GI JOE 25th Anniversary Dreadnoks by Hasbro

This Friday I’m putting the Sigma 6 line on hold to check out some 25th Anniversary stuff, which still happens to be my all time favorite line of modern JOEs. Completing my team of the original three Dreadnoks, however, was a real pain in my ass. The first two, Torch and Ripper, came in a Comic 2-Pack that was easy enough to score, but Buzzer came single carded and I could not find him anywhere. Even on the secondary market he was going for more than I wanted to spend on a lone JOE figure. Eventually, I bit the bullet, paid what I had to and added him to my collection. He’s hung in my Toy Closet ever since waiting for a time for me to open him up and take a look at all three. Well, grab your grape soda and chocy donuts, because that time is now!

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Buzzer comes on a gorgeous card with foil lettering and that always amazing character art. I’m rarely tempted to collect a line MoC, but if I had the extra money and the wallspace to hang them, this 25th Anni. line would be the one I would do it for. I almost hate to open this guy up, but dammit, my Dreadnoks need to be together! Not to be outdone, Torch and Ripper came as a pair in a Comic Pack, and sadly I don’t have an in-package shot to show you. Suffice it to say the presentation was flawless, complete with a reprint of GI JOE #30 as the backdrop. Let’s go ahead and start with Buzzer because I’ve been waiting a year or so to take the time and open him…

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Easily the most conservative looking of these three bastards, Buzzer dons a button down khaki shirt, blue pants and combat boots. His more mainstream look supports his backstory, although for some reason he thought it necessary to reinforce that one shoulder with a piece of plate armor and slap an elbow guard on his right arm.  The detail on Buzzer’s outfit is fantastic. You get some grenades sculpted onto his shoulder strap and belt and skulls sculpted onto his boots. But it’s the tiny silver skull and crossbones belt buckle on this guy that really impresses me.

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The portrait includes Buzzer’s silver sunglasses and his ponytail with some really nice sculpting on his hair and a little bit of paint for his tiny beard.
You’d have to be batshit crazy to go into a warzone with a gasoline tank strapped to your back, but Buzzer doesn’t care and he needs extra fuel for his only weapon, a custom chainsaw.

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This chainsaw remains one of my favorite GI JOE accessories of all time. It’s so lovingly crafted with so much detail and the flame deco on it is just icing on the cake. With a grip on the back and a side grab bar, Buzzer can wield it quite convincingly, which sadly wasn’t always the case with these 25th Anni. figures and their accessories.

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Moving on to Ripper, here we’re getting to what looks like an extra in a Mad Max movie. He sports a cut-off camo shirt with a sculpted combat knife on his shoulder strap and a pair of grenades clipped to his shirt. His right arm is bared to show a beautifully sharp tampo tattoo. Like Buzzer’s belt buckle, Ripper has a little skull hanging from a chain on his belt, which is such an awesome little detail. The sculpt below the waist is the same we saw with Buzzer, but with black boots and the skulls picked out with some silver paint.

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Ripper’s stocky meathead includes a full beard and a full head of hair styled into a mohawk. He has a pair of red punk glasses and a grimace that says he wants to murder you and possibly eat one or two of your internal organs.

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Ripper comes with an elaborate backpack and “jaws of life” rig, which I presume is for prying open vault doors or the cockpits of JOE vehicles, rather than saving lives. In theory, it’s a nice piece of kit, complete with a hose running from the hand unit to the backpack and you can store the hand unit on the backpack. It’s still not a favorite of mine, just because it’s so specialized and that hose is so unwieldy. The hose is so long that it’s obtrusive and it pops out all the time when I pose him.

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Fortunately, Ripper also comes with one of my favorite JOE accessories: That iconic Dreadnok rifle with curved bayonet. Man, I love this thing! I’ve always been a bit unsure about who this was intended for. It comes right in the middle of the tray and it looks like it’s positioned to favor Torch rather than Buzzer.

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And that brings us to Torch, who he is easily my favorite sculpt of the three figures. We’ve left Mad Max territory and gone to full on contemporary biker thug. Torch’s biker jacket is possibly one of the best executed outfits I can remember Hasbro ever doing in this scale. It’s sculpted separately and attached to the figure’s bare chested body and it looks amazing. The chains on the shoulders and the buckles on the front straps are neatly painted in silver and the back of the jacket is tampo’d with his gang emblem and “Melbourne Maulers.” It’s almost a shame to put his backpack on him and cover up that beautiful piece of work.

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The head sculpt here is pretty great too, with copious sideburns leading into his mustache, dark glasses, and a red bandanna. Torch even has a tiny tattoo tampo’d on his left forearm. Hasbro put so much love and detail into these guys!

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As his name suggests, Torch’s weapon of choice is a blowtorch, with a tank on his back. Jeez, don’t stand next to Torch or Buzzer when the bullets start flying! Unfortunately, a few things conspire to make Torch’s torch not so great. The plastic hose that connect the torch to the backpack is rather restrictive and his right hand isn’t sculpted to grip the handle very well. Getting him to hold this thing can be a chore. Fortunately, I have a spare one of those Dreadnok rifles to give him. There’s also a holster on his leg where you can clip the torch when it isn’t use.

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Articulation on all three of these figures is identical. You get rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and ankles. The wrists swivel and the knees have double hinges. There are ball joints in the torsos and in the necks. While it all sounds good on paper, the 25th Anniversary figures have become notorious for some poor articulation designs. It’s virtually impossible to get these figures to hold rifles across their chests with both hands and the forearms are pegged in to allow the swivel and they frequently pop out. It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances that mar some otherwise great sculpts.

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With the Dreadnoks always being a favorite of mine, it’s great to finally have this trio together and on my JOE shelf. Considering how much I love the 25th Anni. line, it’s no small compliment when I say that I think these three are among the best this line has to offer. They capture everything I loved about the original characters, give them some highly detailed gear and made them lots of fun to play with. It’s a pity I’ll never pony up for that 25th Zaranna figure, but at some point I’ll still have to double back and pick up that Dreadnok 7-pack that Hasbro did a while back.

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GI JOE 25th Anniversary Comic Pack: Tomax and Xamot by Hasbro

As promised, I’m going to be spreading some GI JOE love around FFZ this Summer, so look for this kind of thing popping up every Friday until I run out of stuff in my closet or just lose interest and move on. The main thrust of GI JOE Friday is going to be Sigma 6, but I plan on peppering it with some 25th and 50th Anniversary stuff just to mix things up. Also, because I realize a lot of people hate Sigma 6. Anywho, today I decided to go with the 25th Anniversary Collection’s release of Tomax and Xamot!

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Ah, The 25th Anniversary Comic Pack! How I adored you! Unlike the vintage-style JOE Comic 3-Packs from Hasbro, these 25th releases came with only two figures, but that made it a perfect venue to get The Crimson Twins out in this new format. Doubly so when you consider they were originally released as a 2-pack way back when. I can still remember when this deadly duo was released in 1985. I was first introduced to them as part of the Sunbow mini-series, Pyramids of Darkness, which was definitely the weakest of these mini-series for me, but made up for it by introducing Extensive Enterprises. These guys were like nothing in GI JOE before and who didn’t fall instantly in love with their elite troopers, The Crimson Guard? I can still remember finding the twins 2-pack at the mall and successfully begging my father to get them for me. There was a time when Tomax, Xamot, and hooded Cobra Commander were the upper echelons of my Cobra Command leading an army of (well, actually I only had two) Crimson Guards, leaving Destro and Baroness to take their boring old Cobra Troops and fend for themselves. I freaking loved these guys!!

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Oh, and f’ck me for not getting on board and ordering that Doc. What the hell was I thinking?

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I think a big part of the appeal for me here is the uniforms. Yeah, I thought it was cool how they mirrored each other, but more importantly they were just neat designs. The Twins were kind of like superhero villains the way they would appear all chill in their business suits in one scene and then be charging into battle in their costumes in the next. The sculpts on these guys are quite well done. The cobra-style knee and thigh armor is superb and I like how the shoulder armor is hinged and removable. It stays on pretty well too. And naturally they have to have make each other wear the silver codpieces, because if one gets kicked in the balls the other one feels it! You also get a nicely detailed combat knife and pistol, each sculpted onto the belt. To top it all off, you get some beautifully vibrant colors. The Cobra blue with the silver armor and red sash and accents makes for a fantastic deco. God, I love these uniforms!

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The portraits follow the same mirrored pattern as their costumes. It’s the same basic sculpt only with the facial scars on opposite cheeks. They also have the same strands of hair dropping down over the forehead, only on opposite sides. That always gives me a chuckle. Do they actually style it that way? Also, my loose Tomax has some weird black speckling around his mouth. My carded set doesn’t, but that’s not for opening, it’s for hanging on the wall and looking at.

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Articulation on these guys is pretty standard from what we got in the 25th Anniversary figures. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, hinges in the elbows. and swivels in the wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have double hinged knees, and rotating hinges in the ankles. You get a ball joint in the torso and another in the neck. It’s a far cry from the more modern JOES that have come out since, but it’s certainly serviceable. And fortunately, these guys don’t share the problem of arms popping out like some of the figures in this line do.

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Tomax and Xamot come with their signature weapons, which is something like a laser sub-machine gun. Obviously, they’re the same weapon because… twins! These feel a little oversized to me, but I still dig them well enough. They can comfortably grip them in either hand and witha litttle work you can get them to hold the weapon in both hands. You also get the standard 25th Anniversary Cobra figure stands, with the sculpted Cobra emblems and the personalized name plates. The only thing missing here is the zip line, which I recall coming with the original vintage two-pack.

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Yes, opening up this pack instantly transported me back to the glory days of 1985 when it was such an amazing time to be a JOE collector. We had brand new teams appear, like The Crimson Twins and The Dreadnoks, and the line was going into such creative and interesting new territory. The 25th Anniversary versions of these guys really scratched an itch and the fact that I found the 25th Crimson Guard figures to be relatively plentiful meant that I could finally have a little squad of these guys to go with my Tomax and Xamot. Ah, good times! Now, I really want to pick up a pair of Cobra Ferrets for these guys to drive around on.

G.I. JOE: 25th Anniversary Battle Pack #1 by Hasbro, Part 6

Here we are at the Sixth and final part of my look at the first 25th Anniversary Battle Pack for G.I. JOE. If G.I. JOE isn’t your bag, I appreciate you indulging me this week. On the other hand, if you’re just stopping back to see if I’m still doing G.I. JOE… go to hell and come back on Monday!!!! Ahem… so far we’ve looked at Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, and Gung-Ho and that brings us to everybody’s favorite rhyming and machine gun-toting chef, Roadblock. The character has garnered a lot of attention since being played by The Rock in that questionable follow up to the equally questionable G.I. JOE live action movie. Let’s see how he fared in the 25th Anniversary line.

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Well, he looks pretty damn great! Ok, so his shoulders kind of look like Whoppers malted candies, but otherwise I’d say Hasbro presented us with a nice amalgam of Sunbow and vintage figure. There’s nothing too crazy here in the sculpt. You’ve got a nice camo wife-beater and brown trousers. He also sports a separate web gear piece with some pouches and a grenade. I should also note that the head sculpt looks exactly like somebody I work with, facial hair and all, and ever since I met the guy, I can never look at this figure the same way again. Anyway, Roadblock is a simple, understated but effective figure. Nice job here, Hasbro!

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In addition to his removable helmet and personalized figure stand, Roadblock comes with his trademark machine gun. The gun is a nice sculpt and comes in two parts if you include the detachable tripod. Unfortunately the gun is cast in green plastic, which was an odd choice since all the other weapons in this set are appropriately cast in black. I should also note that the tripod is fairly useless. I can’t get Roadblock into a convincing prone position to have him firing it. The only time I’ve ever used the tripod for display was to have the gun standing next to him or to have it standing on the hood of the VAMP while he’s firing it.

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Along with the machine gun, you get a belt of ammo and a magazine backpack. I love this idea, and connecting the ammo belt to the gun and the backpack looks fantastic, although you really have to work at it to get the backpack, the belt, the gun, and the figure all play along together. Which brings me to…

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Playing around with Roadblock and his gear is a frustrating endeavor. First off, the peg holes in his feet are larger than the other figures, so the figure stands I use tend to fall right off of him. More importantly, his arms have Duke arm issues, where the hands are clearly sculpted to get him to hold the machine gun in both hands, but because his arms don’t bend at the elbows as much as they should, and because the wrists aren’t hinged, it’s tough to get him to hold his weapon with any conviction. Posing Roadblock brandishing his kick ass gun and mowing down Cobras by the dozens should be fun, but I can’t count the number of F-bombs I dropped trying to get him ready for a shot, only to have the gun pop out of his hands or the figure stand fall onto the floor. It’s amazing that even with all of these frustrations, I still love this figure.

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And that puts this week long feature to bed. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and I kept putting it off because I didn’t think I’d get too into it. Turns out I loved pulling this set out and looking at it again. So much so, that I wouldn’t be surprised to see the other two Battle Packs in the 25th Anniversary line turn up here before too long. In fact, I may pencil in the Cobra set for a week in July.

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I’ll freely admit that a lot of the 30th Anniversary figures were nearly perfect from a technical standpoint. I don’t think I’ve seen better 3 ¾” figures in terms of articulation, sculpt, and gear. And yet I hardly bought any of them. Why? Because I still prefer the style and charm of these 25th figures. These are the JOEs I grew up with and these are the ones that made me into an avid collector again. When they went away, I wandered away from the franchise. I’d like to say the reason why JOE isn’t a major player in the toy aisles anymore is because Hasbro abandoned this line, but I don’t think that’s the case. The 25th figures were all over the clearance aisles and I was able to pick up more than a few for next to nothing at Marshall’s and Ross. For some reason kids just stopped loving JOE and that… well, that’s just a bummer. I don’t know why, but I’m open to hearing speculation.

G.I. JOE: 25th Anniversary Battle Pack #1 by Hasbro, Part 5

It’s Part Five of my G.I. JOE Battle Pack feature and we’re in the home stretch with only two figures left. Today we’re looking at Gung-Ho which is a character that I always liked a lot, despite the fact that he has always given off a strong Village People vibe. As far as the figure goes, well unfortunately, 25th Gung-Ho has a lot in common with Duke. There is some superb sculpting at work here, but he’s got a couple of issues that hold him back from being as great as Scarlett or Snake Eyes.

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Ok, first the good stuff. No, make that the great stuff. The sculpting on this figure is amazing. The use of a separate vest, with all the little pockets and a grenade,  laid over the figure looks fantastic when coupled with all the muscles in his chest. It adds so much depth and credibility to the figure’s appearance. The trousers feature grenade rounds sculpted onto his left leg and a functional holster on his right hip. Even the portrait is superb and the cap is perfect right down to the tiny anchor insignia. If I had one gripe about this figure’s aesthetics  it would be that the tattoo on his chest should have been a little more pronounced. Otherwise, I think Hasbro nailed this figure perfectly. The detail is just fantastic.

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So, the biggest problem with Gung-Ho is his legs. The hip joints are so goddamn loose that he can barely stand up on his own, even when he’s plugged into a figure stand. You can hold him by the torso and shake him and his legs will flop all over the place. Too bad the Code Name Crazy Legs was already taken. Originally, I thought it was just a problem with my figure, but I own three Gung-Ho’s: Two from the 5-pack and one single carded. Every one of them has the same problem. Because the pegs are so far back on the figure stand, he’ll topple backwards and take the whole stand with him. You can flip it around to balance it out for some better luck, but Gung-Ho will still lean backwards at the hips as if he and Shipwreck had a little too much to drink on shore leave.

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The articulation here is pretty much identical to Duke and Snake Eyes. Gung-Ho’s arms seem slightly better designed than Duke’s. The wrist swivels are a little higher than I would like, but at least they aren’t in the middle of the forearm. The elbow ball joints also don’t quite reach a 90-degree angle. Nonetheless, I’ve had less frustration getting Gung-Ho’s arms to do what I want than I did with Duke. Maybe it’s because I was more frustrated by him wanting to fall down all the time.

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In addition to his personalized stand, Gung-Ho comes with three accessories. You get his backpack, an M79 grenade launcher and an automatic pistol. I really dig the grenade launcher, mainly because it’s actually hinged in the middle so you can break it open at the breech for loading and Gung-Ho can hold it fairly well in his right hand. The pistol fits snugly into the holster and he can hold it best in his left hand. The backpack pegs into the figure’s back right through the vest. It has a tendency to work its way out from time to time. I’ve been tempted to glue it into place, since I have a few extra Gung-Ho’s in case I ever wanted one of them to sit in a vehicle.

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In the end, Gung-Ho share’s Duke’s pain, as he has that one unfortunate flaw that keeps him from being outstanding. I don’t know what causes that problem with his hips, but it seems like it could have been easily fixed because none of the other figures have it. Gung-Ho is an amazing looking figure that pays great respects to the character, and so long as I leave him on my shelf with the others, he does my collection proud. He’s also great for sitting in a vehicle. But as soon as I try to pose him the disappointment sets in. That’s probably why when I had my JOE collection displayed he was relegated to VAMP driver. Ah well. Tomorrow we’ll wrap this week up with a look at the final figure in this set, Roadblock.

G.I. JOE: 25th Anniversary Battle Pack #1 by Hasbro, Part 4

Last time I said we were moving on to a controversial character for me and that is indeed Snake Eyes. Why? Because I hate how he got perverted into some kind of ninja. F’cking Ninjas! Why did you have to get your hooks into GI JOE? I know a lot of people dig Ninjas. They ruled the late 80’s and early 90’s. Being accused of not liking Ninjas back then was akin to being named a Communist in the McCarthy Hearings. [Post your hate comments below!] But now I feel I can speak out. GI JOE went too far with the Ninjas and turning Snake Eyes into one of them was a big part of it. When I got my Snake Eyes figure back in the early 80’s the File Card told me he was a Commando and I always used him as some kind of bad-ass tactical specialist. This guy would repel down walls and shoot up the place with his Uzi. Sure it says he knows a lot of martial arts, but that doesn’t make him a Ninja. Until it did. Maybe Commandos are just 20th Century Urban Ninjas. Either way, I always preferred my Snake Eyes to be gunning people down rather than getting into sword fights. Well, nearly 30 years later it’s all a moot point now, so let’s just take a look at the figure.

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25th Snake Eyes is downright amazing. While many of these figures feel like they are straddling the old and the new, in 2007 this Snake Eyes gave us a clear and defined preview of the kind of awesome figures that would lie ahead in the 30th Anniversary Collection. What really elevates this figure is all the gear and accessories that Hasbro loaded onto him. That’s not to say what’s underneath isn’t superb. This is classic Snake Eyes through and through, right down to his awesome BMX-style Commando mask and all his tactical gear. He’s got all enough sculpted pouches and pockets to make Rob Liefeld jealous and on top of that he has a separate sculpted set of web gear. When I first saw this figure I was absolutely beside myself with how much Hasbro packed into him.

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The articulation here is nearly identical to Duke only with the arms almost completely fixed. The swivels have been relocated from the forearms down to the wrists where they belong. I still wish the ball joints in the shoulders gave a greater range of motion, but what we have here is still loads better. Had Hasbro just slapped some swivel cuts into the thighs, I’d have no other complaints.

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As for the accessories, Snake Eyes is loaded out as a one-man killing machine. First off, you get a satchel of explosives, which looks way too good to be on a 3 ¾” figure. The detail on the satchel and strap is amazing and it has tiny painted green lacing and “EXPLOSIVES” printed across it. It does add quite a bit of bulk to the figure, so I prefer to leave it off, but that doesn’t make it any less welcome. It’s always nice to have an explosives satchel to toss into the open canopy of a HISS Tank while the driver is off taking a piss.

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Next up is his signature Uzi submachine gun. It’s a great little weapon, although the stock does sometimes get in the way of him holding it. That having been said, the arm articulation does allow him to hold it with both hands, which is impressive since it’s so small. Duke could barely hold his huge M-16 in both hands. That should show you how much better the arms on Snake Eyes are designed.

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What do you do when your explosives are blown up and you’re Uzi’s out of ammo? You whip out your automatic pistol, of course. Snake Eyes pistol fits into a functional holster on his left hip and is perfectly for secretly executing Cobra prisoners… I mean, defending himself… yeah… defending himself.

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Of course, when Snake Eyes is sneaking into a camp and needs to dispatch guards without making a lot of bang-bangs, he has his trusty combat knife. The knife fits into a functional sheath on his right thigh and it’s a very nice piece for this scale. Notice what Snake Eyes doesn’t come with? A bloody Ninja Sword! And that’s the way I like it!

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In case you haven’t guessed by now, I absolutely adore this figure and it is without a doubt my favorite Snake Eyes in the scale. That’s saying a lot, because Snake Eyes has had a ton of figures devoted to him and many of them have been quite good. Unlike Duke and Scarlett, 25th Snake Eyes represents a bigger departure from his vintage figure, but that’s mostly because Hasbro had the ability now to load him up with gear and I think they made the right choice. I could never get tired of playing around with this guy and even now I want to set up a little Cobra camp full of troopers for him to single-handedly kill. Tomorrow… we’ll keep this JOE train running with Gung-Ho!

G.I. JOE: 25th Anniversary Battle Pack #1 by Hasbro, Part 3

Moving on to the second figure in this set, today we’re checking out Shana O’Hara, aka Scarlett. Mmm… Scarlett. Like many children of the 80’s, I had some of my first crushes on cartoon characters. At least I hope I had that in common with other kids. Maybe I was just messed up. That might explain a lot of things about me now. Anyway, I can’t say as Scarlett was my favorite of the 80’s animated hotties, but she was definitely on the list. I might have stood her up for a chance at Baroness or Cover Girl. And while I can never know for sure, I think I owe my lifelong affinity for redheads to Sunbow Scarlett. Let’s see if her 25th Anniversary figure fares any better than Duke. Ok I’ll kill the suspense… yes it does.

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Much like Duke, Scarlett’s sculpt is a great compromise between vintage figure and Sunbow design. Her uniform hits all the right points from the red quilted pad and canister grenade on her shoulders to the throwing stars painted and sculpted onto her gloves. The outfit details are much simpler than what we got on Duke, but that’s more because of the simplicity of her character design, rather than laziness in sculpting. I think my only quibble here is the belt that hangs around her waist. I probably could have done without that as it adds a little awkward bulk to her shapely form. In fact, the only thing that keeps me from cutting it off of her is that it has a sculpted quiver of bolts for her crossbow on the back. Nevertheless, just looking at this figure takes me back to playing with my figures as a kid. Scarlett was always on every JOE team I assembled and she was always at the forefront kicking ass and taking names.

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Scarlett’s portrait isn’t terribly faithful to either the Sunbow or vintage figure, but it still works for me. She doesn’t have the personality that Duke has. It’s a generic, but fairly pretty face that suits the character well enough. Hasbro’s female head sculpts are always a crap shoot, so I’m not going to complain. Crap Shoot! Why was there never a JOE code named Crap Shoot? There was a Crap Game… no, wait… that was Don Rickles in Kelly’s Heroes.  Where the hell was I? Oh, yeah, Scarlett’s noggin. What does stand out here for me is her awesome red hair, which is tied off into a pony tail of sorts and flows beautifully behind her. Hasbro really nailed her coif perfectly.

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The articulation here is almost identical to Duke’s. The key difference is that instead of having double-hinges in the knees, Scarlett has ball joints. Normally I would cry foul, but I find that Scarlett is a lot more poseable than Duke. The big improvement here is the design of her arms, which allows her to bend her elbows and actually hold her weapons in various natural positions. Her heels make it a little tough for her to stand sometimes, but that’s why God invented pegged figure stands.

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And speaking of weapons, Scarlett comes with two. You get her signature crossbow and a small automatic pistol. The crossbow comes in two parts and has a tendency to fall apart a lot when playing with it. Apart from that it looks great, right down to the tiny sculpted bolt. The pistol is much smaller than Duke’s and she can hold it great in either hand, but there’s nowhere to put it and it becomes rather superfluous, especially since she has a pistol sculpted into her belt. Oh yeah, Scarlett also comes with a personalized display stand.

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The 25th Anniversary Scarlett isn’t perfect, but she is pretty damn good. She’s also my favorite Scarlett figure to date and that’s saying something because there have been quite a few. I would have loved to see bicep and thigh swivels on this figure, but even without them she’s still fun to pose, looks great in action, and is just an all-around fun figure that satisfies both the vintage and Sunbow fan in me. Tomorrow we’re moving on to the third figure in the set and one that has become something of a controversial character to me… Snake Eyes!

G.I. JOE: 25th Anniversary Battle Pack #1 by Hasbro, Part 2

If you’re just joining me, I’m sort of off this week and so I’ve prepared this drawn out feature on Hasbro’s 25th Anniversary Battle Pack to fill the void. Normally I could have knocked out this thing in a couple of parts, so this week’s posts may seem a little on the light side. Hey, at least when I’m padding content I come out and admit it. Anyway, yesterday we looked at the package and today we’re kicking off the figures with Duke. Ahh, Duke Hauser. I’ve got some great memories of the original Duke figure. I got him as a mail-away figure along with that weird Manta sail board. Sitting around waiting an eternity for mail-away figures was a staple of my youth. Unfortunately, not all the figures in this Battle Pack are all they could be and 25th Anniversary Duke has his share of problems.

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So, let’s get the good stuff out of the way first. The sculpt is a great tribute to both the classic figure and the Sunbow design. He’s got his tan shirt with the US Flag patch and his tiny sculpted Airborne medal. The buttons and pockets are all clearly defined on the shirt and I love how his sleeves are rolled up. He’s all ready to dispense some Real American Justice on Cobra’s ass! Duke sports some green trousers that bunch up nicely at the tops of his high laced combat boots and he has a functional holster for his automatic pistol. Yeah! Love those functional holsters. This line must have been some of the first figures in this scale to include that feature. Duke’s iconic ensemble is completed by a shoulder strap with sculpted pouches and a grenade. That seems like more of a modern touch, but hey… it’s nice!

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The head sculpt is also pretty good. Duke has a fairly stern expression as if he’s about to crunch some Cobras. They could have gone with something a little more neutral, but I like it. It has personality. The short blonde hair is appropriate and the paintwork is simple but clean. Some of the 25th JOES’ heads looked a little odd when viewed from the side. I think that was done in an effort to improve the ball joint articulation in the neck. It’s an Ok trade off and if you slap Duke’s helmet onto his noggin it helps a lot with that.

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So now we get into the not so great stuff, and most of it centers on his arms. 25th Duke’s arms have become notorious for just how badly designed they are. Some of the problem lies in the articulation and some in the sculpt. For starters, the way in which the arms are sculpted severely inhibit the range of his ball jointed elbows. You just can’t get them bent into a 90-degree angle. Couple that with the weird decision to put the swivel cuts halfway down the forearm as opposed to in the wrists and you have a pair of arms that are not well suited to holding his rifle. But wait, it gets worse. The sculpt of the right hand is a sloppy and shallow grasp that can barely hold the rifle by the handle, so you may want to save that clear rubber band he comes with. Also, the two hands are obviously sculpted with the intention of allowing Duke to hold the rifle in both hands, but doing so is nearly impossible unless you want to make it look like he’s holding a guitar.  The best I can do is get him to look like he’s about to bash in a Cobra’s head with the butt of the rifle.

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As for the rest of the articulation… in the last couple years or so Hasbro has revolutionized the articulation of 3 ¾” figures. Alas, Duke predates that revolution and it isn’t until the 30th Anniversary figures that things really heated up. There’s a solid level of poseability here, but looking back I find some of the finer points are conspicuously absent. In fact, upon taking this figure out again and playing around with him, I was rather shocked by how far we’ve come. The legs feature double hinges in the knees and and hinges in the ankles, but where are the thigh swivels? Yes, there’s a ball joint in the torso, but where the hell is the waist swivel??? Looking back, the figure definitely has a transitional vibe to it. It shows promise, but sadly it’s not quite there yet.

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What about accessories? Duke comes with a personalized figure stand, his rifle, sidearm, removable helmet, and binoculars. The binoculars are tiny and useless. I’m amazed I still have them and I didn’t even bother pulling them for the shoot, lest I sneeze and lose them. The rifle is a nice M-16 style weapon with an under the barrel grenade launcher. As much as I would have appreciated the Sunbow style laser rifle, I can’t help but love the detail on his gun. The pistol feels a tad oversized, but Duke still looks good holding it. What’s missing? Where’s his backpack? Yes, sadly, if you want the modern equivalent of the backpack that came with the vintage figure than you have to buy the single carded release of 25th Anniversary Duke.

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It’s too bad we have to start off this week on a sour note, but it’s hard to overlook Duke’s issues. Don’t get me wrong, I still like this figure a lot as a display piece. To me he captures the spirit of the Sunbow design unlike any Duke figure before or since, but he hasn’t aged as well as some of the other 25th figures and that’s a shame because it’s only been seven years. You see, I’m old and I try to tell myself that seven years isn’t such a long time. It’s called self-delusion. When coupled with alcohol it’s a valid and sustainable life choice. Anyway, it’s hard to figure out what Hasbro was thinking when they designed the arms on this figure, because a little tweak here and there could have made this release so much batter. Ah well… tomorrow we’ll keep things rolling along with Scarlett.

G.I. JOE: 25th Anniversary Battle Pack #1 by Hasbro, Part 1

[Hey, Toyhounds! Today kicks off a six-part feature spotlighting a set of figures that meant a hell of a lot to me when it came out about seven years ago. I honestly wanted to do this feature last week in a more sensible two or three parts, but as it happens I’m going to be away from my computer for the better part of this week and only able to check in with my mobile device. Rather than be MIA, I decided to stretch this little ditty out into a week’s worth of content. Hopefully it’ll turn out to be enough material to carry the week and I can get back to business as usual next Monday. Yo Joe!] 

I’m sure many of you already know that we are in the middle of GI JOE’s 50th Anniversary year. With the exception of the Sideshow Sixth Scale figures, I don’t cover a lot of JOE stuff around here these days, and much like Hasbro I was going to let the JOE anniversary skate on by without any kind of notable tribute. And then Donald Levine passed and I got to thinking how sad it was for him to shuffle off his mortal coil during such a momentous anniversary year of something he created. It was doubly sad that he had to go without seeing any kind of resurgence or attention given to it by Hasbro. The paltry 50th Anniversary line that they are offering feels more like an insult than anything else. As a result, I’m dedicating this entire week to a line of toys that I absolutely adored as a kid. Now, obviously the 50th Anniversary is referring to the birth of the original 12-inch action figure, but after hunting through my closet for something to feature, I decided to go with my 25th Anniversary Joe 5-pack from 2007!

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That’s not to say I don’t have any love for the original 12-inch figures. As a kid, my first action figure collection came in the form of a toy chest full of GI JOE and Mego Planet of the Apes figures along with tons of accessories. There were also a few Evel Knievel and Matt Mason figures in there as well. They were hand-me-downs from my uncle and I loved the hell out of those toys. Sadly, I don’t have any of them anymore, so we’ll have to go with the 3 ¾” figures. The 25th Anniversary figures had some rough patches, but I still loved it and I all but stopped being a serious JOE collector once it went away. I can still remember finding this set on the shelf of my local Target. Somebody had tripped the sound chip on it and I heard the JOE theme playing from a couple aisles down. I had the thing in my cart a few moments later. Little did I know that these sets would be haunting the clearance shelves for over a year. I didn’t care. In fact, I bought a second one and a bunch of the later Cobra sets. Screw the people that didn’t want them… more for me! Anyway, let’s take a look at the packaging today and we’ll look at each of the figures in turn through the rest of the week.

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I really dig this package because it feels like something special. Sure, it may fall short in light of all the different exclusives and limited edition releases that some toy companies produce, but for a mass release action figure set sitting on the shelf at Target, the presentation here is absolutely inspired. About the only thing I don’t like about it is the awkward slant of the sides that make it a bitch to store. But that’s Ok, because the only way to really display this set is by using this box as a backdrop behind the figures. It’s also worth mentioning that the box has a snazzy foil look to it that reminds me of the Rhino release of the Transformers DVDs. Maybe it’s subconsciously an 80’s thing. Time and again, I’ve been tempted to just baggie up the figures, put them with my other Joes and deep six this package to save space, but in the end I can never bring myself to do it. How could I throw out a work of art like this? Finding this box on the shelf in the toy aisle nearly struck me down with a bolt of pure nostalgia and it still gives me the warm fuzzies just to take it off the shelf, open it and admire it.

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Moving beyond the box, the top flap opens upward to reveal the five figures spread out in the tray and in various action poses. From left to right you get: Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Roadblock, and Gung Ho. The figures are set against a Sunbow style backdrop, which looks gorgeous, but it’s hard to resist drawing my eyes upward to the bitchin character art on the underside of the front flap, complete with dog tags bearing their names and the fiery explosive background that made that vintage card art so distinctive.

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Did I mention that the centerpiece to the display is a plastic GI JOE logo that plays an abbreviated, but otherwise authentic, opening theme to the GI JOE Sunbow cartoon? Yes, this is one of the coolest extras I ever got in an action figure set and you can actually activate it without even opening the front flap on the box. It’s cheesy and goofy, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t push that thing a thousand times while opening this set and setting up the figures for the first time. And yes, I did it this time too. The batteries still work and it still puts a huge smile on my face.

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The back of the box features a brilliant and colorful collage of GI JOE characters. It’s like a full color orgasm of my childhood action figure adventures. It even teases us with images of the Terrordrome and the Defiant… toys we’ll never get again. And look there are those two f’ckers playing with their USS Flagg. But more important than all of that, I love the dedication on the back of the box. It’s every bit as cheesy as the recording of the theme song, but it makes me happy all the same. It also makes me sad that just seven years after finding this set at a major retailer, GI JOE has disappeared from the pegs and shelves all together.

And with that somber note, I’ll be back tomorrow to look at the one and only Duke Hauser!

GI JOE 25th Anniversary: Vamp with Double Clutch

The Joes don’t get much love around here at FigureFan these days, and I’m going to try to remedy that in the upcoming weeks with some looks back at the 25th Anniversary line of toys. Today we’re going to check out one of my favorite vehicles to be re-tooled and re-issued in the line. When I was a kid, the Vamp was the mainstay of my GI JOE forces. It was a rugged, all pupose little jeep with some good firepower that could get in an out of the action quickly. I loved the Vamp so much, I even traded some figures for one of my friends’ burnt out Vamps just so I could have two to play with. Naturally, when the 25th Anni. line came out, I was happy to replace my long lost Vamps with a minty new one. I was pretty surprised that I hadn’t featured the Vamp here on FigureFan before, although it did have a cameo in a comparison shot when I looked at the Cobra Stinger.

The packaging has its ups and downs. Its kind of a three-quarter box with a huge window, whereas I would have much preferred a straight up box that I could store the vehicle in. On the other hand, its hard to deny that this thing looks inviting on the toy shelf and I’d wager MISB collectors must have been pretty happy. The package showcases the toy and figure perfectly, against an animated action backdrop and the bottom of the box serves as a great base with the GI JOE logo  shelf. Its kind of like buying the toy in its own ready made display case. Alas, the package on mine didn’t survive the opening process and also doesn’t store very well over time.
Let’s start off with Double Clutch. Yes, its obviously another instance of Hasbro losing the copyright to the original name. Calling him Double Clutch was a pretty clever way around that. I always loved the original Clutch figure, just because he reminded me so much of my original 1970s 12-inch GI JOE with beard and all. He’s just a great generic looking all-purpose Joe who is more than happy to drive the other guys into the fray and back out again. The update is a great looking figure. You can even take his vest off and use him as a pretty good “Green Shirt.” The addition of a functional holster and sheath are always a bonus for me.
Despite being a pack-in figure, Double Clutch still comes with a bunch of stuff you would expect to get with a single carded figure. You get a knife and an automatic pistol, which can be stored in the figure’s sheath and holster. He also comes with a removable vest and helmet. And lastly, the figure comes with his own personalized stand, which oddly enough, reads “Clutch.” Seems like somewhere along the way I misplaced Double Clutch’s pistol so I leant him someone’s sub-machine gun.
The Vamp itself should be pretty close to the toy you remember from  your youth, assuming you’re as wretchedly old as I am. The body of the vehicle is basically the same with some little tweaks here and there to help it fit the modern era. The biggest difference is the seating area, which has been completely re-vamped (har har) to fit the larger 25th Anniversary figures and the seats are now painted, albeit a little sloppily. There’s a ton of great detail on the dashboard and the divider between the seats.
The hood is also more detailed than the original and includes a sculpted bedroll and a removable entrenching tool. The front bumper has two spotlights added to it, the front headlights now have clear plastic covers, and the hood opens to reveal the engine inside. The wheels are brand new sculpts, and I don’t recall the original having the little sculpted gas cap on the back of the right side.
The pom pom gun mounted on the back still swivels and raises and lowers. It has two new hoses added to it that come out of the back and connect to the base, which adds some cool detail. The lever with the firing gimmick that was present on the original, has been removed for this version. The back of the Vamp still has the little rack that holds the two removable gas tanks, as well as the tow hook so you can attach the Whirlwind if you happen to have one kicking around. The tail lights, which were just stickers on the original are clear plastic pieces on this update.
While you do get a sheet of stickers with the toy, several of the key stickers come pre-applied to make it look good in the package. Unfortunately, they weren’t applied with a lot of care, so you can see them running lopsided, particularly the “GI Joe” emblem on the driver side and the “United States” sticker on the hood. I’ve opted to leave the rest of the stickers off, but some day I might apply them.
I’m not sure how much I paid for this thing back in 2008, but I know it was under $20, and man was that a great deal. You got a fun, fantastic, and rugged vehicle with some nice, practical play features and a really solid figure too. With the quality of the current Joes on pegs (30th Anniversary, Pursuit of Cobra, and Renegads), I realize that a lot of collectors don’t look back on the 25th Anniversary Collection all that fondly, but I do. This pack is exactly the sort of thing that I miss so much from the world of GI JOE. The Vamp is as close to a perfect toy as you can get.

GI JOE 25th Anniversary Comic Pack: Beachhead and Data Frame by Hasbro

Time to round out the Hasbro Comic Pack Weekend with a look at one more and this time it’s from GI JOE. Marshall’s is still flooded with these things. They’re all over the pegs and now they’re even further marked down to $5.00 a pop. You can’t beat that, folks! Even still, this Beachhead and Mainframe Data Frame comic pack is probably the last one I will pick up, as none of the others really interest me. Ninja’s? Pfft. Ninjas were the whole reason GI JOE started to go to shit in the 90s. Well, that and a half dozen other things that were so weird it made 80s GI JOE look like straight non-fiction by comparison. Anyway, this was a no-brainer pick up for me, as I didn’t have either of these figures in my 25th Anni. Collection, and to be honest, this may be the first time I ever owned a Mainframe Data Frame figure, period.

So before we get to the figures, let’s look at the funny book, which amazingly enough has our heroes getting attacked by… a flying roach. To make matters worse they look like a couple of terrified schoolgirls. Once again, this is not a classic Marvel reprint, but rather a brand new book by Larry Hama and this one was much better than the last one I looked at (Scrap-Iron and Wild Bill). Granted, not a lot happens. It’s got Beachhead and Data Frame crawling through the sewers under the Cobra base looking to hack their computer, while Baroness and Zaranna hang out on the surface and try to thwart them with Battle Andriod Troopers. I don’t have a lot to say about the Joe portions, but there is some really fun interplay between The Baroness and Zaranna and the art is pretty solid. By the way… Zaranna. Thanks, Hasbro, for prominantly featuring a character in the comic that we never got in the 25th Anni. Collection. Why don’t you just kick us in the balls while you’re at it. Anyway, it was overall an enjoyable little read.

I don’t recall ever seeing a single carded 25th Anni. Beachhead ouside those Hall of Heroes figures, so I didn’t have him in my collection. One thing I did not expect was his swappable head. You can have him completely maskless, or put his mask on him so that it’s covering his nose and mouth, which really makes no sense, since there’s no way he could do that with his balaclava, unless he pulled it down over his head through the eyeholes. I guess it’s just some other face covering, but it’s kind of weird because it makes him look like a Cobra agent. The rest of the figure is outstanding and just brimming with wonderful detail, including his beret under his shoulder strap.


Beachhead comes with some pretty outstanding gear. He’s got a sub machine gun that actually has a removable clip, which might be a first for me in the 3 3/4″ scale. You can pull the one out of the gun and replace it with the one he carries in his ammo satchel. He also comes with an automatic pistol, which isn’t pictured because I dropped it during the shoot and it disappeared into oblivion. It does fit into his sculpted holster, but not terribly well. I’ll probably dip into my box-o-loose-weapons and find him a better one. As if all that isn’t enough, he also comes with a personalized figure stand. Nice.

And then there’s Data Frame, who as I’ve been hinting at throughout is actually Mainframe with his copyright revoked. Like I said, I never owned his figure before, so this was a nice treat, as I recall him being pretty prominantly featured in the 80’s cartoon. Being a computer specialist, that probably meant that GI JOE was a little ahead of his time in that regard. I’m a bit surprised at the head sculpt on this guy as the character always struck me as a bit of a mild mannered technogeek guy, but the figure’s expression looks like he’s going to tear off someone’s head and spit down their neck. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU TOOK DOWN THE FIREWALL?????” Yeah. The helmet is sculpted onto the head, which surprised me, since most of the 25th Anni. Joes have removable helmets, but it’s no biggie. The rest of the figure is nicely detailed. I like the markings on his uniform and the sculpted holstered gun he has on his chest.


Data Frame comes with some pretty cool extras. In addition to his gun and personalized figure stand, he also comes with a portable computer system, which he can carry like a suitcase and comes complete with with fold out legs, a small black device… I have no idea what it is, and a pair of cardboard computer discs, which was a neat idea, but I still just threw them out with the packaging. He also has a dagger, which fits into the sheath on his leg.

Hasbro undoubtedly did a really nice job on this pack. It had an enjoyable comic, two figures I really needed in my collection, and a load of cool accessories and extras. Compared to what I got saddled with in the last JOE comic pack just so I could get Scrap-Iron (I’m looking at you, shitty blue Wild Bill!!!), this one was just a pleasant surprise all around and highly recommended. If you can pick it up at Marshall’s for just five bucks, well that’s just gravy.