I used to be a big fan of the Ren & Stimpy show.  Up here in Canada it aired on Much Music (our version of MTV) and I believe it debuted when I was in junior high.  I think it aired a year or two earlier in the States even though the creator, John Kricfalusi, is Canadian.  I remember it was considered a racy show at the time, as was the Simpsons which debuted a year or two earlier, which seems pretty silly nowadays.

I thought both Ren and Stimpy were pretty funny but they were actually some of my least favourite characters on the show. I preferred the offbeat side characters like Mr. Horse, Muddy Mudskipper, and Powdered Toast Man.  As evidence of just how much I liked the C-list supporting cast check out one of my earliest toy reviews: the Shaven Yak.

Even though he only showed up a handful of times I absolutely loved Powdered Toast Man.PTM-back

He was a completely ridiculous yet awesome character.  As a fan of super heroes in general it can be fun to see them skewered in such a manner.   PTM’s secret identity was Pastor Toastman, a youth deacon.  He would shed his collar and leap into action wearing only his  speedo whenever the world was in danger or when a child was in need of a balanced breakfast.PTM-face

Powdered Toast Man was the spokesperson for the cereal Powdered Toast and he could make the stuff by scraping his toasty body with a butter knife or winking.  Once everyone’s bowls were brimming with freshly made cereal he would launch himself out the window either by ejecting his double-breaded head from a toaster or just by ripping a huge fart.PTM-deacon

His catchphrase was “Leave everything to me!” but the quote I most remember is “Are you clinging tenaciously to my buttocks?”

This little figurine is about 2.5 inches tall.  It doesn’t move at all and it is permanently attached to its display base.  I bought it at the first Blockbuster Video I worked at in my hometown of Lower Sackville.  I can’t recall what other figures were available, possibly just Ren & Stimpy, because this is the only one I got and that was many years ago.  The bottom of the base tells me this was made by Dakin (never heard of ’em) in 1994.PTM-toon

This is a great little figure and I’ve had on it on display somewhere in my home ever since I first got it.  At present he’s hiding out amongst the DC heroes on my Super Powers shelf.  The sculpt is spot on, the pose is very heroic, and the expression on his face is perfect.  8 out of 10.PTM-shelf




My Joe Con “Tiger Force vs Iron Grenadiers” box set finally arrived in the mail the other day which was pretty exciting. I pre-ordered that thing about 5 months ago so I’m eager to review the 15 figures within. However, I just finished a run of G.I. Joe reviews because I’ve spent the past week examining all the figures and vehicles from this summer’s San Diego Comic Con box set. So rather than jump right into another batch of Convention exclusive G.I. Joe reviews I’ve decided to break things up with a couple of random toys first. In keeping with the Tiger Force theme I’ve selected the Battle Beast, Ferocious Tiger, for today’s review.

Ferocious Tiger, or Battle Tiger as I called him before I realized he had a real name, was included in the first wave of Battle Beasts figures released by Hasbro in 1987.  However he was not one of my first Battle Beast figures. There were a handful of figures from each wave that eluded for some time and Ferocious Tiger was one that took me a while to track down. I can’t recall when or where I finally got him but it was sometime after the toy line had ended. I don’t have any clear recollections of playing with him as a child so he may have been one of the few I bought as an adult.BB-Tiger side

It’s a shame that I got him so late because he never had a chance to develop a unique personality in my Battle Beast universe. Since there was no cartoon or mainstream comic to provide back stories for these characters all Battle Beasts were a blank canvas when you got them.  But to me, certain beasts like Rocky Rhino and Sly Fox are as iconic as Optimus Prime and He-Man because their personalities were so well developed over the many years I played with them. So while Ferocious Tiger is a cool looking figure he doesn’t stir up any specific nostalgic memories the way those others do.

If I had gotten Ferocious Tiger back in ’87 I imagine he would have been an integral member of Rocky Rhino’s good guy team. Since there was no established continuity to work from I could’ve made him a bad guy just as easily but there’s something about this toy that seems heroic to me so making him a good guy seems obvious.

The sculpt on the figure is pretty darn good for such a small toy. Battle Beasts never fail to impress me in that department. I especially like his shoulder mounted cannon or lights or whatever it is because it gives him a unique asymmetrical silhouette. It reminds me of War Machine’s shoulder mounted gatling gun which I’ve always loved.  Tiger’s only articulation points are at his shoulders.  His arms are able to swing backwards and forwards. It’s the same articulation found on all BB figures and while it allows for minimal movement it’s all I ever needed to have a blast with these toys. Takara could have easily made them completely static like MUSCLES to save on costs but thankfully they didn’t because the moving arms went a long way to increase the playability.BB-Tiger back

For a weapon Ferocious Tiger carries a rather boring spiked club.  It looks to me like one of those baseball bats with nails hammered into it.  Except this club is double-headed so I imagine he could spin it around like a bow staff and do some real damage.  While it’s less interesting to look at than many other beasts’ weapons I like it for it’s sheer blunt brutality.

The area where this figure is really lacking is in the paint apps. None of the Battle Beasts had a ton of paint applications which is fine in most cases but I think Takara/Hasbro should have splurged for a few more apps on figures like Ferocious Tiger, Zealot Zebra, and Jaded Jaguar.

BB-Tiger card


The prints on their fur is what best defines those animals so to omit a tiger’s stripes or a jaguar’s spots is almost unforgivable. To be fair, the tiger stripes are sculpted onto this figures so they can seen if you look closely but a little bit of black paint would have elevated this figure significantly. Also odd is the fact that Ferocious Tiger is yellow instead of orange. Other beasts are oddly colored (like the blue horse and purple elephant) so it’s less of an offense but yellow is so close to orange they probably should’ve just made him orange. The brown is a good color for the armour and I like the pink highlights but a few additional paint apps could have spruced that up too.

This is a very cool figure but in a line full of cool figures he ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack for me. 7 out of 10.

BB-Tiger vehicle


Joe-Alley viper v15 fullG. I. JOE: 50th ANNIVERSARY

Alley Viper is the 6th and final component for me to review from this year’s San Diego Comic Con exclusive G.I. Joe box set, “Crimson Strike”.  I’ve previously reviewed the two vehicles, the Chimera and the Scythe, and the other three figures, Steeler, Grunt, and AVAC.   Thus far the Joe figures and vehicle have proven to be my favourites.  So does Alley Viper swing the odds in Cobra’s favour?  Have I saved the best for last?

No on both accounts.  I’m not saying this is a bad figure, in fact it’s a very cool figure, but much like the Crimson Scythe it fails to wow me.

The original 1989 Alley Viper was one of my favourite Cobra troopers. Like Ice Viper and Heat Viper I viewed my Alley Viper as an individual character rather than just a nameless trooper. Ice Viper was a psychopath and Heat Viper was a slacker but Alley Viper was a bad-to-the-bone, take-no-prisoners soldier. who knew how to follow orders.  He was kind of a loner because unlike those other two he didn’t have a best buddy to pal around with. I always played G.I. Joe with my brother Doug and almost every one of my figures buddy’ed up with one of Doug’s figures. It usually worked out to be whatever toys we got at the same time. For example, he got his Night Viper when I got my Heat Viper so the two of them were inseparable. The same was true of Ice Viper and Worms, Shockwave and Charbroil, and some more obvious pairs like Flint and Lady Jaye and Tomax and Xamot. Doug must’ve either gotten a good guy when I got Alley Viper or maybe a bad guy that he didn’t really care for. Whatever the reason, my Alley Viper was a lone wolf.Joe-Alley Viper v15 back

Multiple variations of Alley Viper were released in the 90s but I had quit collecting by then and never acquired any of them. I did get some updated Alley Vipers during the new-sculpt years in the early 2000s but the less said about them the better.

When Hasbro launched the 25th anniversary line of modern-era figures in 2007 Alley Viper was high on my want list. They finally got around to releasing him in 2009 as part of the “Defense of Cobra Island” 7-pack. I loved the ‘09 Alley Viper (version 11). It had all the iconic characteristics of the original 1989 figure: the crazy orange and blue camo, the bizarre riot shield, the vision-obstructing face plate, and they all looked great on the modern style of figure. I would have been content if Hasbro never released another Alley Viper after that.

But they did release another; there were three variations of the Alley Viper released in 2010 (one of them being the first Alley Viper Officer) and then another in 2013. I’m not necessarily complaining about the multiple releases because they all look cool and I’m a sucker for a good repaint, but the figure does feel a little watered down at this point.Joe-Alley viper v15 baton

At the very least Hasbro could have taken this opportunity to release an Alley Viper with one of the well-known 90s paint jobs. The black and yellow one from 1993 that my little brother Brian owned would have been kinda cool. Instead we get an Alley Viper in a yet another new paint scheme.  The paint deco on this guy is alright but somewhat underwhelming. It’s primarily black with a few random splashes of reddish orange. I’m not sure why Hasbro was so sparse with the camo pattern this time around but the end result reminds me of a salamander.pic_Fire_Salamander_large

For accessories Alley Viper Officer version 2 has a display base, a helmet with face plate, a riot shield and a baton which can be stored on the back, two machine guns, and two knives which can be sheathed on his belt and forearm. It’s a decent assortment of weapons but  it all seems pretty standard at this point.

This is a fine figure which I would whole-heartedly recommend if he were available at Toys R Us for ten or twelve bucks but if you were planning on buying the SDCC set just for this guy I’d tell you to save your money. He doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. The red version from two years ago looks nicer and is much easier to track down. 7 out of 10.Joe-Alley viper v15 compare



Joe-Scythe sideG. I. JOE: 50th ANNIVERSARY

For the past week I’ve been reviewing my 2015 San Diego Comic Con exclusive G.I. Joe box set, “Crimson Strike”.  Four reviews down, two to go.  Today I’ll be taking a look at the second vehicle from the set, the Cobra Scythe.  The first vehicle was the G.I. Joe Chimera. The Chimera was an iconic Cobra HISS tank repainted in Joe military colours.  Conversely, the Scythe is the iconic G.I. Joe Skystriker repainted in crimson Cobra colours.Joe-Scythe full

The Skystriker was first released in 1983.  It was probably the biggest vehicle in my vintage collection.  The Skystriker was very well designed and, as far as I could tell, pretty realistic.  It had retractable landing gear and adjustable wings.  The cockpit seated two back then. Both seats popped out and each of them had a working parachute tucked into the back.  They came in handy every time Ace got shot down by Wild Weasel in a dogfight (Wild Weasel was one of my favourite Cobras so Ace never stood a chance).  I used to enjoy throwing Joes, seated in the parachute chairs, up in the air from my deck and watching them drift down safely to my back yard.  Unfortunately there were no seat belts on those chairs and the only thing keeping them attached to the figures was a small peg in their back.  One particular toss led to the untimely demise of Tiger Force Roadblock. :(

As impressive as the Skystriker was it was never one of my favourite vehicles.  First off, the pilot Ace was one of my least favourite Joes.  I wanted to like him but his outfit was kind of goofy and I lost his dome helmet early on which only made him look sillier and ill-equipped.  Secondly, the vehicle was big and took up a lot of space on the bedroom floor.  Thirdly, it was a plane and I’m not really a plane guy.  Playing with it required me to run around the room making whooshing sounds.  I usually had the Skystriker in one hand and the Cobra Rattler in another.  You couldn’t really make them do any cool aerial moves like that and I just didn’t find it very exciting.  I much preferred to have Ace and Wild Weasel duke it out man-to-man on the battle field. I think I still have my vintage Skystriker but I couldn’t find it when I went to dig it out for this review.  I assume it’s gathering dust in the shed at my folks place.Joe-Scythe bottom

When Hasbro re-released the Skystriker in 2011 I passed on it.  The jet had been retooled slightly to accomodate the taller modern-era figures, which meant losing the secondary seat, but essentially it was the same as the ’83 toy.  I try to avoid collecting vehicles for the most part because I simply don’t have room to display them and it sucks buying something only to put it directly into storage.  Plus they can be expensive.  And yet I got roped into buying a Skystriker in 2011 anyway because Hasbro released one painted to look like the Decepticon Starscream as a SDCC exclusive and I simply had to have it.  Two years later they released one painted to look like the Autobot Jetfire which I also had to have.  I was really hoping those would be the last two Skystrikers I would ever buy.

As it turns out, that is not the case.  Hasbro suckered me in again this year by releasing a repainted Skystriker packaged with a repainted HISS, the one vehicle type that I actually seek out.  In order to get the tank I had to get the jet.  To make matters worse they took the standard HISS/Skystriker set and repainted it as a SDCC exclusive which meant I had to buy it twice AND pay a ridiculous price to obtain it.  I actually don’t have the standard Toys R Us version yet but it should arrive in a couple weeks.  The SDCC version however, known as the Scythe,  is here in hand.Joe-Scythe cockpit

I think the Scythe is a cool looking vehicle.  The Cobra motif painted on the top and the snake head on the cockpit is really neat.  The red and silver colour scheme make for a sharp-looking jet.  Beyond the unique paint job though this is the same old Skystriker we’ve seen plenty of times before.  I have nowhere to display this thing so it will likely end up boxed up by the end of the week which seems criminal given that it was so damn expensive.

Joe-Scythe decal

I should also mention that the Scythe included some pretty cool decals and it came with options so you could do a little customization.  The large diamond pattern stickers that run along  the four wings is a little odd but it  breaks up the large areas of solid red and serves as a cute nod to a diamondback rattlesnake. I didn’t apply all of the stickers because I got bored.  It comes with a ton of tiny useless stickers and i just don’t have the patience for them.  It also came with some missiles which I forgot to put on for my photo shoot.

I don’t mean to hate on the Scythe because it really is a nice toy, I just don’t have any need for it. (But no, you can’t have it so don’t ask) 6 out of 10.Joe-Scythe planes

GRUNT v.14 (2015)

Joe-Grunt v14 fullG. I. JOE: 50th ANNIVERSARY 

After taking a break to gush about my awesome new JAWS toy in my last post I’m back with another “Crimson Strike” review.  Crimson Strike is the name of the 2015 San Diego Comic Con exclusive G.I. Joe box set.  It contained 2 vehicles (Scythe and Chimera), 2 Cobra figures (AVAC and Alley Viper), and 2 Joe figures (Steeler and Grunt).  I thought Steeler was a pretty great figure so today let’s examine how his Joe teammate measures up.Joe-Grunt v14 art

Like his pack-mate, Steeler, Grunt was one of the original 13 G.I. Joes released in 1982.  My brother Doug owned the original green uniformed Grunt and the tan repaint from 1983. I didn’t own my first Grunt until 20 years later when an updated version was released during the 2003 Spy Troops line.

Grunt never made a big impression on me.  The 1982 Joe figures all shared parts and almost all of them were white guys in green uniforms.  It made for a cohesive but somewhat generic looking team and Grunt was the most generic of the bunch.  Steeler had his binocular visors, Breaker had his beard, Flash has his red padded uniform, but Grunt didn’t have any distinguishing characteristics or accessories..  Even Zap, who was almost the exact same figure as Grunt, had his signature bazooka and in the comics he had a moustache. Grunt had a helmet, a backpack, and a rifle.Thats about as basic as you get.  Even his name essentially means generic soldier.  Grunt was used on a lot of early G.I. Joe merchandise like bed sheets and birthday hats because of his generic soldier look.  Doug even had a Grunt halloween costume but Grunt’s name was not mentioned on the packaging.Joe-Grunt v14 costume

In 2007 Hasbro ushered in the modern-era with the 25th anniversary series; a toy line which featured classic Joe characters in their most iconic uniforms.  Their original intent was to release the 25 most popular characters but when the line was a success plans were made to carry on beyond that.  The expanded line-up got me pretty excited about the prospect of owning updated versions of the original 13.  One by one Hasbro released them and I was able to collect them with minimal effort because my go-to comic shop, Strange Adventures, stocked them all.  However, they were unable to stock 2008 Grunt because he was only available in a Toys R Us exclusive 3-pack.  I was never able to find the 3-pack at my local TRU and I wasn’t willing to pay big bucks for it on the secondary market because I already had a Hawk and a Duke (the other 2 guys in the pack) and the Grunt was underwhelming because it featured a re-used Flash head instead of a unique head sculpt. I held out hope that we’d eventually get a better version.

Joe-Grunt v14 back

Another version was released in 2009 but it was also included in a Toys R Us 3-pack and I couldn’t find that one either.  I didn’t put any effort into seeking it out on ebay either because the set was part of the Rise of Cobra movie line.  I was a little sour about the movie figures at the time and I didn’t want a Grunt in the ROC aesthetic. I held out hope for a better one.

I finally got a modern-era Grunt in 2013 by way of the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s figure subscription service.  I was pretty happy with Grunt version 13; I rated it 8 out of 10 when I reviewed it 2 years ago.  It featured Grunt in his 1983 tan uniform.  I was happy to finally have a vintage accurate Grunt to complete my modern-era original 13 line-up but I was a little bummed that I didn’t have him in ’82 green.  Also disappointing was that he still didn’t get a unique head sculpt; the Club reused  the 2009 Zap head.

It took a while but I finally have a modern-era Grunt in a green uniform courtesy of this year’s SDCC box set.  Grunt was included in the set to serve as the Chimera’s gunner.  I’ll get my criticism out of the way first.  This is the 4th modern-era Grunt figure and each one of them has had a different head.

version 14 & version 13

version 14 & version 13

What if I want to display all my Grunts next to one another?  They’d all look like completely different dudes.  And like the SDCC Steeler, Grunt’s hair seems to have gone from brown to red. (His hair has changed multiple times over the years, both in colour and style) These kind of inconsistencies really annoy me.

On the plus side, I think this is the best recycled head placed on Grunt yet.  It originally belonged to Airborne version 5 from 2008.  Airborne is Native American so the skin was darker and the hair was black in ’08.  With the new pale skin tone and red hair you can barely tell that the two figures share the same head sculpt.

Grunt’s body is made up of the Cobra Shock Trooper’s arms and torso and some Duke legs.  The removable webgear originally came with the 2013 Night Viper.  All the pieces work well together to create a really nice update of Grunt.

Grunt & Airborne

Grunt & Airborne

As was the case with Steeler, the uniform is basic enough to honour the character’s roots but there are enough new elements to make it feel fresh and modern.  The more I look at this figure the more I like it.  He and Steeler make for a great looking pair.  I really hope we see similar updates of other original 13 characters in the near future.  I’d love to have a Short-Fuze of this quality.

Joe-Grunt v14 night vision


For accessories Grunt comes with a display base, a pistol that can holstered on his chest, a rifle and a helmet.  It’s a pretty basic arsenal which perfectly suits Grunt. However, the helmet has a night vision attachment which can be flipped down over Grunt’s eyes.  It’s a cool little addition which finally gives the character a unique accessory to call his own.

I’m pretty happy with the Crimson Strike set overall but it’s hard to recommend given the price.  I think the Joes and the Chimera are more interesting than the Cobra soldiers and the Scythe so if you if you come across someone  who has broken up the set and is selling the items loose I’d suggest you grab the Joes.  8 out of 10.Joe-Grunt v14 tank

JAWS (2015)

Jaws sideReAction

I had planned to consecutively review all 6 components on the San Diego Comic Con G.I. Joe box set that I got in earlier this week but I’m going to have to stop after 3 (thus far I’ve reviewed AVAC, The Chimera, and Steeler). I’ll get around the second half of the set later but I need to talk about some of the other toys I got in this week. My latest shipment from BigBadToyStore included the brand new Combiner Wars Devastator figure which is an absolute beast of a figure and I was super stoked to get it. But as cool as Devastator is he was overshadowed by a much smaller and simpler toy that arrived in the same shipment. I’m talking about JAWS.Jaws boxed

Sharks terrify and fascinate me and the movie Jaws has a lot to do with it. I first saw it when I was very young and I’ve seen it dozens of times since. It’s probably one of the movies I’ve watched most in my life; up there with Indiana Jones, Star Wars and The Crow. I’ve also seen each of the three Jaws sequels a bunch of times too. None are as good as the original but even the worst Jaws movie is better than any other shark movie ever made. I have multiple shark films in my collection (Deep Blue Sea, Sharktopus, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, etc.) and they’re all completely ridiculous whereas the first Jaws is one of the best movies ever made.  I never get tired of watching it.

Fisher Price Adventure People

Fisher Price Adventure People

When I was a kid I didn’t really care that there weren’t official Jaws action figures. I liked all the human characters well enough but they were just regular looking guys. The shark is what mattered to me and I had a Fisher Price shark that served as an adequate stand in for Jaws. The shark came with my Adventure People patrol boat. The whole set was pretty great but the shark definitely saw more play time than the dorky diver figures. I used that plastic shark with G.I. Joes,  He-Men, Battle Beasts, and anywhere else I could fit him in. He and my Adventure People octopus were very versatile that way. They were essentially the character actors of my figure drawer who managed to steal scenes in every play time scenario.

I had Jaws in mind every time I played with that old shark but the actual toy was nowhere near as menacing as the movie shark. The Adventure People shark had a very docile look about it with a closed mouth and a bored look on his face. I really had to stretch my imagination every time it ferociously attacked someone.  But no more!Jaws front

Funko, the company behind those lovable POP! figures, has produced an actual licensed Jaws toy and it is amazing.  Jaws is part of Funko’s line of  80s-style retro action figures called ReAction figures.  As with their POP! figurines I intended to only buy one or two of them at first but then I fell in love with ReAction figures and now I have a bunch of them.  The line covers a ton of properties and the figures come out faster than I can keep up with them.   The 3 human figures in the Jaws wave are what I’ve come to expect from the line, simple but recognizable 3 3/4″ figures with 5-points of articulation.  They have an obvious retro vibe to them.  As for the shark itself, whom I will continue to refer to as “Jaws”, the figure isn’t as obvious a throwback.  It looks like it could be included in any modern toy line.  It’s probably one of the best looking shark toys I’ve ever seen.

Jaws eating

The packaging, on the other hand, is extremely old-school.  Honestly, the packing of ReAction figures is half  the appeal of them. Most modern toy packaging sucks but Funko has nailed that classic 80s look that was commonplace when action figures were in their heyday.  These Jaws figures are actually the first ReAction figures I’ve opened.  If you look at my past ReAction reviews (Wolfman, Invisible Man, Rocketeer) you’ll see I kept them all sealed on their cards because I liked the cardbacks so much.  The Jaws cards were beautiful too but I simply couldn’t resist opening this Jaws figure and because I opened him I had to open Quint, Hooper, and Brody too.

closed mouth

closed mouth

The sculpt on Jaws is very nice.  The body is sleek with very few sculpted details but the face is rife with cuts and scars.  There’s no articulation on the body which is fine but thankfully he has an articulated jaw so you can open and close his mouth.  It opens quite wide so you can stuff Quint right in there if you want to recreate the final scenes of the movie (sorry, spoiler-alert).  Jaws has two rows of teeth on both the top and bottom of his mouth which is a pretty cool little detail.Jaws belly

The paint work is pretty much exactly what you’d expect:  Grey skin, white belly, red mouth, and lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye.

This figure is nearly perfect.  The only thing that bothers me is how front heavy he is.  When out of the box he falls forward onto his chin and theres nothing you can do about it.  It looks kind of silly displayed that way with his tail up in the air.  I grabbed a loose transformer piece I had laying around to prop him up for these pictures.  A weighted tail would’ve been an easy fix.  Oh well, still amazeballs.  10 out of 10.

"We're gonna need a much bigger boat."

“We’re gonna need a much bigger boat.”


Jaws aquaman

STEELER v.7 (2015)

Joe-Steeler v7 fullG. I. JOE: 50th ANNIVERSARY

In my last post I reviewed the G.I. Joe Chimera, which is really just a Cobra HISS tank painted green.  It was included in the 2015 San Diego Comic Con exclusive G.I. Joe box set titled “Crimson Strike”.  The premise of the set is that the Joes and Cobras have acquired each others vehicles and repurposed them to fit their own needs.  A captured Joe Skystriker became the Cobra Scythe and to fly the new aircraft the Cobra pilot, AVAC, was also included in the set;  makes sense.  Just as sensible is the inclusion of the Joe team’s premier tank driver, Steeler, to man the Chimera.

Steeler was one of the original 13 Joes released in 1982.  The OG13 hold a special place in the hearts of most Joe collectors; especially old guys like myself who’ve been collecting since the beginning.  Of the original roster I owned Snake Eyes, Stalker, and Short-Fuze.  My brother Doug owned all the rest.  By ’83 things evened out and we began collecting each subsequent wave 50/50 but Doug really cleaned up that first year.  One of the 10 originals Doug owned was Steeler who came packaged with the original G.I. Joe tank, the Mobat.Joe-Steeler v7 back

I really liked Steeler from day one.  Not only did he have a sweet ride but he also had an awesome binocular headset attached to his helmet. A number of the ’82 Joes had clear visors on their helmets but Steeler’s solid black headset was totally unique.  When I was little I assumed that all real-life tank drivers wore similar binoculars on their helmets but as I think about it now I don’t think thats actually the case.

In an odd design choice by Hasbro, Steeler couldn’t actually sit inside the Mobat.  Instead, he stood in the roof hatch  like a drunk girl hanging out of a limo on prom night.  Not the safest way to roll into battle to be sure.  But after driving around like that for so many years I imagine the oft ridiculed glass canopy of the HISS tank will feel pretty damn safe to Mr. Pulaski.

1982 Steeler

1982 Steeler

I got my first Steeler figure in 2004 and sadly it was not a good one.  It had a small head and a huge barrel chest.  Those proportion issues are why many collectors completely ignore the new-sculpt years of the early 2000s.

My next Steeler (version 4) was released as part of the 25th anniversary series in 2008; the first modern-era interoperation of the character.  Unfortunately it was a pretty weak figure too.  The design was bland, he had dreaded “Duke arms”, his helmet didn’t fit right, and even his ride had been downgraded to the pitiful Armadillo which looks more like a go-kart than a tank.  The worst offence committed by that figure was that it didn’t have Steeler’s trademark helmet binoculars.

Steeler comparison

Steeler comparison

Another Steeler (version 5) was released later that same year; this time with a tan uniform.  I prefer the tan one because Hasbro fixed a few of the problems of the previous release.  Version 5 had new lower arms with full sleeves and gloves which was closer to the 1982 design and it solved the Duke Arms problem, he got his Mobat back so he was a proper tank driver again, and he had a visor on his helmet.  Unfortunately the visor was a standard “glass” model and not the classic binocular set.

The only part from the 2008 figure used for this latest version of Steeler (version 7) is the head.  I don’t really like this head sculpt all that much but I appreciate that Hasbro has used it consistently for the character throughout the modern-era.  I don’t like when a character’s physical appearance changes drastically from one version to the next.  That said, it is kind of annoying that Steeler’s hair colour has changed from brown to red.  Speaking of his red hair, my Steeler has a dab of orange paint on the tip of his nose which I didn’t even notice until I took these pictures but now I can’t unsee it.  Ho-hum.

Joe-Steeler v7 face

Steeler’s body is made up of Firefly and Roadblock parts.  They work well together and provide for a detailed yet simple basic military uniform.  It’s a nice update to the character without getting too far removed from the original design.  I quite enjoy some of the more fantastical elements of G.I. Joe but I like the OG13 to stick to their military roots.  His uniform is a nice crisp shade of green and the grey padding makes him more interesting to look at. This figure is taller than past versions due to the Roadblock legs but it works out well because I seem to recall that Steeler is supposed to be a big tough guy which is something that never came across in past versions.


Joe-Steeler v7 tank

For accessories Steeler has a rifle, a pistol that can be holstered on his hip, a padded vest with a detachable radio, and finally a helmet with some goddamn binoculars.  I’m so happy that Steeler has his proper headgear at long last but honestly they don’t look as cool as I was hoping.  I don’t recall the vintage figure’s binoculars looking so wide and the red paint on the visor makes Steeler look as though he should be leading the X-Men into battle rather than the Joes.

This figure isn’t perfect but its easily the best Steeler figure since the original.  Its the figure highlight of the SDCC set for me.  8 out of 10.Joe-Steeler v7 Xmen


CHIMERA (2015)

Joe-Chimera fullG. I JOE: 50th ANNIVERSARY

This past Monday my 2015 San Diego Comic Con exclusive “Crimson Strike” box set arrived in the mail.  The set consists of two G.I. Joe vehicles and four figures.  I reviewed one of the figures, AVAC, yesterday.  AVAC’s role in the set is to pilot the Cobra Scythe, a G.I. Joe Skystriker, repainted in a Cobra deco.  The concept behind the box set is that the Joes and Cobras have procured each others vehicles and repurposed them for their own arsenal.  To rival the Cobra Scythe the Joes have turned a captured HISS tank into the G.I. Joe Chimera.Joe-Chimera front

The repainted Skystriker looks pretty cool and the figures are all decent but given the secondary market price of this set I would have passed on it if not for the Chimera.  I’m a sucker for HISS tanks and I simply couldn’t resist getting one in a new colour.

The original Cobra H.I.S.S. (High Speed Sentry) was released in 1983.  It was one of the earliest Joe vehicles released and one of the first, if not THE first, Joe vehicle I ever owned.  I would’ve been five or six when I got it.  Most of the Joe vehicles released in the early years were based on real-world conveyances like tanks, jeeps, and helicopters but the HISS tank was pure science fiction. There was something fantastical about the angular design of the HISS that really appealed to me.  I still have my 1983 HISS and it is in fact the only vintage Joe item that I presently have on display.

The HISS has been remodelled a number of times over the years.  Some have been downright ugly while others have been respectable upgrades.  I’ve amassed a decent little troop of the modern-era design (brown, blue, purple, and red) but there’s just no beating the original.  I have the classic HISS tank in black (x2), red, white, mini, and now green.Joe-Chimera back

When I first saw pictures of this green HISS tank online (it was revealed at April’s Joe Con) I knew I had to have it. The idea of the Joes capturing one of Cobra’s iconic tanks and making it their own was very appealing to me, much more so than if Hasbro had just made this a green Cobra tank.  Seeing the Joe logo and the white star decals on this thing seems so wrong that I love it.  Construction wise, this toy is almost the exact same as my ’83 HISS but even after 30+ years the design holds up.  However the colour and the decals aren’t the only thing thats changed.  Hasbro has added a brand new double rail gun to the back.  The new guns look much more devastating than the double cannons usually found on HISS tanks.  I like that the rail guns show how the Joes took the time to customize their captured tank rather than to just paint it.

As with all classic style HISS tanks, the Chimera has a cockpit that holds one driver and it has a glass canopy.  It can also hold a gunner in the back and it has foot pegs on the very back to accommodate two passengers.  You could also hide stowaways  in the belly of the tank beneath the gunner station as I often did when I was a kid.  The treads don’t really work but there are wheels on the bottom of the tank so it glides along the floor with ease.Joe-Chimera Motorcade

This tank looks great displayed with my other HISS tanks but it also looks great displayed with my classic military Joe vehicles.  The tank’s shade of green matches up nicely with that of the Vamp and the Skyhawk.  It also matches up with the uniforms of the original 13 Joes which is appropriate since the box set includes new versions of Steeler and Grunt to man the Chimera.

The Chimera oozes retro appeal so its a shame it won’t be available at retail.  However a variation of this set with a reddish-orange HISS will be available at TOYS R US for a much more reasonable price very soon. 9 out of 10.Joe-Chimera Hiss army


A.V.A.C. v.3 (2015)

Joe-Avac v3 fullG. I. JOE: 50th ANNIVERSARY

Way back on March 31 (almost 4 months ago) I ordered my 2015 Joe Con exclusive box set.  The Con took place the weekend of April 10-12 and the sets were supposed to be mailed out soon afterwards.  My set has still not shipped.  On the other hand, I pre-ordered the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) exclusive box set on July 7, the Convention was held the weekend of July 9-12, and my set arrived on July 20.  Thats the way things should work.  So a tip of my hat to ebay seller skdauntless for the prompt shipping and a wag of my finger at the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club for the complete opposite of that.

SDCC exclusive G.I. Joe figures have been around since the dawn of the modern-era.  It started with Destro in his animal print  “pimp daddy” uniform in 2007, then Cobra Commander in a 3-piece suit in 2008, then Destro’s ancestor James McCullen IX in 2009, then Sgt. Slaugther in 2010.  The first three didn’t feel essential to me but I had to have Slaughter.  That was the first SDCC exclusive I got and I never looked back.  I picked up Zarana (both versions) in 2011 and Jinx in 2012.  In 2011 Hasbro upped the SDCC ante from just single carded figures to exclusive Transformer/G.I. Joe crossover vehicle box sets as well.  The first was Starscream as a Skystriker with Cobra Commander, then came Shockwave as a HISS tank with Destro and a B.A.T. in 2012, and lastly Jetfire as a Skystriker with Hound as a Vamp, Baroness, Snake Eyes, Ravage, and Bludgeon in 2013.   All those crossover exclusives were awesome but I was glad to see them go; that s**t was  getting expensive. I passed on the 2014 SDCC offering which was a simple repaint of the Flint, Vamp, Eel, and Raft 50th anniversary set, “Danger at the Docks”.

Outer box

Outer box

For the sake of my bank account I was really hoping the 2015 SDCC set would be something I could pass on as well.  As it turned out Hasbro released two SDCC exclusive vehicle sets this year.  The theme this year was that Cobra had captured and repainted some iconic Joe vehicles and G.I. Joe had captured and repainted some iconic Cobra vehicles. I managed to pass on the “Desert Duel” set (so far) but I could not resist the “Crimson Strike” set.  The main reason for that was the inclusion of a green, G.I. Joe deco’ed, HISS tank.  I’ll talk about that more in my next post.  For now I’m going to focus on one of the four figures included from the set, A.V.A.C. (Air Viper Advanced Class).

Inner box

Inner box

Before I get to him though I just want to quickly comment of the excellent packaging these guys came in.  First, I was quite surprised at just how large the box was.  I had no idea what I was getting into when I walked 10 minutes down to the Post Office to pick it up yesterday.  I must’ve looked quite pathetic lugging the massive box back home because some guy even pulled over to see if I needed a lift.    The box had a protective slip case that looked weathered and shot up which was pretty cool on its own but inside was another box with a really cool painted mural of the contents.  This was pure 80s throw-back awesomeness.  Anyway, on to the figure…

The first AVAC figure was released in 1986.  He was packaged with the Cobra headquarters play set, the Terrordrome. He was later available as a mail-away.  My brother Doug owned the original.  We never owned the Terrordrome and I don’t recall Doug ordering him through the mail so I’m not sure where he came from.

1986 AVAC

1986 AVAC


The second version was released 22 years later in 2008.  That first modern-era AVAC was built using re-used HISS Driver  and Zartan parts with a new head.  I thought it was a pretty decent update despite the fact he was Frankenstein’ed from the neck down.Joe-Avac v3 head

This new SDCC version of AVAC reuses the head, arms, and legs of the 2008 figure but uses a Crimson Guard body for the torso.  It makes for a unique look.  The Crimson Guard jacket has more of a dress uniform vibe so it makes this guy look like he could be a senior-ranking AVAC commander  What really makes this figure stand out is the paint job.  The helmet is still metallic silver but it has a red/orange visor this time.  It also has a red winged crest on the forehead and a black paint app on the breather.  The uniform is black with mostly silver highlights and red piping around the panel on his jacket.  I think it looks pretty cool.  There are a few subtle paint apps on the back but at a glance he looks to be solid black from behind.Joe-Avac v3 back

My only major issue with AVAC is that the 2007/2008 parts used to make him are getting pretty dated.  He looks scrawny and his articulation is wonky in places.  This figure really would have benefited from some newer parts.

For accessories AVAC version 3 comes with a display base, a knife that can be sheathed on his boot, and 2 machine guns which are both pretty cool looking (one even has red paint apps).

Overall, I like this figure.  If he were available at retail for around $12 he’d be a must buy.  At Convention price though I cannot recommend him unless you are absolutely compelled to acquire one of the pieces from the Crimson Strike set like I was.  7 out of 10.

2008 AVAC, 2015 AVAC, 2008 Crimson Guard

2008 AVAC, 2015 AVAC, 2008 Crimson Guard

FIRST AID (2015)


When I was a kid the only complete Combiners I owned were Devastator and Defensor.  I loved Devastator but because he was the first Combiner ever released he wasn’t exactly structurally sound.  He was made up of six equally-sized smaller robots; 4 for the limbs and 2 for the torso.  The split torso was the real problem.  Devastator crumbled every time he threw a punch. Hasbro improved on the Combiner design the following year when they opted to make a single larger robot form the torso with 4 smaller robots as the limbs.  That’s how Defensor, made up of the five Protectobots, was built. I loved all five of the Protectobots but my favourite was far and away First Aid.TF-First Aid carded

I’m not sure why I liked First Aid so much.  Maybe an episode of the old cartoon focused on him and infused him with a winning personality.  I don’t recall him ever having a shining moment in Marvel’s Transformers comic.  Maybe it was because of the brief character description on his packaging:

“Hates seeing any machine in pain — even those who don’t know it, like a broken street lamp or an overheated car. Compassionate, cautious — will restrict an Autobot to repair bay for faulty directional signal.”

Sounds like a nice guy worthy of my affection. Honestly it was probably the design of the character that appealed to me the most.  I liked his head design…I always preferred bots with Optimus Prime-like faces.  I also liked his boxy design and his red and white colour scheme.  After I got First Aid in 86/87 he quickly became one of the stars of my Transformers universe.  He didn’t need the other Protectobots to save the day, he was quite capable all on his own.  I regret getting rid of all my childhood Transformers but First Aid is one of the ones I miss the most.  Not because it was a great toy, it wasn’t, but because I loved the character so much that my imagination allowed the toy to seem better than it was.

TF-First Aid pose

Like most of the toys who formed Combiner limbs, the 1986 First Aid was a clunky crappy toy.  His legs were stuck together because he had a hunk of plastic as a uni-foot, his stubby arms didn’t bend and he had a pea-sized head.  I always had fun playing with him, and his simplicity made him durable, but the toy left a lot to be desired.  I have waited years for Hasbro to release a new and improved First Aid.  It’s been 30 years since the original figure was released and about 10 years since I started buying Transformers as an adult collector.  Hasbro has released a ton of great updates of classic Transformer toys this past decade but for some strange reason they seemed intent on denying fans of new and improved Combiners.

Then in 2012 Hasbro released updated versions of the five Combaticons who merge to form Bruticus. That was cool and all but Bruticus was a toy that my brother Doug owned when we were kids so I don’t have as strong a connection to that character.  Bruticus was a hit with Collectors so I hoped that more Combiners would follow.  It took three long years but Hasbro is finally releasing the other Combiner teams.  They’ve even rebranded the line as “Combiner Wars”.  They started with Superion in wave 1 and Menasor in wave 2.  They were cool but, again, they were both toys Doug owned.

TF-First Aid vintage

1986 First Aid

But now wave 3 has finally arrived.  Giggity Giggity.  Wave 3 consists of the five Protectobots AND all six Constructicons.  At present I’ve managed to track down 3 of the Protectobots in the wild and all 6 Constructicons are on their way to me now by way of Canada Post.  The first Protectobot I found (not including Groove) was Hot Spot, the leader of the team who forms the torso, then came Blades the helicopter, and just last night I finally found First Aid.

Combiner Wars First Aid is a retool of the Stunticon Offroad figure from wave 2 but at a glance you can barely tell they’re the same base figure.  The retool was very extensive so don’t think that this is just a repainted Offroad.  Both their robot and vehicle modes are substantially different due to all of changes.  First Aid has new legs, a new chest, new forearms, new door panels, and most importantly a new head.  Also their paint schemes are so radically different that it further sets them apart.

TF-First Aid ambulance

Offroad didn’t impress me when I picked him up a while back but I actually think this is a fantastic First Aid figure.  That’s largely because I have zero nostalgic ties to Offroad but also because the construction of this figure seems perfectly suited to First Aid. It retains all of the design elements I liked about the original while improving on pretty much everything.  It’s bigger, has a normal sized head with a painted visor, has elbows, and finally he has two legs with knees.  Essentially this toy is everything the vintage toy was in my mind’s eye.  The only thing I like less about this new figure is that he came with an axe instead of a pistol.  The axe seems too brutal for First Aid and better suited to the Decepticon Offroad.  I suppose I could pretend that the axe is a medical instrument but thats a bit of a stretch.

First Aid’s ambulance mode is fine though I do miss the boxy Mystery Machine style van of the original.

I’m extremely happy to add First Aid to my modern Transformers collection and I already know that he’s a serious contender for my year-end “best of” list.  10 out of 10.

TF-First Aid Ratchet

The Autobot medical team

TF-First Aid compare

First Aid and Offroad. Separated at birth?


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