Tuesday, October 17, 2017

1991 Ozone - Eco Warriors

Time heals all wounds.  Or, so they say.  In 1991, Hasbro released the Eco Warriors figures.  As collectors came online a few years later in the late 1990's, they generally hated the concept of neon Joes and, in particular, hated the Eco Warriors for being the harbinger of the bright colors.  Well into the 2000's this opinion remained true.  But, as the calendar turned to the 2010's, the stance began to soften.  This was due to the fact that many hardliners (those who felt the Joe line ended after 1987, or even 1985) had either left the hobby or had decided the later vintage Joes weren't bad since they had nothing else new to collect.  But, it was also due to an influx of younger collectors for whom the neon years had defined their childhood Joe experience.  While I won't go so far as to say that Eco Warriors are now popular, they are accepted and collectors find some value in them.  In looking back at the molds used in the Eco Warriors subset, they still exhibit the same high quality sculpting and design that Hasbro retained through the vintage Joe line's entire run.  This brings us to Ozone: an excellent addition to the Eco Warriors ranks and the subject of today's profile.

Ozone is known to me as an Astronaut.  The first time I came across the figure was in the spring of 1995 when I found the 1993 Star Brigade version of Ozone, Countdown and Payload for $2 each at a KB Toy Liquidators on the West side of Indianapolis.  The mold looked like an astronaut and it seemed perfectly reasonable to me that the figure was new to the Star Brigade assortment.  As collecting resources came online, I found that Ozone actually debuted two years earlier as part of the Eco Warriors assortment.  As I liked my 1993 figure, I made it a point to find an original Ozone figure.

In the late 1990's, though, finding figures from the 1990's on the second hand market was actually kind of tough.  Not too many kids had gotten to the point of selling their figures.  So, it took a good amount of time before I found a lot that included a complete Ozone.  Once in hand, though, I found that I still got more use out of my later Ozone releases.  The blue and yellow color was visually appealing.  But, I was more interested in Clean Sweep as a new acquisition.  And, as I was familiar with Ozone from Star Brigade, I had difficulty in seeing the original release of him in the Eco Warriors light.  Plus, the figure I got was very stiff.  So, he was difficult to fit into the Razorblade (my aircraft of choice at the time) which limited his display use.

Ozone's design is very strong.  His distinctive visage is one of the highlight.  The figure itself is named after a Hasbro designer of the time named David Kunitz.  The helmet is tight fitting and well placed without being a true danger of rubbing off the head's paint.  The rest of the body is somewhat bulky: befitting for a figure who would be wearing lots of protective gear.  He has lots of armor bits around that add depth to the mold, but really can only be explained away as aesthetic choices.  Ozone features an array of 6 neon green grenades on his chest.  They provide a visual break to the blue and yellow background.  And, they are a nice complement to the neon green accessories.  The overall color scheme works well despite the non-traditional bright colors.  Sure, Ozone is blue.  But the hue would never be mistaken for Cobra.

Ozone's accessories are a mixed bag.  His helmet is awesome.  It fits well and is in scale with the rest of his body.  The water squirting backpack is, essentially, the same as the device included with the other Eco Warriors figures.  For the time, it's a solid toy.  But, the weapon and hose are large and can easily snap thumbs.  The sniffer is a cool device.  However, in my first Eco Warriors lot I acquired, the sniffer was placed into the bag with Clean Sweep.  I never bothered to look up each figure since all the figs in the lot had their correct accessories.  So, until 2016, I considered this piece of gear to belong to Clean Sweep.  I've always seen it as an extension of the nice pack and controls setup included with that character.  So, seeing this vacuum gun with Ozone still seems odd to me.  But, the quality and oddity of the weapon remains the same regardless of which figure you have use it.  The bright green is a nice offset from the subtle blue and yellow of the figure.  So, I find it very aesthetically pleasing: even if it is very bright.

The Ozone mold got a lot of life.  Hasbro created it for the Eco Warriors in 1991.  It was then released in two variants as part of Star Brigade in 1993: a tan and a brown version.  Hasbro recolored Ozone into a dark brown and included him as a shortpacked figure in the second series of 1994 Star Brigade figures.  The mold then appeared in India around 1999 or 2000.  There, Funskool released a Star Brigade Ozone based on the 1993 American release of the figure.  There are a few variants of the Funskool figure to track down as some have different arm construction or differing shades of grey coloring.  Funskool still had the mold in 2010.  As such, it's more possible that Ozone's mold still exists.  Though, it's doubtful that he'll ever appear again.

Mint and complete with filecard Ozone figures are cheap.  While dealers sell them for $10, you can get them with the filecard for around $6 without too much difficulty.  You can still get carded figures in the $25 range without too much searching, too.  So, while the figure isn't as hated as it once was, it's still not loved by collectors.  However, for the price, Ozone isn't a bad buy.  The colors are different and vibrant.  The mold is solid.  And, the character is a relative blank slate that can be incorporated into any collection with no media baggage.  You can use the figure in a variety of settings and the panoply of later colors allow for some diversity when using the character.  Personally, I don't mind either Eco Warriors or brightly colored Joes.  I've been this way for 20 years, now.  But, the nostalgia of the neon years is strong with me as it was when I actively became a collector.  So, the value you derive from an Ozone figure may differ quite a bit.  But, I'm glad to have this guy in my collection.

1991 Eco Warriors, Ozone, Countdown, Outback, 1993, Star Brigade

1991 Eco Warriors, Ozone, Countdown, Outback, 1993, Star Brigade, 1991 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, tracker, Clean Sweep, Mercer

1991 Eco Warriors, Ozone, Countdown, Outback, 1993, Star Brigade, 1991 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, tracker, Clean Sweep, Mercer

1991 Eco Warriors, Ozone, Countdown, Outback, 1993, Star Brigade, 1991 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, tracker, Clean Sweep, Mercer

Thursday, October 12, 2017

1994 Ice Cream Soldier - Around the Web

For a bright neon figure with a terrible code who was released in Joe's final year: there sure is a lot of content around the web for Ice Cream Soldier.  It seems he's kind of the poster child for all that went "wrong" with the last years of the line.  But, the mold is still decent and the bright colors are kind of fun.  Here's the best on the 1994 Ice Cream Soldier from around the web.

Ice Cream Soldier Profile

Ice Cream Soldier at JoeADay.com

Ice Cream Soldier Video Review

Ice Cream Soldier at 3DJoes.com

Ice Cream Soldier Pre Production at YoJoe.com

Ice Cream Soldier at Half the Battle

1994 Ice Cream Soldier, Flamethrower, 1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Outback, Eco Warriors, Mud Buster

1994 Ice Cream Soldier, Flamethrower, 1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Outback, Eco Warriors, Mud Buster

1994 Ice Cream Soldier, Flamethrower, 1993 Mirage, Mega Marines, Outback, Eco Warriors, Mud Buster

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sigilo - Plastirama Quick Kick (Argentina)

The character of Quick Kick never really appealed to me.  Despite first appearing in the classic 1985 series, I never found the figure all that interesting.  As such, through the years, I mostly ignored Quick Kick's existence.  I acquired a complete one in an early lot of figures I bought and never really thought much about him.  However, as I turned towards foreign Joes as the major growth area for my collection, I found that Quick Kick had a large contingent of international releases.  Again, though, I heavily avoided these: spending my time acquiring figures I liked more instead.  In time, though, I realized that I would "need" to get the Quick Kick variants at some point.  So, when I found a dealer selling several Plastirama figures I was missing from my collection: I went ahead and added the Argentine version of Quick Kick (named Sigilo) to my collection.

Quick Kick was never really important to my childhood collection.  There's a few reasons for that.  The first is that his look was just too far out there.  A guy with bare feet and bare chest was tough for me to really get behind.  The second was that he only included a sword and nunchuks as weapons.  Had he been released in 1984 as an enemy to Storm Shadow, I might have found Quick Kick more interesting.  But, with the 1985 Snake Eyes as Storm Shadow's foil available the same calendar year, Quick Kick never stood a chance.  The final reason is more trivial.  But, one of my friends simply loved Quick Kick.  He was annoyingly attached to the figure.  (I suspect it was because he could not find the 1985 Snake Eyes at retail.  So, he didn't have Storm Shadow's natural enemy.  I recall him ordering Snake Eyes from either Sears or JC Penny's: getting several figures he already had since he couldn't find the figure he wanted at retail.)  He had Quick Kick out duel Snake Eyes.  This, to me, was ludicrous.  And, it helped sully the Quick Kick figure for me.

Yet, I did find uses for Quick Kick.  One of my favorite Special Missions adventures centers around Quick Kick and Stalker being trapped by South American terrorists.  From stories like this, I found that Quick Kick could have some value.  Yet, I found the figure constraining.  So, in time, Quick Kick joined the legion of nameless, faceless minions who would represent enemies of both Joe and Cobra.  He might be a radicalized student, a dissident or just a general terrorist.  He was joined by my broken figures, Dreadnoks and other knock offs in this role.  He also served as a stand in for Viet Cong soldiers during the time I was obsessed with "The 'Nam" comic book.

Beyond that, though, the figure never found a place.  Even as an adult, Quick Kick hasn't grabbed my attention.  I have few photos of him on the site and he rarely even makes a background appearance.  If I'm rattling off the 1985 lineup, Quick Kick will be the one figure I forget: even over the obscure Listen & Fun Tripwire.  The bare chest and feet don't really lend themselves to much usage.  And, Quick Kick's lack or firearm further limits his value.

The main differences between this figure and the American release are subtle.  Sigilo's (the name means Stealth) skin tone is definitively pinker than Quick Kick's.  That's the most noticeable difference.  He has a red belt with silver pockets.  These work better than the American colors and are more unifying in appearance since they also tie with the silver wrist gauntlets.  If you come across a loose Sigilo in the wild, he's different enough that an experienced collector will instantly recognize him as being different from the American figure.  But, he's still similar enough that he doesn't really bring anything to the Quick Kick character that you don't get from the Hasbro version.

Sigilo's accessories are the same as Quick Kick's.  The Plastirama backpack is a shiny black color.  (It's the common color of many Argentine accessories.)  The sword and nunchuks are still silver and are functionally indistinguishable from the Hasbro versions of the same gear.  Quality Control for these Plastirama figures can be spotty, though, and it's not uncommon to see carded Sigilo figures missing the nunchuks. The black pack is something different for the figure, but isn't really enough to be interesting.  But, at least the figure contains the full complement of gear.

Quick Kick was quite the world traveler.  Despite that, though, he never really got an interesting variant.  After his release in the U.S., Quick Kick appeared in Argentina and Brazil.  The Estrela release from Brazil is notable because Hasbro actually had Estrela produce a large quantity of Quick Kick figures that were made available to North American collectors via Hasbro Direct.  So, anyone who had a later mail away Quick Kick figure actually has the Brazilian variant.  Despite this major difference, these mail aways remain remarkably cheap.  Though, massive amounts of overstock were put into the collecting community that helps sate demand.  From Brazil, Quick Kick migrated to India.  There, Funskool produced a Quick Kick figure for many years.  Like both the Brazilian and Argentine versions of the mold, the Funskool figure is a very similar to the American release.  There are a few very difficult to find variants of the Funskool Quick Kick, the most famous being a version with a light pink sash.  It does not appear that Hasbro got the Quick Kick mold back from Funskool in the 2000's and it could still be there.  Frankly, I'd go for at least one variant of Quick Kick that gave us a substantially different visual from the other figures that were released around the world.  But, that's never going to happen, now.

In the early and mid 2000's, mint on carded Sigilo figures were ubiquitous on online auction and dealer sites.  They would sit, unsold for $10.  If you were patient, you could get them for half of that.  Sgto. Slaughter, Alado, Fuego and Sigilo comprised a quartet of completely undesirable figures that collectors ignored.  Slowly, though, the supply of all the Plastirama overstock has dried up.  These days, MOC Sigilos are around $25 figures.  Loose, they will run around $15 or so.  That's still pretty cheap.  But, there are tons of Quick Kick figures out there and most of them are similar enough that once you have one, you have them all.  But, you simply don't see Sigilo (or any of the once easy to find Plastirama figures) with the frequency you did just a decade ago.

If you are a foreign figure junkie like I am, this is good since you can still get a foreign variant for really cheap.  If you don't really care, it's good, too, since this Sigilo doesn't really offer anything you don't get with the regular Quick Kick version.  Since I'm still not a Quick Kick fan, this Sigilo just sits in a box with some other Plastirama figures.  He's fun to display with Sgto. Slaughter and Alado from time to time.  But, I rarely have occasion to pull him out and use him on his own merits.  Quick Kick is a character that's never resonated with me and the figure has kept him buried in my collection.  Having a foreign version of him is kind of fun.  But, in the end, this Sigilo is still constrained by the same issues as the American figure.  For those who like Quick Kick (and, he has a lot of fans) that's a good thing since it allows them more ways to collect a figure they enjoy.  For me, though, this figure checked a box and that's about the extent of his value to me.

Sigilo, Quick Kick, Argentina, Plastirama, Cobra Mortal, Cobra De Hielo, Ice Cobra, Stormshadow, Black Major, Bootleg

Sigilo, Quick Kick, Argentina, Plastirama, Cobra Trooper, VAMP Mark II, 1985, 1983, Dusty, 1984

Sigilo, Quick Kick, Argentina, Plastirama, 1985, Worms, 1987, General Hawk, 1997, Lifeline 1986

Sigilo, Quick Kick, Argentina, Plastirama, 1985, Worms, 1987, General Hawk, 1997, Lifeline 1986

Thursday, October 5, 2017

1985 Eel - Around the Web

The 1985 Eel is about as classic a Cobra army builder as there is.  Hasbro never released a Cobra diver that came close to the immortal grey original.  The fact that he wasn't repainted ad naseum has helped keep the figure undiluted and left him as pertinent today as he was in 1985.  Through the years, I've had tons of content regarding the figure.  Here's all of that plus some other content from around the web.

1985 Eel Profile

Eel Diorama 1 - The Landing

Eel Diorama 2 - Eels in Training

Eel on Instagram

Hombre Rana - Plastirama Eel from Argentina

Eel Diorama 3 - Helping Hand

Eel Video Review

Eel Diorama 4 - Through the Looking Grass

Eel at 3DJoes.com

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

2017 Red Lasers Army Sightline

I did not know Gary Head.  I was a member of a forum where he was active.  But, our peak collecting timelines did not really overlap.  I occasionally read about one of his finds: the most lasting for me was the alternate heads for the 1982 Joe team.  But, right as he came into the collecting world, I was heavily on my way out.  In his time, though, he made quite a mark on the Joe world.  Between developing a strong bond with many Hasbro employees (not an easy task) and keeping abreast of the modern line, Gary was a huge presence in the Joe world.  His untimely death left a void for the community as a hole, but also his many friends in particular.

So, due to his unique stature in the community, Hasbro decided to release a tribute figure to Gary in 2015.  The figure, named Sightline, featured a unique grey and red color scheme that was fairly uncommon in the Joe world.  Collectors enjoyed the figure.  But, being only available as an anniversary sculpt figure, the official release also left many collectors without a tribute.  Enter Joe DeClassified.  This group managed to obtain Hasbro's permission to produce a Sightline figure in vintage Joe style for the 2017 G.I. Joe Convention.  Factory custom figure maker Red Laser was brought in to provide the actual figure based on a design from noted customizer Chad_Ghost.  The result is an excellent homage to the figure that was an homage to the man.

2017 Sightline, Gary Head, Gary Goggles, Red Laser's Army, Bootleg, Factory Custom, 1997 Zap, 1985 Mauler

Quality wise, this figure isn't bad.  But, it has one glaring problem.  The figure's backpack will not fit into his back.  It's not even close.  You will Sightline's pack affixed to a Hasbro Steel Brigade figure in the photos below.  So, the pack's peg is just about standard size to work with vintage figures.  (It's a bit loose, but not so much as to render the pack useless.)  The issue is the screw hole in Sightline's back.  It is simply way too large for any pack to fit.  You can get around this with fixes like electrical tape.  But, I'm not a big fan of having to "fix" figures out of the box.  New stuff should work with no issues.

The Sightline figure includes some solid accessories.  He starts with a charcoal colored version of Recoil's rifle.  This weapon was available with the most common Steel Brigade figure and has long been a collector favorite.  It works with this figure.  Though, it is becoming overused by the various custom figure makers due to that popularity.  He also comes with the aforementioned black version of Duke's backpack.  (I always differentiate Duke and Airborne's packs since Airborne's has the cross on the inside and Duke's does not.  They are different molds, though they appear the same from the front.)  Where the figure gets interesting is that he includes a 1982 style Joe helmet.  It was rare to see a V1 Snake Eyes figure with a helmet.  (He was only ever released with one when he appeared as the first version of the Funskool Street Hawk figure.)  But, his head was designed to wear one.  In addition to the helmet he has a red 1982 style visor.  It is a never before seen color and is a welcome addition into the accessory fold.  I need to try it on a Flash or Grand Slam figure to see how it works.  The figure also includes a filecard and a a trading type card with fan made artwork.

Sightline uses parts remade from the V1 Snake Eyes, Flash, Trip Wire and Airborne.  They are a solid group of parts that also lend themselves to the 20 or so additional figures that Red Laser debuted at Joecon in 2017.  There is a bit of a color mismatch between the legs and the chest caused by a factory mixup.  But, the general appearance of grey, black cammo and red is a stark difference from most offerings using 1982 through 1984 molds.  You can set Sightline on display with Snake Eyes and, if Sightline is wearing his helmet, you don't feel that the figures tread upon each other.  For that reason alone, the Sightline figure is an excellent companion to to the early Joe team since he brings a color palette not otherwise seen.

If you attended the 2017 G.I. Joe convention at Disney in Orlando, you could get a Sightline figure for free as a special attendee bonus from the Joe DeClassified team.  There were around 1,000 figures made.  Each person who got a figure registered so that no one got more than one.  There were some bonus figures hidden around the convention area, though, that enterprising collectors could find.  Poor convention attendance, though, left DeClassified with around 400 remaining figures.  As of now, they are still working on how to distribute those figures as their permission from Hasbro to use the Sightline name stipulated that the figures could not be sold.  Most collectors have, so far, honored the implied agreement that these figures not be sold.  But, some have been.  And, since there are so many collectors who have not yet had a chance to acquire the figure and who desperately want it, the few sales that have occurred have fetched prices in the $100 - $125 range.

It's likely that those prices are unsustainable.  For one, some of the 400 remaining figures will get into the collecting community through toy shows or other means.  This will reduce demand.  But, in time, this figure will fall into more obscurity.  There are simply so many factory custom figures being produced at this time (There's well over 50 that have debuted in the first 6 months of 2017 alone!) that fatigue will start to deter collectors.  Once the figure is replaced as the "it" item in the collecting community, interest in him will fade.  As the figure is distinctive, he will retain more popularity than many other figures.  But, there's also nothing stopping repaints of this figure in similar colors or other homages from additional sources.

If you collect vintage Joes, it's been a rough decade.  There has been, basically, nothing to buy outside of a handful of convention sets.  And, those are nearly a decade away now, too.  Fortunately, enterprising collectors like Red Laser and Black Major have filled the void.  While we only saw a few molds produced during the early years of the factor custom game, 2016 and 2017 have seen the ante upped with classic Joes, immortal Cobra army builders and a plethora of new figure designs that have allowed a vintage Joe collection to expand in ways Hasbro simply could not deliver.  I look at what the factory custom producers have done and they have made more "must-have" figures for me than Hasbro made from 2000 - 2007.  That's amazing and shows that had Hasbro listened to collectors during that time, they might have achieved much more success.

For now, though, it's a good time to be a vintage Joe collector again.  There's lots out there to buy: much of it geared squarely for collectors based on their long unfulfilled wish lists.  Sightline is one of those figures that I didn't realize I wanted until I got one.  I can't thank Wowboy enough for his generous gift of this figure to me.  Sightline brings something missing to my collection and helps add visual diversity among the figures who comprised the formative years of my childhood.  He helps breathe new life into toys that have been staples of my life for 35 years now.  It saddens me that Hasbro isn't able to tap into that passion.  But, guys like Red Laser and Black Major have.  And, all our collections are better for it.

2017 Sightline, Gary Head, Gary Goggles, Red Laser's Army, Bootleg, Factory Custom, 1997 Zap, 1985 Mauler, 1984 Roadblock, Viper, Stinger Viper, Eel Viper, Recondo

2017 Sightline, Gary Head, Gary Goggles, Red Laser's Army, Bootleg, Factory Custom, 1997 Zap, 1985 Mauler, 1984 Roadblock, Viper, Stinger Viper, Eel Viper, Recondo, Steel Brigade, Mail Away, VAMP, HAL

2017 Sightline, Gary Head, Gary Goggles, Red Laser's Army, Bootleg, Factory Custom, 1997 Zap, 1985 Mauler, 1984 Roadblock, Viper, Stinger Viper, Eel Viper, Recondo, Steel Brigade, Mail Away, VAMP, HAL

Steel Brigade, Mail Away, Sightline, Gary Goggles, Red Laser Army, Bootleg, Factory Custom

Steel Brigade, Mail Away, Sightline, Gary Goggles, Red Laser Army, Bootleg, Factory Custom, Crimson Guard, Black Major, Dragonfly, 1983

Steel Brigade, Mail Away, Sightline, Gary Goggles, Red Laser Army, Bootleg, Factory Custom, Crimson Guard, Black Major, Dragonfly, 1983, Rock and Roll