1987 Cobra La Royal Guard

1987 Cobra La Royal Guard

The 1987 GI Joe movie was a controversial and polarizing piece of GI Joe media to the fandom. Maybe not to the same extent as the similar Transformers movie from ‘86, it still marks the portion of the brand where you hear many collector’s quit buying the toys as children. Personally, I really like GI Joe the movie and all of what it entails, including the unpopular villain of Cobra La, so of course I like the Royal Guard as well.

With that said, there’s going to be a lot of subjectivity surrounding this figure, and I totally understand why most people wouldn’t like the Royal Guard or Cobra La as a whole. The prevailing reason for said disdain is that Cobra La just doesn’t fit with the military identity GI Joe has and that most people strictly view it as. A primordial group of clandestine super humans is far from the terrorist concept of Cobra, and I think it’s fair to say the idea was a poor fit for the brand.

Like the Renegades from ‘87, the three Cobra La figures Hasbro made were sold in a set, and is the only Cobra La item to be released in ARAH. The Nullifier was planned to be a Cobra La vehicle driver, but was reworked into being an Iron Grenadier instead, which I think reflects how much of a flop this group was.

But with all this being said, the Royal Guard is a fun and eccentric figure. He’s covered in a bug-like armor with a nice amount of sculpted detail and texturing. The insect aesthetic is one of the elements that makes the figure appear so unique and different from most other Cobras. Of course, if Hasbro had gone down the path of making a bunch of figures all just like him, that uniqueness would have quickly diminished.

The Royal Guard has a pretty decent amount of paint on him too, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. Large areas on his thighs, arms, shoulders, feet and head are all mostly painted, which goes a good way towards making the figure look better. It can present a problem in finding a mint example however, as all of these areas are prone to a lot of wear. I also speculate that a lot of kids who bought these were emulating scenes from the movie, and may have been slightly more rough with them than other figures.

For parts, the Royal Guard included a pistol, removable antenna, and his melee weapon. I like the inclusion of the pistol which makes him a little more useful as a soldier, although other than that it’s a forgettable gun that doesn’t look too good. The antenna, is a unique and good looking part, but there was no need for it to be removable. The part is expensive and missing from most examples, and I still don’t own the piece. It would’ve been nice if Hasbro could’ve glued the part on, but alas that wasn’t the case. Lastly, his most memorable and iconic part is the scythe/melee weapon. It’s unorthodox looking, but I think it completes his look and has a great appearance when you pose him with it. It’s a fantasy oriented figure, so a weapon like this suits him better.

Mint complete Royal Guards go for $30 to $50, but aren’t really too hard to find. I’m fond of this figure, but that price is far beyond what he’s worth. One should exercise a lot of caution when buying a complete example, as there’s a lot of reproduction antennas out there that could be passed off as real to the untrained eye. If you sacrifice the antenna, the figure’s price drops to around $15. Which is still kind of a lot for this figure. I acquired most of mine through the occasional lot featuring one, which seems to be the best way to acquire them given most collector’s won’t have much interest in them in lots.

Cobra La GI Joe the movie vintage arah action figures Hasbro Roadblock Cobra La GI Joe the movie vintage arah action figures Hasbro

1987 Cobra La Royal Guard Links:

Yo Joe

3D Joes

Forgotten Figures

Half the Battle

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4 Responses to 1987 Cobra La Royal Guard

  1. A-Man says:

    Royal guard was the best of the 3 figures, if that says anything.

    Nullifier was odd, and the Cobra-La backstory explains his oddness, yet he’s not quite in the same aesthetic as the 1987 Cobra-La team. Having also seen Hasbro art works for Pythona ,which don’t resemble the movie that much, I think Hasbro’s take on Cobra-La would not have been totally in line with the Sunbow movie.

    Anyway, additions never happened. The Joe product team had Cobra-La forced on them, and didn’t care for the concept according to ex-Hasbro manager Kirk Bozigian.

  2. R.T.G. says:

    Nice review, the photos in it are the best Royal Guard photos I can recall seeing. It also proves that there is some aesthetic merit to army building! Seeing 5 makes me want to own some.

    I’ll always be disappointed that Cobra Commander as a reptilian never caught on with the kookier set of fandom.

  3. Mike T. says:

    I remember finding Cobra La at retail. I read and re-read the filecards, trying to figure out how they fit into Joe and why they existed. (I had no knowledge of the Joe movie at the time.) I couldn’t wrap my head around them. So, they were never important to me.

    The Guard found a home, though. I used him as a heavily armored flying trooper who could battle the Joe jet pack troopers. That was occasional fun. I’m not sure if I still have a complete one or not. This guy was always a bit more expensive due to the antenna. But, $30 for one is stupid. A lot of Joe pricing is stupid right now. But, I’d gladly go without a Royal Guard for that price.

  4. Matt Owen says:

    I love what Cobra LA adds to the salad bowl that is GI Joe. My prefered Cobra Commander is a disfigured scientist from an ancient race of snake people. And yet I find the vintage Cobra LA set to be pretty underwhelming. The only good figure is the Guard. I wish he was easier to army build.

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