GI JOE Classified: Zartan by Hasbro

Ah, Zartan! He was one of my favorite characters back in the day. His figure was cool enough, with his color-changing skin and his swamp skimmer vehicle, but I think it was his appearance in The Revenge of Cobra mini-series that really sold me on the character. He was a mercenary, he was leader of a biker gang, he was a master of disguise, and his daring rescue of Cobra Commander from Blackwater Prison is still among my favorite GI JOE Sunbow moments. Needless to say, I was hotly anticipating his appearance in the new Classified series, and was happy that Hasbro didn’t keep me waiting long.

OK, so I’m a little mad at Hasbro for not releasing Zartan as a Deluxe with his swamp skimmer. The Chameleon hasn’t gotten a lot of love over the years, and it would have been the perfect vehicle for the 6-inch scale. But I suppose that’s not out of the question for a future re-release. Besides, one look at this figure in the package, and all was forgiven. The character art on the package is amazing, and the looks to be no slouch either. Let’s get him out of his box and check him out!

Most of the Classified figures have been marrying old and new design elements, but Zartan feels like he has his feet firmly planted in tradition. Indeed, he kind of looks like he borrows elements from the original figure and Sideshow’s Sixth-Scale version, which happens to be my favorite look for the character. He dons a pair of dark brown trousers with chunky combat boots and while he isn’t wearing a shirt, he does have armor on his chest, shoulders, and a pair of armored gauntlets. There’s some excellent attention to detail here, including the texturing on his trousers, the sculpted straps holding his armor pieces on, and even the tiny sculpted rivets that secure his chest piece. He’s got a belt that hangs around his waist, as well as a sculpted one with a Dreadnok-themed skull buckle. Everything about him looks rugged and ready for action!

The portrait is also excellent! The original figure and cartoon always had me wondering whether that thing on his head was a hood or his hair, but that’s been long since answered and here we can easily tell he’s a bald man wearing a hood. The hood is pretty rigid and stays on well. It features some reinforced areas that resemble some kind of reptile scale hide. Zartan is also sporting a brown scarf around his neck, which can be removed.

With the hood off, we can get a better look at the head sculpt. Zartan is sporting a little smirk and some really nice definition to his facial features. He’s also got a little Robert Z’Dar action going on with his chin. Naturally he has his iconic eye tatts, painted in a glossy black, and his eyes have a not-quite human appearance to them.

Zartan’s belt includes a sheath for his rather large combat knife. The sheath is textured to resemble alligator hide and the curved grip includes a finger loop, which works with the trigger finger on his right hand. The black blade is a nasty piece of business, with a slight swell to the edge and a serrated back.

His belt also has holes to peg in these two… I dunno, trophies? One is a snake’s head with its mouth wide open and about to strike, the other looks like a monkey hand. I’m really not sure if these are supposed to be trophies or part of some kind of swamp mojo fetishes, but they look cool and add a lot of character to the figure. And if you don’t like them, you can easily remove them and toss them in a bin.

Next up is his trusty pistol, and the design of this one is clearly influenced by the sidearm that came with the original figure. It’s a rather boxy looking design, and I absolutely love it. Sadly he has no holster for it, but it can be clipped to the side of his backpack. Backpack? Let’s check out the backpack!

The backpack is another accessory heavily influenced by the original figure. It’s large and bulky and contains one of Zartan’s masks. This large and boxy piece of kit opens to reveal some beautiful sculpted details, including some licks of red paint on the interior. The mask fits snugly in the compartment and can be worn by Zartan in conjunction with his hood, just like on the original Real American Hero figure. Nope, clearly that is not Zartan. It’s just some other guy wearing his clothes!

As far as I’m concerned, Classified Zartan is another direct hit for this series! Hasbro kept pretty faithful to his original design, while mixing in some gritty realism, and the result is spectacular. There’s some beautiful detail work on his armor, his accessories are all on point, and he looks great when displayed with Classified Cobra Commander and Destro. And yes, I’d still like to see a Deluxe version of Zartan with The Chameleon, although if we do get him packed with a ride, it’ll probably be just a recycled motorcycle from the Marvel Legends line.

Boglins: King Drool by TriAction Toys

For me, The 80’s will long be remembered as the decade that put action figures on the map, but it also brought us so many other kinds of memorable toys. The Boglins snuck in at the tail end of the decade when I was in my mid teens and getting out of toys, albeit only for a brief hiatus. Still, I was tuned in enough to remember the commercials and being curious about them. These rubber puppets capitalized on a number of popular gimmicks of the day, including the gross-out genre, the puppet oeuvre, and little nasty creature flicks that were popular at the time. A little research told me that they were first shopped to Coleco for their Sectaurs line, but eventually wound up as their own thing from Mattel. And now, these “Outrageous Creatures That Come Alive In Your Hands” are back, thanks to TriAction Toys and a successful Crowdfunded effort. Let’s take a look at King Drool!

Like the original Boglins, Drool comes in a package made to look like a combination cage and live animal shipping crate. The box itself is cardboard, but the bars on the front are plastic. There’s illustrated sawdust on the bottom of the crate’s interior and the Boglin inside quivers and jiggles when you move the box, making it seem rather alive. The back of the package has a little history of the Boglin creatures and some illustrations of their evolution as a species. The same three big boys made a return in this rejuvenated line, including Dwork, Vlobb and Drool. The box also teases smaller Boglins. These started out on Kickstarter with a $50 buy in, but have since gone up for pre-order at various retailers and are supposedly going to be made available at some brick-and-mortar retail locations as well.

The package is sort of collector friendly. A zip-tie holds the cage door shut. Snip it and it can be lifted open. A few more strategic wire-tie snips will allow you to remove your Boglin from the box without damaging his home. There is an outline on the bottom of the box to cut out if you want to be able to work him as a puppet while he’s still in the crate. Either way, you will have to cut into the compartment at the bottom of the crate to remove his tail and the hardware used to attach it. He will fit in the cage with his tail on, and I rather wish they had included it on him from the get-go. Just take note that it’s in there, because nothing on the box actually discloses that information.

Out of the box, I’ll confess that my first impressions were a bit mixed on this guy. As a recreation of the original toy, I think they did a fine job. No, I never owned one, but I’ve checked out some pictures for comparisons. Drool’s body, which is basically a giant head, is hollow rubber for you to insert your hand into, but it holds it’s shape quite well without being filled up with one of my giant paws. I am using a makeshift stand for most of these pictures, as one was not included, and without it he just kind of slumps on the ground like he’s dead or dying. I like the rubber they used, as it is very jiggly and creepy, and I’m glad to see the arms and hands are solid rubber, which makes them sturdy, but not at all rigid. I would have appreciated bendy wire being added to the appendages to make them poseable, but if it wasn’t in the original, you aren’t getting it here. The shoulders sport disks to cover up where they attach to the body. These may look like rotating joints, but they most definitely are not. Finally, there is a very notable seam where the tail attaches, and while it does attach quite firmly, I really would have preferred the seam not be so apparent.

The coloring of this beast is mostly left to the sickly gray-yellow color of the plastic, with some additional spray around the eyes and the tail for variety. You also get some reddish-pink paint on the interior of his mouth and white for the one big tooth. Again, I think the coloring here does a good job reflecting the quality of the original toy, but I’ll bet some people can do some really killer premium custom jobs on these beasties and make them truly shine.

Of course, Drool is a functional puppet, and as such he has a few fun mechanics at work. The most basic is the mouth, which is worked like any normal puppet with your fingers inserting into the top and bottom of the mouth to make it open and close. I’ll note here, that the body cavity is still designed for small hands, and the mouth is rather shallow, which sort of limits the effect of it opening and closing. Much more interesting are the eyes, which are not only plastic and beautifully painted, but also glow in the dark. The Boglin’s peepers are fixed to a lever system, which allows the eyes to shift left and right, and it works very well. There are also levers above each eye, which is supposed to make him blink or wink, and these are a little dodgy.

If it seems like I’m lukewarm on my new pet Boglin, I think it only fair to say I was expecting something a bit more premium for my fifty bucks. Granted, ten bucks of that went to shipping, brings the price in line with the $40 MSRP, which seems to be the going rate at most retailers offering pre-orders. To be fair, this is a really nice recreation of the vintage toy, I was just hoping for some improvements. I mentioned wire in the arms and fingers, but a simple stand would have gone a long way too. There’s also some question over what will differentiate the Kickstarter Boglins from the regular trade release. My box says “First Edition” on it, although many of the packaged pictures being offered for pre-order also show the same. I did get an enamel pin with mine, but considering we helped bring this project to life, it would have been cool to get something a little more substantial to make these Limited Editions. With all that having been said, there’s no doubt the folks at TriAction Toys delivered on their Kickstarter, and I have absolutely no backer’s remorse. Ultimately, I think these would have a good chance at success with a $30 price tag. At $40 they may be a bit harder to sell, although I’m happy enough with mine, that I wouldn’t rule out picking up Dwork and Vlobb as well.


I’m not sure what, if anything, will differentiate the Kickstarter Boglins from the regular retail ones. My box does have First Edition on it, but I’ve seen some pre-orders online showing the same thing on their boxes. Although, those retailers may have just bought stock through the Kickstarter. Mine did come with an enamel pin, so that might be the big backer bonus.

Masters of the Universe Origins: Land Shark by Mattel

I was supposed to have this review up for midweek, but to be honest, I started playing Hades on my Switch and it has been monopolizing a lot of my time. But, here I am just in time for the end of the week with a fun new toy from the MOTU Origins line! When I finally buckled and decided to start collecting a Masters of the Universe line ALL OVER AGAIN, it was ultimately because of the potential for vehicles and playsets. Sure, we got a few in the Classics line, and they were fantabulous, but with Origins‘ focus being more on play, and with it being a smaller scale, I was hoping we’d get a lot of vehicles, and it looks like that’s happening. With only a few waves out, we’ve already seen the Sky Sled (I’ll review that one soon!) and had a pre-order for Castle Grayskull. And now we get The Land Shark!

Land Shark, Land Shark! Land Shark, Land Shark! I’m a 48 year old man and I can still recite the commercial for this thing by heart. Sometimes I sing it to myself at work, so people will stay away from me. And how about this packaging! This tank-shark-hybrid comes in a long window box with an extended back flap featuring some gorgeous vintage-style artwork. And just in case this wasn’t enough to get your MOTU juices flowing, the back of the package shows Castle Grayskull! Where am I going to put that? Who the hell knows!!! I really still haven’t found a place for my Classics Grayskull. The Land Shark requires just a bit of minor assembly as it comes out of the box. The tread and gun on the far side have to be snapped into place. It also comes off again fairly easily if you want to put it back in the box.

And here it is out of the box and ready to roll out and chomp some ass! I have to imagine that even on Eternia, a planet of bat-shit crazy vehicle designs, the Land Shark still garners the reaction, “Holy shit, look at that!” What we have here is basically a half-track with a functional shark head on the front of it and dual laser cannon mounted on the sides. It’s easy to say that it looks ridiculous, but if someone was coming at me with this, I would probably be paralyzed with a combination of bewilderment and abject fear. I’m just being honest. But then, I’m a guy living on planet Earth. For all I know, Eternians drive these things to work. If the combination of war vehicle and shark isn’t enough to stand out, Skeletor also decked this thing out in the most outrageous colors he could imagine. With blue treads and mauve shark bits, gray guns and orange teeth, this thing would still stand out, even in a parking lot full of shark cars.

Now, if you’re expecting anything like the few vehicles we got in the Classics line, well this ain’t it. This is definitely more simple toy than highly detailed collectible, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The treads are just part of the molded side pieces with no paint applications, indeed this is a toy that relies entirely on covered plastic over paint. The sculpted detail is kept to a minimum, but there are still some nice flourishes, like the panel lines and tiny bolts in the shark’s body, as well as some sculpted vents and hatches, and texturing on the seat. The guns look great on the outsides, with tiny shark motif barrels, but they are left hollow and unfinished on the insides.

The Land Shark makes use of stickers for the more highly detailed areas, and I dig that! The controls sticker on the dash board are well illustrated, making this thing look like it’s a lot more complicated to drive than it should be. The back of the vehicle has stickers showing what appear to be some kind of turbine engines, as well as more vents and pipes. The exposed engine block on the back makes this thing easy to get fixed and back on the road for more chomping.

While the treads are just faked out sculpts, the toy does have wheels concealed underneath and rolls along just fine. It even has a mechanism that makes the shark jaws chomp as you roll it along a smooth surface. Apart from that, the cannon on each side of the vehicle can raise and lower so they can shoot straight ahead or at any Wind Raiders that are trying to strafe it from the sky.

The vehicle is designed to hold one figure in the seat, although there are places on the back where you can stand a co-pilot or gunner. I’m not sure that’s intentional, but it works well enough. Skeletor can grip one of the handlebars with his right hand, but not so much his left. It’s not only that he doesn’t have a left grabby hand, but he has to lean in a bit to grab the right one. That’s OK. He probably needs that free hand to push all those damn buttons on the dash board.

There’s a lot of room in the shark mouth for figures to get chomped on. It looks like the design is intended for figures to go in legs first, but either way works. This thing is just all kinds of fun!

I got my Land Shark on Amazon for $29.99, which seems to be the MSRP, although now they’re playing their usual game of cranking up the price as it goes in and out of stock. Checking at the time I’m writing this it’s up to $55. Now, this is a fantastic toy and I love it to bits. I’m seriously smiling ear-to-ear as I have Skeletor chase He-Man and his friends down with it. But… I wouldn’t go higher than thirty bucks on it. Now that Origins has been freed from Walmart’s greedy exclusive grasp, I think these toys are going to be a lot easier to find at various online retailers. But with that having been said, I’m still pre-ordering them whenever I can, because you never know these days.