Sunbow Snake Eyes (Kid Rhino DVD 2003)

DVDSnakeEyes

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.

DVDSE2

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?”.

SunbowSnakeEyes

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.

DVDSE copy

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.

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Pictures Of G.I. Joes

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2021 Python Patrol W.O.R.M.S. (The Black Major)

As the sun on The Black Major’s days producing Factory Custom G.I. Joes begins to set, a lot of the final year’s product is previously seen molds, like the COBRA Trooper, the B.A.T. or the Crimson Guard. One of the previewed figures, the HISS Driver, was discussed at one point, so TBM making it, isn’t a huge surprise. One figure that wound up being produced, and might’ve been the biggest shock in how well they turned out, was the W.O.R.M.S.. I’ve always been a fan of the W.O.R.M.S. figure, and felt it could use some repaints, but I’d also be lying if I said it was a sculpt I’d choose, mainly due to my own tastes in figures. 

The 1987 W.O.R.M.S. is one of the highlights of the G.I. Joe line, it’s a really detailed and strong sculpt, that was only released as a vehicle driver. Sometimes there’s a mystique to vehicle drivers, where they seem somewhat better than they actually are, due to the reduced availability. The W.O.R.M.S. is one, where it would be just as good as a single carded figure. The W.O.R.M.S. sculpt was done well enough it’s initial use, that while there were potential repaints that would be good to see, the 1987 figure was good enough that if we didn’t get them, it wasn’t going to be a completely missed opportunity, like the way some molds didn’t even get a good original version, let alone repaint.

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As a mold, the W.O.R.M.S. is well done, and the design is really solid, to me it looks like a stylized WWII Nazi uniform, which is a fairly reasonable motif to be aping when trying to make a semi-realistic looking military villain. There’s some really intricate detailing, like the Totenkopf belt buckle (light year’s better than the attempt on Buzzer), as well as the medals.  While being a fairly dressy uniform, there’s enough weaponry on it, to show that the figure means business, with the pistol and the bad ass looking knife strapped to his boots. The strap and holster have some nice snap buttons sculpted onto it, which is one of those little details that could’ve been omitted and not been noticed, but at the same time were placed in, because the G.I. Joe sculptors of the time, would go a little farther, when they could, or the figure warranted it. 

When The Black Major does a mold, it’s pretty obvious which designs are going to appear, there’s usually a COBRA Blue, a Tiger Force, Arctic, and usually some form of Python Patrol. I’m a far bigger fan of the green 82-84 style Python Patrol rather than the grey 85-86 style Python Patrol. So I was glad that the W.O.R.M.S. was being done in the earlier green Python design, and even gladder when the design was being based off of the 1989 Python Trooper, rather than the 1989 Python Copperhead, which has been for the most part, the design The Black Major based his Python figures on, though had it been based on the later era Python Design, I think it still would’ve worked.

While I tend to like most of the Python Patrol figures that TBM makes, they have some warts. Usually the green isn’t a match for the classic Python figures, or usually even any of the other TBM Python figures. So, when getting this W.O.R.M.S. repaint in hand, I was thrilled to see it was a pretty solid match for the 1989 Python Patrol figures, and wasn’t the vibrant and often overly bright, shade of green that TBM figures tended to be. The colouring on the figure is really nice, because outside of the silver, all the colours used were those used on the 1989 Python figures, while the red and grey choices aren’t the same shades as the vintage figures, they’re close enough, and maintain the spirit of the originals. Which sometimes is all you can ask. 

The set up with the W.O.R.M.S. figures was interesting, they included the extra body parts that The Black Major got into producing, in 2020, this time it includes two extra heads, a caucasian Doc head, and a 91 Hooded COBRA Commander head. The extra torso was the 1984 Wild Weasel, which was included to make the Doc head useful. The Wild Weasel torso is very nice, because it has enough bulk to it, that it matches with the W.O.R.M.S. parts. Wild Weasel was also a figure that likely could’ve used a repaint or two, and honestly I probably wouldn’t have minded a factory custom run of the Wild Weasel mold, even if I don’t own any COBRA planes. I know the extra parts often added to the cost of the factory customs, and while I don’t have any use for the 91 Commander head, I didn’t mind them this time, as they provided some stuff never before seen, specifically the race-swapped Doc head.

The accessories included with the W.O.R.M.S. are probably the weakest part of the figure. The helmet (with antenna, which I think is super glued in, saving everyone’s precious aftermarket), is nice, and neat to see in different colouring, but the rest of the included parts are not as strong. There’s a pistol that was included with a Modern Error movie figure, that doesn’t look like anything, but it is pretty good, since it fits the figure and is well scaled. There’s also the Iron Grenadier giant uzi, and a Modern Error knife. There’s also a third of the Airborne CAR-15, but it’s useless, and not worth even discussing. It was nice to see some interesting parts, but I still would rather see classic and under-utilized accessories make appearances. Had he come with an ’86 Hawk pistol, the IG uzi, and Falcon’s Knife, the collector would be in hog heaven, but oh well, at least it saves us from the ranting and raving and moralizing about tricking new collectors.

Like the last recent Black Major release, there’s a definite step up in the plastic quality, there’s no real issues with joints or limbs being loose or flailing about, there’s no frozen swivels, and the paint apps are really tight (except for the COBRA sigil on the helmet, but it looks more like the helmet had slipped during the application). The overall figures feel better than a lot of the figures made in previous years, and are reminiscent of some of the highest quality TBM figures, like the run of De Aço figures he did. Honestly, the only quality issue I have with the figure, might not even be quality and just a modification, but the regular W.O.R.M.S. head isn’t fully articulated, as it’s only capable of moving up and down, without being able to go left and right. It’s pretty much the opposite of what the 1997 figures were capable of moving. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it did take a little bit to get used to.

The W.O.R.M.S. is one of those figures I hadn’t thought of, for a run of factory customs, but one I’m quite glad actually made it through. It’s a strong mold, and the quality is pretty high. It’s also a mold that only had two prior uses (one of which, was a terrible Convention figure), which makes these figures more a breath of fresh air, as well as something a little more unique to be added into G.I. Joe content, which oftentimes gets somewhat stale, with the same 20 to 30 figures making up a lot of the content out there on the internet, due to the combination of what’s newly released, and what are just overall popular figures. There’s also not an overbearing number of W.O.R.M.S. releases like some of the Alley Viper or Night Viper repaints wound up providing, and while there’s a couple more W.O.R.M.S. I wouldn’t mind seeing, if they don’t happen, I don’t really give a damn, because we’ve got more than enough as is.

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Differences between the various COBRA De Aço releases

COBRA De Aço or The Steel COBRA is one of the most notorious foreign releases in G.I. Joe. It’s a good design, and very unique, and unlike some foreign releases that would be a laughing stock if released in the domestic G.I. Joe line, is strong enough to stand beside regular G.I. Joe figures. The De Aço was shown off in one of the G.I. Joe trading card series, with a background claiming there was like under 10 known to exist or something, either way it wasn’t true, but it stuck in the mind of a lot of collectors.

Because the De Aço is well known, it was a figure that wound up finding life in the Factory Custom market. Both The Black Major and Red Laser’s Army wound up producing the figure, in a in nearly identical schemes to the Brazilian original. So here’s a quick run down on how to differentiate the three!

L to R: TBM, Estrela, Red Laser's Army

L to R: TBM, Estrela, Red Laser’s Army

The Estrela version is easy to ID by the smaller, and much higher centred COBRA logo.

The Black Major version has the lowest COBRA logo, and the two top pads on the chest are painted yellow.

Red Laser’s Army’s version has a higher logo, and the chroming on the head obscures most of the detailing on the head.

L to R: TBM, Estrela, Red Laser’s Army

Both the Factory Custom versions feature a nub on the figure’s left leg, this isn’t found on the Estrela original

 

L to R: TBM, Estrela, Red Laser’s Army

The Estrela version features raised ESTRELA markings on the figure’s back. It also has lower legs cast in black plastic with silver paint apps.

The Black Major’s version doesn’t feature any markings, and the lower legs are cast in silver plastic with black paint apps.

Red Laser’s Army’s version has no markings, silver lower legs, and features a very wide backpack hole.

The mold is originally a Black Major mold, according to a comment on Mike T’s website. If that is the case, it’s from the second run of De Aço figures, which featured a change in the backpack hole. TBM’s classic De Aço was only available with the smaller backpack hole.

LtoR: TBM, Estrela, RLA. A better view of the Estrela marking, as well as the lack of detailing on the RLA figure.

I’d like to extend a thanks to my friend Colin, at Colin’s Joes, for helping me acquire the Red Laser’s Army De Aço!

Sadly, the original intention for the Red Laser De Aço was for it to be a swivel arm figure, which didn’t come to be. This is a bummer because a swivel arm De Aço is one of the biggest omissions in 3 3/4″ G.I. Joe collecting.

 

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Pictures of G.I. Joes

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1983 COBRA Commander

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The first COBRA Commander mold is quite a special thing. It’s incredibly well done, and it manages to walk a fine line of being obviously in charge, without being too far removed from the bulk of COBRA’s fighting forces. It’s ceremonial, but not too ornate that it couldn’t make an appearance on the battlefield. The figure doesn’t get bogged down with ceremonial cords or any other overtly “sitting around in the throne room”, tropes, which would go on to adorn any other version of COBRA Commander invoking this design, until the 25th Anniversary.

The basic design of the figure is a fairly utilitarian suit, the jacket part of it is interesting, because it’s far more evocative of Chairman Mao, than any Soviet leader. I think this was probably intentional, as it’s definitely a reminder of the spectre of communism (it was the Cold War, after all!), without being readily identifiable. Sometimes the impression of something is far more powerful than just bashing you over the head with a “CHECK IT OUT HE LOOKS LIKE A RED”.

The torso on this figure is a lot of fun, as the back piece includes a special feature, where you can attach his pistol. It’s a neat little gimmick, that wasn’t used anywhere else, so it helps maintain a uniqueness to COBRA Commander. There’s a second hole in the torso that allows the v1 Hairdryer to plug in.  It’s not an often seen function, because seldom is the rear of a figure used as the focal point, but it’s cool to see, and adds a bit of treacherousness to the COBRA Commander character.

The COBRA Commander character might be the most important character in all of G.I. Joe. It makes sense, as he wasn’t in competition with anyone else for development, like the G.I. Joe team was, and for the first year of the comic, it was only CC and The Baroness, who wasn’t much more than a sounding board for the Commander. Once additional COBRA characters were introduced, they often times developed their character, by their relationship with the Enemy Leader. Destro was his rival. 

Of course, as the series progressed, everybody and their dog had a connection to COBRA Commander vis-a-vis Snake Eyes. It became almost a soap opera, and ridiculous, to the point of absurdity, that close to a dozen characters were still entangled  with each other a decade after the fact.

I tend to discard a lot of that fluff from the CC backstory, and view him more as the dangerous man depicted on his first filecard. Though, I do tend to view him with some of the Sunbow personality traits. The flair for dramatics of the cartoon COBRA Commander, could factor in well with a used car salesman. It also gives the Enemy Leader a powerful personality. As I’ve gotten older, I looked less at strictly military or terrorists for inspiration on the character, and tended to look at cult leaders. COBRA’s got very little in the way of actual policy, so some cult of personality definitely needed to be injected into COBRA Commander.

Basically COBRA Commander’s made up of a little Fidel Castro, a little Jim Jones, and a little Charles Manson.

Before starting COBRA, the Commander was a revolutionary, with no real aim. He had goals to bring down the system, but no mindset on what should replace it. He’d bounce around from various underground factions, never quite fitting in. He might be working alongside Maoists at one point, and then alongside Western backed mercenaries in Africa. It wasn’t ever clear who he was working for, and most true believers figured he was a spy, while every intelligence agency listed him as “unreliable”. The one thing everyone would agree on, was that he knew his stuff, and he was good at what he did.

The real reason for the schizophrenic style of involvement in combat zones, was to get a taste of which kinds of soldiers had which kind of politics. The Commander knew he wanted to recruit soldiers that were capable, but without the baggage of being obvious assets of various nations sent into avoid neutrality act violations. Working amongst various factions of every political stripe would give CC the knowledge he would need, as well as a mindset into how to market COBRA Command to those he needed, without turning off potential soldiers because the organization was too blatantly political in a specific spectrum.

This “appeal to everyone” form of organizing, gave COBRA Command a wide swath of soldiers, but also gave the organization some fissures along the fault lines, leading to competing factions of soldiers, led by differing ideologies in the High Command, while the Commander himself has found himself more interested in just having his own Television Show.

The Battle Helmet, is still my preferred look for COBRA Commander, it reduces the humanity of the figure, and it also ensures that the character is slightly more protected from potential assassinations. The hooded look is alright, but makes COBRA Commander look a little too much like a cartoon villain, or Igor Gouzenko

The COBRA Commander mold wasn’t used to it’s fullest potential. It’s got this version, and the Hooded version, which was available for a long time. There’s another use of the 1983 mold in the 1983 colours which were available on Chinese cards in the mid 90s. That has a slight shade variance, but it’s nothing to write home about. I’ve always kind of felt those Chinese figures were potentially going to be a domestic release that didn’t happen, and they got sold off in China, similar to the Mexican exclusive Lunatrix aliens. I think there was potential for a G.I. Joe reboot in the mid 90s, similar to the Generation 2 Transformers, which featured a few releases that were pretty much identical to the 80s releases (Dinobots, for one). This is just conjecture, mind you, but it’s got some probablity of being correct.

Internationally, the mold was only used the one time, as Red Laser, an exclusive to Europe as part of the Action Force line. Red Laser showed that the mold, had some versatility, despite the strong connection to a very strong character, and the faceless-ness of the mold.  

If a Factory Custom maker would take a look at the Cobra Commander mold, there’d be plenty of demand, as well as a variety of potential repaints, that would be usable. Crimson, Black, White, COBRA Blue and Red Laser are just a smattering off the top of my head. Doing them up in an Olive Green could provide collectors with an easy opportunity to create a a General Flagg custom, or any other high ranking Military Officer. It wouldn’t be perfect, but it’d be better than the Headman mold. The mold is also strong enough that some of the generally weak Factory Custom flavours, like Python Patrol would wind up looking pretty nice. 

COBRA Commander version one is a special figure, maybe this is partially due to the lack of repaints, but there’s something just great about the mold. The unique back piece, the colouring, the quality of the sculpting creates an excellent over all figure. No COBRA Commander figure really holds a candle to this one, and there’s not really any bad COBRA Commander figures.

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83Cobra

 

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Great Moments In G.I. Joe History

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1986 Sgt. Slaughter (Triple T Driver)

Much like skateboard videos, pro wrestling is a thing that I’ll watch a bunch of, and then get bored with it, and not watch it for 12 years. Lately I’ve been on the kick of watching a drunk in sweatpants hit an Arabian madman in the head with a stick. So because of this, I figured I’d look at a G.I. Joe who also happens to be a Pro Wrestler, Sgt. Slaughter.

The Sarge is one of those figures and characters that’s always had some controversy swirling around him. He’s got the dual issues of being mainly a Sunbow character, with little Marvel Comics exposure, as well as the issue of being a real-life celebrity, that comes from one of the lesser halls of celebrity, Professional Wrestling. It’s one of those things that means the Sarge catches flack from large portions of the fandumb, without anyone stopping to think “Well, maybe people can enjoy different things”

As a figure, the Slaughter included with the 1986 Triple T, is the best mixture of both wrestling and G.I. Joe. The mail-in looks nice, but is also kind of hokey, while the second figure works well in the fact he’s not wearing wrestling tights, and soft soled boots, but rather fatigues and combat boots.

The mold is fairly simple, with the figure wearing just a tank top, some camouflage pants, and boots. There’s not much in the way of ornate detailing on the figure, just some wristbands and and a whistle. Where the sculpting really shines, is the musculature of the figure, where he’s big and burly, and much moreso than the figures released around the same timeframe. The head on the Sarge is cartoony, but does a good job giving an all around resemblance of the real life person. The sunglasses and DI hat are quite well done, and he sure has a strong jaw!

As a functioning part of the G.I. Joe universe, there’s some hiccups for the Sarge. The figure is good enough, that he can get some use, but the real issue, is how does one work him into anything? It’s one of those delicate things, because he’s got the baggage of being a real life human being, and that tends to colour my views on the figure, and its usability.

I tend to look at the Sarge as being the actual Sgt. Slaughter, who’s doing some PR work by doing Drill Instructor stuff, with a group of actual commandos. It’s not much of a role, but it’s kind of the best I can come up with. I’d like to find a better use for Slaughter, it’s just too hard for me to separate the figure from the wrestler.

It also doesn’t help that “Drill Instructor” isn’t really the kind of thing I see a bunch of professional soldiers at the apex of their abilities, needing. This might be something where I’m entirely wrong on, in the real life workings of the military, but most of my exposure to Drill Instructors has been pop culture, like an old Jack Webb movie or Full Metal Jacket. So it’s kind of an odd role to be placed upon the G.I. Joe team. I think that’s why the PR angle is where I go with the figure, as it’s something that helps get both the Sarge and G.I. Joe over with the general public!  I guess another way to work Sgt. Slaughter in, would be to say that Verne Gagne really hates terrorism, and sent his best guy from the AWA into battle against the evil forces of COBRA Command.

While I don’t have much to say about the figure, I do want to say that Sgt. Slaughter is a pretty cool real life dude, he’s never really shied away from his time as the spokesman for the G.I. Joe brand, and on Twitter is always willing to follow any G.I. Joe related accounts, this impresses me, because G.I. Joe isn’t much of a recognizable brand in the pop culture stratosphere, and to acknowledge it, when life would probably be easier to just talk about the time he won the WWF World Championship for the nation of Iraq, is kind of impressive to me, as it shows it meant slightly more than just a paycheque.

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1984 Zartan

ZartanEmerges

The difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy, is that Science Fiction involves scenarios based on things that are possible or could be possible from science and technological advances, whereas Fantasy is based more magic and supernatural things. To me, Zartan is a fantasy character (even with that claptrap about chameleon DNA splicing), and I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with that, because at the end of the day it’s a solid figure, and being to able to incorporate some fantastical elements into the world of G.I. Joe is something that can do a hell of a lot for it. Marrying G.I. Joe and realism is a foolish thing to do, so accepting some of the stranger concepts, with the caveat they’re at least taken seriously, is the best thing for G.I. Joe.

Zartan is a very interesting figure, the whole of the figure is much more impressive than the sum of what he’s actually made up of. The head sculpt I think adds most of the mystique to the figure, since the yellow eyes and facepaint really give off a deranged look, and the sunken face has always made him seem empty and dangerous to me. The hood helps wrap it all up in a bit more mystery. The rest of the body is a little weaker, if only because the figure has a gimmick it needs to exploit. The skin turning blue is a thing I think is really neat, it’s definitely a defining part of the figure, no matter how silly a gimmick it is, but it leads to Zartan having a lot of exposed skin.

Zartan has removable chest and thigh armour, which is a very important part of the figure, as he looks ridiculous without it, and the chest armour to me is especially important, as I figure it provides some protection, as otherwise he’s not even wearing a damn shirt. The armor is supposed to have stickers that also change colour, but often they’re nowhere to be seen.

It’s funny, because the figure really shouldn’t be all that great, but it’s actually quite a classic figure. A complete Zartan is a very fun figure, where the quality of the design shines through, even if it theoretically fits in more with the oddities of 1987’s COBRA class. He was a unique entry at the time of release, and his character was strong enough that a dude turning blue could be taken as credibly as Firefly, Duke and Roadblock.

Zartan’s character is pretty interesting, just going by his filecard the guy is a renaissance man, as well as legitimately mentally ill. I like the idea of the fact Zartan is so far gone, whoever he originally was no longer exists. I also feel the multiple personalities are a thing that enhance his disguise and lingual skills. However these personality quirks were probably too difficult to put into 24 minute cartoons and 31 page comic book.

The problem with the Zartan character, as described by the Filecard, is there’s very little motivation. He’s got the military training background, but no real reason for existence in the G.I. Joe world. I could never really figure out what I wanted Zartan to be, he was a COBRA, but almost too independent as he didn’t have any insignias, and was associated with the Dreadnoks. Even though both the Cartoon and Comic Book portrayed Zartan as an integrated member of COBRA Command, I never felt the figure fit in well enough, as an actual COBRA.

He can do the infiltration and espionage stuff, but that’s also the domain of Storm Shadow and Firefly, two figures that look the part a little more, than the dude in facepaint and a cowl. Having too many of the same type of character makes everything seem derivative, so Zartan, while still a tremendous figure, found himself left in the cold.

An issue of the Marvel Comic, actually got me to change my mind on Zartan’s integration with COBRA. In issue #64, there’s a scene where Zartan is amongst the Troopers, while Serpentor is having issues, and then COBRA Commander returns. For some reason, seeing Zartan amongst the rank and file, gave the figure some semblance of a role, and when I paired him up with some of the red masked factory customs, I really liked the way it looked.

This pairing with the troopers, was kind of a logical jump for the Zartan character to make.  Originally brought in by COBRA Commander, Zartan then saw an opportunity for a power grab, as he was in the Enemy Leader’s good graces, and had the educational background to lead troops. Zartan had developed a strong cult of personality, especially when controlling the Dreadnoks, so he was capable of taking command of a less unruly bunch, in the COBRA Soldiers. I’ve always found there to be a direct lack of credible named COBRAs for combat roles, as some are too individualist in their specialties, so Zartan kind of seamlessly entered that role.

With factory customs, there’s a lot of COBRA Troopers available. As time has gone by, I’ve found myself more interested in regular old Blue ones, I think that might be one of the symptomatic issues G.I. Joe has, where at the end of the day, the initial designs were almost too strong, which combined with a few other aspects of G.I. Joe, is why ARAH is a stagnant property. However, with the advent of Factory Customs, not only are blue COBRA Troopers plentiful, there’s also versions that have Red Masks, like those seen in the comic book.

I enjoy army building, even if it’s somewhat passé in this day and age, and with the newest run of Black Major COBRA Troopers, I’ve purposely found myself with equal numbers of red and black masked COBRA Troopers. I did this intentionally, because it allowed me some visual diversity amongst the soldiers while still being blue. Since I like pairing Zartan up with the Red Masks, it’s given him a role, and allows me to extrapolate on some other aspects of my daydreams about G.I. Joe.

A long time ago, I took a photo of The Baroness and Zartan at loggerheads, I’d liked the way the figures and characters contrasted with each other, so I kind of mentally put the two at odds with each other, and since The Baroness is the other COBRA High Command figure that I enjoy matching up with COBRA Troopers, it gave the red and black mask divide a raison d’être. Zartan has troopers loyal to him, that wear red masks, while the Baroness’ loyal troopers wear black masks.

The Palace Intrigue aspect of COBRA is one of the more interesting parts of COBRA and G.I. Joe as a whole, so it’s something that a lot of people tend to look at. So my COBRA tends to involve a split between Baroness and Zartan and their respective factions of Soldiers. COBRA Commander sees it, and knows there’s little he can actually do to, prevent any issues, but also understands how to navigate and mitigate this conflict, and has used it for his own means, showing potential usurpers, that COBRA is at the possibility of fragmenting at a moment’s notice, and that they better realize this, as whatever power vacuum left by eliminating the Commander, will likely lead to his successor inheriting nothing more than an organization’s name.

Zartan is amongst the best G.I. Joe characters and figures. He’s able to broach the Realism/Fantasy situation without being controversial, because he’s so well done, unlike say, Serpentor. Most people who complain about Zartan’s fantastical elements, are often the kind of headcases that would complain about Joe’s having beards and that COBRA didn’t look like whoever the evil foreign “other” of the time was (usually brown people or the Chinese).

While his design is a tad strange, it works so well together that, it’s overlooked in a way, and can be taken at face value. This combined with the character, who is indeed a literal chameleon, in the fact you can make him whoever you want him to be, gives one of the more well rounded members of the G.I. Joe universe.

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Spent Most Of His Adult Life In Various Correctional Institutions.

Ripper

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