VIPER v.29 (2014)
When the G.I. Joe: Real American Hero (RAH) toy line first launched in 1982 there were 13 members of the team. Those characters are referred to now as “the original 13”. There were only 2 Cobra figures at first, a cobra infantry trooper and a Cobra officer. The code name for both of them was simply “the Enemy”. The Cobra soldiers were very similar in appearance. The both had dark blue uniforms and helmets and they both had a black balaclava covering the lower half of their face (like so). Since these were the only Cobra soldiers that existed in those early days they appeared frequently the in cartoons, comics, and commercials.
As the line expanded new specialized Cobra troops were added such as frogmen, arctic troopers, and pilots. Despite these additions the original blue-shirts remained the backbone of Cobra’s forces. That is until 1986 when a new general infantry trooper was added to Cobra’s ranks; the Viper. The Viper became the new template from which all other troopers emerged. Almost every faceless trooper released after ‘86 was some variation of the Viper: Ice-Viper, Frag Viper, Gyro-Viper, etc.
The basic Viper design was much more elaborate than its blue-shirt predecessor. Their uniforms were blue, red, and black and they were loaded with sculpted details like grenades, pouches, buckles, and padding. They had full silver faceplates similar to that of Cobra Commander. They also had goggles on their foreheads which looked cool but it never occurred to me until just now how silly that was. Were they gonna wear the goggles over their masks? The ’86 Viper’s biggest detraction was that it suffered from melon-head syndrome. That aside, it was a very cool design.
My brother Doug owned the original ’86 Viper. My first Viper was a hand-me-down from my little brother Brian (or is that considered a hand-me-up?). Brian collected Joes for a few years after Doug and I had stopped but he was never as big a fan as Doug and I. When Brian outgrew his figures I gladly welcomed them into my collection. The Viper I inherited from him was the rather ugly version 3 “Sonic Fighter” which had a rusty orange colored uniform.
During the new sculpt years of the early 2000s I accumulated a nice little army of Vipers in various colors; classic red and blue, red and purple, and python patrol gray and black. I really liked all those variations and overall I preferred the new-sculpt’s mold to the original.
When the new-sculpt figures were replaced by the modern-era figures in 2007 there were some growing pains as Hasbro worked out the bugs of the new design. The first modern-era Viper figure came out in 2008 (version 16) and was victim to some really bad design flaws. A lot of people complain about the dreaded “Duke arms” of 2007, and sure they were bad, but Duke is one guy and he’s been re-done dozens of time since with better arms. The Viper represents one of Cobra’s basic infantry divisions and I’m sure some people out there wanted to buy loads of them to build a small army. But sadly the ’08 Viper had gimpy ankles that meant he was always leaning back and he had very unnatural downward turned wrists that made it difficult to have him hold a weapon. Plus the functionally useless goggles on the helmet were sculpted separately for some reason which made them prone to fall off which made them easy to lose. I was very disappointed with the initial modern-era Viper. Several variations were released afterwards in different color uniforms but the design issues remained.
Hasbro did eventually get the Viper right in 2011 with version 28, which was released as part of the 30th anniversary line. V.28 was leaps and bounds better than v.16. The ankles were fixed, the wrists were fixed, the goggles were permanently affixed to the helmet, and the faceplate was vac-metal.
But I was kinda burnt out on the Viper by then and couldn’t truly appreciate that figure. I felt I had enough of them in my collection and another blue and red Viper didn’t really excite me no matter how improved it was.
When I first saw pictures of this repainted 30th anniversary Viper online it still didn’t do much for me. Had it been released a couple of years ago I probably would have passed on it altogether to be honest. But the 50th anniversary assortment was just so damn small that I felt compelled to buy the whole lot.
This gray and maroon Viper came in a 3-pack with a Cobra blue-shirt trooper and a Beachhead figure, both of which are virtually (if not completely) identical to previously released figures. Overall, the “Viper Pit” set was the least exciting of the 50th anniversary packs because there was really nothing new to it. At least this Viper’s paint job was a color combination we hadn’t seen before, even if it was rather bland.
But I gotta tell ya, once my 50th anniversary figures arrived and I got them all opened up I really took a liking to this figure. Other than the new paint job this is the exact same figure as version 28 but for some reason I was really able to appreciate the quality of the sculpt this time around. I still think the color palette is rather drab but its good drab. Some of the recent additions to my Cobra forces (Heat-Viper, Toxo-Viper, Repulsor) have been quite “loud” so it’s kind of nice to get a low key, more realistically colored figure. The gold used on his faceplate, goggles and cobra symbol add just enough flair to keep this figure from being boring to look at.
The head sculpt is perfect, the body is well proportioned, the articulation is good, the accessories are adequate (machine gun, pistol, and backpack) and the color is something new. The only thing I can find to complain about is the unpainted belt. I wish it was painted black. It’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised when you have low expectations for something and this figure delivers. 9 out of 10.