Snow Serpent Profile
Snow Serpent by badgerscratch
Armor Tech figures are not my favorite. The oddball construction ruins what might be otherwise nice figures. The heads, especially, are excellent. But, within the context of the rest of the figures, they aren't enough to salvage the line. But, today, the figures in the set are no where near as hated and neglected as they once were. So, here's some excellent content on the Armor Tech Destro that you can find all around the web.
I've had this profile scheduled for months. It was just the way it fit into the schedule with various other figures and the fact that this profile was mostly done. Then, Hasbro dropped the Classified Python Patrol Cobra Officer release last week. So, now it looks like this is a response to that. But, hey, I'll take the weird kismet and roll with it.
I don't much care for the Cobra Officer. I have always been a Cobra Trooper fan and found the Officer to pale in comparison to the much more detailed Trooper. But, the Officer included an AK-47. And, to a kid of the '80's, this weapon was the symbol of the bad guys and tied Cobra's imagery to the two greatest evils of the era. So, the figure was imperative, even if it wasn't my preferred Cobra army builder. As a kid, I bought a Trooper at a Kohl's store. But, I don't recall the Officer mattering very much to me. He was in our collection as my parts bin still as some Officer pieces in it. But, the Cobra Trooper was always my preferred Cobra and the Officer was, to me, a lesser figure that wasn't really worthwhile when the superior Trooper was available.
For some reason, Hasbro switched the names on the Python Officer and Trooper. It's not quite a 4-LOM/Zuckuss level screw up. But, it has lead to decades of confusion. Personally, I always felt the Officer mold was better suited to be a trooper since it was bland and included the assault rifle. But, the notion of this mold being an Officer over the Troopers is so ingrained from the original blues, that the name bungling can't prevent me from still seeing this figure as the Officer and the other figure as the Trooper. I have just this one Officer. But, I have quite a few Troopers and even some Factory Custom troopers to supplement them. So, I still see this figure as the officer, even if the official name is that of a trooper.
The upside to this Python Trooper is that the colors and python pattern are excellently done. Green Cobras were all but non-existent in the vintage line. (At least, outside of 1989!) So, the fact that this Python Trooper sports a green shirt makes him stand out. Oddly, grey was also a sparsely used color among vintage figures and this Trooper also features grey accents that highlight the mold's details. The bottom of the figure is cast in black with grey highlights to tie the top to the bottom. In short, the figure isn't a color combo that appears very often and it allows for this figure to be a standout.
The Python Patrol used a color scheme that was consistent across figures. So, this Trooper features the same green that you find on the Python Officer's straps. What is really nice, though, is that the green also matches with the Brazilian Exclusive Python Patrol figures. Gatilho is a nice match for the Officer. And, you can easily mesh the exclusive Brazilian characters with the Hasbro army builders to create a larger, more cohesive team. And, if you pair them up with the Sears Dreadnok Ground Assault, you get a cool little cadre of Cobras that can be used in some specific scenarios.
And, it is in that vein that I use the Python Patrol to this day. I missed them when I was a kid. And, even my brothers were pretty much done with Joe in 1989. So, Python Patrol was solely a subset that entered into my consciousness when I was a collector. It wasn't one that really resonated with me beyond the Viper. But, in 2008 or so, Hasbro released an anniversary sculpt Python Trooper. At the same time, there was a Hiss Tank available at retail. I liked the combo and thought about how awesome it would have been to have had a vintage style Hiss and Python Trooper available at retail just a few years before. But, at the time, Python Patrol figures were dirt cheap. So, I stocked up on some Python Officers and built an army that remains the bulk of my Python Patrol collection today.
The Python Trooper has an accessory variant. His AK-47 can be a glossy black or a light grey. It is imperative to not confuse the light grey weapon of this figure with the white AK-47 from one of the Battle Gear packs. You'll also often see the original, charcoal colored AK-47 from the 1982/1983 Officer with these figures, too, as they are actually easier to find than the black rifle from the Python figure. You can see both variants in the photos below. Neither of the variants appear to be more common than the other. But, these days, it's far more common to see Python Troopers sold with incorrect weapons that it is to find them marked with specific variants of the rifle.
It is a ridiculous travesty that the 2022 Cobra Trooper/Cobra Officer set hasn't been repainted into Python Patrol figures. Hasbro could drop a 6 pack of 4 Troopers and 2 Officers in a white box and baggies (like they do with Star Wars army builders) and sell them without too much difficulty. They took the time to make these new molds and we have yet to see them reused outside of a last minute addition to the Skystriker. Maybe we'll see them someday. But, at this point, I don't hold my breath. It's far more likely we'll see a repainted Trooper or Officer included with a $120 Transformer before we see a real army building pack that's themed and directed at collectors. It would really be hard for Hasbro to have bungled the vintage Joe homages any more than they did.
The Cobra Officer mold wasn't used all that much. The straight arm figure was sold in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. The swivel arm Cobra Officer was sold in various countries and was available as a mail away for years and years. In fact, bagged Cobra Officers were available as late as 1999 from Hasbro Canada. The mold was used for the 1984 Stinger Driver. Then, Python Officers were sold in 1989. But, they were also available in things such as the Chuck-E-Cheese promos. Hasbro remade the Officer mold in 2004. But, they then found the old mold that same year. It was used in a Toys R Us set, a Comic Pack and the Night Watch set from the DTC line. Then, we got the 2022 Officer and it's repaint on the Stinger Driver. Factory Custom makers have done an Officer mold. So, you can find the proper color variants that Hasbro should have done in that realm.
Way, way too many Python Troopers sell in the $50-$70 range. And, that's not just dealer sales. You'll see the market push that high, too. You can get mint and complete figures in the $40 range. But, even incomplete figures sell in the $30 area. As the crotch is brittle, it's much easier to find broken figures. But, even they will command premiums at times. Python Patrol was once considered less desirable than standard paint job figures. But, those days are gone as collectors have realized that the Python Patrol exists in far lower numbers than their contemporaries. So, pricing now reflects that.
Back in 2015 and 2016, you could buy large lots of these figures from Asia for a couple of bucks each. As those sold out, you could get plenty of complete versions or $12 each. Since then, the prices on these figures have gotten ridiculous. Which makes little sense since these figures were hugely unpopular, were heavily clearanced and had overstock available for nearly a decade. But, many of today's collectors have no concept of the line's history and can't imagine there are guys with dozens of these figures sitting a bucket, still thinking they are unwanted, cheap acquisitions.
There's little content on this Flak Viper any more. Most of the items you'll see below have aged quite a bit. Which is more about the changing nature of the collecting community than the quality of the figure itself. So, check out all the content below for a glimpse of the past when the community was more vibrant.
It's been over 20 years since Funskool released their version of the Red Dog figure. In that time, the figure has fallen out of the collecting conscious. Few people still have the figure. And, those who do rarely use him. In photos of the Renegades, it's always the American Red Dog that's featured. The Funskool figure just isn't used very often. Despite my lamentation of this fact, though, I don't even use the figure all that often.
I always hope to see the figure more often. And, often comment that I'd love to see this figure get used more often. But, he's just not part enough of collections, though, to really appear that much. This is too bad as Funskool did a great job creating a figure that's totally different from the Hasbro figure.
Sadly, Funskool Red Dogs are no longer the $4 purchase that they were for many years. You'll find very few of them for sale. And, those that you do find are almost always overpriced. So, that's a big hindrance to this figure ever become a staple of various photos you'll see of the character.
I had no idea that I had not taken a photo of the 1987 Cobra Commander figure since 2008. But, that was the case. It's rare for a figure as prominent as that to go so long without appearing in some scene I concocted. And, as this figure was an integral part of my collection during my final years of playing with Joe, it has an emotional connection with me. It just goes to show that the vastness of the Joe line allows for even famously good figures to simply slip away.
So, did you know there are two variants of the 1994 Viper? Visually, there's no tell between the two. The only real difference is the Country of Origin (COO) stamp. Some 1994 figures were made in China. Others were made in Indonesia. Many of the Indonesian figures included exclusive paint masks. But, the Viper did not. The two figures are identical. Aside from oddball obsessive collectors like myself, no one cares about this subtle difference between the figures. But, for me, it gives me an excuse to look back at a figure that was hugely influential in my early collecting days and continues to be among my favorite army builders.
In 1995 and 1996, I was searching out all remnants of the Joe line at retail. Usually, though, my limited budget restricted me to buying just one of each figure. At some point in the summer of one of those years, I went to a different Toys R Us in the Cincinnati suburbs. (I believe it was the Springdale Mall. But, that was a long time ago. My usual store was the one in Colerain.) There, I found a 1994 Viper, Flint and Shipwreck. I already had all three figures. But, I loved all three and wanted to army build the Viper and Shipwreck and use Flint's weapons to outfit them. So, I bought all three. I was not, though, able to bring myself to open the Flint. To this day, I have the carded figure that I purchased at that Toys R Us so long ago. The Viper and Shipwreck, though, joined my collection and the doubles allowed me to take a small dip into army building.
I outfitted the Viper with the 1990 Ambush rifle from Flint. I thought it looked good. (In 2006, Hasbro agreed when they released a grey version with the Viper Pit set.) The second Viper got a different shade of the same weapon when I appropriated the bluish version from the 1993 Muskrat. With these weapons, the Vipers filled the role of their 1986 original. They were Cobra's basic ground troops who were used as both cannon fodder and expert field commandos. I would have a 1993 Crimson Guard Commander lead them. And, with these legions, Joe was overmatched. The newer Cobras had better, more powerful weapons. And, they wore far better body armor than even the newer Joes I had found at retail. Cobra gained the upper hand and my Joe team of the mid 1990's was always behind them, trying to just survive long enough to regain the advantage.
The Viper includes a red accessory tree. The red goes well with the blue. But, isn't a great match for the orange on the figure. But, to a collector who had stopped buying figures in 1988, almost all of the gear on the tree was new to me. The one piece that wasn't, a red version of Monkeywrench's spear gun, was a disappointment. I've never liked that weapon and I wouldn't even remove it from the tree. The Viper has two red pistols. One is from the 1991 Toxo Viper and the other from the 1992 Spirit. They look good with the Viper. And, today, they are my preferred weapons with the figure. My favorite weapon of the time, though, was the red knife that originated with the 1988 Hydro Viper. It looks wicked and many a Viper fatally stabbed a Joe or civilian with it, leaving them to die horribly with a wound that was not fixable. His gear is rounded out by a red figure stand, two red missiles and the requisite yellow missile launcher. In all, the gear isn't great. But, it works well enough and I've come to associate it with the figure.
The 1994 Viper was released just the one time. It is not known if he would have gotten a 1995 repaint. Though, it's likely that, had the line continued, the mold would have found an additional use. In the comic, the early renditions of the 1994 Viper wore green suits and gold helmets. They looked a lot like Aero Vipers. Again, I don't know if this was artistic license from a time when the comic had more leeway. Or, if it was an early intended color scheme for the figure. In 2005, the club "found" the mold and painted it in Iron Grenadier colors as the Iron Anvil. The Anvils are excellently done and showcase the quality of the 1994 Viper mold. But, being both Iron Grenadiers and a highly painted convention release, the Anvils also have limitations. And, despite their high quality, I find myself preferring the 1994 original. This might be nostalgia. But, the simplicity also has its place. Of course, the mold had tons of life left in it. But, Hasbro left it fallow and it is now gone...leaving just two uses and one minor variant for modern collectors to enjoy.
The Viper also has two card variants. The Viper card only has the standard horizontal Joe logo. It features a full sized filecard on the back. The filecard will either have no COO (Country of Origin) info and there is a "Made in China" message below the card. Or, the filecard will say "Printed in Hong Kong. Figure Made in Indonesia." From the front, the cards are identical. In 1994, Cobras got red cards while Joes got blue. In my experience, neither version seems overly hard to find. I've got about an equal number of each in my collection. This isn't the case with all figures that have both COO's. But, for the Viper, he seems to have seen equal production in both locales.
The 1994 Battle Corps figures were released in two series. The first series of 7 figures included this Viper. Along with him were additional all new figures of Shipwreck, Flint, Dialtone and Metal Head. There were also two repainted 1993 figures: the Alley Viper and Beach Head. Of the seven figures, Shipwreck, Flint, Dialtone and the Alley Viper have paint variants as well as COO variants. While the other three just have the COO variants. In my experience, the Alley Viper and Beach Head have always been the much harder figures to find from this series. I have not been able to track down a case assortment to determine if they were shortpacked or if the new figures were just carried over into later cases. But, Alley Vipers and Beach Heads have always been hard to find. I found just one yellow vest Beach Head at retail and never found an Alley Viper. Even today, I can get all the Vipers I want. But, the Alley Viper and Beach Head remain a much scarcer find.
Not too long ago, you never saw off condition 1994 figures. Any you would find would always be pretty much mint. Slowly, though, this began to change. The first figure to go bad was the 1994 Alley Viper. His light blue parts simply didn't hold up and you started to see yellow discoloration destroy otherwise nice figures. Other figures followed. And, now, it's not uncommon to see 1994 figures that were well cared for, but now feature discoloration and even white elbows.
The 1994 Viper has been hit hard by discoloration. You'll often see darkly colored figures. These aren't variants. They are figures that have discolored. The Viper should be a vibrant purplish-blue color. If you see one that's dark and seems more purple, it's discolored. Vipers are odd in that they tend to discolor evenly across the entire figure. For that reason, you see people trying to pass discolored figures off as mint samples. So, be wary. And, as there are more and more collectors coming into the hobby who have never actually seen a mint version of many figures in terms of coloring, you'll even see other collectors commenting about how a discolored figure is "cherry" when it's actually been destroyed and is worthless.
The surge in Joe pricing has affected 1993 and 1994 army builders in three different ways. In some cases they have gotten ridiculously expensive. In other cases, they have slid under the radar and have remained relatively inexpensive. In the case of the Viper, though, he's the third option who is right in the middle. He has gotten a lot more expensive. But, he's not a $40 figure, yet. Dealers will ask in excess of $30 for a mint and complete with filecard figure. Left to their own devices, there's enough stock to keep the price around $25 in the open market. But, you can still get deals on individual or lots of 1994 Vipers that are missing most or all of their accessories. Those are starting to dry up, though. It's still not too late to build armies of this figure. You can't say that about many of his contemporaries. But, he's probably one of the next two or three figures to disappear and just be overly pricey in all his forms. (At least, until the market corrects.)
The 1986 Iceberg was one of the key characters of my late childhood. His position among the Joes in my world transcended anything in the cartoon or comic. It progressed to the point where only Iceberg could carry the overly large rifle that was included with the figure and anyone else found with it could face a capital sentence. Post childhood, though, the figure hasn't been much more than a guy I take out on the rare occurrence when there's snow on the ground. But, the figure is great and there's lots of awesome content featuring him that's out there.