#2658: Hawkman

HAWKMAN

SUPER POWERS (KENNER)

“Hawkman’s wings enable him to fly and his belt enables him to defy gravity.  He uses weapons of the past from the museum he curates, matched with futuristic weapons, and criminology from his home planet, Thanagar.”

Oh man, I haven’t written a review about Hawkman since #0029.  Not only is that from the site’s first month, but it was also the review where I instituted my old randomized list I used to pull from.  Man, I used to talk about that thing all the time!  What a crazy trip down memory lane.  Well, it’s fitting that I’m doing this whole trip down memory lane, because I’m also doing that in a greater sense with the contents of today’s review.  Yes, I’m taking a look at another Super Powers figure today, specifically the aforementioned Hawkman.  Like last week’s GL, he was a character left out of Mego’s treatment for DC Superheroes, and was therefore making his debut in action figure form courtesy of this line.  And I’m looking at that figure today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Hawkman was released in the first series of Super Powers in 1984.  As I touched on in my GL review, the line-up for that first series was very much inspired by Challenge of the Super Friends, and Hawkman’s inclusion here really goes along with that, given he was probably the most obscure character in the first assortment.  He’s the tallest figure in the original line-up, at 4 3/4 inches tall, and he’s got 8 workable points of articulation (the wings technically have two joints each, but on each of them one of those joints is explicitly tied into the action feature).  In addition to height, Katar also was just generally bigger in size than the rest of the Justice Leaguers from the first set.  It’s pretty fitting, since he tended to be drawn as a little bit bigger, and it helped to sell him as a little more alien.  It also gave a nice variety of height and build to the male members of the Justice League right out of the gate.  Super Powers‘ handling of uniqueness of build has always been one of my favorite aspects of the line, and it’s ultimately why I feel it holds up as the quintessential DC line, even in light of lines with deeper character selections.  The detail work on Hawkman is really pretty great, with the best work being on his mask and wings, both of which get some great texture work.  His wings are also large enough to not look too dinky, while also being small enough that he doesn’t have major issues with stability, which is something later Hawkman figures would struggle with.  The paint work on Hawkman was, like the rest of the line, very clean, very bold, and very bright, all of which are good things.  Mine’s taken a little bit of beating on the front of the nose, and has a little bit of discoloration on the torso, but has for the most part held up well.  Hawkman was packed with his mace, and also featured “Power Action Flight Wings.”  When you squeeze his legs, his wings flap.  Not a bad feature at all.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Hawkman’s one of the earliest when it comes to my Super Powers collecting.  I got him for Christmas, I want to say in 2000, which would have made him I think my third or fourth Super Powers figure.  It was the year prior to GL and Manhunter, I know that for sure.  I had my Total Justice Hawkman at the time, and he wasn’t really doing it for me as a classic Hawkman, so my Dad found a small little lot of figures, which included him, and gave him to me that year.  He’s a good one.  Kind of an odd one for me to have so early on in retrospect, but a good one nevertheless, and certainly high on the list for the character’s figures.

#2651: Green Lantern

GREEN LANTERN

SUPER POWERS (KENNER)

“Green Lantern’s power ring that can create, temporarily, any object he desires with his willpower. The ring also is used as an offensive weapon. The ring protects him form mortal harm as well: he cannot be killed. The ring enables him to fly and survive in space, or even at the bottom of the ocean. The ring is powerless against the color yellow. The ring must be recharged every 24 hours at his power battery.”

Oh man, are you prepped to get psyched?  I sure hope so, because I certainly am.  Why is that?  Remember how Super Powers is my favorite DC toy line?  And how Green Lantern’s my favorite DC character?  Well, put those two things together, and, boom, you get the subject of today’s review.  Pretty slick, right?  No?  Admittedly, it may just be me.  But, hey, it’s my site, so we’re gonna just roll with it.  After being so cruelly overlooked by Mego when they were giving most of the DC heavy hitters their first action figures, Hal Jordan, aka the second Green Lantern, was finally given his toy due in 1984, when Kenner launched their own run on the DC brand, with the figure I’m taking a look at today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Green Lantern was part of the first series of Kenner’s Super Powers line.  The line was certainly drawing from Challenge of the Super Friends, whose prominent use of GL I’m sure did him a lot of favors when it came to being included in this line-up.  The figure stands 4 1/2 inches tall and he has 7 points of articulation.  Hal’s design, like the rest of these early figures, was based on Jose Garcia-Lopez’s illustration of the character in the 1982 DC Style Guide.  This had Hal in his slightly updated GL uniform, which featured the additional green detailing on the shoulders.  It became something of a defining trait for the character’s design, helping to make this figure look rather timeless.  Hal’s sculpt is a very nice one, perhaps one of the nicest to come out of the line.  It’s very clean, and appropriately sleek for GL.  The build on the figure had him slightly more svelte than the likes of Superman or Batman, which definitely seems right for Hal, and I quite like how the various parts of the uniform are actually raised elements, rather than just being painted in place as most later figures would handle things.  I will say, in regards to the head sculpt, Hal’s chin does seem a bit more pronounced here than it usually is, but overall, the head does seem right for the character.  That mask is really spot on.  Hal’s paint work is pretty simple, but appropriately clean and striking.  Mine has a touch of wear on his nose, but is otherwise pretty good.  GL was packed with his lantern power battery, which my figure actually has.  Pretty sweet! He also gets an action feature, the “Power Action Ring Thrust.”  Gotta love that name.  Essentially, you squeeze his legs, and the right arm raises. Pretty appropriate for the character.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

In the dark days of the ’90s, Hal Jordan had been replaced by Kyle Rayner, and was therefore not really getting much toy coverage.  This was at cross purposes with my desire to own a Hal Jordan figure, thanks to becoming familiar with the character through Super Friends re-runs on Cartoon Network.  After my dad introduced me to the wonderful Super Power Archives, Hal became the first Super Powers figure I actively wanted to own.  He wasn’t the first one I *got*, but was fairly early on.  I specifically requested him for Christmas one year, and came down Christmas morning to find both him and Martian Manhunter propped up on the Christmas Village waiting for me.  He didn’t have the Power Battery originally, but I was able to get him one of those too, eventually.  He’s definitely my favorite figure in this line, and probably my favorite Green Lantern figure period.

#2644: Martian Manhunter

MARTIAN MANHUNTER

SUPER POWERS (KENNER)

“The Martian Manhunter has a truly awesome array of powers. Beside being practically invulnerable, he has the power of super-breath, flight, invisibility, super-vision, and super-strength. He also has the ability to walk through walls, as well as the power to transform himself into any creature and acquire that creature’s powers and abilities.  The Martian Manhunter cannot survive in a vacuum, and cannot use any of his other powers when he is invisible. Most important, however is his vulnerability to fire, which can weaken and eventually destroy him.  On Mars, the Martian Manhunter’s real name is J’Onn J’Onzz. On Earth, he sometimes adopts the civilian identity of Detective John Jones.”

I’m quite a big fan of the Kenner’s Super Powers, and it’s no secret around these parts that it gets my vote for quintessential DC toy line.  Speaking of quintessential, if there’s a member of the Justice League who gets my vote for quintessential, it would be J’Onn J’Onzz, better known as the Martian Manhunter, who received his very first action figure as part of the Super Powers.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Martian Manhunter was released in 1985, the second year of Super Powers.  He was one of four members of the Justice League to be added to the line that year.  He’s based on Jose Garcia-Lopez’s illustration of the character from the DC Style Guide, just like the rest of the line, which means he depicts J’Onn just after they’d started adding in a few more of his more Martian aspects.  It means it wasn’t *quite* as classic a design as some of the others in the line-up, but it also made him slightly more distinctive, and ultimately became the more common design for the character.  The figure stands 4 1/2 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation.  His sculpt was an entirely new affair, well-matched to the style of the rest of the line.  It gives Manhunter the proper presence for the character, with a build that’s not quite as bulked up as the line’s version of Superman, but which still casts an imposing silhouette.  His arms aren’t as preposed as the first year figures were, which looks a little better in the basic standing pose.  Manhunter’s head sculpt is the part that is the most modernized portion of the figure, with Manhunter’s much more prominent brow.   His expression has a nice, friendly, if still alien feel about it, which really feels perfect for the character.  Like other figures in the line, Manhunter’s cape is a separate cloth piece.  It’s got the extra bit of collar, which helps to hide the plastic clip a bit better than other figures, making it a slightly more convincing piece.  Martian Manhunter’s paint work is pretty simple, but it’s bright, colorful, and pretty clean, at least apart from the bit of wear and tear that my figure’s taken.  As with all Super Powers figures, Martian Manhunter got his own action feature, dubbed “Power Action Martian Punch”.  When you squeeze his legs, his arms swing back and forth.  Or at least they should, but they actually don’t on mine.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Martian Manhunter is on the earlier side of my Super Powers collecting, when I went through a string of getting them as Christmas presents from my parents.  I want to say he was the fourth or fifth figure I got from the line?  It would have been when I was around 7 or 8.  He was the same year as Green Lantern, so he did sort of pale in comparison just a touch at the time.  He didn’t have his cape originally, but I got one for him later down the line.  He’s a really cool figure, and definitely a fantastic starting point for the character.

#2637: Samurai

SAMURAI

SUPER POWERS (KENNER)

“Japanese history professor Toshio Eto was teaching class one day when suddenly a mystical bolt of energy hit him. The bolt of energy had been sent from emissaries of the New Gods who were in need of super heroes. The strange energy enveloped Eto and released the latent energy in his body, transforming him into the Samurai. Using his newfound powers of the hurricane and wielding an energy sword, the Samurai mistakenly caused havoc until the transformation was explained to him and he decided to be a force for good.”

You know, I really haven’t reviewed enough Super Powers figures on this site.  I mean, at this point, I’m essentially only reviewing them once a year, which means it would take me almost 40 years to actually get through them all.  That’s not a great metric for me.  I should probably work on that.  Fortunately, I’m getting some help on that front, with a new one to kick-start things a little bit.  Super Powers started with a focus on DC’s core characters, but as the line continued it shifted its focus, and by its final year, it was largely made up of rather minor characters, and in fact a good number of characters not even from the comics originally.  Though not a total fabrication for the line, Samurai began his life outside of the comics medium, as one of four heroes created for Challenge of the Super Friends in order to diversify the Justice League’s line-up.  Ultimately, he and the rest of these new heroes fell into some pretty heavy stereotyping, but hey, it was the ’70s.  Samurai was the only of these characters to be carried over into Super Powers, but it’s worth noting that both El Dorado and Black Vulcan would have joined him had the line continued (El Dorado even made it to the prototype stage).

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Samurai was released in 1987, as part of the third and final assortment of Kenner’s Super Powers.  He was Samurai’s first figure, and would remain his only figure for a good three decades.  The figure stands 4 1/2 inches tall and he has 8 points of articulation.  Samurai had one more joint than most figures in the line, with movement at his waist.  It’s largely just there to facilitate the figure’s action feature, but it’s still possible to use it as a point of articulation as well, so hey, extra movement.  Samurai’s sculpt is actually not bad.  He had the benefit of only really having one source to draw from in terms of design, and he ultimately does an okay job of capturing that design in three dimensions.  It’s not the greatest design, admittedly, but I guess it could have been worse.  It’s also worth noting that they didn’t feel the need to redesign him the way they did a handful of characters from later in the line, so, again, this works out pretty well.  Samurai’s design relies on some cloth goods for his vest piece.  It’s a piece very commonly missing from the figure, and it’s worth noting that the one sported by my figure is, in fact, a reproduction.  It’s not a bad repro, though, all things considered, and regardless of repro or original, the cloth piece works well for this part of the figure.  Makes him very difficult to get complete, but cool nevertheless.  Samurai’s paint work is pretty basic stuff.  Not a ton of crazy work going on, but the face is pretty sharp, and the colors are bright.  I can definitely get behind it.  Samurai was originally packed with a small sword, which, like the vest, is very commonly missing from the figure.  As you can see, my figure does not have it.  Some day.  In addition to the sword, he also had an action feature, “Gale Force Spin.”  When you squeezed his right arm, his lower torso would spin.  And mine still works, even.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Of the four added characters from Super Friends, Samurai has always kind of been my least favorite, which makes the fact that he was the only one to get a figure here a little sad.  That, coupled with his rarity, has meant I’ve never really rushed out to get this guy.  However, my dad, who has been getting me Super Powers figures as Christmas gifts since I was 7, got me this guy as a Christmas gift this year, albeit an ever so slightly late one, thanks to the mess that is the current state of the United States Postal Service.  Hey, at least I managed to get him before the new year.  That was a miracle in and of itself.  Samurai isn’t the most impressive character, but the figure is kind of fun, and is a major step forward with my Super Powers collection.  Just 7 more to go!

#2633: Ultra Magnus Merchandise

ULTRA MAGNUS PULSATING LIGHT AM RADIO & ELECTRONIC VOICE SYNTHESIZER

TRANSFORMERS: POWER TRONIC (NASTA)

As we come into the second day of the Post-Christmas reviews, I’m heading into some slightly uncharted territory.  Firstly, I’m looking at something Transformers related which, while not completely a first for Christmas gifts for me, is still sort of new and fresh, seeing as I’ve only recently really gotten into it.  And secondly, and in fact most differently, I’m not actually looking at action figures at all, but rather some action figure adjacent product.  It’s not explicitly a first for me, I guess.  I mean, I did review a stapler that one time, and that’s not even action figure adjacent.  That’s just oddball is what that is.  What am I getting at here?  Well, more or less that I’m not really reviewing action figures for the day.  Hopefully this will be just as good…or at least up to whatever the quality of my usual output is, anyway.  Whatever the outcome, I guess we should look at this Ultra Magnus Merch I got, huh?

THE TOYS THEMSELVES

The two toys in question are the Ultra Magnus Pulsating Light AM Radio and the Electronic Voice Synthesizer, both of which were produced in 1986 by Nastra under their Power Tronic brand.  They were both released to coincide with Transformers: The Movie arriving in theaters that same year, and to capitalize on Ultra Magnus’s role therein.  I can dig it.  Let’s first discuss the “Pulsating Light AM Radio,” a somewhat perplexing item.  I mean, if you’re going to make a Transformers-themed radio, wouldn’t it make sense to at least pick one of the characters who actually turns into sound equipment?  Or am I talking the crazy talk.  Given that I’m arguing against there being another Ultra Magnus thing, I may very well be talking the crazy talk.  The actual item’s not that crazy, I suppose.  It measures 7 1/2 inches tall, and is pretty much just a scaled up replica of the G1 Ultra Magnus’s armored head.  It’s not quite as human-esque as later Magnuses, of course, but I think that works somewhat to this item’s favor, because it looks a little bit more artistic, and less like someone’s just decapitated Ultra Magnus.  It’s molded in the same shade of blue as the figure, and uses silver paint for the appropriate details, which honestly looks pretty good.  The radio runs on four AA batteries, which are loaded into the Magnus’s “antenna” on the sides of his head.  There are dials on the back of the head for turning on and adjusting the volume, as well as tuning the station.  I was quite happy to find that the radio function on mine still works, however the pulsating light function sadly is no more.  Oh well.

The second item featured here is the Electronic Voice Synthesizer, which is clearly Ultra Magnus, but is not actually named as such on the item’s packaging.  The item allows the owner to “talk like a robot” by mouthing words into the plastic straw that pops out of the figure’s back, and is essentially a simplified version of an electrolarynx device.  They were somewhat common amongst licensed products in the ’80s, so Transformers getting in on the game is perhaps not the biggest shock.  The item stands 4 1/2 inches tall and actually does have articulation, with joints at both shoulders, and some slight movement on the neck.  Much like the radio, this item is clearly patterned on the G1 toy’s mold, just scaled way down this time.  It’s rather crude and rudimentary, and has a distinct lack of Magnus’s shoulder towers, but is overall an okay piece.  Rather than apply any paint to this one, he’s instead just molded in three different colors of plastic, meaning he’s more an approximation of Magnus’s color scheme than an accurate depiction.  The Voice Synthesizer runs on a 9-Volt battery, which goes in the base of the feet.  I haven’t tested mine because I just don’t really want to put my mouth on it, so, you know, there it is, I guess.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Ultra Magnus is really becoming my main man when it comes to Transformers stuff, and I’ve picked up quite a healthy helping of Magnus-related stuff in the last year.  The stuff in the column of “what I don’t have” is becoming a bit more on the obscure side, and included these two, neither of which I expected to add to my collection quite this quickly.  I did add them to my collection quite this quickly, however, thanks to Jason from All Time Toys, who gave them both to me this year for Christmas.  They’re not standard action figure fare, but they are still a ton of fun, goofy fun, but fun to be sure!

#2353: Hot Rod

HOT ROD

TRANSFORMERS (HASBRO)

“Screws fall out all the time, sir.  The world’s an imperfect place.”

In the summer of 1986, Transformers: The Movie arrived in theaters, and brought with it a new cast of characters, and a new cast of celebrities to voice them.  Shermer High’s resident rebel Judd Nelson was brought in to voice the newly introduced Hot Rod, a character meant to take over as the franchise’s lead from the dearly departing Optimus Prime, much like his opposite number Falcon over on the G.I. Joe side of things.  And, just like with Falcon, it didn’t quite endear him to the fans the way Hasbro was hoping it would (I think in the long run the years have been much kinder to Hot Rod than they have to Falcon, though).  Whatever the case, being the proposed central character for the continuation of a popular franchise is pretty good spot to be in from a toy stand point, and Hot Rod was of course added to the toyline to coincide with the movie’s release.  I’ll be taking a look at that first toy today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Hot Rod hit shelves in 1986 as part of the heavily movie-inspired line-up for Transformers that year.  Unlike prior entries in the line, Hot Rod was not repurposed from pre-existing Japanese molds, but was instead a new creation specifically for the Transformers line, designed by working in tandem with the proposed animation model character.  The end result is something that sticks pretty close to the animation design, at least when compared to some of the other vintage figures.  In his robot mode, Hot Rod stands about 6 inches tall and he has 8 usable points of articulation.  All of the robot more’s articulation is in the arms, and that actually doesn’t include any sort of up/down motion on the shoulders, making Hot Rod by far the most limited of the four G1 bots I own in terms of poseablility.  He’s good for standing around, but that’s about it.  On the plus side, with a rather faithful to the animation sculpt, he’s got one of the nicest looking robot modes from the original line, and manages to actually nicely walk the line between the two modes a lot better than a good portion of his compatriots.  There is one running change in terms of construction for the figure.  Initial versions had metal feet, the version 2 mold got plastic feet.  Mine is a version 2 figure, though appearance-wise they’re the same.  Hot Rod’s alt-mode is a futuristic sports car from the far off year of 2005, which means he was unlike a lot of the vintage stuff, being a non-existent vehicle.  It’s a pretty sleek design though, and the transformation is a pretty slick and easy mode shift.  Hot Rod was originally packed with a pair of blasters, but mine is just the core figure.  Oh well.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I wasn’t gonna get any more G1 Transformers.  I thought I was done.  I really did.  Then this guy got traded into All Time, and he was just kinda nifty and I had trade credit to burn through, and Max was not going to talk me out of buying a Transformer, and so here I am.  Poseablity aside, I actually really like him a lot, and he offers a nice balance of both modes, and certainly looks cool!

As I noted above,  I got this guy from my friends at All Time Toys, and a good chunk of the collection he came from is still available here If you’re looking for other cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#2311: IG-88

IG-88

STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (KENNER)

Everybody’s got their own personal favorite bounty hunter from the Star Wars verse.  Well, okay, maybe not everybody.  That seems a little presumptuous.  Some people don’t like Star Wars.  I know, I know, that’s a hard pill to swallow, guys, but lets be real.  Now, for the Star Wars fans out there, we can at least all take solace in knowing that we all agree that the best bounty hunter, bar none is IG-88.  We all agree on that, right?  Right?  Come on guys, Star Wars fans are always a really agreeable bunch, right?  Anyone?  Anyone?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

IG-88 was released in the first assortment of Kenner’s The Empire Strikes Back line, debuting alongside the movie in 1980.  There were two notable variations of IG-88, most easily identified by the finish of the plastic.  Early IGs were a more metallic silver, while later in the run he was shifted over to a duller grey.  The one up top is the silver, but there’s a comparison shot of the two at the end of the review. No matter the variation you have, the figure stands about 4 inches tall (he was a tall boy) and he has 5 points of articulation.  The two versions of the figure actually had slightly different molds, although they were more or less the same sculpt, just with some minor manufacturing tweaks.  The initial sculpt is actually really strong, quite possibly the best sculpt to come out of the vintage line.  While he fits right in with the rest of the figures stylistically, he’s incredibly sharply detailed, and sports pretty much all of the elements he should for a proper screen accurate IG.  The sculpt was so good, that Kenner actually ended up re-using it with just one tweak when it came time for the PotF IG-88, but that’s a discussion for a later review.  For the later run IGs, the sculpt is slightly downgraded.  It’s still one of the best of the vintage line, mind you, and all of the important elements remain, but some of the smaller details are lost and the overall crispness of the sculpt is also gone.  There’s also one piece completely mission on the right leg, and protrusions from the head are generally cut shorter.  If you don’t compare the two, you wouldn’t really know what you were missing.  For the paint work, IG-88 was kind of light, with molded plastic making up most of it.  The bandolier is painted black on both figures, and the lights on the head are red on the silver figure and orange on the grey.  The application on the silver is a little more precise, lending to more of that sharpness like we saw with the sculpt.  Both versions of IG-88 were packed with two blaster rifles, one short, one long, molded in a dark blue, which is probably the thing that most gives away this figure as vintage.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve always had a soft spot for IG-88.  Since he wasn’t in the original movie (and therefore one of the figures I inherited from my Dad’s childhood collection), he wound up being one of the earlier vintage figures I tracked down for myself, picked up from an antique school sometime during my high school years. That was the grey version, and was just on his own without the accessories.  I picked up a complete silver when it was traded into All Time a couple of months ago.  Silver is the superior release, but grey has his own charm.  I appreciate them both for what they are: two more pieces for my awesome IG-88 collection!

#2276: Orion

ORION

SUPER POWERS (KENNER)

“The Scourge of Apokolips. Orion is Darkseid’s son and a half-brother to Kalibak. He turned against his father’s evil ways to fight on the side of justice. Orion wields the astro-force, an energy beam of tremendous power, and bears a computer-like device whose rays disguise his true face, the visage of one born on Apokolips. Although Orion is greater than mortal, he can be defeated in battle by a stronger warrior, or injured by conventional weaponry. When traveling on Earth, Orion has used the alias ‘O-Ryan.'”

This year’s Post-Christmas reviews sure do involve a lot of me coming full circle on some stuff and “going back to the beginning” so to speak.  Today’s focus is perhaps not back to the beginning for the site so much, but it is certainly a return to form for my collecting as a whole.  But that’s for the last section of this thing.  Let’s get through the lead-in first.  I’ve reviewed Kenner’s Super Powers six times before on this site; I’ve probably discussed it a few more times than that.  It’s kind of the quintessential DC toy line, and quite frankly, it’s kind of the quintessential comic book toyline.  Mego may have really gotten super heroes out there, but Super Powers is the genesis of most things we think of in terms of super hero toys.  The line ran three years, each year stranger than the last.  As it progressed, they got some help on it courtesy of Jack Kirby, whose Fourth World characters would become a fixture of the line.  Orion, central hero of the Fourth World would join the line not long before its end.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Orion was released in 1986, as part of the third and final series of Super Powers figures.  He and series-mate Mister Miracle rounded out the line’s New Gods theme.  The figure stands 4 1/2 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation….7 if you count the neck, but that’s not *really* a point of articulation.  Orion, like every Super Powers figure, was a totally unique sculpt.  While the line’s first assortment stuck to the DC style guide, but the second year there were sizable changes for some of the more secondary characters, especially the Fourth World stuff.  Orion followed suit, with one of the more intensely different designs.  Honestly, if it weren’t for his name being on the box, you could be forgiven for not realizing this guy was supposed to be Orion.  The base color scheme is the same, and you can see some remaining elements of his helmet and astro harness, but only slight elements.  The helmet in particular, typically the one constant piece of Orion’s design (and honestly the best piece of Orion’s design) received a major overhaul.  It’s…well, it’s goofy to say the least.  The sleekness of his original design is gone, and while there’s still a lot of Kirby in this look (fitting, since it was an authentic Kirby design and all), it’s just not as strongly heroic as the original design.  Some of it is a symptom of the line’s knack for action features.  Most of them weren’t an impediment to the design of the figure, but Orion was notable exception, because you can definitely tell that a lot of that helmet design had to do with being able to fit in flipping Orion’s face from “good” to “bad.”  It’s certainly a memorable trait of his from the comics, but I’m not really sure it was worth upending his classic design.  All that said, it doesn’t make for a terrible looking toy, and Kenner still put their best foot forward on translating the design into plastic form.  The paintwork is all pretty solid, with a bright palette that is nothing if not eye-catching.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Super Powers may have ended six years before I was born and nine years before I began collecting action figures, but that didn’t stop it from being a huge impact on my collecting as a child and as an adult.  The line first become notable to me as a kid due to my love Hal Jordan, and his notable lack of then-current action figure coverage.  This one being just a few scant years removed made it relatively attainable to me, and so I, with some definite help from my parents, set out on collecting my first “vintage” line.  The Super Powers archive was my home page, I knew the line-ups to each assortment by heart, and I knew the rumors for the failed fourth line-up (before we actually knew the official fourth line-up).  I would scour ebay, looking at auctions for all of the figures.  And, for Christmas every year, I would put two more figures from the line on my Christmas list, and my dad would dutifully track them down.  Interests change, and I fell out of Super Powers for a bit, and when I got back into it, I was doing most of my own buying.  At one point, I was even planning to round out the line-up by buying one figure for myself out of every paycheck.  That didn’t pan out, as you can see by my not owning the whole line yet.  This year for Christmas, I decided I to ask a Super Powers figure again, so I made up a list of the ones I didn’t have, and then this guy was the very last thing I opened on Christmas morning.  It was a nice throwback.  And with that, I have 26 Super Powers figures; just eight left.

#2232: Undertow

UNDERTOW

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO (HASBRO)

“Any frogman can operate in clean water, under optimum conditions, but the UNDERTOW are especially trained to function and fight in the murky, polluted waters that clog busy industrial and military waterfronts.  His wet-suit is made of a nontoxic anti-corrosive material.  His face-mask is coated with silicone to repel oil slicks, and is organically conditioned against hostile biological agents and infections.”

In 1988, Destro decided he just wasn’t content to let Cobra have all that faceless minions fun, so he got his own group of armed body guards, dubbed the Iron Grenadiers.  He then decided he liked that enough to double down, and start adding even more faceless minions.  But, in order to add more minions, he’d really need to diversify things a bit.  Throw in a little bit of specialization, you know?  Cobra had their own group of underwater operatives, so why not get in on that market?  Enter the Undertow, Destro’s Frogmen.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Undertow was released in the 1990 line-up of G.I. Joe, and was one of two additions to Destro’s forces from that particular year, bringing Destro’s total numbers up to a resounding 10.  Hey, that’s not the worst, I suppose.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  Despite not being Cobra affiliated in the slightest, Undertow’s sculpt actually has a lot of the same hallmarks of a lot of Cobra’s forces.  Because of this, it’s not much of a shock that the next two times the mold was used, he was transitioned over to Cobra.  It’s honestly a pretty solid sculpt, and surprisingly restrained for being a 1990 release.  Where most of them were starting to bulk up and go for the more fantastical elements, this one keeps it far more low-key, and honestly feels pretty at home with the line’s earlier offerings.  He’s just got a very clean design.  It’s kind of a shame that they saddled him with with the color scheme that they did.  Yes, if Undertow’s sculpt isn’t indicative of the time period he was released in, his paint is.  I mean, it’s not blindingly neon like others, I suppose, but he looks something like a Christmas pageant reject with all that red and green.  Not exactly the sort of colors that come to mind when you think of an underwater trooper, are they?  At least the application’s not bad, I guess.  Future uses of the mold would change the colors way up, which honestly did the mold a lot of favors.  Undertow was packed with a mask (with hose), harpoon, sled (with removable missile), flippers, and a…barracuda?  Hey, whatever works for you, man.  Mine is missing the harpoon, but everything else is showcased here.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When I was a kid, I actually had the 2002 Undertow figure, which used this same mold, and he was a favorite of mine.  Unfortunately, he didn’t make it through my childhood intact, so there was this Undertow-shaped hole in my Joe collection.  I was the slightest bit bummed when Undertow didn’t come in with the big collection that All Time got over the summer (but not overly surprised, given how late run a figure he is), so I ended up finding this guy at Yesterday’s Fun during my family’s family vacation.  The colors are wonky, but the sculpt is still one of my favorites.  Of course, I still kind of want to get a direct replacement of my V3 original one of these days…

#2218: Mercer

MERCER

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO (HASBRO)

“The Renegades don’t answer to anyone but themselves. They don’t officially exist. They can function with very little restraint but if they are compromised, they’re on their own.

Mercer was the only Cobra Viper that ever defected to the Joes and survived. He had joined Cobra for the adventure and the promise of material gain but soon grew disaffected with the Cobra philosophy. He escaped Cobra island by hot-wiring a hydrofoil and outrunning his pursuers across the Gulf of Mexico. Mercer is proficient with all Cobra small arms and explosive devices.”

In 1986, GI Joe got their first real-life celebrity member in the form of professional wrestler Sgt. Slaughter, who would serve as a high-stakes drill instructor for the team when Beach Head just wasn’t enough.  In 1987, both the toyline and the movie would give Slaughter his own specialized team of hard-hitting trainees, dubbed Sgt. Slaughter’s Renegades.  The three man team was made up of Red Dogg, Taurus, and today’s focus, Mercer, a turncoat Cobra Viper.  Gee, I wonder why Ethan likes this one…

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Mercer and the other two Renegades were released as a special three-pack as part of G.I. Joe‘s 1987 line-up (except for in the UK, where Mercer and his teammates were available individually).  They were one of a pair of three-packs based on characters introduced in the movie.  There were plans for a third, but they were scrapped after the less than stellar performance of the Cobra-La pack.  Mercer stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  His sculpt was all-new to him, and apart from the head being re-used for another Mercer figure in 2006, the parts would remain unique to him.  Mercer’s design is important, since it has to read as a Cobra uniform without actually being one.  Now, why it’s not just a broken down Viper uniform is really anyone’s guess, but I’d say Mercer’s not super keen to get mistaken for the enemy.  He’s got a lot of similarly styled elements to the Viper figure, with the vest and the quilted elements on his pants.  That said, he definitely reads as just a little bit more heroic than a Cobra operative.  All things considered, though, Mercer’s sculpt does seem a little more basic and light on the details than some of his compatriots, with the hair being noticeably devoid of detail.  He’s still more detailed than the line’s earlier works, but compared to some of the figures that hit the same year, the fact that his hair’s so smooth does stand out as a little odd.  He also shows the line’s shift towards more exaggerated proportions, with his arms being quite bulked up, and his torso getting more of that V-shape that later figures would receive more regularly.  With the proportions, it is a little more excusable for a character like Mercer, since the Renegades are supposed to be a little more hardened, though.  Mercer’s paintwork is decent enough, keeping with the sculpt’s “suggest Cobra, but not actually Cobra” aesthetic.  He does end up a little oranger than he looked in animation, but it’s at least a deep orange, not a safety orange.  Mercer was packed with a pistol and a backpack, both of which are missing from my figure.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’m a huge fan of the Vipers, so it’s not much of a surprise that I’ve always had something of a soft spot for Mercer (the other two Renegades I can kind of take or leave).  When piecing together the huge Joe collection that came into All Time, I was a little sad that the Renegades weren’t included (though not as saddened as the time Red Dogg and Taurus came in without a corresponding Mercer.  That one really stung deep).  As luck would have it, I happened upon Mercer at Yesterday’s Fun while on my summer family vacation, so I wasn’t without him for too long.  Honestly, after going through so many Joes in the last few months, Mercer is perhaps not as exciting as I’d hoped, but it’s still cool to have him.