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


  1. I bought one of these as soon as they became available. In my Joeverse, he's an elite Viper leader and a little bit crazy. He's an amazing tactician who's feared and respected.
    I don't understand the popularity of classified, the scale isn't conducive for vehicles and playsets. Not to mention that a collection of them becomes unwieldy fairly quickly. I really don't understand the appeal. It seems like Joe collectors will almost all ways support the latest thing.

    1. Joe collectors seem to jump on the bandwagon like that. I remember people getting into whatever scale big Sigma Six was. Also, there's people who weren't ever that into GI JOE before (or weren't even around during vintage ARAH) but are into 6 inch scale. The scale does little for me. No nostalgia connection.

    2. I have a few classifieds, and I do like them, but they are quite large by the standards of someone who's been playing, er...collecting 3.75-4-inch figures for years. Where would I put another 120 of them?

  2. I like the skull print on this guy but the ribcage drags it down for me personally. I'm all in favor of factory customs but doesn't mean every one is a home run.

    As for Classified I feel the same way. I'm too vested in 3.75 to just up & change scales. I'd rather buy vintage figures or well done customs like these. I'm also way too far along in my collecting life. Had Classified come out in 2005 instead of Sigma 6, I would have likely started at least a small collection. At this stage in my collecting life, I'm content to admire it from afar.