Tuesday, December 28, 2021

1993 Vega - Street Fighter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1993 Street Fighter Vega, Blanka

Street Fighter, Vega, E Honda, 1993

1993 Street Fighter Vega, Night Creeper

Thursday, December 23, 2021

1992 Barricade - Around The Web

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

Barricade Profile

Saturday, December 18, 2021

2001 Rock Viper - Around The Web

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

2001 Rock Viper Profile

2001 Rock Viper by Scarrviper

2001 Rock Viper at JoeADay.com

2001 Rock Viper by gen_liederkranz

2001 Rock Viper by Pit Viper V2

2001 Rock Viper by tonegunsrevisited

2001 Rock Viper at GeneralsJoesReborn

2001 Rock Viper by Scarrviper

2001 Rock Viper by Cobra Freak

2001 Rock Viper by gen_liederkranz

2001 Rock Viper at Icebreaker's HQ

2001 Rock Viper by dantedmc37

2001 Rock Viper by the plasticeyeball

2001 Rock Viper by Scarrviper

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Funskool Ripper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funskool Ripper, Buzzer, 1986 Zandar, Dreadnoks

Funskool Ripper, 1985, Dreadnok, Toxo Viper, 1988

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Funskool Barbecue - Around The Web

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

Funskool BBQ Profile    

Funskool BBQ by DragonFortress

Funskool BBQ by Slipstream80

Funskool BBQ by MrMikeVinthePit

Russian Funskool BBQ By DragonFortress

Funskool BBQ At Nekoman's Viper Pit

Funskool Barbecue, BBQ, 1985, Funskool Law, 2002

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Haslab Skystriker - Funded!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

1986 Monkeywrench - Around The Web

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

1986 Monkeywrench Profile

1986 Monkeywrench by flatline

1986 Monkeywrench at Nekoman's Viper Pit

1986 Monkeywrench by joes_by_james

1986 Monkeywrench by gijoebarcelona

1986 Monkeywrench by thedustinmccoy

1986 Monkeywrench by masterbungle

1986 Monkeywrench by fun_time_at_serpentorslair

1986 Monkeywrench by Nekoman

1986 Monkeywrench by g.i. ussr

1986 Monkeywrench by _toyler_

1986 Monkeywrench at JoeADay.com

1986 Monkeywrench by rutbullet

1986 Monkeywrench Variant by Hit and Run

1986 Monkeywrench by thedustinmccoy

1986 Monkeywrench by joes_by_james

1986 Monkeywrench by hobieshinobi

1986 Monkeywrench by keithmccleary

1986 Monkeywrench, Thrasher, Cross Country

Saturday, December 4, 2021

2004 Urban Assault Scrap Iron - Around The Web

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 3, 2021

Haslab Skystriker - Cobra Figures Added

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

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

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

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

One thing to ponder:

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

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

All of those are in line with retail pricing.

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

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