1992 Stalker Profile
1992 Stalker by fun_time_at_serpentors_lair
In 1988, Hasbro updated one of their most iconic characters. Stormshadow was now a Joe instead of a Cobra. The new look for Stormshadow was a huge hit. 33 years later, collectors still love the 1988 mold. It was another perfect example of Hasbro really nailing a character update. Because of this, there's a lot of 1988 Stormshadow content out there. The figure is extremely photogenic and remains a collector favorite. I don't use this figure enough and really need to work him into more photos. But, for now, enjoy the 1988 Stormshadow's best content from around the web.
Steeler was the only original 13 Joe team member I didn't own as a kid. Now, though, he's one of the few that I find unique enough to still use in many photos. He's a fun figure who's far more at home in the Slugger or Mauler than the craptastic MOBAT. I love the subtle differences between his chest holster and Clutch's and wonder why Hasbro went to so far as to make a distinct chest piece for a driver sold with the highest price point vehicle.
Here's various photos I've taken of Steeler over the years. He still holds up pretty well. I don't actually have any of him with his proper headgear. I'll need to fix that at some point.
I'm a sucker for classic Joe figures that had very slight repaints in other countries. Mutt is no exception. This Brazilian Mastim features darker greens than the US Mutt and a more sunburned skin tone. The most notable change, though, is that this Mutt is missing his trademark badge on his chest. Estrela removed this feature of the Mutt mold and forever altered the appearance of every subsequent release of Mutt. I was able to tap into a vibrant community of Brazilian Comandos Em Acao collectors and found some solid content on Mastim out there. It was nice to see the figure gets love in his native land. Here's the best of the Brazilian Mastim from around the web.
In 1989, Hasbro rebooted a few of the original 13 characters from the Joe line. Snake Eyes and Stalker were the big two. But, they were joined by a new take on the Rock and Roll character, too. Rock and Roll was both an upgrade over his original figure as well as an homage that kept a few basic premises that made the character unique back in 1982. It was a perfect blend of design that was matched with solid colors and an amazing contingent of accessories. In 1991, Hasbro also introduced a line of figures called the Super Sonic Fighters. These figures were repaints of existing molds that included a super expensive electronic backpack. One of the molds selected for this series was the 1989 Rock and Roll. This time around, he was given new accessories and darker, richer base colors. The figure was destined to join Falcon and Law (from the prior year) as amazing repaints of classic molds. Hasbro, though, added a fun little perk to Rock and Roll. They tripped him out in orange highlights. The bright color was a harbinger of things to come and was used to draw the eye of potential customers to this higher priced (and more profitable) Super Sonic Fighters figures.
In the comic book, Rock and Roll's 1989 look was introduced in a dark green ensemble. It's a repaint that Hasbro should have made. And, if you look beyond the orange of this 1991 repaint, you see that Hasbro was so very close to delivering on that artistic license from Marvel. The figure's shirt is a rich evergreen color that is rare in the vintage line. His pants are brown. Sans orange highlights, this combo would have been a great update for Rock and Roll that would not have treaded upon the 1989 version. Hasbro, though, did include bright orange highlights. And, while they might have somewhat ruined what could have been the perfect Rock and Roll, they also give the figure some personality. The orange allows this figure to stand out and be seen. Brightly colored Joe figures tend to photograph well. And, this Rock and Roll is no exception. The neon highlights help showcase the figure's quality and pull him out of a drab background.
I'm a fan of neon Joes. I love them because they are eye catching toys. Joe was never about "realistic military!". It is superhero fantasy set within a military framework. And, figures like Rock and Roll fit into that. This guy lugs around a massive machine gun that he can fire standing up as well as a mortar that's thicker than his waist. His original design had him with pistol grip double barreled gatling cannons that were fed from an ammo pack on his back. He was a superhero archetype right from the beginning. So, having him in colors that are bright and eye catching fits with that motif. When you are larger than life, realistic rules no longer apply. And, in this context, Joe makes a lot more sense.
My biggest issue with this figure is not the orange highlights. Instead, it's the amount of unpainted details on the figure. The 1989 Rock and Roll suffers from the same fate. This figure sculpt is covered in bullets, buckles, belts and pouches. None of which are painted. So, you lose much of the sculpt's amazing details as they obscured by being the same color as the figure's base pants, shirt or orange harness. The legs, especially, are under-detailed. Rock and Roll's legs are covered in bullets and straps that, if painted, would have raised this figure to another level. Instead, they are lost in the sea of brown and collectors miss out on the amazing sculpting that covers this entire mold.
By 1989, I was done with Joe. I bought no figures and even my youngest brother had mostly moved on. But, I was buying the comic. And, as I was bored each day in my first period Spanish class, I'd often write up adventures for Joe figures that I did not own. Rock and Roll was the one who most stood out. I thought his gear was awesome and his new look was perfect for a character from my childhood. When I started collecting as an adult, a mint 1989 Rock and Roll was among the first figures I tracked down. This orange figure, though, never entered my mind.
In 1999, I was about the only person scouring Ebay for lots of figures from the 1990's. Most collectors of that time believed the line ended in 1987 but would allow for Hit and Run and Shockwave. Even the vaunted 1989 army builders were not overly sought after. In one of these lots, I managed to pick up an entire set of mint and complete with filecard Super Sonic Fighters figures. I paid less than $2 per figure for that lot. It was a great time. I was enamored, though, with Falcon. And, Road Pig was terrible enough to draw my ire in and early profile. Rock and Roll, though, fell into the back of my 1991 drawer and never escaped. His weapon appeared with my 1991 Grunt as I thought it a better fit for that figure. But, Rock and Roll never appeared in any photos and was completely lost. In 2009 or so, I sold the figure in a lot of junk. But, for some reason, I kept his accessories and filecard.
Over the past few years, I've been slowly rebuilding the collection I sold. While I lament the rare stuff that's now too expensive to ever re-acquire, I've found that finding figures like this Rock and Roll can be a challenge, too. Mostly, that's because I'm cheap and refuse to pay for figures. But, also, I can take a while to find figures like Rock and Roll from sellers who have enough other items I want to be able to justify the shipping cost. (I never pay to ship just 1 figure.) But, as I track down each of the unchecked boxes in my database, I get to rediscover some gems like this Rock and Roll figure. It's doubtful I'd have such glowing things to say about him had I kept the original figure that had weird, pink residue on his head. But, in the hunt, I found value and this figure has captured my attention now, for several months.
Rock and Roll's accessories are his calling card. The figure includes the massive sonic backpack and a green cone that serves as a weapons stand. He includes a brown mortar and machine gun. The mortar is good if you have it set in the stand. But, it doesn't work on its own. The best weapon, though, is the machine gun. It's an excellent sculpt that's just the right size. The color is fun and unique to the line. For some reason, though, the brown plastic on the weapons is very soft. As such, the weapon handles scuff easily. I'm not aware of any other weapons in the vintage line that are as soft (except, maybe the 1985 Shipwreck's gear). So, it's likely a function of the plastic color. Rock and Roll does not include his shotgun from the 1989 figure, though. This weapon does appear on the card art. And, in India, the Funskool version of this figure does include an exclusive version of the shotgun. So, it was likely a last minute omission from this figure.
There are three versions of this Rock and Roll sculpt. The 1989 figure is the best. He has the best weapons and the best colors. This orange figure is great, too. But, if you can only buy one, get the 1989. In the mid 1990's, Hasbro sent the mold to Funskool where they released the figure in Sonic colors. This mold went out of production after a couple of years and is hard to find. The story then gets interesting. Funskool returned the mold to Hasbro in 1997. In 2001, Hasbro wanted to include a version of this Rock and Roll with the 2001 HQ. Hasbro had the mold, but then could not find it. So, they went with the 1994 Flint mold instead. But, then, Hasbro sent the mold BACK to Funskool. Funskool, not really sure why they got it back, decided they would release it again in 2003 or 2004. But, the Funskool line was cancelled before they could do that and this Rock and Roll is left with two figures that never came to be.
Dealers will sell complete Rock and Rolls for upwards of $40. But, you can buy carded versions for that price. Mint and complete with filecard figures will cost you about $20, with a few deals here and there. If you sacrifice the filecard, the price for mint and complete figures falls by half. For that price, everyone should have this figure. The gun is worth it alone. But, the dark green color with the bright orange is just a vibrant look that is great for photos and just looks fun. If the figure wasn't orange, but black, this figure would probably be more than double his current price. For a figure that's kind of scarce, though, the pricing on this guy is still affordable and makes him a very worthwhile pickup.
Col Courage is not a figure I ever thought I'd like. He wasn't someone I really wanted in the 1990's. But, upon owning a version of the character, I realized that he's not a bad figure at all. He's like Alpine, Blowtorch and even Crazylegs in that he's a solid figure who blends into the background. In hand, you realize how good he is. But, otherwise, he doesn't much enter your mind. Despite that, there's a nice assortment of content out there on Col Courage for collectors to enjoy. Here's the best of the 1993 Col Courage from around the web.
Crystal Ball sucks. Yes, I'm starting this profile with that base statement as there's really no way to otherwise place this figure into a proper context. He's probably one of the worst Joe figures ever made. Along with his classmates of Raptor and Big Boa, he fulfills the triumvirate of terrible. It's hard to understand how Cobra's villains went from Zartan, Firefly, Scrap Iron and Stormshadow to Crystal Ball in just three years. But, you can see the progression in both 1985 and 1986 that lead to the class of 1987 being the worst crop of Cobras Hasbro ever released in a single year.
As an idea, Crystal Ball probably had some merit. A guy who can "read" minds as a means of interrogation would be very useful. While torture has merits a means of extracting information from prisoners, the social connections that can be formed by a con man to his marks can be even more powerful. To this day, top notch hackers rely on social engineering to sneak into their targets. The marks are often unaware of their complicity until it is too late. Tying him to the Romani superstition of a seventh son of a seventh son gives Crystal Ball that supernatural backstory of a supervillain and made him more interesting to kids of the '80's than a smooth talking friendly guy who gets you to spill your innermost thoughts.
In the collecting community, Crystal Ball really only has two niches. He's either a joke figure who's played for laughs. Or, he's a Dreadnok. In the context of a Dreadnok, Crystal Ball probably works best. Dreadnoks were societal outcasts. And, few groups have been historically marginalized like the Romani. It's easy to see someone like Crystal Ball falling in with this crowd...especially if he had a useful talent like parting rubes with their hard earned money. So, even today, you'll often see a Crystal Ball figure posed with the Dreadnoks. And, in this context, he works relatively well. His costume looks like the ragtag, homemade ware that someone on society's fringes would wear. The fur collar is ridiculous. But, it also is the type of ostentatious flair that is found among the Dreadnoks. His shield is entirely impractical. But, is the type of MacGuffin device that would distract locals while the Dreadnoks picked their pockets or robbed their cars.
Crystal Ball entered my childhood collection near the end. But, as it was the end, even a figure with limited appeal found a role. While I relegated Crystal Ball to one of my brothers, I did appropriate the figure as a viable enemy. Crystal Ball's value, though, was defensive. His shield was indestructible. As I was a fan of the Captain America comics around the time of Crystal Ball's release, it's no secret where this idea came from. I didn't, though, see Crystal Ball's shield as an offensive weapon like Cap's. Instead, Crystal Ball would lead Cobra Troopers into battle. He would block the bullets with his shield with the Vipers lined up behind him. In other cases, he'd act as a body guard for Cobra high command since his shield could protect them from anything.
These uses are, of course, patently ridiculous. But, it was a way to use someone new at a time when I was so engrossed in Joe that some classic characters became stale. It was, though, a way to appreciate the shield accessory, too. In time, reason won out and Joe gunners would just aim for Crystal Ball's legs. Then, he's quickly fall and his shield was useless. It was sometimes useful against Snake Eyes or Stormshadow swords. But, those were more one off adventures instead of being part of my ongoing story line. So, Crystal Ball faded away. And, when it was time to pack up all my Joe figures for posterity, Crystal Ball was among those who were left out for my youngest brother to destroy. He simply held no value to me. In the mid 1990's, though, this manifested itself different ways as Crystal Ball joined in with other unloved figures to form roving bands of criminals who would be tracked down and captured by Joe security forces.
Crystal Ball's filecard was written by Stephen King. King's son, Owen, was a G.I. Joe fan. And, in thanks for King's contributions to Crystal Ball, the Sneak Peek character's real name is Owen King. It's a neat little bit of history for the Crystal Ball figure. But, even that hasn't translated into long term interest in the figure or character. You get the horror references in Crystal Ball's character. But, it makes him a bit goofy. With a better design, the character might have worked.
Crystal Ball looks like Vincent Price. While such a reference is likely lost on anyone under 30 or so, Price was an iconic enough celebrity at the time that Crystal Ball's resemblance to him further boosted Crystal Ball's horror credentials. The figure's red eyes were a bit of weirdness that gave Crystal Ball more of a supernatural flavor. And, while this wasn't an avenue I explored as a kid, it was one that many others used as their basis for Crystal Ball's character.
In looking back at the Crystal Ball figure, though, there is a lot of quality work that went into him. He's a perfect example of a figure doing everything right, but still not working. Crystal Ball's headsculpt is probably the most detailed work Hasbro did on a face at that time. He textured two-toned hair is a nifty bit of work for 1987. His gritted teeth showcase exceptional detail. While his open chest doesn't do much to make Crystal Ball work, the lattice string that holds it together is a nice little detail. The rest of his outfit is finely detailed with gold paint. As an example of toy engineering, Crystal Ball really showed what was possible with the Joe line. The problem, though, is that the character is just too bizaree and the entire ensemble is just too out there to really land within the context of G.I. Joe. Starting in 1987, G.I. Joe got a bit weird. And, there were even more bizarre concepts that were proposed but didn't come to be. Crystal Ball shows that even when these ideas were excellently executed, they were not going to resonate with kids of the day (and their later, adult collector selves) in any meaningful way.
Crystal Ball had two uses. Hasbro produced this figure and the mold was then sent off to Brazil. There, Estrela release a Crystal Ball figure that is very similar to the US release. The mold never appeared again. For years, customizers used Crystal Ball's parts to make various creations. The small build of the figure allowed many of his parts to be used for female customs with decent effect. There really aren't parts on the figure that would have lent themselves to repaints. Sure, some wacky orange, yellow, blue and purple Funskool release would have been awesome. But, Crystal Ball is really a one and done figure mold and character.
Because the current Joe market is dumb, you'll see mint and complete with filecard Crystal Balls sell in the $20-$25 range. Which is WAY too high. With a little patience, you can get one for $15, though. Loose figures can be had for even less. Carded figures sell in the $80 range, which is about the cheapest you'll find a carded 1987 figure. Crystal Ball is not a popular figure, though. So, it's pretty likely that this is a figure who's price will plummet when the collectible bubble bursts. If you don't have a Crystal Ball, it might be worth it to wait out the market.
In 2018, Red Laser's Army released this Shimik figure. He was a long wanted character in my collection and having a chance to get this figure with swivel arms was an opportunity I just could not pass by. Sadly, Red Laser's Army has ceased to be and figures like this will not continue. But, we got some great figures over the years. And, collectors are far better off with figures like this Shimik being available. There's not a ton of content on the figure out there. You will see that a few people who do like him, though, use him frequently. Enjoy the best of the Shimik figures from around the web.
As I hunted down the last bastions of vintage G.I. Joe at retail in the mid 1990's, I used both cardbacks and catalog inserts to tell me which figures I should expect to find. What these reference materials didn't tell me, though, was the multitude of repaints that also existed on figures. Some differences, like the 1993 blue and orange vs. the 1994 black and grey Snow Storm were obvious. Others, like the slightly fewer painted black details on the 1994 Shipwreck were harder to spot. It was not until online references really got completed in the late 1990's that I was fully able to understand the vast amount of variants and paint differences that exist among figures produced between 1992 and 1994. Some of these repaints are good, some are bad and most are just...there. That is the case of this 1994 Stalker. My experience with the figure from retail was the black and green version that's one of the best figures from the 1990's. But, the other version...this original release with neon painted highlights also exists. With a better Stalker figure available, this neon version is easy to skip. But, it's a quintessentially 1990's toy and that's what makes it fun.
It's no secret that I love this design for Stalker. He was among the first figures I ever profiled on the site back in 2000. And, I took another pass at him in early 2013. Both of those times, though, I focused on the black and green figure. The base colors are a perfect match for vintage Night Force and, when not overdone, make for a good figure. I don't want every figure in this color scheme. But, getting one of the four or five most important characters in the Joe mythos in that scheme was important. In black, Stalker can better match up with vintage Snake Eyes figures and even meshes well with other figures from 1985 or 1986. That's a rarity for figures sculpted in the line's final years. But, it shows how good work that's true to a character can transcend year.
To me, this Stalker perfectly captures the essence of the character as he evolved in the comic. Here you have Stalker as a powerful fighter. But, you also see him more out of his Green Beret specialty and more of a urban, covert operative. This Stalker would take on missions like Borovia and live to return. He could also fight Cobra in the streets of the U.S. while better blending into the background. In short, he seems a more commando version of Stalker. And, for a guy who palled around with Snake Eyes, Stormshadow and Scarlett, that seems like a role to which he's be best suited.
I found the 1994 Stalker figure at retail. Mine, though, did not have the neon highlights. But, quickly, this figure became one of my favorites. The excellent weapons and sleek design made him on the best figures I found at retail in the mid 1990's. And, 25 years later, the figure still remains a popular choice for my photos and dios. Part of that is holdover from him being one of the top two or three figures I had available to me. But, another part of it is that the figure is just solid and works well in a variety of scenarios. You know the figure is Stalker, too, and that's a huge help when working with such an iconic character.
In 1994, Hasbro started to experiment with the Joe figure design. As such, newly sculpted figures like this Stalker have more heft to them. It was an attempt to slowly upsize the figures to better stand tall against the larger figures that were dominating retail of the mid 1990's. The most noticeable aspect of this figure is his large torso. Seeing that Stalker is wearing a tactical vest helps to explain this away. But, the real issue is that Stalker's arms are lower on his shoulders. Big shoulders started appearing in 1994 and would have gone to even more extremes in 1995. When posed with 1993 and 1992 figures, this Stalker's proportions are less obvious. But, when stood next to 1985 or 1987 figures, the design changes are notable. The Joe line always evolved. From swivel arms to ball heads, Hasbro was contantly improving the figures. By the 1990's, though, the "improvements" were no longer about leading the market and making the best action figure available. Other properties had surpassed Joe as kind of the retail toy stores. And, Hasbro spent effort trying to keep up with other companies while still trying to maintain some semblance of connection to the 12 years of toys that preceded the 1994 run. The result is that this figure doesn't work all that well with many vehicles from the 1980's. And, for many collectors who grew up in Joe's early years, the proportions seem off enough to dismiss these late figures. When you understand the evolution of the line, though, that is forgivable. And, a good figure is a good figure. This Stalker delivers on that.
In the Star Wars world, the right Country of Origin (COO) stamp on a specific figure can be the difference between a $10 common and a $100+ rarity. In the Joe world, there are COO variants, too. Generally, collectors don't much care. This is due to the size of the vintage Joe line, the obscurity of the differences but also, most importantly, the fact that most Joe COO figures seem to be evenly distributed. So, it's not materially harder to find one over another. Most collectors are oblivious to the fact that most of the 1994 Joe line features COO variants. In the middle of the production timeline, Hasbro moved manufacturing from China to Indonesia. There doesn't appear to be much, if any, difference in the figure's materials or paint. But, their is a unique COO stamp for each country.
With this Stalker, though, it appears that both variants were made in China and this yellow version also saw production in Indonesia. Longtime collector theory has been that the extra paint applications were removed to save money. However, the first Stalker figures released on the horizontal cards had no highlights. The neon highlights started appearing on later Chinese figures that were on the vertical cards. (There are no highlight figures available on these same cards.) Then, the highlights carried over to the Indonesia factories. It's possible that these paint applications were added to make the figure stand out more at retail. Maybe they were trimmed for initial cost but then added back in later as more production runs warranted additional resources. It would be interesting to get a final answer from the Hasbro team of that era.
So, there are really three versions of the Stalker figure: no highlights with China COO, yellow highlights with China COO and yellow highlights with Indonesia COO. For the record, the figure in the photos below is an Indonesia version. With multiple production runs, it's difficult to know how common one figure is over the other. Since no on really seems to care, I have no idea if any of the variants are actually harder to find than others. In my experience, it's hit or miss. One of my five 1994 Metal Head figures, one is from Indonesia. But, at the same time, 9 of my 13 1994 Vipers originated there. So, more work would be needed to truly understand if there's any material difference in availability for one over the others.
In looking at Stalker's card art, it seems that Hasbro may have had more intended for this figure, though. You will note that the card art is two tone. But, in the artwork, Stalker is definitely wearing a vest. It looks as if the original artist intended for Stalker's short sleeves, grenades, v-neck and turtle neck to also be green. These changes would have added a tremendous amount of depth to the figure since the well detailed chest is lost in the sea of black color. Had these colors been applied, the figure's weird neck would be resolved and the too dark chest would have been broken up so you can better see the excellent sculpting of the figure. It's too bad these weren't the changes that were made to the figure for it's final releases. Even in a color other than the green to match the legs, these details being changed would have made this figure better stand out among the greats of the line.
Sadly, this Stalker had a short life. There were the two versions in 1994 and that was it in the vintage line. In 2002, Hasbro surprised the collecting world when the figure's body re-appeared in the infamous Wave V of the A Real American Hero Collection. Sadly, this figure was given a new, terrible caucasian head and was colored in drab green. Again, none of the body's details were painted and the Sidetrack figure is just a pasty blob of green plastic that's been completely forgotten by the collecting world. Despite Hasbro having access to Stalker, they never repainted this figure again. The 1992 Stalker appeared in 2003. And, the 1989 Stalker appeared partially in 2004 and fully in 2005. Frankly, I can't argue against any of these uses. Both of those molds are good and worthy of repaints. I couldn't justify choosing the 1994 over one of them. Though, this mold's place was in the 2004 Night Force set. And, replacing the terrible Roadblock figure with this Stalker would have been a great improvement in the set and given this mold a new lease on life. But, that didn't happen, this mold was criminally underused after being teased and collectors are left with a great example of a figure whose potential was never realized. But, that's the story of the 2000's era Joes in a nutshell.
One of the great attractions of this figure to me was the fact that he included black weapons. While the dregs of Joe retail didn't really allow a collector to be choosy, my wallet of time did. And, as such, I had certain rules for purchasing figures. Anyone with black weapons was at the top of the list. So, when I found this Stalker, his weapons were the final hook that landed me. Getting a childhood favorite character in a cool color scheme in an updated design that was true to his character and included an array of well colored weapons was simply too much. I bought the figure right away. It's likely I never found another, though, as I'm sure I would have picked him up for the weapons alone. Stalker includes the standard black MP-5 inspired weapon from the 1991 Tracker, a version of Muskrat's shotgun and machete, a black stand, a black version of the 1991 Grunt's terrible weapon and the requisite spring loaded missile launcher and missiles. The launcher is pretty strong, which was fun the one time I used it. For 1995 me, the shotgun was great, the MP-5 was amazing and the machete was useful. The launcher went into an Air MOAB shoe box: where it still sits today. The awful Grunt weapon found use among old, beat up figures who made up roving gangs of thugs that the Joes would beat up on when I needed them to kill some random bad guys who weren't Cobra. 25 years later, this guy's weapon assortment isn't as good as the 1994 Flint or 1994 Shipwreck's. But, it holds up well enough and the MP-5 is Stalker's iconic weapon whenever I break out this mold.
Pricing for this figure is all over the place. Dealers ask upwards of $50...trying to cash in on naive collectors who think the yellow highlights constitute a late run, hard to find variant. You can get mint figures for around $5. Near complete versions will run $10 or so. You'll see some mint, complete with filecard versions fetch high prices. But, many of those are sold by pseudo dealers who always get way over market for their wares. But, there's plenty of affordable options and market pricing seems to be between $12 and $15 for a mint and complete with filecard figure. The upside is that you can buy a loose figure and easily complete him from other figures, too. For cheap, this guy is a must own. If you're going to pay a bunch of money for a 1994 Stalker, buy the non-neon version. It's better, easier to find and, usually, a bit cheaper. But, as an oddity or something just different enough to attract attention, this neon highlight version has a lot of merit, too.