G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO (HASBRO)
“Vipers are the backbone of the Cobra Legions. They are highly motivated, superbly trained and formidably equipped. All Vipers are issued a combination assault rifle/grenade launcher; the rifle part of which can function as a short burst assault weapon, a sustained fire cover support weapon, or a long range sniper rifle with an advanced light-intensification night vision telescopic sight with a built-in range-finder. Multi-layer body armor and wraparound acrylic/composite helmets with built-in RTO gear are standard issue.”
When G.I. Joe first moved to the smaller scale, Hasbro’s biggest concern was keeping down the line’s budget. They came up with a handful of unique (well, unique enough…) heroes, but they needed some villains for those heroes, and they needed them to be cost effective. Preferably, they needed to sell multiples of the same figure to the same consumer. Enter Cobra (The Enemy) and Cobra Officer, G.I. Joe’s original faceless goons. They carried the line for four years without much trouble, but then came the need for a more elite fighting force, an even more faceless selection of faceless goons. Enter the Vipers, my favorite Cobra trooper of all time. Yeah, they’re just that cool.*
THE FIGURE ITSELF
The Viper (or Vipers, as the figure is specifically referred to on the packaging) was introduced into the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line in 1986. That was a good year for the line, at least by my count. The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation. The Viper was an all-new sculpt at its time of release (though most of the parts have seen some liberal re-use for other variants of the Viper as the line progressed). It’s quite a good one. There’s some some solid detailing going on within the various sections of the uniform. You can clearly see all the pieces that add-up to the whole Viper look, and how they all attach. The padded arm guards have two separate straps keeping them in place, the wrist length gloves jut out a bit to show a slightly looser fit at the ends, the belt and all of its pouches are individually detailed, the pockets on his pants have stitching on the edges, and, heck, you can even make out the pull tag on his vest’s zipper. Real attention to detain here. You can even see the loops on the helmet that are holding his goggles in place (a detail that Hasbro would miss on their 25th Anniversary version, who had infamously hard to place goggles), so that the Viper doesn’t lose them mid-mission. And, while this sculpt has a lot of the stylistic hallmarks of the rest of the line from that era, his fully helmeted appearance means he doesn’t look quite as dated as some of his compatriots. Perhaps the only drawback is that he’s still got those standard vintage Joe hands, meaning he’s not really optimized for holding and sorts of firearms. Odd for a line of figures that are all designed to be shooting guns, but it’s not like the Viper’s alone in this. The paintwork on the Viper is solid for a vintage offering. He’s got some eye-catching elements, but doesn’t quite descend into the neon madness of later troopers. The dark blue calls back to the standard troopers, and the silver faceplate to the original Cobra Commander. The application fo the paint is mostly pretty clean; there’s some slight slop here and there, but nothing too major. The Viper was packed with a light grey rifle and a backpack. The rifle does have some trouble staying in his hands, but its workable.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
So, as noted above, the Vipers are a favorite of mine. That said, in a rather interesting turn, I didn’t have a single one of them as a kid. My first Viper was the 25th Anniversary one. I’ve always loved the design, though, and in the last couple of years, I’ve been working my way into a vintage Joe collection. My friends over at All Time Toys just got in a rather sizable Joe collection, and I was able to fish out a complete vintage Viper, amongst other things. He’s an awesome figure, full stop. I really, really love him, and I’m happy I got one…but I may have found a new obsession. More on that later.
While I can’t promise that anyone else will be getting their hands on any of these awesome Vipers (because they’re mine, all mine, I tell you!), as I noted above, All Time Toys just got in a rather sizable vintage G.I. Joe collection. So, if you’re looking for old Joes or if you’re looking for other cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.
*Okay, so there’s also the B.A.T.s; they give the Vipers a good run for their money, largely due to that whole cool robots thing they’ve got going.