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

Saturday, October 22, 2022

2002 Headman - Around The Web

Headman was a really good villain whose unique look made for a great figure.  This 2002 figure, though, upped the ante and took a huge chance on a bright and interesting color scheme.  And, it created one of the best figures of the 2000's.  But, collectors of the day didn't see it that way and the figure was much maligned.  While the quality is better appreciated today, the high production numbers and disappointment hangover have left this Headman as underappreciated.  The upside is that he's relatively cheap to acquire.  And, as you can see in the links below, he works well in a variety of photos and dioramas.

2002 Headman, JvC, DEF, Slice

1993 DEF Bulletproof, Long Arm, 2002 Headman

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

1984 Slugger

In 1984, my younger brothers and I were all in on collecting G.I. Joe.  Star Wars had been all but purged from our house and Joe dominated our toy room.  We had most of the 1983 vehicles and figures.  And, 1984 had been equally good to us.  But, there were still many toys we didn't have as we headed into the fall gift giving season.  It was in October that my younger brother acquired a Slugger for his birthday.  While not as impressive as the MOBAT, the Slugger was the first heavy artillery vehicle in our collection.  And, it quickly found itself in the center of play.

The Slugger itself isn't all that complex.  There's a top and bottom of the tank.  And, it has the huge cannon.  It features very few parts.  There's just a stabilizer, hatch door, machine gun and engine cover.  But, these parts alone take a relatively boring tank and make it something much more useful.  The cockpit allows for the driver to sit both above the hatch to operate the machine gun and under the hatch to keep the driver protected.  The engine cover is pretty good as it allows for some play with repairs, etc.  The colors are muted and in line with vehicles produced prior to 1985.  In short, it's a neat toy for the middle price point vehicles.  There's some molded details that would have been nice to have been real.  But, that would have jumped the price on the Slugger beyond what parents in 1984 would have likely paid.  

I have three main memories of the Slugger.  Each are specific instances where the Slugger was featured in a memory.  Beyond them, most of my general memories of the Slugger were of frustration.  I liked vehicles that could hold many figures.  The Slugger just held one figure in the driver's seat.  I made attempt after attempt to sit other Joe figures on the rise opposite the engine.  But, figures didn't really hold their seats very well.  And, if you moved the Slugger, the figs positioned on the back would fall off.  This limited the Slugger's use.  And, as our Thunder arrived damaged, he wasn't a figure that I really tried to get into my rotation.  

My main memory of the Slugger comes from that October in 1984 when the vehicle first came into our collection.  For some reason, there was a small hole that had been dug in our front yard.  I don't recall the circumstances of it being there.  But, I noticed it was the perfect size for the Slugger to fit into.  I put the Slugger into the hole and, from here, it could command the entire right side of our front yard.  The tank was lowered enough to be difficult to hit with small arms fire.  But, the cannon and the driver mounted machine gun were above ground and could rain fire down upon Cobra.  In order to better hide the Slugger, I pulled some green grass and laid it over the top of the vehicle.  The Slugger stayed in this position, destroying Cobra for three or four days.  Then, the grass on top of it had started to yellow so I took the Slugger out of the hole and back inside for more adventures.

My second Slugger memory would have had to have occurred in the summer of 1985.  I was visiting my Grandfather in Buffalo, NY.  For some reason, as I was picking which vehicle I would take with me, the Slugger spoke to me.  I guess I hadn't played with it in a while.  So, it got the honor of going on the trip.  I've mentioned playing at my grandfather's house before.  But, nearly all our adventures were on the stone steps in front of his house.  One day on this trip, though, I decided to play in his small backyard.  Here, he had a flower garden that had a small trough in the dirt between the garden and the grass.  Cobra had to cross this treacherous area.  So, the Joes installed a Slugger between the giant flower plants.  I remember playing this out one afternoon in the bright sunshine.  So, the next morning, I went out to continue the adventure.  However, as the garden was shaded in the morning, it was too cold to be outside and I had to wait until the sun moved before I was able to resume my story.  It was the only time I used his backyard as the setting for battles, though.

My final Slugger memory was one of those dumb childhood acts of hubris.  Being older than most of the kids who played with Joe in the neighborhood, I liked to show off how smart I was.  So, one day, as one of the neighborhood kids had his Slugger out, I decided to show him and some other kids how the stabilizer worked.  I stuck the spikes on the stabilizer into some soft dirt.  I then pretended for the Slugger to fire.  However, I didn't just yell "BANG".  No.  I decided to simulate the force of the cannon firing and pushed the Slugger back against the stabilizer as hard as I could.  The stabilizer did not give ground.  Instead, the force split the Slugger in two and pulled the top half from the bottom half of the tank!  Fortunately, none of the tabs were broken.  But, they were strained and that poor kid's Slugger was never the same.  I learned not to screw around like that as the last thing I wanted was to have to replace the kid's toy with my hard earned lawn mowing money.

The Slugger was released the world over.  After the Hasbro release debuted in 1984, it then appeared in Brazil and Argentina.  Sometime after that, Hasbro offered the Slugger as a mail away.  However, the mail away version was missing the cammo pattern of the original release.  This is a highly desired variant of the Slugger.  Hasbro then dropped it one final time in 1997.  This brown version was a decent update to the Slugger and is also a must have for the mold.  That was the end, though, as the Slugger didn't reappear again in the 2000's.  So, there's 5 major variants of the mold that are worth tracking down.  Though, I'd have quickly bought another Slugger design during the repaint era.

There was a time when Slugger's were the bane of any collection acquiring collector's existence.  They were stupidly common and no one wanted them.  Slowly, though, in the last 20 or so years, things have changed.  Now, the Slugger is fairly popular.  Fortunately, it's still really easy to find a mint Slugger.  There's not much to them, so they're usually in good shape.  What they are not, though, is complete.  The Slugger features 4 removable parts from the main base.  Three of these, the machine gun, the hatch cover and the hatch peg are a pain in the ass to find.  And, as such, you'll pay for them.  Sans these three items, Sluggers are a couple of bucks each.  You'll probably pay more in shipping than you will for the body of the vehicle.  

Complete Sluggers sell in the $30 to $40 range.  But, you'll add another $10 to $12 for shipping.  The hatch cover and pin will run you at least $20.  And, the machine gun usually sells for $25 or so.  So, it's definitely worth just buying a complete one.  The upside is that the machine gun mold was used both for the 1997 Slugger as well as the Cobra Surveillance Port.  While both of these uses are in different colors, they still look good with the original Slugger and fit the slot for the weapon.  So, you can economize if you are a bit scrappy.  I'm not sure this vehicle will give you $50 of enjoyment, though.  While it does look good, it still only holds one figure and takes up a lot of space.  But, for the right price, it's a classic piece and is an essential part of an early Joe convoy.

1984 Slugger, 1985 Flint, 1998 Thunderwing

1984 Slugger, Thunder, 1983 Steeler

Saturday, October 15, 2022

1988 Night Force Crazylegs - Around The Web

The vintage Night Force figures get a bit repetitive.  The colors start to run together.  And, in most cases, the Night Force figures aren't really an upgrade over the original color schemes.  But, in a few cases, the Night Force paint job salvages a poorly painted figure mold.  Such is the case with the Night Force Crazylegs.  The original red is just too much.  But, in black and olive, Crazylegs takes on new life and is a great update to the character.  To this day, I really only see this Night Force version as Crazylegs.  

While few other collectors share my dislike for the red Crazylegs, many do enjoy the Night Force look as I do.  There's lots of great content on the Night Force Crazylegs out there.  So, please check these links below.

1988 Night Force Crazylegs Profile

1988 Night Force Crazylegs by Slipstream80

1988 Night Force Crazylegs by 00zxcvb

1988 Night Force Crazylegs by nightforce72

1988 Night Force Crazylegs by thevintagetoylife

1988 Night Force Crazylegs by Sintechness

1988 Night Force Crazylegs by postvbobbieb

1988 Night Force Crazylegs by HCC788

1988 Night Force Crazylegs by corpscommandercody

1988 Night Force Crazylegs by Slipstream80

1988 Night Force Crazylegs by worldsofwondercomics

1988 Night Force Crazylegs by playfulmonkeycosplay

1988 Night Force Crazylegs by thevintagetoylife

1988 Night Force Crazylegs, Toys R Us Exclusive, 1986 Lift Ticket

1988 Night Force Crazylegs, Toys R Us Exclusive

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

1985 Ferret - Around The Web

The Ferret is a cool little vehicle that was a great toy for the price.  It's the type of thing that would make a great candidate for re-release with a new driver or two.  But, that's not likely to happen.  But, at least we can enjoy the original release and the 2000's era repaints.  Here's some solid content on the Ferret from around the web.

1985 Ferret Profile

1985 Ferret by Scarrviper

1985 Ferret by gijoe_for_fun

1985 Ferret by Flint

1985 Ferret by masterbungle

1985 Ferret by Lava Boss

1985 Ferret by hobieshinobi

1985 Ferret by HCC788

1985 Ferret by mikesjoetography

1985 Ferret by formbx257

1985 Ferret, 1997 Baroness, 2021 Black Major Cobra trooper, Factory Custom

Saturday, October 8, 2022

1988 Blizzard - Around the Web

There's an argument to be made that the 1988 Blizzard is the best arctic figure that Hasbro ever made.  The mold is incredibly strong and his gear is legendary.  His helmet is sometimes considered weak.  But, I don't mind it that much.  There's some solid content on him out there.  So, enjoy this preview of the season to come.

Blizzard Profile

Blizzard Pre Production Figure at

Blizzard Video Review

Blizzard by steelbrigade

Blizzard by thevintagetoylife

1988 Blizzard

1988 Blizzard, 1989 Stalker

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

1983 Battle Gear #1

After Christmas of 1982, I owned four G.I. Joe figures.  But, between Snake Eyes, Clutch, Hawk and Breaker, I had just one gun.  Three of the four figures did not include weapons.  This greatly limited my play options.  I went so far as to find an HO-scale coupler for train cars that kind of looked like a pistol and used it for Breaker.  I desperately wanted additional accessories so that all my figures could not only have at least one weapon, but even a choice of some of my favorite weapon designs.  My wishes came true one day when we were in Buffalo, visiting my grandparents.  We were there for a short trip early in the year.  We hadn't taken many toys, confirming the trip was shorter than our normal week.  But, when out shopping, I found a new pack of G.I. Joe accessories at a local store.  It was the original Battle Gear pack.

The pack was cheap enough that my mother bought one for both my younger brother and I.  With these weapons, I now had the ability to give Clutch a visor as well as offering a spare Uzi to Breaker.  I could choose any weapons I wanted for Hawk and Clutch, too.  Of course, Clutch got Stalker's M-32.  But, I also added some accessories to the VAMP.  The new Breaker headset would fit behind the seat with the wire tucked into the seam between the seat and the bottom of the vehicle.  So, this allowed for anyone riding shotgun in the VAMP to be able to communicate with the rest of the team.  I also placed a spare Uzi on the same spot.  This way, the VAMP had a backup small arm if it crashed or just ran out of gas.  Hawk, well, I learned a hard lesson with him.  I tried to get Grunt's M-16 into his hands and it immediately snapped his thumb.  That was the end of that Hawk figure.  And, it's part of what pushed me back to Star Wars figures as 1983 crept on.  

The odd thing about the Battle Gear pack was that the accessories were colored differently from those included with figures.  The weapons themselves are a lighter grey color than the original gear.  Even in 1983, I could easily tell the difference between the Battle Gear and original weapons.  But, the weapons are close enough in color to be useful.  The visors are identical to the originals, though.  The helmets and backpacks, though, were very different.  The helmets were dark brown and did not match any figure.  The packs, though, were worse.  They were a tan color.  Again, they matched no figures until the 1983 Falcon Glider Grunt was released.  There was no explanation for the color changes.  In fact, the 1983 promo catalog showed original gear in the set.  So, the color change was a later decision that was never explained.  

The 1983 Battle Gear set includes every accessory from the 1982 line.  There are 4 visors, two Uzis and even Snake Eyes' ammo pack.  There were three exceptions, though.  Short Fuze's mortar and stand were omitted as was Zap's bazooka.  These three pieces would later show up in white in the 1984 Battle Gear set.  But, again, there was no explanation as to why they weren't included.  It was made weirder by the fact that their shared backpack was included with the 1983 set.  The fact that both those accessories underwent design changes could explain it.  But, both the 1982 Snake Eyes Uzi and Stalker M-32 are different from the 1983 releases of both accessories.  So, other weapons were modified, too.  The exclusion of these weapons remains a mystery nearly 40 years later.

The biggest new feature of the Battle Gear set is the battle stands.  These little rectangles of plastic brought a whole new element to Joe collecting.  The stands allowed kids to pose their figures and stand them up in any pose they desired.  The Battle Gear included two stands.  Starting in 1984, differently colored stands would be included with several small playsets.  By 1993, every figure included a stand on their weapon tree.  This ingenious idea allowed kids to display figures.  But, it also allowed them to put their toys away on a shelf using vertical space and keeping their gear on.  

In the early days of Joe collecting, the ubiquity of 1983 Battle Gear weapons allowed customizers to accessorize their creations with great aplomb.  They were free to paint, slice up and otherwise modify the Battle Gear weapons without worrying about their original accessories.  For dealers, though, the 1983 Battle Gear provided a great way to bilk unsuspecting collectors out of their hard earned money by offering them as original gear with original 13 figures.  Even today, you'll see many seller "mistake" Battle Gear weapons for the original.  But, the colors are blatantly different and there's no excuse for any mistakes by a seller.  

The value to a collector today is that this Battle Gear is an excellent option to properly outfit factory custom figures.  Many of Red Laser Army's figures are obvious homages to various foreign and unproduced characters from the Joe line's earliest days.  They, though, lacked gear that was a perfect match for them.  Battle Gear allows you to give these characters the weapons they deserve.  And, while the 1983 helmets and packs aren't great for many figures, the weapons are a great way to update the homages.  Having some cheap alternatives for that purpose is a definite plus.

Back in the early 2000's, before people got stupid with Joe prices, it was relatively easy to put together a small team of original 13 figures in a tan style.  With Grunt, Clutch and Doc bodies, you could make a tan Breaker, Hawk and Stalker.  If you were handy with a little paint, you could put together a decent Snake Eyes, too.  And, the Battle Gear weapons are a perfect match for this set.  To this day, I store my Tan Grunt with the Battle Gear backpack and M-16 since they are so closely aligned in color to the figure.  The tan works with Scarlett, too, as a way to better accessorize her.

For me, the real value of the Battle Gear came many years after its initial release.  In 1986 and 1987, I often had third faction terrorists or freedom fighters (really, they're the same thing just with different marketing depending upon which side they battle against) who would interject into the Joe vs. Cobra conflict.  My favorite was having them drive up to a ceremony in the A-Team van, open the door and pop out with small sub machine guns and mow down the dignitaries in attendance.  As small weapons were not overly common in the Joe line (and, most of the ones that did exist were in use by their original owners!) the Battle Gear Uzis were a great means of making these civilian fighters a more formidable force.  I'd toss in some of the larger rifles, too, as part of their getaway plan.  

My other random memory of the Battle Gear weapons comes on a cold winter's day, probably in either 1984 or 1985.  It was a Sunday and I had been playing with my Joes in the garage.  (It was warmer in there than outside, but still counted as outside play.)  I picked them all up and took them in.  A few hours later, right before dinner, I went back out to put away some bikes or balls and happened to find a Battle Gear M-60 on the floor.  It wasn't part of my team that had been in the garage that day.  And, it was a neat find as we didn't have a regular Rock and Roll and this Battle Gear version was the only copy of his weapon in our possession.  I took the weapon inside.  Really, though, it's not finding the weapon that was memorable.  Instead, it was the feeling I had as I picked it up off the floor.  For some reason, I got an overwhelming feeling of sadness that it was Sunday night and I was back to school on Monday.  To this day, I get the same feeling on some Sunday afternoons as the sun goes down.  Every time I do, I think back to that day in the garage, finding Rock and Roll's gun and then being saddened by the fact that my fun was over and it was back to work early the following morning.

You'll see some dealers command premiums for various accessories in this set.  The Uzi tends to command the highest price and sells for around $7, even as dealers ask double that.  But, the real value in the set is the visors.  As such, you'll usually find sets that are sold sans visors.  A whole loose set with no visors will run about $20.  On their own, though, visors sell for around $20.  So, getting the visors, too, will be expensive.  You can get carded sets in the $85 range.  Which, with 4 visors is a little lower than the loose price.  For just the weapons, the price is probably decent.  Original Uzis aren't easy to find and this is a cheap way to get them.  My only real lament is that the other Battle Gear packs in subsequent years didn't follow the close coloring of the originals like this first attempt at additional accessories did.

1983 Battle Gear, Scarlett, APC, 1984 Spirit Iron Knife, 1987 Mail Away Steel Brigade

Battle Gear, Uzi, 1983, Original 13, 2001 Cutter, Double Blast, Steeler, VAMP, 1984 Slugger, Recondo

Battle Gear, Uzi, 1983, Original 13, 2001 Cutter, Double Blast, Steeler, VAMP, 1984 Slugger

Battle Gear, Uzi, 1983, Original 13, 2001 Cutter, Double Blast, Steeler, VAMP

2018 Redmack, Topson, 2017 The General, Red Laser Army, Factory Custom, Plastirama, 1988 Mean Dog, Argentina, Battle Gear Uzi, 1983

Saturday, October 1, 2022

2017 Sightline - Around The Web

The Sightline figure was one of the last great moments of the Joe collecting community before the values of figures exploded and the gates were overrun by fly by night collectors, pickers and other urchins who exploited the community solely for their own personal gain.  The idea behind the figure was an homage to an adored collector who passed away far too soon.  The figure was given for free to collectors at the show.  Kids, especially, were targeted for receipt as a way to get them interested in the brand.  Collectors who didn't want their Sightline were supposed to give it away.  Few did.  (Though, I did get mine from one selfless collector who followed in the spirit of the figure.)  And, fewer still tried to sell them.  For a bit, public shame kept the number of figures being sold very low.  Now, though, the allure of the almighty dollar has lead even seasoned collectors who knew Gary and know better to profit off of Sightline.  He's now a $200+ figure.  His color scheme and look has been co-opted to other factory custom figures.  But, none have captured the attention of the community like Sightline.  Sadly, the joy of collecting that the figure was supposed to encapsulate is now gone.

The figure itself, though, remains top notch.  Sightline is one of Red Laser Army's best figures.  The helmet, visor, rifle and pack made him feel like a fully formed figure worthy of any collection.  The colors worked well.  And, the parts felt fresh.  For a time, Sightline was the darling of the Joe photo crowd and he appeared frequently.  In the years since, though, Sightline has become a less common photo subject as we move further away from his release date.  The upside is that he causes good feedback when he does appear.  But, it's a shame the figure has dropped out of the collective mind of the Joe world.

Sightline Profile