G.I. Joe underwent serious changes in 1986. It was no longer the Military fantasy that dominated the first four years, and now a greater emphasis was to be placed on the fantasy aspect of the line. There’d always been lasers, and Zartan was a pretty preposterous character, if we’re going to be honest. However 1986 ratcheted things up quite a bit, and I think where a lot of the issues that came about from this are felt, is the fact that Hasbro really changed the way they were sculpting the figures in the G.I. Joe line.
In a vacuum, and removing any preconceived notions about the character, if you look at the actual Serpentor figure, the quality of it jumps out at you. The sculpting, the colours and the overall feeling of the figure provides a pretty strong indication as to what the figure is supposed to represent. He’s obviously someone important, and likely regal. Serpentor’s a figure that’s fairly hard to argue against on an actual quality standpoint. His sculpting is a higher quality than a lot of the 1986 figures, and that’s a thing that helps the overall figure, no matter what one’s feelings on the character is.
Serpentor’s got a very regal appearance, with the snake helmet, the scaled armor and the snake motif that appears on the design. I think the snake head gauntlet on his left arm might be my favourite design aspect of the figure. Hasbro did some very nice stuff with the figure, the scaled torso and lower legs are very detailed, and the sections of armorplate are done well too.
Serpentor is one of those figures that’s quite solid, but his accessories are designed to tie the entire figure together. He looks good by himself, but the cape and backpack cowl really take the Serpentor design to the next level. The cape is often destroyed, but there are some reproductions out there. Like the one in this photo, so if there’s ever an argument for reproduction accessories, Serpentor is a prime example as to why they’re needed. I own some fairly rare G.I. Joe items, but if someone was gonna go and reproduce them, I’m not going to raise a fuss, because most of the stuff on the reproduction market has some obvious tells to them, they’re things you can determine by looking at pictures. Some stuff is a little dodgier than others, like green Firefly phones, but for the most part people are pretty honest. If you see a Starduster helmet that doesn’t fit on the head in an awkward manner? It’s a repro.
One issue with this figure, is the fact he’s made out of gold plastic, a plastic highly susceptible to randomly falling apart and crumbling. It’s terrible that such a great figure has that issue, and it’s something that you need to take mind of.
Serpentor’s a bit of a troublesome character. While the figure is very nice, his character is highly one dimensional, and can only really be used in two possible roles. Usurper or COBRA Leader. He provides a lot of palace intrigue, but that’s something that can only go so far. I’ve never really thought about Serpy in situation where older COBRA characters don’t exist. His character of petri dish emperor needs a creator, and a reason for his creation, so he’s kind of tied to previous COBRA High Command. I guess he could be worked around the usurper situation, if he’s created in the response to COBRA Commander being killed or something. However the palace intrigue is pretty much the most entertaining aspect of Serpentor.
Serpentor is fun, because he’s dynamic and is outlandish enough, you can work some of the other fairly odd COBRAs into a photo without too much issue, but he’s grounded enough that the earlier ones don’t look too out of place. He’s wearing a regal suit of armor, but it’s obvious it’s a suit, which is something that Dr. Mindbender or Raptor have a little trouble explaining away. When it comes to photos and what not his character allows for a fairly COBRA dominant setting, with the opportunity to do outright hostile imagery, in a way that a Destro/CC or whoever conflict can’t really portray.
I like the Serpentor figure, and the character is kind of a fun distraction, because when I go to use him in a photo, I find myself more often than not, working the photograph around Serpy, which with pretty much every other figure, is the exact opposite. More often than not I can think of something that I think would look cool, and what figures wind up in the photo is always somewhat up in the air, because what might look cool with Muskrat, might also work well with Flash. I think there’s something about the quality of the Serpentor design, as well as the paradigm shift that the character implemented into the G.I. Joe universe, that makes him something that no matter what your personal feelings on the character are, he’s noticeable in a way that the rest of the line really isn’t.