Thursday, May 25, 2017

1986 Beach Head - Around the Web

Beach Head is a classic Joe from the line's glory days.  In some ways, he was a little too close to Snake Eyes's appearance with his covered head.  But, the rest of the figure more than made up for that similarity.  He's a perfect blend of mold, coloring and accessories.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

Beach Head Profile

Beach Head at

Beach Head Dio 1

Beach Head at 3D

Beach Head Video Review 1

Beach Head Dio 2

Beach Head Video Review 2

Beach Head Dio 3

Beach Head Dio 4

1986 Beach Head, 1985 Flint, 2008 AWE Striker

1986 Beach Head, Mainframe, 1982 HAL, Heavy Artillery Laser

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

1986 Viper

In the 17 years that have passed since I first looked at this figure, my feelings on him have changed.  In 2000, I was a wide eyed, neophyte collector.  Much of the Joe line was new to me and the excitement over owning something I had never owned before far outweighed my nostalgic feelings.  Now, though, there are few vintage figures with whom I'm not overly familiar.  And, in an effort to streamline my collection a few years ago. I trimmed down much of what I had to heavily focus on the years from my childhood.  The 1986 Viper came near the end of my toy playing days.  And, as such, has many memories associated with him.

I spent most of 1985 buying pretty much every Joe toy.  For Christmas that year, I turned to the SMS as the last Joe toy I'd get that year since my parents would not get us a Flagg.  As 1986 dawned, a kid in my brother's class got most of the new Joes in February.  I spent the rest of the year trying to catch up.  In short order, I had most of the new figures.  But, if anyone got a figure before I did, I was compelled to create an exciting, multi part adventure for that figure that would drive me to find the figure for myself.  Such was the case with the Viper.  My brother's best friend got one before I did.  On days we got out of school early, we'd go over to this friend's house.  There, in his toy room, I concocted a story where the new Cobra Vipers, armed with their massive new rifles, overtook a group of Joes.  They shot Hawk: giving him a sucking chest wound that Lifeline had to deal with using his spectacular air mask.  For the next few weeks, the Joes were on edge, waiting for these new Cobras to show up again.  Finally, I found a Viper at retail and he quickly became the mainstay of my Cobra army.

Before too long, that Viper's right thumb and crotch were broken.  I ended up buying another one to have a decent Cobra soldier in my collection.  The beat up figure found a home in one of the gunner stations of the STUN.  For a 1986 figure, though, this type of abuse was rare.  I had spent the first part of 1985 heavily beating up my figures.  But, the latter half of the year, I was much more likely to treat them well.  I spent the summer of 1986 buying new versions of the 1985 figures that I had worn out.  But, rare was the 1986 figure who suffered the same fate.  This shows how important the Viper was to me.  He got lots and lots of use, often dying spectacular deaths that lead to the breakage of his weakest points.  But, having a spare was also a great insight into the value of army building.  It was nice to have the same figure fill multiple roles within Cobra.  And, between the STUN and Thunder Machine, I had a wide array of uses for a beat up Viper who could no longer hold a weapon.

In looking at this Viper from a purely objective standpoint, he has great points and some limitations.  Color wise, the figure is about perfect.  You have the basic Cobra blue matched with dark red, all offset by black.  He's, basically, the poster child for everything you could associate with Cobra.  But, looking a bit deeper, this figure is also pretty basic.  The most glaring point is the goggles on the helmet.  (Why a person wearing a full face shield needs goggles, too, is another questionable aspect of the figure.)  They are just painted solid black.  The lenses lack an additional paint application.  The same is true of the grenades and clasps on the figure's body armor.  When you get down to it, this figure has only three paints masks: black, silver and red.  In the 2000's, we ridiculed Hasbro for going so cheap on the Viper.  Yet, the original figure was really the reason for this.  At his core, the fig is pretty generic.  He only has two accessories: neither of which are all that complex.  Despite this, though, the figure works.

If you want Vipers, there are tons and tons of them out there.  Hasbro released repainted 1986 molds in 1989 in Python Patrol colors and in 1990 in the Super Sonic Fighters line.  There are then 12 repaints of the Viper that were released between 1997 and 2006.  (These all have mold variants, but are clearly Vipers, even if some are Cobra Troopers and Officers.)  If the new sculpt figures are your bag, the character appeared three times in that format.  And, if you like anniversary figures, Vipers have appeared at least 13 times in that format.  If that's not enough for you, Red Laser's Army has created modern bootlegs of the figure who appear in more and more colors every few months.  So, basically, you can spend a lot of time just collecting Vipers without even talking about army building them.

It should be noted that while the Viper never showed up in any international collection, his legs did.  Hasbro used the figure's legs and waist for the 1993 Dr. Mindbender figure.  When that mold was sent to Brazil, the legs for the Viper were "lost".  This explained the later figures all taking lower body parts from BATs or having them resculpted.  There are also two variants to the Viper.  The red coloring on the figure can vary slightly from one to another.  If you get a bunch of them together, you can see the slight differences as both variants seem to exist in equal quantities.

There's something about this original figure that really defines Cobra.  There are nearly 20 different variants of this mold available.  Yet, you'd be hard pressed to find any collector who wouldn't agree that the original is still the best.  Even the 2006 repaints who were designed to improve upon the 1986 figure failed to deliver.  The blue body, black armor, red highlights and silver face shield armed with the white rifle make for an imposing enemy.  And, even for me, they retain a soft spot in my collection.  This guy was first enemy who could match the Joes in firepower, armor and field capabilities without being overly specialized.

In the early 2000's, as the army building craze was going full force and collectors had fewer repaint options for the this character, Vipers were $25 figures.  Due to that old pricing, many dealers still ask, and get around that price for mint and complete with filecard figures.  On the open market, though, Vipers are around a $13 figure.  And, if you can find them in small army building squads, that price falls further.  But, the ubiquity of the later repaints of the Viper character helped to sate collector demand.  When you could buy 1 Viper or a set of 6 Vipers that were painted like the originals for the same price, something had to give.  Still, collectors love to army build this figure and he will always be popular.  While I vastly prefer the original Cobra Trooper as the backbone of my Cobra army, there is something about a squad of Vipers, armed with better gear, that does put the troopers to shame.

1986 Viper, Cobra, BAT, Battle Android Trooper, 1984, Stinger

1986 Viper, Cobra, BAT, Battle Android Trooper, 1984, Stinger

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Diorama - Scrap Iron Ambushes the Joes

These photos were taken in the fall of 2001.  The intent was to get shots of both Blocker and the 2000 Dial Tone figures.  At the time, the Persuader was recently recovered from my parents' house and was new to my collection.  I had liked it as a kid.  But, the limitations soon shown through.  It was rare for me to use Vipers at the time, but they mixed well with Scrap Iron and were INSANELY popular figures back in 2001.  I added in some 1998 Cobra Troopers with the 1997 Rage for a second attack on the Joes.

1984 Scrap Iron, 1997 Rage, Slugger, 1998, Cobra Trooper, 1986 Viper, Beach Head, Blocker, Battleforce 2000, 2001 Gung Ho, Recoil, 1989, 1987, Falcon

1984 Scrap Iron, 1997 Rage, Slugger, 1998, Cobra Trooper, 1986 Viper, Beach Head, Blocker, Battleforce 2000, 2001 Gung Ho, Recoil, 1989, 1987, Falcon

1984 Scrap Iron, 1997 Rage, Slugger, 1998, Cobra Trooper, 1986 Viper, Beach Head, Blocker, Battleforce 2000, 2001 Gung Ho, Recoil, 1989, 1987, Falcon

1984 Scrap Iron, 1997 Rage, Slugger, 1998, Cobra Trooper, 1986 Viper, Beach Head, Blocker, Battleforce 2000, 2001 Gung Ho, Recoil, 1989, 1987, Falcon

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

1997 Sgt. Zap

The 1983 Zap is a classic figure.  The 1997 Stars and Stripes version of Zap is not.  But, the 1997 figure does bring some design elements to the character that give collectors something a little different than the original figure.  He features some chromatic diversity and better colored accessories.  But, like most of the Stars and Stripes set members, he does not surpass the original figure in any way.  Yet, the figure has some redeeming uses and I've fund him a strong alternative Zap.

The Stars and Stripes set was supposed to be so much more than it was.  But, missing molds and some poor color decisions rendered the execution of the set substantially inferior to the intentions.  But, one thing that was brought to the table was vastly enhanced paint masks.  This Zap is no exception.  The figure features a tan chest with a deep green waist and legs.  The chest features a black overspray that adds some depth to the upper body.  He has additional paint applications on his boots and leg pouches.  The figure is much richer than the more monotone original figure.  He's not quite desert colored.  But, his overall look can be used with some different figure themes.

Alas, the quality of the 1997 figures also left something to be desired.  The collector sentiment of the time was heavily against the figures as they were the first series to feature the new, softer plastic.  Not everyone liked this.  Though, the less brittle thumbs and crotches were a welcome side effect.  But, paint masks could be very sloppy.  And, the figures themselves could break just due to shoddy quality overall.  This lead the figures to be generally dismissed among the collectors of the time.  The 1997 figures and the Stars and Stripes set in particular were pegwarmers and were available well into 1999.  But, they did sell well enough to warrant a vastly superior 1998 series of figures which sold better and was the catalyst to Joe's retail return in 2000.  You'll also note that this figure is Sgt. Zap instead of Zap: an early indicator that Hasbro had not retained the full rights to their figure names.  Sgt. Zap is fine as he can just be Zap.  But, this was among the more innocuous changes to names with many, much worse changes to later appear.

This version of Zap includes the same gear as the vintage version: a bazooka, helmet and backpack.  The 1997 Stars and Stripes set featured the figure accessories individually bagged, within a larger bag.  Through the years, this has created confusion as the Short Fuse figure in the set also included the same backpack mold as Zap and a bazooka.  This has lead to many people mismatching the packs and bazookas for the two figures.  The most common Zap gear is a thick handled, dark green bazooka and a black pack with green painted missiles.  There may be some accessory variants in terms of bazooka color in the set depending upon its production date.  Sets with the black Rock and Roll figure are the most likely to have the variants.  It should also be noted that the figure's helmet does not fit on his head.  You can see the poor fit in the photos.  The '97 helmets were terrible.  (Though, getting clear visors was great!)  So, you're best left to storing the helmet away and having poor Zap's noggin exposed.

The Zap mold showed up around the world in a few different incarnations.  The straight arm figure popped up in Argentina, Mexico and Brazil.  The swivel arm version was released in grey in the European Action Force line as Dolphin and in several different colors (including emerald green) by Funskool in India.  Hasbro got the mold back in 1997 and released it in this set.  Zap appeared again in a comic pack in 2005, but the original chest was replaced with the grenade/knife web gear chest.  Hasbro had the molds to make many of the original 13 in various color schemes (like desert) but failed to ever solve collector gaps in that manner.  Instead, we got a lot of uninspired re-takes on classic characters.  At least this 1997 version gives collectors something cheap and easy to acquire.

When I first got this figure, he pretty much got dumped in a drawer.  20 years later, though, this figure is a bit more interesting to me.  I like having some different colorings of the early figures and, at this point in time, these are the best remakes that Hasbro has ever or will ever make.  And, this Zap provides something that no bootlegger would ever consider while still having redeeming qualities for a collector.  I like rich, green colors on a figure.  So, this Zap works for me.  He fits well enough with original 13 figures that I can use him among them without having to risk damage to my original Zap figure.  And, he brings the same type of visual diversity to a setting of original characters that the first Zap figure does as well.

Mint and complete with filecard 1997 Zap figures sell in the $6 range.  Dealers will get some sales at $12 and even $15.  But, there's a lot of stock available at the lower end and the figure is pretty easy to find these days.  Considering that vintage Zap figures have gotten rather expensive and have very brittle thumbs, this 1997 is a cheap alternative that is still true enough to the vintage look and feel.   The softer plastic ensures that this figure's thumbs will be far less likely to break, even with the fat handled bazooka. The ill fitting helmet is a problem, though.  As Zap, this figure is a decent homage and can match up with some classic figures.  But, if budget is no issue, the original Zap reigns supreme.

1997 Zap, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Bazooka, Toysrus Exclusive

1997 Zap, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Bazooka, Toysrus Exclusive

1997 Zap, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Bazooka, Toysrus Exclusive

1997 Zap, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Bazooka, Toysrus Exclusive