1989 Rock & Roll v2

I think I’ve said before 1989 is a real hit-or-miss year, at least in my opinion. You’ve got classics like the Night Viper and Recoil on one hand, and on the other you have Downtown and figures like this guy. But, of the 1989 figures that I like less, Rock & Roll v2 isn’t really that bad, though I maintain my reasons for lamenting him.

In my collection, the original 1982 look for the first thirteen will always be their “true” appearance. However, a handful of the characters like Rock & Roll and Stalker were lucky enough to get some redesigns for those that might’ve desired to see the characters in a way that gave them more personality and looked more unique. This figure succeeds in that way right from the start, now breaking up his solid green outfit with a more detailed tan shirt and camouflage pants. It’s an interesting look, though I think I’d appreciate it more if the colors were a tad more desaturated.

The sculpt on this figure leaves me ambivalent at points. Elements are perfect, the shirt and cap are nicely detailed and there’s a bit of muscular definition in the arms that looks good too. I’ve never been able to really think his face looks much like Rock & Roll however, and the figure is just a tad skinny feeling to me, which also doesn’t seem appropriate to the character. The detail is there and it’s certainly not a bad sculpt; it just doesn’t strike me as the character however.

The weapons are also something I have mixed feelings on. Starting with the bad, his akimbo double-barrel mini-guns are absolutely absurd, and put bluntly I hate them. Beyond the ridiculous concept, the figure looks far too busy holding both of these, with the thick ammo belts then connecting them to his backpack even more so. His last accessory really makes up for the other lackluster parts, that being his lever-action riffle. It’s a little hard to hold, but it’s an excellent sculpt with a lot of detail. I particularly like the little scope on the gun, it has so much more personality than the bizarre sci-fi mini-guns he comes with. It also can be stored on his leg, which is a fun gimmick although it does detract from his appearance a bit.

This version of Rock & Roll isn’t particularly costly. It seems like one that’s complete can easily be acquired for around $10, and he’s rather common in lots too, where you can get him for even less. I used to not like this figure very much, but he’s great for variety and easy to get by chance if you look around. In the past I’ve swapped his legs for a pair of Salvo’s which looks pretty good and does well to balance his proportions as you can see in the second photo below.

Rock & Roll V2 GI Joe ARAH Rock & Roll V2 GI Joe ARAH

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2004 Cobra Viper, Valor vs Venom

In the summer of 2007, I’d finally got into Joe collecting upon falling in on the 25th Anniversary hype. I had flirted with the brand prior, but my tastes being focused mainly on 80‘s Joes left me with little to catch my attention until that point. Seeing pictures of the toys on the Internet had me hunting all over my town for anything I could find. Alas, I had no luck finding any GI Joes that summer, except for a smattering of leftover Valor vs Venom toys. One such toy, was the 2004 Cobra Viper and Alley Viper two-pack.

At first I hesitated given they weren’t “modern era” style figures. I may have even passed on the set once or twice only to find it still hanging there a month later at that same Big Lots. Disappointed at my lack of a growing GI Joe collection, I bought them just to have something new.

By no means were these my first “new-sculpt” figures that I had acquired, so I knew somewhat to expect from them quality wise. With that said, the Alley Viper was solidly disappointing and a garbage figure, but it’s not the subject of this writing. The Cobra Viper, was actually pretty satisfying. For a Valor vs Venom figure, the proportions of the sculpt are pretty decent, and he has standard articulation with no issues. With that said, the figure has no obvious issues from the outset so that’s certainly a good thing.

The color scheme of this Viper is probably his most distinguishing aspect. It’s rather unique and a bit unlike any other colors ever used on a Viper. The shade of dark red that comprises most of the figure bears a passing resemblance to the 1997 Cobra Viper, but only slightly. He also sports a fair amount of purple, which ties in well with the other dark colors. The black visor is another interesting color choice that sets him apart quite a bit from the standard Viper look, which is nice.

The accessories leave something to be desired, arming him with a measly G36 riffle and generic combat knife. To improve his load out, I’d usually arm him the the scorpion pistols from the Alley Viper since that figure had no value anyway and the accessories were wasted on him. The last part included with this figure was some sort of two piece “pod” as Yo Joe! refers to it. I have no idea what this is or what purpose it’s supposed to serve. As far as I know it was only included with this release and was never reused. I spent a lot of time trying to figure it out when I got this figure, but could only guess it was a crate of some sort.

Overall, he’s a good figure that could have used some better parts. I think if the Joe vs Cobra and Spy Troops lines had started with sculpts of this quality, the collecting community might not hold the era in such low regard as they do today.

Gi Joe VVV Viper Cobra 2004 Valor vs VenomValor vs Venom Viper (Version 12) Links:

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1990 Vapor

My earliest childhood with GI Joe was strange to say the least. I had a handful of my own figures, mainly clearance priced 1994 figures that were lingering on pegs into ‘97. For the most part though, I mainly experienced the brand through my brother’s collection and through reruns of the Sunbow cartoon.

I was very opinionated about my brother’s collection. For the most part, I hated the lot of what he had, mainly because it consisted of oddly colored 90‘s figures and not any that looked like the guys I saw in the cartoon. With that said, a few figures always tickled my fancy regardless of if I knew the character or not, Vapor being one of them. This guy struck me as some kind of psychopathic, murderous cyborg who was immune to reason and overall a really though fight for some unfortunate Joes who might encounter him. I liked coming up with exaggerated villains like that…

As such, I have some rather fond memories playing with this guy despite his otherwise obscurity. I mean, really, if you just look at the figure you really have to ask yourself what on earth he is. His filecard is rather vague, saying little to nothing about his character. It’s not even totally clear as to if he’s a generic or a singular person, but I see him as the later.

Vapor has a decent sculpt. My favorite parts are his head and the Cobra symbol buckle on his chest. Nothing too remarkable other than that, but these are at least some decent focal points that give the figure a memorable appearance. As you might expect of a vehicle driver, Vapor has a slight lacking of too many painted details. The ugliest part of the figure is his solid red waist that gives him that “underwear on the outside” type appearance.

I like his colors a fair bit, being mostly grey with some red and black for details, and silver on his head. It’s a bit different, but his appearance looks somewhat cohesive with the A.V.A.C.’s, which is good. He was repainted only once into the Air-Viper for the 2003 Joecon, a decent figure although it’s colors arguable lack the contrast of Vapor’s. For that reason I think this one is the better of the two versions.

Overall, he’s a mildly interesting pilot and Cobra to come from the 90‘s. Given how saturated the line is with different Vipers, Vapor is refreshing change of pace. I’ve never used him in many dios, but he’s certainly worth using more.

1990 Vapor GI Joe 90's ARAH Hurricane Cobra

1990 Vapor GI Joe 90's ARAH Hurricane Cobra

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1986 Monkeywrench

Monkeywrench is a weird figure. By far, he’s the most forgettable Dreadnok and his accessories don’t fulfill his role as an explosives expert. Despite this, he’s not my least favorite Dreadnok, in fact, I actually rank him higher than a number of other’s including Road Pig and Zandar. He does have flaws, but they don’t ruin him as a figure.

As a sculpt, I find Monkeywrench to be rather impressively detailed. The grenades, patches, pistol, the weird red ties around his legs, it all contributes to a fairly detailed look, at least compared to other early Dreadnoks. I think the only thing I dislike about the sculpt is the size of his head. It’s a bit small, but really I think it just looks worse when compared to other vintage figures that have larger noggins. Still, it’s an inconsistency that hurts him when displayed with many of his contemporaries.

The worst thing about this figure is his accessories. The only thing he comes with is a grey, trident launching harpoon gun. The character mainly deals with explosives, and yet they just included this random piece of junk with him. This weapon is one of the most boring, useless parts in the entire ARAH toy line, it definitely doesn’t add anything to Monkey Wrench here. Personally, I have a tendency to equip him with a grenade launcher, usually the one from ROC Heavy Duty.

I think a big draw to this figure is just his usefulness as a generic Dreadnok who looks pretty good. He’s easy to throw in a diorama with just about anyone. He never really did get much character development, appearing only briefly in the cartoon and not doing much of substance in the comics either. It’s easy in that regard to use him as pretty much anything you’d like.

So for all things considered, Monkeywrench is probably one of the best fillers you can get to pad out your Dreadnok ranks. He goes well with almost anyone and can be acquired at fairly cheap prices. He’s not a strong figure or character that stands well on his own, but he fills his own niche nicely.

1986 Monkeywrench Road Pig GI Joe ARAH 1986 Monkeywrench Road Pig GI Joe ARAH

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2005 Iron Anvil

I’ve been thinking about the convention Iron Anvils a lot lately, and namely how these have a reputation for being well received convention items. Years ago I enjoyed these a good bit as most other GI Joe collectors did, but as times have passed I’ve slowly begun to see faults in the figure that prevent me from enjoying it as much.

The Iron Anvil is made from the 1994 Battle Corps Viper mold, which was due for a repaint so many collectors enjoyed this figure’s appearance in the 2005 Joecon set. Switching from purple and orange to the classic 1988 Iron Grenadier color scheme was a move met with enthusiasm from GI Joe collectors. I must admit, the new colors do bring out a lot of the mold’s potential, and the Iron Grenadier color scheme is a dashing contrast that’s hard to object to. The downside to this is that the colors take away an element of uniqueness from the mold, perhaps a side effect of this palate being widely applied to too many Iron Grenadiers.

The filecard describes them as being paratroopers, which strikes me as being slightly odd since there isn’t much on the sculpt to really make them appear as that. I suppose it’s as okay a specialty as any other, but you’d think they might’ve played off the bulky, ballistic armor they don a bit more. I think they look more well suited to heavy weapons and shock tactics personally, but there’s probably some other specialties that might’ve fit better than the paratrooper angle.

Lastly, the accessories leave much the be desired. Being paratroopers, they of course come equipped with the typical foil parachutes. I don’t value these much, and they have a tendency to quickly become a mess. As such, I usually leave these in storage and completely forget about them. His armaments include a gray version of the Annihilator’s SMG, and the Hydro Viper’s knife. I find neither of these accessories to be greatly exciting, but if nothing else they’re alright.

Looking back on it, the 2005 convention set left a lot to be desired, and the Iron Anvil which is usually regarded as the highlight of said set, is neither perfect. It doesn’t provide an interesting niche, and the colors don’t distinguish the Iron Anvil from the normal Iron Grenadier, leaving him slightly on the bland side. My feelings for this figure would’ve been more positive years ago, but as I’ve grown to better appreciate brightly colored figures such as the Viper this figure is based off of, I no longer can value these based solely on their colors alone, hence the diminishing opinion I have of them.

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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:

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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:

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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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