Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rarities - European Exclusive Firing Weapons Figures

Everyone is familiar with the European exclusive Action Force G.I. Joe repaints, the 6 European Tiger Force exclusive figures and even the more obscure European variants of Mutt and Spirit.  But, there were actually many more European exclusive figures.  Some are just minor color differences.  Some are date stamp discrepancies.  And, some are exclusive accessory variants.  It is the last category that is the focus of today's profile.  In the 1990's in Europe, Hasbro released 15 figures who featured exclusive accessories.  They are defined by the fact that the most identifiable characteristic is that most included spring loaded, firing weapons.  But, these are a lot of interesting tidbits hidden within these figures that we'll look at below.

The 15 figures are all 1990 and 1991 figure molds.  It should be noted that most, if not all of these figures were also released in Europe with their American accessories.  But, these altered releases were exclusive to the continent.  I'll start with my favorite of the bunch, the Rock Viper.

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded


As you can see in the photo above, the Rock Viper now includes gear from the 1991 Snake Eyes figure.  The backpack is in an exclusive dark maroon color.  But, the thing that I really like is the neon green gun and missile.  The green is a nice color offset for the Rock Viper and I don't mind neon accessories in some cases.  But, this colored missile and gun are exclusive to this European version of the Rock Viper.

Next up is the Night Creeper you see below.

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded


The main reason I like this version is because I like the Night Creeper in general.  This version, though, includes the backpack and launcher from the 1991 Mercer figure in a dark purple to match the Night Creeper figure.  He also includes an exclusive silver missile.

Next up is Ambush.

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded


The obvious difference in Ambush is his accessories.  He now includes the backpack and missile launcher from the 1991 Snow Serpent in an exclusive light tan color.  He also have the Snow Serpent missile in red.  But, if you look closely, the figure itself is different.  Instead of dark brown cammo on his body, this Ambush features a brighter, lighter brown that has an orange-ish hue.  It is definitely a variant to Ambush.  Though, I'm not 100% certain that this cammo variance was exclusive to Europe or was also available elsewhere.  This European figure also features exclusive card artwork.

The 1991 jet pack General Hawk stands out because he does not include a spring loaded weapon.

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded

As you see above, Hawk includes the launchers and missiles from the 1991 Crimson Guard Immortal figure.  They appear to be in the same color as the CGI weapons.

Next, we have Bullhorn.

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded


Bullhorn is still the same great figure.  But, this version includes the 1991 Snow Serpent missile launcher in an exclusive maroon color.  He also has a neon green missile.

The most famous figure from this crop of missile launching figures is the 1991 Dusty.  This is because Dusty was also released in Asia with the same accessory configuration.  (There were some other figures in this series that also saw Asian releases with the alternate gear including Range Viper, Laser Viper and Desert Scorpion.)

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded


You see Dusty includes the 1991 Red Star AK-47 and missile launcher.  The figure also features unique card artwork that showcases his alternate inclusions.

The 1991 Low Light follows the Dusty.

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded


Low Light also includes the 1991 Red Star launcher and missile.

Up next is the Laser Viper.

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded


This Laser Viper variant includes the missile launcher and missile from the 1991 Sci Fi figure.

Pathfinder shares a detail with Laser Viper:

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded

Pathfinder also features the 1991 Sci Fi missile launcher.  These accessories appear to be unchanged from the American Sci Fi figure release.

Captain Grid Iron makes the Sci Fi launcher reuse a trifecta.

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded


Captain Grid Iron, though, also features exclusive card artwork to help make him a little more interesting than just the reused launcher.

Metal Head brings us back to exclusive gear.

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded


Metal Head includes a golden launcher from the 1991 Cobra Commander figure.  He also includes the standard 1991 Cobra Commander gun.

The final four figures are all Cobra army builders.

Range Viper:

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded

The Range Viper also features Red Star's AK-47 and missile launcher.  He includes an exclusive golden missile, though.

SAW Viper:

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded

The SAW Viper includes the gear from the 1991 Incinerator figure.  He also features exclusive card artwork that showcases his different accessories.

Desert Scorpion:

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded

The Desert Scorpion includes the backpack and missile from the 1991 Mercer figure.  The only exclusive part of the figure is the card artwork that shows an oddball configuration for the new gear.

Undertow:

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded


The Undertow figure also uses the gear from the 1991 Snake Eyes figure.  But, it's in an exclusive red color meant to mimic the Undertow's colors.  He also features an exclusive grey missile.

As accessory variants don't tend to command great attention as opposed to figure variants, these European figures remain very obscure.  But, they are generally hard to find and carded figures can command a premium in the right setting.  I'd love to track down a few of them as the offbeat colors are right up my collecting alley.  But, the general rarity of them makes them another fun subset in foreign Joe collecting.  One final picture is from a European catalog that showcases several of the figures in their alternate accessory configurations.

Ambush, Bullhorn, Captain Grid Iron, Desert Scorpion, Dusty, European Exclusive, General Hawk, Laser Viper, Low Light, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper, Rarities, Rock Viper, SAW Viper, Sci Fi, Undertow,  MOC, Carded

Monday, June 26, 2017

Rarities - Funskool Complan Commandos

Collectors have long known that some Funskool figures were among the rarest figures in the line.  It was not uncommon for "new" figures to be discovered well into the early 2000's.  But, after around 2004, that seemed to end.  Sure, there were lots of new variants being found.  But, completely unknown figures seemed a thing of the past.  Still, a few collectors had found some odd parts in lots they had acquired from India.  Most were written off as discolored figures or maybe some color variant of a released figure.  But, around 2009 or so, that changed with the discovery of the Complan Commandos.

The Complan Commandos were a series of five figures released by Funskool as a promotion for a kids drink.  The set consisted of Striker, Rocker, Cross Country, Rednok and Canary Ann.  Each of the figures was made from repainted G.I. Joe parts from early waves of Funskool Joes, with the male figures all being amalgamations of multiple molds.

The figures were packaged under the Complan Commandos banner.  They were done on the cheap and feature almost no paint masks and extremely minimal accessories.  Supposedly, they were a premium related to a chocolate drink available in India.  Though, I'm not sure if they were available in stores, or just as some kind of promotional item.

High quality Complan Commandos are very rare.  With that rarity comes expense.  Mint and complete versions of some figures will top $3,000 and even more.  Even really beat up samples will fetch over $100.  But, some of the early rarity was due to collectors asking for G.I. Joe only and these figures being ignored.  As collectors learned what questions to ask, more Complan Commandos appeared.  Not enough to make them common.  But, enough to make them available to more than two or three collectors.  

The first and probably most interesting figure in the lineup is Canary Ann.  She is a straight repaint of the Funskool Lady Jaye.  As the name suggests, though, the mold is repainted in a canary yellow.  Topped with a red cap, this is the most drastic look deviation of any use of the Lady Jaye mold.  The lack of paint masks are a tough miss to overcome, though.  It appears she's wearing a yellow undershirt.  It's not completely out of whack.  But, it's odd.  Her all black waist, though, is too much.  It kind of ruins the figure.

Canary Ann included a black version of Lady Jaye's gun.  You can see her filecard below, too.  The filecard is actually rather interestingly written.  It's far and away better than the Funskool exclusive filecards we say in the Joe line in the early 2000's, even though it incorporates much of Lady Jaye's filecard info.




Next up is Cross Country.  He is an amalgamation of Scrap Iron with Zap's head.  The all red body with black highlights is rather Cobra.  He likely included a version of Firefly's gun.  You will see his filecard below.  It is heavily derivative from Beach Head's filecard.




Rocker is next.  He is a blue Firefly body with a Short Fuze head.  The blue plastic is EXTREMELY prone to discoloration and most of the few Rocker's out there are heavily discolored.  The figure included a version of Torpedo's harpoon gun.



Rednok is the second female in the 5 figure set.  She is a red repaint of the Baroness.  Prior to 2002, this would have been an extremely in demand figure.  However, we have seen many red Baroness repaints in the 15 years since then.  And, as such, this version with no painted highlights just looks cheap.  But, as it's a Baroness repaint, Rednok will always maintain collector demand.  She likely included a version of Major Bludd's pistol.  Her filecard steals from both Jinx and Low Light.  This is odd as neither of those characters ever appeared in India.  So, you wonder where Funskool got the information.  The fact that her glasses are fake are also a different character trait.




The final figure is Striker.  He is a green repaint of Gung Ho with a black haired Short Fuze head.  The figure looks a bit odd without the Marine Corps tattoo on his chest.  But, it's a different look for the mold.  (There is also an olive drab version of Gung Ho that was available as a Funskool vehicle driver that may have been a recolor using the paint masks from this figure.)  Striker included Gung Ho's grenade launcher.  His filecard steals from Big Boa.  I love that Bowling Ball was changed to Cricket Ball for the Indian audience.  The connotation changes quite a bit with this little detail.



These figures exude cheapness and would be hated were they not among the rarest figures ever released anywhere in the world.  Even then, they aren't appreciated for their quality but their rarity and value.  The card artwork and filecards are, for me, the most interesting part since they take so much from around the Joe world.  But, for the hundreds to thousands of dollars these guys cost, those traits aren't enough to get me really interested in the figures.  Sometimes rarity trumps something cool.  Other times, though, it masks something that's kind of lame.  And, in the case of these figures, were they common, no one would touch them.  But, since they are extremely rare, collectors care and give them due they would not earn on their own design merits.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Rarities - 1995 Ninja Commando Road Pig

Road Pig was far and away the oddest choice for the Ninja Commandos subset.  How did a muscle bound schizophrenic find the time to become a ninja?  I'd have loved to have seen the filecard that explained that one.

As a figure, Road Pig isn't great.  The face and chest are well detailed, but uninteresting.  He's just a guy with no shirt on.  His legs lack any real details or definition.  The only real highlight is the head.  It is true to Road Pig and well detailed.  But, even it isn't that much different from the 1988 sculpt.

Hasbro actually did release part of this figure.  The chest and arms were used on the Mortal Combat Movie Edition Liu Kang figure.  So, the mold did get some use.  Liu Kang gave customizers a chance to interpret this figure and make their own.  That was rare for unproduced concepts.  But, in looking at this figure, he's definitely a case where collectors didn't miss out on much by him being cancelled.

Ninja Commando Road Pigs exist both in unpainted and fully painted production level form.  In the mid 2000's, quite a few of these unpainted figures showed up from Asian sellers.  They were likely overstock that had been sitting around for a while and was discovered when the market for Joes took off.  Being a Ninja Commando, either form still fetches a decent price.  But, many collectors are not keen on the subset and are less keen on Road Pig as a ninja.  So, you will also see this figure sit unsold at prices that are similar to other characters from the same set who do sell.  While 1995 would have had some amazing new figures that would have been well liked by collectors to this day, it would also have given us a ninja Road Pig.  So, we did dodge a few bullets, too.

1995 Ninja Commando Road Pig, Unproduced, Prototype

1995 Ninja Commando Road Pig, Unproduced, Prototype

1995 Ninja Commando Road Pig, Unproduced, Prototype

Friday, June 23, 2017

Rarities - Alternate 2004 Cobra Urban Strike Set

In 2004, Hasbro came through for collectors of vintage Joe molds.  The year started with the highly anticipated Cobra Infantry and collector favorite Night Force sets.  This lead to great speculation that the follow up sets would be similar.  When the Cobra Urban Strike set was announced, collectors quickly got angry that Hasbro had abandoned the 6 army builder theme that was used for the Cobra Infantry.  In their rage, they overlooked a quiet gem of the repaint era.  The Urban Strike set was a nice mix of molds that hadn't been seen in a while coupled with excellent repaints of collector favorite molds.  But, the original design for the set was quite different.  And, many of these original figures showed up and were available from Asian Joe sellers in the mid 2000's.

The set below showcases the differences for the figures.  The main inclusion is the red color on Firefly, Night Creeper and the Nullifier.  While red is a standard Cobra color, Hasbro was seemingly on a quest to crimson-fy every Cobra character during the repaint era.  It was annoying.  So, them removing it from this set was a huge improvement.

In the end, this is definitely a set that was improved before it went to production.  The red creates flaws on each of figures on which is appears.  And, the superfluous cammo on Scrap Iron and the Alley Viper overly complicated otherwise solid paint jobs.  The grey Stormshadow is nice.  If that mold didn't suck and hadn't been used so many times in 2004, I might have a stronger opinion of it.  But, since it was generally a bad figure either way, I call it wash between the two versions of that character.

These figures were readily available from 2004 - 2006 or so.  Usually, they'd sell for under $20 each with the characters getting even cheaper.  Like all these figures, the alternate Urban Strike set has gotten much harder to find and more expensive in the ensuing decade.  But, it hasn't found collector interest on par with the alternate Anti-Venom figures who would have been their contemporaries.  I'm glad Hasbro made the modifications to the set that they did prior to production.  These figures are interesting.  But, they are also inferior to the production set.  And, the Urban Strike had so much good stuff in it that it remains one of the few bright spots for ARAH molds from that era.

Urban Strike, Firefly, Scrap Iron, Nullifier, Flak Viper, Storm Shadow, Alley Viper, Night Creeper, Toys R Us Exclusive, TRU, Midnight Chinese, unproduced, variant

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Target Exclusive Hit and Run - Parachute Pack

As 1988 wound down, Hasbro produced a few special figure releases that were repacks of some of their 1988 figure offerings.  These special packs were marketing gimmicks to entice gift givers to choose something G.I. Joe for their recipients.  There was a special Voltar vs. Muskrat pack that featured exclusive packaging.  The option that is most familiar to me, though, is the Target exclusive Parachute Pack Hit and Run figure.

This exclusive showed up at some point in 1988.  The Hit and Run figure itself was no different than the standard version that was still available on a single card.  In addition to his traditional accessories, though, the figure also included Parachute Pack that was taken from the same mold as the long time mail away premium.

MOC, this figure is rather hard to find and extremely expensive.  Loose, the figure is easily made from a Hit and Run and common Parachute Pack.  So, you don't often see the figure command a premium.  But, the cardback did include a unique, orange backed filecard.  You will see this exclusive bio sell for substantially more than all but the rarest filecards in the line.

Hit and Run was one of the last figures I purchased at retail in early 1988 before I quit collecting Joe.  However, my youngest brother continued buying figures through the year.  And, at some point, he acquired this figure.  I remember as I found the Hit and Run lying around the house and I thought he had stolen mine from the closet in my room again.  However, I found mine safe in his plastic baggie inside a Lego container on the floor.  I then found the packaging for this figure and realized he was something different.

For some reason, I had not saved the filecards from my 1988 figure purchases.  (Still don't know why that was since I had been religious about filecard clipping since 1983.)  So, I cut the orange file card off of the packaging and added it to my Hit and Run that was saved away.  That proved fortuitous in later years when the filecard got scarce and pricey since I already had one.

Hasbro didn't really do re-releases like this Hit and Run again.  Any later special offers were packaged with an exclusive figure to make them more enticing.  But, this figure serves as a somewhat pre-cursor to Sky Patrol who would debut two years later.  It is also an excellent pairing of figure and gear that Hasbro would move away from as the line sputtered out.

1988 Hit and Run, Target Exclusive, Parachute Pack, Mail Away, 1985, MOC, Filecard, Carded


1988 Hit and Run, Target Exclusive, Parachute Pack, Mail Away, 1985, MOC, Filecard, Carded