1988 Storm Shadow

Storm Shadow as a good guy is something that the fan base is quite divided on, it’s one of those things that both arguments pro and con for him being a Joe have merit. A while back in a comment, the Amazing A-Man summed it up fairly well;

There’s this weird thing were some fans just wanted a status quo maintained. They want Cobra’s leads plotting against each other but never want Cobra Commander deposed or killed. They want Storm Shadow’s backstory but don’t want him to stop being a Cobra.

I’ll readily admit that I prefer Storm Shadow as a COBRA, not even to maintain the status quo, but rather, I feel having two superpowered ninja warriors on the G.I. Joe team, is overkill and tilts the playing field to a ridiculous degree, because at this point what’s COBRA got? Though, if I was to be forced into choosing anything, I’d probably just stick with Storm Shadow staying dead, after The Baroness shot him.

Luckily this isn’t an article based on me arguing with myself over thirty five year old Comic Book plots, as I wanted to look at the 1988 Storm Shadow, because it’s a very high quality mold. I’ve looked at very early on in the history of this blog, where I was more discussing the issues of TRU 6 packs.

Storm Shadow was a figure that was available non-stop from 1984 through 1987. When it was time to finally discontinue the very popular ninja, Hasbro didn’t leave Storm Shadow as a character off the shelves. The 1988 Storm Shadow was an understandable progression on the 1984 design, which featured some similarities, but wasn’t a direct rehash. It’s an interesting way of redesigning the character, as the first three characters (Hawk, Roadblock and Snake Eyes) that got brand new molds for their 2nd version, all featured massive design alterations, that were somewhat unrecognizable from their original figures.

Storm Shadow is still in baggy ninja togs, but now he’s got long sleeves, and the traditional ninja mask is now cloaked with a hood. The new design for the head is very nice, as it’s different from the original, but still has the ninja appearance. The boots on the figure are another change, because rather than having wraps around his ankles, he’s got something that looks a little more protective strapped to his shins. Which would make sense for a ninja.

The figure isn’t bogged down with the belts and throwing implements of death that the 1984 had, as he’s now got a bundle of rope and a belt of pouches around his waist. He was 90s extreme before that was fashionable, I guess. It’s different, than the original, but the overall appearance is still similar, which fits the overall motif of this update. He’s not just Storm Shadow in name.

The biggest change overall to Storm Shadow, is that he is now in camouflage. It’s a nice way to change from the pure white that the original was, while still maintaining that as the base colour. I think it looks pretty sharp, and I think works well with some of the other digital camo figures of his time, like Repeater, Shockwave and Recoil. It’s one of those things that establishes his allegiance, without pasting a big G.I. Joe logo all over him. The thing about this Storm Shadow that doesn’t get enough credit, is just how well he was integrated design wise, with the fairly under-developed 1988 G.I. Joe team.

The colouring on Storm Shadow ties in quite well with Hardball and Blizzard, which also ties him in with Charbroil and Budo. His aforementioned camouflage ties him into Shockwave and Repeater, and the absolute contrast with Spearhead, Hit and Run, Muskrat and Lightfoot makes the figures look nice together. Storm Shadow is the only single carded figure that works with every other single carded figure, an impressive feat. I assume this was intentional, because Storm Shadow is obviously the most recognizable G.I. Joe released that year, and one of the better figures overall, so tying him into the rest of the new figures was probably of paramount importance.

The 1988 Storm Shadow had to follow suit of the original Stormy, by including good accessories. He’s got a compound bow, that’s probably better scaled than the ’84 version, and a really cool claw that looks like it means business. His sword is a giant disappointment, not because it’s poorly done or anything, as it’s quite a nice sculpt, it’s just that it’s red. Really red. His backpack is also very red, but it can hold the sword on it’s side, so it’s cool. The detailing on the backpack is quite neat too, as it’s got some throwing stars, Stormy’s missing pair of nunchucks, and what I’ve always assumed was a rope ladder. It looks cool, but is killed by the colouring.

The bow and claw were seen later on in the Ninja Force, but the sword and backpack were only issued the once. It’s quite disappointing that Hasbro would consistently re-issue many weak weapons, but then skip over some really good ones. With the advent of factory customs there’s been some decent things to use in place of the original accessories. The 1984 Storm Shadow accessories are a good replacement, and The Black Major did the 1985 Quick Kick sword in a couple new colours, and that might be the best overall sword in the line.

I don’t have much of an idea as to how Storm Shadow as a G.I. Joe works. I’m not really a fan of them having outright ninjas on the team, and I kind of view Storm Shadow through the Action Force characterization, which is more rotten and ninja like. Though I do think the line in his filecard where he will occasionally do a special mission if Snake Eyes asks him nicely, would probably be the best way to use Storm Shadow in the G.I. Joe capacity. I could see the story where Storm Shadow finally figures out who killed the Hard Master happening, but rather than him becoming a full fledged G.I. Joe, he’s a guy who’ll come along if it’s to take on Zartan or something.

Though, even with the misgivings about Storm Shadow as a G.I. Joe, this is still a really good figure, that has pretty good gear. There’s nothing forcing anyone to use this figure as a Joe, either. That’s a nice thing about this figure, is he’s got no markings, and an even nicer thing about G.I. Joe, in that you can use your imagination with it, and do whatever you want to do. I personally don’t do much with the figure except use him in spotlight photographs, or the occasional ninja battle to the death.

This entry was posted in Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to 1988 Storm Shadow

  1. Mike T. says:

    One of the underrated design aspects of the Joe line is how the designers took a year of figures as an experience unto themselves. They were designed to look good next to each other on the pegs and ensure that every figure had some aspect that stood out. Colors were chosen to complement one another. And, the amazing consistency of colors over the years allowed figures nearly a decade apart in terms of release to still be used together.

    Hasbro threw all that away in the 2000’s and went the opposite way. Unsurprisingly, the line didn’t flourish until they brought some color back to it in 2002 and 2003. But, it shows the importance of having a plan and making choices holistically instead of as one offs. (Which is where the convention sets always failed.)

    I can’t see Stormshadow as a Joe at all. Like you, I see him as more of freelancer who is available for the missions he desires. But, his motives may not always align…even with those of Snake Eyes. This gives him more depth. But, Joe fans don’t do complicated characters. Simple tropes are the most popular.

    The claw was an amazing accessory. And, I forgave the red weapons due to the claw’s awesome design. But, it’s a crying shame we didn’t get the pack and sword in better colors later. Not even Funskool changed them. I’d have gladly taken a red bow and claw with the Funskool figure if it meant the pack/sword were black. (Like the swapped colors on Budo’s accessories that allow you to fix that figure.)

    Hasbro didn’t do much after they got the mold back. I hated the 2004 version for a long time. Now, the figure looks OK. But, the shitty quality on that set renders the figure pretty much useless. The 2005 Red Ninja wasn’t great. He wasn’t really red and had crappy gear. And, it never works to make an iconic character mold into an army builder. (It does work with obscure characters, though.) It’s a shame we didn’t get a blue or black repaint. And, honestly, his parts could have been used to create other figures, too.

    • 1988 is a year where it’s extra noticeable how much thought was put into making the whole year’s worth of figures work together. Prior years all had media pieces that did the work, as well as tied them in with earlier figures. 1988 doesn’t get one of those, even the catalog painting isn’t very good for getting the year across.

      The red weapon isn’t the hottest, but it’s so well done, it’s capable of being overlooked. I never thought about the backpack in black, though. That alone would probably soothe the red sword.

      Hasbro’s use of this mold is one of the biggest mistakes of the 2000s. I’m fond of the 2004 repaint, but there were plenty of uses for this mold. Then again, I’m not sure how Hasbro would’ve been able to integrate a useless “theme” to molds people were dying to see.

  2. generalliederkranz says:

    Great pictures as always! I especially like the one in the snow with the chrome accessories. The bokeh and the shine on the blades and the snow is just perfect.

    This was one of my first Joes. He’s always been a favorite, and THE Storm Shadow. I only found out later that there’d been a previous version, and that he’d been a Cobra. That one was really cool, and I spent a lot of effort trying to find that one secondhand–for me, in the early 90s, it wasn’t yellowing or accessories that was the problem, it was just FINDING the darn figure, which shouldn’t’ve been so hard given they made him for 3 years. But he didn’t show up often at flea markets and rummage sales. It’s really weird to me to see you point out that there was only one year in between these two being on the shelves. To me they seem far apart, since they were on opposite sides of the great divide separating the stuff I could get at retail from the stuff I never could.

    The 88 starred in lots of missions for me, probably in part due to his prominent role in the Benzheen and Destro Trilogy arcs, which were my first time following the comic. I saw him as a Joe, and that was confirmed when he became the leader of Ninja Force. Looking back, though, I think you’re right, and he would’ve been more interesting and fitting as a freelancer of questionable loyalties. That worked well in issues 63-104 or so, but after that Hama integrated him too tightly into the team.

    The red sword doesn’t bother me at all. I lost it quickly, so it took on a mystique as the missing accessory that I was trying to replace. But I still had the backpack, and I used it all the time, so I got used to the color. The bright accessories and neon colors of the 91+ figures never bothered me much, not until later, and I think part of that was that getting into GI Joe in 1989, I was already used to some odd-colored accessories (this guy, Recoil, IG’s pistol, Shockwave, Lightfoot). I can see how it would be different for someone who got into Joes in 1983 or 85.

    • Thanks!

      The mystique aspect of the red sword is cool, it’s funny how that kind of mishap can shape an opinion of an item!

      Storm Shadow’s post-defection from COBRA appearances start off pretty well, but do tend to get bogged down later on. I’ve always appreciated that he wasn’t in the COBRA Civil War arc, but also wasn’t upset he was around during the Benzheen arc, as that was one where I could see Snake Eyes getting in a mood if he didn’t show up.

  3. Great review and spectacular photos. You managed to outdo yourself with that first one, and that is no small feat.

    I like this figure a lot! The Ninja Force version will always be my favorite, and the first version is iconic (even if I only have a comic pack, 97, and a million factory custom versions), but I think this figure is on an even playing field with both of them.

    You’re right about the camouflage making him seem more “GI Joe” while the white keeps him in the “Storm Shadow” camp. It was a nice touch.

    I have no problem seeing Storm Shadow as someone who works with the Joe team, but I think that’s because I was brought up on Ninja Force and the Atlantis Factor, and I did read some of the comics of the time, in which he featured prominently. He was even in the Hall of Fame lineup! And I appreciate that my beloved Ninja Force design would not exist without version 2 paving the way.

    I only own 00s-era repaints and a Funskool version of this figure, and that’s enough for right now. I’d like to get the original Hasbro version some day but I’m not in a rush.

    • See, if Hasbro was smart, at some point in the 2000s, they would’ve repainted the v2 mold, in the Ninja Force motif. It would’ve been a correcting action to the Ninja Force design getting spring action gimmick’d, would’ve gotten a good repaint out there. However, this was a time when re-treading the past was the exact opposite of what Hasbro was attempting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s