The 6th and final shipment from the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s FSS 5.0 arrived a couple weeks ago. The last 2 figures were Raptor and Steel Raven and the surprise 13th figure was G. I Jane. Jane and Raven are both decent figures but Raptor is probably the highlight of the entire sub this year and maybe one of the best subscription figures to date.
The original Raptor was released in 1987. He was Cobra’s resident falconer and accountant. Obviously. He was a pretty odd looking character even amongst the other weird and wonderful Cobra soldiers. He was a shirtless dude wearing a bird cowl over his head, with real cloth wings, and a pet falcon that perched on his wrist. My brother Doug owned the original when we were kids. No later versions of Raptor were ever released so I never got a chance to acquire one for myself. Though I did eventually get my own version 1 Raptor (minus his accessories) courtesy of Eric in the Epic Haul of 2014.
This new version from the Club is the first Raptor released in 30 years and it was worth the wait. Raptor has a loyal fan base so this was a highly demanded figure that the Club really needed to nail, and honestly, I don’t think they could’ve done any better with this release. He’s largely made up of re-used parts from 2010’s Zartan version 20. I didn’t buy that figure at the time because I thought it looked like a poor man’s Raptor. I already had a perfectly fine Zartan figure (several of them) and I didn’t feel that I needed one dressed like a hobo and carrying a bird. I later wished I had bought it so I could display it as Raptor because I knew my chances of ever getting a real modern-era Raptor figure were slim to none and I desperately wanted to add him to my Cobra ranks. I never did get Zartan v.20 though because it got rather pricey on the secondary market quite quickly. I assume it’s because others had the same “pretend this is Raptor” idea as me.
Now I’m glad I never did get that Zartan figure because it makes this figure that much more unique looking in my collection. The head, torso, arms, and upper legs are all the same as Zartan v.20. The only body parts the club swapped out are the lower legs which they replaced with Destro v.22 legs. That Destro had weird claws on his boots for some reason (snow shoeing? rock climbing?) and they are perfect for giving Raptor the talons depicted on his card artwork. Even the original Raptor didn’t have talons like this. The Zartan hood has been replaced by the bird cowl from the vintage Raptor. A brand new cowl would have been nice but the vintage one still works and it definitely establishes that this is undoubtably Raptor.
For accessories Raptor comes with the bird and staff that Zartan inexplicably had in 2010. The bird even has a removable hood which is awesome though it’s an accessory just screaming to get lost as it sits rather loose. He also has a pistol that can be holstered in his belt and a whistle that hangs around his neck. The pièce de résistance is the re-imagined wing harness. Rather than give us a gimpy piece of cloth like the vintage figure had, the Club has brilliantly re-used the Jungle Viper’s ghillie suit rig. Seeing the articulated wings on Raptor you’d never know that they weren’t originally intended to be wings. They remind me of the wings the Vulture wears in Spider-Man comics. Needless to say, they’re much more threatening than the original’s beach towel.
Shortly before I moved out of my apartment I received a package from the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club containing the two latest subscription figures. Since I was already in the process of boxing up all my belongings the new Joes just got tossed into a box. I didn’t get a chance to open them until I was settled into the new house. So now, nearly a month later, I finally get to enjoy my new Darklon and Salvo.
The original Salvo was released in 1990, the year I quit collecting Joes as a kid. Rampart was the only figure I bought that year. I did think Salvo was neat looking with his bizarre helmet and massive weapons but even as a kid I thought his “The Right of Might” t-shirt was pretty cheesy. Since I never owned the original I have no real attachment to the character. I didn’t even get version 2 when it was released in 2005 despite the fact that I was back into collecting Joes big time by then. Salvo simply wasn’t on my radar as an essential member of the team.
Regardless, I was excited to hear that Salvo was slated to be included in the Club’s 5th figure subscription service. I’m happy any time I can add a unique character to my modern-era collection. My initial excitement quickly dissipated though once the Club revealed their photoshop prototype. Salvo looked like a scrawny little wiener. I wasn’t the only one underwhelmed by the reveal. Joe fans decried the horrible figure on every G.I. Joe site on the internet. The Club quickly responded to the backlash by promising to go back to the drawing board. What they came back with was a huge improvement and resulted in the figure you see here today.
Improvements aside, this figure is still far from perfect. The arms, torso, and upper legs are all reused from a Dwayne Johnson Roadblock figure which makes perfect sense given that Salvo was always drawn as a muscly tough guy in the comics and cartoon. But I wish the Club had reused the entire Roadblock body. Instead they swapped out the lower legs for those of a Channing Tatum Duke.
The lower leg swap results in Salvo having wonky knees that can’t be fully straightened and poorly angled ankles which make it nearly impossible to keep him standing on his own. The original lower legs would have worked out just fine and made for a much more solid figure. The Club’s poor decision means I have to keep Salvo hunched and backwards on his stand to keep him standing up.Reusing the Hit & Run head from the Club’s 2013 Night Force set was an inspired choice that no one expected. There aren’t many bald heads for the Club to choose from so I think most fans were expecting to see Serpentor’s head (which probably would’ve worked out okay too). The Hit & Run head had painted hair before but there’s no sculpted hairline so it works out perfectly for a bald dude and the variation keeps Salvo from looking like a clone of Hit & Run.
As for Salvo’s accessories, I’m okay with the fact that the Club didn’t replicate the original’s ridiculous shoulder-mounted 5 missile rocket launcher or massive mine launcher but I know others were disappointed. The Club still managed to arm him with an oversized shoulder cannon (as seen in the prototype pic above) but it only has one spring loaded missile. It’s an ugly weapon but Salvo can’t support the thing due to his knee and ankle problems anyway so I chucked it into the extra parts bins never to be seen again. At least he comes with a pistol that he can carry or holster on his leg so he isn’t completely defenceless. Salvo also has a briefcase as the original did, a display stand, and his iconic helmet. I really thought the Club would have to sculpt a new piece in order to recreate this distinctive feature of the original but instead they just reused Sci-Fi’s helmet and it works surprisingly well.
The colors on this figure are true to the original and thankfully they’re toned down from the overly bright photoshop mock-up. The Club even made the right choice of using the 1990 font on his silly t-shirt instead of the stiff text they showed on the mock up.
I wish this figure could stand up straight and hold his weapon but as long as he’s leaning I think he’s pretty cool. I really appreciate the fact that the Club responded to fan feedback and improved this figure before going into production. Had we gotten their first attempt I’d probably give Salvo a 3 or 4 but as is I give this a figure a 7 out of 10.
When the 3 3/4″ G.I. Joe toyline launched in 1982 there were 2 bad guys available in stores, the standard Cobra Trooper and the Cobra Officer. Those guys served as Cobra’s basic infantry. All of the troopers that followed the next few years were specialized soldiers like frogmen and arctic troopers. In 1986 Cobra’s basic infantry got an upgrade with the release of the Cobra Viper. The original Viper design was awesome and iconic. Repainted versions of the figure were released in 1989 and 1990. In 1994, the final year of the original toyline, a 4th version of the Viper was released. V.4 featured a complete redesign made up of entirely new parts. It lacked the Viper’s trademark faceplate but overall the new mold wasn’t bad. The problem with the figure was the paint job. Cobra’s signature blue and reds were replaced with an over abundance of purple and rosy orange highlights. yuck.
When Joe figures returned to store shelves in the late 90s/early 2000s the Viper reappeared again but Hasbro wisely went back to the original ’86 mold. Since 1997 more than 20 variations of the original Viper design have been released but Hasbro has never revisited the 1994 design.
However, the Collector’s Club saw the potential in the mold and released the ’94 figure with a slick black, red, and gold paint job in 2005 as part of their exclusive convention set. The Club named their new creation Iron Anvil, a trooper in Destro’s Iron Grenadier army. 10 years later the Club updated the Iron Anvil in the modern figure style for their 2015 box set. The Club invested cash to sculpt a modern era head featuring Iron Anvil’s recognizable breather mask. Fans speculated that it wouldn’t be long before the Club reused the head to create a modern era Viper v.4 to get the most bang for their buck. Sure enough the Club announced that the ’94 Viper would be updated in their next FSS.
My first FSS 5.0 shipment arrived last Friday. It contained Charbroil and this Viper. I didn’t think I would like this figure but to my surprise I actually think it’s pretty cool. His body, with the exception of the arms, originally belonged to 2010’s Jungle Viper. The Club already used it to great effect for their box-set Air-Devil last year and it works well here too. It’s not completely faithful to the 1994 design but I think it’s an improvement. The ’94 boots were too high and the shoulder pads are pretty dated. I’m not sure where these arms came from off the top of my head but they work really well with the body. I loved this updated head design on 2015’s Iron Anvils and it still looks very sharp even in purple. This Viper sports the same garish colors as the 1994 figure but they don’t look as bad as I expected. I think the purple is a little duller which helps.
For accessories Viper comes with a display base, a shotgun, a rifle, a pistol that can be holstered on his ankle, and a knife/sword that can be stored on his back. I don’t love any of the weapons but they’re not bad. Once again the Club has changed my mind about a figure I wasn’t excited about. 8 out of 10.
It’s time once again for my annual “best of” list; a tradition I began in 2012. I posted fewer toy reviews this year than I ever have before but that does not mean I purchased fewer action figures. My collection continued to grow by leaps and bounds in 2016 and as always it was very difficult for me to pick my favourites but pick them I did. The only criteria I had for toys to be named on this list was that they must have been released in 2016 and I must have acquired them personally. So without further ado let’s get started…
16. TIGER FORCE SNEAK PEEK-I only have two G.I. Joe figures on my list this year so Sneak Peek may seem like an odd choice in the eyes of many Joe fans. We got a lot of excellent G.I. Joes this year between the 50th anniversary series, the Figure Subscription Service, and the Collector’s Club box set and I’d bet that most people would place Sneak Peek near the bottom of their “best of” lists. Not only is he completely made up of rehashed pieces, including one of the most over used heads in the biz, but this figure doesn’t even recreate the classic 1987 Sneak Peek we all owned as kids. Instead the Club gave us an updated version of the lesser known European exclusive Tiger Force repaint. So why is this figure on my list? Well, I simply love Sneak Peek. The character was a favourite from my youth and one I’ve been clamouring to see updated since the beginning of the modern era 9 years ago. The reused parts work well together in my opinion and I quite like the face regardless of its familiarity. If the Collector’s Club had sculpted a new head for this figure I probably wouldn’t like it as much because they’d likely make it pudgy and round to match the vintage figure. I didn’t expect to like this Tiger Force paint job as much as I do but I think it’s a great mix of colours so I find myself really enjoying this more obscure deco.
15. VULTAK-The Masters of the Universe Classics line has been killing it since 2008 providing fans with awesome new versions of the property’s numerous iconic characters. But after so many years it was inevitable that the line would lose steam and fizzle out. In past years I bought Mattel’s latest MOTU offering on the 15th of every month as soon as it went up for sale exclusively on their website. I couldn’t afford to wait because new toys sold out almost immediately. Nowadays toys of obscure characters remain on sale for months so there’s no sense of urgency. I didn’t purchase a single MOTU figure this year until they were discounted during Mattel’s Black Friday sale. Even though my excitement for the toyline has waned a bit there’s nothing more exciting than opening up a new box of He-Man figures from Mattel. My Black Friday shipment contained 6 figures (none of them well known characters) and they were all awesome. Vultak is like a slap in the face reminding me why I loved MOTU in the first place. He’s like a mix of Marvel’s Vulture, Thundercats’ Panthro, and MOTU’s Hordak. He’s bright, he’s big, he’s fun, and he’s awesome.
14. ROD DRILL-Hasbro’s Transformers were my jam growing up but I also enjoyed Tonka’s line of transforming robots called Go-Bots. I had a handful of the toys and while they weren’t as complex as Transformers their simplicity and their silly names made them charming. The line has been officially dead since 1987 but in the past couple of years some third-party companies have produced unofficial homages of Go-Bot characters. You may recall that DX9’s remake of Cy-Kill (named Salmoore) nabbed the number two slot of my best of 2014 list. I love seeing old Go-Bots characters revived after so many years. My fingers are crossed for new versions of my childhood favourites Cop-tur, Loco, and Water Walk. If those characters are ever to be reproduced it will likely be by way of a company called Action Toys. They’ve been doing a great job of releasing spiffy new updates of classic Go-Bots. Vanessa got me Rod Drill for Christmas. He’s Action Toy’s version of Screwhead who transforms into a drill tank. This figure is immediately recognizable as Screwhead as they share of the same physical characteristics but Rod Drill is a far superior figure. He’s a bit larger and far more posable. He’s not as nice as update as Salmoore was but Rod Drill’s price point is a little easier to swallow.
13. SNOWTROOPER-Everybody loves the generic Stormtroopers from Star Wars but as a kid I held the Snowtroopers from the Empire Strikes Back in much higher regard. My brother Doug and I both owned a Stromtrooper but he also owned the AT-AT Driver and the Biker Scout. I suppose that’s why the Snowtrooper was the only Stormtrooper variation that felt like mine because it was the only one he didn’t have. My original 1980s Snowtrooper was one of three vintage Star Wars figures I held onto when I got rid of my collection in my teens. There’s something about that long featureless mask that always appealed to me; I thought it looked more like a ghost than a soldier. I already have a very cool 12″ version of the Snowtrooper plus multiple 3 3/4″ figures but it was still at the top of my want list when I started collecting the 6″ Black Series figures. I just got this figure a week ago and he did not disappoint. It’s not exactly what I was expecting because it’s far more “dirty” than previous versions. The base uniform is more beige than white and his boots and skirt are speckled with grime. It looks really cool though so I don’t have any complaints.
12. MARAUDER VALKYRIES– Last year I named the Marauder Task Force in my number six spot. I didn’t name a specific figure as I used the slot as more of a catch all for the whole wave of interchangable soldier figures produced by Marauder Gun Runners via a Kickstarter campaign. MGR put out variations of those same figures with new parts added this year so they could have easily made my list again. I’m a big fan of the yellow “Shock-Ops” and orange “Hazard Ops” they released this year. However they overshadowed those releases with the launch of their all-female Valkyries line this year via another Kickstarter. Thus far I have four complete figures in hand with another shipment on the way. These figures look excellent. MTF has given us a multitude of hair styles and colours, gear, and accessories so you can make unlimited figure variations. I wish Hasbro put this much care into their G.I. Joes. Hasbro has given us some pretty fugly ladies over the years but MTF has given us a squad of attractive ladies with realistic proportions. I can’t recommend these figures enough. The only reason they’re not higher is that their tiny accessories don’t stay in place unless glued which is a pain in the ass and I have no childhood connection or elaborate backstory to latch onto.
11. NAMOR-What a year for Marvel Legends. Hasbro pumped out 7 waves of figures this year. It was just a couple of years ago that I was writing on this blog that I had no interest in collecting 6″ Legends because I was committed to collecting the 3 3/4″ Marvel Universe figures. I found Legends to be gangly and awkward looking. Well Hasbro has upped their game big time and now I’m buying Legends figures every other week. I bought over 50 Marvel Legends figures this year and I’m continually impressed. I could have made a top 16 list of Marvel Legends figures alone and I still would have had to exclude a bunch of stellar toys. To pick only a choice few for this multi-line list truly was difficult. After a great deal of thought the first Legend I’ve chosen to spotlight is Marvel’s King of Atlantis, Namor the Sub-Mariner. When I first started collecting comics as a kid I didn’t like Namor. He struck me as an arrogant Mr. Spock flying around in his underwear. I’m not sure when that changed but somewhere along the way I really fell in love with Namor. His arrogance actually makes him a lot of fun to read. The fact that he started wearing pants probably helped too. Truthfully, I don’t even mind the green speedo in the comics but it just doesn’t make for a very interesting action figure. My 3 3/4″ Namor is a testament to how boring that design can be. This Walgreens exclusive Namor is sporting a much cooler black and blue costume with a nice metallic sheen. The elbows are a little weird and the trident looks dumb but those issues are out weighed by the phenomenal head sculpt. Depending on the angle you look at him he can appear regal, smarmy, pissed, or playful. This is the finest Namor ever produced.
10. K-2SO– When I reviewed this figure a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t yet seen Star Wars Rogue One. Now that I have I like this figure even more. K-2S0 was a real scene stealer in the movie. He was tough, sarcastic and funny and i was really bummed when things weren’t going his way. I’m glad I picked this figure up when I did as I imagine it will be in high demand now that everyone has seen the movie. This figure just looks and feels cool. As soon as I opened him up I wanted to pose him and fiddle around with him. He’s built nice and sturdy for such a lean figure. This sculpt, paint apps, and articulation are all great. No complaints.
9. BATMAN-Putting Batman on a “best of” list seems like such a no-brainer that it’s almost a waste of a slot. He has such a cool and iconic design that you’d think it would be a snap to design an amazing Batman figure, right? So why are there so many terrible Batman figures? Have you walked down the action figure aisle lately? It’s full of Batmen and most of them look like crap. I feel bad for kids that think those are the only Batman figures available. If only they’d venture into a comic book shop like Strange Adventures they’d discover a whole new world of awesome action figures geared towards adult collectors. For example, DC Collectibles line of designer action figures based on the artwork of Darwyn Cooke. I bought the Supergirl, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn from this line and any one of them could be on this list but I think Batman edges the others out. This figure depicts Darwyn’s contemporary version of the dark knight as seen in stories like EGO. I think this figure is a wonderful tribute to a brilliant artist who we sadly lost this year. It makes me emotional every time I look at it.
8. PYTHONA- I wanted a Pythona figure SO BAD in 1987. She was one of the new characters introduced, and heavily featured, in the animated G.I. Joe movie released that year yet she got completely snubbed by Hasbro. Her absence from the ’87 line-up seemed like a huge oversight to me. Big Lob was similarly snubbed but I didn’t like him as much. He’s finally getting a figure courtesy of the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club in 2017 but 2016 was Pythona’s year…finally. She was the free membership figure you got this year when you signed up as a member of the Club. It’s been a 30 year wait so thankfully the Club delivered a stellar figure to make the wait all seem worth it. Pythona’s got a very nice newly sculpted head with a removable ponytail which allows her to don the hood of her cloak. The intricate facial paint is well done too. The Club has been doing a great job making figures of characters long desired by fans, like Dr. Venom and Billy, but Pythona is the one I’ve wanted the most so I’m very glad the Club didn’t cut any corners. Awesome figure.
7. RINGNECK GORGON-I backed a Kickstarter campaign by Boss Fight Studios back in 2014 to help them launch their own line of figures called Vitruvian HACKS. Those figures finally arrived in 2016. I received over 30 figures and honestly I could have put each and every one of them on this list. BFS has constructed some of the nicest action figures I’ve ever seen in their Mythology themed HACKS line. Series one primarily consists of ancient warriors and gorgons. The construction of the gorgons alone is a thing of beauty to say nothing of the sculpting, painting, and accessories. The way their multi-jointed tails allow for them to be posed in an upright position without the aid of a display base is amazing. I have seven gorgons including Medusa. She seemed like the obvious choice for this list if I were to showcase just one gorgon but I just so happen to prefer the purple and orange colour scheme of the ringneck. I also prefer her closed mouth. This figure is perfect and I can’t wait to see what BFS does next.
6. CAPTAIN BRITAIN-Picking Marvel Legends for this list was really tough. I thought that Nico would make my list for sure. Silk, Black Panther, and Deadpool all seemed like shoe-ins as well. I wasn’t even sure I would buy this Captain Britain and I certainly didn’t expect I’d like him more than those other figures but here he is. CB was included in the most recent Captain America wave. The only figure I planned to buy from the wave was Eel. I really like Captain Britain as a character but this figure doesn’t feature my preferred costume so I planned to skip it. While in Chicago the other week I found the Cap wave in a comic shop (I haven’t found them here at home yet) and there was Eel. I picked him up and looked over his scrawny physique. Then I saw Captain Britain out of the corner of my eye practically bulging out of his packaging. I picked him up and was immediately won over. See ya later, Eel. This Cap looks tough as nails. The standard “bulky” body is perfectly sized for him and the unique Captain Britain parts really look great. The buckled boots, the wrapped forearms, the sunken eyes in the helmet, I love it all. Throw in an excellent and eye-grabbing paint job and you have yourself a winning action figure.
5. VENOM– Next up is another Marvel Legends figure, Venom. I’m not even a big Venom fan yet this is the second time he’s made my “best of” list in just three years. 2014 saw the release of an awesome Agent Venom. This year we got two other versions of the character. There was the large build-a-figure Space Knight Venom which looks neat but whom I have no affinity for because I didn’t read any of the short-lived Space Knight comics. The second 2016 release was this classic Venom. This toy looks like it leapt from the page of the character’s first appearance as drawn by Todd McFarlane. It makes me very nostalgic for that late 80s era of Spider-Man. The body is the exact same one that was used for Captain Britain and it works wonderfully for Venom too. He has standard “sock” feet and open clawed hands. I’m not sure if those parts are reused or not. The one piece that is definitely unique is the head and thats the piece that really elevates this figure. The head sculpt looks so good that I can’t imagine anyone ever making a better Venom figure than this.
4. TALOS-This is another figure from Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian HACKS line. It was exclusive to Kickstarter supporters so I don’t think you’ll ever be able to buy it from their online store. That’s a real shame because this is one of the nicer looking figures from the assortment. Most of the warrior figures share the same parts, they’re just painted differently. I don’t think there are any parts on this figure that can’t be found elsewhere. For example, Talos has the same bearded head as Leonidas and the same armor as the Myrmidon Warrior but what makes them unique to Talos is the bronze paint job. The figure is painted entirely in bronze with a green patina to add realism. It looks amazing; like a little metal statue. Whether you want to display this guy as a statue or some sort of living bronze warrior he really should be a part of your collection.
3. MALLEUS– 2016 saw the release of the Four Horsemen’s newest toy line called Mythic Legions. It’s a fantasy-based line full or Orcs, Trolls, and Knights. I couldn’t afford to go all-in on their 2015 kickstarter but I did pitch in by pre-ordering 4 of the 34 available figures. My quartet arrived in June 2016 and all of them are awesome but Malleus is my favourite. This figure is amazing in every category. The sculpting, the painting, and the accessories are all incredible (the dual axes are sick!). He’s very well articulated right down to a movable jaw. The 6″ scale really allows the Horsemen to show off. Originally I thought I might display Malleus as a minion of Skeletor but the level of detail on the Legions figures far surpasses that of MOTU figures so there isn’t much consistency there. If I had the space and the money I’d love to own all the Mythic Legions figures but if my collection never grows beyond the four I have I’m confident that I have the best one right here.
2. TAILGATE/REAREND-Many times on this blog I’ve told you how great James Roberts’ “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye” comics are. I think its the best comic on the stands. He has a way of making you fall in love with characters you never thought you’d care about. One of the stars of the book is a little Transformer named Tailgate. I never owned the Tailgate toy as a kid because he was just a crappy repaint of Wheelcharger, a Transformer who I really liked. Well Roberts has made Tailgate a far more interesting character than Wheelcharger ever was and so I desperately wanted an action figure that reflected his comic book appearance. Hasbro obliged me with this turd in 2014. Thankfully, a third party company called Make Toys answered my prayers this year. Because this is an unofficial release they can’t call him Tailgate so Make Toys has dubbed him Rearend. It’s a silly name but who cares, everyone knows this is Tailgate. This figure is quite small so it may be hard to justify the large price tag but thankfully Vanessa got him for me for X-mas so I didn’t have to. I’m actually glad he’s the size that he is because its true to the character. The likeness to the comic book art is perhaps the best I’ve seen yet. This toy truly look like an Alex Milne drawing some to life. I love it.
1. UNDERWORLD WARRIOR-You shouldn’t be surprised that one of Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian HACKS figures tops my list. Almost every figure in this line is a showstopper. The paint work, sculpting, accessories, articulation, and customization possibilities launched HACKS straight to the top of the heap of quality action figure lines. Every toyline should strive to be this good. As soon as my box of HACKS arrived it was almost a certainty that one of them would top my list this year. The trouble was in deciding which one. I thought it would be harder to choose but I actually arrived at my answer quite easily. The Underworld Warrior was the figure that appealed to me the most when the concept art was first revealed at the launch of the kickstarter and once I had the figure in my hands I felt it lived up to and surpassed my expectations. It’s not the most detailed or innovative figure of the bunch but it sure does look damn cool.
Every year there is a G.I. Joe Convention held somewhere in the United States. As a Canadian I have never attended and I likely never will. I’d totally attend if one was held in my backyard but conventions simply don’t thrill me enough to warrant travelling great distances. However, this year my buddy Sean did attend the 2016 Joe Con in Loveland, Colorado. Sean’s alter ego, the Wordburglar, is a bit of a Joe-lebrity so I’m sure many Joe fans were just as thrilled by his attendance as he was to be there. If you’re not familiar with Burgie I suggest you check out some of his music videos on youtube. “Rap Viper” is just one of the many gems you’ll find on his G.I. Joe-themed concept album, Welcome to Cobra Island. I would especially recommend you check out his latest video, Channel Halifax, which is a love letter to our home town.
Having an inside man at the con this year was handy because Sean was able to nab me one of the elusive attendee-only figures. The Collector’s Club, which organizes the Con every year, always produces a 15-figure Convention set that they sell at the show. Fortunately, for those of us who can’t attend, the Club also takes pre-orders for the set online. I have ordered the non-antendee sets for the last several years. The theme of this year’s box set was Air Patrol. I have slowly been working my way through reviews of those figures (i.e.Black Vulture, Air Devil, Airborne, Static Line). But in addition to the box set the Club also produces a handful of figures only available to con attendees. I have acquired some of those figures on the secondary market over the years (like this year’s Heli-Viper) but they don’t come cheap. The Club limits what attendees can buy, and Sean bought one of everything for himself, but he also somehow managed to get me the attendee figure I most wanted, Freefall.
Freefall is not a character I have any particular attachment to. The original figure was released in 1990 which is the year I quit collecting Joes as a kid. I never owned the ’91 Freefall until the epic haul of June 2014 (Thanks again Eric if you’re still out there). Freefall was a pretty basic figure but that was part of his appeal. For a toyline that was skewing weirder each year the 1990 assortment consisted of quite a few realistic looking military figures. Freefall was simply a paratrooper dressed in camo and carrying a rifle. He was made of all new parts and none of them flashy. He had a lot in common with Rip Cord, an equally basic but fan-favorite paratrooper released in 1984. I didn’t pay much attention to him at the time but Freefall is a character I’ve come to appreciate over the years.
The original Freefall was not branded as a member of the Sky Patrol sub-team which is rather odd since they also debuted in 1990. Yet it makes perfect sense that the Collector’s Club would piggy back their updated version of him into their Sky Patrol set. He was the perfect choice for the Club to select as their 2016 para-drop figure (every year they toss an army of exclusive figures on parachutes from the roof of the convention).
Unlike the 1990 figure, none of the pieces used to create Freefall 2016 are original. He’s got a Snow Job torso, Snake Eyes legs, and Joe Trooper arms. His head is another Airborne repaint, the same one I talked about being over used in my recent Sneak Peak review, but I think this is the first time we’ve seen it blonde which differentiates it enough I suppose. Besides, it looks close enough to the 1990 figure to keep me from complaining.
Freefall’s accessories are all recycled too but they’re nice pieces. I like that his knife has a silver painted blade and his green machine gun is pretty snazzy. It’s a much tougher looking weapon than the rinky-dinky hose gun that came with the 1990 figure. The mask and helmet are the same as the ones that came with 25th anniversary Blowtorch. I wish Freefall had more unique headgear but this combo was also reused for Rip Cord so at least there’s consistency amongst the Joe paratroopers. Freefall also comes with a parachute which seems like a no-brainer but most paratrooper figures don’t. The parachute is appreciated but I honestly don’t have much use for it as it can’t really be displayed.
I think this is a great update of an obscure character. He’s nothing to call home about but he’s a solid soldier that looks great on display and has some solid play value for the kiddies. 8 out of 10.
I’m really trying to finish posting all my reviews of the figures from this year’s Joe Con set but I’m going to take a brief interlude because there’s a non-convention Joe that I really want to talk about. The final package from the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club FSS 4.0 arrived the other day and it contained the final two known figures, Tiger Force Sneak Peek and Outback, plus the mystery 13th figure. I’m pretty happy with the mystery figure but that’s not who I’m going to review today. Tonight I want to talk about Sneak Peek.
The original Sneak Peek figure was released in 1987. He was the Joe team’s advanced recon and radio telecommunications expert. His file card described him as a legend with patience, endurance and guts, which made him sound pretty cool. However, the actual figure was not all that cool and the original artwork depicting him on the blister card was even less cool. Most Joes were drawn with intense scowls but Sneak Peek had a confused man-baby face. The figure itself didn’t look overly young but his face was rounder than most. His uniform was rather bland in color and kind of frumpy with all the padding. He had knee-high laceless boots which didn’t exactly look combat ready and then of course there were his accessories. He had a pretty decent looking rifle but beyond that he had a walking talkie, binoculars, and a giant periscope. They were all relevant to his military specialties but not as badass as a knife or a pistol might have been. Having said all that, you might expect that I wasn’t a fan of ’87 Sneak Peek but that’s not the case. For some reason I loved this guy.
I paired Sneak Peek up with fellow Class of ’87 recruit, Crazylegs. The two of them were best buddies and they worked very well together. I’m not sure why I decided they belonged together, perhaps because they both had red and grey uniforms, but they made for one of the most effective Joe duos on my roster. I didn’t make them ridiculously strong like I did Shockwave or complete hams like I did BattleForce 2000, they were just good soldiers. When the modern-era of Joe figures kicked off in 2007 both of them were high on my want list, in part because they were completely absent from the new-sculpt years of the early 2000s. In fact neither had been redone since their 1988 Night Force repaints (which were Toys R Us exclusives back in the day that I never even knew about). It took a while but Hasbro eventually produced a modern-era Crazylegs in 2011 as part of their “Pursuit of Cobra” series. After that I waited anxiously for a modern-era Sneak Peek that never came…until now!
Hasbro never delivered but thankfully the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club put together their own version to close out their 4th annual FSS. Only they didn’t use the ’87 original for inspiration as I had been hoping for nor did they recreate the 1988 Night Force version 2. So what did that leave them with? The 1991 Tiger Force version released exclusively in the United Kingdom. It wasn’t exactly a surprise given that the Club likes to recreate foreign exclusives plus they seem to love Tiger Force; which was the theme of their 2015 Con Set.
I would’ve much preferred a red and grey Sneak Peak but the Club has already announced that an 87-inspired version will appear in next year’s FSS 5.0. While it’s nice to know that I won’t have to wait long to get a classically attired Sneak Peek the downside of that announcement is that it almost immediately negates this figure. At least I thought it would. When the v.1 remake arrives next year it will no doubt become my default Sneak Peek but I like this figure more than I thought I would; far too much to simply box it up or relegate it to the back of the shelf.
I’ve seen lukewarm reviews of this figure on a few other sites so perhaps I’m letting my love of the character cloud my judgement but I really like it. I didn’t think I’d be pleased with a Sneak Peek made up completely of reused parts but gosh darn it this really works for me. He’s got the same Cobra Shock Trooper legs as the Airborne I reviewed the other day, a Pursuit of Cobra Snake Eyes v.54 torso, Shock Trooper arms, and a 2008 Airborne head. The padded look of the original uniform is recreated using a Scrap-Iron vest and the collar of Beachhead v.17. It doesn’t make for a perfect recreation of the classic uniform but it’s close enough and I actually think it’s an improvement. The combat boots look much better than the knee-high slip-ons.
I’d always prefer a unique head sculpt to a recycled one but the Airborne head and helmet combo work very well to recreate the look of the original. As a result, Sneak Peek finally looks fit; no more big round head. He’s got a removable helmet for the first time and he looks good under there. This head’s been used a few times before but it usually looks different (it was green when it was Hit & Run and moustached when it was Footloose) so I don’t immediately associate it with any one character.
The paint job on this figure is nice and relatively faithful to the 1991 deco. I must say that I’m quite pleased to see, after thirty years of buying Tiger Force figures, somebody finally painted one in tiger colors. How is it the Hasbro designers never painted a single Tiger Force figure orange?
For accessories S.P. has a dispaly base, a rifle, a radio, binoculars, and a newly sculpted periscope. I never understood the periscope. Do soldiers actually use these things in the battlefield? If they did at one point I’m sure they don’t anymore. Even in 1987 this thing look antiquated. However, he wouldn’t be Sneak Peek without it so I’m glad it’s here plus it’s much better than the vintage one was. This one has handles so he can carry it and it even has some silver paint deco. Some might say I’m easy to please but I think this is a home run from the Club. 9 out of 10.
It’s time to review yet another 2016 Joe Con exclusive figure. However, this one was not included in the 15-figure box set like all the others I’ve been reviewing lately. This first-ever modern-era Heli-Viper was sold in 3-packs exclusively to Con attendees. Unlike the box set, the Heli-Vipers and other individual con exclusives could not be pre-ordered online in advance by non-attendees. Every year the Club produces a handful of figures and vehicles that are not revealed to anyone until the Convention actually begins. The sales floor mystery items would make attending in person pretty exciting I imagine but they’re a real bummer to non-attendees like myself. Even though I spend hundreds of dollars every year to sign up for the Club’s figure subscription service and to purchase their Con Set there’s still a half dozen figures that I can’t get my hands on unless I’m willing to pay crazy secondary market prices. 2014’s Freestyle is a much desired Con figure that I’ll likely never own (she sells for over $200 now) and last year’s Tiger Force Frostbite is also too rich for my blood at $80.
Fortunately the prices tend to be a little more reasonable when it comes to the army builder packs. Since they come in groups of 3 there’s more supply to meet demand. People tend to sell the trios for between $100 and $150 and the individuals for $40 to $50. I bought this Heli-Viper from a dude online for $40 and I’m comfortable with that.
The original Heli-Viper was released in 1992. I never had one and wasn’t even aware of him. He’s one of those late era Joes I only became familiar with after I got back into collecting Joes as a young adult with the help of the internet. The Heli-Viper was made up of Night-Viper’s torso and legs, Techno-Viper’s arms, and Snow Serpent’s head. I’m fine with the build from the neck down but the Snow Serpent head is too recognizable to reuse. Cobra’s first Arctic Trooper was released in 1985 and it has long been a fan favorite. All I see when I look at Heli-Viper is a purple Snow Serpent with a helicopter. Hasbro really should have sculpted a new head or reused something more generic. And about that purple, the paint job on the ’92 Heli-Viper was ungodly. There was way too much red and purple and those hues did not compliment each other at all.
The Club’s recreation of the Heli-Viper stays quite true to the original, which I usually appreciate, but it’s to the detriment of this figure. Heli-Viper v.2 is burdened with the same issues that sullied version 1. He’s too red, too purple, and too Snow Serpent. The other problem this guy has is his unwieldy helicopter pack. Instead of using the more compact helicopter gear we got with Annihilator and Matt Tracker we get the humongous pack that originally came with Cobra Commander v.53. It’s way too big so I just know I’m going to be standing this guy up on my shelf over and over again. Top heavy toys can be the bane of a collector’s existence.
His other accessories are a display base, a pistol that can be holstered on his webgear, a machine gun, and two useless grenades.
This is a relatively weak figure but it’s not horrible. The modern-era Snow Serpent head is such a cool piece that it elevates this otherwise ugly figure. I’d rather he had a unique head but since he doesn’t I do like how this paint job exposes the details of the sculpt better than the all black face of the Snow Serpent. I’m glad I managed to add one of these guys to my collection but I definitely didn’t need 3 of them. 6 out of 10.
Next up for review is the Joe team’s demolitions expert and avionic mechanic, Static Line. The original Static-Line figure was released in 1990 along with the rest of Sky Patrol. It featured a brand new African-American head sculpt (complete with flattop) on a repainted Backstop body. It was a nice looking figure but I never owned one.
Since I never played with Static-Line as a kid, and he never appeared in the Sunbow animated series, and I’m pretty sure he never appeared in the Marvel comic, I have no nostalgic ties to the character. However, when the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club announced they’d be doing a Sky Patrol set for the 2016 Convention I was pretty excited by the prospect of a modern-era Static-Line. I was sure they’d throw together his body using existing pieces but a new head seemed like a must. I was sure that there weren’t any existing heads that could replicate SL’s epic 90s ‘do. Sure enough, we got a new head sculpt but it wasn’t what I was expecting.
Rather than give us a new head with a flattop and a removable helmet the Club sculpted a new head with a helmet permanently attached; just as they did with Airborne. I would’ve preferred a removable helmet but that might have resulted in some oversized headgear so I’m satisfied with the Club’s approach. It’a very unique head sculpt which I appreciate. It has a long protruding jaw line and an open visor which isn’t exactly faithful to the original toy but very true to the original card art. I’m confident the Club won’t be reusing this head anytime soon because it’s so specific to the character.
Interesting sidenote, the free figure for Con attendees this year was a new character named Air Raid who happened to be a black guy with a flattop. Rather than sculpt a new head for him though the Club just repainted a Resolute Duke head with dark skin and black hair. It totally changes the look of the face and would have actually made an excellent helmet-less Static-Line head.
The rest of the Static-Line figure is made up of a Beachhead torso, Cobra Trooper arms, and Duke legs. He’s a little lanky but for the most part it works. It’s a very close approximation of the original 1990 look. The sleek blue, silver, and white paint scheme really ties it together and sells it as Static-Line.
For accessories he comes with a metallic silver display base, a shoulder holster, a knife, a satchel, a submachine gun, and a glider backpack. The glider pack has manually retractable wings and looks pretty sharp. I believe it was first released with Rise of Cobra General Hawk.
This is a solid figure with good paint, good accessories, a newly tooled head, and is true to the original. What more could you want. It’s definitely one of my favorites from this year’s set. 8 out of 10.
Interesting sidenote #2. I had no idea what “Static Line” meant so I looked it up: In parachuting, a static line is a cord attached at one end to the aircraft and at the other end to the top of the jumper’s ‘D-Bag’ (Deployment Bag, into which the canopy is packed). Now you know…
Recently I’ve reviewed two of the Cobra characters from the 2016 G.I. Joe Convention Set. Today, I’ll be taking my first look at a Joe from the set.
The first Airborne figure was released in 1983. The file card found on the back of his packaging provided that the Joe team’s helicopter assault trooper was a Navaho and his real name was Franklin Talltree. Most Joe fans probably falsely remember Spirit as the Joe team’s first Native American member (since he was rife with stereotypical imagery and was featured prominently in the animated series) but Airborne pre-dated him by a year. As you might expect, Airborne v.1 had black hair and a dark complexion. Which is why it seemed so odd that Airborne v.2, released in 1990, was a light skinned blonde guy. I’m not sure why Hasbro reused the code name but the v.2 file card reveals that blondie was in fact a different guy. His real name was Robert Six, a parachute assembler/battlefield medic and a member of the Joe sub-team, Sky Patrol. The code name was rightfully returned to Franklin Talltree for Airborne v.3, released in 2003, and he’s held onto it ever since.
I never owned the 1990 Airborne so I have no history with that character. In fact I have no history or particular fondness for any of the Sky Patrol characters, but I kept an open mind when the Collector’s Club announced the aerial sub-team would be the theme of their 2016 15-figure convention set. I felt that many of the characters had potential however Robert Six was probably the member of the team that I was least looking forward to getting in the modern-era style . The only reason being, I disliked that he hijacked the code name of a beloved veteran Joe from my youth. While it was actually my brother Doug that owned the original ’83 Airborne toy when we were kids I always thought he was a great action figure and character.
As it turns out, my distaste for Robert Six has been quelled. I still don’t like that he borrowed his code name from another Joe but Robert “Airborne” Six version 2 turned out to be a pretty great figure.
The 1990 Robert Six featured a brand new head on a repainted 1986 Lift-Ticket body. The Club could’ve done the same thing here, sculpted a new head and placed it on the existing modern-era Lift-Ticket body but they didn’t. Instead they cobbled together Lift-Ticket v.2’s arms and Firefly v.25’s torso with the legs of 2011’s Cobra Shock Trooper. I’m glad they did as this figure looks way better than it would have had they just repainted Lift-Ticket from the neck down. The parts look contemporary, they fit together nicely, and they’re well proportioned. The only issue would be a pencil thin neck but thankfully it’s mostly hidden by the raised collar.
The Club splurged for a new head sculpt which is always nice. It’s a nice looking head with an attached helmet and goggles. It’s a bit of a shame that that the helmet isn’t removable but had they went that route the helmet probably would’ve ended up looking too big. There’s speculation that this head will be used for the recently announced FSS 5.0 Scoop figure but I could also see it being used for a modern-era Lightfoot (fingers crossed).
The paint job on this figure is true to the original but better. I love the digital camo pattern on the pants and sleeves. Airborne came with a metallic silver display stand, a medic satchel, a parachute-style backpack, a knife, and a machine gun. All good stuff. Airborne is probably my favorite Joe in the set but Static Line (who I’ll review next) offers some stiff competition. 8 out of 10.
Today I’m going to take a look at another figure from the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s 2016 Convention Set. The theme this year was Sky Patrol which pitted the Joe team’s air-based heroes against Cobra’s evil aerial troopers. The figure I’ve selected today is the commander of the Cobra Night Vultures, the villainous computer hacker known as Black Vulture.
The Sky Patrol sub-team was introduced into the Joe toy line in the early 1990s so most of this year’s Convention figures would be immediately recognizable to Joe fans of that era. However, even if you were an avid Joe collector in the 90s (I wasn’t) you probably don’t remember this guy. That’s because the original figure was only ever released in Brazil. He was called Abutre Negro which apparently translates into Black Buzzer. He was constructed using the head and legs of Dee-Jay, the chest and arms of Cesspool, and the waist of Marverick. Then he was painted black, red, and silver, and voila….a brand new character. He came packaged with a couple of guns, a backpack and a silver parachute. It was a pretty neat looking figure so it’s a shame that American (and Canadian) kids never had the opportunity to purchase him. I never even knew of his existence until I began collecting Joes again as an adult as I’m sure was the case for many other Joe fans. Before the internet how were we supposed to know that there were rare international figures being released?
Most Joe fans will never own a Abutre Negro, because he sells for about $1,000 on ebay these days, which is why I love it when the Club produces modern-era versions of foreign release figures. Over the past few years the Club has graced us with updates of highly sought after international figures such as Cobra De Aco, Cobra Mortal, Quarrel, T.N.T, Jammer, and more.
I imagine tackling an Abutre Negro update was probably a little more difficult for the Club to pull off than their past international remakes. The reason for that is Hasbro has not yet produced (and likely won’t) modern-era versions of any of the three characters used to build the original. The Club produced their own version of Cesspool in 2014 but it was lacking the uniquely sculpted torso with the protruding Cobra logo that the 1991 Cesspool shared with Abutre Negro. Despite the lack of needed parts I think the Club has managed to pull off a pretty darn good modern-era version of this Brazilian scoundrel.
This figure, whose name has been updated to Black Vulture, was built using the Accelerator Suit torso seen on multiple movie-based figures in 2009, Beachhead v.15 legs, arms I can’t place, and the head of 2011’s Cobra Trooper v.16 based on the G.I. Joe Renegades animated series. The parts all come together nicely to make a cool looking, well-proportioned, action figure that is faithful enough to the original. I really like the head they chose to reuse here. It shares a lot of similarities with the Dee-Jay head sculpt and could probably even be used to update him one day. Even though this head originally appeared on a Cobra Trooper it appears unique in my collection because I chose to display the trooper with an alternate masked head. When the first photos of this figure were shown online there was some chatter about the neck being too long but it seems alright to me. I’m very impressed by how the Club was able to recreate the look of the protruding Cobra logo using the existing Accelerator Suit sculpting with some creative paintwork. Due to some clever choices by the Club I think this figure turned out great.
The downside to this figure comes by way of his accessories. He’s got a display stand, a gun, and a knife, all of which are fine. His major accessory is a winged glider backpack with push-button pop-out wings. We’ve seen this pack before, I think the first time may have been with 2011’s Skydive v.2, and it makes a lot of sense to bring back here. It’s a cool pack and I prefer it to the cloth glider pack that came with Air Devil. The problem is that it doesn’t fit into the figure’s back. The glider’s peg is not compatible with the hole in the Accelerator Suit torso. I can get it to rest on his back for photos but if I even look at him funny it falls out. Other than that tooling issue I’m very happy with this figure. I always love adding “name” soldiers to my growing Cobra forces. 8 out of 10.