Saturday, October 30, 2021

1989 Countdown - Around The Web

Countdown was the first Joe astronaut that was released on a single card.  Oddly, this was a case when Cobra got a carded specialty first.  But, Countdown was worth the wait and remains one of the top astronaut sculpts in the line.  He's sleek, properly colored and includes amazing gear.  He got a few repaints, some of which are equally as nice as this figure.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1989 Countdown Profile

1989 Countdown by nightforcetunnelrat

1989 Countdown by atticagazette

1989 Countdown by python.patrol_benny

1989 Countdown by Slipstream80

1989 Countdown by Hit and Run

1989 Countdown by dantedmc

1989 Countdown by Formbx257

1989 Countdown by gijoecbarcelona

1989 Countdown at

1989 Countdown, Rock and Roll

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

2001 Crossfire

Taste is subjective.  All collectors have irrational favorites.  And, everyone has one figure that just bugs them for some reason.  I do not like Crystal Ball.  But, I do see the quality of his overall sculpt.  Big Boa is the worst figure in the vintage line.  But, I also acknowledge that I feel that way because he was such a good character and I was super disappointed that his figure didn't live up to his filecard.  There are, though, a select few figures that are objectively bad and have no redeeming qualities at all.  20 years ago, Hasbro released one such figure.  I was shocked to find, though, that, at the time, a lot of other collectors loved him.  And, even two decades later, people rush to defend a figure that has no intrinsic value whatsoever.  But, I will remain steadfast that the 2001 Crossfire is just a terrible figure and, subjectivity be damned, anyone who likes him is just wrong.

The A Real American Hero Collection (ARAHC) started off with a bang in the fall of 2000.  Joe returning to retail was huge.  But, Hasbro went a step further to find some favorite molds and characters, paint them well and include all their original gear.  The second wave was even better as it expanded the mold library and brought in some later figure sculpts that followed the same formula as Wave I.  But, a troubling pattern started to emerge with Wave II.  Too many of the Joes used the same color palette.  Gone was the retail visual complement that Hasbro strove for with the vintage line.  Instead, all the figures looked the same.  And, when Wave III debuted, the pattern continued into a full blown issue.  Wave II was starting to stagnate at retail.  (Though, that was all the fault of packing 4 Big Ben/Whiteout packs per case.)  Wave III, though, saw a lower production run and, generally, sold through just due to lower numbers.  But, Wave II had done in the line and the banality that was Wave IV heavily found its way to discount and closeout stores.  Hasbro listened too much to some people who had a very limited and narrow view of Joe.  And, the sea of olive green was just too boring to sustain a line at retail.  In 2002, Hasbro moved more towards a vintage Joe approach with coloring and the line was hugely successful for a couple of years.

Backing up to 2001, though, Wave III was actually pretty well anticipated by the collecting community.  It featured two new army builders (always welcome in those days!) as well as a redone Cobra Commander and Destro.  On the Joe side, we saw a repainted Low Light, Wet Suit and Torpedo.  The classic 1984 Roadblock mold returned.  Though, with a new name.  Also in the wave, though, were two "new" figures.  One, Sure Fire, used the amazing 1992 Shockwave body.  (And, kind of sullied that mold for a long time.)  The other, Crossfire, was an amalgamation of parts.  But, like Sure Fire, he included a newly sculpted head to denote the new character.  Sadly, both these heads were just terrible.  Both had receding hairlines and while Sure Fire's head was too small, Crossfire's was too big.  Both look out of place with the rest of the parts and stick out as a newly minted part created by sculptors less talented than those who worked on the vintage Joe line.  

Crossfire suffers from many ailments.  His pasty, balding, middle aged white guy head has always sucked.  In fact, it's kind of embarrassing.  Hasbro designers completed failed on all the new heads in the ARAHC line (We'll toss in Volga from 1998 as well as most of the Comic Pack heads, too.)  If the rest of the figure was good, then the new head could be somewhat overlooked.  But, the rest of Crossfire is just as much a mess as is his head.  His chest and arms are from the 1990 Big Ben.  Remember, at the time, the 2001 Arctic Big Ben was pegwarming all over North America.  And, the colors chosen for Crossfire were reminiscent of the 1990 figure while also being worse at the same time.  He was also given flesh colored hands.  The fact that Big Ben has gloves sculpted onto his hands didn't seem to bother the Hasbro team of the time.  They're not as bad as Dialtone's hands.  But, it is still noticeable.  Speaking of Dialtone, Crossfire uses his legs and waist.  The slim 1986 sculpt is not a good match for the 1990 torso.  So, Crossfire appears off balance.  The legs are also nearly the same green as the 2000 Dialtone figure.  So, again, the entire ensemble just felt tired.

Crossfire's torso and legs are different shades of green.  They are not complementary shades.  They are just different enough to make you think that the top or bottom has discolored from the sun.  He also has gold bullets with silver belt details.  Again, this is a color contrast that makes the whole figure look confusing.  Lots of color is usually good on a figure.  But, when it's clashing colors that simply distract from the mold's details, you realize that this wasn't a figure with a lot thought put into his design.  It was a cheap way to reuse parts and create a "new" character without trying too hard or blowing the budget on a lower production wave of figures.  

The final indignity of Crossfire was his complete lack of weapons.  He didn't include a helmet.  His only gun, the 1991 Dusty rifle and stock, had become commonplace and even overused by 2001.  Personally, I use it exclusively as a Cobra weapon after the 1998 Cobra Infanty was released.  So, it was good to have a spare of two when Hasbro stopped giving Vipers decent weapons in 2002.  Crossfire didn't even have an obligatory backpack.  Supposedly, Crossfire had all sorts of specialties.  But, he got no gear to prove that out.  His pack mate, Double Blast, got a lot of gear.  And, it wasn't uncommon for one figure to have a large amount of gear in the ARAHC packs while the second figure got barely a pittance.  But, with Crossfire, it just stung since the gear added nothing to the figure.  The 2001 Leatherneck's Richard Nixon head was saved by including a helmet.  Crossfire just gets to look like a guy who's slowly drinking himself to death with cheap gin.

Despite three plus paragraphs describing just how terrible Crossfire is, collectors somewhat liked him.  Some used him as a Greenshirt.  Others found use for him in various dio stories of the day.  All of these people were wrong.  Crossfire is a figure that deserves to be ridiculed and should be forgotten on the scrap heap of terrible Joe ideas.  But, things like this are what make collecting fun.  I can jest about others being wrong in their opinions of this figure.  But, it's not malicious.  At the end of the day, I own this figure and am publishing an article about him more than two decades removed from his release.  Those who like him can still like him.  The things about him that bug me may be endearing to others.  And, remember, my favorite figures tend to have neon colors.  So, how valid can my opinion be, anyways?!?  My biggest issue is, knowing the molds that Hasbro had available to them at the time, we got Crossfire instead of Mutt or Bullhorn or Salvo or Rock and Roll.  Any of those figures would have been preferable.  But, in Hasbro's feeble attempts at something "new", they created something completely forgettable.

Crossfire's code name didn't help.  The Crossfire was an obscure 1987 radio controlled vehicle that is most famous for producing Rumbler.  On top of the reuse, though, Hasbro wasn't overly creative with names in the early 2000's.  In short order, they released Crossfire, Surefire, Crosshair, Sideswipe, Side Track and Sidetrack.  The names all blended together into a cacophony of banality that made all the characters lamentable.  

Dealers try to get $20 for mint and complete Crossfires.  But, they won't sell until the price drops to around $10.  Left to the open market, he's a $5 or $6 figure.  You can get carded versions of he and Double Blast for under $20 still, too.  (Dealer pricing hovers around $30, though.)  At $5, I guess this guy's an ok addition.  I paid $4 for him at retail in 2001.  I felt ripped off back then.  And, there's not really a circumstance where I'd have actually bought a Crossfire figure had I not wanted the Double Blast and been a completist two decades ago.  But, your mileage may vary.  Lots of collectors still enjoy him.  And, figures for $5 are almost unheard of in this market.  So, if you're missing Crossfire, it's as good a time as any to acquire him...even if he has no use.

2001 Crossfire, 2000 Duke, ARAHC

2001 Crossfire, 1993 Edmund Honda, Street Fighter

Sunday, October 24, 2021

HasLab Skystriker

I will preface with the fact that I am not a big fan of HasLab.  In general, it's a way for Hasbro to overcharge for a toy and assume absolutely minimal risk.  They take our money, sit on it for a year or more and then ship out an overpriced toy.  The upside to it is that you do get some offerings that would never be supported at retail.  But, paying $250 for an item that would sell for under $100 at a retail store is a tough pill to swallow.  The collectible toy market, though, is in a place where people are both willing and able to overspend for items that they want.  Hasbro realized this and is capitalizing on it.  I can't blame them.  I don't like it.  Yet, I'm about to drop $230 for the latest HasLab offering, the Skystriker.

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace

I'm not a huge Skystriker fan.  While the plane looks great, the reality is that it's large, difficult to play with and takes up a huge footprint on display.  Despite all that, it does look amazing on display.  And, this new version (to ship in 2023!!!!) is only meant as a display piece.  It includes a stand.  But, everything about it is meant not as a toy but a piece of decor for an office, rec room or other such place in a collector's home.  Again, I'm not big on that.  I love Joe because they are toys.  

For me, though, the real value is in the figures.  The initial backing includes two figures: a rehash of the 1983 Ace and an all new co-pilot figure.

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Co-Pilot

Ace figures are neither hard to find nor expensive.  So, I would have liked something on his paint apps to set him apart from the original.  But, as an homage piece, anything other than the original Ace coloring would have seemed out of place.  It's certain that these figures will be all new sculpts, likely based on the originals.  The real gem, though, is the co-pilot figure.  Not yet named, this mold is light years ahead of the new ARAH-style pieces Hasbro tried to scupt in the 2000's.  He has Ripcord's head.  So, it's tough to see him as anyone except Ripcord.  But, the chest looks pretty good.  I do not like the painted faces.  They look weird and are easy to chip and rub, even just in storage.  And, helmets, like the co-pilots, wreak havoc on painted faces.  So, I do hope that's something that changes prior to production.

Hasbro has to sell 10,000 of these for the Skystriker and the 2 figures to happen.  That is all but a certainty to happen.  Beyond that, though, Hasbro went ahead and revealed three other tiers right off the bat.  And, I will say that it's good that they did.  With just the plane and 2 figures, I would have been hesitant.  But, the possibility of 6 figures makes me all in.

The first tier figure is a flight suit Scarlett.  Coming available at 13,000 units, she is also all but guaranteed to be released.  It's an odd figure, Scarlett in Ace's flightsuit.  But, it's something different and the coloring isn't something you've really seen in the Joe line.  And, she'll be $80+ within a year of this thing's release.

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Co-Pilot, Scarlett

The next tier brings us Ripcord.  At 16,000 backers, I'd put Ripcord at about 90% certainty to happen.  This is supposed to be a "Night Force" Ripcord.  As my friend RTG said, this figure looks like an early 2000's custom figure.  But, it is Ripcord.  And, fans have been clamoring for a new Ripcord since the early 2000's.  The figure is relatively bland.  But, the parachute rig really helps him.  Not being Duke also really helps him.  And, again, this is going to be an expensive aftermarket purchase.

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Co-Pilot, Scarlett, Night Force Ripcord

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Co-Pilot, Scarlett, Night Force Ripcord

The final tier brings us the army builders of this project.  For the first time ever, Hasbro is making flight crew.  The yellow and red figures are nothing special.  But, also something that every USS Flagg owner will love.  You see the re-use of the Ripcord legs and arms.  But, they appear to have new chests and heads.  The digital renderings kind of make them look like CORPS! figures.  But, I suspect they'll be decent enough.  And, considering their role, will fit perfectly for their intended purpose.

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Co-Pilot, Scarlett, Night Force Ripcord, Flight Crew

The Skystriker also includes a re-fueling and ammo vehicle.  Again, this is a little something extra that's sure to spur rumours of a HasLab Flagg is the Skystriker does well.  The vehicles are pretty cool.  Joe has always needed a missile rack to carry around re-loads for aircraft.  And the fuel vehicle is also something that's useful outside of the deck of an aircraft carrier.  For the money, that's a nice add on.

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Co-Pilot, Scarlett, Night Force Ripcord, Flight Crew, Refueling vehicle

Below are more pictures of the Skystriker from the Hasbro promo images.  For $230, this thing is expensive.  But, it's also a reseller's dream.  The vehicles will recoup some money.  But, the figures alone are guaranteed to be at least $300 or more on the aftermarket.  And, the plane itself will sell for a premium.  That's why I think this will reach the 18,000 backers without issue.  While there aren't a ton of Joe fans, there are enough.  And, many people will buy two of these.  The resellers will pounce, too.  And, speculators know that HasLab's like this tend to appreciate pretty well.

In the end, this Skystriker was a surprise.  It's a low risk offering that's sure to find a market.  While not my choice, it's also fine and something I'm going to buy.  That's the first time I've said that about a high dollar Hasbro item in decades.  Let me know your thoughts on the Skystriker in the comments.

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Co-Pilot, Scarlett, Night Force Ripcord, Flight Crew, Refueling vehicle

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Co-Pilot, Scarlett, Night Force Ripcord, Flight Crew, Refueling vehicle

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Co-Pilot, Scarlett, Night Force Ripcord, Flight Crew, Refueling vehicle

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Co-Pilot, Scarlett, Night Force Ripcord, Flight Crew, Refueling vehicle

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Co-Pilot, Scarlett, Night Force Ripcord, Flight Crew, Refueling vehicle

2023 HasLab Skystriker, Ace, Co-Pilot, Scarlett, Night Force Ripcord, Flight Crew, Refueling vehicle

Saturday, October 23, 2021

1986 Zandar - Around The Web

Zandar is a product of his time.  He was a figure who was designed to be some sort of underground rocker.  The fact that he was designed by well positioned toy designers helps define why he's just so out of place.  The figure hasn't aged all that well.  But, at the same time, has some interesting value just because he is so odd.  As this figure is a hold over from my childhood, I'm more forgiving of his design than if he were a 1993 release.  There's some good Zandar content out there, much of it with him and either the Dreadnoks or siblings.  So, enjoy!

1986 Zandar Profile

Busted Diorama

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

1983 Zap - Random Photos of the Day

The 1983 Zap is a fun figure.  His brighter green helps him stand out among the original 13 Joes.  And, his antiquated weapon actually works in the context of the Joe team.  He wasn't a figure that I really had when I was a kid.  Both his thumbs broke on a straight arm version within hours of his opening.  But, I've kept this figure intact for two decades and still enjoy him more than most of the early Joe figures.

Sadly, the brittleness of Zap has lead to his extreme expense in modern times.  Before he was a $100+ figure, I had a lot of fun getting him out for photo shoots.  These days, though, I'm more careful as a simple slip would cost me way more than this figure is worth to replace.  So, the 1997 Zap has become the proxy for this original figure.  But, here's some pics of him back when the figure was still a reasonable acquisition.

1983 Zap, Bazooka Soldier, Silver Pads Grand Slam, 2008 Crimson Cobra Trooper, Black Major

1983 Zap, Bazooka Soldier, 2000 Locust, Dragonfly, Platirama, Sokerk, Fuego, Ripcord, Argentina

1983 Zap, Bazooka Soldier, Rock and Roll, VAMP, 1982, 2017, Outlaw, Red Laser Army

1983 Zap, Bazooka Soldier, Trip Wire, Funskool Bomb Disposal, Plastirama TNT, Blowtorch, Argentina

Saturday, October 9, 2021

1989 Snake Eyes - Around The Web

The greatest sin of the 1989 Snake Eyes is that he's not the 1985 Snake Eyes.  That doesn't mean, though, that this is a bad figure.  Far from it.  For younger collectors, this is often their vision of Snake Eyes.  And, I'll argue that this version best meshes Snake Eyes' Commando and Ninja personalities into one design.  My personal story on this figure is detailed in the first link.  It explains why this figure is difficult for me to really adopt as an iconic Snake Eyes.  There's tons of great content on this guy out there, though.  So, enjoy!

1989 Snake Eyes Profile

1989 Snake Eyes by thedustinmccoy

1989 Snake Eyes, 1985 Flint

1989 Snake Eyes, 1985 Flint

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Rarities - Funskool Calcium Sandoz Croc Master

In my profile of the Funskool Croc Master figure, I mentioned a Calcium Sandoz repaint of him done in dark colors.  Well, here it is.  The figure is actually a very dark green with black pants and golden eyes.  The overall ensemble is an amazing look for Croc Master and would have been one of the more sought after repaints had it been a standard carded Funskool release.

Sadly, this figure only exists in the Calcium Sandoz construction.  So, he has those odd, blocky, straight arms.  They ruin what would otherwise be an amazing figure.  The color palette, though, almost makes up for it.  I love the golden eyes as they brighten the figure's face and help offset the dark undertones.  In general, this look is in line with Croc Master's character.  But, it also brings something more sinister to the table.

It appears this Croc Master doesn't include the whip.  But, he does have the crocodile.  Were these figures attainable, it would be worth it to swap the arms for some bare arms from another figure to make a really solid Croc Master repaint.  But, at several hundred dollars these days, that's not really a viable outlet for a different take on Cobra's Reptile Trainer.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Croc Master - Dark Green

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Croc Master - Dark Green

Saturday, October 2, 2021

1991 Heavy Duty Around The Web

Heavy Duty was not originally meant as a Roadblock replacement.  But, because he was used as such in the 2000's, many collectors wrote off his figures.  His original release in 1991, though, should not be disregarded.  It's one of those figures that's of excellent quality, but understated and not the star of his release year.  His gun rig is ridiculous.  But, that's what makes the entire figure fun.  But, giving him different gear also shows that the mold can be useful.  Here's the best of the 1991 Heavy Duty from around the web.

Heavy Duty Profile

Heavy Duty by thedustinmccoy

Heavy Duty by strikeforce_codename

Heavy Duty by playfulmonkeycosplay

1991 Heavy Duty

1991 Heavy Duty

1991 Heavy Duty