1986 Serpentor

 

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.

86Serpy

86Serpentor

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5 Responses to 1986 Serpentor

  1. Mike T. says:

    Serpentor’s a neat looking figure. And, when you want to use him, he dominates any photo. But, even as a kid, I found his purpose limited. You simply can’t have two leaders vying for control for too long. At some point, one takes out the other. For me, Cobra Commander always won. He was a better character with more motivation. Serpentor didn’t offer Cobra anything beyond military power. If he won battles, what were the Cobra Troopers fighting for?

    I’ll argue that the 2002 Serpentor was one of the best repaints Hasbro did in the history of the line. It was different enough from the original, but still striking in appearance and true to the Serpentor character. Sadly, he’s even more expensive than a complete 1986 figure these days.

  2. Mike T. says:

    Serpentor’s a neat looking figure. And, when you want to use him, he dominates any photo. But, even as a kid, I found his purpose limited. You simply can’t have two leaders vying for control for too long. At some point, one takes out the other. For me, Cobra Commander always won. He was a better character with more motivation. Serpentor didn’t offer Cobra anything beyond military power. If he won battles, what were the Cobra Troopers fighting for?

    I’ll argue that the 2002 Serpentor was one of the best repaints Hasbro did in the history of the line. It was different enough from the original, but still striking in appearance and true to the Serpentor character. Sadly, he’s even more expensive than a complete 1986 figure these days.

  3. A-Man says:

    If Cobra Commander leads the Cobra troopers? Does Serpentor lead the Snow Serpents? Yet there’s no arctic Serpy!

    I view Serpentor as the Apocalypse/Darkseid/Thanos villain of GI JOE. He’s what you can build up to but he’s really an event, not a recurring long term nemesis. He either wins or has to be killed or banished to somewhere he cannot be a threat again. It’s too much his personality or how he was portrayed. He’s too impatient to wait it out. He’s a blaze of glory type. Now, the comic book version…well, that sort of happened, took longer to get there because Hama wasn’t fond of Serpentor.

    So that’s why Cobra Commander is more interesting. He’s more mortal, more flawed….really. More relatable in that sense. There’s the idea that anyone could be CC, but Serpentor is a super villain monster. Some fans have tried to retcon Serpy’s origins into something more mundane, but it doesn’t work. The character IS his origin.

    Even back in the day he seemed too fragile, maybe because my brother’s copy’s cape tore early. Or the gold made him too regal to use in combat. And that’s a problem with the toy vs the character. In the media, he’s MUCH more prone to throw himself in harm’s way than Cobra Commander or most of the other named Cobras. But the toy doesn’t convey that to me. None of the few later versions do, either. And at this point a character redesign is unlikely unless it amounts to a 6 inch version with random padding detail added.

    The Air Chariot deserves mention. No Cobra character, aside from Thrasher, was more connected with their personal vehicle than Serpentor. Zartan used his Chameleon like once in the cartoon and comic. Destro his Despoiler only a couple of times. Even Zanzibar’s final comic appearances were sans air skiff. Serpy’s air chariot was used often in the Sunbow cartoon (barely glimpsed in the comics), and riding it was almost his death in the movie (was his death in the original movie script).

  4. mwnekoman says:

    I like how V1 Serpentor looks enough that I’ve always been tempted to get one, but shelling out at the prices he goes for, just to get a figure that could crumble away at any time, bothers me too much. Most of the time collectors really exaggerate how fragile vintage plastic is, but GPS is no joke. I think in my collection, the comic-pack one will have to stay as my only representation of the character.

  5. I really love this figure. I got him as a mail away (with his air chariot) in 1992 or so, and then he became my default Cobra leader. I grew up on GI Joe: The Movie and Sunbow reruns, so Serpentor was legendary to me and the figure lived up to the hype.

    I want to say my original broke at the elbow as early as 97 or 98, so he kind of sat in a bin for a long time. I used his screw and t-hook to fix another figure. I eventually got the comic pack version, but that one didn’t scratch the itch for me. I’m really glad to have him back now, along with the black version.

    I like seeing these relatively outlandish figures through your eyes, as you do a good job of grounding them, but you’re also fair about what works and what doesn’t. Really enjoyed this one!

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