1989 Python Patrol Tele Viper

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There used to be a time when the Python Patrol were disregarded outright. It was strange since they were army builders in a time of army building mania, but they didn’t seem all that popular. Maybe yellow and red were too gaudy a colour scheme, either way they weren’t talked about often, they were (and still somewhat are) not seen often, and because of the lack of attention on them, I’d never really bothered to put any effort into finding the three ball necked figures.

I saw a Python Patrol Tele Viper for a decent price, and picked it up, I was already buying some other stuff, and felt it would be a good time to buy a figure I’ve never actually owned. I think the original Tele Viper is a pretty decent figure, though somewhat harmed by the obvious late change in neck designs, and honestly my biggest issue has always been the lack of colour that provides any breaks in the figure’s design. Which leads to the the nicest thing about the Python Tele Viper, is that while it might not be the traditional COBRA blue, it does happen to have a much more vibrant and broken up colour scheme. The yellow might be a bit much, but it’s not over powering, and breaks up the grey and provides some separation between the figure’s head and torso, that the original was sorely lacking.

The original Python Patrol sub team, can be split into two camps. The first three, are early molds with like colours but very little in the way of uniformity. The second set of three, are 85-86 era Molds, and feature far more uniformity, without following any actual pattern. With the second set of Pythons, there’s a really decent cohesion between the Viper and Tele Viper (less so the Python Guard). They’re not perfect matches or anything, but the black helmet with red visor and the predominantly grey fatigues allow them to form a fairly uniform squadron, without being too close that they blend into each other. It’s not something that was often done with COBRA army builders, which is understandable from a retail perspective, but in the repaint era there were some opportunities that could’ve been afforded, yet were missed.

What I’d never realized until having the Python Viper and Tele Viper’s standing next to each other, was how similar their uniforms are. Hasbro doesn’t always get the credit it deserves for maintaining an aesthetic amongst it’s figures, not just as an overall toyline, but there were some real examples of going hard to ensure there was internal consistency amongst the two factions. With the Viper and the Tele-Viper sculpts there’s some obvious differences, but those actually go to highlight both the similarities and the fact that the two figures aren’t representing the same role, in regards to combat operations. The colouring has too many differences for it to really come to light with the 1985 and 1986 figures, but the Python scheme really helps illustrate it.

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The Tele Viper is an interesting mold, it’s plain but visually appealing enough to be a classic design. The head is probably the biggest source of criticism because it’s such a large one. While I do think it’s too big, the communication gear aspect does skew it a bit, in my opinion. It’s design really shows that Tele-Vipers are not meant to be combat operatives, and the lack of sculpted weapons, show they’re intended to be support staff for the COBRA legions.

I previously mentioned what I felt was an issue with the figure being the late neck design switch. A lot of the 1985 Sculpts look as though they were intended to be swivel necks, like the previous three G.I. Joe series. If you look at catalog photos and the portraits of Vehicle Drivers like Heavy Metal and Lampreys, a lot of them appear to be Swivel Necks. This isn’t just an interesting factoid, it also helps to explain why some of the 1985 figures have odd torsos or heads that seem a little “off”. A friend of mine once retrofitted a Flint torso into being a swivel neck, and it makes Flint’s head/beret seem less lopsided, I feel that the Tele Viper head was probably made a little off-kilter based on the elongation of the neck.

Otherwise the mold isn’t all that intricate, as most of the  highly detailed sculpting and telecommunications gear is based on the figure’s head, but the cargo pants and vest look neat, and practical. While I earlier mentioned the similarities between the Tele Viper and Viper, the Tele Viper also has some of the utilitarian design aspects of the earlier 1982 COBRA army builders.

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I like this figure, but I purchased him mainly because I had decent squad of Python Vipers, and this version would tie in well with them, plus there was the novelty of buying a brand new to me figure, which becomes harder and harder to do as the years of collecting grow. While I don’t think I like the figure enough to go out an acquire any more of them, but that’s not really a condemnation of the figure, but it’s more that it’s not a figure that would ever have a big enough role in my collection, to require more than one.

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8 Responses to 1989 Python Patrol Tele Viper

  1. black ripcord says:

    the fact that an unarmed telecommunications specialist was a major release at the height of the line’s popularity is a testament to how committed hasbro was to the concept of world building, it takes a strong brand and product to pull something like that off. you’d figure vipers would have comms in their helmets (i think there’s documentation out there of this being canonized) but in a large operation you’d need someone behind the lines making sure the radios work. hasbro took the idea of a REMF IT guy and sold it to 10 year old boys.

    20+ years ago i plumbed together a televiper, viper and legs from the 90’s mercer to create a “combat ready” televiper. i feel like a similar thing can be done with the phython ones.

  2. A-Man says:

    I’ve said he’s arguably better than the original 1985 release. IIRC, he’sa closer match to the Hasbro Python Viper, more than the factory customs.

    I don’t know why people used to dismiss Python Patrol other than the “anything after 1986 sucks” and “all repaints suck besides maybe Night Force” outlook that some early online contributors had.

    The plus side it gave the Tele-Viper a second release, unlike the other 1985 troopers, he was never updated in the vintage line (gawd knows what he would’ve looked like…Cyber-Viper?).
    It’s too bad the mold was MIA (Or was it?) and never got any 2000’s love. It’s not a great mold, but it is an important role in Cobra.

    The new sculpt and 25th releases were both quirky in their own rights. Something about the Tele-Vipers, always got something odd about them.

    • Yeah, the dismissal of Python Patrol was an oddity. The early 2000s were pretty cringe-worthy in many aspects.

      You’re right about every Tele-Viper having an oddity that does the figure injustice.

  3. jzyber says:

    It has always puzzled me that Tele-Viper (the original 1985 version) was the first of any sort of Viper character. The basic Viper infantry trooper wouldn’t be released until 1986.

    As a kid in 1985, it was damned confusing to have a new character called “Tele-Viper” when the core concept of the Viper troops with their many specialties hadn’t been established yet. What a weird name to arrive out of the blue. The “tele” part was clear, but why viper? Why not Tele-Cobra, which would have made a lot more sense?

    I have to assume that Hasbro had planned out the Viper concept to launch in 1985, but pushed back the infantry trooper for some reason (or planned everything for 1986 and released Tele-Viper early).

    • A-Man says:

      The ____- Viper thing was Hama’s suggestion because he had trouble creating names for non-character Cobras. Hasbro ran with it. It is odd Tele-Viper came first.

  4. generalliederkranz says:

    I’d never thought about whether some of the ’85s were supposed to be swivel-necks. I wonder if a last-minute change, refined on later production runs, explains the long-neck/short-neck variation on the Crimson Guard?

    • I could see that being the case!

      The swivel-neck change is one of those things that seems really last minute, since prototype figures tend to show them being swivel necks (Tomax & Xamot are a good example), and a lot of the heads in commercials look “off”. The lack of anything acknowledging it on the packaging is kind of telling, too. Since Hasbro was going on about “Swivel Arm Battle Grip” for three years.

  5. Pingback: 1988 Cobra Battle Barge | Attica Gazette

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