2005 Comic Pack #7 Stalker

2004 was a year that Hasbro really began to do things that on the surface would would appeal to collectors. The main G.I. Joe line was taking a turn into an odd, and not particularly good Sci-Fi realm, which featured a lot of strange Animal based COBRA figures, and even more damaging, “Action Attack” a bunch of gimmicks added to figures to give them features that would result in a decrease in articulation, and an increase in frustratingly good designs being wrecked so that magnetic swords and bowleggedness. I’ve always believed that a fundamental change in articulation is always the first step towards the grave for whatever G.I. Joe line is on the shelves. It happened with Ninja Force and Armor Tech. It happened with Action Attack, and it happened again in the Modern Era when all of a sudden vehicle drivers have less articulation than figures from 1982. It’s a fact.

At the time, the new head sculpts for the comic pack figures were heralded as incredible improvements over the originals. Time hasn’t been so kind, as things overlooked, like size, have been looked at again. I will say that the best looking of the new Comic Pack head sculpts, was that of Stalker.

While they might be more modern looking, these heads had A LOT of issues, the most noticeable being the fact they’re all so damn small. There’s another possible issue from these heads, and that’s the likelihood they’re responsible for causing cracks to form in the figure’s chest plates. I’ve only seen the cracks develop on figures that received new heads in the Comic Pack era, so that’s the only thing I can blame them on.

05Stalker2

From a distance, this is a good figure. The colours are good, the sculpt looks like Stalker, and there’s enough details painted that he looks like high quality figure. Unfortunately upon closer inspection, the mirage wears off. His head’s small, his waist and legs are a poor fit for his body, and the overall quality shows that Hasbro was starting to skimp on G.I. Joe, probably due to it’s slow down at retail.

Stalker uses the typical Comic Pack OG13 build, of the Grunt torso and arms, an ’86 Roadblock waist, and the Talking Battle Commanders Hawk legs. This Stalker is probably the best that set-up ever looked, as he’s got the camouflage that really hides the awkward parts fit, and this version is a much better green that the issue #3 Stalker. The yellow used for the webgear seems more muted than some of the earlier uses in the Comic Packs, and the red collar on the sweater is a great touch.

This is a figure where the intentions behind it are excellent, they’re just bungled horribly. When looking back on the 2000s, I sometimes question how interested in G.I. Joe the design team actually was. I think a lot of it viewed G.I. Joe as a way to show that they might be capable of doing an Energon era Transformer or a prequel Star Wars figure. The Comic Packs would’ve been an opportunity for a true Joe fan to at least find some parts that meshed better than “Roadblock parts for everyone!”

This Stalker came in a 3-pack with two October Guard figures, and issue #7. It was one of the better Comic Packs in terms of providing something worthwhile, most had something wrong with them, but the October Guard sets weren’t. Honestly, if Hasbro had actually listened to what fans were griping about in regards to the Comic Packs, they wouldn’t have messed them up so quickly. The sameness of the sets were called out immediately, because fans knew that a MULTIPLE green sets was a recipe for disaster, and that a lot of the issues chosen weren’t great. Had the first wave been Issue #1, #21, #49 (with maybe slight modification to #1’s line-up), then followed up with the Civil War issues, and the the third wave being #6, #7 and # 101, you’ve got a far more diverse and likely to succeed series, on the shelves.

Issue #7 is the 2nd part of the first two-part storyline in the Marvel G.I. Joe comic, it’s one of the better issues, and features one of my favourite scenes in the entire comic, where Stalker laments the untimely demise of his beret, as he’d “Just got it nicely broken in, too”. It’s one of those scenes that added a bit of character to Stalker, and also took what had been a fairly serious story and added a bit of levity to it. Another note that is more often than not ignored, is the fact that actual concept for Issues #6 & 7 was developed by Herb Trimpe, who I don’t think could really write good issues of G.I. Joe, but had very solid story ideas, and probably should’ve been used in that capacity more often. In the first 10 issues, 3 of the best stories were his ideas.

For a Stalker in the classic get up, this is a pretty good figure. Stalker’s a good character, so even the weakness of the overall figure is hidden by that. This is probably the third best Stalker figure in that design, so he’s not champion the ’82 or the ’97 is, but he’s better than the Comic Pack #3 figure.

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Differences Between TBM COBRA Soldiers part II

 

2009, 2016, 2021 (Left to Right)

It’s 2021, and The Black Major is returning to a lot of his previously issued molds. This is a positive in my opinion, because some of the figures we’ve seen in the last 4-5 years have been hit or miss, and while I like a lot of what I’ve picked up, there’s been a fair number of figures I outright avoided. So COBRA Soldiers, and Crimson Guards making a comeback is welcomed by me.

I’d previously did a thing spotlighting the big differences between the first and second COBRA Soldier mold by TBM.

The 2021 COBRA Soldier, is for the most part closer to the 2009 mold, than the 2016 mold. However, there is still a few differences between the two.

Major differences between 2009 and 2021:

  • Paint depicting the mask doesn’t go around the neck (see Crimson vs. Swamp comparison)
  • 2021 can wear a backpack. 

Wearing Backpacks

 

Sharing is not an option!

Though, with the backpack, which the 2016 mold could also wear, the back hole is a slightly smaller diameter on the 2021, so the backpacks are not compatible between those two versions

  • No markings on rear end. 
  • 2009 Crimson, 2021 Swamp

     

Surprisingly, a place with some of the biggest changes were to be seen, were in the Dragonuv Sniper Rifle.

  • Far less detail near the handle. Handle seems narrower
  • Smoother design
  • Very hard plastic

Left to right: 2009, 2016, 2021

The photo is poor, but the one on the right hand side is from 2021, the middle is 2016 and the left is 2009. 

One thing, I failed to mention during the last article, was the fact that the 2009 mold, had a smooth inner-torso. This is something that was changed with the 2016 version, where it was more traditional G.I. Joe. The smooth inner-torso returns again in 2021.

2009 Urban, 2016 Orange, 2021 Red Shadow

While on the topic of internal differences, the size of the peg on the shoulder joint changed quite a bit on the 2021 figure.

2009 Urban, 2016 Orange, 2021 Red Shadow

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Pictures Of G.I. Joes

85Mauler88QKEyesWithoutAFaceFirefly20002010CobraIslandFFThe Red Cobra

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1986 Serpentor

 

G.I. Joe underwent serious changes in 1986. It was no longer the Military fantasy that dominated the first four years, and now a greater emphasis was to be placed on the fantasy aspect of the line. There’d always been lasers, and Zartan was a pretty preposterous character, if we’re going to be honest. However 1986 ratcheted things up quite a bit, and I think where a lot of the issues that came about from this are felt, is the fact that Hasbro really changed the way they were sculpting the figures in the G.I. Joe line.

In a vacuum, and removing any preconceived notions about the character, if you look at the actual Serpentor figure, the quality of it jumps out at you. The sculpting, the colours and the overall feeling of the figure provides a pretty strong indication as to what the figure is supposed to represent. He’s obviously someone important, and likely regal. Serpentor’s a figure that’s fairly hard to argue against on an actual quality standpoint. His sculpting is a higher quality than a lot of the 1986 figures, and that’s a thing that helps the overall figure, no matter what one’s feelings on the character is.

Serpentor’s got a very regal appearance, with the snake helmet, the scaled armor and the snake motif that appears on the design. I think the snake head gauntlet on his left arm might be my favourite design aspect of the figure. Hasbro did some very nice stuff with the figure, the scaled torso and lower legs are very detailed, and the sections of armorplate are done well too.

Serpentor is one of those figures that’s quite solid, but his accessories are designed to tie the entire figure together. He looks good by himself, but the cape and backpack cowl really take the Serpentor design to the next level. The cape is often destroyed, but there are some reproductions out there. Like the one in this photo, so if there’s ever an argument for reproduction accessories, Serpentor is a prime example as to why they’re needed. I own some fairly rare G.I. Joe items, but if someone was gonna go and reproduce them, I’m not going to raise a fuss, because most of the stuff on the reproduction market has some obvious tells to them, they’re things you can determine by looking at pictures. Some stuff is a little dodgier than others, like green Firefly phones, but for the most part people are pretty honest. If you see a Starduster helmet that doesn’t fit on the head in an awkward manner? It’s a repro.

One issue with this figure, is the fact he’s made out of gold plastic, a plastic highly susceptible to randomly falling apart and crumbling. It’s terrible that such a great figure has that issue, and it’s something that you need to take mind of.

Serpentor’s a bit of a troublesome character. While the figure is very nice, his character is highly one dimensional, and can only really be used in two possible roles. Usurper or COBRA Leader. He provides a lot of palace intrigue, but that’s something that can only go so far. I’ve never really thought about Serpy in situation where older COBRA characters don’t exist. His character of petri dish emperor needs a creator, and a reason for his creation, so he’s kind of tied to previous COBRA High Command. I guess he could be worked around the usurper situation, if he’s created in the response to COBRA Commander being killed or something. However the palace intrigue is pretty much the most entertaining aspect of Serpentor.

Serpentor is fun, because he’s dynamic and is outlandish enough, you can work some of the other fairly odd COBRAs into a photo without too much issue, but he’s grounded enough that the earlier ones don’t look too out of place. He’s wearing a regal suit of armor, but it’s obvious it’s a suit, which is something that Dr. Mindbender or Raptor have a little trouble explaining away. When it comes to photos and what not his character allows for a fairly COBRA dominant setting, with the opportunity to do outright hostile imagery, in a way that a Destro/CC or whoever conflict can’t really portray.

I like the Serpentor figure, and the character is kind of a fun distraction, because when I go to use him in a photo, I find myself more often than not, working the photograph around Serpy, which with pretty much every other figure, is the exact opposite. More often than not I can think of something that I think would look cool, and what figures wind up in the photo is always somewhat up in the air, because what might look cool with Muskrat, might also work well with Flash. I think there’s something about the quality of the Serpentor design, as well as the paradigm shift that the character implemented into the G.I. Joe universe, that makes him something that no matter what your personal feelings on the character are, he’s noticeable in a way that the rest of the line really isn’t.

86Serpy

86Serpentor

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Graduated From Student Radicalism Into International Terrorism

BaronessFC

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Pictures Of G.I. Joes

Revenge Of CobraStalk&Steel1984FlintTEST IN PROGRESS

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Super Sonic Fighters Lt. Falcon

1987 was an odd year, as a whole, the year is remembered for the outlandishness of the G.I. Joe movie, a lot of red, and some really bad COBRA figures. However some of the G.I. Joe team members from 1987 are amongst the finest figures in the line, and really take inspiration from the line’s military roots. Falcon, the team’s Green Beret, is one of the best overall figures in the line, and features an incredibly well done sculpt. When Hasbro was choosing figures to repaint for the 1991 Super Sonic Fighters line, Falcon was a definite home run choice.

The Super Sonic Fighters, as a whole aren’t as strong as the Sonic Fighters from 1990. The three repaints in 1991 feature two duds. Road Pig isn’t a strong figure in general, and turning him orange isn’t going to help, and the ’89 Rock ‘N Roll repaint is harmed by the colour choices, and the lack of the accessories that connected to the figure. However, the final repaint, Lt. Falcon is top notch, and perhaps the best overall figure from the entire noise making backpack sub series.

The nice thing about the three vintage Falcon repaints, is they all are quite different takes on the mold. The 87 one is classic camo, and wouldn’t look out of place in 1982 or 1992. The Night Force version, moves away from the camouflage, and gives the mold a different look with the two tone stylings. The 1991 Super Sonic Fighters version, goes back to the single base colour with camouflage, but it’s not some re-hash of the 87, it’s a dramatic difference, featuring a combination of colours that shouldn’t work as well as they do, a deep green and a light grey. Honestly, the only fault I can find with the Falcon mold, is the fact his fatigues top is sculpted to go past his waist, which makes parts swapping awkward at best. The most intriguing part about this Falcon is the fact the camouflage pattern is something that would’ve been a possible paint job for this mold if it had originally been released just one year later.

In the G.I. Joe Movie, Falcon was portrayed as having black hair, his first two figures were brunettes, but this one actually has black hair. I kind of like it, because it ties into a media portrayal, unlike some of the odd dye jobs characters underwent when they got new clothes

In 1990 the Sonic Fighters came with a batch of recoloured accessories. For the most part, the accessories were an interesting combo of good weapons, and space age Battle Force 2000 accessories. The 91 Super Sonic Fighters, ditched the rehashed accessories, and included brand new weapons. Some of them aren’t the hottest, like Major Bludd’s goofy gun, but the two that came with Falcon were quite cool. One of them is a futuristic gun that has nice detailing, and a cool brace that fits around his arm so he can fire it with one hand. It’s not all that realistic, but it’s cool. His second gun is a pretty cool assault rifle, that’s not as good as the 87’s shotgun, it’s still an above average weapon. The nice thing about this Falcon, is he still looks good with the classic accessories.

I’d be remiss to not talk about the SUPER SONIC BACKPACK, which is a large, and goofy blue thing with a deadly looking rotor blade to make it a helicopter or something. It’s hilarious, and makes annoying noises, but at the end of the day isn’t really worthwhile. The 91 series spent more time making the backpacks an almost replacement for the small vehicle assortments of the 80s. It’s a failure, but that’s almost where things seem to have headed. The 1990 Sonic Fighters packs are less helicopter/jetpack gimmicky and more along the lines of a big dumb backpack.

I really like the Falcon figure, he’s very well done, and matches up with the Lieutenant ranking. Having a fairly strong looking leadership figure, allows the ’87 and ’88 figures that I’m a pretty big fan of, to coalesce as their own little unit. The Falcon mold is the strongest of them all, so it works with him as the leader. The nice thing about the ’91 repaint, is, like I mentioned earlier, the fact that this design isn’t too “out there” to be used with late 80s figures, in place of the 1987. While it’s a little more nuanced, the digital camo on this figure is reminiscent of Repeater or Shockwave, which helps this figure work even more as a bridge between 1987 and 1988.

I try to keep my G.I. Joe eras somewhat separate, as while the line as a whole is fairly compatible, there’s years that work better with each other, than others. So Falcon has found a role, leading a small team that consists for the most part of Tunnel Rat, Outback, Repeater, Hit & Run, Muskrat and a couple of other stragglers. The figures all match up pretty well. I don’t think about scenarios they would be in, or anything, but it gives some of the figures in my collection a reason for existing, without them being micro-managed to death, like some of the 90s subteams tend to be. If you ever see a picture of an Eco-Warrior, taken by me, he’s either by himself, or with other Eco-Warriors, there’s little chance of interaction with other G.I. Joes.

Falcon is one of the finest G.I. Joe figures, and this version, is wildly different from v1, but is still an excellent figure. He’s got an appearance that isn’t strict military realism, but at the same time isn’t far-fetched. That’s a nice thing about G.I. Joe, in that it can take an overtly realistic military figure, like Falcon, and then change the colourscheme, and be something new, without detracting from the mold. There’s very few repaints out there, that that can be said about. This figure is solidly in 2nd place, in regards to the usage of the mold, which isn’t anything to sneeze at, as it’s an incredible mold, with an untouchable first release.

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Great Moments In G.I. Joe History

1995 was something that could’ve been an interesting year. It all depends on what was actually gonna be released. If it was things like this Duke, we’re better off with what happened.

 

 

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Pictures Of G.I. Joes

86Zarana1985SnakeEyes2000CoCo2004ScrapIron1991FLAKUrbanWaitHere2

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Sky Patrol Steel Brigade (Red Laser’s Army)

Sky Patrol

Factory Customs tend to be available for a period of time, then they disappear into collections, or find themselves on eBay for ridiculous mark ups. One figure that lingered around, was the RLA Sky Patrol Steel Brigade, and is now very hard to find. I liked the figure, and when I figured it’d be time to round out the numbers, I was too late. C’est le vie.

The Steel Brigade is one of the instances of fans dictating how a character in G.I. Joe is viewed. Hasbro’s intention was for it to be a singular character, that represented the consumer idealized version of themselves. However in Europe, a lot of Steel Brigade version D’s were available, and the marketing material showed them as generic soldiers for the Joes, in fact there were mail-in offers where you would get 2(two) Steel Brigade figures. Since the European marketing material featured probably the highest quality professional G.I. Joe photography, and definitely the highest quality circa the early 2000s, this concept seeped it’s way into collector conscience. When factory customs expanded over time, it was going to be inevitable to see the Steel Brigade, the fact both major producers created figures in the same timeframe was a tad surprising, but overall they were different enough from each other to fill voids.

Red Laser’s Steel Brigade figures, were patterned pretty heavily off of figures from various G.I. Joe sub teams. The Night Force figure was Psyche-Out’s colouring and the Sky Patrol Steel Brigade was Static Line’s deco. Honestly I think that was the best way to tie the figures into the parental sub team, it unifies it, rather than the “I took a figure and painted it black, now it’s Night Force” style of yesteryear. For Sky Patrol, which is a sub team that isn’t cohesive at all, and a lot of the figures are actually incredibly bland. Static Line has the best colouring and fits the sky motif the best. So choosing that for the Steel Brigade was a pretty strong choice.

The figure is strongly coloured, it’s even more colourful than the first glimpse indicates. Since the Static Line colouring was being used, it was nice to see that both silver and grey wound up being used. The silver torso works quite well with the blue, and is different enough from the grey pants that it’s noticeable without clashing. The gloss black highlights help round out the figure, nicely.

While the figure is nice looking, the colours chosen, don’t really make a strong case for any single environment, which is a thing that could be troublesome, except for the fact that this figure is muted enough, that it works in most situations, which is kind of hard to believe based on the fact that it is a figure featuring a lot of bright blue.

The Steel Brigade came with the 2017 RLA accessory contingent, which was two iffy new sculpt weapons, a Recoil rifle, and the Airborne/Duke backpack (Same sculpt, but doesn’t have the cross that Airborne’s had). Are they good accessories? Well, the backpack and rifle are, even if the rifle needs some modifications. The knife and pistol were terrible, didn’t fit the hand grips, and were probably a wasted choice in the long run. I could think of numerous accessories that would’ve been better choices.

Steel Brigade is an idea, I’m never to certain on where I stand with them. I think the figure is pretty good, and they’ve worked as a secondary foil for COBRA, in my goofy little daydreams. So that’s usually what I view them as, since its useful to give COBRA (or whomever) a chance to be the victors, and also gives the opportunity for a different view on the good guys.

It’s not that I view the Joe team as infallible or anything like that, but it’s a lot easier to look at ideas of incompetency, or doing things without the proper moral foundation, when looking at a group like the Steel Brigade. They’re faceless, not really all that well developed as an idea (collectors like to army build), and I don’t really have any connection to them as a character, the way I do with Roadblock or Duke.

Red Laser’s Army, provided a different take on Factory Customs. The stuff produced by him, was different enough from The Black Major, that there wasn’t really any stepping on any toes, even if the two producers made Steel Brigade figures around the same time. However, RLA never really seemed to have things together enough. It’s a shame, because I would’ve liked to see more Steel Brigade figures released, perhaps only because I never really saw one factory custom version that ever really wowed me to the point of thinking “This could be the default Steel Brigade”

At the end of the day, probably more Steel Brigades than necessary were created, it’s an okay thing, but it’s also something we’re neither better or worse off for.

 

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