It’s hard to believe that the DVD, which is already becoming an obsolete format, was still somewhat of a new concept in 2003. They’d been around for awhile at that point, but the price point had started to drop on players to the point households were usually in possession of at least one. So because it was a new format, and had a lot of storage capacity, all sorts of old films and more importantly television programs started to be offered on DVD. With 80s Nostalgia in full swing, it was prime opportunity to get old cartoons out on the market.
There was a DVD set produced of the first two G.I. Joe mini-series, and there was a pack-in figure, a blue redeco of the commonly seen Snake Eyes v1 mold. I’m not entirely sure why there was a pack-in figure. Maybe it’s because G.I. Joes are fairly small and compact and that made it doable. My other theory is the fact that hardcore G.I. Joe collectors have predominantly been comic book fans, and even in 2003 when the sheepish and questionable “We gotta support the line” mindset was in full force, the DVD set probably needed all the help it could get, to move 25,000 units.
When this Snake Eyes figure first appeared, it went for stupid prices on eBay, because there was a mystique behind the figure, as it and the DVD set hadn’t been announced, and there was a theory that this figure was variant on the Toyfare exclusive Snake Eyes, from the 2 pack with Scarlett. It’s funny how things like that were able to take hold, considering that the paint apps between this Snake Eyes, and the Toyfare one are similar, but not the same.
However, the figure wasn’t a variant, and was released, but it was also still available from Chinese eBay sellers, almost a decade after it’s release. That’s how I got this figure, because I’ve never really had the interest in re-watching any of the G.I. Joe cartoons, even though I’m not really sure as to why. However, it didn’t stop me from posting this article, the week of the debut of the first mini-series, where this figure’s design originated.
This figure isn’t a perfect rendition of the Snake Eyes from the mini-series, and while it would’ve been cool to see the Snake Eyes with purple and black highlights, and bare fists, the way this figure was coloured, probably translated better to action figure form, and is also a little more grounded in G.I. Joe’s toy universe. I know there are people that’ve complained about the media representations and the figure representations not matching, to me, that hasn’t always been a problem. Plus, the Comic Pack figures showed that sometimes what looks good in print doesn’t look good on a figure. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with conscious nods to past media, in fact that’s something that has been lacking with a lot of G.I. Joe figures, but doing so in a way that allows them to fit in with other G.I. Joe toys should also be tantamount.
This Snake Eyes is a deep blue, it’s a darker, and overall different shade than what was used for COBRA blue, but it’s still kind of close to it. While the base colouring is very COBRA in theory, the green, charcoal and brown leather highlight colouring tend to negate that. His overall colouring still seems quite Joe-ish, to me at least. Though it’s still somewhat ambiguous, which I think is kind of neat, because up until the first Cartoon mini-series, I think a lot of people just assumed Snake Eyes was a bad guy. Friend of the blog, PAINT-WIPES told me as a kid he used Snake Eyes as a smuggler and thief, early on. Snake Eyes’ having “Snake” in his name, his all black colouring and the mask were obvious tropes of a villain. I know a lot of people often mention not finding the Comic until after they’d found the figures.
I’ve spoken about the character I’ve developed (with help) for Snake Eyes, numerous times. This figure fits well with that character, to me. By wearing such a dark blue, he’s showing the he’s not actually affiliated with G.I. Joe, and since it’s not actually COBRA blue, that squashes any other questions, as well. Snake Eyes not being a Joe, but also not being an outright bad guy is a thing that allows me to enjoy the character a lot more, without having to change the character in any way. He was a self interested dude who went AWOL for revenge like a year into the comic. Hell, he almost assassinates Adele Burkhart in issue #1, because he disagrees with her politics, this is one of those things massaged away, later on, but it shows that Snake Eyes isn’t really the dependable soldier the Joe team was built upon.
Snake Eyes as the lone wolf, has it’s merits, but it gets to be too much in the team situation that G.I. Joe maintains. Having him be disconnected from the Joe team, but also someone that can be drawn in whenever the need arises, helps keep everything fresh in my mind. Otherwise it becomes a question of “Why isn’t Snake Eyes here?”.
For a long time, and probably still, this rendition of Snake Eyes was my preferred look for the character. He had the darkness that was the character’s trademark, but he was also a much more colourful take on the figure, and the blue instead of black was something new. Since then, there’s been a few more takes on this mold that were in other colours, but this is still pretty unique, and has the ability to blend in with a good percentage of the swivel neck Joes produced over the years.
One thing I’ve noticed about the figures from the repaint era, is a lot of them really don’t mesh with vintage figures, as well as one would hope. The usage of new colours and hues not seen in the vintage line is a big contributor to that, as are the strange skin tones, and the dearth of painted details. This Snake Eyes features a lot of paint apps, which helps him blend in with vintage Joe figures quite well. I don’t think too much from the repaint era are worth using with vintage figures, but this Snake Eyes is probably at the top of the list for those that work.
This version, like all Hasbro Snake Eyes released from 1997-2005 features the hated Roadblock version 2 waist. It’s one of those things that after 25 years I’ve gotten used to, and it doesn’t bug me the way it used to. The usage of this waist goes back to the 1997 line where there wound up being a bunch of issues with the availability of some molds. In 1997 there was supposed to be a use of the 1985 mold in the Commando 3-pack, and the classic 82-83 mold in the Stars and Stripes set.
For some reason, with the 85 mold going missing, there was some chicanery with the 1982-83 mold. The worst thing about this, was the 1997 Grunt figure, was the 82-83 Snake Eyes but with a head swap. It’s convoluted and dumb, and that’s a very fitting description of the entire 1997-2005 era of G.I. Joe. Still it’s a poor choice of replacement body part, and Hasbro’s other favourite, the 1984 Roadblock waist, likely would’ve been a much better fit for the 82 mold, but that’s neither here nor there at this point.
At the end of the day, Snake Eyes casts a very large shadow over the G.I. Joe universe, I’m not sure if it’s because he has a lot of figures, or if he has a lot of figures because of how important he is. It’s arguable either way. I don’t really mind though, because if there’s one thing Snake Eyes is good for, it’s that he’s an easy subject to write something about, without ever having to do too much thinking.
Snake Eyes’ importance to G.I. Joe is problematic in some ways, as evidenced by the failure of the movie centred around him. He’s cool, and therefore should be used as a way to hook people onto G.I. Joe, but he’s not something that can carry the franchise, and there needs to be a decent story and supporting core of characters behind him for it work.