COBRA TROOPER v.9 (2008)
Well February is nearly over which also brings Black History Month to a close. I actually had the idea back in December to spend a week in February reviewing notable black action figures but I forgot about all about it until just now. So I’m sorry that I didn’t get to devote a whole week to the subject but at least I will get this one review done. With most toy lines you can count on there being at least one token black guy included in the line whether it be Winston from the Ghostbusters, Lando from Star Wars or Token from South Park. But one toy line which has always embraced diversity is G.I. Joe. There have been African-American Joes dating back the 60s line of 12” Joes but those were before my time. I grew up in the “Real American Hero” era of Joe. Right from the get go, the RAH line had a positive African-American character in Stalker. He was soon followed by Doc and Roadblock. All of them were key players in the early Joe cartoons and comics. Many more black characters joined the team over the years including Hardball, Alpine, Heavy Duty, and Iceberg. Joe also had Native American, Latino and Asian members on the team. Sure, the team was mostly white guys but there was a fair amount of diversity between them as well. I don’t think anybody could accuse the Joes of not allowing members of any particular group on the team.
Cobra, on the other hand, was a completely different story. That was one cracker ass team of terrorists. I could be wrong but I don’t think they had a single African American on their roster for the entire RAH era. They were willing to accept white dudes with snake tails or dressed up as birds but it does not appear as though they were accepting resumes from minorities. I’ll be honest, I never gave it any thought back then but if I was a black kid in the 80s I would’ve been pretty disappointed to not have any representation on the most ruthless of snake themed terrorist organization. I’m not looking to make excuses for Hasbro but I think one of the issues might have been that so many Cobra figures represented an entire squadron of soldiers. Every Joe was an individual so that allowed for more diversity but when it comes to Cobra, there were single figures made of Heat-Viper and Ice-Viper which were representative of the hordes of HEAT and ICE-Vipers we saw in the comics and cartoons. If Hasbro had made the Heat-Viper figure black that might lead people to believe that all the Heat-Vipers are black. This happened with the Rock Viper released in 1990. He was supposed to represent all of the many Rock-Vipers and yet the figure was sculpted with a very unique mustache. Did this mean that in order to be a Rock-Viper you had to grow this mustache? I dunno. That kinda stuff can confuse people. Regardless, you’d think Hasbro could’ve come up with a black “name” Cobra character to interact with Cobra Commander and Destro.
That’s what brings me to this figure. He’s not the first black Cobra and that’s what’s so great about him, he’s now one of many. I’m quite certain the first black Cobra was Burnout released in 2003. Though he was a Dreadnok so you could argue that he didn’t count. That would make the first black Cobra the Cobra Infantry Trooper released in 2004. At least in toy form. You could argue that Destro’s son Alekander was the first as he began appearing in comics in 2001. Firefly became African-American in Devil’s Due Reloaded series and remains so in IDWs Joe comics. In toy form Cobra now has a couple of black “name” Cobras other than the debatable Burnout in Night Adder and Shadow Tracker. Whoever you decide to call “the first” 2004 was indeed the banner year for diversity in the Cobra ranks because Hasbro released a few trooper multi-packs meaning that no longer did one figure need to represent an entire squad. These multi-packs gave as African American Infantry Troopers (Blue shirts) and Crimson Guards. This figure here carries on the tradition of racially diverse troopers from multi-packs for the modern generation of Joes.
Cobra Trooper version 9 was included in the Extreme Conditions: Desert Assault Squad 7-pack released in 2008. An Extreme Conditions winter pack was released at the same time. The packs included one “name” Cobra to lead the squad (Major Bludd in the case of the Desert pack) and 6 environmentally specialized troopers. One of those troopers was a flamethrower specialist who happened to be the subject of my second ever review back in December 2011. The others were a Hostile Environment Specialist, a Cobra Officer and a couple of Crimson Guards. This guy is billed as an Explosives Specialist. I really liked these packs. They allowed me to army build my modern armies without buying repeat figures. The desert set especially gave us cool new variations of familiar Cobra troops like the Crimson Guards and this guy who is basically just a standard Cobra blue shirt in tan.
Unfortunately this guy doesn’t quite live up to his potential. He’s been given Tripwires accessories that date back to 1983. The stiff molded plastic wire on his mine detector is impossible to pose correctly when it’s plugged into his mine storage back pack as it’s supposed to be. These weapons just seem dated. Also this figure is a mish-mash of previously released blue shirt and viper parts and the viper parts do not serve him well. The original 25th anniversary Viper had the worst lower legs because his ankles were sculpted at an angle making it impossible for him to stand on his own. This poor fella has inherited those legs and those problems. I do like the inclusion of the Viper vest as it helps to establish that he’s a specialized blue shirt and not just your average grunt. So while the figure isn’t great, I think he’s representative of a great thing. Finally black kids can imagine themselves as one of the nameless Cobra Troopers without taking a sharpie to a vintage figure. 6 out of 10. Hopefully I’ve done my part to contribute to Black History Month by dropping some African-American toy knowledge on ya.