Monday, October 30, 2023

2022 Wraith Viper - Black Major

It's tough to find Halloween themed Joes.  There's some monsters and aliens that you align with the holiday.  You can find some other lines that work, too.  Fortunately, Hasbro has avoided holiday themed figures in the Joe line.  (Some of the Star Wars figures are interesting.  But, Joe is small enough that holiday releases would seem like a waste of resources.)  But, it's still fun to find figures that fit a holiday theme.  And, in this case, we'll look at the 2022 Wraith Viper from Black Major.

One of the great discoveries of 2018 was that skull prints could be usefully applied to classic G.I. Joe figures.  Red Laser Army was able to use skull faces on a few of his releases.  Shortly after that, Black Major managed to create a really nice skull and bones feature on the classic Bonecrusher figure.  There were some experiments on Cobra Officer and Firefly heads.  And, there is even a Skeletor themed Cobra Trooper out there.  But, when the Cobra Viper factory customs appeared, there were a couple of figures that featured skull and bones prints.  And, it turns out that the Viper helmet is really conducive to a skull print.  And, it probably works better than many other uses of the theme since it looks like the skull is floating inside a helmet and would be somewhat terrifying to come across on the battlefield.

The neon green paint that is offset against the black background is also very nicely done.  It's a start visual that stays with you.  Being memorable is sometimes better than being good.  But, in this case, it's both.  The remainder of the bones on the figure are nice.  The ribs on the torso stand out to me because they really accentuate the visual of the countenance.  In short, the figure works well.  While everyone claims they want a green Viper, the reality is that the mold and the Cobra concept don't really lend themselves to a green Viper.  But, as an accent color, it can work.  There's now a couple of green highlighted Vipers that were contemporaries of this Wraith Viper.  All have some quality.  But, you can pick and choose among them for your personal favorite design.

If I had a squad of these figures, I'd definitely make them an elite squad of some sort.  As an individual figure, though, I'm not sure what to do with him.  Bonecrusher has the stranglehold on characters wearing the skull and bones.  And, I don't really see him as a former Viper.  So, time will tell how this figure evolves in my collection.  For now, he'll remain a figure who may appear from time to time just because he's visually interesting.  Eventually, a purpose for him may become clear.  Maybe he'll just be a guy who wants people to think he's dangerous.  The idea of a poseur Viper whose reputation by his visuals far outstrips his abilities might be a fun concept to toy around with for a bit.

Recently, Hasbro people have made the statement that Joe collectors "buy the brand regardless of scale".  I found this somewhat odd.  Joe fans have, historically, been very adamant that scale was a necessary part of the Joe world.  When I dug into it a bit, I realized that both sides of this statement are true.  Hasbro only asked collectors of the 6 inch scale figures if the scale mattered to them.  Since every collector of Classified started with 3 3/4" Joes, you can see how they'd be less concerned with scale, now.  However, there are collectors like me to whom scale is paramount.  However, we've already been left behind.  Hasbro doesn't even bother to query us about our desires for the brand as we're dinosaurs whose money isn't worth the hassle.  We can get on board or be left we already have been.

With that, makers like Black Major become more important.  While there's lots of o-ring Kickstarters out there, many of them have failed to deliver a true vintage Joe like experience.  Instead, most feel like cheap knock offs of Joe that are driven by the cliched "tacti-cool" looks that are overdone.  The heads fall flat and the figures are bulky to accommodate inexperienced sculptors.  And, they are stupidly expensive.  A $30 figure needs to be perfect.  And, none of these Kickstarters have delivered on that for their price.  A couple of upcoming projects look promising.  Others...don't.  So, having a source of vintage inspired Joe molds has great value.  I wish Red Laser Army was still around to also supplement army builders like this Viper.  But, at least there are options for those of us who no longer matter to the Hasbro Joe brand.

This Viper includes the standard Viper rifle as well as a pack.  Mine included the Big Bear backpack instead of the standard Viper pack.  There may be slightly different accessories offered with the figure from different sellers.  It should be noted that this is the second release of factory custom Vipers.  Red Laser Army released a variety of Vipers starting around 2016 or so.  Those Vipers featured removable helmets, though.  This Black Major figure is a new mold and has a head whose helmet can not be taken off.  But, this figure is high quality.  The joints are tight enough and the paint masks are great.  The figure can hold his weapons and can hold all the poses you can concoct.  

Wraith Vipers are still available.  You'll find them with frequency for about $18.  That's about the going rate for Black Major figures in general.  There are people who army built them upon their release.  And, you'll find some nice photos with squads of them in you look hard enough.  But, a year after their release, it's more common to see individual figures offered for sale.  Some factory customs take on magnificent aftermarket values.  But, I have no idea which ones will do that.  Some of my absolute favorite designs  remain super cheap.  While some figures that I think are useless and bland have become really expensive.  So, I pick up the figures that I like when they're available.  If this guy interests you, I'd suggest the same approach.

2022 Black Major Wraith Viper

Friday, October 27, 2023

1988 Muskrat - Random Photos of the Day

The 1988 Muskrat is one of those figures that I never quite feel is mine.  He was released the year after I quit Joe.  That summer, though, I took care of a house for a family a few blocks over.  Their younger son had a full plastic tubs of Joe figures, with several 1988 figures featured prominently.  One day, I opened it up to check out Muskrat as he just looked so amazing.  I imagined all the adventures I could have had with him.  But, I was still too young to drive and never went to a store to pick one up.  In 1990, the Kohl's store where I bought my lone 1989 Night Viper surely had a Muskrat as they were chock full of both 1988 and 1989 releases.  But, he simply couldn't compete with the Cobras of the day.

I like to get this guy out when I can.  Now, the figure has some limitations.  But, he's still an excellent overall release and is a perfect representative for everything about the 1988 line.

1988 Muskrat, 1988 Stormshadow

1988 Skidmark, Hardball, Muskrat, Swampmasher

1988 Muskrat, 1988 Spearhead

1988 Muskrat, 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Rock and Roll

1988 Muskrat, 2020 Slaughters Marauders Snake Eyes, Black Major

2023 Cobra Mothership - Weekly Tracking Week 2

As we enter week 2 of the Cobra Mothership funding, there's good news and bad news.  The bad news is that the early backing kit was not met.  So, the vinyl parachutes are not going to be included should this ship fund.  It's not really a loss.  Parachutes are a lot neater idea than they are actual toys.  But, it does lower the overall value of the package.

The good news is that the numbers are still climbing.  While the surge from the Super7 advertising bliltz of mid week from last week has abated, we're still seeing solid daily numbers.  Here's the count in the last week:

10/21/23 - 1250 + 70
10/22/23 - 1342 + 92
10/23/23 - 1411 + 69
10/24/23 - 1411 + 0
10/25/23 - 1411 + 0
10/26/23 - 1411 + 0
10/27/23 - 1411 + 0

You'll note the totals not moving for several days.  I doubt this is actually the case.  The web tracker doesn't seem to have a real time interface.  So, either someone's out on vacation or someone forgot to update the site with the numbers for a few days.  Either way, it's a bit disconcerting that a company tasked with making an item of this scale struggles to keep their customers updated on the likelihood that the project will fund.  If I'm going to give you a $600 loan for a year, I need to be confident that you are capable of delivering on your promises.  Simple miscues like not updating a website give me pause that a critical production question could be answered on time if missing even a single person has such an impact on your organization.  But, this is a company who misspells the word collectibles in their online advertising video: despite spelling it correctly in a different part of the same ad!

Right now, the Mothership is 35% funded.  I still think it's pretty much a done deal that this gets funded.  The recent Haslab Giant Man project got around 50% of it's backing in the final day.  And, was backing at more than one per minute in the final hours of the campaign.  Because of this, though, it also ended just a few units shy of the next funding tier.  You do wonder if enough people would have added another order onto theirs had they known they were so close to getting more toys for their money.

I doubt the Mothership will see such a surge.  But, it will get a surge.  And, the confirmation of funding isn't likely to occur until the final day.  But, with a low target number, maybe that won't be the case.  Regardless, you've got 6 weeks left to save up if you want to buy this thing.  

2023 Super 7 Cobra Mothership

Monday, October 23, 2023

2002 Slice

Wave 1.5 of the Joe vs. Cobra collection was meant to be much, much more.  Originally, it was going to have the 1986 Hawk mold for Tomahawk and the 1988 Shockwave mold for Sure Fire.  The inclusion of those molds would have drastically changed the makeup of the line and lead to a far greater appreciation of all the figures included in it.  But, they weren't included and the substitutes seemed like a retread since both figures had been released very recently.  But, there were a couple of new molds included in the packs.  Headman returned for the first time in a decade and now featured a great, tan suit.  His 1992 cousin, Slice, was the second new mold to return.  And, hidden among the Vipers and Alley Vipers that collectors desired were two great Cobras that offered nice updates to their other releases.

This Slice features some really strong paint masks.  In fact, this figure stands out among many of his contemporary releases.  The color scheme is something different.  And, while he features a base, red color, Hasbro, to their credit, avoided trying to make him "crimson" and gave him a lighter, brighter red base.  The figure still features the silver mask that is Slice's strongest appearance characteristic.  The rest of the body features a dark gray tunic, light grey legs and white highlights the range from a subtle outline of his silver face mask down to his bootlaces.  The white is bright and can be a bit stark.  But, it's also a color that doesn't often appear as the preferred color on a figure's hands.  In short, this is the most detailed release of the Slice mold and is the only one that really showcases the small details that were included on the boots, sash and arms.

This figure only exists because of collector backlash to Hasbro's first wave of JvC figures.  Collectors demanded the return of the o-ring.  So, Hasbro went back to retool it's Wave 2 figures.  That created a 6 month gap between Waves 1 and 2.  To offset this (but only slightly) Hasbro dropped Wave 1.5.  It was 8 classic o-ring figures with both a Viper and Alley Viper among the releases.  It was meant to appease collectors and hold them over for the new figures that would show up just a few weeks later.  Initially, the wave was super popular.  While collectors bought out the Vipers and Alley Vipers, even the Slice/Sure Fire and Headman/Tomahawk packs sold well enough.  Wal Marts got in several cases during the initial surge with many stores putting cut open boxes on the top shelves since there was no peg room.  

But, Wave 1.5 then kept shipping.  In short order, it backed up at retail all over the country and even the Vipers and Alley Vipers were super easy to find.  The entire wave saw overstock dropped into bizarre three packs.  And, eventually, the wave turned up at discount outlets as late as 2004.  Some stock was even dumped outside of the U.S. in Hasbro's attempt to find a market that would take on figures that had little retail interest left in them.  This wave is, likely, one of the most produced figure waves of the 2000's.  This means that the figures are relatively easy to track down today.  But, they also sullied what turned out to be a pretty decent wave of figures.

In 2002, I was a full on adult collector.  I was married.  I was on my second home.  I had three dogs.  (Well, actually, I bought my first Slice at a Wal Mart in Kokomo, Indiana when we stopped to get some cash to acquire my third dog.)  So, there's no childhood innocence associated with this figure.  But, upon opening it, this Slice really opened my eyes to the usefulness of some of the Ninja Force molds.  Even in 2002, I had no real use for Ninja Force.  The figures didn't appear in my photos of that era.  And, if you scour old profiles from prior to 2002, you'll see my personal disdain for Ninja Force in a couple of places. 

People, though, mature.  And, if you still, today, think exactly the same way you did in 2002, then you're  probably not a very serious person.  You can evolve your opinions as you both learn new information and gain more perspective from life experience.  This Slice started me down the road where I've found greater appreciation of the Ninja Force figures.  And, in many cases, I now like them.  The sculpts are very well done.  And, this Slice, in particular, didn't require additional bulk to accommodate the spring loaded action feature.  (Which is also included on this 2002 figure.)  So, it works very well with figures from any year.

Sadly, this Slice didn't include any of the cool weapons that debuted with the 1992 and 1993 figures.  those weapons were unique and looked great with Slice.  This 2002 version, though, included a silver version of the curved sword that was originally included with the 1992 Stormshadow.  (Thanks to Mr. Acer and Gen_Liederkranz for correcting that the sword originated with the 1992 Nunchuk.  The silver version originated with the 2000 Stormshadow which caused my confusion!)  He also has a black knife that was originally included with the Range Viper.  They're not bad accessories.  The sword works very well for Slice.  But, Slice just looks better with any of the gear from 1992 or 1993.  

The Slice body was used a full dozen times.  It had three vintage Joe releases of Slice and then two uses of the body for the Street Fighter Ryu figures.  It then appeared on 6 different figures in the Mortal Kombat Movie line.  Then, this 2002 release marked the dozenth time the body was used.  You can make a case that this mold should have appeared again during the repaint era.  He would have worked in the Ninja Strike set.  And, he would have been a nice swap out for the 2004 Urban Assault Stormshadow, too.  But, we probably have enough Slice repaints.  All his figures are good.  

Slices are super cheap.  Mint and complete figures can be had for around $6 or so.  You can get carded versions for under $11.  He remains one of the cheaper options for Joe figures.  And, unlike many of his 2002 contemporaries, Slice has yet to really discolor.  We'll see if that continues to be the case.  But, you can be sure there are plenty of Slice figures out there, many still MOC and they will never be expensive when compared to other figures in the line.  So, there's no reason to not have one of these figures as they are pretty nice, especially for the price.  So, get a Slice.  

2002 Slice, Wave 1.5

2002 Slice, Wave 1.5, Fast Blast Viper, Gift Set, 1993 Ninja Force Snake Eyes

2002 Slice, Wave 1.5, Fast Blast Viper, Gift Set

2002 Slice, Wave 1.5

Friday, October 20, 2023

1983 FANG - Around The Web

Little flying machines make for better toys.  They are fun to play with and and easier to manipulate.  The FANG would have been a more integral part of my childhood.  But, my younger brother got it too early in  his life.  And, it was quickly broken, rendering it a small part of our childhood collection.  Now, I appreciate the design of the copter much more.  Sure, it's a death trap for the pilot.  But, it's cheap to build and packs a lot of firepower for short range attacks.  I just need to get around to completing mine.

1983 FANG Profile

1983 FANG by Scarrviper

1983 FANG by bruxovigo

1983 FANG by gijoe_guy

1983 FANG by Nekoman

1983 FANG by ironman3719

1983 FANG by dashiellrfairborne

1983 FANG by formbx257

1983 FANG by masterbungle

1983 FANG by HCC788

1983 FANG by slipstream80

1983 FANG, 2023 Ramp Rat, Action Force Red Jackal, Red Shadows, Destro, 2022 Baroness, Stinger

1983 FANG, Black Major Cobra Trooper

1983 FANG, 1986 AVAC, 1990 Interrogator

2023 Cobra Mothership - Weekly Tracking

I didn't do this with the Haslab Skystriker and I really wish I had.  I'm going to track the weekly progress of the backing numbers for the Cobra Mothership.  Frankly, this thing has stumbled out of the gate.  While I had no notions that it would get to close to funding in  the first few days like the last Classified Haslabs have, I also didn't think it would take days and days to even break 300 total backers.  But, there's been a mid week surge that's put this thing back on track.

For Haslabs (and Kickstarters, too) there is a set expectation where an item will get a decent amount of backers in the initial days.  Then, those numbers start to drop off.  Until then end.  Then, in the last couple of days, especially the last day, the numbers spike.  I'll be curious to see if the Super7 model follows that established pattern.  I do expect a bit of a upturn in the final two days of the early backing.  The parachutes aren't really all that much of an incentive.  But, you might as well back it early if you already know you're going to buy it and get them.

So, the numbers through the 1st week of availability: 1180 backers.  At over 25% funded, this thing looks like it's going to be a go.  The total should increase through the end of the early bird period before trailing off a bit again.  Then, it will flatten out until we get to the end when we'll see another spike.

Here are the daily totals.  I took these in the morning each day.  The time wasn't consistent.  But, any significant changes that occur after I record the numbers will be reflected the next day. (The tracker also appears to update in batches instead of real time, too.)  I didn't start until 10/14/23.  So, the first two days' worth of data aren't available.  You'll note a change indicator after the total for each day, too.

10/14/23 - 244
10/15/23 - 272 + 28
10/16/23 - 287 + 15
10/17/23 - 302 + 15
10/18/23 - 623 + 321
10/19/23 - 771 + 148
10/20/23 - 1180 + 409

There was a steady, but small daily increase in the numbers.  Then, between Tuesday and Wednesday, something happened and the backing exploded.  It doubled in one day.  Then, it added another 148 the following day.  Then, over 400 more on Thursday and Friday.  I have no idea why the weird explosion.  And, for it to occur on a random Tuesday and Wednesday makes no logical sense.  But, I've started seeing Youtube ads for Super7.  So, their advertising might have paid off.

At 4,000 units required for this ship to happen, the backing number is low.  It needs to average about 67 units per day to reach funding.  As of today, it's averaging 131 per day: well over the rate that's needed.  The slow start on the first days was worrisome.  But, now, the ship is back on a more normal crowdfunding pattern.  There's still a long way to go to get to 4,000.  But, it's pretty likely with where the numbers sit today.

2023 Super7 Cobra Mothership

Monday, October 16, 2023

1988 AGP (Anti Gravity Pod)

I quit collecting Joe in 1988.  I bought three figures.  But, that was it.  My younger brothers, though, did continue to acquire Joes throughout the year.  In the end, they acquired a good chunk of the 1988 figure catalog.  But, they did not have the same fervor for vehicles that I had when I was their age.  So, 1988 vehicles were few and far between in our household.  One that was acquired was the Anti-Gravity Pod or AGP.  This was a ridiculous design that was cool because it was new.  And, bad guy aircraft had been sparse outside of huge items like the Night Raven and Mamba that looked great but weren't all that much fun to actually play with.  My final Joe playing days of childhood had heavily focused on small aircraft battles between Sky Hawks and various Cobra drones that were vastly outgunned.  With the addition of the AGP, the bad guys finally had a weapon hat was superior to that of the Joes.

Childhood paints our memories of toys.  And, things like this AGP, which are, objectively, terrible can become beloved playthings just due to the fact that they are all you have.  And, that's the story of the AGP to me.  Upon its arrival into our home, I found it an excellent weapon to defeat the Joes.  My friends down the street, who had exited Joe and toys before I had, were more harsh in their appraisal of the AGP.  They pointed out the absurdity of the contraption.  The made fun of the colors.  And, most importantly, pointed out the absolute certain death that awaited the pilot since the entire ship was, basically, a glass cockpit with the pilot's entire body exposed.  It was this point, though, where I was able to exploit the AGP's weakness as a juxtaposition to its strengths.

The one thing I loved about the AGP was that it was heavily armed.  The Night Raven drones only had two, small guns.  The Mamba drones had even smaller guns, but did have some small missiles.  The AGP, though, had two massive guns on the front that could rotate 360 degrees.  On top of that, it has 4 large, golden missiles that looked strong enough to shoot down any Joe aircraft.  The cannons were absurd.  But, they were deadly.  The flimsy Skyhawks, that could withstand a full brace of fire from a drone, were blown to bits by the heavier weaponry of the AGP.  In fact, the Joes' introduction to the AGP was when a single one destroyed two Skyhawks in just two shots.  Both the Skyhawks were disintegrated with no hope that the pilots could have survived.  And, suddenly, the tide of the war between the factions had turned.

In short order, though, Skyhawk pilots learned that the AGP's superiority in firepower and speed were more than offset by the fact that a single burst of cannon fire to the front of the ship would shatter the canopy and instantly kill the Nullifier flying the aircraft.  I even explained the Nullifier's armored appearance by saying the pilots had to wear heavy armor to compensate for the lack of protection from the huge glass that encased them.  So, the Joes learned to attack the AGP head on.  The Nullifiers, fearing certain death, would then break their formations in an effort to create more difficult angles for the Skyhawk cannons to hone in on the cockpits.  While this was effective in keeping the pilots alive, it was not all that conducive to destroying the attacking Joes.  The Nullifiers turned to expensive and more easily dodged missiles to incinerate the Skyhawks.  In extreme situations, this was warranted.  But, more likely, the ordinance was wasted and all the combatants returned home with empty fuel tanks and no confirmed kills.

During a pursuit of the Cobras back to their base, though, the Joes also learned that the comically large engines were rather inefficient.  As such, even slight damage to them would cause the pods to lose power and be forced to land.  Just a couple bullets to the back of the engines could send an AGP into a freefall resulting a crater forming fireball on the ground below.  All of these flaws made AGPs relatively ineffective against Skyhawks.  So, they were scrapped as air to air combat weapons and used, instead, to support ground operations.  The rotating cannons could strafe the ground and were powerful enough to even destroy some Joe vehicles.  Here, the AGPs found a bit of a second life.  Though, the thin airframe was still susceptible to ground fire and infantry supporting AGPs could often be counted on as guaranteed casualties of any encounter with the Joes.

As my childhood ended, though, this was my take on Cobra as an organization.  They were willing to sacrifice large quantities of troops since they were an expendable resource.  Cobra's vehicles were designed around a single purpose.  The STUN was fast.  The AGP was heavily armed.  The SMS was powerful.  But, that singularity of design meant that each weapon they introduced was also heavily flawed.  And, it was because of these flaws that even Cobra's vastly superior numbers could not easily defeat the Joes.  Had Cobra reused Joe equipment, things might have gone better.  (Though, I was out of toys when the Python Patrol and their repainted Joe vehicles debuted.)  But, a lot of Joe vehicles have flaws, too.  So, maybe that wouldn't have been the case.

I have one main childhood memory of the AGP.  We took it to my grandparents' home in the summer of 1988.  Here, it battled my Hit and Run who was scaling the ivy covered, limestone terrace walls that defined their backyard.  In the course of the battle, Hit and Run won and the AGP crashed into a patch of ivy near the wall.  I went inside with the toys still out there.  When it was time to leave, I grabbed the AGP out of the ivy and completely forgot about the perfectly camouflaged Hit and Run who was still hidden in the ivy on  the wall.  Hit and Run stayed on that wall for months.  When we finally returned to my grandparents' house in the late fall, I found him still hanging in the green ivy.  So, for this reason, I still forever link Hit and Run to the AGP.

Since 1988, though, the AGP hasn't much mattered to me.  I did acquire a complete one in a lot in the late 1990's.  So, I still have two of them as my childhood one is still around, too.  But, things like the Firebat are superior to the AGP and I was able to get some of those in the Hasbro Canada find in 1999.  So, the AGPs have mostly just sat around for more than twenty years.  Every now and then, I've tried to get it out for a profile.  But, those attempts weren't successful until now.  Heck, one of the photos below was taken 4 houses ago.  That's how long I've been hoping to get around to an AGP profile.  And, now that I've done it, I'm not sure the AGP's fate will be improved.  There's just better Cobra aircraft to battle the small Joe flying machines.  

The AGP was just released by Hasbro.  While many Iron Grenadier vehicles went to Brazil, the AGP was not among them.  After it was discontinued at retail, though, it was available as a mail away for a short time.  In 2005, the club produced a low quality AGP repaint.  It's nearly a full mirror of the colors used for the 1988 release.  Collectors were disappointed in it as the materials used for it weren't great, the colors were odd, it didn't have a pilot and many were expecting a different vehicle to be used.  So, there's just two releases of the toy.  Which, is probably enough.  The design is odd enough that the AGP would not have been a well received retail release.  Especially, with so many other, better vehicles that Hasbro could have used in the 2000's.

AGP's aren't expensive.  Dealers sell nice, complete ones for $30 or less.  You don't find too many complete ones left to the open market, though.  As the missiles are often missing, the engine coupling is often broken and the canopy scratches easily, $30 is probably a fair price to pay for a truly mint specimen.  Most of the market interest seems to be focused on the Nullifier and you'll see mint and complete figures actually sell for more than his mint and complete vehicle!  As the colors are a good match for the 1988 Astro Viper, though, that figure becomes a much cheaper alternative to fly the actual AGP should you choose to acquire one.

1988 AGP, Anti Gravity Pod, Iron Grenadiers, Destro, Nullifier, 1990 Metal Head

1988 AGP, Anti Gravity Pod, Iron Grenadiers, Destro, Nullifier, 1990 Metal Head, Voltar, Star Viper

1988 AGP, Anti Gravity Pod, Iron Grenadiers, Destro, Nullifier

Friday, October 13, 2023

1993 Ninja Force Zartan - Around the Web

Older collectors hate the 1993 Ninja Force Zartan.  Categorically, they are wrong.  This is a great look for Zartan and is in line with the character's origins.  My main issue with this look is that, chronologically, this Zartan appearance should precede his bizarre 1984 outfit.  This punk inspired Zartan better fits with the lost youth narrative of the late 1970's.  Here, Zartan was learning his craft and becoming the man who would later become the notorious villain.

There's a nice bit of content that features this figure.  So, it is a look that gets some use.  So, take a few minutes and check some great Zartan content from around the web.

1993 Ninja Force Zartan Profile

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by fun_time_at_serpentors_lair

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by elevatemetoahigherhumanform

1993 Ninja Force Zartan at

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by tonegunsrevisited

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by flatline

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by bruxovigo

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by corny_weirdo

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by elevatemetoahigherhumanform

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by tituslester32

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by bruxovigo

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by gen_liederkranz

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by atticagazette

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by elevatemetoahigherhumanform

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by gen_leiderkranz

1993 Ninja Force Zartan by evilface

1993 Ninja Force Zartan, Slice, Flak Viper

1993 Ninja Force Zartan, 1984 Chameleon, Flak Viper

1984 Zartan and Chameleon, 1986 Thrasher, Sears Exclsive Dreadnok Ground Assault, Stinger, 2001, Funskool Zartan, 1987 Crystal Ball, 1991 Overkill, 1993 Ninja Force Zartan

Thursday, October 12, 2023

2023 Super7 Cobra Mothership

So, it's finally happened.  After some teasing, Super7 showcased a real flagship toy for 3 3/4 G.I. Joe figures: the Cobra Mothership.  You can pre-order it here.

Super7 Cobra Mothership, Viper

The toy is from the cartoon and fits with the Super7 strategy of mining cartoon designs for their toy offerings.  It is $495 plus shipping.  That's a lot.  But, this thing does look amazing.

Super7 Cobra Mothership, Viper

Super7 Cobra Mothership, Viper

Really, it's the type of toy that Joe collectors have pretended they want since 2001.  Now, we finally have one.  We'll see if people are really willing to spend $600 after shipping to support a toy like this.  It's got a lot of play value.  It's designed to be a display piece for collectors.  And, it holds tons of figures in various spaces so you can set up displays to your heart's content.  It's a dream for Joe photographers.  

For me, though, it's probably a no.  It's not because I don't think the toy is worth it.  From appearances in various photos from the NYCC, it appears to be in line with pricing for a toy of this intricacy and size.  But, it's the size that gets me.  The ship is 32 inches wide.  So, it's massive.  And, I just don't have space for something that size.  I do love that you can open it up and display tons of figures on the inside.  That is a big plus for me.  But, I'm at a point where I'm not sure I want another massive display toy.  And, I'm not dropping $600 to keep this thing in a box in a closet.  In a smaller scale, this toy would suck.  So, it needs to be big.  

The real news is that there is a 5 figure Viper set that's available as an add on.  Actually, there are 2 of them.  One is the standard ReAction style.  But, the other is an o-ring set.  What does this mean?  Really, I'm not sure.  Will Super7 do more o-rings?  I hope we'll find out as the weekend progresses.  

Super7 Cobra Mothership, Viper

For now, though, speculate away.  Complain about the price.  Rage about how Super7 isn't your preferred vendor.  Pontificate about the scourge of crowdsourcing.  The bottom line is that 3 3/4 Joe fans now have another opportunity to show whether or not they're a large enough group to support a crowdfunded toy.  I hope this thing gets made.  Just because good toys should be supported.  It's just not something that's really in my wheelhouse of collecting any longer.

Monday, October 9, 2023

1994 Beach Head

One of the reasons I maintain this site and write voluminous amounts of words about G.I. Joe is that it also serves as a means to preserve memories.  When I first started doing this, it had only been three years since I had last bought vintage Joes at retail.  My childhood playing days were only slightly more than a decade removed.  Memories were fresh and vibrant.  So, I started to write them down.  In the twenty years since, many of those memories have faded away.  But, since I had recorded some of them, my recollections of earlier days proved a mnemonic device to help keep some things recallable.  But, some details are now lost to time forever.  I can tell you for sure that I picked up a 1994 Beach Head at retail sometime after 1994.  I am no longer certain, though, if I also found the 1993.  I know that the color differences on Snow Storm were enough for me to realize that two figures were different versions.  But, I no longer remember if I found the 1993 Beach Head at retail.  Even my review of that figure from 21 years ago makes no mention of my first acquisition.  I am certain of my 1994 figure, though.  But, we'll get to that detail later.

One oddball relic of my 1990's collecting days is that I never really got around to properly sorting all the boxes, cardbacks and paperwork that were included in various retail purchases.  As I was still in school at the time, I didn't have room for everything and only kept the boxes from the Shark 9000 and the Cobra Parasite.  Into these boxes, though, I stashed the full cardback of every figure I bought at retail.  I had kept filecards as a kid and still had them around.  But, but the mid 1990's, I realized that I missed out on the full cardbacks.  (There was one, random, full Torpedo cardback that was in a cabinet behind the bar in our basement.  I don't know why.  It was probably there for more than a decade before I got around to rescuing it.)  It was not a mistake I'd make a second time and I kept all of my 1990's era figure cardbacks fully intact and stored them in the Parasite box.  At various points, I took them out of that box and put them into another.  But, the stack of those cardbacks was maintained and not co-mingled with other, later acquisitions.  This has given me a decent record of which figures I bought at retail during that time.  (Though, not all of them as several cardbacks from 1992 and 1993 did disappear: likely as inadvertent additions to a trash pile.)  These figures are complete with price tags which help me place them into various acquisition spaces.

It is here that I am assured of my 1994 Beach Head.  First, I recall the yellow vest.  It was something difficult to reconcile at the time. (As were the yellow weapons.)  But, once I found a niche for the figure, he then worked.  I also have the cardback for the figure stashed among my other acquisitions of that era.  And, it is the 1994 cardback.  I'm pretty sure I found him at a Toys R Us near Cincinnati, OH back when I frequented a couple of stores in the northern suburbs.  Regardless, though, the yellow vested version of this figure was my first exposure to the mold and became a player in my small collection of the mid 1990's.  

The centerpiece of my 1990's collection was the Shark 9000.  For some reason, I was interested in both maritime combat as well as underwater adventures.  Finding the boat at a local K-Mart for 1/2 price certainly helped that, though.  My initial crew for the Shark 9000 was standardized.  The included Cutter was at the helm.  The 1993 Keel Haul was in the command seat and controlled the on board combat operations.  The 1994 Shipwreck took the third seat and was the onboard combat diver.  (He might also hide away in the torpedo hold if the 1993 Duke needed to be aboard for any reason.)  The 1994 Dial Tone manned the gunner's position in the turret.  I needed my gunners to be able to communicate and I really liked removable helmets for them.  The crew was completed by the two side gunners.  One, on the helm's side, was Ice Cream Soldier.  The other side was home to this Beach Head.  I didn't like how shallow the gunner's stations were, so I always bent the figure's knees to get them closer to the weapons they operated.

From here, the Beach Head was a nameless, faceless gunner.  He's often die, hit by stray bullets from the more deft Moray gunners.  Sometimes, he'd be able to clear out the back of the Moray and prevent a cadre of Eels from going overboard to cause havoc.  But, more often than not, he was the anonymous casualty of a battle.  A guy who had a job and died doing it.  During the mid 1990's, angst was the word of the generation.  But, personally, I saw it more as futility.  You could work hard, be successful and still have it all not matter.  And, that's how I viewed most of the guys who fought Cobra.  They'd fight hard, die quickly and be forgotten and replaced by another person without the Joes giving it a thought.  I explored that expendable human life notion quite a bit in those days.  And, even today, I'm left with struggles about the the insignificance of a single person.  I even think about old Joe collectors who dominated some early forums and discussion places and have since passed on.  With one exception, I'm about the only one who remembers their names and contributions.  

Today, though, this figure isn't much used.  I prefer the 1993 paint job and will use it when I want a rendition of later figures to be the subject of a photo.  So, aside from photos specifically for this profile or a later photo feature, this 1994 Beach Head is rarely used.  Had my Shark 9000 held up to the heat better, I'd probably have it on display with this figure among the crew.  Instead, the multiples I have of this yellow vested figure sit in a drawer, awaiting the time when I need them.  At some point, I'm going to resuscitate my Hovercraft and that will, likely, open up more avenues for photos with this figure.  Until then, he sits tucked away in a closet with the rest of my collection that rarely sees the light of day.

The one upside to the 1994 Beach Head is that he includes the same weapons as the 1993.  The same was not true of the 1994 Alley Viper, the only other full repaint in the 1st wave of 1994 figures.  Sadly, though, Beach Head's weapons aren't great.  They are bright yellow and include an eclectic assortment of weapons.  There is a 1988 Spearhead rifle, sans the strap, as the centerpiece weapon.  Then, he includes the weird double pistol from the 1989 Recoil that simply never made any sense.  He has the requisite 1988 Shockwave Pistol along with a knife, spring loaded launcher, missiles and a stand.  With the yellow vest, this Beach Head is better matched to his weapons.  But, today, black versions of the 1986 Beach Head machine gun are cheap and easy to find.  And, this figure looks much better with that and a black V1 Beach Head backpack than he does any of his included gear.

Beach Head is a mostly new mold.  He features the legs from the 1988 Shockwave: just reversed.  This mold appeared in 1993 and then got this repaint in 1994.  Right after this, the mold was sent to Brazil.  There, Armadilha was released.  This was a new Cobra character that used the 1993 Beach Head mold.  The colors are similar to the Hasbro version from 1993.  But, they are different when compared.  (Check out my profile on Armadilha to see the difference.)  The figure probably works better as a Cobra.  But, the colors are so close to the Hasbro release that it's tough for me to see them as different characters.  For those who don't much care for the 1993 Beach Head figure, though, that may be less of an issue.  While it's a near certainty that Hasbro had the mold during the 2000's, it was never used.  Even the Convention Shockwave was given legs so Hasbro didn't have to look for this mold.  While there's a lot that could have been done to make this mold pop in terms of alternate color schemes, the reality is that it made no sense to force this as Beach Head when the superior 1986 mold was available.  While I'd have loved to have seen this figure repainted, I would have been about the only one and three uses for it are good enough...even if they are all very similar.

For many years, I considered this yellow vested Beach Head figure somewhat rare.  This was entirely driven by the fact that in 1999, I was corresponding with an influential collector and dealer.  He had been active through all of Joe's late retail years and possessed an amazing collection.  Yet, he did not have a yellow Beach Head.  I'm not sure why.  But, it was one of the final figures he needed.  At the time, carded 1994 figures could be somewhat difficult to track down.  So, I had my feelings of rarity reinforced by observation bias.  Even as the figure started to appear with frequency in later years, I held steadfast to the notion that this was a "rare" retail figure.

And, to be frank, he kind of is.  While not rare by any means, the 1994 repaints seem to be less prevalent than other 1994 figures.  And, 1994, in historical terms, probably saw the lowest retail production numbers of any Joe year.  Collectors, though, regarded the 1994 series with ranges of hatred to complete indifference.  So, the figures remained available and cheap (especially MOC) through the 2000's and into the 2010's.  But, in the last few years, supplies have started to dry up and collectors are finally seeing the downstream effects of the low production numbers.

That hasn't, though, translated to super high prices.  While it can still take a while to find a mint and complete 1994 Beach Head, you can buy them for under $15 when they do appear.  In fact, it seems the more common 1993 figure is the more desirable and commands a premium while the 1994 is relatively ignored.  Even carded versions, when you can find them, run under $40.  Considering the lower production runs of 1994, that's probably a pretty good deal.  But, with the market crumbling, it will be interesting to see if the skyrocketing prices of 1993 and 1994 figures are able to sustain themselves or if they will fall back into historical norms due to the fewer collectors who specialize in them.  

1994 Dial Tone, Beach Head, Battle Corps, Funskool Spearhead

1994 Dial Tone, Beach Head, Battle Corps, Funskool Spearhead, DEF, 1993, Mace

1994 Dial Tone, Beach Head, Battle Corps, Funskool Spearhead, DEF, 1993, Mace

1994 Beach Head, Dial Tone, Ice Cream Soldier

Friday, October 6, 2023

1990 Rapid Fire - Around The Web

Rapid Fire is a weird figure.  He's just a straight repaint of the 1988 mail away Super Trooper.  Which, in itself, was just an amalgamation of existing parts that were cobbled together.  Really, Rapid Fire was a means to sell a VHS tape with a cartoon on it.  I've never seen what's actually on the tape.  But, I have it.  It's the figure, though, that's interesting.  The orange, blue and pastel green work for a ridiculous figure.  But, there are settings where the figure works.  And, he's worth owning for that reason.  Here's the best content I could find on Rapid Fire:

Rapid Fire Profile

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

2005 Comic Pack Buzzer

Buzzer is the only Dreadnok whose character I find even remotely interesting.  Ripper and Torch are just ignorant thugs who live to create carnage.  Monkeywrench is just an English version of them who likes to blow things up.  Road Pig is stupidly annoying.  Gnawgahyde and Thrasher don't have any real characterization at all besides "generic bad guy".  And, even Zanzibar doesn't play on the pirate theme of his character and is really only somewhat salvaged by the quality of his figure.  Buzzer, though, has some depth. His intelligence allows him to be ambitious and dangerous.  Yet, the fact that he indoctrinated himself into a criminal lifestyle shows a level of arrogance that makes him psychotic.  To me, this makes for a better villain.  Guys who just want to break stuff and kill people lack motivation and are easy to defeat because they just react to their gutteral instincts.  They lack the purpose and planning of a motivated and intelligent bad guy.  And, because of that, I find Buzzer being a useful guy to have around.

So, Buzzer has remained the only Dreadnok who really gets any use in my collection.  While I don't see him as the conniving genius who was capable to leading Cobra...or was at least under that delusion, I do still see Buzzer as someone who is more ambitious than his heathen friends.  He can climb the leadership ladder a bit.  And, he's someone who's entrusted with missions far beyond those of the other Dreadnoks.  This Comic Pack Buzzer, though, is an older, wiser Buzzer.  He's given up trying to outdo Zartan.  But, he's found value in leading small bands of unruly Cobra Troops.  And, through these missions, Buzzer has managed to enrich himself.  And, instead of dreaming of a devastated, anarchic world, Buzzer has realized that he can soon make enough money to retire back to a life of books and reflection as he walks the River Cam each day.  Of course, every now and then, Buzzer will cut down a tree and block the river just to sate his most carnal desires.

This Buzzer included black repaints of all the figure's original gear from 1985.  The chainsaw, axe, gas can and backpack holder are all here.  And, that was nice since it was rare for Comic Pack figures (or, even TRU exclusive figures) to include their original gear. I have been criticized for years for the way in which I have Buzzer hold his chain saw.  I have done it this way since I was a kid.  I found this pose the closest way the figure could actually emulate the pose on the card artwork.  And, it's stuck with me for 39 years, now.  Aside from that, though, I enjoy Buzzer's gear.  I find it useful, even with no firearms.

I also like the colors on this Buzzer.  The green vest is a nice updated look that is something different enough from the original figure to appear unique.  It even works with the blue pants.  The fact that all of Buzzer's details are highlighted in gold and grey paint also makes the figure appear of higher quality than most other Comic Pack and retail o-ring figures of that era.  It's a near certainty, though, that Buzzer's legs are going to yellow and his flesh colored arms will turn darker.  The poor quality plastic that Hasbro used during this era ensures that few mint Buzzers will be around in just a couple of years.  

The supposed selling point of the Comic Packs was that the figures featured new heads.  But, for the most part, the heads were a drastic downgrade from the vintage sculpting.  Many of the heads were just terrible.  But, a few of them were kind of nice.  This Buzzer is one of my personal favorites, though.  I feel it's an upgrade over the original head.  But, at worst, it's a lateral move where the 2005 head better matches the older Buzzer who appears in the comics.  I like the updated pony tail as it makes Buzzer look like his hair his thinner and that matches the older look on his face.

Buzzer had a good life.  He got a single release from Hasbro.  There are many filecard variants.  But, the figure remains the same.  From there, Buzzer went to India.  He was among the very first Funskool figures released.  And, he featured some exclusive color variants such as dark hair or a red vest.  Some of these are very rare and expensive.  He ceased production at some point in the 1990's.  But, was among the figures that Funskool pulled back into production in 2002.  Funskool was learning of a burgeoning American market for their G.I. Joe figures.  So, in addition to their five new figures for that year, they tossed in the return of Flint, Airtight, Zarana, Scrap Iron, Buzzer, Ripper and Beach Head.  Hasbro got the mold back in 2003 and used it for the 2004 Convention figure and this 2005 Comic Pack figure.  A Buzzer knock off also exists in the European Force set of figures from Europe.  The figure features a rendition of Buzzer's head with a painted black mustache.  He is named Mygal and is the enemy leader of that small group of figures.  It's a fun one for Buzzer aficionados to track down and gives Buzzer an impressive array of rare and expensive non-Hasbro uses.

The fact that Hasbro made this three figure pack at all is surprising.  First off, Buzzer and Ripper figures that were nearly identical to the original Hasbro releases were available from Funskool at the time.  And, every toy dealer on the internet was able to stock all the Funskool figures they ever wanted and sell them for $4 each.  There were plenty of these available to collectors at the time.  In addition to that, the club had made a Dreadnok set in 2004.  This set included Buzzer and Ripper (with all their original gear) and even included Thrasher as an attendee exclusive.  While this set was out of the range of some collectors and kids would have had no idea it existed, the reality was that the set was a colossal dud.  Buzzers and Rippers from the set could be had for $7 or $8 for many years.  And, even the Thrasher would sit unsold for $10.  So, there was plenty of Dreadnok availability at the time.  And, there was even a recent proof that Dreadnoks really weren't all that popular.  

So, it was inevitable that this Dreadnok three pack with Buzzer, Ripper and Thrasher would fail.  And,  it failed spectacularly.  Many collectors skipped it as there was no reason to get another version of the characters in such close proximity.  And, others just didn't have any interest.  So, the sets floundered at various online retailers.  In time, they were clearanced out.  And, when the sets were 1/2 price, I finally bit and added them to my collection.  I picked up a couple of more when they dropped to $3 or $4 per set as I figured they'd be good custom fodder.  But, even at blow out prices, the sets sat around for quite a while.  Retail Joe was dead in 2005 and 2006.  And, there was no breathing new life into it until it had been on hiatus for a while.

But, yesterday's pegwarmer is today's hot collectible.  And, now, all the early 2000's Comic Packs command high prices.  This is odd, though.  As, the figures from this time, especially the Comic Pack figures, are not aging well.  They are discoloring in the package and you see their chests and necks cracking if you simply move an arm on  loose samples.  In short, they really aren't worth the money.  But, Buzzer's pack tends to sell in the $60 range from dealers.  Though, it's worth about $40 on the open market.  Dealers will get up to $25 for a mint and complete with filecard Buzzer.  But, if you can find an open market seller, he'll go for under $10 these days.  Chances are, though, that he'll either be discolored or will discolor within a year or two of his acquisition.  Really, it took clearance prices to get me to buy this Buzzer in the first place.  And, I really like him.  But, if I didn't own one already, I doubt I'd ever actually acquire one.  It's a neat look for Buzzer.  But, I'll never see the Comic Pack figures as anything other than clearance fodder that promised so much to collectors but delivered so little.

2005 Comic Pack Buzzer, Dreadnok, Zarana, Thrasher, 1986 Thunder Machine

2005 Comic Pack Buzzer, Dreadnok, Zarana, Thrasher, 1986 Thunder Machine

2005 Comic Pack Buzzer, Dreadnok, 1986 Cross Country