Saturday, April 29, 2023

Chinese Exclusive Duke - Around the Web

I've had this Around the Web post for the Chinese Duke in my drafts for quite a while.  I have been hoping to keep finding more and more content on him.  But, that's proven difficult.  While this figure was widely available from Asia for about $1 as recently as the early 2010's, it has since dried up and the people who bought up the cheap overstock don't seem to take photos of their figures.  So, there's a paltry few entries in today's post.  But, it's still a foreign variant of Duke.  And, it's just different enough to warrant an acquisition if the price is cheap enough.

It seems that many new collectors aren't aware of this figure.  You see people denigrating it as "not original".  But, really, in terms of production, the Chinese Duke is probably substantially less common than the 1984 Duke.  But, reality isn't something that modern collectors are too concerned about.  In the first link, I lay out the differences between this version and the original.  So, there's at least something useful in there.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Auriken Flash - Mexico

The realm of international Joes can be both fun and exciting.  It can also be an exercise in frustration.  In the early 2000's, there was little info available on foreign released Joes.  There were a few trading with minimal info.  A few collectors tracked down some foreign items and they were posted in various newsletters or even to  But, those information stores were inadequate and terribly dated.  In the mid 2000's, the first real attempt to document "all" the foreign Joe variants were undertaken.  For the time, they are incredibly detailed and feature a host of figures that, to that point, had really not been previously known to or seen by the public.  In the 15 years since that, though, no one else has really undertaken a foreign Joe project of the same scale.  And, because of that, tons of information that has been learned since those early books is scattered or even lost in various unsearchable posts.  Foreign entities from Brazil, Argentina, Europe and even India, though, are well enough known that much of the new info exists in the general collecting conscious.  But, as you descend into more obscure foreign releases, the info is more opaque and difficult to find.  And, my search into the world of Auriken Joes from Mexico proved this point.

The calling card for this Auriken version of Flash is the figure's color.  I have talked about the "Brazilian Green" color that is common among Estrela accessories and figures.  It is a dark and distinctive hue of the color.  Auriken also created their own unique shade of green.  The cool thing, though, is that this color appears on many different Auriken figures and gives them a consistency that's missing even from the original 13 Hasbro figures.  The green is brighter and more pea-colored than any American release.  The closest figure in color to the Auriken Flash would be Zap.  But, even he's pretty far off from the Mexican hue.    

The timeline of foreign Joe straight arm releases is a bit tough to nail down.  It does seem, though, that the Auriken figures were likely acquired after the molds' usage by Estrela in Brazil.  There the figures were released in boxes rather than on cards.  Flash is available with in a box.  But, he was also packaged with the Skystriker.  I'm not sure if the figures have any differences.  Though, the Skystriker figure doesn't include any gear.  Without the unique green pack, Flash loses something.  But, the fact that this color scheme is wasted on straight arm figures makes the loss less worrisome.  It's an utter shame that no one has been able replicate the Estrela, Palitoy or Auriken greens on some swivel arm factory customs.  

On one hand, I've found it odd that there are no, more recent guides to international Joes.  But, authors of guides for American figures have reported that publishers have negligible interest in an edition focusing on foreign figures.  While it would certainly sell well among the hardcore collector crowd, it would have almost no interest in the general toy collecting world since no adults would connect with toys they had no childhood knowledge of.  A few collectors have done some extensive work on foreign Joes.  But, the info they have is not publicly posted anywhere.  If you know them to ask about something, they will gladly share.  If you're just looking to see what you can learn, though, the resources for may foreign Joe releases is pretty much unavailable.  Joe figures were released in Mexico through the 1994 series.  Many of the later items were likely Hasbro stock that was given unique cardbacks.  But, again, the info on these items is spotty at best.  

Flash was released all over the world.  The straight arm figure has unique releases in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.  The swivel arm version was planned for release in Europe as Bombadier: only to be a casualty of the Action Force line's cancellation.  But, he then disappeared.  Flash did not appear in any form after these 1980's worldwide releases.  Hasbro planned a repaint for 1997, but could not locate the mold.  It has only been factory custom makers who were able to resurrect the mold and bring around some Flash repaints.  But, even those, in my opinion, have fallen short.  We don't have a Night Force Flash, nor an Action Force Flash.  (Though, we do have nice Bombadier repaints, which are awesome to see.)  There is much that could be done with the mold.  Hell, I'd love a swivel version of this Mexican green.  It's not too late for some of those items to still happen in the factory custom world.  But, Hasbro really let collectors down with their updates of the Flash character.

Pricing for Auriken figures is tough.  There's not much to go on.  Flash doesn't seem overly rare.  Loose, poor quality samples seem to sell for around $30.  A mint and complete figure, though, would likely run around $100.  Fortunately, many Auriken figures fall under the radar and you can find some deals.  But, mint and complete figures are a tough find in general.  Even Mexican collectors report that the supply of Auriken Joes in their homeland has dried up and all the figures, once far more common, have become scarce.  Collectors are now willing to pay premiums for them since the Auriken figures are the last bastion of foreign holes in many collections.  If you're a sucker for repainted classics from your childhood, the Auriken series provides another outlet to satisfy your collecting goals.  But, they're not a line that's easy or cheap to complete.

Auriken Flash, Mexico, 1983, Steeler, Snake Eyes, Scarlett

Auriken Flash, Mexico, 1983, Steeler, Snake Eyes, Scarlett

Auriken Flash, Mexico, 2018 Red Laser Army Hollowpoint, Factory Custom

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Rarities - Muralha (Brazilian Exclusive Flint) MOC

The 1985 Flint is my favorite figure in the Joe line.  Fortunately for me, very similar figures were also released in India and Brazil.  The Comandos em Acao version from Brazil features darker greens and a slightly different skin tone.  In short, it's Flint.  But, it's just different enough to be interesting.

Below is a carded Muralha.  You can see the carry over of the American card art.  You'll notice from the cardback that Muralha was mostly released with other class of 1985 figures.  But, there are a couple of oddballs like Crystal Ball that joined him.  

I've had a loose Muralha for a long time.  He's a nice contrast to the Funskool Flint.  But, he's also a figure I'm loathe to use due to fear of breakage.  That's the main issue with the Brazilian figures: fragility.  The harder plastic is more brittle and thumbs and crotches shatter with little effort.  It's unfortunate as it renders some great figures moot.  But, as a collector, I'm less concerned these days as I simply display the figures instead.

Brazil, Estrela, Muralha, MOC, 1985 Flint

Brazil, Estrela, Muralha, MOC, 1985 Flint

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Red Shadows Shadowtrak - Around the Web

When I posted my original Shadowtrak profile, I thought it was going to be a hit.  An obscure but affordable (at the time!) vehicle that fits the super popular Red Shadows theme?  That's guaranteed success.  But, that didn't materialize and the Shadowtrak underperformed and remains one of my biggest disappointments in terms of post popularity.  The reason is that I wanted to share how amazing this vehicle was with the community.  While the Shadowtrak was known, it wasn't common and only a select few people ever actually used it.

It could be that several Action Force vehicles use a similar base to the Shadowtrak as their bases, too.  So, maybe this hinders some people who see it as something reused rather than something new.  But, to me, the Shadowtrak is much more useful than something like the Robo Skull: which has taken on an amazing collector afterlife in the past 6 or 7 years and now become an unobtainable piece for most collectors.  The Shadowtrak hasn't done that.  But, for a standard piece you can integrate into a collection, it's tough to beat the Shadowtrak.

In hand, though, the Shadowtrak is amazing.  It's properly sized, features forward and rear facing weapons and, it can comfortably hold multiple figures.  The color is a recognized Cobra affiliation and it matches with many vintage Hasbro vehicles.  In short, it's a perfect vehicle that should be integrated into every collection.  But, for some reason, the vehicle doesn't resonate like other Action Force releases that, in my opinion, aren't as cool or useful as the Shadowtrak.

There is a good amount of content out there that uses the Shadowtrak.  It seems that it's a favorite for certain people.  And, they use it frequently.  I'm always game to see more and more uses of the Shadowtrak, though, as it's a great vehicle that's tons of fun to own.

Shadowtrak Profile

Shadowtrak by rutbullet

Shadowtrack by joerizzo2025

Shadowtrak by Slipstream80

Shadowtrak by dangief_collectibles

Shadowtrak by Toy Polloi

Shadowtrak by redbeamcustoms

Shadowtrak by the_kraken_wakes

Shadowtrak by rutbullet

Shadowtrak by the.faceless.master

Shadowtrak by joerizzo2025

Shadowtrak by Slipstream80

Shadowtrak by gijoe_the_actionforce

Shadowtrak by brianthehick

2021 Zica Toys, Eagle Force, Riot Commando, Shadowtrak, Red Shadows, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Escorpiao Voador, Cobra Flying Scorpion, Brazil, Estrela

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Sgto. Slaughter (Argentina Exclusive) - Around The Web

There was a time when this Sgto. Slaughter was a $3 figure.  You could buy all of them you wanted, MOC, for that price.  But, Slaughter batons had not, yet, been marketed into rarity by super collectors.  So, most collectors didn't even feel that the accessory with this figure was worth the price.  But, as the real Sgt. Slaughter endeared himself to the Joe community throughout the 2000's, the excess Plastirama figures dried up.  And, now, they are much more pricey.  

But, this figure from Argentina is fun to have.  I like the subtle differences between it and the Hasbro figures.  And, it's always good to have a spare Sarge around these days.  The result of collectors ignoring this figure when it was common is that content on the figure is rare these days.  Here's the best I could find.

Sgto. Slaughter, Argentina, Plastirama, 1986, Zandar

Sgt. Slaughter, Sgto. Slaughter, Argentina, Plastirama, Coyote, Footloose, Sigilo, Quick Kick, Cobra De Hielo, Stormshadow, Antorcha, Blowtorch

Sgt. Slaughter, Sgto. Slaughter, Argentina, Plastirama, Coyote, Footloose, Sigilo, Quick Kick, Cobra De Hielo, Stormshadow, Antorcha, Blowtorch

Sgt. Slaughter, Sgto. Slaughter, Argentina, Plastirama, Coyote, Footloose, Sigilo, Quick Kick, Cobra De Hielo, Stormshadow, Antorcha, Blowtorch

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Fuego - Argentine Exclusive Ripcord

In 1984, my youngest brother got two Ripcord figures.  I'm not sure why he got two of them.  And, I'm not sure why he never got any other 1984 figures aside from those two Ripcords.  But, his acquisitions brought Ripcord into my childhood collection.  And, as I was loathe to use multiples of the same Joes, it also brought a second set of his parachute gear into my adventures where they were then used on Airborne, Duke and even Flint as they took second fiddle in the Skystriker.  Ripcord, though, had trouble staying near the top of the play list.  Once I removed his parachute pack, Ripcord was kind of plain.  While it didn't make sense to have Ripcord traipsing around the bush while wearing his parachute and airmask, I didn't find the figure all that cool sans these accouterments.  

So, Ripcord kind of fell to the wayside.  Until he appeared as a major player in the comic, that is.  As Ripcord's importance to the comic story grew, I brought the figure back around.  Ripcord found new importance to me and continued to be an often used figure through 1986 where he joined the Tomahawk crew.  One of my great disappointments as a kid was finding how lame Crazylegs was when compared to Ripcord.  The later paratrooper simply didn't match up.  Fifteen years later, though, I found a figure that did.  And, it was simply a slight repaint of Ripcord who breathed some new life into the Ripcord mold and made me appreciate the original figure all over again.  That variant is the Plastirama Fuego figure that was released in Argentina.

The Plastirama figures were a relatively small line of Joe figures released in Argentina.  While there are a few very significant coloring and mold combination exclusives in the line, the bulk of it was slight repaints of Hasbro paint jobs.  This was mostly so that the foreign companies could repurpose marketing materials that Hasbro had created for their markets.  But, it also created a bunch of slight variants that offer modern collectors slightly different looks for many of their line's early, classic characters.  Among them was Ripcord.  The Plastirama variant features different greens from the Hasbro figure as well as nice, blue cammo.  The main calling card, though, is that Fuego features flesh colored hands.  He is the only version of Ripcord released anywhere in the world that is not wearing gloves.  Usually, I prefer gloves.  But, in this case, the figure having uncovered hands allows for a different look for the Ripcord character, even if it's slight.

And, really, that's how I use him.  I like Ripcord and try to include him in various photos.  Having the Brazilian, Hasbro and Argentine versions allows for some diversity when he appears in various backgrounds and scenes.  The colors of this Plastirama release, though, really pop and they are the brightest and most vibrant of all the Ripcord variants.  The quality, though, isn't great and I'm leery of putting the rifle in his hand.  But, since he was used to cheap, the quality was less important than the visuals that the figure offered.  

Fuego includes all of the gear from the original Ripcord.  Though, there are significant differences that let the two sets of accessories stand on their own.  Fuego's pack is cast in a greyish-brown color that does not match the figure.  It is a color unique to Argentina and actually works with the repainted Ripcord figure named Sokerk.  His helmet is the same as the classic Ripcord.  But, it is cast in a glossy black.  It is shiny and easy to distinguish from other uses of the helmet mold.  The mask is tougher to discern.  But, it tends to be rigid and shiny as well.  Finally, Fuego's rifle is cast in black.  The Auriken release from Mexico also has a near black rifle.  American collectors are aware of the dark version of the gun from the Tactical Battle Platform.  And, the Gatilho figure from Brazil also includes a blackish version of the gun.  But, Fuego's rifle, once again, is defined by the sheen.  It is a very glossy weapon that is unique to Argentina.  In an age when loose figures from childhood collections defined foreign Joes that were imported to the US, these distinctions would be crucial.  But, since most of the Fuegos in the hands of collectors came via opened carded samples from the Plastirama warehouse find in the late 1990's/early 2000's, most of the figures you see out there will include the correct gear.

Ripcord appeared all over the world.  Yet, despite that fact, there are really only two major versions of the character.  After the figure's use by Hasbro, he was planned for release in the 1988 Tiger Force subset.  Unfortunately, the mold had already been sent away.  So, the mock up Tiger Force Ripcord never saw production and we're left with a couple of catalog images of what the figure might have looked like.  (I often wonder how we'd view Ripcord had the Tiger Force version been released.  It's pretty likely that the figure would, today, command a premium over even the original Ripcord figure.)  From there, the Ripcord mold appeared as Fumaca in Brazil, as Soga in Mexico and then as Fuego in Argentina.  All of these figures are based on the appearance of the Hasbro original: though they all have differences among them.  Ripcord was used twice more, though as new characters in each instance.  In Argentina, Ripcord's mold was used as the second, later and more common Sokerk figure.  And, in Brazil, he was turned into a Cobra and released as Relampago in the Python Patrol subset.  Ripcord's absence was a large hole in the 2000's as collectors would have gobbled up any repaint.  But, there are a lot of Ripcord figures to track down...even if most of them are very similar.  Hasbro finally released a new Ripcord in 2023 as part of the Haslab Skystriker.  This Night Force Ripcord looks great, but has poor quality, especially on the gear.  Maybe we'll someday get a repaint of it and finally see a Tiger Force release.

Time was, MOC Fuego figures were stupidly cheap.  You could buy individual figures for under $5 and you could buy up lots of a half a dozen figures for just a couple of bucks per fig.  Fuego was among the least popular Plastirama releases.  And, his lack of popularity continues today.  You'll probably pay around $25 for a carded figure.  Though, you might find loose versions for less if you have the patience.  Figures in COPS boxes tend to be a bit more popular.  Though, those are desirable for the packaging and the figures in the window are less important unless they are one of the ninjas or TNT.  For the money, this figure doesn't make a lot of sense.  You can get a mint and complete American Ripcord for about the same price as a carded Fuego and Ripcord is a better figure and is higher quality.  But, Fuego's unique coloring does make him distinctive and the lack of gloves is a fun update to a classic figure.  I'm a sucker for foreign versions of characters that are barely repaints of the original.  So, I probably get a lot more value out of figures like Fuego than most collectors.  But, I also got him at a time when he was cheaper to buy than retail Joes put out by Hasbro.  So, your mileage on this figure will likely vary from mine.

Fuego, Plastirama, Argentina, Ripcord, 1984, Recondo, Leopardo, Brazil, Estrela

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Funskool General Flagg - Around The Web

Back in late 2000, I imported a couple of Funskool figures from Malaysia.  The seller had a few harder to find 1993 and 1994 figures, too.  So, it made a lot of sense to pick up some relatively cheap Funskool figures.  Among them was a brand new figure that had never appeared anywhere else prior: General Flagg.  When I got the figure in hand, it was more awesome than I had imagined.  The quality was good and the colors were amazing.  That Flagg then became widely available in Feb. of 2001 when mass quantities of Funskool figures began to be imported to the U.S.  

Since then, the figure still remains my favored use of the General Flagg mold.  I try to use it as often as I can since you don't see it all that often.  Below, you'll find what links on the figure I could find.  Not a ton of content.  But, General Flagg is generally obscure.  And, an Indian release of him wasn't a figure that a ton of collectors really coveted back in the early 2000's.

Funskool General Flagg Profile

Funskool General Flagg Variants by Funskool Rony

Funskool General Flagg by kushviper

Funskool General Flagg by Funskool Rony

Funskool General Flagg by the Dragon Fortress

Funskool General Flagg by shaleenguharoy

Funskool General Flagg by aicrtm

Funskool General Flagg by toysjoy357

Funskool General Flagg by shaleenguharoy

Funskool General Flagg by Funskool Rony

Funskool General Flagg, Flint, Tunnel Rat, 1992 BBQ, Barbecue, Eco Warriors, Psyche Out

Funskool General Flagg, Flint, Tunnel Rat, 1992 BBQ, Barbecue, Eco Warriors

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Satan - Plastirama (Argentina) Exclusive

What do you do when you've owned a figure for nearly 15 years, but never actually been able to use it?  The answer, of course, is you find a close enough proximal figure and finally bring one of the most sought after characters to your collection.  But, what happens if you miss those, too?  And, suddenly, your desire for any representation of the figure is suppressed by prices that seem out of line for rarity and popularity of the figure?  The answer there is, you go without.  And, one of the most iconic foreign repaints in the entire history of G.I. Joe is among the last figures from Argentina to make an appearance on a site that was heavily built upon the introduction of foreign figures to American collectors.  All due to the generosity of a fellow collector who had a spare Black Major figure he was willing to give to me.  Thus, without further ado, I present a profile on, really, 2 figures: the Satan figure that is exclusive to Argentina and the Black Major homage from 2016 or so.

As 2007 wore on, I decided to close the gaps in my Plastirama collection.  I had noticed that a few figures that were once common were starting to disappear.  So, in short order, I completed my run of the common swivel arm figures.  Two of the last three acquisitions were Cobra De Hielo and Satan.  The plan, of course was to open the figures.  I had just taken most of the other Plastirama releases off their cards.  And, Satan and Cobra De Hielo were next.  But, I never got around to it.  Shortly after I acquired these figures, I started a new job, lost interest in Joe for a bit and simply left the figures out in the garage for years.  I accidentally acquired a second Cobra De Hielo and did open that figure for my loose version.  This sparked my interest in Satan.  But, upon reviewing Ebay listings for him, I found that the figure was now worth way more than I had thought he'd be.  And, as such, opening him became a fool's errand.  It's one thing to open a $10 carded figure.  It's another to open a $150 carded figure.  So, Satan stays on his card to this day...something that I'll never open due to the current collectible value.

That's where the Black Major comes in.  In the middle 2010's, Black Major started producing Storm Shadow repaints.  Among the earliest releases was a red repaint based on Satan.  Sure, Hasbro had tried the Red Ninja thing in 2004.  But, those figures were a poor man's Satan.  Black Major's version was tied to the original figure and featured colors very similar to the Argentine release.  And, as a huge bonus, the Black Major figure included a full complement of 1984 Stormshadow accessories.  In short, it was a cheap way for people to acquire a Satan (or an army of red ninjas) for sane prices.  

There is the question of how to pronounce this character's name.  Of course, there is the generally accepted SAY-tan.  This, though, ties the figure too much to a devilish motif and seems overly cliched.  I prefer to say Sah-TAN as it's less obvious where the name's origins lie.  Modern comic writers, most ignorant of foreign Joe characters beyond Ebay listings, incorporated the character with various mnemonic takes of the name.  Some are better than others.  But, in the end, it was the basic Red Ninjas who were introduced in Silent Interlude (#21) that were the driving force behind the collector appeal of this figure.  The Satan name only became interesting after the fact when there were other Red Ninjas available and collectors were desperate to find anything that could break their Joe worlds from the Hama-verse and set them a bit apart.

For me, though, having the figure carded meant that he didn't really join my collection.  But, I also acquired the figure late in the game, as I was losing interest in Joe for a bit.  So, I never really came up with a characterization of him.  While Ninja Ku often appears in photos as a random ninja, I have yet to find Satan as useful.  Having the Black Major figure finally gives me a loose version to use.  I just haven't found myself incorporating him into the fold like I thought I would.  There was a time when an army of red ninjas was enticing.  But, I built one with the 2004 Red Ninja Vipers and found that it wasn't all that interesting.  If I ever set up a Cobra display with early figures, you can be sure that Satan will find a way to be a part of it.  I just don't think that's ever really going to happen, though.

So, here's the thing.  Satan's aren't rare.  They're not.  Tons of cases of them were imported to the U.S.  And, all the carded figures you could ever want sat unsold on Ebay for between $30 and $50 between 2001 and 2003.  Satan's case mates of Cobra De Hielo and Ninja Ku were similar.  As were Destro, Sparta and Sokerk.  Those three are important as the Destro figure exists in similar quantities as Satan.  Yet, he's very available and cheap.  For every Fuera De La Ley, there is a Satan.  And, there are more Satans because, in the early 2000's as Argentine collectors foraged every nook and cranny of their native land for G.I. Joes to sell to American collectors in American currency during that particular economic crisis in Argentina.  Those collectors found many additional, loose Satan and Ninja Ku figures to offer to collectors who could pay in stable currency.

The reality is, Satan is super popular.  Neither the 2004 Red Ninja Viper nor the anniversary figure release did much to offset the massive appeal of Satan.  And, because of that, Satan is way too expensive today for as common as the figure is.  You can be sure there are many collectors from 2001 - 2004 who have long been out of the hobby with carded Satans and Ninja Kus in their basement who have no idea the figure has increased in price more than 40 fold in the past twenty years.  In the summer of 2020, Satans were $600+ MOC figures.  Just one year later, carded figures sold for $1200+!  Now, you can get MOC figures under $1000 again.  But, some still climb to $1500.  Loose, mint versions are $250 or more.  Even figures with broken thumbs or broken crotches will break $100.  This is difficult to swallow as I remember all those figures sitting, unsold, with $30 buy it now prices.  I remember thinking $30 was way too much for a loose, complete with cardback 3 figure set of Satan, Ninja Ku and Cobra De Hielo.  But, I also remember scrambling to buy the last Satan I could find for $70 in 2007 in fear that he would continue to rise out of my price range.  

You see way too many collectors who are new to the Joe world incorrectly calling this figure "rare" because they can't find one.  He's not rare.  He's popular.  And, that popularity drives the price...even if there are hundreds, or thousands, of carded examples that were imported to the U.S. and now sit in tons of old collections.  This, though, has been the fate of many of the foreign Joes that were readily available for cheap prices in the early days of online Joedom.  Action Force vehicle drivers, Funskool Street Hawks, Brazilian Eco Warriors and all of the Plastirama figures have dried up and are now thought to be only the domain of enterprising collectors who braved foreign postal services to acquire the figures.  Old timers know differently.  But, in the end, it is demand that drives prices and the current crop of collectors are willing to overpay for items like Satan since they think it's something exotic.  If only they really knew how these figures were ignored and derided by earlier generations.

Satan, Plastirama Red Ninja, Stormshadow, Argentina

Satan, Plastirama Red Ninja, Stormshadow, Argentina, Black major, 1988 Sgt. Slaughter

Satan, Plastirama Red Ninja, Stormshadow, Argentina

Satan, Plastirama Red Ninja, Stormshadow, Argentina, Black major, 1988 Sgt. Slaughter, Snake Eyes

Saturday, April 1, 2023

European Exclusive Spirit Iron Knife - Around the Web

With the new month, we'll bring back one of our old favorites: International Joe Month.  This month will be all about international Joe figures.  There will be profiles, Around the Web and some other features: all showcasing international figures.  So, we'll start with the European Exclusive Spirit.  The fact that he's missing eyebrows is a cruel joke.  But, this is still a great update for a classic mold.