Saturday, January 29, 2022

1985 Dusty - Around The Web

1985 is full of high profile figures.  Flint, Snake Eyes, Lady Jaye and Shipwreck are among the most popular characters in the line.  There is then the second tier of characters who supplement the release year and really make 1985 the special year that it was.  For some collectors, Dusty will be considered an equal to Flint.  To others, he's below Bazooka.  Regardless of where the characters falls for you, though, the 1985 Dusty figure is pretty solid.  It's probably the best representation of a real desert trooper in the Joe line.  (You don't wear short sleeves in the desert!)  The cloth piece attached to his helmet was the first appearance of non-plastic material with Joes.  (Though, Kenner had used it in Star Wars for many years by this time.)  It has become such an ingrained piece of Dusty's look that any figure missing the cloth just looks out of place.

The upside with a figure like Dusty is that a great many content creators have been able to use him in amazing photos through the years.  Sure, they are all desert themed.  But, that's what you'd expect from Joe's seminal desert trooper.  You'll find a wide array of content below.  Personally, I underutilized Dusty when I lived in the desert.  I somewhat lament that, now.  But, I'm sure I'll find a way to get him worked into future photos, too.  Until then, enjoy the best of Dusty from around the web.

1985 Dusty, 1984 VAMP Mark II, Plastirama, Sigilo, Quick Kick, Argentina
1985 Dusty, 1983 Wolverine, Plastirama, Backstop, Argentina, Starduster, 1987, Mail Away, JUMP, Jet Pack

1985 Dusty, Lady Jaye, Quick Kick

1985 Dusty, Alpine, Risco, Plastirama, Argentina

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

1985 Armadillo

I have no real information in regards to the G.I. Joe toy release schedule in 1985.  It's very possible that every toy was released in the first quarter and then shipped for the entire year.  However, my recollection of the 1985 releases is different.  This could very well be a case of selective memory.  As a kid, I had no money during the winter months as I made my spending cash mowing lawns from spring through fall.  Usually, the money flowed in slowly in the spring, ramped up just as school was letting out, tapered off in the heat of the mid summer and then picked back through fall until all the leaves had been raked  up.  This overlays with my recollections of buying Joe toys.  I would get figures first in the early part of the year.  Then, I would pick up small vehicles.  By the summer of 1985, the mid size vehicles had shown up and I'd get those.  Then, the large vehicles showed up in the fall, just as the holiday season was getting ready to kick off.  It could be that I simply looked at items I could afford.  So, when I had just a couple of bucks in my wallet, I'd focus on figures or small vehicles for which I had the funds to purchase and ignore the more expensive items.  Or, my memories of longing after larger items were wiped out when the toys became part of my collection as the year wound down.  Regardless of the reason, my Joe experience in 1985 was a progression from the cheapest items available to the most expensive.  It is one of the cheap items, though, that finds itself the focus of this profile: the 1985 Armadillo.

I knew the Armadillo from the 1985 G.I. Joe catalog that had come with my Silver Mirage.  It looked like a great toy and a perfect addition to the Joe army.  And, when compared to the Silver Mirage, it was everything the motorcycle promised but failed to deliver.  The Armadillo didn't fall apart.  It was small, compact, packed with firepower and held three figures.  It was straightforward and didn't try to be anything more than it was.  It had some molded details like the front winch (non-working) and the gas tank opening to be compatible with the USS Flagg.  Beyond that, though, the Armadillo was what it was.

My first real memory of the Armadillo comes from the Friday night when I acquired Tomax and Xamot.  Comic #37, introducing the Crimson Twins and the Armadillo (among others), had just come out.  My family was out late on a Friday, but let me stop at Toys R Us.  Here, I found the twins.  I opened them on my parents' living room floor and pulled out Footloose and the Armadillo to take them on: just as seen in the comic.  I hadn't played for but a few minutes when I was sent off to bed.  But, that early bedtime cemented the memory of that night since it left the adventure unfinished and me desperately wanting to finish it out.  Through the rest of the year, the Armadillo remained a favorite toy.  It was small enough to be taken to my grandparents' homes and durable enough to survive the travel without breaking or losing pieces.  It was a perfect match for my favorite figures and was Flint's personal ride for a while.  Even as the larger 1985 vehicles entered my collection, the Armadillo remained vitally important.  The cannons were small enough to be believed as capable of taking out infantry, but also large enough and with enough range of motion to take out both Cobra aircraft and Hiss Tanks.  

As 1985 turned to 1986, the Armadillo took on a greater role.  The VAMP was still around, but didn't seem up to snuff against the newer Cobra vehicles.  And, while my new Mauler was awesome, it was big and bulky and didn't fit the "everyman" type vehicle that I was missing.  The HAVOC in 1986 was more similar to the Mauler in this vein and the Armadillo remained a key component of my Joe army.  With it, the Joes could quickly take out both Cobra Vipers and Hiss Tanks.  I had the Armadillo be the only Joe vehicle that could match the speed of a STUN, though, it lacked the armaments to destroy one.  Into 1987, the Armadillo was the backbone of Joe's landing forces as they invaded Cobra island.  They might be manned by a named Joe or some nameless, faceless "commando" who made up my Joe cannon fodder.  The vehicle's resiliency and strong construction allowed it to outlive many later acquisitions that would break more easily or that had more pieces that were easily lost.

My final memory of the Armadillo bookends my first.  In the fall of 1987, my friends from down the street, my younger brother and I decided to have one final battle with our Joe toys.  The kids down the street brought over their entire collection and we set up a massive convoy battle in a slight depression in the south side of my parents' backyard.  Figures and vehicles were hidden in every patch of ivy, beneath every bush, behind every garden rock and plant and in holes dug specifically for this adventure.  The plan was for it to last several days.  And, it kind of did.  But, a fall rainstorm ended the play early and all the toys were hastily packed up...except for a lone Armadillo.  With that final battle out of mind, we turned the backyard into a field for various sports and spent the rest of the fall and early winter playing soccer, football and kickball on the grass.  During one of the these contests, the ball went into the bushes, near the scene of the final battle.  While retrieving it, I found the missing Armadillo, with Heavy Metal still at the helm, lost in the evergreen ivy that covered the ground beneath the bushes.  I picked it up, showed it to everyone, and placed it on the deck as we returned to our game.

And with that, the Armadillo's significance to my collection ended.  My Joes were soon packed away, the Armadillo included.  When I got the toys out again nearly a decade later, the Armadillo was among those that were resurrected.  But, the tank lost its luster.  I'm not really sure why.  But, to my older eye, the Armadillo didn't hold up.  It seemed cheap and undetailed.  I suspect part of this was a function of my acquisition of the Sgt. Savage Iron Panther tank.  This 1995 release looked great from the outside.  But, had no interior at all.  This lack of detail left me feeling cheated in regards to the vehicle and gave me a more critical eye through which I viewed Joe vehicles.  The Armadillo reminded me of that disappointment and it was never able to regain its footing as a key part of my collection.  

It's tough to discuss the Joe year of 1985 without bringing up the major change the brand underwent.  First, almost all of the new figures for 1985 featured a new, ball jointed head.  This allowed for greater movement.  The bigger news, though, was how grandiose the Joe line was going to be.  Aside from figures that introduced new hoses and construction, the vehicles for the line got bigger and better.  The Mauler, Tactical Battle Platform and the Moray would have been enough to make 1985 the most expensive Joe year ever.  But, Hasbro also threw in the largest playset ever made, the USS Flagg.  A $100 toy that was 7 1/2 feet long was the most ambitious item Hasbro ever undertook.  But, the combination of a flourishing line, successful cartoon and mid 1980's hubris lead to a lineup of toys and playsets that was difficult for any other line to overcome.

The real driver of Joe's popularity, though, was that you didn't have to have $100 and a massive basement to enjoy the line.  There were items like this Armadillo that were cheap and every bit as good a toy as the larger items.  Joe made sure that it had a toy in every price point.  This way, no one was excluded from it.  One of the great lamentations I have about toys today is that they rarely offer something for everyone.  If all the toys are cheap, collectors pass it by.  If they are all expensive, kids don't know it exists.  Few lines are able to ride that fine balance between being available for kids but also appealing to adult collectors.  Even Star Wars struggles with it.  But, the 2022 toy market is vastly different from the same in 1985.  

The Armadillo saw a few releases.  After the original release by Hasbro, it also saw exclusive releases by Estrela in Brazil and Auriken in Mexico.  These are both based on the US release, but feature different shades of green.  In 1989, the Armadillo was given a new turret with missile launchers and released in the Slaughter's Marauders subset.  It's final appearance was in 2006 when it was released as a convention exclusive for Sgt. Slaughter.  During the Anniversary era, Hasbro retooled the Armadillo and released an updated version.  Aside from the Slaughter's Marauders paint job, though, most of the Armadillo releases are relatively similar.  So, there's not a lot of diversity in Armadillo designs.  Though, collectors of the mold do have several versions to track down.

Unbroken Armadillos sell in the $15 to $25 range.  As the current market is just stupid, though, you'll see dealers getting up to $60 for one.  But, as the tank was very popular, pretty sturdy and a stalwart of any kids' collection in 1985, there are a ton of them out there and you don't need to pay dealer pricing.  Be sure to make sure both footpegs on the back are intact and that none of the three contact points for the back railing are snapped.  But, you can get Armadillos with these afflictions for pretty much nothing and still have a very functional toy.  For the price and the size, the Armadillo is still worth it.  It can display three figures in a relatively small footprint and looks good with figures from 1984 through 1986 as the crew.  You can't ask much more from a small release like this.

2004 Night Force Short Fuse, Short Fuze, Toys R Us Excusive, 2004 Comic Pack Steeler, 1985 Armadillo

1985 Armadillo, 1986 Beach Head, Dial Tone, Bazooka

1985 Armadillo, Flint, Footloose

1985 Armadillo, 1986 Beach Head, Dial Tone, Bazooka

Saturday, January 22, 2022

1984 Mutt - Around The Web

The 1984 Mutt is one of my favorite figures.  I use him all the time.  Yet, when I went to look, I had not only neglected to do an Around the Web feature on him, I also only had a paltry two photos of him that I've taken in the past couple of years.  This seems completely impossible as I use the Mutt figure all the time.  He just appears in backgrounds instead of being the photo's primary subject.  So, I'll have to fix that as 2022 moves forward.

As for Mutt, he is emblematic of the 1984 figure releases.  While 1983 had been a substantial leap forward from the 1982 figures, the 1984 series was another leap again.  The sculpting, colors and gear were taken to another level.  Among the introductions for 1984 were smaller pistols, accompanying accessories, soft plastic wearable gear, backpacks that had their own accessories and animal companions.  Mutt included most of these as he had his muzzle, Junkyard, a small Mac-10, his nightstick and a pliable leash for his dog.  He featured more detailed sculpting and a slightly larger scale than the smaller 1983 releases.  Joe would continue to evolve for many more years.  But, Mutt's year was an important stepping stone that moved the line ahead.

1984 Mutt Profile

Mutt - Around the World

Mutt at Colin's Joes

Mutt at

Mutt at Actionfigs and Things

Mutt by Hit and Run

Mutt by Troopsofdoom

Mutt by R.T.G.

Mutt by StkhlmDK

Mutt by dashiellrfairborne

Mutt by incrediblebulk

1984 Mutt, 1983 Wolverine, Action Force Stalker, Palitoy, Snake Eyes

1984 Mutt, 1987 Road Toad, 2017 Black Major Starduster, Mail Away, Red Laser Army Manleh

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

G.I. Joe #27 - Marvel Comics

In early 1984, a 4th grade classmate of mine had taken a trip with his family to California.  When he returned, he had a bag full of the brand new 1984 G.I. Joe figures.  The sensory overload of new characters and spectacular accessories was immense.  I immediately wanted to find the new toys.  But, it would be several weeks before I was able to track down a Firefly, Baroness and Roadblock.  The introduction of his new Joes, though, forged a friendship between this classmate and I that we had not previously had.  In short order, I went to his house and was amazed at his array of G.I. Joe comic books.  Here, I was introduced to new characters and stories that made the Joe mythos explode.  A few weeks before school ended for the summer, he brought his newest acquisition to class: G.I. Joe #26, part one of the Snake Eyes origin story.  I read and re-read the issue several times, soaking in the amazing story that was given to Snake Eyes.  School then let out and I was left to wonder about the next chapter.

My cousins came to visit right shortly after school got out.  They were a bit older.  So, they walked with my brothers and I to the local Hook's Drug Store in Broad Ripple, Indiana.  (The drugstore is still there, it's just a highly renovated CVS now.)  We went to get some candy.  But, when we went in, I noticed the comic book rack that was located over by the pharmacy.  I didn't, normally, go over this way.  So, the fact that the store carried comics hadn't been on my mind.  I went over the rack and found G.I. Joe #27 front and center.  This continuation of the Snake Eyes origin was simply a must own.  Yet, I hadn't brought enough money with me to buy the book and neither my cousins nor brothers would give me the difference to purchase a copy.  In the irrational fear of a 4th grader, I didn't want to leave lest someone came and bought every copy.  So, I sent my cousins and brothers home with strict instructions of where they could find some extra money in my room.  They returned with said money and I bought my first G.I. Joe comic book.

Marvel Comics G.I. Joe #27

I read and re-read that book many times that day.  I recalled the events from #26 and lamented that I would never own it for myself.  Determined to never miss another issue, I cut out the subscription form that day, gave it and the money to my mother and had her mail in my subscription the next day.  I bought #28 at the same drug store and my subscription started with issue #29.  I would remain a loyal subscriber to the book through issue #65 and then just bought the issues at my local comic store with only brief intervals all the way to the line's cancellation with #155 and the special reprint of #61 drawn by Todd MacFarlane. 

The issue itself is pretty good.  While I tend to hold #26 in higher regard, that's more likely a carry over from the fact that I thought I'd never own #26 and I created a childhood mystique about it.  #27 carries forward the story from the prior issue, resolves some storylines and introduces some other elements that would not be wrapped up for a few more months.  In short, it's a strong comic book from the '80's designed to entertain and entice the reader to not miss any more.  While the narrative of the other Joes continued after #27, it seemed that most of the Snake Eyes/Stormshadow story had been told.  We'd see their origin, though, fleshed out for another 6 or 7 years before we really had the full story.  But, the tale told in issues #26 and #27 lay the foundation and really contain the pertinent information needed about their origins.

There are many revelations in the book.  The most memorable part, to me, is the ninja chase through 1984 New York.  This showed the skill of ninjas while also showing that the best outcome of their abilities was to avoid any deadly violence.  From there, we learned quite a bit about the characters.  The biggest reveal seems to be that Cobra Commander's brother was the driver who killed Snake Eyes' family as they were on their way to the airport to welcome him home.  While this is a bit convenient, it does help to explain why Cobra Commander sent someone to kill Snake Eyes during his ninja training.  This helps bring forward the truth that Stormshadow likely has some redemption inside him as he's working to avenge his family rather than actually help Cobra.  As I've said in some recent write ups on Destro, I'm not too keen about this, though.  Stormshadow sliced down Gung Ho in issue #24.  He kidnapped a beaten up Scarlett.  You can't just forgive these things because he wants to, eventually, learn the identity of his uncle's killer and avenge him.  The whole notion of revenge pretty much cements Stormshadow as a villain.  And, this is where he should have stayed.  Had the comic survived through 1995, we might have gotten to see Stormshadow in the right role for a final run of solid adventures.

As a memento, issue #27 is hugely important to me.  To the whole of the Joe run, it's among the more significant issues, just for the fleshing out of the Snake Eyes origin story.  Many of the events of the comic would be played out in future issues.  But, like most comics from the time, this issue is worthless.  A couple of bucks will get you a very nice original printing of #27.  If you settle for a 2nd printing, the price is less.  The story was retold numerous times in various outlets.  So, it's not hard to find it.  This comic represents the beginning of a larger Joe world for me.  It was no longer just toys.  This comic also opened me up to the world of comics in general.  (There is a promo for the first issue of the West Coast Avengers Limited Series in this issue.  It intrigued me.  And, when West Coast Avengers launched its own title, I bought it from issue #1.)  While that may have had some detrimental side effects, it was also a way for me to understand story telling in a more compact and visual format.  For that reason, this comic remains a sentimental favorite.

The purchase of this comic book also marked some major turning points in my life.  For starters, comics would become my obsession over the next several years.  With the local Comic Carnival store with biking distance, I'd begin going there two or three times per week.  (Which is all the more impressive since it was only open Thurs-Sun.)  Slowly, I added additional comics to my roster.  West Coast Avengers, Spider Man, Captain America and the Avengers became monthly reading.  (Along with a host of short lived '80's titles that no one remembers.)  The local store even began stocking the Action Force comic from England.  And, I was able to buy that for years.  As I got older, the store became my go to for baseball, football and basketball cards.  And, even when I went of to college, I'd make it a point to stop by the shop every time I was home, usually to pick up the issues of G.I. Joe that had been released in the prior few months.  

The big reason, though, that the comic stands out was because it offered some guidance on character beyond the filecards.  In the summer of 1985, I became obsessed with finding a 1983 Stalker figure as I had to own a good version of the awesome character from the comics.  At various points in the next few years, certain characters took on lives of their own as I adopted their traits from the comic and incorporated them into my own Joe world.  As my world evolved beyond the comic, though, I'd still take elements of the written stories.  Larry Hama introduced so many little tidbits into the narratives that it was impossible to not flesh them out more.  In Special Missions #1, the Baroness mentions that two Cobra Eels are worth a company of Marines.  I took this throw away line (that wasn't really true in the comic) and made it a central point of my Joe world.  Eels were nearly impossible to stop and they dominated many battles...making Cobra a far more formidable adversary than their comic source material.

The other thing that the introduction of the comic into my world did was that it brought about an expansion of my story telling capabilities.  I have few memories of specific Joe adventures prior to the summer of 1984.  I have anecdotes about times, places and people.  But, I can't recall much in the way of actual adventures that my figures undertook.  Starting in the summer of 1984, though, that changed.  It could be just a coincidence of timing.  But, reading what others were doing with the Joe characters allowed me to push my adventures further.  By 1985, my Joe world was completely different.  And, I had a long running story that was pushed along by events that were portrayed by my toys.  It evolved into a full blown story by 1987.  And, it wasn't uncommon for me to have weeks' long adventures where an action on a Monday afternoon would directly result in a major event on Friday night.  I created a history with my characters.  And, the story was bound by their abilities.  If the Joes needed a guy who could fly and Wild Bill or Ace weren't there, they were screwed.  They then had to find another way out of the situation.  I was not one to really create a dues ex machina.  My characters had to find a real way out of a situation.  And, sometimes, they were not able to without extreme costs.  In some ways, I think this was the development of my problem solving capabilities that had defined my adult career.

There are some fun details in #27.  First, you have a wide array of new characters as Mutt, Firefly, Duke and Zartan are key parts of the secondary story.  Wild Weasel and Firefly make for an odd pair.  But, their Malayan Tiger Gate was something I replicated (sans spikes!) when I was camping with friends when we were in Scouts.  Wild Weasel's appearance also made me excited for the figure.  The way he was drawn was incredibly cool.  And, one of the biggest reasons I'm not a fan of the Wild Weasel figure is because is failed so spectacularly in living up to his appearance in the comic.  There's a fun Snake Eyes with his head bandaged that is, basically, the Mummy Mask head.  Also, note the color of the young Scarlett's outfit in this issue.  It is green and yellow...the same colors as her 1993 Ninja Force costume.  I have no idea if this was intentional or not.  But, I was shocked when I saw her panels and realized the colors carried forward another 9 years.

Marvel Comics G.I. Joe #27

Marvel Comics G.I. Joe #27

Marvel Comics G.I. Joe #27

Aside from a few important or late in the run issues, all Joe comics are pretty worthless.  #27 was reprinted many times in various formats.  So, it's pretty easy to track down.  To me, if you only have a few key Joe issues, #'s 26 and 27 should be among them.  If you look at the full run of 155 Joe issues, it really is the story of Snake Eyes.  You can make a case for Cobra Commander, too.  But, Snake Eyes and his friends are the focal point for pretty much the entire series.  So, the first hints into his origin are definitely something that every collector should have in some form.  

The pictures of the crappy issue #27 below are my original copy that I bought that day in 1984.  The order form is cut out.  And, it's just destroyed because I read it a thousand times and it, being my first comic, was always on the top of the stack when I carried them around.  With figures, I don't care about versions I owned as a kid.  I want a mint copy.  With comics, though, it's different.  I'm glad to have my off condition originals.  But, that's largely a function of the different lens through which I view toys and comics.  Toys are my collection focus.  Comics are an ancillary piece that's fun, but not essential.  Knowing I thumbed through this exact issue 37 1/2 years ago is an bond to my childhood experience.  I always viewed the comic as pulp.  For toys, I remember my figures as they came out of the package.  And, once they became off condition, that figure no longer mattered to me.  So, having nice figures is also a key element of the connection that Joe toys have to my upbringing.

1984 saw a lot of transition for me and my personal connection with G.I. Joe.  It brought a new source of stories to my world.  But, also expanded my reading into different mediums.  I learned how difficult it was to create a comic book scene with just written words.  And, that created an appreciation for drawn pictures that I had previously not had.  Through the comic, I was able to bond with my first real group of friends.  While Joe brought us together, we remained friends long after we had outgrown our childhood toys.  All of that helped set the stage for the next two to three years of my life as I found Joe to be a valued creative outlet that I still use today.

Marvel Comics G.I. Joe #27

Marvel Comics G.I. Joe #27

Saturday, January 15, 2022

1983 Destro - Around The Web

Destro's introduction changed the direction of G.I. Joe.  His appearance in 1983 helped set Cobra as a more viable foe for Joe.  And, he also brought an element of design flair to the line.  A human villain with a chromed head was a retail standout at the time.  And, it helped make G.I. Joe a line that went beyond its olive drab roots.  

In recent years, I've come to find the character of Destro to be overly problematic.  He was portrayed as a man of honor.  Yet, to me, this is disingenuous.  He is an arms dealer who profits from violence and death.  He uses his notion of "honor" as a way of shielding his conscious from the atrocities that he enables.  This gives him cover and absolves him of responsibility for any actions of his customers.  It's "just business".  But, to me, that's the issue.  It can't be an arms length transaction when innocent people are displaced from their homeland, intimidated and even killed in violent fashion by the machines of war.  So, now, I see Destro as culpable.  Every death that occurred by his weapons are on his head.  And, his disassociation from that responsibility leaves him a coward in my eyes.

For me, now, Destro is just evil.  So, he appears in my world as a conniving, evil man who seeks to profit off of suffering and war.  It's still terrible.  But, at least he's honest about who he is.  

Obviously, lots of good Destro content out there.  Check out all the links as you'll find fun stuff throughout.

1983 Destro Profile

1983 Destro by masterbungle

1983 Destro by scarrviper

1983 Destro by R.T.G.

1983 Destro at

1983 Destro by flint

1983 Destro at Nekoman's Viper Pit

1983 Destro by cyko

1983 Destro by Cobra Freak

1983 Destro by LT Shipwreck

1983 Destro at When It Was Cool

1983 Destro (No Date Stamp) by Hit and Run

1983 Destro (Date Stamp) by Hit and Run

1983 Destro by Slipstream80

1983 Destro, 1984 Zartan, Firefly, Stinger

1983 Destro, 1984 Zartan, Firefly, Stinger Driver, Hiss Tank, Baroness, Wild Weasel, Hooded Cobra Commander, 2004 Cobra Trooper, Rattler

1983 Destro, 1984 Zartan, Firefly, Stinger Driver, Hiss Tank

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

1983 Wild Bill

I've finally done it.  In 20 years of profiling figures, I've never actually completed a figure year's worth of profiles.  In many cases, I'm close.  In some cases, it's just one or two figures before that year is complete.  But, I've never actually closed out an entire year.  My focus has always been to switch around and not get too focused on any specific year in too short a period of time.  With this profile of Wild Bill, all the new figures that were released in 1983 are now done and have been reviewed.  It's an odd feeling since I always like to have options for figure years as subjects of future profiles.  But, I've told most of my stories about specific years and there is some redundancy if you read everything about a year in one sitting.

Wild Bill's entry to my collection came in the fall of 1983.  I had mowed lawns all summer long and had properly saved my money.  Now, I wanted to buy something big.  At the time, there was really only one option: the Dragonfly.  It was the one toy the kid around the block hadn't gotten, yet.  And, it was awesome.  On a warm, early Fall day, my mom took me to the recently opened Kohl's store.  There, I found my Dragonfly and bought it.  Both of my younger brothers complained bitterly about not getting something.  So, my mom bought them Tripwire and Torpedo.  Somehow, since I was buying my own toy, I didn't get a figure bought for me.  This recurred in my childhood for the next several years.  Apparently, I'm somewhat bitter about it.  But, it also created a sense of self reliance that I maintain to this day.  And, I've always simply worked to buy the things I want.  I miss out on some things due to my independence.  But, I've also gotten to do some amazing things due to the same spirit.

Back to the Dragonfly, though.  I got the copter home and opened it by our front, screen door.  A light drizzle fell as I put it together.  When done, it became the flagship of my burgeoning Joe collection.  Instantly, Joe had the full upper hand in any firefight.  At the time, we might have had a FANG to battle the Dragonfly.  So, the Joe copter quickly became the ruler of the toy room.  Once I got a Hiss Tank for Christmas that year, Cobra finally had a weapon capable of shooting down the Dragonfly.  By the holiday season, I also had a Skystriker.  And, while the Skystriker was cooler looking from afar, the reality is that the Dragonfly is a substantially better toy with way more play value than the titular Joe aircraft.

The same, though, could not be said about the pilot of the helicopter: Wild Bill.  After the emeralds that were Clutch and Steeler from 1982, Wild Bill seemed like a letdown.  He had some interesting designs.  But, he was definitely a step below the carded figures from 1983 in terms of details and quality.  His orange hair was a bit too orange.  It gave him a comical appearance: something that was a complete departure from how Larry Hama portrayed him in the comic.  His head was also too large.  And, it dominated his appearance.  It made him out of proportion with the other, existing figures.  I kept him in the Dragonfly as it was better there than wasting one of my better figures as the pilot.  But, in general, Wild Bill was a huge disappointment as a figure.

One frustrating thing about Wild Bill was that he became one of Larry Hama's go to Joe characters.  He appeared often in the comic and maintained starring roles through the mid '80's as I started using my collection as a creative outlet.  It sucked to see Wild Bill done up as a great character in the comics but to have his figure be so lackluster.  To this day, it's tough to reconcile Wild Bill's character with his original toy.  The early Hasbro designers had something for very open collars.  And, far too many figures look like refugees from a cheesy Midwestern disco.  Wild Bill is a prime example.  The rest of his motif is just kind of bland.  While the green and brown that dominates his design isn't a bad combo, it just feels kind of tired after the other, amazing new offerings that preceded him in 1983.

The figure just looks off.  His head is too large for his body.  This proved out, too, when trying to place Wild Bill in the front seat of the Dragonfly (like the box art showed!).  Wild Bill would not fit in a way that allowed the canopy to close without unnatural finagling of the figure.  Yes, I would eventually learn from the comic that Wild Bill would fly from the back seat of the chopper.  But, that initial frustration with him fitting didn't do the figure any favors.  It also didn't help that, generally, I'm not a fan of the cowboy look.  I'm an urbanite.  I always have been.  The "western" look wasn't something I ever found particularly appealing.  So, again, my personal biases helped to shape my opinion of the Wild Bill figure.  I would not start buying the comic until June of 1984.  By then, my opinions of the figure were pretty set and I would instead lament that there was not a good Wild Bill figure instead of trying to rethink my stance on the one that did exist.

Wild Bill is a Bill Kilgore (from Apocalypse Now) knockoff.  You have the helicopter pilot wearing historic military gear.  You can almost hear Wagner playing when the Dragonfly makes an appearance.  But, in 1983, I had no idea that the original character existed.  So, Wild Bill seemed like something new to me.  I figured he was just a cowboy knock off character since there were still lots of cowboy toys floating around in the early 1980's.  His Texas steer belt buckle, Civil War era cavalry hat and twin, ivory handled six shooters all completed his look.  (Wild Bill also wears his antique weapons handles forward.  At the time, one of my Dad's old cap guns from the 1950's was still at my grandparents' house.  It had a real leather holster.  I always carried the pistol handles forward, too, as I thought it was a cooler look than the standard handles back.)  It makes little sense to wear them like this on your legs.  But, it's a design choice that helped Wild Bill stand apart from his contemporaries.

The Joe line of 1983 was perfectly timed.  While Return of the Jedi figures stole the thunder from G.I. Joe in the early part of the year, their grip as the prime toy of our household had been weakened by the 1982 Joes.  In the late summer of 1983, one of my brother's friends came over.  He brought with him his new Airborne figure.  I was immediately enthralled by the swivel arm battle grip.  That one little change to Joe construction completely changed the way with which you could interact with a figure.  And, it was all it took for Joe to permanently displace Star Wars.  From 1983 onward, Joe dominated our house.  And, aside from a smattering of Star Wars Christmas presents, Joe was pretty much the only toy I ever bought again.  

1983 is also important, though, because Joe took a huge leap forward.  While the 1982 line was far more sci-fi than most modern collectors care to admit, it was still steeped in the classic military motif that matched the World War II homage green army figures that you could buy at every grocery store during the early 1980's.  In 1983, though, Joe stepped away from the green base figures of the prior year and introduced a massive amount of color to the line.  While you still had some green figures like Wild Bill, Hasbro also introduced tan, blue, grey, white, red and silver to the line.  Along with the colors, though, came the characters.  Gung Ho and Wild Bill were larger than life.  Snow Job and Tripwire were the funny, supporting cast and guys like Doc, Torpedo and Ace were serious specialists with credentials to support their new looks.  

Cobra, though, took a bigger leap.  While Cobra Commander had always been more super-villain than terrorist, the crop of 1983 Cobras made it clear that G.I. Joe was really a story of heroes and villains rather than a textbook on military operations.  Major Bludd gave Cobra credibility with the affiliation of such a dangerous desperado.  But, Destro, with his steel mask and massive size, firmly cemented Cobra as a group of enemies who weren't some third world despot.  Sure, the military lingo and specialties were there to keep Joe grounded in its military roots.  But, 1983 was the step forward that prevented Joe from quickly stagnating at retail like so many other toys did.  

You can make a case that the 1983 Joes were the stepping stone towards making the modern G.I. Joe equal to their predecessor from the 1960's.  Kids could now play in sky, under water, in the snow or even the desert with their figures.  And, within the next two years, there would be a Joe figure to cover pretty much every adventure a kid could conjure up.  So, G.I. Joe could be a military line.  But, it could also be a science fiction line.  (I do believe that one reason why it was so easy for kids to evolve from Star Wars to G.I. Joe was because Joe had some familiar themes like lasers, sharply dressed villains and a variety of characters that would connect with various personality types.)  It appealed to fans of comic book heroes and villains and also offered chances for standard civilian adventures.  Joe figures were compatible with toys from all other 3 3/4 figure lines because their articulation and construction allowed them more freedom of mobility.  It was far less frequent to be able to successfully integrate other 3 3/4 figures into Joe vehicles because the Joe toys were designed specifically to work with bending knees, flexible waists and, now, swiveling arms.

Now, I have to be ingenuous about this transition, too.  Star Wars also suffered from the reality that Return of the Jedi ended the story.  Darth Vader and Boba Fett were dead.  The Empire was defeated.  There were no real stories left to develop with the toys.  And, this ending also opened the door for Joe.  The crop of 1983 Cobra villains were super villain archetypes and turned the Joe saga from some generic army guys fighting knock off Nazis to a full blown chess match of fully developed heroes and villains who had motivations, grudges and the wherewithal to battle each other to a standstill that could generate stories for years.  Star Wars lost that when the major players had their arcs come to an end.  We're just now, 40 years later, starting to see how the Star Wars universe could have been expanded.  But, without the availability of modern TV techniques, it's doubtful Star Wars could have pulled it off in 1983.

One odd memory I have of Wild Bill is that the kid around the block gave me his straight arm Steeler figure in late 1987 or so.  Both of the thumbs were broken.  But, I found that Wild Bill's arms were a suitable substitute.  So, one of our spare Wild Bill figures was taken apart and used to upgrade Steeler.  I then found that the rest of the Wild Bill parts were pretty useless for making kitbashes of new characters.  To this day, the rest of that Wild Bill that was sacrificed so Steeler could join my collection remain in a box of discarded and unloved parts.  I got rid of the Steeler with the wrong arms in one of my collection purges.  So, there's no reuniting the entire figure.  But, it's one of those odd remnants of my childhood collection that still haunts my collecting closet.

Wild Bill didn't see much use.  He was released by Hasbro and no one else in the vintage line.  In some European catalogs, you see mock ups of a Tiger Force Wild Bill (they are hand painted samples) flying the Tiger Force Dragonfly.  It was likely that Wild Bill was the original choice to be the pilot for that chopper, too.  But, the mold availability didn't match up.  So, Recondo was released instead.  I have to say that getting a Tiger Force Recondo far surpasses a possible Tiger Force Wild Bill.  So, I applaud Hasbro for that decision.  Oddly, in 2001, Funskool dropped a Wild Bill repaint.  While their orange release featured new arms, it had the rest of the Wild Bill body.  It was odd to see for sure.  But, the brightly colored figure is pretty fun.  It remains a travesty that we didn't get the 1992 Wild Bill mold in 1983 colors during the repaint era.  Hasbro had the mold and it would have been a well received figure.

As far as 1983 figures go, Wild Bill is cheap.  Mint and complete with filecard versions sell for around $20.  And, you can get them for 1/2 that with a little patience.  Wild Bill's tend to discolor pretty badly, even on otherwise mint samples.  So, it can be a hassle to find a perfectly colored one.  (You will see guys try to pass off a "white undershirt" Wild Bill.  But, this is just a discolored chest.  Even mine that you see below is starting to go.)  But, this is a figure that I don't care enough about to spend any time tracking down.  I don't even really like him as the pilot of the Dragonfly and I replace him every chance I get.  But, Wild Bill is iconic.  So, you pretty much have to have him if you own a Dragonfly.  

1983 Wild Bill, Cover Girl, 1984 ASP

Saturday, January 8, 2022

1982 JUMP Jet Pack - Around The Web

Somehow, the inclusion of a self contained, single person jetpack has become accepted as "strict military realism" in the Joe line.  Even in 2022, you see collectors who deride when Joe went "sci-fi" and say the line got bad when that happened.  How they can accept something like the JUMP, HAL or Flash while deriding later concepts that were no further out there than these original ideas is beyond me.  So, I make it a point to focus on the sci-fi aspects of the Joe line that were introduced in 1982.

The JUMP, though, is a great toy and may be the single most useful single backpack ever released in the line's history.  Because of the generic name, it can be tough to find JUMP content.  Even though a lot of it exists.  But, you'll see some really strong content regarding the JUMP in the links below.  The names who appear are a who's who of Joe photographers: proving the JUMP is an essential part of every collection.

JUMP Profile

JUMP by Scarrviper

JUMP by Evilface

JUMP by Slipstream80

JUMP by doksewage

JUMP by jogunwarrior

JUMP by flatline54

JUMP at quietroomentertainment

JUMP by Flint

JUMP by Slipstream80

JUMP by atticagazette

JUMP by offworld.colony

JUMP by sparkasylum

JUMP by the.faceless.master

JUMP by Slipstream80

1982 JUMP, Jet Pack, 1983 Tripwire, 1984, European Exclusive Mutt, Sokerk, Plastirama, Argentina

1982 JUMP, Jet Pack, 1987 Starduster, Mail Away, 2007 Starduster, Convention Exclusive, Flash

1982 JUMP, Jet Pack, 1987 Starduster, Mail Away, 2007 Starduster, Convention Exclusive

1982 JUMP, 1984 Recondo, 2016 Black major Tiger Force Starduster, Jet Pack

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

1982 VAMP

In October of 1982, the first G.I. Joe toys entered into my life.  My brother got about half the overall line for his birthday (with many duplicates).  Of the toys that he received, my favorite was the Clutch figure.  His overly detailed mold with the chest holster was enthralling.  I gave him Stalker's gun, Grunt's backpack and a visor and had him rule the day.  Of less interest to me was the vehicle which included Clutch, the VAMP.  Sure, it was cool.  But, I had mostly played with spaceships for several years and my ground play patterns were pretty much limited to figure only interactions.  In fact, I made Clutch fly because that was far more interesting than having him try to walk across our front yard.  As we got more Joes, though, and Star Wars fell more into the rear view window, the fun of ground vehicles started to become apparent.  And, the high quality construction of Joe toys quickly set them apart from many of their contemporaries.

After my brother got his spate of Joe toys in October, we had to wait until December for more.  In that time, though, my brother's VAMP took a beating.  Our front yard was bisected by a concrete sidewalk that ended in four or five stairs that lead to the public sidewalk that lined our street.  The VAMP would be revved up and driven over these stairs almost daily for two months.  It was usually the culmination of the adventure and the VAMP was either careening to its doom or escaping a disaster.  Often, the ending of the day's adventure would be determined by fate.  If the figures fell out of the jeep, they died.  If they remained inside, they lived.  So, you never knew how the day would end.  The VAMP held up very well to this rough play.  In time, pieces broke off and the roll cage cracked.  One trip over those stairs would turn any of my kids' 2022 toys to shards.  But, the VAMP took it for several weeks before the cold forced our toys inside.

For Christmas, though, I found my own VAMP under the tree.  Along with the MMS and Snake Eyes, it formed the group of presents that mattered the most to me.  They joined my RAM and Breaker to create the focus of my adventures for the next several months.  I kept my VAMP, though, in better condition.  It didn't get sent over the "waterfall" out front.  And, even by 1987, it was in pretty good condition (I had swapped out the bottom half of the VAMP for a Stinger's, though, as I liked the more advanced Stinger interior.) and I even still had all the pieces.  It began a pattern where I'd care for my toys while being less concerned about those of my younger brothers.  They would destroy their pieces.  So, I'd use theirs for dangerous maneuvers while keeping my samples in far better condition.

As a kid, I found the VAMP very frustrating.  I wanted it to be my favorite.  But, I found that the design was somewhat limiting.  If I wanted to move two figures around the battlefield, it was perfect.  If I wanted the passenger to be holding a rifle, that worked too.  You could even fit any of the 1982 backpacks into the cockpit if you wanted.  But, the bulkier gear that started to be included with figures starting in 1983 was problematic.  There simply wasn't room for them.  So, with no place to store the gear, I found the toy lacking.  I wanted my figures to carry all their accessories into battle.  If they weren't important, the figures would not have included them.  So, anything too small to accommodate them was of limited use.

The more frustrating aspect was that it could only hold two figures.  The comic and cartoon VAMPs seemed to grow or shrink based on the needs of the writers.  The toy was more constrained. I desperately wanted Rock and Roll or Flash to man the gun turret on the VAMP.  At various times, I attempted to attach the seat from a Whirlwind onto the back of the VAMP with rubber bands so that a third figure could sit by the gun.  These never worked as the bands would not hold.  And, the VAMP's gun is too low for a gunner to properly operate it.  So, my imagination was limited by the toy itself.  Eventually, my brother's VAMP's gun stripped off.  With it gone, that VAMP became more of a service vehicle that supported the fighting vehicles that still had their weapons.  Even years later, these service type vehicles were useful.  And, my youngest brother even turned my VAMP MK II into a cargo vehicle by cutting the off the back and making it removable so that you could access the cavity beneath the facade.

But, as my collection grew into the late 80's, the VAMP still served a valuable purpose.  It was small, light and fast.  It was Joe's only way to outrun a STUN (which was my Cobra's primary mechanized weapon).  The cannons that could swivel both 360 degrees as well as elevate gave the VAMP a field of fire that was really unmatched by other Joe vehicles.  It could shoot down Flight Pods and FANGs while still also tearing apart infantry who were on the ground.  The small machine gun on the vehicle's hood was another way for the VAMP to be deadly when it was both on the attack and fleeing from Cobra.  I never cared much about the steering wheel.  And, I removed the front roll bar and replaced it with the additional headlights from the VAMP Mark II as I thought it looked better.  The gas cans were fun as pursuing Cobras would shoot for them and, with luck, turn an escaping VAMP into a raging fireball.  I'd also remove them and use the carrier as a place for additional weapons or gear.  There's not much to the VAMP.  But, that simplicity is what allows it to excel.

There are few vehicles as iconic as the VAMP.  Released in the first year of the G.I. Joe line, it went on to become one of the hallmark vehicles that defined the toys for years.  The VAMP was the first vehicle to get reused when the VAMP Mark II was released in 1984.  And, even today, it's the iconic jeep for all Joes.  Collectors love VAMP re-releases and always seemed odd that Hasbro so underutilized the mold in the 2000's.  But, the body configuration they had for the Desert Striker had a lot of limitations and it was only when they retooled the original VAMP in the anniversary era that those who enjoyed later figures had an option to place inside Joe's classic fast attack vehicle.

1982 was a defining moment for me.  When the Joe line was released, I quickly abandoned Star Wars toys that had been the basis of my play since 1978.  The updated articulation and plethora of accessories that were interchangeable with every figure won me over.  And, as 1983 began, G.I. Joe were the only toys I wanted...until the late spring.  As Return of the Jedi came out, the toys that Kenner made to accompany it won the day again.  The updated accessories on the 1983 figures as well as plastic that didn't snap when the weapon was put into the hands too roughly pushed Joe to the background.    I left my small collection of 1982 Joes behind in the spring of 1983 and focused on all the new Return of the Jedi figures.  By the summer, I had all of the first wave of Jedi releases.  I didn't take any Joes with me when I visited relatives.  It was all Star Wars.  And, had Joe not made a major improvement in 1983, I'd have never gone back to it.  That will be the tale for next week's profile, though.

The VAMP is a constant of the Joe line from around the world.  Various configurations and constructions of the VAMP have appeared in Canada, Brazil, India, Europe and Japan.  If you want to spend $20 to get a VAMP, there are variants for that price.  If you want to spend $1000 on a VAMP, there are variants that will cost you that much, too.  Collectors who only focus on VAMP variants can still spend years and years tracking them all down.  In the past few years, more new variants have been discovered and new versions were even released in India.  In many ways, it feels like Hasbro could have done more with the VAMP mold.  While there are variants of it for Cobra, the desert, Tiger Force, the police, civilian racing and all shades of green, Hasbro could have pumped it out to match every Toys R Us exclusive set in the 2000's and collectors would have gobbled them all up.  It is my hope that the VAMP will return in some form in 2022 as part of the anniversary celebration.  Time will tell, I guess.

For my money, the VAMP is a classically iconic toy.  It is instantly recognizable as a G.I. Joe vehicle and stands on its own as one of the titans of the line.  The subsequent repaints did much to cement the vehicle's legacy.  Today, mint and complete VAMPs with the blueprints and Clutch will run you close to $100.  The steering wheel alone can cost $30.  But, there remain many cheap options available, too.  VAMPs missing the steering wheel and gas cans are still selling for under $25.  And, you can sometimes even get the gas cans in that price range.  There's tons of them available which helps sate demand and keep the prices more sane.  There's really no excuse to not own the classic VAMP.  It still looks good and works with most figures.  And, the multitude of factory customs in recent years have added to the spate of figures with whom the VAMP works well.  For me, the VAMP is the toy that helped launch my Joe obsession.

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

Saturday, January 1, 2022

The Top 10 - 2021

 2021 has been an interesting year.  We've seen massive amounts of factory customs.  There were a few "retro" items available.  And, most importantly, Hasbro is bringing back some vintage Joe style figures with commemorative releases and the Haslab Skystriker.  2022 has much for Joe collectors to look forward to.  Promises of a variety of products that should hit everyone's collecting niche abound.  

Looking through this year's top 10, it's an eclectic mix.  Numbers 2 and 3 are really surprising.  But, in general, the popularity seems to be all over the place.  The site saw a massive uptick in visitors as both the pandemic raged and the Snake Eyes movie drew close to release.  Even after the movie's disappearance from popular culture, though, the traffic has remained high.  The site got 189,000 page views this year.  That's a substantial increase from years past.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 posts in terms of pageviews that were released in 2020.  I put that caveat on there because the most viewed post on the site in all of 2021 was, once again, the 1984 MANTA.  I don't know why.  But, it more than tripled the number 1 post that was new in 2021.

10. 1986 Claymore 

Claymore is a "rare" figure who's price has far outstripped his value to a collection.  As I got him for Christmas in 1986, though, he's somewhat important to me.  And, his rarity always attracts eyeballs.

1986 Claymore, Leatherneck
9. 2017 Commando 

Red Laser Army figures tend to do well.  Snake Eyes figures tend to do well.  So, combined, they clocked in as the 9th most popular new post on the site this year.

2017 Red Laser Army Commando, Factory Custom, 1997 Stalker

8. 1983 Hawk 

Hawk is kind of a surprise.  I looked at the MMS last year, too.  And, it was one of the worst performing new profiles of the year.  So, to see the Hawk included with the vehicle get so many additional views just goes to show how valuable the inclusion of the drivers really was.

1983 Hawk, Stalker, Flash, Zap, Short Fuse, Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Grand Slam, Rock and Roll, Breaker

7. 2020 Black Major Bonecrusher 

Bonecrusher was my pick for the best figure of 2020.  I still maintain that it's an excellent design that brings some needed life to the 1985 Snake Eyes mold.  It showing up there is no surprise.

2020 Black Major Bonecrusher, 1993 Blanka

6. 1987 Crystal Ball 

Crystal Ball really shouldn't be among the most viewed profiles of the year.  But, I can also see how he does belong.  Everyone knows him.  And, sometimes, people just can't look away, even at something that's goofy and silly.

1987 Crystal Ball, 2021 Black Major Swamp Troopers

5. 2021 Zica Toys Riot Commando 

To be honest, I thought the Riot Commando would have done better.  It's an awesome figure and I got him within days of his 1st release.  But, it seems this figure hasn't really caught on in the vintage Joe world.  I expected lots of photos of him to appear in the months after his release.  That hasn't happened.  And, the Riot Commando seems to be fading into obscurity.  That's an unjust fate for a solid figure with amazing paint applications that's priced right.

2021 Zica Toys Riot Commando, 1994 Brazilian Flying Scorpion, 1983 Palitoy Shadowtrak, Red Shadows

4. Chinese Toxo Zombie

This one kind of makes sense.  The Toxo Zombie has become a popular figure.  Obscure carded figures tend to perform well.  And, this is a relatively unknown foreign variant, too.  It all added up to a well read post.

Chinese Toxo Zombie

3. 2001 Crossfire

Ugh.  Crossfire sucks.  I despise this figure and have since his release 20 years ago.  Yet, I must not be in tune with the community on this one as here he is, the third most viewed page on the site in 2021.  Controversy gets clicks, I guess.

2001 Crossfire, 1993 Street Fighter E Honda

2. Stargate Lt. Kawalsky 

This one is surprising.  Stargate figures get zero mention in Joe groups.  And, while these figures include Joe accessories, they aren't all that exciting to anyone but variant nerds like myself.  But, I suspect the offbeat nature of the figure and the loose connection to Joe brought in many casual readers.

1995 Stargate Lt. Kawalsky

1. Haslab Skystriker

No surprise that the biggest Joe news of the year lead the site in traffic.  It wasn't a huge advantage, only about 30% more than Lt. Kawalsky.  But, nothing beat out the Skystriker announcement.  The night the Haslab funded was one of the most fun Joe collecting nights in my more than two decades of being a member of the online collecting community.  Here's to another one in 2022.

2021 Haslab Skystriker

Thus ends another year of Joe fandom.  We know we're getting o-ring figures in 2022.  We just don't know who and when.  But, it will happen.  And, assuming they aren't impossible to get, you'll probably see them here.  The night of the Skystriker funding was one of the most fun Joe world experiences of the past 20 years.  It's my hope that Hasbro can strike that kind of magic more often.  

As 2022 is the 40th anniversary of the vintage Joe line, I'm going to take a different tact for the first part of the year and profile something each week in chronological order starting with 1982 through, at least 1994.  (I'll see how I feel about touching on post '94 years.)  It will follow my personal chronology with the line, how I grew with the line, abandoned it and then came back.  

I hope you and yours have had a solid 2021 and wish you a better 2022.  We have much to look forward to this year and I will enjoy sharing it with you!