Thursday, January 19, 2017

GI Joe Memories

GI Joe has been a part of my life for almost my entire life. I played with the 11.5" GI Joe in the late 60's, early 70's. The 3 3/4" troops arrived in 1982 and I've been a fan of the small scale figures pretty much ever since. There have been a few years periodically that I drifted away, but I've always found my way back.

I thought that I would write out a few of my various GI Joe memories from across my 54 years. 
  1. Thoughts as a Kid - I had some amazing adventures with the big GI Joes when I was a kid. I've got a cousin, Randy, who lives in Massachusetts and we played everyday when I would visit from South Florida. His mom used to go to the Hasbro employee store and buy him some awesome equipment for his GI Joes. He had these huge dirt hills in his backyard and they were constantly under assault from our troops. I also have vague memories of the Sears toy department and the famous "valley of green," full of a huge assortment of GI Joe troops and equipment. I remember having the Five Star Jeep with the trailer, the Mercury Space Capsule, and that glorious yellow Adventure Team Helicopter. I think I'm going to need to write another post detailing these memories.
  2. 1982 - K-Mart - I'm pretty sure the GI Joe comic came out first, with the new line of action figures following soon afterward. Now I was 19 at the time and still interested in action figures. I had been collecting the Star Wars and a few others, so it was very easy for me to transition into this new size for GI Joe. KMart and Lionel Playworld were the only toy options in the area. WalMart and Toys R Us had not yet arrived in the area. Lionel was an awesome store, but KMart was the first place that I found the new GI Joe figures. I remember seeing the figures in the store and I think that I bought Rock n Roll, Stalker, Flash, and the RAM first. I promptly went out my car and opened them up, fiddling about with these new GI Joes and this new vehicle. So cool! I'm not sure which figures were still in the store, but I went back in and bought one of each of the rest of them. Hooled on the small scale GI Joe ever since.
  3. 1983 - Lionel - Lionel Playworld/Lionel Leisure City was an amazing place. When my family moved to Georgia from Florida around 1972-73, Lionel was the place for toys and hobbies.They had a huge model department that was just phenomenal. As I got older and got my drivers license, Lionel was a frequent place for me to visit, especially when GI Joe showed up. I made the note of 1983 as a key moment for Lionel because I remember the huge endcap of the new (2nd wave) of GI Joe figures. I think nearly all of the Joes were out in that first wave. Destro was not out yet, but he would be soon! To this day, at least when GI Joe had a retail presence, there was something magical about thumbing through the carded figures, making sure you saw each character that was available.
  4. 1984 - Tollbooth - Some of my readers may be familiar with my story about Tollbooth. Here's the thing, I was 19 and unattached when the ARAH line appeared. Despite being a toy nerd, I actually did find a girlfriend who would become my fiance. I think we got engaged in 1984, she would remember, I don't remember exactly. I do know our anniversary date, so my memory isn't totally shot. We got married in September of 1985, and mygirlfriend/fiance bought me an awesome gift for the Christmas of 1984. This was way before the internet and finding out what new figures were coming out for the new year. Much to my surprise, Lisa had bought me the Toss n' Cross Bridgelayer with Tollbooth. I had to marry her, right? She's been stuck with me and has stuck by me ever since!
    1. I'm going to break right here and finish up the GI Joe memories over the next few days. Feel free to add a GI Joe memory in the comments!
  5. 1985 - First Wave with Swivel Necks
  6. Terror Drome
  7. Defiant
  8. Keel Haul
  9. 12" Modern Figures
  10. New Sculpt Era
  11. 25th Anniversary boxed set
  12. Zombie Viper Wave
  13. BATs at Family Dollar
  14. Dollar General figures
  15. 50th Anniversary

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Snow Day!

Back when we lived on the south side of Atlanta, snow was a rare occurrence. Now that we're on the north side, it seems like snow will be more of an issue to deal with. A couple weeks ago, as you may know, a big storm swept across the country, swinging down into the southern states. It swept across the northern portion of Georgia, barely brushing Atlanta and the southern suburbs.

But we got some snow in Cherokee County! It was enough snow and ice to shut down schools for a couple days. Yeah, don't laugh, northern readers, we don't get snow very often!

When it snows, it's time to bring out the arctic related toys and get some pictures! One drawback... I'm older and don't feel like putting up with the cold weather for too long, so there's just a few pictures.

Monday, January 16, 2017

FSS 5.0: Cobra Viper & Charbroil

The first two figures from the GI Joe Collector's Club FSS 5.0 have been shipped!

If you don't know which figures have been released, you obviously aren't very active in any of the GI Joe pages on Facebook. Besides, what's the big surprise? Two of the previously announced figures have arrived in your mailbox. I suppose the only surprise is the order in which the figures come out and the identity of #13.

Oh, wait... I gave it away in the title of the this post... Dang it...

First up, I'll take a quick look at the Cobra Viper. Once again, the Club went with a troop builder as one of the FSS figures. I can't really blame them because named specific characters are much fewer on the Cobra side versus all of the individuals on the GI Joe team.

Honestly, when the o-ring figure that this troop is based on came out back in 1994, I wasn't very impressed. I've always been a Viper fan, but a fan of the original Viper from 1986. They rocked! I had about a dozen of those guys and I've got a dozen or so of their modern PoC/30th updates.

I'm afraid that I just don't like this guy enough to keep him. There always seems to be a few figures from each FSS that just don't get to stay. FSS 5.0 may only have this guy and one more; we'll see how Guacho turns out. Basically, I'm just not impressed with this Viper. I'm usually a strong supporter of the Club's efforts, but they don't always hit the mark. This troop misses the mark for me. Off to the secondary market; somebody out there is going to want to troop build this figure.

Next up is Charbroil. The Club previously released Charbroil as a part of the 2013 Nocturnal Fire convention set. All of the other Joes from this set were released in prior FSS sets. Charbroil finally makes it out in his original colors.
I'm quite pleased with how Charbroil turned out. He's pretty much a straight reuse of the figure that the Club came up with for the convention set, with one exception. His head.

In terms of the original o-ring figures, I was more of a fan of Blowtorch than Charbroil. Blowtorch just seemed to work better with all of his bits of gear. Charbroil just didn't work for me. The head sculpt was goofy looking, and the gear was just clumsy to me. Now with the modern figures, they've switched places. I like what the Club did to come up with Charbroil over what Hasbro did to recreate Blowtorch in the modern format. 
The Club used the Retaliation GI Joe trooper body as the base with the same web gear. The flame projection unit comes from a Torch figure from 2005. I think that was the first use of that weapon. I was away from GI Joe for a few years back then.
I suppose the drawback to this version of Charbroil is his head sculpt, or the lack of his head sculpt. The Club chose to go with the head originally used for the Para-Viper figure rather than the head sculpt they used with the Nocturnal Fire version. Damn you , Club!!! Why you no?!?!?

I have no idea why they went this route, I'm guessing it may have had to do with what parts were available, or maybe even a cost factor. I would image that a full face sculpt might cost a little more to produce over a masked head sculpt. Few paint apps needed?
I don't really care that much about this masked head. I think it looks pretty cool with the uniform. Here's a guy with tanks of jellied gasoline on his back and he wears a flame retardant hood under his helmet. Makes sense to me.
This flame projection unit is so much more superior to Blowtorch's clunky gear.
I'm quite pleased with how Charbroil turned out. The Club earned a solid hit with me for this guy. Not so much for the Viper. But here's the big question and it really goes back to Hasbro. Why have flame projection specialists? The U.S. Department of Defense pulled the flame thrower from its arsenal back in 1978. The argument that it was not as effective a weapon on the modern battlefield was one issue. With more conflicts being televised, this weapon would cause quite a bit of terror in the public eye.

I suppose Hasbro included it with several of their troops was because that, regardless of the carnage it caused, shooting out massive amounts of flame towards the enemy is pretty bad ass. 

...those zombie vipers aren't going to burn themselves! Light 'em up, Charbroil!

Woo Hoo!! FSS 5.0 has begun!! Gimmee' moar figures!!!

More FSS 5.0 reviews headed your way!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Six Months Out

Six months ago,  my life changed in quite a dramatic fashion. If you are one of the regular readers of this goofy blog, you already know what I'm talking about. 
My wife had some pictures of me on here phone that I had not seen before. This first one is pre-op and I'm ready to head into surgery.
This picture is still during pre-op, but a closer look at the IV going into my neck. This IV was in case the team needed to push a large volume of fluids into me. I suppose if things went in the wrong direction, they would be ready. Fortunately, everything went quite nicely. I also do not recall when they put this thing in my neck, I do remember being told about it and that they would medicate me so that I would be able to get through it easily. Thank you!
Post surgery and it's time to rest and begin to recover.

So what's happening now that I'm six months out from my open heart surgery? That's still weird to say and wrap my head around. I had a quadruple bypass! Don't get me wrong; I'm not crippled by post surgery anxiety. It's just... weird.

I look at life a little differently now; I've been given a reprieve of sorts. Prior to that test last year, I had no idea about what was going on in my chest. Eventually something would have happened to set this whole surgery situation in motion. The only thing that makes sense that would have set off the surgery would have been an actual coronary event. Would I have survived that event? Who knows? All I know is that I dodged the "heart attack bullet". At least for now. I hope my heart remains strong and the plumbing keeps on flowing properly.

Physically I feel pretty good. There's some physical issues related to the surgery. The sternum has healed nicely and the scar is slowly fading, but the left pectoral area is a little tender due to rerouting the mammary artery straight back to my heart. The left leg has issues at times. My saphenous vein was removed and put back to work on my heart. So that means there are circulation issues with my left leg. After long drives, my leg is stiff and achy, but it works itself out easily.

Mentally I feel fine, maybe a bit too fine. Sometimes I think about the fact that I didn't really have any serious coronary issues prior to the surgery. Something was going on, but it was relatively minor on the scale of coronary events. I find myself too easily dropping back into those old crappy dietary habits. Too much fast food and too many sugary soft drinks. I'm not planning on going cold turkey on my diet and forgoing all the stuff that's bad for you, but I can certainly do much better.

I just need to gather the necessary mental fortitude and ease up a whole lot on the junk food. It's just the right thing to do. I can still have a Mountain Dew... once in awhile. I've also got to get out there and get some regular exercise going. Walking in the neighborhood, light weight training at the school gym, there's plenty that I can do for myself.

So what's the point of all this nonsense? I suppose it's just to publicly shout out in celebration for my good health after frikkin' open heart surgery! Life is too short as it is and I have, perhaps, been given a few extra years after having one simple test. Well worth it.

Through a cool series of events, my wife and I had a chance to go to Las Vegas in early December. We were able to visit the Hoover Dam and spend a couple days in Vegas. We also made a point to take a day trip to the Grand Canyon. We have never been, so it was quite an experience. The Grand Canyon is quite breathtaking and I'm so pleased that I was healthy enough to go five months after my surgery.
One day, we would like to return, but if we don't... 
We made it once, and it was amazing.
Life is amazing; take care of yourselves.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

1/18th Scale Aliens

I'm long overdue for a special shout-out to some Twitter/Facebook friends. When word got out that I had open heart surgery this past summer, it spread into the Twitter-verse and FlagPoints Dave took it upon himself to rally the troops and collect a very nice $$ gift through PayPal. I was genuinely touched by their thoughtfulness.

**EDIT** - A very heartfelt gift... "Ba-dum tish!" Thanks, I'll be here all week!

After some consideration, I used part of the gift and decided to buy a couple figures that would fulfill a lifelong dream.
Aliens! Specifically 1/18th scaled aliens. Of course, when I use the word aliens, I specifically mean the xenomorphs from the Alien films. I have been a huge fan of those creatures since the first Alien movie back in 1979. I remember getting the 18" tall Alien for Christmas that year. I wish I still had it!

Once the small GI Joes came out in 1982, it didn't take long before I started wishing for a small scale Alien figure. I remember trying to make a custom alien out of an extra Nemesis Enforcer figure. It was horrible. 

Fast forward to maybe early 2015 and there were signs from a company called Hiya Toys that an Aliens line was moving into production. I knew, one day, I needed to get a couple of these critters.
I've only bought the two alien figures right now. I do want more and I'll eventually add to my meager collection. Been a little busy this year, you know, all that heart surgery nonsense... 
So... How are they? Holy crap, they are awesome! Just what I've wanted for 30+ years!
Both aliens that I purchased are essentially the same. Same body mold, same hands, same tubes on the back, and the same heads. These two are just different colors, with one notable change.
The Alien Lurker has a clear dome over the top of its head, very similar to the original creature from the first film. The sculpting is incredible! 
There's some amazing attention to detail with these figures. Each figure also has an impressive amount of articulation. One specific drawback, the arms are very thin a,d the elbow joints suffer for it. It's important to remember that these aren't really toys; they are designed primarily for adult collectors. I don't think they'd hold up to rough play. 
Each xenomorph comes with a few different accessories. Each comes with an egg, opened up to deliver its spawn.
There's also a facehugger ready to pounce on an unsuspecting victim.
Each alien also comes with three extra sets of hands. They seem so fragile, I haven't tried swapping out any yet.
The Alien Soldier is representative of the "bugs" from the Aliens movie from 1986. Brownish in color, they don't have the dome on the top of the head. No big deal, they're still damn cool!
Such incredible detailing! I really want more of these! Not tons, but maybe a couple more of each. Plus, there's still the Boiler and Spitter Xenomorphs. And then there's the Marines that are a part of the collection.

Plus this... $249.99... wow... Still want it... 
Here's a quick comparison shot with my first Marauder MTF figure. He's toast...

Thanks again to my Twitter/Facebook friends - you guys rock!
Dave, TZ, Rob, Page, Dan U, Chad L, Carson, Justin M, YT, & Rock