Tuesday, February 9, 2021

1994 Lt. Kawalasky - Hasbro Stargate

In the 1980's, the action figure was king.  Starting with Star Wars and ending with G.I. Joe, the 1980's featured toy lines that covered the gamut from licensed properties to original ideas.  At various times, you could play with monsters, aliens, knights, mythical heroes, tv show characters, army men and pretty much any other off the wall idea that a kid could want.  But, as the decade wound down, play patterns were changing.  As the 1990's dawned, quite a few different factors converged to pretty much end the '80's toy renaissance.  Among them were the rise of all in one discount stores like Wal Mart that slowly ate away at the various regional or local retailers who were able to stock wide varieties of toys.  The Saturday morning cartoon block was replaced by cheaper live action shows and, eventually, infomercials that reduced the ability of advertisers to reach kids at an economical level.  Home video game systems had come back and were starting to attract younger and younger kids.  And, 1980's properties had grown stale.  A younger generation was captivated by Ninja Turtles and, later, Power Rangers to such an extent that other toy lines struggled to find a presence on the ever shrinking retail shelves.  

Ultimately, this lead to the demise of lines like G.I. Joe.  Like the dinosaurs that they were, though, Hasbro (and other companies) didn't really understand the changing marketplace and often tried to hold onto the last bastions of the action figure heyday.  As their in house brands ebbed in popularity, Hasbro turned to licensed properties to keep their boys division afloat.  In most of these cases, Hasbro was able to use existing tooling (usually from the G.I. Joe brand) to produce new toys at a cost that made them worthwhile.  We all know of the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat movie figures that used Joe parts.  But another, more obscure, licensed toy line also borrowed from G.I. Joe.  And, while the Stargate figures were not in standard Joe construction, the line saw some uses of recolored G.I. Joe accessories and even an iconic Joe vehicle that was retrofitted for the new toys.

Years ago, I picked up an oddly colored and modified Tunnel Rat backpack.  It was a cool green color, but had the holes for the flashlights in the top covered over.  It sat around for years until the 2004 Night Force set appeared.  I found the pack was an interesting fit for the Night Force Tunnel Rat.  So, I gave it to him, but wondered where this accessory had originated from.  I kind of figured it was from the Corps as I had Flint, Footloose and Blowtorch packs from that line which had slight modifications.  So, I didn't really consider the pack much more.  

In 2018, though, I got interested in alternate uses of Joe accessories.  This was driven from the oddball kitbashes of the Power Commandos and Kaido lines.  But, it also took me down a rabbit hole of other uses.  It was here that I found the origination of that Tunnel Rat backpack.  Hasbro had used it, and many other accessories, as part of the Stargate line of figures.  I was aware that Stargate had a modified AWE Striker.  But, I hadn't realized that recolored Joe gear was also among its reuses of existing tooling.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the few figures in the line that did include Joe gear were stupidly cheap.  But, I was also somewhat surprised to see that some of the cooler weapon repaints were not more common among Joe collections.  Through the years, I had acquired several Street Fighter Movie accessories through various dealers.  But, I had never seen Stargate weapons among the wares of those sellers.

There are 8 carded figures in the Stargate line.  There are 4 "humans" (for lack of a better word) and 4 "Egyptians".  Note that I have never seen the Stargate movie or consumed any media beyond these figures.  So, I have no idea who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.  Of the figures, though, all include spring loaded launchers and missiles.  The missiles are carry over from the 1992-1994 era of G.I. Joe and have some unique colors among them.  The Egyptian figures only have gear unique to this line beyond that.  The "humans", though, feature an interesting array of recycled G.I. Joe gear.  Daniel includes the aforementioned Tunnel Rat backpack and an Annihilator weapon in black.  Skaara includes a Monkeywrench weapon in an exclusive silver.  Col. O'Neil includes a grey Bullhorn rifle.  This can be problematic as a similar weapon was included with the hard to find 2010 Convention Bullhorn figure.  So, if you see a grey Bullhorn rifle in a lot, it's far more likely to be Col. O'Neil's than the hard to find convention figure's.  Lt. Kowalsky includes a black Big Ben backpack and a green machine gun from the 1992 Gung Ho.

The Lt. Kawalsky figure from the line is my ultimate choice of figures to look at.  Not because of the figure.  (He's barely worth mentioning....)  But, because his gear is interesting on a couple of levels.  Big Ben's backpack is a very solid entry to the Joe line.  It's large, detailed and works for a variety of figures.  It's one of those generic packs that many figures can wear without being too iconic to Big Ben.  Prior to 2002, this was the only black release of this backpack.  The M-60, though, is an odd tie to an unproduced bit of Joe lore.  Kowalsky's weapon is in a dark green color.  This hue is unique to this weapon in the Stargate line.  It's a neat look.  Especially when you know that there are pre-production Joseph Colton figures that include the same weapon mold in a green color that's nearly identical to this Kowalsky release.  

And, with this color, Kowalsky takes on a different value.  I can now outfit my Colton with the green weapon and I have a reasonable facsimile of an unproduced G.I. Joe weapon from the line's dying days.  There were many weapon color variants that never actually saw production.  You see them in the sales catalogs and imagery of the time.  But, there are also bagged and carded samples of some figures which feature alternate colors.  Colton is one of them.  Few other collectors get into weirdly colored 1990's weapons molds like I do.  Most people would far prefer this weapon in black.  But, having that hook to an unproduced and pre-production piece from the vintage Joe line pushes this weapon over the top for me.  I would not have paid much more than $5 to get it.  And, loose, I'd be reluctant to pay 1/2 that amount.  But, it's a fun little Easter Egg that I can sprinkle among my photos.  Eagle eyed collectors will catch the homage.  Others will wonder from where the odd colors originated.

Lt. Kawalsky actually has a variant, too.  You can find the rifle, missiles and striker artifact in the dark green seen below or a very bright neon yellowy green.  (The variant weapon appears very close in the color to the 1994 Dialtone's weapons.)  Neither is hard to find and a random sampling shows them both adequately available for the same price.  A running change like this, though, implies that these figures likely saw a solid production run.  It's impossible to know how they stack up against the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter Movie figures in terms of numbers.  Both of those lines are harder to find, now.  But, they are also widely collected by the Joe community and both those properties have a larger fan base than Stargate.  So, it's not an apt comparison.  And, even 10 years ago, Street Fighter Movie and Mortal Kombat figures were pretty easy to find.  The ubiquity with which these Stargate figures still exist MOC, though, certainly confirms that they had an ample production run.

They also failed pretty hard at retail.  The line was not continued.  And, the amount of stock still left with KB "discount" stickers on them implies that the line was fodder for clearance bins for many years.  As 1994 and 1995 were really the beginning of the toy dealer/hoarder/speculator era, tons of overstock figures went into bins for future sales.  Depending on when the dealers liquidated, the Street Fighter Movie and Mortal Kombat figures could have been worth it.  These Stargate figures, though, are not.  They remain worthless and unloved today.  Were it not for the G.I. Joe connection, I would not even know they existed.  And, I collected for a long time before I actually learned about them and developed enough of an interest to even track one down.  

Stargate figures are cheap.  You can get them MOC for $5.  If you can find someone selling a lot of them, you might get the whole lot for $10.  Loose figures are pretty scarce, though.  The alternate construction probably causes many toy dealers to pass them by.  And, even the recolored Joe gear has almost no interest.  So, it's not even worth the time to parse that out of a box full of '90's junk action figures.  For the oddity of the green machine gun, $5 is worth it.  Beyond that, though, there's little value in the toy.  They are better put together than the garbage figures you find at a dollar store.  But, the proportions and articulation are about the same.  Collectors, though, seem to have simply forgotten about this line and, were it not for a thin connection to Joe, I would have have no idea of its existence.

Lt. Kawalski, Hasbro Stargate, 1994, MOC, Carded

Lt. Kawalski, Hasbro Stargate, 1994, MOC, Carded

 


5 comments:

  1. I loved Stargate as a kid! I didn't see the movie until it came out on video but the toys caught my attention and I remember picking up Col. O'Neil from the Super K-Mart my dad managed, followed by jackson and Kawalsky. I ended up getting the rest on clearance except for the Winged Glider, which I never owned. The mastadge stood in as my Bantha until Kenner released one in the POTF2 line. I actually read the movie novelization before I saw the movie as I picked it up from a Scholastic book fair. I was interested in Egyptology and hieroglyphics during the time, too, so that was probably part of the appeal. The movie is fantastic and holds up quite well. I get a desire to watch it every couple years. This was definitely one of those lines that was part of the 90s big budget sci-fi renaissance where you had popular films with toylines that floundered. I traded most or all of my figures to a friend in middle school for his duplicate Star Wars figures and some batman stuff.

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  3. It seems the 80's were indeed a golden age. Just compare the comics, toys, even metal to today's pathetic offerings .Every thing is based towards the adult collector. No longer do toy companies take risks with original properties such as Starriors, Crystar, Visionaries etc. I've noticed that new toys from Hasbro are really cheaply made. Remember bouncing the vintage stuff like the Vamp down the stairs dozens and dozens of times and nothing broke. Now toys are meant to be displayed- careful how you turn that bicep on the new Fang pilot, lol.

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  4. Interesting perspective on this other type of Joe mold usage. I've been collecting these myself--so far, I've got Kawalsky's heavy gun, O'Neil's rifle, Daniel's backpack, and Skaara's speargun (which actually is a slight retool of the Monkeywrench weapon, as indicated by the handle width). I think an easy 're-quip' would be giving the 1993 Big Ben Kawalsky's backpack and the silver machine gun from the Paratrooper Guile.

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  5. Never seen any Stargate media? The SG-1 tv show is one of the shows that's as close to a live action GI JOE as well get, that is real US military people fighting over the top villains but everything is taken seriously. At least I think so.
    Why oh, why weren't the figures 3 3/4" scale? What wasted potential.

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