#2120: Combat Jet Skystriker – XP-14F (w/ Ace)

COMBAT JET SKYSTRIKER — XP-14F (w/ ACE)

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

“Ace would rather fly than do anything else. During high school he worked after school and weekends to pay for flying lessons. Spent one year flying pipelines in Alaska and two years stunt flying for movies. Enlisted USAF at 22. Duty most previous to G.I. Joe assignment: senior instructor USAF Fighter Weapons Squadron “The Aggressors” (pilot combat training school). Qualified Expert: F-5E, F-15, F-16, XP-14/F. 

Ace has one major character flaw: cutthroat poker. A predilection for gambling would ordinarily disqualify an applicant for the G.I. Joe team but in Armbruster’s case you can hardly call it gambling since he NEVER LOSES. That’s why we call him Ace!”

Having set a standard of larger scale vehicles with the MOBAT in the first year of their rebooted GI Joe line, Hasbro decided to up the ante even further.  The 1983 vehicles focused fairly heavily on aerial combat for both sides.  However, it was once again the Joes who pulled ahead on the coolness front, with their star 1983 offering being the Combat Jet Skystriker and its pilot Ace, which would proudly launch the Joe tradition of things getting bigger and better every year.  Like the MOBAT, the Skystriker offered up the kind of vehicle that the 12-inch line could have never dreamed of doing proper justice, further cementing the new line’s niche.  And, also like the MOBAT, the Skystriker had one of that year’s coolest Joes as its pilot, which certainly helped its case.

THE VEHICLE ITSELF

Certainly the star affair here, the Skystriker is kind of the fighter jet equivalent to the MOBAT’s tank, in that it reads as a pretty decent summation of a basic military vehicle.  Like the MOBAT, the Skystriker had some realworld inspiration, specifically the F-14 Tomcat.  Of course, the F-14 actually went into production, meaning the salvaged experimental design angle that was so cool about the MOBAT ended up dropped here.  Of course, the F-14 still being fairly new at the time of this vehicle’s release does still make it feel pretty cutting edge.  At the time of its release, the Skystriker was the largest vehicle in the line, and it would remain so until the USS Flagg came on the scene in ’85.  And, if you want to get really technical, that was more a playset than a vehicle, so it’s all very suspect if you ask me.  The Skystriker was robbed, I tell ya!  …Where was I?  Right, toy review.  Always toy review.  The Skystriker’s a big boy, measuring almost 2 feet in length.  It was a brand new mold, and would see itself repurposed for the Night Boomer in 1989, as well as being slightly retooled to be an all-new Sky Striker in the 30th Anniversary line.  Much like the MOBAT, the Skystriker’s sculpt is noticeably less dated than the figures it accompanied.  It emulates the real world vehicle well, and includes a lot of nice technical details that keep it from becoming too generic or sci-fi-y.  There are lots of little crevices and small details littered throughout.  While the MOBAT was really just a solid chunk of plastic with one small opening to house a single figure, the Skystriker is designed with a bit more interaction with the figures in mind.  The interior of the cockpit actually has a bit of the appropriate detailing, as well as seating for two separate figures, a feature which the comics and cartoons, and even the 2011 re-release dropped.  It’s not a ton of extra seating, but compared to the tank, it was a pretty big deal.  The Skystriker wasn’t quite as feature heavy as some of the other vehicles in the line, but it did have removable seats for an “ejecting” feature.  More prominently, the wings can be moved forward or back (much like a real F-14), and the landing gear on the underside was tied into this feature.  Moving the wings forward brings the landing gear out, while switching them back will fold it back up.  There’s no paint on the Skystriker, but there are a rather extensive selection of decals, which mainly serve to remind you that decals really aren’t designed to last, and be a major pain to anyone who wants to restore a vintage Skystriker.  The Skystriker was packed with six missiles, which could be mounted on the underside of the vehicle.  It also included…

THE FIGURE ITSELF

…Ace!  First coming onto the scene with the Skystriker in ’83, Ace would go on to become one of the most prominent pilots in the Joe line-up, with a whopping 12 figures to his name…well, to a variation of his name, since he couldn’t keep just “Ace” post 25th Anniversary.  Ace’s original design kind of dives back into that “experimental” bit that the vehicle didn’t quite keep up with, since he’s got more in common with an astronaut than your typical fighter pilot.  It’s certainly a distinct appearance, though, and the figure’s sculpt does a respectable job of making him look cool.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  As an ’83 figure, his neck is still just a swivel, but with the big collar, it’s not really much of a loss.  Though Ace’s sculpt was all new, his head actually shares a number of common elements with the Hawk/Steeler/Flash/Shortfuse head from the ’82 line-up, though the level of detailing had certainly taken a jump.  The color schemes of the ’83 line-up moved away from the drab greens of the initial figures, and Ace follows suit, with a white and red number, which matches him well with the Skystriker.  Ace had no armaments of his own (he’s already got the combat jet, so what more does he need), but he does have a removable helmet.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Remember me mentioning the really large G.I. Joe collection that All Time Toys got in?  Wanna guess where this thing came from?  Yeah, I was responsible for piecing most of the collection together, which meant I got to spend a whole lot of time with most of it.  This was kind of a star piece, since, in addition to having everything but the parachute, it also included its box, blue prints, and even some spare decals.  It was a nice enough piece that I decided I kind of wanted to keep it, and my parents were kind enough to assist on that and give it to me as a birthday present this year.  Since receiving it, I’ve been spending my nights working to restore it to the best of my ability, which included stripping it of all of its decals, cleaning it,  replacing the decals I could with the spares, and then re-affixing the rest of them.  It’s been a lot of work, but I knew that one going in.  And it may be more work yet, as I’m not entirely sure I’m going to be keeping the vintage decals long-term.  Whatever the case, this is a fantastic center piece to my Joe collection, and has definitely been a big investment for me.

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#2093: Destro

DESTRO

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

“Destro is the faceless power behind MARS (Military Armaments Research System), largest manufacturer of state-of-the-art weaponry. To Destro, war is man’s most natural state: the fittest survive and the greatest technological advances are made. He maintains a luxurious lifestyle around the world. Destro provides high-tech arms to any side able to meet his price and will incite war where it does not exist. He dons his silver battle mask (a family tradition) and enters battle himself, either with COBRA Command (Destro is their major weapons supplier) or against them if it’s better for business.

Destro respects the G.I. Joe team for their combat skills and expertise, but abhors them for wasting such skills to maintain peace. He’s totally dedicated to seeing them undermined, subverted, or destroyed! Destro respects the G.I. Joe team for their combat skills and expertise, but abhors them for wasting such skills to maintain peace. He’s totally dedicated to seeing them undermined, subverted, or destroyed!”

The villainous component of the A Real American Hero line in its debut year was somewhat small compared to what it would later become.  Apart from Cobra Commander’s later inclusion the first year, there weren’t really many villains to go on.  And yet, before the two sides of the conflict were even fully formed, we already had a potential middle ground (though he’d eventually prove a pretty strict villain for just about every version of the franchise going forward) in Destro, steel-faced arms dealer.

 THE FIGURE ITSELF

Destro was part of the 1983 assortment of GI Joe: A Real American Hero, where he’s actually one of only two single-carded villains, the other being Major Bludd.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  Though they had added the bicep swivels by this point, the necks hadn’t yet been upgraded to the ball-joints, meaning he’s just got the side to side motion.  I guess it’s not the end of the world for a guy in a big metal mask, though.  There are lots of distinctive Joe looks, but it’s honestly kind of hard to top the classic Destro look.  It’s hokey as all get-out, but its undeniably unique,  and would go on to play a major part in influencing the less “standard issue” parts of the Joe mythos.  For what its worth, Gung Ho’s presence in the same year’s line-up means that Destro doesn’t quite have the most absurd design, but it’s definitely up there, with the popped collar, low-cut shirt, and chrome mask.  Said mask is certainly the star piece of the figure; unlike later versions, it actually looks like a mask, and has much sharper angles than a normal face.  It’s also a little larger, so there could conceivably be a head underneath of it, which was most definitely dropped as they progressed.  At the time of his release, Destro was the beefiest figure in the line, which would serve as an inspiration for the character’s imposing stature going forward, though it’s certainly more underplayed here than you might expect.  Destro’s paintwork was pretty basic, with the chromed helmet again being the star attraction.  Everything else is straightforward, though it’s worth noting things like his pendant were especially prone to wear as time went on.  Destro was packed with a small pistol and a backpack, which folds out to showcase an array of weaponry, as you would expect to see for an arms dealer.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Destro is actually the earliest thing I recall about the small-scale Joes.  I remember seeing him (though it was definitely a later figure) at Ageless Heroes when they were closing down.  At the time, I mistook him for Deadman (who was still without figures in those days), and his look kind of stuck in my head from thereout.  Despite that, I’ve not had many Destros in my collection, for one reason or another.  I’ve been wanting to get the original for some time, and fortunately the large Joe collection that came in at All Time gave me just such an opportunity.  Destro’s original figure is one of the gems of the earliest days of the line, and a real showcase of where things would end up going.

As noted above, Destro came from All Time Toys, who got in a rather sizable vintage Joe collection, the remnants of which can be checked out the Joe section of their eBay page here.  If you’re looking for other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#2079: Motorized Battle Tank – MOBAT (w/ Steeler)

MOTORIZED BATTLE TANK — MOBAT (W/ STEELER)

GI JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO (HASBRO)

“Steeler comes from a blue collar middle-class background. He put himself through college on an ROTC scholarship and work as a heavy equipment operator. Familiar and proficient with all NATO and Warsaw Pact AFV’s. Graduated Armor School, top of class. Special Training: Cadre-XAFV Project; Artillery School; AFV Desert Exercise; Covert Ops School. Qualified Expert: M-16; M-1911A1; MAX-10; Uzi.”

The first year of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero didn’t just serve up its original 13 Joes and their two enemies, it also took a page out of the Star Wars and Micronauts playbook and went hogwild on giving them some vehicles with which to play around.  There were eight vehicles and playsets that first year, but perhaps the most impressive was the Motorized Battle Tank, or MOBAT for short.  Though lacking in some of the fancities of later vehicles, the MOBAT gave the Joes some serious offensive power, and definitively gave us the sort of vehicle to which the old 12-inch line could never really do proper justice.  And, of course, it had one of the cooler launch-Joes driving it, which is always a good point in its favor.

THE VEHICLE ITSELF

The MOBAT is definitely the main focus here (well…for most people; at my heart, I’m still a figure guy), and is a pretty straightforward “tank.”  It’s specifically patterned after the MBT-70, which was a scrapped US/German tank design from the 60s.  It’s fitting that it would get repurposed here, and really fits that experimental angle that the Joes were getting into, while tying them more to the real world than they would be later.  It’s also a fittingly “all-American” design that just looks like the average US tank to most people who don’t spend their time researching these sorts of things for toy review sites.  What an uninformed life that must be…with so much free time!  Though it would be dwarfed fairly quickly as the line progressed, the MOBAT was the largest vehicle in the line at the time of its release, measuring about 10 inches at its longest length, and sitting about 5 inches tall.  Its mold was brand new at the time, but has subsequently been re-used for both re-releases of the MOBAT, as well as both versions of the Crimson Attack Tank, Cobra’s equivalent.  While not a high-quality scale model, the sculpt on the MOBAT is still pretty solid for the time, and certainly looks a bit less dated than the figures it was meant to accompany (which is why it was still able to be used 25 years later, when the figure molds had been long since retired).  The details are all clearly defined, and there are lots of great little bits, with all the panelling and grates and rivets.  It’s mostly a hard plastic construction, but uses a more rubbery material for the treads, as vehicles tend to do.  There’s only space for a single figure (probably this vehicle’s main drawback), in the turret at the top, and the rest is a solid construction.  And I do mean solid; this thing’s got some definite heft on it, with a potential for even more.  The name’s inclusion of “Motorized” isn’t just a fancy naming scheme, it actually refers to the tank’s special feature, which was a full working motor that could run off of two D Batteries.  Sadly, my MOBAT doesn’t move, a common problem with most vintage MOBATs these days.  I’ll have to tinker with it to see what’s up.  Still, I bet that was pretty cool when it worked.  Paint’s not really a thing on the MOBAT, which instead has a whole ton of decals.  They haven’t held up super well over the years, but they do offer up some nice extra details to give it more of a finish.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The MOBAT’s driver was Pennsylvania-native Ralph “Steeler” Pulaski.  Steeler, like a number of the original Joes, sort of fell by the wayside as the line continued, and was never a major focus in the first place.  He did get a pair focus episodes thanks to the cartoon’s alternate-reality-based “Worlds Without End,” which gave a respectable send-off to Steeler, as well as fellow O13-members Grunt and Clutch.  This (and the 1983 swivel-arm re-issue) would be Steeler’s only figure for the entirety of the vintage run.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and has 12 points of articulation.  Like all of the original ’82 figures, he was available straight-armed or swivel-armed, and mine is the former.  Additionally, there are two different styles of thumb thickness, and mine is the thin-thumbed version, which is something I’ll be touching on a bit later.  Steeler was largely made from shared parts, with the most egregious being his head, which he shares with both the previously reviewed Flash and Hawk, as well as the as of yet un-reviewed Short-Fuse.  It’s generic enough to work, and in Steeler’s case there’s a unique helmet, which further helps in masking it.  Unlike Hawk and Flash, Steeler does actually get one new part on his person: his torso.  He’s got a zippered jacket (instead of the usual sweater) and a shoulder holster that goes across the chest.  It’s a nice, unique look among his companions.  Steeler follows the trend of rather basic, rather drab paint for the original Joes.  He’s a slightly different shade of green than the others and gets a darker hair color than Hawk and Flash.  He also gets gloves, because he’s very special, I guess.  Steeler included a standard helmet, but had a non-standard, and in fact quite distinctive visor.  He also included an uzi, making him the only vehicle driver from the first year to actually be armed, and with a fairly standard weapon at that.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Okay, so first of all, I need to throw in a very, very important shout-out to my Super Awesome Fiancee, without whom this review would not have been possible and I might very well still be a quivering mass on the floor of my toy room.  Remember how I mentioned that Steeler was a thin-thumbed figure?  Do you see how he still has both of his thumbs?  Yeah, that’s actually a pretty big deal, and I was pretty excited to have found him that way.  Then I was a big dumbo who decided to stick Steeler’s uzi in his hand, and when I went to take it out, off came the thumb, which went flying into the oblivion that is the floor beneath my photo stage…before I had even gotten a single shot of him.  I was feeling pretty dumb, but Jess was having none of that, and marched upstairs to help he search for the missing piece, which she managed to find in a few short minutes, thereby allowing me to repair this guy, get the photos taken and regain a good deal of my sanity.  Truly she lives up to the “Super Awesome” monicker.

With that out of the way, where the heck did this guy come from?  Well, recent reader’s will likely guess correctly that it came from All Time Toys, who got in a really huge GI Joe collection last month.  I got the pleasure of sorting through all of them to get all the figures, vehicles, and parts matched up, and this was one the somewhat expensive haul of figures I picked up.  I’ve only recently gotten the opportunity to collect the straight-armed Joes, which is a set that’s always fascinated me.  Steeler called out to me due largely to his slightly more distinct look among the basic grunts.  He’s pretty cool for what he is, and the MOBAT is certainly a nice centerpiece to my Joe display.

As I noted, All Time Toys are absolutely swimming in vintage Joes at the moment, so check out the Joe section of their eBay page here.  If you’re looking for other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#2065: Hawk

HAWK

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

“Hawk comes from a well established (real loaded) family. He’s a West Point graduate, top of class and has seen action in a number of trouble spots. Graduated: Advanced Infanty Training; Covert Ops School. Served on Cadre, North Atlantic Training; Covert Ops School. Served on Cadre, North Atlantic Range Command and USA ENG COM EVR Missile and Radar Training; (classified). Qualified Expert: M-16; M-1911A1 auto-pistol.”

When Hasbro relaunched G.I. Joe under the “Real American Hero” banner in 1982, they did so with a team of thirteen Joes, built from a share pool of parts.  Since Duke, the team’s field leader, wouldn’t be introduced until 1983 (and as a mail-away at that), the team’s leader was instead Clayton “Hawk” Abernathy, the original blond leader guy…who would eventually become the brunette leader guy to avoid confusion.  Today’s figure, however, predates that change.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Hawk was released as part of the very first assortment of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero in 1982, and came packaged with the Mobile Missile System (MMS for short).  Like all of the ’82 figures, he was available in ’82 with straight-arms (i.e. no bicep swivel) and again in ’83, this time with swivel arms.  Furthermore, the ’82 releases had either thin or thick thumbs, depending on production date. As you can no-doubt tell from my Hawk’s broken (and therefore thin) thumb, he’s the earliest release.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 12 points of articulation (because of the missing bicep swivels).  As I noted in the intro, the original thirteen were built from the same pool of parts.  Nothing about Hawk is actually unique to him.  The head was shared between him, Flash, Shortfuse, and Steeler, with only the hair color differentiating them.  As I noted in my Flash review, it’s a generic enough sculpt that the small changes do actually work pretty well to sell them as different characters, much in the same vein as the original 12-inch figures.  The torso he shared with Snake Eyes and Stalker, the arms with Grunt, Shortfuse, Stalker, Snake Eyes, and Zap, and the legs with Breaker, Clutch, Grunt, Rock and Roll, Shortfuse, Steeler, Stalker, and Zap.  Since the original Joes were a little more about the uniformed appearance, the mix and match approach actually works out pretty well.  The original Joes were very basic in their paintwork, with a drab color set and sparse applications.  Hawk’s is reasonable enough, though there’s definitely some wear on mine.  Hawk had no weapons (apart from the MMS), but he was packed with a helmet and visor, which is the same as Flash’s.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve been a fan of Hawk since early on in my Joe collecting, but the vintage Hawk is a rather recent addition to my collection.  I found him in rather ratty shape in a collection that was traded into All Time Toys, and decided to bring him home and rehabilitate him a bit. There’s not a lot going on with him as a figure purely on his own, but as the very first version of the character and one of the first Joes, he’s pretty sweet to add to the collection.

As I noted, I got they guy from All Time Toys, who are absolutely swimming in vintage Joes at the moment, so check out the Joe section of their eBay page here.  If you’re looking for other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#1817: Python Viper

PYTHON VIPER

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

“The PYTHON VIPER is the backbone of the Python Patrol. He is highly motivated, superbly trained, and formidably equipped. Due to the Pythonizing Process, this particular viper is equipped with stealth-like capabilities, whereby he can penetrate enemy areas undetected! His combination rifle/grenade launcher has been retro-fitted with a passive, infrared seeker and the barrel rifling has been changed to accept hyper-velocity discarding ammunition.”

What’s this?  Didn’t I publish a review earlier today?  Why yes, hypothetical reader, I did.  Here’s the scoop: back in my first year on the job—er, running the site, I was more lax with the “I personally must write a review every day” thing, which has been throwing off my review numbering by five days ever since.  With my fifth anniversary upcoming, I wanted to correct things.  And, as luck would have it, I just procured a bunch of rather similar figures, who don’t quite warrant a whole day to themselves.  So, I’m going to be running five bonus reviews today.  It is officially the Day of the Vipers!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Python Viper was the second iteration of the Cobra Viper, released in 1989.  He was part of the Python Patrol subset, one of six repainted Cobra troopers designed to be even more elite than the previously more elite Viper.  He’s the elite-est!  The Python Viper is the same exact mold as the standard Viper release, which, as you’ll recall from just a few hours ago, I really liked, like a whole lot.  So much.  Anyway, the paint work is the main differentiating thing.  The Python Patrol were all in grey, yellow, and red.  It’s not quite as nuanced as the standard Viper coloring, but I think the Viper definitely looked better in these colors than some of his compatriots.  That being said, I was a little saddened to see some of the nice painted details from the last figure missing, leaving a number of sculpted elements (like the straps on his wrist guards) completely unpainted.  The Python Viper gets the same assortment of extras as his standard equivalent, though his rifle is now in black rather than light grey.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

After digging out the basic Viper from All Time Toys’ recently acquired collection of Joes, I kept digging through just to see what else I could find, and ended up coming across this guy.  I was only thinking I’d grab one or two of them at that point, so he got added to the pile.  He’s not quite as good as the standard Viper was, but I have to admit, I like this variant more than I’d expected to.

Special thanks to All Time for helping me get this guy, and 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.

#1816: Vipers

VIPERS

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. 

#1600: Snake Eyes

SNAKE EYES

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO

“SNAKE EYES served in Long Range Recon Patrols in Southeast Asia. He left the service to study mystic martial arts with the same Ninja family that produced STORM SHADOW. SNAKE EYES was living an ascetic existence alone in the High Sierras with his pet timber wolf when he was recruited for the GI JOE team. He is a qualified expert in all NATO and Warsaw Pact small arms, has a black belt in 12 different fighting systems, and is highly skilled in the use of edged weapons.”

Ah, look at that.  Another hundred reviews.  That means it’s time for—wait, sorry, hadn’t updated the script.  Right.  Hi there dear readers!  Welcome to the Figure in Question’s 1600th review.  Usually on the hundred mark I do a special high-end deluxe review, but I like to mix things up occasionally and space those particular reviews out a bit more as I go along.  So, the deluxe reviews are new going to be every 250 reviews from now on.  So, in honor of this not at all monumental review, I’ll be taking a look at a Snake Eyes figure.  Wooo-eee.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

This particular Snake Eyes figure was packed with the Kid Rhino DVD release of the first two mini-series of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero cartoon, which hit in 2003.  It’s the 16th version of the character released, and is actually just a slight re-working of his very first figure.  This figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  Sculpturally, he’s the exact same figure as the ToyFare-exclusive Snake Eyes figure from the same year (already reviewed here).  It’s the original Snake Eyes mold, with the version 1.5 swivel arms, and Roadblock’s pelvis piece.  It’s a sculpt that shows its age, but one I still very much like.  The main difference with this figure and that one is coloring (though not paint, as the actual paint applications on these two are identical).  Rather than Snake Eyes’ usual all black palette, this figure is molded in a dark blue, which mimics how he was colored in the cartoon.  Given how this figure was released, it’s certainly a reasonable change, and makes for a somewhat unique looking figure.  Snake Eyes was packed with a pretty decent accessories complement, given his nature as a pack-in.  He included a sword, an Uzi, a pack of explosives, a back pack, and his trusty canine sidekick Timber.  Sadly, I lost Timber at some point, something I still kick myself about.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I got the DVD set that included this guy as a Christmas present from my parents some years back.  I know I’d seen it somewhere and expressed interest in it, and they took note of this and got it for me.  Of course, I certainly didn’t ask for the set just for the figure included with it.  That would be preposterous, right?  Who would do something like that?  Not me.  Not me at all.  Despite essentially having reviewed this figure before, there’s just something about this particular variant that I really like. 

#1524: Flash

FLASH

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

“Flash is highly skilled in many aspects of electronic technology and is capable of equipment repair in the field. Specialized Education: Electronics School; Chemical School; Covert Electronics. Qualified Expert: M-16; M-1911A1; XMLR-1A (Shoulder-Fired Laser Rifle).”

In 1982, Hasbro was looking to revitalize their G.I. Joe brand.  Two different iterations of the 12-inch line had come and gone, and the market just wasn’t there for the style.  What the market totally *was* there for, however, was 3 3/4 inch figures, which had been super-popularized, courtesy of a little movie called Star Wars.  So, Hasbro partnered with writer Larry Hama and created a brand new iteration of G.I. Joe, dubbed A Real American Hero.  Now the Joes weren’t just your average soldiers, but were instead a group of specialized operatives, each with their own style and code name.  The line began with 13 figures, built from a common pool of parts.  Today, I’ll be looking at one of those 13, the Laser Rifle specialist, code-named “Flash”*

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Flash was released in the original 1982 assortment of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. Unlike many of his compatriots, this wound up being his only figure for 23 years (well, apart from his 1983 re-issue, which I’ll touch on in a second).  Flash stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 12 points of articulation.  That articulation count’s a little lower than usual for a vintage Joe.  Why’s that?  The first year of Joes didn’t sport the swivel arms that became a standard for the line in ’83.  These original releases are known as “Straight-Arm” figures, and are an interesting quirk of the earliest offerings in the line.  All of the straight-arm figures would see swivel-arm re-releases in ’83 to help bring them up to date, so there’s two versions of our boy Flash out there.  The lack of swivels does impact posablility, of course, but I didn’t find it to be quite as restricting as I’d expected; I guess I’m just used to my Micronauts.  Another change in motion is the neck joint.  Later figures got actual ball-jointed necks, but the earlier guys just had swivels.  Not a huge difference, but certainly a noticeable one.  In terms of construction, Flash doesn’t actually have much that’s unique to him.  His head was shared with Hawk, Shortfuse, and Steeler.  It’s a reasonable enough piece, and generic enough that changing the hair color is really all that’s needed to make him look different.  I certainly prefer it to his 25th Anniversary sculpt.  The lower legs were shared with Snake Eyes (they’re just generic boots, so it works fine), and the rest of his sculpt is shared with Grand-Slam.  As Grand-Slam was his fellow laser trooper, it’s a pretty sensible re-use, since they’re presumably both in uniform.  The sculpting on this guy is indicative of the time.  The details are a little soft by modern standards, and proportions are less traditionally heroic.  But, if you know what you’re getting into, it’s all about standard for the vintage line.  In terms of paint, Flash is mostly basic work, but it’s all pretty clean, and surprisingly bold for the line.  A lot of the early figures had very washed out palettes, but Flash gets some bright red to keep things a bit more interesting.  Flash was packed with a removable helmet (with flip-up visor), a back-pack, and his laser rifle, which my figure happily still has all of.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Flash has been on my list for a little while.  He was ranked as #16 on ToyFare magazine’s “Top 20 G.I. Joe Toys,” which is what really got him on my radar.  Since then, I’ve been on the look out for him, albeit at a reasonable price.  I ended up getting him very recently, courtesy of Lost In Time Toys, during one of their December sales.  He was in a case of items marked 50% off, meaning I got him for about $10, which is great for a vintage Joe.  Unfortunately, when I opened him, I discovered the o-ring holding him together had dry-rotted.  As luck would have it, Hasbro used standard parts for these guys, so all I needed to do was run over to Home Depot and pick up a box of #9 plumber’s o-rings, which ran me about $2 and took me less than 20 minutes to swap out with the old one.  It was actually pretty awesome to get to rehabilitate this guy, and now he’s ship-shape, and hands down one of my favorite Joes in my collection.

*DC was a bit less productive of their trademarks at this point, I suppose.  Future figures of this character would all add a rank of Sergeant to his name to denote him from the scarlet speedster.

#0753: B.A.T.

B.A.T.

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO

BATVint1

After being a fairly straightforward military-based line of toys, and then a mostly down to earth adventure series for the first 20 years of its life, in the 80s, G.I. Joe gave up on that whole real world thing and threw caution to the wind. Okay, that’s not true. The first year of the 3 ¾ inch line was actually pretty modest. Then 1983 added Destro and Gung-Ho to the line and all bets were off. Prepare for the neon colors, the wacky specialists, and even the Battle Android Troopers!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

BATVint2The B.A.T. was released in the 1986 series of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (which, as I noted in my Lifeline review, was a pretty good year for the line). The figure is 3 ¾ inches tall and has 15 points of articulation. That’s one more point than most of the line! Structurally, the figure was all new at the time, though his pieces would get used for a few other figures (though, none of them were B.A.T.s. It depicts the B.A.T. in its Cobra uniform, but there are actually some nice hints at it being a robot under the clothes, rather than just a normal person. The details are generally pretty sharp, at least for a figure of the time, and the mechanical arms in particular are very nicely detailed. The B.A.T. definitely looks unique from the other Cobra forces, while still fitting in great stylistically. The figure originally had a lenticular piece in the middle of the torso, detailing some of the B.A.T.’s internal mechanics. Sadly, my figure does not have this piece. The paint on the B.A.T. is decent, though not the greatest thing ever. The orange/yellow bits are a bit on the sloppy side, especially around the edges. That said, the overall look is pretty good. The Bat is pretty well accessorized, with four different right hand attachments (normal hand, claw, flame thrower, and gun), as well as a backpack to hold the extra attachments. Also, my figure has a small pistol thrown in, but that isn’t from the original figure.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked up the B.A.T. loose from local toy store All Time Toys this past summer. I’ve always loved the B.A.T. design, and I’ve had several of the figures over the years, but I never had the original. Now I do! He’s a pretty nifty little figure, though I do think he’s been surpassed by a few of his successors.

BATVint3

#0720: Lifeline

LIFELINE

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO

LifelineVint1

Despite having quite a high appreciation for G.I. Joe and its many military themed characters, I wouldn’t really consider myself a particularly military-minded person. As such, my favorite figures are very frequently those who deviate a bit more from the military structure of the line. One of my favorite characters from the line is Lifeline, who was one of the team’s medics and happened to be a pacifist, which definitely made him a little different from the rest of the Joes, and gave him a nice bit of contrast.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

LifelineVint2The original Lifeline was released in the 1986 series of Hasbro’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (which, having looked into for the purposes of my review, may well be one of my favorite Series of ARAH. That was a good year). This Lifeline, however, is actually the exclusive Rice Krispies mail-in offer version of the character from 1991. The two are almost identical, but there’s one difference between them that I’ll get to in a moment. Lifeline, like all good G.I. Joes, stand 3 ¾ inches tall and has 14 points of articulation. Lifeline has a sculpt that is very much in line with the rest of his vintage compatriots. Sure, it’s not quite up to modern sensibilities of action figures, and there’s a bit of hokeyness to the sculpt, but it’s certainly a nicely detailed sculpt. Plus, it just has a certain charm to it. Lifeline has a helmet and a pair of sunglasses, so his face is a little hard to see, but what we do see looks nice and friendly, which certainly is befitting of the pacifist medic. So, about that minor change; yeah, Kellogg’s wasn’t super eager to have their mail-away figure sporting a firearm, so, in addition to dropping the original’s included handgun from the accessories list, they also had Hasbro change the figure’s legs to remove the holstered gun on his thigh. The final figure’s legs are shared with the 1985 Frostbite figure. The change isn’t a really big deal, what with the whole pacifist thing mentioned above. The only real issue is that the straps on the figure’s waist, which originally connected to his holster and a pouch on his right leg now just end with the waist piece. It’s a little odd, but admittedly not super obvious unless you’re looking right at it. Lifeline’s paintwork is pretty straightforward; the reds are molded plastic and the whites and silvers are painted on. While my figure sports a little bit of wear from play (that’ll happen to figures from the time before collectors started having the hermetically sealed), the paintwork is overall pretty clean, and I like the “RESCUE” printed on the left leg in particular.  While he may have lost his handgun, the mail-away Lifeline certainly isn’t lacking in terms of accessories. He includes a backpack that looks to double as a transmitter of some sort, as well as a rescue pack, befitting his status as a field medic.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

My appreciation for Lifeline came a little while after I got into G.I. Joe. He wasn’t amongst the Joes chosen to be updated for the 2000s incarnation of the line, so I had no figure of him, and therefore, no initial knowledge of the character. However, I got to know the character through his comic and cartoon appearances, which is how I came to really appreciate him, even if I didn’t have a figure. This figure is actually a fairly recent acquisition, having been picked up from a cool little store nearby called 2nd Chance Toyz. I didn’t realize until after getting him that he was the mail-in version, but I can’t say I mind, truth be told. Lifeline is very definitely a toy of his time, but I’m glad to have him in my collection.