1983 Quarrel (Action Force)

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The Action Force figures are one of the first forays into International collecting I made, the quality was the same, and they were affordable at the time. The Action Force exclusive Quarrel is also the one that made me rethink my opinions on female figures.

Quarrel is a swivel arm Scarlett repaint. It’s done up in black and green with blonde hair, since she’s got so many changes, she’s capable of being a new character. Plus when there’s like 3 early era female molds, it’s gonna be accepted at face value as a new character. While Quarrel’s blonde hair is unique from Scarlett, it was also used in Argentina for Glenda, which I don’t think anyone would have too many issues viewing as another new character itself.

Where this figure succeeds in a way that other uses of the Scarlett mold can’t, is she looks done-up for combat. The colours chosen work so much better, in comparison to Scarlett’s aerobics get-up. While she’s mainly in realistic green and black, there is still a few flashes of colour, with some red thrown on for highlights. It’s a good look, and also ties her in with the rest of Z-Force.

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The way this figure is painted, made me look at the Scarlett mold and appreciate it a lot more. I’d never been a fan of female figures, I assume some of it was gender biases as a kid, and some of it was the fact Scarlett is bland, Cover Girl has the worst head sculpt in the line after Clean Sweep, and The Baroness’ gun is the worst one in the line. I still dislike Cover Girl, but I feel Baroness looks better with an AK or Dragonuv, and the Scarlett mold isn’t that bad, and is at least uniquely coloured. Once you get past the leotard, the mold has a lot of weaponry sculpted on to it, like the throwing stars, and dagger. It also has the “Back-Up Piece” in case of needing a quick exit.

The Quarrel character is interesting, as she’s not really a spy, like most female characters, and is instead both a vicious fighter and motorcycle enthusiast! The martial arts aspect of the character, and the molded on accessories, sure make her seem like someone who liquidates high ranking targets, while the motorcycle specialty gives her something that allows her more traditional combat roles (traditional for G.I. Joe, that is)

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To me, she’s like most of the Action Force characters, and therefore not affiliated with the G.I. Joe team in any way. To me the Action Force teams, are specialized units under an international cadre’s command (just like in the Battle: Action Force comix), created because of rising terrorist activities, but also to minimize any one country having a monopoly on anti-terrorism, which could lead to some hot-button issues. This leads to the occasional dust-up between two teams technically on the “Same Side”, but usually the conflicts are done more through information (and disinformation) exchanges through the various organizations. Having this little intrigue is nice, because all of a sudden, a figure like Quarrel can be used in a few more scenarios.

Quarrel to me, has found herself being amongst the most notorious assassins in my silly little universe. She succeeds mainly based on her incredible skills, but also because she manages to be somewhat under the radar, since she’s known only as a Motorcycle Champion doing PR military service. The Z-Force Commando unit she’s actually a member of, realized this would be perfect cover, and has found her to be perfect for the liquidation of terrorist connected politicians and jet-setters, rather than the dyed in the wool terrorists like Scrap Iron or The Black Major.

This is a figure I like having, as it’s definitely different enough from Scarlett to not be stepping on any toes, and the character itself is something that can be worked into a traditional G.I. Joe world, without really making anyone too redundant, especially since most of the female characters in the line had poorly defined “Intelligence” specialties, which for a fairly integral part of warfare was highly misunderstood in G.I. Joe. It had looked like the original Scarlett mold was going to be used in Factory Customs at one point, so it would’ve been nice to get another take on the Quarrel character, or at least a few new color combinations on the Scarlett mold that would allow for an easy custom or what not.

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Great Moments In G.I. Joe History

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1989 HISS II

The 1983 HISS is probably the most iconic G.I. Joe vehicle, it’s easily identifiable, has a memorable name, and was super prevalent in the Toys, the cartoon, and the comic book, so in the late 1980s, when the G.I. Joe line started to reintroduce older characters back into the line, it wasn’t surprising that the HISS was the vehicle that was reintroduced into  G.I. Joe.

The HISS II, owes a lot of it’s design, to it’s predecessor from 1983, but rather than just re-hash the original, the designers took a lot of cues from the media interpretations of the original, which lead to the double seat cockpit, with the jaw-like entry system. While not perfect, the fact they were going from things seen in the early comic days shows that this was a vehicle that meant more to the line than say, the Devastator or Pulverizer. While they did take a lot of cues from the original HISS, there are still some of the late 80s Vehicle tropes on display, there’s the floating side rockets, the large gun and the troop carrier capacity. Honestly, none of these additions are a negative on the design. The HISS II is so much larger than a HISS, things like extra weapons make sense.

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The Troop carrier aspect, is definitely not perfect, and doesn’t really make a lot of sense if this is supposed to be a combat tank or High Speed Sentry, or whatever the hell a HISS actually is, but it’s a COBRA Command weapon, and most of the time those don’t make a lot of sense. Mine is missing the little bars that are supposed to keep the figures secure, but it’s not that big a deal to me, it’s a feature I’m fairly indifferent to. The highly detailed side panels aren’t as sleek as most HISS iterations, but it’s something new, and keeps it from being an overly plain design. The TRIPLE BARREL CANNON is terrible, and doesn’t look very good if elevated, I will however give Hasbro marks for the fact they did a little bit of sculpting on the bottom of the cannon, rather than just leave it smooth, like they would’ve anytime afterwards.

I’m fond of this vehicle, though I’m not entirely sure why. It’s an updated look for the HISS, but still not even the best update, as the DTC version is a superior toy. I think the large size of this vehicle is probably what impresses me the most about it, as it’s far bigger than the HISS, in fact it’s probably closer to the size I always felt the HISS should’ve been from the beginning. It’s far closer to the MOBAT, which  was the HISS’ typical dance partner in the early media. The colours aren’t too bad, the weird grey that COBRA went to in the 80s isn’t an eyesore, and LOTS OF RED WEAPONS has been their calling card since 1983. I also like that, despite the increase in size and such, the HISS Driver mold still looks good with it!

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The HISS II is a very seldom seen vehicle, it’s release year really didn’t do it any favours, as a lot of the late 80s vehicles aren’t often seen. It also likely would’ve been a far more desirable vehicle, had the 2005 DTC HISS V not existed, as that’s a vehicle that takes a lot of design cues from this HISS, but wraps them in a HISS I coating. I think Hasbro really conked the collector around, by not doing anything with the HISS II mold, despite having it. There were a couple of very easy repaints (Black or even Crimson) that weren’t done, and that kept a fairly high quality vehicle out of a lot of Collector’s hands.

Overall, though, it’s actually a fairly solid vehicle, given that it came out just as the decline in the overall quality of G.I. Joe vehicles began to really make itself evident. I’d like to think it having a historically relevant prior HISS helped, but that’s probably unlikely based on the existence of the FANG II.

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Great Moments In G.I. Joe History

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1984 Roadblock

The telling thing about the popularity of Roadblock, is the fact that he’s likely the most memorable character from the 1984 line. That year had Duke, Storm Shadow and Zartan. Few characters held the same popularity in both the Comic Book and the Cartoon, Roadblock was one of the few who managed it. It makes sense, because he’s larger than life, easily identifiable, and in both series was given a unique personality, that helped make him stand out from the seas of Ripcords and Footlooses. So, overall Roadblock wound up casting a very large shadow over the G.I. Joe line, so the various attempts by Hasbro to replace the character with a character named after one of their own, consistently fell flat, but Hasbro might’ve learned their lesson, when that wack movie where Roadblock was the main character did better at the box office, than the wack movie with Heavy Duty and Dennis Quaid.

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The 1984 figures are interesting, as the new figures tend to fall into two categories, a continuation of 1983, and a precursor of the 1985 figures. Roadblock definitely falls into the 83 camp, which makes sense, as he was the brand new Joe in the first 1984 Assortment (which was really dominated by the new COBRA Agents.) The sculpting is pretty good, and provides a lot of similarities to the earlier figures, but was also done in a way that made him stand out. His web gear is done to look like the design of the 82s, but also show how much of a giant he is, by the way it fits him. Roadblock gets a bit of derision for the fact he isn’t as muscular or bulky as he should be, which is true, especially in the arm region, but his torso actually has significant girth to it. It’s also sculpted in a way that show’s Roadblock is naturally a giant, rather than some gymrat.

The colouring used on Roadblock is something that showed a lot of desire to make him a unique figure. While the green camo tank top matches Stalker and Rip Cord, it’s also unique as usually if a figure is camo’d in one part of his uniform, it’s the legs. Roadblock’s legs were done up in a orangey-brown that wasn’t used on any other figure, which helps make the 1984 figure stand out so much.

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Roadblock’s accessories are very cool, even if the .50 Cal was overused in the 2 pack Era. His machine gun is massive, and includes a tripod, these were done up in the 1984 Green, which is still a very strange choice for a lot of that year’s accessories. His helmet is the 1982 helmet, but his isn’t supposed to have holes in the side. I don’t really find an issue either way, but it is something to pay attention to. His backpack is fragile as hell, as it’s got two pegs that can break, leaving it really ugly and useless. Why the ammo box was turned into a removable part, I won’t ever know. However the peg that allows the tripod to mount on it, is a very cool part and usually the most oft-broken piece. I really like it as it allows you to hook the .50 on the tripod and Roadblock is now standing around without having to hold the damn gun! Occasionally you’ll see people attach the tripod to the backpack, backwards. The photo below is the way it’s supposed to be.

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Roadblock is one of the greats of the G.I. Joe line, and if I had to choose who my favourite G.I. Joe to photograph is, I’d have to say that it’s the 1984 Roadblock. The figure stands out to me, as it’s got both the traditional pseudo-military realism of the early 80s, while also firmly placing itself as a unique individual. The 1984 Mold did see a lot of poorly done repaints in the 2000s, which is a shame because it hurts the legacy of this mold, while also not really providing any interesting or worthwhile takes on the figure. I also find it to be a bit of a shame that it’s been so overused, and it’s not particularly usable for any other characters that makes it a very unlikely candidate for a Factory Custom, even if I think it could look good in a few environmentally specific colour schemes.

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1987 Techno Viper

It’s wasn’t until 2019 where I actually purchased my first Techno Viper, the funniest thing about this figure, is it’s the first time I’d ever actually seen one in person. Mike T once said to me “You’ve got an Estrela Flash, but no Techno Vipers?” and right there I realized how ridiculous the whole thing was. I figured I better get myself the only carded army builder from 1987, the year COBRA Commander’s brain broke.

The Techno Viper is probably the first example of COBRA moving away from blue and into the glorious colour of purple, as their main battle togs. It’s something that happened, and might have even been done to color co-ordinate the Hasbro universe into Purple being the colour of evil. It works for the Decepticons, might as well work for COBRA Command, too. The combo of lavender and violet make up a visually appealing figure, even if it’s not what was typical of Cobra soldiers. It’s become such an iconic look I can’t actually imagine the Techno Viper in another colour scheme, that would look half as good.

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The Techno Viper is one very nice sculpt, it’s not covered in interesting textures, like most of the 87 COBRAs were, but the details on the figure are quite nice. The hoses and belts are all raised. His head sculpt is what surprised me the most. Since I’d never seen a Techno in person, I’d always thought the silver on his face was a visor, and that his head sculpt just didn’t match up with the card art, so to see there’s beady little black eyes, is quite cool. Turns out, I wasn’t the only person who had that thought process, as there’s some 2 hour podcast with Plastic Battles where at some point we discuss that. I really like the colours on the figure, because they remind me of the Foot Soldiers in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game. The best video game of all.

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The ball neck figures and the swivel neck figures are two distinct camps in my collection. I’ve turned over a new leaf in regards to post 84 figures, as I’ve had the vast majority of the swivel necks in my collection at one point or another, so it was needed to expand. However I don’t daydream about the role the Techno Viper has in my silly little universe, like I would about some neon green COBRA Trooper repaint, there isn’t really a role for the Techno Viper. If I cared about the 87-88 figures more than the “G.I. Joes from a different era” I view them as, the Techno Viper would probably be a figure I’d look at as a basic COBRA Infantry, more than likely armed with Hit & Run’s machine gun. Unfortunately, I don’t care that much! The Techno Viper’s role in my collection is pretty much the same as Sneak Peek’s, a toy that doesn’t really interact with others. I kind of like that, though, as it allows me to appreciate what G.I. Joe became, without fussing too much, or having it detract too much from the true appeal G.I. Joe has to me.

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1984 Storm Shadow

The 1984 Storm Shadow is probably the most iconic G.I. Joe of them all. He looks cool as hell, and might have been a real driving force for the Ninja Craze of the 1980s. His design is timeless, and this version is the most iconic look for a top 3 character in the entire line. So of course he’s a figure often missing all of his accessories and yellowed to match the colour of used tea bags. Such is the state of the COBRA ninja.

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Storm Shadow version 1 is an amazing figure. The sculpt includes lots of detail, and unlike the later Ninja Force figures, he doesn’t have grenades or guns strapped to his body. Just a couple of shuriken and a dagger. The white colouring is a classic, even if it’s the exact opposite of what one would think of when thinking of evil ninjas. One aspect of the figure that is hardly ever mentioned, is the unique eye paint app. Storm Shadow v1’s eyes are painted in a way that gives a far more Asian look to it. An under appreciated aspect of a great figure. He also included A LOT of really cool accessories, he has the opening backpack, the nunchucks, the bow and two swords. His swords and bow are probably a tad underscaled, but they still look great, and fit the figure well. His nunchucks are awesome, and probably the most brittle of all of his accessories.

The earliest years of the line placed an importance on accessories, every figure usually had some specific to them accessories that fit with their specialty. Some figures, could look okay when armed with other weapons, Storm Shadow isn’t one of those. His accessories are important to his overall presentation. Other ninja weapons don’t fit the figure the same way, even similar designed weapons like those of Quick Kick.

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Storm Shadow’s figure being white is a serious flaw, because no matter what, he’s going to yellow. It’s lends creedence to the theory that everything in life corrodes. It’s a hard thing to accept, but there’s going to be worse tragedies in your life.

Storm Shadow as a character is a bit of an issue. He became a Joe fairly early on, which is a good Story Arc, but I’ve never liked him being a Joe. I think part of it is the fact that the ninja isn’t really a “good guy” kind of job in my opinion, considering they’re hired killers and spies. To me, Storm Shadow got into COBRA, much the same way his character in the old Battle: Action Force comics did, he’d been committing a lot of assassinations, and was running out of both clients and places to run to. He got in with COBRA, because his skills were in demand, and he managed to stick with the organization. After a while he became  enough of a presence that’d he be able to keep everyone honest, and upon the elimination of a few people in his way, found himself in the cushy role of Cobra Commander’s personal escort. Rather than going out and ventilating people, he gets to stand with the Commander, and ensure there’s no one thinking about starting any funny business.

I also feel, that Storm Shadow is kind of better suited as a villain, because he was portrayed as being of incredible skill, so it balances out the sides somewhat better. When there are two unstoppable ninja killing machines, it’s a bit much, but it’s even more ridiculous when they’re both on the same side.

Storm Shadow is a character and idea that had a lasting impact on G.I. Joe. He was shipped for longer than the average Joe figure, and was responsible for numerous other Ninja characters coming into the G.I. Joe line. Storm Shadow was also part of the 80s Ninja Craze, and being a visible and popular character of a highly popular toyline probably did G.I. Joe some harm when said Ninja Craze allowed things like Ninja Turtles to become a thing.

This figure benefitted from the factory customs. There’s a Black Major version of the white Storm Shadow, that’s pretty obviously a factory custom, just based on a couple design changes and the fact it’s a brilliant white. I think this is a great thing, because it allows a very important design and colouring to be accessible and usable by collectors. A 35 year old figure you’re afraid to bring out into air and light isn’t really the fate a character like Storm Shadow deserves.

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