1989 HEAT Viper

1989 HEAT Viper

‘89 Joes are ones I mainly know though my brother’s collection, and most of them stuck with me as the figures my brother had that weren’t horribly gaudy. In his collection, he had almost every figure released in that year, with the notable exception of the HEAT Viper. So when I got into buying vintage figures in my teenage years, this felt like a curious gap I was eager to fill. As it turned out, the HEAT Viper wound up being a figure I never really had a use for, despite my earnest intentions for him.

I really like the 1989 Joe line. Sure, there’s a few stinkers in the lineup, but more of the figures, and especially the Cobras, strike me as being innovative and fun. Among the figures that should be a lot of fun, is the HEAT Viper. He’s bright, has an exciting job (Cobra bazooka trooper), and tons of little gimmicky parts. Only none of these things are done well, and he really isn’t that much fun of a figure, unfortunately. The light-orange and purple colors don’t really hit as nicely as the Alley Viper did. His parts also tend to make him really, really cumbersome to handle, yet, they’re also integral to the figure (good luck if you lose some). Speaking of his accessories, his sculpt is covered in hardpoints and pegs for those, which leaves something to be desired, to say the least.

While the idea struck me as an interesting niche at first, one thing I’ve discovered with time, is that having a Cobra equivalent of Bazooka or Zap, isn’t something that finds a role all that often in my collection. I guess unlike those two, the HEAT Viper is a terrorist, and can find all sorts of nefarious things to do with his bazooka. Regardless of how you rationalize him, he’s basically a guy that shoots his rockets off and then that’s it. It seems like something fun, but I much prefer a Stinger or a Viper with a bazooka, to having a dedicated specialist for the role.

Although I don’t particularly hate the HEAT Viper in spite of his flaws, while writing this, I have come to the conclusion that this maybe the worst figure from his release year. Comparing him to the other bad figures from that year, he’d be among the likes of Annihilator and Dee-Jay from the single-cards, and Long-Range and Wild Boar if you count vehicle drivers. The vehicle drivers are pack-ins, so of course they’re a little more underwhelming, though I think overall the issues with his parts and clunkiness makes the HEAT Viper decidedly worse than Annihilator, and maybe slightly worse than Dee-Jay. Both of those are ugly figures too, but they don’t loose functionality in the way the HEAT Viper does, the Annihilator is a lot more fun with his parts, too.

A huge problem for this figure, is that he is essentially married to his parts. His kit includes a bazooka, a sculpted hose and generic black tube, six tiny missiles, and a backpack with some exhaust pipes on it. None of these parts are terribly exciting, though the figure doesn’t really work without them. The small missiles are a particularly perplexing decision. When taken off the figure, there’s nothing to do with them. I guess him running out of ammo was considered a play feature? Of course, most of the time they just got lost instead. When he’s fully decked with his gear, another huge problem is that he’s really clunky. It looks sort of okay, but it’s not easy striking a convincing pose with him. Speaking of which, I get the feeling that his bazooka was designed for use with a certain hand, but I’m not sure which. The card-art shows him using it in his left-hand, though it feels a little more comfortable in his right. Also, he has some kind of exhaust pipes from his backpack on his left hip, so it’s weird that his bazooka’s exhaust would be bumping into that.

Despite his problems, Hasbro made of number of repaints of this mold! He got an Undertow head in 2001 and became the Fast Blast Viper, who was subsequently painted red and tossed in the BJ’s 8-pack from ‘02. The original head then made a return to the figure for a Python Patrol version in the ‘03 Python Patrol 5-pack, with the peg on his helmet retooled to sit higher. Prior to all of this, he appeared in Brazil as Estilhaço, with slightly different colors.

HEAT Vipers are very common and not at all valuable, though mint, complete HEAT Vipers don’t actually show up all that often. Most of the time, you can find this figure with one or two of his missiles, but rarely all six. Still, even a complete figure is only worth around $15, which isn’t too much for something with parts as small as this. It’s also easy enough to just buy two with a few of their missiles and combine them to have one complete figure, as less than complete HEAT Vipers tends to only run around $7.

1989 HEAT Viper Links:

The Dragon Fortress

Half the Battle

Pint O’ Comics

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2 Responses to 1989 HEAT Viper

  1. A-Man says:

    I used to have a bunch. I recall them at Walmart for $2.50 each, back when stores stock tons of product.

    The last of a Cobra logo makes him bland. But really, the design isn’t very cool. Just isn’t. The asymmetrical helmet, the weird pack, the yellow, even though it’s not neon, doesn’t help. It’s not a terrible figure, but it’s so-so even for its year. Not the trooper most people need lots of.

    Also, he is definitely married to his gear, and the mold doesn’t lend itself well to use as other things, as the early 2000’s showed. Fast Blast Viper V1 had the gear and was okay, but the small, smooth Undertow head seems divorced from the detailed body and high tech gear. BJ’s Undertow’s lack of HEAT Viper gear means it has empty ankle posts and just looks odd. There’s black rockets out there from GvC wave one, though.

  2. Sam Smith says:

    Ol’ Heaty is an interesting one for me. I loved his oddball gear but never liked his coloring (tho I still bought him as a kid). He didn’t match another Cobra Viper, and just kinda stuck out. 1989 was like that, though. Cobra had no internal cohesion, as it had it previous years.

    My favorite version of Ol Heaty is actually a kitbash of the 2000s era repaints: the black & grey body of 01 Fast-Blast Viper with the black head of the 04 Python Heat Viper. It creates a muted, mostly black version of Ol Heaty, complete with black gear. He fits in much better with Cobras of any era.

    Still no Cobra sigil on him, though.

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