H.E.A.T. VIPER v.1 (1989)
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of G.I. Joe. You may be confused by that because I’ve mentioned multiple times in past reviews that 2007 was the 25th anniversary. Well 2007 was the anniversary of the small “Real American Hero” (RAH) G.I. Joe figures that I grew up with in the 80s. In 1982 the Joe brand was re-imagined in a new 3 3/4” scale as a specialized military unit populated by various characters with unique specialties such as Snake Eyes the ninja commando and Shipwreck the sailor. But the G.I Joe brand truly began back in 1964 with the release of the first 12” G.I. Joe doll. Back then Joe was the name of a single man, not an entire unit. 2014 is the anniversary of the brand as a whole, going all the way back to 1964.
The 25th anniversary of RAH in 2007 was celebrated with the release of 25 of the brands most popular characters in a new 4” scale with increased detail and improved body construction. The 25th anniversary figures proved such a success that the line expanded beyond the initial 25 planned figures into what has become known as the modern era collection which consists of hundreds of figures. The 25th anniversary line was actually so successful that it continued on for 5 years until it morphed into the 30th anniversary series in 2012. But the momentum has now slowed and it seems that the golden age of modern Joe figures is behind us.
Even with a successful live-action film in the theatres in 2013 Hasbro put very little effort into promoting the brand. Movie based figured trickled out in very small numbers. If not for the output of the Collector’s Club, by way of convention sets and subscription services, my Joe collection would have been at a standstill for the past year. As 2014 drew near fans eagerly anticipated Hasbro’s announcement of their plans for the brands 50th anniversary but no announcement came. The future of the brand looked pretty grim. It seemed ludicrous that Hasbro would let the 50th anniversary of this beloved brand, that spawned all other action figures, slip by without any fanfare; especially after the effort they put into the 25th anniversary of RAH 7 years earlier.
It wasn’t until we were more than a quarter into 2014 that Hasbro finally announced their plans for a small wave of new figures with 50th anniversary branding. Better late than never and better a small assortment than nothing. The few announced releases hardly seem adequate to celebrate such an historical anniversary but I’m still pretty stoked about some of the choices.
My two favorite Cobra troopers when I was a kid were Ice Viper and Heat Viper. They were intended to be faceless trooper figures but I treated them both as unique characters. Ice Viper was the single most deadly soldier on my Cobra team. He was a force of nature who owned the battlefield. You can hear more about his epic exploits in my reviews of the original 1987 Ice Viper, and the 2005 repaint.
Heat Viper was the complete opposite of Ice Viper. He was a slacker goofball who avoided fighting if he could. He was quite capable, and he pulled off some epic wins in his time, but mostly he just hung out with his pal Night Viper smoking cigarettes behind the Terrordrome. My brother Doug got the 1989 Night Viper at the same time that I got my Heat Viper (probably Christmas) and used him as Heat Viper’s equally unmotivated buddy.
Since the beginning of the modern era in ’07 I’ve wanted updated versions of Ice Viper and Heat Viper more than almost any other character. I did get a couple updated Ice Vipers as part of the 2009 “Rise of Cobra” movie line, versions 3 and 4, but they looked nothing like the original and left me underwhelmed. After six years of being shut out of the modern toy line, and with the line seemingly winding down, I made peace with the fact that I would never get modern updates of those two figures. But then the 50th anniversary announcement came.
Sure there’s some nice updates of Flint and Beachead and some cool vehicle repaints but the highlight for me is the inclusion of my 2 favorite Cobras!! I wasn’t completely shocked by the Heat Viper since Hasbro had previously shown an unproduced prototype of that figure a couple years ago but the classic Ice Viper was a complete surprise; and he comes with a new version of his Cobra Wolf vehicle no less! The 50th anniversary line-up could have consisted solely of these two figures and I would’ve been content.
The subject of today’s post is the original 1989 Heat Viper. Technically he’s called H.E.A.T. Viper, which stands for High Explosive Anti-Tank Viper but plain ol’ Heat Viper is easier to type. The file card on the back of the ’89 package made these guys sound like total badasses loaded up with a ton of fancy technology that enabled them to take out tanks despite poor visibility conditions so I’m not sure why I decided to make him such a goofy freeloader.
Heat Viper has a very unique look to him, totally different from any other Cobra troopers in the field. He has a solid helmet that covers most of his head except for half of his face which has a glass visor that ends just below his mouth leaving his chin exposed. He has a peg on the side of his head where you attach a thick coiled tube that connects to his massive cannon. The cannon is nearly as big as he is yet he holds it with one hand by the little handle on top. That would take some serious strength, especially when you’re firing it. Another smaller tube connects to his shoulder and plugs into his backpack. The backpack has weird curved exhaust pipes that would seemingly blow smoke out in front of him. Doesn’t make much sense but looks cool. Another bizarre design choice was his boots which each have 3 pegs on them where you attach 3 small missiles. Luckily they stayed in place quite well so I managed to not lose any of mine.
On top of all of those strange design elements the guy is wearing a bright yellow and purple outfit. I always though this guy looked more like a Spider-Man villain than a terrorist. It’s an extremely strange looking figure and I’m sure there are some Joe fans out there who hate it. I wouldn’t fault anyone for disliking it if they prefer more realistically attired Joes. I however always embraced the more fantastical elements of Joe and this figure just spoke to me. I love it. Hopefully the upcoming 50th anniversary version does it justice. I got an email notification from BigBadToyStore last week that my 50th anniversary product has shipped out so stay tuned for my reviews of those figures. 10 out of 10.