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.