Tuesday, February 28, 2023

1993 Dr. Mindbender - Around The Web

Dr. Mindbender's character is far more popular than any of his figures would suggest.  The original version looked like a circus strongman.  This 1993 version features a solid sculpt.  But, the colors are bright and really don't match with the mold.  But, the good Dr.'s popularity prevails and he remains a top tier Cobra character.

Because of this, the 1993 figure is far more popular in Joe content than I would ever have guessed.  There's tons of photos and write ups available on the figure.  So, scroll through and check out all the great work that's been done with the 1993 Dr. Mindbender.

Dr. Mindbender Profile

1993 Dr. Mindbender by relena_warcraft

1993 Dr. Mindbender by dashtacker

1993 Dr. Mindbender by discovolante

1993 Dr. Mindbender by cobragram

1993 Dr. Mindbender at JoeADay.com

1993 Dr. Mindbender by gijoe_for_fun

1993 Dr. Mindbender by bruxovigo

1993 Dr. Mindbender by Slipstream80

1993 Dr. Mindbender at Nekoman's Viper Pit

1993 Dr. Mindbender by thedustinmccoy

1993 Dr. Mindbender by discovolante

1993 Dr. Mindbender by ronnie_trickshot

1993 Dr. Mindbender by thedustinmccoy

1993 Dr. Mindbender by python.patrol_benny

1993 Dr. Mindbender by fosilru

1993 Dr. Mindbender by HCC788

1993 Dr. Mindbender at Action Figure BBQ

1993 Dr. Mindbender, Interrogator Mail Away, 1994 Joseph Colton

1993 Dr. Mindbender, 1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander, 2020 Black Major SNAKE Armor, 1992 Overkill, BAT Commander

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

1983 Silver Pads Grand Slam

Grand Slam was among the first repaints in the vintage Joe line.  In 1983, he, Grunt and the Cobra Trooper all got the repaint treatment.  Grunt and the newly named Viper Pilot were given prominent places as the pilots for the well hyped Joe gliders.  Those toys were garbage, though.  And, the figures remain the only good thing about them.  Grand Slam, though, had less fanfare.  Instead of getting an all new toy to call his own, Grand Slam was packaged with the JUMP.  It's likely that the excellent jet pack hadn't been perceived as a great value by the parents of 1982.  So, Hasbro decided to start including a figure to entice more people to buy it. In the 1983 catalog, the silver Grand Slam appears with no special indication that he's a new addition to an old toy.  40 years later, JUMPs remain common and attainable.  But, the Silver Pads Grand Slam has become a collector prized figure and taken on a bit of rarified air.

I would have sworn to you for many years that this figure was a 1984 release.  I had him listed as 1984 on my original profile for a long time.  This is simply due to the fact that my discovery of this Grand Slam occurred in 1984.  The local Service Merchandise store had a small section in the back where they kept smaller toys that didn't make sense to store in the display cases.  This section was mostly figures.  But, there were some small vehicles, too.  Among them was the JUMP with this newly colored Grand Slam.  This Service Merchandise was the only place I recall seeing this new Grand Slam coloring.  And, as no one else had the the silver figure, I desperately wanted the JUMP.  Each time we went to the store, I'd go back to that aisle and wait for my parents.  Inevitably, they'd find me with the JUMP box in my hands, hoping I'd get one for my birthday in 1984.  

On the big day, my parents came through.  Along with the Whale, I got a Silver Pads Grand Slam and JUMP.  Also, for that birthday, I got a new Stormshadow (my brother's from just two months earlier had already lost or broken most of the accessories) and a straight arm Scarlett figure.  I spent the afternoon and evening playing with the new Joes with all my friends, eating pizza and then watching Beverly Hills Cop.  Which, somehow my dad managed to rent without my mother's objections.  It all wrapped into a perfect day and forever associated this Grand Slam with great memories and feelings.

That alone was enough to keep Grand Slam around.  The only red pads figure we owned was an old straight arm from a HAL my brother got for his birthday in October of 1982.  So, the character seemed new.  And, armed with the jet pack, Grand Slam was a powerful force.  Through 1985, Grand Slam remained one of my favored figures and he even held his own as the class of 1985 slowly joined my collection.  At some point in 1986, a swivel arm Flash entered into our collection.  I'm not sure where he came from.  But, it was a nice figure.  For Christmas that year, my brother got the Dreadnok Air Assault set from Sears.  Not being a Dreadnok fan, though, I kept the Skyhawk as a Joe vehicle.  It became a new branch of the Joe team.  Prior to this, air power hadn't been a big part of my play pattern.  Really, a well timed airstrike or Dragonfly arrival would completely upend the adventure as air superiority was too much for Cobra to overcome.  But, the real reason was that airplanes were hard to play with.  Smaller aircraft were OK.  But, the larger toys looked great while being too large and bulky to really use in a detailed play scenario.  

I needed a pilot for this new Skyhawk.  But, I had few choices available.  I tried some figures who had sculpted helmets.  But, they could rarely fit into the vehicle.  I then had an idea.  Grand Slam, with his more unique silver colors would become the pilots of the Skyhawks (yes, the figure became an army builder) while Flash would become the more common land soldier who supplemented the new force.  In short, this worked fantastically.  The Flash figure's would invade on land while Grand Slam would fly in the air.  I would give Grand Slam either Ripcord or Lifeline's air mask, to make him more pilot-like.  Grand Slam might save the day.  He might die in battle.  In many cases, divers had to rescue Grand Slam from deep under the water where he was trapped in the cockpit of his aircraft.  Sometimes he lived and sometimes he didn't.  But, through the end of 1987, these two figures were among the most used toys in my bedroom.  

When I put my Joes away for good in 1988, Grand Slam and Flash were carefully wrapped in plastic bags and tucked away inside a red Lego container that I hid in the back of my closet.  My youngest brother, of course, would find it and remove figures when I wasn't around.  But, he was after newer toys and left the Grand Slam and Flash intact.  As an adult collector, I found that Grand Slam.  He was relatively worn and, at some point, I had replaced his crotch with that from a 1982 red Grand Slam figure.  But, he was still there.  With my memories intact, I made a high quality Silver Pads Grand Slam a key acquisition as a collector.  And, I was fortunate in that as the figure has become far too expensive for a vanity purchase these days.

Silver Pads Grand Slam figures were only available with the JUMP.  In one of the weird anomalies of the early Joe line, though, there was a three pack of Hawk, Clutch and Red Pads Grand Slam figures that were available in bags.  The Grand Slams, though, all include the Silver Pads Grand Slam filecard.  But, the figures are all red pads variants.  In an other really fun oddity, Hasbro actually factory overpainted some red pads figures with the silver paint.  As such, you'll see some Silver Grand Slams that have red paint peeking out from behind the silver.  Many people quickly out these as fakes.  But, some are legitimate products of the Hasbro factories that were trying to save money on overstock figures.

While Flash was released around the world, Grand Slam only appeared in the US.  It's likely that his parts were shipped off to make Grunts and Flashes all around the globe.  But, poor Grand Slam never saw release outside of Hasbro.  Even the comic, which made a point to showcase all of the early Joe team, ignored Grand Slam.  He got one great moment kicking Major Bludd through a bus window in issue #17.  But, that was about it other than making fun of Short-Fuse's name in #22.  Grand Slam didn't return as a character until Hasbro dusted him off in the late 2000's as part of the DTC line.  While Grand Slam figures tend to command a premium due to his reduced release area, the character is pretty much forgotten and has little influence in the Joe world.

So, this figure is pricey.  Nice, mint and complete figures will run at least $100.  Some of them with JUMP packs will even get to $150.  Dealers get the higher amount all the time.  For a figure that's "rare", though, there's actually quite a few Silver Pads Grand Slams out there.  So, it's not hard to get one.  But, you'll pay for it since perception outweighs reality for many old Joe releases these days.  As the silver paint wears easily, though, finding mint specimens is getting harder and harder.  And, my desire to showcase the figure in outdoor photos also diminishes as replacement figures become more and more expensive.  The upside to Grand Slam is that he has a figure that's found a collector afterlife.  But, the fact that it's due to rarity and price instead of quality is kind of a bummer.  Each collector will find different value in owning Grand Slam.  For me, the childhood connection makes this silver version a must own.  But, at the same time, did I not have the memories of the figure, the red pads version would be just fine for me.  

1983 Silver Pads Grand Slam, JUMP, Jet Pack, Rock and Roll, Snake Eyes, 1984 Slugger

1983 Silver Pads Grand Slam, 1985 Flint, 2023 Fail Safe, Skystriker, Haslab, JUMP, Jet Pack

Saturday, February 18, 2023

1988 Night Force Sneak Peek - Around The Web

I've always felt that most of the vintage Night Force were not improvements over their original figures.  They were different.  But, not, necessarily, better.  There are exceptions, though.  And, Sneak Peek is one.  The Night Force version is an upgrade over his original figure.  And, I like his original figure quite a bit.  

My youngest brother had this Sneak Peek after I had aged out of Joe.  But, I was familiar with the figure.  And, it was still around when I dug all our old toys of the attic in the 1990's.  (The Falcon's parts are still in my custom parts bin.  But, they're not all there to remake the figure.)  There's a nice amount of content on this figure out there.

1988 Night Force Sneak Peek Profile

Night Force Sneak Peek by Slipstream80

Night Force Sneak Peek by Cyko_9

Night Force Sneak Peek at JoeADay.com

Night Force Sneak Peek by Hit and Run

Night Force Sneak Peek by Relinquished1979

Night Force Sneak Peek by Cyko_9

Night Force Sneak Peek by gen_liederkranz

Night Force Sneak Peek by purple_cobra75

Night Force Sneak Peek by cobra_the_enemy

1988 Night Force Sneak Peek

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

2023 Pilot Scarlett

Everyone now has an opinion on the Haslab Skystriker.  They've been in people's hands for about three weeks.  There's lots of kvetching about it from a vocal minority...many of whom did not even back the project.  But, there's also been a lot of positives about it.  My plan was to write a full on screed about the Skystriker: it's failures and successes.  But, I don't want to.  Instead, I'm going to look at the one figure from the set that I thought wasn't going to be great.  But, has turned out to be nicer and more interesting than the rest of the figures from the set: the Pilot Scarlett.  And, as an added bonus, both the Dragon Fortress and the Attica Gazette are looking at the same figure today.  (Can you believe it's been 5 years since our last collaboration?)

When the Skystriker was announced, the Pilot Scarlett was among the revealed tiers.  Her figure was just a repaint of the standard Ace body that was recreated for this set.  It featured a new Scarlett head, though, to create a missing specialty for a major character.  At the time of her reveal, I mentioned that her coloring wasn't something you saw very often in the Joe line.  And, it is that coloring that really made the figure stand out once I had the entire Skystriker set in hand.

Really, the Skystriker figures are kind of bland.  The colors are dark and muted.  They're not bad figures.  They're just not anything that stands out.  If you mixed them with a lot of vintage figures, you'd miss them at first glance.  Figures like this are a valuable part of a collection.  But, it's nice to get something to spice up the monotony.  And, that's where this Scarlett comes in.  Her flightsuit is in light blue with white accents offset by a dark blue torso.  Usually, when you see an all blue figure, they look too much like a Cobra.  But, this Scarlett doesn't suffer from that.  It might be the distinctiveness of her flight suit.  But, the color scheme is different and visually vibrant.  

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the figure, though.  Scarlett has never been known as a pilot.  Though, she was somewhat retconned into the role based on the Glenda appearance.  But, as the Joes tended to be able to specialize in multiple things, it's fine that Scarlett is now a pilot.  And, it makes sense that she'd wear a high altitude flight suit just like Ace.  Or else she'd run the risk of blacking out and dying at high altitudes.  The bulk of the flightsuit would obscure some of Scarlett's female form.  So, that detail is also something you can accept.  But, I didn't even unbox my Skystriker plane.  And, I'm not going to.  So, this Scarlett is going to somewhat disappear into the storage drawer for 2023 figures.

In some ways, though, that's good.  The reality is that the Skystriker figures were not meant to be opened and used for photos, etc.  The plastic is soft.  But, the paint is even softer.  Ripcord's gear is so soft that you can't put it on him.  Scarlett's glove paint will chip if you put her helmet in her hand.  And, that's a thin accessory.  The painted heads and hands will strip easily.  The paint feels like the soft application that existed on the alternate Asian figures where it was like the paint was never sealed.  Hasbro means for these figures to be carded display pieces.  Which really is unfortunate as Joe figures have always been toys and not carded collectibles like Star Wars figures.  It's especially problematic since these are premium priced figures that are supposed to be of decent quality.

There is one glaring issue with the figure: her hair.  Scarlett is known for her red hair.  It's been her calling card since 1982.  In looking back at the promo mock ups of this figure, though, the hair color has been pretty consistent.  It's just still jarring to see Scarlett with such a brown colored hair.  It should have been a simple fix.  But, it's another odd choice made for this figure.  Sadly, as this is an all new head, no vintage or repaint era Scarlett heads will fit this mold and still allow the helmet to work.  So, painting her is about the only option to get Scarlett in her real hair color.

Scarlett includes two accessories: a helmet and a crossbow.  The helmet is the same as Ace's, just in a different color.  It is, though, extremely difficult to remove once you get it in place.  Dok Sewage has a video with tips to get it off without damaging it.  The second piece is her iconic crossbow.  However, I guess the crossbow isn't that iconic because Hasbro remade the mold without the handle!  So, there is no natural way that Scarlett can hold her classic weapon.  Hasbro has made a prior mistake in a similar vein when the Bazooka with the Cobra Trooper/Officer set was missing the sight.  This handle, though, is more egregious.  It elevates to scandalous, though, because Hasbro has gone the extra mile to pretend this design was intentional.  Hasbro Customer Service even sends out photos of how she can "hold" her weapon.  In one of them, her thumb is stretched out so far that not even the softer plastic used to make the figure looks like it will not last long.

The bottom line is that Hasbro made a mistake.  Instead of bullshitting collectors, they should have owned up to it.  They could have said it was an error, they're sorry, and they will work to ensure that no future releases have similar misses.  But, they didn't.  And, they way they handled it was reminiscent of the early 2000's Hasbro and their step child, the collector's club.  They'd have done a similar take where they didn't make an error and collectors were stupid for trying to point out that they did.  I was hoping that collector themed products would at least lead to a modicum of respect for their customers.  But, Hasbro is what they are.  And, their lack of culpability is completely in character for them.

I do not know how this figure will hold up.  We know that light blue figures from the early 2000's discolor without even being removed from the package or exposed to sunlight.  It would sure suck to find this figure an ugly yellowing, blue color in 15 years.  But, it's definitely possible.  I'm making it a point to get good photographs of all the 2020's figures so it's easier for me to spot discoloration in future decades.  I hope I'll be surprised and Scarlett holds her intended colors as the hues are so nice.  

When this figure was announced, I speculated that she'd be $80+ within a year of her release.  Early indications were that all the Skystriker figures were going to be pricey.  But, a lot of people are underselling these figures right now, especially Scarlett and the Cobra Commander.  So, buy now.  In 2024, despite the fact that the market will be a lot cooler than it is now, the deals on the Skystriker figures will be gone.  And, we'll lament $40 Scarletts the way we lament $4 Funskool Night Vipers today.

2023 Pilot Scarlett, Haslab, 1985 Snake Eyes, 1987 Hardtop

2023 Pilot Scarlett, Haslab, Skystriker, Funskool Flint, 1998 Ace, TRU EXclusive

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Funskool Zartan - Around the Web

In 2001, Hasbro produced one of the worst figures in the entire history of the line: the ARAHC Zartan.  Fortunately, just a few months after the Hasbro figure was shown, Funskool came through and released a new version of the classic V1 Zartan mold.  The Funskool figure wasn't too far off from the 1984 Zartan.  He featured a little extra silver and black chest and knee pads.  The biggest change was to the eyes, though.  The Funskool figure has creepier eyes with less paint.  

Sadly, you don't see this figure as frequently as you used to.  Carded figures have greatly appreciated, seemingly oblivious to the fact that thousands upon thousands of these were imported to the US.  So, there's not a ton of content on the figure out there.  But, you can enjoy what little there is, below.

Funskool Zartan Profile

Funskool Zartan at the Attica Gazette

Funskool Zartan at Joe A Day.com

Funskool Zartan by xxteam_cobraxx

Funskool Zartan by R.T.G. at ARAH Gallery

Funskool Zartan by atwooddan

Funskool Zartan by Funskool Rony

2001 Funskool Zartan, Red Dog, Slaughter's Renegades, 1986 Dreadnok Swampfire

1984 Zartan and Chameleon, 1986 Thrasher, Sears Exclsive Dreadnok Ground Assault, Stinger, 2001, Funskool Zartan, 1987 Crystal Ball, 1991 Overkill

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

1985 Frostbite

While I got my first Joes in 1982, my real heyday of Joe toys was actually 1984-1986.  During the time, Joe was the main part of my social interaction with my friends.  And, pretty much every boy in my class at school played with them in some capacity.  1985 was the sweet spot, though.  It was the high point of everyone still playing with toys and finding them socially acceptable.  By the end of the year, the cool kids had aged out.  And, by the spring of 1986, most of the other kids had followed.  By 1987, toys were taboo and my obsession with them was a secret kept from my peers.  But, the memories from 1985 remain strong.  But, the biggest of them was finding something new before my friends.  When this happened, the new item stood out and everyone would flock to the lucky kid's house to see the new acquisition.  Over the summer, though, this happened less as my friends were often out of town.  So, when I found the Snowcat in the summer of 1985, there was no one to fawn over its release.  But, a winter vehicle found in the dead of summer was also out of place.  Still, I found a way for it to work.  The biggest surprise, though, was the quality of the Snowcat's driver: Frostbite.

When Frostbite was released, there was just one other arctic figure: Snow Job.  Snow Job's design and gear, though, were top notch.  Had Frostbite been a carded release, he'd have been in trouble.  But, as a vehicle driver, there were less expectations of him.  And, the figure was able to deliver a solid follow up for the Joe's cold climate team.  He was a very different figure from Snow Job.  But, that was OK since he a distinctly different role as a vehicle driver.

Frostbite's sculpt is relatively simple.  He doesn't have tons of details.  But, that's what makes him appealing.  Frostbite isn't overdone.  His pants have no details.  His chest features just a couple of pockets, a chest holster and a fur collar.  That isn't much.  But, it's enough to make Frostbite work.  The early arctic figures were fairly minimal in their mold details.  In 1986, Iceberg began a trend of more complexly uniformed cold weather fighters.  Frostbite, though, is a good bridge between Snow Job in Iceberg.  While those two figures can appear out of place when posed together, either of them looks good when paired with Frostbite.  He's a small evolution in the design of the winter characters that allowed the line to progress without appearing to move too quickly.  

The big surprise with the 1985 vehicle drivers was that they included accessories.  Frostbite was gifted an exclusive rifle.  Frostbite's rifle seems a bit oversized in 2023.  But, in 1985, it was an amazing upgrade over the M-16 that came with Grunt.  The size gave it significance.  And, the large scope was a detail that gave the weapon much more depth.  While the weapon was used with Frostbite for a while, my real desire for it was to replicate the weapon that Stalker used is his Vietnam era comic drawings.  I hounded my Grandmother for a Stalker and spent a week at her home over the summer searching out every toy store in Dayton, Ohio until I found one.  Once in hand, this Stalker got a brown version of Duke's backpack from the Battle Gear set and Frostbite's rifle.  It meant that I could not use Stalker and Frostbite together.  But, the value the weapon brought to Stalker made Frostbite more than worthwhile.

As my childhood play universe progressed, Frostbite moved from a typical Joe to more of a command role.  By 1987, Frostbite and Iceberg were the two highest ranking leaders from a cold weather faction that was aligned with the Joes.  Their weapons were special items capable of killing Cobras at incredibly long ranges.  Usually, they stayed in the cockpit of their Snowcat.  They disliked warm weather.  And, stayed in the climate controlled vehicle for their own comfort.  Frostbite conferred directly with Hawk and Flint.  I don't recall exactly how he grew into this role.  But, it was the final characterization that was given to the Frostbite figure.

Now, I just enjoy the figure for what he is.  Frostbite is another in the string of 1985 supporting characters that really augmented the Joe line.  He's not essential to a collection.  But, he's also cool enough and useful enough that he's worth tracking down.  So much of the Joe line is figures like this.  Frostbite doesn't need to be the best cold weather figure or character.  But, he's good enough that you want him and will use him in the proper situations.  That diversity was what gave the Joe brand its staying power.  Kids could have different crops of figures for different seasons or environments.  If Frostbite stayed in the toy box for 9 months, that was OK.  Because, once it began to snow, he was dug out and put into action.  Modern toy lines focus on main character saturation.  But, the vintage Joe line proved how the supporting cast could be instrumental in keeping Joes at the top of every kids' play patterns.

Frostbite's mold did not have a long life.  He got just two releases: this 1985 figure and the Tiger Force repaint in 1988.  However, as Frostbite was a mail away option for many years, there are variants of both this 1985 version and the later Tiger Force release.  Most of them relate to Frostbite's beard.  It can be thicker or thinner based on the time of release.  His fur that covers his shoulders also has a slight coloring difference on the later releases.  Both of these variations are subtle and not something that really makes them sought after.  But, it's something to be aware of.  The Tiger Force Frostbite figure was released in the Auriken Tiger Cat that was sold in Mexico.  It's possible this is a foreign variant of the Tiger Force Frostbite.  But, I'm not sure if the figure was Hasbro's release that was included with the Mexican vehicle or a totally separate production run done by Auriken.  If you have more info on the later year runs of Auriken releases, please let me know.

Frostbites are actually somewhat cheap.  Dealers will get $15 to $20 for a complete Frostbite.  But, you can get one for $10 without too much trouble.  Incomplete figures will run $5.  This is surprising for a 1985 figure.  But, Frostbite was available for many years.  So, there are plenty of them out there.  And, at his price, he's a figure that everyone should have.  The Snowcat remains one of the best cold weather vehicles.  And, you really need to have Frostbite at the helm.  He's one of those obscure figures that really works for his intended purpose.  And, he's affordable enough to always justify his acquisition.

1985 Frostbite, Flint, Snow Cat

1985 Frostbite, Snow Cat, Funskool Flint

1985 Frostbite, Snow Cat, 2001, 2000, Big Ben, ARAHC

Saturday, February 4, 2023

1994 Techno Viper - Around The Web

Techno Vipers are one of the few supporting Cobra army builders.  They are perfect as augments to any display.  But, they are non combatants.  But, it's still nice to have a few of them.  And, with the addition of a 1994 version, you can also have a leader for your Techno Viper legions.  Sadly, the 1994 figures are both hard to find and expensive these days.  If you can find one, though, they are a great addition to a collection.  And, they look good with 1987 gear, too.  

The figure appears just enough out there for its rarity.  Usually, you can find content on really rare figures and really popular figures.  But, an obscure release like this Techno Viper usually falls between the cracks.  But, this time, there's plenty to check out in the links below.

1994 Techno Viper Profile

1994 Techno Viper by gen_liederkranz

1994 Techno Viper at Nekoman's Viper Pit

1994 Techno Viper by joerizzo2025

1994 Techno Viper by dreadnokdread

1994 Techno Viper by kushviper

1994 Techno Viper by coldfront78

1994 Techno Viper by dreadnokdread

1994 Techno Viper by blackmajor

1994 Power Fighters at JoeADay.com

1994 Techno Viper by dreadnokdread

1994 Techno Viper by 1990s_gi_joes

1994 Techno Viper by gen_liederkranz

1994 Techno Viper, 1987

1994 Techno Viper, Star Brigade, 1991 Interrogator