Monthly Archives: May 2014
Here’s yet another Convention Set review. Today I’m gonna be taking a look at the only individual Cobra character from the set. I’m glad that we got at least one specified “name” Cobra figure in the set. Faceless troopers are nice but they need to be led by someone. Cesspool would’ve been the obvious choice to lead the Toxo-Vipers and Toxo-Zombies had he not been included in the Club’s figure subscription service a few months prior. In lieu of Cesspool I half expected the Club to include a zombified Cobra Commander since tooling for just such a figure is known to exist in Hasbro’s vault of prototypes. But instead the Club has given us Repulsor.
Like the 2013 set’s Crimson Asp, Repulsor is a completely new character. He has never appeared in any past comics or cartoons. I think it’s great that the Club gives us new characters every now and again. I’d actually like to see some new characters peppered into their subscription service in the future.
Now, one could argue that Repulsor isn’t exactly new. First off he’s made 100% from reused parts. From the neck down he’s a repainted Techno-Viper. From the neck up he’s got Red Star’s head and a Zombie-Viper helmet. At least other Frankensteined figures from the set like Flint and the Toxo-Vipers were given brand new helmets to give them a unique look. Repulsor has a very familiar, been there/done that, feel to him. I think he would have really benefitted from a brand new helmet but what can you do. The Club clearly has to be economical about how many new pieces get tooled for their box sets and I think they did a pretty nice job on this set overall.
Even though there nothing really new and exciting about this figure I still like him and I think the parts choices work fairly well. The Techno-Viper body has a loose fitting uniform that fits in nicely with the baggy protective gear look of the Eco-Warriors. The teal color used for the base uniform and the large flat bio-hazard chest plate tie Repulsor to fellow Eco-baddie Cesspool very nicely. Consistency amongst your sub-teams is always a good thing.
Red Star’s head was a good choice. A new head would’ve been ideal but I will rarely have his helmet off so it’s not a big deal. Red Star is not an immediately recognizable character anyway and with the hair painted black you’d hardly recognize him. When I first looked at this face with its black hair and broad chin it made me think of Negan from the Walking Dead comic. If you read the comics you know who I’m talking about. Negan is a pretty vile villain with a real sadistic streak. The association immediately made view Repulsor as a real creep before I had even read that he is a “severe and cruel taskmaster” on his file card.
We’ve seen similar clear visored helmets a couple of times before and I gotta say I’ve never really been a fan. The first one showed up on the 2009 Lamprey figure. I loved the look of the original 1985 Lamprey which had a solid blue painted visor on a sculpted masked head. I’m usually all for removable helmets on modern Cobra Troopers as long as they just have ski-masks on underneath because it keeps them generic and anonymous. That’s the way it was done on the Range Vipers, Mars Troopers, SAW Vipers, and others. But not only did the Lamprey’s removable helmet have a clear see-through visor but an unmasked face underneath. It took all the mystery out of the Lamprey. If I decided to troop build them was I just supposed to accept that all Lampreys looked the same under their masks? I suppose you could rationalize it as a Fred situation (you Joe nerds know what I’m talking about).
The Lamprey masked was used again on the Convention Annihilator in 2012. I felt the same way about the Annihilators wearing the see-through helmet as I did about the Lampreys; wasn’t a fan because I don’t like seeing generic trooper’s faces.
So while I haven’t liked these kind of helmets in the past I actually like it here. Because Repulsor is intended to be an individual character I don’t mind that we see his face. I actually like that his face is exposed through the clear red visor because as I stated earlier I find the face really dictates his personality for me.
The overall color scheme is just the right amount of 90s brightness. Repulsor is clearly a homage to the 1991 Sludge Viper. I’m actually not sure why the Club didn’t just name this figure Sludge Viper. Maybe they felt, like I did, that the set needed a “name” Cobra to take the lead. Perhaps 4 trooper types were too many for one set. Had they called this figure Sludge Viper, everything else being the same, I wouldn’t like this figure as much because I’d have the same issue with it as I have with the Lamprey and Annihilator. His file card actually makes mention of him wearing the remnants of a Sludge Viper uniform to honor his leader Cesspool.
Repulsor came with a display stand, a pistol which can be holstered on his belt, a shotgun, a repainted version of Barbecue’s backpack, and a sludge canon that attaches to the backpack via tube (which I couldn’t get to stay on). But his coolest accessory is his newly sculpted K9 companion “Dawg” who I’ll review separately in a mini review.
Growing up one of my favorite Transformers was Gears. The 1984 Gears figure is one of only three Transformer toys I held onto from my childhood and I had many. I’ve previously reviewed the original Gears figure here.
When the Classics/Generations line of Transformers starting coming out in the mid-2000s an updated Gears was one of the figures I was most looking forward to. Bumblebee started out as a humble mini-con just like Gears back in the 80s after all, and his Classics figure was a huge improvement. Classics Bumblebee was bigger, more detailed, more articulated, and had a much more accurate cartoon likeness than the original 80s toy. I waited and waited for Gears to get the “Classics” treatment but Hasbro never bothered to update him.
In the last few years the trend of third party companies producing in-demand Transformers figures has taken off. Last year third party manufacturer iGear released the updated, albeit unlicensed, Gears I’d been waiting for. I didn’t even care that he was missing an Autobot logo or that he cost a fortune. What mattered is that he was bigger, more detailed, more articulated, and had a fantastic cartoon likeness. iGear absolutely nailed it. I loved their version of Gears whom they dubbed Cogz. Check out my review of Cogz here.
I was content with Cogz. As far as I was concerned he was the last Gears figure that I would ever need to purchase. But, It was only a couple of months later when third party manufacturer Make Toys unveiled their upcoming take on Gears named Cogwheel, that I started to see some of Cogz’s shortcomings. I still love Cogz but even in my initial glowing assessment of that figure I noted that the colors were a bit dull and the articulation was somewhat hindered by his bulk. Based on the prototype images of Cogwheel that I saw online he appeared to have everything Cogz had plus a more vibrant color scheme, increased articulation, and a more dynamic sculpt. It looked like a fantastic toy but I don’t think I would’ve shelled out the cash for Cogwheel had it not been for Trash Talk.
Back in the 80s the original Gears figure was repainted red and white and released as a new character named Swerve. I didn’t own Swerve as a kid and I don’t think he ever appeared in the cartoons so I had no attachment to him. But in recent years IDW has given Swerve a starring role in their comics and he has become a fast favorite of mine. I wanted a Swerve figure so bad after reading IDWs books that I was willing to settle for anything. I bought a crappy red and white repaint of Kup that Hasbro put out and named Swerve hoping that would suffice. It didn’t. The repainted Kup didn’t look anything like Swerve and I hated it. I wanted a Swerve that looked how he looked in the comics. Luckily, at the same time iGear released Cogz they released a red and white repaint with a variant head named Veer, their version of Swerve. Veer was great but he didn’t meet my expectations to the same degree that Cogz did.
When Make Toys began taking pre-orders for Cogwheel a short while ago he was only available as a 2-pack with their version of Swerve whom they had named Trash Talk. It was really the Trash Talk figure that drew me in to purchasing the pair. When they arrived in the mail the other day I wasn’t sure which figure to review first. It likely would have been Trash Talk but in the time since I pre-ordered this duo Hasbro put out a nice little version of Swerve of their own which I reviewed only about a month ago. For the sake of diversity I decided to save Trash Talk for later and review Cogwheel first.
When I pulled these figures out of the box I gotta say I was quite surprised at the size of them. It can be tough to gage how big something is from just a picture on the internet; I’ve been burned before. I assumed that Cogwheel and Trash Talk would be the same size as Cogz and Veer but they’re not. They’re about half the size which is fair I suppose because they were about half the price. I do wish Cogwheel was bigger but he’s still bigger than the original toy and he’s to scale with several other Transformers I have. You can’t get to hung up on scale when collecting Transformers anyway, you’d go nuts (why is the guy that turns into a planet smaller than the guy that turns into a city!).
Make Toys has done a fantastic job on this figure. I don’t think I’d go so far as to say Cogwheel is superior to Cogz but I can tell you that Trash Talk is superior to Veer (but we’ll talk about that later). Cogwheel has a leg up on Cogz in a few areas. The bright colors are near identical to the crisp red and blue of the ‘84 Gears and they look great. I’m really not sure why iGear opted for muted pastel colors on their figure.
Cogwheel also has better articulation. His arms and legs are much more free to move into various positions. He’s got ball-jointed shoulders, hips, legs, and ankles as well as several standard joints. However his wrist joints are floppy so the weight of his large gun tends to make his hand dangle limply. It appears as though the wrists are supposed to snap into place but they don’t. Also, his added ankle articulation has cost him some stability. Cogz has big thick feet which insure he never topples over. Cogwheel is much tougher to pose in a stable position.
The other aspect of Cogwheel that I really like is the sculpt. The design of the chest, the placement of the wheels on his shoulders, and the overall sleeker design make for a very nice looking figure.
Besides the large handheld cannon, Cogwheel also came with an alternate head. Cogz had a spinning head so you could choose to display him with either his cartoon accurate humanoid face or his G1 toy accurate visor and mouth plate face. Cogwheel gives you the same options only he comes with a little replacement head you have to swap out. To change the head you have to pull the whole front chest and arms off. That comes off easy enough but I had a hell of a time trying to pop the head off of it’s peg. I’m glad to have the 2 face options but iGear did it better; Cogwheel’s extra head is really small and could be easily lost.
Lastly I guess I should mention his vehicle mode. He transforms into a cool little futuristic truck. I’m not sure if we’ve ever seen Gear’s cybertron mode before but I imagine it would look something like this. I appreciate that Make Toys went through the trouble to give Cogwheel and Trash Talk slight differences to differentiate them from each other when in vehicle mode. This is a great toy but I fear it wont be my last Gears figure. I just found out that Hasbro is releasing a repainted version of their 2014 Swerve as Gears in the near future. Ho-hum. 9 out of 10.
I’ve still barely scratched the surface when it comes to reviewing my 2012 and 2013 G.I. Joe convention sets. I’ve only reviewed 2 or 3 figures from each. This year I’m trying to promptly post reviews for each figure from the 2014 box set. I’m attempting this just in case anyone out there is considering seeking these figures out on the secondary market and would like to hear my 2 cents. However, I’ll interject a couple of other toy reviews in between my box set posts so nobody get Eco-Warrior fatigue.
So far I’ve reviewed most of the Cobra half of the box set including the Toxo-Vipers, Toxo-Zombies, and Lab-Rats and in my last post I reviewed my first Joe from the set, Flint. The Joes included in this year’s set were kind of an odd group. There was Flint and his fellow Eco-Warriors (Ozone and Clean Sweep) which made sense considering the toxic nature of this year’s theme, but the other 3 Joes (Outback, Steel Brigade Commander, and T’Jbang) seemed a little tacked on. We’ll talk more about those other guys later but for now I’m going to take a look at my second Eco-Joe; Clean Sweep.
The original Clean Sweep figure was released in 1991 as a member of the then 3-man sub-team Eco-Warriors. The leader of the group was Flint who was already a well-established character in the comics, cartoons, and toys. Flint’s Eco-underlings, Ozone and Clean Sweep, were both brand new characters. Both of them wore brightly colored protective uniforms. Flint and Ozone’s costumes embraced the sci-fi/fantasy element of G.I. Joe while Clean Sweep wore a very real world hazmat suit. I’m sure some people appreciated the realistic approach but it didn’t work in Clean Sweep’s favor. He was typecast as the environmental hazmat guy and was never released again whereas Ozone was repainted as an astronaut and released 3 more times in the next 3 years becoming one of the most prolific Joes of the 90s.
The original Clean Sweep wore a bright yellow suit with neon green highlights. He had that standard hazmat hood with the clear face shield/visor which you’ve seen in a dozen movies from E.T. to Outbreak. The visor was painted blue which added a much needed third color to the figure. The hood was removable and underneath was a pretty unextraordinary face. It was well sculpted and provided Clean Sweep with a unique look but the receding hairline, and porn ’stache weren’t about to make the figure anyone’s favorite; unless you like your heroes to look like your high school economics teacher. Like the other Eco-Warriors, Clean Sweep featured color change plastic and water spraying accessories.
The Collector’s Club stuck pretty close to the original look when designing this new figure. It always impresses me when they’re able to produce a figure so close to the original using pre-existing part. This figure is made up primarily of Data-Viper parts. The plainness of Data-Viper’s jumpsuit translates into a hazmat suit quite effectively. The combination of reused parts, plus high-sitting hood, really make for a tall action figure. Where the original Clean Sweep came across as frumpy this version looks like he should be out shooting hoops with Big Lob.
The real highlights of this figure are the newly sculpted hood and head underneath. The hood looks awesome, true to the original, and kind of scary when placed on this towering body. The head still looks like it belongs to a high school teacher but a gym teacher this time. He’s got a full head of “sweeping” hair, a thick ol’ stache, and a stern gaze. I’m surprised the Club put this much effort into making new heads for Clean Sweep and Ozone, considering most people will display them with their helmets on most of the time, but I very much appreciate the effort.
For accessories Clean Sweep has a display stand, a canister gun, and a yellow briefcase which opens up to reveal a computer and a concealed machine gun. The club has done it again, made me love a figure that I didn’t even know I wanted. Clean Sweep is one of the many highlights from this year’s set. 9 out of 10.
Next up from the 2014 G.I. Joe Convention exclusive box set is Eco-Flint. This is a figure I didn’t expect to care much about. I had quit collecting Joes by the time the Eco-Warriors came out so I have no nostalgic connection to that particular sub-team. The Joe’s Eco-Warriors were led by Flint in a spiffy new hostile environment protective suit and consisted of new characters Clean Sweep and Ozone, along with newly Eco-attired versions of Deep Six and Barbecue. Neither Deep Six nor Barbecue made the cut for the 2014 box set and I’m fine with that. I already have figures of those characters in the iconic outfits so I don’t have any need for Eco-Warrior updates; however I suspect the Club will produce them eventually. I felt this Flint was just as unnecessary. I already have decent versions of Flint in his classic outfit, his Tiger Force colors, and his Retaliation look. A neon green Flint with a squirt gun was not something I felt my collection was missing.
Now, while I have no childhood connection to any of the Eco-Warriors, I was actually excited about getting updated versions of Ozone and Clean Sweep. I’m always happy to add new characters to my G.I. Joe ranks. No matter how new & improved a Snake Eyes figure is it’s still just another Snake Eyes figure. I like getting new unique characters or variations of troopers because it feels like I’m actually adding to my collection. If I were to ever actually sit down and play with my G. I. Joes I’d use my iconic versions of each character and any repeats would get left in the box, meaning about 20-some Snake Eyes’ (and this Eco-Flint) would go unused. Even though I don’t actually play with my toys I still have that mentality when purchasing figures; unique characters are almost always better than a newly designed old character. Clean Sweep and Ozone did not disappoint; both are great figures. But Flint here surprised me because he’s maybe the coolest of the bunch.
Flint is made up of entirely reused parts. The 30th anniversary Airtight parts found a lot of reuse in this set which makes sense because it was a great figure and his baggy uniform lends itself well to the Eco-Warriors aesthetic. Flint is borrowing Airtight’s legs to go along with a torso and arms borrowed from various Cobra figures. This Flint features the same head as the Retaliation version which was based on the likeness of actor DJ Cotrona who portrayed Flint in the film. Normally I wouldn’t want to see an actor’s likeness on a non movie-based figure. However in the case of movie Flint, the Cotrona head sculpt looked an awful lot like the standard Flint anyway so it works. It’s not like you look at this figure and think DJ Cotrona the same way you would think Marlon Wayans or Dwayne Johnson if you looked at one of the figures based on them.
Like the stellar Toxo-Viper from this con set, Flint does have one newly sculpted piece, a new helmet. Though technically this helmet was sculpted for Ozone and repainted for Flint. Flint’s original 1991 Eco-Warriors helmet was much bigger and clunkier looking. I’m sure the reuse of Ozone’s helmet was done as a cost saving measure but it’s one that works out to our benefit. This updated Eco-Flint looks way better than the original whose helmet made him look like some kind of bug. I’ll talk more about this new helmet when I get around to reviewing Ozone but for now i’ll just say it’s a great piece.
Flint includes a display base, a rifle, a canister gun that I assume he uses to administer the cure to Compound Z victims, and a removable beret which he can wear when he’d not wearing his helmet. I loved this removable beret the first time we saw it on the Retaliation figure and I still love it now. It fits perfectly and stays in place snugly.
The colors on this Flint are just right. They’re reminiscent of the original figure, which should appease the few people who might actually be fans of the classic Eco-Warriors Flint, but they’re darker and quite believable as protective wear. The green and yellow complement each other nicely and the removable black web gear keeps the whole outfit from being too loud.
When he’s wearing the helmet you can’t tell that this is Flint so you could choose to display him as a unique character or maybe some sort of generic Eco-Trooper akin to the Steel Brigade. Either way this is a great figure. 9 out of 10.
Of the 15 figures included in the 2014 G.I. Joe Convention set, 7 of them were unique, individual characters. As a cost saving measure a few identical troop figures were included as well. This is the case every year and I think the club has found a pretty decent ratio of balancing individual characters with troop builders. I wouldn’t feel I was getting my money’s worth if the set contained a half dozen identical figures but at the same time getting a couple duplicates is nice since many collectors like to build small squadrons of the various Cobra troopers. I’ve already reviewed The Toxo-Vipers and the Toxo-Zombies. There were three of each of them in the 2014 set. The last troop builder included this year was the Cobra Lab-Rat, of which there were two.
The Lab-Rat was the first figure revealed by the club after the initial announcement that “Zombie Initiative” was the theme of this year’s set. I can’t speak for everyone but I feel the overwhelming response to this figure was “meh”. It’s not a bad looking figure, but it’s by no means a show stopper.
Apparently these guys were seen toiling around in the background of an episode or two of the 1980s Joe cartoon. I can’t say that I specifically recall them, and a quick google search fails to provide me with images, but if the Club says they were there then I believe them. It seems quite likely, given all the wacky experiments Cobra was involved in, that at some point a Cobra Trooper would’ve thrown on a lab coat. Besides, neither Dr. Mindbender nor his predecessor Dr. Venom can do everything themselves. Do you think Mindbender is capable of strapping Snake Eyes into the brain-wave scanner all by himself? Not likely. A scientist needs lab assistants and these 2 Lab-Rats fit the bill.
Yet, at no point was I ever playing G.I. Joe as a kid and lamenting the lack of lab assistants in the Terrordrome. It makes sense that they’d be needed in a real world laboratory but in the mind of a child who just wanted cool toys to play with they weren’t exactly a necessity. Back in the day I would’ve just had a Tele-Viper or a Techno-Viper assisting in the lab as required. While they had specialized skills (communications and battlefield technician) I viewed them more as Cobra’s general services technicians. I used to work as a general services technician in a government office and my duties encompassed all kinds of stuff like hanging pictures, wheeling video conference equipment from room to room, installing keyboard trays, shredding confidential waste, you name it. Not that I was so lame a kid to actually have my Techno-Viper shredding papers when I was playing with my toys but “off-screen” it would’ve been those guys handling those duties in my Cobra HQ . But even though I had my lab adequately staffed back in the day, it is nice to actually have specified Cobra lab personnel now. No longer will a communications officer be forced to perform tasks such as splice Serpentor DNA or refill the rare element containers on the MASS device.
The Lab-Rat is made up completely of used parts and it shows. His body is borrowed 100% from Cobra Commander. Re-used parts aren’t usually as noticeable as they are here but ol’ CC has a pretty specific look and the Club didn’t even change the color of the outfit so it’s pretty much a straight Cobra Commander body. At least the added white lab coat hides the body to some degree. The Lab-Rat’s head is the extra head that came packaged with the “Pursuit of Cobra” Dusty figure in 2010. It’s not an immediately recognizable Joe head and it works reasonably well for a lab technician so its a good choice. Goggles and a gasmask seem like good things to have in a Cobra laboratory. God forbid you breathe in some of that Venomous Maximus transforming gas. Lab Rats are clearly more safety conscious than Cobra’s head scientist Dr. Mindbender who can’t even be bothered to wear a shirt to work.
Despite the recognizable Cobra Commander body this combination of parts works quite well together. This is pretty much exactly what I would expect a lowly Cobra lab technician to wear; a blue cobra outfit and a white lab coat, what more do you need? One neat thing about the coat is the Arbco badge. Arbco is the name of the front company Cobra often hides behind (it’s just COBRA with the letters scrambled for those of you who aren’t too swift).
Each Lab-Rat comes with a display base, an oversized calculator which I think is supposed to be a computer of some kind, an injection gun loaded with Compound Z, and a brief case complete with 3 removable Compound Z canisters. We’ve seen this briefcase and canisters before but it’s a cool accessory that fits the theme of the set.
This year’s convention set clearly gave us a good batch of figures because the Lab-Rats are the weak link of the group and even they’re still kinda cool. Like the Medi-Vipers of 2005, the Lab Rats fill a hole in the mundane administrative /corporate side of Cobra. Nobody was clamoring for them but here they are and that’s okay with me. These are the kinds of figures that make me wish I had room to set up elaborate dioramas. 6 out of 10.
This is Icky Iguana from the second series of Battle Beasts. Icky is a pretty dumb name so I’m glad that I didn’t know that was his name when I was a kid. To me he was, and forever will be, Battle Iguana. This guy is probably one of my top 10 favorite Battle Beast figures and definitely in my top 3 from series 2. How could you not love this figure? He’s just so cool .
Battle Iguana has some very nice sculpting with scales all over his body, spikes down his back, and a little “beard” under his chin. It’s a fairly realistic looking sculpt. His armor is nice but nothing flashy. There are lots of little details like vents and rivets but they’re all pretty subtle. The only embellishment to the armor are some small spikes along the shoulders.
He’s bright yellow in color, like a highlighter marker. I’m not sure why Takara didn’t go with green. Perhaps to differentiate him from the green frog and snake from series 1. I actually like the yellow but it would have been pretty rad if Battle Beasts had been available in different colors schemes. I can only imagine how cool this figure would have looked sculpted in green and black or white and red. As it is, Takara went with the flashy yellow for the skin and orange for Icky’s armor. There are 3 little red highlights on the chest plate which match his eye color.
Icky originally came packaged with a jagged sword weapon and Armored Armadillo was his pack mate. I acquired a few of my Battle Beasts through trades with friends so I don’t have Icky’s original weapon. Instead I have him displayed with a 2-pronged axe blade. That weapon actually came packaged with the other lizard released in series 2, Delta Chameleon. For whatever reason Takara opted to give the chameleon the exact same neon yellow skin tone as the iguana. I’m not sure if the goal was to make them appear like a cohesive unit or maybe no thought went into it at all. I always considered the two of them best friends or partners-in-crime . I had an extra copy of Delta’s weapon laying around for some reason so that’s the one I assigned to Icky to link them together even further.
When I played with my Battle Beasts as a kid, both Icky and Delta were members of my bad guy team led by Battle Ram. They stuck together pretty tightly and were effective warriors. However I never really saw either of them as really “bad”. It’s not like they were going around slaughtering the good guys out of sheer joy; they were just soldiers doing their job.
I wish Takara’s Beast Saga line had lasted long enough to give us an updated version of an Iguana or a Chameleon, or any lizard for that matter. Reptiles were not very well represented in that line, the crocodile being the only one.
In my last post I reviewed the Toxo-Viper from the 2014 G.I. Joe Convention Set. Today I’m going to take a look at the other trooper builder included in the set, the Toxo-Zombie. The original Toxo-Viper came out in 1988. They were Cobra’s hostile environment troopers, the evil equivalent to Airtight I suppose. The original file card stated that Cobra troops were forced to become Toxo-Vipers as punishment. The Toxo-Viper suits were inexpensive and “moderately airtight”; they were unofficially known as the leaky suit brigade.
The second version of the Toxo-Viper came out in 1991 under the Eco-Warrios banner. According to the version 2 file card the new Toxo-Vipers had top quality, state-of-the-art equipment; far superior to the gear worn by their ’88 predecessors. It’s funny then that when the first Toxo-Zombie figure was released in 1992 he was wearing the ‘91 Toxo-Viper outfit; not the ‘88. The zombie file card again made mention of the leaky suits worn by the Toxo-Vipers, stating that this is what becomes of Toxo-Vipers after years of exposure to the most hazardous of chemicals, they turn into mindless zombies; not quite alive, but not quite dead. The original ’92 Toxo-Viper was pretty ridiculous looking. He was wearing the same outfit as the 91 Toxo-Viper but the green and purple was now hot pink and neon green. The thought behind that I suppose was that whatever chemicals they’d been exposed to had bleached out their uniforms as well. The left foot and left hand were exposed, revealing pretty gross looking gray skin with pink splotches. The left side of the visor was smashed in and a scowling gray/pink ugly mug could be seen underneath. It really was an unfortunate looking thing.
I wasn’t a big fan of adding zombies into the G.I. Joe mythology. Bat-winged warriors from ancient civilizations and resurrected serpent emperors I was okay with, but zombies seemed too far fetched. I had already quit collecting Joe figures by the time the original Toxo-Zombie was released so it wasn’t an issue for me, but I was still glad the zombie theme was contained within a single figure.
As a big fan of the modern-era style figures, I hope to one day have modern versions of every character that was ever released during the vintage and new-sculpt eras. However the character that was probably at the absolute bottom of my want list was the Zombie Viper (or maybe the Joe team’s resident veterinarian, Dr. Link Talbot). In 2011 Hasbro gave us a sort-of update of the Toxo-Zombie, the Zombie Viper. I was quite skeptical about the Zombie Viper but I have to admit, he was pretty cool. I’m not sure how I would justify his existence in my Joe-verse if I were still a kid playing with these toys but as an adult using him solely as a display piece, I’m a big fan of the Zombie Viper. He was really creepy looking with dark gray skin with blue veins running through him and strange vine-like arms. The arms had a very Akira mutation type of vibe to them that I really liked. The file card stated that Zombie Vipers were once standard Cobra infantry troopers but they’d been exposed to the mysterious Compound Z. Apparently Hasbro had plans to run with that story line, releasing Zombie versions of popular characters like Cobra Commander. It sounds interesting but I’m kind of glad it never came to pass. Just like in 1992, I was happy to see the zombie plot contained within a single figure.
Then a few months ago the Collector’s Club announced the theme of their 2014 Convention set: Zombie Initiative. The set was to feature the Joe’s Eco-Warriors battling an outbreak of Compound Z. It wouldn’t have been my top choice for a convention set but I trusted the club to pull off something cool; and they did.
The ragtag group of Joes assembled to fend off the outbreak look great, the newly created Cobra characters, Repulsor and the lab rats, are cool, and the two trios of troop builders, the Toxo-Vipers and the Toxo-Zombies are fantastic. I love the Toxo-Vipers and gave them a 10 out of 10 in my last post. I don’t love the Toxo-Zombies as much as the Vipers but they’re so similar I can’t help but like them too.
The Toxo-Zombie has pretty much the exact same body construction as the Toxo-Viper. Only the lower left arm and lower left leg have been replaced with the exposed appendages of the Zombie Viper. The other major difference is the Zombies have entirely newly sculpted heads. They feature the exposed scowling face on the left, just like the originals, and a cracked visor complete with bullet hole on the right. I kind of wish they had sculpted complete zombie heads and given them removable battle damaged helmets but this still works just fine. I really like how their outfits tie them to the non-zombified Toxo-Vipers. I think keeping them in the same dark colors was a good call as opposed to painting them pink and neon like the originals. I do however think adding some additional battle damage to the Toxo-Zombie’s body would have been a good idea.
The zombies are a little light on accessories but what does a zombie need accessories for? They each come with a display base, a pistol that can be holstered on their hip, and a Z-bomb. According to the comic book that was included with the box set, the zombies hand deliver Z-bombs to heavily populated areas to mutate the populace, like undead suicide bombers. I like these figures more than I thought I would. They look great displayed with the Toxo-Vipers or with the Zombie Vipers. They’d probably look great displayed with your Walking Dead figures too. 7 out of 10.
Earlier this week my 2014 G.I. Joe Convention set arrived in the mail; it was a glorious day. Every year the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club organizes a Joe convention somewhere in the United States and they create a set of exclusive figures which are only available at the Con. I’ve never been to a Joe Con but luckily the Club also allows non-attending Club members, such as myself, to order the set online for a very limited time. The Club has been releasing these 15-figure sets since the early 2000s but I’ve only purchased the last three. I’ve always been tempted to buy them but it’s really only been in the past few years that the Club has made these sets “must buys” in my opinion. The newer sets have more unique characters and more newly molded pieces. Gone are the days of Convention sets with 12 of the 15 figures being identical Vipers painted red.
The first set I ordered was 2012’s Oktober Guard vs the Iron Grenadiers “Operation Bear Trap” set. That set featured the first ever modern era releases of popular Oktober Guard members like Horror Show and Daina and gave us super cool new variations of the classic Grenadier. 2013’s Nocturnal Fire set featured the Joe’s Night Force sub-team vs a varied array of foreign Cobra operatives we hadn’t seen before. Both sets were winners in my eyes despite me having no prior fondness for either the Oktober Guard or Night Force. 2014’s set, dubbed “Zombie Initiative”, primarily features the Joe’s environmentally conscious Eco-Warriors sub-team vs Cobra’s polluting Toxic Troopers whom I don’t believe ever had an official name.
I had no love for the Eco Warriors growing up, so the announcement that they were to be the focus of 2014’s con set didn’t thrill me. But based on the quality product the Club had put out the past 2 years I had faith that we’d have another winner on our hands.
The Eco-Warriors figures first came out in 1991 and 1992. The Joe Eco team featured established Warrant Officer Flint leading a mixture of brand new characters (Ozone & Clean Sweep) and a couple of old characters in new eco-outfits (Barbecue & Deep Six). The bad guys were led by corporate baddie Cesspool and consisted of Sludge Vipers, a new breed of Toxo-Viper, and their mutated brethren the Toxo-Zombies. The gimmick of this sub-team was their water spraying weapons and color change plastic. I had quit collecting Joes by that point. Excessive sub-teams like the Eco-warriors were one of the reasons why I got out of the hobby. I didn’t like the rehashed characters, the bright neon colors, or the oversized gimmicky weapons. My little brother Brian was into Joe a little bit by then though. I don’t think he owned any of those figures but his best friend Thomas did and Brian would borrow them; I recall seeing a Toxo-Zombie and a Cesspool laying around the house from time to time.
As bright and goofy as some of those figures were, as a life-long Joe fan I couldn’t help but pick them up and fiddle with them. I thought Cesspool was neat and the new Toxo-Viper looked pretty cool too.
The Club gave us a great update of Cesspool earlier this year as part of their figure subscription service. When the initial convention set figures were announced, and 3 Toxo-Vipers, were slated to be included, I was really hoping for a modern interpretation of the 1988 original Toxo-Viper. Toxo-Viper version 1 pre-dated the Eco-Warriors subset and was a figure I owned and loved. He had a purple outfit, cool weapon, and a removable helmet. He was probably one of the first Cobra troopers to feature a removable helmet which is commonplace now but was quite novel at the time. I was pretty disappointed when prototype images of the upcoming convention set figures were released and I discovered that the 3 Toxo-Vipers were based on the version 2 Eco-Warriors look from 1991. Disappointed but not heartbroken because, as I stated, I did think the version 2 was still pretty cool, I just didn’t have the nostalgic attachment to it like I did with version 1.
I still want a modern update of the ’88 Toxo-Viper but this figure is so rad that any disappointment I felt about getting the ’91 version has completely faded away. This figure looks amazing. I think he’s far superior to either of the troop builders we got last year (SAW Viper and Frag Viper). He’s constructed beautifully with great movement and good proportions. The colors are a bit loud but true to the original and dark enough to still seem believable. This figure is made up of entirely of reused parts. That’s not uncommon for Club produced figures but rarely does it come together this well.
There is one part of this figure which is newly sculpted and that’s the helmet, and what a helmet it is. This thing looks killer. The original 1991 figure didn’t quite live up to the promise of its awesome card art but this guy does. I don’t know what purpose those bug-like antennae serve but they look great. The helmet fits snugly overtop of the Rise of Cobra era Flash head that the Club used for Toxo-Viper’s cranium.
For accessories Toxo-Viper has the removable helmet, display base, a pistol which can be holstered on his hip, a futuristic looking rifle, a canister backpack, and a big missile launching cannon that harkens back to the original’s water spraying super soaker. I haven’t spent much time looking over my set yet but I grabbed Toxo-Viper to review first as he’s my initial favorite. If you’re to purchase one 2014 Con figure on the secondary market I’d go with this guy. Hopefully, because there were 3 included in each set, the prices won’t be astronomical. 10 out of 10.
I have a complete set of North American released Battle Beasts figures. That’s three complete waves of heat-activated rub emblem beasts and one partial wave of orb-chested laser beasts. It’s one of my favorite 1980s toy lines. There’s just something about wild animals in armor swinging swords around that does it for me. I love most of the 91 different BB figures I have; however, there are definitely a few weak links in the chain. Miner Mole is one of them.
Battle Beasts didn’t have names on their packages and they didn’t have a cartoon so I had no idea what any of the character’s names were growing up. That is why I adopted the simple naming pattern of calling them all “Battle-whatever animal they happened to be”. That worked out fine most of the time: Battle Rhino, Battle Fox, etc. But there were a couple of odd figures where I wasn’t sure what the heck kind of animal it was supposed to be. For example, I always thought my polar bear was an aardvark. This purple figure’s species wasn’t immediately obvious to me. I think I’ll place the blame on my old friend, Jay Pelley, for leading me to think that this guy was a dolphin. Throughout my childhood this mole figure was known as Battle Dolphin. fail.
There’s no mistaking a lion or an elephant, even if they are standing on their hind legs and wearing pants. Most Battle Beasts were colored realistically which made the critters even more recognizable. But every now and again they’d give you a blue rabbit or horse. But a rabbit is clearly a rabbit, even if it’s blue. This guy wasn’t so easily identifiable (no distinguishing features) and the fact that he was purple didn’t help.
Maybe it’s obvious to you that he’s a mole. But that’s easy to say now that I’ve already told you. Besides, I had already falsely identified War Weasel as a mole so I thought that slot was taken. This guy’s little mole snout could have just as easily been a dolphin’s bottle nose. You’d think the subterranean looking goggles might’ve tipped me off as well but it made sense to me that a dolphin would need goggles too walk around on land; keep his eyes moist or whatever.
Lastly you may be thinking that the inclusion of arms and legs might’ve been a clue that he wasn’t a dolphin. But my shark, piranha, and snake figures all had arms and legs so that didn’t help to rule any species out of the running.
Miner Mole’s animal androgyny lead to him being one of my least favorite Battle Beast figures. He may have a unique look but it’s not exactly a cool or tough one. I always saw him as a techie guy, which made sense considering how smart dolphins are. Moles, I dunno, they’re probably dumb.
Side note: I once caught a mole along side the road when I was delivering newspapers when I was around 12. I scooped him up in my canvas bag and brought him home with me. I made a habitat in one of our large plastic garbage bins then I went inside and read up on Moles in our family set of encyclopedias (those are like Wikipedia on paper kids). I remember it said that moles often succumb in captivity. I didn’t know what that meant so I asked my dad. He told me it basically meant “give up”. That didn’t sound good so I went outside to free my mole from his new bio-dome home but within the hour or so that I had left him out there the poor little bugger “succumbed”. The guilt still weighs heavy on me. Regardless, I can’t score this figure any higher than a 5 out of 10.