Monthly Archives: October 2013

SPEARHEAD & MAX v.3 (2013)

Joe-Spearhead v3 fullG. I. JOE

Most old school Joe fans would probably tell you that 1985 was the best year ever for G.I. Joe toys. I’m inclined to agree but only by a slight margin. I think that the toy line was totally solid from it’s beginnings in 1982 right up until 1988, maybe even ’89.  Each wave introduced so many cool new characters.  By the time we got to the 90s the brand was mostly just rehashing what had come before.  Today almost every wave contains a Duke and a Snake Eyes and a bunch of other characters you already own a dozen times over; new characters are rare. 1988 was a great year for Joe, rife with newbies , and it was the year my favorite Joe figure was released, Shockwave.  Other great new characters included Hit & Run, Charbroil, Roadpig, Lightfoot, and Voltar.  After Shockwave, my second favorite joe released that year was Spearhead who came packaged with his Bobcat Max.  Spearhead was an insurance salesman turned infantry point man. Joe-Spearhead v3 face

 

 

I’m not sure what I liked so much about Spearhead because he had his share of problems.  First off he had a bad orange camouflage outfit.  I don’t know if it was intended for desert combat or what but I don’t think he would’ve blended in anywhere in that uniform.  Then there were his accessories which were all cast in dull gray or bright orange and were all comically oversized.  His gun wasn’t so bad but his machete was ridiculous.  The worst accessory was his helmet which sat atop his head in a very goofy way making him look like he had a massive melon.

Then there were the good parts.  I really liked his overall sculpt.  It was simple and believably militaristic.  The face made him look like a really nice guy which was also part of the appeal I suppose.  The file card added some fun personality to the guy and best of all was the inclusion of Max.  I was a sucker for any Joe with a pet and a bobcat was something we hadn’t seen before.Joe-Spearhead v3 card

While they were overshadowed by Shockwave to a degree both Spearhead and Lightfoot became key members of my Joe team.  Both of them have been  high on my want list of old characters to be released in the modern style.  Alas, 1988 is a year that has been largely ignored by the modern Hasbro design team. No new versions of Cobra troopers like the Astro Viper, Hydro Viper or Secto Viper and no new versions of Joes like Blizzard, Budo, Lightfoot, Muskrat, Repeater, and Spearhead.Joe-Spearhead v3 back

Well thank goodness for the G.I. Joe collector’s club.  In their 2013 convention set not only did they give us great Cobras like Cobra Mortal, the SAW Vipers, and the Frag Vipers but they also filled in a bunch of holes that remained in collector’s modern joe collections. The 15 figure box set dubbed “nocturnal fire” had the first ever modern sculpt versions of Repeater, Muskrat, Psyche Out, and Spearhead, along with updated versions of Hit & Run and Charbroil.  That’s 5 1988 Joes in one box.  The only disappointing aspect of the set for me was the Night Force theme. None of the Joe characters were wearing their original outfits, they were all wearing their darker toned Night Force outfits.  Most of these character were originally released in their Night Force colors in a series of Toys R Us exclusive 2-packs in 1989.  I never owned any of the 80s Night Force figures so I have no nostalgic connection to the subset.Joe-Spwarhead v3 squat

The 1989 Night Force Spearhead used the exact same mold as the 1988 original only it was re-colored in black and brown with black accessories.  This 2013 version does a pretty good job of replicating the look of the ’89 figure.  The pieces are all borrowed from other figures, including the vest and bullet belt but they come together nicely to make a pretty decent Spearhead. This version has a dark brown base color instead of black like the original but the brown vest and green boots remain.  A couple of noticeable changes the Club made are  the addition of green gloves and a pair of goggles on the helmet.  The inclusion of goggles is kind of weird because Spearhead never had them before and red goggles on the helmet is kind of Hit & Runs’ thing and H&R is included in the same set.  Whatever the reason I like it.  They add some much needed color to the figure and they tie him to Hit & Run for a cohesive team look.  The head is borrowed from a previously released Dusty figure but it looks pretty close to the original nice-guy Spearhead face.

The Club sculpted an entirely new Max the bobcat.  This version has a lot more personality than the solid orange hunk of plastic from ’88 which was painted black and green (?) for the 1989 version.  This Max is still a solid hunk of plastic with no articulation but he has painted eyes, teeth and spots.  it looks great but the legs are sculpted a bit close together so he doesn’t stand very well.Joe-Spearhead v3 max

Spearhead was one of the main reasons that I shelled out the cash for this box set and I am not disappointed with him.  As much as I wanted an ugly orange one since that’s what I grew up with, there’s no denying that the Night Force colors are better.  I’ve become accustomed to them and if they never release an orange repaint I’ll be fine with this being my only modern Spearhead.  Another great piece of work from the Collector’s Club.  8 out of 10.

ALIEN DEMON

Blackstar-demon fullBLACKSTAR

Most of the toys I cover in this blog are from beloved, well-known properties like G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Marvel super heroes.  However I have acquired a few odds and ends from less recognizable toy lines over the years.  When I was a kid all of my major collections, like the ones mentioned above, all had their own designated storage spot.  My G.I. Joes were in a clear plastic box in the closet while my Transformers were kept in a large cardboard box under the bed.  When it came to the odds and ends they ended up in my generic “figure drawer”.  The figure drawer was home to my one Voltron figure, my one Starrior figure,  My one A-Team figure, my one Dungeons & Dragons figure, etc.

One of the oddities that resided in my figure drawer was the Palace Guard from the Blackstar line of figures.  For those of  you not familiar with Blackstar (which is probably most of you), it was a cartoon produced in 1981 by Filmation, the same studio that produced the Masters of the Universe cartoon.  Blackstar was a lot like Masters of the Universe actually.  The star of the series was John Blackstar, an astronaut who ends up stranded on a strange barbarian world rife with futuristic technology.  The series ran for one season.  I would’ve been three at the time.  I do have some vague memories of the show but I’m sure those must be from watching repeats aired a few years later.  Galoob didn’t release action figures for the series until 1983 so I assume the show was still being aired at that time.Blackstar-logo

My older brother Doug and I owned one figure each from the toy series.  I don’t really recall when we got them exactly.  A lot of the oddities from the figure drawer were oddities because we received them as birthday and Christmas presents and weren’t necessarily things that we “wanted”.  But I do believe that Doug and I actually picked out our two Blackstar figures from a store.  Doug had Neptul who was basically the Blackstar equivalent of Mer-Man.  He was a yellow skinned fish guy who ruled an underwater kingdom.  The figure had a cloth cape and a glow-in-the-dark scepter.  The figures were slightly taller than MOTU figures but had a similar design and thus could easily be played with together.  Since we only had two Blackstar figures the only times they got played with was when we included them into our MOTU play or in one of our legendary figure drawer royal rumbles. Blackstar-Neptul

As I mentioned earlier, the one Blackstar figure I had was the Palace Guard who was an eagle man with a spiked helmet.  He was pretty grumpy looking and bared a slight resemblance to Sam the Eagle from the Muppets, what with his bushy eyebrows and all.  I held onto that figure for a long time and it was a favorite of mine as a kid.  Sadly when the helmet got misplaced he wasn’t nearly as cool looking and he became expendable.  If memory serves, a kid from the neighborhood stole the Palace Guard from me  when he was visiting our house one day.  We weren’t exactly friends but I played it coy, got myself invited to his house and I stole it back.  Doug probably remembers this better than I and can perhaps add some details in the comments section.  He might even remember the little bastard’s name.  Anyway, I did eventually get rid of the figure at a yard sale or something.  Doug still has Neptul.Blackstar-Demon carded

All of the hero figures in the Blackstar line came packaged with an unarticulated Tobbit (Tree Hobbit).  All of the villains came packaged with Demons.  Since both Neptul and the Palace Guard were villains Doug and I each had a little yellow demon.  The demons came in a variety of colors but we both ended up with these brightly colored, almost neon, little demons.  I’m not sure if the colors had any significance but I kind of always wanted to collect the different colored ones.  I actually liked the Demon more than the Guard so when I sold the Guard I kept the Demon which I still have to this day.  It’s a very versatile little creature which still looks good when displayed with modern He-Man figures.

The figure has no articulation and no accessories as he himself was basically an accessory.  The sculpting is quite good and the red and white paints applications on the eyes is appreciated.  He’s made of a soft but solid plastic so you can move his arms, legs, and tail a bit but they always fall back into position.  You can see on the photo with both our Demons that there’s some blue residue in the small crevices.  That’s left over from an adventure where the Demons found themselves doused in some particularly sticky play-doh.  I think it may have been home made.  I really like this figure and if I ever stumble across any Blackstar figures I would scoop them up.  Doug has collected a few of them in recent years and I’m slightly jealous of his collection.  7 out of 10.Blackstar-Demon pair

 

BATROS (2013)

MOTUC-Batros fullMASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS

The Masters of the Universe Classics line has been around for a couple of years now.  Nearly all of the figures from the vintage toy line have now been released in the Classics style.  In order for Mattel to extend the life of the line and throw fans a few surprises before its eventual end they’ve taken to adding new and never before released characters to the line. Last year they had a 6 figure subset called the 30th anniversary series which only featured newly created characters like Draego-Man, Mighty Spector, and Fearless Photog.  This year’s 6 figure subset focuses on characters who appeared in the old MOTU cartoon produced by Filmation but who never received a vintage action figure.  Not long ago I reviewed the first figure in the Filmation series, Icer.  Today I have for you the third figure from the subset, Batros. MOTUC-Batros toon

When I first heard that Mattel would be focusing on Filmmation characters in 2013 I was only mildly interested.  I loved the cartoon as a kid but find it pretty unbearable to watch as an adult.  I picked up the “Top 10” episodes box set years ago but couldn’t even get through that.  For that reason I passed on buying the complete season box sets.  As neat as they’d be to own as a collector it just wouldn’t be worth my money to buy DVDs that I’d likely never watch.  Since I haven’t seen most episodes of the show since I was a little kid I don’t really remember any of the Filmation characters who never appeared in toy form.  When I saw Icer he vaguely rang a bell but it wasn’t familiarity or nostalgia that made me want him, I just thought he was a cool toy.  When it comes to Batros he doesn’t look familiar to me at all.  I have zero recollection of the one episode that he apparently appeared in where he stole a bunch of magical books or something.  All I know about him I read online in preparation of writing this blog.  But like Icer, he was just too damn cool to pass up. MOTUC-Batros back

He’s kind of a weird blend of Barbarian, monster, and super-villain.  I could totally picture this guy in an episode of Scooby Doo or Space Ghost, he reeks of Hanna-Barbara style silliness.  Like, what’s his deal?  Is he a bat, or a guy, or a guy dressed like a bat?  The fact that he’s purple skinned and hairless over most of his body leads me to believes that the furry blue cowl is a fashion choice instead of an evolutionary trait.  But would an evil book collecting bad guy really wear a hat with ears like he was some Japanese Manga-fangirl.  And if it is his actually furry head, did he shave the rest of his body? MOTUC-Batros side face

These unanswered questions make the character extremely interesting to me.  I think that if I had owned a figure of this guy as a kid he would’ve been one of my favorites.  While I didn’t like the superhero elements of Mighty Spector’s design I love the super villain aspects of Batros.  The sculpt is great, the colors are great, the joints are solid, Spikor’s repainted mace suits him well, all-in-all it’s just a great figure.  Sometimes toy collecting can be frustrating because of how much money it costs and how hard some figures are to find but figures like Batros remind me why I do it, they’re fun.  10 out of 10.MOTUC-Batros faceMOTUC-Batros toon books

ABOMINATION / A-BOMB (2013)

Marv-Abomb fullMARVEL UNIVERSE

Just a few posts ago I reviewed a Mysterio figure from the Marvel Universe line.  In that review I pondered whether Mysterio would be my last MU purchase considering the line’s impending demise.  Well within days of writing those words I found myself with 4 new Marvel Universe figures.  Technically one of them, Kurse, is from the “Thor: The Dark Ages” toy line but he’s compatible with the MU figures.  The other figures I picked up were the duo of Cloak & Dagger, who have long been favorites of mine, and one of two possible Abominations.  I passed on the new Iron Man because his new armour is stupid and Wolverine because Wolverine’s been done to death.  I was disappointed that Strange Adventures didn’t have both Abominations in stock but one is better than none. Marv-Abomb face

The green Abomination is long time Hulk Villain, Emil Blonsky.  You can read about him in my review of the excellent Marvel Select Abomination figure.  I don’t usually buy Marvel figures in the larger scales of “Legends” and “Select” but that Abomination was too cool to pass up.  But as great as that figure is, it does not negate my need for a 4 inch Abomination to scale with the rest of my massive collection of Marvel Universe figures.  I’ll just have to keep checking my local Toys R Us and Wal-Mart in hopes of finding him eventually. Marv-Abomb art

 

The Abomination that Strange Adventures did have in stock was the blue one.  Now I don’t know if the blue one was the only one available because he’s the standard release and the Green is a chase variant (forgive my collector jargon) or if it’s simple because the blue Abomination is less desirable.  While the green, Emil Blonsky, Abomination has been a fan favorite villain since the 1960s, the blue one who goes by the name A-Bomb appeared for the first time just a few years ago.  He was actually introduced in the same storyline that brought us the Red Hulk.

I initially wasn’t keen on A-Bomb.  First off I thought his name was just plain obnoxious but it has kind of grown on me.  At least Marvel gave him his own name instead of just calling him blue Abomination.  It annoys the hell out of me that they were too lazy to give the new red characters unique names.  Red Hulk and Red She-Hulk have got to be the worst super hero names ever.  For a while fans took to calling the Red Hulk “Rulk” which is still stupid but infinitely better than Red Hulk.  So in regards to the name A-Bomb I’ve grown to like it because it ties him to the original Abomination and in a cheesy way it’s actually kind of clever. Marv-Abomb back

Another reason that I wasn’t initially keen on this new Abomination is because they killed off the old one which made this new guy seem like a cheap replacement.  I’m not sure whether the original Abomination has been resurrected yet or not but if he hasn’t I’m sure he will be soon.  Nobody in comics stays dead for long.  I was also disappointed by the reveal that the new A-Bomb was actually Rick Jones, long time sidekick of the green Hulk (Do you see what they’ve done with their stupid naming or lack thereof?  Forced me to specify “Green” Hulk.  Lame).  I’ve never been an avid Hulk reader and don’t know a whole lot about Rick Jones but he always struck me as annoying in that Jimmy Olsen kind of way.

One aspect of this new Abomination that I find interesting is that he’s a good guy.  It was a secret cabal of Hulk villains that transformed Rick into A-Bomb thinking they would be able to control him and force him to destroy Hulk, but Rick’s good nature won out and he became an ally of the Hulk instead.Marv-Abomb cover

The biggest plus that A-Bomb has going for him was that he first appeared in a storyline drawn by the brilliant Ed McGuinness. Ed can make me like any character.  His art is what drew me to the Hulk books for the first time ever and got me hooked on these new takes of established characters.  This figure does an okay job at capturing Ed’s art style but not as effectively as the Red Hulk or Batman/Superman figures did.  I think that’s partly because Hasbro cheaped out on the tooling of this toy, enabling them to use the same parts for both Abominations.  In the comics A-Bomb is much more heavily armored than the Blonsky Abomination, kind of like an armadillo, and that doesn’t come across on this figure.  What the designers have done to differentiate the characters is give them unique head sculpts and A-Bomb has some added armor on his wrists.  Those two minor changes actually go a long way in making them look like different toys.  Not to mention the rich aqua blue that A-Bomb has been molded in which looks great; it’s a very comic book-esque color.

All in all this is a pretty darn good figure.  He’s thick and durable and posable unlike the skinnier Marvel Universe figures that tend to be delicate and awkward to pose.  My new Cloak & Dagger for example are both pretty gimpy.  I’d say go out and grab yourself one of these figures if can find it.  9 out of 10.Marv-Abomb jeep

RUN AMUCK DUCK

BB-Duck frontBATTLE BEASTS

The first wave of Battle Beast figures contained most of the “popular” animals.  The kind of animals you would immediately think to place on a team of animal warriors such as lions, tigers, and bears. By the third and fourth waves Takara seemed to be running out of ideas because we started getting some really strange animals and a lot of repeats as well.  The second wave was cool because it was still full of fresh ideas and easily identifiable animals, only they tended to be the types of animals you would be less likely to place on a team of animal warriors.  The second wave had a seahorse, a flying squirrel, and a squid.  One of the least-warrior looking of the bunch was this guy, Run Amuck Duck, whom I called Battle Duck.BB-Duck card

I live quite close to a park and I see ducks on a regular basis. Growing up in the Canadian suburbs I never felt like my life was lacking ducks, they were around.  And yet the ducks I encounter are never yellow.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a yellow duck, just ducklings.  So why is it that every time you see a toy duck, be it a bath toy or a battle beast, the duck is yellow?  Maybe Run Amuck is supposed to be a duckling but that seems kind of weird and it would change the way I view him entirely. BB-Duck back

In my Battle Beast universe Battle Duck was a member of the good guy team lead by Battle Rhino.  He was a skilled fighter and a respected member of the team.  I don’t recall giving him any quirky personality traits; he was a pretty straight forward guy.

The sculpt on this figure is a nice one.  Despite the yellow color the head is very realistic looking, much more so than most rubber ducks who tend to have big blue eyes and smiles.  This is the face of a duck that means business.  If his cold stare isn’t indication enough that this isn’t a duck to be trifled with then maybe his bladed hand will get the point across.  Many Battle Beast figures had one weaponized hand.  On some it looked like a prosthetic while on others like Ducky here is looks like an extension of his actual arm, like a mutation.  I never put much thought into where they got these weaponized hands but I suppose you could assume they volunteered to get them.  Maybe duck knew that he didn’t stand much of a chance at victory if he found himself fighting a grizzly bear on the battle field so he promptly signed up for biological enhancement.  Makes sense. BB-Duck blade

There’s nothing else about the mold that really stands out but I do like his webbed feet and little duck tail.  The blue armor and orange accents work well with the base yellow.  I’m not sure what the deal is with his sword/axe weapon.  It’s one of the weirder weapons in the line but I like it.  8 out of 10.BB-Duck side

THUNDER PUNCH HE-MAN (2012)

MOTUC-TP He-Man full 1MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS

I’m a big fan of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe but out of the many different Masters, He-Man was my least favorite as a kid.  As a muscle bound barbarian warrior he had the potential to be a total badass like Conan.  But his pageboy haircut and wimpy Prince Adam alter ego brought him down a few too many pegs in my book.  When I played with my MOTU toys as a kid it was always Stratos and Buzz Off that saved the day with He-Man tagging along for the ride.  Even though He-Man was my least favorite MOTU figure he was still an essential part of the collection.  I can’t imagine not having him.  As dull as he was when compared to other Eternian heroes like Moss Man and Ram Man, He-Man made for a good straight man; he was relatable to the audience and he helped to ground things in reality. I had the very first He-Man figure which was released way back in 1982.  I still have him but sadly he’s lost all of his accessories and his hand was mangled by my baby brother.  MOTUC-TP He-Man face

After the toy line’s debut He-Man was released in a number of different costumes in the years that followed.  This gave kids who were jumping on the  MOTU bandwagon late a chance to own the title character.  I always thought the second version was pretty cool with his battle damage armor but not cool enough to warrant wasting a precious slot of my Christmas list.  I’d choose a new character over an established character in a new outfit any day.  One of the later versions of He-Man that came out was Thunder Punch He-Man.  What made his punches so thunderous were the caps in his backpack that popped when he punched.  I vaguely remember when that figure came out in 1986.  I didn’t pay much attention to the later He-Man releases because, as I said, he wasn’t my favorite character.  Had there been a Thunder Punch Mer-Man then I would’ve been all over it. MOTUC-TP He-Man full 2

He-Man finally got cool, in my mind, in 2002.  The relaunched MOTU toy line and cartoon of the early 2000s were awesome.  He-Man finally had a respectable haircut and even Prince Adam was somehow cooler despite being reduced to a scrawny teenager.  Sadly this era of MOTU was short lived.

The MOTU Classics line began in late 2008.  The Classics figures were not available in stores.  Instead, Mattel would release one new figure a month available exclusively through their website.  Initially I wasn’t sold on the Classics figures.  I was content with my 2002 era figures so I ignored the Classics.  Obviously Mattel started the Classics line with the most popular characters like He-Man, Skeletor and Beast Man.  By the time I finally conceded that the Classics figures were awesome in 2010 most of the key characters had already passed me by.  I ended up buying some on the secondary market at outrageous prices and some I still don’t have;  Man-at-Arms being the most essential character still missing from my Classics collection.  For the past few years I’ve been diligent in buying the figures monthly from Mattel’s online store. MOTUC-TP He-Man back

One of the Classics figures I purchased a while back was “The Goddess” which is a variation of the better known Sorceress.  The Goddess appeared in the mini-comics that came with the original figures in the 80s.  In the first mini comic the Goddess bestowed He-Man with his iconic sword, axe, shield, and chest armour.  The Goddess figure came packaged with those items as a nod to that story.  My MOTU Classics collection had grown to a pretty good size by the time Thunder Punch He-Man was offered as the monthly figure in April 2012 but i was still lacking a He-Man.  Even though I would’ve preferred a He-Man in his traditional gray outfit, the release of Thunder Punch was my first opportunity to own a Classics He-Man at a reasonable price.  What worked out nicely was that Thunder Punch’s red and gold outfit could be easily swapped out for those extra accessories that came with the Goddess, resulting in a Classics He-Man in his original gear.  I figured that as soon as Thunder Punch arrived in the mail I would make the switch. MOTUC-TP He-Man side

MOTUC-TP He-man vintage

1986 Thunder Punch He-Man

Well Thunder Punch He-Man has been here quite a while now and I haven’t yet bothered to put him in his classic outfit.  Mostly due to laziness but also because I like the look of Thunder Punch He-Man more than I thought I would.  The base figure is the exact same as the first Classics He-Man that was released in 2008. The only real difference is some slight paint variations such as his belt and wrist guards are now red to tie them to his Thunder Punch armour.  The figure has a great sculpt and even though he’s back to having a page boy haircut like he did in the 80s I like it because it’s a faithful homage to the original.  I have no complaints about the base figure.

Even though this version doesn’t actually pop caps like the original they do a good at making it look like he could.  His backpack flips open and has a spinning cap popper inside.  The armor is molded in red plastic with metallic gold highlights.  His shield is also metallic gold and has a spot where you can store caps and his Power Sword just like on the original.  His Power Sword is cast in translucent yellow plastic in another faithful homage to the ’86 figure.  If I had already owned a Classics He-Man when this figure was released  I likely would have passed on it.  It’s hardly an essential figure in that scenario but if you need a He-Man then this is a fine one to have. 8 out of 10.

LIFELINE v.4 (1994)

Joe-Lifeline v4 fullG. I. JOE

I have many favorite G.I. Joe characters so saying that Lifeline is one of my favorites doesn’t hold much weight but I’m gonna say it anyway.  Lifeline was one of my favorite G.I. Joes as a kid.  Nothing against Doc, the original Joe medic, who was also a great figure.  Doc had an old school kind of vibe about him which was cool, like he could’ve been a medic in Nam or something.  Lifeline on the other hand seemed much more modern, with a dash of the fantastical.  I can’t imagine any real-life medics wearing an outfit like Lifeline’s original red and white get-up but it didn’t seem too far-fetched to my young mind.  For those of you not familiar with the original Lifeline figure from 1986 he’s the gentleman with the green sunglasses that can be seen in the banner at the top of the page (What is it with Joe medics and green sunglasses?).

Lifeline was described as a pacifist.  I remember in one episode of the cartoon Lifeline fell off of a raft going down some river in the amazon.  The other Joes were trying to rescue him by reaching out with a rifle for Lifeline to grab onto but he was so firm in his pacifist beliefs that he refused to touch the gun even to save himself.  He got to safety somehow but I can’t recall how.  It was an unrealistic but interesting trait.Joe-Lifeline v4 carded

 

 

A second version of Lifeline was released in Tiger Force colors in 1988 and a third, which nearly identical to version 1, was available exclusively in Rice Krispies in 1991.  To this day I don’t own either of those figures though  I’d like to get the Tiger Force one eventually.  This fourth version was released in 1994, the final year of the Real American hero toy line.  I feel that one of the main things that killed the Joe line in the early 90s was the wackiness of the figures in those last few years.  Color changing ninjas with karate chop action and spring loaded hot pink water cannons was just too much.  The brand had gotten too far removed from its military roots.  This figure however, which I never owned until very recently, is an understated, grounded-in-reality type of figure that I would’ve appreciated as a kid.  I didn’t pay much attention to the Joe figures coming out those last few years.  I saw characters I loved being re-released over and over again, in progressively worse costumes, and I just completely lost interest.  The 1993 Zartan that I recently reviewed is a good example of a good character gone wrong. Joe-Lifeline v4 face

That Zartan came to me in a haul of vintage Joes that I recently bought online.  Of the 20 or so 90s era Joes I got, Lifeline version 4 is one of the figures I like the most.  I have a lot of childhood nostalgia tied to the character’s original design but this is a pretty decent update.  He retains the red and white medical color scheme of the original only this time it’s broken up with some black and gray thus looks a little more realistic. A lot of later versions of old characters bothered me because the character appearance completely changed.  Guys like Mercer and Lowlight grew beards and sometimes their hair color even changed.  Though this figures hair is brown and the original Lifeline’s was black it doesn’t bother me so much since they both had helmets on and their hair can barely be seen.  Wrong hair color aside the head sculpt is pretty good and I like that his microphone is glued in place as the removable ones were easy to lose.  The overall design is nothing spectacular, and I can imagine this figure being a peg warmer amongst the brighter and crazier figures of the day, but the plainness is what I like about it. Joe-Lifeline v4 compare

Lifeline version 4 didn’t completely dodge the day-glow 90s bullet.  His weapons are all molded in a ridiculous yellow plastic which kills any realism this figure had going for it.  I bought my figure used so I don’t have all his gear but I’m fine with that.  If I were to display this figure I would grab him some decent black weapons from my extensive armory. Or maybe just a flashlight and a walkie talkie since he doesn’t like to hold guns anyway.  7 out of 10.Joe-Lifeline v4 weapons

COBRA EEL (Kre-o)

Kreo-EelG. I. JOE / KRE-O

A couple of months ago the action figure world of G.I. Joe collided with the brick figure world of Lego and thus Kre-O Joes were born.  Kre-O is Hasbro’s in-house brand of Lego which is completely compatible with the king of brick toys.  The first major Kre-O crossover was with Transformers.  The initial sets allowed you to build large-scale Autobots and Decipticons out of bricks and then reassemble them into their vehicle modes.  Small Lego-men style versions of the characters were thrown into the boxes, seemingly as a bonus toy afterthought.   I had no interest in building Transformers out of Lego but the little men intrigued me.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one who fancied the little guys because Hasbro has shifted their focus to the little men instead of the larger construction sets.  Once the Transformers started getting released in small blind packs, retailing for around $4.00, I got hooked.  It’s been less than a year since I bought my first Kre-O toys and now my collection has outgrown the new bookshelf I bought for them.

1985 original EEL

1985 original EEL

The main reason my collection has grown so fast isn’t because of the individual figures but because of the larger vehicle sets that came out once G.I. Joe got in on the action.  I don’t usually buy vehicles for my regular sized Joes because they’re expensive and take up too much room.  The Kre-O vehicles on the other hand are small, relatively affordable, and you get to build them yourself.  The Kre-O toys actually allow me to have some fun with my purchases as I snap them together.

Earlier this week my pal Andrew informed me that our local Toys R Us had stocked the second wave of blind packed Joe figures.  The first wave proved very difficult to find (I still need half the figures) so I didn’t want to waste anytime snatching up wave 2.  Andrew told me that the box had already been picked through when he was there so I didn’t have high hopes when Vanessa popped into the store for me last night.  Luckily they must’ve restocked because Vanessa texted me to say that they had all 12 unique figures.  Luckily I armed her with my credit card before she went out and I told her to grab the lot of them.  On that note, $4 a figure doesn’t seem like much until you buy 12 of them, they add up quickly.Kreo-Eel unmasked

I feel that the wave 2 selection of characters is far better than wave 1.  There isn’t a dud in the bunch.  I’d be hard pressed to name my favorite but it’s probably either Major Bludd or the B.A.T.  For my first wave 2 review I’ve opted for the Cobra Eel.

The  Cobra Frogmen known as EELS were first introduced to the brand in 1985.  It was an excellently designed figure that filled a need in the Cobra ranks.  They had cool accessories like flippers and an air mask.  My brother Doug owned the EEL figure when we were kids.  Doug also owned Undertow, the Lamprey, and Copperhead.  The closest thing I had to an aquatic Cobra was Secto-Viper.

My Cobra dive team began to fill up in the early 2000s with new troopers like the Morays and the Electric Eels.  In 2008 I finally got a decent representation of the original 1985 Eel.  The 25th anniversary version had a really cool fully removable helmet with a “glass” visor.  Otherwise he was quite similar to the original in design only more detailed.Kreo-Eel back

This Kre-O version is much less detailed but equally awesome.  I’m very impressed by how much care the Kre-O designers take to recreate the looks of the original figures.  Even the knife belt on the lower leg of the 1985 figure is recreated here with a dash of paint.  As far as the helmet goes this little guy has more in common with his 2008 counterpart.  The helmet is removable and has a glass visor which can be lifted to his brow.  Underneath the helmet is the same little masked face present on many of the Cobra Kre-O troopers.Kreo-Eel pair

 

 

 

This figure’s accessories are near perfect representations of the original’s gear.  He comes packaged with 2 flippers, a 2-piece harpoon gun, and an oxygen tank backpack.  he also comes with a Kre-O display base which unfortunately can’t be used when he has his flippers on.  This little figure is awesome.  8 out of 10.

 

ALLEY VIPER v.11 (2009)

Joe-Alley Viper v11 fullG. I. JOE

I love the look of Cobra’s basic infantry.  The “blue shirts” as they are affectionately known.  They’ve been around since the beginning of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (RAH).  The first two bad guy figures released in the line were a Cobra Trooper and a Cobra Officer.  They both had royal blue uniforms and helmets and a balaclava over the face.  However there were some slight differences between the Troopers and the Officers such as the color of the Cobra logo on their chests.  Those differences made owning both of them a requirement.  If I’d had my own source of income when I was 5 years old I probably would have army built the hell out of those figures, padding my Cobra ranks until they outnumbered the Joes.  Cobra blue shirts were the backbone of Cobra’s army in the early episodes of the cartoon and issues of the comic.  In fact the Cobra forces were so lacking in “name” characters at the time that comic writer Larry Hama turned a blue shirt officer into a name character (Scarface) and gave him a pivotal role in the book. Joe-Alley viper v11 face

Cobra’s ranks didn’t need padding for long and the desire to army build that figure was diminished as new types of Cobra Troopers were introduced.  There were the frogmen known as Eels and the arctic troopers known as Snow Serpents.  One of the most iconic additions to the Cobra roster was the Viper.  The Viper was Cobra’s new basic infantry, essentially a replacement for the old blue shirts.  The Viper motif caught on and soon every new assortment of Joe figures included at least a couple of new specialized Vipers.  I’m a big fan of most of the Vipers.  Some, like Frag Viper, were kind of dull, but others, like Ice Viper or Heat Viper, were awesome. Joe-Alley Viper v11 back

One of my favorite Vipers was the Alley Viper which was released in 1989.  The Alley Viper was an urban assault trooper.  They were dressed in bright orange outfits with a blocky blue camouflage pattern.  It’s been questioned by many a Joe fan just how exactly that color palette was supposed to help them blend into an urban environment and I do not have an answer for that.  It seems like a weird decision on Hasbro’s part but I loved that color scheme regardless of its absurdity.  It was bright and unique and looked great.  The overall design of the figure was really cool with a flip down protective face plate and a bizarre shield.   I used my Alley Viper figure as a unique character when I was a kid and he was one of Cobra’s deadliest soldiers.

The Alley Viper must have been popular with kids because Hasbro released 2 more variations of the trooper before the RAH series wrapped up in 1994.  When the new sculpt era launched in 2002 a revamped Alley Viper was introduced.  The new sculpt Alley Viper was a prime example of everything that was wrong with the new sculpt era toys.  It was one of the ugliest, lankiest Joe figures ever released.  A nasty blemish on the  Alley Viper’s legacy. Joe-Alley viper v11 face 2

When the modern/25th anniversary Joe era began in 2007 I was stoked to get new interpretations of my old favorite characters in their most iconic uniforms.  Hasbro has covered a lot of ground in the past 6 years but there are still a number of RAH figures who haven’t yet been modernized.  Sadly my two favorite Vipers have thus far been omitted.  There’s been no Heat Viper at all and the modern Ice Viper bore no resemblance to the 1987 classic version.  At least my third favorite Viper, the Alley Viper got a modern day makeover as part of the Defense of Cobra Island 7-pack in 2009. Joe-Alley viper v11 gun

I think this is a fantastic update of the original figure.  It retains all of the quintessential features of the 1989 version including the face plate, shield, and wacky paint job.  He still has the padded vest and sheathed knife on his chest but this time both are removable.  He still has the removable faceplate but this new version’s entire helmet can be lifted off, revealing a solid blue face mask beneath.  It doesn’t necessarily enhance the figure a great deal in my mind but it’s cool anyway.

The original Alley Viper had a grappling hook that was attached to his backpack.  This one has a grappling hook gun that can be stored on his backpack.  I really appreciate Hasbro’s attention to detail here in recreating his old accessories.  He also came with a submachine gun and nightstick.  No complaints here.  A great update.  10 out of 10.

Version 11 and Version 14

Version 11 and Version 14

GREEDO

SW-Greedo fullSTAR WARS

(Note: This toy is at my work desk so I had to use my crap camera phone to take pictures.  I jacked a couple decent pics off the net)

You may recall that I reviewed a Darth Maul figure not too long ago.  What inspired me to review that particular figure was the fact that I was recently in Toys R Us and saw Hasbro’s new line of super detailed 6” Star Wars figures and I was very tempted to purchase Darth Maul.  After some pondering cooler heads prevailed and I didn’t purchase it, I just came home and reviewed one of my old Darth Maul figures.

The reason I didn’t let myself buy the new one was because I already have a ton of Star Wars figures and they’re all boxed up in my storage room.  I collected the figures feverishly in the late 90s and early 2000s but I’ve been pretty over Star Wars for a good decade or so.  I saw no reason to get lulled back in.  Unfortunately, the power of the force is hard to resist. SW-Greedo face

In the weeks since I saw that 6” Darth Maul figure, Star Wars has been creeping back into my consciousness. It started with Strange Adventures (my local comic shop) posting on facebook that they had acquired a collection of vintage Star Wars figures and were selling them for a few bucks a piece.  I don’t buy much in the way of vintage figures so I didn’t pay much attention to the post at the time.  However, once I was in the shop the following Wednesday buying my weekly comic haul I couldn’t help but rifle through the box of loose figures on the counter.  As kids Doug and I owned most of the vintage Star Wars collection between us but we sold most of them off at yard sales when we hit our tweens.  The massive collection of SW figures that I have  presently consists of late 90s figures.  The only vintage figures I retained were Walrus Man and Ree-Yees, and maybe a couple others.  Looking through the box at Strange Adventures made me miss those old, often goofy looking, vintage figures.  I decided that I may as well buy a couple of them to display on my work desk.  I bought Greedo, Bossk, Hammerhead, and Nien Nunb.  I was actually quite surprised that so many cool aliens remained unsold.

SW-Greedo group

The following week the first softcover collection of Dark Horse’s new Star Wars comic book was released.  Dark Horse has been publishing Star Wars comics for years and I never picked any of them up but this new series had a lot of hype with its release.  It’s an ongoing series set during the original trilogy.  I picked it up, read through it that first night and loved it.  It reminded me why I liked Star Wars so much back in the day; pre-prequels.

I went back to Strange the next day and bought 5 more vintage figures, Han, Chewie, Snaggletooth, 2-1B, and General Madine.  With nine new-to-me figures and a cool new comic book series to collect I fear that I’ve been pulled back in.  I no longer think I have the strength to resist that 6” Darth Maul when next we meet. SW-Greedo Obama

In the meantime, allow me to review one of my new vintage purchases.  This is Greedo, the Rodian bounty hunter who gets smoked by Han Solo in the Mos Eisley cantina.  I’ve always loved Greedo.  He could have easily been my favorite character from the original trilogy if I had owned this toy as a kid.  Doug owned this Greedo when we were young so I viewed him as one of Doug’s characters.  I felt the same way about Bossk and Hammerhead.  I loved all of those figures but Doug owned them so I never developed a personal connection to the characters the way I did with characters which I did own the figures of, like Walrus Man and Ree-Yees.

I like that the figures produced in the 90s and onward more closely resemble the characters as they actually appeared on screen.  My 90s Greedo figure has a muted green suit, a vest and brown shoes. Even better, more accurate, Greedo figures have been produced in the decade since I bought that one I’m sure.  Yet, as much as I appreciate the attention to detail, there is an undeniable charm to the completely inaccurate toys produced in the 80s.  This vintage Greedo is amazing.

Yep, I have a rolodex.

Yep, I have a rolodex.

I absolutely love the sculpt of this figure.  The head is amazingly detailed with lots of bumps and ridges.  There’s a lot going on on a Rodian’s head: pointy ears, weird mohawk, antennas,  buggy eyes, and a snout; and this figures captures them all beautifully.  The solid black eyes of the 90s version were more film accurate but the big blue eyes with white pupils make this Greedo kind of adorable.

Greedo’s lime green unitard isn’t as far off from his screen appearance as was the case with other characters like Walrus Man.  His ribbed coil onesy is awesome.  It’s just so damn retro.  It looks like something out of Buck Rogers or an old Star Trek.  This Greedo would actually fit in nicely with my Outer Space Men figures who themselves are classic sci-fi camp.  The two-toned green paint job really pops and draws your eyes to this figure.

The mere 5-points of articulation is  kind of weak but also part of the figures charm.  It’s date stamped 1978 so it’s as old as I am.  I think I can forgive it for being a little dated in design.  Love it.  10 out of 10.SW-Greedo shelf