Friday, November 28, 2014

The Dilemma of Discounted GI Joe

Discounted toy lines are a fact, I understand that. It happens all the time. Toy sales slow down and it's time to make room for the new stuff. No problem, I get it. Kay-Bee Toys and/or Toy Liquidators were some of the earlier stores that I remember throughout much of my adult collecting years. Although Kay-Bee had some "questionable" markdowns at times.

I know the GI Joe line has gone through those pains as well and I get it, I really do. One of the biggest events in recent memories was the Rise of Cobra disaster. Stores were flooded with merchandise, mostly the first wave of somewhat mediocre figures. Later waves showed much more promise, but it really couldn't save the faltering sales. 

Even before RoC, the line suffered due to lack of sales. The later waves of the 25th Anniversary figures, including the few Resolute single figures, made their way to stores like Family Dollar and an odd little regional chain called Ollie's. Oh, I loaded up on those cheap BATs found at Family Dollar. Ollie's was a mythical place to me, many states away, never to be visited.

(Just a reminder, I'm a hack. This crap is based mostly on stuff I've read over the years and my own opinion. For what it's worth.)

Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshall's turned into treasure troves as extra and unreleased RoC merchandise flooded those discounted chains. It was a wonderful time to be a GI Joe collector despite cries of "Deth of teh line" from across the fandom.

GI Joe recovered somewhat with the release of the Pursuit of Cobra and 30th Anniversary waves of figures. The vehicles didn't fare too well and the few that were released were often found at the discount chains not too long after the release in the big box stores.

Sometime during the course of this retail nonsense, a new store appeared - Five Below. Nothing in the store was sold at a cost over $5.00. Nothing. 

I checked it out, thought that they had some pretty cool stuff, but nothing of real interest. I thought to myself, "If they ever get GI Joe figures, I'm screwed."

And eventually, they did...

I actually found out about GI Joe showing up at Five Below from the "What's on Joe Mind" podcast. The crew reported that there had been some sightings of Joe figures at Five Below sporadically across the country. As soon as I could, I hit my local store, and there at the front of the store was a wheel-barrow loaded down with brand new Wave 4 GI Joe Retaliation figures. You know, the Night Viper wave? I should have whipped out the credit card and bought every damn one of those figures - for two reasons - to help out a few Joe buds online and make some serious profit on the 'Bay.

But I didn't. I bought just a few, meaning to come back later. Once I did, the Night Vipers were cleaned out.

Sometime during the past year, Ollie's makes its way into my area. Once I saw this "new" store, I remembered those tales from before.

I stopped by a while back and noted that the store was getting in the smaller vehicles and those lame-ass 12" figures. Were the 4" figures on the horizon?

Sure enough, the ad came out for this year's Black Friday sales and there they were - the action figures on sale for $3.99 each! Damn!! As I read the ad, I began to consider if I really needed more figures. This was an awesome wave with some really amazing figures.

I really only would have bought some of the Cobra Combat Ninja Troopers and maybe a few of the "Ultimate" Duke figures - both of which were great as troop builders. The more I thought about them, the less I discovered that I cared.

The Cobra Trooper was nothing really impressive. The figure was actually kind of lackluster to me. I just wasn't impressed. Same goes for the Duke figure. Awesome load-out of gear and the figure looks great, but it really suffered due to the bulky vest and the bulky arms inhibiting arm movement.

Would it really be worth it to get up and on the road at around 4:30 this morning? Brave the cold and the idiot crowds out there? Hadn't I learned anything from my nine plus years at Walmart? Ultimately, I decided that I really didn't need more figures and I slept in and I'm okay with that. 

Tomorrow, I've got to take the dog to Pet Smart to get her nails trimmed. Maybe I'll swing by and see if there's anything left. Or maybe not.

I want to go back to my original point about discounted toy lines. I get it, I really do. I'm sure collectors were jumping all over these figures and I don't blame them at all.

This discounted line is different, this one hurts a little bit more. These amazing figures barely had a chance at stores like Walmart and Target. Both of those stores dropped the line before these waves had a chance to show up. Toys R Us was the only "loyal" retailer - sort of. They usually had a shitty location on the side counter for GI Joe, even the 50th Anniversary exclusive line. Hell, I was buying some of this wave of figures from Walgreen's and Rite-Aid.

Somewhere, someone really screwed up GI Joe. Was it the big box stores? Were they burned by the overstock from Rise of Cobra and the scheduling screw up of Retaliation? Had Hasbro lost confidence in their flagship line that saved their corporate asses at least twice in the past 50 years? How does a line go almost from the warehouse to the discounter?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but these discounted GI Joe figures seems to be a pretty crappy end to the 50th Birthday of GI Joe.

Happy freakin' birthday, GI Joe. Dammit.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Power Team Elite A-10

I want this! 
The A-10 has always been one of my favorite combat aircraft. It is so awesome in its kinda' ugly appearance.

I've never seen one out in the wild during the Christmas season at Big Lots. I've pretty much restricted myself to primarily figures and small vehicles as well these days. But if I ever find one of these, I'll make an exception. 

Power Team Elite Command Post

I have wanted this set for years! Every time I'd go by Big Lots at the beginning of the Christmas season, I would be just a little too late. I was always missing this set. I picked up the Battlefield set several years ago and always wanted to add this to my collection.

This isn't a new item; these have been coming out for years. I don't know when they first arrived in stores. It's kind of a drag that they are only available at Big Lots around Christmas, but I suppose that makes them a little more special. 

Besides, where else can you find accessories of this quality for your action figure collection? 

The set comes with the big building and loads of accessories. I think there's around six of the PTE figures included as well. They've gone off to their storage container. 

There's barricades, crates, ammo boxes, barrels, and all sorts of cool bits and pieces.

I picked up the Military Buggy just a day or so ago. I've had the Command Post for a few weeks, but have been just too busy to really mess around with it.

Duke gets ready to head off on a quick recon mission. Roadblock offers a few words of advice.
These are my custom GI Joe troopers. I like the Retaliation GI Joe troopers and the "HALO" helmets are cool, but they just seem a little bit too small for a real human head to fit into. A couple extra Tripwire figures and some vest swaps and I've got a couple new troopers.

The inside of the Command Post is rather non-descript, but still very cool. Loads of potential, especially for the more talented customizer.
The table and chairs, map board, and the small black laptop are also parts of this set. The locker in the background didn't come with this set; it comes with a smaller set that includes a set of bunk bed cots. Very cool!

Along the top of the building, there's a great area for gear storage and troops to stand and keep watch.

There aren't any sidewalls in the building, but that's just fine. There has to be access points for kids to reach their hands into (even my big hands!).

Even when GI Joe still had a retail presence in the past few years, the Power Team Elite collection has always been a welcome complement to most collector's collections. The various vehicles and odd bits of gear just work great with GI Joe figures. Sure, the PTE figures are pretty low quality, but that's okay too. 

This has been a "grail" piece for me for the past few years. If I had the extra $$$, I would load up on so much more. The main battle tank looks great. There's an awesome F-18 (or is it an F-16) that is really tempting. PTE also makes or made an A-10 - I WANT THAT!! Plus, there's trucks and watch towers and boats and armored personnel carriers and more and more and more.

I highly recommend Power Team Elite stuff!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

GI Joe 50th: Social Clash Review

The last review of the 50th Anniversary of GI Joe...

I'm done. Finished. That's it, game over. This set was the last piece of the "amazing" 50th Anniversary collection that I wanted. It finally arrived in the mail today after ordering it 11 days ago. Toys R Us did their part; UPS and USPS screwed it up from there.

Social Clash... Two female characters and it's called "Social Clash." That just seems a bit weird to me; i don't know why, but it's just weird. 

Packaging? Kinda' "meh." Same basic graphics from the standard 50th stuff. Slick graphics, but still ultimately a lie, since the packaging implies a 50th anniversary of these characters and not the entire freaking brand.

Man, I need to stop, I don't need to go off on another rant on the botched handling of GI Joe's 50th Birthday. Again, I don't see it as the 50th Anniversary of the original GI Joe, it's the 50th birthday of the whole freaking brand. 

But Hasbro really screwed the pooch on this one. They could have made some nice bank if there had been at least some kind of nod to the original Joe, even in 3 3/4" scale. Okay, stop it... Let's move forward.

The choice of Lady Jaye and the Baroness is just fine and dandy for this set. Sure, why not? Set two of the most popular female characters against each other in the two-pack. Yeah, great!

But the execution is a bit lacking. Even though I've been a GI Joe fan for pretty much my entire life, I can't claim to be an authority on much of anything related to specifics of GI Joe, regardless of the era of the line. If you want some amazing, knowledgeable reviews or content, go to GeneralsJoes, 3D-Joes,, Vintage 3D-Joes, AT GI Joe,  to name just a very few. Me? I'm just a fan with his own opinions and thoughts. Right or wrong, that's about all I can offer.
Let's start with the good, before we get to the ugly. There's a decent load of gear with these two figures. Loads of weapons as well as some very odd bits and pieces. I especially like the two painted weapons that, I assume, come with Lady Jaye. The FN Scar is always an awesome weapon. The fully painted versions that came with the Retaliation Lady Jaye kick solid ass. I know there's a specific name for the M-16-ish variant weapon that's painted with green highlights, but I don't know what it is specifically called. It's still bad-ass in painted form, much like the one that came with RET Jaye. 
Lady Jaye is actually a pretty solid figure. The head sculpt... Uh, let's get there later. The actual figure is damn fine. I think the upper body is from the Lady Jaye from the second boxed set of five figures. I'm not sure where the legs originated, but they work.

I much prefer the head sculpt that came with versions 7 and 8. I think the crew at Hasbro did a much better job with the head sculpt. I really don't care about a Lady Jaye with a hat on her head.

The hands seem decent enough; I haven't really tried many weapons poses yet with this figure. Time will tell.

Now let's move to the Baroness. Just damn. She's actually a straight reuse of Baroness V12, which is a damn fine figure. The body sculpt is exceptional and the head sculpt just rocks as well. But something just didn't work with the reuse for the 50th Anniversary version.

The plastic is a bit too soft and the paint apps, like much of the 50th line, are a bit sloppy.

And what's with those lame ass accessories? Yeah, she's holding a bigger rifle, but these other bits on her side of the package just really suck. There's no other way to describe them; they suck.

Rise of Cobra weapons? Seriously? Both pistols have pegs on their sides for mounting in the holes on the Rise of Cobra Baroness' legs. And does this new version have these holes? Nope.

Seriously, look at this crap. An empty case and a grappling hook w/ platform that worked with that weird-ass RoC flying thing.

I never bought one of those and I really don't have any regrets.

Let's take a look at these lovely ladies up close, shall we?

The Baroness is just a bit odd. I've seen other examples of this particular figure and I've got to say, I got off easy.

The paint apps are pretty decent.

The only odd bit is just the little dash of lipstick (I guess) on her lower lip.

Or is she sticking her tongue out at all of us?

I'm reminded of an obscure Monty Python track from the "Matching Tie & Handkerchief" album. It was on side three of the album. Yes, I said side three of the vinyl album. Don't believe me? Go look it up.

Anyway, the skit was called "First World War Noises" and had two soldiers talking in the trenches during the war. 

The key part of the bit went like this:

Sergeant: You married sir?
Officer: Yes, yes, rather. Did I ever show that picture of my wife, Sarge?
Sergeant: Ah, no sir.
Officer: Where is the damn thing? Yes, here we are. Pretty nice, eh?
Sergeant: Ah, a bit ugly though, sir.
Officer: Ugly?
Sergeant: You know, I mean, not attractive to men, sir.
Officer: Well, I suppose that's rather a matter of taste, Sarge.
Sergeant: Oh no, no, she's ugly sir.
Officer: Its not a very good picture actually, it makes her nose look too big.
Sergeant: No, the nose is alright; it's the eyes.
Officer: What's wrong?
Sergeant: Well, they're crooked sir.
Officer: They're not crooked.

It's the eyes... They're crooked... <sigh>

I think the head sculpt is actually pretty damn good. The biggest problem is that the head was molded in brown plastic, thereby relying on a paint job for the skin. Unfortunately, the paint job gives her the complexion of Tammy Faye Baker on a non-crying, good day. No, I can't go there. She was ultimately a decent sort and fought the good fight against cancer. 

Anyway, Lady Jaye just looks like she has too much make up on. And those eyes... Yes, they are crooked. I think they are well painted, but they are just so off. There's probably a medical term for someone with wide set eyes like this. I had a friend who's eyes were a bit more wide set than usual. Don't know what is is, but, sorry, I really didn't expect it on my my action figures.

Hasbro's quality control just sucks with a large part of the 50th Anniversary "collection".

Final opinion on this set? Decent enough, but not terribly exciting. Lackluster, that's about all I can say.

The Baroness will probably get a new head, since I already have the stellar original version of the figure.

Lady Jaye? Don't know yet. The body sculpt and the web gear really kick ass and I'm interested to see what some head swaps will do. I really don't see that weird head staying with this figure.

The final tally for the 50th Anniversary collection - 

"The Eagles Edge" with Hawk, Leatherneck, and Destro
Beach Head from "The Viper's Pit"
"Social Clash" with Lady Jaye and Baroness

That's it, I'm done.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ultimate Storm Shadow

Has anybody else out there thought that this blog died? Besides me? Just been busy as crap lately. Enough whining, let's get to a new review. 
I'm actually quite sick and tired of Storm Shadow. Don't get me wrong, I'm kinda tired of Snake Eyes as well. They are both so over exposed. But they are prime characters in the GI Joe mythos, so they are tough to avoid. 
I never really cared about picking up Ultimate Storm Shadow until an odd unique opportunity arose. I had recently picked up a Night Viper from 5 Below and posted the find on a Facebook page. I got a message from someone wondering if I would trade for Stormy. 
What the hell, why not? Looked like a decent enough figure and I really didn't need the Night Viper. 
I've got to say that I'm pleased with this figure. Not bad, very good actually. Very much a traditional Storm Shadow based on the original o-ring figure. 
He's loaded with weapons, probably the same as the Renegades version.
I'm guessing that there really isn't much new about this figure. The head sculpt is probably from some other figure. I don't know, but it works, so who cares? There's also an unmasked Stormy head from Retaliation which works just fine. 
I like this head sculpt but have always preferred Stormy to be masked so I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this head. 
Oh yeah, one more thing...
What the hell is this supposed to be? Some sort of non-backpack flying thing that spins him around like a crazy ninja. WTH? Whatever. I really don't care. Maybe I'll find a use for it as background crap. Or it will get tossed. It's kinda stupid. 
In general, I'm pleased with this version of Storm Shadow. If I had never got him, I would be just fine, but he's a welcome addition to my collection. 
I'm content with using either this guy or Renegades Stormy as my default version. You know, when it's cold, he needs to roll those sleeves down.