Many collectors would argue that Hasbro’s Sigma 6 figures are the red-headed stepchild of the GI Joe franchise. If that’s the case than the Sigma 6 2 ½” scale sub-line of vehicles and figures would be that red-headed stepchild’s red-headed stepchild. These things clogged the pegs and shelves of my local Target and Walmart, perplexing kids and collectors alike. What was the point? What was Hasbro going for here? If they wanted to do Sigma 6 with vehicles, why didn’t they just keep the line 3 ¾-scale? Was this Hasbro trying to have its cake and eat it too? Why am I asking so many questions? It’s because this line confounds and confuses me. It created some really cool vehicles (not to mention one truly amazing toy, the Dragonhawk, which I promise to feature someday), but its mix of cool vehicles and shitty little figures made it a difficult concept to get behind. Let’s get an idea of what this line was all about by looking at its treatment of one of GI Joe’s truly iconic vehicles: The Cobra HISS
I’ve got to say, I dig this packaging. It’s a mostly closed box with two windows on the front to show off the figures. This was a bold move, Hasbro, since the figures are easily the weakest part of these sets and you probably shouldn’t be displaying them with pride. On the other hand, at least the windows let potential buyers know what they were getting. I totally dig the illustrated metal frame deco that surrounds the box and the artwork on the front is excellent. This presentation is damned exciting! I remember when I first saw it on the shelf it made me want to buy the toy even though something inside my head was telling me to drop it and back away. The back panel has a great photo, showing you everything you get inside. Once again, Hasbro was really good about letting you know what you were getting yourself into.
That’s what I like to see! Bags of parts and a sticker sheet! Stuff to put together! I miss the days of having to assemble and sticker toys. It really added to the anticipation. Actually, the stickers here are a bit disappointing. Many of them have white outlines, which don’t look good on the toy so I left them off. At least the instrumentation and the hazards stripes look ok. But before we put together the HISS, let’s look at those figures.
Ok, you get Cobra Commander and a Cobra Trooper. Cobra Commander is a decent enough design and sculpt, but he represents a lot of what was wrong with these figures. Specifically, he’s perpetually standing there pointing and holding his bendy, warped scepter. He does have four points of articulation, which consist of swivels in his shoulders, his neck and his waist, but it’s all mostly useless. The Cobra Trooper fares a little better with the basic five points: Shoulders, hips and neck, but man his design and coloring is shit. Even with two Cobra emblems, he doesn’t look like a Cobra Trooper to me. Nope, he reminds me of some knock-off Hoth Trooper. Keep in mind, these are amongst the best figures this line had to offer, as many of them were even more pre-posed and static. I’m not going to blame the small scale. It was clearly a deliberate style choice on Hasbro’s part, because we’ve seen figures in this scale executed a lot better. Now where was that? Well, I’m sure it’ll come to me before the end.
Once assembled, this HISS should look familiar to most Joe collectors. It’s the same design as the one used for the Direct-To-Consumer HISS and that is not at all a bad thing because I really dig this design and all the features it has to offer. The overall configuration is the same as the original vintage HISS, but this model comes loaded for bear with dual missile launchers on either side of the cockpit and four missile launchers mounted up on the turret. Joes seeing this thing barreling toward them would surely have shit their pants. There are also two smaller swivel guns, one of which can be swapped out for a Cobra flag. The cockpit is designed to lower closer to the ground for easy boarding. The hull features some minimal panel lining and Cobra emblems, and the canopy has a cool painted frame, which is something I always thought the original HISS should have had. There’s no two ways about it, the profile for this vehicle is one hundred percent bad ass.
Just like the DTC HISS, the back compartment opens up on either side and there’s a hatch that drops down out of the back to unload troops. In fairness, with the turret in place there isn’t a lot of room back there for personnel. You can take the turret out to make room and that leaves a port for them to emerge and take pot shots at the Joes. This feature was one of my favorite things about the DTC HISS as it converts the fast attack tank into a vehicle that can charge across enemy lines, deliver the shock and awe of a missile barrage, safely insert a squad of Cobra Troops into a critical position, and all without sacrificing any of its original design. And honestly, if I were on Cobra’s payroll with Joes shooting at me, I’d much rather ride inside the thing then hang off the back.
The conversion gimmick involves taking off the top of the back compartment and unfolding it to turn it into an armed bunker. It’s not the most innovative gimmick around, but it does give you some play and display options. You can position the “bunker” into a straight wall fortification (my favorite) or you could angle it. The bunker can arm itself with two of the missile launchers as well as the smaller guns. The main turret of the HISS has fold down stabilizers to turn it into a missle battery emplacement. As much as it may seem like a tacked on extra, this bonus bunker mode actually makes sense to me. I can imagine HISS Tanks could be used to gain ground and then set up these fortifications to hold it while the remaining part of the HISS goes back to get outfitted again for another charge. All in all, it’s a pretty cool idea.
And yeah, about that other line of 2 ½” figures… Like all the vehicles in this line, the HISS’ scale meshes almost perfectly with Kenner’s old MASK line. This HISS blends especially well because of its converting ability. I really dig this cross-compatibility of these vehicles and it’s probably the core reason as to why I’m ultimately a fan of the line. Unfortunately, I can’t help but think of how much cooler it would have been to have had the Sigma 6 figures been in the same style as the MASK figures.
And that’s the Sigma 6 HISS. If you can accept the figures for being what they are, I call them lost opportunities, the vehicle itself is pretty damn cool. The design looks great and it’s a nice quality construction that can get banged around pretty good. If you give this thing a chance it’s definitely a well-designed toy, but then most of the other little Sigma 6 vehicles were too. I’ll eventually get around to looking at the rest of the line, but tomorrow we continue Toy Closet Finds week with another treasure from the abyss.