Tuesday, December 28, 2021

1993 Vega - Street Fighter

As the Joe line died at retail in the mid 1990's, there were a few stragglers that could always be counted on to be available.  Shadow Ninjas and Ninja Force, of course.  Armor Tech Star Brigade was another.  The final faction that was always hanging around was the Street Fighter II figures.  While these toys featured the G.I. Joe branding, the reality is that they were entirely different in concept from the standard Joe line.  As a budget minded new toy collector, it was easy to pass these figures by.  They didn't really match up with my vision of G.I. Joe.  But, also, their odd construction and articulation was a severe detriment to their addition to my collection.  Even the odd figure with black weapons was simply too far out there for me to really take an interest in the toys.  I wasn't a gamer during the Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat craze and didn't have that affinity for the characters.  All I saw was some oddly colored martial arts figures that were a pale imitation of even the Battle Corps Joes that I sought with such gusto.  I passed the Street Fighter II figures by, even as they slowly disappeared from retail.  And, even as an adult collector, I avoided them as they were cheap and easy to get should the bug ever hit me to track them down...until they weren't.

In recent years, the Street Fighter figures have taken on substantially more life.  It's a combination of younger Joe collectors coming into the fold who had them as kids, older collectors running out of anything else to collect and a generation who grew up with the Street Fighter video games coming into the collecting world.  The reality is that there's plenty of Street Fighter figures.  But, the influx of new collectors seeking them out has created a perception of scarcity as many dealers and collectors long ago wrote the figures off as they were worthless and simply didn't sell.  In time, these inequities will straighten out.  But, it can create short term frustration for a collector looking to move into the Street Fighter line.  If you like ninjas and other martial arts figures, the line is definitely for you.  And, figures like Vega give you a nice diverse list of characters from which you can choose for your adventures.

At his core, there's not much to Vega.  He's bare chested, wears purple pants with a yellow stripe and has golden highlights.  His head provides most of his characterization.  He's masked in a white obfuscation that shields his identity.  He is golden haired and features a waist length, braided pony tail.  It is a marvel of sculpting and the most ambitious hair piece Hasbro ever attempted.  It is also the feature most often hidden in the few online photos you can find of Vega.  So, his best asset is also his most mysterious.  Not being a fan of the Street Fighter series, I know little else about Vega.  So, for me, he's just another ninja who's available in the black market world of assassins, spies and hired muscle.  His coloring is a somewhat match for the 1994 Night Creeper Leader.  So, he might find use as his sidekick or something.  But, neither figure is someone who appears all that often in my collection.  And, aside from appearing in photos of other martial arts themed figures that I profile in the future, it will be rare for Vega to show up.

Vega features the spring loaded action features that were introduced with Ninja Force in 1992.  He features a "Matador Smash" feature where, if you twist his waist to the right and release it, it snaps back into position.  As ninja action features go, it's kind of innocuous.  Unlike the spring loaded arm action, this feature allows Vega's arms to be used in normal G.I. Joe positions.  That gives him more value as he's not stuck holding with sword at a specific height with no way to alter it.  It's kind of hard to use the Matador Smash in any way that makes sense for playing with another figure.  But, that wasn't really the point of the feature and the simple fact that the figure twists and moves like a He-Man figure from more than a decade earlier was supposed to the selling point that justified an extra dollar at retail.

Vega uses the entire body mold of Banzai.  Bazai is also a bare chested ninja.  He just wears hot pink instead of blue and yellow.  The calling card of Vega, though, is the head.  The character wears a mask to cover his face.  But, the back of the head features a massive, flowing, braided pony tail.  It's quite the feat of engineering and is, likely, the most elaborate hair piece Hasbro ever sculpted.  A similar design could have been used for Cammy had Hasbro made a figure of her.  But, it's doubtful that Cammy's hair was the stumbling block for an action figure of her.  Vega did get an entirely new figure in the Street Fighter movie line.  This figure is among the rarer figures from that line and features a new body and different head.  The head has a human face and the figure includes a removable mask.  It appears, though, that the Movie Vega's head uses the same hair piece as this original Vega.  It's a solid reuse for something that probably took a great deal of work to design and implement.

Almost all the Street Fighter II figures included edged weapons that could be used with their spring loaded action features.  Vega is no different.  And, as the weapons were on a tree, he's got more than he can use.  Vega's gear is cast in gold plastic.  While gold figures tend to be very brittle, I've found the Hasbro G.I. Joe accessories in that color have managed to hold up relatively well.  And, gold is a color that lends itself to metal weapons like the knives, swords and axe that are included with Vega.  Along with his golden stand, Vega includes 7 edged weapons.  Many of them were reused multiple times with the Street Fighter II figures.  But, the swords are decently sculpted and look great with 1993 figures.  The axe is small and useful.  The knives work well, too.  And, the sickle is a fun little weapon that is even more amazing when a string is attached to its base.  In short, his accessory complement is top notch and matches the figure in both color and function.  (If you are a fan of the video game, though, he's missing his most distinctive feature: the claw.  It was, however, added to the Street Fighter Movie figure.)

All Street Fighter II figures have seen substantial price increases in recent years.  Vega is no exception.  Carded figures will now run $75-$100.  That's a far cry from the figures that sat unsold for $10 just a decade ago.  Mint and complete figures will run you $30 or so.  And, just loose figures that are high quality consistently sell for $20.  That's a lot for a figure with limited use.  But, for Street Fighter II fans, it's also a good way to get the character.  For me, Vega's one of those guys who might appear as background of a random other ninja I'm planning to profile.  But, he's mostly just a box on a list that I can now check off.  As a figure, he's fine.  He works for what he was supposed to be and isn't too over the top.  I still, though, don't really see him as a G.I. Joe figure.  I can work some characters from Street Fighter into Cobra or as oddball side characters that the Joes and Cobras can both fight.  Vega is not one of these, though.  

1993 Street Fighter Vega, Blanka

Street Fighter, Vega, E Honda, 1993

1993 Street Fighter Vega, Night Creeper

Thursday, December 23, 2021

1992 Barricade - Around The Web

The 1992 series of figures is extremely well done.  And, in recent years, collectors have started to realize that many of the figures released this year are worthy of the Joe line's legacy.  Barricade fits this narrative quite well.  He's a well designed figure that looks good and has some usefulness.  His gear is fun and his backpack contraption is a nifty piece of engineering.  There's not a ton of content on the 1992 Barricade out there.  But, there's some high quality stuff in the smattering I could find around the web.

Barricade Profile

Saturday, December 18, 2021

2001 Rock Viper - Around The Web

While this figure is, technically, listed as a 2000 release, the reality is that he didn't show up until about three days before Christmas in 2000.  Most stores didn't see him until 2001 and I have always considered him a 2001 release for this reason.  Sadly, when stores started getting him in 2001, they didn't stop.  Wave II (which included this figure) was massively overshipped and you could find Rock Viper/Major Bludd packs for $5 each into 2002.  It was a sad fate for this figure as it's a solid mold, repainted to mimic a 1986 Viper and includes all his original gear.  Fortunately, lots of people used this figure back in the day when he was cheap and plentiful.  So, there's some great content on the Rock Viper from around the web in the links below.

2001 Rock Viper Profile

2001 Rock Viper by Scarrviper

2001 Rock Viper at JoeADay.com

2001 Rock Viper by gen_liederkranz

2001 Rock Viper by Pit Viper V2

2001 Rock Viper by tonegunsrevisited

2001 Rock Viper at GeneralsJoesReborn

2001 Rock Viper by Scarrviper

2001 Rock Viper by Cobra Freak

2001 Rock Viper by gen_liederkranz

2001 Rock Viper at Icebreaker's HQ

2001 Rock Viper by dantedmc37

2001 Rock Viper by the plasticeyeball

2001 Rock Viper by Scarrviper

2001 Rock Viper, 2000, ARAHC, 1993 Star Brigade TARGAT, 1986 Night Rave

2001 Rock Viper, 2000, ARAHC, 1993 Star Brigade TARGAT, 1986 Night Rave

2001 Rock Viper, 2000, ARAHC, 1993 Star Brigade TARGAT, 1986 Night Rave

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Funskool Ripper

In the early 2000's, Funskool was churning out G.I. Joe figures.  The series was very popular in India.  And, American dealers had found a willing collecting audience in the U.S., Canada, Europe and other countries.  Alongside their standard releases, Funskool was producing 4 or 5 new figures each year.  In 2002, though, Funskool decided to bring back some out of production favorites.  Despite early lists featuring names like Firefly, the reality was that Flint, Buzzer, Scrap Iron, Beach Head, Airtight and Zarana were among the older releases who were given new life.  Naturally, collectors gobbled these up with gusto.  There was one oddball release, though.  While the other figures were widely available, the Funskool Ripper only showed up in smaller quantities.  This made him both somewhat desirable, but also a great insight into how Funskool produced their Joe figures.

Retailers in India could get pretty much any Funskool figure made if they ordered at least a day's worth of production.  At the time, that was around 3,500 figures.  So, if someone wanted a new run of Beach Head and was willing to pony up the cash for 3,500 of them, Beach Head was going to happen.  Supposedly, a retailer in India wanted Ripper to come back.  They commissioned the production run of him and he was almost exclusively sold by them in India.  However, there were a few leftover cases from the production run that select American dealers were able to acquire.  So, Ripper came over in smaller quantities, originally, than most other figures.  And, were it not for some sales and then the Russian overstock figures, Funskool Rippers would likely be much harder to find today.

The calling card of the Funskool Ripper is the vibrant blue colors that are used.  His pants are a much deeper blue than those on the Hasbro release.  And, the blue and green spots on his shirt are more appealing and bold than his original base.  Funskool blues, though, are very prone to discoloration.  And, most blue Funskool figures from the '80's and '90's are nearly impossible to find without some color degradation.  So far, though, the Russian Rippers and those made in 2002 have held up fairly well and the blue hues remain radiant.  We'll see how the next decade goes, though.  As the Hasbro figure is prone to discoloration, too, it's nice to get a vibrant Ripper but also a bit worrisome as the figure ages.

Like most Funskool figures, Ripper features his full complement of original accessories.  The Funskool versions, though, are flimsier than those made by Hasbro.  The pack and hose are difficult to attach together due to the quality of the materials.  But, as Ripper's gear is an integral part of his character, it's essential that Funskool included it.  As a kid, I always wanted more Ripper rifles to give to other figures.  But, as the Funskool figures started to make Ripper weapons more available, I realized that the bladed firearm is really iconic to Ripper and looks out of place with other figures.  It's perfect for Ripper, though.

For me, though, Ripper is kind of a bland character.  Ignorant thugs have their place.  And, in certain cases, can be useful.  But a moron who just likes to destroy things has limited uses.  You can't trust him on missions as was proven in Issue #30 when he wanted to destroy Skystrikers and thwarted Cobra Commander's plans.  Hired muscle is useful.  But, when they can't even control their most primal urges, those people become liabilities that I wouldn't see the Commander keeping around.  So, the figure got its most use as random street criminals or civilians who were caught in the crossfire between Joe and Cobra.

Funskool Ripper has dozens upon dozens of variants.  The most famous is the purple shirt and glasses version that was available on early Funskool cards.  Mint loose figures of this variant fetch amazingly high prices.  But, the real challenge is tracking down all the slight color variations that exist on the Ripper's who were based on the Hasbro colors.  There are variant hues of blue, green and red.  All of which appear randomly on figures.  Some weird combos were only available as vehicle drivers.  Others changed through the various productions of Ripper.  And, some are probably rarer than the purple version.  Funskool returned Ripper to Hasbro in 2003 and the club used it on a rather banal Ripper repaint in 2004 and then he was released with a new head in a comic pack in 2005.  Neither of these figures is as good as the original or the standard Funskool.  But, Ripper got more life from his mold than it probably deserved.

Funskool Rippers remain cheap when compared to their contemporary releases.  Lots of them were available.  And, his appearance in the Russian sets helps ease the supply of Rippers to this day.  You can still get carded versions for $20-$25.  And, that's probably overpriced.  But, there's few non-dealer options to acquire one for the going market rate.  The price is still pretty ridiculous when you consider how many Funskool Rippers were imported and concentrated in the collector market.  But, modern collectors have forgotten cheap Funskool and have no idea that these figures were available all over the internet for $4 each not that long ago.  As high quality Hasbro Ripper's still only sell for around $20, too, it's up to each person to determine where there money is better spent.  Funskool blue plastic is notorious for discoloring.  But, so is the Hasbro plastic from 1985.  At the end of the day, it's a toss up.  But, personally, I'm fond of the brighter colors on this Ripper and find him useful.  He pops in photos, even if the character is somewhat dim.  In this market, you can do a lot worse than a $20 Dreadnok.  So, the Funskool Ripper is probably a decent value, even at his inflated prices.

Funskool Ripper, Buzzer, 1986 Zandar, Dreadnoks

Funskool Ripper, 1985, Dreadnok, Toxo Viper, 1988

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Funskool Barbecue - Around The Web

The Funskool BBQ is one of Funskool's better repaints.  The brighter colors work on the character and the Funskool color palette is very eye pleasing.  Of course, there's little on the figure out there since he's become a forgotten member of the early 2000's Funskool imports.  But, there's enough to realize that this figure is a solid release and can find a home in any collection.

Funskool BBQ Profile    

Funskool BBQ by DragonFortress

Funskool BBQ by Slipstream80

Funskool BBQ by MrMikeVinthePit

Russian Funskool BBQ By DragonFortress

Funskool BBQ At Nekoman's Viper Pit

Funskool Barbecue, BBQ, 1985, Funskool Law, 2002

Funskool Barbecue, BBQ, 1985, 1995 Sgt. Savage P-40 Warhawk

Funskool Barbecue, BBQ, 1985, 1995 Sgt. Savage P-40 Warhawk

Funskool Barbecue, BBQ, 1985, 1995 Sgt. Savage P-40 Warhawk

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Haslab Skystriker - Funded!

So, on 12/6, the Rancor failed.  Despite a strong last minute surge, it still fell about 500 backers short.  Instantely, this lead to doom and gloom among the Joe groups that the Skystriker was sure to fail, too.  And, at about 85% heading into the final day, it was kind of a possibility.  But, as we neared 12 hours before the funding deadline, the backers suddenly surged.  Over 600 Skystrikers were backed in under an hour.  And, the next hour saw over 400 more.  Slowly, the counter climbed over 98%, over 99%.  And, then, it stopped.  There was a major Amazon Web Services outage on this day.  And, the counter got stuck at 9924.  

But, after a while, it jumped and the Skystriker was fully funded with about 8 hours to go.  From there, the numbers continued to climb.  Historically, about 2/3 of the orders for a Haslab are placed in the final 2 days.  But, the failure of the Rancor and the quick funding of the Ghostbusters Pack put some of that historical context in doubt.  The various Joe forums were full of gloom about the Skystriker's fate.  More collectors than you would think took up a schadenfreude approach and took glee in the impending doom.  But, as the numbers rose, those posts and comments started to disappear.  For a moment some of the toxicity of Joe fandom was beaten back in shared accomplishment that will bring some desired toys to the collecting world.

Now, the Skystriker is happening.  It's the most ambitious Joe toy since at least 2005 and, maybe, since 1993.  It's also a telling milestone.  We know that vintage style Joes are making some kind of a return in 2022 for the 40th Anniversary of the line.  To see a flagship toy get produced by a collector base that's still firmly stuck in the "wait for Ross" mentality gives me hope that a retail Joe line will get a little more of a marketing nudge than it might otherwise have.

Around 3 hours away from the funding mark, the Skystriker passed the Scarlett tier of 13,000 units backed.  This means that pilot Scarlett will be made and it makes this Haslab a better than retail cost proposition.  In the last 90 minutes of the campaign, though, there was a final surge.  And, the Skystriker's final number was 16,784 units backed.  This meant that not only was Scarlett unlocked, but Ripcord, too.  So, the final product will include 7 figures, the plane and the deck vehicles.  Not too bad when you consider what the aftermarket pricing on the figures will be.

In the end, 12/7 was as much fun as February 15th, 2002: the date that the internet exclusive Wave V debuted at online retailers and the entire Joe world was united in their desire to get them and the frustrations as ambiguity set in.  Days like that are rare in the Joe world.  Nearly 20 years between two dates is a lot.  But, for now, there's something to be happy about in regards to Joe.  When those two huge boxes show up at my door sometime in 2023, though, we'll see how the happiness lasts as I try to explain $500 in toy airplanes to my wife.

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Lt. Wayne Ruthel, Scarlett, Ripcord, Cobra Commander, Mickey Mouse, Cobra Trooper, Cobra Ground Crew

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Lt. Wayne Ruthel, Scarlett, Ripcord, Cobra Commander, Mickey Mouse, Cobra Trooper, Cobra Ground Crew

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Lt. Wayne Ruthel, Scarlett, Ripcord, Cobra Commander, Mickey Mouse, Cobra Trooper, Cobra Ground Crew

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Lt. Wayne Ruthel, Scarlett, Ripcord, Cobra Commander, Mickey Mouse, Cobra Trooper, Cobra Ground Crew

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Lt. Wayne Ruthel, Scarlett, Ripcord, Cobra Commander, Mickey Mouse, Cobra Trooper, Cobra Ground Crew

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Lt. Wayne Ruthel, Scarlett, Ripcord, Cobra Commander, Mickey Mouse, Cobra Trooper, Cobra Ground Crew

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Lt. Wayne Ruthel, Scarlett, Ripcord, Cobra Commander, Mickey Mouse, Cobra Trooper, Cobra Ground Crew

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

1986 Monkeywrench - Around The Web

Monkeywrench is often the forgotten Dreadnok.  His minimalist appearance and lack of comic book characterization somewhat doomed him to a lifetime of obscurity.  He's always been somewhat interesting to me since he kind of looked like my uncle in 1986.  But, the figure's design is pretty solid and he does what he's supposed to do.  (Which is more than can be said for some of his contemporary releases.)  There's some fun content on him out there.  I just scratched the surface.  But, enjoy some good Monkeywrench content from around the web.

1986 Monkeywrench Profile

1986 Monkeywrench by flatline

1986 Monkeywrench at Nekoman's Viper Pit

1986 Monkeywrench by joes_by_james

1986 Monkeywrench by gijoebarcelona

1986 Monkeywrench by thedustinmccoy

1986 Monkeywrench by masterbungle

1986 Monkeywrench by fun_time_at_serpentorslair

1986 Monkeywrench by Nekoman

1986 Monkeywrench by g.i. ussr

1986 Monkeywrench by _toyler_

1986 Monkeywrench at JoeADay.com

1986 Monkeywrench by rutbullet

1986 Monkeywrench Variant by Hit and Run

1986 Monkeywrench by thedustinmccoy

1986 Monkeywrench by joes_by_james

1986 Monkeywrench by hobieshinobi

1986 Monkeywrench by keithmccleary

1986 Monkeywrench, Thrasher, Cross Country

Saturday, December 4, 2021

2004 Urban Assault Scrap Iron - Around The Web

The ARAH style Joe repaints from the 2000's have a massive discoloration problem.  The cheap plastic isn't holding up all that well.  And, figures like the 2005 Scrap Iron are, basically, impossible to find without some discoloration.  The 2004 Cobra Strike Team - Urban Division set also has some discoloration problems.  But, the Scrap Iron that was included uses dark enough plastic that he's holding up better than many other of his contemporaries.  And, he's not a bad update to the Scrap Iron character, either.  If you give him either 1984 Scrap Iron or Battle Gear accessories, he's made even better.  There's not a ton of content on him out there.  But, what is there is good quality.  So, enjoy the 2004 Urban Assault Scrap Iron content from around the web.

2004 Strike Team - Urban Division Scrap Iron, Toys R Us Exclusive, TRU, 2021 Black Major Cobra Trooper, Steel Brigade, Action Force, Red Laser Army, Black Major

2004 Strike Team - Urban Division Scrap Iron, Toys R Us Exclusive, TRU, 2021 Black Major Cobra Trooper

2004 Strike Team - Urban Division Scrap Iron, Toys R Us Exclusive, TRU, 2021 Black Major Cobra Trooper

2004 Urban Assault Scrap Iron, Night Creeper, Tracker Kwinn, Comic Pack

Friday, December 3, 2021

Haslab Skystriker - Cobra Figures Added

Prior to today, the Skystriker was on pace to easily fund and probably reach the Ripcord tier.  However, due to the bad press around the Rancor, there was a lot of concern among Joe groups about the Skystriker funding.  So, today, Hasbro dropped a new tidbit of information on some additional figures that are included in the base tier.  They are: Cobra Commander, a Cobra Trooper and a new amalgamation of the G.I. Joe Deck Crew figure and the Cobra Trooper that makes a Cobra Deck Crew.  

The Cobra Commander is the helmeted version that is in desperate need of a new release.  It features the Mickey Mouse logo.  This is certain to be an exclusive variant and the sure to be retail release in 2022 will have the standard Cobra logo.  

The Cobra Trooper is based on the cartoon look.  I HATE the ungloved hands.  But, that's just me.  It's tough to get excited over Cobra Troopers when there's over 100 repaints of them available.  But, it's a nifty looking figure for sure and something that will have some demand later.  The final figure using the Cobra Trooper head, Ripcord legs and the chest from the Deck Trooper.  It's a neat looking idea and also pretty much ensures the Deck Trooper mold will probably appear at some point.

As you now get these included in the base tier, you are guaranteed to get them when the Skystriker funds.  I do not like the idea of army building figures in an expensive set like this.  I'd prefer them to be characters.  But, this shows that Hasbro wants the Skystriker to fund and is also showing their hand when it comes to probable 2022 commemorative figure releases.

One thing to ponder:

Back of the napkin math if this were a retail item:

5 x $15 = $75.
Refueling Vehicles: $25
Shipping: $30
Skystriker and Base: $100

All of those are in line with retail pricing.

After the announcement, we're seeing massive uptake in the Skystriker backing.  It's probably a combo of hard core collectors upping their max order to 5 to get the army builders and some new people coming on board.  Will be interesting to watch these next few days as the campaign ends.

Cobra Commander, Cobra Trooper, Cobra Deck Crew, Haslab, Skystriker

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Action Force Z Cycle (Rapid Fire Motorcycle)

I received my first G.I. Joe toy for my birthday in December of 1982.  It was the RAM motorcycle.  I didn't get my first figure until the next day when Breaker joined my collection.  This seemed kismet since it was Breaker who was drawn as the rider on the RAM box art.  The two of them became inseparable.  Breaker was, pretty much, the only figure who got to ride the RAM and it was a perfect extension for him since the figure didn't include a weapon.  I came to view the Ram as Breaker's just as much as the VAMP belonged to Clutch.  If you lived in Europe, though, your first exposure to the RAM as a toy brought with a completely different character association.  Because, unlike in the U.S., the first European release of the RAM mold included a driver: Quarrel.  With this, the association between the Action Force Z-Cycle and Quarrel is probably more powerful than the RAM/Breaker connection.  The Action Force coloring of the toy, though, also creates a starkly different appearance for the RAM that makes it my favorite palette for the toy.

As a kid, the RAM suffered greatly due to its popularity.  My RAM went on many adventures: most of which it could not survive.  The leg pegs broke off.  The saddle bags were lost.  The kickstand snapped when I flicked it to simulate a figure kicking it down.  And, as the final nail in the RAM's coffin, the pegs that held the gatling cannon to the cycle broke and I was left with two pieces that could not be re-connected.  I glued and glued the RAM.  So much so that the plastic began to melt under the increasing in strength adhesives I applied in an attempt to make the toy whole.  Finally, it was no use.  The RAM found its way into the final resting place of many of my childhood toys: a box of broken and mismatched parts that I would cast onto the floor of our toyroom to simulate a debris field where battles or chases could take place.  For a toy, though, my original RAM couldn't have asked for much more as it was used to death.  Sadly, the great disappointment with the Silver Mirage soured me on Joe motorcycles in general and the RAM didn't return to my collection until the late summer of 2000.

This timing is interesting because two things happened in my collection at this time.  First, I acquired a massive original collection that contained pretty much all the figures and vehicles released between 1983 and 1985.  Oh, I also got this collection for free.  I just had to pay shipping.  But, while I reveled in my fortune, I also took an important step as a Joe collector as I acquired my first two international figures: Chinese Major Bludd and the Tiger Force Outback.  With this, the world of international Joes was opened to me and they quickly became my primary area of focus.  As the early 2000's slogged on, my international collection grew.  At the time, you could trade recent Toys R Us exclusive Joes pretty much straight up for many European and Brazilian releases.  As I had those in spades, I was able to pick up many figures even though I wasn't able to spend much money on my collection.  

One such acquisition was Quarrel.  At the time, Quarrel was one of the more popular international releases.  Despite the fact that she's relatively common, she was commanding prices similar to Red Jackal and Red Laser.  As with female figures from the U.S., though, the increased popularity of the character among collectors was outstripped by the figure's availability.  And, with that, Quarrel prices began to fall.  Despite this, I never really explored the possibility of adding Quarrel's missing motorcycle.  At the time, I was a figure collector and vehicles seemed like unnecessary purchases when there were so many figures I still wanted.  In the early 2010's, this changed.  I decided that I was going to hold key pieces in my collection.  And, if something made the cut to remain in my possession, it was going to mint and complete.  So, I spent a small sum of money on a complete with Z Cycle Quarrel figure.  

Once in my collection, the Action Force green color of the vehicle was a welcome respite from the sea of similarly colored vehicles that comprised the bulk of my holdings at the time.  The main thing that stood out, though, was how much the extra colors and additional stickers enhanced the Z Cycle over the RAM.  The side gun being black really helped to offset the green color and make the entire vehicle look more complex.  The red stickers also pop against the green background.  It's a dramatic shift from the 1982 RAM and brings much more life to the Z Cycle.  (I call it the Z Cycle as it's an easier name.  It's really the Rapid Fire Motorcycle.  But, that sucks to say.  Frankly, if people can make up asinine rhymes like "Argen 7" that make no sense, I can call this Z Cycle.)

For me, this alternate version of the RAM is a great toy to pair up with a variety of figures.  I enjoy the RAM mold because it has a relatively small footprint, but can also display figures, nicely.  And, everything from Funskool to Hasbro figures look good atop the Action Force green cycle.  Oddly, it's rare for Quarrel to use her native bike.  Instead, I farm it out to Lady Jaye.  I have some ideas to use it with Sightline, too.  When I find the box that holds my cycle, I'll get some pics of it with the most famous factory custom figure of all.

One of Action Force's great introductions to the Joe line was the color of green that Palitoy used for the Z Force figures and vehicles.  It is deep, rich and visually interesting.  It remains true enough to military roots to be believable.  But, it is also something that is a perfect supplement for the more drab and flat colors that Hasbro used so often.  Sadly, the color died out with Palitoy.  Neither Hasbro nor the club was able to resurrect the color.  (The club's odd fixation with drab colors affected even their Action Force homage figures in 2010 and they are not the right color of green.)  Even factory custom makers steered clear of the color until 2017 when it appeared on a couple of Red Laser's Army releases.  Even then, though, the homages were not a 100% color match.  Hopefully, it will continue to show up.  I'd love a 1985 Snake Eyes in Action Force green with black and silver details.  I'm sure others would, too.  

The RAM was a world traveler.  It was used in the US for both the original toy and then the 1986 Sears Exclusive Dreadnok Ground Assault.  You then have this Palitoy release.  From there, the RAM took a tour of South America where it was released in Brazil.  It finally ended up in India.  Funskool produced the RAM for several years and with several major variants.  (Some of which are ridiculously rare and expensive.)  The final use of the RAM was with the Funskool Street Hawk figure (which included an all black RAM motorcycle, but did not include the side gun) which Funskool produced until 2003.  RAM collectors have nearly as many items to track down as VAMP collectors.  But, most of the best colors remain relatively cheap and available.  So, pretty much anyone can at least get a sample RAM in their collection.

Like all toys these days, Z Cycles have gotten more expensive.  As Quarrel now tends to be a $150 figure, you see lots of combos of the figure and cycle for sale in the $200 range.  On it's own, the cycle goes for under $40 when it's complete.  Dealers, though, will ask two to three times that.  And, they'll get it more often than they should.  Toys like this Z Cycle were pretty common as recently as 2017.  So, their disappearance from the market seems to be more about an increase in demand.  But, there are plenty of mint and complete versions out there.  You just have to wait a lot longer for one to come along at the right price.

Action Force Z Cycle, Quarrel, Olhos De Fenix, 2003 Scarlett, Brazil, Estrela, Palitoy, Spirit

Saturday, November 27, 2021

2019 Slaughter's Marauders Snake Eyes - Around The Web

If you liked Snake Eyes, there weren't many options for him in the vintage line.  Sure, you had a lot of different figuers.  But, he, for the most part, was done in various shades of black.  And, the iconic 1985 figure never got a repaint.  In 2018, though, Black Major rectified this by releasing a multitude of 1985 Snake Eyes figures in a wide variety of colors.  He released additional repaints in 2019 and 2020.  Among the more desired 2019 releases is this version based on the Slaughter's Marauders color scheme.  Snake Eyes was notably absent from the vintage repaint series.  So, giving him a way to incorporate into some of the more popular Joe subsets was well received.  You can tell by the amount of content out there on this figure that people continue to enjoy him.

2019 Slaughter's Marauders Snake Eyes Profile

2019 Slaughter's Marauders Snake Eyes by thedustinmccoy

2019 Slaughter's Marauders Snake Eyes, Black Major, 1988 Muskrat

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

1990 Sonic Fighters Dialtone

Repaints are a double edged sword.  On one hand, they provide a great way to use an existing character in a new way.  On the other hand, collectors almost always wanted something new during the vintage line's heyday.  But, repaints became a thing in 1983 and continued through 1994.  In the vintage line, though, repaints were almost always excellent redos that brought something new to the character.  While this would change in 1993, the repaints released in the first decade of the line tended to be sold in subsets.  The main repaints were sold in color themed ensembles.  But, later, the figures started to appear in other subsets, but as just solid repaints instead of being married to a specific palette.  In 1990, Hasbro released the high priced Sonic Fighters subset.  While all the figures in the series are well done repaints, today we look at Dialtone.

Dialtone is one of my favorite figures.  This stems not only from the figure's quality, but also the circumstances of the character entering my collection.  (See the 1986 Dialtone profile for that saga.)  I had both of his 1986 color schemes and always found a way to include Dialtone in whatever adventure I could conjure up.  But, as I was completely out of Joe by 1990, I never saw this Dialtone in stores.  This new black, silver and blue color scheme was a strong entry for the character.  But, upon learning of this figure's existence, I didn't really take much time to track him down.  Instead, I was more interested in picking up additional 1986 figures.  And, this 1990 figure (acquired in a very early lot of 1990 figures I I bought back when no one cared about any figure after 1987) simply faded into the drawer of his contemporaries.  When Dialtone returned to retail in 2000, I army built that figure.  And, again in 2002, I snatched up a few extra cheap figures from the BJ's set.  Still, I never really thought of this Dialtone version.

In recent years, though, my obsession with all things obscure lead me back to this figure.  I found the color scheme stronger than I remembered.  And, his overall appearance is on par with his previous releases.  The color scheme is more akin to Cobra.  But, more on that in a later paragraph.  This Sonic Fighters Dialtone works well in a variety of vehicles and gives you a less bright version of the character for use in the field.  Original Dialtone gear isn't overly difficult to track down.  So, it's pretty easy to outfit him with the 1986 weapon and pack.  And, that leaves his other weapons for use with different figures.  The black grenade launcher is a nice match for the 1992 or 1993 Gung Ho.  And, I do enjoy the flamethrower with the 1994 Ice Cream Soldier.  

So, now this 1990 Dialtone finds himself another option for me to use when a photo needs a communications trooper.  While I still don't like it as well as the original, that's also a function of the first release holding the childhood memories.  So, it's difficult to look at the Sonic Fighter through the lens of anything other than an adult collector.  But, in that vein, this blue and black Dialtone is a solid entry to the Joe world.  He meshes well with other figures.  He can be used in a variety of bases or vehicles.  And, he looks good when he's out and about in the wild.  You can't ask for much more from a figure.  I always find more value in the Dialtone character than most, just because of my childhood biases.  But, even with those brushed aside, the Sonic Fighters Dialtone is pretty decent.

The Sonic Fighters included a great deal of gear.  In addition to the massive sound producing backpack that was completed with a radar dish on top, Dialtone also included four weapons.  The additional gear was a cheap way for Hasbro to convey extra value beyond the sound backpack.  As the Sonic Fighters were higher priced, Hasbro needed to convince parents that these figures were really special.  Dialtone included a black versions of: his 1986 weapon, Blocker's pistol, Hardball's Grenade Launcher and Charbroil's flamethrower.  Many of the Sonic Fighters included recolored Battle Force 2000 weapons.  But, they also included many accessories from the 1988 and 1989 Night Force figures.  Dialtone's flamethrower is nearly indistinguishable from the 1989 Night Force Charbroil's.  And, there is considerable debate in the community regarding the differences between it as well as the Night Force Shockwave and Spearhead weapons that are included with other Sonic Fighters figures.

It was pointed out to me that Dialtone and the 1991 Interrogator share a color scheme.  The blue, black and grey of Dialtone is nearly identical to those colors on the Interrogator.  While Hasbro loved to reused the same colors again and again in the line, it was rare for two figures in close proximity to be so closely aligned.  There's no connection between the characters.  But, maybe there should be.  It would probably get super weird with one them wearing colors to mimic the other.  And, the stalker, obsessive nature of one of the characters would be out of depth with their established characterization.  Interrogator is smooth operator.  So, it doesn't flow that he's had some bizarre obsession with a random and somewhat obscure member of the Joe team.  

The Sonic Fighters retailed for $7 each.  This was more than twice the cost of a standard carded figure.  But, while toys that make cheesy electronic noises are commonplace and cheap today, they were state of the art 31 years ago when this figure was released.  The size of the pack helped to sell the additional gimmick that more than doubled the cost of a figure.  But, the concept must have been successful enough as the Super Sonic Fighters and Talking Battle Commanders followed in subsequent years.  I did find remnants of the Talking Battle Commanders at retail in 1997.  So, it's probable that the higher price gimmicks did fizzle out, eventually.  But, Hasbro pushed the edge of what a 3 3/4" figure could be and found ways to make the figures evolve, even as they kept the construction and basic design of the figures the same for 13 years.  

Dialtone has been done to death.  He was first released in 1986 and immediately got a Mission to Brazil repaint later in that year.  This Sonic Fighters figure appeared in 1990.  The 1986 Dialtone was released on a Chinese card around 1994.  Then, Hasbro went crazy.  After scrapping plans for a desert Dialtone in 1998, they released an olive green figure in 2000.  He appeared in the BJ's Gift Set in 2002.  His chest and arms were also released in grey as part of the 2002 Dusty figure and his parts ended up on a few other figures from the 2000's.  Then, a Tiger Force version was released in 2003.  Despite all this, Dialtone could have used both an arctic figure and a full production desert figure.  As I enjoy the mold, I'd take him in any colors.  But, I'm in the minority on that point.

Sonic Fighters Dial Tones are not expensive.  Just the figure can be had for under $7.  One with a couple of his weapons will run you $12 or so.  And, mint and complete with filecard figures can be had for $20.  For a figure with a lot of gear that was released in a lower production run subset, that's not too bad at all.  But, as this was the third Dialtone released in the vintage line, you can see how collectors were a bit fatigued with him.  And, while his colors are pretty strong, they are also not as distinctive as his 1986 releases.  The lack of a communications backpack is also a factor.  So, this Dial Tone languishes in obscurity, even as other figures released in his same subset find favor among collectors.

1990 Sonic Fighters Dial Tone, 1986 Lift Ticket, Night Raven Drone

1990 Sonic Fighters Dial Tone, 1991 Interrogator, Funskool Streethawk

1990 Sonic Fighters Dial Tone, 1993 Outback

Saturday, November 20, 2021

1989 Backblast - Random Photos Of The Day

Ever since he entered my collection, I've been a fan of Backblast.  The black shirt/green pants combo is always a winner and it works well again.  The figure isn't overly done, but has enough detail to be fun.  And, his gear is excellently designed and poses well.  Little details like the knife holder on his arm help set him apart.  And, the oversized bullets (for which he has no corresponding weapon) make him useful as a sidekick for Roadblock or Rock and Roll.  Through the years, I've taken a few photos of Backblast and they almost always turn out very nicely.  You'll see some of the more recent ones below.

1989 Backblast, 2003 Convention Exclusive Major Storm

1989 Backblast, Rock and Roll, 1985 Heavy Metal

1989 Backblast, 1988 Sgt. Slaughter

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

1993 Mudbuster - Around The Web

 The 1993 Mudbuster is a really fun vehicle.  It's well put together, has lots of great play features and isn't overly large or bulky.  In short, it's one of the highlights of the 1990's vehicles.  There's a decent amount of material out there on Mudbuster.  And, you do see it in various photographs from Joe content creators.  It also looks great with a multitude of 1993 and 1994 figures.  Every collector owes it to themselves to pick up a Mudbuster...if for no other reason than to appreciate it and its place among the 1993 Joe line.  Here's the best content on the 1993 Mudbuster from around the web.

1993 Mudbuster Profile

1993 Mudbuster by tituslester32

1993 Mudbuster at Nekoman's Viper Pit

1993 Mudbuster by bouncy_bengal

1993 Mudbuster by Slipstream80

1993 Mudbuster by JoeADay.com

1993 Mudbuster at 3DJoes.com

1993 Mudbuster at GameBlips

Custom Dreadnok Mudbuster by Scarrviper

1993 Mudbuster by jogunwarrior

1993 Mudbuster by Slipstream80

1993 Mudbuster by tituslester32

1993 Mudbuster, Mirage, Clutch, Gung Ho, Mega Marines

1993 Mudbuster, Mirage, Clutch, Gung Ho, Mega Marines, Muskrat

1993 Mudbuster, Outback, Mirage, Mega Marines, Eco Warriors

Saturday, November 13, 2021

2003 BAT - Around The Web

In 2003, the BAT Mail Away pack was highly anticipated.  But, the actual result landed with a quiet thud.  Retailers didn't have faith in Joe fans wanting cheap army builders.  And, they were proved right as Hasbro ended up dumping excess BAT packs for pennies on the dollars to closeout stores.  18 years later, though, this pack holds up pretty well.  The 2003 BAT is a very solid army builder.  And, as more collectors have realized the value of the 1991 BAT sculpt, they have come around on the 2003 repaints, too.  Sadly, much of the material written about the BAT Pack back in 2003 is lost to time.  There's a few old gems in here, though.  So, enjoy the best of the 2003 Battle Android Trooper from around the web.

2003 BAT Profile

2003 BAT Pre Production Figures

2003 BAT by Scarrviper

2003 BAT by thedustinmccoy

2003 BAT at GeneralsJoesReborn

2003 BAT at JoeADay.com

2003 BAT by Lava Boss

2003 BAT by Nekoman

2003 BAT by pinoyronin

2003 BAT by Lava Boss

2003 BAT by yotothejoe

Funskool Beach Head, 2002 BAT, Battle Android Trooper

2003 BAT Mail Away, Internet Exclusive, Battle Android Trooper

2003 BAT Mail Away, Internet Exclusive, Battle Android Trooper, Python Patrol Major Bludd, 1984 Stinger

2003 BAT Mail Away, Internet Exclusive, Battle Android Trooper, 1986 Serpentor, Motor Viper, 1987 Maggot

2003 BAT Mail Away, Internet Exclusive, Battle Android Trooper, 1986 STUN