Tuesday, September 27, 2022

2022 Duke

I don't much care for Duke.  Not being a cartoon guy, Duke never really resonated with me.  His comic character was rather bland and there were far better characters for any adventures.  His original figure was cool enough.  But, it also felt like a retread since it reused accessories and even mold parts from other figures.  Among the class of 1984, Duke felt like an anachronism.  And, as such, he rarely found a role in my collection.  In fact, Duke's most memorable contribution to my childhood was the donation of his parts that were used on other figures.  My favorite being a new Hawk that used a Duke's chest that I had repainted.  But, you can't deny Duke's importance to the Joe mythos and his place of prominence among collectors.  So, his inclusion among the first 6 of the Hasbro Pulse releases makes sense.  And, while I'm not a fan of the Duke character, this new rendition of him accomplishes some things that failed Hasbro from 1997 through 2005.

Duke has been re-released a ton of times.  But, none of those Duke figures really lived up to the version that appeared in the cartoon.  During the 1990's and, to a lesser extent, the 2000's, Joe fandom was heavily skewed towards the Marvel Comic.  As such, Hasbro was steered away from any cartoon homage figures.  In the ensuing decades, though, this has changed as more and more cartoon fans have come into the fold.  Now, there's a pretty even split.  And, the cartoon has proven to offer some nice designs for toys.  Super7 has mined the cartoon mythos very deeply and produced some figures that are unlikely to ever appear in any form again.  What's sad is that Hasbro could have done this very easily in the 2000's.  It's a shame there is no cartoon accurate Baroness, Snake Eyes, Cover Girl, Flint or any other cartoon rendition of your favorite character.  But, this Duke and Cobra Commander release of 2022 takes a step towards rectification.  Both figures are based on their cartoon appearances and include cartoon inspired accessories.  It's probably 20 years too late.  But, cartoon fans finally have some figures that are inspired by their favored medium.

As you likely know, though, I'm not really a cartoon fan.  I watched it as a kid.  But, it didn't really resonate with me and most of my Joe inspiration was taken from the comic.  So, the homage aspect of this figure doesn't matter much to me.  The colors are interesting.  But, they also aren't great.  I love the deep green of Duke's pants and helmet.  It is a great color.  But, the yellow of his shirt just doesn't match anything.  I tried to pair him with a variety of figures.  But, couldn't get a look that I liked.  Duke just doesn't go with anything.  And, to me, that limits him.  I'd love a Duke that could be easily melded into photos.  But, this isn't that Duke.  And, while the paint masks are spectacular, the color palette just doesn't translate into a neat looking figure.  So, Duke is just a toy that I own.  He sits in his drawer and I have yet to have any real compunction to pull him out for photos other than those in this profile.  It's not a terrible fate as it's the same way I feel about many of the 2000's releases.  But, I was hoping for more from a premium priced toy.

One of the supposed perks of premium pricing is that we get a bunch of extra accessories with each figure 2 pack.  With Snake Eyes and Stormshadow, it was extra 1989 Snake Eyes gear that didn't really go with the released figure.  With the Cobra Trooper/Officer, there was a nice cadre of additional weapons.  Most of them were Joe weapons.  But, they also represented pretty much every weapon that was released with a Trooper or Officer all over the world.  For Duke and Cobra Commander, though, the ante was upped again.  The Commander included a nice batch of weapons, computer pads and even binoculars.  Duke, though, was the real plum.  Aside from his helmet and card art inspired XMLR, Duke also included binoculars, his backpack (which keeps the 1984 color and doesn't match with this figure at all!), a green M-32 like the original figure, a dark green bazooka (still missing the sight!), an American flag and pole, a figure stand based on the anniversary figure design, a bizarre shoulder harness and, the coup de gras, a silver JUMP backpack that's meant to be held by the harness.  It's a great complement of gear and seems like a deluxe figure.  I'm not sure it's worth the $21 for the figure.  But, it does help make this figure feel like less of a price gouge.  Personally, I'd love for every Joe to include a specifically colored JUMP.  It would be awesome.  But, I'll take it just with Duke for now.

The quality of this figure is pretty strong.  There is, though, quite a bit of consternation over the eye paint on the figure.  They eyes of most figures are not symmetrical.  In close up, macro photos, the eyes look terrible.  But, under normal vision, it's far less noticeable.  The head is goofy.  But, Duke has always been goofy.  The paint ops, though, are top notch.  They are a step up from the 2000's era.  The plastic quality is about the same as the 2000's, though.  So, you have softer overall plastic along with more pliable thumbs and crotches.  I do not, though, like painted hands as they are susceptible to wear.  But, few of these will be played with.  So, that's less of an issue.  

This figure is an all new Duke mold.  So, while Duke was released in 1984, 1988 and then in a variety of times in the 2000's, those were all different molds from this figure.  Hasbro is just releasing its first repaint of the Pulse era when the Stinger Driver shows up in a few months.  I'd love for Hasbro to start repainting some of these new molds.  But, I'd prefer them to come in a cheaper option for packaging.  I don't really want a Tiger Force Duke or a 1984 colored Duke on a full cardback.  But, I'd love one of each in a baggie for a cheaper price.  It would be awesome to get a Night Force Duke.  Or, even a figure based on the European Force Mirage.  I do hope that we see some repaints in the line, just to get more than 8 or so figures in a year.  We'll see if that ever happens, though.

If you want Duke, buy him right now.  He and Cobra Commander are $42 plus shipping.  You can even buy up to 5 of them.  Honestly, if I could just buy a Duke with all the gear for $21, I'd probably get one or two more: just for the gear.  But, I'm hesitant as the price seems high with the Cobra Commander.  The long run value for these figures is unknown.  I'm sure the Cobra Commander will remain desirable as it's the first release of that mold since 1984.  Duke is less certain as this is a specific look for the character.  But, the figure is solid and the gear is amazing.  That's usually a recipe for prolonged interest from collectors.  

2022 Hasbro Pulse, Duke, Cobra Commander, Quarrel, Action Force Palitoy

2022 Hasbro Pulse, Duke, Cobra Commander, Quarrel, Action Force Palitoy

2022 Hasbro Pulse, Duke, Cobra Commander, 2005 Stalker

2022 Hasbro Pulse, Duke, Cobra Commander

2022 Hasbro Pulse, Duke, Cobra Commander

Saturday, September 24, 2022

1997 Baroness - Around The Web

 The 1997 Joes have actually fairly well.  Despite their unpopularity at the time of their release, the general color schemes and original accessories have lead to a series of figures that are held in much higher regard today.  One of the main reasons is that several of the figures who appeared in the 1997 series never got another repaint that surpassed the 1997 release.  One such figure is the Baroness.  Her 1997 figure offered a nice shade of blue that allowed the Baroness to seamlessly blend with other early Cobras.  

1997 Baroness Profile

1997 Baroness by Nekoman

1997 Baroness at the Dragon Fortress

1997 Baroness by gen_liederkranz

1997 Baroness at Nekoman's Viper Pit

1997 Baroness by bruxovigo

1997 Baroness by Nekoman

1997 Baroness by bruxovigo

1997 Baroness, 1985 Ferret, Toys R Us Exclusive, 2021 Cobra Trooper, Black Major, Factory Custom

1997 Baroness, Toys R Us Exclusive, Alley Viper, Rage

1997 Baroness, Toys R Us Exclusive, 2005 Classified, SNake Eyes, Comic Pack

1997 Baroness, Toys R Us Exclusive, 2006 Convention Exclusive Major Bludd

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

1988 Target Exclusive Hit and Run

I quit buying Joes in 1988.  At that point, I was way too old to still be playing with toys.  But, I was also not really ready to let go.  I had bought all of the 1987 releases.  And, those figures dominated my room and my time.  But, as the calendar turned to 1988, I had found a new hobby in baseball card collecting that was more acceptable for someone my age.  So, Joe began to fall away.  In 1988, I only bought a handful of figures: Hardball, Tiger Force Roadblock and Hit and Run.  I don't really recall when I got Hit and Run.  He might have been my first figure of 1988.  Or, he might have been the final figure I purchased in childhood.  The circumstances of his entry into my world are lost to time.  But, he maintained a high status in my collection during the time I still played with Joes.  At some point in 1988, though, my youngest brother brought home a new Hit and Run.  This one, though, was a special figure that included a parachute pack.  As I had lost my original Hit and Run's filecard, I clipped out the yellow version and, ultimately, stowed the figure and parachute away into my plastic red Lego box that held all my Joes as I transitioned from kid into adult collector.

I didn't think much about the second Hit and Run figure.  By that time, I was not playing with Joes.  though, I may have snagged his awesome rifle and used it with another figure.  I did not realize that the Hit and Run was a Target exclusive.  It was meant as a higher priced gift type item.  There was nothing really new about the figure.  But, you could get a figure who included a rope, working winch, grappling hook and a parachute in one combined package.  At the time, it was the the most deluxe figure package that Hasbro had ever offered.  In coming years, Hasbro would expand upon the deluxe figure idea and offer a wide array of full release figures at higher price points for premium accessories.

When taken as a pairing, Hit and Run and the parachute pack seem a natural fit.  The colors match up.  Hit and Run's body mold looks like it could be part of a paratrooper's uniform.  And, Hit and Run could still use all of his gear and the parachute at the same time since his duffel bag was not a traditional backpack.  The parachute added a new element to Hit and Run and made him an even better option as a member of a Tomahawk crew.  Hit and Run was also a pretty nice match for the 1984 Ripcord and the Night Force Crazylegs.  So, he fit the motif of the paratroopers in the line.  

As a figure, Hit and Run is just about perfect.  His sculpting is top notch where he's detailed but not over the top.  His green and black coloring satisfies the "military purists" while his ingenious satchel, rope and grappling hook are one of the best accessories Hasbro ever produced.  His rifle perfectly matches the figure, is well detailed and is neither too large nor too small.  In short, Hit and Run is what many people hold the Joe line as a whole out to be.  But, truthfully, Hit and Run is an outlier in the line.  He is the military in military fantasy.  The 1988 line was a perfect balance of the two in that there were many military figures but also a great number of outlandish, fantasy characters, too.  This balance shifts from year to year...especially on the Cobra side. 

As Hit and Run was among my last figures of childhood, his adventures were limited.  I've told the story, though, of how I lost him hanging in the ivy of my grandparents' yard, only to find several months later.  Beyond that, though, Hit and Run was heavily a figure I admired.  Shortly after I got him, I put my toys away.  They were locked in a closet.  And, I suspect this had something to do with my brother's acquisition of this Hit and Run.  He liked the figure, but didn't have access to it.  So, he bought his own.  And, in this case, it turned out to be an exclusive.  (He would also get the Night Force Sneak Peek and Falcon later in the year.)    I spent much of 1988 and 1989 wishing that I could still collect toys.  And, I'd pull my Hit and Run out every now and then to admire the work and imagine all the adventures I've had with him were he released in 1985.  Even now, as a collector, that wanting still lingers.  I've profiled Hit and Run three times, now.  Yet, in no instance do I feel that I've adequately captured how cool the figure is in the photos.  Nor, do I feel that my profile lives up to the figure and gives him his due.  It's odd how these old feelings remain with a toy, even three and half decades later.

In 1988 and 1989, Hasbro offered up a few retailer exclusives.  While the Night Force line at Toys R Us is the most famous due to the exclusive figure paint jobs, there were a few others that were designed to attract parents and gift givers to the Joe line.  This Hit and Run is one example where Hasbro took two existing products, put them in new packaging, and sold an exclusive figure for a premium.  Target also got an exclusive two pack of Voltar and Muskrat.  Again, the figures were the same as the standard release.  But, Target got exclusive packaging designed to sell a two enemies in a package.  In 1989, Hasbro boxed a Mudfighter and Hiss II into a single box and sold them at warehouse stores.  Hasbro never again offered bundled vehicles or figures.  So, we're left to question if those products were successful.  However, Sky Patrol did appear in 1990.  These figures all included parachute packs like Hit and Run and feature larger cardbacks.  They seem like the real legacy of this Target exclusive figure from 1988.

The Target Hit and Run parachute pack has a specific Country of Origin (COO) stamp on it.  The more common mail away Parachute Pack features a made in Hong Kong COO stamp.  The parachute pack included with the Target Hit and Run, though, features a Made in China COO stamp.  The green color of Hit and Run's parachute pack is also slightly different than that of the mail away.  It's nearly impossible to discern unless you have one of each next to each other.  So, the COO stamp is the main way to be sure of the correct Hit and Run parachute pack.  Most "Target" Hit and Run's that are sold feature the incorrect parachute pack.  So, be sure to confirm the correct COO on the pack when you are looking to acquire one.

Hit and Run saw a fair amount of release.  Hasbro released him as the standard carded figure and this Target exclusive.  His arms were also used on the Tiger Force Duke figure and later appeared on the Chinese Exclusive Duke.  From there, he appeared in the European line in exclusive Tiger Force colors.  Hit and Run was then sent to Brazil.  Estrela released the mold in a darker green as Alpinista.  Both the Tiger Force Hit and Run and Alpinista are notable in that they feature Hit and Run's flesh toned face.  Hasbro planned to repaint the Hit and Run mold in 1995 and release him as a vehicle driver with a tank.  That figure was planned to stay true to Hit and Run's roots and feature a black torso and green pants.  Had this figure been released, it would be highly sought after today.  Hit and Run collectors, though, have a ton to track down already.  Despite that, Hit and Run was one of the most requested Joe repaints of the early 2000's and a repaint of him in other environments or sub teams would have been well received.

Pricing on Target Hit and Run's is difficult.  Sure, a carded figure will easily run over $1,000.  But, loose, mint and complete with filecard samples are few and far between.  Loose Hit and Run figures themselves are odd in that they sell in $18 range: but dealers sell an appalling amount in the $40+ range.  It's a huge disparity.  Lots of dealers will try to match a complete Hit and Run with a mail away parachute pack and charge a premium for a "Target" figure sans filecard.  But, figures with the correct, yellow filecard and the parachute with the correct country of origin stamps will likely exceed $100 in today's Joe market.  It's an absurd price to pay when you can achieve the same thing with cheaper alternatives...even if they are not "collectible".

1988 Target Hit and Run, Night Force Crazylegs, Toys R Us Exclusive, 1986 Lift Ticket

1988 Hit and Run, Target Exclusive, Parachute Pack, Filecard

1988 Hit and Run, Target Exclusive, Parachute Pack, Filecard

Saturday, September 17, 2022

1993 Leatherneck - Around The Web

I found this Leatherneck at a local Big Lots for $2 in the fall of 1995.  When I went back a week or two later, all the figures were gone.  I was bummed about the sell out.  But, I was very happy that I had snagged this Leatherneck.  I chose him because he included black weapons that I had never seen before.  I opened him up and would, from time to time, find him in various poses after my room mates had played with him.  

That's my enduring memory of this Leatherneck.  But, as a figure, he's not terrible.  This mold would have been awesome in 1986 colors.  Or, really, any other repaint.  But, the banana pants are fun in a 1993 way.  And, people have come around on the figure moreso than in the past.  There's some good content showcasing the figure out there.  So, take some time and check the links below.

1993 Battle Corps Leatherneck, 1988 Mean Dog, Duke

1993 Battle Corps Leatherneck, Beach Head

1993 Battle Corps Leatherneck

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

1990 Locust - General Variant

I have written about my old neighbors once or twice.  They moved away, though, in 1985.  The people who moved in to the house had two boys who were both younger than my brothers and I.  As such, we had limited interaction with them.  In 1990, though, I would do some babysitting for them.  When looking for something to do with them, I found a small cache of G.I. Joe toys in their basement.  They were from 1988 and later and were relatively unfamiliar to me.  I remember a shell of a Tiger Fly: which I recognized as a Dragonfly repaint.  But, most of the other toys were in pretty bad shape.  But, one day, they had gotten some new toys when I was watching them.  We were playing outside under a hemlock bush with some new figures and vehicles.  The one new toy, though, that caught my attention was the Locust helicopter.

This little brown copter was right in line with the type of flying vehicle that I loved in the final years of my Joe playing days.  It was small, compact, loaded with weapons and had an easily accessible cockpit.  In short, it was the perfect type of vehicle for vast types of aerial based combat.  It could easily be held in one hand while it attacked the figures on the ground.  It could hold it's own against the Night Raven and Mamba drones that comprised the entirety of my Cobra air force at the time.  And, the exposed cockpit allowed for the dramatic death scenes that were integral to any aerial combat adventure.  I really wanted to get one.  But, I wasn't really buying toys then.  So, I filed the Locust away for a later time.

When I started collecting in earnest in the late 1990's, I was focused on filling many of the holes in my collection that started with items I recognized from the years after I was buying toys.  Figures like Big Ben and Metal Head were key acquisitions.  I tracked down a Hammer: which proved to be one of the biggest disappointments of my collecting life.  But, I never managed to get any version of the Locust.  For some reason, I never really spent time searching for one despite wanting to get one.  I'm not sure why this was.  I spent so much time building my figure collection that vehicles were a secondary concern.  Even with the addition of better Cobra aircraft like the Firebat, I never had occasion to seek out the Locust.  I even acquired a beat up General as a throw in with a lot of other 1990's figures.  (Things like that happened in the late '90's.)  But, the Locust wasn't included.  And, as Hasbro started releasing more toys in the 2000's, the Locust just got overlooked.

With one now in hand, though, I find that my memory of the Locust is stronger than the actual toy.  Sure, it's still compact and well armed.  And, the canopy/cockpit is in line with what I remembered.  But, my older, wiser self has yet to really find that sense of wonder that burst through when I first saw the Locust back in the fall of 1990.  It may come in time.  But, things like the Razor Blade have helped dull the appeal of the Locust.  But, this General version of the copter looks nice with a variety of figures.  And, it's rather seldom seen.  So, it's possible that I'll use it in far more photos than some of the items that replaced it.  I've just been disappointed.  But, considering I built the toy up in my head for more than three decades, there was little way it was going to live up to the hype I created for it.

Truth be told, though, there isn't much to the Locust.  1990 started the transition to more molded vehicles instead of the model type kits we'd seen in prior years.  So, the Locust just has the guns, missiles, canopy and skids.  There is a swiveling tail rotor.  But, it's, as far as I can tell, the first chopper with such a feature where the rotor doesn't actually spin.  In 1990, Hasbro experimented with a clip to hold figures into place.  On some level, they're useful since your figures didn't flop around in the toys.  But, I've found them to be terrible as they impede putting figures into the vehicles and can damage figures today.  The Locust has one to hold the figure in the slightly oversized cockpit.  Without it, the inside of the chopper is great.  But, it's an intrusive feature at best.  The only other real feature is that there is a bomb dropping feature underneath the copter.  There is a little door that will open up to drop two additional yellow missiles onto Cobra targets.  It's not much of a play feature.  But, it's something and foretold of the action features that would become essential to all vehicles made after 1990.  

The Locust was released at retail in brown and in green and yellow with the General.  Neither are particularly hard to find.  It was rare for vehicles in the 1990's to get a repaint.  So, the fact that there are two Locusts is a oddity.  I won't argue that the General version is superior to the retail release.  As, I do think the brown and silver version is superior.  But, this General version offers bursts of color that make it more visually interesting.  And, it better complements the figures from 1991 and later while the retail version is a nice match for other 1990 Joe releases.  In 2000, Hasbro reused the Locust name on a tan repaint of the Dragonfly.  This Locust is a great toy.  But, it has no bearing on the original.  It's sad that there was no place for little vehicle like the Locust in the 2000's.  I think a lot of small, generally overlooked vehicles could have found a nice second life during that time.

One of the things I'd really like to do in 2023 is learn to take aerial photos of Joe toys.  The aircraft are such an integral part of the line.  But, there's only so much you can do with photos of them on the tarmac.  There are lots of little tricks and tips to get flying shots.  And, I want to spend some time next year learning a few and then working on showcasing toys like this Locust in their intended environment.  In the sky, you can better visualize the purpose of the smaller flying machines.  And, getting some of the well known tricks down would really help breathe some life into photos for toys like the Locust.

It's surprisingly easy to find mint and complete versions of this Locust.  It's even easier to find parts.  So, it's possible to spend about $40 to have a General version of the Locust shipped to you.  But, it's also possible to put one or two together from cheaper lots of parts.  It seems that Generals tended to get damaged and thrown away while the Locusts were saved.  And, that's the likely reason it's easier to find this helicopter than it is to find an unbroken General.  The retail Locust is both cheaper and more common, though.  So, depending upon your color preferences, that might be a better way to go if you want a version of the Locust.  Be on the lookout for drooping cannons and be sure you get 4 missiles.  Personally, I wish either version had been available to me when I was a kid.  Having it as a collector just isn't the same.  But, it's still a great little toy that's well worth tracking down.

1990 Locust, The General, 1991 Tracker

1990 Locust, The General, 1992 Talking Battle Commanders General Hawk, Cloudburst

1990 Locust, General, 1987 Mercer, Slaughter's Renegades

1990 Locust, General, 2003 Major Storm, 1992 Wild Bill

Saturday, September 10, 2022

1987 Sea Slug - Random Photos Of The Day

The Sea Slug figure was one of the most important figures at the end of my childhood collection.  While his place as the de facto leader of Cobra has been taken over by other figures, the overall quality of the Sea Slug figure still remains.  While the colors are offbeat, the purple, yellow, silver and red really create a stark character.  So, I still enjoy the figure, even if his time in the spotlight is past.

Here's some random photos I've taken of the Sea Slug over the years.  I need to pick up a new Sea Ray, though, as my childhood version is beat up and has now discolored.  But, the Sea Slug is still a cool figure, even if he's not that popular.

1987 Sea Slug, Sea Ray

1987 Sea Slug, 1986 Sear Dreadnok Stinger, Power Commandos, Metal Hawk, Lucky Bell

1987 Sea Slug, 1991 Mercer, 1985 Bomb Disposal

1987 Sea Slug, Croc Master, 1986 Devilfish

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

1992 Cobra Parasite - Around the Web

I found the Parasite sitting on the top shelf of a Kroger store in my college town.  It was years after the toy's release.  But, I went really late one night and bought it.  I got it home and found I had acquired a little gem of a vehicle.  It was my first Cobra trooper transport.  And, it was armed to the teeth with great weaponry.  It held all of my 1990's Cobras and provided Cobra a powerful weapon to use against the Joes.  To this day, I still have the box the Parasite came in.  The unused sticker sheet and some unused land mines are still in it.  The box carried my 1990's cardbacks around for a very long time.

Seeing the Parasite brings back some fun memories of my early days of collecting.  But, seeing it in use is even better as it's a solid toy that not a lot of collectors care to own.  After seeing some of the photos below, though, some minds might be changed.

1992 Parasite Profile

1992 Parasite at Nekoman's Viper Pit

1992 Parasite by annoyingaman

Custom Parasite by Dreadnok Dread

1992 Parasite by Slipstream80

Desert Parasite Custom by Outrider

1992 Parasite by Lava Boss

1992 Parasite by robstoycollection

1992 Parasite by tonegunsrevisited

1992 Parasite by gvilla74

Custom Parasite by Outrider

1992 Parasite by bouncy_bengal

1992 Parasite by my_other_toys

Custom Iron Grenadier Parasite by duoconflywheels

Custom Jungle Parasite by fireflyed

1992 Parasite by 1990s_gi_joes

1992 Parasite, 1991 Incinerator, 2003 Funskool Incinerator

1992 Parasite, 1991 Incinerator, 2003 Funskool Incinerator

Saturday, September 3, 2022

2004 Urban Assault Firefly - Around The Web

So, Firefly was overdone during the 2000's.  But, that doesn't mean that they were all bad.  In fact, in some cases, I'd argue that the new paint jobs were actually better than the original Firefly.  One such example is this 2004 Urban Assault Firefly.  The blue, grey and black motif works really well on the Firefly mold.  And, he now blends with other classic Cobras from the earliest years.  This version of Firefly is now my second favorite version of Firefly behind the 2005 Comic Pack release.  There's some good stuff on this guy from around the web.

Urban Assault Firefly Profile

Firefly by Fun_Time_at_Serpentors_Lair

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Top 10 Spring Loaded Accessories

Starting in 1991, Hasbro began to move the standard Joe accessories in a different direction.  Instead of leaving them the static pieces from 1982, they began to incorporate more action into the toys.  At first, it was simple kid interaction where you could flick a missile.  But, soon, it evolved into a series of spring loaded action features that allowed for kids to have their figures interact through propulsion.  While I title this article spring loaded accessories, that's just because the spring loaded pieces dominate Hasbro's offerings.  But, there are a few other gimmicks in the 1990's that are worthy of inclusion as they added interactive elements to G.I. Joe action figures without forcing the figures to be something incompatible with what came before.

So, you will not see Ninja Force on this list as those features were limited to the figures.  You won't see Sky Patrol, either, as the parachutes only worked with proper preparation and was designed as a stand alone toy that was commandeered for Sky Patrol.  This list covers 1991 through 1994 as those were the years when the action feature accessories were dominate.  And, while older collectors tend to revile this gear, the reality is that there are some amazing toys in here that are both tons of fun to play with while also being in line with the look and feel of the Joe line from the decade prior.

10. 1994 Lifeline Grappling Hook

I'm a sucker for grappling hooks.  As a kid, I loved them.  But, I never got any that actually worked.  So, things like Alpine's grappling gun were left to imagination.  Which, was fine.  But, there were times it would have been cool to have actual hooks that could shoot up and grip something.  Enter the 1994 Lifeline.  His grappling launcher is huge and his two pronged hook is, too.  But, you can tie a rope to it and shoot it at rocks, walls or plants and it might actually stick: just like the real thing.  That's  enough for me to view it as an essential accessory.

1994 Lifeline, Eco Warriors, 1991 Ozone

09. 1991 Eco Warriors Squirt Guns

Among the first of the action feature weapons are the Eco Warriors squirt packs and guns.  Instead of using a spring for their action, these packs can draw up and hold water that is then expelled from the nozzle of the gun when you press on the soft plastic container that is held in place by a harder plastic frame.  For Eco Warriors, this made perfect sense.  And, the water was used in conjunction with the figures as they would change colors when water of hot or cold temperature hit the special paint on the bodies.  The self contained squirt gun was a solid design.  The guns are pretty large, but not so much that they aren't usable.  But, the weapons are very useful and a lot of fun to have around.

2002 Mirage, JvC, 1991 Ozone, Eco Warriors

2002 Mirage, JvC, 1991 Ozone, Eco Warriors

08. 1992 Duke Bronco Launcher

So, this toy is dumb, stupid, lame and incredibly fun for any kid in 1992.  Who wouldn't want a missile launcher that a figure can ride?!?  This piece is an integral part of the 1992 Duke's card artwork.  And, it translates very well into the actual toy.  The only downside is that the brown tripod is made of plastic that has turned to glass.  I literally had one crumble to dust, yes, dust, in a box of other launcher parts.  I didn't know what all the dirt was until I found one intact foot.  The one in the photo below spidered all those while lines just from me gently trying to insert the peg into it.  So, using it today isn't overly practical.  But, man, this is just a stupid idea that made for an iconic piece for Duke.

1992 Duke, Barricade

07. 1992 Destro Disc Launcher

The 1992 Destro disc launcher is another one of those ideas that actually kind of works as a toy.  It's similar to Scrap Iron's missile table.  But, this one shoots discs.  The fact that they actually shoot, though, helps sell the idea of the weapon.  The disc launcher looks like something a comic book supervillain would use.  And, Destro is as close to that trope as the G.I. Joe line tends to get.  So, it's a perfect match of character and weapon.

1992 Destro

06. 1992 Firefly Top Spinner

This spinner is also ridiculous.  But, as a toy, it works well.  You can set up a bunch of figures on a hard floor and let the ripcord fly.  The top can then knock over the figures.  Hours of fun!

1992 Firefly, Headman

05. 1991 Cobra Commander Drone

So, this thing is either a radio controlled surveillance drone or a buzz bomb depending on which part of the card you read.  But, any way you look at it, this is a little drone with a spring loaded launcher.  The drone is laminated plastic with cardboard pieces.  It's a neat little idea that worked out.  The launcher features a powerful spring.  It is mounted on a bi-pod and is meant as a stationary weapon.  The idea of a drone was rather innovative back in 1991.  So, it's inclusion is akin to things like the JUMP showing up in 1982.  

1991 Cobra Commander, 2005 Convention Metal Head

1991 Cobra Commander, 2005 Convention Metal Head

04. 1992 Eel Robo Shark

Full disclosure: I don't much care for the robo-shark.  In general, I think robots are dumb.  And these things are a pain in the ass for anyone who, like me, tends to army build 1992 or Funskool Eels.  The sharks are huge, sharp and just a pain to store away.  With that Andy Rooney moment past me, though, what kid in 1992 would not have loved a robot shark with a moving tail that shoots a missile out of its mouth?!?  This is the exact type of over the top ridiculousness that Cobra would have created in their descent into super-villainy.  

And, to top it off, the toy is amazing.  It's full of detail.  The tail moves and the mouth opens.  And, it can then shoot a spring loaded missile out of the creature's mouth.  To top it all off, the shark is also a backpack that affixes to the Eel to be used underwater!  Really, this has a case to be number 1.  But, what's a list without some controversy?  And, personally, I find the Flak Viper's missile backpack to be much more useful than the robo-shark.  But, I'm an adult who was in college when this came out.  If I'd have gotten it when I was 9, there's a good chance this is my favorite toy ever created.  So, if you're going to refute me in the placement of this piece, come with some good anecdotes of how it fit into your play and was a major part of your childhood. :)

1992 Eel, Cobra Eels, Robo Shark

1992 Eel, Cobra Eels, Robo Shark

03. 1992 Cutter Grappling Hook

I'm kind of cheating as there are two grappling hooks on this list.  But, as I said for Lifeline, I'm a sucker for grappling hooks.  As a kid, I used them not just as tools used to scale mountains, walls or buildings.  They were also Batarang type weapons that could be used to apprehend and tie up villains.  I'd use them between vehicles to either tether boats or even just capture an enemy vehicle that was about to outrun the good guys.  For me, the grappling hook was my irrational childhood dream toy because I got one when I was about 9 and it locked in the idea of a hook on a rope that could be used as a tool in most any situation.

I rank Cutter's hook higher for a couple of reasons.  It came first.  So, it has that going for it.  But, more importantly, Cutter's hook has four prongs.  This made it much more likely to actually catch onto something.  I have memories of being a kid and tossing Alpine's grappling hooks into a pile of rocks.  When the figure went to use it, the hook wouldn't catch anything and it would slip out, sending Alpine to his doom.  I had weird rules where if a rope didn't catch, then the Joes couldn't use it.  (I actually had a little, metal four pronged hook that was attached to a long length of white string.  I used this since it worked more often than the Hasbro toys.)  Cutter's hook is comically large.  But, that's what makes it fun.  If the hook hit anyone, it would kill them.  But, honestly, that's a plus in my book.  

In doing this article, I noticed that the tripod for Cutter's launcher looks the same as that included with the 1992 Duke.  The white plastic isn't nearly as brittle as the brown, though.  

1992 DEF Cutter, Eco Warriors Deep Six, 1993 Shark 9000

02. 1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander Suction Cup Walker

The 1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander includes this oddball harness that's attached to a suction cup walker.  It actually works, though.  And, that alone makes it the 2nd best action accessory in the line.  It's a marvel of engineering and also a fun toy.  It's like those old wall walkers you got for birthday prizes except that it's high quality and a lot of fun.  Everyone should have one of these.

1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander, 2003 Tiger Force Dial Tone, Toys R Us Exclusive

01. 1992 DEF Mutt Net Launcher

You really can't go wrong with this contraption.  It is a massive net launcher.  The launcher is fairly large.  But, it stands by itself and looks like something that would launch nets.  The best part is that the included net is massive.  It's large enough to cover an entire figure with plenty left over.  The four corners of the net are anchored.  The top two are attached to the firing missiles and the bottom two corners have weighted balls to hold down the net.  The net is perfect as a stand alone toy and the launcher just adds more play value.  The only downside is that the weight of the four anchors limits how far the launcher can shoot the net.  But, of all the action play features that Hasbro released, this is the best.

Here is a video from corpscommandercody showing the net in action.

1992 Mutt, DEF, 1993 Gristle, BBQ, Eco Warriors, Barbecue

1992 Mutt, DEF, 1993 Gristle

This list is my own.  And, while all of these have their merits, I'm sure you have opinions of ones I overlooked, deliberately omitted or just plain ignored.  So, please let me know your favorites.  These were not the toys of my childhood.  So, my appreciation of them is based on what I think I would have liked as a kid and, more importantly, what I really like now.  So, seeing how kids of the day actually felt about them and which were their favorites is definitely something I'd like to hear about.  

Saturday, August 27, 2022

2005 Oktober Guard Horrorshow - Random Photos of the Day

Back in 2005, Hasbro warned collectors that the case of Comic Pack figures that included the two highly anticipated Oktober Guard packs were going to be hard to find.  The 2004 Comic Packs had bombed and were clearance fodder all over the country.  And, Hasbro still had unsold stock that would eventually find its way to Dollar General stores.  Add to that the early spring release date when toy ordering was typically lower and you had the potential that these figs were going to be in short supply.  And, they were.  

But, for about 6 weeks in the spring of 2005, you could find the Oktober Guard figures.  After that, they were gone.  And, while series from before and after the Oktober Guard sets kept showing up at clearance outlets for years, the Oktober Guard never did.  And, as such, the figures got relatively expensive in short order.

The sets were pretty good.  While the parts selection wasn't overly inspired, Hasbro did a pretty good job with it.  Horrorshow, though, was the most drastic.  Not only did he have a new head, but he featured a new torso, arms and waist.  Horroshow's trademark bulk was missing from the figure.  But, the overal look of the character came through.  Oddly, the mold was never used again and Horrorshow got just this one release.  

Now, this is a $100 figure.  That's probably too much.  But, it's what you're going to pay to get the character into your collection.  I don't tend to use this guy as often as I probably should.  But, here's a few random shots from the past couple of years.

2005 Oktober Guard Horrorshow, Stormavik, 1987 Persuader, 1988 Tiger Force Lifeline

2005 Oktober Guard Horrorshow, Stormavik, 1987 Persuader, 1988 Tiger Force Lifeline

2005 Oktober Guard Horrorshow, Comic Pack, Red Laser Army Hollowpoint, 2017 The General

2005 Oktober Guard Horrorshow, Comic Pack, Red Laser Army Hollowpoint, 2017 The General, Anti Venom 2004 Mutt

2005 Oktober Guard Horrorshow, Comic Pack, Red Laser Army Hollowpoint

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

1995 Sgt. Savage Iron Stormtrooper

There was no greater letdown than walking into a Big Lots store in 1995 and, from afar, seeing the glint of a massive display of G.I. Joe packaging only to, once closer, realize that the entire wall of toys was not A Real American Hero figures and vehicles but Sgt. Savage.  Sgt. Savage was Hasbro's post ARAH foray into larger format figures.  And, it did not go well.  Floor to ceiling walls of them went up at discount and close out stores all over the U.S.  But, the figures weren't really discounted enough.  And, many of them hung around for quite a while, teasing people like me who were hoping to stumble across the occasional ghosts of the ARAH line that would pop up from time to time.

On the surface, the Savage line should have been successful.  But, it suffered from trying to be too many things to too many people.  In 1994 and 1995, toy collecting was becoming a thing among adults.  The drivers of it, though, were the 40 year olds who had grown up on classic 12" G.I. Joe figures from the 1960's.  While some of them were attuned to the smaller version of Joe that was introduced in 1982, many older collectors had also disregarded it as it wasn't the toy line of their youth.  Sgt. Savage tried to toe the line between kids of the day who wanted larger action figures and the burgeoning adult collecting scene who wanted gritty military realism to shape their collectibles.  Sgt. Savage was Hasbro's attempt to appease both.

And, as is often the case with overly ambitious projects, Savage failed to meet either of its goals.  Kids just weren't into a World War II inspired toy line when they had Ninja Turtles, a great line of Kenner superheros lead by Batman and the newly introduced Power Rangers to attract their attention.  While adult collectors swooned over the Joe Kubert packaging artwork, the toys themselves weren't what they were looking for.  Sgt. Savage introduced a larger figure buck to the franchise and the 3 3/4" figures grew to 4 1/2".  On top of that, the construction was altered and the o-ring did not appear.  Honestly, the o-ring wouldn't have been a big issue had the new figure line been 3 3/4".  All this change, though, left Savage stuck in the middle with no fans to be found.  The toys were instant clearance fodder and dominated the toy aisles at regional and national discount stores for years.

As for the story of the toy line: it was a Captain America rip off.  I mean, it was such a blatant rip off that I'm not sure why Marvel didn't sue.  Maybe if Savage had become a bigger hit.  But, the characters were archetypes and they lacked the panache of the recently cancelled 3 3/4" Joe line.  The good guys blended together and the bad guys were watered down Nazis.  The problem with this is that once you base your villain on the Nazis, you have to make them worse than the Nazis.  And, that's pretty hard to do without either making the story far too dark for kids or having to delve into cartoonish super-villainy.  So, Savage went with super villains.  General Blitz created a doomsday device and went with cybernetic henchmen to spare the kids of the gory death of war.  The filecard of the IRON Stormtrooper specifically mentions that they are thawed out Nazis that were given cybernetic enhancements.  There's no real reason why.  But, we are left with an army building bad guy.

There really is only one reason to own this figure: the black trenchcoat.  I've looked at the coat before.  It was released in white with the Street Fighter Movie Edition Dhalsim figure.  A black version was also released with the Mortal Kombat Movie Shang Tsung figure.  But, the easiest way to acquire the coat is with this Iron Stormtrooper.  As the coat was designed for 3 3/4" figures, it is a tight fit on the Iron Stormtrooper.  But, once removed, it works perfectly as an accessory for Cobra Commander, Dr. Mindbender or even Destro.  Cloth accessories were extraordinarily rare in the vintage Joe line, even as Kenner started to perfect them in Joe's opening days.  So, having a way to get one that doesn't cost a ton (see Serpentor's capes!) is nice and allows you some customization potential with some of your higher up Cobra figures.

Really, the only interesting thing about the Sgt. Savage toy line is that it has a few pieces that were designed for the cancelled 1995 G.I. Joe line.  The IRON Panther tank was originally a toy for the Battle Corps Rangers.  The Arctic Stormtrooper includes gear that was planned for the 1995 Frostbite figure.  The Cryo Chamber from the Cryo Freeze Sgt. Savage was originally a mini-sub for the 1995 Dr. Mindbender.  There are other examples as well.  In 2007, the club co-opted a bunch of Sgt. Savage accessories and included them with the convention exclusive figures.  The weapons meant for 1995 Joes fit relatively well.  But, the larger weapons developed for Sgt. Savage were grossly oversized and look out of place.  But, they also meant that all of the Sgt. Savage molds were likely available if anyone wanted to lose a bunch of money by resurrecting the line.

When looking at the Iron Stormtrooper's gear, you also see some limitations.  While his weapons are meant to be based on historical gear from the World War II era, they fail in that they are just oversized, even for this larger figure body.  If you look at the machine gun, rifle and pistol in the photos below, you will see that the weapons are excellently detailed.  But, they are extremely large.  It's unfortunate as, had they been scaled to the Savage figures, they might have had a little more value for standard 3 3/4" Joe figures.  The Stormtrooper also includes 3 hoses that affix to holes in his body as well as some stick grenades.  The grenades can work with smaller Joes.  But, the rest of the gear will just shatter thumbs if you try to use it with vintage Joe figures.

There's not much else interesting about the Iron Stormtrooper mold.  Sans coat, the body is really pretty lame.  He's wearing a brown shirt. (Not subtle with the context there, were we, Hasbro?)  And, he's covered in some silver details that are meant to convey robotics.  The exterior hoses imply that he's be pretty easy to stop since you could just slice the hose and he'd lose some important function that the hydraulics provide.  The best part of the figure is probably the head.  He has a silver microphone over his mouth, though.  So, the head doesn't really look robotic or cybernetic.  The 1993 Cyber Viper did a much better job of conveying that the character was a cyborg.  As a bad guy, this figure is fine.  With the coat on, though, his articulation is limited.  And, without it, he's much more boring.  Non of the Sgt. Savage characters really had any demand for a return in the nostalgia drenched club figures that reused anniversary Joe parts.  Even a G.I. Joe Extreme character made into that line.  But, Savage was shut out and it's probably for the best.

One key point of Sgt. Savage figures is that they use softer plastic than 3 3/4" Joes.  The hands are more pliable and the overall plastic quality is softer.  This allows for the larger weapons to not be an issue with the figure's hands.  It's also an interesting update to the plastic Hasbro had used since 1982.  The 1997 G.I. Joe repaints featured some softer plastic that made the hands more pliable.  But, they are not as soft as the Savage figures.  It may be that the size of the Savage figures allowed for the softer plastic as the size allowed for its use.  But, it's an interesting update to the material quality, especially as Hasbro was still using the more rigid plastic for Street Fighter Movie and Mortal Kombat figures at the same time they were producing Sgt. Savage figures.

The upside to the Iron Stormtrooper is that he's a decent enemy design.  The 1982 Cobras (as well as Imperial Stormtroopers) were heavily based on Nazi tropes.  In time, Cobra moved away from that imagery.  This Iron Stormtrooper brings back the memory of the greatest evil the modern world has ever known.  While the filecard doesn't mention Nazis, it specifically calls out that they are enemy soldiers from World War II.  And, were the figure in the classic G.I. Joe scale, collectors would have long globbed on to this figure and made him a key part of the rogue's gallery of Joe villains.  The robotic nature of this character also allows them to be killed with less guilt than seeing standard humans being mowed down in combat.  But, it's also a design that collectors tend to love for their armies.

The verdict on Sgt. Savage is that it was trying to get kids interested in World War II toys because that's what many of their dads and grandfathers had grown up on the 1960's.  The marketing material and even filecards are full of references to the 1940's that no 9 year old would pick up on.  The entire concept was done to fulfill what was perceived as a void in the toy market.  It was a void that the green wave of 1982 Joes filled quite well.  But, that line didn't get so stuck in the past.  Sure, there was a bazooka guy decades after the weapon was retired.  But, you also had jet packs, lasers and other things that pulled kids in without burying them in historical fiction that required a knowledge of 50 year old pop culture references to really understand.  And, the 1983 Joe line moved forward in a way that didn't mire it down with realism.  The Savage line went the other way and we're left to wonder if the 1995 A Real American Hero line might have come to pass if this pet project of Savage hadn't gotten in the way.

Dealers will sell carded Iron Stormtroopers for $20-$25.  You can get carded versions in the $10-$12 range, though, if you're willing to wait.  The massive overstock of Sgt. Savage carded figures that used to pervade online marketplaces and local antique malls/flea markets has largely been absorbed.  So, the once frustratingly ubiquitous carded figures have gotten less common.  Most are locked away in boxes in comic and toy shops or sheds and basements of older collectors from the late 1990's and early 2000's.  They are awaiting the day the figures get pricey.  But, that's unlikely to happen...even in the stupid Joe market of 2022.  If you can find a loose, mint and complete Iron Stormtrooper, it will run you under $10.  So, just buy a carded version if you want one or an army of them.  

1995 Sgt. Savage Iron Stormtrooper

1995 Sgt. Savage Iron Stormtrooper

1995 Sgt. Savage Iron Stormtrooper