Army building is a phenomenon, that I participate in, and understand, but I also feel that it can be one of the worst facets of collecting, just due to it’s ability to lead to competition, showing off and obsessiveness. Toy collecting attracts some strange types, but the biggest head cases I’ve come across have always been the army builder with no sense of humour. I take A LOT of G.I. Joe pictures, so because of that, I feel owning dozens of certain figures has some merit. The faceless enemy aspect of COBRA Command is one of the basic tenents of G.I. Joe A Real American Hero. So in a way, I feel that having armies allows me to create my so-called art in a way more accurate to the source material. I like the figures I army build, and do think they look cool in numbers, but at the same time if I didn’t take pictures I’d be less inclined to army build, it’s not like I display my collection, and frankly rows of army builders lined up on shelves has never appealed to me. Others mileage may vary, and I’m probably just using a straw man argument on myself.
Oddly enough, while I like army building, my feelings on the various iterations of the COBRA Officer is different. Be it the Original, the Comic Pack or this Night Watch Version, I don’t really see them as army builders. I don’t see them as named individuals, but rather just a singular designated position within COBRA. The Night Watch set had two different Officers, the Red Masked one and the Black Masked one. To me, the Red Mask is a specific rank and individual. He could be killed and replaced, it’s not like he’s irreplaceable, but it allows some example of meritocracy within the Combat Ranks in COBRA, and suggests that aspects of COBRA are handled by non-named COBRA Operatives. Either way, I don’t have huge need for Officers, as they’re not essential combat operatives. I sorta just see them as dudes who go to a lot of meetings, like the Imperial Officers did in A New Hope.
When it came to the O-Ring Six Packs, Night Watch is one of the better ones, perhaps by default of including theoretical fan favourite figures, without any characters. The execution of these figures left some to be desired, partially because there was a higher quality example of the same overall idea released the year before. Times have changed and the preference of the 1982 COBRA heads vs. the 2004 TRU COBRA heads has swayed the other way, the Night Watch is still oft-forgotten. An oddly coloured, incomplete use of the 82 molds don’t really match up with many of the Factory Custom versions of the same figures, which use the entire original mold. No Roadblock parts!
I also feel that while the original waist and arms are better sculpts, the Officer didn’t get clobbered the same way the Trooper did, when the Roadblock v1 Waist and Arms were substituted. Maybe it was the colouring, but it didn’t feel quite as bad. I know originally the Night Watch was supposed to be the same molds as the 2004 TRU COBRA Infantry, but then the story was those molds were “lost”, and then that story changed so that supposedly the molds were in a factory that was then seized by the Chinese Government or something. The details on that were always really murky, and never made sense, nor had any reputable sourcing. I figure what really happened was the arms and legs were separated to be used with the 2004 Urban Strike Scrap Iron, and then the 2005 Comic Pack Scrap Iron, so things had to be changed, and as the Repaint Era was coming to a close, Roadblock v1 was an oft used choice.
While the Night Watch Troopers really aren’t very good, though they were the first real example of an 82 COBRA in different colours. The Night Watch Officer on the other hand is actually a surprisingly decent figure. The colour is a nice darkish blue, that is definitely not COBRA blue, but is eye-catching and not ever used anywhere else in the annals of G.I. Joe, because of this, it’s one of the few modern (Or whatever we’re calling post-2000) figures that are capable of also working with Vintage G.I. Joes. My preferred version of the figure, with the Red Mask, has quite good paint apps, there’s silver on for the logos and helmet crest, red on the webgear and collar which provide the figure with enough colour, to stand out, but not be distracting. These Officers are very interesting, as they follow the vintage template a lot better, than a lot of the 2000s era figures did.
The Red Mask really harkens back to the earliest G.I. Joe media, and does a better job distinguishing the Officer from the Trooper than the black masked Officers tended to do. In fact colouring wise, the second Officer in the Night Watch set actually takes more chances, since it has gold and purple as it’s secondary colouring, but the black mask really does little to distinguish them from basic Troopers. So I’ve found the Red Masked Officer to be more important in my eyes. I like the variations of the figures though, as it allows distinction as to who’s the most important, but allows me to have a few extra bodies in the Officer Corps.
I legitimately hadn’t thought about the Night Watch Officer in almost a decade, before writing this. I remember at one point feeling that 2005 hadn’t aged well, and it really didn’t, but it’s nice to be able to go back and be surprised at the quality of a figure. I don’t often use COBRA Officers, but I could see this figure finding it’s way into a few more photos in the next little while, especially since this figure feels like one of the few figures released after 1997 to have the spirit of the original G.I. Joe line.