2002 Skullbuster

2002 Skullbuster

The 2002 GI Joe line is now 20 years old, which amusingly, is the same age ARAH was at when GI Joe vs Cobra came out. It’s weird to me, because I was still a kid when these came out, and yet they don’t really feel that old. Meanwhile ARAH has always felt ancient to me, probably because all of it mostly predates my birth (my first GI Joes were the Ninja Force and Armor Tech overstock that was available into the late 90‘s). Sadly, I think this is the difference between an 80‘s brand that had a lasting cultural impact, compared to a neglected 2000‘s revival of said brand, only supported by adults. I don’t think these toys feel old since they seem more like a collector novelty, than toys from the era of VHS tapes, rotary phones and the Cold War. Then again, Skullbuster really has the hallmarks of something from a bygone era, so maybe I’m off the mark on all of that.

So Skullbuster is a repaint of the Range Viper, in colors that if I recall, were meant to resemble Skeletor. It’s very odd and not much like something you’d see Hasbro sell today; Now GI Joe is all about the established characters within the IP. In ‘02 though, there was enough curiosity left in the brand, that Hasbro would resurrect a sculpt from 11 years prior, and sell it as a new character. It’s much more low-effort compared to the brand from the 80‘s, but it’s also something fun and creative, in sharp contrast to the serious adult doll buying community who’s catered to now.

Skullbuster has some strange colors that stick out quite a bit. He’s closer to eye-catching than he is gaudy, but it’s a colorful figure either way. The use of an almost metallic purple for the base plastic was a strange choice, though it looks pretty strong with the copper details that adorn much of the figure. There’s a long Cobra tampograph that runs down his pant leg: It’s an odd choice for a detail, but it works much better than the GI Joe equivalent of having the brand’s logo on a leg.

The Range Viper sculpt was a pretty odd one to make so many reappearances in the 2000‘s. Before Skullbuster, you had the ‘00 Rock Viper, followed by half the mold showing up as the Cobra Imperial Guard in ‘05. Next, the mold was put in desert colors for the ‘06 Flaming MOTH release. I’ve always been pretty pleased with this assortment of repaints, though I had thought the Range Viper was not so popular when many of these came out. Lucky me I guess.

Skullbuster’s gear is bad. Oddly, although he comes packaged with a green version of the Range Viper’s backpack, that part belongs to Heavy Duty. Whereas Skullbuster gets the backpack from ‘91 Low-Light. As well, he gets a Sound Attack version of Spearhead’s rifle, and ‘92 Destro’s pistol. The backpack is very random, and the Sound Attack gimmick ruins everything it touches, so the only real part of and decency here is the pistol.

Surprisingly, Skullbuster fetches between $16 to $20, seemingly regardless of his completeness. I’m a little shocked by this as I assumed he was too much of an obscurity for anyone to really care, but from the looks of it a Skullbuster will cost you a little more than at least a few of his contemporaries. I’m sure it would be less if he were easier to find, though oddball 2000‘s figures really aren’t in good supply any more, so I’m sure that has a lot to do with it.

gi joe vintage cobra 2002 range viper skull buster gi joe vintage cobra 2002 range viper skull buster

2002 Skullbuster Links:

Forgotten Figures

Half the Battle

Photo by Scarrviper 1

Photo by Scarrviper 2

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4 Responses to 2002 Skullbuster

  1. A-Man says:

    IIRC, Heavy Duty vs Skullbuster was one per case of 12 two-packs. Previous repaints 2 packs were 2 per case but with GI JOE Vs Cobra wave 4, it think this was the case breakdown:
    Duke vs Ripper x2
    Shipwreck vs BAT x2
    Wild Bill vs Neo-Viper x2
    Dart vs CLAWS x2
    Dusty vs. Shock Viper x1
    Heavy Duty vs Skullbuster x1
    Snake-Eyes Vs CC x2 (from the previous wave…more less (the darker running change on Snake-Eyes)

    So less Skullbusters out there, but still from a widely shipped wave. ARAH style overpricing on the aftermarket is the factor. People who weren’t collecting then, just don’t know. What’s really annoying was that Heavy-Duty was a straight reissue and of a t-crotch mold, too.

  2. R.T.G. says:

    I like Skullbuster a great deal. He’s a legitimately fun figure, that came out in a time where most figures are relatively joyless. The paint apps are nice, without being too intricate or too skimpy. The accessories suck, but that’s pretty much the story of all accessories post 2000.

    I think part of the reason these figures don’t feel 20 years old, is there really hasn’t been any prolonged period of unavailability for them. Not just being able to hop on eBay and get one, but you could always read a review or find someone’s photos with the figures. It’s not just relegated to action figures, it almost seems like the last 20-25 years has been somewhat of a blur with no truly defining moments. Cultural hegemony has been a terrible thing, in a lot of ways.

  3. bradley barnes says:

    damn. I was just thinking the same thing when I read this. I find it hard to tell the difference between 2012 and 2016 or 2002 vs 2009 basically any of the 2000’s years. it is all just running together.

  4. JayVee says:

    It’s possible that Skull Buster’s scheme was influenced by (or a refence to) Evy from the DiC cartoon.

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