Wednesday, February 28, 2024

1993 Crimson Guard Commander - Random Photos of the Day

On February 29, 2000, I posted a profile of the 1993 Crimson Guard Commander.  I wanted to get a post published on leap day.  So, 24 years later, why not come full circle and post up some random photos of the 1993 Crimson Guard Commander on leap day?

So, here's some photos of the figure.  My army has grown by a small amount.  I bought two of these guys at retail and it took me more than two decades to really expand upon that initial force.  You don't really see this figure army built all that often.  It's a function of the figure being labeled a commander as well as the general apathy that collectors tend to have towards the mold.

Personally, this remains one my preferred 1993 army builders.  I do wish we'd have gotten a repaint where the yellow is replace with silver.  But, we never got it.  One of these days, I'll get a few more of these guys to complete my 1993 army.  Until then, enjoy what's below and let me know your thoughts on this figure.

1993 Crimson Guard Commander, 1985 Tomax, Xamot, 1983 FANG

1993 Crimson Guard Commander, 1985 Tomax, Xamot, 1983 FANG

1993 Crimson Guard Commander, 2004 Crimson Guard

1993 Crimson Guard Commander, Flak Viper

1993 Crimson Guard Commander, Flak Viper, Star Brigade, TARGAT

1993 Crimson Guard Commander, Flak Viper

Monday, February 26, 2024

2023 Fail Safe

I regret backing the Skystiker.  It's been a year since it shipped and has now aged into the community.  And, I should never have bought it.  At the time, I thought that several of the figures from the set were going to be $100+ on the secondary market.  That didn't happen.  In fact, many of the figures are stupidly cheap.  So cheap that many people who speculated in the set have stopped selling the figures because some were selling for below the retail cost of Pulse era retro figures.  As such, the $500 I spent to get two of the Skystriker sets would have been far better spent buying up the figures I wanted on the aftermarket.  Sometimes, you make a bad decision, even though it's based on the best information available at the time.  But, the real regret over the Skystriker is that the figures are just piss-poor quality.  Which is a damn shame because a figure like Fail Safe should have been one of the better releases we've seen in the entirety of the 2000's.

When I say piss poor quality, I'm specifically speaking to the materials used on the figures.  I do think that all of the Skystriker figures were designed well.  The team took absolutely no chances on them.  Which means that the figures are all solid.  But, there's also nothing that really stands out.  Each figure kind of feels like he's been released before in some way.  But, in a line that loves its repaints and homages, that's what collectors tend to buy.  The main issue is that the plastic used is very soft.  You can definitely tell that Hasbro never really intended for collectors to actually open the figures.  This indicates a massive lack of understanding of the 3 3/4" collecting community.  We've never been a carded first group like Star Wars and Marvel collectors tend to be.  We are openers first with a 2nd carded version being the exception rather than the norm.  

And, that's why the poor plastic bothers me so much.  I actually want to use these figures in photos and dioramas.  I'd love to have them displayed around the collection.  But, they just aren't quite up to snuff.  I'm afraid of paint loss just from using the accessories.  And, some of the gear is so poor that you can't even get it onto the figure without risking breakage.  I have no use for figures that I can't use.  I've never felt that Joes were worthy of an artistic display when they were still in their packaging.  Really, I kept cardbacks because I was too lazy to cut out the filecards that I did want to keep.  I never felt the card artwork was anything other than a sometimes reference point for subtle nuances of the toy mold.  

One of the most damning indictments of the Skystriker is that you simply don't see it in photos...anywhere.  While the Instagram G.I. Joe community is much smaller these days than it was even just in the late 2010's, it's still large enough to spot trends and see which toys have caught on with collectors.  And, the actual Skystriker hasn't.  Really, the only part of the Skystriker that's caught on with collectors is the Cobra Ramp Rat.  (You also see the Mickey Mouse Cobra Commander from time to time.)  You never see dioramas with the actual plane.  And, with about the same number of Skystikers out there as here were 2000's era Toys R Us exclusives, you should see the planes appear in the online content that is still created.  But, to be fair, I never even put my planes together.  I checked the parts, pulled out the figures to open, segregated the missile loading vehicles and haven't even bothered to look at the airplane pieces in the year since I buried them in a basement closet in February of 2023.  

The one success of Fail Safe is the head.  Hasbro utterly failed to produce nice heads in the 2000's.  They were too big, too small or just didn't fit the body on which they were placed.  It's really surprising how consistently bad the new heads were between 1998 and 2010.  But, Fail Safe's is OK.  It's heavily based on Ripcord's head.  And, that's probably why it works.  They just used a solid design, made some tweaks and called it good.  But, that made it a success.  This figure looks like he could have been released in 1984.  And, that's about the highest compliment you can give to newly sculpted pieces on retro Joes.

It, of course, fails because the head is painted.  Painted heads suck. They look terrible, scuff easily and generally make the face just look flat and fuzzy.  And, since Fail Safe has a very nice helmet, putting the helmet on and taking it off is likely to  wear down his face paint over the next few years.  Hasbro will simply not give up on painted faces, even when they are comically bad like the Baroness and Zarana.  The only upside to Fail Safe's helmet is that it's made of absurdly flimsy plastic.  So, it's less likely to scrape the paint away when you want to actually put it onto the figure's head.

The rest of Fail Safe is pretty nicely blended.  The flight vest is well detailed.  It's reminiscent of the 1992 Ace body...only if it had been sculpted a decade earlier.  The best part of the figure's torso, though, is that it features some solid paint applications.  It features blue, silver, black and two shades of green.  The colors blend well together.  Fail Safe isn't going to draw much attention to himself with his coloring.  But, the muted tones suit the figure's specialty as well as any other color combo.  I'm worried about paint chipping on the soft plastic.  Until then, though, Fail Safe is a nice match for many early Joe vehicles, including more traditional flying machines like the Dragonfly.

One of the great nuances of the Joe line is that there is a definitive color palette split between the vintage Joes of 1982-1994 and the repaint era and later figures that have come since.  Two main differences are that the later colors are flatter and less vibrant.  Even if you look at 1982 releases, the colors are powerful and eye-catching.  In 1997 and later, there were some really nice colors.  But, they had a flatter finish that mutes them.  So, even sets of figures that feature a rainbow of colors still tend to blend together.  The designers of vintage Joes have often spoken about how the appearance of the entire line on a retail shelf was of huge importance to them.  They, specifically, chose colors that complemented and accentuated each other to create a pleasing visual experience for the customer.  In the post vintage Joe world, though, the figures are more designed to look similar than they are to be part of an overall tapestry.

This has lead to a schism in the two lines.  It's tough to mingle vintage and post-vintage Joe figures because the base approach to color was so different.  There are some figures that do look good together.  But, the combos are a lot harder to find than if you mingle Joes from 1983 and 1993 together.  The Pulse releases also skew towards the post vintage color approach.  While Fail Safe features a wonderful hue of green, it is also rather flat in finish.  So, he looks great with 1997 and later figures.  Bu, when posed among 1984 figures, he tends to stand out as an oddball.  I'm certain that the softer plastic that been used on the post-1994 releases is part of the difference in appearance.  But, I also think that some of it is purposeful choice.  Hasbro was lead to believe that collectors wanted "gritty, realistic" colors...even though that was never the aesthetic of the vintage line.  But, Hasbro went with it and the glossy finish that made the vintage figures so eye-catching was tossed aside.

Fail Safe included just two accessories.  One was a newly sculpted pistol that really doesn't work.  They should have resculpted the 1986 Hawk pistol or the 1987 Chuckles pistol for the figure.  But, the new weapon features a handle that's too large and that makes it look incredibly awkward when placed in the figure's hands.  The other piece of gear is a redone 1983 Airborne helmet.  It's really nice.  It is so nice that it works way better on the contemporary Night Force Ripcord figure.  The green matches Ripcord's hue and breaks up the figure's appearance when he has the green helmet instead of his included black version.  I'd have liked an air mask with the figure as it makes no sense that the Skystriker's main pilot would require a pressurized flight suit but his battery mate wouldn't even need an additional oxygen supply.  But, a Ripcord airmask works on the figure.  It's just disappointing that a premium release didn't include a better complement of accessories.

In handling the Pulse era figures, it's pretty obvious that it's a softer, cheaper grade of plastic than vintage.  It's very similar to the plastic used between  2000 and 2007.  And, that's going to be a problem.  The figures from the repaint era are not holding up well.  Discoloration is common, even on still carded or packaged figures.  This is likely to also occur to the Pulse era figures.  Fail Safe will be interesting.  His green color is less likely to yellow than, say, the blue color used for Scarlett.  But, we'll see how the upper arms hold up as that's the first area we see degradation on the repaint figures from 15 to 20 years ago.  But, even Hasbro's flagship Star Wars lines that use similar plastic tend to discolor.  It's just the nature of the materials.  And, a likely inevitable end for all figures that were made from it.

As 2023 began, I was certain we'd see another 3 3/4" Joe Haslab.  The Skystriker performed well.  And, the aftermarket malaise was not yet known when Hasbro would have been designing the follow up.  But, Hasbro shifted and moved all their resources to the 6" scale.  And, it's hard to argue with the results as the Hiss Tank and Dragonfly have both funded without any hint of hesitation.  The people who work on the Joe line will better pad their resumes with toys like those than  they will with recreations of 40 year old toys in a dying scale.  And, the complete and utter failure of the Cobra Mothership also calls into question whether the 3 3/4" collector base could support another Haslab to the tune of 17 thousand units.  It sucks that we'll never get an updated Whale, Rattler or Moray to replace the ones rotting away in our basements and attics.  And, I don't really get any joy knowing that we did get a plane with no play value.

So, I figured Fail Safes would start out around $70 or more for a carded figure.  And, I also expected them to climb to over $100 after a year.  That...didn't happen.  Now, you can easily buy a carded figure for around $40 shipped.  If you can find someone selling it at auction, they'll go for $15-$25...usually near the lower end.  After 20 years, we've seen the Toys R Us figures climb to stupidly high prices.  But, I doubt Fail Safe will follow that trend.  In 20 years, Joe collectors will be mostly retired with many staring down their 70's.  Yes, that's right.  We're now closer to our 70's than our 20's...even if we feel like our 20's were yesterday and our 70's are light years away.  But, 70 year olds won't be buying collectibles for speculative prices. And, let's face it, a lot of us will be dead and gone with our collections tossed away for pennies on the dollar as our kids and grandkids won't want to deal with the incredible hassle of liquidating a collection of crumbling and yellowing toys.  

It's still possible that this figure will find some aftermarket life.  There was a massive speculator buy in for the Skystriker since a lot of Star Wars fans had some money to spend when the Rancor failed just days before the Skystriker funded.  And, that speculative stock is lowering.  Slowly, the top figures from the Skystriker set are getting bought up.  But, there's still plenty of Fail Safe's out there.  And, if there's an event that forces more collectors to liquidate duplicates and unloved items, we'll see a flood of Skystrikers coming into the market once again.  But, if you can get a cheap Fail Safe, you should.  He's one of the best "new" figures Hasbro has done in the past 25 years.  He's not perfect.  But, he's good enough.  And, these days, that's about the best you can expect from Hasbro's attempts to salvage the legacy of the ARAH style Joes.

2023 Fail Safe, Haslab Skystriker, 1997 Grunt

2023 Fail Safe, Haslab Skystriker

Friday, February 23, 2024

1993 Frostbite - Around The Web

I really enjoy the 1993 Frostbite figure.  The mold is solid and the colors are great in the snow.  He's got a decent weapons tree.  And, he has a cool snow mask that can be used to both anonymize the figure or make him incredibly unique.  There's some decent content featuring the figure out there.  So, check some out now that the winter is, hopefully, winding down.

1993 Frostbite Profile

1993 Frostbite by _toyler_

1993 Frostbite by jogun warrior

1993 Frostbite by recondo martin

1993 Frostbite by slipstream80

1993 Frostbite at Joe A Day

1993 Frostbite by thedailyscoop1989

1993 Frostbite by toysandtomfoolery

1993 Frostbite by gijoekorea

1993 Frostbite by myplasticshots

1993 Frostbite by offc0ur5e

1993 Frostbite, Battle Corps, Iceberg, 1983 Battle Bear

1993 Frostbite, Battle Corps

1993 Frostbite, Battle Corps

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

2005 Comic Pack Cobra Commander - Clear

The Star Wars line has long been about scene specific figures.  Collectors clamour for their favorite characters as they appeared in just a few seconds of screen  time.  For the first 20 years or so of the Hasbro Stars Wars renaissance, Hasbro was happy to oblige.  One of the weird offerings, though, came in the line's earliest days.  You could buy some Lay's chip brands and send away for a clear "Spirit of Obi-Wan" figure.  Personally, I didn't really see the appeal of such a limited figure.  But, I was a sucker.  And, I mailed away for one of the figures.  (And, like everyone else, I actually thought the figure would have some future collectability due to the obscure release method.  Oops.)  The translucent blue plastic that was used was a pretty solid representation of the character's appearance on screen.  And, over the next decade, Hasbro would release a cornucopia of "spirit" figures using the same basic plastic.  Finally, in 2005, though, the concept was brought to the G.I. Joe line.  Instead of the figure representing a ghost, though, we were given an interpretation of Cobra Commander as his image is projected through a camera.  For a figure mold that had been a bit overdone by 2005, though, this approach of a clear Cobra Commander was an interesting and refreshing choice for a figure release.

Of course, the real question is what can you do with a translucent version of Cobra Commander?  With no paint, you can't really pretend it's a stealth suit.  (Like you can with the clear, Arctic Mirage figure.)  So, you're really left with the figure as a projection of the Commander who can gloat in front of his enemies and inspire his troopers: all while he is safe inside a basement bunker where he can feel safe.  Cobra's armies, in their brainwashed glory, fall for this cowardice.  Which, speaks to the gullibility of those who the Commander recruited from small town America.  The issue with a projection figure is that you need something to project the image.  This can be accomplished in various ways.  But, the best is just to use a Tele-Viper and his camera/gun.

And, that's about the end of the use for this figure.  But, like the figure's Star Wars cousins, the appeal lies not in the quality of the actual toy and it's playability, but the possibility of filling a very niche purpose.  In the right setting, this figure can look great.  Some Star Wars collectors have built amazing displays using the holographic figures.  But, you don't really see these set pieces in the Joe world.  Joe fans will display their figures standing on parade.  Or, maybe, on vehicles or in the few bases.  You don't see too many custom scenes that are built, specifically, to showcase a small selection of figures.  It's just a difference in the collector base.  And, is why there wasn't a huge upswell of support for more translucent Joe figures.

Originally, the Comic Packs were going to continue their numerical procession.  And, this Comic Pack #9 was planned for a much earlier release date.  But, the Comic Packs were kind of DOA by the end of 2004.  The Oktober Guard packs were under-produced.  And, Hasbro had to quickly retool and move up some more interesting packs in the release schedule.  While these diversified the figure releases, they didn't really help improve the lot of the Comic Packs at retail and all of the non-October Guard waves were pretty much clearance and discount store fodder.  For a while, it appeared that the pack with this Cobra Commander, Scarlett on her skis and a lame attempt at "Breaker" would end up cancelled.  But, Hasbro was able to pigeon-hole it into the initial waves of the DTC launch after the Joe line failed at retail in 2005.  

Collectors were lukewarm to this pack, though.  The contemporary packs to #9 featured some less used molds and had more potential for great figures.  But, none of the releases actually caught on with collectors.  And, instead, they all ended up clearance fodder, too.  I only acquired this pack because they were half price or less at the old Hasbro Toy Shop.  The Breaker in the set was useless.  Though, the Scarlett actually turned out kind of nice.  Sadly, though, she badly discolors and is near impossible to find in decent condition these days.  I kept the Cobra Commander because he was unsellable in 2010 or so.  No one wanted him.  So, he remained in my collection even as his contemporaries were dumped for pennies on the dollar.  Now, though, I'm glad I held onto the figure: if for nothing more than a conversation piece.

Did you know that even translucent plastic can discolor?  Well, it can.  And, you'll often find this figure with darker upper arms than lower.  The upper arms of the 2000's figures are always the first to go.  So, it's likely that other parts of this figure will discolor, too.  And, it's pretty much guaranteed that no mint versions of this figure will exist in another two decades.  The darkening isn't really detrimental to the appeal of this figure.  The main issue is that the figures don't discolor uniformly.  So, you get two tone figures that don't look all that good.  Once all the pieces go, though, it will be back to a solid looking figure.  The soft plastic that Hasbro uses in the 2000's doesn't hold up all that well.  And, it likely that vintage figures will hold up better into the 2040's and 2050's than these newer figures from the same century.

The original body mold for this Cobra Commander debuted in 1992 on the Talking Battle Commanders Cobra Commander figure.  In 1993, the figure was repainted in black and also given a new back piece that wasn't the flat version used to accommodate the talking backpack.  In 2000, the figure was repainted in dark blue.  But, the flat back from 1992, somehow, returned.  The same mold was used in the 2003 convention set.  In 2004, Hasbro sculpted the new head sculpt that you see on this clear figure.  It debuted in a Comic Pack and was then repainted in a coppery red color in the Imperial Processional set.  Then, finally, this translucent figure appeared.  The flat back ruins many of the figure.  Though, the 2003 and Processional figures were aided by the inclusion of capes that hide the multi-holed backpiece.  I don't really consider the new head to be an improvement or a detriment when compared to the original head.  It's just different.  But, I do think that it looks the best on this translucent release.

For some, unknown, reason, Hasbro also updated this figure to have 1984 Roadblock arms.  2000's era Hasbro loved the 1984 Roadblock arms and used them way too often.  They are scrawny and undefined.  And, when paired with a rather bulky mold that debuted in 1992, they look out of place.  Just months before this Comic Pack figure was released, Hasbro used the original arms on the Imperial Processional figure.  So, there was no real reason why they couldn't also have been used for this Cobra Commander.  It's less of an issue since this figure has such a limited purpose.  But, it's just one of those weird choices that Hasbro made in the early 2000's.  And, we really don't know why.

This Cobra Commander includes his classic 1983 hair dryer pistol.  While it's not a great fit with the bulkier mold from 1992, it is iconic to Cobra Commander.  But, in another baffling move, the weapon is cast in black plastic.  So, you have a translucent figure holding an opaque weapon.  You just can't reconcile that.  The upside is that black hair dryers were never all that common.  So, extras were always welcome...especially since the Processional Cobra Commander didn't come with a weapon.  It would have been nice to have gotten the classic weapon in translucent blue plastic.  But, it doesn't make much sense for a projection to be holding a gun.  A staff or pointer?  Sure.  But, the gun isn't necessary.  So, it's one of the weird inclusions that's useful to have around, even if it's useless with the actual figure for which it's intended.

This figure has turned out to be kind of hard to find.  It wasn't a pack that collectors army built.  And, it was released during one of the lowest points in Joe fandom.  Today, this is a $22 to $30 figure based on timing and the number in the market.  Dealers tend to get closer to $30.  But, the figure has cachet and sells for a slight premium just due to the uniqueness of the design.  It's certainly not a figure that you need in your collection.  But, it is a neat set piece that can help define a display.  I, certainly, wouldn't pay a premium for one, especially with the spectre of discoloration looming so large in the figure's future.  But, for a cheap buy, the figure is worth owning.  I've used mine three times in almost 20 years.  But, I paid, maybe, $3 for him.  So, the price was worth it.  I'll leave it to you to determine if today's market also makes him a worthwhile acquisition.

2005 Clear Cobra Commander, Translucent, Comic Pack, 1985 Tele Viper, Crimson Guard, 2004, Operation Crimson Sabotage, Hiss Tank, Fred

2005 Comic Pack Cobra Commander, 1991 Super Sonic Fighters Psyche Out, Comic Pack, Clear

Saturday, February 17, 2024

1990 Freefall - Random Photos of the Day

In a lot of ways, Freefall is a better skydiver than the 1984 Ripcord.  In other ways, he's not.  Nothing will ever beat Ripcord's original HALO rig.  But Freefall makes a valiant attempt.  Sans his parachuting gear, though, Freefall is the better figure.  He has more accoutrements on his mold and just works better once he's on the ground.  

It's somewhat baffling that Hasbro released a parachuting figure in the standard 1990 carded line and, then, released an entire series of 6 figures with working parachutes in the Sky Patrol subset.  Joe got a lot of airborne troopers that year.  But, Freefall is the best of them.

Originally, Freefall's face mask was going to have two air hoses attach to it: one on each side.  This was changed late in the production process, though.  And, it only exists in pre-production catalog photography.  But, this is why Freefall's backpack has pegs for hoses to attach on both sides.  Originally, both would have been used with a complete Freefall figure.

1990 Freefall, Sky Patrol, Drop Zone, Locust, Altitude

1990 Freefall, Sky Patrol, Drop Zone, Locust, Altitude

1990 Freefall, Sky Patrol, Drop Zone, Locust

1990 Freefall,

1990 Freefall, 1993 Countdown, Star Brigade

Friday, February 9, 2024

1992 Eel - Random Photos of the Day

The 1985 Eel is one of the most iconic army builders in the history of the Joe line.  And, it just might be a perfect action figure.  Which, pretty much guaranteed that any follow up to  the Eel was going to be overly criticized and would never get a fair shake against the original.  It is through that backdrop that the 1992 Eel was always viewed.  Which, never allowed the 1992 figure to really be viewed on its own merits.  Really, the Hydro Viper and Undertow were both pale imitations of the 1985 Eel.  But, by virtue of not sharing a name, they have never been as harshly judged.

The 1992 Eel figure can stand on it's own.  The design is sleeker and  more self contained that the 1985.  The colors pop, but also work in water.  And, the figure includes the robo-shark.  If you can't get behind that, I'm not sure I can ever help you.  But, sharing the Eel name has forever doomed this figure to second status in the collecting world.  

Through that malaise, though, comes opportunity.  And, over the years, I've been able to acquire a decent army of the 1992 Eels for very cheap prices.  As people don't really care for them, they can be had for a pittance.  And, even with the low production runs of the 1992 single carded figures in general, the Eels are attainable and even amassable.

If you don't have the figure, you owe it to yourself to get one.  And, if you have the figure, you should get more...especially if you have a Bugg as the Eel is a near perfect match for it.  So, enjoy the photos below and let me know about your best work featuring this figure.

1992 Eel, 1988 BUGG

1992 Eel, Cobra Eels

1992 Eels, 1994 M Bison

Monday, February 5, 2024

1993 Firefly - Around The Web

So, remember last week, when I said "maybe"?  Yeah, maybe a new profile turned into more Around the Web content.  I've got a ton of profiles that are like 70% done.  I need a few photos and to finish some writing.  But, weather's been shitty and I've just not been home during daylight hours.  So, I just haven't completed any of them.  Part of it is just malaise.  I can't get motivated to wrap up some of the thoughts.  And, frankly, instead of taking quiet time to finish a profile at the end of the day, I've been watching TV.  That laziness isn't great.  But, mentally, it's where I am right now until the weather improves.  

So, instead, enjoy some content featuring the 1993 Firefly figure.  Yeah, this isn't the classic 1984 version.  But, the mold is strong in its own right.  And, the neon green set against the black highlights make for a visually appealing toy.  I was lucky to find this guy at retail back in the '90's.  It was from him that I first realized that there were many repaints among the 1993 releases and it was worth it to check characters that I already had since any new find might be a repaint that would be new to my collection.

It's a shame this mold didn't get a repaint in the 2000's.  Hasbro likely had the mold and we got the 1984 Firefly mold in like 10 different paint jobs.  So, just seeing one version of the character in his later garb would have been a refreshing change.  

1993 Firefly Profile - 2016

Friday, February 2, 2024

1992 Dice - Random Photos of the Day

Dice is a good figure.  So is Slice.  And, when posed together, they are a visual treat.  I haven't used Ninja Force figures for too many photo shoots.  But, I do tend to like the results when I manage to get them out.  

Below are some random photos of the 1992 Dice.  

1992 Dice, 1993 Slice, Night Creeper, Ninja Force, Parasite

1992 Dice, Ninja Force, Toxo Zombie, Eco Warriors

1992 Dice, Ninja Force, Toxo Zombie, Eco Warriors