1997 Short-Fuze

The 1997 Stars and Stripes Forever set is a little bit infamous. At the time of it’s release it wasn’t too popular, the figures were poor quality, and mold choices were… strange, to say the least. For those reasons among others, many of the figures from this set have gone overlooked for a long time. Possibly none more so than Short-Fuze.

As a simple repaint, there’s a number of things I find rather nice about this figure. The first thing I’d like to mention is that the entirety of the 1983 mold is present here, with no tooling swaps like we saw on other ‘83 figures that showed up later in the line, or even in this very set. Most of the original thirteen Joes were rarely repainted from their original molds without a couple of part swaps, so this is something fairly nice for this version of Short-Fuze.

The deco is also really good on this figure. It’s mainly green and almost similar to V1 Short-Fuze, but at the same time it’s more vibrant and detailed. His pants now feature an interesting airbrush like pattern on them that helps break up his colors more too. I really appreciate that since the 1982 guys could be a little bland sometimes, especially Short-Fuze. Oddly, he now features red hair and eyes too, which is a little strange but not uncommon for 1997 figures, and easily overlooked in this case.

The parts on this figure are also fantastic. He still features the mortar, backpack, helmet and visor from the original, but also includes a spare bazooka like Zap’s. A M16 or some other gun might’ve been better since it wouldn’t have stepped on Zap’s toes so much, but I still really like the inclusion of this part and it makes Short-Fuze more suitable for action roles.

I can be a bit of purist when it comes to GI Joe, but honestly I prefer this version of Short-Fuze to the 1983 figure. They’re very similar, but to me this one has better colors and better parts. It’s one of the few examples of something like this I can think of.

Similar to other 97‘s, this version of Short-Fuze isn’t the easiest to come by any more. At one point him and the other figures from the Star and Stripes Forever set were relatively cheap, bargain figures. But as the GI Joe market has shrunk, so have your options for the niche and obscure figures from the line. I see these go anywhere from $10 to $14 at the moment, which seems fair, but finding them is still somewhat difficult.

GI Joe Stars and Stripes Forever Hasbro 1997 Short-Fuze Zap Stalker MOBAT Heavy Metal

1997 Short-Fuze Links:

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Neo Viper V6, Spy Troops 2003

The “New-Sculpt” era of Joes has a funny relationship with the general GI Joe collecting community. To my understanding, the new designs were met with a lot of hype at the time, and hailed as the superior design for GI Joe much akin to the early 25th Anniversary GI Joes (which similarly, haven’t aged well). For me, this is all second hand information, as at the time I was still a kid and so I have a slightly different perspective on these toys. The Spy Troops Neo Viper is no exception.

Compared to the ‘97 line, I generally lost interest in GI Joe between ARAHC and GI Joe vs Cobra. There was an occasional item that caught my interest, but usually all I ever found at retail was the scraps and tidbits unwanted by collectors at the time. I did end up with a FANG III at some point, and it became a toy I was quite fond of, but the pilot left me with cold feet. Hasbro’s decision to give that figure and a few others a t-crotch really soured me on the toys, and even as a kid, I thought they looked ridiculously cheap.

Hasbro would remake proper o-ring versions of the t-crotch figures such as this Neo Viper in 2003. Like many figures from his era, these remained cheap online and could even be found in dollar stores for years later. Collectors largely dumped their Spy Troops era figures for pennies and they were pretty fun to collect in the later 2000‘s that way. The Neo Viper was among the figures I was curious about as a kid, so upon the chance I bought a couple.

The overall design and aesthetic of the figure is pretty cool. It’s similar to the classic Viper design in a few ways, but totally new in others. There’s a few sculpted Cobra symbols prominently featured on him, and they speak towards the character’s high status in Cobra. The helmet is also nicely done, and has a fresh look while still blending in well enough with the established Cobra designs. The overall look of this figure really reminds me of something that might’ve come from the later part of ARAH.

The sculpt has good proportions unlike certain figures from his time, but an odd choice was made with the Neo Viper. His left wrist is turned at an angle for gun holding poses. It kind of reminds me of the way a lot of early Action Force figures were designed, and I really don’t mind it. With that said, it does at times limit the figure, and really doesn’t improve him that much either.

There’s two separate releases of this figure and each comes with different accessories. Neither allotment is very good, but for the sake of this post I’ll consider the Spy Troops version the real one. He came with the pistol from V1 Ambush, the generic Scorpion and AK47 included with other New-Sculpt Cobras, a modified Tele-Viper backpack and a soft-goods ghillie suit. Like many figures from this era, these parts are random and generic. At the very least, he’s one of the few figures that can hold that bulky AK47 and look natural with it. The ghillie suit is very random, but it’s a quality fabric piece and a cool addition just for throwing in the parts bin, if nothing else.

With all that said, I really like this figure and I think he’s well done enough. Other collectors will not though, and generally have a distaste for this style as a whole. Personally I think this figure’s worth around $6 because of that, but the GI Joe market is in a weird state right now. So you might go periods without finding many fairly priced Neo Vipers, you might also happen upon some going for even cheaper prices. Like other oddball and obscure figures, patience will be required when looking for them nowadays.

Valor vs Venom Gi joe vs Cobra Spy Troops Neo Viper V6 2003 Valor vs Venom Gi joe vs Cobra Spy Troops Neo Viper V6 2003

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Letal Customs Iron Grenadiers

In late 2017, another individual producing factory GI Joe customs (bootlegs) showed up going by the handle of Letal Customs. The first set of figures is the 1988 Iron Grenadier in four color schemes. Like The Black Major’s customs, these figures are of high quality and this writing will profile my thoughts on all four figures from the first wave.

Letal Custom TBM The Black Major Bootleg GI Joe Destro Iron Grenadiers

They come mainly in environment themed color schemes, with one being a Crimson Guard teemed palette. All of the colors are vaguely reminiscent of existing Hasbro figures, such as the Snow Serpent, Desert Scorpion and Night Viper. They’re similar enough that they blend in well with those figures, but different enough that they’re able to stand on their own as well.

Each figure comes with a very nice assortment of five parts. You get the original Iron Grenadier’s gigantic Uzi, sword, and pistol as well as a smaller Uzi, and Iron Grenadier Destro’s sword. The Destro sword was a very nice inclusion and a great extra mile these figures didn’t have to go, but are hugely benefited by. The smaller Uzi is also great, as the vintage one is somewhat risky to use for it’s tendency to break thumbs. The load out does a really good job covering all of it’s basses.

Letal Custom TBM The Black Major Bootleg GI Joe Destro Iron Grenadiers

The quality of these figures is very good. Overall, the plastic has a nice feeling akin to that used on the vintage figures, and is thoroughly pleasing. A few figures have reversed rivets in the shoulders, but that’s the worst I can say and it’s hardly a problem. The paint applications are also very clean.

Moving along here are my thought on the individual color schemes.

Crimson Guard colors

Of the lot, this one is the most eye-catching and my personal favorite. I also feel like there’s a lot of applications this figure can be used for, as the colors work well enough with the Iron Grenadiers still, but also look excellent with most of the existing Crimson Guard figures. Below is a comparison of the Crimson Iron Grenadier with Hasbro’s Crimson Guard Immortal, Funskool’s Crimson Guard Immortal, the Crimson Guard Commander, and the 1985 Crimson Guard:

Letal Custom TBM The Black Major Bootleg GI Joe Destro Iron Grenadiers

As you can see, the particular shade of red isn’t a perfect match to the V1 Crimson Guard, but it is almost the exact same shade as the Crimson Guard Immortals. I’m not quite sure if this was intentional or not, but it’s pretty cool and opens you up to some LBC (part swapping) potential as well.

Desert colors

I was really torn on this color scheme, and I have to admit that at first I didn’t like this one. Though, it’s greatly grown on me, especially after seeing how it looks with the Desert Scorpion. Personally, I’d have much preferred for all of the yellow to be replaced by either gold or another shade of brown. However, when coupled with the orange accessories, you have a figure that looks like he jumped right out of the 90‘s, which I appreciate for it’s retro appeal.

Letal Custom TBM The Black Major Bootleg GI Joe Destro Iron Grenadiers

Snow Serpent Colors

These colors are really interesting. The blue and white makes it the opposite of the vintage Iron Grenadier, which is a cool look. Of course, I believe the colors are meant to resemble the V1 Snow Serpent, which it also does a fairly good job of. I’ve always figured MARS probably operates often in cold, northern climates, so as an environmentally themed repaint, this one makes a bit of sense too.

Forest Green Colors

Lastly, we have the green one. He’s an odd shade of green that I don’t think matches any other Cobras exactly, but looks good with a few regardless. It’s a bit harder to see the details on this guy, as they’re painted largely in black and brown shades, but it’s a nice look regardless. He comes off as a bit bland to me, but that’s mainly because I just prefer the more regal palates such as the Crimson one.

Letal Custom TBM The Black Major Bootleg GI Joe Destro Iron Grenadiers

All in all, these are some excellent figures and I’m really pleased with my set. Right now you can get them off eBay or from Letal Customs on Instagram, which I recommend doing if you have any interest in these. Most of these customs tend to be figures you have a short window to acquiring before they’re gone, so I wouldn’t suggest waiting too long.

More on Letal Customs Iron Grenadiers:

Custom Iron Grenadiers at Cobra Island (Desert, Jungle, Arctic, Crimson)

eBay listing

Letal Customs on Instagram

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1987 Knockdown, Battle Force 2000

In terms of GI Joe subgroups, it feels to me that even the detested Cobra La is brought up in conversation more than the Battle Force 2000. It’s a weird lot of figures that I think most people would see as ARAH’s low point, and Knockdown is a figure who could represent a lot of what was wrong with this group of figures.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of strange and unpopular figures I’m a huge fan of. I love 90‘s figures, Ninja Force, Star Brigade, I even like Cobra La and most of the Battle Force 2000 figures. However, as a subset, the BF2000 figures often had a few of the problems you see in Knockdown here. Knockdown just suffers the worst from having so many problems and looking like a Flash Gordon reject on top of that.

Starting with the sculpt, Knockdown is an ugly figure. He has an awkwardly large torso, it isn’t as bad as certain 90‘s figures, but it looks ugly to me. The sculpt isn’t very detailed and generally just looks like a generic sci-fi action figure. The majority of this figure was never repainted later in the line, and I find that understandable given that I can’t see him being very useful for much else. As an interesting note, his head was later reused to make Super Trooper, Rapid Fire, and modified into Charbroil. At the very least, the head isn’t terrible and it works for him as well as the other characters.

Next up, his accessories. He comes with a gun, and a helmet. The helmet has a few paint applications and is rather detailed for a vintage Joe bucket. It’s still kinda ugly, but it’s an okay part for what it’s worth. Now, his gun on the other hand is an absolutely terrible part. It’s supposed to be an “experimental ground-to-air pistol”, but it’s not really good for anything. The handle is really thick regardless of if you get the normal or skinny variant, and he has trouble holding it. Besides that, the quality of the sculpt is just terrible. If you compare it to almost any other GI Joe weapon, it’s honestly hard to believe this part is from the same toy line. Most of the BF 2000 had lousy guns like this, and sadly Knockdown is no exception.

It’s probably obvious by now, but I don’t like Knockdown very much. The only reason I own him is because I acquired him in a lot. I can’t find a place for him in my collection other than as a contemporary with other BF2000 figures I like better, so to me, he’s a prop for photos. If I had a Sky-Sweeper, the vehicle he technically drives, I’d likely still opt for a more traditional vehicle driver over him.

With that all said, Knockdowns are really cheap if for some reason the figure strikes your fancy. Complete figures range in price from $3 to $7, but if you look around you can have a great example for the lower price with relative ease. My disdain for this figure aside, that’s a really low value for a vintage figure. Likely, it’s another reflection of the figure’s quality, but it’s hard to really be too serious on a figure that’s barely worth the price of a cup of coffee.

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Knockdown diorama by Dan Contrino

Knockdown diorama by Yorktownjoe

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1993 Stalker, Arctic Commandos Mail-away

Way back in 1993 just before the Joe line began to wear down, Hasbro released a fairly large amount of new figures as mail-away exclusives. A few, such as a ’91 General Hawk repaint were sold by themselves, while others were sold in sets of three to four figures, like this Stalker from the Arctic Commandos set.

The figure is a straight up repaint of ‘89 Stalker, and on the surface he doesn’t seem too interesting. ‘89 Stalker was already a really solid figure, so this guy doesn’t have much to improve upon. The main difference is that this figure replaces a lot of the green with more white, and the muddy camouflage pattern on the legs is more subdued. I rather like the change, as while ‘89 Stalker had an interesting palette, Arctic Commandos Stalker has one that’s more cohesive with the other cold-climate centric figures.

The parts for these mail-away sets were pretty sparse in general. This Stalker seemingly got the short end of the stick, coming with only a silver knife, the same one from V1 Shockwave. It’s a decent little part and Stalker can use it well enough, but it’s somewhat of a shame that he doesn’t retain any of the excellent gear from the ‘89 figure. Back when this guy came out I suppose the lack of decent weapons really didn’t matter much, since if you bought this mail-away, you presumably had some other recent figures who could share a gun or two.

Overall, the other 1993 mail-in figures were probably more interesting. But, this Stalker is a fun figure to have in a collection as both a novelty and an alternative to the 1989 figure. He’s niche and truly forgotten, so it makes him a fun and interesting collectible if you’re into that. He also benefits from being likely the best version of this mold color-wise, maybe second only to the 2007 Convention Rock ‘n Roll.

Just a few years ago all of the figures from this Arctic Commandos set weren’t too hard to find. Especially this Stalker, who some collectors ended up with in excess trying to army-build the Snow Serpent from the set. Times have changed though, and although he’s still relatively a bargain figure, none of the figures from this set are as common as they used to be. Excess stock of the 90‘s mail-aways were bought up by dealers at cheap prices and saturated the market for years. But like with Funskool figures, many once common figures are now hard to find as the GI Joe market is drying up. Still, Stalker here goes for as little as $4 to $10 when one does show up for auction. He’s a really nice collectable for that much.

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2002 Headman

Although nothing seems more repetitive than 80‘s and 90‘s anti-drug messages, the DEF and Headhunters were some pretty cool toys to come from the era. They’re a bit corny, but also a real world topic that’s interesting to inject into a military toy line. In the 2000‘s however, anti-drug messages in children’s shows and product largely went away and even seemed to take somewhat more of a taboo status. So when Hasbro brought Headman back in the GI Joe vs. Cobra line, he was somewhat of a departure from his prior form to say the least.

The original Headman was a sweet figure. The black pin-stripped suit was a great look for a drug dealer, among other features I found that made the figure charming.There was little to do in the way of improving the original, and sadly the ‘02 Headman could be seen as quite the down grade. Now he wears a solid orange suit that looks quite a lot like The Mask, which I’d be a little insulted to know if that was really the inspiration for this figure.

There’s nothing much to say about the figure other than that. He’s Headman, but in orange. In all fairness I think certain details of the sculpt are a little easier to see in this color than in black, but that doesn’t really justify the poor color choice here. Oddly, his hair color has been changed to black as well, a design choice I still don’t quite understand.

HEADMAN started out robbing convenience stores, then learned the ropes of high-end thievery while serving time in prison. A hardened criminal, HEADMAN doesn’t think twice about removing anyone who gets in the way of his plans. He steals anything for the right price—government secrets, weapon system specifications, and priceless art treasures. His thefts have undermined the safety of countries and satisfied greedy private art collectors at the expense of museums around the world. He has managed to escape GENERAL TOMAHAWK time and again, but the relentless G.I. JOE commander has caused him to abandon some plans, losing money. He wants to remove the threatening general from his trail, once and for all.
“I am a master of crime who can steal anything, and never get caught.”

-Headman’s Filecard

The filecard’s from this era tend to be pretty worthless, and Headman’s is no exception. Interestingly, they’ve completely overhauled his character in this one. No longer is he a drug dealer and the leader of the Headhunters, but instead a robber and expert thief. The portrayal seems especially childish and simple, and even steps on the toes of a few other Cobras who already fill similar roles (Firefly and Zartan). Again, I suppose at this point drugs were a topic they simply preferred to avoid, but they could’ve found a more appropriate role for the Headman than one as blase as this.

Gijoe vs cobra hasbro headhunters def action figure vintage

They also really phoned in the accessories on this figure. Instead of his highly interesting G11 riffle, he now includes the grenade launcher and knife from the V1 Range Viper, as well as the pistol from ‘91 Dusty (the one they would eventually include with different figures more than twenty times.). What gets me about these accessories isn’t that they’re horribly generic, but that absolutely no thought was put into them for the character. A big, noisy grenade launcher for a guy who’s supposed to be a thief now?

Despite all of this, I like using this figure every now and then just because no one else really does that much. I’m also a big Headhunters fan, so he has appeal to me for that alone. But this isn’t a good figure and his value sixteen years later reflects that. Complete figures can be had for around $5, but if you look around, the sealed set with General Hawk (Tomahawk) can be had for almost as much.

Gijoe vs cobra hasbro headhunters def action figure vintage Gijoe vs cobra hasbro headhunters def action figure vintage

2002 Headman Links:

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Generals Joes

Half the Battle

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2004 Convention Buzzer

Among the many Joecon sets that came and went, one of the most memorably lackluster was the 2004 set. Among the many figures FunPub could have made, they opted instead for some Dreadnok repaints that were at best, novelties. This Buzzer figure is a perfect example.

To preface this, I suppose I’m developing a habit of hating Joecon exclusives on this blog. I really don’t, at least not generally. But, most of the Joecon exclusives that inspire my comments are ones that I view as being somewhat flawed. This Convention Buzzer figure is flawed, but also represents one of the worst Joecon sets ever made.

The figure himself looks fine enough. It’s Buzzer, with the contemporary 2000‘s ARAH flesh color. He now is in mostly red, and has some camouflage on his pants. A modest, and different look for Buzzer. The problem that arises is that outside of looking different and being mildly limited in production, that’s all this figure has to offer: colors. Just colors. These colors aren’t based on some niche appearance he once had, or an old prototype, or even some bizarre foreign release. They are simply new colors applied to an old action figure to make a new, novelty collectible. The lack of any creativity here and forced nature of figures like this were something I had a great disdain for with FunPub’s Joe and Transformers exclusives.

With that said, Buzzer is still an excellent classic sculpt and I even find the colors to be attractive in a few ways. The flesh tone on this figure somehow seems more appropriate than his pastier vintage tone. As an Australian biker currently hanging out in the Florida Everglades, it seems right that his skin would be a bit darker. The red color coupled with the camouflage has a good urban appearance too, I think he’d look alright with the Alley Viper V6 to name one example.

With all that said, I can’t be the only one indifferent to this figure. I acquired my example sans accessories for a whopping $3. A weird example, but you rarely encounter anything from a convention that cheap. Even as of this writing, complete examples of this figure are easy to find under $20, if you hunt I’m sure you could even get this figure for less than $15. If you really want a Joecon exclusive, he’s not a bad option for that novelty. Beyond that, it’s a really shallow figure for a convention exclusive.

Joecon Buzzer GI Joe Convention Dreadnok Hasbro 1985 2003 Joecon Buzzer GI Joe Convention Dreadnok Hasbro 1985 20032004 Buzzer Links:

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Generals Joes 2004 Convention set Review

Buzzer at Half the Battle

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Funskool Flint

With Christmas having recently passed,  I couldn’t help but find it necessary to talk about a Joe that was a Christmas present of mine. The funny thing is, prior to my teenage years I never really had any GI Joe items I got for Christmas. It wasn’t that I didn’t like GI Joe, but I never seemed to get any as presents. A combination of the DTC and 25th Anniversary lines brought me back into Joe hard around 2007, and in light of that my brother snagged me a Funskool Flint as a present the next year.

Despite the quality of Funskool figures and their cards, opening Flint up that morning was a fun and somewhat surreal feeling. Mind you, I’m a kid of the mid-90‘s, so I totally missed out on most of ARAH, but I still had this feeling of having just time traveled. Those ARAH cards were visually striking in a way that I feel was almost timeless.

The figure itself was also my first time owning a vintage Flint figure. This was just a bit before I began hunting down actual vintage figures off eBay, so I was really excited to have this figure in my collection. As a big fan of the Sunbow cartoon, I always desired having more figures in their classic appearances as opposed to many of the redesigns from the late 80‘s and 90‘s. That’s not to say Flint’s Eco-Warriors or Battle Corps toys weren’t any good, but to me as a kid they didn’t look enough like Flint. It really makes me regret having no prior knowledge of the Funskool figures, as I certainly would’ve bought a lot of them. I wanted things like this during the 2000‘s a lot more than Spy Troops and Valor vs Venom.

As for the figure itself, it’s a fairly decent representation of V1 Flint. So much so that I’ve been content with the figure for a whole decade and never bothered with a Hasbro Flint. The colors are very similar, and although the paint is notoriously messy on certain runs of Funskool figures, I seemingly lucked out and got a fairly clean looking Flint save for the gold paint.

Hasbro Gijoe ARAH Flint parts funskool action figure

In another nice event, Funskool Flint comes with parts that are remarkably similar to Hasbro’s. Mind you, the plastic is of course somewhat cheaper but visually they do the job rather well. Back in the 2000’s these figures were so cheap that an example like Flint or Scrap Iron was worth buying just for the parts at the humble $3 they ran. For a collector on a budget, this was a great way of getting good parts to give to a Hasbro figure.

I really loved getting this figure a decade ago, especially coupled with a few other Funskool items I got at the same time. Back then however, these figure were dirt cheap. As Funskool figures now routinely run between $10 to $20, I find it increasingly hard to say if they’re worth it most of the time. A few figures provide something unique, but with figure’s like Flint at today’s prices, you’re probably better off sticking with the American version.

Hasbro Gijoe ARAH Flint parts funskool action figure

Funskool Flint Links:

Funskool Flint Dio by The Dragon Fortress

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Forgotten Figures

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1997 Storm Shadow

The 1997 GI Joe line has a weird status with fans at the moment. People remember it, some of the figures have gained popularity they probably didn’t have upon release 20 years ago. But, there’s figures no one talks about still, such as the Storm Shadow this profile is about.

As a kid in the nineties, I had a few options for a Storm Shadow figure, not all of them decent. My brother had a Ninja Force Storm Shadow, which I liked decently, but never stood out to me. Then there was the Shadow Ninja version which I owned, but those toys were terrible for a lot of reasons. Finally, there was this figure. Even back then, the V1 sculpt appealed to me a lot more than the Ninja Force variations, plus he could hold his accessories a lot better, making this my go-to Stormy all the way up to my teenage years.

The best part of this figure is the deco. The black pattern on his torso is directly taken from Ninja Force Storm Shadow, making this figure him in redux form. Like that figure, this Storm Shadow is also a GI Joe team member, hence why he’s sold in a team with Lady Jaye and Snake Eyes. It’s a small touch, but it makes the figure a lot more interesting now than if he’d just been a remake of the original, in a similar vein to the 2005 comic pack figure. The deco is subtle enough that it adds visual appeal to this version, but it doesn’t prevent you from using him as either a Joe or Cobra. As there’s no markings on the figure tieing him to either side, he’s still workable as a Cobra, a role he infrequently adopted when I was a kid, but one that worked none the less. Lastly, he features some grey and beige details the original didn’t have, which highlights the sculpt nicely.

The sculpt is exactly the same as the original figure, which is good. By ‘97, a lot of ARAH molds were already gone or degrading (The shoulder swap on ‘97 Snow Job being one good example, of many) so it was nice to see V1 Storm Shadow still fully intact. Hasbro wouldn’t go on to use this mold very much through the 2000‘s, certainly not to the extent of figures like V1 Firefly. After this, the figure only showed up twice more in the Ninja Cobra Strike Team set as the Black Dragon Ninja and Red Ninja Viper, and once after that again as Storm Shadow in 2005 (but with different shoulders). I see this figure as Hasbro’s best ninja sculpt, so it’s disappointing that it saw so little use. Even more so when you consider the Ninja Force tooling was being used in favor of it. I’m sure that made collectors of the time happy, given how unpopular Ninja Force figures were.

storm shadow 1997 Gijoe ARAH Ninja Force Hasbro action figure toy

I suppose I could comment on his parts rather than take them for granted. He comes with a katana, wakizashi, nunchucks, bow and quiver/backpack. Exact same parts as the original, which is perfect. All of the parts work well with the figure, as they were intended, but I sometimes forget to appreciate how nice it was for a figure to have his original parts. Later in the 2000‘s Hasbro would start including more random and varied parts that rarely worked with the figures, let alone look good. To my memory, this figure was the last Storm Shadow to include these parts.

All in all, I like this figure a lot. He’s not the original Storm Shadow, but he’s fun and a little unique. He’s also a lot easier to find in pristine white condition than the original, so that’s another plus in his favor. Like other ‘97‘s though, he’s getting a little tougher to find. He tends to float around $12 when one shows up for auction, which seems like a fair price. If you’re okay with ninjas, I think he provides enough qualities to be worth owning alongside the original.

storm shadow 1997 Gijoe ARAH Ninja Force Hasbro action figure toy

1997 Storm Shadow Links:

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Forgotten Figures


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1994 Blackstar

As 1994 is the infamous year that “killed” GI Joe, there are many figures from that year that are well known for their goofiness. The Lunartix aliens, Shadow Ninjas, and the unfortunately named Ice Cream Soldier are all examples of figures that a lot of GI Joe fans know, but in a fairly negative way. Blackstar is in my opinion, possibly the most obscure Cobra character ever made, and he’s not a terrible figure, either. Unlike the other guys, he’s just not outrageous enough to stand out.

When people look at 1994 figures, only what’s stupid or silly stands out to them. Anything that’s less than that falls between the cracks, which leaves figures like Blackstar being severely overlooked. Additionally, his bio is one that leaves him somewhat poorly defined as a character. It refers to the Blackstar as some sort of space mercenaries, but then to this figure as “This particular Cobra Blackstar”. It’s a little confusing as to if he’s a generic soldier or a unique character, but I suppose that’s up to the owners imagination. In either case, it’s another element adding to his obscurity.

The most redeeming quality of this figure is his sculpt. He has a very detailed and cool looking chest and helmet, albeit the details are lost somewhat amid the black plastic. His legs are reused from Barricade, and I think it’s fair to say they’re a decent match. His head was later reused for a Joecon Steel Brigade figure, but it would have been nice if Hasbro could’ve done something with the entire mold in better colors.

Speaking of colors, the figure has an only passable palette. There’s a decent combination of yellow, neon green, silver and black, colors that aren’t terrible, but really do the sculpted details no favors. Sans the green, it’s the same scheme as the 1986 BAT, so as a Joe fan I think the colors are at least forgivable. The BAT’s sculpt was more simplistic in the black areas though, so it didn’t suffer from obscuring it’s own details in the way Blackstar does.

His accessories are also rather poor, even for a late 90‘s figure. Blackstar includes a unique, backpack mounted missile launcher and a black Rock Viper pistol. The Rock Viper pistol looks better in black and does have a rather spacey look to it, but other than that the lame launcher is all you get. I suppose he’s a pilot of some sort, so the lacking parts can be overlooked, but still.

Ultimately, Blackstar is useful as a blank-slate Cobra. His background is poorly detailed and his character is nonexistent, so it’s easy to use him as anything you like. He could pass for a next gen BAT, a spare Eco Warrior, or he could even look really good paired with the V2 Alley Viper. He has an excellent look that could easily work in a number of different ways.

Like a lot of 1994 figures, he’s pretty hard to find, and his value tends to vary greatly. Some, especially partless or in lots, go as low as around $6, but others edge towards upwards of $30. This figure could add a lot of novelty to a collection when you find him on the cheaper end, however, he’s certainly not worth paying an exuberant amount for.

GI Joe Blackstar Star Brigade 1994 arah Hasbro toy

1994 Blackstar Links:

Yo Joe!

Forgotten Figures

3D Joes


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