Tuesday, February 18, 2014

G.I. Joe: 50th Anniversary - My Thoughts

"Bittersweet (adj) - arousing pleasure tinged with sadness or pain."

My custom 12" Joes - loosely based on the ARAH characters.
Well, I'm not "aroused" but I do appreciate the term bittersweet in relation to the news of Hasbro's offerings for the 50th Anniversary of G.I. Joe. Word finally spread on Saturday, February 15th, as fans who were in attendance at the 2014 Toy Fair began to share the news from the Hasbro promotion during Toy Fair.
A group shot of my original 3 3/4" collection characters
There had been a few rumors circulating around the web that there would be no new product for G.I. Joe this year. Seriously? For the 50th Anniversary of such an iconic brand? Thankfully, new product was revealed and a great sigh of relief spread across the G.I. Joe community. But was it really relief? Maybe yes, maybe no.

I think I'll start by just sharing my thoughts in regards to the "new" product that will be Toys "R" Us exclusive product. Wait, no Walmart or Target support? What the hell? As I've grown older, I'm less inclined to pursue other action figures as something to collect and spend money on. Going through some serious debt issues a few years ago helps me to be a little less impulsive when it comes to spending money. So in the terms of any extra funds that would have been distributed between Toys"R"Us, Walmart, and Target in relation to G.I. Joe, Walmart and Target can just kiss my ass.

There seems to be three different types of items that will be available for G.I. Joe - 2-packs, 3-packs, and vehicle/figure sets. the following pictures are from the Hasbro press release and I'm just going to comment based on the way I uploaded them - nothing particular about the sequence of the pictures.
First up is an arctic based 2-pack featuring Snow-Job and an "arctic" BAT. Snow Job looks to be a straight re-release of the Pursuit of Cobra figure. Awesome figure, but I never bought him the first time and I don't really want him now. The BAT is a repaint of the original 25th (ARAH) anniversary BAT. Damn fine figure, holds up very well to the most recent G.I. Joe figures, but I have a couple dozen BATs that I picked up for cheap when they were on close-out at Family Dollar several years ago. No big loss if I don't pick up this set.
Next up is a COBRA Wolf w/ Ice Viper and an arctic Sky Hawk w/ Snake Eyes. Kind of on the fence with this one. I liked the Wolf originally, but it was never a huge favorite; good opponent for a Snow-Cat, though. The Sky Hawk is just a repaint and I think there's some new stuff about Snake Eyes. Oh swell, another Snake Eyes. This will probably be a pass.
This vehicle set looks pretty decent. It's a VAMP mk2 w/ Flint and the mythical Night Landing set w/ a COBRA Eel. Flint comes from Hasbro's concept case from a couple years ago and looks pretty decent. There's been a rumor going around that this may be a Comic Con exclusive. We'll see, maybe not though.
This is pretty much a repeat of the previous set with just new colors for everything. Sigh... Couldn't there have been just a little more variation to this? Depending on how Flint dresses determines which VAMP he'll be driving tonight?
Another 2-pack - Blowtorch and the HEAT Viper from the concept case. Sorry, but Blowtorch sucks. The HEAT Viper is from the previously mentioned Hasbro concept case. I've always liked the HEAT Viper and bought a bunch of the originals back in 1989. I don't see myself troop building the HEAT Viper because I sure as hell don't want to troop build Blowtorch.
Lowlight and a Night Viper - two snipers. Nice concept, but I don't care too much. I've got this version of Lowlight and I'm not overly impressed with the Night Viper, especially in these colors.
Lady Jaye and the Baroness - pretty cool match up. Lady Jaye is from the concept case and Baroness is from the 2nd COBRA 5-pack. She was a bit tougher to find for some collectors. This version of the Baroness is probably the best version to date. Lady Jaye looks a little more combat ready and has at least buttoned up her shirt a little more.
Three-pack! Leatherneck, Destro, and General Hawk. Leatherneck makes use of the Retaliation battle-kata Roadblock body with excellent results. Destro looks to be a brand new figure featuring an angular sculpted helmet/mask/whatever. Hawk is just a re-release of the PoC Hawk - a damn fine figure, but nothing really new. I'm excited by this set, primarily for Leatherneck. The Hawk figure is a great base figure for customs as well.
Almost a troop builder set, but not quite. This version of Beach Head is another offering from the concept case and he's a great update to the character in his traditional uniform colors. Not much new to him, though - maybe a new head? So there's also a COBRA trooper and a Viper. You know, I really dig that COBRA trooper, but I've got a bunch of them. I have 18 of this color, 12 of the black uniforms, and 12 of the lighter blue uniforms from the basic assortment "Dollar General" figures. I have enough. As for Vipers, I've got 14 of them and I really don't need any more. What's up with the color choices for this Viper? Damn, he sucks.

And that's it... Just these few offerings to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of G.I. Joe. Well, there's some new Kre-O toys coming out, but Kre-O is a non-issue to me. Kre-O is Hasbro's answer to Lego and there's a line featuring G.I. Joe characters and vehicles. They look cool enough, but I'm just not going there; I'm just personally sticking with the action figures. But if G.I. Joe's success lies in the world of Kre-O - that would be excellent. As long as G.I. Joe is out there in some form, I'm happy.

Maybe there is more to come at Joecon this year. I'm hopeful, but doubtful.

So there are a few gems in this "exciting" line-up of product from Hasbro celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the G.I. Joe brand - the brand that may have saved their asses, not once, but twice. I get it, the original 12" G.I. Joe is probably gone and may never again be on toy shelves. That's fine (kind of), kids have changed, costs have risen, and boy's toys have changed drastically since the original G.I. Joe.

This 50th Anniversary series just seems to be an act of laziness on the part of Hasbro. All of this crap that I'm writing is largely my own opinion, maybe with a little bit of influence from other online sources. I've really tried to limit myself to other fan's thoughts until after I get my own thoughts down here in my blog of little consequence.

A couple months ago, I stumbled across Oreobuilder's Blog and was simply blown away. I don't know who the guy behind the name Oreobuilder is, I only know that he's a customizer from the Joecustoms website. I think... Anyway, he showcased his work for a salute to the 50th Anniversary of G.I. Joe that was just simply amazing. I actually had to go through every single post in his blog just to marvel at his quality work. I would encourage my faithful reader(s) to go through OB's blog and just enjoy. My point in discussing Oreobuilder's blog is that he did an extraordinary amount of work in creating a tribute to the original G.I. Joe that could have been duplicated by Hasbro had they really put some thought and planning into the anniversary of such an important piece of Hasbro's history.

Sure, Oreobuilder went huge and covered vast amounts of the history of the 12" G.I. Joe, but Hasbro could have easily done something much more simply by just recreating the original G.I. Joe head sculpt in the 4" figure scale. That's all that was needed. Based on Oreobuilder's work, there's enough body types and styles that could have easily been translated into maybe a modern update to the G.I. Joe 30th Anniversary sets from 1994. Just one five pack of figures that hearkened back to the original G.I. Joe. Was that too much to ask? Apparently so.

My limited understanding is that the G.I. Joe design team at Hasbro is practically wiped out. That's too bad and it's a damn shame. I know the world has changed since the huge green G.I. Joe valley in the Sears toy departments from the 1960's and the massive wall of G.I. Joe product at Toys"R"Us in the mid 1980's. Those days are gone and G.I. Joe may never again rise to such prominence, and that's okay, I guess. 

But G.I. Joe needs to be somewhere. G.I. Joe represents so much that is good and noble about courage and honor and the service and sacrifice of those serving in the military. Maybe there's just a larger cultural issue at play here in which children are being dumbed down in regards to courage and honor. In an entitlement society, courage and honor have no place.

I really don't know where I'm going with this whole post. I guess I'm just rambling about - hence the blog's name? I'm just disappointed in Hasbro for this half-assed (my opinion) attempt at G.I. Joe's 50th Anniversary. Sure, collectors are the key driving force behind G.I. Joe's success right now, but I just wonder how many more G.I. Joe fans could have been brought on board through a series of figures that connected back to the original G.I. Joe?

So what's your spin on this whole G.I. Joe 50th anniversary deal? Well thought out, pro or con comments are encouraged, bullshit nonsense comments will be ridiculed.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Retaliation Review: Blind Master & Jinx

Let's take a quick look at the elusive Jinx and Blind Master figures from the Retaliation line. These figures are very difficult to find in the wild and generally sell out quickly with online retailers. I was able to secure both and am finally getting around to posting my thoughts. I don't feel like reordering my pictures into any logical sense, so I'll just comment on the pics based on the way I uploaded them.  
The Retaliation Jinx figure is a straight repaint of the Jinx figure from the SDCC exclusive from a couple years ago. It's not a bad figure and fairly predictable that Hasbro would just reuse the same mold. The black straps are just paint apps, nothing sculpted. 
What the hell is this supposed to be? Apparently, this is the Blind Master's hat? Or is it a shield? Either way, it's pretty bizarre. 
Really? Blades that spring out from the sides? This thing is just crazy - off to the storage bin.
Now the actual Blind Master figure is pretty damn cool There's some intricate paint detailing all over him. The body is a reuse of what has become the standard ninja body first used (I think) with the Renegades Storm Shadow figure. The skirt piece comes from a Rise of Cobra Stormy and fits nicely into the gap at the waist. While the figure looks great, the skirt does inhibit the figure from assuming any serious action ninja poses.
The head sculpt is extremely well done; great attention to detail and excellent paint apps.

This odd weapon case comes with Jinx. I really haven't messed around with it too much, but it follows the concept of the various other accessories involving the mountain rope-line battle. The case also acts as a great way to store some of the tinier ninja weapons.
What the hell? A huge funky Kung-Fu sword and some weird circle-blade on a rope thing. Yeah, whatever.
There's nothing for the empty holster on the skirt piece, so I obliged and gave the Blind Master a pistol. Why not?
Back to Snake Eyes. I don't think that I've ever discussed this version of Snake Eyes. Maybe I have and just don't remember. The fact is that this is a bad-ass figure of Snake Eyes. The sculpting of the entire figure is just amazing, very movie accurate. But I prefer this version of Snake Eyes as my default version, so the Retaliation Snake Eyes doesn't get out much.
Three Jinxes, all lined up for comparison. Same body, same head on two of them.
Movie Jinx body with SDCC Jinx head - not bad, it works.

I'll have to say that the Blind Master figure is a little better than the movie Jinx figure. Both are decent enough, but Blind Master just looks a little better with all of the detailed paint apps. If I had missed them and had never picked them up, I think I would have survived.

Random stuff - part whatever

A few weeks ago, I managed to get a few minutes to take some various pictures of some various figures in my weird collections. I just thought that I would post a few and just share some random comments.
This is such a damn cool update of Bossk. Hasbro really scored big with him. The only issue would be the wish for better hip articulation, but he's really just fine the way he is. Maybe some wrist artic might have helped a little? The overall sculpting is just really well done.
Look at that face! Such a charming gentleman as he rips out your throat!
Storm Shadow from one of the Retaliation 3 packs. At this point, I was so tired of the multiple versions of Stormy. Plus this costume is just weird. But this is really a damn fine figure. Awesome articulation: wrists, double knee joints, pivot feet, all the bells and whistles for a modern Joe figure. But does he have to be Storm Shadow? The Renegades version has become my default version, so this guy is going to be... someone else. Don't know yet, just too cool of a figure to keep stored away.
This is probably the best figure that Playmates produced in the entire run of their various Star Trek lines from the 1990's. Sure, they did some decent aliens, but Species 8472 was probably the best sculpted figure from the line. The attention to detail is incredible. Okay, not much articulation, but it's pretty damn cool.
One of the recent Hulk figures from the Marvel Universe series. A non Avengers movie Hulk that looks a whole lot better than the movie version of the Hulk.
The Hulk from the "Planet Hulk" story line from Marvel. Apparently, the good guys were tired of Hulk's shit and sent him out into space. He landed on some primeval planet and he kicked copious amounts of ass. I guess. He looks pretty damn cool, that's all I care about.
Tartarus from the Halo series. I don't know which Halo game he is from, all I know is that he's a damn cool figure. I think he's a little large when compared to Joe figures, but who cares, he works well enough. I picked him up at Ross a few years ago, maybe for $4.99 or $5.99? Didn't matter, decent price, bought him anyway.
These two guys - viper what-evers from the Rise of Cobra series. There is some potential here because the helmets are just so oddly cool. Weird organic-ish armor. There's some custom potential here maybe? We'll see.
Speaking of custom potential, I salvaged a Neo-Viper's head from the Rise of Cobra line. While there were some significant figures from this line, the Neo-Viper was sort of odd. The vest was bulky and the hands were just odd in their construction. But that helmet - so damn cool.
The helmet works pretty well on money-bags Destro's torso. Maybe an armored HEAT or SAW viper? Sure, why not?
This is supposed to be Zartan from the Retaliation line. He looks more like Zartan from Renegades. Hasbro dropped the ball on Zartan from Retaliation. Well, what were they supposed to do? make a figure of Jonathan Pryce? Sure, why not?

Even with the limited articulation of this figure, he's still pretty cool in a creepy sort of way. With all the shady, sketchy characters that Cobra attracts, I'm sure that this guy can be somebody else besides Zartan. He looks like an assassin so... I don't know, I'll have to think on it for a while.
Okay, here's a weirdo for you. Years and years ago, Hasbro had a Star Wars club exclusive cantina band member. He came with a bunch of assorted instruments so if you bought a bunch, you could make the whole band. And sure, they were going to be valuable one day, right? Yeah, whatever. I dug out one and decided to chop him up. I drilled out the neck and trimmed the wrists so everything would work with this Storm Shadow body from Rise of Cobra. So who is he... or what is he? Inter-dimensional traveler or stranded alien stuck on Earth working for Cobra. Sure, why not?
Drednoks - over-rated and I'm tired of them. I really dig the straight up conflict between GI Joe and Cobra and just got tired of the Drednoks. For the longest time, I only had the original three in their modern forms. Monkeywrench was a late add-on through a Walmart exclusive set back in the RoC days and I never was really interested enough in the 'Noks for the BBTS set.

I was messing around one day and randomly tried Buzzer's head on an extra Doctor Rex body. I've used a bunch of them as Cobra's demented research staff. The head sculpt actually looks pretty good on the body. So my back story is that Buzzer survived Cobra's Drednok purge and was eventually recruited into Dr. Mindbender's team of scientists. Hell, he's got a college degree, doesn't he? After a couple spins in the brainwave modification unit, Buzzer's violent tendencies were suppressed and his creepy brilliance in behavioral sciences was allowed to flourish.
Serpentor - sigh... What a weird character. But you've got to take the weird shit with the military stuff. The sci-fi element has always been a cool part of the GI Joe/Cobra conflict. But I like the concept of Serpentor, so how can I spin him? I like the idea of Serpentor being a figurehead of Cobra, sort of the public face of Cobra. He's the primary spokesman in his loud, outlandish costume. He harangues the audience of the United Nations worse than any other dictatorial whack-job. But he can not rebel against Cobra Commander. After that first "incident," Cobra Commander had Mindbender recreate Serpentor to be genetically unable to rebel against CC. He is helpless before Cobra Commander and, ultimately, supremely loyal to him. 
Gizmo from Gremlins such because he's cool.