Saturday, March 30, 2024

O-Ring Ghostbusters Figures - Not an Early April Fools Joke

We all know that 3 3/4 o-ring Joes have been a retail flop.  Hasbro canned a planned 2 pack and we haven't seen any new packs in a couple of years.  The Transformers crossovers are collecting dust at every retailer who was dumb enough to buy them.  And, Amazon can't give away the Transformers sets for a fraction of the original retail price.  What if, though, the issue with the vintage Joe style is not the 40 year old engineering.  But, instead, it is the property on  which the style is used?  

Well, we're about to find out.  Hasbro threw a curve ball at Wondercon on 3/30/24 that no one saw coming.  They will be releasing a 3 3/4 o-ring set of the original Ghostbusters figures.  Now, I won't pretend that I ever wanted Joe compatible Ghostbusters.  But, for the right price, they are something I'll buy.  From the mock up image below, the figures look decent enough.  The heads will likely be a little overdetailed to be 100% matches for vintage Joes.  But, the rest of the bodies look like they were stripped straight from a 1983 Doc.  

It will be interesting to see how these do.  The Ghostbusters Haslab funded almost immediately.  So, there's a fanbase.  And, since everything but the heads and Bill Murray's lower legs look like reuse of the same parts, Hasbro doesn't have a ton invested in the tooling.  The proton packs look like 1982 Joe gear with the attached hoses.  They should be more pliable than the old Hasbro accessories.  And, I'm unlikely to be all that invested in their quality when these proton packs turn 40.  

As a kid, I wished that every toy line and property was available in Joe construction.  If Hasbro starts looking at other properties that could be ported over to classic construction, I wouldn't hate that.  But, I'm also unlikely to fully support every product released in the style.  But, if Joe isn't viable in the vintage style, I'm OK if other licensed characters are.  I'll approach them much like I do Kickstarters and Factory Customs.  If something's cool, I'll buy it.  But, I'll easily skip anything that doesn't really speak to me.

I'll be very curious on pricing.  If they price out at $22 each like the Pulse Joes, they will be a tougher buy for me.  If they're in the $13 range, they're much more palatable.  Supposedly, there is a compatible Ecto-1, too.  Getting an all new 3 3/4 compatible vehicle will be nice.  Though, the Ecto-1 is so iconic that it would be tough to integrate into a Joe collection.  But, cool toys are cool toys.  And, so far, these look OK and are a direction that isn't terrible for a company like Hasbro who has really struggled over the past couple of years.

(Update - it appears the figures will run about $44 for the set.  If so, that's an amazing price.  And, it also means that we paid $10-$11 extra per figure for the Pulse o-ring Joes....)

Hasbro 3 3/4 o-ring Ghostbusters Figures

Friday, March 29, 2024

1985 Bazooka - Around The Web

This weekend is Easter weekend.  For Easter in 1985, my younger brother found Bazooka in his basket.  He found his basket first.  So, I just assumed that I was going to have a Joe as part of my holiday haul.  I was desperately hoping for Flint.  But, when I found my basket, there was no Joe figure in it at all.  I have no recollection of what I did get.  But, it wasn't a Joe and that's all that I remember.  It's been 39 years and I'm still butthurt over it.  I need therapy.

I'm also known for posing Bazooka with his launcher backwards.  I never liked the idea of the rocket sticking out of the front.  I pose Footloose with his launcher the proper way.  But, it's a different mold.  Like Buzzer's saw, though, I find Bazooka's weapon posing to be a relic of my childhood.  So, it's unlikely to ever change.  None of the photos below feature him holding his weapon.  But, my older photos do showcase my preferred way of him holding his weapon.

It seems that hashtags are now extremely limited.  Which makes it hard (impossible, really) to search out old photos on everyone's favorite photo site.  It makes the site far less usable.  But, it's also indicative of the "fire and forget" mentality of social media.  In my searches, though, I found that several of my personal favorite photographers seldom use Bazooka.  It's likely because he's just so out of place in 1985.  And, it's really hard to make him look cool.  But, I found a bit of content using him.  There is, of course, a lot more.  It's just really hard to find.  So, take a look at Bazooka while I go and eat way too much chocolate in a desperate bid to overcome my sadness of not getting a G.I. Joe figure for Easter when I was 11.

1985 Bazooka Profile

1985 Bazooka by thedustinmccoy

1985 Bazooka at

1985 Bazooka Unknown White Numbers Figures

Brazilian Bazooka - Rarities

1985 Bazooka by dreadnokdread

1985 Bazooka by steelbrigade

1985 Bazooka by sammyscollectibletoyhall

1985 Bazooka by theatticagazette

1985 Bazooka by ankolsamtoys

1985 Bazooka by thedustinmccoy

1985 Bazooka, Crankcase, Ripper, Dreadnok, 1988 Mean Dog

1985 Bazooka, Mauler, 1986 Mainframe

1985 Bazooka, 1986 Dial Tone, Beach Head, Armadillo

Monday, March 25, 2024

European Exclusive Rock Viper - Spring Loaded Accessories

Back in 2017, I published one of the most popular posts in the history of the site.  It was a write up on a series of late run European Exclusive Spring Loaded Accessory figures.  The figures in the set are incredibly obscure.  And, most of the interest in them stems from carded samples.  You rarely see loose figures offered for sale: mostly because they're not easy to find and sellers usually don't get interest in them since few collectors know of their existence.  The figures are the same as the more common, North American versions.  But, they include many exclusive accessories.  My personal favorites, though, are the lime green and maroon versions of the 1991 Snake Eyes' accessories that were included with the European Exclusive Rock Viper.

We don't really know why these alternate weapon figures exist.  There's no real reason for Hasbro to have mixed up the gear in low production run colors and release them only in Europe.   Later releases of the figures in the set all featured their original gear.  So, the molds weren't even all that mixed up.  But, the existence of these exclusive accessories gives collectors another obscure and sometimes mundane obsession to seek.  

Rock Vipers have three major flaws.  The most commonly known is that their crotch is insanely brittle.  Even in the early days of collecting when mint and complete figures were a dime a dozen, it was well known that Rock Viper crotches were a ticking timebomb that would snap with even one poorly planned movement.  The second is that the standard Rock Viper's comically large rifle was a thumb breaker.  And, Rock Vipers from the US and Canada would often have snapped thumbs from usage of that weapon.  The third flaw has become more apparent in recent years.  And, that is that the cream colored base color of the Rock Viper's body is very susceptible to yellowing and other discoloration.  You will see the yellowing form from heat and light exposure.  And, it's now so ubiquitous that many newer collectors don't have a good idea of the cream colored base that is necessary for a mint Rock Viper figure.

Personally, I've always been fond of the Rock Viper.  In the late 1990s, when I built the bulk of my collection, they weren't easy to find.  They became more ubiquitous in later years.  But, by the time I was ready to build up my army of them, they had gotten pricier than I was willing to go.  If you look back at some photos taken on  the site between 2000 and 2003, you'll see the American Rock Viper appear rather frequently.  After the Python Patrol release, though, my 1990 figures seldom came out of their drawer.  And, the photos I took of the figure for this profile were my first Rock Viper photos since 2003.  The combination of specific specialty, fragile parts and intricate gear setup made for a figure that simply didn't appear all that often when I was putting together a scene.  

For some, the figure's mustache is an issue.  It makes the figure's face too distinctive for him to really be an army builder.  I don't much mind it, though.  But, I've never had more than two high quality Rock Vipers in my collection at any given time.  So, I never had a dozen mustachioed faces staring blankly at me when I open the 1990 Cobra drawer.  Had I a larger army, my opinion of his distinctive visage might be different.  But, I do like that Cobra had at least a bit of differences in the looks of their rank and file.  While the comic quickly moved on from the very Nazi-esque Cobra origin of the first 9 issues or so, the figures released remained very true to those darker comic book roots.

When it comes to my preferred gear for the figure, though, I have to go with the North American release.  The Rock Viper's backpack with the grappling hook holster and rope spindle is one of the better designs in the line.  While I get the appeal of a spring loaded firing mechanism for a larger grappling hook, the reality is that the smaller, more realistic gear from the 1990 figure is superior.  For weapons, though, the green Uzi wins.  The Rock Viper's rifle is too large.  (Though, it fitting into the figure's backpack is a cool looking feature.)  The pistol is nice, though.  The Uzi is bizarre and a far cry from that of the 1988 Iron Grenadier or, even, the original Snake Eyes.  But, it's still a fun weapon.  And, the green is a far superior color to the North American red from Snake Eyes.  I enjoy using the green weapon with 1991 Bats and both the Desert Snake Eyes from 2004 and his similar cousin from the 2005 HAS set.  

I've been on a weird accessory kick for a couple of years.  I've been looking for oddball, alternate coloring of Joe accessories that were released in other lines.  I've picked up outlandish amalgamations that appeared in knock off releases.  I've even explored working gear from the Action Force precursor to Joe repaints.  All of these have given me ways to expand my collection.  But, also, they offer more depth to photos.  The gear works well with Joe figures.  And, that is something that's not always easy to do.  I don't find even the Hasbro gear from the JvC or Anniversary era to really match vintage figures.  So, having an opportunity to find offbeat gear that works with many vintage molds is great.  It's only been in the past couple of years that this gear has gotten expensive.  Prior to this, you could get the Joe adjacent gear for cheap.  But, this Euro gear has always been pricier than things like Lucky Bell.  And, it's not easy to find...especially as the market has exploded.

The Rock Viper figure was just made by Hasbro.  The 1990 figures didn't seem to make their way to India (while the 1991 molds did) and Hasbro released just two Rock Vipers, the 1990 and the 2003 Python Patrol repaint.  The head was used on another European exclusive: the alternate head Crimson Guard Immortal.  The 1991 Snake Eyes gear was released with that figure and in exclusive colors with 2 European releases.  Both the Rock Viper and Undertow feature the backpack and hook in exclusive colors.  The gun, though, was also available in gold and was included with the Night Fighter Guile figure.  The Rock Viper legs were, for some reason, used on the 2008 Headhunter Stormtrooper and are part of the reason that figure isn't much cared for today.  (And, also, the legs were used on  the 1994 Metal Head - thanks to bc barnes 11 in the comments!)

These European Rock Viper figures are not cheap.  But, at the same time, they are vastly cheaper than other European exclusives like the Action Force repaints or the Tiger Force figures.  There may be small differences between the actual Hasbro figures released in North America and those released in Europe.  But, they are so small that few would even notice if they did exist.  This green and maroon gear isn't common.  European collectors will often have a couple.  But, you don't see them for sale with the frequency of other European exclusive figures.  You'll probably pay over $100 for a mint and complete figure.  The value, though, is all in the gear.  If you can find just the gear, you might be able to get it in  the $70 range.  It's a lot for obscure colors on gear that isn't usually considered among the line's best offerings.  If you ask among forums frequented by European collectors, you'll probably find this gear much more quickly than looking on for sale sites.  For most collectors, that's not something that's worth their time.  I, though, love oddball color variants on obscure items.  So, this Rock Viper gear is right up my alley.

1990 Rock Viper, European Exclusive, Spring Loaded Weapon Variants

Friday, March 22, 2024

2018 Black Major "Purple Haze" Snake Eyes - Around The Web

Back when this figure was released in 2018, it was quite popular.  And, in very short order, the strong Joe photography community used him in tons of various photos. Now, though, I can't find any of them!

Attica Gazette's look at the Desert Version of this Snake Eyes this week brought back the memories when the latest Black Major figures appeared in photos by all the Joe creators of the day.  Now, though, the day of big set pieces and action poses are all but gone.  And, the online Joe photography community has gotten much, much smaller.  It's a sad state of affairs and the change happened pretty quickly.  But, I know how hard it is to get out a nice cadre of figures and vehicles and try to pose all the figures in fun ways before they are all knocked down from a sudden breeze.

The Purple Haze Snake Eyes remains my absolute favorite paint job of the V2 Snake Eyes mold that Black Major produced.  It was just the combo of a single base color matched against some very nice details.  The purple color is just stunning.  And, it makes for a great match on the Snake Eyes mold.  On some level, I wish the figure had been released sans Cobra logo.  But, it works fine as an Invasor or Mortal or Lobisomem or whatever other character you wish to assign to him.  

I do hope we see some of the derring-do of the Joe photography community return.  I don't know if it will.  But, as we age, time does become more available.  So, that might spur a content Renaissance for a short time.  Until then, enjoy what I could find of this figure.

2018 Black Major Purple Haze Snake Eyes, Cobra Invasor, 2016 Gold Head Steel Brigade, GHSB, MMS, Whirlwind

2018 Black Major Purple Haze Snake Eyes, Cobra Invasor, 2019 Swamp Trooper

2018 Black Major Purple Haze Snake Eyes, Cobra Invasor, 2004 Black Dragon Ninja, Stormshadow

2018 Black Major Purple Haze Snake Eyes, Cobra Invasor, 2016 Tank Trooper, 1986 Sears Dreadnok Stinger

2018 Black Major Purple Haze Snake Eyes, Cobra Invasor, Funskool Streethawk

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

1994 Star Brigade Sci Fi

1994 Star Brigade has long been one of my collecting focuses.  Back in 1999, when this site started, I was about the only person to talk about Star Brigade in any capacity beyond pure vitriolic hatred.  In the twenty five years since, though, collector attitudes about Star Brigade have softened.  And, more importantly, the low production numbers for the 1994 series have proven frustrating for collectors who attempt to finish their vintage Joe runs.  Nowadays, some 1994 Star Brigade figures will break triple digits.  Their oddity and scarcity driving an upswing in popularity.  Not all figures are caught up in that wave, though.  This 1994 Sci Fi remains relatively inexpensive for the modern collector.  But, that price is not indicative of the figure's quality as the 1994 Sci Fi features excellent sculpting, fun colors and a cadre of accessories that would have been fantastic for kids of the day.

There were two waves of 1994 Star Brigade figures.  The second wave, containing the Lunartix aliens, Countdown, Ozone and Effects saw the lower production run.  And, in the early days of Joe collecting, the aliens secured a morbid curiosity among collectors who would buy carded versions just to have due to the perceived rarity.  The first series, though, probably didn't see much of an increase in production run over the second wave.  But, it was generally held in low regard by Joe collectors of the late 1990's and early 2000's.  The figures in that wave, though, were excellent.  Blackstar, Cobra Commander, Duke, Spaceshot and this Sci Fi were all either entirely new or mostly newly sculpted parts.  Payload and Roadblock were repaints and carry over characters from the 1993 series.  But, they all combined into a visually distinctive wave of figures that showed a considerable investment by Hasbro as the Joe line was slowly diminishing at retail.

This Sci Fi might be the most impressive of the new, non alien, sculpts for the Star Brigade series.  (I'll accept arguments on this point, though.)  He features a textured space suit that is overlaid with an armored chest.  His head is surrounded by a collar that is a perfect fit for the figure's helmet.  It's a vast improvement of the idea that was introduced with the 1983 Ace figure.  The left arm has a sculpted hand cannon.  And, there's enough other details to provide the necessary heft to really view this figure as an astronaut.  

Around 1992 or so, Hasbro got wind that their competitor, Kenner, was looking to bring back their Star Wars line.  Joe had bested Star Wars before.  But, much of that could be contributed to the ending of the original trilogy as well as general retail fatigue.  The Joe team of the time wasn't too keen on being beaten in the marketplace they now dominated.  So, Star Brigade came to be.  If you look at Star Brigade, you see lots of Star Wars like elements.  Spaceshot is, basically, Han Solo.  This Sci Fi features a lot of elements borrowed from Boba Fett.  The most apparent is the arm mounted gatling cannon.  Aside from the absurdity of this weapon (where would the ammo be stored?!?) it's a fun callback to Fett.  The figure even has chest armor that is similar to Fett's.  Hasbro even introduced aliens as a way to broaden the scope and compete directly with the denizens of Jabba's Palace or the Cantina.

My main interaction with this figure only came as an adult collector.  I got hooked on 1994 Star Brigade early in my collecting days and quickly found carded versions of the entire set.  Back then, loose Star Brigade figures were nearly impossible to find.  But, as I was still paying well under $5 for a carded figures, it was worth it to just open up any extras I acquired.  (This is how I got Countdown and Ozone.)  I didn't get a loose Sci Fi until the early 2000's.  And, that version wasn't in great condition and only had the helmet.  Only recently have I picked up a high quality version of the 1994 Sci Fi.  And, he's great.  I don't really have a ton of ways to use the figure right now.  But, he's good to have around and I'll surely have him out flying a helicopter or something as the weather turns warmer.

Sci Fi's accessories are pretty good.  His helmet may be the best piece.  It's two fused pieces of plastic that give an hard grey top and back with a pinkish face shield that features triangular ridges that obscure Sci Fi's face but also give the helmet great depth.  His base weapon is a black version of Cold Front's pistol.  The large size, though, works in the space context, though.  Sci Fi's pack is an interesting contraption.  It's large and bulky.  It has two arms that provide additional gear.  One side is a sculpted gun that's reminiscent of the arms from Payload.  The other side is the spring loaded missile launcher.  The launcher has a peg that fits into the pack's side to prevent it from moving.  You can take the peg out and then move the launcher up and down.  The pack also has a hook sculpted to the top of it.  This hook was compatible with Sci Fi's remaining gear.  He also included a rope and two "weights" that were hooks to connect to toys, furniture or other items that would give Sci Fi a zip line feature.  The pack could slide across the rope.  Stupid little things like this were greatly appreciated by childhood me.  And, their inclusion is a fun reminder that the 1994 Joes were toys first that were meant to be enjoyed by kids.

This Sci Fi mold has some history.  Which is not common for sculpts that debuted in 1994.  While the figure's head was recycled from the 1991 and 1993 Sci Fi figures, the rest of the body was new.  For some reason, Sci Fi appeared in the Funskool line.  I'm not sure why he's be chosen over other newly sculpted 1994 figures.  But, the Funskool Sci Fi is very similar to the U.S. version.  There are some obscure and hard to find Funskool variants.  But, in general, they are all similar enough to this 1994 U.S. figure that only the most attentive collectors would really notice the difference in a photo or display.  I'd have loved to have seen a full rehash of the 1994 Star Brigade line in India.  But, getting Sci Fi, Countdown, TARGAT and Ozone was a nice bonus.  As a fun aside, Sci Fi's helmet was recolored and included with the Funskool Metal Head figure.  You wouldn't think this helmet would work on Metal Head.  But, it does.  Sadly, that Metal Head is hard to find today.  But, the helmet on, he works as a new Cobra Star Brigade member.

Gone are the days of cheap Sci Fi figures.  While you could easily get a carded version of this figure for $10 as recently as a decade ago, the general scarcity of the 1994 Star Brigade series has caught up with Sci Fi, too.  While he's not a $100 figure like Roadblock or Ozone, dealers routinely get $40-$50 for mint, loose and complete versions.  This seems odd since you can still buy carded figures in the $50-$60 range.  Left to his own devices, though, Sci Fi tends to top out around $25...leaving him one of the cheaper 1994 Star Brigade figures.  This is likely a function of the similar Funskool figure being so available and relatively cheap, too.  Collectors have options to get Sci Fi.  For $20, he's not a bad figure.  I love Star Brigade, so I tend to be overly enthusiastic about the figure quality.  But, if you want Sci Fi as the laser rifle trooper, the 1991 and even 1993 figures are better.  (Though, not really much cheaper.)  But, this Sci Fi shows much of what was possible with the Joe line in later years and the sculpting and colors really work to create a fun combat astronaut.  If you find value in that specialty, this is a figure for you.  If not, well, there's lots of other Sci Fis to fill your needs.

1994 Star Brigade Sci Fi, 1993 Mudbuster, Mega Marines Gung Ho

1994 Star Brigade Sci Fi, 1993 Mudbuster, Mega Marines Gung Ho

1994 Star Brigade Sci Fi

1994 Star Brigade Sci Fi, Action Soldier

Friday, March 15, 2024

2002 Mirage - Random Photos of the Day

Hasbro got Mirage happy between 2002 and 2005.  In that short time, they released no less than 4 repaints of the obscure 1993 Mega Marine.  The thing is, all of them were pretty decent.  While the repaint still didn't fully accentuate Mirage's details, they did bring a more muted paint scheme to the mold.  Unfortunately, collectors quickly tired of Mirage.  Not only was it because of the multiple uses in such a short time span, but also, Hasbro made the mistake of packaging the first two repaints with Viper repaints.  As this was the height of the army building era, collectors quickly amassed dozens of Mirage figures.

And, with that, a once acceptable character from the '90's quickly became a collector nightmare.  And, the repaint era releases were quickly disregarded and tossed into boxes or custom fodder bags in frustration.  More than 20 years later, the figure still doesn't really have any cachet.  You don't see any  of the modern versions used very often since old habits die hard and few collectors who were around in the Mirage heyday still consider him a useful figure to have around.

This is too bad, though, as the all the Mirage figures are a nice and cool way to update the Mega Marines.  Personally, I think the 2003 Hoverstrike figure is the best version of Mirage.  But, this 2002 version that was first released in Wave 1.5 in the early summer of 2002 is also really nice.  So, enjoy some random photos as you stroll down memory lane to a time when Hasbro was really pumping out the figures at retail.

2002 Mirage, Wave 1.5, Dial Tone, BJ's Exclusive, Gift Set, Big Ben

2002 Mirage, Mega Marines,  Wave 1.5, 1991 Ozone, Eco Warriors

2002 Mirage, Mega Marines,  Wave 1.5

2002 Mirage, Mega Marines,  Wave 1.5

Monday, March 11, 2024

1987 Taurus

When I first saw the 1987 catalog, it was full of toys I wanted.  Two oddball items stuck out to me, though.  The first, obviously, was Cobra La.  I wasn't sure what the hell that was supposed to be.  So, the companion three figure set also seemed weird.  At some point in the summer of 1987, I found the two three packs at the local Toys R Us.  There was no way I was buying the Cobra La set.  So, I bought the Slaughter's Renegades set while my younger brother purchased the Cobra La figures.  Once opened, I still didn't really understand the Renegades.  Taurus and Red Dog seemed out of place in the line.  Mercer, though, quickly found heavy use.  Though, I didn't really follow his ex-Viper background.

As the year progressed, the Renegades didn't appear in the comic.  This was rare for the age as even Crystal Ball showed up in an issue of Special Missions.  When our friends from down the street tried to describe the G.I. Joe Movie to me, they made no mention of the Renegades as the bizarre fate for Cobra Commander and the celebrity voices were the extent of the highlights.  So, the Renegades, and their purpose, remained a mystery to me.  So, I found uses for the two "lesser" figures in the set.  Red Dog's main value came from his pistol.  Taurus, though, never really found grounds for existence and was one of the very rare 1987 figures who I didn't fully characterize.  

Taurus's head is well sculpted.  Really, it might be one of the best sculpted heads in the entire line.  It is distinctive, unique and it conveys a sense of consternation and experience that is difficult to convey with a small, plastic countenance.  The bushy red beard and eyebrows offsetting the bald head and large ears leave you with a lasting impression of the figure.  You know what they sculptors were trying to convey and it came through very well.  It is still flummoxing to me that even  modern sculptors have struggled so mightily to match the sculpting of vintage Joe heads.  Especially when you see how much variety there was in the line.  Heck, Falcon and Taurus were sculpted in the same year and offer two extremes of head design.  Yet, to this day, people have yet to really mimic the overall aesthetic of vintage Hasbro heads.

Taurus's colors are interesting.  He was just the fourth figure in the line to use yellow as a primary body color.  (Blowtorch, Airtight and Claymore)  His legs are a pea green that are a near match for the green that would define the Night Force subset starting in 1988.  I feel this is an overlooked detail that would allow for Taurus parts to appear on more Night Force customs.  The colors aren't a bad match, though.  And, Taurus is visually interesting.  It's just that the super short sleeves, dramatically exposed chest and red facial hair offset the yellow and somewhat ruin the overall appearance of the figure.  The more I look at him, now, though, I find more value in Taurus's appearance.  Really, he's one of the most visually distinctive Joes in both colors and sculpt.  And, re-evaluating him more than 35 years later has left me with a very different opinion of the figure than I had as a kid back in 1987.  

As a kid, I didn't find much use for Taurus.  Often, he'd be relegated to the role of a nameless villain who would pop out of the A-Team van and kill a bunch of civilians: causing the Joe team to hunt him down.  In one of the Special Missions issues, Larry Hama created a radical named Horst.  He was a brainwashed zealot who blew himself to bits: thinking it would lead to eternal glory.  Instead, his comrades didn't even remember his name.  I used Taurus as a stand in for a Horst like character.  Though, it was far more often that the Joes (and, sometimes, Cobras) would kill him before he could suicide them all away.  Taurus had no name or characterization beyond being a terrorist who could offer some divergent adventures from the standard Joe vs. Cobra scenarios.

As I've grown to appreciate this figure more, though, I don't have many regrets over my childhood treatment of the toy.  Really, Taurus got every chance to capture my imagination.  He just failed to do so in any meaningful way.  As I had a pretty much full collection of Joes, though, Taurus as going to have a tough time breaking out.  He appeared near the very end of my childhood acquisitions.  And, his bizarre release vehicle to which I lacked context didn't endear him to me.  I was just confused as to why the entire Renegades team existed.  So, that left Taurus to stand on his own without the benefit of a comic book appearance.  But, one of the benefits of adult collecting is that you can reconsider figures like Taurus who didn't matter in my childhood collection.  And, in Taurus's case, he's a rare occasion where I've found him more valuable as an adult collection piece than I ever did as childhood plaything.

Taurus' gear, well, sucks.  He has the worst weapon in the three pack.  It is silver, which wasn't common for the time.  But, it's not quite a pistol.  And, also too small to be a rifle.  It doesn't really work with any figure and just always looks awkward.  He also includes a brown version of Recondo's backpack.  As a kid, I matched the black Footloose pack with Taurus as I thought the brown Recondo pack better fit with Mercer's color scheme and the black pack was a better match for Taurus.  The card artwork didn't offer any clues for the pack/figure matches.  So, I kept the Recondo pack meant for Taurus with my Mercer figure for years.  In fact, if you scroll through photos on this site from 2008 or earlier, you'll always see Mercer wearing Taurus's pack.  Now, though, we have plenty of evidence that this pack was meant for Taurus and I've evolved to using Mercer's proper backpack with his figure.

Taurus is the only one of the three Renegades figures who doesn't really have a foreign exclusive repaint.  Red Dog got a Funskool repaint in 2001.  And, Mercer saw release in Brazil about a decade earlier.  However, all three Renegades did get exclusive single carded releases in various European countries.  All of these cards feature unique artwork that wasn't available in the U.S.  Many years ago, a collector friend of mine mentioned that he thought there were extremely slight coloring differences between the U.S. and European releases of the Renegades: Taurus in particular.  But, he never confirmed it.  So, this is one of the rumored Euro exclusive releases that I'd love to someday validate.

Taurus is one of the cheaper figures in the entire line.  He is the least popular renegade and doesn't match with Mercer or Red Dog.  The yellow shirt isn't a color people much care for.  And, as such, you can still get nicely conditioned and complete Taurus figures for under $10.  Dealers do sell a lot in the $15 range.  And, the highly fragile gold paint will often drive that price point.  All of the Renegades seem pretty common.  1987 saw a high production run to coincide with the G.I. Joe Movie...which then ended up as a straight to video release.  So, the less popular figures from this year really tend to show up a lot and remain extremely cheap.  It's a just fate for Taurus as he's really not that good of a figure.  But, I do appreciate his sculpting and colors more as an adult collector than I did as a kid in the final days of childhood.

1987 Taurus, Sgt. Slaughter, Slaughter's Renegades, 2009 Bootleg Desert Cobra Trooper

1987 Taurus, Slaughter's Renegades, Iron Grenadier, 1988

1987 Taurus, Slaughter's Renegades,

Friday, March 8, 2024

1991 Cloudburst - Around The Web

Cloudburst is one of those figures that would have made for an excellent repaint.  But, even his original figure has some merit.  The sculpt is solid and the colors do work within the context of his release.  He's a pretty obscure release.  Which leads to a dearth of content available about the figure.  But, there's some fun stuff that you can find below.

1991 Cloudburst, 1992 Talking Battle Commander General Hawk

1991 Cloudburst, 1993 Col. Courage, 1988 Mean Dog

Monday, March 4, 2024

2003 Black Dragon Trooper - Convention Exclusive

If you collect ARAH style Joe figures, 2003 is kind of the lost year.  In 2002, Hasbro produced 2 full waves of ARAH style figures.  Plus, there was a gift set as well as army builders and oddball characters that were included in the standard retail line.  2004 saw the proliferation of the Toys R Us 6 figure sets, vehicle/figure combos and the arrival of the Comic Pack figures.  2003, though, was actually somewhat sparse when it came to classic style Joe figures.  There were the two, initial, Toys R Us sets.  And, TRU got quite a collection of exclusive vehicles that also included classically styled figures.  There were a bunch of mail away and online figures.  But, retail saw just two figures included in standard waves.  And, due to the massive upswing in the line's popularity in late 2003, those weren't around for very long.  Also lost in the year is the 2003 Convention set.  While the 2002 set was lauded for it's for it army building centric design, the 2003 was condemned for it's focus on characters and more obscure mold reuses.  And, even today, it remains the most obscure Convention set.  Which is easy to see when one of the best figures released that year is a repaint of the 1988 Ferret figure that was repurposed into the Black Dragon Trooper.

The 1988 Ferret figure is weird.  The mold is bizarre. And, the colors are banal.  You'd be hard pressed to find it in any photos on my site.  And, I don't even own one any longer.  But, seeing it repurposed for a new army builder in 2003 wasn't terrible.  Collectors weren't sick of the mold.  But, when the figure was first shown, many collectors couldn't even place the original figure who had used the mold: such was the obscurity of the original Ferret.  But, this was also where the figure failed.  In 2003, collectors were not aware of the sea of army builders that would be debuted at the 2003 convention.  And, as such, the collecting community was still full throated shouting that they wanted more of the classic army builders like the Vipers, BATS and Cobra Troopers.  So, seeing a figure in classic Cobra colors but using a mold that most couldn't even place was a disappointment.  After getting classic Vipers in 2002, there was an expectation that convention sets would always be excellently colored uses of staple army building molds.  When the script shifted, collectors weren't pleased.  And, there simply wasn't much excitement over the 2003 sets as an army in the box that collectors felt they deserved.

The one thing you can say about the 2003 Convention set is that it, probably, leaned too hard into the obscure aspect for the mold choices.  And, instead of making just good figures, the set ended up with an abundance of unappreciated molds that collectors really didn't care for.  While the 2002 Convention set quickly appreciated on the second hand market right after its release, the 2003 did not.  In fact, you could even get many figures in from the set for less than their original cost for a bit.  In time, the Falcon and Lady Jaye found some appreciation.  But, generally, the set was just discarded.  Collectors put it away in their closets and just left it there.  Even today, about the only content that exists on this are the remnants of the 2003 Joe community that you can find on a select few remaining fan sites.  People just don't use the figures.  And, for the newer collectors who don't own the figures, there's little desire to track them down.

I don't really have a specific purpose for the Black Dragon Trooper.  He's, pretty much, just a figure that I use as a humble brag in the background of photos of other, blue Cobras from that era.  He can be heavily armored.  And, with 2001 Fast Blast Viper gear, he might make for an interesting take on a HEAT Viper.  But, I think his best use is with a 2001 Shadow Viper backpack so you can pigeon hole the figure into Star Brigade.  In this capacity, the oddball chest piece works as space survival gear.  And, the weird helmet is more forgivable.  But, really, I've never seen the figure as anything other than a checkbox to complete my collection.  I had one back at the time of his release.  But, ended up selling it.  It was only through a random (and cheap!) find at a local shop that I bothered to re-add him to my collection.  And, really, the only reason I did so was because convention figures were starting to rise in price and I figured I could at least use him in a profile.

The figure's true purpose is one I've never bothered to explore.  Convention filecards were laughably bad. They weren't bad in the over-produced way that adults tend to write filecards, now.  No, they were just terrible.  The Black Dragon faction was the first stand alone idea that the club put together.  For some reason, a ninja had to have a force of heavily armored troopers.  It made no sense.  And, as the Black Dragon Ninja didn't really jive with fans of the era, the entire concept was mothballed away.  While we got a retail Black Dragon Ninja in late 2004, it had no relevance to the 2003 convention figures.  Maybe the convention filecards try to make a story of all this mess.  But, in the end, there's two out of place figures in really nice coloring that collectors can use however they please.

The paint applications on the Black Dragon Trooper are well done.  The blue color is rich and vibrant.  It is offset by strong gold accents that break up the black base.  The figure even features grey boots: adding another color to the palette and making this figure feel more substantial than retail releases of ARAH  molds from the same time period.  But, really, while the colors are great, they also allow the mold's weakness to show through.  1988 tends to be a weird villain year with lots of figures who have oddball and unexplainable details.  And, the Ferret is the poster child for the silliness that 1988 sometimes offered.  The welder's mask beneath a a bouffant helmet is still just that.  It's mystifying but indifferent.  And, that sums the figure up as a whole.  He looks fine.  But, he's still just so obscure and bizarre that you aren't compelled to own one.

The Black Dragon Trooper's weapons are just a recycled 1993 weapon tree.  However, since collectors of 2003 were still VERY anti-'90's, the club actually took the step to remove all the weapons from the tree and only offer them as loose accessories.  This is too bad because weapon trees are awesome.  But, it was also nice because it ensured that every weapon was already loose and we don't see hundreds of these figures with an unused weapon tree behind them as the default sales mode.  The chosen weapons are one of the stronger "Cobra" trees from that era.  It features the 1991 Incinerator flamethrower (a personal favorite), a 1988 Voltar rifle, a 1988 Toxo Viper weapon and a 1990 Rock Viper rifle.  I don't care for the last three weapons.  But, I like the Incinerator weapon well enough to call the accessories good enough.  2003 was the final year that black weapons were included with convention figures.  The club switched to grey in 2004 under the false pretext that "people" were worried about mistaking the much, much rarer convention accessories for the easy to find originals.  The figure also includes a 1992 Gung Ho backpack and a clear figure stand.  This was the last set that ever tried to use weapon tree molds with a figure.  And, the sets were better for it since the trees didn't really match the aesthetic of the later convention figures.

The 2003 Convention figures were very affordable...up until the latest boom in Joe prices.  And, while the 2003 figures lagged their peers in value for a while, you'll now only find these figures at premium pricing.  Black Dragon Troopers seem to sell in the $40-$45 range.  But, you'll more often find dealers trying to still get $70.  For a Convention figure, that's actually not too bad of a price these days.  But, it's a far cry from the $15-$18 this guy would have cost you just 5 years ago.  The general malaise towards the 2003 set and the specific disinterest in the Ferret mold combine for one of, if not the, cheapest Convention army builders that's left.  I can't say, though, that he's worth it.  The Black Dragon Trooper is a fine figure.  But, you don't need it.  He's a great companion piece to an army.  But, a squad of 12 of them seems like overkill.  He's just one of those figures who exists but everyone seems to have completely forgotten.

2003 Black Dragon Trooper, Convention Exclusive, Ferret, 2004 Flak Viper, Nullifier, Urban Strike

2003 Black Dragon Trooper, Convention Exclusive, Ferret, 2004 Flak Viper, Nullifier, Urban Strike

2003 Black Dragon Trooper, Convention Exclusive, Ferret, 2004 Flak Viper, Nullifier, Urban Strike

2003 Convention Exclusive Black Dragon Trooper, 1993 Mail Away Spirit Iron Knife

Friday, March 1, 2024

2018 Shadowtracker - Around The Web

In regards to the comments on the Fail Safe profile.

For the past few months I have been very down on Joe.  There are a variety of reasons for this.  First and foremost is that I'm simply getting bored.  Since the fall of 2015, I've posted an average of 2 posts per week.  That's thousands of photos of action figures.  And, it's the equivalent of several novels.  In short, I'm out of things to say.  I've told my stories.  I've expressed my likes and dislikes of the Joe line.  And, I'm just at a point where my collection has not kept up with my content and I'm out of things to write about.

Part of this is just the weather.  I hate winter.  Like, really hate it.  And, 6 months of brown, dead leaves and mud saps much of my desire to get Joes outside.  I've broken more than a couple Joes in cold weather in the past few years.  And, that pisses me off.  So, I'm more loathe to even  consider outdoor photography when it's cold outside.  And, one thing I've learned is that if I'm not taking photos of my collection, I really don't have much else to do with it.

An equal part, though, is that the collecting world is pretty stagnant.  Hasbro's o-ring line fell flat.  Even if you don't mind the quality, the line was almost exclusively items we already had.  The best figures were the ones we didn't get before.  (Duke, Cobra Commander and the Ramp Rat come to mind.)  But, overall, there's really nothing in the 2020's line that you'd miss if it didn't exist.  

That leaves the Kickstarter figures.  And, while I get the excitement these bring many collectors, I find them lacking.  None of them capture the essence or style of the original Joe line.  Some lines look like mega-block figures.  Other lines look like downscaled anniversary figures that had an o-ring inserted for nostalgia.  I've always been a Joe snob.  I don't even think that Remco or Lanard figures are compatible with Joe.  They stick out.  And, most of the Kickstarters do, too.

Mostly, it's the heads.  Not even Hasbro has been able to replicate vintage Joe heads.  The attempts never look right.  And, this is where most of the Kickstarters, to me, fall short.  I see pumpkin heads that extend over the figure's shoulders and I'm turned off.  I've yet to see an actual production level Kickstarter that has left me disappointed that I didn't back it.  In fact, the opposite has been true.

I kvech a lot about the decaying Joe line and getting older because it's a big part of collecting.  One my esteemed commenters mentioned that we are now the guys with trains in their basements.  There's nothing wrong with that.  But, it helps put a collection into perspective.  When I see my childhood playthings turning to yellowed dust, I reminds me of my Dad's prized possessions from his childhood and the way they rusted and broke into decay as they were stored in a closet in our basement.  I see the same thing happening to me.  And, frankly, writing about it helps me deal with some of the harshness of now being over 50.  It's cheaper and more convenient than real therapy.

In short, I may just need a break.  In the past, I've taken short and long hiatuses from the hobby.  I come back, recharged.  But, when the plants turn green, we get some rain and there's a great, natural setting down by the creek, I might be out with a bucket full of figures every afternoon.  

The important thing is that I still find value in the Joe community.  I appreciate every single person who stops by to view or read my part of the Joe world.  And, I'm grateful for those who take the time to comment.  

For me, I have some fun stuff coming up.  I've got a piece that I really enjoy that's coming...maybe even next week.  And, there's a couple of really obscure figures that I'll be posting soon, too.  I still have over 500 drafts sitting in my content bucket.  So, I won't want for content for a while.  And, when I do get a spark of creativity, I tend to write a lot in a very short time.  

Until then, enjoy some other peoples' work in regards to the 2018 Shadowtracker from Red Laser Army.  I miss RLA.  They made some neat stuff.

2018 Shadowtracker Profile