A while back I reviewed the most recent version of Zarana, one of my favorite characters from the G.I. Joe universe. Today I’m gonna take a look at the original figure released way back in 1986. There have 5 different versions of Zarana released over the years. The second one was released in 2003, the third in 2004 and the fourth in 2005. The most recent was the aforementioned modern era convention exclusive version released in 2011. Now having 5 different versions released isn’t bad, it’s a lot better than many other Joes who’ve only been released once. It’s more than twice as many as Zarana’s own twin brother Zandar who has only had 2 figures released, and they were 25 years apart. But for a character as significant as Zarana has been over the years only having 5 figures is a disgrace. Zarana has been featured prominently in the cartoons and comics with full episodes and issues dedicated to her as the central character. Cobra Commander and Snake-Eyes have been released over 50 times. Hasbro has presented the argument before that girl figures just don’t sell. I wouldn’t doubt that girl figures don’t sell as well as their male counterparts but having girls in the line has been a factor of the brand’s success since wave 1. The Joe team’s Scarlett has been released 14 times over the years while Cobra’s Baroness has been released 16 times. So where’s the love for Zarana? Her most recent figure wasn’t even sold at retail. The 2011 version was only available at San Diego Comic Con and now can’t be found on the secondary market for less than $50, meaning that a lot of fans will never own one. I of course had to splurge. There was no way I wasn’t going to have Zarana in my modern collection. Zarana has always been one of my favorite characters and my love affair with her began in ’86 when I got this figure.
I only call it a love affair to mess with Vanessa, she hates it when I talk affectionately about female toys and comic book characters. For the record I do not think this action figure is attractive. This little piece of plastic does nothing for me in that regard. When I refer to a toy as “hot” it’s more the idea of the character I’m referring to. When I played with my toys as a kid I didn’t envision my Joes to be small plastic men waging war with one another, I imagined them to be real soldiers like my dad. In my mind’s eye I saw them as real people. You had to let your imagination fill in the blanks a bit. And when it came to Zarana I guess my imagination had to work overtime. Zarana was quite butch and fugly in the cartoon. Her comic book appearances were hit and miss depending on who was drawing her but I don’t think most artists were striving to make her attractive. And then there’s this action figure which isn’t gonna win any beauty pageants anytime soon either.
As with all Joes of that period her painted on facial features are pretty simple. Some color in her eyes would’ve really helped this figure out. At least she has painted lips which is a big improvement over the very bland looking Scarlett version 1. As you can see in the close up the right eye of my figure is actually rubbing off which kinda sucks. Her hair is quite strange as it’s partly sculpted to her head like on early versions of Scarlett and Cover Girl but then she has a separate rubber piece glued down the middle. I think the designers intended to present a faux-hawk like design but that’s not really how it comes across. The bright red used for the hair doesn’t bother me but it’s not very representative of how she looked in the comics or cartoon.
The torso and arms I quite like with the randomly slapped together armor look. Her shoulder pieces are actually borrowed from her older brother Zartan. They were also used on her twin brother Zandar which gives the siblings a somewhat uniform design. Like many of the Dreadnoks (the biker gang she led alongside her 2 brothers) I would say Zarana’s look is Mad Max inspired. For her lower half Zarana has some cool design elements. I like the dagger and the kneepads and her spurred boots are pretty cool. However the rip in the side of her jeans always bothered me. Beneath the rip was painted a dark solid pink. I always thought it should have been painted flesh tone and I imagine that’s what the sculptors intended but perhaps that much flesh was too risqué so they went with pink instead. This makes it appear as though Zarana is wearing hot pink tights under her jeans. They rectified this paint error on version 4 that used the same mold.
For accessories Zarana came with a bright solid red back pack that never made much sense to me. Like some of the other Dreadnoks Zarana used a strange type of weapon that could have doubled as a power tool. Road Pig had a cinderblock on a stick, Buzzer had a chain saw, and Zarana carried a circular saw gun. This thing would have been useless in long range combat but totally gruesome at close range. Not very lady-like Zarana.
One neat thing about this figure that I nearly forgot about is that it changes color when placed in direct sunlight; her skin turns blue. You see her older brother Zartan was Cobra’s master of disguise. He was portrayed in the cartoon as having some supernatural chameleon like ability to take on the appearance of anyone he wanted. This ability however made him extremely sensitive to sunlight and his skin would react when exposed to it by turning blue. The first Zartan figure released in 1984 was the first figure to feature this color change gimmick. Since Zarana and Zandar are his younger siblings Hasbro figured that they should turn blue as well although they were never shown to have the same abilities nor extreme reaction to sunlight that Zartan had. It was neat a neat feature but not one that added much value to me personally.
This figure may not be perfect, and it’s definitely not “hot” but the character of Zarana always will be in my mind. Her badass attitude and punk rock look was all I needed to build on and my imagination did the rest. This figure may not deserve it from a design standpoint but I gotta give my girl a solid 9 out of 10. When you were a kid toys didn’t have to look perfect for you to love them. 9 out of 10.