Thursday, February 22, 2018

1987 Hardtop - Around the Web

There was a time when Hardtop figures were easy to find and generally cheap.  But, that changed in the early 2000's as more collectors came online and his popularity started to increase.  Now, the figure is coveted and can get fairly pricey.  You don't see the figure all that often, but there's some content on him out there.  Here's the best on Hardtop from around the web.

Hardtop Profile

Hardtop at 1

Hardtop at HalftheBattle

Hardtop Pre Production Figure at

Hardtop at 2

Hardtop at 3

1987 Hardtop, Defiant, 1994 Lifeline, Battle Corps

1987 Hardtop, Defiant, 1986 Slipstream, Conquest, 1989 Hot Seat, 1983 APC

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

2017 Cobra Soldado - Factory Custom (Brazilian Cobra Trooper)

When the factory custom Cobra Troopers first appeared, there were a couple of standard colors for which every collector clamored: crimson, grey and black.  As such, those were the first colors to appear.  These were quickly followed by environmentally themed paint jobs and other subsets.  There was, though, one obvious repaint that I mentioned over and over again on any forum I could: a Cobra Trooper done in the light blue of the Brazilian release Cobra Soldado.  In early 2017, a Soldado inspired Cobra Trooper finally appeared.  It has since become one of my favorite factory custom army builders.

The Cobra Soldado has always been a popular character.  Even in the early 2000's when foreign Joes were mostly ignored, the Soldado rose above the obscurity.  The fan favorite mold coupled with the distinctive aqua blue color lead to a figure that was well known and somewhat popular.  During the army building hey-day of that era, a few collectors went down the road of army building the Soldados.  (There were actually relatively easy to acquire at the time.)  But, the straight arm construction started to limit the value of the character outside of a collectible oddity.  So, you would rarely see any Soldado appear in photos or stories.  Yet, the color scheme was known to the general collecting populace and it would come up from time to time in various discussions about what Hasbro could do for unique coloring back when they were making the Toys R Us army building sets.

There's quite a bit to like about this figure.  First off, this run of Soldados uses a newer Cobra Trooper mold that the figures from the early 2010's.  It is better sized and can use figure pegs on Hasbro molds.  On top of that, the quality issues that plagued some of my earlier acquisitions have been ironed out.  The torsos are well positioned on the waist.  The legs don't flay out.  And, the joints are relatively tight.  The figure is not of Hasbro quality.  But, it's a substantial upgrade over the 2010 era Cobra Troopers.  You can tell this new mold by a stamp on the figure's rear end that reads "Black Major 2017".  The uptick in quality made buying a small army far more palatable for me.  I had been turned off by some of the poorer construction quality figures from the early 2010's that had great color schemes.  So, with this figure, you get a high quality rendition of a that classic color combination.

The paint masks on the figure are very crisp.  At its core there are few paint masks on the figure.  The paint job, in general, matches up with the production Cobra Trooper's paint masks.  You have black highlights with the silver garrote and bullets on the figure's arms.  Inside the garrote, though, is a black fill in.  It's a little detail, but helps the silver around it pop out more.  I'm not sure when this detail was added to the paint masks.  But, it's a subtle difference that gives the mold more depth.  The eyes and skin are well done, too.  This can often be a sore spot on some factory custom figures.  But, all of mine have been fine.

The Soldado includes 4 accessories: a Dragunov sniped, AK-47, backpack and figure stand.  It's nice to get both the classic Cobra Trooper and Cobra Officer weapon.  The backpack is based on the 1986 Viper pack and also fits the Trooper mold.  The stand is a nice throw in.  In all the extra gear adds more value to the figure and gives them more versatility.  It always nice to have some spare AK-47's around to fill out the poorly accessorized Cobra army builders from the 2000's.  I would love for a custom maker to recreate the 1982 Rock and Roll M-60.  The Brazilian Soldado included this as his weapon.  It would be great to get a few cheap M-60 reproductions that could be used to augment the weaponry of my Soldado army.

My uses for the Soldado are many.  For me, the classic Cobra Trooper still forms the backbone of the Cobra army.  They man every installation, operate every turret and remain the cannon fodder that keeps Joe busy while the Commander escapes.  Having this color scheme gives me a nice cadre of enemies that can work well with my Brazilian Joes.  Many of the early Brazilian figures have slight color differences.  So, dropping them in with some Cobra Troopers with color differences works well.  Plus, the classic Steel Brigade figures that were released around the same have a color variance from the production figures that I see as being on par with an Estrela release.  I see them as Brazilian Steel Brigade troopers who make a perfect foil for the Soldado army.

For me, Cobra Troopers are still my preferred enemy figures.  They better match the classic Cobra vehicles.  And, the basic look of the figures more fits with the early '80's view of Cobra before they went super high tech.  I still use the standard Vipers, especially when mixing them with later figures.  But, Hasbro produced so many Viper flavors that I have less interest in them as an army builder than I do the classic Cobra Troopers.  Plus, this was the army builder of the early comic.  So, the appearance of this figure defines Cobra for me in a way that later figures did not.  I find myself more drawn to various Cobra Trooper repaints than I am of other molds for that reason.

In looking at what I have been able to catalog, there are over 45 variants of custom Cobra Troopers that have been released.  And, this doesn't scratch the surface of the many, many logo variants that exist on many of the earliest color variations.  This volume includes a rainbow of colors: some great and some just bizarre.  But, the number of different figures out there is massive.  For me, the Soldado coloring was the last missing piece.  There was a production figure out there in the color and it made perfect sense to visit the Brazilian design in a modern update.  Sure, you could create some color variants for the Plastirama and Auriken Cobra Trooper homages.  But, the Soldado is the boldest and most famous international repaint of the Cobra Trooper.  So, having them alongside Stinger Troopers, Crimson Troopers and some Desert Troopers completes the circle of figures I really want to see made.

In terms of availability, Soldados are still out there.  The initial assortments sold out relatively quickly in early 2017.  But, the figure is now available with either black or red logos.  There is even a small run of the figure using a 1982 "Mickey Mouse" inspired logo, too.  You can get the figures for $8-$10 right now, maybe less if you find a bulk deal.  History has shown that popular colors of factory custom army builders can double or triple in price as the supply is absorbed by the community.  The Soldados appear to be relatively popular as you often see them in photos around the various sites.  And, it's a very rare factory custom army builder that sells for less than its retail price.  So, what I'm saying is that the time to buy an army is now.  

I find this figure a perfect example of a foreign repaint.  Black Major took a popular figure that's both rare and expensive and made a cheaper version of it available.  But, instead of just recreating a figure: flaws and all, Black Major improved the character by giving him the swivel arms and a plethora of accessories.  Collectors could now army build a cool variant of the character and have it work with their better articulated armies.  I appreciate that and am grateful to have access to a cool repaint of a Trooper I never thought I'd be able to army build.  In many ways this figure completes my Cobra Trooper want list.  Sure, there might another cool repaint that I will own at some point in the future.  But, for now, there are no other must haves when it comes to this figure mold.

2017 Cobra Soldado, Estrela, Comandos em Acao, Cobra Trooper, Black Major, Factory Custom, Bootleg, Steel Brigade V1, Airborne Chest, Bomb Disposal, Mail Away, 1985

2017 Cobra Soldado, Estrela, Comandos em Acao, Cobra Trooper, Black Major, Factory Custom, Bootleg, Steel Brigade V1, Airborne Chest, Bomb Disposal, Mail Away, 1985, Ammo Dump, Gold Head Steel Brigade

2017 Black Major, Cobra Soldado, Estrela, Brazil, Bootleg, Factory Custom, Gold Head Steel Brigade

2017 Cobra Soldado, Black Major, Bootleg, Factory Custom, 1984 Firefly, Cobra Trooper, Cobra Soldier, 1983

2017 Black Major Cobra Soldado, Factory Custom, Funskool, Scrap Iron, 1984 Cobra Stinger

Cobra Soldado, Cobra Trooper, Bootleg, FActory Custom, Black Major, Tiger Force Outback, European Exclusive, Vibora, Brazil, Estrela, Brazilian Exclusive, Comandos em acao, Night Viper, 1984 Stinger

Thursday, February 15, 2018

1991 Interrogator - Around the Web

The Cobra characters of the late 1980's were not great.  Oddballs like Dr. Mindbender, Crystal Ball, Big Boa and Road Pig all had their charms.  But, the toys could be goofy or terrible.  As the 1990's dawned, though, named Cobras got a bit more impressive in their appearance.  Among the solid Cobra releases of the day was the Interrogator figure.  Sure, he has a bit of Darth Vader in him.  But, the figure conveys they type of fear a person of his specialty requires.  He's become a fan favorite over the years due to the solid design and great colors.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1991 Interrogator Profile

Interrogator at the Dragon Fortress

Interrogator Video Review

Interrogator Dio 1

Interrogator at Half The Battle

Interrogator at

Interrogator Dio 2

Interrogator at JoeWiki

Interrogator at Toys From the Past

Interrogator Dio 3

1991 Interrogator, 1994 Techno Viper, Star Brigade, 1988 Tiger Force Flint

1991 Interrogator, 1989 Python Patrol Crimson Guard

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

General M Bison - Street Fighter Movie (Shadowloo HQ)

What is a G.I. Joe and what is not a G.I. Joe figure?  The answer depends greatly by collector and even within an individual collector's personal timeline.  I, personally, fall somewhere in the middle.  I love factory customs and anything that uses actual Joe parts.  I don't go for knock off lines with similar construction, though.  The Street Fighter Movie and Mortal Kombat lines that Hasbro produced in the mid 1990's definitely fall into the "collect" category for me.  There are many designs in the lines that mesh well with Joes and help provide some fun additions to a collection.  There are some bad figures in there, though, that I find too far detached from Joe.  (Oddly, I'm fine with a four armed space alien in Joe, but not a four armed pit fighter.  Go figure.)  In the case of the M Bison character, though, I can find a niche for him within my Joe world.  Though, it is his incarnations from the Street Fighter Movie line that I find most interesting.

From the very beginning of my collecting days, the M Bison figures have been heavily integrated into Joe collections.  The most common usage is as a new, named Cobra: usually a high ranking military official.  The general vibe of the character is "general".  So, it was natural that collectors took to him in this manner.  In the days before Hasbro brought the line back with any zeal, collectors had few alternatives for Cobra characters.  M Bison could fill that role and you often saw him leading squads of Crimson Guards.  In this capacity, though, it was mostly the limitations of the more common Street Fighter version of M Bison that came through.  The newly sculpted head looked too large for the body that had been created years earlier.  So, while the intention of using the figure was good, the execution suffered due to the quality of the most common M Bison.  Fortunately, though, Hasbro made several other versions of the character.

This version of M Bison uses the basic silver and black color scheme.  For something so effective, it was rarely used in the vintage Joe line.  (I'd say it probably had to do with not infringing too much on Snake Eyes' iconic looks.)  As such, figures like this M Bison stand out since they look good, integrate with Cobra and aren't in a scheme that's too common.  At the same time, this guy definitely follows the Hasbro cost cutting theme of that time period.  There are few paint applications, making him a generally cheaper figure to produce than one with multiple paint masks.  The newly constructed parts are also far larger than those of the previous version.  They likely go too far in the opposite direction as the figure is now somewhat blocky and clunky. 

I'll grant you that the cape on this figure makes him look like a super hero knock off.  Some capes give off a malevolent vibe.  Others make the wearer look like the Man of Steel.  M Bison's cape falls into the latter category and somewhat diminishes the figure.  I suspect part of this is the figure's very broad shoulders and large torso.  What is interesting, though, is the way in which Hasbro affixed the cape to the figure.  Gone was the removable cape from the 1980's.  M Bison's cape is permanently attached via two points on the figure's shoulders.  This makes the cape hang lower but also help ensure that it's not separated from the figure.

Somehow, Hasbro was able to create brand new body molds for many of the Street Fighter Movie figures.  There were lots of repaints, too.  But, the economics of the day allowed them to drop a nice selection of new parts into the various toy lines.  The Street Fighter Movie M Bison figures were a great example.  The basic design uses the head created for the 1993 Street Fighter figure that was part of the Joe line.  But, the chest, arms, waist and legs are all new.  This is somewhat great as there are new parts.  But, as these lines came out in 1994 and 1995, the bodies are generally more bulky than most vintage Joes.  M Bison's new chest and arms fit in with 1994 and the figures planned for 1995 very nicely.  But, they look overly large when compared with '80's Joes.  They do, though, solve the main issue I have with the 1993 M Bison figure: the head is no longer too large for the figure's body.

There are five different M Bison figures: two in the G.I. Joe line that use mostly Joes molds and a new head and three in the Street Fighter Movie line that use the existing head and an all new body.  The Movie figures, in my opinion, are better colored and can be better integrated with Cobra than the figures from 1993.  This black body version from the Shadowloo Headquarters is very nice just due to the simple black and silver theme.  There is a blue version that was available as a carded 2 pack that is a bit more complex.  I like it a bit better.  The single carded red version isn't great, but he includes excellent silver versions of both Interrogator's and the Flak Viper's weapons.  But, the black version best fits into a Joe collection.  (And is a nice companion piece to both the Funskool Streethawk and the Convention Firefly, too.)

Ostensibly, this figure should be pretty rare and somewhat expensive.  The Shadowloo Headquarters was big and pricey and not produced in huge numbers.  But, it seems that like many of the later vehicle pack in figures, this M Bison was later made available via overstock sales.  As such, even today you get bagged versions of this figure for under $15.  For a figure that is so easily integrated into the Joe line, that seems under-priced.  But, Street Fighter Movie and Mortal Combat figures ebb and flow in terms of popularity quite a bit.  There was a time when every figure in this line was more expensive than '86 Vipers.  Then, they crashed and you could get most of them for under $15 for a MOC figure.  Savvy collectors can take advantage of these fluctuations and acquire figures like this M Bison in down times.  For a reasonable price, this figure is a worthy addition to any collection.

M Bison, Street Fighter Movie, STUN, 1986, Funskool Streethawk, Bootleg, Black Major, Techno Viper Trooper

M Bison, Street Fighter Movie, STUN, 1986, Funskool Streethawk, Bootleg, Black Major, Techno Viper Trooper

M Bison, Street Fighter Movie, STUN, 1986, Funskool Streethawk, Bootleg, Black Major, Techno Viper Trooper, 1988 Destro, Despoiler, Iron Grenadier

Thursday, February 8, 2018

1992 Bulletproof - Around the Web

In 1993, I was barely into toys.  I had forayed into a small Joe purchase in December of 1992.  But, aside from that, pretty much kept my collecting habits to sports cards.  Over Christmas of 1993, though, I decided to buy a couple more Joe figures.  Among the bright spots at Toys R Us that day was a neon yellow Bulletproof figure.  I wasn't overly keen on the bright color.  But, he had a cool helmet, amazing gun and great backpack.  So, I bought him and never looked back.  When I discovered that the same, basic figure was available in 1992, only with better colors, I had to have him.  So, I sought him out at a time when finding loose figures from the '90's was rather hard to do.  Once in hand, he was a substantial upgrade from the neon 1993 figure.  There is surprisingly more info about the character available than I would have thought.  Here's the best of Bulletproof from around the web.

1992 Bulletproof Profile

1992 DEF Toy Fare Catalog at

Bulletproof at Icebreaker's HQ

Bulletproof Dio

Tiro Certo - the Brazilian Release of Bulletproof

Bulletproof Pre Production at

Bulletproof at

Bulletproof Dio 2

Bulletproof at ComicsVine

1992 Bulletproof, Toxo Zombie, Eco Warriors, DEF, 1993 Monster Blaster APC, Mega Marines