Here’s my second attempt at a custom G.I. Joe figure using Marauder Task Force (MTF) parts. I think it’s more successful then my first on, Doc, but it still leaves a little to be desired.
As a kid I collected G.I. Joe figures but I also collected the G.I. Joe comic books published by Marvel. Well, technically my brother Doug did but we shared a room and I read them all. Doug and I had our own distinct collections back then but in a way all of our things were shared. He read my Spider-Man and Fantastic Four books and I read his X-Men and G.I. Joe books. There was no need for us both to buy them. The same was true of toys. Doug would have Flint but I’d have Lady Jaye. As kids Doug and I had very similar interests and we were very agreeable so that worked out great. 1990 was the year that we both lost interest in the continuing adventures G.I. Joe. The cartoon had been off the air for a few years by then and the toyline consisted of more and more rehashes of old characters which failed to excite us. As a result the comic book began to feel stale. Doug decided to quit collecting the series with the milestone 100th issue (May 1990) and that was also the final year we bought any of the new figures even though the line carried on for four more years.
During my teen years my life was pretty much devoid of G.I. Joe but I never stopped loving the Joe and Cobra characters I grew up with. I was still collecting toys and comics the whole time so its not like I ever got “too cool” for that stuff, it’s just that G.I. Joe seemed to have lost its way those last few years and the property fizzled out because of it.
When G.I. Joe returned to comics in a back-to-basics series in 2001 courtesy of a new publisher, Devil’s Due, I was 100% on board. When the toys returned in 2002 I was even more pumped. The new toys had some issues in the early 2000s (i.e. wonky proportions and decreased articulation) but I thought the comics were fantastic. Devil’s Due had some A-list talent on the book and you could tell they were passionate Joe fans and not just license holders. Some of the characters, concepts, and storylines introduced by Devil’s Due, like the Stall siblings, the Plague, and the Coil were some of the most exciting Joe storylines I’d ever read (no disrespect to Mr. Hama who wrote all the Marvel books).
One new character Devil’s Due introduced was General Rey. He first appeared in issue 37 published in 2004. I gotta say, when he first showed up I really didn’t like him. He kinda looked like Duke with grey hair and I didn’t see the point of him.
I figured there were plenty of established characters Devil’s Due could have used in his place rather than creating some new loser that nobody cared about. It was like when Marvel shoehorned Cable into the New Mutants. I still don’t like Cable. My dislike for Rey was fuelled by the fact that another one of my favourite comics, B.P.R.D., also had a new team leader inserted into the roster in 2004. Captain Benjamin Daimio seemed just as out of place and unnecessary in that book as General Rey did in G.I. Joe. It’s funny how good storytelling can change your mind about things. By the time Rey’s and Daimio’s storylines came to a close I didn’t want to see them go. Both have been gone for several years now and I miss them.
As it turned out, the mysterious General Rey was a clone of Cobra’s fearless leader, Serpentor. It’s been a while since I read the story so its a little rusty in my mind but if memory serves General Philip Rey was placed on the Joe team as a sleeper agent. Even he didn’t know who or what he really was. He was supposed to turn on the Joes when triggered to do so by Dr. Mindbender but he heroically resisted his programming and became a true ally of the Joes. I came to like the character so much by the end or the arc that I really wanted a figure of him. Sadly that never materialized and it likely never will in any official capacity. However, thanks to Marauder Inc., I am able to take matters into my own hands 10 years after the fact.
My General Rey build is a simple one. I used the desert camo body, the brown armoured vest adorned with a couple of brown pouches, the white haired white-guy head, and a couple of other minor accessories. As soon as I saw the white haired head on Marauder’s site I knew I had to attempt this. I think the end result is pretty good. I’m sure I could make it even better and more accurate if I was willing to do some cutting and painting but I’m too lazy for that.
I got lucky with this figure because so much of the sculpting on the basic MTF body matches up quite well with Rey’s uniform from the comics. The colours match up much better than they did on my Doc figure as well. The only thing that kind of bugs me about this figure is the head. It’s about as accurate a head as you’re likely to get for a General Rey figure but it looks too generic to me. I’ve got multiple variations of this head in my collection so it’s hard for me to associate it with a unique character. Aside from that I’m pretty happy with my General Rey. 8 out of 10.
A couple of posts back I reviewed Hasbro’s 2008 Doc figure which was only the second ever Doc figure; the original was released in 1983. I really like the 1983 figure so when the 25th anniversary line kicked-off in 2007 I was hoping for a modern-era version of Doc that would live up to my lofty expectations. Sadly the 2008 figure fell short in a couple of areas such as its lanky body, its pea-sized head and some shoddy construction (Duke arms).
Last year Marauder “Gun Runners” Inc., a company known for making unique G.I. Joe sized weapons and accessories, launched their own series of customizable action figures known as the Marauder Task Force (MTF). The line consisted of a single military style body available in 8 different colours and a slew of swappable pieces. I backed the kickstarter campaign that funded the project by pre-ordering all 8 varieties. When they finally arrived in the mail I decided to display my figures in their full colour uniforms (a solid red guy, a solid green guy, etc.) with a few tweaks here and there. I previously reviewed the all-green field-ops trooper.
Shortly after Marauder Inc. successfully funded their initial action figure project they announced a second campaign called MTF: Valkyries consisting of a variety of female figures. I backed that one too and pre-ordered all the figures. I’m still waiting on the female figures but also included in the second series were 5 new colour variations of the original MTF male. Since they didn’t require any new molds Marauder Inc. was able to ship out the new males shortly after Valkyries was successfully funded. When mine arrived I again decided to display each of the figures in their solid colour uniforms (solid brown, solid orange etc.).
In the time between the two campaigns Marauder also added additional accessories to their catalogue such as african-american, hispanic, and bearded heads and goggles. All the parts are available for individual purchase on their website right down to the pockets and knife sheaths. With such a wide variety of parts available I began to see the customizing possibilities. Not only could I build original characters but perhaps I could improve on some of Hasbro’s underwhelming releases. The first figure that came to mind was Doc. With he and 4 other potential custom ideas in mind I placed an order for all the parts I thought I’d need. To my surprise those parts arrived this past Friday, a mere 10 days after I placed the order which is pretty crazy because usually stuff takes forever to arrive here in Canada.
There isn’t an MTF body in the exact shade I needed to reproduce Doc’s tan uniform but I figured the new brown body would be close enough. I also ordered the clean shaven african-american head, the green-lensed goggles which would serve as his trademark green glasses, a tan helmet, tan webgear, a white scarf to replicate Doc’s white undershirt, and a series of red and white pouches to spruce up his uniform. I eagerly assembled my figure just as I had envisioned him and the end result was…meh.
In the case of Doc I would say my attempt at a custom was a failure. It’s not a bad looking figure but I don’t see Doc when I look at it. For one thing he looks too combat-ready. The goggles are clearly not sunglasses and the helmet doesn’t fit great when they’re on his head. The scarf looked out of place and nothing like an undershirt so I subsequently removed it. The lack of red crosses on the shirt detracts from the concept and the red and wite pouches don’t make up for them the way I hoped they would.
Lastly the face doesn’t look like Doc to me. Not that Doc has any defining facial characteristics that are absent here, other than the glasses, but I just don’t see him in this face. This is the only unmasked head Marauder Inc. has available on its site and they have it in multiple skin tones and with different hair colours. I’ve had 5 or 6 caucasian variations of this head in my collection for months now (blonde, brunette, ginger, etc) and I guess it’s hard for me to see it as a black guy now. I think this Doc will require a new head sculpt before I can see him as a true individual. Though even if this was a unique head sculpt the skin tone is too light for Doc anyway.
I will consider this figure a work in progress and as Marauder releases new pieces I will continue to improve it. Perhaps a solid tan body or a side satchel would help. Maybe actual glasses instead of goggles or darker skin would make the difference. I’m a little disappointed that this custom didn’t match what I saw in my mind’s eye when i ordered the parts but it was fun to attempt anyway. If you don’t own any of these figures yet you need to get some. I’ll share my others customs soon. 7 out of 10.
When the G.I. Joe: Real American Hero toy line launched in 1982 I was 4 years old. I can’t say with certainty who my first G.I. Joe figure was (I might’ve gotten 2 or 3 at the same time for Christmas or something) but Snake Eyes was one of my firsts if not THE first. Of the 16 figures released that year I got 4 of them (Snake Eyes, Stalker, Short-Fuze, and Cobra Trooper) and my brother Doug, who is 2 years older, got the other 12. Six year old Doug clearly had more toy collecting clout than I did back in 1982 so I don’t know how I ended up with the coolest figure of the bunch. There was no doubt from day 1 that Snake Eyes was the star of G.I. Joe and that’s pretty impressive for a for a figure with zero paint applications and a character that never spoke in the cartoons or comics.
Snake Eyes is most well known for being the Joe team’s resident ninja but back in ’82 that was only a facet of who he was. The masked mystery man was primarily the Joe team’s commando and a hand-to-hand combat instructor second. The file card on the back of his blister card described him as follows:
“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.”
The man could do it all.
I loved that original Snake Eyes figure. It was simple (just a solid black figure with an uzi and a pack of explosives) but it was perfect. I played the hell out of that toy and as a result he took on some battle damage. I was quite distraught when I broke both of Snake Eyes’ thumbs off. That kind of thing happened a lot back then because of the stiff type of plastic used. Crotches used to snap off frequently too but thankfully my ’82 Snake Eyes never experienced that.
Losing two thumbs meant Snake Eyes couldn’t brandish his trademark uzi and that was unacceptable. Fortunately I had a dad willing to play surgeon and he replaced Snake Eyes’ damaged limbs with a set of arms borrowed from a sacrificial Cobra Commander. He painted them black with model paint and when he was done you could barely tell the difference. To this day my Snake Eyes has hints of blue showing through on his sleeves. Some might see that as a detriment to the figure but I like the fact that I’d be able to identify MY Snake Eyes in a sea of Snake Eyes figures. I also like remembering how dad used to do that kind of thing. He kept a tobacco can full of spare figure parts just in case of emergencies such as this.
My birthday was last weekend on January 17. I turned 38. A bunch of friends joined me out for drinks on Friday night and I spent Sunday with my family. Doug got me a notable gift that day which I will share with in a future post. On the Saturday between Vanessa took me out birthday present shopping. She set out to spoil me so she plotted a course to all the local comic book stores and Toys R Us (did I mention i just turned 38). Our first (and as it turned out only) stop was Giant Robot Comics in Dartmouth. That store is packed with tons of cool stuff at reasonable prices like Transformers and DC super heroes but I wanted to get something special for my special day and I had something in mind.
The last time I was there (boxing day) I saw that they had a decent selection of Gentle Giant’s jumbo reproduction figures. GG has been making jumbo reproductions of vintage Star Wars figures for years. You might recall that Doug got me their Walrus Man a while back. Well in 2015 GG launched a Jumbo line of 1982 G.I. Joe reproductions. It would be cool if they eventually got around to making all 16 of the original figures (a Cobra trooper would be pretty sweet) but as of now they’ve produced five: Rock N Roll, Stalker, Zap, Grunt, and Snake Eyes. Any of them would have made an excellent addition to my collection but Snake Eyes is obviously the crown jewel of the bunch. That was evidenced by the fact that he was $50 more expensive than all the other figures.
I was hoping he would only be $100 like the rest so the inflated price had me second guessing my selection. Vanessa shrugged off the $150 price tag and placed Snake Eyes in my hands. Another guy in the store was cursing himself for not buying it himself once he saw me walking to the counter with it. Tough luck dude, get a Vanessa of your own. Jumbo Snake Eyes is mine.
Vanessa bought me an amazing 12″ Snake Eyes figure a couple years ago. That Hot Toys figure was intricately detailed and lifelike in appearance. This 12″ Snake Eyes is also awesome but for completely different reasons. It’s the opposite of intricately detailed and lifelike. It’s blatantly a giant f**king toy; an oversized exact reproduction of the 1982 figure. The sculpt is basic, the articulation is limited (no swivel-arm battle grip), and the accessories are few. It looks absolutely killer and gives me a whole new appreciation for the original figure. The sculpted detail on the weapons is especially impressive when blown up to this scale.
The card art is reproduced beautifully too though the card itself isn’t quite as accurate as the figure. If the packaging had been blown up proportionately this thing would be huge. The card is sized perfectly so that it’s reminiscent of the original without being obnoxious and impossible to display.
This thing oozes nostalgia and it makes me feel like a kid again. I absolutely love it. 10 out of 10.
In my last post I reviewed the G.I. Joe team’s first medic, Doc from 1983. Today I’m going to take a look at the second Joe in the medical bay.
The first Lifeline was released in 1986 and he quickly became a star in my Joe universe. Due to his non-combat role Doc didn’t see as much action as other figures but I allowed Lifeline to branch out from his primary specialty because I liked the figure so much. His red and white uniform was so bright and bold that he looked like candy and his smiling face was welcoming. How could you not want to play with him? I’m such a fan of that first Lifeline figure that I gave him one of the coveted spots on my “mike’s collection” banner at the top of this page.
The ’86 Lifeline figure was repainted in Tiger Force colours in 1988. My brother Doug and I were still basically completists back then, trying to buy one of everything, but neither of us bothered with Tiger Force Lifeline. Looking back I’m not sure why I didn’t seek him out. I bought the Tiger Force versions of Tripwire and Roadblock that year and they’re both characters I like less than Lifeline. Maybe he was hard to find or maybe I just thought the original was so great that he couldn’t be topped. Whatever the reason I wish I had one now. I think the uniform looks pretty cool in mustard yellow and olive green.
Lifeline got additional “Real American Hero” O-ring style updates in 1994, 2002, 2004, and 2010.
Edwin “Lifeline” Steen finally got a modern-era update in 2011 as part of the “30th anniversary” branded toyline. Most fans agree that the 30th anniversary figures are some of the best modern-era figures ever released. Hasbro really seemed to have upped their game at that point. Lifeline v.7 was an excellent figure with a bunch of new pieces and a slew of awesome medical accessories. The red and white paint scheme was just as bold as the original and he had a removable helmet which was pretty neat. I was probably a little more critical of that figure than most fans because of my fondness for the original. It’s not perfect but its pretty damn good. I still prefer the rounder happier face of the ’86 figure but the 2011 figure was about as good a modern update as you could’ve hoped for.
For their 2015 Convention box set the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club went with a theme of Tiger Force vs Destro’s Iron Grenadiers. I haven’t gotten around to reviewing any of the Grenadiers yet but I have previously reviewed Sabretooth and Stalker from the Tiger Force side. The set also included this Tiger Force repaint of the 2011 Lifeline which serves as a recreation of the 1988 figure.
Lifeline 2015 is the exact same build as Lifeline 2011; they share all the same parts. The only difference is in the paint job but that alone is a pretty drastic change. Like the ’88 version, Lifeline v.8 has traded in his red and whites for green pants and a yellow striped shirt. His boots, helmet, shades and accessories have also changed colour. These hues are brighter than those of the 1988 figure and I don’t think thats a good thing. This figure’s colours are pretty garish. I actually think this shirt is a bigger fashion faux-pas than Stalker’s tiger-striped pants. The ’88 figure’s paint job was duller and more realistic looking. I understand why the Collector’s Club went with the brighter colours (they wanted him to match the other modern-era Tiger Force figures) but I think this figure would have been better served by toning things down a bit. That said, I don’t hate the colours. They’ve grown on me over time and he does look good when displayed with his Tiger Force teammates.
Lifeline came with a bunch of cool accessories: a stretcher, a briefcase, a slew of medical supplies that can be stored inside of it like an IV bag, a breathing mask, and a hypodermic needle and he has a knife and a pistol that can be holstered and sheathed on his legs. Most of my accessories are boxed up so I lifted a pic from GeneralsJoes.com to show you.
Doc was the G.I. Joe team’s first medic. The original Doc figure was released in 1983, the second year of the Real American Hero (RAH) toyline. I always liked Doc but since he wasn’t a combat figure he didn’t see much action in my bedroom floor battles. When I look back at my old Joe figures now though Doc is one of my absolute favourites. The 1983 figure is perfect in its simplicity. The tan uniform has a very old-school vibe about it. It looks like a toy my dad could’ve played with when he was a kid. Doc never got an update later in the RAH line and he never got a new-sculpt figure in the early 2000s either. Since the ’83 original was the only Doc figure ever released I felt the character was long overdue for an upgrade by the time the modern-era of Joe figures kicked off in 2007.
This second version of Doc was released in 2008 but it was never available in stores. The only way you could get him was through a mail away offer called “Operation: Rescue Doc”. You had to collect proof of purchase stickers from 6 specific action figure 2-packs and mail them to Hasbro along with $4.95. I bought all the 2-packs but I wasn’t eligible to rescue Doc because I live in Canada so I had to turn to the dreaded secondary market that is ebay. I can’t recall what I paid for Doc but it was certainly more than $4.95. I actually don’t think the price was too bad, maybe around $30, but I would’ve paid whatever was necessary in order to get him. Doc is too important a character, at least to me, to not have in my modern G.I. Joe collection.
I’m very glad this figure didn’t cost me an arm and a leg though because it kind of sucks. I hate when Hasbro screws up any character but it especially pisses me off when they mess up one of my favourites who isn’t likely to get another update for quite some time. Doc v.2 was created using the torso, arms, waist, and upper legs of Duke v.23, one of the very first modern-era figures released in 2007. Those parts haven’t aged well but truthfully they weren’t good to begin with. Duke’s arms were reused multiple times in the early years of the modern era and they became the bane of many collector’s existence. The dreaded Duke arms suck because the bare lower arms are a separate piece from the rolled up sleeve they’re connected to and every time you try to bend the elbow the bare arm comes off. Overall I find the Duke body to be too lean and the newly sculpted legs only add to the lankiness. I could probably forgive the body issues if the newly sculpted head was a success but I really dislike this head too.
The head is tiny; it’s like a little pea head. The fact that it has sculpted sunglasses doesn’t help because it amplifies how close together the eyes are. It may not look too bad to you in these pictures but when displayed with other Joes it’s immediately evident that this guy’s head has been shrunk. What really sucks is Hasbro reused this head on another one of my favourite characters, Short-Fuze, later that year.
All is not lost. There are a couple of redeeming qualities about this figure. I think the colour choices are great. The tan is a bit darker than the original but it looks realistic and appropriately drab. It has a few dabs of red and white paint that indicate this guy is a doctor and he even has some colour on his helmet which the original lacked. His accessories are also pretty good. He has a flare launcher and a stretcher like the original but he also has a flare gun that can be holstered on his leg and a satchel.
This isn’t the best Doc figure but it’s done an adequate job of filling the Doc requirement on my shelf for almost 8 years now. I’m hoping to be able to relieve him of duty soon. I just placed a parts order from Marauder Gun Runners the other day and I hope the pieces I ordered will allow me to build a superior Doc. If you’re not familiar with Marauder you need to check them out. They used to just make and sell G.I. Joe sized weapons and accessories but last year they branched out into their own figures. Check out my review of one of them here. I ordered the tan body and helmet, african-american head, green goggles, and some white and red pouches which I hope will come together to make an excellent Doc. I’ll share pics when my order arrives in a few weeks. Until then, Doc gets a 6 out of 10.
On the 15th of every month Mattel releases a new Masters of the Universe (MOTU) Classics figure which is available only on their website. November 2015’s figure was Dragstor. The release of Dragstor was kind of a big deal to MOTU fans. Not because he’s so awesome or anything like that but because he was the last character from the vintage toyline that hadn’t yet been released in the Classics format. Dragstor completes the mission that Mattel and the Four Horsemen set out to accomplish way back in 2008. Several times over the years there were rumblings that Classics was going to get cancelled and the vintage line-up would never be completed but as 2015 wrapped up that lofty goal was finally realized. But not only did Mattel release updated versions of all 73 vintage figures they also added over 100 other characters to the mix plus vehicles and play sets. I never imagined when I bought my first Classics figure (Hordak) that my collection would one day grow to the size it is today.
So, Dragstor’s place in history aside, how is the figure?
The original Dragstor was released in 1986 and neither my brother Doug or I owned him. King Hiss was the only figure I got that year. Our interest in the line had waned by then for some reason. Since I never owned the toy and Dragstor never appeared in either the He-Man or She-Ra cartoons I have zero nostalgic attachment to him.
Every vintage MOTU figure had a unique gimmick. Dragstor’s shtick was that he was half-man/half-car. All Dragstor had to do to go from man to car was lay face-down. There was a spinning wheel on his torso and a plastic ripcord that you yanked through his backpack to send him careening across your kitchen floor. Many of the MOTU gimmicks were kind of goofy but Dragstor’s seemed especially lame. He was like a Transformer that didn’t transform. I never had the chance to play with him as a kid but I don’t imagine my He-Man action figure would have taken this a-hole seriously as he scooted around the carpet on his belly.
As silly as the vintage action feature was I really wish this Classics figure had it too. I don’t care that the Classics version doesn’t have a ripcord but it sure as hell should have a spinning wheel. Dragstor is all about the wheel on his chest. That’s his whole thing. This Classics figure only has a static sculpted half wheel which is attached to his removable armour. Every time I look at this figure I want to spin the wheel and it drives me nuts that I can’t.
The look of the character is decent enough but I always found it lacked the wow-factor of other MOTU villains like Trap-Jaw or Mantenna. Love it or hate it this new Classics figure does a very good job of re-creating the vintage look. All the key design elements are there like the metal plates on the legs, the red boots, the orange gloves, the engine backpack, the exhaust pipes on the chest, the gas mask, the helmet, and of course the wheel (static as it may be). I actually quite like the overall look. Sure he’s not as striking as Mer-Man or Modulok but he has a mysterious x-factor about him since we can’t see his entire face. His grey skin and orange eyes give the impression that he’s reptilian and monstrous under there.
Dragstor’s accessories are pretty cool. He’s a member of the Evil Horde so he comes with a cross bow like all the other guys do. However, he has a uniquely sculpted crossbow that looks like its made out of car parts which is much more appropriate than the standard bone crossbow that came with the vintage figure. Also, in place of the old ripcord (which wasn’t really a playable accessory) Dragstor now has a whip with a blade on the end. Looks pretty brutal.
Time sure does fly. I can’t believe it was 2012 when Takara launched their Beast Saga toyline. It was an unofficial continuation of their 80s toyline, Battle Beasts, which was one of my favourite lines when I was a kid. All of my other 80s favourites like G.I. Joe, Transformers, and He-Man were revived in the early 2000s and I was really hoping Battle Beasts would eventually come back as well. It required another decade of waiting but the Beasts finally returned and I couldn’t have been happier. Long time readers may recall how excited I was about receiving my first shipment of Beast Saga figures back in September 2012. Additional waves of figures quickly followed and it seemed as though Beast Saga was off to a great start and would be around for years to come. Sadly it ended just as quickly as it began. The line only lasted about a year before it vanished.
There was never any official announcement of the line’s demise (that I know of, I can’t read Japanese) so I have held out hope that more figures might eventually come. At this point though that seems very unlikely. I guess I’ll just have to enjoy the 39 figures I do have.
Saga Gorilla (or Garrison G as I think he’s officially called) was part of series 2. Like all BS figures he came with a sword, a shield, a couple of dice, and a game card. I never bothered to figure out how the gaming aspect of these figures work so the dice and card are useless to me. Both his sword and shield are pretty basic solid grey accessories.
The figure itself is pretty awesome. He has a realistic looking Gorilla head (with some mechanical enhancements) atop a bulky body with large arms and squat legs. The proportions actually work quite well here which wasn’t always the case with these figures. Gorilla has sculpted fur on all of his exposed areas and his face has a life-like neutral expression. The armour lacks much in the way of detail but it looks good regardless. It’s very blocky which adds to his husky appearance. I really like the colour of his armour. It’s a drab brown with olive green shoulder pads. It looks very militaristic and not at all flashy. This is a no-nonsense monkey.
In my early Beast Saga reviews I assigned the characters allegiance to either Saga Lion (the good guys) or Saga Shark (the bad guys) and I gave them a back story. Now that some time has passed and my excitement has cooled I totally forget which side of the battle I placed Saga Gorilla on.
My first thought would be to make him a villain based on his dark colours but he looks way too calm to be evil. I can see him as a general for Saga Lion fighting the good fight and keeping a level head even in the most chaotic of situations.
I love these Beast Saga figures and I highly recommend anyone pick them up. They’re getting harder to find so you should do it soon. 9 out of 10.
I recently posted my “top 15 action figures of 2015” list. I got a lot of great toys this year that didn’t quite make the cut. Chuckles here probably would have been number 16.
According to his file card Chuckles’ Primary Military Specialty is Criminal Investigations. It describes him as being “undercover for so long that nobody is really sure who he actually works for. He is so conscientious about keeping up his cover that he’ll volunteer for missions that nobody else want to go on.”
The first Chuckles figure was released in 1987. My brother Doug owned it. I didn’t mind not having it in my personal collection because I didn’t care for that figure. It wasn’t even the fact that he was wearing a floral pattern Hawaiian shirt that bothered me, it was the face sculpt.
He had huge bags under his eyes which made him look incredibly tired and old. I also wasn’t a fan of the swirl in the front of his hair. His portrayal in the Joe cartoon didn’t help to endear him to me. His first and only animated appearance was in the ’87 animated movie as a new recruit alongside Jinx, Law, Big Lob, and Tunnel Rat. Chuckles was drawn as a muscle bound oaf and he didn’t have a single line of dialogue. His most memorable scene came during a training montage when he ripped a missile off of a downed vehicle hurled it overhead at an enemy tank. He did appear in the Joe comic published by Marvel a few times but he didn’t leave much of an impression on me then either.
When the G.I. Joe toy line was revived in 2002 after a decade of near dormancy it was my first opportunity to collect many of the Joe and Cobra characters that Doug had as a kid. I got my first versions of marquee characters like Duke, Destro, and Zartan during the new-sculpt years. Some lesser known characters like Chuckles didn’t make the cut for the updated toyline. The Joe team seemingly replaced him with a new undercover operative named Agent Faces. The Collector’s Club released a new Chuckles figure in 2007 just as that era and the O-Ring construction was being phased out. It was nothing special and wasn’t worth the premium Club price.
The Modern Era of G.I. Joe kicked off in 2007 and many vintage characters got updates in the new non-O-Ring construction style. The initial 25th anniversary line flourished for two years before being replaced with the movie-based Rise of Cobra line. A modern-era Chuckles was added to the anniversary series in ’09 as part of the Attack on Cobra Island box set just before the changeover to movie toys. I was pleased to get Chuckles because I wanted to collect modern versions of all the vintage characters but the figure itself was underwhelming. From the neck-down the figure was made up of reused pieces and the result was not great. It was lanky and had awkward wrists. I that find the mid-torso joint found on modern-era figures doesn’t usually detract from the look of the figures but in this case it did. Chuckles flowing silk shirt looked odd with a seam running horizontally through the middle. At least the outfit matched the original quite well, flowers and all.
The thing I liked least about the 2009 Chuckles figure was the head sculpt. It looked nothing like the tired vintage head but I didn’t see it as an improvement. The curly hair and the smug grin did nothing to make the update cooler than the original. I would’ve rather had an update of the saggy-eyed swirly haired ’87 face because at least then there would be some consistency.
The Collector’s Club released a Night Force version of Chuckles in 2013 that consisted of the smug ’09 head on a new body made up of Viper, Law, Snake Eyes and Duke parts. It was an improvement over the 2009 figure but since it still had the same head I wasn’t impressed so I never bothered with it.
I wouldn’t have minded that the only Chuckles in my collection was the mediocre 2009 figure if the character had never evolved beyond the mute meathead featured in the cartoon. However, in the past 10 years Chuckles has been featured prominently in comics produced by both Devil’s Due and IDW. His portrayal in the Devil’s Due books made me think that Chuckles was kind of cool for the first time ever but it was the IDW Joe books that really put Chuckles on the map.
When IDW obtained the license to produce G.I. Joe comics they launched three titles: a core Joe book, an Origins book that told untold tales, and a Cobra book that focused on the enemy. The Cobra series starred Chuckles who was tasked with infiltrating the Cobra organization as an undercover operative. The Cobra series was fantastic. Not only was Chuckles written with depth but artist Antonio Fuso made him look more like Daniel Craig than any of those goofy action figures. That series turned Chuckles into a fan favourite and I think every Joe fan (myself included) wanted a Chuckles figure that did the character justice after reading it.
It took a while but I think we finally have a cool Chuckles figure. Version 5 was released in 2015 as part of the 50th anniversary series. He came packaged with an updated AWE striker (now called F.O.E. striker) a Cobra Elite Horseman and a Cobra Basilisk. I’m generally not a fan of being forced to buy vehicles in order to get figures I want but both vehicles in the set are pretty cool.
Chuckles v5 is made up of Shipwreck’s arms and torso and Snake Eyes’ legs. I’m still not a fan of the seam through the middle of the shirt but otherwise the body is quite good. It’s well proportioned and there are lots of nice sculpted details like wrinkles in the fabric. The head is a brand new piece and I love it. He has short cropped hair and a stern stare. No swirl and no saggy eyes. This is a Chuckles that means business.
The accessories included with this figure are top notch. He has a knife that can be sheathed on his boot and a pistol with removable silencer both of which can be holstered on his leg. He has a two-toned rifle that matches the color the of his pants and he has a machine gun with a tripod. I love the shoulder harness that fits around both arms. It doesn’t hinder his movement or look too busy and it sits naturally. Lastly he has a nifty neck scarf that I boxed up before I took my pictures.
The last thing I need to mention is the paint job. I love the earthy colour palette of this figure. It’s true to Chuckles’ style but its a vast improvement over the original. The shirt is still patterned but it isn’t nearly as flamboyant. I also like the skin tone. This is a desert Chuckles and it looks like he actually has a tan, brilliant. Some people don’t like the intense eyes but I quite like them. There’s very little to complain about here. A great figure. 9 out of 10.
My last toy purchase of 2015.
When I went to Strange Adventures on December 31 to grab my weekly stack of comics I intended to take advantage of their 25% off sale and buy myself an action figure. It was a toss-up between two figures I’ve been debating on picking up for a few weeks now: Marvel Legends Blizzard or DST’s Oogie Boogie from A Nightmare Before Christmas (NBX).
Blizzard is a D-list Marvel villain that I first encountered very early on into my comic collecting hobby and so I’ve always held him in a higher regard than I probably should. His costume design is simple but eye-catching. I blatantly ripped it off in my youth when I created a supervillain character named Icicle. Blizzard is exactly the kind of character I love to get in action figure form. The reason I hadn’t already purchased him was because A) I already have a decent Blizzard figure that was produced by Toy Biz in the 90s, B) I’m trying not to get completely roped into collecting Marvel Legends because I’ve invested so much time and money into collecting the smaller scale Marvel Universe figures, and C) this particular Blizzard figure’s physique is a little wonky.
The Oogie Boogie is a fantastic looking figure with lots of fine sculpted details in his burlap skin. Ten or Fifteen years ago I would’ve scooped it up immediately. The thing is, my enthusiasm for NBX has waned significantly in the past decade. To be fair, it’s actually my enthusiasm for Tim Burton that has waned but as a result all of his past projects that I once held dear have been affected by my former favorite director’s fall from grace. I own a lot of NBX toys and collectibles but none of it is on display anymore so I had a hard time justifying spending $35 on a toy that’s likely to immediately end up in storage. Oogie is one of my favorite characters from the film though and I used to really want a good figure of him and so I consider buying him almost every week.
When I got to the comic shop I looked the two candidates over. Which would it be? I had them both in hand but decided to browse a bit longer while I made my final decision. It was then that I noticed a toy way up on top of one of the bookshelves, a toy I hadn’t seen there before; Rodan. I don’t know if it had been up there for months and I just never noticed it or if it was brand new but my decision had been made regardless. Blizzard and Oogie stayed behind and Rodan came home with me as my final toy purchase of 2015.
To be completely honest I’m not sure if this Rodan would be classified as a toy because it’s actually a piggy bank. His body is hollow and there’s a coin slot on his spine. However, he’s an awkward shape that I don’t think would hold much money. Plus, I don’t see any obvious way to get coins out of him. His head and body are separate pieces so I’m guessing the head pops off in order to retrieve coins but I’m not sure. I don’t want to risk breaking it to find out. However due to the swivelling head, which counts as articulation, I think it’s safe to classify Rodan as an action figure.
If you’re not familiar with Rodan he’s one of Godzilla’s buddies. He first appeared in his very own movie in 1956 but has since gone on to be featured in a multitude of Godzilla movies and other Godzilla media. Occasionally he’s an enemy to the King of Monsters but more often than not he’s an ally.
Rodan is a Pteradactyl-like monster with birdish features and a large wing span. Honestly, I always found him to be kind of goofy looking and I never thought he would stand a chance against Godzilla in a fight. Despite the fact that he’s one of my least favourite Toho Studios monsters I have a soft spot for them all and I’m happy to add one of the most recognized and iconic kaiju to my collection.
Years ago I acquired big hollow figures of Godzilla, MechaGodzilla, and Gigan produced by Bandai. I was hoping all of the monsters would be released eventually but the line seemed to end after only one wave. This Rodan is not from the same line (it was produced by DST) but the scale seems to be about right so he fits in just fine with my other figures.
The sculpting and paint work are both pretty simplistic but are exactly as they need to be. I’m glad DST went with Rodan’s later more dinosaur like appearance over his original big bird design. This thing will look pretty great hanging from my ceiling. 7 out of 10.
As 2015 comes to an end it’s time for my annual “best of” list. It’s hard to believe that this is my fourth year-end list and even harder to believe that since I started this blog I’ve reviewed over 800 action figures (and I’ve still barely scratched the surface of my collection!). Thanks to all of you who have been loyal readers and thanks to those of you checking it out for the first time, I hope you come back. Now, Before I begin the list let me clearly state that this list features the 15 BEST ACTION FIGURES I COLLECTED IN 2015. I am not saying these are the best 15 action figures released this year, just the best ones I managed to get my hands on. In order to qualify for my list the figure must have been released in 2015. I’ve gotten some great action figures this year that don’t qualify because they were originally released prior to 2015. Now that the criteria has been clearly stated hopefully any nerd rage will be quelled. I don’t need anyone calling me an idiot because I didn’t name the Hot Toys Hulkbuster Iron Man the best toy of the year (I know it’s awesome but its also $800 and I don’t have one). So let’s get started…
15. Cardinus– This is a figure from the Gothitropolis line by Four Horsemen Toy Design Studios. It’s a completely original toyline by the sculptors extraordinaire made famous for their work on Spawn, DC, and Masters of the Universe. At present I don’t have a link to a review of Cardinus but you can check out my review of another figure from the line, Eagalus. All the Gothitropolis figures share the exact same body and they come with the same staff as an accessory. The only differences between them are a uniquely sculpted head and a paint job specific to each bird species. I raved on about the intricacies of the sculpting in my Eagalus review so I won’t dwell on it again here but the armour is spectacular. Both Eagalus and Cardinus have amazing head sculpts that look very life-like. Either could have made the list but Cardinus edges Eagalus out due to the beautifully regal paint job. Cardinus features a black and gold paint scheme which looks fantastic against his crimson red feathers. I could totally display Cardinus with my Masters of the Universe collection or any other fantasy figures. Eagalus’s obnoxious American paint job makes him seem more like a novelty item than a fantasy figure. This is an amazing figure and I wish I could afford to collect the entire line .
14. First Aid– This figure makes the list primarily because I happen to love the character but it’s also a great toy. The original First Aid figure from 1986 was one of my favourite vintage Transformers and I’ve always regretted getting rid of it. First Aid’s portrayal in IDW’s Transformers comics in recent years have only made me like him even more. For years I’ve been hoping that Hasbro would release a new version of him and this year they finally did. There’s nothing particularly spectacular about the actual figure. The sculpting, paint, accessories, and articulation are on par with just about every other Transformer that came out this year under the “Combiner Wars” banner but that’s not a bad thing because those things were done well on all the figures. Almost any one of the combiner-bots could have made this list (i.e. Breakdown, Alpha Bravo) but due to my personal affection for First Aid he gets the shout out.
13. Jaws– I love the movie Jaws. Love it. When I was a kid that shark scared the crap out of me and fascinated me at the same time, it still does. I have yet to see a movie shark even come close to being as terrifying as the original Jaws. I was so stoked to get a Jaws action figure this year courtesy of Funko’s ReAction line. The retro style of the line was perfectly suited for the task of giving fans the first ever Jaws action figure line. The 3 human characters are awesome but its the shark that steals the show. I could’ve easily named this my number one action figure of the year but due to its lack of articulation it didn’t seem fair. This toy belongs in every bathtub around the world.
12. Snake-Armor He-Man-This is another figure that I haven’t yet reviewed so there’s no link available yet. I had every intention of reviewing all my list candidates by years end but I got busy/lazy. When I was a kid I had a bunch of Masters of the Universe figures including the main hero, He-Man. He was always my least favourite of the bunch. He was so uninteresting when compared to guys like Buzz-Off and Mer-Man. It wasn’t until the 2002 MOTU reboot that I actually liked He-Man. The ’02 cartoon and toy line featured anime inspired designs which I thought did wonders to up He-Man’s cool factor. When the Classics line kicked off in 2008/2009 He-Man reverted back to his boring old bowl-cut self. Multiple re-releases (Thunder Punch, Battle Armour) didn’t help. Finally, in 2015 Mattel has given us this Classics He-Man in the 2002 style, and that didn’t simply mean a new head sculpt, they decked him out in his snake armour which was heavily featured in season 2 of the animated series. The armour features great sculpting and paint work but it’s the shaggy hair that really wins me over.
11. Wonder Woman-No link here either folks but thats because I just got this figure the other day. I didn’t buy many DC figures this year. The only one I requested for Christmas was Superman from the designer series based on Jae Lee’s artwork. I’m a big fan of Jae Lee’s work but of the 4 figures in his designer series Superman was the only one that appealed to me based on the images I saw online. The Batman kinda sucked and the Catwoman was too similar to the Greg Capullo Catwoman that made my list last year. The Wonder Woman looked good but I already have what I feel is the best Wonder Woman figure ever made (DC Direct-2007) so why buy a lesser one? Well I was checking out Giant Robot Comics’ boxing day sale the other day and saw the Jae Lee Wonder Woman figure “in-person” for the first time. The sculpting and paint work were so good that I couldn’t resist buying it. I don’t think it’s better than the 2007 figure but this toy is a work of art and had I passed it up I know I’d be kicking myself for years to come.
10. Otachi– I just reviewed this figure the other day so I don’t have much to add at the moment. This figure is big, has great sculpting, great paint apps, and good articulation. Most important of all it’s a big monster. I love big monsters. I have a lot of big monster toys in my collection but few of them are designed as well as this figure. I’m still pissed about the price and the lack of wings but I didn’t buy anything else even remotely like Otachi this year. He’s a unique looking piece in my collection and he’s a joy to look at.
9. Kylo Ren– I just reviewed this figure the other day as well. This was a tough call because I got quite a few excellent 6″ Star Wars Black Series figures this year and I wasn’t sure who was going to make the cut. Captain Phasma is pretty rad looking and the First Order Storm Trooper is awesome too. For Christmas Vanessa got me a 4-pack of figures which included a red classic Storm Trooper that I absolutely love and he very nearly dethroned Kylo from this list (as I write this I realize he probably should have. Sorry, Honey). Kylo held his spot though because he was such a compelling character in the movie and because this figure is made up of all new parts including plastic and cloth blended together wonderfully. The standard white Storm Trooper ranked number six on my list last year and it would have seemed a bit lazy to award essentially the same figure again this year.
8. Calix-This is a great figure that I’ve been meaning to review for months. It’s one of the six figures included in Mattel’s MOTU Classics mini-subscription based on the 2002 cartoon I mentioned above in my He-Man write up. Over the past 7 years a handful of 2002-inspired characters have found their way into the main Classics line but they’re few and far between. A whole subscription devoted to them is something fans of that era (like myself) have been clamouring for. I have three of the mini-sub figures in hand at present and they’re all great. I expect to have the last three this week or next and they all look great too; there isn’t a dud in the bunch. Any or all of them could have made this list but I narrowed it down to one and I went with Calix. This guy is a member of the Evil Horde and he appeared ever so briefly in one episode before getting destroyed. It’s a shame this guy was created as a throwaway character because he is awesome. I hope he gets a second chance at greatness in the comics or maybe even a future animated series. He’s a dude made of rock, which is nothing new for MOTU, but this guy is WAY cooler than those geeks Stondar and Rokkon. The newly sculpted pieces are fantastic and they do a great job of hiding the fact that this figure is primarily made up of the standard Classics body. The paint work is subtle but really brings out the details of the sculpt. I love the stone beard. I love the axe/crossbow. I love this figure.
7. Frostbite– A lot of people online like to hate on the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club. I get that they’ve screwed up a few things (like losing members’ credit card information) but how anyone can stay mad at them when they produce figures like this is beyond me. They gave us so much gold this year from the Figure Subscription Service (Spearhead was a contender) and the Convention set (Wreckage was a contender) to the Free Membership figure (Dr. Mindbender was a contender) and the online store exclusives (Old Snake was a contender). Frostbite was the mystery 13th figure that shipped with the final FSS 3.0 shipment this year. It wasn’t much of a surprise but it was a figure everyone was happy to receive. Frostbite is a classic character that desperately needed a modern-era makeover and the Club did not disappoint here. The Frankensteined body looks good but what really elevates this figure to another level is the new head and collar by Boss Fight Studios. Frostbite has never looked so good.
6. Marauder Task Force– Speaking of Boss Fight Studios, I was really hoping to have their first ever original toyline, Vitruvian Hacks, in hand by the end of the year. I bought into their kickstarter campaign in June 2014 and the figures were expected to be delivered in February 2015. No such luck. The figures are going to be more than a year late but they look spectacular and I’m sure you’ll see some on next year’s list. One of the reasons for the delay is because the production factory in China got held up making these figures, the Marauder Task Force (MTF). This is another original toyline funded by a kickstarter campaign courtesy of Marauder Gun Runners who actually hired Boss Fight Studios to do the sculpting. The concept behind the line is completely customizable military action figures. The base figures are all the same but you can buy a variety of guns and accessories from Marauder’s website. I ordered the base figure in all 8 color varieties: red, blue, green, black, arctic, desert, urban and jungle camo. You can mix and match all the parts right down to the pouches on their sleeves and the logos on their helemts. There are literally hundreds (probably thousands) of parts combinations. No one figure is better than another so this slot belongs to the whole line in general. Do yourself a favour and order some of these guys. Four new color variations were just stocked (mine are in the mail).
5. Hobgoblin– Here we go, top five. The fifth spot on my list belongs to the Hobgoblin. This is a Marvel Legends build-a-figure meaning you had to buy six different Marvel Legends figures to get all the parts to build this guy. I didn’t mind the concept back when the build-a-figures were giant figures but it kind of pisses me off now that build-a-figures are no bigger than the standard releases. Despite the hoops I had to jump through to get this guy I am very happy to have him completed. This is my favourite Marvel Legends figure to date. Not only is Hobby one of Spidey’s all-time great villains, this is a version of him we’ve never seen in action figure form before (Phil Urich) and it’s faithful to Humberto Ramos’s artwork which I love. The sculpt is perfect, he’s got great accessories, he’s well articulated, and he’s just fun to look at. He’s bright and bold and I would think any kid would love to have him.
4. Gung Ho– This guy was never one of my favourite Joes. Partly because Doug owned both the 1983 and ’87 versions when we were kids. Despite my lack of personal attachment to Gung Ho he is one of the most recognizable faces on the team. His importance was evidenced by his inclusion in the Joe 5-pack that launched the modern-era in 2007 along with key characters Duke, Snake Eyes, Scarlet, and Roadblock. In the 8 years since that pack came out 27 more Dukes have been released, 40 more Snake Eyes’, 6 more Scarlets, and 8 more Roadblocks. This is only Gung Ho’s third and he didn’t get any new parts in last two. The 2007 Gung Ho and it’s two subsequent repaints are extremely dated and they did not do justice to the Joe team’s original Marine. In 2015 we finally got a Gung Ho we can be proud off. This figure was released as part of Hasbro’s 50th anniversary line and it is both a beauty and a beast. It’s beastly in its size and manliness and it’s beautifully rendered. This figure looks more like Gung Ho than any figure ever before released including the original Gung Ho. The stache is epic, the chest tat is massive, the arms are thick, and the uniform is seafoam. To top it off he has a gigantic SAW heavy machine gun with matching seafoam bullets.
3. Machine Man-If Hobgoblin is my favourite Marvel Legends figure how is this guy higher than him on the list? I don’t know. It must be the power of Jack Kirby. This figure isn’t necessarily based on his creator’s artwork but it sure looks as though the sculptor was referencing some Kirby drawings when creating this head sculpt. I love everything about this figure from the sculpting to the shimmery purple paint job to the telescoping Inspector Gadget arms. It’s perfect in its simplicity.
2. Devestator– In a year where every Transformer released is a member of a combiner team I had to put a combiner on the list. Defensor and Superion would have been contenders had Hasbro not released this behemoth this past fall. Devestator towers over the other combiners. They seemed so impressive at first but they look like children in Devestator’s shadow. I have some issues with the individual Constructicons that make up Devestator but for the most part I’m even impressed with them. As a whole Devestator is near perfect. He’s still a bit wobbly but he’s much better than the original. This toy has everything you’d want in a Devestator; he ‘s big, he’s green and purple, and he’s cartoon/comic book accurate. I’ve been wishing for this figure for decades but never did I expect to receive something as impressive as this. This toy is boss.
1.Bombstrike– I tried to curb any nerd rage in my opening paragraph but I’m aware this may illicit some. In a year filled with stellar Transformers and Star Wars figures, a year where Marvel Legends are at the top of their game and a year where Funko further established itself with a wealth of Pop!, ReAction and Legacy figures, you might be wondering how could some chick you’ve never heard of top this list? To be honest I didn’t know Bombstrike was going to top the list until I started ranking the figures I had selected earlier today. I always knew Bomstrike would make my year-end list but even I didn’t know I liked her this much. I laid the figures out in front of me and, after painfully eliminating great toys like POP Godzilla and Shanna the She-Devil, I began ranking the final 15. As I went, Bombstrike kept getting shoved up the ranks and this is where she ended up. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because I’ve been a big fan of this character ever since version 1 was released in 2005. The sibling rivalry storyline hinted at in the file cards of her and her brothers (Barrel Roll and Black Out) made for some interesting play scenarios that I would’ve loved as a kid. As much as I cherish the classic Joe characters I think the brand needs some fresh blood every once and a while to stay interesting and relevant. The Stall siblings were exactly what the brand needed and I was really disappointed to see them swept under the rug when the new-sculpt era came to a close in 2006. When The brothers were resurrected in the Collector Club’s first Figure Subscription Service I knew Bombstrike was likely to follow in FSS 2.0. It took a year longer than expected but in 2015 she arrived and she totally lived up to my expectations even after 10 years of anticipation. This figure is feminine, petite and cute but she’s ready for combat. She’s camouflaged, she’s armoured, and she’s packing multiple firearms, a computer, and a drone. I love the character, I love the toy. What’s not to like?