GI JOE: Destro (Enemy Weapons Supplier) Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow, Part 2

Alrighty, I’m back to wrap up this long overdue look at Sideshow’s Destro figure. I went really long yesterday and it’s Saturday so I’m already in overtime for the week. With those things in mind I’m going to try to be brief today while still giving all of Destro’s cool stuff their proper due. Let’s start with the weapons!

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Destro comes with his trusty chrome finish automatic pistol which fits nicely into the holster on his right hip and I’m not surprised to find that the sculpting on the weapon is every bit as good as what I’m used to seeing in Sideshow’s sixth-scale arsenals. Really, these guys do a great job on the firearms!

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The slide on the gun is articulated and pulls back to reveal a painted bullet in the chamber. The magazine is removable, again showing a painted bullet at the top. You also get two more mags, which can be stored in the ammo pouches on Destro’s left hip. It sounds like a little throwaway thing, but the ability to store extra mags on their person is one of my favorite little things about many of these Sideshow Cobras. I’m also really pleased to see that Sideshow is sticking with magnets to secure the straps on the ammo pouches and holster, rather than working snaps, which tend to tear the fragile leather. These are easy to get in and out of and I’m not afraid to use them. This is a key reason as to why I almost never take the pistol out of my Hot Toys Captain America figure. Stupid fragile snaps!

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Destro’s other weapon is his laser pistol and man do I love this thing. Some may remember that I was a little put out by the fact that Cobra Commander didn’t come with his iconic hair-dryer pistol. It’s nice to see that wasn’t the case with Destro as his primary weapon is a gorgeous sixth-scale interpretation of the laser pistol that came with the vintage figure. It’s a highly detailed and very realistic looking design or a fictional gun and it includes a scope and a detachable magazine. Everything on this weapon is beautiful right down to the coloring. Since it’s a laser gun, I’m assuming that in this case the magazine is some kind of replaceable battery. Either way Destro looks great brandishing this beauty.

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The next big item on the agenda is his MARS briefcase and this thing is just full of surprises. It’s got a matte green finish, a hinged handle and has two strong hinged catches on one side to open it up. It opens to reveal…

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A satellite guidance computer! The LCD screen graphics look really nice, but we’re not done yet, because the bottom plate lifts out to reveal…

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Yeah! A hidden compartment for his laser pistol. The gun breaks down into four pieces and each piece fits snugly into the plastic cutouts that are made to look like foam. I love this little extra as it gives Destro an option for when those sketchy arms deals go south and he needs to blast his way out.

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One of the simplest and yet coolest extras in the set is this tiny manila folder full of one-sheet blueprints for some of Cobra’s most iconic weapon systems. You get one for the HISS, one for the ASP, and one for the FANG. All three fit into the folder and the folder can be placed into the briefcase. Brilliant! I don’t know who had the idea to include something like this with the figure, but I’d sure like to shake his hand!

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To go along with the Satellite Guidance Computer, Destro comes with a PDA-style satellite tracking device. This simple piece clips onto his belt and features a graphic to simulate the LCD screen. I don’t have much else to say about this piece, but it does look nice clipped to his belt.

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The last thing I have to mention is the key. I have absolutely no idea what this is, but I’m guessing that, like the ruby medallion, this is some kind of McCullen family heirloom. It can be worn around Destro’s neck, but I have no use for it, so it’ll stay in the box.

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I mentioned yesterday that Destro is sadly the last of the sixth-scale Cobra figures that Sideshow has planned as the line is going on hiatus. As sad as that might be, I’d prefer to focus on the awesome figures that we got in this line, rather than what’s been left behind on the table. Sure, it’s always possible that Sideshow may come back and give us some more figures, but with the sad state of the GI JOE franchise right now, that sort of thing seems unlikely to happen. I would have loved a Serpentor, Scrap Iron and even a Tele-Viper to go with this collection, but as things stand, I’m sure glad that we got what we did. Sideshow did a beautiful job with these figures and I think more than anything else, they show how much the company has evolved in their craft. One things for sure, these figures will always have a place of honor secured on my display shelves. COBRA!!!!!!

 

GI JOE: Destro (Enemy Weapons Supplier) Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow, Part 1

I’ve been chomping at the bit to get to Destro here for a long time, so let me start out by chronicling the hold up. Destro sat on my pile of “To Open” stuff for a few weeks and then when I finally did open him I found he was missing some pieces. His vest wasn’t in the box and instead of getting his right “gun holding” hand, I got two of his right “suitcase holding” hands. I was worried because I didn’t want to have to return the whole figure just to get one with the missing parts. Also, since I waited so long to open him, Sideshow would have been within their rights to refuse me any kind of resolution. Thankfully, Sideshow’s customer service has always been impeccable and no less so in this case. After a few emails clarifying the problem they had replacement parts on their way to me in a couple of days and the box arrived just a few business days after that. This is exactly why I love doing business with them and the only time I ever order a Sideshow or Hot Toys figure from another e-tailer is when it’s the only way to go. And with that preamble out of the way, let’s get to the review!

Destro arrives in the wake of the bitter news that Sideshow has decided to put their GI JOE line on hiatus, and while that decision disappoints me greatly (I was hoping against hope we might see a Sixth-Scale Scrap Iron! I LOVE SCRAP IRON!!!), I’m mighty glad they got Destro out before pulling the plug. As usual with these guys, I’m going to do this feature in two parts. Today we’ll check out the outfit and the portraits and tomorrow I’ll wrap it up with a look at his accessories. Let’s start things off with a look at this glorious packaging…

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The box consists of the same brilliant design and deco that we saw with Cobra Commander and Baroness. It mimics the vintage Real American Hero card art beautifully right down to the animated explosive backgrounds on the side panels and the “COBRA ENEMY” stamp on the front panel. The rear panel also has a file card, again just like the old cardbacks. I love it! There’s also an excellent piece of character art inside the cardboard tray.

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The box has an opening front flap that’s held snugly down by a magnet. Open it up and you reveal a window showing off the figure inside with a blurb about Cobra on the reverse of the front flap. I do prefer the older style boxes, used for Crimson Guard and Zartan, where the box opened up to reveal two windows, one with the figure and one with the gear and had a detailed inventory of the figure’s accessories. I’m guessing they switched over to this style to cut costs, and it still looks fantastic, but it doesn’t offer quite the same premium level of presentation. In this case, the figure’s accessories are held in nesting clear plastic trays behind the figure. On the plus side, these boxes are a lot thinner than the older ones and make use of a better economy of space. Let’s get this bastard set up…

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Destro comes out of the box wearing his more Sunbow-styled head and his trench coat, so let’s start there. To set him up all you need to do is put on his arm bracers and his bling necklace. At least theoretically. My figure actually came out of the box with stuck elbow joints. I had to take his coat off, then remove his shirt so that I could find and finesse those elbow hinges without fear of breaking them. I’m still not sure why they were stuck, because the arms are molded in bare black plastic with no paint. It didn’t take much effort to get them working and then I had to put everything back on again. The bracers were a little tough to get on because the combination of the t-shirt sleeves and the coat cuffs don’t give you a lot of room to work with. On the other hand, once they’re on, they stay nice and snug. This is as good a time as any to point out that Destro’s torso is molded in black plastic as well as his arms, which is a tad disappointing. Had they done it in flesh, we would have had the option for the bare-chested look. Not a big deal, but it’s nice to have options.

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So, let’s talk outfit first. My initial reaction to the reveal of this figure’s outfit left me a bit tepid, but now that it’s in hand I’m totally in love with it. Most of my trepidation rested in the trench coat, which is made of a thick felt material. I think the big problem here is that it looks so much better in person than in photos. It’s got a rugged, almost oily texture that looks like it would work for back ally meetings as well keep Destro toasty warm during a secret arctic rendezvous. It’s pleated in the back and has a red liner and some red piping across his chest and across the back of the shoulders. The coolest thing about it is the collar, which can be folded down or worn up. I do think the faux pockets look a tad puffy, but then Sideshow isn’t quite up to Hot Toys standards with their outfit tailoring, but they’re getting better all the time. Under the coat, Destro sports high boots, a pair of standard black trousers and a grey long sleeved t-shirt. I wish the shirt were a tad longer because I have to hike his pants up a little higher than I would prefer in order to keep the shirt tucked when I articulate his arms. He has a standard belt and an integral pistol holster with two thigh straps. There are also a couple of ammo pouches to hold his extra magazines, but more on that later.

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Destro’s bracers are quite well done. The one on his left arm features three grenades and the right bracer has three rocket darts. The bracers themselves are sculpted to look like they fold closed when in fact they really just slip onto him. The grenades are highly detailed and nicely weathered. The rockets look as if they could be removable, but they are in fact glued into place.

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Before we get into the other outfit option, let’s talk portraits. The Sunbow-styled head gives Destro that more organic aesthetic to his mask. The Sunbow Destro had that weird thing going on where his mask was expressive as if it was painted onto his head. There are some black panel lines and some slightly exaggerated contours in his face to suggest that it is indeed a mask of some sort. Destro is wearing a grim expression with green eyes squinting, mouth downturned, and one eyebrow jutting up. He definitely looks pissed off, as if he showed up to buy a warehouse full of weapons and the seller just asked for more money. Don’t ya just hate that! I’ve seen some complaints about his “giraffe neck” but I’m not seeing a big problem with it. It does look rather elongated from the sides, but looking straight on its fine to me. This portrait is by far my favorite of the two, which is why you’ll see it on the figure for the bulk of this review.

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The alternate portrait is more angular and looks like an actual metal mask. If you look carefully into the eye sockets you can actually see his eyes sculpted and painted inside. I really like that effect, and I’m not totally hating on this head, but in the end I think it just looks too large and clunky on the figure to make it work for me.

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If you’re going for a more “realistic” Destro look, this head might be the ticket since the articulated organic metal one doesn’t make much sense in the real world. Honestly, if I were designing a live action movie Destro, this is exactly the kind of likeness I would go with. So, yes, I guess in a sense I do like what Sideshow tried to do here, but it’s just not the one that I’ll be using for display.

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And that brings us too his alternate outfit which removes the trench coat and gives him a vest. The vest is just puffy enough to make it look like it might have some bullet proofing in it, but ultimately it has a pretty trim fit. The zipper on the front is faked out and the vest actually goes over the head like a poncho and then the straps on the front secure it snugly with velcro. It’s a good effect and I think the tailoring on the vest is overall better than the trenchcoat. The only downside here is that it really shows off the rather lean body build that Sideshow used here. I think Destro should be bulkier than than the body used here and the trenchcoat adds a bit of that bulk to him. That having been said, deciding which look to go for is going to be really tough for me. They each have their merits. His trenchcoat is definitely great for conducting those blackmarket arms deals, whereas if he’s going to be sitting in the turret of a HISS Tank in battle, the vest is the way to go.

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Ok, I’m running ridiculously long today so I’m going to break here and when I come back tomorrow we’ll wrap up with a look at Destro’s weapons and accessories.

GI JOE: Zartan (Master of Disguise) Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow Toys, Part 2

And I’m back with the second half of my look at Sideshow’s spectacular Zartan figure. Yesterday I covered the figure and costume, today we’ll look at all the goodies that comes with him. Before getting into the exciting stuff, it’s worth mentioning that Zartan comes with no less than six pairs of hands. Holy shit! I’m not going to run down them all, because I think it’s boring. Suffice it to say, in addition to the accessory specific hands you get a thumbs up right hand, a pointing right hand, and a pair of fists. You also get a pair of action feet, which come in handy with dynamic poses in the absence of mid foot articulation. The hands and feet are very easy to swap out and stay in tight. You also get the standard Cobra style stand that have been included with all these figures. Ok, with that behind us… let’s go right for the jugular and check out the showpiece of Zartan’s ensemble… the ridiculously gorgeous compound bow.

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I’m not sure exactly when Zartan began using a bow. The first Zartan figure that I remember getting with a bow was sometime in the late 90’s and that bow was neon orange. Either way, the weapon has gradually become associated with the character and I think it’s a great fit. The folks at Sideshow went crazy with this accessory. It’s a very complex sculpt, from the cams and cables to the site, stabilizer, and mounted quiver. You get five arrows, four of which can clip into the quiver and you get a hand designed so that you can pose the figure knocking the extra arrow on the bow. This is an insanely great looking accessory and it is certainly the showpiece of his arsenal. It’s just amazing.

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Next up, you get the VSS Sniper Rifle and this is also a very impressive piece of sixth-scale hardware. It’s every bit the great sculpt that I’ve come to expect from Sideshow’s firearms. The magazine is, of course, removable and the tiny cartridge in the chamber is painted. Oh yeah, you also get an additional four magazines to stow in the ammo pouches on his belt. The rifle comes with a long range scope on it and there’s even a removable lens cap on the scope. God, I love that attention to detail! Also included is a laser site assembly to swap out with the scope if you want to go a little more high-tech. There’s also a flip up site on the rifle itself just in case Zartan wants to give his quarry a bit more of a sporting chance. I’m reminded of a line from Romero’s classic film, Dawn of the Dead, “The only person who could miss with this gun is the sucker with the bread to buy it!”

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Moving on to what is easily the most iconic weapon in this set, we have Zartan’s laser pistol. This piece is easily the simplest of all three of his firearms, but that doesn’t make it any less welcome. If you read my feature on Sideshow’s Cobra Commander then you may remember my lamenting the fact that his iconic hair-dryer pistol wasn’t included. I would have been just as unhappy if Zartan didn’t get his laser pistol. Despite being a sci-fi weapon, and a completely static piece, this little gun still looks realistic and is packed with detail. It also fits comfortably into the belt holster making it a nice hold out weapon for when Zartan is all out of bullets and arrows.

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Ah, but we’re still not done yet. Zartan also comes with a pair of mines very similar to the ones included with the Crimson Guard figure. These are green and can easily be stowed into the satchel included with the figure. Lastly, you get a skinning knife and sheath. I was little baffled as to where to stow this on the figure, but I found that it clips nicely onto the back of his belt. The blade looks like it’s intended to be one of those ceramic bladed knives. This piece reminds me of Major Bludd’s boot knife in that it’s an amazing little accessory and totally unnecessary. It was just thrown in there because Sideshow loves you.

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Zartan lasted quite a while at most retailers, but availability is really starting to thin out, and when Sideshow sold out, that’s what finally motivated me to get mine. With a $159 MSRP, this guy feels like an absolute steal next to the hundred and eighty dollar price points of Cobra Commander and Baroness. The complexity of Zartan’s outfit alone makes him feel like a higher valued figure, but when you start throwing in all those amazing accessories, he really feels like a great value. While all of these Sideshow Cobra figures have been excellent, right now Zartan is the favorite on my shelf.

GI JOE: Zartan (Master of Disguise) Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow Toys, Part 1

I was first introduced to Zartan one fine day after school when the second GI JOE miniseries “Revenge of Cobra” premiered on a local network and I thought he was the coolest thing ever. He led a motorcycle gang, he lived in the swamp, and when he got mad his armor lit up and made lightsaber noises. He was also too badass to be an official part of Cobra. No, Zartan knew where it was at. He remained an independent contractor and got paid for jobs with little sacks of gold so that he could keep his Dreadnoks supplied with chocolate donuts and grape soda. Naturally when I got hooked on Sideshow’s Sixth-Scale Cobra figures, I had to circle back and pick up Zartan. He’s an older release, but as we’ll soon see he is still an absolutely amazing figure and possibly the best release so far. You know the deal by now. I’m going to look at the packaging, the figure, and the outfit  today and tomorrow we’ll check out the copious amount of gear included with this figure.

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As an older figure, Zartan’s box is different in some ways from Sideshow’s last three GI JOE releases. I’ll get to those differences in a moment, but the important thing to note is that the deco hasn’t changed and this box looks right at home lined up on a bookshelf with all the other boxes. I’ve praised the art design on these packages a lot in the past and I’ll continue to do so here… it’s perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing. The photos of the figure give you a good idea of what you’re getting and I love the shot on the front that has Zartan hiding behind a tree, no doubt stalking a Joe who bailed out of his downed Skyhawk. Of course, the style mimics the old Real American Hero cardbacks right down to the animated explosions behind the character, the “Cobra Enemy” stamp and the file card on the back of the box. No doubt, Sideshow knows how to tug on my nostalgia strings.

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So what’s different? Zartan’s box is laid out just like the one used for the Crimson Guard. It has a magnetic flap and opens to reveal two windows, one with the gear laid out and one with the figure itself. The inside of the front flap has some specs on the included weapons and the connecting flap has information on Cobra and Zartan. This layout is absolutely glorious. When I open it up, lay it out and see all the cool shit inside, it’s just so easy to see where the money went. I really wish Sideshow had kept it for the newer releases. They may look the same closed and on the shelf, but opened up, it’s a far more impressive presentation than getting the trays stacked together like they are doing now.

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And there he is, out of the box and looking damn incredible. The first thing that needs to be said is that this is certainly not Sunbow Zartan. Throughout this line, Sideshow has borrowed design elements here and there, but in the case of Zartan, they definitely went for realism over animated and I think it works beautifully for a figure in this scale and complexity. This is a Zartan that could have been adapted directly for a live action Joe movie and worked brilliantly. But let’s not get me started on that, eh? Like so many of these figures, Sideshow manages to capture the essence of the character while still bringing a lot of original ideas to the table. Let’s start with the portrait…

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The portrait here is nothing short of fantastic, and that’s saying a lot. As a cartoon character and an action figure, I was always unsure what was going on with Zartan’s head. Was that hair or a hood? Later figures from Hasbro would reveal Zartan as a bald dude wearing a hood and I think the shaved head fits his thuggish nature. The softgoods hood falls about the head quite well and frames it to complete the likeness perfectly. The sculpt is perhaps a little softer than what we’ve seen with Major Bludd, but it’s still quite good and the smarmy smirk really gives him a lot of character. The paintwork includes the iconic tattoo mask around his eyes, which by the way are without pupils and appropriately creepy. Take off the hood and you can see the painted stubble from where he shaved. Sideshow did a great job here.

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Sunbow purists may have hoped for the more high tech armor that Zartan wore in the cartoon, but I really like what Sideshow did with this figure’s costume. The chest armor, shoulders and thigh plates are certainly inspired by the original figure, but it’s been updated for more realism. The ramshackle nature of the new armor looks as if it’s been salvaged and pieced together from vanquished foes. The chest and back plate, for example, are held on by two different types of shoulder straps and crudely laced up one side with some rope. Similarly, the shin plates look like they were added to his regular boots. And the boots! The detail in the boots is just amazing. The armor plates feature tons of sculpted scrapes and dings, proving that Zartan has been around the block a couple of times and seen plenty of action. This figure really looks like a mercenary who’s been hiding out in the swamps and updating his armor with whatever he could find. I love it! The belt features a working holster for Zartan’s pistol as well as four ammo pouches. The pouches are also functional and can hold the extra magazines for his rifle. One beautiful thing here is the use of magnetic snaps for the ammo pouches rather than having to fuss with those tiny snaps. Brilliant!

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Naturally, Zartan comes with his backpack to hold his disguises. The backpack is a hardshell type that hangs on two hooks that are part of his back plate. An extra magnet like they used for Major Bludd’s backpack would have helped here because it’s not uncommon for the hooks to slip off while posing the figure, but I still like this better than the rather fragile glued straps used for the Crimson Guard’s backpack.

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Just like the original Hasbro figure, Zartan’s backpack opens to reveal a mask, which fits pretty securely over Zartan’s face. I’ve always found this gimmick to be both cool and pretty silly at the same time. What’s really likely to happen here is that Zartan is going to put on the mask, some Cobra trooper is going to see him and say, “Oh my god, somebody killed Zartan and took his armor!” And then shoot him dead.

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The last part of Zartan’s outfit consists of this messenger bag. It’s totally unnecessary and I doubt I’ll ever display the figure with it, but I’ll never scoff at extra accessories. It’s a nicely tailored piece with functional straps and I reckon he could use it to stow the maps and files that he steals from GI JOE headquarters.

Alrighty, I’m going to break there for today. Tomorrow, we’ll check out his gear. And he has a lot of gear.

GI JOE: The Baroness (Intelligence Officer) Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow Toys, Part 2

Yesterday I checked out Sideshow’s Baroness figure and the two beautiful portraits, today we’re going to run down her inventory of goodies. Before getting into the hardware, let’s talk hands!

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If you read my look at Cobra Commander, you may recall how impressed I was that each of his extra hands came with its own post. Well, unfortunately that might have been a one-shot deal because Baroness’ hands all require you to share the two posts that come on the figure. You do get an extra pair of replacement posts in case you snap some, but swapping hands isn’t as simple this time around. Is it a big deal? Probably not. At no point did the posts feel like they were going to snap nor did they give me any trouble coming out or going back in. I just thought it was worth mentioning. The Baroness comes with a pair of fists attached and you get three additional pairs. Two are designed for holding her accessories and the last are in with the fingers straight out and together as if she is going to karate chop you.

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The biggest weapon in Baroness’ arsenal is her assault rifle, which features the “bullpup” configuration with the action behind the trigger housing. It’s a very modern looking weapon and I think it’s a good choice for her. The weapon features the usual superb sculpt that I expect out of Sideshow’s Sixth-Scale guns. The scope mount does not seem to be removable, however the silencer can be slipped off and the site can be flipped up. The magazine can be removed to expose the tiny painted bullet waiting to enter the chamber. An extra magazine would have been nice, but considering Baroness has a nice accessory load-out, I won’t complain. What I will gripe about is the lack of a shoulder strap for the rifle, only because it was pictured in some of the promo-pics. I’m sure I can cobble something together from some of my other Sixth-Scale weapons.

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Next up, The Baroness features a Sub-Machine pistol, which I believe is supposed to be a MAC-10, but my firearms expertise tends to lean more toward the WWII period and earlier so I could be wrong there. This weapon is a very simple, but realistic looking accessory. There’s no action or moving parts, but the magazine is removable and you get an extra mag as well. The two magazines can store in the pouches on Baroness belt just above the holster. God, I love that! The pistol itself fits snugly into the sculpted holster, and when I say snugly I do mean it! If you want to get the retaining strap to fasten the pistol needs to get pushed pretty far in and it is hard to get out afterwards.

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The final piece of Baroness’ arsenal is a nice, serviceable combat knife that fits into the scabbard on her right hip. There’s not much else to say about it, other than it fits really well into one of the extra hands.

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And lastly, you get the same figure stand with the red Cobra emblem on it. It’s the exact same stand that came with all the past Cobra releases in the line. Sideshow is now selling more elaborate stands for their Cobra figures with a raised and sculpted base with a drawer to fit extra accessories. It’s a cool idea, but I really like the simple elegance of the stock stands.

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Sideshow’s Real American Hero line continues to creep up in price and so The Baroness retailed at $179.99, the same price point as Cobra Commander. As I said last time, I was much more comfortable paying $159.99 for these figures, and while the $180 was pushing it for Cobra Commander, I have to say Baroness still feels like a solid value. Besides just being a drop-dead gorgeous figure, the costume is suitably complex and well-crafted and the selection of weapons and gear feels right. I also can’t deny the extra portrait adds a lot of value and I can’t stress enough about how the Sideshow Exclusive version has to be the way to go on this one, especially since she is still available on Sideshow’s site and most re-sellers are asking the same price for her anyway. Not to mention you earn points! Precious, precious points! So far, I haven’t regretted getting into this line and I’m really excited to see what else Sideshow can do with it. The next release will be Destro, sometime in the Summer, but in a week or so, I’ll be taking a step backwards to look at an older release that I just picked up… Zartan!

GI JOE: The Baroness (Intelligence Officer) Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow Toys, Part 1

Last month Sideshow Toys hit us with Joe fans with a one-two punch of Sixth-Scale Cobra awesomeness. I’ve already featured Cobra Commander and now it’s time to check out that sultry and exotic vixen of mayhem, The Baroness. As usual, I’m going to break down this feature into two parts. Today we’ll check out the packaging, the base figure, and the alternate portrait and tomorrow we’ll look at all the great stuff she comes with. To the packaging!

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If you read my look at Cobra Commander than you’ll be readily familiar with what to expect here. Baroness comes in a gorgeous retro-style box that captures everything that made the old Joe cardbacks so great. You get the character artwork set atop an animated explosive field and a filecard that is positively dripping with nostalgia.

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The front flap is secured with a magnet and opens to reveal the window and the figure inside. Baroness is packaged with her alternate, Sideshow exclusive head beside her and her extra bits fanned out around her. There’s a second tray under that one with the bulk of her weapons. If you lift out the plastic trays you are treated to some more excellent artwork on the cardboard underneath. All in all the packaging here fuses a wonderful style with a good economy of space and a convenient place to keep your extra pieces or store the figure when she’s not being displayed. But why would you not want to display her when she looks like this…

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Ooooh my! Out of the box, Baroness is indeed a stunning figure. Let’s kick things off with a look at the outfit, which manages to stride that line between iconic and modern update quite brilliantly. The shapely female buck is clad in a tight black cloth body suit that has a bit of sheen to it. It doesn’t simulate leather, but it looks good, and I like to think it’s some kind of secret bullet retardant fabric that’s been cooked up in Cobra Labs. Maybe it’s a special side project that Baroness convinced one of the lab geeks to make for her with the promise of certain… favors. Maybe I’m thinking too much about this. Her chest, back, and shoulder armor are all sculpted in plastic and held together with straps to make one rig. It fits the figure quite nicely and the sculpted front allows her to show off her lovely assets while also proudly and stylishly advertising her Cobra allegiance. Yes, kids, come work for Cobra… we have boobs! Baroness’ arms feature pleather bracers with sculpted Cobra styled guards and end in gloved hands. We’ll look at the hands more in depth tomorrow when we talk about accessories.

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Moving on down, The Baroness is sporting a complex belt rig with a low-slung sculpted Cobra emblem that is positioned in a rather obviously strategic place. The main belt is a V-Style configuration that rides up on her hips and includes a number of faux pouches with sculpted straps and painted buttons. The belt includes thigh straps as well as a holster for her Sub-Machine pistol and a sheath for her combat knife. The Baroness’ legs feature pleather boots with scalloped fronts that run all the way up her thighs. The fronts of her legs are covered with sculpted armor plates, each of which is held in place by nearly a half-dozen buckling straps. Yup, this figure has a lot of straps and buckles giving The Baroness that not-so-subtle whiff of S&M style that all the Cobra bad girls love to flaunt.

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The head that comes on the figure is absolutely fantastic. Baroness looks beautiful, seductive, and has the hint of a smirk as if she knows something you don’t… like maybe she just slipped a live grenade down your shorts. She has high arching eyebrows and clean paintwork for her eyes and lips. The rounded glasses are made of wire and do not have lenses. They also feel as if they are removable, but I don’t plan on risking it because they are made of very thin wire. The sculpted hair falls straight down to her shoulders and sweeps back. I find sculpted hair is tough to do at this price-point because you expect a certain degree of realism. I’d say Sideshow nailed it. Also, the plastic is very soft and it does not impede the head articulation at all.

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Of course, if you picked up this figure through Sideshow, you also get the exclusive extra head, which offers a more dynamic portrait and some minor differences. You just pop Baroness’ noggin off the ball joint post and push the other one on there. The exclusive head comes without her glasses on, but they are located in the tray of parts. This pair features smaller, rectangular frames and the arms slide into gaps above her ears and hair. The face itself is pretty much the same excellent sculpt as the regular head, but features the sculpted hair blowing off to the side. It’s both fabulous and frustrating at the same time, because I honestly can’t decide which head to display her with.

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And that’s where I’m going to break for today. I’ll be back tomorrow and we’ll start checking out all the extra goodies that come with this lovely figure!

GI JOE: Cobra Commander (The Dictator) by Sideshow Toys, Part 2

As promised I’m back to wrap up my look at Sideshow’s Sixth-Scale Cobra Commander figure. Before moving on to his accessories, let’s go ahead and check out his alternate noggin.

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Naturally, the extra head is the hooded look, which the Sunbow cartoon debuted in the second mini-series, “The Revenge of Cobra.” There’s a lot to like about this design, as I do think it looks a lot more sinister. I was concerned that the hooded head on the figure would have a large disconnect between the real fabric clothing and the use of plastic for the hood. I was partially right, as that disconnect is definitely there, but I genuinely believe that there’s just no way that Sideshow could have gotten the hood to look right using softgoods and this plastic head still looks perfectly fine. It’s beautifully sculpted and is actually a soft rubber hood permanently attached to a partially sculpted head underneath. This adds a lot of convincing depth to the eyes, which look especially creepy and deranged. Still, as pleased as I am with this sculpt, the helmeted head has always been my favorite, and so I’m going to resort to using it for the bulk of the remaining photos.

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The other additional aspect of the costume is Cobra Commander’s cape and it is a beautifully done. The garment is black with a stitched crimson liner and it is a satisfyingly heavy cape that hangs wonderfully on the figure. How does it attach? Magnets! There are two plastic clasps sculpted and painted to look like bronze medallions. Each one has a magnet inside and these attract quite securely to magnets hidden in his shoulders, just under his lapels. The cape attaches effortlessly, holds on without fail, and can be removed just as easily. I hadn’t initially planned on displaying the figure with the cape, but in the end I think it’s won me over.  It just looks smashing!

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Before getting into the rest of the accessories, I did neglect to mention one of the included hands yesterday, but it’s more of an accessory so I’m including it here. This clutching hand comes with a tiny Earth permanently attached to it so Cobra Commander can symbolically hold the entire planet in the palm of his hand. Mwahahahahaha!

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Next up, we’ve got the serpent scepter and I like this piece a lot. It has a cobra head at the top made to look like chiseled bronze or brass. It even has a faux patina of tarnish on it. That combined with the wood finish on the shaft makes it a very welcome accessory for me. I usually prefer action-y Cobra Commander over the regal one, but the cape and scepter look so good, I’ll likely be displaying him with both. Damn, I really wish I had picked up the throne from a while back. Hey, third-party companies… I need one of y’all to do a big serpent throne for me. M’kay? Thanks!

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And that brings us to the weapons. Cobra Commander’s standard sidearm is a broom handled Mauser. It’s a good choice, albeit some may believe it to be rather antiquated for a modern terrorist leader. I guess it could just be this version of Cobra Commander’s thing. Maybe he carries it around as his trademark. Since the Mauser loads with a charger, there’s really no moving action or clip to remove, making this weapon a simple static piece. That having been said, Sideshow’s weapons have always been amazing, and this Mauser is no different. It’s a wonderful sculpt and it has a very convincing finish. It also fits quite well in the holster.

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If you’re getting The Commander from any old distributor, that’s where your accessories end. If, however, you choose to go through Sideshow, you get the exclusive laser pistol. It’s a sizeable weapon for a pistol and it has a nice design that looks rather futuristic, but like something that could still exist in the “real” GI JOE world. As far as exclusive pieces go, it definitely makes ordering from Sideshow worthwhile and it will likely be the weapon of choice that I display him with. Which leads me to the only real gripe I have with this figure, and it isn’t with anything that’s here, but what was omitted. Cobra Commander’s hair-dryer style pistol has always been his one iconic accessory to me and I was a little bummed out that it wasn’t included. The pistols he has are certainly nice, but I do miss his trademark sidearm. Once again, third-party companies, you need to get on this!

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And so my third figure in Sideshow’s Sixth-Scale GI JOE line turned out to be another winner. I had my doubts about this guy when he was first revealed, but I think Sideshow really delivered in the end. Is he the most impressive figure this line has offered? Nope. The Commander doesn’t have the wow factor of Major Bludd’s accessories or even the beautiful detailing of that figure’s head sculpt, but that’s largely because this character doesn’t offer the same opportunities for such complexities. The Commander does, however, pay some wonderful respects to the iconic character that he represents and in the end that’s what counts and makes me very happy to continue to collect this line. Now as far as price goes, he is pretty steep. At just under $200 shipped he is most definitely approaching Hot Toys pricing and while Major Bludd seemed like a solid value, Cobra Commander does feel like I’m paying more of a premium for what I’m getting. At $159 I would have been more content. But hey, as far as I’m concerned, old Bumper Face is worth the extra scratch. Next up in this line is The Baroness, and I’m going to try to squeeze her in sometime in the next couple of weeks.

GI JOE: Cobra Commander (The Dictator) by Sideshow Toys, Part 1

It seems like an eternity ago that I dropped pre-orders on Sideshow’s Cobra Commander and Baroness Sixth-Scale figures. Well, now they’re finally here and I’m beyond excited! Originally planned as a December release, The Commander got delayed a month and so he arrived at my doorstep last week along with the more punctual Baroness. I thought it would be a tough choice to decide which one of these figures to feature first, but in the end it was surprisingly easy… it simply had to be Cobra Commander. With two portraits and an assortment of gear, there’s a lot to talk about, so I’m going to take a look at the packaging and the base figure today and tomorrow we’ll check out the alternate portrait and all the extra goodies he comes with.

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If you read my features on Sideshow’s Crimson Guard and Major Bludd than you already know how much affection I have for the packaging used for this line and I was relieved to see that Sideshow hasn’t tampered with what is quite nearly perfection. The box features a classic Real American Hero deco complete with the “Cobra: The Enemy” stamp, old school file card, and the same vintage style card art that always got me begging my parents for a fiver whenever we passed an action figure aisle. This package is pure nostalgia and I love it!

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The front flap of the box is held in place by a magnet and opens to reveal the window. Cobra Commander comes packaged with his helmeted head on the figure and the hooded portrait beside him. Also surrounding him are his personal weapons. There’s an additional tray under that one, which holds the figure stand, staff, and his array of hands. I’ll note here how happy I am that Sideshow started packaging the stands differently. Previous figures had the wire post slipped through the hole in the base. Getting them separated was a precarious affair that always made me feel like I was going to snap the stand in half. Now the post comes completely separate from the stand and that’s a good thing. Last up, you get a baggie containing his folded cape. Also, behind the tray is some very cool character art. Let’s bust this guy out!

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Holy shit, I’m in love!!! There have been plenty of very cool designs of Cobra Commander over the years, but the original Sunbow version will always be my Cobra Commander. I’m happy to see that Sideshow mined that version the most for the inspiration for this figure. It’s certainly not an exact copy of the cartoon source material, but it borrows just enough from it and mixes it with a hearty dose of realism to create what I think Cobra Commander should have looked like in any live action Joe film. You get the regal overcoat with button down flap, classy dictator epaulettes, black leather gauntlets and boots, and naturally the red piping down the trousers. The entire outfit is punctuated with a belt and shoulder harness, strap down holster, dagger with scabbard, and sculpted Cobra belt buckle, which surely can only be purchased at the Gift Shop while exiting Cobra Island. The stitching on The Commander’s uniform is all nicely done and the outfit fits him quite well.

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Some initial shots of the helmeted head had me worried, but with the figure in hand, I think it came out nearly perfect. The off-white crest running down the top of the helmet matches the Sunbow style quite nicely as does the way the sides of the helmet flare out in a manner not unlike the helmet of a certain Sith Lord we all know and love. The face plate features a perfect mirror finish, which does not translate well in photography, but rest assured you can see yourself in it in the same manner that the animators of the original cartoon often depicted other characters reflected in it. Old bumper face has never looked better!

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YOU WANT HANDS???  Some of you may know by now that I’m not a real stickler about getting a ton of extra hands with my figures. If I need to swap them out to hold the gear, that’s fine, but I generally don’t consider a lot of swappable hands to be a necessity. The Commander here, however, may have won me over on this subject. Not only are all of these hands really useful, but Sideshow provided each one with their own peg. I can’t tell you how amazing that is, because it makes swapping the hands an absolute breeze. A big part of why I don’t use a lot of the extra hands for my Hot Toys figures is because it’s just too much of a pain to change them. With Cobra Commander, I can literally unplug his hands and plug in new ones without even having to pick up the figure. When you consider how much Hot Toys charges for their figures, I can’t believe they don’t do this. It’s the equivalent of getting an extra six posts in case you break one, as opposed to the two extras that come with your average Hot Toys figure.

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Ok, my hand rant is over. Besides the accessory specific hands, you also get the ubiquitous clenched fist hand for punctuating demands while on national television. You get the pointing finger hand for poking into Destro’s chest. You also get a pair of angry clutching hands, which can be used for everything from frightening children to grabbing for The Baroness’ boobs. These are great hands. There’s one more to talk about, but I’m going to save that for when we look at the accessories.

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Before breaking for the day, I’ll go ahead and give mention to the figure stand, which is identical to the ones that came with Major Bludd and the Crimson Guard figure. It’s a black disc with the Cobra emblem on it and a wire crotch-cradle. It’s simple enough enough so that it doesn’t detract from the figure, but the personalized Cobra emblem is a great embellishment and I’m happy to see that the stands for this collection remain uniform with each other. And that’s where I’ll wrap up today. Tomorrow we’ll check out The Commander’s accessories, as well as his extra noggin and his cloak.

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COOOOBRAAAAAAA!!!

GI JOE: Crimson Guard (Cobra Elite Trooper) by Sideshow Toys, Part 1

Sideshow has turned up the heat on GI JOE lately. They currently have Cobra Commander and Baroness up for pre-order and they’ve already shown off Destro. The reveals were enough to get me into this line and I thought I’d herald the pending arrival of my new figures by grabbing the Crimson Guard that they still had available on their site. These guys were always my favorite of the various Cobra legions just because they looked so badass. There’s a lot to talk about here, so I’m going to look at the packaging and the basic figure today and tomorrow I’ll be back to cover his gear.

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The packaging is… wow! Sideshow nailed the presentation here in every way possible. For starters, the deco is pure old school Real American Hero. The front has a great photo of the figure with the GI JOE logo and that great “Cobra Enemy” stamp that I always loved on the old packaging. The side panels show the figure with the classic vintage explosion backdrop and the back highlights the gear and features of the figure and even has a vintage style filecard. Awesome!

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The box is held together with a magnetic flap and opens up to reveal two windowed trays and some copy in the middle about the Crimson Guard. The left tray has all his gear and the right has the figure itself against the explosion backdrop. Everything about this package represents quality and ingenuity and it really trumps the plain jane presentation that I’ve been getting from the more expensive Hot Toys figures lately. Anyway, enough about the packaging, let’s open this guy up and see what he’s all about. COBRA!!!

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Out of the box Crimson Guard is one snazzy looking figure. Sideshow recreated the uniform in both cloth and pleather in all the right places. The tailoring is quite good and the tunic hits all the iconic points of the vintage uniform. You get the brass button down front panel, the gilded shoulder braid, epaulets, insignia medals on the left brest, and of course the giant silver Cobra emblem on the chest. He comes with high boots and a thigh holster rig for his sidearm. The Crimson Guard uniform probably wasn’t the easiest outfit to recreate, but I think Sideshow did a great job with it.

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One really cool thing about the uniform is the way the front panel is held on by magnets over the zipper-front jacket. It was a really ingenious idea and it really comes in handy when you’re outfitting this guy, but we’ll get to that tomorrow.

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The helmeted head looks pretty good as well. It’s hard plastic, but it does have a hollow feel that reminds me this isn’t a Hot Toys caliber figure, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. The color of the helmet matches the rest of the outfit perfectly. I really dig the shape of the mask and there’s a little bit of silver paint apps on the edges to simulate scraping of the metal. I’m still on the fence over whether or not the head is a little too big… maybe a smidge, but it still works for me.

The Crimson Guard uses Sideshow’s Prometheus 1.2 body. That means nothing to me, but he does feature 30 points of articulation and I am really happy with how poseable he is. I will concede the leg joints feel a tad funky and it’s hard to tell what’s going on with the knee joints underneath those trouser legs, but it’s not something that really intrudes on my enjoyment of the figure.

The figure comes with an array of extra hands, as is par for the course with most 1:6 scale figures. What I wasn’t expecting was extra feet. You get a second pair of “action feet” in case you want to tweak your poses even more.

I’m going to break there for today. Tomorrow we’ll load this guy up so he can go kill him some Joes!