One of the figures I’ve never really been a huge fan of, is the 1985 COBRA EEL. I’m not sure why, it’s just never really done much for me. I can see why people like it, though I’ll readily admit that if I was forced to choose a COBRA Diver, I’d go with the 1988 Hydro Viper every time. So when The Black Major started showing off Eel repaints, most of them didn’t really do much for me, except one that was done up with a late 2000s movie era G.I. Joe logo on the chest. It stood out, as it was definitely a departure from the typical Black Major release, but it was also something I figured would wind up not actually being produced.
Eventually when the EELs had been produced, that Joe frogman was one of the ones in the photos, so I was actually pretty excited and hoped to at least be able to get that figure. I hoped that it would be slightly easier to get than the Night Force Snake Eyes, and luckily it was.
One place this figure really stands out, is how good the colouring is. The black grey upper body works well for a diver, ties in well with Torpedo and is different from other uses of the EEL mold, so it’s unique as a Joe. The lower body is what definitely solidifies it as a Joe, as the deep green (reminiscent of Stars and Stripes Grunt) is a very G.I. Joe colour, and it gives the figure into a two-tone design rarely seen on a COBRAs in comparison to Joes.
The highlights on the mold are appreciated and take an already solid figure and ups the quality a bit. The red and yellow break up the darkness of the figure, without being overpowering, and help tie the figure together. The ROC era Joe logo tampograph is a cool detail, that could’ve been omitted, but wasn’t, so that’s another step up that this figure has on what it could’ve potentially been.
In a way this figure feels like a lost 1997 release. Some of that is the same green used as Stalker and Grunt from the Stars and Stripes set, but also the overall colouring choices and where the paint apps were applied. The 1997 G.I. Joes, quality issues aside, feature some of the most fundamentally sound G.I. Joe designs, though there were some bungles to the final product. They took vintage styling, and were able to tweak the colouring into a more muted, but still interesting array. Part of the issue with 1997 designs, is they feature a lot of weird shit, like red boots and teal highlights. They were obviously designed by amateurs. The Black Major isn’t an amateur.
I was really happy with the level of quality of this figure, as well. The plastic feels solid, the paint apps are sharp, and the joints are tight and don’t feel all that weak. When you’re dealing with Third Party Customs, the quality is going to vary, somethings will not meet your standards, but that’s just how it works, this figure exceeded my expectations and is a figure I’d rank up there with early TBM Storm Shadows and first wave COBRA De Aço figures.
Now Blackjack isn’t entirely perfect, because he comes with a kit of bright red EEL accessories. The colour co-ordination with the figure is well done, and as time has gone by, I’ve started to be a little more willing to give these red accessories a pass. Would I have preferred black or a green that matched the legs? Absolutely, but hey I’m not in charge of things, and these do tie in well with the figure. The quality of the accessories is really good too. The jets and the backpack connect well, the air tube is malleable and the flippers don’t fall off.
This figure is a kind of novelty, as it’s somewhat strange to see The Black Major produce a figure designated as a Joe. It’s happened before, but for the most part, TBM focuses on COBRA releases, it makes sense based on army building, and collector preferences. So for one of the EEL repaints to be a brand new member of G.I. Joe, is actually very refreshing. The fact it’s not the Tiger Force repaint of the EEL mold, was also a surprise. The fact it was so solidly coloured both in terms of the colours used, and where they were applied was another thing that solidified my desire to own the figure. It’s overall strong quality was good to see as well.