Tuesday, December 20, 2022

1998 Volga - Around the Web

In 1998, there were no Oktober Guard figures.  So, the news that Hasbro was going to release one was welcomed with open arms by collectors.  When the set appeared, though, all was not well.  The only character from the original Oktober Guard team was Col. Brekhov.  And, that figure was a straight repaint of the 1991 Red Star.  The other figures were Lt. Gorky (which is a great figure, just not a classic Oktober Guard character) and Volga.  Volga was an all new character who didn't make much sense when Daina, an original team member, was there for the taking.  

It seems that Volga was meant to be Daina.  The hand painted mock up for the figure included blonde hair.  And, it was meant to be Daina.  But, for some reason, Hasbro changed up the figure.  They gave the figure red hair and created Volga.  

The headsculpt on the figure isn't great.  And, the Lady Jaye body and gear really make her seem like a Lady Jaye knock off.  But, her paint applications are strong and the camo pattern is really unique.  You'd think there would be more Volga content out there.  But, she seems to have fallen away in the past 24 years.

1998 Volga Profile

1998 Volga by corpscommandercody

1998 Volga at JoeADay.com

1998 Volga by tonegunsrevisited

1998 Volga by gi_joeisthere

1998 Volga by corpscommandercody

1998 Volga by Slipstream80

1998 Volga by Flint

1998 Volga by tonegunsrevisted

1998 Volga by fosilru

1998 Volga, Oktober Guard, 2020 Black Major 1997 Snake Eyes, Factory Custom, Bootleg

1998 Volga, Oktober Guard, Stormavik, 2005 Comic Pack

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

2003 Agent Faces Mail Away - Around The Web

The Agent Faces mail away was one of the great things about the repaint Joe resurgence that occurred between 2002 and 2005.  It was like a vintage mail away.  The figure was cheap, the incentive points were easy to acquire and there was no real concern about not getting your figures.  In fact, Hasbro honored requests right until the final day of the promotion.  Supposedly, you were limited to 2 of the figures.  But, you could place multiple orders and collectors were able to easily army build the figures while we awaited the eventual release of retail Crimson Guards.  (We finally got them in 2004 and 2005.)  

2003's Spy Troops were one of the best gimmicks that Hasbro created for the Joe line.  It was hugely popular and stores could not keep them in stock.  But, Faces was the only character or concept that was released in ARAH figure form.  But, the removable helmet worked fairly well and the Duke head with painted on facial hair was different enough to really make the figure appear all new.  The Faces figure is remains one of my favorites of the era.  Here's the best I could find of him from around the web.

Agent Faces Profile

Agent Faces Unpainted Face - Rarities

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Funskool Flint - Random Photos of the Day

The 1985 Flint is my favorite figure.  So, when a similar version popped up from Funskool in 2002, I jumped at the chance to buy as many of them as I could.  And, to this day, I take way too many photos of the figure.  In fact, I have so many that I already have two Random Photos posts filled up.  So, I decided to post this one as the year winds down so that I can put up the other photos next year while I continue to take more and more photos of this figure.

The photos below show the Russian figure as well as one of the later variants from India.  I've got a couple of more variants, too.  At some point, I'll post them all in succession so the slight differences are highlighted.  Until then, enjoy these photos and let me know your favorite Funskool figure.

Funskool Flint, 1997 Snake Eyes, 1985

1985 Frostbite, Snow Cat, Funskool Flint

Funskool Flint, 2017 The General, Steel Brigade, Mail Away, Black Major, 2004, VAMP, Red Laser Army

Funskool Flint

Funskool Flint, 1983 Rock and Roll

Funskool Flint, 2004 Night Force Short Fuse

Funskool Flint, 1983 Rock and Roll

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Outlaw (Red Laser Army) - Around The Web

Red Laser Army created quite a few figures in just three years.  Some are more obscure than others.  And, Outlaw is one of those seldom seen releases that just doesn't appear all that often.  Even looking back at the time of the figure's release finds few uses of him.  And, as recently as 2017-2018 there were a lot more people created amazing Joe content on various platforms.  It's odd to look back at some of the creators from just 4 and 5 years ago and see how many of them are gone and how sparse Joe dioramas and photography are now.  Sadly, one of the detriments of Joes turning into valuable collectibles instead of toys has really created a barrier to entry for new creators.  We'll see if that continues as the market softens, though.

Outlaw features solid colors, but an odd head.  I don't much care for the Torpedo head outside of a diver.  But, you can make it work.  I find the better use to be the figure's body with a Clutch head and use it as a early representation of Joseph Colton.  Others, though, find value in the character on his own.  While this figure was, originally, an exclusive for the SoCal Joe Show, he has since been available from lots of places and the figure is not really any more difficult to find than other Red Laser figures from the same era.

2017 Outlaw, So Cal Joe Show, Red Laser Army, 2005 Night Watch Trooper

2017 Outlaw, So Cal Joe Show, Red Laser Army, Commando, Snake Eyes, Palitoy, Panther Jeep, SAS, VAMP, Shimik

2017 Outlaw, So Cal Joe Show, Red Laser Army, Commando, Snake Eyes, Palitoy, Panther Jeep, SAS, VAMP, Shimik

2017 Outlaw, So Cal Joe Show, Red Laser Army, Commando, Snake Eyes, Palitoy, Panther Jeep, SAS, VAMP

2017 Outlaw, So Cal Joe Show, Red Laser Army, Commando, Snake Eyes

Saturday, November 26, 2022

1991 Incinerator - Random Photos of the Day

The 1991 Incinerator is kind of weird looking.  But, guys who carry flamethrowers should be weird.  And, in the context of their specialty, the red and orange coloring makes sense.  Basically, they are just about perfect for being a flamethrower.  You just don't have a lot of need for a whole bunch of flamethrowing army builders.  So, the Incinerator works in small numbers.  I like using the figure from time to time.  And, he does work well with many vehicles released in the 1990's.  Here's a few of my recent photos of these guys.

1991 Incinerator, Cobra Flamethrower

1991 Incinerator, Cobra Flamethrower

1991 Incinerator, Cobra Flamethrower

1991 Incinerator, Cobra Flamethrower

1991 Incinerator, Cobra Flamethrower

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

1993 Ninja Force Slice - Around The Web

There was a time when Ninja Force was the least liked G.I. Joe subset.  But, in recent years, collectors have come to appreciate the figures from this small line.  While the figures do not feature standard Joe articulation, the quality of both the sculpt and the colors really shine.  The content created using the figures, though, hasn't quite caught up to the general acceptance of the concept.  There's some cool stuff out there using the 1993 orange Slice.  There just needs to be more.

Ninja Force Slice Profile

1993 Ninja Force Slice, Zartan, Flak Viper, Detonator, 1992 Dice, Night Creeper

1993 Ninja Force Slice, Zartan, Flak Viper, Detonator

1993 Ninja Force Slice, Night Creeper Leader

1993 Ninja Force Slice

Saturday, November 19, 2022

2017 Red Laser Army "The General" - Around The Web

It's sad that Red Laser Army is no more.  While they did feature a lot of repetition of both molds and color schemes, those similarities dissipate over time and collectors come to appreciate each figure on its own merit.  While some people fawn over army builders, I found that my most used Red Laser Army figure is The General from 2017.  This figure is based on a comic appearance of Hawk.  And, it's a huge upgrade for Hawk's pre-1986 look.  The black shirt with brown and green highlights offset against the green pants makes for a stark visual presentation.  And, it makes Hawk worthy of his rank.  Fortunately, there's a good amount of content out there on the figure as he was pretty popular at the time of his release...which, unbelievably, was more than 5 years ago!

The General Profile

The General at The Attica Gazette

The General by 00zxcvb at ARAH Gallery

The General by billykessler

The General by froggneal

The General by gvilla74

The General by gen_liederkranz

The General by actionfigurefotos

The General by specialmissionforce

The General by The Dragon Fortress

The General by gen_liederkranz

2017 Red Laser Army The General, General Hawk, Factory Custom, Sightline, 1984 Firefly, Slugger, 2000 Wild Bill, ARAHC

2017 Red Laser Army The General, General Hawk, Factory Custom, Sightline, 1984 Firefly, Slugger

2017 Red Laser Army The General, General Hawk, Factory Custom, Sightline, Redmack, 1988 Mean Dog

2017 Red Laser Army The General, General Hawk, Factory Custom, Oktober Guard, Horrorshow

2017 Red Laser Army The General, General Hawk, Factory Custom, Funskool Flint, 2004 VAMP, Steel Brigade

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

1992 Air Commando Spirit

The 1992 Joe line is incredibly strong.  It's full of new molds for classic characters as well as a nice variety of new introductions to the line.  The colors of the year blend well and create a cohesive visual display.  But, the standard carded line of figures only included a few figures.  The rest of the year's line was released in various subsets and smaller vehicles.  Yet, the quality of mold and color continued and the entire is one of the better looking entries of a displayed collection.  Among the releases was a new version of Spirit.  

After being introduced in 1984, Spirit got his update.  It's easy to recognize the new look as Spirit.  He kept his long hair, but has it styled into a single pony tail instead of braids.  He retains his trademark headband.  But, once below his head, this Spirit is less an homage to Native American culture than a newly designed badass combat soldier.  He is burdened with an over-abundance of grenades.  (A common thread among Joe figures.)  But, they aren't too bulky and keep the overall appearance of this new Spirit relatively slim.  His chest is a bright green that visually pops.  It is set against black paint that highlight the mold's sculpted details.  The figure features blue pants that blend with many other 1992 releases.  And, his red gloves offer a both a splash of color as well as tying together the red pattern on the figure's headband.  To top off the details, Spirit has molded feathers on his right arm that offer a little reminder of the figure's roots.

On paper, this figure should be amazing.  But, the thing is, it really isn't.  While it's nice enough, the sculpt was improved upon in 1993 with the mail away color scheme.  The brown, gold and white combo on that figure is more unique and better fits the mold and character.  The head might be a little too large for the body.  And, Spirit can appear to be disproportional at times.  And, the red gloves are a bit off-putting.  They really interfere with the blue, black and green.  The red and white on the headband works.  But, the gloves really take you out of the overall design.  And, as the hands are a key part of any figure's look, a bad color can have an outsized affect on the appearance as a whole.  

This 1992 Spirit was part of the Air Commandos subset.  While the figure was sold on a card, the cards were drastically oversized to show off the gliders that were the real selling point.  Hasbro's original gliders in 1983 were garbage.  These 1992 releases, though, promised they would fly 40 feet with the figure attached.  Hopefully, not too many people actually did that with the gliders.  But, Spirit's red, white and blue patriotic overkill special seems out of place with the character.  And, today, the Air Commandos are remembered for the high quality figures rather than the cheesy gliders.  Unfortunately, though, the gliders cost anywhere between $8 and $10 each.  And, when you consider that there were far better alternatives available at that cost, the high price point was rather prohibitive to the toys really selling on par with sets like the DEF and even the Eco Warriors.  Which is why, even today, all the Air Commandos figures appear with less frequency than most other carded 1992 figures.

Did you know that Spirit was never released without Mutt?  In every single instance where Spirit was released, Mutt was also available at the same time.  They both debuted in 1984.  Then, they both returned as Slaughter's Marauders in 1989.  At various times, they were both released in Brazil and Mexico in the same waves.  Then, exclusive repaints showed up in Europe in the early 1990's.  Both characters got new molds in 1992.  Then, Mutt was repainted as a carded figure in 1993 and Spirit was available as a mail away in the same year.  It was not until the post vintage era where the two were separated.  Both appeared together in the comic.  So, there was a deliberate pairing of the two.  But, all of their designs work pretty well together until the 1993 versions.

Spirit comes with a single accessory.  He has an oddball pistol.  My introduction to the mold was with the 1994 Viper.  And, I felt the sci-fi nature of the weapon worked well with that figure.  With Spirit, it seems out of place...especially if you know of the amazing accessories that were included with the character's debut figure.  The upside is that there are many, more common, accessories that work well with this mold.  But, the disappearance of Freedom and the lack of other gear that would have accentuated the character feels like a missed opportunity.

My introduction to this figure mold was with the 1993 mail away version.  And, that remains my default use of this mold today.  Back when I got a bagged 1992 figure from Canada, I was never compelled to open the figure.  The 1993 was enough for me.  And, when I got a loose 1992, that feeling continued.  Now, though, I do find this figure works well with other 1992 releases.  And, is a nice background filler in photos and dioramas.  As a main focus, I'm still going with the 1993.  And, my first choice for any use of Spirit is the original from 1984.  

The 1992 Spirit mold got two uses.  The first was this Air Commando version.  Then, in 1993, the mold was repainted for the International Action Team.  This maroon and white version is probably better than the 1992 coloring.  But, both uses of the Spirit mold were relatively obscure releases.  Bagged overstock Spirits were offered as a Canadian mail away.  And, a great number of bagged Spirits came into the collecting community during the Hasbro Canada find in 1999.  Those figures, though, are bagged without guns.  So, if you see bagged figures sans weapons, you know they are from the Canadian overstock.  Sadly, Hasbro didn't use this mold in the 2000's.  It's a shame as it would have been great in a 1984 Spirit color scheme or a Euro Spirit color scheme.  But, it was not to be.

Dealers will sell loose Spirits for $30 and complete versions for $60.  That's a lot of money for a weapon that's not that small, isn't overly cool and doesn't really have any cachet.  On the open market, though, you can get Spirit figures for $13.  But, open market pricing on complete figures runs between $50 and $60...meaning the dealers are right at market on the complete figures.  That's very odd.  And, something that's likely to correct if the Joe market doesn't get back to normal soon.  The upside, though, is that a relatively hard to find, high quality update of a classic character is still affordable if you are willing to sacrifice his non-iconic weapon.  There's much worse outcomes in the Joe marketplace today.

1992 Air Commando Spirit, DEF, Mutt, 1988 Swampmasher

1992 Air Commando Spirit, 2002 General Tomahaw, 1984 VAMP Mark II

1992 Spirit, Air Commandos, 1991 Grunt

Saturday, November 12, 2022

2000 General Tomahawk - Around The Web

When G.I. Joe returned in 2000, it featured an initial wave of molds that ranged from the line's earliest years to the later molds.  As the collecting community was heavily focused on 1987 or earlier figures, though, the new releases did offer the community a glimpse at some figure molds that were mostly ignored.  Among them was the 1992 Talking Battle Commanders Hawk figure.  

This isn't really a great look for Hawk.  But, it is a great figure to represent a generic type general character.  He was a staple of early custom work.  And, the reuse of the mold in 2000 both brought the look for Hawk to the forefront and allowed for more customizing stock to be available.  The flat back on the figure greatly limits its use.  But, the marbled plastic means that no two figures are the same and allows for them to be used in groups and still look somewhat different.  There's not a ton of content on this figure out there.  But, here's what I could find.

2000 General Tomahawk Profile

2000 General Tomahawk by Purple_Cobra75

2000 General Tomahawk by Lava Boss

2000 General Tomahawk at JoeADay.com

2000 General Tomahawk by NightForceTunnelRat

2000 General Tomahawk at Generals Joes Reborn

2000 General Tomahawk by gingerbeardtoys

2000 General Tomahawk, Hawk, 1986 Havoc, 2001 Sidetrack, ARAHC

2000 General Tomahawk, General Hawk, Dialtone, ARAHC

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

1987 Knockdown - Battle Force 2000

In December of 1986, I had lucked out and found several brand new 1987 G.I. Joe releases at the local Toys R Us store.  As 1987 wound down, I was hopeful that the situation would repeat.  Sure enough, one December day, I found a few new figures on the pegs.  Labeled with the moniker of Battle Force 2000, the figures had a science fiction slant.  But, I was fine with this.  Really, the only issue with the figures was that when I turned them over, I didn't find the brand new 1988 releases for which I was hoping.  Instead, I found the same old 1986 and 1987 characters on the back with a new offset featuring the six new figures in the Battle Force 2000 series.  The store had all six.  My youngest brother got a Maverick.  My younger brother picked out Dodger.  And, I bought Blaster and Knockdown.

By 1987, my Joe world was pretty much my own concoction.  It wasn't based on the comic or cartoon, though it did have some elements from each.  In the early part of 1987, my Joe toys were in the basement.  Over the years, the toys migrated between my room, the toy room and the basement depending upon a variety of factors.  But, as it was just after Christmas, we were playing in the basement as there was space and we could leave our toys out each night to pick up the battle again the following morning.  

There were two key points of the basement that worked together to make Knockdown a key figure in my collection for a short time.  First, we had one of those old, oval rugs that was spun in multi-colored rings around a white center.  For us, the rug could be seen as a island with a lake in the middle, just a lake, various circular roads or rivers.  In this case, I was using the center of the rug as a poisonous lake of either lava or mud.  The second piece of kismet was than many of our now outgrown toys were stored in a storage room off the playroom.  This room had been the home of the coal furnace from the 1940's when the home was built.  That was long gone, though the walls were still stained black from the coal.  On a shelf in this room was my old Slave I.  For some reason, I dug this out.  At the time, I didn't have many aircraft for my Joes.  So, the spaceship was attractive as an option for flying forces.

All of this lead to my pulling out the Slave I, finding most of the pieces and now having a new weapon to be used in my adventures.  As Knockdown was the most sci-fi of all my figures, he quickly found himself in the cockpit of the iconic ship.  I couldn't call him Boba Fett as he looked nothing like Boba Fett.  So, instead, he was just named Fett.  (Yes, super, duper original.)  Of course, he was not affiliated with Joe or Cobra.  And, instead, would play both sides much like Kwinn.  Slave I was a devastating weapon since it was heavily armored and had two massive cannons.  And, once outside of his ship, "Fett" had an insanely powerful handgun (Knockdown's stupidly oversized pistol.)  that was capable of blowing up a Mauler or Hiss Tank.  

For several weeks, I had great adventures with Knockdown and his Slave I ship.  He would blow vehicles into the mud/lava lake.  Or, he'd shoot in front of ground troops and leave them the choice of dying in a hail of massive bullets or being incinerated in the lake.  Eventually, I had hand held artillery weapons damage Slave I.  Fett was defeated and I lost interest in the entire concept.  Before too long, my figures migrated back up to my room.  When they did, Slave I stayed behind in the basement.  And, it would not come off the shelf in that basement storage room until 1997 when I dug out all my vintage Star Wars toys that were left from my childhood.  

After that Knockdown was an afterthought at best.  When Cobra would attack the Joe base that was in my room, Knockdown might be involved.  His hand held weapon was still seen as overly powerful.  So, he was handy to have around on occasion.  But, I never really developed a character for him outside of "Fett".  Blaster did have some characterization.  So, it wasn't just Knockdown's late appearance in my collection.  He had a purpose, but not much more than that.  As 1988 progressed, Joe fell out of my daily routine.  I had aged out.  And, once I get a Nintendo in June of that year, the era of toys in my childhood was over.  

Knockdown features a lot of differences.  But, none of them really add up to anything all that interesting.  From a carded figure perspective, there are two separate releases of Battle Force 2000.  The early figures released in late 1987 were on single cards.  For 1988, Hasbro packaged the figures in two packs.  The figures are not different.  But, the single cards didn't see a long release window as they appeared very late in 1987 and featured 1987 cardbacks.  There are two different filecards.  The single pack version is different than the two pack version as it has more detail on Knockdown's specialty.  There is also a variant on Knockdown's gun.  It can have a thick handle or thin handle.  When you see all the Knockdowns out there with broken thumbs, though, you realize that either version can be tough on the figure's hands.  

From a mold perspective, Knockdown didn't get a lot of use from Hasbro.  There was just the one Knockdown figure released in 1987 and 1988.  The figure was released on a single card in various European countries.  Knockdown's head appeared on the Super Trooper and his repaint, Rapid Fire.  Knockdown then went to Brazil.  There, though, Estrela got some mileage out of the mold.  First, the full Knockdown figure was released on a single card.  Named Detektor, this figure is based on the Hasbro color scheme.  It features a darker green helmet, darker blue body and slight shading differences.  Then, Estrela used Knockdown's waist and legs to make Albatroz for the Patrulha do Ar subset.  If that weren't enough, Knockdown's entire body was painted neon and paired with a 1986 Sci Fi head and released in Forca Eco (Eco Warriors) set as Biologico.  This is a neat figure that was once common but has now gotten expensive.  The mold never appeared again.  With not much demand for the character, that's unsurprising.  But, if you like Knockdown, there's at least hard to find figures from Brazil to track down.

Dealers will sell mint and complete with filecard Knockdowns in the $20-$25 range.  Be sure to check these carefully, though, as Knockdown is very susceptible to paint wear on his eyebrows, hair, chest and thumbs.  Some dealers will keep the helmet on to hide the wear on the figure's head.  Left to the market, though, the same Knockdowns are about $10-$15 figures.  If you are OK without a filecard or a bit of paint wear, you can drop them below $10 without too much issue.  Personally, this seems like a lot for a figure that isn't all that interesting, has ill fitting gear and offbeat colors.  But, it's also in line with the current market where there are almost no mint and complete figures that routinely sell below that $10 line.  If I didn't have the childhood connection, I wouldn't own a Knockdown.  He doesn't carry enough panache to justify existing in my collection.  But, due to his short, but memorable, tenure in my childhood play, he's kept around.  He's never been the subject of many photos.  And, I don't really see that changing as we go forward.

1987 Knockdown, Battle Force 2000, Estrela, Mercer, Comandos Em Acao, Brazil, 1988 Swampmasher

1987 Knockdown, Battleforce 2000, 1984 Slugger, Starduster, 2018 Black Major

Saturday, November 5, 2022

2004 Night Force Flint - Around the Web

The 2004 Night Force set has grown on me over the years.  The Roadblock is still an abomination.  But, the rest of the figures are pretty good.  They aren't without faults, for sure.  But, I've found this Flint to be a good addition to any collection and he's useful even outside of the Night Force motif.  You do have to give him different accessories.  With those, though, I've found the figure to get a lot of use.  There's lots of good content about this figure out there.  You'll find reviews written in 2004, some in the 2010's and some uses of the figure today.  So, you'll get a great cross section of how this figure has been viewed and used through its 18 year lifespan.

2004 Night Force Flint, Toys R Us Exclusive, 2004 VAMP, Double Clutch

2004 Night Force Flint, Toys R Us Exclusive

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

2022 Stinger - Quick Hit

I don't really have the chutzpah to do a full profile on this Stinger release.  But, I thought I'd drop a quick hit that shows the packaging, contents and finished product from this new release.

In short, this Stinger is fine.  The colors are cool.  The sculpting is fine.  But, the plastic is incredibly soft.  As a toy, this thing would not hold up.  I nearly broke the steering wheel trying to get it into the slot on the dashboard.  The doors are very soft and are going to rip if they are taken on and off too many times.  As a display thing on a shelf, it won't be an issue.  But, this won't hold up to play.  And, I suspect the soft plastic will age poorly and lead to brittle doors just like the Sears Dreadnok Stinger from the '80's.

You'll note that the Stinger features reduced plastic packaging.  It worked just fine and isn't really an issue.  It was nice to have to toss all those plastic baggies that used to be in the box.  Speaking of the box, you'll note that they used the photography and artwork from the 1984 Stinger.  The jeep on the back is the 1984 version and the figure that appears is the 1984 Stinger Driver.  They didn't even update the photography for the toy that was actually produced.  This is odd as the Hasbro Star Wars team has said they can't create box photography using figures that are either not currently shipping or have shipped in the recent past.  I guess that didn't come over to the Joe team, though.

For $25, this thing would be OK.  At $40 shipped, that's a lot.  I have a feeling we're going to have a chance at some cheaper options for this guy in coming weeks.  But, we'll see where the remaining stock ends up.  Despite my blase feelings about this release, I'd buy at least one more if I found them at a discount retailers.  Maybe even 2 if the price was right.  So, I'm the real sucker in this deal.

2022 Stinger, Hasbro Pulse, 2009 Snow Serpent Cobra Trooper, Factory Custom, Stinger Trooper

2022 Stinger, Hasbro Pulse, 2009 Snow Serpent Cobra Trooper, Factory Custom, Stinger Trooper, Cobra Commander, Stormshadow, Cobra Trooper

2022 Stinger, Hasbro Pulse, 2009 Snow Serpent Cobra Trooper, Factory Custom, Stinger Trooper, Cobra Commander, Stormshadow, Cobra Trooper

2022 Stinger, Hasbro Pulse, 2009 Snow Serpent Cobra Trooper, Factory Custom, Stinger Trooper, Cobra Commander, Stormshadow, Cobra Trooper

2022 Stinger, Hasbro Pulse, 2009 Snow Serpent Cobra Trooper, Factory Custom, Stinger Trooper, Cobra Commander, Stormshadow, Cobra Trooper

2022 Stinger, Hasbro Pulse, 2009 Snow Serpent Cobra Trooper, Factory Custom, Stinger Trooper, Cobra Commander, Stormshadow, Cobra Trooper

2022 Stinger, Hasbro Pulse, 2009 Snow Serpent Cobra Trooper, Factory Custom, Stinger Trooper, Cobra Commander, Stormshadow, Cobra Trooper

Monday, October 31, 2022

Metal Hawk - Power Commandos

G.I. Joe was a hugely successful formula for selling toys.  Between the military/fantasy theme and the size and articulation of the toys themselves, Hasbro found a winning combination.  Naturally, competitors used Hasbro's initiative to produce many toys that were knock offs of the Joe line.  Some were purely military based.  Some were fantasy based.  And, some of the better ones, combined both.  All used the 3 3/4" size and most replicated the articulation of at least the straight arm Joes from 1982.  In time, though, some adopted the swivel, evolved beyond simply mold reuses and into full fledged toy lines on their own.  Some were more popular than others.  And, decades later, some have found themselves highly sought after by Joe collectors.  One such series is the Power Commandos figures by Lucky Bell.

Power Commandos took a more fantasy/sci-fi approach to their toys.  Their tagline was: "Those guys from the other galaxy.".  The characters that appeared were aliens, monsters and a few human good guys who battled against them.  While the most famous figure from the line is Mummy Mask, it is his packmate who draws my attention today.  Metal Hawk is a complex and interesting sculpt that features massive amounts of colors.  He's also still very much a knock off and doesn't have the polished look of a classic Hasbro release.  But, he's someone for which you can find a use.

Metal Hawk's bio card is just fantastic.  He was born on the Ironrock Comet.  And, his specialty is Out-numbered Combats.  No, that is not a typo.  That is his real specialty.  I have no idea what it means.  His bio mentions that Metal Hawk has skin as tough as steel.  (Metal)  But, he is still quick as a hawk. (Hawk.  Metal-Hawk, get it?)  He has both a lightning sword and a non-reflective black sword.  Lightning for power and the black one for stealth.  There's a scan of his bio below where you can read all about Metal Hawk and see the absolute glory that is his origin.  It should be noted, though, that Metal Hawk is one of the Power or good guys in the Power Commandos universe.  So, my placing of him among Cobra probably doesn't make sense.  But, I just can't see the figure as anything other than a villain.

Usually, when companies produce multiple waves of figures, the first wave is small and the second expands the line.  In the case of the Power Commandos, though, it was the opposite.  It turns out that the original set of 12 figures is actually the first wave of figures.  The more common repaints (of which this Metal Hawk is one) came later, as a second wave.  That is why this later Metal Hawk appears on a card that features the alternate coloring of the first Metal Hawk released.  The first wave of figures are actually very hard to find and some have risen to ridiculous heights.  This second Metal Hawk is much more common.  But, he's probably the second best figure among the six behind only Mummy Mask, his packmate.

Metal Hawk is a mishmash of contrasting colors.  He features red, green, dark blue, gold, black, a weird orangish hue, silver and light blue.  That's 8 colors.  Which is more than than pretty much any vintage Joe features.  Really, though, the figure has very little paint.  And, the colors are achieved through clever uses of different plastic colors on different parts.  Many details were spared paint applications.  So, Metal Hawk still has potential for improvement through customization.  But, all of the colors make the figure visually interesting, even if the colors are a perfect complement for each other.  Some of the contrast is odd enough that is really helps Metal Hawk stand apart from other figures.

While Metal Hawk is supposed to be a good guy, I just can't see him that way.  He just seems like he better fits with Cobra.  The helmeted head is very much in line with oddball Cobra headgear.  The amount of red and blue on him also better fits with a Cobra motif.  But, it's tough to find a real role for him.  The best use is probably Star Brigade.  But, that's a bit too on the nose for me.  I've posed him with BATs and a few other Cobra Troopers.  But, it's never felt right.  So, my best use for him is just a random sub contractor who Cobra hires out at times.  I've got a lot of these characters lying around now.  The characters are not really important.  But, they can fill a role while also making the Joes think that Cobra's roster is much larger than it really is.  It's a fairly small role.  But, as the figure is somewhat brittle and not something that I want to use all that often, a smaller role works for Metal Hawk

Metal Hawk's gear is among the weakest among his subset of 6 figures.  His gear includes a stick that was made from the end of Lady Jaye's javelin launcher and a handle that I don't recognize.  It's similar to the handle of the vintage Kenner lightsabers.  He then includes Torch's torch with the lower nozzle removed as well as the stock missing.  It looks like a pistol and is pretty weak.  He includes a backpack that's based on the 1986 Low Light's pack that's cast in silver plastic.  The final accessory is a massive sword.  It is not based on a Joe accessory.  I tend to give Metal Hawk gear from other Power Commandos as I think it looks better than his real gear.  

Quality wise, Metal Hawk (and, Power Commandos in general) are OK.  The paint applications are solid.  The joints are tight.  And, the parts fit together well.  The main issue is that the plastic is more brittle than vintage Joes.  It is close to that found on figures made by Estrela.  This more brittle mixture means that the thumbs and crotches of the figures are weak and very susceptible to breakage.  I'm hesitant to put any accessories in the figure's hands.  But, other collectors have been very successful in doing so.  But, the thumbs will snap with less pressure than it takes to break a vintage, Hasbro figure.  So, the quality is display worthy.  But, it tough to pose any of the figures with their gear without risking some damage.

Metal Hawk was released twice in the Power Commandos line.  This is the second, and more common, release.  The first release features an identical upper body, head and arms as the second release.  But, it has different legs and a different waist.  These are also a green color that matches the green on the second Metal Hawk's arms.  In my view, the first figure is probably better.  But, I like more green.  So, not everyone may agree with that assessment.  The first figure can also have green accessories.  Be aware of the differences as you seek out loose Metal Hawk figures.

Like all the second series Power Commandos, Metal Hawk is very available these days.  Huge amounts of overstock were found in Mexico and have been sold, cheaply, to Joe collectors over the past few years.  Now, though, the original source is starting to dry up.  While it's doubtful that this will lead to massive inflation on Metal Hawk figures, I also never considered the possibility that collectors would shell out three figures for the common Funskool figures that clogged every online toy dealer's inventory in the early 2000's.  So, the time to pick up this figure is probably now.  I got this guy on the card for under $10 in just 2019.  Now, though, the same carded package will run around $60.  Loose, mint and complete figures will top $30 or more.  That's probably a higher price than the figure is worth.  But, the Power Commandos are among the more interesting Joe knock offs that appeared over the years.  So, that, alone, makes at least one of them worth acquiring.

Metal Hawk, 1992 Power Commandos, Lucky Bell

2008 Convention Exclusive Headhunter BAT, Battle Android Trooper, Metal Hawk, Power Commandoes, Lucky Bell

Saturday, October 29, 2022

2004 Red Ninja Viper - Around The Web

At the time of his release, the Red Ninja Viper seemed overly derivative of the common Satan figure from Argentina.  And, the poor quality of the set really helped to limit the figures.  But, with time comes perspective.  And, 17 years later, the Red Ninja Viper fills a void, even if his gear is garbage and the figures tend to develop loose joints before you even move them.  Factory customs have negated much of the value of this figure.  But, he still has some uses and, if you got a bunch of them back in 2004, it's good to have them lying around in case you finally want to make up that Castle Destro diorama you've been putting off for the past 20 years.

Red Ninja Viper Profile

Red Ninja Viper by purplecobra75

Red Ninja Viper by Lava Boss

Red Ninja Viper by gen_liederkranz

Red Ninja Viper by Flatline

Red Ninja Viper by Stormer

Red Ninja Viper by bruxovigo

Red Ninja Viper by hellabaytoyz

Red Ninja Viper by gen_liederkranz

Red Ninja Viper by lordraven

Red Ninja Viper by TitusLester32

Red Ninja Viper by instachampa

2004 Red Ninja Viper, Toys R Us Exclusive, Ninja Strike

2004 Red Ninja Viper, Toys R Us Exclusive, Ninja Strike, 2005 Crimson Firefly, 2007 Convention Sgt. Zap

2004 Red Ninja Viper, Toys R Us Exclusive, Ninja Strike, 2005 Crimson Firefly, 2007 Convention Sgt. Zap

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

1993 Muskrat

In thinking about this figure, I could not remember when, exactly, I found him at retail.  I do know that I bought him at the K-Mart in Bloomington, Indiana.  As I was there to visit a friend when I was on break, it had to be in late 1995 as the calendar was turning to 1996.  My friend from the area had told me there were some Joes at his local store.  So, when I went, I found this Muskrat and the 1993 Mace hanging among the misfit leftovers of dead toy lines that were stored on the back endcap of a aisle that was tucked into the furthest corner of the store.  Upon seeing the two figures, I bought them both.  I paid a whopping $3.44 for each figure.  I took them back to my friend's house, opened them up and found two really oddball figures that were more ridiculous than ingenious.

There's a lot going on with this figure.  Even if you forgive the orange, dark blue and olive/tan color combo, the mold is a weird design.  It almost looks as if Muskrat's chest was originally going to be a diver and he would have included a helmet that would have affixed nicely over the large shoulders and hoses.  Beyond that, though, I'm not really sure what Hasbro was going for in this figure's design.  He's certainly not the swamp fighter from 1988.  The blue and orange color scheme doesn't offer any clues.  So, the figure is really what you want to make of it.  There's enough orange figures in the line that he fits with many 1993 figures, most notably the Mega Marines.  So, there's use for him in that.

The most telling thing about this figure is that he has just one paint application.  His body is blue plastic with orange paint.  His arms feature only the orange color, too.  The figure's waist and lower legs are cast in the tan/olive plastic to break up the blue and orange.  But, they are plastic colors, not paint applications.  None of the details on Muskrat's chest are highlighted.  It's just a sea of orange against the dark blue.  Even in the cheapest days of the early 2000's, figures got two paint applications.  But, in 1993, there's several figures that were skimped on.  Look at the poor 1993 Eel in the photos below where there are zero paint applications on the body and just a red stripe on the figure's eyes on the head.  At least the figures who lost out are fewer in number than those who did get more attention in the paint mask department.  But, one of the reasons why this figure suffers is the lack of painted details.

So, let's talk about accessories.  For a 1993 figure, Muskrat includes a nice array of weapons.  His tree featured the Updraft pistol, the 1992 Shockwave rifle, a small knife and the 1990 Ambush rifle all cast in a nice dark blue color.  The color is probably better for Cobra.  But, they are dark enough to still be useful and they match the figure quite well.  There is the requisite missile launcher and two missiles.  And, to top it off, Muskrat includes a helmet.  The helmet is the same as Mace's, just in a different color.  The calling card of both these figures, though, is that the missile launcher fits onto the helmet and can be worn on the figure's head.  This both looks ridiculous and is also just, well, dumb.  But, in the realm of bad 1993 toy ideas, it's probably not in the top 10.  I'm not sure how the Joe design team came up with the idea of a head mounted missile launcher.  But, it exists on two figures.  We get a laugh out of it today.  And, the generic helmet meant for this purpose deprives the figure of another head covering that might have made Muskrat much more useful. 

Originally, Muskrat was going to be part of the DEF.  DEF was supposed to carry over to 1993.  However, Hasbro decided to cancel the DEF and simply include the figures meant for the subset as members of the standard Battle Corps line.  Muskrat was released in Australia on a DEF card.  And, DEF pre-production cards do exist for the US figure, too.  Many of those early pre-production cards also feature a much brighter green helmet for Muskrat.  It is more of a lime green than the subtle olive of the production figure.  As oddities, the alternate cards are interesting.  But, as the figure is the same, the only real plum is if you can find a bright green helmet.

The 1993 DEF newly sculpted figures ushered in the era of big shoulders and chests on Joe figures.  You'll notice Muskrat's arms are set lower on his chest.  This is a hallmark of the late run vintage Joe figures.  It's doesn't look better than the higher set.  So, there's no real need for it.  But, it's pronounced on figures like Muskrat and even the Headhunter Stormtrooper.  If we knew what Muskrat was wearing, the higher shoulders might make sense.  But, even then, it would be a stretch.  This updated construction can make it difficult to use pieces from earlier years with the later torsos.  And, it shows the Joe line's slow evolution that continued through 1994.  It's possible that by slowly adding bulk and size to the figures, it would have made kids more accepting on things like Replicators, Manimals and other cancelled 1995 designs that would have been bigger and bulkier.  But, the utter failure of Sgt. Savage shows that straying too far from the standard sizing was not a good strategy.

Muskrat's mold died with this release.  Despite the Headhunter Stormtrooper, Gristle, Mace, Bulletproof, Headhunter and Law all appearing in Brazil around 1995, Muskrat did not.  There was no telling where his mold ended up.  It's likely that Hasbro had it available.  But, really, there is no demand for a repaint of this figure.  And, the reality is that the bold color choices are the only thing saving this sculpt.  It would take a remarkable accessory complement to make this Muskrat usable.  So, collectors aren't really missing out on anything by not having another option for this mold available to them.  

Like the rest of the 1993 figures planned for the DEF series, Muskrat isn't as common as the more standard Battle Corps figures.  They were likely shipped together and didn't see the production run of the standard series release.  They are not, though, rare.  Lots of kids had them and the figures were easy to find until the last two or three years.  The figure got a bit pricey for a time in 2020 and 2021.  Now, though, he's dropping pretty fast.  You'll still see dealers get $20+ for a mint and complete figure.  But, he's about an $8 figure if you find one on the open market.  And, you can get carded figures for under $25.  So, that's worth the wait to get the figure for a fair price.  As an oddity, Muskrat is worth less than $10.  But, beyond that, this figure is tough to use and really only gets points for the powerful colors and oddball design.

1993 Muskrat, DEF, Interrogator, Mail Away, Eel

1993 Muskrat, DEF, Long Arm

1993 Muskrat, Mudbuster, DEF

1993 DEF Battle Corps Muskrat, 1994 Star Brigade Sci Fi