The 1987 COBRAs are pretty bogus. Named COBRAs had always been somewhat unconventional, considering that they’d had a lounge lizard, a pair of twins dressed up like acrobats, and a strong man
torturer mad scientist. However, at the same time, there was always a couple of COBRAs on the shelves at the same time, that were credible in regards to the pseudo military realism that was what G.I. Joe was based on. 1987 was the year that COBRA Commander’s brain broke, as none of the named COBRA figures available were remotely credible on the battle field. You had some carry overs from 1986, that were either Dreadnoks, or not really Combat ready. The new figures from 1987 were either a Vincent Price looking hypnotist, a bird man, a crocodile man, a COBRA Commander that looks like a super villain, or Big Boa.
Big Boa is one of those figures and characters that has a ton of issues, that are exacerbated solely by his year of release. It’s an odd aspect to G.I. Joe but a figure’s release year often times has some effect on how the figure is viewed. Big Boa isn’t necessarily any goofier than a Ninja or a guy who’s skin turns blue, but he came out in a year full of freaks and weirdos, so even though his role is a little more useful to COBRA Command than a Falconer or a guy with a hypno-shield, he’s viewed as just as much of a goof.
As a figure, Big Boa is better than he’s given credit for, a lot of the time, but I wouldn’t rank him all that highly, as there’s still some obvious issues with the figure itself. Where Big Boa really shines is how well done his muscles were sculpted. His arms are really well done, with large biceps, and triceps, but where the real impressive part with the sculpting is, is the work done on his deltoids. It’s really impressive sculpting, that wasn’t ever done again, even on big armed characters like the 1992 Gung Ho or the 1988 Road Pig. His forearms also have an impressive amount of musculature sculpted into them. Big Boa’s torso is also really well done, with some interesting sculpting choices, like the really large trapezoid muscles. All the muscles sculpted into the figure are impressive, because it’s a much different take on the ripped G.I. Joe figure than anything else Hasbro did. Big Boa looks like he’s probably on all sorts of performance enhancing drugs.
Big Boa’s sculpt isn’t all great, one aspect is the goofy criss-cross suspenders he’s wearing. While I understand it from a design perspective (IE: Not wanting to sell a shirtless figure), they’re not very detailed, and the spikes on them seem sort of half way done. His legs are sculpted well, but ridiculously plain. It makes sense, but it isn’t great to look at. His head I’m 50-50 on, I like the design of it, and think the sculpting is well done, but perhaps it’s just the odd colouring of it, where it just looks “off”. Since it’s 1987, he needs to join every other damn figure in having a breathing tube, for some reason.
Big Boa’s character is kind of useful, but at the same time really isn’t. A COBRA trainer makes sense, but at the same time, definitely doesn’t have the same use that a character of the same type would have on the G.I. Joe team. With the G.I. Joes you can have some legitimate play patterns develop with the training aspect, like “does the new Joe have what it takes” or “Will so and so prove themselves to Sgt. Slaughter”. With COBRA there’s no real potential use for characters in this scenario. I don’t see a nobody like Big Boa putting the screws to Destro, so basically you’re left re-creating scenarios of being an asshole gym teacher or hockey coach.
I think the trainer character was tacked on at the last second, once the Rocky Balboa crossover fell through. The Big Boa figure really doesn’t have anything about him that really screams “Trainer”, but does work in the context of “Guy who’s tough looking, but will get punched out by Sly Stallone”. I personally have never seen a Stallone movie I’ve liked, so him not getting involved with G.I. Joe is fine with me.
With me, Big Boa took a long time to find an actual role. I didn’t think much of the figure for a long time, but a friend of mine gave me a great deal on the figure, and everything I picked up from the guy has some pretty positive vibes to them, so I like using them. Big Boa kind of wound up in the same role that I gave Road Pig, the low-key COBRA operative designated to counteract the G.I. Joe silent hitmen. It’s one of those things that gives the more martial arts oriented characters like Quick Kick and Jinx, a foe that they can interact with, without being a duplicate. Having the brawny fighter against the karate man makes for some slightly more interesting dynamics than the “Ninja vs. Ninja” stuff. My most popular stuff has always been the Spirit vs. Storm Shadow stuff, where most of my Snake Eyes vs. Storm Shadow stuff isn’t, this is because the visual dynamic is greater using the Sunbow foes.
Big Boa’s not a real must-have figure. He’s well done for what he is, but he’s not really something of any importance or actual use. I think his release year does him no favours, nor does the fact that between 1984 and 1987, there were no fewer than three other shirtless weirdos populating the upper ranks of COBRA Command, which makes Big Boa not even stand out, even though his sculpting is much better than that of Mindbender or Zartan or even his contemporary Raptor. The lack of uniqueness, and relatively weak specialty takes quite a toll on a figure, who I like, but don’t expect anyone to like him.