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 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 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.