Saturday, May 21, 2022

2005 Sgt. Misha - Around the Web

Back in the summer of 2019, I profile Sgt. Misha from the 2005 Comic Pack.  At the time, you could get a carded version of the figure for $20.  And, loose, mint and complete figures were under $10...if you could find them.  Now, Misha's a $50 loose figure!  That seems just absolutely nuts to me.  But, at the same time, Misha is a really well done release that is unique, well colored and includes both the newly sculpted, high quality head and accessories.  The Hasbro production quality from that era does leave something to be desired since the figure has small hands and will break if not handled carefully.

Misha, though, represents much of what was great about the Comic Packs.  It took Hasbro too long to find a recipe for good releases among those sets.  But, when they did, Hasbro was capable of making some great looking figures.  But, Misha also represents much that was wrong with the sets as his globby hands, brittle plastic, reused parts and useless rifle attest to.  In the end, I think he's a pretty solid figure.  But, certainly not worth $50 and is an easy skip at that price.  

As pretty much all the Misha's produced went into collector hands, there's a decent amount of content on him out there.  Some of the reviews from the time that this Comic Pack was released are still out there and it's interesting to see how sentiment towards this figure was at the time of his release versus how we view it now.  

2005 Sgt. Misha Profile

2005 Sgt. Misha by Slipstream80

2005 Sgt. Misha by Flint

2005 Comic Pack #101 Reviewed at General's Joes Reborn

2005 Sgt. Misha by gen_liederkranz

2005 Comic Pack #101 Reviewed at

2005 Sgt. Misha by sithviper

2005 Sgt. Misha by theplasticeyeball

2005 Sgt. Misha by ToneGunsRevisited

2005 Sgt. Misha by Slipstream80

2005 Sgt. Misha by gen_liederkranz

2005 Sgt. Misha by robstoycollection

2021 Eagle Force Riot Commando, Zica Toys, 2005 Sgt. Misha, Comic Pack, Oktober Guard

2005 Sgt. Misha, 1988 Mean Dog, Oktober Guard, Comic Packs, DTC

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

1993 Star Brigade Invader

Confession time.  I kind of like the Cobra Pogo.  1987 was the last year I played with Joes as a kid.  And, the Pogo was one of those weirdo vehicles that I could incorporate into my world with a little imagination.  In short order, it was a rather effective weapon against the Joes of the day.  At least, until the Joes were able to start recognizing its movement patterns and were better able to swat them from the sky.  But, I had a lot of fun with the Pogo for several of my final months of toy-using childhood.  So, when I found a repaint of the Pogo sitting on the shelves of a local Big Lots at some point in the mid-1990s, I was interested in it.  However, as I still had my childhood Pogo (a bit worse for wear, though) and the new repaint did not include a pilot figure, I simply couldn't pull the trigger to actually buy this new version.  That was unfortunate.  As, the 1993 Star Brigade Invader is not a bad toy at all.

Even in 1987, I recognized the Pogo as a take on the classic Star Wars escape pod that C-3PO and R2-D2 used to crash on Tatooine.  That connection to the sci-fi saga helps carry the design over into Star Brigade where the Invader is no longer a terrestrial weapon.  But, instead, something that Cobra can use in space.  As a kid, the prime feature of the Pogo that was so valuable was the rotating and elevating dual gun that's attached to the rocket booster's rotating base.  It was rare for a Joe vehicle to have a gun mounted with such an array of movement.  And, the 1987 Cobra Commander became an expert at maneuvering the weapon to hit pretty much any target once the Pogo was off the ground.  This feature carries over the Invader and offers it the same flexibility that made the Pogo valuable.

The Invader was among the final vehicles from the Joe line that I would see at retail.  It, the 1994 Manta Ray and the Armor Bot hung around local Big Lots stores well into 1995.  (It's possible the Razor Blade did, too.  But, since I bought one of those, I may have blocked it from memory since I already owned one.)  I didn't buy the Manta Ray or the Invader because they didn't include figures.  And, as my money was stretched thin, I wasn't about to waste it on vehicles with no driver.  I skipped the Armor Bot because I still think giant robots are boring and the figure was Armor Tech which was another line I had no interest in at the time.

In the ensuing years, I had ample opportunity to acquire all of these vehicles.  Even the massive Armor Bot was available sealed in the box for below retail price for more than a decade after I left it sitting at retail.  This Invader, though, is the first of those small, driverless late vehicles I've acquired.  I still don't find them all that interesting.  And, were it not for a cheap, local find, I'd not have this Invader.  In my hands, though, I'm now happy to own it.  Cobra has precious few vehicles that look decent with the 1993 Star Brigade figures.  But, the Invader's colors somewhat blend with both the Astro Viper and TARGAT from that year.  

As a kid, the Pogo was a quick strike weapon, usually helmed by Cobra Commander.  It would hop into a battle, shoot a bunch of Joes, fire off a missile or two and then fire off the rockets on the underside to quickly slip away.  It wouldn't win a battle on its own.  But, it would soften up a Joe defense and create general chaos while the main Cobra attack force bore down on the target.  From time to time, the Joes would shoot down the Pogo.  Cobra Commander's armor kept him alive and suddenly the Cobra objective would shift from destroying the Joe base to rescuing Cobra Commander.  In the end, they'd always rescue him and he's go off to plan another assault.  I originally had the Pogo be unique to the Commander.  But, in time, others would operate it.  And, they'd often meet their doom as the Joes were better able to take them out.

The original Pogo from 1987 was relatively well made.  The basic design, though, lent itself to the toy's legs falling off, especially as you mimicked the jumping movements that defined the device.  The 1993 Invader, though, is worse.  First, it uses gold plastic.  (Well, it's kind of a copper/gold color.)  Gold plastic from the 1990s is notorious in how brittle it becomes over time.  As such, Invaders tend to feel somewhat flimsy.  And, I'm extra cautious in using it.  The legs are much less stable than the those of the Pogo.  But, I have to wonder if that's a feature of my sample versus a universal problem.  But, in total, the Invader feels like it will fall apart if used too rigorously.  And, even the neon hoses feel like they could snap under the smallest amount of pressure.  As we're at a point where most collectors either display their toys or keep them packed away, the lower quality probably isn't as much of an issue.  But, it's definitely something you notice with the Invader.

Hasbro was all about saving money in 1993 and 1994.  So, their use of an existing vehicle mold was that surprising.  The fact that the Pogo, of all things, got a repaint while the Mauler did not really doesn't seem fair.  But, the Pogo mold fit into the Star Brigade motif.  So, we got this second paint job six years after the original release.  The Invader was also released in Europe.  The most notable thing about this release, though, is that it did include a pilot figure.  A 1993 green and black Payload figure was included with the Euro pogo.  He was made a Cobra to match the affiliation of the Invader.  But, the figure is the same as the US release.  The Invader didn't make it to India and never appeared again.  But, for such an oddball item, you can't say that it wasn't properly used.

Invaders remain available and cheap.  The Pogo isn't popular.  And, a brittle gold and neon green version is less so.  You can get boxed samples between $20 and $30.  Dealers will sell a lot of mint and complete loose versions in the $20-$25 range, too.  If you can find one at market prices, it will run you $10-$15.  The upside is that there are a lot of replacement parts for the Invader available.  So, if you get an incomplete version for cheap, it's possible to complete it.  Cheap Joe items are getting harder and harder to find.  So, it's definitely worth seeking out an Invader before they inexplicably also get expensive.  

1987 Cobra Commander, Techno Viper, 1993 Star Brigade Invader, Pogo

1987 Cobra Commander, Techno Viper, 1993 Star Brigade Invader, Pogo, Funskool TARGAT

1993 Armor Tech Star Brigade Destro, Invader

Saturday, May 14, 2022

1993 Star Brigade Payload - Around the Web

The 1993 Payload was my first exposure to this figure mold.  I found him on clearance at a KB Toy Works that used to be at Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis.  Once in hand, he better filled a role that I had devised from my final childhood days.  So, in time, I army built the figure.  His gear is bright pink and kind of sucks.  But, I gave him the dark blue versions of his weapon tree that came with the 1993 Muskrat.  Since then, I've changed is weapon out quite a bit.  But, the 1987 Psyche Out pack remains a constant.

I consider this the best paint job of this mold.  Part of that is nostalgia tainted glasses and the other part is just pure enjoyment of the simplicity of the colors.  Oddly, pretty much all the 1993 Payload visors have yellowed.  Yet, the clear visors on the 1994 Black and Blue figure remain crystal clear.  At this point, I can't recall if maybe Payload's visor was supposed to be an off color.  But, finding a clear one is now pretty much impossible.

Being Star Brigade, there's not a ton of content on this figure out there.  But, what does exist is pretty good.  So, explore the links below and leave comments for the creators if you like their work.  

1993 Payload Profile

1993 Payload by the Dragon Fortress

1993 Payload by relena_warcraft

1993 Payload by Slipstream80

1993 Payload by gen_liederkranz

1993 Payload by dashtacker

1993 Payload by Slipstream80

1993 Payload by thedragonfortress

1993 Star Brigade Payload, 2001 Sub Viper, 1994 Ice Cream Soldier

1993 Star Brigade Payload, Headhunter, Headhunter Stormtrooper, General Flagg

1993 Star Brigade Payload, 1987 Sea Slug

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

1989 Night Viper

I did not buy any G.I. Joe figures in 1989.  I was simply out of the game.  I did swipe a 1989 Snake Eyes.  You can read that story in his profile, though.  But, even my younger brothers were pretty done with G.I. Joe.  My youngest brother got a Scoop figure.  But, that was it.  None of the other 1989 figures existed in my collection.  In 1990, my brother got a Bullhorn figure.  But, I was not only now old enough to drive myself to stores, I also had a full time job providing, for the era, a good deal of spending money.  I usually worked 3:30 to midnight with a thirty minute lunch.  There was only one store close enough to drive to, buy something and get out.  It was a nearby Kohl's.  

While they still had a hefty toy department and full selection of Joe figures and vehicles, the end was near as the entire stock they had was from 1988 and 1989.  But, among these figures, I had the pick of the litter.  While I had dreamed of getting a Rock and Roll or Downtown, there was another figure that caught my eye.  I had never really seen the Night Viper figure.  But, here, in front of me, the green and black Cobra was something completely new to me.  And, he included a great looking rifle (with a strap!), a face shield and a backpack that looked like they'd make for a perfect addition to my collection.  I bought the single Night Viper and snuck him into my house when I got home from work after everyone was asleep.  Here, I opened the figure and found he was everything I wanted him to be.

What I did not want, though, was for my younger brothers to find the figure.  They had a bad habit of pawing through my room when I was not home: looking for toys I had stashed in the closet.  They had found the purloined 1989 Snake Eyes.  And, they would take him from the red Lego case in which I stored my saved Joes that was buried in the back of my closet.  With the Night Viper, I had opened the package carefully, to preserve the bubble.  I had an old, paper, Banana Republic bag that was on the top shelf of my closet, above the reach of my siblings.  So, I put the Night Viper card into this bag.  It stayed there until 2013 when my mother moved out of the house.  Yet, I don't know what happened to it after that.  I can't imagine me throwing it away.  But, it's not in my collection any longer.  It was probably put into a box of comics that I ended up giving to my nephews.  But, it was a shame for it to survive so long and then disappear after I was a full time collector.

The figure, though, was a different story.  First, I tried putting him the Lego case.  But, of course, my youngest brother found him in due time.  Avoiding the questions of the figure's origin, I tried hiding him under my bed or among the boxes of baseball cards that now adorned the shelves in my room.  In time, my brother forgot about him.  With the figure in hand, though, I came to a realization.  I no longer really had the capacity to play with a toy any longer.  I would pull out the Night Viper from time to time.  But, I'd mostly just look at the exquisite detailing and design that went into him.  I really didn't have the capacity to act out adventures with him any longer.  That was probably the turning point for my transformation into a collector instead of viewing Joes as toys.  

That didn't mean, though, that I appreciated the figure any less.  In fact, he was something I really enjoyed due to his overt quality.  Despite that, though, I didn't buy any more Joes until the end of 1992.  The allure of sports cards was too great and my disposable income from my teenage years went to those.  As the card market has exploded even moreso than the Joe market since 2020, it's probably a break even choice as to which was better.  But, I would have enjoyed 1,000's of dollars of retail Joes more than I do the boxes and boxes of commons that once filled an entire closet.

In the late 1990's and early 2000's, though, I got lucky with Night Vipers.  I was one of the few people specifically looking for lots of 1989 - 1994 figures back then.  And, I'd get a lot of collections for under $2 per mint and complete with filecard figure.  I was able to get several Night, Alley and HEAT Vipers in these lots.  As the Funskool figure became available, the price on Hasbro Night Vipers dipped a bit.  And, I was able to fill out a squad of them.  Even during my great purge in 2010 where I liquidated my massive armies of 1989 Cobras, I kept my squad of 6 Night Vipers, even though I had another 8 of the Funskool versions.  The figure was too cool to get rid of.  And, I figured that I'd one day have a way to display the figures to finally fully appreciate the mold's greatness.

With the Night Viper, less is more.  The figure is just two main colors: green and black.  There is a bright green Cobra logo, a gold belt buckle and flesh around the eyes.  The minimal paint masks, though, work due to the intricacy of the figure's sculpt.  Whereas you don't tend to see great paint wear on Night Vipers, that's more than made up for by the the oft-broken pegs that hold the rifle on the figure's leg or the visor on the figure's head.  Both of these parts are brittle and get broken very easily...even when the figure was new.  I still don't know why a rifle with a strap that allows it to be held over the shoulder or across the backpack needed to also he holstered on the Night Viper's leg.  But, it's a great little detail that added to the figure's mystique.

Accessory wise, the Night Viper was well equipped.   Along with the aforementioned rifle and visor, the figure also included a backpack and a monocle.  The backpack is small and compact.  It's purpose isn't entirely clear.  But, that's the joy of a figure like this.  It allows you to make the pack whatever you want or need.  The monocle is the most lost accessory on the Night Viper.  And, many that were affixed to the peg on the figure's visor were snapped off, with the peg forever trapped in the monocle's hole.  With all the brittle features and one easily lost accessory, it's a miracle that so many Night Viper's survived childhood playtimes.  But, they did.  And, collectors are better for it as we have another awesome army builder available to us.

The Night Viper did not have much of a life.  Hasbro released the figure in 1989 and 1990.  In 1992, the Night Viper's body was used for the oddball kitbash Heli Viper figure.  As it was in purple and red, few people even really consider that it was the Night Viper that comprised most of that figure.  From there, the mold went to India.  Funskool started producing Night Vipers around 1995 and produced them through April of 2004.  At that time, the mold was returned to Hasbro.  They then used it as the body for the ill fitting 2005 Iron Grenadier.  The final use was the 2006 Operation Flaming Moth Night Viper.  It was green, expensive and not really a hit with the collector community.  The mold then died off.  Around 2017 or 2018, though, Black Major produced Night Viper figures.  These exist in 20 or more color combinations.  And, now, collectors can get Night Vipers in pretty much any color scheme they would want.  Black Major didn't really suck all the demand for the Night Viper out of the community, though, and I'm sure that any release of the Night Viper in the Pulse era would be embraced by the collecting world.

1989 Night Vipers got super expensive in the early 2000's.  It was first Cobra army builder to break $30 for a mint and complete specimen.  But, slowly, the massive quantity of Funskool Night Vipers sated the army building demand of the collecting world.  By 2003, the price of a complete Night Viper was under $15.  In 2022, though, the stupidity of the Joe world has also caught up with the Night Viper.  Incomplete figures will fetch $30.  Dealers will sell an appalling amount of mint and complete figures for more than $50.  And, in the event you can find a mint and complete figure left to open pricing, it will still usually cross over $40.  But, as the cheap Funskool figures have been absorbed, there's no longer an alternate outlet for those who want a Night Viper army.  

1989 Night Viper, 1989 Track Viper, 1988 Cobra IMP

1989 Night Viper, 1983 Hiss Tank, Wild Boar, 1989 Aero Viper

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

2022 Stormshadow

So, it finally happened.  After a decade with no classic G.I. Joe releases, Hasbro finally acquiesced and bowed to the "retro" market pressure to create some new figures.  Only, they didn't create new figures.  Instead, they recreated two classics from the vintage line.  Sure, they are 100% new sculpts.  But, they are designed to mimic the original in nearly every way.  We can have different opinions as to if this approach is what collectors really want.  But, early sales showed that remakes of the 1983 Snake Eyes and 1984 Stormshadow, even at $20 per figure, were in line with the market's desires.

At its core, this is the 1984 Stormshadow.  It includes all the Stormshadow gear and is a nearly identical representation of, arguably, the Joe line's most famous sculpt.  There are differences with the most notable being the skin color, plastic type and the painted face on the figure.  With white figures, it's great to a brilliant version that hasn't discolored.  But, Hasbro's plastic from the 2000's is notoriously yellowing with aplomb these days.  So, there's no guarantee that Stormshadow won't face the same fate in 15-20 years.  But, until then, collectors get a mint Stormshadow figure whose thumbs won't snap and who doesn't look like he either peed himself or left his clothes out in the blowing desert sand for too long.

At some level, it's great to have a high quality V1 Stormshadow that I'm not afraid to use.  I have lots of fond memories of the original figure from childhood.  And, I'd love to recreate some of those moments in updated photos featuring a pristine figure.  So, this 2022 Stormshadow gives me that opportunity.  The problem, though, is that this figure, once in hand, felt like it had all been done before.  I got excited for a new Stormshadow in 1997.  Then, again in 2004 and 2005.  And, again in 2016-ish when the first factory customs appeared.  And, that's one of the main problems with a 100% homage line.  While it's awesome to get a carded Stormshadow for less than a car payment, the figure itself offers nothing that anyone with a collecting history doesn't already have in spades.  So, while the idea of Stormshadow is great, I've found that mine has been sitting in a book case, lying on the shelf since a few days after I got him.  Once in hand, the novelty wore off since there is nothing novel about the figure.  

It's extremely rare that any new figure into my collection isn't used in a photo within a week or two of acquisition.  Yet, I had to make a special set up just to get this figure into a photo for this profile.  I didn't have the urgency to do something with him since I have so many other options for this look for Stormshadow that I have acquired in the past 25 years.  And, that really sums up this figure in total.  If you've never had a V1 Stormshadow, this figure is awesome.  If you have multiples of the various releases of this mold over the years, though, it's blase.  I have no beef with Hasbro choosing this figure and Snake Eyes as the maiden releases for the line.  They make sense.  But, they aren't as exciting to me as if they were something new.  The upside, though, is that often means I'll find great value in these figures at some point in the future when I "rediscover" them after their newness has faded away.

The packaging of the figure is nice.  The cards are a bit flimsy.  And, even shipped inside the extra, special box, many collectors found the cards warped or bent when they removed them.  There was a small contingent of online butthurt about the international packaging.  But, as usual, it was a small group of people making a lot of noise about something they bought anyways.  For some reason, though, Hasbro didn't pack all the figure's accessories inside the card bubble.  Instead, there are a few of them tucked into a paper towel that is stuffed inside the bottom of the box.  

What has been interesting to watch has been the reaction to the Super 7 3 3/4" figures.  These 5 points of articulation releases have found some success.  They have a built in market.  But, at the same time, they have released nearly 50 figures in less than a year.  And, many of them are brand new characters and sculpts that have never been released anywhere.  Compare that to Hasbro where we know of a whopping 7 o-ring figures for 2022.  And, so far, only 2 of them are anything different than 100% homages to the original Joe release.  I'd love some of the diversity and fun that Super 7 offers in their line to slip into the Pulse line.  I doubt it will happen unless the o-ring line really takes off.  But, even then, the oddball and obscure new figures would be few and far between.

So, what do we call these?  Joe eras have been odd as there are often competing figure styles that can't fit under one definition.  I see the vintage o-ring era of Joe as 1982-1994.  The repaint o-ring era then spans from 1997-2011.  (And, there were precious few of them after 2006.)  This isn't the same as the JvC era which runs from 2002-2007 and features figures from that sculpting period.  The 25th Anniversary era runs from 2007-2016 and covers the figures in that sculpting style.  With Classified, it's easy.  It's just the Classified era.  But, that doesn't work for these o-ring retreads.  Personally, I'll classify them as the Pulse era.  We have yet to see any of the o-rings really appear outside of Pulse.  And, it's a good way to denote that these figures, while sharing a common sculpting style with the vintage and repaint eras, are completely new and appeal to a different type of collector than existed in 2000 and 2004.

Technically, this is the only use of this Stormshadow mold.  As it's all new, it has just this one appearance, so far.  I'd love if Hasbro were to make a red Satan homage or even fill in the all too obvious missing Cobra Blue Stormshadow.  But, I'd rather see repaints like that in an army building boxed set that offered a lower price point.  With sparse releases announced, so far, it's unlikely we'll see anything more from this mold for a while.  But, Hasbro's not really in the business of letting cheap repaints pass them by.  So, if the line holds out for a few years, it's pretty much a guarantee we'll see this mold dusted off, repainted and re-released in some form.  I'm OK with some repaints in the line.  If it means we get more frequent releases, they can be a good thing.  And, even with the 2000's era Hasbro repaints of the mold and the multiple releases done by Black Major, there's always something that can be done with the original Stormshadow that will attract collector interest.

Within fairly short order (a few weeks or so) the pre-orders for Snake Eyes and Stormshadow sold out.  This lead some to think the figures were going to be aftermarket superstars.  But, on the day that the pre-orders shipped out, Pulse restocked with figures that could be ordered that day.  At first, it seemed likely these were just leftovers from credit card declines and things like that.  But, the set stayed in stock for days, then weeks and then months.  In fact, you can still buy it from Pulse for original price, now.  What does that mean?  It's hard to tell.  The Cobra Trooper/Cobra Officer 2 Pack that is exclusive is also still available for pre-order.  And, while Pulse has sold out of the Hiss Tank/Baroness set, this was a shared exclusive that can still be ordered from other retailers for retail price.  So, the o-ring revival is either not as popular as the Classified series, or is produced in such greater numbers that it hangs around.  (My money is on the former, though.)  I'm not sure how that will play out in future months.  We know we're getting some additional figures.  And, the Skystriker's success will likely lead to another o-ring Haslab in late 2022 or early 2023.  

But, with figures not selling out, it does make you wonder if there really is a long term future in the format.  But, as we've seen with bizarre and collector oriented figures in the Star Wars line, Hasbro will milk something even for just a handful of releases each year.  That being said, it sucks to pay $20 for a brand new from the manufacturer figure.  Sadly, most vintage Joes that are mint and complete are heading for that threshold, though.  I don't know how this figure will play to the market in coming years.  We know there is a correction on the horizon.  But, we've also seen very common Toys R Us figures from the 2000's now command just ridiculous prices.  So, those who missed out on this figure might pay out the wazoo for this Stormshadow in 2037.  Or, there may be no market at all.  But, really, you can't get any high quality version of this mold with the full array of Stormshadow accessories for under $20.  So, there's no reason not to buy him now while he's still available.

My final verdict on these figures is that they are fine.  The toys are quality.  The designs accomplish their goal.  The price is too high.  And, there is too much packaging that I end up paying for.  But, we have vintage style Joes available, again.  This time, so far, Hasbro seems to be taking the line seriously and not treating it with the disdain that they did in the early 2000's.  So, that's a huge plus.  And, while I'd love more frequent releases, the $20+ price point keeps me content with fewer figures for now.  If we got back to the days of 50 or 60 new releases per year, the financial weight would be too great.  I'd love an option where collectors could buy duplicates in baggies, sans all the extra packaging.  And, we could save a few bucks.  But, toy openers are becoming scarcer.  So, there's probably little incentive for Hasbro to do this.  I do hope for some new paint jobs or even new sculpts to join the line.  And, as we've seen with the Skystriker, there might be at some point.  So, for now, I'm content.  All is well.  The line could be a little better.  But, it could also be a lot worse.  The Hasbro team seems to be aware of what collectors might like.  I'm just not sold that there's enough of us left to really drive this line to be anything other than sporadic nostalgia.

2022 Stormshadow, Hasbro Pulse, 1997 Baroness, Toys R Us Exclusive

2022 Hasbro Pulse Stormshadow, MOC, Carded

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Olhos de Fenix - Brazilian Exlusive Spirit Iron Knife - Around The Web

The 1984 Spirit is a classic figure.  He has a major issue, though, in that the light blue shirt and sleeves tend to discolor very badly.  Even properly stored figures are starting to go.  And, as the color fades and yellows, it ruins the aesthetic of a great toy.  For some reason, though, the blue plastic used on the Brazilian release of Spirit (Olhos de Fenix) does not fade.  And, it is a brighter, more brilliant blue than even the Hasbro figure had in 1984.  

This creates a great version of Spirit.  And, there's actually a good amount of content featuring the figure.  The upside is that you can still get quality Olhos de Fenix figures with relative ease.  The downside is that you'll now pay triple digits for the privilege.  But, if you love the Spirit character and are tired of faded blues, this might be the way to go.

Olhos de Fenix Profile

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

2018 Asa Negra - Red Laser Army

Back in 2001, there was still not a central documentation platform for all the figures released in Brazil.  What archives that did exist were incomplete, especially for figures that were similar to the Hasbro releases.  As such, from time to time, "new" figures would pop up.  Usually, these were vehicle pack ins or from a series that was not featured on one of the cardbacks in various archives.  So, when a Brazilian collector told me he had an Asa Negra figure available, there was no documentation as to who the character was or what figure mold he used.  My Brazilian friend was able to scan in a cardback and I was able to see that Asa Negra was a repainted Headhunter Stormtrooper figure that was fairly similar to the Hasbro release.  It was kind of a letdown.  Especially since he wanted so much money for the figure at a time before Brazilian swivel arms had really begun to take off.

Asa Negra loosely translates as "Black Wings".  The original release from Brazil was a barely repainted 1993 Headhunter Stormtrooper figure that was carded with a glider.  This Red Laser figure borrows loosely from the Brazilian figure that would have been made in either late 1994 or 1995.  He feature the grey color base.  But, it's offset with gold highlights.  The most noticeable tribute to the original figure is the red goggles.  Little details like this allowed Red Laser figures to be tied back to the Brazilian or Argentine counterparts.  In the case of Asa Negro, it created a figure that is different enough to stand on his own and rise above the rest of the grey figures that were also released in 2018.

Red Laser and Black Major took very different approaches to producing factory custom figures.  While Black Major focused on army builders and maximizing the number of repaints from each, full figure configuration, Red Laser focused on characters and concepts that would mix and match the parts library.  This was nice as it offered a fuller, more developed range of offerings for collectors.  Though, in some cases, I do think Red Laser went almost too obscure.  Asa Negra is a case in point.  Prior to the Red Laser release, only the most die hard collectors knew who Asa Negra was.  And, only a small subset of them had any interest in really owning the figure.  So, the name, Asa Negra, wasn't nearly the selling point of, say, a Ghost Mortal.

The upside is that this Asa Negra turned into a really nice figure release.  In fact, it's a better way to use the character than if you owned the original Brazilian figure.  I see most Red Laser characters as early Cobras.  They were freelancers who worked for the Commander when he was still building Cobra.  Most were outcasts from other organizations or known mercenaries who were looking for a payday in the safer location of the US.  Here, Cobra Commander would use the valued skills of his new hires to carry out his early objectives.  He didn't much care if they were killed, so long as they got the job done.  And, he could keep them at arm's length should they be captured.  Asa Negra was among those early contractors.  His robotic appearance was frightening and he served to train Cobra's paratrooper corps.  I don't know how he will meet his demise, yet.  But, you can be sure he didn't survive into the mid 1980's as the Commander cleaned up those loose ends as Cobra became larger and more financially successful.

When the art mockups of these figures were produced, the skull tampo on a Snake Eyes head seemed risky.  It was the type of thing that was probably going to go wrong.  But, it didn't.  In fact, the skull print lived up to the hype and worked on every figure on which it appeared.  And, the upside is that all three uses of it are different enough that you can use the figures together without them seeming too repetitive.  Skullbuster's is the classic skull.  Shadowtracker's is the day-glow, horror skull.  And, Asa Negra's is the metallic, brass skull.  It's a nice mix of approaches that keeps the figures from seeming too similar while also getting the full value out of an expensive paint mask.

Asa Negra's quality is top notch.  The intricate paint masks on his head and chest are crisp.  And, the golden color is a departure from most other Red Laser releases.  He features Snake Eyes's head, done up with the gold skull mask and red goggles.  The countenance is the highlight of the figure.  He then features Clutch's chest.  This was a part I was most looking forward to.  And, Red Laser got good use out of it.  It gives the figure more depth when posed with pre-1985 Cobras.  His arms, legs and waist are non-descript.  But, his gloves (that also encompass the cuffs on his shirt) help make him stand out a bit.  He's not overly done in paint applications.  But, he has enough to not look cheap.  And, the tight joints and quality plastic give the feel of a real figure we could have played with back in 1984.

Asa Negra's accessories are sparse.  He included a grey version of the 1984 Firefly's rifle and a grey grenade.  The grenade is small and the type of thing that's easy to misplace since it neither fits into his hand or includes any type of holder.  Firefly's rifle is a solid sculpt.  But, I've found it doesn't mesh with every figure.  Having it in grey is nice.  But, after tons of releases in black in the early 2000's, the need for more Firefly rifles has definitely diminished.  Personally, I re-outfit him with other grey weapons from other figures.  Both the Snake Eyes Uzi and the Mutt Mac-11 work with the figure.  While Asa Negro doesn't need a helmet, it would have been cool for him to have some sort of pack.  A recolored JUMP would have matched his specialty, too.

2018 Red Laser Army figures have dried up.  You'll pay a substantial after market premium for most of them.  Asa Negra is seen less often than many of the Joe figures.  But, you should still be able to find one for $30 or under.  That's a lot for this guy.  But, much of the repetitiveness of the grey and black figures is lost to passed time.  So, a single figure like Asa Negra can really work in a collection.  And, as we aren't likely to ever see Red Laser's molds return to production, this is probably the final attempt at Asa Negra that we'll ever see.  I find Red Laser's figures to be great ways to expand the early Joe mythos, before Cobra got too big.  And, as there's also lots of heroes against whom they can battle, the figures really allow a collection to flourish.

2018 Red Laser Army Asa Negra, Black Wing, Factory Custom, Black Major Gold Head Steel Brigade, GHSB, Stalker

2018 Red Laser Army Asa Negra, Black Wing, Factory Custom, Black Major Python Patrol Stormshadow

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Funskool Chuckles - Around The Web

Chuckles is a figure of which I would have loved a repaint.  His mold opened itself up to a myriad of fun colors that would have made sense.  But, instead, we only got the Funskool Chuckles as an option for a variant of the character.  The upside, though, is that the Funskool Chuckles is excellent.  The bright, vibrant colors stand out.  But, the figure wasn't that common until more recent years.  So, there isn't a ton of content on him out there.  But, enjoy what I could find.

Funskool Chuckles

Funskool Chuckles, Cutter

Funskool Chuckles, Cutter

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Super Cop - Funskool Exclusive Packaging

In late 2001, a large cache of unknown figures were uncovered in an Indian warehouse.  This included a set of vehicles in a box and a carded figure as well.  This single carded oddball which used parts from the 1986 Hawk, Iceberg and Sgt. Slaughter was named Super Cop.  Almost immediately, collectors enjoyed the figure and were willing to shell out 3 or 4 times the cost of a current Funskool figure to acquire Super Cop.  He was ubiquitous for a time.  But, slowly, he somewhat faded out of memory as collectors moved on.  Once he had been absent for a while, he came back as new collectors discovered both the figure's overall quality and relative scarcity.

When the Super Cop discovery was made, the figure became instantly available in the US.  In short order, you could get them for about $12 or $13 from most US dealers of the day.  But, the stock was limited.  And, while collectors in late 2001 and early 2002 were easily able to get a Super Cop, the figure sold out and became a bit tougher to track down in fairly short order.  Within a decade, you didn't see too many Super Cops for sale.  And, now, they are a rare sight, indeed.  Even with a large number of them in the hands of collectors, they haven't permeated the collecting aftermarket.  This is likely due to the collectors who have them, deciding to keep them.  The figure is odd while also being a near perfect rendition of what it set out to be.

This particular Super Cop was produced on February 14th, 1996.  The card has a 1994 copyright.  So, it's likely that Super Cop was manufactured for at least that duration.  We know that most of the parts that were used for Super Cop were recalled by Hasbro for use in the 1997 G.I. Joe series.  So, Super Cops were not made after those molds were returned to Hasbro.  This release window is long enough that Super Cops should exist in decent numbers.  But, we've also learned that Funskool figures produced in the 1990's have not become commonplace and remain substantially more difficult to track down that their production numbers would suggest.

The main point of interest on Super Cop's card is the unique artwork.  Super Cop looks like he's kind of dancing.  It's a weird pose, but not too far removed from many vintage Joes.  The main difference is the quality.  Funskool's later unique card artwork was less polished than Super Cop.  So, this card better fits with the aesthetic of the time.  You'll note the gun barrel peeking out behind the Cop on the title of the card.  It's an unnecessary, but fun little detail.  Super Cop is also drawn to match the figure parts that were used.  You can see Iceberg's arms and Hawk's legs.  The chest is a little different and isn't a perfect match for the figure parts.  And, Super Cop's head is thinner than Sgt. Slaughter's.  But, Slaughter's head is a perfect look for what Super Cop is supposed to represent.

While the figure's card art pretty closely matches the parts that were used, his weapon does not.  Super Cop features a larger rifle on the card while he only included the tiny Chuckles pistol.  The weapon looks like a cross between the rifle included with the Talking Battle Commander Cobra Commander and the rifle included with Crazylegs.  We know Funskool had the Crazylegs rifle at the time.  And, it was pretty unlikely they had the 1992 Cobra Commander figure.  The figure does, prominently, have a pistol in his chest holster.  So, this is likely the source of the smaller pistol actually being included.  

Another point of note is the smaller bubble space on the card.  This is because Super Cop was actually posed in the bubble.  Instead of just standing like all other Joe figures, he was actually posed so that he was kneeling down.  And, his arms were raised up with the pistol glued into his hand.  This glue wasn't strong and seems to fall out of the hand rather easily.  But, this was a completely new orientation and presentation for a Joe figure.  It was a bit awkward, for sure.  But, it's another thing that makes Super Cop stand apart from his Joe brethren.

One key point of Super Cop's card is that it has no mention of G.I. Joe.  This is the likely reason that the figure was not found sooner than 2001.  With other Funskool promos (like Streethawk), the G.I. Joe name was branded on the card.  So, enterprising sellers in India knew where to market the figures.  Super Cop lacked that Joe connection.  So, it wasn't until people were scouring Indian warehouses, looking for older, more valuable Funskool releases to sell the growing ranks of American dealers that the figure was "discovered".

The cardback features the great little write up that Super Cop is a weapons expert who always gets his man.  It's not much of a characterization.  But, most people are going to use the figure either as a different Sgt. Slaughter or something completely new.  The main tidbit on the cardback is the cross sell for the police jeep and Super Cop bike.  Both of these were available in the 4 vehicle back that also included a Super Cop figure.  The Police Jeep was available into at least 2020 and is one of the few Funskool vehicles that remains affordable today.  Super Cop's bike may have a few variants and has gotten harder to find since it was mostly available in the boxed set.  

This figure cost Rs48 in 1996.  That's about the equivalent of Rs240 today.  Or, a little over $3.00.  During the Funskool import era, figures cost between Rs65 and Rs72 in India.  So, the $4.00 we paid in the US was a substantial markup.  (Especially since US dealers bought the figures for less than retail.)  But, it was still a good deal when you consider shipping and loss during transit.  It also shows how cheaply Joe figures could be made.  It's tough to swallow a $20 price point for new figures when you know that most of that is just a collector tax that falls directly to Hasbro's bottom line.

In the two decades since this figure was discovered, made available and aged out of the collecting community's general conscience, he's gotten super expensive.  Mint and complete figures will run in the hundreds of dollars these days.  (Though, I think $450 is excessive.) and even the cardback will cost you more than $20.  But, Super Cop's short supply from 2001 has caught up with him.  And, it is hard to find a sample.  I'm grateful to have been around and kept my figure from 2001 as I'd otherwise not own him.  It's a great figure, though.  And, it's unfortunate that he's priced out of the reach of many modern collectors.

Funskool Super Cop, MOC, Cardback, Filecard, India, Sgt. Slaughter, 1986 Hawk, Iceberg

Funskool Super Cop, MOC, Cardback, Filecard, India, Sgt. Slaughter, 1986 Hawk, Iceberg

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Red Jackal (Action Force Exclusive) - Around the Web

Destro is an iconic character in the Joe line who is defined by his steel mask.  In Europe, though, the figure mold didn't debut as Destro.  Instead, it was released as Red Jackal.  At it's core, Red Jackal is very similar to Destro.  But, I'd argue that Red Jackal is better just because he doesn't have the open shirt.  Though, he could stand a bit of pain on his necklace.

Red Shadows are probably oversaturated, now.  I liked them as a smaller, more localized organization that eventually morphed into Cobra.  A guy like Destro helped facilitate that from his various identities that he used on each continent.  Red Jackal was his European persona and one that he abandoned after he completed Cobra's assimilation of the European organization.  I never saw Red Shadows as a threat on the level of Cobra as they had less time to organize and, tended to be more fanatical.  (This is why the early Cobra Troopers, heavily pulled from old Red Shadows ranks, were quick to die rather than disappoint their new Commander.)  As the Red Shadows died off within Cobra, the Commander replaced them with a different breed of recruits who were less driven by fanatical ideology and more focused on the ways in which Cobra could improve their life.  The Commander offered them financial hope, like minded compatriots who felt their country abandoned them and a sense of camaraderie in that their cause was just.  This fueled loyalty but also subjects who were willing to die for the cause, but not just because a battle didn't go their way.  This made them more dangerous in the long run.

There's a bit of Red Jackal content out there.  In the early days of collecting, it was pretty easy to track them down.  And, they were, maybe, $20 figures at the turn of the century.  Even into the late 2000's, Red Jackals were obtainable and affordable.  Now, that's not the case.  The figure is expensive.  And, the premium probably isn't worth the slight uptick in quality over the cheaper and more available 1983 Destro figure.  But, the one time commonality allows for some content volume you can check out below.

Red Jackal Profile

Red Jackal Diorama

Red Jackal Bubbled Vehicle Driver

Red Jackal by dreadnokdread

Red Jackal by the kraken wakes

Red Jackal by Slipstream80

Red Jackal by 00zxcvb

Red Jackal by jdoublebigape

Red Jackal by rnrhero

Red Jackal by G.I. *Jock

Red Jackal by kushviper

Red Jackal by Slipstream80

Red Jackal by 00zxcvb

Red Jackal by Cherry Bomb Toys

Red Jackal by Action Jackman

Red Jackal by action_figure_collecting

Red Jackal by slipstream80

Red Jackal, Destro, Palitoy, Action Force, Red Shadows, 1984 Stinger, Plastirama, Ninja Ku, Argentina, Cobra Black Ninja, Mail Away Steel Brigade, Black Major, Stinger Trooper

Red Jackal, Destro, Palitoy, Action Force, Red Shadows, Black Major Red Shadows Cobra Invasor, Red Laser, Laser Exterminator

Red Jackal, Destro, Palitoy, Action Force, Red Shadows, 2016 Black Major Tank Trooper, Red Laser Army Muton, BAT, Battle Android Trooper

Red Jackal, Destro, Palitoy, Action Force, Red Shadows, 1984 Stinger, Plastirama, Ninja Ku, Argentina, Cobra Black Ninja, Mail Away Steel Brigade, Black Major, Stinger Trooper

Red Jackal, Destro, Palitoy, Action Force, Red Shadows, 1984 Stinger

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Funskool Spearhead

I've been reviewing Joes for a long time.  Every now and then, I scroll back through old profiles.  I do this now to validate old memories and also research the hobby happenings of the time.  This brings many of my old photos to light and I see them again, recalling the circumstances of their creation.  One such photo I recently stumbled upon was from a summer of 2001 profile of the Night Force Muskrat.  In the background of those photos was the Funskool Spearhead.  I have now owned this figure for 21 years.  That's three and half times longer than any vintage Joe was part of my world.  Yet, in all that time, I have little recollection of using the figure.  And, in looking through other photos, the figure rarely shows up outside of a few appearances in the early 2000's.  And, yet, this is a spectacular figure that is superior to the American release in most every way.  And, even if you consider the Night Force version of Spearhead to be better, the price and availability difference between the two still tilts favorably towards the Indian release.  

Spearhead's color palette is his primary calling card.  Instead of being based on the brown and orange figure from Hasbro (like the Brazilian release of the mold was), this Indian figure was based off the 1989 Night Force color scheme.  The result is a figure with charcoal grey, dark brown a little bit of blue highlight thrown in.  He's pretty much a Night Force figure.  But, is also different enough from the 1989 Toys R Us exclusive that he can stand on his own.  It's an interesting choice from Funskool to go this route.  And, it makes me wonder if they only had the paint masks for the Night Force figure as a reference point.  (Though, his card art shows him in colors akin to his 1988 release.)  The manner in which Joe molds moved around the world remains extremely opaque.  And, it would be interesting to learn how certain figures were chosen for foreign releases and why they were given their colors in the new markets.

One thing that has always stood out on Spearhead is the figure's bulk.  He feels bigger and taller than other Joe figures.  And, the size of his helmet doesn't help.  He often looks awkward in photos.  I do think his torso is large, as Joe figures go.  It gives Spearhead very broad shoulders.  And, he features a long neck.  (Blizzard was the same in 1988.)  So, it can be difficult to use Spearhead parts for customs.  And, you don't see the figure as often as you'd think as I don't find him an easy subject of which to get a good photo.

And, that's the main reason why this figure hasn't really gotten much use over the years.  While he looks insanely cool, it's hard to get him posed in adequate ways that meshes well with other figures.  Really, I've never much used the 1988 Spearhead for similar reasons.  Even when getting out 1988 figures, specifically, for a photo shoot, I find Spearhead not fitting into the scene.  While I love his weapon, I find it looks awkward in his hands.  Oddly, I didn't find then when I have a version of it to Salvo in the early 2000's.  There's just something about Spearhead that makes everything look out of proportion with the figure.  Ostensibly, Spearhead should be up there with Dusty in terms of desert figures.  But, he's not.  And, he's never taken on an afterlife like his 1988 classmates Shockwave and Hit and Run have.  So, that leads me to believe that I'm not alone in find the figure just a bit "off".

Spearhead includes his full gamut of accessories.  He has a grey and black helmet, a cool grey colored gun and machete and then two other pieces that are more Funskool.  He gets a neon green backpack.  And, while this color may seem out of sorts, the reality is that it actually complements the figure very well.  It provides a splash of color and the dark colors of the figure help to mute the brightness of the green.  His bobcat, Max, is a bright orange color.  It's kind of a scary, irradiated look for the pet companion.  The paint on Max can be tacky, too.  So, you'll often feel a residue left behind on your hands if you handle one.  The bright orange reminds you that this figure is Funskool.  But, the overall colors on the accessories are a perfect fit for the figure and allow him to be among the more useful Funskool releases.

The Spearhead mold was used in its entirety 4 times and his parts were used on an additional figure.  The 1988 and 1989 Night Force Spearhead figures were the lone Hasbro releases.  Shortly thereafter, the mold went to Brazil where a figure named Baoineta was released.  This figure is similar to the 1988 Spearhead figure and has two variants.  Funskool then got the mold and started producing this Spearhead version in the late 1990's.  Funskool also used the mold for their Street Hawk figure.  Early releases used the Spearhead chest with later versions only retaining the legs and waist.  Funskool also produced a significant vehicle driver variant of Spearhead that is all brown and the mold also appeared in the Calcium Sandoz figure premiums by Funskool.  Most of the Funskool variants, aside from the carded version, are hard to find and relatively expensive.  So, this carded release remains the best and cheapest option for a Spearhead fan.

While the early 2000's era Funskool figures have gotten substantially harder to find and more expensive since the supply from India dried up, Spearhead hasn't really taken on any sort of aftermarket fame.  Figures like Trip Wire (Who many collectors of his release era army built!) are four or five times more expensive than a Spearhead.  But, you'll still pay around $25-$30 shipped for a loose figure.  It's tough to find them loose and complete.  You'll see lots of dealers asking close to $100 for a loose figure, but those don't sell.  Neither do the carded figures at $60.  You can get carded figures in the $40 range with patience.  But, will have more luck at $50.  I have a long history of opening $30 foreign release G.I. Joe figures.  But, I don't think Funskool Spearheads will ever get as pricey as Flying Scorpions or Urzors.  So, if you're missing the figure, he's not overly expensive to buy a carded figure and open him up.  He's substantially cheaper than an American Night Force Spearhead and close enough in colors to make the savings more than worth it.

Funskool Spearhead, Night Force, Beach Head, 1988 Mean Dog

Funskool Spearhead, 2004 Anti Venom Roadblock, Night Force, 2018 Kickstart, Red Laser's Army, Factory Custom, Bootleg

Funskool Spearhead, 2004 Anti Venom Roadblock, Night Force

Funskool Spearhead, 2004 Anti Venom Roadblock, Night Force, 2018 Kickstart, Red Laser's Army, Factory Custom, Bootleg

Funskool Spearhead, 2004 Anti Venom Roadblock, Night Force, 2018 Kickstart, Red Laser's Army, Factory Custom, Bootleg, MOC