ZARTAN v.2 (1993)
Last week an envelop full of loose figures arrived in the mail. I had ordered them from an online retailer a few weeks earlier. This particular site had a whole bunch of figures on sale at very reasonable prices due to their lack of accessories. I don’t ordinarily buy vintage Joes but for $1.99 how could I resist? After all, I’ve told you before about how my brother Doug and I collected Joes together when we were kids. We would do “picksies” every time a new wave of figures would come out and together we would get the whole wave. That worked out fine back then but once we grew up and moved apart my vintage Joe collection was lacking 50% of the important characters. I always thought that one day I would fill in the holes of my vintage collection but it hasn’t really been a priority because I’ve been so focused on collecting modern Joe figures. Well this online sale gave me an opportunity to fill a couple of those vintage holes. I ended up buying 33 figures in total, 27 Joes and 6 Marvel Universe. Of those 27 Joes 4 of them were figures that Doug owned back in the day during our prime Joe collecting years: Hit & Run v.1, Dusty v.1, Hydro-Viper v.1, and Rock & Roll v.2
Two of the Joes were actually from the 2002-2006 “new-sculpt” years: Flash in his astronaut gear (2005) and the G.I. Joe reservist trooper who was a mail-in exclusive (2002).
The remaining 21 Joes I ordered were all from the few years (1990-1994) that the original Joe line continued on after I had lost interest. A few of them were brand new characters like Ambush and Freefall but most of them are new versions of popular characters originally released during my collecting years. My haul contained many version 2 and 3 releases of such classic characters as Gung-Ho, Duke, Bazooka, Stalker, Flint, and Firefly. One of the version 2s I picked up was this ninja force Zartan which was released back in 1993.
The original Zartan figure was released way back in 1984. By way of the cartoons and comics he quickly became a key character in the G.I. Joe mythology. Zartan was Cobra’s master-of-disguise and he also led a gang of bikers known as the Dreadnoks. He had a martial arts background and he played an integral part in pitting Storm Shadow against Snake Eyes by framing Stormy for the murder of their sensei.
Zartan was an oddity from the get-go. His original look consisted of a hood draped over his head, a half-shirt made of glass, and black eye make-up. It really didn’t make a whole lot of sense but I liked the design anyway. In 1986 Zartan’s twin siblings were released: Zarana and Zandar. The twins clearly had similar tastes in fashion but they in no way resembled their brooding older brother. Both of them had red hair and punk rock inspired outfits full of loud colors. I guess their look made an impact on Zartan because when Zartan version 2 was released in 1993 it looked as though he had raided their closet. He was dressed like a punk-rock biker, complete with orange mohawk and neon green pants. Even his black eye make-up had been replaced with a gaudy orange.
I remember when this figure first came out even though I was no longer collecting Joes at the time. I hated it. I almost never preferred a version 2 figure over a version 1. Hawk, Snake Eyes, and Storm Shadow all had very nice version 2s. Beyond that most of the rereleases of established characters were fails as far as I was concerned and Zartan was one of the biggest. The original dark hooded Zartan look was so iconic that it seemed blasphemous to change him into a neon ninja with a mohawk.
Well now that I actually have this figure in hand, 19 years after it was originally released, I actually don’t mind it so much. Seeing as Zartan is a master-of-disguise I guess I shouldn’t have been so bent out of shape about him changing his look in the first place. The mohawked head is actually pretty cool and unique. Nothing else about the figure’s mold is outstanding but it’s serviceable. He’s got a sleeveless black leather jacket with an orange chain draped over one shoulder. The weapons that would have been packaged with this figure were sculpted in a matching orange plastic. The legs are kind of neat in that the left leg has two sheaths for knives on the front of the upper thigh which is something I’ve never seen before. Because this figure is a “ninja force” toy it has a built in action feature. He can be twisted at the waist and he’ll spin back into place, delivering what is supposed to be a nasty punch in the process. It’s the same feature found in most vintage He-Man figures. Because of the spin feature this Zartan doesn’t have an O-ring in his waist like most vintage Joes but his posability isn’t hindered very much as a result. The more I look at this figure the more it grows on me. I don’t necessarily like it as a Zartan but if I had this toy as a kid I think I would’ve used it as a unique new member of the Dreadnoks. I expected to give this figure a score of 2 or 3 when I sat down to write this review but I think I’m gonna give him a 6 out of 10.
Now I’m off to watch the second last episode of Breaking Bad…see ya.