Soft Sculpting, 5 Points Of Articulation, what’s next- a renewed interest in Weebles?

Yesterday, pictures finally came about for the semi-announced G.I. Joe ReAction Figures series. I wasn’t surprised with what I saw, in fact it was pretty much exactly what I had expected. Yet, still I’m disappointed.

For the last few years, there was always a fairly small part of the G.I. Joe world that would occasionally make noise about a ReAction Figure style line for G.I. Joe. The cutesy 1978 style Star Wars figures never really did much for me, and the people clamouring for them were often dudes I didn’t interact with much, because they seemed to be either new collectors who’d taken toy collecting on as a personality, or there content contributions weren’t anything I cared about, so I cared even less about there opinions.

The whole ReAction figure thing is a pretty odd, it started off with the release of some unreleased Kenner Alien figures, but then seemed to devolve into a line of Action Figure Lifestyle Accessories, for anything that was willing to be merchandised. It could be the Skinhead Demon from the super racist Agnostic Front album “Cause For Alarm” or it could be Michael J Fox from some movie, all done in the style of a 1977 Star Wars figure. The eclectic mix of properties and the focus on packaging, show that these really aren’t collectible figures, in the traditional Action Figure collector sense, but rather boutique toys with the intention of appealing to people who’ve made some facet of pop culture their “thing”.

A lot of the properties chosen for the ReAction figures often look like they’ve been chosen, because it’s got an easily exploitable fanbase. “Oh hey I like The Misfits so I need 8 different Crimson Ghost action figures, to go with all my vinyls” (You can also insert Iron Maiden), or it’s something that doesn’t have this kind of merchandise, but they’re not intense well done toys, like most of the action figure market, so it’s safe, it can be played off as something you bought because you like “Archie” and it looks “retro”. 

Basically, these ReAction figures wind up being the action figure equivalent of gentrification, where it saw something that for the most part is pretty cool, swoops in, makes it boring and safe enough to appeal to people that require approval, and raises the god damn prices for everyone.

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Cause for Alarm, has a song called “Public Assistance” about how black people exploit the welfare system!

 

Usually, if it’s a ReAction figure based off on existing toyline, it’s more often than not highly inferior to the currently available action figures from that toyline. Be it MOTU, Ninja Turtles or Transformers, these are not really intended to be anything but a ephemeral distraction that keeps people interested in the brand, without cannibalizing it’s current market, and being classically designed to appeal to some guy who likes Optimus Prime a lot, and thinks the MOC figure would look cool on a wall or something.

With G.I. Joe, this is somewhat interesting, because Hasbro still has a very poorly received “Retro Line” going, which until the first pictures were shown, most people had held out false hope for actual retro figures, meaning, O-Ring figures from the 80s. That didn’t happen, as we got pretty awful Modern Era figures with an unnecessary amount of new parts and such put in, which was effort that more than likely should’ve been put into re-making the 1984 Roadblock mold. Upon seeing the ReAction figures, it’s almost as though this was an intentional thing. The weak sculpting, and non-traditional construction of the ReAction figures definitely would’ve lost the battle for the consumer’s dollar, if up against legitimate “retro” G.I. Joes, in the style of Hasbro’s Real Ghostbusters, Transformers, Star Wars re-issues.

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These don’t look very good, and it shows that a lot of the design simplifications that were used in the G.I. Joe media, weren’t going to translate well into plastic. What I think often gets left out when thinking about G.I. Joe, is the fact that it owes a lot of it’s success to the fact that it was (and still is) a better action figure than anything that was available at the time. While the comics and cartoons and stuff were fun, I don’t think G.I. Joe would’ve lasted 2 years if it was a 5 POA action figure, hell most people not obsessed with “value” are more interested in a swivel arm ’82-’83, than a straight arm ’82 figure.

I’ve always kind of felt G.I. Joe’s main appeal was the construction and how Hasbro perfected the O-Ring design’s proportions. While the media attached to G.I. Joe is interesting, I don’t think it was as much of a driver as the toys themselves. The comic book is good on an overarching point of view, but it’s also incredibly generically written (If a character doesn’t have a specific verbal tic, almost all of the dialogue is interchangeable), and doesn’t really accomplish much. The cartoon is interesting, because I’ve watch a bunch of it, and I don’t recall anything but the intro, and a few people I’ve talked about this have very similar recollections, yet I can quote numerous episodes of The Real Ghostbusters, and I didn’t own a single toy from that line. Hasbro could’ve used that basic O-Ring design on a toyline of knights, or cowboys, or space men, and it would’ve probably had the same staying power G.I. Joe had. We probably just got army guys, because the Special Forces really needed to rehabilitate their poor image after Vietnam.

Seeing G.I. Joe get dumbed down to the articulation of a Star Wars figure is kind of interesting to me, because while I recognize the designs as things I’m very fond of, I don’t care about them whatsoever, and have no interest in buying any of them. A decent Kwinn The Eskimo is something I’ve wanted for a long time, and seeing this, if they make one in Khakis I won’t really feel like I’m missing out. The COBRA Trooper is one of my favourite designs, and I don’t even care about these ones. Of all of these, I’m mainly disappointed that an early design Baroness has been made, and it’s articulated like a Jawa. 

I wonder how long this line is going to last, they’ve obviously stretched it out to 2 waves minimum, but the abundance of army builders is questionable, especially since Greenshirts, while a staple of the cartoon, have never been something most people have clamoured for, it’s also far and a way the weakest looking figure of the first wave. Still, there’ll probably be at least another wave, with guys like Duke, and we’re more than likely going to see the Hooded CC, black Snake Eyes v1 and Pimp Daddy Destro. Though, G.I. Joe doesn’t strike me as having the pop culture recognition or the fanbase for this to stretch out more than 3 or 4 waves.

Oddly enough, this is kind of a full circle moment for G.I. Joe. I don’t think the ReAction line would even exist, had the 25th Anniversary Line not caught the eye of mainstream toy collectors, the way that it did. As that also featured soft and cartoony sculpting, and vintage style cardbacks, that were in some ways designed more for the figures to be left MOC, rather than be opened.

 

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12 Responses to Soft Sculpting, 5 Points Of Articulation, what’s next- a renewed interest in Weebles?

  1. Pingback: Super7 GI Joe: My ReAction – The Dragon Fortress

  2. You made some pretty good points here. I pondered getting some of the ReAction Transformers, if only because they’d fit in with Action Masters. But I suspect many or most people do keep them on the card. Which is something I don’t even think about when it comes to toys. But I need to realize not everyone is the same as I am and get over myself.

  3. Mike T says:

    On some level, I get these. The style has a following who buy it regardless of license. So, there’s a built in market. Getting even 30% of the Joe buyers to come over would make for a hit. But, Hasbro’s insistence on giving collectors everything EXCEPT what they really want is just them once again pissing on the legs of people they hold in contempt.

    I do fully expect, though, that we’ll see o-ring releases in 2022. They’ll be $25 or more each. But, the price point on this figures is due to the market accepting and paying the price and Hasbro will push the envelope to see when we’ll break. I don’t think the collectibles market in 2022 will be where it is now. (We’re starting to see some pretty significant price softening for the market.) So, Joe is probably doomed to fail again.

    The case assortment is a collector’s wet dream…in 2002. But, nobody likes those greenshits and the figures just look terrible. Outside of the package, I would not even recognize those as Joe characters. Even the Cobra Troopers are underwhelming. It’s sad that we get a hood up Kwinn and a new look for Baroness in this style when the comic packs could not deliver.

    But, I’m probably going to pre-order Kwinn because I’ve always wanted him. But, him not appearing in shorts seems like a miss, too. I do wonder if the weapons will be vintage Joe compatible. But, looking at the size of the hands, I’m guessing not. (Though, maybe for the 2000’s era figures.)

    Again, though, these seem like a doomed product. They might sell well enough. But, I don’t think they have a lot of legs. And, they’re likely to be a forgotten by-product of Hasbro’s inability to release figures from any line.

  4. A-Man says:

    I preorder 2 cases from BBTS.
    Not really. At $18 or $20 or whatever, these aren’t even a thing I can consider. I’ve heard all the reasons and excuses, but it’s strange you can go into any Dollar Tree and pay a buck for Final Faction figures that don’t look much worse than Reaction figures. Or a 3 pack of CORPS figures for $5 at Walmart or somewhere.

    Hasbro could be making these. They don’t care, and apparently Brian Flynn had to twist arms to get them to license these. So the person who does care isn’t making ideal product.

    Why make a comic book character in the first wave? And why wasn’t it Dr. Venom? I do kinda like the Baroness, but like you…a travesty that she’s 5 POA.

    It’s really surprising the Ultimates are all male. Resisting the urge to make Scarlett or the Baroness immediately?

    • The idea that you think Final Faction looks “almost as good” as these means you probably should get your prescription checked. It’s fine to dislike these, lots do. I can see that from the general raging going on here over something that is taking away from nothing thus really doesn’t deserve hate, but saying these are comparable to Final Faction (the new “these are Happy Meal toys!” nonsense) is just silly. Final Faction has generic sculpting, almost no paint, horribly applied paint and crumbles at the touch. ReAction figures are high quality, meticulously painted and generally without flaw. Perfect? No probably not. But hardly comparable to a $1 figure either.

      • A-Man says:

        The only Reaction figures I own are weak, even for what they are. “Generic sculpting” is Reaction’s modus operadi. I’ve seen better fast food toys, actually.

        I’m sure you’ll love them. But what else would I expect from a toy blog who shills for Super 7.

  5. paint_wip3z says:

    funniest thing about these is they are just literal high end knock offs, put them on a flimsy card with bizarre artwork, muddle the paint apps a bit and label them as WAR ADVENTURES or something along those lines and you’d have fodder for a rarities post over on Mike T’s page.

    • Yup! They kind of remind me of the bad guy figures from Sgt. Rock. Which basically makes me think of that one Stop Motion thing from like 1999 or something, ya know, Covert Operatives.

  6. mwnekoman says:

    The funny thing about these to me, is that I’ve wanted some company to come along and essentially do the opposite of this for a long time. Take random 80’s movie franchises and make them in o-ring GI Joe style, kind of like what Hasbro did for Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Even at $20 a piece, I’d go for some Predator or Aliens figures done like that, not to mention an o-ring Rocky, which could have obvious appeals.

    But as for these ReAction figures… These GI Joe figures really just reinforce my view of these being nothing more than hipster trash that almost makes a mockery of vintage toys. Part of what was cool about Kenner Star Wars, was that Kenner often did little things to make otherwise cheap and basic figures more interesting (soft-goods, telescoping lightsabers, ratcheting R2D2’s head, ect.). ReAction figures on the other hand, are comically ugly, and are done in a formulaic style, never contemplating a creative gimmick because they don’t have to.

    I wonder how long before I see these clogging the pegs down at my local Ollies?

    • Honestly, if they’d been making terrible Big Trouble in Little China and Teen Wolf figures, in O-ring Joe style, I’d probably be tolerant of ReAction figure, not because I think it’s a necessary thing, but rather the fact that it would be the figures from the 80s we didn’t get. The 5POA shit is bad in general, but doesn’t even hit the mark because it’s a legitimate anachronism

  7. generalliederkranz says:

    You make a good point that GI Joe’s strength has always been its qualities as a toy, more than its media. That may be true for most of us, but I get the sense the toys coming out now are intended to appeal to people who DO value the media more than the vintage toys. People who maybe didn’t have too many Joe toys as kids, but did watch the Sunbow show as just another Saturday morning cartoon (it did air on Saturdays, right? That was before my time). Or, people who are just into ’80s retro in general, and they know GI Joe as one of many “properties” from that era. So they’re just looking for memorabilia that resemble the show. Which basically fits with your point about “gentrification.”

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