Tuesday, March 28, 2023

2023 Star Wars Retro Biker Scout

It's that time to once again look at a retro Star Wars figure.  Back in 2020, I looked at an Empire Strikes Back figure.  Three years later, it's time to look at a Return of the Jedi figure.  Or, in other words, it took the same amount of time between the original Luke Bespin in 1980 and the original Biker Scout in 1983 as it did to get the two Retro figures.  Honestly, I had no idea it had been that long.  But, there were a couple Mandalorian waves, Obi Wan Kenobi figures and some Amazon exclusive bounty hunters in there.  But, finally, we have the Return of the Jedi figures.  And, for nostalgic reasons, most of the figures in the 6 figure set are interesting to me.  Naturally, the most interesting in the Luke Jedi.  But, I talked about why that was back in 2016.  So, instead, I'm going to look at this Biker Scout as he was my entry figure into the Return of the Jedi world.

In the spring of 1983, the kid around the block from us invited us over.  And, he promptly showed us his new Biker Scout figure.  It was from the new Star Wars movie and was simply overwhelming.  He looked like an amazingly updated Stormtrooper.  He had the black and white trappings of the empire.  But, he was way more detailed than standard troopers.  And, his pistol was a marvel of design.  It was, at the time, the coolest Star Wars gun that I thought Kenner had ever produced.  Our friend informed us that he found the figures at the local Toys R Us.  So, the following Saturday, I convinced my mom to take us to the store.  There we were greeted by the standard wall of Star Wars figures that now had a few Return of the Jedi figures interspersed among the leftover figures from prior movies.  

I quickly grabbed a Biker Scout for my purchase.  And, my younger brother bought an Emperor's Royal Guard.  I have no idea what other figures they had that day.  But, the pickings had to be slim since I'd have bought a Luke with a new lightsaber if they had it in stock.  I can remember the excitement of find the figure I wanted on the shelf.  Even if I don't really recall looking at the cardback to see what other figures could, possibly, be available on the shelves.  Regardless, for our two first figures from Jedi, the Biker Scout and Royal Guard were pretty good choices.  

I got the figure home and wanted to find a use for him.  The Speeder Bike and this figure are now inseparable.  But, in early 1983, we had not yet seen the bikes that this figure would ride.  I just knew that I had to find him a vehicle.  It turns out that I had removed the seats from the original Tie Fighter and Darth Vader's Tie Fighter.  I had done it in a vain search for lost weapons hidden underneath them.  But, I ended up liking the little pods as vehicles.  So, I put the Biker Scout in Darth Vader's seat and found my Tie Fighter Pilot for the Tie Fighter Seat and the two figures combed the grass underneath our swingset in the yard.  I imagined guns on the front.  And, they, eventually, stunned a Fisher Price motorcycle rider.  That figure was orange and was a close enough approximation for an unnamed Rebel.  This became a recurring theme and the motorcycle rider eventually found himself encased in mud and baked on the hot metal slide as punishment for joining the rebels.

The impression left on me from that day still hangs around, 40 years later.  I can't recall any other Biker Scout adventures.  I'm not even sure if he went with me to my grandparents' house that summer.  But, as the Speeder Bikes came out, we ended up with multiple speeders and multiple Biker Scouts.  But, by the time all of that entered our collection, I had discovered swivel arm battle grip and G.I. Joe was forever relegating Star Wars to forgotten status.

When I first returned to collecting in the mid 1990's, I picked up a complete Biker Scout from somewhere.  Back then, no one who wasn't into the toy scene really cared about old Star Wars figures.  And, I'd get little boxes with a few figures and weapons from various people.  One friend even found another Royal Guard in the engineering lab where some prior student had used the figure for scale on a model machine.  The only person I couldn't crack was one of my room mates.  His father actually worked for Kenner, though not on the Star Wars division.  But, every day, his father would spend his lunch change at the Kenner store.  And, my friend had over 100 of each Imperial trooper at least through Empire.  And, he understood the potential value in his collection.  Knowing what we do now, in 2023, I wonder what treasures he had hidden in there.  But, I'll never know.

While looking over this figure, it isn't a great toy for 1983.  The sculpting and proportions are light years ahead of Star Wars figures from 1977.  But, when you compare this figure to the Joe line of 1983, it is night and day.  Joe had added articulation of swivel arm battle grip.  And, the accessory complement for Joe was ratcheted up from the original offerings in 1982.  Sans the hype of the "final" Star Wars movie, it's doubtful these figures would have been enough to pry me away from Joe as my primary play choice.  But, that hype was real.  And, it was powerful.  And, after tiring of my 1982 Joes, I was full into the Return of the Jedi line.  That interest lasted until July of 1983.  By then, the movie had been released and the story told by my figures was over.  Plus, G.I. Joe figures were blowing the Star Wars offerings away.  So, I pivoted back to G.I. Joe and retain the summer of 1983 as my final time playing with Star Wars figures.

The Return of the Jedi wave is somewhat odd as it is being shipped in solid cases.  There's an upside to this as online dealers can load up on popular figures without being saddled with poor sellers.  At retail, though, it's hit and miss.  My local Target store got a full case of Biker Scouts and Luke Jedis.  These will sell out.  If it was a case of Emperors and Landos, though, a single case of each could block any future cases from coming to your local store.  But, let's face it.  Star Wars collectors are an online, pre-order creature.  The people finding them at retail either already have pre-orders that they may either keep or cancel.  Or, they are casual collectors who don't really follow the line, but will buy something neat if they find it at the store.

The Star Wars Retro figures sold pretty well until the Obi Wan series hit.  Those are still sitting on shelves all over the country despite having the best 5 POA Darth Vader ever made.  Hasbro seems to have gotten their production numbers more accurate since the early waves.  Though, they did overproduce the Mandalorian wave and many of its figures can be had for sale or closeout prices at various online retailers.  But, there's plenty of these figures available from various pre-orders and retail stores.  They run $12.  It's possible that we'll see some clearance sales if these as overproduced as the previous waves.  But, we'll see.  It's doubtful these will take off in value, though.  The Empire Boba Fett had a pretty decent after market for a bit.  But, after an Amazon re-release, they can now be had for around original retail price.  But, really, these figures aren't meant to be valuable collectibles.  They are meant to represent valuable memories from childhood.  They do succeed in that.

2023 Retro Biker Scout

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Funskool Scrap Iron - Around The Web

There are few Funskool figures left who don't command overly exorbitant prices.  Scrap Iron is one of them.  The Funskool version is pretty similar to the Hasbro release.  And, he includes the full array of Scrap Iron accessories.  So, in the era of $4 Funskool figures, he was a great buy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Kickstart V2 - Red Laser Army

So, I will start off with the fact that this is not an official Red Laser Army release.  It is, instead, a common kitbash made up of parts of other figures and some new parts.  He was sold as part of a "Remix Set" that included 6 figures that were mostly made up of unsold parts.  So, you will frequently see this figure as part of collections.  But, it's never part of any "official" lists of actual figures that Red Laser sold.  The chest and head appear to be new, though, as they didn't appear on other Red Laser figures.  So, I'm not 100% certain of their origin and if they were late runs to make something else or were intended to use up leftover arms and legs.

Kickstart was the name given to a 2018 Red Laser Army release that was a 1983 Snake Eyes repaint.  The figure was based on the rider that appeared on the artwork for a G.I. Joe BMX bike that was sold in the line's early years.  Kickstart was a fan given name to this unknown character.  So, this grey update was christened Kickstart Version 2.  Really, though, it has little in common with the original Kickstart other than sharing some pieces and a general hue.  But, with factory customs, the intent of the character is often less relevant to me than the usefulness of the figure.  For me, this is a cool combination of parts and colors.  It's the weird type of thing I enjoy.  And, as this head is, iconically, Snake Eyes, I will mostly use him as a Snake Eyes stand in.

While Red Laser introduced the "Clutch" chest to the factory custom game, I never felt that this part was adequately used.  Sure, the Cobra Vehicle Driver is neat.  But, that's about the only one that really resonated with me.  For years, I thought that Clutch's chest could be used in a lot of interesting designs.  But, none of the factory customs that used it jumped out at me.  This Kickstart, though, changed that.  Snake Eyes with a chest holster seems like an obvious choice.  But, Clutch's details would have been wasted on a mono-chromal figure.  So, seeing Snake Eyes with such major color differences on the parts makes the figure stand out.

My main fascination with this figure is the coloring.  Light grey isn't all that common in the vintage Joe line.  And, it is excellently offset by the bright green that makes up the figure's base.  The black highlights add depth to the figure and make him appear to have more paint applications than he actually does.  The green is bright, but useful.  Against the darker black, though, it really pops.  And, the grey works quite well with both the other colors, too.  The flesh tones give the figure more color.  And, the visor is painted silver to give the figure a full 5 colors, quite a bit more than you usually find on a factory custom figure.  

One thing that's tough to reconcile with Snake Eyes is ungloved hands.  One point of Snake Eyes' character is that he's entirely covered in clothing.  But, the original look for Snake Eyes had him with bare hands.  So, this figure not wearing gloves is in line with other early representations of the Snake Eyes character.  I can see this figure being Snake Eyes shortly after his injury recovery.  He hasn't really decided upon a look, yet.  And, his bare arms are just a choice that he later backtracked upon.  

Red Laser figures are well made.  They aren't vintage Joe quality.  But, they have well defined paint masks, tight joints and solid quality parts.  The plastic is rather rigid.  So, it can be tough to get some of the larger handled weapons into their hands.  But, that's about the only real issue with them.  The figures work well with vintage Joes and even some classic accessories.  They mesh well with both other factory customs and vintage Joe figures.  Many of the Red Laser figures use common plastic colors.  So, you can get some very nice complementary figures to make up an early Joe team in different looks than their Hasbro counterparts.

This Kickstart included a remake of the Footloose M-16.  It's a great weapon that needs to be more relatively available.  But, it's not really appropriate for this figure.  The original Kickstart included two grey Uzis.  And, as those are, iconically, Snake Eyes's, they seem more appropriate than a large rifle.  I got a few extra grey Mutt Mac-11's and give them to this Kickstart.  I think they better work with the context of the figure.  But, there's plenty of weapon options to upgrade this figure should you want to.  I have yet to try any helmets on the figure.  But, a grey helmet would probably work in some capacity to give the figure more of a differentiation from Snake Eyes.

Most Red Laser figures have greatly appreciated in value over the past few years.  A big part of that is the general market rise that Joes have seen since 2018 that supercombusted in 2020 and 2021.  Now that things are rapidly cooling, it will be interesting to see how factory customs fare.  They exist in low numbers.  And, most of the large resellers are out of stock.  It's not uncommon to see Red Laser figures sell for $30-$50 depending upon the figure.  But, part of this is also low availability.  If the figures become available, the market price might be much lower.  You can find this Kickstart in the $30 range.  But, it may take some time.  I feel this guy is worth tracking down.  But, he's right in my aesthetic wheelhouse.  So, your mileage may vary.

2018 Kickstart V2, Red Laser Army, Snake Eyes, 1994 Detonator, 2023 Haslab Cobra Trooper, Mickey Mouse Cobra Commander

2018 Kickstart V2, Red Laser Army, Hollowpoint, 2004 VAMP, Toys R Us Exclusive

Saturday, March 18, 2023

1987 Tunnel Rat - Random Photos of the Day

Tunnel Rat is one of the most iconic figures in the line.  His likeness is based on Larry Hama.  But, the rest of the figure is amazing, too.  He photographs really well and works in a variety of situations.  And, because of that, I have a wide array of Tunnel Rat pictures from various settings.  

But, Tunnel Rat is a very popular photo subject.  So, here's a bunch of photos I've taken over the years of Tunnel Rat.

1987 Tunnel Rat, 2001 Duke, 1995 Mortal Kombat Shang Tsung

1987 Tunnel Rat, 1983 Grand Slam, 1984 Slugger

1987 Tunnel Rat, 1991 Locust

1987 Tunnel Rat, 1997 General Hawk

1987 Tunnel Rat, 1997 Lady Jaye

1987 Psyche Out, Tunnel Rat, 1988 Swampmasher

1987 Tunnel Rat, 1994 Battle Corps Flint, 1988 Mean Dog

1987 Tunnel Rat

1987 Tunnel Rat

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

1993 Street Fighter II Blanka

I returned to collecting as a college student in the mid 1990's.  While I dabbled a bit between 1992 and 1994, I didn't really start looking for Joe figures in earnest until 1995.  By then, most of the figures were gone from retail stores.  You could find some here and there at Targets, Wal Marts or K-Marts.  Toys R Us, though, usually had the largest stock.  While they'd still get straggler cases of 1993 or 1994 Battle Corps from time to time, most of their stock was unsold figures from prior years.  These were dominated by Shadow Ninjas, Armor Tech Star Brigade, Ninja Force and the Street Fighter figures that were, for some reason, incorporated into the Joe line.  I stared at these figures dozens of times as a young 20 something collector who had to be choosy with his figure purchases.  I only partook of one figure: a Ninja Force Night Creeper.  Many times, though, I perused the Street Fighter figures.  Some had black accessories, which was always a reason to buy a figure.  Well, almost always.  I simply couldn't reconcile the Street Fighter name in the Joe line.  And, oddball figures like Blanka just made it worse.  

As I got deeper into the collecting well, this attitude didn't much change.  Even in my heyday of buying lots of 1993 figures, I rarely found Street Fighter figures among the collections.  As I had no affinity for the Street Fighter franchise, the figures held zero appeal to me.  As I continued collecting into the 2000's, I still felt the same.  Around 2015, though, my opinions started to change.  I appreciate oddball G.I. Joe figures more than most people.  And, the Street Fighter line was full of them.  And, they were figures I had never owned.  But, at the time, my priorities were more on rebuilding the collection I had sold away a few years prior.  So, I ignored Street Fighter figures as I built out my ranks of other figures who had been banished a few years earlier.  By the time I started looking at Street Fighter figures, I was shocked to find that not only had they gotten harder to find, they were also now substantially more expensive that I would have ever imagined.  With all things Joe, though, patience pays off.  And, a cheap Blanka figure fell into my lap.  With it, I found that I was both correct in my assessment of these figures from 1995, but also correct in my current stance that the figures are well worth collecting.

I really don't know what to do with Blanka.  But, he works in the context of the Mega Marines and even the Lunartix.  I see him as an experiment of Dr. Mindbender's that went awry.  Blanka was meant to be an enhanced human with super strength, etc.  But, it didn't work and the green monstrosity was the ensuing result.  The colors work well with other 1993 figures and that allows for the Blanka figure to have some use.  I do like the green color.  And, it mixes well with the figure's purple gear.  I've found that he is often used in context with some of the Ninja Force as I tend to see him as an edged weapon specialist.  It's not a huge use for the figure.  But, it keeps the figure around and allows me to appreciate the colorful visuals the figure offers.

Blanka's most famous use was as the head for the 2008 convention Hotwire figure.  It was an odd release and looks bizarre.  But, it kind of works.  The rest of the Blanka figure is reused from the 1988 Road Pig.  The figure is also available with blue skin as the driver of the Beast Blaster.  And, there's another Blanka in the Street Fighter Movie line that features this same head as well as a new body.  Due to the green skin, it's difficult to see this figure and Road Pig as so similar.  So, that shows a good reuse of some existing parts.  

Blanka's accessories are just OK.  His gear is purple.  But, purple is a great accent color with green, so the combo works really well.  He includes a 1988 Shockwave knife, 1992 Destro rifle, 1990 Rock Viper rifle as well as the requisite missiles and spring loaded launcher.  The main draw of the accessories, though, is that Blanka includes a grappling hook and rope that can be used in conjunction with the launcher.  The weapons aren't my favorites.  But, I do find the knife to be a good accessory for the character.  

Street Fighter figures went from worthless to desired.  Even a decade ago, you could buy carded lots of the figure for a few bucks each.  Single carded figures would sell for $10, if they sold at all.  Now, though, much of the Street Fighter stock has dried up.  And, demand has increased not only from old collectors finally acquiescing and acquiring these figures to complete their collections, but also from Street Fighter fans who have found the series and buy it for its nostalgic bent.  As 2021 winds down, though, you're starting to see waning interest.  While loose, mint and complete figures were selling for $20 or more with regularity at the end of 2020, they now sit unsold for $10-$12.  Dealers sell an appalling amount of carded figures for $70 and even some loose figures for $30.  But, this is becoming less common.  So, it could be that Blanka's time has passed, again.  Which isn't a bad thing.  This guy is an oddball.  And, usually, I like oddball figures.  But, the biases of my younger days still hold and I don't find that many uses for Blanka these days.

1993 Street Fighter II Blanka, 2001 Funskool Desert Scorpion

Blanka, 1993, Street Fighter II, 1995 Mortal Kombat Movie Edition Shang Tsung, Ninja Commando Budo

1994 Viper, Cobra Viper, Made in Indonesia, 1993, Blanka, Street Fighter

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

2005 Comic Pack Firefly - Random Photos of the Day

I haven't been able to finish any new profiles for a while.  I've got dozens of them started, with many 80% or more completed.  But, I just can't bring them home.  I'm really going to work to get a fun Ripcord version done for next week.  Usually, when I get one done, that gets the juices flowing and I can then finish a bunch of other ones, too.

In the meantime, here's a bunch of photos featuring the 2005 Comic Pack Firefly.  I think this version might be the best Firefly Hasbro ever released.  And, because of that, I use him quite frequently.  Sadly, I've started to notice some discoloring on his upper arms.  This is common with most figures from the 2000's.  I hope we don't see it on the figures from the 2020's, too.  But, it's now a sad fate for some quality figures that collectors get to deal with.

2005 Comic Pack Firefly, #49, 1987 Law and Order, 1988 Mean Dog

2005 Comic Pack Firefly, #49

2005 Comic Pack Firefly, #49, Fred, Cobra Commander, Crimson Guard, Hiss Tank, 2004

2005 Comic Pack Firefly, #49,

2005 Comic Pack Firefly, #49,

2005 Comic Pack Firefly, #49, Funskool Scrap Iron