Here’s another great figure from the new sculpt era of which I’ve been reviewing many figures lately. The thing about this this era of Joe is that sometimes the term new sculpt doesn’t really apply. I read an interesting article written by another Joe fan recently about how carelessly the community labelled the “eras” of Joe. The original line from the 80s is easy enough. It’s called the vintage line or more commonly the RAH (Real American Hero). Then in 2002 new figures started coming out which fans starting calling “new sculpt” figures. That worked out fine of course until the figures were no longer new. And now the current figures are referred to as the modern era which also won’t work a few years from now. So it’s a complete mess. Oh well, someone will figure it all out one day. So this figure heralds from the new sculpt days but as with many figures released back then, the bodies were actually the same ones used in the RAH line of the 80s. The only thing newly sculpted about this figure is the head. The body is made up of the same body parts of the very first Zartan figure released in 1984. Which is fine as that body was pretty cool and the one everyone associates with Zartan. Every time he’s reinvented with a new look it’s usually a disaster. 1993 mohawk. Fail. 2004 touque. Not so good. Not that this weird cloth on his head necessarily makes for an awesome look either but that’s how we were first introduced to him so that’s how I like him. I don’t think the animators of the original cartoon knew what to make of this hooded look either. I believe it was often mistakenly drawn as his hair instead of the hood that it clearly was when you look at the toy and it’s packaging.
This was the last Zartan figure released in the new sculpt era and I think maybe the best Zartan that had been released up to that time. The original figure was great but it lacked the personality of which Zartan had so much of. When the figure was first being designed I’m sure the sculptors had no idea that Zartan would become one of the most memorable characters on the show and given a back story in the comic books so important to the whole mythos of Joe. He killed the Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow’s sensei don’t you know resulting in all kinds of ninja hijinks. So the original figure looks rather forlorn and lacking the charisma he had shown in other media. This figure was released in comic 3 pack along with Cobra Commander and a fugly Zarana in 2005. The comic packs were intended to give us comic book and cartoon accurate versions of iconic Joe characters. The figures were usually colored much brighter to emulate that animated look. So they took the original body of Zartan which already worked so well and brightened it up. Then they sculpted a great new head and plopped it on top. Then they threw in some cool new weapons like a bow, quiver and individual arrows and the result was one kickass Zartan figure. This face shows the whites of his eyes and has a sneer fitting of the sly master-of-disguise. Good stuff. 7 out of 10.