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I’ve mentioned my trip to Hal-Con in my last couple of posts and I figured it’s time I tell you a little about my experience.  For those of you that aren’t aware I live in Halifax which is in Eastern Canada.  Canada is a huge country so allow me to give you a brief tour:  On the west coast of North America, hugging the Pacific Ocean is the province of British Columbia.  There you’ll find the snow peaked Rocky Mountains and large cities like Victoria and Vancouver (who hosted the Winter Olympics not too long ago).  Then we’ve got 3 prairie provinces full of grassy flat lands.  There isn’t much to see out there except cowboys; or so I’ve been told, I’ve never ventured over that far.  Then we get to Ontario which is our most populated province and is home to large cities such as Toronto and Ottawa.  These cities host international events all the time, concerts for every major international act, and are home to some very large sci-fi/comic conventions.  Ontario even hosts an annual G.I. Joe specific Con with exclusive figures.  Then we’ve got Quebec, our largest province and the one that’s always trying to jump ship.  It’s a primarily French speaking province and is home to one of Canada’s best cities, Montreal.  And then there’s us, the dinky maritime provinces on the East Coast.  (I should mention that we also have 3 territories north of all of this.  I’ve never been to them but any stereo-types you have about Canada, like igloos and Eskimos, are the stereo-types that we Canadians have about our own territories.)  The maritimes consist of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.  None of us get much attention on an international level.  We hardly get any good concerts, rock stars only seem to come here after their prime and we’re definitely not the type of place where you would expect to find a big newsworthy convention.  And to be honest I’m okay with that.  Sure I wish bands would come here but I never fancied myself a convention guy.  No matter how big a fan I am of a particular artist or actor’s work I don’t feel the need to stand in line for 45 minutes waiting to get their signature.  I would always check out convention coverage online but other than the hot girls dressed in sexy super hero outfits I never really saw the appeal.

Well a couple of years ago Halifax got its own sci-fi/comic/fantasy/whatever convention called Hal-Con.  When I first got wind of this I groaned.  I imagined it to be a pretty ghetto version of a real convention.  Getting a bunch of local artists, actors and retailers together in one room just to give uber-nerds an opportunity to dress up like Warcraft characters  did nothing to excite me.  Plus they hold the event on Halloween weekend, a time when I usually have other plans.  So I skipped the first couple of years.  But this year the guys at my go-to comic shop, Strange Adventures informed me that they were getting Larry Hama to come to this year’s Hal-Con.  This was actually somebody I’d be interested in seeing.  For those of you who don’t know Larry wrote nearly every issue of the original Marvel G.I. Joe comic and he wrote all of the figure’s file cards on the backs of the packages.  Larry played a huge part in making G.I. Joe what it is today.  Sure the brand name and character designs were already there but Larry infused them with life and made me fall in love with them.

I’m by no means a Cos-player but since this was my first con and it was on Halloween weekend and Larry Hama was going to be there I figured I’d better dress up, after all I had a pretty good costume on hand.  You see a couple of years ago I bought a Cobra Commander costume online.   It came with a full reflective plastic face mask which was a pretty decent representation of the Commander’s helmet.  Unfortunately it got pretty steamy in there after a few breaths and it was near impossible to drink with it on so I had to ditch the faceplate.  (somebody later stole it from its resting place which I am still super pissed about but I’ll resist the urge to rant).  To avoid being a Cobra Commander with his face exposed, which is a no no, I cut the sleeve off of a black t-shirt, pulled it over my face and instantly became a Cobra trooper.  This alteration allowed me to breath more comfortably, see where I was going and sneak a beer more easily.  I really liked the costume and I paid more for it than I had ever spent on a costume before but like a wedding dress it seemed doomed to spend the rest of its days in the closet because I didn’t want to repeat myself and wear it again.  Well meeting Larry Hama seemed a justifiable reason to pull this bad boy out of storage.  Most people wouldn’t have appreciated this but I did make a few quick changes to the costume with Larry in mind and to avoid repetition.   I cut the sleeve off of a red t-shirt this time and had Vanessa give me a long scar over each eye.  Now I was no longer just some nameless Cobra blue shirt, I was Scarface.

Scarface was a named Cobra Officer who appeared in the early issues of the G.I. Joe comic written by Hama.  When the comic first started there weren’t a ton of G.I. Joe characters to write about like there are today.  The Joe team was still a small elite unit back then.  But even the original 13 Joes provided Larry with plenty of good-guy characters to work with.  The bad guys weren’t as established as the Joes in those early days though.  Only a couple of Cobra figures were available at that time so in order to pad the Cobra ranks Larry made up some new characters, not based on existing toys.  He took one of the generic Cobra Officers and gave him distinguishing facial scars instantly transforming him into a “named” character that readers could latch onto.  For year fans wanted figures of Hama’s original creations like Kwinn, Dr. Venom, Billy, the Soft Master and the Hard Master .  I’d still like a figure of Ripcords girlfriend Candy myself.  Many of these characters still have not received action figures and it’s been 30 years now.  A figure called Scarface has never officially been released, I imagine the name is probably trademarked anyway, but two unofficial figures of the character have been released in recent years.  In 2004, during the new sculpt era, a Cobra trooper 6 pack was released.  This pack was awesome as it allowed fans to easily army build their cobra troopers for the first time and it also added some diversity to the ranks.  In the old days army building fans would just buy the exact same figure multiple times over.  But this pack provided us with a white haired trooper, an African American trooper, and yes a scarred trooper.  Casual Joe fans and kids probably wouldn’t have even noticed the subtle pink paint applications on the figure’s face but to hard core Joe fans he was instantly recognizable as the dearly departed Cobra Officer.  All the figures in the 6 pack, with the exception of Scarface, all shared the same body which was made up of parts from the original Cobra trooper and officer figures that were released way back in 1982.  The only new piece was the head.  It’s a good head sculptand features more detail than the heads of the original troopers.  The different colored eyebrows and skin tones really make this pack a must have.  Scarface’s red face mask and the added straps on his chest  help to differentiate him from the other troopers in the pack.  Each figure comes with a display stand, a big stupid gun and a bigger stupider backpack.

The Scars are hard to see but they’re there.

So while my costume wasn’t homemade and was far from an exact replica I was hoping Larry would appreciate the extra effort I took.  I’m not sure he even noticed as I only talked to him very briefly but I’ve got to send out a huge thank you to my friend Dave Howlett who moderated Larry’s panel.  When Dave took my question he said “Looks like we have a question from Scarface over there.”  I really appreciated him pointing out that I was not just a generic cobra trooper to the man who created the character.  Larry was very cool and he told some interesting stories.  After his panel he was doing sketches of Joe characters for the fans.  I had him draw me a Zarana and my brother Doug had him draw a Snake-Eyes.  While I was waiting on my sketch from Larry I met a new friend named Katie.  I just had to meet this chick because she was wearing a custom made Cobra De Aco costume!  It was balls to the wall cool and she gets mad props from me for spending so much time on such an obscure character.  De Aco is so obscure that I’m betting even Larry Hama didn’t know who she was supposed to be.  I got a picture with Katie but I had some sort of mental lapse and forgot to get my picture taken with Larry.  Friend of the blog Glenn was there though and he wasn’t so forgetful.  Hopefully he doesn’t mind me posting his pic here.

Larry Hama and Glenn

Overall the con was a pretty good time.  I was only there for one afternoon of the three day event and I was very impressed.  Even though it was my first con I would bet that it would not be considered ghetto by any standards.  There was 3 floors of activity, gaming, retailers, signings, and panels; not to mention a ton of impressive costumes.  I’ll be buying the weekend pass next year for sure.  If you’re interested in taking a further look at the Con go to youtube and look up “Andrew Vaughan at Hal-Con” to see coverage of the 2011 and 2012 event in a videos starring none other than my best pal Andrew and directed my another friend , Matt.  And oh yeah, I give the Scarface figure a 7 out of 10.



For those of you unfamiliar with MUSCLES they were a bunch of crazy looking wrestling figures about 2 inches tall and made out of solid flesh colored plastic.  Later figures came in a multitude of solid colors but all of the ones I had were of the flesh colored variety.  MUSCLE was an acronym for Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere.  You could purchase them in a variety of ways, either in small blister packs of 4 figures, plastic garbage cans containing 10 figures or large box sets of 28 figures.  Some of the likeness’ originated in Japan from a line of figures called Kinnikuman;  maybe they all did but I’m not sure.  A small comic strip on the back of the 28 pack named the good guy leader as Muscle-Man and the bad guy leader as Terri-Bull.  Other than the names of those two characters no other information was provided.  Like Battle Beasts these figures provided a clean slate on which you could weave your own web of continuity.   Doug and I each owned a 28 pack of figures and a few other random ones.  Doug had a garbage can set and I think we got a couple blister packs as well plus I seem to recall trading a friend for some.  One thing I would’ve loved to have as a kid was a checklist of some type.  I had no idea how many of these things there were to collect.  Doug and I had a sizable collection but knowing the wide array of characters that my friends had that we didn’t it seemed as though there was an unlimited number of figures available.  The internet would’ve come in handy.

Other kids may have used these figures to play out all kinds of adventure scenarios but Doug and I kept pretty close to the wrestling angle.  We used them in the same way we played with our WWF figures.  We never had the wrestling ring that was available but it kinda sucked anyway.  We would use the bottom of the 28 pack as a wrestling mat and we just pretended that there were ropes.  We set up elaborate tag teams and rivalries and held Wrestlemania like events.  Oddly enough I don’t recall Doug ever keeping stats.

“Wolverine” can be seen here

Since these characters didn’t come with names it was up to us to name them all.  Honestly I can’t remember most of the names I gave these guys.  I knew I wouldn’t have enough to say about each individual figure to fill an entire post so I decided to break them into groups.  Some characters fought alone, some had tag-team partners that seemed super obvious and others less so and then there were a few “families”.  These were groups of characters that shared certain features and so we grouped them into larger teams similar to WWF’s Degeneration X WCW’s NWO.  The three characters I’ve chosen for this entry were one such family but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called.  You can clearly see the similarities in their costumes though so it seemed like a no-brainer to team them up.  I like the teams look with the funky helmets and buckled boots.  I was always impressed at the amount of detail they were able to squeeze into these figures though this group isn’t the best example of that.  The only name I’m certain of in this group is the little guy on the left whom I dubbed Weakly for obvious reasons.  He looks like a total wimp but I treated him as an underdog not to be trifled with.  With his arms posed the way they are he’s perfectly posed to unleash a flurry of devastating blows on an unsuspecting opponent.  The next guy is Scarface, also for obvious reasons.  If that wasn’t his name before it sure is now. His mangled robotic face made me wonder if all of these guys were mechanical beneath their creepy face masks.  I  treated his as kind of a mindless brute zombie.  Lastly we have a guy who I think I called Wolverine because of the little claws he has on his knuckles.  Because of his crazed smile I imagined this guy to be a bit of a maniac who would go into berserker rages when pushed to the edge.  They made for a cool little team, 7 out of 10.

MER-MAN (Super7 2016)


Retro “re-creations” of 80s toys that never existed became popular a year or two ago courtesy of a company called Funko. They most famously produce those Pop! vinyl figures you see everywhere but they also make a line of 3/4″ figures with 5-points of articulation called ReAction Figures. I’m a big fan of both lines. My Pop! collection is now more than 30 deep and I’ve picked up ReAction versions of the Rocketeer, the Invisible Man, the Boondock Saints, the Crow, Scarface, JAWS, and more. They’re great little toys that harken back to a simpler time. Unfortunately, the line seems to have come to an end as I haven’t heard any news of upcoming releases for months.

However, that didn’t stop Super7, a San Francisco based company from getting in on the action. They started out publishing a magazine about toys then later morphed into a toy and apparel company.  I only became aware of them this past year when images of their vintage “Star Wars” style Masters of the Universe figures began appearing online. The set consisted of 4 figures: He-Man, Skeletor, Beast Man, and Mer-Man. They looked exactly like Funko’s ReAction figures with 5 points of articulation, simple sculpts, and eye-catching character-specific packaging.MOTUR-Mer carded



I’m a big Masters of the Universe fan as evidenced by my near complete collection of Mattel’s MOTU Classics figures, my handful of vintage figures, my near complete 200X line, and my complete run of mini-figures. So naturally I was tempted to order all of the Super7 figures when they went up for pre-order at BigBadToyStore. The price wasn’t unreasonable at $15 a pop but common sense stepped in and stopped me before I placed them all in my cart. I  assumed this was an indie project produced in very limited numbers so the possibility of a wave 2 was low. But I had to ask myself, “what if there is a wave 2?” Would I buy them all too? then wave 3 and wave 4 etc.  In my opinion the CLASSICS versions of these characters are the definitive versions.  They have great sculpting and articulation, they’re bright, big and fun, and they have great accessories. So if my Classics collection provides me with the perfect set of MOTU toys why would I set myself on a path to buy them all again in an inferior (albeit fun and nostalgic) format? I decided I only needed one of the figures to satisfy my itch and that of course had to be Mer-Man since he’s always been my favorite.

MOTUR-Mer back

Though for some reason BBTS was only selling He-Man and Skeletor as individuals. Mer-Man was only available as part of the set of four for $60.  I stood my ground and did not place an order for any of them. That was a few months ago. Then last week my local comic shop, Strange Adventures, got them in. They were priced at $30 a piece which was painful but honestly, given the US to Canadian conversion rate and the shipping, that’s close to what I would’ve paid to order one from BBTS anyway had they been selling him individually.

This is a very cool little figure. The intentionally simple sculpting is well done and very reminiscent of the original 1982 Mer-Man figure. The colors are a very good match too. He even has a little replica of his vintage sword which always looked like a cob of corn to me.  The true highlight of this figure is the original illustration by Jason Edmiston on the blister card so I’m happy to see that he’s been credited on the back.  I usually open my toys but this guy is getting tacked onto the wall as is so that I can continue to enjoy the complete packaging. This is not a must-have for your MOTU collection but it is pretty neat. If you have a favorite character and a couple bucks to spare maybe you should pick one up. Wave 2 with Trap Jaw, Tri-Klops, Sorceress, and Man-At-Arms was just announced. 7 out of 10MOTUR-Mer face


POP-Batman yellow fullFUNKO POP!

There was a time when I told myself I wasn’t going to collect Funko’s POP! vinyl figures and now I have a small army of them including three variations of Batman.

The floodgates can be traced back to my first POP! figure, a black and grey contemporary Batman that I received as a gift.  I liked it so much that I thought I would maybe buy one or two more.  I started out by buying a couple oddballs like Rocky Balboa and the the Winged Monkey from Wizard of Oz and the next thing I knew I had a dozen of them.

My second Batman, an Adam West 60s Batman, was gifted to me on my birthday by my brother Doug a couple years ago. That one came with a retro Batmobile which was pretty sweet.  After that I was quite certain I had no need for any further Batman POP! figures. Then last weekend I bought this mustardy yellow Batman.  You might think it ridiculous but there is precedent for this garish costume.POP-Batman yellow comic

This figure, along with pink, green, orange, purple, and blue variations were released as a special exclusives to collectibles etailer, Entertainment Earth.  They were produced in celebration of the Dark Knight’s 75th anniversary in 2014.  The rainbow Batman outfits are based on Detective Comics issue 241 published in 1957.  I’ve never read it but in it Batman apparently dons various coloured costumes as a means to distract some bad guys from noticing that Robin was fighting crime with a wounded arm. Sounds silly I know but it was the Silver Age and s**t like that happened all the time.

POP-Batman yellow group


My friend Jay runs a comic shop called Cape and Cowl Comics in my hometown of Sackville, Nova Scotia.  You may recall me talking about it in my Blowtorch review a while back.   It’s a great shop but I’ve only been in there a couple of times.  I don’t get out to Sackville very often unless I’m visiting my folks and I do 99% of my comic shopping at Strange Adventures in Halifax.  Jay has faced some hurtles in starting up his new business and I guess things have been exceptionally slow in the new year.  When tales of his struggles made the rounds on local news outlets and social media I knew I had to get out there and spend some cash.  I went out for a browse on Saturday and despite a great selection of goodies there wasn’t much there I “needed”.POP-Batman yellow side

Any POP! figure would’ve been a fun purchase, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Deb from Napolean Dynamite, Neo from the Matrix, but I just couldn’t resist the pull of the rainbow Batmen.  The shop had a few varieties in stock but the yellow one won out because I oddly find it the ugliest and the most appealing.  (I also bought a Scarface ReAction figure).

There isn’t much to say about the figure itself.  The sculpt is as cute as it was the first two times I got it.  I’m sure it will be a conversation piece on my work desk.  7 out of 10.

If you’re able, go support Cape and Cowl comics.





My Joe Con “Tiger Force vs Iron Grenadiers” box set finally arrived in the mail the other day which was pretty exciting. I pre-ordered that thing about 5 months ago so I’m eager to review the 15 figures within. However, I just finished a run of G.I. Joe reviews because I’ve spent the past week examining all the figures and vehicles from this summer’s San Diego Comic Con box set. So rather than jump right into another batch of Convention exclusive G.I. Joe reviews I’ve decided to break things up with a couple of random toys first. In keeping with the Tiger Force theme I’ve selected the Battle Beast, Ferocious Tiger, for today’s review.

Ferocious Tiger, or Battle Tiger as I called him before I realized he had a real name, was included in the first wave of Battle Beasts figures released by Hasbro in 1987.  However he was not one of my first Battle Beast figures. There were a handful of figures from each wave that eluded for some time and Ferocious Tiger was one that took me a while to track down. I can’t recall when or where I finally got him but it was sometime after the toy line had ended. I don’t have any clear recollections of playing with him as a child so he may have been one of the few I bought as an adult.BB-Tiger side

It’s a shame that I got him so late because he never had a chance to develop a unique personality in my Battle Beast universe. Since there was no cartoon or mainstream comic to provide back stories for these characters all Battle Beasts were a blank canvas when you got them.  But to me, certain beasts like Rocky Rhino and Sly Fox are as iconic as Optimus Prime and He-Man because their personalities were so well developed over the many years I played with them. So while Ferocious Tiger is a cool looking figure he doesn’t stir up any specific nostalgic memories the way those others do.

If I had gotten Ferocious Tiger back in ’87 I imagine he would have been an integral member of Rocky Rhino’s good guy team. Since there was no established continuity to work from I could’ve made him a bad guy just as easily but there’s something about this toy that seems heroic to me so making him a good guy seems obvious.

The sculpt on the figure is pretty darn good for such a small toy. Battle Beasts never fail to impress me in that department. I especially like his shoulder mounted cannon or lights or whatever it is because it gives him a unique asymmetrical silhouette. It reminds me of War Machine’s shoulder mounted gatling gun which I’ve always loved.  Tiger’s only articulation points are at his shoulders.  His arms are able to swing backwards and forwards. It’s the same articulation found on all BB figures and while it allows for minimal movement it’s all I ever needed to have a blast with these toys. Takara could have easily made them completely static like MUSCLES to save on costs but thankfully they didn’t because the moving arms went a long way to increase the playability.BB-Tiger back

For a weapon Ferocious Tiger carries a rather boring spiked club.  It looks to me like one of those baseball bats with nails hammered into it.  Except this club is double-headed so I imagine he could spin it around like a bow staff and do some real damage.  While it’s less interesting to look at than many other beasts’ weapons I like it for it’s sheer blunt brutality.

The area where this figure is really lacking is in the paint apps. None of the Battle Beasts had a ton of paint applications which is fine in most cases but I think Takara/Hasbro should have splurged for a few more apps on figures like Ferocious Tiger, Zealot Zebra, and Jaded Jaguar.

BB-Tiger card


The prints on their fur is what best defines those animals so to omit a tiger’s stripes or a jaguar’s spots is almost unforgivable. To be fair, the tiger stripes are sculpted onto this figures so they can seen if you look closely but a little bit of black paint would have elevated this figure significantly. Also odd is the fact that Ferocious Tiger is yellow instead of orange. Other beasts are oddly colored (like the blue horse and purple elephant) so it’s less of an offense but yellow is so close to orange they probably should’ve just made him orange. The brown is a good color for the armour and I like the pink highlights but a few additional paint apps could have spruced that up too.

This is a very cool figure but in a line full of cool figures he ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack for me. 7 out of 10.

BB-Tiger vehicle


Muscle-Mixer fullM.U.S.C.L.E.

Early tomorrow morning I leave for Mexico.  My best friend Miguel is getting married down there and I’m his best man.  I live in Canada, the Great White North, and I’ve never been down south before.  I’m excited about the trip but I’m equally trepidatious.  I once got third degree burns when I stayed out in the sun to long here at home. I’m pretty much doomed once I get down there.  Besides the deadly sun I’ve also received the following warnings from various people:

1. Don’t drink the water.

2. Stay near crowds to avoid getting murdered by the crime families who run the resorts.

3. By wary of deadly jellyfish swarms, and

4. Wipe down all the utensils so I don’t get worms.

Muscle-MixerThat’s just a few of the things I have to worry about.  Don’t even get me started on airplanes and sharks and all the other dangers that await me.  But I’m trying to stay focused on the positive aspects of the trip.  I’m sure it will be a blast.  It’s mine and Vanessa’s first vacation together and I’ll have a bunch of my good buddies there too.  It’s two weeks away from work if nothing else.

In celebration of the trip I thought I’d review a toy with Mexican ties but I had a really hard time finding one.  Most of my toys are made in China.  I think the only Mexican made toys I have are the terrible Batman and Nightwing bootlegs that Miguel brought back for me as a souvenir a few years ago.

Muscle-Mixer backI tried to think of Mexican pop-culture characters.  The first one I thought of was the Spider-Man villain Tarantula who I could’ve sworn was Mexican but after reading his Wikipedia page I discovered that he hails from a fictional South American country.  The next one I thought of was Arana but I already reviewed her a few months back.   I couldn’t think of any other Mexican super heroes and I couldn’t think of any Mexican G.I. Joes either.  I then pondered if I had any figures of Mexican wrestlers like Rey Mysterio.  It turns out I don’t but that line of thinking made me remember these two little figures.

M.U.S.C.L.E.(Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere) was a Japanese toy line exported to North America by Mattel in the 1980s.  They were small flesh coloured wrestlers and they came in all kinds of weird varieties.  I have previously reviewed two batches of them (Muscles 1 and Muscles 2).  My brother Doug and I collected them and we each had sizeable collections of the little guys.  None of the characters came with names or back stories so we had to make it all up ourselves.  I thought these two guys looked like maracas so I named them the Maraca Brothers.  They were some of my favorites and the were my reigning tag-team champions most of the time. I viewed them as Mexican Luchador wrestlers which is why they ended up the subject of this post.

Tag Team Match: The Maraca Brothers vs The Egyptians.

Tag Team Match: The Maraca Brothers vs The Egyptians.

The two figures are very similar.  From the waist down they’re identical. Their maraca shaped torsos share many similarities such as the flower pattern near the belt buckle, the “handle” on the top, and the round masked face in the center.  The differences are that one has a necklace of shrunken heads and an arm up in a punching position where as the other guy is jewelry free and has both arms at his side.  I always imagined the guy with the necklace of heads was the crazier of the two; the one who would fly off the handle in pre-fight interviews and stuff like that.  

Regrettably I decided to add some color to these two one day which is why they look the way they do.  I actually don’t mind my color choices but I used a type of marker which didn’t age very well.  A lot of the ink has rubbed off entirely or bled into other colors over the years.  Apparently my 10 year old self didn’t feel the need to color the back of one of the figures for some reason.Muscle-Mixer art

Before I sat down to write this review I googled this character to see if I could find out his real name.  Apparently he’s called Mixer Taite and he’s actually a blender, not a maraca.  That flower pattern near his waist is intended to be dicing blades seen through what would be a clear glass body…strange.  Also, I couldn’t find any reference to his partner so I think these figures are actually supposed to be variations of the same guy.  It’s neat to find that kind of stuff out after the fact but I still like them better as the Maraca Brothers.  6 out of 10.

So adios mi amigos.  Hopefully I survive the trip and this is not my final post.  If all goes well I shall return in a week with a bunch of crappy Mexican bootleg figures to review.


COBRA TROOPER v.1 (1982)

Joe-Trooper v1 fullG. I. JOE

In many, if not most, of the reviews I post I include a hyperlink to a previous post so that you can easily check out another toy I’ve referenced in the review. I’ve noticed that I tend to link back to a few particular toys a lot. For example, Rocky Rhino is a figure I link to a lot because he was the designated leader of my “good guy” Battle Beasts when I was a kid, which I mention every time I review another good guy Battle Beast. Walrus Man from Star Wars and Mer-Man from Masters of the Universe come a lot simply because they were my favorite figures from those vintage lines. When it comes to G.I. Joe the most referenced figure has to be the Cobra Trooper. The reason the Cobra Troopers, known by fans as blueshirts, comes up so often is because they’re the backbone of the Cobra organization. The standard Cobra Trooper and the very similarly attired Cobra Officer were the very first G.I. Joe villains. They were released in 1982 which was the inaugural year of the 3 ¾ inch “Real American Hero” (RAH) Joe figures. In the early days of G.I. Joe the cartoons and comics were densely populated with blueshirts.

pic borrowed from

pic borrowed from

As the toyline grew each year new specialized troopers were added to Cobra’s  roster and the standard troopers and officers were seen less and less. Almost every time I review one of those subsequent trooper types, and I’ve reviewed quite a few (Ice Viper, Frag Viper, Viper, etc.), I mention how they are following in the footsteps of the original Cobra Trooper. The problem is I haven’t reviewed a “proper” Cobra Trooper that I can link to.

Joe-Trooper v1 faceThe Trooper has been around so long (32 years) that multiple variations have sprung up over the years. In one of my very early reviews back in February 2012 I reviewed Cobra Trooper version 9. The sculpt of that figure is pretty much spot on as to how a blueshirt should look. However that figure isn’t a great representative of the standard trooper because he was included in a desert environment-themed set so he’s wearing a tan outfit. I can’t exactly refer to a blueshirt only to link to a tanshirt.

I reviewed Cobra Trooper version 17 back in June 2012. That figure was included in the first wave of figures tied into the second live-action movie, G.I. Joe: Retaliation. It was a cool design but not at all faithful to the look of the troopers in the movie and quite far removed from the original blueshirt design.  I could never link to that figure in reference to the look of the standard Cobra Trooper.Joe-Trooper v1 gun

The best example of a standard Cobra Trooper that I’ve reviewed thus far, and the post I have been linking to when I make reference to the blueshirt, is a figure that is technically called Cobra Squad Leader v.1 but which I named Scarface in the post. The figure is pretty much a perfect example of the standard trooper. He’s got the classic outfit and it’s the right color. And yet, the inclusion of two scars across his eyes, which was done as an easter egg for old-school fans like myself, turns that figure into a unique character and not just a generic infantry man.

You see, in the early issues of the Marvel comic, writer Larry Hama didn’t have very many characters to work with so he created a few. One of his original creations was Scarface, a Cobra Officer with very distinctive scars across his face. So while that figure wasn’t marketed as a unique character fans knew who he really was. Therefore, I don’t feel that that particular toy is the best one to link to when referring to a standard Cobra blueshirt.

Joe-Trooper v1 compare

So today I’ve decided to review the absolute best example of the Cobra Trooper that I can link to from here on out, the 1982 original.

The first wave of Joe figures holds a special place in my, and many other Joe fans hearts. The “original 13” Joes are revered by most collectors who were around at the dawn of the RAH toyline . But the first wave of figures consisted of more than just the 13 good guys, there were also 2 bad guys who were both called “The Enemy”. Though they shared the same name on the front of their blister cards, the Cobra Trooper and Officer were distinguished as having different ranks in the file cards on the back of the package. My brother Doug owned the Officer and I had the Trooper. I loved this figure back when I got him in the early 80s and I still love him now. I think the look holds up very well. Most of the original Joes were dressed in realistic military uniforms. The Cobra outfits weren’t based on any real world uniforms but they weren’t unbelievable or outlandish like later Cobra trooper outfits would be.Joe-Trooper v1 group

The original blueshirt sculpt consists of a relatively non-descript body molded in dark blue plastic with black paint apps on the belt, boots, and webgear. A red cobra emblem is stenciled on the center of his chest. The head consists of a blue helmet and a black balaclava over the mouth and nose. It’s become an iconic look. The only issues most people had with this original figure is that the head was too round and the eyes were rather sleepy. Both of these issues were resolved when the figure was rereleased in 2004 with a brand new head sculpt (the Scarface version, which came packaged with 5 other troopers in a Toys R us exclusive 6-pack).

For accessories the ’82 Cobra Trooper came with a single sniper rifle which is all he really needed.

I think this is a fantastic figure. 10 out of 10.

FLINT (micro force) (2013)

Joe-Flint micro fullG. I. JOE : MICRO FORCE

2013 was a weird year for G.I. Joe.  There was a successful live-action movie playing in the theaters but there were hardly any movie-based toys to be found.  That would probably be considered poor planning in the case of any action movie geared towards young boys but its  an even bigger fail in this case since we’re talking about a movie thats based on a toy line. I think the biggest problem was the fact that the film’s release date got pushed back 9 months just weeks before it was slated to hit theaters.  Toy aisles were stocked pretty heavily with wave 1 movie product in 2012 which was expected to sell through based on brand awareness created by the film.  But the film got delayed and so kids didn’t want the toys and so the toys sat for months until they were marked down.  My local Toys R Us still has that 2012 product on their shelves.

When the movie finally came out in 2013 and kids might have actually wanted the toys, retailers refused to stock Joe items because of the toy line’s poor performance the year prior.  I never saw wave 2, 3, or 4 product in stores; I had to order all my figures online.  Oddly enough, even though new 3 3/4 ” figures were almost impossible to find in 2013, these strange little 1 inch figures started popping up in stores. Joe-Flint micro packaging

The new mini figures were part of a line called Micro Force.  It featured over 40 figures that were available in carded 5 packs or in single blind bags.  Most of the characters were familiar faces but there were a few new concepts thrown in as well such as a zombie Cobra Commander and Ghost Ninjas (both of which almost made it into the 3 3/4″ line). The figures are made of soft rubber and they don’t have any articulation.  They have holes in their feet and can be removed from the round black display bases they come on.  I’ll admit that I was tempted to buy them when I first saw them.  They’re cute, they’re different, and more importantly they were the only new Joe product available.  However, I’d already been drawn into cute versions of G.I. Joe before by way of Mighty Muggs, Combat Heroes, and the Loyal Subjects vinyls.  I decided I didn’t need to open another can of worms and so I passed on Micro Force.Joe-Flint micro side

But then my brother Doug bought me a 5-pack as a stocking stuffer last year.  He bought me the pack featuring my favorite Joe, Shockwave, as well as Snake-Eyes, a Cobra Trooper, a Red Ninja, and this guy, Flint.

I have previously reviewed 3 different Flint figures so I don’t have a whole lot more to say about the character.  I always liked the way he was portrayed in the comics and cartoons.  I liked the way he was portrayed in the live-action movie, and I even liked the way Doug portrayed him when we were kids (Doug owned the 1985 original figure and the 1988 Tiger Force repaint). He’s a cool character and I’m always happy to add a new version of him to my collection, even one as useless as this.Joe-Flint micro back

This figure doesn’t move but at least he’s posed in a cool position.  The Shockwave from the pack is kneeling which is really annoying because its not a very actionable pose.  Flint looks like he’s cautiously walking into a potentially hot situation.  He’s clutching his rifle with both hands and he’s got his trusty shotgun and a couple grenades at the ready on his back if he needs them.  The sculpt is surprisingly decent with some real attitude emoting from the face and the paint apps are pretty good too ( I really like that they added the red paint to his shotgun shells).  And while the figure technically doesn’t move, the softness of the rubber allows you to bend him into some different positions.

Joe-Flint micro attack





All in all, it’s not a bad little figure for what it is.  I wouldn’t have bought it myself and I have no intention of buying any more Micro Force figures, but as a gift it was a neat little thing to keep me entertained while bumming around my parents house over the holidays. 4 out of 10.

VIPER v.29 (2014)

Joe-Viper v29 fullG. I. JOE : 50th ANNIVERSARY

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.Joe-Viper v29 back

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.Joe-Viper v29 shoot

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.

Joe-Viper v29 sideWhen 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.Joe-Viper v29 pose

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.Joe-Viper v29-pack

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.

Notice the gimpy wrists and wonky goggles on the right.

Notice the gimpy wrists and wonky goggles on the right.



Joe-Steel Commander v2 fullG. I. JOE

I’m almost through my marathon of reviews for the 2014 G. I. Joe Con exclusive box set. I only have 3 of the 15 figures left to go after this. So far I’ve covered the entire Cobra side (Toxo-Viper (x3), Toxo-Zombie (x3), Lab-Rat (x2), Repulsor, and Dawg) and a couple of the Joe’s Eco-Warriors (Flint and Clean Sweep). I have one Eco-Joe left to review, Ozone. It makes sense that all those figures would be lumped together. They were all based on the 1991/1992 environmentally themed Eco-Warriors sub-set. But in order to round out the 15-figure line-up the collector’s club needed to pad the set with some additional characters. When the selection of characters was announced there was some head scratching going on in the Joe community because the additional figures seemed to come completely out of left field. I admit that I too thought it was a pretty random group of Joes to lump together at first. Joe-Steel Commander v2 back

But once I got the set in hand, and read the accompanying comic book, it all fell into place for me. The theme of the set this year isn’t “Eco-Warriors”, it’s “Zombie Initiative”. Cobra has unleashed their toxic Compound Z out into the world and it’s turning people into zombies. Sending the guys with gas masks and hazmat suits into the fray makes sense. But it also makes sense to send in the Joe team’s survival expert, Outback and a master of silent weapons, like T’Jbang. We all know zombies are attracted to loud noises so heavy artillery may not be the best way to go in this situation. The only figure whose presence is still kind of hard to explain is the Steel Brigade Commander.Joe-Steel brigade 1992

The concept of the Steel Brigade Trooper was first introduced in 1987. It was a promotion advertised on the packaging of Joe toys that year where if you collected enough Flag Points (found on the boxes and card backs) you could mail-away for this exclusive figure. The mail away figure concept dates back to the earliest days of the Real American Hero figures with hooded Cobra Commander being the first in 1984.

The idea behind the Steel Brigade is that YOU were the Steel Brigade. When you ordered the figure you provided your name and birthdate and you chose whether you wanted to be martial arts expert or whatever and then Hasbro would send you a figure with a personalized filecard and a selection of weapons to match the specialty you had chosen. The Steel Brigade trooper was covered from head to toe so he could’ve been anybody under that helmet. I didn’t actually order the figure from Hasbro so I never got the personalized file card but I did end up with a Steel Brigade trooper from a flea market or something.Joe-Steel Commander v2 squat

I really liked the original Steel Brigade trooper. I was always a fan of Joes with masks and helmets that covered their faces; I thought they looked cooler. I never imaged my Brigade trooper to be me. I saw him as a unique character whom I named Blackout (a name that Hasbro has since stolen from me).

In 1992 Hasbro apparently offered a repainted version of the original Steel Brigade trooper as another mail away exclusive. I had quit buying Joes by then and wasn’t aware of the 2nd Steel Brigade trooper until I got back into buying Joes in the early 2000s. I thought the repaint looked cheap and ugly. Where the original wore tan pants, a powder blue sweater and an olive vest with a gray helmet, the repainted version wore harsh primary blue and green with a gold helmet.

Hasbro released their first modern take on the Steel Brigade in 2011. The concept of YOU being the Steel Brigade was gone. Now they were just the faceless support team of the Joes. Some people don’t like the idea of nameless troops being members of the Joes. We’ve seen various versions of “green shirts” (the equivalent to Cobra’s blue shirts) over the years and I understand why some people don’t like them. We’ve always been told that G.I. Joe was an elite fighting force. If you were the best of the best you got selected to join and were given a code name. The idea of a bunch of nameless cannon fodder troops running around calling themselves Joes goes directly against that.Joe-Steel Commander v2 shoot

However, as good as the Joes are they would be extremely outnumbered without getting some kind of support. Cobra has dozens of various Viper squadrons to battle against. I’m all for the idea of good soldiers being upgraded to green shirts, then to Steel Brigade troopers, and then to official code named G.I. Joes.

I thought the 2011 Steel Brigade figure was awesome. The sculpt looked great, the proportions were better than on the melon-headed original, and he came loaded with a ton of weapons. Coolest of all was his helmet was removable to reveal a Beachhead-style masked face beneath.

This new convention set figure uses the same upper half as its 2011 predecessor with a pair of legs borrowed from another figure and he’s been repainted in the ugly 1992 colors. This was not a figure I was clamoring for. One of the main reasons the 1987 and 2011 Steel Brigade figures were so great was because of their subdued realistic color palette. I can totally imagine those figures patrolling the deserts of Iraq or Afganistan. This crazy gold helmeted version doesn’t make sense in any environment that I can think of.Joe-Steel Commander v2 face

The fact that they made this an individual character, the Steel Brigade Commander, instead of just another trooper makes me like him more. It helps to justify his strangely colored costume.  One guy might have a bad sense of fashion as opposed to an entire squad.  The plus side of his color choices is that they link him into the rest of the Joes in the convention set quite well. There’s an abundance of blues, greens, and yellows amongst the 6 Joes which helps make them feel like a cohesive unit.

This is one of my least favorite figures in the set but he’s by no means bad. I loved this Steel Brigade mold the first time I saw it and even though this paint job isn’t my cup-of-tea, it’s still a nice base figure. He comes with a nice array of accessories as well (4 guns, a backpack, a knife, and a rocket launcher). Now that I have this Steel Brigade Commander I kind of want to build a small squad of Steel Brigade troopers for him to boss around. 6 out of 10.Joe-Steel commander v2 pair