Tuesday, May 31, 2022
Monday, May 30, 2022
It seems that this figure went through many machinations before the actual production figure was settled upon. Early in the development stages of the Anti-Venom set, the figures were to be cast in a dark blue hue. This color was too close to Cobra's traditional look. But, of the figures that were designed in that design, the Lifeline figure had the head from the 2002 Side Track instead of the Stretcher head. From this design, the Anti-Venom morphed to a lighter blue color scheme. This was less traditionally Cobra, but wasn't a great color on most of the figures. In this set, though, Lifeline had an African-American Stretcher head and may have been planned to be Stretcher instead of Lifeline. Finally, Hasbro settled on the tan and green version for production. The head was painted in caucasian skin tones and made Sgt. Lifeline instead of Stretcher. Sadly, the production head was painted in flesh paint instead of molded in flesh colored plastic like the pre-production figures were. With the plastic heads available in different colors, you really see how much better they are than painted skin tones on a figure's head.
The Stretcher mold saw a bit of use in the modern Joe line. Despite only appearing in 1990 during the vintage years, Hasbro liked the mold and brought it back in the 2000's. In 2002, the entire body and full accessory complement was used on the Side Track figure from Wave V of the A Real American Hero Collection. This figure, though, featured a new, caucasian head and got a different name. This version of the mold with another character change and the caucasian head was released in 2004. At the end of 2004, the head appeared again, only modified for a desert theme, in the Toys R Us exclusive Desert Patrol set. Sadly, we never got a proper Stretcher repaint. And, it seems a bit out of place to have Lifeline wearing his uniform and using his gear. I didn't like that Stretcher was erased as his character was strong and there was simply no reason for Side Track to exist in 2002 nor was there any reason that this Lifeline could not have used the full 1994 Lifeline mold.
Saturday, May 28, 2022
Python Officer Profile
Python Officer vs. Vibora Cart Artwork
Python Officer by thedustinmccoy
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
I don't really know what to think about Thrasher. He was among the first 1986 figures I acquired. And, he was terrible. His design, head and accessory were such a drastic departure from 1985 that I thought he must have been an early figure and the later releases that year would be better. Alas, as far as vehicle drivers go, I was wrong. And, Thrasher was perfectly exemplary of the quality that the 1986 vehicle drivers would feature. Most of them had overly large noses and heads. None came with cool gear like the '85's. And, none of the them really stood out as a figure that deserved a single carded release. All these years later, my opinion of Thrasher remains unchanged. And, for a figure that entered my collection at the height of my Joe world building, he is conspicuously absent from my stories.
There are people who love Thrasher. While Road Pig gets the most association with Mad Max, Thrasher's look is also out of derivative post apocalyptic fiction. The oddball armor, bare midriff and green streak in his coiffed hair, though, don't create a particularly compelling design. The paint applications and colors used for Thrasher, though, are pretty good. And, it's a shame that he's one of the more adorned 1986 vehicle driver figures. He features layers of color and painted details that do tie him more to the 1985 releases than the spotty paint mask drivers who would follow through the year. In addition to his grey and black motif, Thrasher features green, brown and silver. It's a solid array of color that bring life to the mold's details. If Thrasher's shirt was not torn off, the figure would probably be more amenable to me.
The 1985 vehicle drivers are known for their accessories. The figures included amazing weapons that were the envy of several single carded figures. 1986, though, did not follow this path. Most of the drivers did not include any accessories at all, further downgrading them from the previous brethren. Thrasher, though, was one of the few who did include an accessory. Sadly, though, it's an oddball lacrosse stick with a spiked ball instead of a net. It's a silly weapon. Though, it's made worse by the fact that the handle is incredibly thick and did not feature a natural grip. To this day, I have never successfully put the stick into Thrasher's hand. Others have done it. But, I can't bring myself to risk it. Especially for a weapon that's simply useless.
As my only Cobra land vehicle available as 1986 started was my old Hiss Tank, Cobra found themselves at the mercy of Joe's superior mechanized capabilities. So, with the introduction of the Thunder Machine, it made no sense to have it be a one off vehicle that was manned by a named crew. So, in short order, the Thunder Machine was driven by old, beat up Cobras and was an army building, anti-infantry vehicle that rode in support of the Hiss battalions. When the STUN entered my collection later in the year, it simply joined a now formidable Cobra force. But, the Thunder Machine was not part of the Dreadnoks. It was Cobra.
Of course, this left Thrasher as the odd man out. And, I had no use for the figure. But, he was part of the inspiration for the bands of "punks" that inhabited my Joe world. These were people who lived in the ruins and debris fields left by the massive battles between Joe and Cobra. They were not affiliated with either faction and they were dangerous to each. They survived by salvaging machines and weapons from the discarded battlefields. They sold these to 3rd party merchants who sold them back to Joe or Cobra. The punks were based on a throwaway line in an issue of Savage Tails that was passed around my classroom. I only remember that the good guys blasted their way through a nuclear winter wasteland. The "punks" became my wild card. Often, Joes or Cobras would have to scrounge debris fields for missing comrades or lost intelligence. Here, they'd run into punks.
The punks were savage and could be formidable fighters. They had access to large caches of weapons. And, they'd use them to soften up their quarry before they'd finish the job in brutal, face to face combat. I built an entire society for these people. Some of them were runaways from the cities and towns surrounding the battlefields. Others were born into the life. And, some, like Buzzer, were disaffected intellectuals who found the allure of such raw brutality too much to resist. So, Thrasher would embody some of the punks. It was rare that they would win a skirmish. Even if they killed a few Joes, a larger force would come in and annihilate them. But, it was a way to get some use out of poor figures like Thrasher and also liven up the Joe vs. Cobra dynamic and provide diversions from the standard story.
Thrasher had just the one release in the vintage line. As the Thunder Machine made its journey around the world and was released in various countries, Thrasher didn't follow. He was completely MIA until 2004 when he appeared in a convention exclusive attendee set with Zanzibar. This red Thrasher repaint showed that there wasn't much redemption for the mold. And, it sat unsold, for years...only selling out when it was offered on clearance. On the heels of the convention figure, though, Thrasher showed up in the first series of DTC Comic Packs in 2005. This figure got a new head. It also got blue pants which discolor worse than the plastic used in 1985 on the original 3 Dreadnoks. He was an odd choice and that Dreadnok Comic Pack was also clearanced for $3 after it had sat around, collecting dust in the warehouse for a few years. So, Thrasher got way more than he deserved.
I'm not alone in disliking Thrasher. He is one of the few cheap Joe figures left. High quality figures can be had with no effort for $10. And, mint and complete with filecard versions top out at $15. In this market, that's about as cheap as figures come. Honestly, though, I'd avoid Thrasher even at those prices. He just offers nothing. But, for Dreadnok fans, he is one of the few members of the team. So, that alone makes him somewhat desirable. And, the Thunder Machine is a staple of any Dreadnok collection. So, you need a Thrasher for that. But, the overall package of the figure is just off from the original design of the Dreadnoks. But, again, my opinion of the figure is not shared by all. So, your personal value from the figure may vary from mine.
Saturday, May 21, 2022
Back in the summer of 2019, I profile Sgt. Misha from the 2005 Comic Pack. At the time, you could get a carded version of the figure for $20. And, loose, mint and complete figures were under $10...if you could find them. Now, Misha's a $50 loose figure! That seems just absolutely nuts to me. But, at the same time, Misha is a really well done release that is unique, well colored and includes both the newly sculpted, high quality head and accessories. The Hasbro production quality from that era does leave something to be desired since the figure has small hands and will break if not handled carefully.
Misha, though, represents much of what was great about the Comic Packs. It took Hasbro too long to find a recipe for good releases among those sets. But, when they did, Hasbro was capable of making some great looking figures. But, Misha also represents much that was wrong with the sets as his globby hands, brittle plastic, reused parts and useless rifle attest to. In the end, I think he's a pretty solid figure. But, certainly not worth $50 and is an easy skip at that price.
As pretty much all the Misha's produced went into collector hands, there's a decent amount of content on him out there. Some of the reviews from the time that this Comic Pack was released are still out there and it's interesting to see how sentiment towards this figure was at the time of his release versus how we view it now.
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Confession time. I kind of like the Cobra Pogo. 1987 was the last year I played with Joes as a kid. And, the Pogo was one of those weirdo vehicles that I could incorporate into my world with a little imagination. In short order, it was a rather effective weapon against the Joes of the day. At least, until the Joes were able to start recognizing its movement patterns and were better able to swat them from the sky. But, I had a lot of fun with the Pogo for several of my final months of toy-using childhood. So, when I found a repaint of the Pogo sitting on the shelves of a local Big Lots at some point in the mid-1990s, I was interested in it. However, as I still had my childhood Pogo (a bit worse for wear, though) and the new repaint did not include a pilot figure, I simply couldn't pull the trigger to actually buy this new version. That was unfortunate. As, the 1993 Star Brigade Invader is not a bad toy at all.
Even in 1987, I recognized the Pogo as a take on the classic Star Wars escape pod that C-3PO and R2-D2 used to crash on Tatooine. That connection to the sci-fi saga helps carry the design over into Star Brigade where the Invader is no longer a terrestrial weapon. But, instead, something that Cobra can use in space. As a kid, the prime feature of the Pogo that was so valuable was the rotating and elevating dual gun that's attached to the rocket booster's rotating base. It was rare for a Joe vehicle to have a gun mounted with such an array of movement. And, the 1987 Cobra Commander became an expert at maneuvering the weapon to hit pretty much any target once the Pogo was off the ground. This feature carries over the Invader and offers it the same flexibility that made the Pogo valuable.
The Invader was among the final vehicles from the Joe line that I would see at retail. It, the 1994 Manta Ray and the Armor Bot hung around local Big Lots stores well into 1995. (It's possible the Razor Blade did, too. But, since I bought one of those, I may have blocked it from memory since I already owned one.) I didn't buy the Manta Ray or the Invader because they didn't include figures. And, as my money was stretched thin, I wasn't about to waste it on vehicles with no driver. I skipped the Armor Bot because I still think giant robots are boring and the figure was Armor Tech which was another line I had no interest in at the time.
In the ensuing years, I had ample opportunity to acquire all of these vehicles. Even the massive Armor Bot was available sealed in the box for below retail price for more than a decade after I left it sitting at retail. This Invader, though, is the first of those small, driverless late vehicles I've acquired. I still don't find them all that interesting. And, were it not for a cheap, local find, I'd not have this Invader. In my hands, though, I'm now happy to own it. Cobra has precious few vehicles that look decent with the 1993 Star Brigade figures. But, the Invader's colors somewhat blend with both the Astro Viper and TARGAT from that year.
As a kid, the Pogo was a quick strike weapon, usually helmed by Cobra Commander. It would hop into a battle, shoot a bunch of Joes, fire off a missile or two and then fire off the rockets on the underside to quickly slip away. It wouldn't win a battle on its own. But, it would soften up a Joe defense and create general chaos while the main Cobra attack force bore down on the target. From time to time, the Joes would shoot down the Pogo. Cobra Commander's armor kept him alive and suddenly the Cobra objective would shift from destroying the Joe base to rescuing Cobra Commander. In the end, they'd always rescue him and he's go off to plan another assault. I originally had the Pogo be unique to the Commander. But, in time, others would operate it. And, they'd often meet their doom as the Joes were better able to take them out.
The original Pogo from 1987 was relatively well made. The basic design, though, lent itself to the toy's legs falling off, especially as you mimicked the jumping movements that defined the device. The 1993 Invader, though, is worse. First, it uses gold plastic. (Well, it's kind of a copper/gold color.) Gold plastic from the 1990s is notorious in how brittle it becomes over time. As such, Invaders tend to feel somewhat flimsy. And, I'm extra cautious in using it. The legs are much less stable than the those of the Pogo. But, I have to wonder if that's a feature of my sample versus a universal problem. But, in total, the Invader feels like it will fall apart if used too rigorously. And, even the neon hoses feel like they could snap under the smallest amount of pressure. As we're at a point where most collectors either display their toys or keep them packed away, the lower quality probably isn't as much of an issue. But, it's definitely something you notice with the Invader.
Hasbro was all about saving money in 1993 and 1994. So, their use of an existing vehicle mold was that surprising. The fact that the Pogo, of all things, got a repaint while the Mauler did not really doesn't seem fair. But, the Pogo mold fit into the Star Brigade motif. So, we got this second paint job six years after the original release. The Invader was also released in Europe. The most notable thing about this release, though, is that it did include a pilot figure. A 1993 green and black Payload figure was included with the Euro pogo. He was made a Cobra to match the affiliation of the Invader. But, the figure is the same as the US release. The Invader didn't make it to India and never appeared again. But, for such an oddball item, you can't say that it wasn't properly used.
Invaders remain available and cheap. The Pogo isn't popular. And, a brittle gold and neon green version is less so. You can get boxed samples between $20 and $30. Dealers will sell a lot of mint and complete loose versions in the $20-$25 range, too. If you can find one at market prices, it will run you $10-$15. The upside is that there are a lot of replacement parts for the Invader available. So, if you get an incomplete version for cheap, it's possible to complete it. Cheap Joe items are getting harder and harder to find. So, it's definitely worth seeking out an Invader before they inexplicably also get expensive.
Saturday, May 14, 2022
The 1993 Payload was my first exposure to this figure mold. I found him on clearance at a KB Toy Works that used to be at Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis. Once in hand, he better filled a role that I had devised from my final childhood days. So, in time, I army built the figure. His gear is bright pink and kind of sucks. But, I gave him the dark blue versions of his weapon tree that came with the 1993 Muskrat. Since then, I've changed is weapon out quite a bit. But, the 1987 Psyche Out pack remains a constant.
I consider this the best paint job of this mold. Part of that is nostalgia tainted glasses and the other part is just pure enjoyment of the simplicity of the colors. Oddly, pretty much all the 1993 Payload visors have yellowed. Yet, the clear visors on the 1994 Black and Blue figure remain crystal clear. At this point, I can't recall if maybe Payload's visor was supposed to be an off color. But, finding a clear one is now pretty much impossible.
Being Star Brigade, there's not a ton of content on this figure out there. But, what does exist is pretty good. So, explore the links below and leave comments for the creators if you like their work.
Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Saturday, May 7, 2022
SAW Viper Profile
European SAW Viper Weapon Variant
SAW Viper by gi_joe_85
SAW Viper by thedragonfortress