“RETRO” A.W.E. Striker

When the retro G.I. Joe line was announced, I was excited. While not handled perfectly, Hasbro was doing a pretty decent job reissuing figures from the 1980s. Sure, the Star Wars retro collection was underproduced, and bought up immediately, but I’d seen Generation 1 Transformers reissues, that were well stocked and well done. So, I thought that maybe Hasbro would be as faithful to G.I. Joe as they were to The Real Ghostbusters.

Sadly they weren’t. The figures weren’t the O-ring versions of 84 Roadblock and 82 Cobra Commander I was hoping for. I had some fears that they’d be rehashes of Modern Era figures, but I figured the fact they were doing “Ray Stantz with Wrapper Ghost” indicated that maybe Hasbro wouldn’t screw G.I. Joe up. When they finally started appearing online, it was obvious they had gone the pseudo modern route, and my attention turned to a singular item from the Retro Collection; the A.W.E. Striker.

The A.W.E. Striker is a strong vehicle, it’s got the panache of G.I. Joe, without straying too far from the core Military fantasy of the earliest years of the line. While the A.W.E. Striker is somewhat similar to the VAMP, there’s at the same time differences enough between the two of them, that it’s not just a replacement.

While the VAMP is more of an attack vehicle, I’ve always felt the A.W.E. Striker was more of a recon vehicle. It’s fast, it’s not really well armoured or all that safe. It’ll scout ahead, figure out what COBRA is up to, and then head back and allow the Joe team to determine what kind of strike team they need to send in.

I like the A.W.E. Striker because it’s a lot of fun, the suspension gimmick, is one of the better vehicle gimmicks, since it doesn’t really impede the actual toy, and the steerable wheels provide enough oomph to separate it from other vehicles. The design is nice and sleek, but has enough oomph to it, that it doesn’t feel sparse. There’s removable parts, but they make sense, and the antennae help complete the look of the toy. The engine gimmick is pretty fun too, because it’s one of those things that helped make G.I. Joe the best toyline of them all, an auxiliary feature that gave the line more depth than “GREEN GUYS SHOOTING BLUE GUYS”.

For some reason, the A.W.E. Striker is something I knowingly call by the incorrect name. For some reason “Awe-Striker” always sounded really dumb to me, so I’ve always separated the initials. I’ll call it the “A-W-E Striker”. I don’t know why, I don’t do that with the FANG, or VAMP, or MAGGOT or any other acronym’d vehicle. Just the A.W.E. Striker, I guess it’s due to listening to all sorts of punk bands with 3 initial names.

On one hand, I’m fairly disappointed by the entire RETRO Line, but I also feel that the chance at a vehicle I’ve wanted for a while, without too much difference from a vintage version, is a worthwhile silver lining. Especially considering that the A.W.E. Striker isn’t really known for it’s durability.

The vehicle itself is fairly solid, the plastic quality is good (it feels better than some of the 25th anniversary era reissues) and I haven’t had a decent quality A.W.E. since the 2001 version, and I recalled that not sitting in place, even on a flat surface. This one sits well.

The green used on this, isn’t the same as the vintage, but it’s a really nice shade of green, that fits well with various vintage G.I. Joes. One issue that can always come with thirty five year gaps, is the shades don’t naturally mesh. Not really the case with this one. The wheels, and seat are a darkish grey, not as dark as the 1982 accessories, but perhaps closer to the Accessory Pack versions. It’s a nice combo with the green, shows a difference between the two prior green A.W.E. Strikers, and still maintains the integrity of classic A.W.E. Striker design.

While there are definitely some differences between this A.W.E. Striker and the 1985, it’s also the first one to feature the cannon over the passenger side seat, since the 1991 Eco-Striker. The mold modifications for the Star Gate version, wound up placing the cannon at the rear of the rollbar, which would be continued on with the 2001, 2004, and the various Modern Era releases. Personally I’ve always found the rear attached canon to be somewhat awkward looking, and “off”, so for it to be returned to it’s original placement is a welcome change with me.

This vehicle came unassembled, which was nice, but it wasn’t entirely unassembled, the dash board and it’s accessories were already installed, as was the engine and the suspension. The parts came in multiple packages with parts was fun,  as it worked for a process. I was pleasantly surprised that they preassembled the canon, which was always a finicky piece. The best part about not having the vehicle come preassembled, is that the whip antennae weren’t warped.

The retro line was an utter disappointment, mainly because there was enough promise to the line, and both Hasbro’s handling of other revival lines, and the obvious market for O-Ring style G.I. Joes, made it seem like Hasbro doing O-Ring figures had more likelihood than the snowball’s chance in hell, it would’ve had even 5 years ago. At the same time, Hasbro did produce a couple of vehicles that weren’t not complete wastes of time, so it was nice to get SOMETHING. Of course Hasbro has gone and re-made the 1983 COBRA F.A.N.G. (something they did in 2007, but this is an entirely new mold), which was confusing at best, and disappointing at worst, because honestly there were plenty of things they could’ve re-done, like a COBRA Bunker or an A.S.P. where the figure doesn’t just lie there.

 

 

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1997 Torpedo

Torpedo is one of those secondary characters, that really had a rebirth after the vintage line ended, as he made numerous appearances in the preceding lines, especially the 25th Anniversary era, where Torpedo was definitely one of the better looking figures. It’s an odd thing, just due to the fact Torpedo never had the popularity that Wet Suit had. Torpedo’s upswing in usage really started in 1997. His mold had been used in India, and when most of those molds were recalled, Hasbro quickly put them to use for the 1997 line, so he was a natural fit, with numerous other early era repaints.

The 1997 Torpedo is simultaneously darker, and more colourful than the 1983 Torpedo. While the original’s grey has been darkened significantly, there was also red seams added on, and this splash of colour really does a lot for the Torpedo mold. It gives it a little oomph, that the mold never really had otherwise. The nice thing about the red stripes, is it that it’s muted fairly well, and doesn’t really cause much in the way of distraction, it’s not overly bright like some red highlights on black figures have been. The other nice thing about the red, is it calls attention to the sculpting on the figure, as the stripe goes over the seams of the wetsuit that were sculpted, but generally are left unpainted, because that’s how a real life wetsuit would have them.

Of course being a figure in a dive suit makes Torpedo one of the least useful Joe figures. It’s an unfortunate fact, because it’s a solid sculpt, but aquatic figures are kind of a niche, and that’s an aspect that’s hard to work around. Especially when your main focus in collecting is photos, where unless there’s water around, a dude in a Wet Suit with a spear gun, isn’t going to be looking all that natural.

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It’s funny, because for years there was a fair amount of derision pointed at the 1997 figures. However that came about in an era where nothing after 1987 (except Shockwave and Hit And Run) were good, unless it was a recent retail release like the ARAHC. Now years later, as the worm has turned somewhat, those perceived timeless classics of 2001 haven’t aged well, and the 1997 figures receive a little more positive attention, though they’re still fairly under the radar. I’ve grown to really appreciate the figures, as they have a little bit of charm, in how hard they were trying to be like vintage figures.

Some attempts at being time warped vintage figures were more successful than others, this version of Torpedo is definitely one of them. It’s really not all that different from something that could’ve seen release at some point in the 80s, while also being a new take on a figure. If I had to choose which version of Torpedo is my favourite, I’d likely say the 1997 version.

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One big issue for the entire series, is the fact that the 1997 quality is hit and miss. One issue is that Kenner used slightly larger shoulder rivets, which can lead to cracks in the plastic around them. Another issue that’s exclusive to Torpedo (as well as later on, Wet Down), is that the foot peg on the flippers and the hole in the feet aren’t completely compatible, so this version of Torpedo is up there with the 1983 Tripwire, and the 1984 Zartan for fragile heels. I put the flipper in his right foot when attempting photos for this profile and a stress crack developed immediately. So this version of Torpedo won’t be donning his flippers ever again.

Despite this figure being packaged with a repurposed Night Landing Craft, Torpedo was given the whole gamut of Torpedo accessories. The NLC also included it’s batch of accessories, too, so that set was quite a value. Torpedo’s speargun and flippers would weren’t overall unique, but the backpack is unique to this figure, as it’s done up in different shade of black than the common 2000s era backpack, and also features orange air tanks like the 1983 Torpedo backpack.

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When it comes to the 1997 and 1998 series’ of figures, there’s a lot of good figures in those releases. However, very few of these figures are improvements over earlier releases, they’re usually decent and a different take on the mold, but not objectively better. This version of Torpedo is one of the few figures (Others are the ’98 Ace and Heavy Duty) that I’d argue is an improvement over the vintage use of the mold. Considering that the original Torpedo was quite a plain figure, that might come off as damning with faint praise, but I’m actually quite a big fan of the original Torpedo, as well as other uses of the mold.

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1991 Eco Warriors Flint

 

This past summer, I had some conversations with Mike T. and in the midst of them, I figured I’d get him to review a famous figure that he hasn’t always been the kindest to. However, in turn, I was supposed to review a neon figure. So I figured I’d go with the Eco Warriors Commander, Flint.

The Eco Warriors aren’t entirely hated anymore, like they were for a good chunk of the 2000s, and 2010s. It’s also a thing where people really have come around on both the quality of the sculpting, but there’s also been a much larger acceptance of bright colours. I’m not entirely sure if that’s a societal shift, or perhaps people had finally had enough of the incredibly bland “GRITTY MILITARY REALISM” mindset that has been amongst G.I. Joe forever.

Flint was an interesting choice to lead the Eco Warriors, as he’s the only existing character on the Joe side, in the first series. It’s understandable as he’s a popular character, who’d been shown to be in a leadership position on the Joe team, but the fact he was thrown into the Eco Warriors is interesting, as prior to them, sub teams were either strictly new characters or strictly existing ones.

As a figure, Flint is pretty cool, the design is very nice, with enough detailing to show he’s in a protective suit, but not overly busy like some figures had really become. The thing I really appreciate about this figure is how symmetrical the design is. Oftentimes G.I. Joe figures would wind up being too lopsided or have one design element that was incredibly out of whack with the rest of the figure. The colours on this are LOUD. However, neon green and yellow are a colour scheme that work together. One of the biggest issues with the neon years in G.I. Joe, is the number of figures with bright highlights that do clash with the figure’s base colouring. The Eco Warriors Outback or the 93 Mutt are both examples of clashing colours, that result in fairly awful figures.

Eco Warriors have one thing, I feel is a legitimate gripe. The goofy colour change “Battle Damage” is one of those things that often doesn’t age well, I’d forgotten all about it’s existence when I originally got the figure, and spent a some time trying to clean the weird muck off, didn’t really work. Luckily my Flint doesn’t have a lot of it, poor Ozone looks like he was sick down his shirt after an evening of Shirley Temples.

The new versions of existing characters in the 90s was often done with a lot of care, and most times the figures had heads that really worked as updates of previous versions of the character. Sure, this Flint might have a stronger jaw, and no longer has the cocky grin, you look at him side-by-side with the 85 figure, and you can obviously tell they’re supposed to be the same character. It’s one of those internal continuity aspects, Hasbro doesn’t get enough credit for.

1991 is a year where figures really bulked up. Flint’s got a fairly bulky torso, and his upper arms are really large. On a figure like this, where he’s supposed to be in a chemical warfare suit, I can understand it.  There’s also an interesting change in dynamics between 80s figures and 90s figures. If you have a figure from the 80s that had a removable helmet, and you don’t have the helmet, they often times look fine. Doc, Duke, Roadblock, Hawk v2, Mutt, amongst others, are strong looking figures, and so long as they have the gun designed for the figure, they have the overall appearance down. Whereas in the 1990s, a figure like Eco Warriors Flint, who has a tremendous headsculpt, looks “off” without the goofy yellow helmet. However if he doesn’t have the awful gun he was released with, it doesn’t matter at all.

Eco Warriors are actually very solid figures, and unlike Ninja Force or some of the other subsets, it’s a contained enough line with no real duds. Arguably, the worst figure in it is the Toxo-Zombie, and that’s more just on the lack of use, rather than figure quality. Flint is perhaps my favourite of them all, and despite the neon green, is a figure that can fit in well, amongst non-Eco Warriors. Hasbro’s repaints of the 90s figures, during the repaint era, were often poorly done, and the 2001 repaint of this Flint is a good example of this. This is one of the molds that could have benefitted from being one of those bland Olive drab figures, as being the singular desert offering in the pale year of 2001 did this nice mold absolutely no favours.

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1987 Crystal Ball

 

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Crystal Ball is probably the least popular figure from the 1980s. He was a figure that was hanging around in the early 90s, and that’s not really an urban legend, either. I personally recall seeing him on a peg beside the 1994 Shadow Ninjas, at a Sears. One of my oldest and dearest friends mentioned that Crystal Ball was on the shelves of his hometown CVS in the mid 90s. I’ve heard numerous other stories, throughout G.I. Joe message boards and blogs about this.

The 1987 figures likely had the highest production numbers, of the 1980s, as it was the culmination of the steady momentum the line had created between 1982-1986. Crystal Ball is the figure NOBODY wanted, so the idea of him kicking around in like 1993 really isn’t that far-fetched.

As a figure, Crystal Ball is ridiculous. He’s some roasted Vincent Price looking dude, who has RED EYES and is dressed up like a gypsy from the 1870s. It’s no surprise Crystal Ball wasn’t popular. The figure also suffered from getting some dumb hypno shield as his only accessory, not that there’s much else you could give him. Though if you were to take this figure out of the context of G.I. Joe, the sculpting is fairly nice. Unfortunately Hasbro was too blind to take the successful aspect of G.I. Joe and create other non-military toylines. The talent and desire for that was there, it likely would’ve been just as big a hit for Hasbro. However they’d go and take similar construction aspects and make them a size that didn’t fit with anything.

Crystal Ball has a very interesting Filecard. It’s not the typical G.I. Joe filecard, as it’s written by Stephen King, who’s son Owen, was a big G.I. Joe fan. It’s neat, because it doesn’t say that Crystal Ball is some super villain, it to me has always given ol Crystal Ball a charlatan aspect. The whole mind reading thing might be able to chalked up as some weirdo with a forceful personality and intimidating presence. The quote at the bottom, indicates to me he’s likely kept around COBRA because of the terror he inspires, rather than abilities. Honestly the overall character isn’t too terrible, it’s the figure (in the G.I. Joe context) that did it in, as well as an abundance of interrogator style characters. If he’d been made a couple years earlier, he’d probably have the same camp value that Tomax and Xamot have, without being most memorable for being a figure people remember seeing in 1992.

I’m not a fan of Crystal Ball, but it’s less to do with the character, and more to do with the figure. The character is kooky, but also is kind of in line with the type of crackpots that would wind up in the peripheries of COBRA Command, especially after it gained Island sovereignty. The problem lies with the fact the figure is dressed up like the same style of gilded age peasant Charles Manson was dressed up as when he was taken into custody, though, Crystal Ball sprung for the fur collar. It’s such a bogus look, that doesn’t really fit in with the rest of G.I. Joe (or even the 20th century). It’s a nice sculpt, all things considered.

Crystal Ball is a pretty bad figure, with little going for him. I have one, because I was buying a bunch of figures locally, and didn’t think much in the ways of making good decisions. The nice thing about G.I. Joe is that they’re not even 4 inches, you’re not going to be running out of space because of one figure.

 

 

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Great Moments In (Not)-G.I. Joe History

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1983 Zap

Outside of factory customs, I hadn’t purchased many G.I. Joe figures online since probably 2011-2012, I made a few purchases here or there, but I wasn’t actively looking at G.I. Joes, so in the late 2018ish, when I started collecting Joes with a bit more enthusiasm again, I was shocked at how STOOPID some of the prices had become, one figure in particular, really shocked me, the original Zap. Zap isn’t really a fan favourite, and while the figure is somewhat fragile, I never would’ve imagined he’d be commanding between $50 and $70 dollars. That’s not even factoring Double Handled Bazookas.

Zap’s one of the more unique Original 13 Joes, he’s got a seldom used torso, and he also received the green colouring only a couple of the 1982 figures got. He’s a nice looking figure, even if he’s still somewhat generic looking. Zap also shows that bright green had been a main stay of G.I. Joe since day one, since his pouches are pretty much the same colour as Col. Courage’s highlights.

Zap copy

One place Zap tends to benefit from is having a memorable specialty of being a Bazooka man. His weapon is also fairly stereotypical looking as what you’d think a bazooka would look like. It’s cool, but the fact Zap is walking around with something that looks like it came out of the Korean War is kinda of odd, but that’s the nice thing about G.I. Joe, it’s got a degree of realism, that’s much more entertaining than if it were to actually be realistic.

His Bazooka though is part of what makes this figure interesting, since there’s three major variants of it, and there’s also the fact it seems to be made out of different plastic than most Joe weapons, it almost feels like it’s made out of the same plastic that figures are made from. I think that might be part of the reason that so many of the Bazookas are missing the sight, and why it breaks so many damn thumbs! Of the three Bazooka variants, I’ve never actually seen a double-handle, and there’s also the thin and thick handled Bazookas. The thick isn’t terrible, and as long as you’re not being an idiot, should be safe with figure’s thumbs. The thin handle is great though, as it takes away a lot of the weariness from using the Bazooka.

Zap

Zap’s got some decent character traits. He cracks wise and isn’t thrilled with being forced to fly helicopters. It’s not much, but what’s Short Fuse ever done? To me, Zap’s got a specialty that’s actually pretty useful for the Joes, since having mobile anti-armour support would come in handy. To me, Zap’s in the second tier of figures I choose for photographs, because of this. He’s definitely not one of my favourite figures, but he’s got a place. He stands out more than a lot of his 1982 brethren, not only due to the light olive base colouring, but the, bright pre-neon green used on his pocket highlights provide just enough “pop” that he can meld in with later figures a little better than Short Fuse or Grand Slam.

It appears that some of the 1982 characters were going to have new heads, at some point. Zap is one of the ones that it has been shown to be the case, it appears to be a head that looks very similar to the one used for Deep Six, featuring a cheap painted on moustache that makes him look like Freddie Prinze. It’s no better than the black haired Grunt head, and while I don’t doubt the authenticity, I don’t really feel we missed out not getting it. Though when the hubbub about it’s surfacing happened, it made me realize something about my interest in G.I. Joe, and that was, there’s a lot of secretive and behind the scenes stuff that never saw the light of day, and I honestly couldn’t care less. It seems a lot of my interest is rooted in things that are actually attainable. Unused concepts and stuff are neat, but a Zap that looks like Chico Rodriguez (AKA worse than the production figure) isn’t all that interesting or impressive.

Zap to me, is the Joe who gets brought along, because he’ll be useful to use to soften up hard targets, and enough secondary skills that he’s not a one-trick pony. Though with how much a Zap costs nowadays, I think I might start using the 1997 in photos instead!

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1990 Sonic Fighters Dial Tone

The Sonic Fighters repaints are very interesting, as they’re either incredibly solid figures that might not be an improvement over the original, but are just as good and more often than not, are kinda sorta environmentally specific. The other Sonic Fighters are usually bright, and sort of obnoxious, and if not bright, poorly coloured none the less. It’s one of those things that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because it’s strange that a bright orange Lamprey and a blue, black and grey Dial Tone can exist in the same assortment.

The Sonic Fighters are what I find to be the most interesting set of repaints that Hasbro did. The lack of a unifying theme, allowed for interesting takes on some fairly solid molds to come forth. Dial Tone, Law and Tunnel Rat, all received new and interesting colour schemes. The worst of the Sonic Fighter Joes, is likely Dodger, and that figure isn’t even all that bad, it just can’t compete with the others. The 1991 series were given the “Super Sonic Fighters” moniker, and feature some new figures, as opposed to just repaints. The ’91s are a little more obnoxious, but some are still good. Much like Night Force I tend to view both series as one subteam.

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Dial Tone is one of those figures I’ve never really paid much attention to. I’m not really sure why, but I think it’s probably due to the fact that I’ve had most of his figures but they’ve often disappeared into the ether of trades or purges without me ever noticing. I’m not really sure why he’s one of those figures, but whatever, better Dial Tone than someone like Rock ‘N Roll.

This version of Dial Tone is probably the most appealing one to me. The black, grey and blue work well, without being too urban specific. It’s a darker scheme than the ’86 version, but I feel it works better, as there’s less colour co-ordination for the sake of it, which lead to the 86’s boots and kneepads matching the odd green of his sweater vest. This version shares most of the paint masks, which is always nice to see, as it doesn’t miss anything the original had.

It’s a good sculpt, as it’s got the military vibes of the early Joe line, but isn’t entirely rooted in them. Dial Tone also lucked out, in not being thrown into the 1986 shared design scheme, that befell a number of 1986 Figures. If you look at them, Roadblock, Cross Country, and Low Light all share some pretty consistent design tropes. It’s one of those things that is neat, but probably could’ve been handled a lot better. The best part of Dial Tone’s design is that his trappings are where the military aspect come from. The beret and the bandoliers are what give him the appearance of classic military, which allows the rest of the sculpt to deviate, without it being considered unrealistic.

The Sonic Fighters all came with a lot of weapons. Dial Tone received his original gun, this time done up in black, as well as a couple other oddities. The BF2000 guy pistol is whatever, and the black Charbroil flame thrower is good for someone needing to complete a Night Force figure. The real winner is the black Hardball grenade launcher. It’s big and dumb, but looks cool! Funnily enough, the original Hardball launcher is still a pretty good colour match for this Dial Tone. Sadly Sonic Fighters were based on the noise making backpack gimmick, so his original communications pack is nowhere to be found. The v1 works, but it would’ve been nice if it was a darker shade of grey.

Dial Tone’s character is one of that is solely conceived by that episode of the cartoon where Dial Tone gets fired and is shown living on skid row eating beans cold outta the can. That’s pretty much what Dial Tone is to me, a guy who’s probably amongst the lowest Joes, when it would come to rating performance. He’s still an above average soldier, just the worst of the best of the best.

Overall, I think this is probably the nicest Dial Tone repaint. The Mission to Brazil one might be better, but I’ve never owned it. This one is a little more down to earth than the original, nor as odd as some of the repaint era versions.

 

 

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2000 Firefly

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The very first online purchase I made was for the 2000 Firefly. Things were different back then, and I was a tad leery about online deals in general. I wasn’t sure if I wanted some dude in Tennessee or wherever knowing where I lived, but the 2000 Firefly was part of a 2 pack that went for a TON of money, so being able to pick the figure from the Firefly/Undertow 2 pack that I really wanted, at a measly 8 bucks was something that made me willing to take the chance that some guy on a G.I. Joe message board, that I’d never had any interactions with, would actually send me this figure.

Then I got the figure.

Sometimes quality issues can lead to dismissal of a figure. The first 2000 Firefly I owned, I bought in 2002, and he unfortunately had two strikes against him. Firstly, his shoulders were incredibly floppy, so the figure never really had the range of motion that made the figure capable of holding most poses. There was also some globs of the flesh colouring used in the hands, that had found itself in the figure’s wrist bombs or whatever those things on his left arm is. Either way the 2000 Firefly was a figure I had really wanted, but ended up as somewhat of a dud (funny how that can happen, based on quality issues). So 18 years later I figured I should probably upgrade that copy, I’m not really sure why, but I guess ARAHC Nostalgia is similar to the ARAH nostalgia people had in 2000.

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The 2000 figures were interesting, in that Hasbro had come up with a fairly novel concept to get past spending money on camouflage paint apps, where they’d use marbleized plastic in a way that would simulate camo. Some figures definitely took it better than others, and I honestly think the 2000 Firefly was the best example of the marbleized plastic. Mainly because it’s a great sculpt, that never had another forest/jungle interpretation, and more importantly, Hasbro didn’t leave the figure completely devoid of paint apps, as he got black for his sweater, grenades, pistol and boots, and a splash of colour with a red time bomb. The figure overall is still somewhat drab, but he still has enough paint apps that he doesn’t feel cheap, whereas figures like Double Blast or Dial Tone from the same era, don’t overcome the drabness and lack of paint apps. Firefly is one of the top 5 figures in the G.I. Joe line, in my opinion, so I might feel this version is superior to other 2000s era ARAHC figures, just based on that bias, rather than if it’s an actual measurable quality increase.

Environmentally specific versions are a great way to do repaints of characters. It allows a character more opportunities for use, without stepping on the toes of the original figure. While the 1984 Firefly looks great in most locales, a figure like this one allows the character a little more life, as he’s not some dude dressed up for the city, while standing in a field. The use of dark brown and green, was actually quite a good choice, because it’s a neutral enough scheme that this version of Firefly doesn’t look too out of place in some desertscapes, either. For a character like Firefly, this is actually quite important, because his character and specialty requires him to be more of a globe trotter. Plus the majority of his figures were quite urban oriented.

The use of marbleized plastic led to no two Fireflies being the same, I’m sure that probably drives some people up the wall, but I don’t really care that much. My original figure had a fair amount of green, while the one I picked up to replace it was much more brown, I’m glad that’s the case as it gives me both extremes of the 2000 Firefly. However if you look at the filecards for the 2000 figures, you see that they were originally going to be painted like traditional G.I. Joe figures, the Firefly portrait shows a brown body with green tiger stripe camo. General Hawk’s 2000 figure shows a white jacket with brown camo. I’m not really sure what I’d have preferred, though I think at the end of the day the traditional style paint jobs would’ve been better received, and would’ve aged better, considering that 20 years later, few of the marbleized figures are still even thought about.

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The Firefly character wasn’t really much in the media, as he didn’t really do much, nor did he succeed when he did do things. However he looked cool, and was usually the character that received a lot of people’s personal character building. I always felt that since he was wearing a commando sweater like an 1982 Joe, he obviously was just as talented and combat savvy as they were. Plus the figure had that early 80s blank stare, which made him look more evil than some of the angrier looking figures. There’s something sinister about a guy who looks like he couldn’t care less about the fact his life’s work revolves around using explosives to kill people and cause property damage.

The 2000 Firefly, featured Hasbro making a change to how they painted the Firefly character. The ’84 and ’98 releases featured his balaclava having an opening around his eyes. The 2000 and later releases (Except for the Convention versions), were done with a strip of whatever colour the mask was, going over his nose, and between his eyes. It’s not really an improvement for the look, but it was something Hasbro decided they were going with. It did give Firefly more of an IRA guy look, though.

Few ARAHC figures were great. Those that were often didn’t take chances, there’s plenty than can be said about that, but not all of the great ARAHC figures were just bare updates of classic molds, as this Firefly was a great departure from the typical Firefly figure, as it was not the urban saboteur he was known to be, this is a field soldier now. It’s also perhaps the best example of the marbleized plastic that Hasbro attempted to use, which gives this figure some extra points because it showed that if the overall effort was put in, taking chances with a G.I. Joe figure could be rewarding.

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Still, one of the the things that I think about whenever I see this figure is the fact it was the first time I decided to buy something over the internet. It’s funny as it was a figure that quality wise wasn’t really what I was expecting, but there was a thrill to getting something I actually wanted in the mail, and the ability to get long unavailable G.I. Joes was quite something.

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1988 Cobra Battle Barge

A while back, a comment mentioned that Hasbro took the world building aspect of G.I. Joe seriously. I hadn’t quite realized just to what extent that was really the case. Then I started to think about the amount of toys Hasbro released that were taking the G.I. Joe mythologies very seriously. If the idea of COBRA Island hadn’t been such an integral part of the mid 1980s, I highly doubt that a toy like the COBRA Battle Barge would’ve ever been designed.

Looking at it as just a toy, the Battle Barge is a really lazy toy, with no real redeeming qualities, and a decent enough premise, but even then, that’s kind of stretching it. The Barge is a little floating radar station, with three gun stations. It’s an incredibly lazy design, because they sculpted one unit, and then triplicated it, stuck ’em together and put a radar array in the middle.

However if one looks at it, in the context of G.I. Joe, the Battle Barge makes perfect sense. COBRA Island is not located all that far from the US, so there would likely be plenty of attempts at invasions, or commando raids on the Island, regardless of it’s actual sovereignty, so having armed radar stations that could also possibly act like an anti-submarine buoy, would make sense as some form of mainly symbolic visual deterrent. Honestly, after thinking about the Battle Barge from this perspective made me like it a lot more.

HighSeasRelaxation

While, from an in-universe, and world building perspective, the Battle Barge is pretty impressive. As an actual toy, it sucks. It’s hollow, it’s as though Hasbro sculpted one gunner’s seat, and then triplicated it, and stuck the radar array in the centre. The guns are quite weak, as though they’re swivelling and can pivot, they don’t have a handle for the figure in the seat to hold on to. It’s something that could be a lot better than it actually was.

For example, if the gun mounts were a quarter inch shorter, the operator would be able to ACTUALLY use them. I think part of the reason this bothers me, is because it’s one of the earliest cracks in G.I. Joe’s foundation. Sure the Silver Mirage was a fragile hunk of junk, but the overall design wasn’t flawed like this.

Overall, a bad G.I. Joe toy, is still above average, especially a mid 80s toy, as G.I. Joe was just that good of a toyline. The fact that from an in-universe context the Battle Barge makes sense, is something that probably makes me like it more than I used to. Still, it’s not something I’d recommend.

According to the 1988 Hasbro Catalog, the Battle Barge was shipped at THIRTY SIX per case (with the other 12 units being COBRA Jet Packs). That’s insane, and really shows how different the toy landscape of the 1980s was. So that means there’s A LOT of COBRA Battle Barges out there. (Big thanks to friend of the blog, The Amazing A-Man for that tidbit of information)

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The Arms Race

Some things in G.I. Joe are almost either unnoticed, or so common that they’re treated as something not worth noting, but in doing that, that knowledge tends to be forgotten over the years, and then treated as a revelation, when someone makes note of it. One thing I’m not sure on how widespread the factoid is, is that in 1983 when Hasbro adopted Swivel-Arm Battle Grip, they did a few things that wound up saving them time, sculpting and money in the long run. They re-used a lot of upper arms, quite frequently.

Basically everybody knows that most of the 1982 Figures, and Snow Job have the same upper arms. Everyone also knows that Zartan, Zarana and Zandar also share the same upper arms (A side-effect of the colour change plastic). However there’s a hell of a lot more than that out there in the early Joe line.


If you look at the 82-83 Swivel Arm Scarlett, and then at the HISS Driver, you’ll notice they share the same upper arms. Those upper arms are also shared with Cover Girl and The Baroness.


Most people notice that the swivel arm Flash and Grand Slam figures, lost the sculpted pads on their upper arms, this was a cost-savings measure as those parts would’ve been used on three figures, tops. The upper arms used by Flash and Grand Slam also happen to be shared by most of the early line. This isn’t a complete list, and there’s a few that I probably mis-identified, but for the most part it’s as accurate as it’s gonna be;

Doc
Duke
Steeler
COBRA Officer
COBRA Commander
Airborne
Scrap Iron
Major Bludd
Steel Brigade
Rip Cord
Wild Bill
Tripwire
Torpedo
Firefly
Wild Weasel
Crimson Guard

I was actually blown away at how many figures shared those plain upper arms, so I did a little more looking, and found that Mutt, Recondo, Tollbooth and Spirit all share upper arms as well. Surprisingly, Cutter doesn’t share these upper arms, despite having incredibly similar ones.

The final batch of shared arms I noticed were, Dr. Mindbender, Buzzer, Roadblock and Gung Ho. It makes sense they’re shared as all three are bare sleeved. 

It’s kind of amazing how much undocumented parts sharing there was, but it was a thing that helped maintain symmetry and allowed for resource dollars to be better spent elsewhere.

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