Ninja Force Snake Eyes

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Snake Eyes is a character that’s kind of done to death, and has been for probably 25 years, that doesn’t stop fans and collectors from buying the character, and having conflicting opinions on him!

From a design standpoint, this is one of the meaner looking versions of Snake Eyes, the armoured face shield is probably the coolest head on any version of the character. The body armor, over what I want to believe is the commando sweater is a nice touch too, as it gives the figure two distinct textures on the torso, that allowed for the figure to be broken up, where it would be kind of blah, if it was just the smooth black pattern. The armaments on the figure are actually fairly subdued for a 90s figure, when they started strapping damn near everything to their bodies. Plus for the most part they’re explosives and grenades, which go well with the Snake Eyes character.

It’s also a very sensibly coloured figure, the deep black base is perfect for our favourite mute commando, and the silver and blue provide enough colour, while still maintaining a connection to past versions of the figure. Honestly the blue might be a shade brighter than what I would’ve chosen, it could’ve been bright orange, which Hasbro was one to use a lot of in the mid 90s. Another thing, that makes the blue less objectionable to me, is that the 1991 Snake Eyes had started the trend of having Snake Eyes wear blue, so while this electric blue is a brighter look, it’s a continuation of a theme.

The figure’s killed by the construction changes, while a lot of Ninja Force figures had construction changes, they all for the most part had the same range of motion in the legs. Not Snake Eyes! This figure has some stupid gimmick where if you squeeze his legs together, his arms flail. So this figure doesn’t have traditional O-Ring construction, but even worse, is the fact he doesn’t have T-Hook construction. His legs only move forwards or backwards. So he’s a ninja, but he can’t even do a roundhouse kick, a double bummer, since he’s wearing a really swell pair of jackboots!

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I think as G.I. Joe has died it’s unceremonious death, things like the Ninja Force construction issues, aren’t looked at as badly anymore, at least not by me. I won’t say I like them, but they’re at least on some very nice figures. Snake Eyes (and probably Scarlett too) however isn’t one I’m too forgiving on, because it ruins a really nice design, and a fan favourite character. Honestly I think this figure would be thought of much better if he even had typical Ninja Force construction.

Still I can’t actually hate this figure, as it’s one of the few figures I associate more with the acquisition than anything else. In 1996 my mother and I had gone for lunch, and she needed to run into some store and pick something up or something, I just remember opting to stay in the car. She took longer than the “couple minutes” she claimed, which was usual for her, and then when she got back, she threw the 1993 Ninja Force Snake Eyes into my lap, I guess she saw it and figured she’d get it for me. The fact the figure was there three years after it stopped shipping, shows that they were really popular. I also remember how bitterly disappointed I was once the figure was out of it’s package. Either way, the figure being a treat from my mom is really all I associate it with.

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1983 Airborne

It’s kind of amazing how figures can fall out of public consciousness over time. I’m not really talking about Meme-level figures, like Big Brawler, or the flavour of the month new releases, but rather the solid and well thought of figures, from the classic years of G.I. Joe. One of those figures is the 1983 Airborne. A long time ago, it seemed like Airborne would show up all the time, he was frequently featured in Dios, and would often be one of the more common custom figures. Even his 25th Anniversary appearance was actually quite anticipated. Nowadays, Airborne is seldom seen, and usually he’s mentioned based on the fact his legs (and sometimes torso) were used on Steel Brigade figures.

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The Airborne figure has some interesting aspects to it’s sculpting. The figure really appears to be wearing the same 82 Commando sweater, but with a vest over it, and some elbow pads strapped on. This is a cool detail, as the change between 82 and 83 is actually fairly drastic, though less so, if you think about the fact most new characters are wearing  environmentally or pilot specific gear. I guess, the real diversion from the first series was the colouring of the figures. Airborne has a solid, yet pale tan base colour (Which is not a match to the Tan Grunt/Clutch/Duke/Doc colour), a sky blue vest, grey, green and brown highlights, and a red unit patch on his arm. It’s a far brighter and more vibrant approach to colouring than the 82 figures had, and there’s more detailing done.

The new style of colouring used in 1983 could’ve gone either way, as the blue used on Airborne and Gung-Ho wasn’t traditionally military. The quality of the two figures overcame it, and they’re figures that can pull it off, and still look good in the jungle or desert or whatever scenario you can place them in. Airborne’s tan base being a fairly unique shade didn’t forever damn him to the desert theatre.

Airborne is one of the molds that has been partially used in the Factory Custom era, so based on how the few parts from the mold that have been done in other colours, it wouldn’t be one I’d be too against seeing fully done up. It also has enough cross pollination with other characters like Scrap Iron or the Brazilian Python Patrol member, Gatilho, that it could be justified. A more militaristic green Airborne or a 2003 style Python Patrol repaint could be very interesting takes on the mold. It’s a sculpt that isn’t too married to the character, as well. That’s one of the issues with some of the Factory Customs, in that they use molds that are obviously very popular, but it can be a double edged sword, as a lot of these popular figures are popular due to the character.

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Airborne is another example of G.I. Joe’s approach to visible minority characters, in that he is one, but it doesn’t change the fact that people are people. He’s a Native American, but not the typical “Keeper Of The Land” Indian, but rather a rich off the land Indian. So he did well for himself, but also gave up what could’ve been a comfortable high paying Lawyer gig, to serve his country. The fact his filecard mentioned Oil, led me to look up if Arizona had an Oil industry, turns out it did, and a lot of it was actually on Navajo land, which is where Airborne was from. Little factoids like that, help G.I. Joe be a little more than mindless entertainment. Characters like Airborne and Torpedo make up for every overly stereotypical figure like Spirit.

Still, other than his backstory, Airborne is kind of bland. He’s best remembered for being the gunner in the Dragonfly. However that is perhaps the second most iconic aircraft in the line, after the Skystriker, so an association with that is good for the figure. It gives him a role, even if nowadays the cameo of sitting in the front seat of a Helicopter is one of the few reasons people remember he exists! In a way it’s a shame a figure of such high quality has this banishment, but I guess Airborne did have quite a run as one of the more popular and often seen figures from the early years, at a time when G.I. Joe content had started to involve more and more later era figures and whatever was coming out in stores.

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Great Moments In G.I. Joe History

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Hot Potato

 

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While I don’t really have any plans or desire to write about much G.I. Joe media, there’s going to be the occasional piece on it. I figured the first thing I’d look at, is the secondary story from Marvel G.I. Joe #1, “Hot Potato”. This is a story that’s been fairly hard to come by, over the years. It was omitted from the #1-10 Trade Paperback, as well as both Comic Pack releases. I’ve always assumed it was because Lady Doomsday was a long enough story. Though reading through it again, there might’ve been some legitimate concerns with the content of Hot Potato.

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The basic overview of the story is that in a cafe “Somewhere in the Middle East”, Hawk, Stalker and Clutch are awaiting the arrival of Snake Eyes, Scarlett and Rock ‘N’ Roll, who’ve been tasked with retrieving a tape which has information that could defuse regional tensions brought upon by Col. Sharif and his “Guardians of Paradise”, which is apparently bankrolled by COBRA. The trio of Joes tasked with bringing back the tape have been embroiled in a firefight with the Guardians, and have some decisions to make. Scarlett (Who is apparently the senior member), forces Rock ‘N Roll to disarm, and leave with the tape. Snake Eyes was sent to ensure RNR, doesn’t come back to be a hero, and in the process of running across the desert, is bawled out by Rock ‘N Roll. One comment seems to cause Snake Eyes to return to Scarlett. The tape makes it way through a window, to Clutch, Stalker and Hawk, and the motorcycle hidden outside the cafe is taken.

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As Col. Sharif is making a speech imploring his men to “Overwhelm the Infidels with the power of our spirit”, Scarlett suggests to Snake Eyes that they kill themselves, rather than be taken prisoner. Luckily Rock ‘N Roll appears and gattling cannon’s the Guardians. As the Joes flee on the RAM, Col. Sharif  orders an airstrike, luckily the VAMP comes to rescue the Joes, and they learn Stalker is on a plane with the tape.

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As a story, it’s quick and exciting enough, though I thought the three examples of “knick of time rescuing” was a little lazy. Overall I liked it, as there’s some interesting cynicism towards the Military, which is amusing considering the “ULTIMATE WEAPON OF DEMOCRACY” starburst on the cover of the comic book, and there’s some fairly ominous ideas put forth. It’s also fairly well drawn, the characters are recognizable, some of the small details from figures are apparent, and the backgrounds are detailed. Only art-issue I have is that none of the guns are drawn all that well, and apparently Rock ‘N Roll’s machine gun isn’t belt fed, but rather fires from Clips.

The Middle Eastern backdrop is a good choice, though I feel the logic of COBRA bankrolling Col. Sharif to be somewhat backwards. Though it was a nice way to tie COBRA into the story, without them being in it, and much less ridiculous than the time they provided Strike First a nuclear weapon. However, the Mid-East backdrop also allows for some super clichéd dialogue, though I guess, it would seem worldly to a kid reading it.

I assume the dialogue cribbed from an old Ayatollah Khomeni speech, and the fact Scarlett suggests she and Snake Eyes shoot themselves in the head, might partially be why this back-up story didn’t make it into the Comic Pack releases of Issue #1. Both aspects were fairly real-world concepts, that Hasbro was definitely moving away from in the early 2000s, especially considering that COBRA was no longer a Terrorist Organization, and Headman wasn’t pushing drugs anymore. Honestly I’d rather they just omit a story like this, rather than censor it, so I’m not really complaining.  I think it might have been reprinted in some hardcover collection, but honestly the best bet to get this story is to find a cheap copy of “TALES OF G.I. JOE #1”, as it’s an Issue #1 reprint without any ads, and the highest quality paper you’d find on a comic book from the 1980s.

This story wound up with a little follow-up in an Order Of Battle, of all places. In Rock ‘N Roll’s profile in #2, there’s a “psychological profile” that indicates, ol’ RNR might be too committed to his teammates to be effective. There’s a peer evaluation from “John Doe E-5”, who is obviously inferred to be Snake Eyes, that is an endorsement of Rock ‘N Roll, with a refusal to state his “shortcomings” with the knowledge Rock ‘N Roll wouldn’t mention his. Considering the two rarely interacted, and the “Hot Potato” story shows Rock ‘N Roll being unwilling to leave his teammates, but at the end of the day follows through with his orders, where as Snake Eyes doesn’t even follow his one order, based on his commitment to Scarlett. Overall, a neat reference to a story that was almost 5 years old at that point.

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Great Moments In G.I. Joe History

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2004 Red Ninja Viper

The Red Ninja, ever since it’s first appearance in G.I. Joe #21, has been on fandom’s radar as a potential figure for the G.I. Joe line. The late 90s and early 2000s were littered with yellowed Storm Shadows painted red as “Red Ninja”. So when the 1984 Storm Shadow mold was recreated, Hasbro threw the collectors a bone, and in the Toys R Us 6 pack, provided two Red Ninja Vipers.

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For the most part, when Hasbro released ARAH molds in the 2000s, the plastic quality was high, and most issues came about as the line was dying down, and no one at Hasbro understood how to properly sculpt a neck post, killing a bunch of Comic Pack figures in the process. The Red Ninja Viper was an anomaly, in that he’s brittle, cracks easily and feels kind of hollow. I don’t know why, but he feels as fragile as any figure who happens to have GPS.

The Red Ninja (I’m going to drop the “Viper”, much to the dismay of A-Man!) is a solidly designed figure, since it’s just Storm Shadow version 1, but what separated this figure from other Red Ninjas, be it Satan, The Black Major’s or a 1996 experimentation with gloss paint, is that he’s grimy, has long sleeves, rather than having flesh hands and forearms, and the highlights are not done the typical way you’d expect to see them. There’s two different colours of paint wipes (Black on the red parts, green on the black parts) and a very nice brown leather colouring on the straps. Quality aside, it’s actually a very nice looking figure.

The paint wipes, which hadn’t been seen in 3 or 4 years were an odd choice on this figure, as they didn’t really add much to the figures, were an out of date idea, and the rumour was originally they weren’t supposed to have them, and that one of the “powers that be” demanded them. Either way, this is a figure that was decried for them at the time, but now that there’s a much closer to the original idea, by the Black Major out there, this figure’s reputation should be soothed a bit, except I don’t think ANYBODY cares about this figure.

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The TRU 6 pack definitely had some faults, especially the terrible selection of weapons, but nowadays the 1984 Storm Shadow accessory compliment is quite easily obtainable, so that can solve that issue. The fact it had two of this figure was a good thing, as it allowed fans to obtain multiples very easily, something Hasbro was loathe to do, pre-2004.

Red Ninjas are a famous aspect in G.I. Joe, even if the whole ninja concept wound up being driven into the ground, they were a factor in one of the more famous comic issues, and they’ve got a Storm Shadow association. To me, they’re nothing more than Storm Shadow’s personal henchmen, and are really the only ninjas in my G.I. Joe universe other than Storm Shadow and Ninja Ku.

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Great Moments In G.I. Joe History

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