Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Saturday, November 26, 2022
The 1991 Incinerator is kind of weird looking. But, guys who carry flamethrowers should be weird. And, in the context of their specialty, the red and orange coloring makes sense. Basically, they are just about perfect for being a flamethrower. You just don't have a lot of need for a whole bunch of flamethrowing army builders. So, the Incinerator works in small numbers. I like using the figure from time to time. And, he does work well with many vehicles released in the 1990's. Here's a few of my recent photos of these guys.
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Saturday, November 19, 2022
It's sad that Red Laser Army is no more. While they did feature a lot of repetition of both molds and color schemes, those similarities dissipate over time and collectors come to appreciate each figure on its own merit. While some people fawn over army builders, I found that my most used Red Laser Army figure is The General from 2017. This figure is based on a comic appearance of Hawk. And, it's a huge upgrade for Hawk's pre-1986 look. The black shirt with brown and green highlights offset against the green pants makes for a stark visual presentation. And, it makes Hawk worthy of his rank. Fortunately, there's a good amount of content out there on the figure as he was pretty popular at the time of his release...which, unbelievably, was more than 5 years ago!
Tuesday, November 15, 2022
The 1992 Joe line is incredibly strong. It's full of new molds for classic characters as well as a nice variety of new introductions to the line. The colors of the year blend well and create a cohesive visual display. But, the standard carded line of figures only included a few figures. The rest of the year's line was released in various subsets and smaller vehicles. Yet, the quality of mold and color continued and the entire is one of the better looking entries of a displayed collection. Among the releases was a new version of Spirit.
After being introduced in 1984, Spirit got his update. It's easy to recognize the new look as Spirit. He kept his long hair, but has it styled into a single pony tail instead of braids. He retains his trademark headband. But, once below his head, this Spirit is less an homage to Native American culture than a newly designed badass combat soldier. He is burdened with an over-abundance of grenades. (A common thread among Joe figures.) But, they aren't too bulky and keep the overall appearance of this new Spirit relatively slim. His chest is a bright green that visually pops. It is set against black paint that highlight the mold's sculpted details. The figure features blue pants that blend with many other 1992 releases. And, his red gloves offer a both a splash of color as well as tying together the red pattern on the figure's headband. To top off the details, Spirit has molded feathers on his right arm that offer a little reminder of the figure's roots.
On paper, this figure should be amazing. But, the thing is, it really isn't. While it's nice enough, the sculpt was improved upon in 1993 with the mail away color scheme. The brown, gold and white combo on that figure is more unique and better fits the mold and character. The head might be a little too large for the body. And, Spirit can appear to be disproportional at times. And, the red gloves are a bit off-putting. They really interfere with the blue, black and green. The red and white on the headband works. But, the gloves really take you out of the overall design. And, as the hands are a key part of any figure's look, a bad color can have an outsized affect on the appearance as a whole.
This 1992 Spirit was part of the Air Commandos subset. While the figure was sold on a card, the cards were drastically oversized to show off the gliders that were the real selling point. Hasbro's original gliders in 1983 were garbage. These 1992 releases, though, promised they would fly 40 feet with the figure attached. Hopefully, not too many people actually did that with the gliders. But, Spirit's red, white and blue patriotic overkill special seems out of place with the character. And, today, the Air Commandos are remembered for the high quality figures rather than the cheesy gliders. Unfortunately, though, the gliders cost anywhere between $8 and $10 each. And, when you consider that there were far better alternatives available at that cost, the high price point was rather prohibitive to the toys really selling on par with sets like the DEF and even the Eco Warriors. Which is why, even today, all the Air Commandos figures appear with less frequency than most other carded 1992 figures.
Did you know that Spirit was never released without Mutt? In every single instance where Spirit was released, Mutt was also available at the same time. They both debuted in 1984. Then, they both returned as Slaughter's Marauders in 1989. At various times, they were both released in Brazil and Mexico in the same waves. Then, exclusive repaints showed up in Europe in the early 1990's. Both characters got new molds in 1992. Then, Mutt was repainted as a carded figure in 1993 and Spirit was available as a mail away in the same year. It was not until the post vintage era where the two were separated. Both appeared together in the comic. So, there was a deliberate pairing of the two. But, all of their designs work pretty well together until the 1993 versions.
Spirit comes with a single accessory. He has an oddball pistol. My introduction to the mold was with the 1994 Viper. And, I felt the sci-fi nature of the weapon worked well with that figure. With Spirit, it seems out of place...especially if you know of the amazing accessories that were included with the character's debut figure. The upside is that there are many, more common, accessories that work well with this mold. But, the disappearance of Freedom and the lack of other gear that would have accentuated the character feels like a missed opportunity.
My introduction to this figure mold was with the 1993 mail away version. And, that remains my default use of this mold today. Back when I got a bagged 1992 figure from Canada, I was never compelled to open the figure. The 1993 was enough for me. And, when I got a loose 1992, that feeling continued. Now, though, I do find this figure works well with other 1992 releases. And, is a nice background filler in photos and dioramas. As a main focus, I'm still going with the 1993. And, my first choice for any use of Spirit is the original from 1984.
The 1992 Spirit mold got two uses. The first was this Air Commando version. Then, in 1993, the mold was repainted for the International Action Team. This maroon and white version is probably better than the 1992 coloring. But, both uses of the Spirit mold were relatively obscure releases. Bagged overstock Spirits were offered as a Canadian mail away. And, a great number of bagged Spirits came into the collecting community during the Hasbro Canada find in 1999. Those figures, though, are bagged without guns. So, if you see bagged figures sans weapons, you know they are from the Canadian overstock. Sadly, Hasbro didn't use this mold in the 2000's. It's a shame as it would have been great in a 1984 Spirit color scheme or a Euro Spirit color scheme. But, it was not to be.
Dealers will sell loose Spirits for $30 and complete versions for $60. That's a lot of money for a weapon that's not that small, isn't overly cool and doesn't really have any cachet. On the open market, though, you can get Spirit figures for $13. But, open market pricing on complete figures runs between $50 and $60...meaning the dealers are right at market on the complete figures. That's very odd. And, something that's likely to correct if the Joe market doesn't get back to normal soon. The upside, though, is that a relatively hard to find, high quality update of a classic character is still affordable if you are willing to sacrifice his non-iconic weapon. There's much worse outcomes in the Joe marketplace today.
Saturday, November 12, 2022
When G.I. Joe returned in 2000, it featured an initial wave of molds that ranged from the line's earliest years to the later molds. As the collecting community was heavily focused on 1987 or earlier figures, though, the new releases did offer the community a glimpse at some figure molds that were mostly ignored. Among them was the 1992 Talking Battle Commanders Hawk figure.
This isn't really a great look for Hawk. But, it is a great figure to represent a generic type general character. He was a staple of early custom work. And, the reuse of the mold in 2000 both brought the look for Hawk to the forefront and allowed for more customizing stock to be available. The flat back on the figure greatly limits its use. But, the marbled plastic means that no two figures are the same and allows for them to be used in groups and still look somewhat different. There's not a ton of content on this figure out there. But, here's what I could find.
Tuesday, November 8, 2022
In December of 1986, I had lucked out and found several brand new 1987 G.I. Joe releases at the local Toys R Us store. As 1987 wound down, I was hopeful that the situation would repeat. Sure enough, one December day, I found a few new figures on the pegs. Labeled with the moniker of Battle Force 2000, the figures had a science fiction slant. But, I was fine with this. Really, the only issue with the figures was that when I turned them over, I didn't find the brand new 1988 releases for which I was hoping. Instead, I found the same old 1986 and 1987 characters on the back with a new offset featuring the six new figures in the Battle Force 2000 series. The store had all six. My youngest brother got a Maverick. My younger brother picked out Dodger. And, I bought Blaster and Knockdown.
By 1987, my Joe world was pretty much my own concoction. It wasn't based on the comic or cartoon, though it did have some elements from each. In the early part of 1987, my Joe toys were in the basement. Over the years, the toys migrated between my room, the toy room and the basement depending upon a variety of factors. But, as it was just after Christmas, we were playing in the basement as there was space and we could leave our toys out each night to pick up the battle again the following morning.
There were two key points of the basement that worked together to make Knockdown a key figure in my collection for a short time. First, we had one of those old, oval rugs that was spun in multi-colored rings around a white center. For us, the rug could be seen as a island with a lake in the middle, just a lake, various circular roads or rivers. In this case, I was using the center of the rug as a poisonous lake of either lava or mud. The second piece of kismet was than many of our now outgrown toys were stored in a storage room off the playroom. This room had been the home of the coal furnace from the 1940's when the home was built. That was long gone, though the walls were still stained black from the coal. On a shelf in this room was my old Slave I. For some reason, I dug this out. At the time, I didn't have many aircraft for my Joes. So, the spaceship was attractive as an option for flying forces.
All of this lead to my pulling out the Slave I, finding most of the pieces and now having a new weapon to be used in my adventures. As Knockdown was the most sci-fi of all my figures, he quickly found himself in the cockpit of the iconic ship. I couldn't call him Boba Fett as he looked nothing like Boba Fett. So, instead, he was just named Fett. (Yes, super, duper original.) Of course, he was not affiliated with Joe or Cobra. And, instead, would play both sides much like Kwinn. Slave I was a devastating weapon since it was heavily armored and had two massive cannons. And, once outside of his ship, "Fett" had an insanely powerful handgun (Knockdown's stupidly oversized pistol.) that was capable of blowing up a Mauler or Hiss Tank.
For several weeks, I had great adventures with Knockdown and his Slave I ship. He would blow vehicles into the mud/lava lake. Or, he'd shoot in front of ground troops and leave them the choice of dying in a hail of massive bullets or being incinerated in the lake. Eventually, I had hand held artillery weapons damage Slave I. Fett was defeated and I lost interest in the entire concept. Before too long, my figures migrated back up to my room. When they did, Slave I stayed behind in the basement. And, it would not come off the shelf in that basement storage room until 1997 when I dug out all my vintage Star Wars toys that were left from my childhood.
After that Knockdown was an afterthought at best. When Cobra would attack the Joe base that was in my room, Knockdown might be involved. His hand held weapon was still seen as overly powerful. So, he was handy to have around on occasion. But, I never really developed a character for him outside of "Fett". Blaster did have some characterization. So, it wasn't just Knockdown's late appearance in my collection. He had a purpose, but not much more than that. As 1988 progressed, Joe fell out of my daily routine. I had aged out. And, once I get a Nintendo in June of that year, the era of toys in my childhood was over.
Knockdown features a lot of differences. But, none of them really add up to anything all that interesting. From a carded figure perspective, there are two separate releases of Battle Force 2000. The early figures released in late 1987 were on single cards. For 1988, Hasbro packaged the figures in two packs. The figures are not different. But, the single cards didn't see a long release window as they appeared very late in 1987 and featured 1987 cardbacks. There are two different filecards. The single pack version is different than the two pack version as it has more detail on Knockdown's specialty. There is also a variant on Knockdown's gun. It can have a thick handle or thin handle. When you see all the Knockdowns out there with broken thumbs, though, you realize that either version can be tough on the figure's hands.
From a mold perspective, Knockdown didn't get a lot of use from Hasbro. There was just the one Knockdown figure released in 1987 and 1988. The figure was released on a single card in various European countries. Knockdown's head appeared on the Super Trooper and his repaint, Rapid Fire. Knockdown then went to Brazil. There, though, Estrela got some mileage out of the mold. First, the full Knockdown figure was released on a single card. Named Detektor, this figure is based on the Hasbro color scheme. It features a darker green helmet, darker blue body and slight shading differences. Then, Estrela used Knockdown's waist and legs to make Albatroz for the Patrulha do Ar subset. If that weren't enough, Knockdown's entire body was painted neon and paired with a 1986 Sci Fi head and released in Forca Eco (Eco Warriors) set as Biologico. This is a neat figure that was once common but has now gotten expensive. The mold never appeared again. With not much demand for the character, that's unsurprising. But, if you like Knockdown, there's at least hard to find figures from Brazil to track down.
Dealers will sell mint and complete with filecard Knockdowns in the $20-$25 range. Be sure to check these carefully, though, as Knockdown is very susceptible to paint wear on his eyebrows, hair, chest and thumbs. Some dealers will keep the helmet on to hide the wear on the figure's head. Left to the market, though, the same Knockdowns are about $10-$15 figures. If you are OK without a filecard or a bit of paint wear, you can drop them below $10 without too much issue. Personally, this seems like a lot for a figure that isn't all that interesting, has ill fitting gear and offbeat colors. But, it's also in line with the current market where there are almost no mint and complete figures that routinely sell below that $10 line. If I didn't have the childhood connection, I wouldn't own a Knockdown. He doesn't carry enough panache to justify existing in my collection. But, due to his short, but memorable, tenure in my childhood play, he's kept around. He's never been the subject of many photos. And, I don't really see that changing as we go forward.
Saturday, November 5, 2022
Wednesday, November 2, 2022
I don't really have the chutzpah to do a full profile on this Stinger release. But, I thought I'd drop a quick hit that shows the packaging, contents and finished product from this new release.
In short, this Stinger is fine. The colors are cool. The sculpting is fine. But, the plastic is incredibly soft. As a toy, this thing would not hold up. I nearly broke the steering wheel trying to get it into the slot on the dashboard. The doors are very soft and are going to rip if they are taken on and off too many times. As a display thing on a shelf, it won't be an issue. But, this won't hold up to play. And, I suspect the soft plastic will age poorly and lead to brittle doors just like the Sears Dreadnok Stinger from the '80's.
You'll note that the Stinger features reduced plastic packaging. It worked just fine and isn't really an issue. It was nice to have to toss all those plastic baggies that used to be in the box. Speaking of the box, you'll note that they used the photography and artwork from the 1984 Stinger. The jeep on the back is the 1984 version and the figure that appears is the 1984 Stinger Driver. They didn't even update the photography for the toy that was actually produced. This is odd as the Hasbro Star Wars team has said they can't create box photography using figures that are either not currently shipping or have shipped in the recent past. I guess that didn't come over to the Joe team, though.
For $25, this thing would be OK. At $40 shipped, that's a lot. I have a feeling we're going to have a chance at some cheaper options for this guy in coming weeks. But, we'll see where the remaining stock ends up. Despite my blase feelings about this release, I'd buy at least one more if I found them at a discount retailers. Maybe even 2 if the price was right. So, I'm the real sucker in this deal.