1985 Tele-Viper

1985 Tele-Viper

The Tele-Viper is cool figure to me, both because the sculpt was familiar to my childhood and because he’s a classic Cobra from the best year. He goes with the Viper like peanut-butter and jelly, and in general works with a lot of different Cobras. Yet the figure’s not underrated, rather, he’s closer to being one of the worst figures from his release year. There’s some stiff competition in there that makes that a relative statement, though I think it’s fair to say the figure is flawed.

gi joe vintage o-ring tele-viper 1985 hasbro cobra

I really like the Tele-Viper, always have. My first experience with the mold was the Python Patrol version my brother had, and although he also had a Python Guard and Python Trooper, the Tele-Viper is the only one I really ever remember playing with. Someday I’ll get around to writing an incoherent diatribe about the Python Tele-Viper, but at the very least I’ve had an attraction to the sculpt since I was a kid, and I think that’s owed to the design being very good. For a dude lacking a proper weapon, Tele-Vipers tread that perfect blend of sci-fi fantasy mixed with a solid amount of military realism, mostly favoring the later.

In other ways though, the sculpt on this figure sucks. The sculpting is all over the place and feels to me like a “worst of both worlds” situation of problems that are stereotypical to both ’85 and ’86 figures. First, his head is ridiculous. It’s bigger than a Viper’s head despite having most of his face exposed! I always just sit there imagining he must look like Alfred E. Neuman when he takes his helmet off. This a problem I associate more with ‘86 figures, as that seemed to be the year where pumpkin-heads really took over the line.

The rest of the figure’s sculpt is much more typical of a 1985 figure, both in the way of featuring a more modest military fatigue but also for having somewhat janky proportions. I’ve made it no secret that I think ‘85 was the strongest year of figures overall, but something I feel goes somewhat overlooked is the proportional inconsistencies among the body sculpts. In the case of the Tele-Viper, he has a slightly more slender waist in contrast to somewhat bulkier shoulders. It’s a lot different from Footloose or Torch, who have waists so thick relative to their legs it almost looks like they’re wearing diapers. The issue is only apparent with ‘85 figures, as both the ‘84 and ‘86 lineups look far more consistent.

Probably the biggest appeal of this figure is how cohesive he is with a Cobra collection. To me, the Tele-Viper feels like he goes with anything, almost to an extent that I’ve not often felt the need for a huge army of them. I usually just use them to support larger squads of Vipers instead. I think he was clearly meant to look good alongside the Viper, though his simple outfit doesn’t look horrible alongside Troopers and Officers. The early use of Cobra purple lends itself well to later figures like the Techno-Viper once that color became more common, so in some ways he’s a versatile Cobra that looks good with almost anything.

For parts, you get a backpack, a camera gun, and a hose to connect ‘em. Very passive for a terrorist, you’d think he’d have some kind of small gun sculpted onto him somewhere, but no, the Tele-Viper comes with no lethal weapons, usable or otherwise. That said, the camera gun is a lot of fun, and any part that connects with a hose just seemed so much more aesthetically pleasing. He basically has one single thing he does, but it might not be a stretch to say he does it better than Breaker or other similar figures.

There’s not many repaints or variants of the Tele-Viper mold to track down. After the Python Patrol version, the mold went to Brazil and was released by Estrela in colors similar to the 1985 figure. The blue on this version appears really, really bright, and there’s an extra red paint application around the belt buckle. It’s not much, but enough to seem interesting on an underutilized sculpt.

Tele-Vipers still go for very sane prices, between $10 to $15 for a mint, complete figure. For a classic army-builder, I’m a little surprised by that, though I spent plenty of time roasting the figure just now, so maybe those feelings aren’t so unique. Like Tripwire and some others with painted faces, his nose is prone to chipping and revealing the dark plastic underneath, which is something to look out for.

gi joe vintage o-ring tele-viper 1985 hasbro cobragi joe vintage o-ring tele-viper 1985 hasbro cobra

1985 Tele-Viper Links

Forgotten Figures

3D Joes

Half the Battle

Joe A Day

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4 Responses to 1985 Tele-Viper

  1. A-Man says:

    My memories are of not understanding his hand-held scanner. As a kid I was thinking like Star Trek or something, not a document/’photo copier, which makes sense for his specialty and for a terrorist operation stealing secrets.

    I had one, my brother had one and some point got a used one that got the later accessory pack gear. Not a bad amount for the time.

    Yeah, he’s got a big ugly head. He was also the only of the 4 carded 1985 Cobra troop builders to not get a total remake in the vintage line (or really any line in ARAH style). Yes, I consider Crimson Guard Immortal a do-over of the CG more or close enough.
    And because his molds were likely MIA, he missed out on late 90’s and early 2000’s repaints. Still, I think they might have kitbashed one if the o-rings continued, maybe using Stalker V2’s Torso or Pathfinder’s torso and arms and lots of waists/legs to choose from with a recast head or comic pack head.

    The new sculpt single carded Tele-Viper was easy to army build. But kinda wonky proportioned…seems to be a tradition, because Modern Tele-Viper is wonky, too with Viper legs and arms.

    Who knows maybe Super 7 will make toon Tele-Vipers with the letters on their visors!

  2. HitandRun says:

    Tele-Viper was always viewed to me as one of the more iconic Cobra troopers. Being a kid that was 4-5 years old during Joes arguable peak I missed out on all the heavy hitters at retail. I watched the Sunbow Cartoon all the time so I was very aware of Tele-Viper. I put Tele-Viper up there with the Cobra Troopers, Vipers, Crimson Guard, Eels and Snow Serpents as the real iconic army builders of Cobra. Tele-Viper certainly is at the bottom of the list but is still very much a classic Cobra trooper.

    The design certainly does straddle the realistic and sci-fi realms but it just seems to work. For me he always was just the radio guy for Cobra, it just really fit him. The colors work, the head while a little oversized was full of cool details (always like when text would scroll across it in the cartoon).

  3. Mike T. says:

    I’ve always felt that the Tele-Viper wasn’t quite ready to be released in 1985. But, they needed a figure and he was close enough. There’s no evidence to back that, of course. But, the weird head and introduction of the Viper moniker a year ahead of the staple seems like he might have been pulled forward a year to take the place of something else.

    It’s nice that this guy has remained affordable…even as his classmates have gone nuts. But, I’ve not picked one up in well over a decade. He’s just not a figure I think about enough to acquire a couple more. I’ll get a burr to buy a few right when they skyrocket, though.

  4. Josh Z says:

    Like Mike pointed out, it has always struck me as super weird that the specialist Tele-Viper was introduced a year before the core concept of the Viper troops themselves. How does a Tele-Viper make sense if you don’t even know what a Viper is? I can only imagine that was due to some last-minute reshuffling of the 1985 release plans.

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