The earliest examples of third party factory produced COBRA Troopers came about in the late part of the 2000s, there was 4 or 5 shown that were entirely unique and very cool figures that set us up for the O-ring revival that has happened in the last decade. Of the various flavours of the COBRA Trooper, the one that I liked the most was the Desert Trooper.
I’m not really sure who made these figures, they definitely pre-date the Black Major’s figures. One thing that really showed this was a fan created endeavour was the use of an incredibly obscure variation of the Cobra emblem, from the 1994 Scorpion Jeep. It’s a cool nod, but also one that if it hadn’t been made, no one would really have missed it, as the old fashioned COBRA emblem is still a favourite.
One area this figure really shines, is how close to the Hasbro tan of the early 80s this figure manages to be. One area that the factory customs tend to be easily identifiable, is by their hues. This figure was a homerun, and it allows for some of the quality issues to be overlooked. These figures have very stiff legs, the crotches tend to have stress marks, and while the arm joints are pretty solid, their hands don’t have the greatest of grips.
Anyone who spends any time looking at any of my G.I. Joe photography, will be able to quickly tell, I really like the desert themed figures. So, as a predominantly 1982-1984 collector I was in a bit of a jam, before the factory custom Cobra Soldiers came out. However when that happened, my issues were somewhat eased, but the problem became “How the hell am I supposed to get one of these figures?”. These first era Cobra soldiers were very difficult to track down, for a non-connected Joe Fan, and they would go for STOOPID prices on the open market. The Black Major’s first wave of figures put some of the fire out, because they were attainable. However this figure was still somewhat pricier than the others, due to the fact there wasn’t other Desert Troopers. Then TBM’s various Desert Troopers (First 2 Camouflage variants, then 2 similar to this figure!) appeared, and made this figure run about 12 dollars.
One thing I hadn’t noticed about these figures, is that there’s a distinct variation to them. Of the four I own, two have pale faces, and the other two are a healthier complexion. It’s not discolouration, because they’re all uniform, and best I can figure is that there’s something to do with the origins of the figures. The ones with the pale complexion, I got from a seller in China. The tanned complexion figures, came from a lot originating in the USA. It’s odd, because I don’t think the other versions (Stinger, Snow Serpent or Crimson) have this variation.
The fact there’s multiple variations of the Desert COBRA Soldier, is a thing I quite like. This one isn’t my favourite, but I feel stands out the most of the various versions, because he looks the most like a vintage G.I. Joe. If I didn’t like Desert settings so much, I probably never would’ve bothered with this figure, as the Black Major version equivalent with the brown straps and red COBRA logo, is just as appealing, and honestly I think I liked TBM’s first COBRA Soldier mold the best.