#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.

#2060: Cobra B.A.T.s Army Building Set

COBRA B.A.T.S ARMY BUILDING SET

G.I. JOE VS COBRA (HASBRO)

1986 was a good year for G.I. Joe, if you’re me at least.  Not only was my all time favorite army builder, the Cobra Viper, introduced that year, but so was my second all time favorite army builder, the Cobra Battle Android Trooper, better known as the Cobra B.A.T.  After two variants in the vintage line, the B.A.T.s disappeared from G.I. Joe for over a decade, but would return triumphantly in 2002, as the backbone of Cobra’s forces during the “Sound Attack” iteration.  They got a brand-new sculpt in the main line, as well as an online-exclusive rerelease of some old molds, designed expressly for army building.  I’ll be looking at the latter today.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

The Cobra B.A.T.s Army Building set was available exclusively through online retailers in 2003.  The line-up was not quite the one seen here, as it actually had one less standard B.A.T., one more Inferno B.A.T., and the commanding officer Overkill.  They were, however, all sold sealed in little baggies, which means that getting them after the fact is pretty much always going to involve buying a bunch of loose figures.

COBRA B.A.T.S

This was the fourth version of the basic B.A.T. to grace the line.  He stands 3 3/4 inches tall and has 15 points of articulation (again including an extra joint on the right forearm).  Since (most of) the original B.A.T. tooling was lost prior to the line’s re-launch in 1997 (part of the reason there was such a gap on B.A.T. figures), this figure instead is built on the body of the V2 B.A.T.  It’s not the same, and really just not as strong a design as the original, but the original was gone, and this is far from the worst substitute.  It’s overall a slightly bulked up B.A.T., apart from the head, which is actually quite a bit pared down from the usual B.A.T. design.  It’s definitely a lot less of a melding of sci-fi and military, falling more firmly on the sci-fi side.  While it results on a figure that’s more internally consistent, it does also remove some of the more definitive flair of the original concept.  This one could really be any sci-fi-robo-henchman.  The main thing that this figure does to the V2 is try and give it the V2 colors, which is an interesting experiment.  I’m not sure how I feel about a ’90s Joe sculpt that’s not done up in its proper neon.  It’s not an displeasing look at all, but it’s definitely different.  Like his predecessors, he’s got the lenticular in his torso, detailing his robotic innards, and I will say that this one is designed to stay more firmly in place than the original, which is certainly a plus.  The B.A.T.s each included an alternate gun-arm attachment, as well as a black display stand.

COBRA INFERNO B.A.T.

Not content to just give us a bunch of standard B.A.T.s, Hasbro also created a new style of B.A.T. for this set, the Inferno B.A.T.  Designed as more independently operating troops, they also had a gimmick where they were always overheating, which gave them the distinctive design we see here.  The body is the same as the standard-issue trooper, but now it’s molded in a translucent red.  It’s actually a pretty solid look, and the brighter palette just feels “right” on this sculpt.  He had the same stand as his fellow troops, but swaps out the black gun-arm for a bright red one.  I dig it.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I passed on these when they were new because I was upset that they weren’t the V1 mold.  I was a picky child.  I didn’t get them until a decade after their original release, when I fished these five out of the loose Joes bin at Yesterday’s Fun.  They didn’t have a second Inferno B.A.T. or an Overkill, so I just had to make due with what I got.  They’re not my favorite versions of the B.A.T., but they’ve grown on me, and I can definitely appreciate them for what they are.

#2024: Snake Eyes & Scarlett

SNAKE EYES & SCARLETT

G.I. JOE: NINJA FORCE (HASBRO)

For its first three decades, G.I. Joe was in a rather frequent state of change, attempting to keep itself matched with the times.  Since hitting a smash success with the A Real American Hero incarnation in the ’80s, there’s been a bit of difficulty updating, since a lasting fanbase has prevented them from completely revamping things the way they may once have done.  In the early ’90s, they made a bid at a more informal re-vamp, by breaking out some of ARAH‘s established characters into smaller sub-series, each following a popular theme of the time.  Mainstays Snake Eyes and Scarlett found themselves at the hoist into the “Ninja Force” brand, a decidedly foreign tone for a line that had “American” in its title.  Given the line’s hiatus just a year after this re-branding took center stage, it was perhaps a little too foreign for the established fanbase.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Snake Eyes and Scarlett were both released in 1993, during Ninja Force‘s second year running.  The comics by this point had interwoven both Snake Eyes and Scarlett with Cobra Ninja Storm Shadow, whose move over to the Joe side had led to him being Ninja Force‘s central character during its debut year, and these two coming along to join him seemed like a rather sensible move, at least from a marketing perspective.

SNAKE EYES

“SNAKE-EYES excelled in Long Range Recon Patrols and high-risk covert missions in Southeast Asia. His success was based on his ability to use everything from trees to fog when making himself virtually “invisible,” even to skilled Cobra Ninjas. He perfected his mystical martial arts techniques with the same ninja clan that trained STORM SHADOW. Snake-Eyes was living a self-disciplined, tranquil life in the High Sierras when HAWK recruited him for the G.I. Joe team. Since then, he has proven himself an invaluable asset to the Ninja Force and one of the fiercest fighting menaces against all Cobra legions.” 

This Snake Eyes marked his fifth time gracing the small-scale line, which made him the most prevalent character in the line (though Duke would catch him by virtue of getting two figures released that same year).  Snake not joining the Ninja Force until its second year may seem a little odd at first glance, but it’s likely that his very recently released V4 figure from ’91 prevented his presence for the sub-brands ’92 launch.  Up to this point, Hasbro hadn’t really done the same character two years running (apart from Cobra Commander, who was granted a new figure every year from ’91-’94), so I guess they wanted to let the Commando Snake do his thing a little longer.  Snake Eyes stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 13 points of articulation.  Snake Eyes’ articulation was a marked change from where the line had been for it’s prior nine years, by virtue of the addition of an action feature.  Squeeze the legs and his arms swing up and down for his “Basami Slice”.  Said feature limits the hip movement to more simple swivels and removes the waist.  Removing movement for a figure that’s part of the “Ninja Force” does seem like an odd choice, but it was the direction things were going at the time, so you can’t really fault Hasbro from leaning into that curve.  This figure’s design took the opposite position to the V4 release, which had almost completely abandoned Snake Eyes’ ninja side, and in contrast plays up the ninja side about as much as is possible.  In fact, you’d be forgiven for not realizing this was Snake Eyes at all at first glance.  He’s got actual, visible eyes, for Pete’s sake!  Where’s the signature eyewear?  Morphed into some sort of full faceplate thing, I guess.  He’s also bulked up substantially from his prior figures, because that’s what the ’90s does to you.  It’s actually not a bad sculpt all around, with solid detail work, showing a definite progression from earlier in the line.  Snake Eyes’ paintwork is actually pretty involved for an Snake Eyes figure.  He’s got TWO colors!  That’s crazy!  Snake Eyes was packed with an impressive selection of accessories.  He included three different swords of varying sizes and styles, plus a small knife, nunchucks, a pair of claws, and a display stand.  Mine is missing the knife and claws, but with that many accessories to start with, he doesn’t feel like he’s missing too much.

SCARLETT

“SCARLETT began her training in the martial arts at age nine and was awarded a black belt at age 15. She was not only physically ahead of her time, but mentally as well. She graduated summa cum laude from two Ivy League universities and went on to excel in training courses at all four branches of the armed forces. Cobra often mistakes her for just a pretty face rather than a member of G.I. Joe’s elite Ninja Force, which makes her perfect for undercover missions. She is great friend to each of the Joes, especially SNAKE-EYES, and a deadly enemy to Cobra.”

Despite being in the line’s first year and being a prominent fixture in both the comics and the cartoon, this was only Scarlett’s second figure, a full decade after the original figure.  She wasn’t previously as linked to the whole ninja-thing as Snake Eyes, but the two have been linked since very early on, so her place here as a companion to Snake Eyes was reasonable.  The figure is just under 3 3/4 inches tall and she has 13 points of articulation.  Like Snake Eyes, she has an action feature that limits the hips and waist.  Her action feature, the “Kato Kick” works a little differently than Snake Eyes, since it’s a kick, and there’s a sort of looser way of activating it.  If Snake Eyes’ design was a departure from his usual design, Scarlett’s is even more so. There’s really nothing left of her original look, apart from her red hair, I guess.  The rest of her look leans really heavily on the ninja thing, enough that this same sculpt was easily re-purposed into Chun-Li the same year.  Scarlett’s headsculpt was actually a notable improvement over the less attractive original Scarlett head, better matching her depictions in other media.  She makes use of soft-goods for both her pony tail and sash.  They sort of lend themselves to being all sorts of curled up and messy, but they were a decent enough idea.  Her paintwork is nice enough.  She’s very green, which was an interesting contrast with the red hair.  Not the most attractive color scheme, but not terrible when compared to some of the other figures from the same period of the line.  Scarlett includes the same accessories as Snake Eyes, but molded in yellow instead of blue.  My Scarlett’s missing even more of the extras, but again, with this many, it isn’t quite as much of a loss.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When I first started getting into G.I. Joe, I was always rather perplexed by this subset of the line.  To my younger self, they seemed kind of pointless and goofy, but I’ve kind of gained a new appreciation for them.  I’ve always been a big fan of Snake Eyes and Scarlett, so when this pair showed up in a big ’90s Joe lot at All Time Toys, I fished the two of them out. Are they hokey?  Yes.  Are they the best versions of the characters?  No.  Are they a lot of fun?  Absolutely.

As I noted, I got this pair from All Time Toys, who have been getting a rather steady stream of G.I. Joe collections as of late.  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.

The Blaster in Question #0078: Battle-Kata Blaster

BATTLE-KATA BLASTER

G.I. JOE: RETALLIATION (HASBRO)

“G.I. Joe is the world’s greatest special-ops fighting force with top-secret ninja training from the toughest of masters. Led by ultimate ninja commando Roadblock, these elite heroes defend the globe from the evil forces of Cobra. Fight your way to protect the innocent and defeat the guilty with the G.I. Joe Battle-Kata Blaster Toy! The adventures you imagine will sometimes call for a blade and sometimes for a blaster. This Battle-Kata Blaster toy is a 2-in-1 battle combo! In blaster mode, fire the included darts when the battle calls for marksmanship. But when your enemies move in close, switch to blade mode! You’ll be double trouble for evil with the Battle-Kata Blaster toy!”

Since its inception in 1964, the G.I. Joe brand has been subject to all sorts of changes over the years.  They were basic soldiers, peace-loving adventurers, an anti-terrorist organization full of colorful characters, ’90s action heroes, and movie stars.  And, apparently, also a gun?  Weird.  So, how about a look at some merch from the best live-action G.I. Joe movie starring the Rock, G.I. Joe: Retaliation!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Battle-Kata Blaster figure was released in 2012, as part of the mass product drop for G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  This means that, like all of the other products for Retaliation, the Blaster was on shelves almost a year before the film it was meant to tie-in to.  Yay for proper coordination of movie makers and merchandisers!  As you would expect from toyline that’s the original source of the term “action figure”, this blaster that is not at all a figure was the undisputed centerpiece of the product line.  And how could it not be?  Check out this poster!  This bad boy’s front and center!  It was going to be a star!  An up and comer! So, how’d this thing turn out in toy form?  Well, it stands 5 1/2 inches tall and it’s got…ummm, like some movement, I guess.  It’s hard to classify it as articulation.  Like, the little latch at the top moves back and forth.  And I guess the trigger counts as some movement too, though it can’t really hold any poses beyond “waiting to be pulled.”  The point is, you won’t really be getting poses beyond what you see here.  The Battle-Kata Blaster was sporting a brand new, totally unique sculpt, based on its appearance in the film…more or less.  It’s supposed to be a Colt 1911/Kriss Vector mash-up with some stuff tacked on it, and there’s kind of this brass-knuckles set-up around the grip.  It’s reasonably well-sculpted, though obviously a little softer on the details than the look from the film.  Can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want 100% accuracy on something like this.  The right side is definitely this thing’s “hero” side; the left has all manner of screws and what not visible for all to see.  The Battle-Kata definitely has some stability issues.  Keeping it upright under its own power is very difficult.  Just getting it to stay up for the photos seen here was quite a bit of trouble.  It’s going to definitely need some assistance.  As far as paint goes, there’s not really much for the Battle-Kata Blaster, since it goes for the molded plastic color approach.  Said molded plastic mostly orange and green, which everyone knows is just the most aesthetically-pleasing color scheme of all time.  But, if they don’t do it for you, Hasbro’s been kind enough to also throw in some pale grey.  You know, for kids.  Hands down, the best piece of the paint, though, is that “Caution” warning you not to swing this thing at people or animals.  Because the last thing you want a weapon to do is to harm anyone.  That’s just outlandish.  There are two action features built into the Battle-Kata.  The first is a missile launching feature, which works in conjunction with that weird trigger movement thing that was going on.  The missiles don’t go particularly far, but I guess it’s a neat gimmick.  Plus you can store the extra missiles in the two ports on the face of the blaster.  There’s also a slight transforming gimmick (because Hasbro is just all about that cross over), where you can unhook the handle from the gun and connect it to the front.  One good pull later and, boom, it’s a knife…a really warped and slightly scratched up knife.  There’s not really any way for it to like hold the knife or anything, but you can kind of rest them up against each other.  Not the best display option, but I guess it works.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The Retaliation product was all sort of a strange beast, but no stranger than this one.  Movie accuracy really isn’t there and the gimmick is kind of strange.  It doesn’t scale with any of the other product either, making it an all around odd offering.  I mean, it can’t even stand on its own.  What’s it good for?  I don’t really know, but there it is nevertheless.

#1956: Firefly

FIREFLY

G.I. JOE: SIGMA 6

“FIREFLY is an expert in the art of sabotage and specializes in explosive devices that disable electronic systems. He worked in covert ops on missions involving computer espionage and was brought onto the SIGMA 6 Team to destroy a sophisticated computer virus created by COBRA to destabilize the world economy. He infiltrated the evil organization and blew up the base’s central electronics core, stopping the virus from being transmitted and ending all computerized COBRA activity for over a year. He became a permanent member of the SIGMA 6 Team to provide his expertise in fighting the COBRA B.A.T. troops. His Innovative Devices have provided the team with powerful weapons to deplete the ranks of these dangerous robots.”

G.I. Joe is a franchise of change.  Well, it was, anyway.  Beginning in the late ’60s, when it became unfashionable to be selling war toys, and the line had to be rebranded as “Adventure Team,” the brand became rather comfortable with re-formatting itself to suit the times.  In the early ’00s, after a decent run with a relaunch of the ARAH line, it was time to re-brand again.  In an effort to fit in more with the anime-influenced, sci-fi-heavy market of the time, Hasbro created Sigma 6, perhaps one of the most divisive incarnations of the brand in existence.  Either you love it, or you despise it, with very little room between.  Some of the changes to beloved characters drew this divisiveness out even more, and today’s focus, Firefly, was at the center of some of that conflict.  Rather than the clear cut Cobra saboteur of the ’80s, he was a member of the Joe team, with a character arc that amounted to more than the line “Cobra saboteur.”  How could this be?  They were killing the line!… You know, apart from the whole running for another year and a half after this figure’s release, and giving Hasbro the liquidity to launch the 25th Anniversary line and get the movie financed.  But yeah, it killed the line.  Let’s look at this awful thing that killed the line.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Firefly was released in the second Soldier Wave for the 2006 line-up of Sigma 6 figures, as the assortment’s one debut character.  Like most of the line, he’s based on the character’s appearance in the corresponding cartoon, albeit filtered through a slightly different stylization.  The figure stands 8 inches tall and he has 25 points of articulation.  Firefly’s sculpt was all-new to him, though it definitely shared more than a few stylistic elements with the various other Sigma Suit-sporting characters from the line.  Stylized as he may be, there are still a lot of really fun sculpted elements mixed in throughout this guy’s sculpt.  I love the differing textures on the various parts of the suit, as well as the fact that Firefly’s been given a distinct build when compared to the rest of the team.  I’m also still a fan of the cool little flip-up communicator that every team member had built-in; it was such a fun little touch.  Firefly also has one of my favorite headsculpts from this whole line; that evil smirk of his just exudes so much character, and is just so on point for him.  The modular nature of Sigma 6 was a pretty big selling point for the line, and most of the early figures have pretty involved costume pieces.  As a Soldier release (meaning he was at a lower price-point), Firefly had less pieces than some, but he was still pretty jam-packed.  He had a mask, web-gear (missing from my figure), belt, elbow and knee pads, and a set of dog tags, all of which add-up to a very unique looking figure.  By far, my favorite part is the mask, which has a very distinct flair to it, and sits so perfectly on his head.  In addition to the accents to his uniform, Firefly was armed with a nifty looking sub-machine gun (with a removable magazine and everything), plus two lightsaber-inspired torches, and a land-mine/trap gizmo.  The trap is kind of goofy and hard to use, but the gun is awesome, and the torches can be inter-locked with it for a different configuration, or the flame effects can also be removed and attached to the gun’s barrel.  There are a lot of play options here, to say the least.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Sigma 6 was a concept I loved so much, but one I never was able to actively collect when it was new.  Firefly is a figure I admired from a far for quite some time before finally being able to add a mostly complete sample to my collection late last year, courtesy of House of Fun.  There’s so much I love about this figure, and he perfectly encapsulates everything that was so great about this line.  He’s a fun re-vamp, a fun design, and just a generally fun toy.  And he most decidedly did *not* kill the brand.  That came later.  Whatever the case, I’m glad to finally have one of my own, and he really is pushing me to get more of these figures.

#1872: G.I. Joe Hawk

G.I. JOE HAWK

G.I. JOE: 25TH ANNIVERSARY (HASBRO)

“G.I. JOE HAWK was the original field commander of the G.I. Joe team before he got his General’s star and was booted upstairs to honcho the entire G.I. Joe operation.  He’s a West Point graduate and has a list of special education credits as long as his arm, but her still managed to get the main body of his experience out where it counts — on the battlefield.”

When the Real American Hero incarnation of G.I. Joe rolled out it 1982, the team’s blonde-haired commanding officer wasn’t Duke, but was instead Hawk, the Pike to Duke’s Kirk.  Duke stepped into the spotlight in 1983, taking the spot of field commander, so when Hawk resurfaced in 1986, he was given his own distinct design, and the rank of General, which has gone on to be a defining trait of the character.  Another defining trait seems to be how hard it is for him to keep a consistent name.  He began as “Hawk” in ’82, which remained for his ’86 figure, before the “General” rank was added to his name in ’91.  When the line returned in ’02, he was “General Tomahawk” for a period, before dropping the code name altogether in ’04 and just going by “General Abernathy.”  By the time of the 25th Anniversary, he had changed again, now under the title of “G.I. Joe Hawk,” which doesn’t quite roll of the tongue, but there it is.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

G.I. Joe Hawk was released in the fifth wave of G.I. Joe: 25th Anniversary’s 2008 assortment.  He’s patterned on Hawk’s ’86 figure, which, for most people is his most distinctive appearance.  I’m definitely amongst those people.  The figure stands just shy of 4 inches tall and he has 22 points of articulation.  Hawk’s sculpt was new to him, and was definitely one of the most faithful translations in the line.  He’s pretty much just a detail for detail recreation of the ’86 figure, but updated to the newer stylings of this particular line.  Apart from some rather restricted elbow joints (an issue that plagued quite a few of the line’s earlier figures), it’s a really strong offering, and perhaps my favorite from this iteration of the line.  The head does a nice job of melding Hawk’s various looks over the years into one cohesive design, and I particularly like the details on his bomber jacket.  The fur collar is a separate piece, glued in place, but it has his shoulder harness weaved through it.  It could have all been one solid sculpted piece, but instead it’s actually separated out, like it really would be, which gives the whole thing a nice feeling of depth.  Hawk’s paintwork is again quite strong.  The base application is clean, and matches well with his prior figure.  There are tons of small little details littered through the jacket, such as his various medals, or his “ABERNATHY” name tag, and he’s even got a little wisp of grey in his hair to make him look a little more distinguished.  Hawk included the same basic assortment of pieces as his ’86 figure: a helmet, a pistol, and a back pack.  The helmet fits snugly on the head, the pack plugs securely into his back, and his pistol can be properly stashed in his belt holster, making for a well put-together figure.  He also included a display stand with his name printed on the front, like the rest of the line, for those that value such things.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Kind of falling into the same line of logic that has me liking Pike more than Kirk, I’ve always been much more of a Hawk fan than a Duke fan.  The ’86 figure was one of the first vintage figures I went to the trouble of tracking down as a kid.  So, when I finally got on board with the whole 25th Anniversary thing, he was one of the first I wanted.  I actually got him as sort of a “get well soon” gift from my Dad and my brother after having my wisdom teeth out; I was on a steady diet of soft foods and the G.I. Joe cartoon at the time, and this guy (and Sgt Flash) made his way home from a trip to the comic book store for me.  Even after jumping pretty far into the 25th line, Hawk still remains a favorite.

#1842: Snake Eyes

SNAKE EYES

G.I. JOE: 25TH ANNIVERSARY

“SNAKE EYES is proficient in 12 different unarmed fighting systems (Karate, Kung-Fu, Jujitsu) and is highly skilled in the use of edged weapons. Has received extensive training in mountaineering, underwater demolitions, jungle, desert and arctic survival, and some form of holistic medicine. Qualified Expert: All NATO and Warsaw Pact small arms.”

In 2007, Hasbro was in something of a dry patch.  Marvel Legends was all but dead, the Star Wars franchise was slowly dragging along waiting for Disney to buy it, and their in-house G.I. Joe’s re-branding as “Sigma 6” didn’t pan out quite as they’d hoped.  But, with the looming quarter-century anniversary of G.I. Joe’s A Real American Hero incarnation, they were hoping to at least have a modest, 25 figure celebration.  Little did they know that they’d inadvertently revive the brand for another five years of resounding success.  Yes, the 25th Anniversary line was the breath of fresh air that G.I. Joe needed.  Ironic, given that the whole purpose of the line was fixating on the past, but it showed Hasbro that you didn’t need to totally ditch the past to inject some modern ingenuity into the line.  Today, I’m looking at one of that line’s many, many variants of Joe heavy-hitter, Snake Eyes!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Snake Eyes was part of 2009’s 10-figure “Hall of Heroes” sub-set of the G.I. Joe: 25th Anniversary line.  He was figure 10 of 10, bookending the assortment, which featured another Snake Eyes as figure 1 of 10.  Even in the limited engagement sub-line, there were still two different Snake Eyes variants!  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 22 points of articulation.  Sculpturally, he’s the same figure as the initial boxed-set 25th Snake Eyes, based on Snake’s original 1982 appearance.  After years of him being a pretty straight ninja, it walked him back to being a commando, who I guess would make more sense on a military task force.  That figure’s sculpt was very good, with tons of great little details littered all throughout.  The mask has tiny little vents at the front, his goggles are now clearly a separate piece, and you can even make out the stitching on his cowl.  His proportions are far more true to life than either the vintage or ‘00s lines, and the use of rubber overlay pieces for his web gear mean his gear has a much higher level of detailing, and he can even properly stow some of his weapons, something of a rarity in prior offerings.  The original Snake Eyes figure was actually part of the assortment as a cost-saving measure; a figure that required no paint applications.  This figure operates as a send-up to that, being predominately molded in straight black plastic.  He’s not completely without paint, though, as that would look rather cheap on a modern figure.  He’s got the slightest bit of accenting on his buckles, and the rim of his goggles.  It’s very subtle, enough that you might miss it, allowing him to maintain the same look as his original figure, while still maintaining that ever so slight extra detailing.  Snake Eyes is packed with a knife, handgun, uzi, and satchel, as well as a display stand with the G.I. Joe logo and his name printed on the front.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Remember a few weeks ago when I was talking about All Time getting in a large collection of vintage Joes?  Well, this past week they followed it up with a collection of 25th Anniversary Joes.  As a huge shock to everyone, I’m sure, I didn’t come home with a huge stack of Vipers this time.  Nope, just this guy, who was one of a handful of Snake Eyes variants sitting at the bottom of the box.  He’s a very nice figure, just like all of the Snake Eyeses built on this body.  Hasbro really was at the top of their game here, and it resulted in great figures, even when they just were minor re-paints like this guy.

This guy was loaned to me for review by All Time Toys.  Like I mentioned above, they just got in a collection of these, which they’ve got available on their eBay Store.  So, if you want Snake Eyes or some of his other compatriots, check them out there.  Of course, I make no promises about this particular Snake Eyes, because he may or may not be staying in my collection.  And, if you’re more in the market for something new, also check out their website.