd bit of irony, the huge popularity of the Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal has made him one of the cheapest Funskool figures to acquire in the 2020's.  Today, you can get MOC figures for around $20.  Loose figures are harder to come by and tend to sell for similar prices.  But, since dealers imported massive amounts of Crimson Guard Immortals in the early 2000's, there's lots of them available today.  Now, figures that were ignored by collectors of the early 2000's have gotten hard to find and, in some cases, stupidly expensive.  The Crimson Guard Immortal, though, remains relatively affordable.  We're two decades removed from the days of buying all of them you wanted for $4 each.  But, because so many collectors did, there's lots of them out there.  And, the collector demand got lots of toy dealers to also buy up overstock as Funskool liquidated the last of their Joes in the mid 2000's.  So, now, we have a figure that's much more common than other figures who were ignored in the Funskool heyday.

That's good since these CGI's are still attainable for a new collector.  But, at collector prices, the usefulness and desire to army build these guys fades away.  You don't see too many Funskool CGI's in photos these days.  There are just better options available and few collectors who came of age in the post Funskool collecting landscape ever paid the figures attention as an army building option.  I still love this figure, though.  He reminds of a great time in the Joe collecting world.  He also reminds me of the silliness that pervaded that era, too.  I stick around because figures remind me not only of childhood but also of collecting related events that were relevant to young adulthood, too.  It's weird to realize that this figure was released and I first reviewed it prior to 9/11.  But, that just shows how much of an impact Joe continues to have on my life.

2001 Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal, 2020 Wal Mart Retro Hiss Tank, CGI

2001 Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal

Saturday, July 24, 2021

1983 Rock and Roll - Around The Web

 Rock and Roll is one of the few original 13 figures to feature unique parts.  His bullet strapped chest was an amazing look and has made him a fan favorite after all these years.  He remains one of my most used early figures as he holds up with later releases without some of the baggage that other early figures feature.  Of course, he's popular.  And, I only scratched the surface of the Rock and Roll content out there.

1983 Rock and Roll Profile

Rock and Roll Diorama

1983 Rock and Roll by R.T.G.

1983 Rock and Roll by General Liederkranz

1982 Rock and Roll by masterbungle

1983 Rock and Roll by Cobra_the_Enemy

1983 Rock and Roll by slipstream80

1983 Rock and Roll by scarrviper

1983 Rock and Roll by BrazilianRecondo

1983 Rock and Roll, Steeler, Snake Eyes, Funskool Flint

1983 Rock and Roll, Steeler, Snake Eyes, Funskool Flint

1983 Rock and Roll, Steeler, Snake Eyes

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Rarities - 1995 Ninja Commando Storm Shadow Production Sample

The 1995 Ninja Commandos were right behind the Manimals in terms of almost making it to production.  While packaged and loose samples of the Manimals exist, only loose samples of the Ninja Commandos are out there.  But, they are full production versions and even feature accessory trees.  Originally, the set was to be 6 figures.  But, it was reduced to 5.  The biggest name in the set was Storm Shadow.  This new version isn't a terrible look for Storm Shadow.  And, had I come across this hanging on a peg in 1995, I'd have probably bought him, even while I left other Ninja Force figures behind. The colors are subtle.  And, the figure kind of looks like Storm Shadow.  The more muted appearance would have been attractive to me as a neophyte collector.  

Did you know that there was also going to be a variant Storm Shadow released in the Ninja Commando line?  There is a second set of color masters that show some significant variants were planned for Ninja Commando figures.  Storm Shadow was one them.  The variant figure featured bright orange grenades and an orange cloth on his right leg.  The shoulder pauldron is grey and the figure's mask is all white.  It's actually a better Storm Shadow and would have matched nicely with T'Gin Zu.  Alas, neither figure made it to production.

After ignoring these figures for a long time, I've become fascinated by the Ninja Commandos in recent years.  Their designs are not bad.  And, they would have been a nice supplement to the sparse Battle Corps Rangers releases that would have also graced the shelves in 1995.  While I would have likely skipped Road Pig and even the Flint, this Storm Shadow would have been a good enough match for other figures that he would have called my collection home.  For years, rumours speculated that an entire production run of Ninja Commands were produced and were rotting in a warehouse.  After 25+ years, these figures aren't going to magically appear and the rumour was likely just wishful thinking by collectors of the day.  

But, as a fun aside, in the early 2000's, a collector visited Hasbro.  There, the Hasbro team had a bin of loose figures that they used to kitbash and paint up to developed repaints for the JvC and Toys R Us line.  In this bin were loose Ninja Commandos.  The Hasbro team had no idea they were rare, unproduced figures.  Sadly, though, we never got this figure at retail.  And, the dreams of one day owning a set of Ninja Commandos are now reserved for high dollar collectors who will treat them as museum pieces instead of the toys they were meant to be.

1995 Unproduced Ninja Commando Stormshadow

Saturday, July 17, 2021

2004 Cobra Black Dragon Ninja - Around The Web

If you were around back at the time of the Black Dragon Ninja figure's release, you remember that he appeared quite frequently.  Everyone was happy to show off their new figures.  But, in the years since, the Toys R Us 6 figure packs have kind of dried up.  Many new collectors don't have them.  And, the limitations of many of the figures have played out over the past 17 years.  (Yes, it's been that long.)  It's fun to find old write ups of figures like this.  When taken through the eyes of a new release, you see a different perspective than you do now that this figure is older than the vintage Joes were when he debuted.  There's not a ton of content on the Black Dragon Ninja out there.  But, of the TRU figures, this one has held up pretty well.  While Black Major has given us nice Stormshadow repaints, the Black Dragon Ninja color scheme hasn't really been explored.  Here's the best of his content from around the web.

2004 Black Dragon Ninja Profile

2004 Black Dragon Ninja by thedustinmccoy

2004 Black Dragon Ninja by yihad_77

2004 Black Dragon Ninja at Half The Battle

2004 Black Dragon Ninja by Slipstream80

2004 Black Dragon Ninja at GeneralsJoesReborn

2004 Black Dragon Ninja at JoeADay.com

2004 Black Dragon Ninja by Flatline

2004 Black Dragon Ninja by toysandtomfoolery

2004 Black Dragon Ninja, Toys R Us Exclusive, Comic Pack Grunt, V1 Stormshadow, Ninja Ku

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

2005 Night Watch Trooper

At the 2003 G.I. Joe Convention, Hasbro showcased the upcoming Cobra Infantry 6 pack.  This set included four Cobra Troopers and two Cobra Officers that were painted up as homages to the original characters from 1982.  It was a hugely anticipated set and proved to be extremely popular.  Collectors of era assumed that Hasbro would then repaint the molds into the rainbow of basic troop colors that every Joe fan had yearned for since 1984.  At the time, Hasbro was repaint mad and collectors were army builder obsessed.  It was a no-brainer.  But, then, it didn't happen.  Sure, a Cobra Trooper and Officer showed up in the first 5 Comic Packs.  But, they were poorly colored and used terrible arms.  As 2005 brought about the retail line's cancellation, it became apparent that collectors would never get Stinger or Crimson Troopers.  The loss of these highly desired releases, though, was drowned out by the general malaise over the line's overall demise.  But, Hasbro then offered collectors a lifeline: the DTC experiment.  Among the figures and vehicles that comprised these online only toys was a 6 figure set of classic Troopers and Officers: the Night Watch.

At first, collectors were ecstatic about the Night Watch.  Cheap Cobra army builders were rarely scoffed at.  But, once in hand, the oddity of the release hit home.  The Night Watch figures didn't really fit anywhere.  Sure, they were supposed to be Cobra's night guardsmen.  But, their color scheme didn't fit with Night Vipers.  Nor did it really match up with the Stinger or it's driver.  They were an island unto themselves.  And, this quickly took a bite out of their popularity.  Slowly, the sets began to stagnate.  And, when Hasbro finally sold all of their non-moving online stock to Toys R Us, there was a large supply of Night Watch sets that were included in the sale.  A year after the set's online release, you could find plenty of Night Watch sets hanging at Toys R Us stores around the country. 

With time, though, comes perspective.  And, this set was both over-hyped and then overly derided within its release window.  Now, though, you can see the figures in the set for something new.  The Night Watch doesn't fit the traditional definition of Cobra Trooper colors.  But, the bluish-grey with camo pants does add some design flair to a normally staid look.  The grey pads on the chest straps bring out the detail on that feature that had been lost to a sea of black on other releases.  The multiple skin tones allowed for more diverse army building.  Though, Hasbro did do away with the differing eye and eyebrow colors for the caucasian members of the 2004 Infantry set.  

Truth be told, I don't much use the Night Watch figures any longer.  Not because they are bad.  It's just because there are better versions of the Cobra Trooper that were released by the factory custom makers in the ensuing years.  So, the uniqueness of the Night Watch is lost as there are lots of Cobra Troopers out there with multiple colors, additional painted details and camo pants.  And, the factory customs include the correct arms as well as the original rifle.  So, they offer all that made the Night Watch unique.  But, in getting these figures out for photos, I was reminded of their quality.  They seemed a bit odd at the time.  But, the details make for good figures.  But, because we were deprived of basics like Stinger Troopers in 2005, these Night Watch Troopers became victims of collector expectations.  We wanted them to be something they were not.  And, they were dropped because of this.  When taken for what the Night Watch is, the figures hold up much better.

The Night Watch Trooper's accessories are OK.  The Toys R Us six packs had devolved into a just including massive amounts of non-sensical gear for the figures.  The Night Watch brought back a bit of order to the weapons...even if it meant a decrease in quantity.  Each of the four Troopers includes the same black stand, black knife and black rifle.  Both the rifle and knife are JvC era designs.  But, they actually work with the older figure molds.  The knife is menacing.  It looks good and it's always nice to have extra bladed weapons lying around.  The rifle is also OK.  It's a rifle/grenade launcher combo that debuted a few years earlier.  It's compact for what it is.  The handle is a bit blocky, though, and would snap vintage thumbs.  The softer, more pliable plastic used in the 2000's releases, though, allows the Night Watch Trooper to hold it with no fear of breaking.  In fact, the greater issue is that the weapon stretches out the figure's hand so much that you have to push it back into place before he can hold the weapon again. 

This figure uses the same parts as the 2004 Comic Pack Cobra Trooper.  Supposedly, the change from the 2004 Toys R Us Infantry figure mold was due to Hasbro finding the original Officer and Trooper parts in a different factory.  The sad part is both the waist and arms are from the 1984 Roadblock.  I don't really mind the waist.  It does look a bit out of place.  But, it doesn't bother me to the extent that it does others.  The arms, though, are a different story.  Roadblock's arms were meant to be bare.  So, with painted sleeves, they look skinny.  I thought that Thunder's arms on the 2004 Troopers worked well.  But, these Roadblock arms are the weakest point of the Night Watch figures.  The original Cobra Trooper arms were iconic in that they included the piano wire that really gave you an idea of how bad they were.  Losing that detail (and all details) on the Night Watch figure made them appear more plain.

In looking back at the Direct To Consumer strategy, Hasbro was really ahead of their time.  In 2021, a series of collector themed toys sold via online dealers who cater to that constituency should be viable.  More than a few companies make it work.  But, in 2005, it was downright innovative.  We do have to account for the fact that that toys had already been designed and molds created.  So, Hasbro had a lot of sunk cost into their creation.  So, the proposition was less risky for them than it otherwise would have been.  The fact that DTC failed is both a function of the timing (2005 was a LONG time ago!) and the size of the Joe collecting world.  Joe collectors like to believe we exist in great numbers.  But, we don't.  And, we never have.  People point to large populations on various social media forms as proof of a large size.  But, those groups are mostly people who joined to ask a question (usually about value) and then never come back.  There's a few dozen to a few hundred really active people out there with an overall collecting community that's, maybe, 10% of the size of the Star Wars community.  In short, there aren't enough of us to sustain a line.  Even in 2021, that's true.  The Joe toys we see are geared towards people who collect scale: almost exclusively at retail.  If they flock to Joe, we'll get more of that product.  But, there aren't enough of us 3 3/4" collectors left to really support a toy line.  And, that's now been true for 15 years.

Like all of the 2000's era ARAH releases, the Night Watch sets have kind of dried up.  You can get boxed sets in the $80-$90 range.  And, dealers tend to sell a lot of loose, complete sets for similar amounts.  This appears to be a deal, though, since dealers will get up to $20 per figure for the individuals with many still reaching $16 on the open market.  It's a far cry from the days of these being $3 or $4 figures.  And, at current pricing, it's hard to justify these figures.  Most of the factory custom paint jobs of the Cobra Trooper are better.  And, they are around the same price.  The Night Watch is something different.  But, it lacks a true identity and it doesn't really mesh well with any existing Cobra units or vehicles.  If you can get them cheap, the bizarreness of their release is worthwhile.  But, at current pricing, there are a lot of better options out there for classic Cobra Troopers.

2005 Night Watch Trooper, Cobra Trooper, DTC, 2017 Outlaw, Red Laser Army, Factory Custom

2005 Night Watch Trooper, Cobra Trooper, DTC, 2017 Outlaw, Red Laser Army, Factory Custom

Saturday, July 10, 2021

1989 Dogfight - Around The Web

Dogfight isn't a figure that you see all that often.  But, he's one that has a lot of character and some cool design elements going for him.  I still think he started his life as an update to Wild Bill.  But, for some reason, he was repurposed to a new character.  Hasbro had the mold in the 2000's and it would have been to have gotten a new Dogfight figure.  But, that didn't happen and all we have is this original version from 1989.  There's not a ton of content on him out there. But, you kind of expect that considering the obscure nature of the character.  Here's the best 1989 Dogfight content I could find around the web.

1989 Dogfight Profile

1989 Dogfight by thedustinmccoy

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

1986 Dreadnok Thunder Machine

In early 1986, a kid in my younger brother's class brought a bag of newly found G.I. Joe figures to the playground.  It contained a cornucopia of brand new 1986 figure releases that he had found at Target.  I convinced my mother to take us to Target a few days later, only to find all the new Joes sold out.  As we shopped in other parts of the store, though, my younger brother found a random Dial Tone sitting on a shelf.  This lead to an unhealthy jealousy of my brother and his Dial Tone figure.  It also lead to an even more unhealthy obsession to find any all newly released G.I. Joe toys that I could.  Within a few days, I found a Devilfish at the local KB.  I paid too much for it just to get the catalog included so that I could be the first to see all the new 1986 releases.  A few weeks later, before I could even find any other figure, I found the Dreadnok Thunder machine at the same KB toy store.  The higher price was difficult to swallow.  But, it was a cool looking vehicle and would give me my first 1986 figure.  So, I plunked down the money and took home my new prize.

By 1986, the Dreadnoks were not a huge part of my collection.  While they had some nice runs in the comics and I did find the character fun, all of my figures had been acquired in late 1984.  By early 1986, all of those figures had considerable wear, were broken, or were missing accessories.  As 1986 wore on, the Dreadnok figures slowly became nameless goons who fulfilled various terrorist or criminal roles rather than being Cobra operatives.  The 1986 entries to Zartan's clan (Zarana, Zandar, Monkeywrench and Thrasher) though, did find roles within Cobra.  But, they were capable villains rather than an independent movement loyal to Zartan.  For a short time, the Thunder Machine was their vehicle of choice.  But, I slowly found that only Zandar was a really useful villain and the other members of the Dreadnoks faded into the background.  The Thunder machine, though, had more potential.  By the fall, my adventures had shifted to G.I. Joe constantly being under attack by superior Cobra forces.  Joe bases were always under threat of a massive assault from legions of the Cobra army.  Cobra rarely wasted tons of Vipers or Crimson Guards on the attack, though.  Joe bases were heavily fortified.  Cobra needed a vehicular assault to pave the way for an infantry invasion.

To start, these convoys were comprised of Hiss Tanks and Stuns.  Hiss Tanks, though, were old hat to me.  I had owned them and used them as Cobra's primary vehicle for three years.  Stuns were newer and more fun.  But, they had limitations.  The large cannons were imprecise: especially when shooting after highly trained Joes who were capable of deft maneuvering.  This opened the door for the Thunder Machine.  Instead of a unique Dreadnok vehicle, I found the Thunder Machine useful as a standard Cobra attack vehicle.  The dual gatling cannons were the perfect anti-infantry weapons and provided Cobra with the missing element to their attack.  Thunder Machines could make Joes duck for cover while Stuns and Hisses advanced.  Of course, they had downsides.  Thunder Machines' weapons only pointed forwards, limiting their attack options.  And, the guns would be out of ammo after a few seconds.  So, Thunder Machines always had to return to base for re-supply.  But, the heavy armor on the vehicle made it less susceptible to small arms fire.  And, the drivers were more protected than and Stun of Hiss operator could ever dream.  These factors made them vitally important to Cobra success.

I had a broken thumb Viper who ended up the main driver of the Thunder Machines.  And, for several months, they roared over the dark green carpeted hallway to my room.  There was a single step down into the actual bedroom and this was where Joe's line of defense was concentrated.  Thunder Machines would rip apart the weaker fortifications.  But, the old Kenner Tie Fighter wings that guarded the entrance were strong enough to withstand the barrage.  And, from here, Low Light would attempt to snipe away the drivers in hopes of lessening the storm of bullets that Thunder Machines could deliver.

At some point in my childhood, my youngest brother got an A-Team tank from Galoob.  The all black tank looked decent as a Cobra weapon, even if it was somewhat undersized.  (Though it did work well for original Cobra Troopers and Stinger Drivers.)  At some point, I removed the cannon from the turret and replaced it with the gatling cannons from the Thunder Machine.  (They actually kind of fit and didn't fall out too easily as long as you didn't move them.)  This created a formidable anti-infantry tank that Cobra used for some time.  I found the A-Team tank with extra Thunder Machine guns in our old toy box in the mid 1990's.  At some point, I'd like to re-acquire one of those A-Team items to remake that old tank since it was a decent memory of my late Cobra army.  

Now, though, the Thunder Machine sits in a box.  I have better Cobra vehicles to use.  And, the look of the vehicle is just too tied to the Dreadnoks.  The Thunder Machines main value is that it's an excellent display piece.  The toy itself is cool enough.  But, you can kind of see the driver and passenger in the cockpit.  And, you can fit most of the Dreadnoks on the footpegs on the sides.  For the footprint it takes up, the Thunder Machine offers excellent display value since it can showcase a good number of figures.  So, you often see Thunder Machines in Dreadnok displays for this reason alone.

The Thunder machine had an interesting life.  After the U.S. release, a similarly colored Thunder Machine was released by Estrela in Brazil.  After that, though, the mold ended up in Venezuela where Rubiplas released a purple and brown Thunder Machine.  This is one of the most famous rare vehicles in the line and a nicely conditioned version can cost up to $1,000 or more.  The mold then got back to Hasbro who released it in the Street Fighter line, with some modifications.  From there, the Thunder Machine was sent to India where Funskool released it for several years in various color variations: some more blatant and a few substantially more rare than others.  Again, the right Funskool Thunder Machine can cost a substantial amount.  The mold went out of production in India and disappeared before American dealers started bringing over Funskool vehicles in the early 2000's.  Had it been available, the Funskool Thunder Machine would have likely been one of the two or three most popular vehicle repaints of that era.  The mold never appeared again.  And, while it might have been fun to see it in colors that matched the Sears Stinger, it's not really a vehicle that requires a lot of repaints.  The original is good enough and works for either the Dreadnoks or Cobra.

Dealers will ask $100 or more for a mint and complete Thunder Machine.  Left to their own devices, though, you can get them in the $40-$50 range.  There's plenty of stock out there from which to choose, though.  If you sacrifice the antenna or steering wheel, the price drops quickly.  Dreadnoks have a solid fan base.  Though, it's probably more vocal than it's size warrants.  But, the green vehicles tend to be a bit more popular among collectors.  The Thunder Machine is one of those vehicles that's simply a staple.  If you have Dreadnoks to display, the Thunder Machine is the best way to do it.  So, the vehicle always has value in that regard.  For me, though, its time has passed and the Thunder Machine provides a good memory, if it never leaves the shoebox that it now calls home.

1986 Dreadnok Thunder Machine, 1995 Mortal Kombat Movie Edition Dhalsim, Sgt. Slauther, Triple T, 2004 Convention Zanzibar

1986 Dreadnok Thunder Machine, 1995 Mortal Kombat Movie Edition Dhalsim, Sgt. Slauther, Triple T

Saturday, July 3, 2021

The Zeros - Mark VI

Once again, for the July 4th holiday, I present the Zeros.  These are the least popular posts on the site in the past year.  Some make senses.  Others surprise me.  I have a theory that newer collectors are less interested in obscure ephemera of the line and, instead, are more likely to engage with a post about a toy they had has as kids.  That's far different from where the hobby was just two or three years ago.  But, you'll see that a lot of the under-performing subjects are collector based items rather than nostalgic toys.

Whatever the reasons, though, these were the worst performing posts of the past year.  So, take this long holiday weekend and catch up on some stuff you might have missed. 

1. Plastirama SOS (Doc)

This one is a disappointment.  It's the worst performing new profile I've written since 2015.  I thought an obscure repaint that's an upgrade over a popular American character would have fared better.  But, this was a complete dud across all platforms.  Too bad.  As, it's an amazing figure.

Plastirama, Argentina, SOS, Doc, 2004, Night Force Flint

2. Killer Moth - Spinmaster Batman

This one makes sense.  This is a G.I. Joe blog and an entry about Batman figures is heavily out of place.  But, Killer Moth is one of the highlights of 2020 and is a figure well worth owning.  Plus, the Spinmaster Batman line is awesome and deserves to run for a decade or more.

Spinmaster, 2020, Killer Moth, Joker, Batman

3. 1982 MMS

This one surprised me.  Hawk, the figure from this set, did really well a few months later.  But, few people were interested in this origin year toy.  It's not a really exciting toy and works better as diorama filler.  But, it's still classic that every collector recognizes.

1983 Hawk, Clutch, Flash, MMS, VAMP

4. 1984 Chameleon

Another stunner.  I would have thought that Zartan's favorite vehicle would have gotten some good attention.  Any Zartan figure does good numbers.  But, the Chameleon was an absolute dud in terms of engagement.

1984 Chameleon, 1993 Ninja Force Zartan, Flak Viper

5. Funskool Cutter

Cutter isn't a hugely popular character or figure.  The 1992 mold is awesome.  But, it doesn't get a lot of attention.  The Funskool figure is obscure.  So, this profile not getting attention makes sense.

Funskool Beach Head, Cutter, 1992, DEF

6. 2001 Double Blast

Double Blast is another expected member of this list.  Really, this is a Roadblock repaint and the new character isn't one that any cares about.  So, low numbers make sense.

2001 Double Blast, Roadblock, Tommy Arashikage, 2006

7. 1984 Thin Green Stripe Recondo

Recondo is a very popular character.  And, in the old days, collectors loved variants.  But, this combo of the two didn't do very well.  I can't really explain why.  Recondo seems popular all over the place.  But, some other Recondo content didn't so hot, either.  So, maybe he's not really that well liked?

1984 Thin Green Stripe Recondo variant, 1987 Steel Brigade, Mail Away

8. 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Rock and Roll

I was super disappointed in this one.  I think this figure is so cool and has tons of potential.  I loved the pictures I got for him, too.  But, no one else did.  I thought this guy would find a nice audience due to his obscurity for a major character and his distinct visuals.  He didn't.  Collectors seem to love neon figures these days...except for this Rock and Roll.

1991 Super Sonic Fighters Rock and Roll

9. 2002 Gift Set Stormshadow

Stormshadow is popular.  But, this red version from 2002 is pretty low on the list in terms of collector interest.  It's not a popular mold for the character.  And, this o-ring retro fitted version retains a lot of the limitations of the original.  So, he's an unsurprising addition to this list.

2002 BJ's Gift Set Stormshadow, Shock Vipers

10. Funskool Croc Master

This one isn't too much of a shocker.  Croc Master tends to be middle of the road in terms of popularity.  Funskool's version is pretty strong but also fairly obscure.  I was also offline for a while prior to publishing this so overall site engagement was lower during that time.

Funskool Croc Master, 1987

Another 1/2 year down.  The Joe world has been stupid in 2021.  We'll see how the year ends.  I'm starting to see some signs that we might come out of this crazy market.  Supply is up a bit and prices of non-rare items are starting to soften.  So, those are all good signs that this hobby is returning to normal.  We'll see how that holds up in coming months, though.  

In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and supporting the site.  Lots of good stuff to come in the second half of the year.  

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Rarities - Funskool Maltova Red Toxo Viper

 A few years ago, I looked at the Funskool Maltova promotional figures.  In that write up, I had pictures of 6 different releases.  But, I mentioned that I had no idea how many more there might be.  Well, here's another one.  And, it's a doozy.  Funskool produced an all red Toxo Viper for the Maltova series.  Like the other figures, though, he has the super crappy straight arms that all but nullify his collectiblity.  

The red really works for the Toxo Viper character, though.  The hazardous nature of their job would make something like a bright red necessary for some members of the Leaky Suit Brigade.  So, in that regard, the figure has tremendous value.  

A-Man noted in the comments below that this figure actually has Red Dog legs.  I hadn't even looked at them and just assumed they were the same as the 1988 Toxo Viper.  But, the additional parts change just makes an already odd figure that much more unique.

The figure also included accessories.  This sample does not have a helmet.  But, I do not know if that is true of all of them.  The gear, though, seems to the standard gear included with a Funskool Toxo Viper.  So, there's no coloring exclusive to this figure as far as gear goes.

Of course, this figure is stupidly expensive.  And, if it had swivel arms, I'd be inclined to pay it.  But, the straight arms save me from that type of purchase.  So, I'm somewhat grateful for that.  It's a travesty that this color scheme didn't get a wide release with proper arms on a Funskool card.  I know I'd have bought a few had they been available.  

Funskool Maltova Promotional Red Toxo Viper Variant

Funskool Maltova Promotional Red Toxo Viper Variant

Funskool Maltova Promotional Red Toxo Viper Variant

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Rarities - European Force Rendon

So, each year I try to showcase some piece of the European Force line of knockoffs.  This year's focus is Rendon.  Basically, Rendon is a red 1986 Dial Tone with Flint arms and Hawk legs.  He's not the type of thing collectors would love.  Except that he's exceedingly rare and that alone causes people to be interested in him.  Heck, I'm a Dialtone fan.  And, I don't really want an all red version of him with different arms and legs.  But, at the same time, I'd totally buy this figure if I ever came across one for a good price.

All of the European Force figures have a kitsch about them that makes them interesting.  We'd have never seen some of these colors on vintage Joes.  And, the lower quality and reduced paint masks definitely mark these figures as bootlegs.  (Rendon doesn't appear to have Dial Tone's mustache painted.  Yet, Hasbro did the same thing in 2000.)  But, at the same time, the entire line has a panache that makes you want it.  The fact that some of the designs have never been revisited seems a shame.  And, after the oversaturation that's occurred with the Red Shadows in the past 10 years, having MyGal as an alternative European villain would be nice.

You'll note in the photos below that Rendon included a rifle originally from the Baroness.  The red weapon in the last photo was from a different line that a seller just included since it kind of matched Rendon.  With obscure lines, you see things like this often.  And, absent carded samples, it can be difficult to determine real gear that was included with a figure versus aftermarket items that were added from a box of unsorted weapons.

Like all the European Force figures, high quality Rendons are nearly impossible to find and are extremely expensive.  You'll pay over $100 for even a sample with heavy paint wear.  The European Force quality is not good.  But, their designs were fun.  I just wish they were more attainable.

European Force Rendon, Dialtone, Dial Tone, European Exclusive, Bootleg

European Force Rendon, Dialtone, Dial Tone, Carded, MOC, European Exclusive, Bootleg

European Force Rendon, Dialtone, Dial Tone, European Exclusive, Bootleg

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Rarities - Unproduced Funskool Shark 9000

We do know that Funskool had plans for the G.I. Joe line that extended beyond Windmill.  There was a new Rock and Roll figure that used the 1989 mold that was planned.  And, Funskool was also toying with the idea of releasing a new character that would have been an amalgamation of molds that would have been more "Indian" in origin.  We don't know what this would have been.  But, it's likely the figure would have been fun and interesting.  

The last Funskool new vehicle that we really know of was the 1993 Detonator.  Funskool created it in 2001 or so.  (Can't remember the exact date.)  But, this Funskool catalog below shows another vehicle that, to my knowledge, never saw the light of day from Funskool: the 1993 Shark 9000.

The catalog below is an interesting amalgamation.  The Sky Striker and Battle Hawk are clearly the Funskool versions.  Whereas the Detonator and Shark 9000 use old Hasbro catalog photography from the 1990's.  As such, the Shark 9000 that does appear is the Hasbro version.  So, we have no idea what Funskool's take on the vehicle may have looked like.  

Again, to my knowledge, the Shark 9000 was not actually released.  But, if you have information to the contrary, or pics of a sample, please let me know.

Funskool Catalog, Shark 9000, Detonator, Skystriker, Mean Dog


Thursday, June 24, 2021

Rarities - Unknown White Numbers Bazooka

A few months ago, H5*0's Vintage Toys posted a question about a 1985 Bazooka figure that was missing paint applications on the number 14 that adorns his chest.  My initial thought was that it was simply a missing paint application.  But, within 2 days, another 4 or 5 samples of the figure had been produced.  With that type of distribution, it's likely that the figure is, indeed a legitimate variant of the 1985 Bazooka.  I doubt that the missed paint app was intentional.  But, it's possible that a bad batch was needed to fulfill an order and was green lighted for release.

1985 White Number Bazooka Variant, Bagged, Mail Away

But, where did it come from?  The initial guess is that the figure was a catalog or mailaway that was available bagged.  This is entirely possible.  But, we do know that correct Bazooka figures were bagged, too.  So, if this is the origin of the figure, then it would be a smaller subset of the bagged figures.

1985 White Number Bazooka Variant, Bagged, Mail Away

As variants go, this isn't overly exciting.  But, at the same time, it is extremely noticeable.  So, the figure missing these paint apps would catch your eye since the blue makes for such a large portion of Bazooka's overall appearance.

The variant figure doesn't have any different COO or date stamps than a standard Bazooka.  So, it was not a release from later in the line.  

1985 White Number Bazooka Variant, Bagged, Mail Away

If you have any information on the origin of this figure, or just have a sample, please let me know.  I'd love to learn more and determine if this is just a bad production batch or can be traced to a specific release.

1985 White Number Bazooka Variant, Bagged, Mail Away

1985 White Number Bazooka Variant, Bagged, Mail Away

1985 White Number Bazooka Variant, Bagged, Mail Away

This is one of the odder items I've come across.  And, you'd think that variants like this would be better documented.  Hopefully, the full story of this figure will come to light.  There's lots of pushback that the figure is custom where someone removed the paint.  That, of course, is possible.  But, the fact that so many showed up so quickly from various parts of the country and that none of the customizers bothered to remove the paint from the figure's armbands makes that explanation less likely.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Rarities - Pre-Production 2005 Comic Pack Horrorshow

In 2005, Hasbro finally produced a Horrorshow figure.  This long awaited release was met with general approval from the fan community.  Sure, it had issues.  But, overall, it was good enough.  As with all new figures from that era, Hasbro had some pre-production versions of the figure leak out.  This figure isn't overly different from a production Horrorshow.  It has pink hands and is missing the date stamps.  Not much of a variant.  But, it's an insight in the process that lead to this figure's release.

Sadly, this mold never got a re-release or even a repaint.  His wave of Comic Packs saw a truncated production due to the massive unsold inventory of late 2004 Comic Packs that were still being clearanced out from stores around the country.  For about a month, you could get this figure.  Then, he was gone.  He's always been the most pricey Oktober Guard figure.  But, the fact that he's now a triple digit purchase is a bit much.  Collectors have this figure en masse and almost the entire production run was purchased by collectors who were aware of the short production window.  But, times are dumb and Joe prices are dumber.  For a long time, you could get the pre-production Horrorshows for cheaper than a production figure.  But, those days are gone and you'll pay a premium even though only the most eagle eyed collectors would notice a difference.

2005 Comic Pack Horrorshow, Oktober Guard, Prototype, Pre Production

2005 Comic Pack Horrorshow, Oktober Guard, Prototype, Pre Production

2005 Comic Pack Horrorshow, Oktober Guard, Prototype, Pre Production

2005 Comic Pack Horrorshow, Oktober Guard, Prototype, Pre Production

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Rarities - 2000's Era Stormshadow Unproduced Figures

For some reason, Hasbro loved the 1992 Stormshadow mold.  After the debut of the 1984 mold in the 1997 repaint sets, Hasbro put it on hiatus for another 7 years.  In between, they, instead, released repainted 1992 Stormshadow figures.  The first, in 2000, was a nice diversion and something different.  But, then it appeared again in 2002 in the BJ's Gift Set and again in 2004 in the Urban Strike set.

Design wise, this wasn't terrible.  The figure mold is nicely done.  But, as the mold debuted in Ninja Force, it has construction and design limitations.  As a one off, it was neat to see.  As the default Stormshadow, though, the mold was frustrating.  In 2004, Hasbro got the 1988 Stormshadow mold back from Funskool and also resurrected the 1984 figure.  By then, though, it was kind of too late.

In additionl to the production versions of this mold, there are also several pre-production and unproduced figures from this time period.  The first is the unproduced 2003 Sky Patrol Stormshadow that would have been a Wal Mart exclusive.  These figures were cancelled due to the parachutes they would have included.  And, Wal Mart released some decent JvC sculpt repaints instead.   The figure is an interesting blend of blue and red.  On the 1984 or 1988 mold, this color scheme might have been fun.  On the 1992 figure, though, it doesn't do much for me.

2004 Urban Strike Stormshadow, Unproduced, Midnight Chinese, 2002, BJ's Gift Set Stormshadow, 2003 Wal Mart Sky Patrol Stormshadow, Storm Shadow

2004 Urban Strike Stormshadow, Unproduced, Midnight Chinese, 2002, BJ's Gift Set Stormshadow, 2003 Wal Mart Sky Patrol Stormshadow, Storm Shadow

Hasbro then followed up the unproduced 2003 Wal Mart set with the mold's use in the 2004 Urban Strike set.  All of the Urban Strike figures have unproduced variants that use red cammo.  You can see Stormshadow below.  In this case, the production figure was a better release.  But, the red cammo was available for cheap for a long time and was worth picking up for that reason alone.

2004 Urban Strike Stormshadow, Unproduced, Midnight Chinese, 2002, BJ's Gift Set Stormshadow, 2003 Wal Mart Sky Patrol Stormshadow, Storm Shadow

2004 Urban Strike Stormshadow, Unproduced, Midnight Chinese, 2002, BJ's Gift Set Stormshadow, 2003 Wal Mart Sky Patrol Stormshadow, Storm Shadow

But, for some reason, there are actually two different unproduced Urban Strike Stormshadows.  In addition to the red cammo version, there is the grey version you see in the team shot below.  There was no explanation given as to why there are two variants of Stormshadow but not of the other members of the team.  But, such was the nature of the era.

2004 Urban Strike Stormshadow, Unproduced, Midnight Chinese, 2002, BJ's Gift Set Stormshadow, 2003 Wal Mart Sky Patrol Stormshadow, Storm Shadow

2004 Urban Strike Stormshadow, Unproduced, Midnight Chinese, 2002, BJ's Gift Set Stormshadow, 2003 Wal Mart Sky Patrol Stormshadow, Storm Shadow

2004 Urban Strike Stormshadow, Unproduced, Midnight Chinese, 2002, BJ's Gift Set Stormshadow, 2003 Wal Mart Sky Patrol Stormshadow, Storm Shadow

Of course, all these figures are now tough to find and will cost you way more than the couple of bucks they'd have set you back in 2005.  But, that's the way of the market right now.  But, if you like the 1992 Stormshadow mold, there's some fun stuff to find that will keep you occupied for a while.