ROYAL GUARD v1
Let us once again travel back in time to the year 1987. Optimus Prime and his Autobots (Ironhide, Wheeljack, etc.) were continuing in their never-ending battle against Megatron and his Decepticons (Starscream, Bombshell, etc.) and G.I. Joe (Duke, Snake-Eyes, etc.) were still fighting for freedom against Cobra Commander’s ruthless terrorist organization Cobra (Major Bludd, Storm Shadow, etc.). All was right with the world, at least as far as toys and cartoons were concerned. But then these toy line juggernauts, which had ruled the toy shelves and the airwaves undisputed for several years decided to tackle a new frontier: the cinema. The Transformers animated movie hit theatres and performed so poorly that the Joe movie didn’t make it to the big screen and was instead broken up into 3 parts and aired as episodes. When the dust had settled on these two franchises after the release of the films what remained was radically different than what had come before. In Transformers most everyone was dead, all 6 characters that I mentioned above got toasted in the movie. Their intergalactic war had been raging for millions of years with seemingly no casualties and then one particularly violent hour and a half left us with a body count of dozens including the leaders of both sides. The Joe movie wasn’t quite as jarring and traumatic but it did go down some very unexpected paths. In the comic book series Cobra Commander was revealed to be a disgruntled former used car salesman who felt jilted by the American government and started Cobra in response. The animated movie went a different route revealing Cobra Commander to be a former scientist of a race of weird bug like people who had ruled the Earth millions of years ago. The ice age had driven them deep underground where they hid in they creepy bio-technical world filled with man-eating plants and slug blimps while mankind flourished on the planet’s surface. This bug-snake race of people was very masculinely called Cobra-La and were lead by the snake bodied, lobster plated Golobulus. Apparently Golobulus sent Cobra Commander out into the human world under the guise of a terrorist to overthrow the humans so that Cobra-La could rise again. Unimpressed by Cobra Commanders constant bumbling Golobulus set about planning a diabolical scheme of his own and brought the Commander back to their underground world to stand trial for his failure. Golobulus’s right hand man was Nemesis Enforcer who commanded an army of Royal Guards, the buggy looking blade wielding infantry of Cobra-La. It was all very weird but not a whole lot weirder than what occurred in most episodes. The problem wasn’t so much with the movie itself but what came after, it ushered in of a new generation of Joe. The seasons that came out after the movie were produced by DIC as opposed to Sunbow and the quality dropped with the change. Annoying new characters were forced on us while old favourites were relegated to background cameos. I wonder if I would’ve remained a huge Joe and Transformers fan into junior high and high school despite the social pressure to box up the toys of my youth if the shows had stayed the course of the earlier seasons. I imagine I would have as I never boxed up my old toys or quit collecting comics but I did stop buying Joe figures. It was almost as if Hasbro was forcing kids my age out of the hobby to make room for a new crop of kids. A blunder I imagine they soon relaized as both properties stopped dead for a few years soon after the release of these movies and the accompanying action figures.
Which brings me back to the subject of this post, the 1987 action figure of the Royal Guard: the nameless faceless masses of Cobra-La. I actually loved Cobra-La. I’m not sure how I would’ve felt about them if they became regular foils of Joe on the show but for a one-off movie I thought they made for some entertaining hijinks. The characters had the coolness of being Cobra with the added cool of being monsters as well. I thought the Royal Guard was a great standard trooper for this bizarre new enemy. Were they human like people as Nemisis Enforcer, Golobulus and Cobra Commander were who just wore freaky suits of armour? Or were those big eyed Greedo like visages their actual faces? The fact that they hummed their odd battle cry (Lalalalalalalala) like a swarm of insects when they attacked made me imagine that they were more creature than man. The design is great with the bug like carapace armour with just a hint of regal flare , they are Royal Guards after all. That comes across more in the animated look where they had capes which the action figures lacked. The figure came in a 3 pack with the 2 other Cobra-La members. Tragically, Pythona was left out of the pack and to this day has yet to receive a proper action figure. She was the only other prominently featured member of La. The Royal Guard came with 3 accessories, the oft misplaced breathing tube, a pistol, and the coolest bladed weapon of all time. The giant over-sized scythe remains one of my favourite Joe accessories and really adds some menace to this figure. I think he’s great and I hope to one day be treated to a modern interpretation of the character as the ’87 version is currently the only one ever released. 8 out of 10.