Duke (Battle Corps, 1993)

Duke Battle Corps V4Love him or hate him, there’s a number of good Duke toys that have come out over the years. While I don’t think many are quite as fun as the original Duke, this Battle Corps version does provide quite a bit, especially for a Battle Corps figure.

This Duke is almost strange for being such an especially well reasoned and realistic looking figure. At a time when GI Joe was mainly remembered for ridiculous colors and goofy gimmicks, this figure slipped out amazingly removed of those elements. His uniform and sculpt are so grounded looking I can easily understand why someone might use him as an army-builder, as I’ve been so tempted in the past.

The sculpt here is full of detail while remaining mostly simplistic, which I think works in it’s favor. The figure’s helmet is sculpted on, unlike the previous three Dukes. I think the figure gains the merit of a better head sculpt from that, although it’s a bit sad to lose that playability from a removable helmet.

His accessories were well chosen for this figure too, even if they’re generic parts. He includes a pump-action shotgun, MP5-K, machete, riffle, and a boring missile launcher. As the parts are cast in black plastic, he has a rather nice and realistic set of parts compared to many of his contemporaries. I feel like this figure was heavily influenced by the Gulf War and this area is especially so.

I think if there’s a downside to this one, his paint apps are pretty thin. Overall, the figure just looks a little flat and isn’t painted many colors. It especially hurts in areas where the sculpted details like the goggles on his helmet stand out, but lack any paint. It’s nothing major though, as the rest of the paint is decent enough.

All in all, this is definitely one of my favorite 90‘s figures, and one of the better Duke’s Hasbro made.

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Rock Viper (50th Anniversary)

Pursuit of Cobra Rock ViperHard to belive that this figure is actually five or six years old already, but as I never acquired the Rock Viper during the POC days, this 50th Anniversary release comes off as new to me. Originally I was fairly unimpressed by the vintage inaccuracies of this release, but in time I’ve changed my tune slightly.

The entire figure is a repaint made of recycled tooling, although it’s a mostly good recipe. It runs into a glaring flaw with the head because of that, as it looks absolutely nothing like the vintage figure. Given that toy represented an army-builder with a uniform mustache, this may not be a bad thing, but I think it’s the execution that hampers the 50th/POC version. His head is now a generic balaclava and black helmet, an extremely generic look that doesn’t even match the colors of the original toy. The new look is greatly improved with some goggles from Marauder’s Gun Runners as you can see above, so a little creativity can make up for where this figure lacks.

With all that said I wasn’t ever a big fan of the ARAH Rock Viper, so in most aspects this figure appears to me a an improvement. The part recipe (comprised mainly of Snake Eyes and Jungle Viper parts) looks enough like the original that I can appreciate it. The shin and arm guards are well repurposed here for a rock climbing look, and the torso sculpt works well for the Rock Viper too.

Like you’d expect of a Modern Era GI Joe, he comes with a load of parts. A few of them feel like toss-ins to me (the spear namely), but a few parts work really well for this figure. His sniper riffle is a huge improvement over the bulky old one (a riffle that was a bane to 2000’s collectors), the backpack also does a nice job of mimicking his vintage equipment. His pistol and knife come off as standard equipment, but there again it’s nice to have things like that.

In a way, one of the figure’s main strengths is it’s ability to deviate from the original while keeping the same basic idea. It’s problem is that it sadly loses a lot of character with the heavy usage of generic parts. Still, I can forgive it for that gripe and accept it as a nice little army-builder that is at least worth owning a few of.

More on the 50th Rock Viper:

Yo Joe! | Generals Joes

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1983 Cobra Trooper

Cobra Trooper The Enemy Hasbro GI JoeIn a weird way, I find figures like the V1 Cobra Trooper harder to write about simply because there’s so much that can be said about them. I think the Cobra Trooper is the second most iconic GI Joe figure after the original Cobra Commander. Everyone knows this look, and it’s safe to say the ‘82 Cobras such as this guy established Royal Blue as Cobra’s defining color.

I think it’s because of this figure and his perceived importance to me that I ignored GI Joe somewhat as a child. As a kid I came really late on the GI Joe wagon, so most of the original figures were not accessible to me. The classic Sunbow cartoon on the other hand was more than accessible to me, where I was introduced to GI Joe’s excellent 80‘s cast. It always left me disappointed after watching the show to not have any similar figures to play with. Even going into the 2002 – ‘06 “New Sculpt” era, interpretations of the Cobra Trooper were sparse. As such, I lacked the most classic Cobra in many of my play times as a child, leaving me somewhat jaded at the time.

Years later I’ve acquired many fine Cobra Trooper variations including the vintage figure. It’s strangely fulfilling to acquire the figure so many years later, and I hold them as some of my favorite pieces in my Joe collection. However, I think I may be prone to over-rating the figure similar to a few other early ARAH pieces purely from my long held desire to own one.

Simplicity is one of the greatest charms the original Cobra has going for him. With later Cobras the detail on the sculpts grew to a very high quality, but likewise the figures often became busy with so many details. The Cobra Trooper avoids this, but still has eye-catching elements that makes the figure all the more interesting. In particular I always really liked the silver grenade-launcher shells and piano wire on his shoulders.

Speaking of the piano wire, I like others have often found myself puzzled as to why the lower ranking Cobra Trooper has a sniper riffle while the Cobra Officer has a fully automatic AK-47. I take the piano wire to be a hint that perhaps the Cobra Trooper was originally envisioned to be more of a stealthy, assassin like soldier than the brainless grunt he later became. It could just be a coincidence, but I sometimes like to view them as more competent, sinister characters.

In the end, this is just a figure I couldn’t imagine my vintage collection without. Like Duke, Roadblock and Snake Eyes, you just don’t have GI Joe without THE Cobra trooper. If I had to sell all but a handful of my collection this is a figure I’d always keep.

More on the Cobra Trooper:

Yo Joe! | Forgotten Figures | Joe A Day

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1987 Outback

When it comes to Joes from 1987, Falcon and Outback are hands down my favorite figures. Falcon has obvious charms, and so does Outback, but I feel like more of Outback’s appeal lies elsewhere. Falcon’s a way more major character in the Joe mythos, and has more versatile specialties too. Outback on the other hand is fun for what you can see in him, more so than what he was.

Like many I’m an action movie buff, so obviously when I look at Outback I see a GI Joe version of Chuck Norris. It’s not an original view of the figure, but the resemblance is there. It’s important in my opinion because Chuck stared in so many great adventures, the childish part of my brain can’t help but start to imagine similar stories acted out with this figure. It makes what might have been a less memorable figure into one you can’t help but see in all kinds of scenarios.

The sculpt on this figure is awesome, plain and simple. His face and muscles all have lots of detail and definition for what’s otherwise a simple design. The detail in his hair really brings the head sculpt to life in particular. Overall, this figure looks great, and while wearing a white t-shirt to battle may not be practical, it really adds to the look and personality of this figure.

Outback comes with some fantastic accessories too. A flashlight that mounts on his thigh, functional web-gear, a cool and LARGE backpack and a nice riffle featuring a strap to finish off the whole package. This is some impressive gear for a toy of the time, as not too many action figures came with such detailed parts. Hasbro was seemingly experimenting with PVC parts like the web-gear on this guy, or the holster on Chuckles. It’s really too bad we didn’t see more like this out of ARAH.

I think Outback might just be one of my all time favorite GI Joe figures. He just provides so much for me, I can’t imagine my collection without him.

GI Joe ARAH vintage action figure Outback hasbro

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1989 Recoil

Recoil Duke Rampart GI Joe 1989 1990 ARAH ARAHC vintage hasbro action figureWith the myriad of GI Joe specialists who serve unique, but sometimes limiting purposes, it’s fairly logical to have a few guys who are good for almost any situation. Recoil is one of those figures, who provides a lot and doesn’t do almost anything wrong.

1989 was a fairly hit-or-miss period for GI Joe. You had some of the best figures and sculpts from the entire ARAH line, as well as some pretty lousy figures I still can hardly appreciate. Thankfully, Recoil is one of the former. Recoil is a “Lurp” or Long Range Recon Patrol, a guy who goes on his own behind enemy lines for extended periods and sneaks out undetected. This is a really cool specialty, especially the nature of how you can almost use this guy anywhere.

The sculpt on Recoil is pretty good, lots of little details in his web-gear and uniform. I think his torso seems a bit long, but the proportions on him are mostly good. His colors are perfect for the figure, and again are very versatile. He features a lightly colored uniform with dark green trim that works well in most outdoor environments, but I don’t think he’d seem that out of place even in an urban area.

His parts are a bit weird, though not totally bad. He includes a customized M16, which is very detailed. It features a scope, grenade launcher and bayonet, and the piece is sharply detailed in general. It’d be one of my favorite vintage guns were it not for the strange choice of casting it in sky blue. The same color was used for his pistol, a strange sci-fi weapon I’ve never really understood or liked. Also included is a dark green backpack with an antenna similar to 1987 Falcon’s, as well as a lighter green mine case. This part is one of my favorite aspects of the figure, as it lends him a certain element of sabotage.

All in all, this is an excellent figure, and one I really think no ARAH collection is complete without.

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2000 Whiteout

Whiteout GI Joe ARAH ARAHC Snowjob vintage action figure repaint 2000 hasbro

Hasbro made some strange choices during the early 2000‘s with the Joe line. Snow Job’s mold was one in particular we saw quite often despite that I don’t think there was ever any real demand for it. Snow Job’s a niche character. He has a place in everyone’s collection, but he’s not something you want more than once or maybe twice.

Whiteout is essentially Snow Job with an altered pallet. In particular, he reuses the entire mold from 1997 Snow Job, who borrowed shoulders from 1983 Breaker. Every other aspect of the toy is exactly the same as Snow Job, including his accessories. It’s really a shame, because with a few alterations or part swaps this could have been a far more interesting figure. Even if it came at the cost of this figure instead being Arctic Duke or Arctic Snake Eyes, it could’ve provided something newer and more interesting to consumers than a straight repaint of Snow Job.

Like the Big Ben included in the set, Whiteout’s deco features beige, and cream colors. It’s not all bad, but strikes me as being slightly more on the random side, the weathering specifically. The creaminess of the colors just don’t seem well suited to a cold-climate oriented figure. There is a nice contrast on the trim of his costume, with some of the darker colors they opted for. Still, the figure does little to differ from Snow Job, and with so many stronger uses of this mold, I can’t recommend this one.

In my collection, this figure provides me a few novelties. I do think he’s an alright Clutch or Breaker when swapped with either of their vintage heads. I also do enjoy collecting Snow Job repaints for whatever reason, so he has some appeal to me there. His lack of uniformity with most other cold-weather figures does severely impact his usefulness to me, ultimately.

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2005 Cobra Trooper

GI Joe Direct to Consumer Cobra Soldier action figure new sculpt VvV Hasbro vintageNew Sculpt era figures aren’t held very dear in the Joe community, especially nowadays. I’m a bit of a fan of the era, as some of the figures are truly excellent, especially the one’s from the Direct to Consumer Line. The Cobra Trooper from that line is one in particular I’m fond of, despite how it does display a few problems figures of the era were prone to.

With GI Joe collecting, it’s easy to grow tired of the endless barrage of Dukes, Snake Eyes’s, Fireflys, Cobra Commanders and the constant stream of better versions of those characters. When you look back through the many different versions of a single character, I’m always drawn to versions that bring something different to the table, with unique sculpts and character designs. In the case of the DTC Cobra Trooper, you pretty much have just that. A figure that may not be as good and modern as say the newer POC/30th Cobra Trooper, but offers an alternative design instead that gives the figure more merit. Put simply, I like this figure because it looks different.

The Cobra Trooper is made mostly of reused tooling, sharing parts with Ghost Bear from Valor vs Venom. His head was shared with the DTC Range Viper who came out about the same time, and his helmet and bazooka are both new. This provides a rather unique look for a Cobra Trooper, with a more tight fitting outfit, unique looking gloves and boots, and other little details. It’s nice how he wears a bandolier instead of the same web-gear, the helmet deviates nicely from the classic bucket as well. I think the only downside is that the figure looks a bit scrawny, but compared to other figures from the time the proportions aren’t too bad.

I find this design really striking. If I had a “Joe-verse”, I’d see Cobra as an organization that has lingered for a long time causing problems of different severity, and I think overtime they’d change their gear and equipment quite a bit. As such, this is the 2000‘s Trooper, and the guy I imagine all of the 2000‘s Joes fought on a regular basis. It’s a niche idea, but it shows how the figure is at least interesting enough to represent something.

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1984 Copperhead

The 1984 Cobras were the characters that really stuck with GI Joe for a long time. Although many more underrated characters would come out in the later eighties and into the nineties, there wasn’t a single year with so many classics of the same quality as there was in ‘84. It’s really appreciable how at this point in the line, even the vehicle drivers were nice, desirable figures, as is the case with copperhead.

Copperhead has a cool character with his gambling addiction that partially keeps him in Cobra. It gives him a sort of darkness and a bit of grit that makes him a more interesting character. I always saw Copperhead as more of a crook than the average Cobra, with a fair amount of skill to compensate. It seems like he’s one of those characters whose just a bit easier to imagine in a story than some others. It’s a real shame how the cartoon wrote him out early on, or at least until the DIC episodes (But no one cared about those, honestly.).

Copperhead is fairly buff for a figure from the earlier portion of the line, which gives him a little extra character and really helps to break him apart from the other figures that shared a similar build. I never really knew what was going on with that mask of his, but at the very least I like the look of it. His silver Cobra symbol really finishes the figure off nicely, with a nice contrast to his green color.

This version didn’t include any accessories, although the later Python Patrol repaint chose to pair him with parts from Leatherneck. Although the backpack was perfect, I’ve always really questioned him having an M-16. It could just be that I really hate the particular M-16 included with Leatherneck, but Copperhead just looks better to me with different guns. I’ve paired him with an AK-47 in the past, though thinking about it logically a smaller gun would probably be easier for him to handle while in the water. A Marauder’s G36c seems to fit the bill rather nicely, but when I want something less modern the AK-74U also looks pretty good.

Do you like V1 Copperhead? Feel free to drop me a line on Twitter.

1984 Vintage action figure GI Joe Cobra Hasbro Piranha 1984 Vintage action figure GI Joe Cobra Hasbro Piranha

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10 GI Joe Figures that are Surprisingly Bad

With how much fun collecting GI Joe can be, I sometimes forget about the little oddball figures that really just aren’t up to par. There’s some obvious choices that could be considered worse than these, but I wanted to avoid going for cheap-shots like Armor Tech figures. So without further ado, here’s ten figures I’ve acquired that are really bad.

10. Flaming M.O.T.H Chuckles

Flaming MOTH Chuckles ARAH Vintage action figure GIJCC Cobra Hasbro 2007

What a surprise, a figure from the official GI Joe collector’s club. Usually these guys are a little more on point, but this figure serves almost no purpose. It’s sad because a set of collectors have always mocked Chuckle’s classic attire and it would have been a great chance for them to release the character in a more grounded looking outfit. Instead, they chose to recreate his classic look, only from the very buff Heavy Duty mold. Really?

9. T’Jbang

T'Jbang ARAH Vintage action figure Ninja Force Cobra Hasbro 1992

I’m a fan of the outlandish side of GI Joe, but this guy does some things wrong. First, he suffers from the same obtrusive gimmicks many of the Ninja Force figures suffered, restricting his torso articulation. His color scheme is rather ugly and makes me think of Dr. Fate if he were a luchador. The tiger mask comes off as chintzy, as do his bright blue parts. His bio also mentions he’s taken a vow of silence … Because that’s very original when it comes to GI Joe, isn’t it?

8. Dr. Link Talbot

ARAH Vintage action figure Valor vs. Venom VvV Cobra Hasbro 2004

This one makes me pretty sad honestly. Link is actually a pretty decent character with a unique specialty as a veterinarian. Neither version of this figure includes any sort of animal however, which is a huge missed opportunity. The figure really doesn’t include any sort of nice parts. His sculpt and overall design are both extremely boring, featuring minimal gear and equipment. What you end up with is a cool character represented by two toys that are highly lackluster.

7. Funskool Barbecue

ARAH Vintage action figure funskool international Cobra Hasbro

Funskool has been known for making a lot of cool and strange little variants during their run with GI Joe. With this one, I sadly can find no place for him. Normal Funskool Barbecue figures came with a yellow mask that was at least slightly more attractive looking, but this variant replaces that color with flesh-tone. It’s so ugly! It goes a long way to make a mediocre figure simply inferior. For added insult, some of these were shipped as random vehicle drivers with no parts, such as this figure.

6. Windmill

ARAH Vintage action figure Cobra Hasbro 1989

Aspects of Windmill seem like the makings of an average Joe pilot, but the execution on this one comes off so bad. I have no problem with bright colors, but the way this figure mixes orange with bright green makes him hard to look at. His head sculpt irritates me too, what’s up with the cat ears? To round it all off check the size of that revolver of his, that thing is HUGE.

5. Long Range

ARAH Vintage action figure Cobra Hasbro 1989

This figure might have made an alright Iron Grenadier in different colors, or with a little paint. As he is, this figure truly puzzles me with what he’s supposed to look like. He features almost no paint and is cast in an ugly, prototype gray color. His helmet is goofy looking, and even the small pistol he includes leaves much to be desired.

4. 1997 Duke

ARAH Vintage action figure Cobra Hasbro 1997

1997 was another strange time for GI Joe. While many nice repaints came out during this year, the figures were plagued with quality issues. This Duke has said issues as well, but is also just a terrible looking figure! Albeit, he does brandish a nice amount of paint applications, they’re all so random. Why is Duke’s hair brown? Why are his shoes red? And, of all things why would they paint his pockets and not the flesh colored watch on his wrist?

3. 1993 Muskrat

ARAH vintage Action figure Hasbro GI Joe Cobra Battle Corps 1993

What on earth … this Muskrat is a strange and terrible figure that makes no sense at all. His colors are incohesive with a navy blue, orange and some sandy color. His sculpt has terrible proportions, just look how low his arms sit on his shoulders. He also features one of the most mind-boggling launcher accessories in the entire line. It’s a missile launcher that mounts on his helmet. Screw practicality, it’s not even cool looking.

2. Wild Card

ARAH vintage Action figure Hasbro GI Joe Cobra 1988

Not only does Wild Card have a bizarre appearance for a Joe, he also offers very little as a figure. He brings little in terms of sculpted detail, and his head is extremely generic. He looks almost just like every other mustached GI Joe. Sadly his generic head sculpt is one of the better things about this figure, when the rest of him is both so random and bland at the same time. I think he looks like a homeless guy to be honest.

1. 25th Anniversary Gung-Ho

ARAH vintage Action figure Hasbro 25th anniversary GI Joe Cobra 2007

25th figures are easy to pick on because so many of them haven’t aged well, but let’s face it: Gung-Ho was bad even when the figure first came out and everyone was hyped for the new construction. That alone says a lot, but in my observation this is the worst Modern Era figure to date. First, the figure features a bland deco with a horrendous, zombified looking skin tone. As you can imagine, the figure is as narrowly articulated as the other original 25th figures, Gung-Ho’s arms barely bend 45 degrees at the elbows. He has an awkward neckline that looks awful at even the slightest profile view. His cap doesn’t feature a marine logo, but instead an anchor in its place. His legs had a universal problem of being extremely loose and flopping all over the place. Oh, and lastly I almost forgot his grenade launcher, the one almost no figure can hold and won’t stay together at all.

Disagree with my picks? Sound off @MW_Nekoman on twitter.

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2002 Big Ben

GI Joe vs Cobra GIJvC 2002 new sculpt vintage ARAH Hasbro action figureAlthough Big Ben was originally a great figure, collectors tend to see his GI Joe vs Cobra iteration to be a junk figure. While I can’t say I think it’s the best figure, nor is it better than the original Big Ben, it’s still certainly an underrated figure.

The early 2000‘s were a hectic time for GI Joe collectors, for the typical reasons you could imagine. One frustration of the time was poorly picked two-packs, such as the set this Big Ben was sold in. Like today, the Alley Viper is an ever popular army builder and collector’s hadn’t had as many chances to get them then as they have had now. As such, it’s easy to imagine the demand for the Alley Viper, and the apathy carried towards Big Ben.

This Big Ben really isn’t a bad figure though, and does nothing glaringly wrong. While the Original had excellent colors, I find this one has a decent pallete as well, using more rusty browns with a little ivory green. It’s an alternative, and as such it works pretty well. It is worth mentioning that Hasbro placed a GI Joe tampograph on the figures thigh, which doesn’t look particularly well, but I don’t think it ruins the figure either way.

For accessories, Big Ben includes the entirety of his original loadout, with one exception. He has the same pouch with grenades, the same backpack, and the same LMG, only this time without the bipod. It’s a shame for the gun to be missing the piece, but in it’s place he has an extra Snow Job riffle. It’s a nice inclusion that probably made some cartoon fans happy for the extra gun.

If this Big Ben had a problem, it’s simply that he’s outshone by other figures. All around it’s a solid toy, but it’s perhaps not as nice as the original. With as many of these that still float around eBay and such at cheap prices, I think he’s worth considering for ARAH collectors who still don’t have him.

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