Saturday, January 30, 2021

1989 Recoil - Random Photos Of The Day

Recoil is a great figure that suffers from poorly colored gear.  With some different weapons, though, he takes on a whole new appearance.  He's one of those figures who's a great background filler in dioramas and photos.  He supports a wide variety of other figures.  I've got lots of extra photos of him from the past few years for this reason.  I really like the combo of him with Gnawgahyde's sniper rifle.  It seems to fit with Recoil quite well.  Let me know your thoughts, too!

1989 Recoil, 1987 Worms, Stalker, Aero Viper, Maggot, 2004 Desert Patrol Stalker, 1990 Bullhorn, Hot Seat, Night Viper, 1983 Hiss Tank

1989 Recoil, 1987 Worms, Stalker, Aero Viper, Maggot, 2004 Desert Patrol Stalker, 1990 Bullhorn

1989 Recoil, 1987 Worms, Stalker, Aero Viper, Maggot, 2004 Desert Patrol Stalker

1989 Recoil, 1987 Worms, Stalker, Aero Viper, Maggot, 2004 Desert Patrol Stalker

1989 Recoil, 1987 Worms, Stalker, Aero Viper, Maggot

1989 Recoil

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

1983 Hawk

When the Joe line debuted in 1982, the marketing was lead by Grunt.  His iconic pose dominated the Joe adjacent merchandise and he was the face of the brand.  Slowly, that changed.  But, it did not change to the leader of the G.I. Joe team.  As, rather than release him on a single card, Hasbro stuck the team's commanding officer as a pack in figure with one of the lesser vehicles of the 1982 run.  Hawk was paired with the MMS and really had nothing on the box other than his filecard to denote that he was the team's leader.  If you didn't read the comic at the time, the only real way to discern this info was by reading Hawk's rank.  But, as a colonel, Hawk was the team's highest ranking officer.  Despite his lowly form of release, Hawk commanded the team.  It seems somewhat disrespectful to hide Hawk in this way.  But, even the figure wasn't much as it was all recycled parts from the main carded line.  Despite all the strikes against him, though, I found Hawk as the leader of my fledgling team after Christmas in 1982.  

Of course, though, that changed rather quickly.  The reason for this was the acquisition of Battle Gear #1 in early 1983.  Now that I had plenty of weapons for the four figures in my collection, I needed to outfit them all.  I figured Grunt's M-16 would be the best fit for Hawk.  And, in my first attempt to slide it into his hand, I snapped the first thumb of my life.  Hawk's right hand was now useless.  And, with that, the figure was somewhat useless, too.  What good was a team leader who couldn't even hold a weapon?  So, Hawk fell away and I focused on Clutch, Snake Eyes and Breaker.  But, then, Return of the Jedi figures came out and G.I. Joe fell to the wayside.  When I found Airborne and swivel arm battle grip in the late summer of 1983, it was the swivel arm that drove me to Joe as my toy of choice.  So, all the old straight arm figures fell to the bottom of a box as new, swivel arm figures dominated my play.

In 1984, though, I started reading the Joe comic.  I subscribed to it the day I brought home my first issue from the local drug store.  By the fall, I was going to a local comic shop and finding back issues when they had them in stock.  From these stories, I grew to like the Hawk character even more.  He was the heroic leader that the team of my figures lacked.  But, the broken thumb, straight arm figure I owned simply would not do.  So, I went without a Hawk.  At some point in 1985, I found a pair of swivel arms from an original 13 figure.  It might have been Short Fuze, but I can't recall.  But, I put them onto my old Hawk body so I would have the figure.  This didn't do it for me, though.  The bland paint job of the 1982 figures simply could not match the better paint and more visually stimulating figures from the subsequent years.  So, this figure fell away, too.  I painted up a figure that I meant to be Hawk that used a Duke chest.  But, the easily chipped Testor's paint was frustrating and that figure didn't last, either.

Finally, in 1986, Hasbro released a Hawk that was true to the character.  It also celebrated Hawk's promotion to general.  For most collectors, the 1986 Hawk is the true representation of the character.  Sure, Hawk now had brown hair.  But, it was a small price to pay to get a figure that looked like the commander of an elite unit.  With this figure in tow, I had no need for the original Hawk figure and he was taken apart and his parts sacrificed to other figures.  It was only in the late 1990's that I went through my pieces and reassembled my early figure.  Hawk was back.  But, he was irrelevant.  The 1986 figure was forever Hawk and the original figure was reduced to nothing more than historical footnote in my collection.

The calling card of this Hawk is the silver trim.  In retrospect, the color could be meant to denote rank or importance.  But, it was more likely just a way to differentiate the figure using minimal paint masks.  Despite the silver details, Hawk's chest knife if not painted.  If it were, it would too closely match is straps.  So, this was the right aesthetic choice.  The silver paint, of course, wears with notorious ease.  Coupled with Hawk's painted hands and you have a figure that's really pretty brittle.  And, even as a kid, figures with heavily chipped paint were overlooked.  I'd make accommodations for paint wear on top figures like Flint.  But, an old figure like Hawk simply could not overcome any wear to remain relevant.  

Where Hawk did come back into play was in 1987.  By then, I was mostly done with G.I. Joe.  Sports and other pursuits were starting to overtake toys.  That summer, though, I had an idea to do a last hurrah.  I put together a "Bunker Cracking Team" that was all original 13 members and figures along with tons and tons of gear.  I loaded it all into an APC and this team was going to be my go to team for anything.  The APC had sandbags, grappling hooks, gas can, machine guns, radios, ammo boxes, barricades, grenades...anything that was remotely related to Joe was loaded into it.  I scoured the toy boxes of a few friends, salvaging their old, forgotten parts for my new team.  I got the APC loaded with all the figures and gear and....never used it.  The idea of the team with Hawk at the helm was lost in the haze of the summer and it was probably only taken outside once or twice.  It was a grand idea.  But, one that was doomed due to timing.  With that team's descent into the bottom of our toy room, so went Hawk's last real usage.

Even today, this Hawk isn't really a figure I appreciate.  He was my last of the original 13 figures to acquire.  And, that was only after I decided that I wanted a complete run of my childhood sweet spot years.  So, I bought a Hawk and actually forgot I owned him until I went to put the entire team together in a drawer for display.  But, I'm glad I have the figure.  The sleek silver is a neat look...even if not really essential.  I need Hawk, though, because the early team is incomplete without him.  Posing an '86 Hawk among other original 13 figures makes him stand out too much.  You need the original, bland uniform figure standing at the forefront to really get the effect of what it was like to play with Joe in 1982 and 1983.  That nostalgic value drives all my desire for Hawk.

Hawk had just two accessories: his helmet and visor.  With Hawk, the visor makes sense due to the MMS and the exhaust from the missiles.  His thumb breaking with the AP weapons was a sad event for me.  But, that gear offered kids of the era a chance to outfit Hawk with an Uzi, M-16 or M-60.  With one of these, he was a good companion to Grunt.  But, it would take until 1986 for Hawk to finally have gear befitting his position.  You'll note that in the photos below that Hawk and my other figures wear their visors upside down.  This is a leftover from childhood.  I liked the helmet being able to go up higher on the helmets when they were not in use.  The reverse position on the helmet allowed them to do so.  This configuration bothers a lot of people.  But, it's something that I carry over from playing with the figures as a kid and the figures look correct to me when displayed this way.  I don't want to lose that connection to my youth.  So, the visors will always stay wrong on my figures.

Hawk actually had an international release.  In India, Funskool released an MMS.  Early versions of this vehicle included a Hawk done in the light blue Indian plastic.  This figure is among the rarest in the world.  The plastic has not held up well and the few figures you can find are usually heavily discolored.  Despite the MMS appearing in various other countries, this Hawk did not travel with it outside of India.  The later Hawk versions got many foreign releases.  So, the character was well represented abroad.  This original figure, though, didn't see the international exposure that so many of the other original 13 figures received.  

Like all 1983 swivel arm versions of the original 13 Joes, Hawk is expensive.  Not as expensive as you'd think in the current market, though.  While dealers will get $75 and even $100 for a mint and complete version, he's about a $45 figure on the open market.  And, there's usually plenty of options available...some even including the MMS.  As Zap, Scarlett, Stalker and Snake Eyes have all gotten substantially more expensive in recent years, Hawk has held out.  That might just be that he hasn't taken off yet.  Or, it could be that the figure is kind of bland and there are far better Hawks out there to represent the character.  For me, the 1983 Hawk's value is as a member of the original 13.  So, I actually spent a good amount of time and money to get a good one a few years ago.  I don't really regret that decision, though, as it's unlikely that I'd ever pursue this figure again if completing the original characters were not a goal.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

1988 Repeater - Around The Web

Repeater is a solid figure.  As a machine gunner, he's not Rock and Roll or Roadblock.  But, his figure is nice, his gear is fun and his colors are worthwhile.  He's a guy who fits well into various background photos due to his quality, but also his lack of character.  When I brought my site back online in 2015, I actually forgot to post my original Repeater profile.  It wasn't until early this year that I realized it was missing.  Now, it's back.  And, I have a chance to showcase some of my favorite Repeater photos as well as some of his top content from around the web.

1988 Repater, Mean Dog, Sgt. Slaughter, Hardball, 1990 Sonic Fighters Viper, Tiger Force Dusty

1988 Repater, Mean Dog, Sgt. Slaughter, Hardball, 1990 Sonic Fighters Viper

1988 Repater, Mean Dog, Sgt. Slaughter

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Funskool Cutter

Throughout the vintage Joe run, Hasbro strived to keep existing characters refreshed and available.  This gave the line a continuity that helped bridge the gaps between different generations of kids.  It was possible for the youngest child to get the oldest's collection and then augment it with classic characters like Snake Eyes or Stalker who had new designs on the shelves.  In most of the cases of new takes on existing characters in the vintage line, Hasbro strayed far from the original design of the character.  (You could argue the 1985 Snake Eyes is a complete reimagination of the figure released in 1982.)  In some cases, though, Hasbro used their new take to simply update an existing character to a more modern take on their classic look.  There are few examples of this better than the 1992 Cutter.

The 1984 Cutter is not a bad figure.  I got him in December of 1984 and he quickly became an important part of my collection.  Even when the head construction changed in 1985, Cutter remained valuable because he was such a perfect fit for the Whale.  But, the reality is that Cutter did start to get a bit dated as the line progressed.  His look was perfect.  But, it was also bulky and he didn't really fit the notion of a combat commander.  The 1992 mold, though, solved this.  The DEF version was, at its essence, the same as the 1984 figure, just with a sleeker and more updated design.  Looking at the two figures, it's obvious they are same character.  And, that drives a lot of the 1992 Cutter's value.  He's a perfect update to the original Cutter figure.  But, he still works perfectly in the Whale.  But, he also works with an entirely new generation of figures without losing anything from the original.

In the early 2000's, though, it was actually kind of hard to find mint and complete figures from 1991 - 1994.  They were especially tough if you wanted to army build them in any numbers.  Funskool, though, offered a chance for collectors to get all the DEF Cutters they wanted for cheap.  Starting in 2001, dealers imported Cutters and sold them for around $4 each.  Collectors were quickly able to get a high quality rendition of the Cutter figure with ease.  For many, their first exposure to the mold was the Funskool release.  And, you'd see Funskool Cutters manning vehicles in photos and dios of the time.  The ubiquity of Funskool figures was somewhat taken for granted and collectors grew to feel the figures would always be available.  While I did buy a couple of extra Cutter figures, I never actually bought the army I sought.  

I have always loved the 1992 Cutter's accessories.  His weapon is the perfect combination of size and detail.  It's not too big.  And, it makes sense as the weapon that the commander of a ship would use since it would not be unwieldy in tight spaces aboard a Whale or Shark 9000.  The flashlight is an inspired choice of gear.  It's large and bulky and is a far cry from the Tunnel Rat or Outback flashlights from 5 years earlier.  The Funskool figures have the added value of being cast in black plastic instead of the white plastic of the American figure.  While the white works with the figure, it's really nice to get the weapon in black.  And, the Funskool release is the only option for an alternate color of this excellent weapon.  

There are three versions of the Cutter mold.  For sheer vintage homage appeal, the 1992 is the best.  The 1993 repaint that was released with the Shark 9000 is also very good and brings something different to the Cutter mold.  The white pants aren't great.  But, they work with the Shark.  And, the green is a great way to bring more environments into play for Cutter.  This Funskool version isn't too great a departure from the 1992 version.  But, the lighter blues and oranges are a near perfect match for the 1990 Topside figure.  And, in that vein, the two make for a great team.  So, each version has some value.  Hasbro had the chance to get this mold back from India in 2003.  It's not likely that they did so.  But, had they, the 2004 Moray and convention sets would have each been perfect venues for a new repaint.  That didn't happen.  And, the mold still has potential.  But, each of the three versions is good and that's more than many molds who debuted in the 1990's can say. 

Light blue Funskool plastic has always been a problem.  Figures that used it in the '80's and early '90's are notoriously prone to discoloration.  It's not uncommon to find gem mint examples of early and rare Funskool figures who have either entire body discoloration or singular pieces of the mold that have badly discolored while the rest of the figure is fine.  Most collectors assumed that proper storage for the figures released in the 2000's would solve this issue.   But, it seems that much of the plastic discoloring is a function of bad plastic and proper storage will only slow the decay, not prevent it.  As such, you see perfectly preserved Cutter figures that are starting to discolor.  But, these figures are now 20 years old.  The fact that Funskool light blue plastic figures may have a shelf life is disheartening.  But, all you can do is what you know is right and hope for the best.  Just know that even meticulously cared for figures will discolor through no fault of your own.

Funskool Cutter figures are not valuable to the average collector.  But, to dealers who can sit on them until someone desperate comes along, they can be.  Dealers will sell carded figures for $50.  Left to market pricing, though, it's a $25 carded figure.  Loose mint and complete versions of the figure are $7-$10 figures.  But, it might take you a year to find one.  New collectors are slowly getting it that most of the 2000's era Funskool figures are actually really common and exist in ample supply for both loose and carded figures.  That's creating the huge disparities between dealer and market pricing.  If you have more money than patience, you have overly expensive options.  But, if you like to maximize your collecting dollar, waiting out the market will usually give you a chance at figures like this for legitimate prices.

Funskool Cutter, Beach Head

Funskool Cutter, Beach Head, Chuckles

Funskool Cutter, Beach Head, Chuckles, Tunnel Rat

Saturday, January 16, 2021

2004 Night Force Beach Head - Around The Web

The Night Force set was pretty much ignored by collectors for years.  And, since this Beach Head figure got three different releases (in the TRU Night Force set, the TRU Moray and as a single card figure that was sold at discount stores) collectors of the mid 2000's were sick of him.  But, now, figures like this Beach Head have found a new interest.  Of course, he's now as old as a 1988 figure was when this Beach Head was released in 2004.  But, still, it's tough to see this figure now commanding a premium.  

It's not easy to find individual uses of this figure.  Most Beach Head photos are the 1986 or the Funskool version.  Both of which are nice.  And, both of which I prefer to this Night Force version.  But, after some digging, I found enough on him to showcase him from Around the Web.

2004 Night Force Beach Head Profile

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

1993 Star Brigade Rock and Roll

Everyone knows that Armor Tech figures exist.  You can't avoid that fact.  For many collectors, though, Armor Tech is one of those things that you'll keep for completeness' sake.  But, it's rare to actually go out and find them.  In my younger collecting days, I was mostly in that camp.  As I got older, and the holes in my collection smaller, though, I found myself searching for the missing members of Star Brigade who wore stupid armor and weren't really compatible with "real" Joe figures of my youth.  In owning the figures, I have yet to find any real value or usefulness to them.  They check a box for me and that's about it.  In the case of Rock and Roll, though, he at least has one point of interest that both got me to spend a bit of time searching for him and also, eventually, writing this profile of his 1993 figure.

Armor Tech Joes were easy to find in the mid 1990's as I hunted down the retail remains of the vintage Joe line.  Toys R Us stores would have pegs of them, priced higher than the dwindling supplies of Battle Corps figures.  You'd find them at toy liquidators: again mostly untouched by retail buyers.  They were the last vintage Joes I spotted at retail in the fall of 1997 when I saw them at the lone toy shop in a newly opened mall in Arizona.  After the retail stock dried up, Armor Tech figures actually got cheaper.  You could often get them for a couple of bucks per carded figure at flea markets.  And, Ebay auctions of the entire carded set of figures would sell for under $20...if they sold at all.  Even into the 2010's, Armor Tech was about the cheapest set of vintage Joe figures you could acquire.  And, the low prices and high availability lead many collectors to simply ignore them, figuring they could pick them up at any time.

As figures, Armor Tech are terrible.  They are large, bulky and lack standard Joe articulation.  They are like an entirely different line that uses some familiar faces and names.  But, the figures are difficult to integrate into a collection and don't even really fit with the aesthetic of the rest of the 1993 or 1994 Star Brigade figures.  The non-standard construction was what lead me to leaving these figures behind as Joe faded from retail.  Had I found them at a low enough clearance, I might have bought them just for some additional gear.  But, even that's a stretch.  And, I didn't care enough about the figures to really follow them and see if they ever reached discount pricing at stores near me.  Even when I was starved for new Joes and had money to burn, I couldn't bring myself to stoop so low as to buy an Armor Tech figure at retail.

In the age of completism, though, Armor Tech has more appeal to me.  It's a goofy and stupid concept that doesn't really fit with anything.  And, even as one of the few Star Brigade aficionados around, I can't really get behind the figures.  Yet, I still bought most of them in recent years.  They are cheap.  And, I really didn't want to be left paying $30 for these guys in a couple of years.  So, I bit the bullet, bought a bunch of figures and found that my impressions from 1995 were still spot on, even in 2021.  The figures still don't resonate with me and I don't have much use for them.  Even in a display, the figures take up too much space and offer too little enjoyment to occupy precious real estate.  

So, now we get to the real reason why I profiled this figure: his accessories.  At a glance, Rock and Roll just includes a random accessory tree cast in bright yellow plastic.  His tree, though, is one of my favorites with Tracker's rifle, Muskrat's shotgun and the big-ass blaster from the 1991 Grunt figure.  In bright yellow, though, who cares?  Except, Rock and Roll has a variant.  Later version of the figure include purple accessories.  Again, many of you say, "who cares?".  Purple weapons aren't all that more useful than yellow ones.  But, for an aficionado of 1990's weapons, the purple gear is a lot of fun for me.  9 figures included accessories of some shade of yellow in 1993: including two other members of Star Brigade.  (Countdown and the B.A.A.T.)  Four additional figures included yellow weapons in 1994.  No other figures included purple weapons in 1993.  (Three figures had gear in some shade of blue, but they were definitely blue with no purple tint.)  Only the 1994 Metal Head figure also includes purple gear.  So, it is a rather rare color for Joe accessories.  Seeing the MP-5 inspired weapon in purple just looks cool because it is unique, distinctive and not something you see every day. 

In general, neither the yellow or purple accessories seem all that difficult to find.  As the Armor Tech figures are unpopular, not even dealers who look to squeeze every penny they can from Joe variants really care about the weapon colors.  Even if you find a sale that advertises the color, you won't have to pay a premium for it unless you choose to do so.  The purple gear came with later editions of the Rock and Roll figure while the yellow gear was the initial release.  I like the purple because they are so distinctive and set this figure apart.  I also feel that they help mute the figure's appearance and that Rock and Roll is substantially better looking when holding the darker weapons.  Of course, collector mileage varies for things like this.  I like obscure little variants like these weapons.  And, the fact that weapon trees are nostalgic to me just adds to this figure's mystique.  Of course, after opening the variants, the figures went into bags and have only reappeared for the photos below.  So, the appeal of purple gear only goes so far.

The value in Armor Tech, though, is the heads.  This Rock and Roll head is insanely detailed and is, easily, the best facial sculpt of the character.  Having it locked beneath a tight fitting and opaque helmet doesn't allow it to improve the figure, overall, though.  Enterprising customizers have used Armor Tech heads with great success.  (It requires some modifications to work, though.)  Rock and Roll's is one of the more frequently used since it's a top notch character and using this obscure head makes any customs of the character more unique.  It's a shame that more wasn't done to salvage figures like Armor Tech and the parts that are worthwhile.  There is some value here, it's just hard to find.

The Armor Tech filecards were not good.  Rock and Roll's has potential before it completely goes off the rails.  The bio acknowledges that Rock and Roll was a founding member of the Joe team and mentions that he has continually upgraded his equipment.  (Technically, this is true since the 1989 version has upgraded gear over the 1982 original.)  But, it then talks about him jumping on live grenades and chasing B.A.A.T.s into the sun.  Both of these would result in Rock and Roll's death and he would do one of those events just once before he was nothing more than a memory.  To make it worse, the filecard mentions twice! that Rock and Roll likes to roast marshmallows on the end of his laser rifle.  Look, I get it.  These figures aren't meant to really reflect the reality of space.  But, the whole roasting marshmallow thing was dumb in the card's first quote and was too lame to justify a repeat of the joke at the end.  But, this filecard shows the evolution of Joe characterization and how it diminished as the brand's pioneers moved on and Hasbro began to cut corners to keep the line afloat.

Unsurprisingly, no one cares about this Rock and Roll.  Even today, you can buy carded versions for under $10.  Dealers will usually charge $20-$25.  But, these don't sell since there isn't much demand for the figure and there is enough supply.  Even the variant, purple weapons don't generate interest and will not sell for a premium unless you get really lucky as a seller.  Overall, though, the stock of carded Armor Tech figures is drying up.  20 years ago, you could have bought 40 of these guys in one week without even trying.  Now, they are fewer and farther between.  At some point, they will also dry up and be like the 1994 series.  But, as the figures are not desirable and are one of the more reviled concepts of the vintage Joe line, it's unlikely that their pricing will follow suit for the 1994 figures.  If you're a completist or just looking for something different, Armor Tech offers some diversity not often seen in the vintage line.  And, since it's also still cheap, it makes sense to take advantage of their availability before they go to the way of most of the rest of the once plentiful 90's carded Joe overstock.

1993 Armor Tech Rock and Roll, Star Brigade, Flak Viper

1993 Armor Tech Rock and Roll, Star Brigade, Flak Viper

1993 Star Brigade Rock and Roll, MOC, Armor Tech, Carded

Saturday, January 9, 2021

2000 Chameleon - Around the Web

As a character, I'm not big on Chameleon.  But, as a solid Baroness repaint, this 2000 Chameleon is top notch.  It might be the best version of the Baroness mold that Hasbro ever released.  She was a bit of a pegwarmer upon release and remains relatively cheap to this day.  Which is a good thing since collectors can get a rock solid Baroness without breaking the bank.  There's less on her out there than I remember.  But, much of the Joe fan content from the early 2000's that featured her has been lost to time.  Here's the best of what I could find on the 2000 Chameleon around the web.

2000 Chameleon Profile

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

1993 Bulletproof

I first, kind of, started recollecting Joe figures in the fall of 1992.  I bought a few at the local Toys R Us a few days before Christmas when I was home on break.  Over Christmas break in 1993, I repeated the same trip to Toys R Us and bought some additional figures.  If you look over the posts on this site, some going back to 1999, even I'm confused about which figures I bought in 1992 and which I picked up in 1993.  One key point, though, is that I wasn't going to pay more than 2.99 for a figure back then.  So, it's unlikely I bought Bulletproof in 1992.  And, I also know that, at some point while I was away at school, my youngest brother found my Bulletproof figure and promptly lost his helmet with the microphone attached.  That one specific memory pins my first Bulletproof entering my collection in 1993.  

For a solidly Gen X teenager still in the throes of Grunge and early 1990's heavy metal, my Joe world took a dark tone.  But, instead of the heady, gratuitous violence that defined "grit" of that time, my world was more defeatist.  The frustrated writer in me turned the world into one of futility.  Men fought meaningless battles in a conflict that would never end.  They did so less out of duty and more out of necessity.  And, each of them knew that the reality is that they would not survive.  The ultimate Peter Principle played out as each was sent into battle after escalating battle until they simply weren't capable of surviving.  But, they still had to go and do their job.  Each knew their fate.  But, they were unable to deviate away from it.  It was a central point and was a source of conflict for the Joes.

In order to fully explore this, though, I couldn't just have a Joe team.  Either no one would die or I'd lose great figures as characters died off.  So, building upon ideas from my childhood, I created Joe army builders.  And, figures like Bulletproof were perfect for that.  For one, I didn't have the characters from the comic burned into my mind.  For two, it was easier to see a generic trooper in this mold than in others.  So, following the Cobra model, I specialized my Joe army builders, too.  Bulletproof became a "City Siege Commando".  (Think the Joe's version of the Alley Viper.)  Here, he would take on both law enforcement and military duties within cities.  If he were after a terrorist cell, he'd act like a squad of police.  If Cobra was destroying Middletown, Ohio, they were military all the way.  In this capacity, I was able to get more use out of figures like Bulletproof since they could take on any storyline and serve in multiple capacities.

Bulletproof's calling card is his hair.  Oh, that hair.  Rarely did Joes have distinctive hairstyles.  But, the 1990's saw strides in head sculpting.  And, with that came far more intricate hair molds.  Gristle is another great example of what Hasbro could do.  (I knew guys with Gristle's haircut in college.)  But, Bulletproof's hairdo might be the oddest attempt Hasbro took at giving a figure a currently in style appearance.  In some ways, they pulled it off.  But, one look at Bulletproof's large forehead also proves that they didn't quite nail it.  Bulletproof is also similar to Static Line from 1990.  So, there is a bit of a redundancy here that makes you think the designers saw one rap video on MTV in 1989 and gave every black guy the same haircut.  But, no other toyline in Joe scale was doing anything even remotely close to this in 1992.  Sadly, Hasbro lost that ability and by 2001, was reduced to balding, pasty white guys as the model for all their new head sculpts.

I bought Bulletproof because of his gear.  And, 27 years later, it still holds up.  Bulletproof's rifle is small, compact, detailed and nicely colored.  It's a shame that it didn't get more use.  His backpack has all the hallmarks of packs that I loved as a kid.  It's full of gear that an urban specialist would need.  There's a sculpted gas mask and a fire extinguisher to handle any type of urban situation.  I always felt Hasbro missed a chance to update Bulletproof's helmet to also have a version with a full gas mask on it.  It would have been a neat variant and a welcomed accessory in the line.  Bulletproof's helmet is OK.  It's large and bulbous: to accommodate the hair.  While I like the helmet, it's design isn't perfect.  The 1993 Bulletproof helmet also has a glued in microphone on it.  The 1992 helmet's mic is removable and often missing.  Hasbro solved this by gluing in the 1993 version.  I love the idea of urban specialist teams being in communication with each other.  So, having the mic just made the Bulletproof figure for me.

Bulletproof debuted as part of the DEF set in 1992.  In 1993, the DEF was supposed to continue.  But, for some reason, Hasbro cancelled the subset marketing and just released the DEF figures on regular Battle Corps cardbacks.  There were 6 new figures that were intended for the DEF subset.  And, Hasbro repainted three of the 1992 DEF figures for the standard line.  (Cutter was released as a vehicle driver.   Shockwave and Headman were discontinued.)  No reason was ever given for why the DEF was discontinued.  Though, it's likely that the higher price point of the 1992 figures doomed them at retail and the concept was avoided to steer clear of the association with figures already hanging around at retail into 1993.  

Bulletproof got three uses.  The tan cammo 1992 figure is the least ostentatious.  This 1993 repaint is fun just for neon nineties goodness.  The mold was then shuffled to Brazil.  There, Estrela released the figures in neon colors similar to this 1993 version.  But, the figure's skin tone was changed.  Tiro Certo figures were easy to find and could be had for about $15 for a carded figure in the late 2000's.  Now, those have dried up and he's far more expensive.  The 1993 Bulletproof helmet, sans microphone though, was released with the Night Fighter Guile in the Street Fighter Movie line.  This black helmet looks great on Tiro Certo (since he didn't include a helmet) but is also an accessory that I've used with great affect on various Snake Eyes repaints that can be seen through various photos on the site.  It's likely that Hasbro had the Bulletproof mold available to it in the 2000's.  But, they didn't care.  He would have made a great candidate for release in a number of sets.  But, getting him without his gear would have been a shame.  And, I'm OK with this mold living on with just the three releases.

This Bulletproof is typical of later neon release repaint figures.  He's not as easy to find as you would think.  And, he gets a bit of a premium for that.  A loose, mint and complete figure will run you $18 or so.  But, you can get carded figures for $25 and that's probably the way to go.  Be wary, though, as many 1993 figures are sold with the 1992 helmet that has the removable microphone and it's often missing.  But, as the mic isn't overly tiny, it's still sometimes present and complete Bulletproofs are obtainable.  You should note, though, that some people drastically overpay for this figure.  And, you'll see $70+ loose figures from time to time.  I still find this figure visually striking and a lot of fun.  But, that's worth less than $20 to me and I find the high prices for figures like this to reek of both desperate collectors looking for final items and a quickly ending bubble where people will wonder how they ever paid high prices for an obscure release like this.  But, if you can get one for the right price, this Bulletproof is still worthwhile.

1993, Bulletproof, Battle Corps, DEF, MOC, HEAT Viper, Long Arm, 2002 Headman, Eco Warriors, 1992 Toxo Zombie

1993, Bulletproof, Battle Corps, DEF, MOC, HEAT Viper, Long Arm, 2002 Headman

1993, Bulletproof, Battle Corps, DEF, MOC, HEAT Viper

1993, Bulletproof, Battle Corps, DEF, MOC

Friday, January 1, 2021

The Top 10 - 2020

 So, 2020 was a weird year.  It was bizarre in that Joe was popular, but also not.  Items that, historically, collectors showed interest in were simply ignored.  Yet, common items that no one would ever care about now get massive attention.  And, in all this, the most popular post in the site's history debuted this year.  Yes, there is a new number one post in this site's long life.  And, you'll never guess what it is.

With that, here's the top 10 posts of 2020 on the site.

10. European Force Tonnerre

The European Force figures have always been solid performers during Rarities Month.  This year, I focused on the one figure that I see the least: Tonnerre.  This orange repaint is weird and odd and lots of fun.  I'd love to someday own one.  Until then, though, Rarities write ups like this one will have to suffice for me.

Tonnerre, European Force, European Exclusive, Knock Off, Bootleg, MyGal

9. 2006 Viper

Army builders are always popular.  This Viper Pit set, though, has turned into a dud due to the poor quality of the figures.  Despite that, this figure got a lot of page views just due to the Viper name and the fact that it's been 14 years since he was released.  

2006 Cobra Viper, Viper Pit, Black Major, GHSB, Gold Head Steel Brigade

8. Black Major Cobra De Aco

Black Major figures tend to perform well.  Especially when you consider that I can't promote the profiles of them in many of the largest social media groups.  Despite this blackout, people find the write ups of the figures.  Other Joe bloggers report the same.  The De Aco is a famous figure in its own right and people were interested to see how the Black Major release compared to one of the first foreign figures to really capture the community's attention.

2010 Black Major Cobra De Aco, Steel Cobra, Estrela, Brazil, 1986 BATs, Battle Android Troopers

7. 2020 Retro Hiss Tank

This isn't really a surprise.  A classic and iconic vehicle re-offered at retail for the first time in a long time was certain to draw in viewers.  Naturally, you see video reviews from large toy sites that have massively more numbers as they pull in the retail only collector crowd.  But, even Joe collectors wanted to see this one and it dropped into the top profiles of the year.

2020 Wal Mart Exclusive Retro Hiss Tank

6.  1987 Fast Draw

I never considered Fast Draw an overly popular character.  But, his profile garnered a lot of attention.  It wasn't the time of year or anything.  In fact, the two profiles the surround Fast Draw (1984 Chameleon and 1997 Ace) were among the lowest performing posts of the year.  So, the popularity is entirely attributable to the Fast Draw figure.

1987 Fastdraw, Sea Slug, Sears Dreadnok Stinger, Ground Assault, 1986, Sneak Peek

5.  Sgt. Savage P-40 Warhawk

The Warhawk is an incredibly obscure item of which most fans had little recollection.  So, it getting a prominent post attracted viewers.  Some loved the design.  Others hated it.  But, the reality is that Sgt. Savage toys are almost as forgotten as G.I. Joe Extreme and it's getting rarer and rarer to see them in any capacity. 

1995 Sgt. Savage P-40 Warhawk, 1990 Freefall, 1993 Countdown, Star Brigade

4. Terror on the Tundra Mail Away Promo

I don't look at a lot of paperwork.  But, little items like this Terror on the Tundra promo tend to be popular.  Most collectors have these things lying around.  But, they aren't something that they take the time to look at.  And, now that some of the items in them have reached astronomical prices, it's interesting to look back at what you could have bought when they were released.

1993 Terror On The Tundra Mail Away Paperwork

3.  Rarities - Later Series Lucky Bell Power Commandos

While I had a good crop of Rarities posts this year, only two really broke through.  This look at the later series of Power Commandos, though, was the most popular Rarities post of the year.  Again, this showcased a bunch of figures that most collectors were not aware of and, in many cases, had never seen.

There still lots about this line I don't know.  But, there will be at least one more new post for Rarities month in 2021 that relates to the Power Commandos, though.

Lucky Bell, Power Commandos

2.  2006 Operation Flaming Moth Range Viper

The Flaming Moth figures have been left behind by collectors.  Those of us around at the time of their release remember the acidic taste of the Club's disdain for us upon the figure's release.  And, we also remember the figures being clearance fodder for years as the club struggled to move them.  But, 14 years later, these figures have become obscure.  So, this profile hit a nerve with the generation of collectors who don't have bitter memories of how truly awful the G.I. Joe club really was.

Despite this figure being the 2nd most popular post of the year, it was viewed more than 2,000 fewer times than the number 1.

2006 Desert Range Viper, Operation Flaming Moth

1. 1984 Manta

I know, I can't believe it either.  But, the Manta is the most popular post in the site's history.  And, it wasn't due to a viral moment or a spike in popularity in a social media group.  No.  The Manta's rise to the top was simply a sustained excellence over the year.  Even 8 months after it's original publication date, the Manta was still among the weekly leaders in site hits.  It never had a huge surge of visitors.  It's just steadily performed for months.  (If you scroll to the bottom of any page on the site, you'll see the top 5 posts visited in the past week and the MANTA was almost always there in 2020.)  And, in September, it overcame the Rarities post about the unproduced Cobra Island Infiltrate set to become the most viewed post since I returned in 2015.

I can't explain why.  Manta's don't seem all that popular.  The photos for it weren't out of the ordinary.  There's just something about the Manta that's kept it consistently drawing viewers since it first appeared.

1984 Manta, Funskool Beach Head

So, that's it for 2020.  It was a hell of a year.  Let's hope 2021 is less eventful on all fronts.  I've got some fun stuff ahead for the new year.  Aside from Joe, I'm going to take a look at Spinmaster Batman figures, some new Star Wars releases and, or course, tons of Joe items.  I'll be back to my regular cadence next week and already have the posts mapped out into April.

As always, thanks for spending time here, reading my stuff and leaving your thoughts in the comments.  I appreciate all of you!