1987 Pom-Pom Gun

1987 Pom-Pom Gun

Happy April Fools nerds, and in the tradition of this blog I highlight something goofy, but in earnest. So here’s the Pom-Pom Gun, part of the Motorized Action Packs. Somewhere between a vehicle and an accessory, each each Action Pack had a wind-up gimmick, where you give it a good few twists and let it do whatever it wants. Most of these look incredibly silly, hence why I chose it for today.

motorized action pack pom-pom gun gi joe vintage arah cobraIn spite of that, the Pom Pom Gun is only mostly silly? It’s basically just a little motorized gun emplacement, so there’s really nothing terrible about that at face value. About half of the Motorized Action Packs were pretty neat like this, with the real comedy-gold being the Motorized Vehicle Packs from 1988. So there’s sillier things to write about, but I’ve never sought out any of these, and only own this Pom-Pom Gun by chance. Before resellers took over the market, something I used to love about lots was the typical acquisition of some oddity I’d normally never pursue.

It operates in two forms: On the ground with the handles turned backwards or on a figure’s back, connected via a standard backpack peg. On a figure’s back it looks pretty uncomfortable, and I can’t quite imagine anyone firing it this way. Of course, it’s comically heavy even in action-figure form, so good luck getting a figure to stand with it. Hasbro tossed around figure stands so much back in the day, but didn’t seem deem one necessary here.

Deployed to the ground, it actually looks okay. Unfortunately the aforementioned backpack peg faces the front, which is a bit distracting. A figure is required to hold the gun up in a firing position, which makes using it somewhat of a balancing act. The grips are also thicker than I like using, but it might be a little more stable if I wasn’t scared of breaking a thumb on a novelty item 37 years from it’s release.

To the best of my knowledge, these were priced about the same as a figure when they came out: a little less than $3. You don’t get much here for that price (in eighties money, it’d be okay now of course), and it’s odd when you consider that something like Zanzibar with his Air Skiff was only a dollar and a half more. Other decently sized vehicles were only a few coins more expensive than this. For me, it’s pretty hard to imagine a kid going into Sears or wherever and choosing any of the Motorized Action Packs over one of their contemporary vehicles, just for the sheer difference in size. It’s a poor upsell, which I presume is why they opted to start bundling similar items with premium priced figures in the 90‘s (Sonic Fighters and DEF).

If you wait for an auction, you can get one for less than a dollar. If you want one for whatever reason and can’t wait, they sell for around $6. Suffice to say, these are the GI Joe toys nobody ever wanted, not when they came out, and certainly not now. Personally, I might add a few more to my collection; they do have a very nice retro feeling to them, and break up my often stagnant Joe world for a low price. Though, I’ll probably forget I said that in a week or two and never make good on it.

motorized action pack pom-pom gun gi joe vintage arah cobra

There’s No Other Content with This Thing, so Here’s my Other April Fools Posts:

2004 Dreadhead Joe-Bob

2001 Big Brawler

1993 Dinohunters Dinosaur

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2004 Venom Striker ATV

2004 Venom Striker ATV

If you’d believe it, at one point in my life I felt really bummed out that I didn’t pay more attention to the Spy Troops and Valor vs Venom figures. When I started in on 25th Joes in 2007, I discovered the Dollar General single cards that were still floating around, and went around picking up a small collection of those to play with. They weren’t as good as 25th Joes, but for $3 a piece, I was willing to lower my standards. Checking the net, I saw what seemed like a plethora of vehicles that had by then vacated retail, to my regret. The Venom Striker ATV was something that stood out to me, in particular.

Cobra C.L.A.W.S. Venom Striker ATV Valor vs Venom 2004 GI joe vehicle

Yet, I’m not here to tell you about how this was a lost era of great vehicles, actually the opposite: this thing is lame. Kind of. A common argument you see against the 6-inch scale is “But at that size, you can’t have any fun vehicles!”, which I find funny since Hasbro’s hardly produced a handful of decent designs since ARAH died in ‘94. The Venom Striker ATV is a good example of what I mean, as while the design is relatively simple, it’s also inferior in almost every way to a simple retool of the Ferret from twenty years prior.

The two vehicles are similar in a lot of ways, right down to having almost the same profile, at least when you ignore the gunner station of the back of the Venom Striker. I feel this invites more unflattering comparisons than you’d see for something like the Quick Strike, as while that vehicle had a similar design philosophy, it’s also more unique, so it’s harder to point to something from ARAH to show the 2000‘s design’s inferiority.

Many basic features on the Venom Striker ATV seem to be sacrificed in favor of spring loaded nonsense, sound boxes and missile launchers. At the very least one thing I wouldn’t call the vehicle is cheap, as they loaded down with little gimmicks that certainly cost some money. It’s just that the gimmicks compromise almost every aspect of the vehicle. It’s sound box for example, is problematic in multiple ways: One, is that they put a delicate electronic in a vehicle that’s inherently built around outdoorsy play. ATV’s are something I associate with rolling fast through mud and rivers; something probably damaging to the toy’s electronics. Secondly, the underbody of the vehicle is almost a total square: The cool and aerodynamic frame of an ATV is completely bowdlerized here, represented as something that probably has the ground clearance of a forklift. Thirdly, the wheels don’t turn, and there’s no functioning suspension. The vehicle can only roll straight forward, and due to it’s weight, it can’t even roll very fast. Although it’s much more robust than the Ferret, this one quality alone makes the Venom Striker an embarrassing showing.

It gets worse: The gun station in the back is spring-loaded, and can’t even be aimed freely on it’s horizontal axis. It’s also fairly flimsy, and the top half off the guns pop off just while posing a figure on it. Another big flaw is the size of the handle-bars: they’re huge! Even the included Cobra CLAWs can barely hold onto either set of handle-bars, and turret controls are also stupidly far apart on top of that. I was shocked when I first obtained the Venom Striker years ago at just how poorly done the turret is, as it feels like it’s the highlight of the vehicle in terms of design, yet it’s also almost deliberately hampered in such strange ways. Playing with this vehicle is like having a corporate suit standing over your shoulder, micromanaging every aspect of how you use it.

Still, I never knew any of how bad this thing is until just a few years ago. I didn’t pay attention to GI Joe when it came out, and a few years after it was gone, I had only crumby photos on a few sites to judge it by. From that, it looked great, and it jived well with a mind that had played a few too many shooter games featuring fantasy ATV’s with big gun turrets in the back. ATV’s seemed like they were really trendy around the time this came out, which really only further calls into question why the quality here is so poor.

So what’s the Venom Striker ATV worth? What’s it “worth” indeed… You can get a BIN with no trouble for $10, though that’s almost always missing the Cobra CLAWs that came with it. It should probably be worth less than that, but auctions are far and few between. Still, this is a shabby vehicle; I enjoy having it as it brings me a since of closure from a curiosity I had years ago, but otherwise it’s probably one of the crappiest 2000‘s vehicles I’ve handled.

Cobra C.L.A.W.S. Venom Striker ATV Valor vs Venom 2004 GI joe vehicleCobra C.L.A.W.S. Venom Striker ATV Valor vs Venom 2004 GI joe vehicle

2004 Venom Striker ATV Links:

None… But if you have some cool photos of it somewhere, you can throw ’em in the comments.

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2000 Law & Order

2000 Law & Order

The 2000‘s ARAHC line is pretty boring when taken in as a whole, which I think is part of why contemporary collectors of the time tend to hold it in low regard. I personally like the toys pretty well, but that’s because I got most of them years after the fact for pennies, mixed in with other 2000‘s repaints that gave me better variety. It changes your perspective a lot, as a bunch of grimy brown and grey figures seem more fun when mixed with oddities from 1997 or the Valor vs Venom 6-packs. Still, most of these figures make me strain for words on this blog, so I think that points to them being pretty boring, even if I like them okay.

V1 Law & Order was released three times by Hasbro, and fortunately all three color-schemes are pretty good. At a time, the 1987 figure irritated some people for the orange shirt (which doesn’t seem like it should matter much for an MP), but the subsequent Sonic Fighters figure and ARAHC figure fix that, giving him a totally neutral color-scheme. So if you prefer a Law who’s a little less flashy looking, you have two good options that are also nicely distinct.

Taking a broader perspective, it’s nice that he exists, but these colors are pretty boring. His jacket is navy while his pants are a mahogany brown, but whenever I recall this figure, I just remember him being solid brown (incidentally, the Funskool version is solid brown). The color choices themselves aren’t bad, though if the contrast was a bit stronger I think he would not seem like so much of a blur. If the blue was a closer tone to Sure Fire or the Dusty he came packaged with, it would’ve been better. For that reason, I see the figure as mostly inferior to the nicer ‘90 release, but I appreciate him either way.

Law’s head sculpt is based on Kirk Bozigian, which is an interesting bit of trivia. It’s on the softer end of ‘87 sculpts, but the figure looks pretty good overall. 1987 was a real sweet-spot for sculpts, as we saw the bulbous heads of ‘86 being walked back, and the designers had also moved past the sometimes odd proportions of the ‘85 line. It was also well before the often busy looking designs you saw in ‘89 and later, so figures like Law have a simple, down to earth look like most of the early Joes.

For accessories, you get his helmet, uzi, Law, a leash, and baton, the full Law & Order V1 load-out. The accessories are all similar to the originals, but a wee-bit different: this time the uzi comes in silver, the MP design on the helmet is different, and notably Order has more paint. The last one should be a good thing, but I think Order might by the weakest Joe-dog of them all. Mostly, it’s the expression: it has much more of lip-curled and dejected look than the intense growl seen on Junkyard and Timber. The pose and fur are both nice, though he’s not my favorite pet for his face.

2000 Law & Order is still cheap… When you find one cheap. Practically all of the figures you see for sale are carded examples, and are almost exclusively BiN’s. Still, auctions for the carded set with Dusty (who’s pretty neat, too), only hit around $16, and fair-minded sellers will sometimes only ask for $20 if it isn’t an auction. Since he has the original accessories, it makes this figure a decent option, though just in terms of colors, the last two were probably better.

gi joe arahc law and order 2000 v4gi joe arahc law and order 2000 v4

2000 Law & Order Links:

Forgotten Figures

Attica Gazette

Joe A Day

GeneralsJoes

Half the Battle

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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

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Joe A Day

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1988 Sgt. Slaughter

1988 Sgt. Slaughter

I don’t know a lot about wrestling, and generally speaking I don’t like celebrities either. So normally I’d be against anything to do with a celebrity crossover inside my precious military fantasy, but the Sarge is an exception. To me, Sgt. Slaughter is a GI Joe icon; He’s the face of the brand in a way Duke could never be, partly because he encapsulates something of 80‘s culture* that’s lost now. Also, he’s on Twitter and is incredibly nice to GI Joe fans to this day, so it’s hard not to like him. With that said, here’s the less-seen V3 Sgt. Slaughter.

*One of my vague statements that’s probably more amusing left to interpretation. A team of elite American soldiers recruiting a famous wrestler to be their drill sergeant, and help them win fistfights against ancient aliens and terrorist leaders made from the DNA of history’s baddest dudes, is so over-the-top and unashamedly macho. GI Joe seemed a lot less like propaganda for the war machine, but rather a collection of anything cool that would make a boy’s imagination run wild. Ninjas, laser guns, big tanks, killer robots, ninja women in tights, some heavy metal lookin’ dudes; tossing in Sgt. Slaughter kind of gives you the essence of the brand in a nutshell. It’s also something they’ve never recreated in the roughly four decades since.

This Slaughter was the included Driver for the Warthog A.I.F.V., which is a pairing that only makes sense when you think about that fact that Slaughter probably helped move a ton of these vehicles off shelves. With the Triple T, that felt a lot more like an excuse to upcharge for Sgt. Slaughter, but at least with this version he’s actually included with one of the best vehicles ever made. 1988 was a good year for GI Joe in general, but the vehicles especially were better than average.

1988 Sgt. Slaughter stands apart from the first two releases by switching out his more standard outfits for a stereotypical GI Joe design. The result is something that feels well integrated with the line at the time, at the cost of seeming much more generic than the previous two Sgt. Slaughter figures. This version of the Sarge looks like it could easily have been some random Joe just with a head swap, which is a good thing or a bad thing depending upon how you look at it.

It’s a strong figure besides being mildly generic though. The sculpt is nice and sharp, especially around the chest with those bullets and a few other details. The head’s a little large and soft, but it doesn’t bother me too much, since he has a removable hat. Normally I’d prefer a sharper sculpt to a removable piece of headgear, though one of the strengths of this figure is that he’s different enough from the last two Slaughters, so the compromise is worth it in return for something new.

Speaking of the hat, it’s his only accessory, so that’s about it for this paragraph. Kinda weird he’s got an ammo belt sculpted onto him and nothing it goes to, but later vehicle drivers tended to cut corners like that. My introduction to the GI Joe media was an old VHS recording of GI Joe:THE MOVIE, and the Terror Drome infiltration scene was always one of my favorite parts. I think because of that, I tend to pair him with Cobra weapons I imagine he’s stolen while fighting behind enemy lines. That’s how I rationalize the bullets too: He picked them up as spare ammo after raiding a Cobra armory.

1988 Sgt. Slaughters are harder to find than others, and are somewhat pricey at the moment, consistently hitting between $20 to $30 for a good example. Being an ‘88 figure that’s tied to a mid-sized vehicle probably means there’s less of them out there, though the relative scarcity would be offset by the fact that this is the least memorable Sgt. Slaughter figure (I put Slaughter’s Marauder’s ahead of him, since at least he had a sub-team named after him). This is a lot more than I paid for my example years ago, but the seller’s market fades slowly, and Sgt. Slaughter appeals to more than one fandom, so it makes sense.

gi joe sgt. slaughter wwf hasbro vintage 1988 v3 warthog vehicle driver gi joe sgt. slaughter wwf hasbro vintage 1988 v3 warthog vehicle drivergi joe sgt. slaughter wwf hasbro vintage 1988 v3 warthog vehicle driver

1988 Sgt. Slaughter Links:

Attica Gazette

Forgotten Figures

Half the Battle

3D Joes

Joe A Day

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1986 LCV Recon Sled

1986 LCV Recon Sled

Back in the day before eBay was saturated with flippers desperate for small change, you could get good deals on figure lots. Sometimes this made for some acquisitions one would normally not go out of their way to pursue, like large armies of Frag Vipers. Another time I got a good deal on a lot of Mega Marines, which also featured the LCV Recon Sled, a vehicle I normally would have never touched if it wasn’t tossed in for free.

The LCV Recon Sled is horribly awkward. It looks like you should be able to put a figure on in a few different ways, but most of the time they just fall off if their arms aren’t deeply planted in the little holes under the canopy. When a figure is riding it, their legs always tend to spread out in an odd way that looks unnatural. It’s funny too, because it’s hinged body is supposed to allow for “adjustable riding positions” according to the box, but it doesn’t really change much. Also, elevating the hinge makes a horrible snapping sound, and also makes it balance less well. Pretty lame.

The Joes have a very Rambo perspective on what the word “Recon” means, at least with the three guns the LCV Recon Sled’s toting around. Two machine guns are mounted at the front of the vehicle, and there’s a rotating cannon in the back. Amusingly, the cannon only rotates vertically a few degrees, and the machine-guns are fixed onto the front without moving at all! The fact that the weapons can’t be aimed makes them seem chintzy and more tacked-on, but it probably would’ve been too boring without them.

One of the most perplexing oddities of the vehicle is the date-stamp. It’s right up in the front, with big bold text where you can’t miss it when viewed from that angle. I didn’t realize until recently I’m missing the headlight that goes on the vehicle, but with a flaw like that I’m not sure I’m all too fussed about it. There’s room under it’s main body for the date-stamp, so I’m not sure why they put it in such an ugly spot.

All of these problems aside, I can’t really bring myself to hate it, and there’s a few cool aspects to it too. Most notably it’s a nice aesthetic match to the HAVOC; which is a little odd, since the HAVOC already has a hover-craft, so why does it need a recon bike/sled thing? Either way, it’s nice having a little more of that spacey-military thing they were doing in ‘86. The overall shape is distinct and looks kind of cool, which is more than you can say for the Marauder (Though, that’s digging pretty deep to find something worse.).

There’s something else to it, but I have a hard time describing it: The simplicity of 80‘s Joe, maybe? It’s hard to say anything nice about this thing, but scrolling through the worst ARAH vehicles still makes me jealous of that 80‘s kid experience. Keeping things in perspective, it’s a shitty vehicle, but it’s not that shitty, and it’s something that was cheap enough you could’ve had it for a day you got sick or while visiting grandparents. Go to a WalMart now (practically the last toy store…) and you won’t find anything like this anymore. The sled deserves some ridicule, but modern toys and culture has a sobering effect on the scraps from 4 decades ago.

A decent LCV Recon Sled runs in the $10 range, for a few more dollars you can get one with the blueprints or even the box. The periscope is usually what’s missing, though it doesn’t really make the vehicle expensive when it’s intact. It’s a lame little vehicle and the pricing still reflects that, though as a freebie I’ve probably gotten my money’s worth out of it.

GI Joe 1986 LCV Recon Sled Beachhead Bazooka Hasbro vintageGI Joe 1986 LCV Recon Sled Beachhead Bazooka Hasbro vintage

1986 LCV Recon Sled Links:

Attica Gazette

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1989 Muskrat (Night Force)

1989 Muskrat (Night Force)

Collectors really suck the fun out of things, don’t we? The Night Force is one of those subjects: It’s an undeniably cool sub-team, but seeing mass produced children’s toys hit upwards of $200 makes one call so much into question. Are they that rare? Are they that cool? Are they that much better than the normal versions that are barely worth 10% of that? The hype around them makes it hard to really form an objective opinion on the toys, regardless of it’s good or bad.

Muskrat here could be chalked up to one of the more mid-tier Night Force entries. The original ‘88 Muskrat was already an especially strong figure, and this recolor doesn’t change that very much. A major positive is that he now features an extra color, where V1 Muskrat was entirely green with some black details, Night Force Muskrat now has black pants that contrast with his blue vest and various olive details. The olive and black colors are pretty standard fare for the Night-Force, but the dark blue was a more unusual choice, only appearing on Muskrat and Charbroil from the same year. It looks a little Cobra-esque to me, but I like it; it makes the group more interesting for the addition. Also, for whatever it’s worth it’s almost the same color later seen on Battle Corps Muskrat (who I hate).

I think the added color makes him a tiny bit better than V1 Muskrat. Despite that, the difference in quality is negligible, and were it not for the fact that I got this one in a nifty lot, I’d probably never pursue him. He doesn’t really do anything that a normal Muskrat doesn’t already look good enough doing, and I really don’t have a compulsive desire to own everything Night Force like I might feel for Tiger Force or Python Patrol. That’s not to say anything bad about this figure, but he just seems kind of interchangeable with a normal figure, compared to the more theme-heavy sub-teams. I’ve sometimes wondered if Night Force was meant to stand on it’s own a little less, given their limited nature as TRU exclusives and the fact there was barely enough figures to fully crew some of their vehicles.

An oddity about these figures I’ve encountered is that they always have either super-tight joints or broken leg-pins. My Muskrat has a dead knee and Crazylegs had two, but my Tunnel Rat is so tight I get scared posing him. The plastic on the figures feels solid, so it’s not like the Slaughter’s Marauders stuff, it’s just like the plastic tolerances themselves were off. Or maybe I’ve just not been lucky with the four or so figures I own, you guys tell me.

Muskrat includes a Benelli Super 90 shotgun (Some folks call it an M3 or M4, but the M3 wasn’t even produced until ’89.), a machete and a boogie board just like the original, just now all in black. The original had a baby-blue machete, so it’s a bit of an upgrade, though these parts showed up in a lot of places in black. Numerous ‘93 and ‘94 figures had similar accessories, so this one’s not really unique for that. The boogie board is unique, but also not really something I find much value in having, since I never use the green one either.

So the last Night Force Muskrat, with all of his parts, went at auction for $204… Incomplete figures trend between $70 and $50, with the boogie board being the hard part to come by (makes ya wonder about all those machetes and shotguns). The part I find bewildering, is the sort of vacant reasoning for why you’d pay that much for this figure. He’s cool, but for $200 wouldn’t you want an exotic foreign figure, or maybe some odd mail-away? A squad of rarer army-builders? A convention figure? Even with current pricing, there’s a lot of more interesting items you could chase in that price bracket than the Night Force repaint of a relative no-name. The world wonders.

Gi joe night force muskrat arah 1989 1988 toys r usGi joe night force muskrat arah 1989 1988 toys r usGi joe night force muskrat arah 1989 1988 toys r us

1989 Muskrat (Night Force) Links:

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2004 Cobra Infantry Forces Trooper

2004 Cobra Infantry Forces Trooper

I sometimes have wondered what there is for me to say about the Toys R” Us Cobra Infantry Forces, that hasn’t already been said more cogently by someone with more relation to it as an adult at the time. I was around 10 when this set came out, so perhaps the only thing relatively interesting I could tell you is some oddball kid-gripes that are mostly regurgitated sentiments I’ve shared on other topics regarding 2000‘s Joes. Though I guess other than that, Cobra Troopers are cool as crap aren’t they?

Cobra Troopers Infantry Forces 2004 Toys R Us 6-pack valor vs. venom

I didn’t buy many GI Joes as a kid. Mainly because I only had enough money to go after one or two toy lines, and for me that was mostly Transformers, Gundam, and ZOIDS (If you remember Zoids, bless your heart.). I didn’t dislike GI Joe either, but it’s lack of contemporary media and questionable retail offerings meant that I never felt compelled to buy new ones when for all intents and purposes, my brother’s tub of figures (along with my small collection of clearance figures) was plenty good enough.

That wasn’t to say I was content with the Joes we had per se, rather, just that the average New Sculpt figure had about as much appeal to me as the worst 90‘s redesign. Swapping Grunt V3 for Grunt V5 is a prospect with little appeal, even then. I knew the GI Joe characters only through Sunbow, which I managed to watch a few times though USA, Toonami and a few old VHS tapes. So the only two things I would want from GI Joe would be the characters I knew, and good looking generics that didn’t need a character, stuff exactly like the TRU 6-packs.

Which is how we get back around to the Cobra Infantry Forces, and why I never bought them as a kid: I never knew about them until they were gone! As egregious as half of them were, these 6-packs were exactly what I wanted from Joe back then. It’s just that I seldom ever went to TRU, so I didn’t even know about these until I saw the stagnant remains of the Green Shirts and Cobra Imperial Procession in late ‘05 or possibly ‘06. I really wanted some generic Cobras and Green Shirts to play with back then, since they were just fun soldier toys and a little more plausible looking than what I had. Instead though, these were made blink-and-miss-it collector items while kids were expected to be more concerned with the likes of Hi-Tech, Coil Crusher and Venomous Maximus.

Anyways, the figures are nice. As far as I’m aware more of the figure is newly tooled than not, as the torso and possibly the legs were new castings based on the original Trooper sculpt. There’s not much of a notable difference besides a bit of bulk on the new one. The arms were swapped for Thunder arms, which was a good choice both for looking the part and also for being some old sculpting from ‘84. Of course, the head is a new sculpt, and in the fashion of the Comic Pack figures, it’s way smaller than the original. It looks weird when you pose them with 80‘s figures, but they’re actually not such a bad match for some of the 90‘s sculpting, which provides a lot of novelty to me still.

The Cobras in the set have some new details, like little patches tampographed on the side of their arms. It looks pretty nice, though I wish they hadn’t done these and the Cobra symbol in such an orange tone. They’re also multi-ethnic, which is pretty cool. At one point I had wanted to collect a lopsided amount of black Troopers, to have as region specific troops in Africa. Never got more than one spare, but maybe one day I’ll go back and do that still. The Officer and Squad Leader from the set have more detail and color variety, though I think the Cobra Troopers may have come out best for taking a simple approach.

Infamously, every figure in the set came equipped with a Rock Viper PSG1 and a SAW Viper backpack. Really, that gun’s not even a bad sculpt, but the excessiveness of giving them to every Cobra Trooper in existence is mildly absurd, I think this is partly what gave the sculpt a bad reputation. It was a lot harder to get decent Joe guns back then, so you can probably thank this 6-pack for Marauder’s Gun Runners even existing today. At least there weren’t any Sound Attack tabs on these.

Cobra Troopers Infantry Forces 2004 Toys R Us 6-pack valor vs. venom

Taken from a current eBay auction.

There’s an alternate set of head sculpts for these that would’ve had removable helmets. Sounds like a cool gimmick, but they looked way worse for it. The first heads were noticeably more pencil-necked than the ones that replaced them, and the helmets looked really wide and lame. Here’s a Forgotten Figures post on some loose samples.

A large appeal of these figures is that they’ve always been Cobras for poor people, essentially. You can get carded sets for around $50, and loose figures (usually sans the PSG1) for $12. Twenty years in and these don’t seem to be spontaneously degrading like a lot of figures from the period, so that’s something you might not have to worry about. They cost a little less than a squad of Troops from The Black Major, and imagine his figures have probably helped keep prices relatively low on these.

Cobra Troopers Infantry Forces 2004 Toys R Us 6-pack valor vs. venomCobra Troopers Infantry Forces 2004 Toys R Us 6-pack valor vs. venomCobra Troopers Infantry Forces 2004 Toys R Us 6-pack valor vs. venom

2004 Cobra Infantry Forces Trooper Links:

Forgotten Figures

Half the Battle

Joe A Day

JoeBattlelines

GeneralsJoes

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2002 Roadblock

2002 Roadblock

Mmm, nothin’ I love more than a good ol’ sloppy BJ- …’s exclusive repaint of a classic Joe mold! BJ’s Wholesale, how many of you have ever been to one of those stores?!?! If not for this 8-pack I probably wouldn’t know what that even was, which makes me somewhat glad I was too young to be around for the hassle of getting this crap when it was new. Anyways, here’s an ugly Roadblock toy I’ve photographed at least twice.

Color wise, Roadblock V8 here seems like he could have some promise, being that it is just the full ‘84 Roadblock mold in Cobra blue for the upper half. I’ve always thought the figure seems like it would have some decent custom potential, but really the appeal ends there. Because of the haphazard coloring, his torso is solid blue despite wearing a tank-top, so it looks really weird and there’s no real illusion that’s he’s wearing some kind of body-suit. His bare arms are painted like sleeves, though it doesn’t really bother me as much as his torso. As an added bit of fun, the lower half is made of marbled plastic, which also appears to be randomly yellowing on my copy like with many other figures from around that period.

The BJ’s 8-pack figures generally find their strength in their oddness, with figures like Firefly that don’t really serve a purpose, but also seem like something you’d never logically expect to get made. It’s similar to the weird Funskool releases, where there’s a lot of novelty value in having a purple Tripwire. Coming back around to Roadblock, a big problem with him is that he’s too bland to really have any appeal as an oddity, yet also too cheap and random to fit anywhere else in a collection. Because of this, he might be my least favorite figure from the set.

An alternate coloration was used on some early pre-production versions of this Roadblock, which switched the blue for a bright red. It definitely looks way worse, so I’m glad for the one we wound up with. If I had to guess, I assume someone must have gotten the colors mixed up at the factory, as there seems to be a pretty strong theme of red for the Cobras in the set.

The accessories included with the entire set strike me as somewhat comedic, which is a nice way of saying terrible. Roadblock here is loaded out with a SAW Viper machine gun (now featuring a Sound Attack tab on top), a silver V1 LAW uzi, and the ‘91 Dusty backpack in black, AKA, the most generic repaint-era backpack. The uzi is an alright weapon for tossing in a bin, but none of these parts are really exciting or memorable. Even if the SAW Viper gun wasn’t the Sound Attack version, it’s still a laughably oversized weapon that didn’t look good with the original figure, let alone V1 Roadblock’s sculpt.

So like many 2000‘s Joe items, what you pay for them has a lot more to do with your patience rather than what the figure’s actually worth. Dealers can get $20 for a complete figure with his filecard, but that’s probably a lot more than what the figure should go for at auction. Of course, there’s the aforementioned yellowing to look out for too, though any example you buy may be eventually prone to this. In better times eBay was saturated with all of the figures from this set, both domestically and from Chinese warehouses selling them for pennies.

gi joe bj's exclusive roadblock wetsuit 2002gi joe bj's exclusive roadblock wetsuit 2002

2002 Roadblock Links:

Forgotten Figures (Rarities – Alternate 2002 BJ’s Set)

Half the Battle

Joe A Day

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2009 Surveillance Port

2009 Surveillance Port

As a brief Walmart exclusive during the Rise of Cobra line, Hasbro unexpectedly released a series of Battle Station sets, most of which were previously thought to be “lost” forever. It was a rare example of fans asking for something over and over, finally getting it, and being happy enough for it to sell out in most areas before Christmas. Well, at least it sold out in my nerd-heavy town, there’s always that one guy who got a pile on clearance for a dollar in some state where nobody lives, but whatever.

GI Joe surveillance port cobra 1986 2009 roc walmart

Of course, there was a lot of bittersweetness in all of that: like the fact that the Battle Stations that were “gone forever” for years on end, were suddenly “found” just in time for the big movie push! It’s almost like no one was really trying to get the molds back whenever these were asked about before. I’m always really dubious of the “lost molds” excuse because of things like this, as to me it seems more like the revolving door of nobodies just can’t get invested enough (or stay on Joe for long enough) to bother finding them, but like with these sets, they’re out there. We were also going to get a Mauler release in ROC before the whole line was killed, makes ya’ think doesn’t it?

For the most part, the 2009 Surveillance Port is the exact same toy as the 1986 version. Some new colors might’ve been fun, but releasing it without many changes was also a welcome sight. The foot-pegs were altered to fit the smaller, 25th-style feet, and some new stickers were added. For the most part though, the two toys are practically interchangeable. Of course, the new one seems to be made of some insanely cheap plastic, as there’s odd stress marks all over various parts of the toy. I have two copies of the thing I bought new when they were released and both are like this, which is pretty lame. The decal sheet is probably the only source of any major changes, with new monitor stickers for the inside, and a standard Cobra marking replacing the unique design on the front. The new monitors are okay, but don’t contrast as well since the stickers are too dark now. I also don’t understand why they ditched the “snake binding a globe” decal, as it looks a lot more generic without it. Oh well.

The Surveillance Port itself is a very odd little toy, I’ve never been entirely sure what it does, besides surveil people. It seems a little excessive just for spy equipment, and with the guns it feels a little more like an improvised bunker or fortification of some sort. I somewhat speculate that it was really just meant to be a new Cobra Bunker with more play-value, but at the same time there’s nothing wrong with that, and I don’t know enough to make light of it. Some of the dumbest looking GI Joe items like V2 Mercer’s gun or the RPV were mostly based on real-world equipment, so you really never know.

Random bit of trivia: the smaller machine gun for the Surveillance Port is reused from the Slugger. So if you only have the gun from the Surveillance Port, you can use it as a substitute for the Slugger’s. It stands out a little bit more on the green ones, but it’s a decent match for the grey plastic of the ’97 release.

Like the other Battle Stations, the strength of the Surveillance Port was that it gave you a play environment at a very low price, about at much as a single-card in ‘86. For that much, it’s a very fun piece that interacts with figures nicely and has a solid amount of value for play or just to display. The 2009 release kept this appeal, as it retailed for a mere $14.99 and included two Anniversary-style figures, and a fold-out cardboard display. Since figures retailed for about $8 back then, it was a surprisingly generous offering.

Fair pricing for a 2009 Surveillance Port is similar to a 1986 one, probably because the toys themselves look fairly identical. So with a little hunting you can get one for around $20, even sealed. The Hobby Mafia will charge upwards of $75 for a BiN on this one, but that’s grossly overpriced if you compare it to what an auction tends to run. With that said, this set really doesn’t provide anything that the original doesn’t besides newer plastic, so it’s only worth considering as an alternative.

GI Joe surveillance port cobra 1986 2009 roc walmartGI Joe surveillance port cobra 1986 2009 roc walmart

2009 Surveillance Port Links:

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HISS Tank

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