Monday, 30 December 2013

GI Joe 50th Anniversary Preview: A Brief History

In 1964, Hasbro launched a new military themed product line. GI Joe, or Government Issue Joe, was not a specific person. Instead, he was meant to represent all the regular fighting ‘’Joes’’ from all branches of the armed forces.

The first series consisted of four 12’’ figures: Action Soldier, Action Sailor, Action Marine and Action Pilot. Each came with fatigues, a hat, boots and dog tags specific to their branch of the military. In addition to the four base figures, Hasbro offered a multitude of different uniforms, gear and accessories (sold separately of course) to give your GI Joe a specialty. You could change your Action Soldier into an MP or your Action Sailor into a Shore Patrol Officer.

Although it seems commonplace for us now, a line of ‘’Dolls for boys’’ was revolutionary at the time. In fact, legend has it that someone at Hasbro coined the term ‘’Action Figure’’ to fight the perception that boys would never play with dolls. Despite this perception, sales of GI Joe surpassed all expectations the first year. Little boys loved the realistic uniforms and accessories and Hasbro rushed to keep up with demand during the Holiday shopping season.

The following years, Hasbro added more variety to the line. GI Joe was available with different skin and hair colors, he added different specialties to his repertoire, he received a vehicle with his trusty ‘’Willy’s Jeep’’, he represented all the ‘’Soldiers of the World’’ and he even became an Astronaut.

Despite all these innovations, by 1969 due in part to America’s ongoing war in Vietnam, sales of GI Joe products started to decline. Still believing in GI Joe, Hasbro distanced him from his military roots and re-launched him as an Adventurer the following year. The GI Joe Adventure Team was made up of 5 characters: Man of Action, Commander, Sea Adventurer, Land Adventurer and Air Adventurer. All had flocked ‘’life-like’’ hair and later included ‘’Kung-Fu’’ grip, moving ‘’Eagle’’ eyes and sound chips that allowed them to talk. Through this new theme, GI Joe explored the World, gained new vehicles and accessories, saved relics, captured tigers and gorillas and experienced all kinds of exciting adventures.

By 1975, GI Joe was facing stiffer competition from other toy lines. Hasbro felt that he needed a bit of a facelift. New characters like Mike Powers and Bulletman made their debuts. A year later, new enemies were introduced in the form of the Intruders. By the end of the seventies, with the cost of oil reaching historic highs, Hasbro introduced Super Joe – an 8’’ version of GI Joe. However, he failed to re-ignite the magic and shortly thereafter, Joe was gone from retail shelves.

GI Joe was far from dead. In 1982, Hasbro launched GI Joe: A Real American Hero. This new line of 3.75’’ action figures depicted a team of military specialists that battle against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the World. GI Joe and Cobra have been battling in one form or another, ever since.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Retaliation Top 10 Useful Figures For Customs - Part 2

5 –Sgt Airborne

The Retaliation 3-packs are chock full of great figures. Besides being a fun figure by his own right, Sgt Airborne can also be very useful for customs.

The torso, arms and legs are sculpted with details like pouches, armor, zippers and tabs. These parts can be useful to make an updated Wild Bill, Ace, Sky Patrol or even Payload or Star Brigade.

Airborne’s head was originally to be released with Renegades Law and Order.  Although that did not work out, I’m glad Hasbro found a way to use it. Airborne’s head is sculpted with a balaclava with openings for the eyes, nose and mouth. It is perfect to make a SWAT team member, a terrorist, a bank robber or even a snow trooper.

In summary, from head to –toe, Airborne is nothing but useful parts. They are generic enough to be versatile while still being well sculpted and detailed. Sgt Airborne is definitely worth picking up for fodder if you have a chance.

4 – Kwinn

Who is Kwinn? Only the most requested character-never-to-be-made-into-a-figure ever (His Valor vs Venom version doesn’t count). Any fan who grew up reading the original Marvel comics knows who Kwinn is since he was an important character in the first 25 issues. Enough history, Hasbro has finally released him as a figure and knocked it out of the park. Once you have one for your collection, I suggest you pick up more for your fodder bin. You won’t be disappointed.

First off, the torso and upper arms are reused from Rise of Cobra Sgt Stone. The shirt is generic enough to be used for any number of characters like Dusty, Recondo, Falcon or Duke. The sleeves are rolled up. The bare lower arms are well sculpted and the right length to work with most figures (Contrary to Sgt Stone’s original extra long arms). The hands feature the extra articulation and are bare (no gloves) as well. For me, it will be time to update some characters like Breaker, Rock & Roll and Clutch that should not have gloves.

However, Kwinn also features some new elements: his legs are sculpted with shorts. These can be used to make a Valor Vs Venom Alpine or any type of adventurer, hunter or safari explorer figure.
Kwinn also comes with a ton of gear. Some of it, like the hunting rifle and the M2, is extremely well crafted and is useful for several figures.

3 – Ultimate Duke

It is safe to say that Ultimate Duke was one of the most anticipated figures from the entire Retaliation line. It is easy to see why. The sculpting and details are excellent. The paint applications are numerous and well executed and he comes equipped with a ton of weapons as well as a new drone and a cool alternate head.
These same reasons make Ultimate Duke a cool base figure to use for customs. The legs are newly sculpted with folds and a holster on the right side. They are nice and bulky and could be used for a variety of different soldier types including desert and arctic troops. The ankles are the new ‘’rocker’’ style and include the pant detail that effectively camouflages the articulation point. The torso and upper arms are re-used from the GI Joe Trooper and are very similar to the hugely popular Cobra Shock Trooper. They are generic enough to be used in different ways yet they have the right amount of sculpted details. The forearms are new. The left forearm has a small screen/tech detail sculpted on. This would make a great, downsized version of the Sigma 6 gauntlet or could be used for several different characters like Hi-Tech, Med-Alert or updated Mainframe or Dial-Tone.

The Channing Tatum head is pretty useless in my opinion. However, the alternate head is pure gold. Originally released with the 5 POA Night Fox, the alternate head is clad with a SWAT-type helmet and goggles. I have already used this head to make an updated version of Battle Corps Beachhead, but it could also be used for Shockwave, a DEF Trooper, a SWAT officer, a SHIELD soldier or even for a new Cobra Viper.

2 – Beachhead / Snake Eyes (3-Pack)

The Pursuit of Cobra wave 3 Snake Eyes is considered by many fans to be the pinnacle of Snake Eyes. It is hard to argue with that. The ribbed shirt, the detailed pants, the working holsters and the super detailed sculpting all contribute to make that Snake Eyes a fan favorite. After he was released, Hasbro re-used the same tooling (or some of it) to make several more fan favorites like Steel Brigade Trooper, Cobra Trooper, DG Shipwreck, Stalker and Lifeline. Now, in the Retaliation line, these great parts make an appearance on a couple of figures and I could not be more pleased.

Beachhead and Snake Eyes share the same body construction. I won’t describe the re-use potential for these parts as Hasbro has already proven it by re-using so often with brilliant results. Several customizers have already used these bodies to create updated versions of the original 13 as well as various other characters.

The only thing keeping these figures from the number 1 spot on the list is the fact that the tooling was not introduced in the Retaliation line.

1 – Firefly (3-Pack)

Here we are at number 1. So what makes 3-pack Firefly worthy of the number 1 spot? Basically, every one of his parts can have multiple uses.
His head is clad in a balaclava and can be used for a ninja, a masked robber, a terrorist, a special forces operative or even a diver.

His legs are from 30th Lifeline and share some parts with the famous PoC Snake Eyes. However, they throw a new kneecap into the mix: one without kneepads. This increases the versatility of these legs in my opinion. Now we can mix and match the upper legs between Firefly and Snake Eyes to change the holsters and pockets from one to the other.

His arms are also from Lifeline and feature great, sculpted detail yet are generic enough to be used for almost any figure that needs long sleeves. The hands are fully articulated and feature no details, so they can be easily painted in flesh tones.

Then we have the newly tooled torso. It features a jacket over a shirt detail. Hasbro has already used this torso on their concept case Flint and Hit & Run. It also makes a great base for an updated Dial-Tone.
The webgear is useful as well. Any piece can be cut away or modded to make it look different. Again, I’ll cite my Dial-Tone as an example. The backpack is pretty generic and can be used to outfit practically any figure that needs one.

All in all, 3-pack Firefly packs a pretty good punch as far as customs potential. If you have a chance to pick up any extra 3-packs at a decent price, I highly recommend adding as many as you can to your fodder box.

Best of the Rest

There you have it, my top 10 most useful Retaliation figures for customs. I thought that I would mention a couple of others that could be considered the best of the rest.

A few figures Okay, I know what you’re thinking. This is OB’s first top ten list and he’s already off his rocker. How can a 5-point of articulation piece of poo poo figure be one of Retaliation’s most useful figures? Well, one answer: his head. Look around the interwebs and you’ll see that Clutch’s head has been used in several fantastic customs. It could be used for Rock & Roll, Hollow Point, a modern Clutch, private military contractors and other characters.  For good reason, the head sculpt is great and full of personality. The sunglasses and baseball cap are modern designs and the beard is very well sculpted.

Despite the body being basically worthless, the cool factor of the head and the fact that it is compatible with ME Joes makes it good enough for Clutch to get a mention on the list.

I went back and forth about including Ultimate Storm Shadow on the list. Like Red Ninja, his parts are probably only goos to make other ninjas. Although Storm Shadow features great sculpting, articulation and accessories, I chose Red Ninja over him because of the armored wrists and shinpads. These details offer something new to our fodder bins, whereas Ultimate Storm Shadow parts (although exceptionally well sculpted) are similar to what has been around since the 25th anniversary days.

And lastly, we could make the case for the Cobra Combat Ninja. Built from mostly PoC Shock Trooper parts, the CCN definitely has some some useful components. However, he doesn't offer much in the way of new elements: two heads and a helmet, so I scored him lower. However, if you come across him, don't pass him up. He is worth buying for customs or army building.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Retaliation Top 10 Useful Figures For Customs - Part 1

It’s that time of year. It’s the time to look back at the year that was and to take stock and evaluate where we are and where we are going. With the GI Joe Retaliation movie line done after 5 waves, I thought it would be a good time to look back at them and pick out which figures have cool parts to make customs from.

10 – Red Ninja
Ok, for those who think that GI Joe has too many ninjas, you can skip directly our next entry on the list :-). For those who enjoy some of the wackier elements that GI Joe offers, such as ninjas running wild, this one is for you. 

I’ll admit that Red Ninja’s parts are pretty much only reusable to make other ninjas. However, since the figure is mostly made up of Renegades Storm Shadow parts, the quality of the sculpting is among the best we have ever seen for the Joe line. The detailed folds and the armored gauntlets and shins are great and the articulation is incredible. Red Ninja parts figure prominently among the Hasbro Concept Case figures that were shown off at the last convention. 

Unfortunately, Red Ninja is lacking in the accessories department, but the quality of the figure more than makes up for it. 

09 – Agent Mouse
Mouse is the most interesting new character to come out of Retaliation Regardless of how his character was handled in the movie, his figure is chock full of useful parts. 

In my years of customizing with Modern Era Joes, one type of leg is always in short supply: legs without holsters. Mouse comes through with nicely detailed, generic full-length cargo pants with pockets.  The only downside is the kneepads. However, a bit of sandpaper and some paint will fix that in 2 minutes.

Mouse’s torso and upper arms are similarly well detailed, but generic enough that they can be used for several different types of customs. His head is youthful looking and could be used for Flash or Ace customs.
Lastly, the parts that I find the most useful (and one of the reasons that I bought so many 3-packs) are the lower arms and hands. Finally, Hasbro has given us a strong alternative to 25th Duke’s ‘’suicide wrists’’. Mouse’s lower arms are fantastically sculpted with rolled up sleeves and the hands are completely articulated with no gloves. 

8 – Ultimate Roadblock
I was not going to include Ultimate Roadblock in this list. However, the sheer number of cool Leatherneck customs hitting the web, made me take a closer look. Ultimate Roadbloack takes the best of Wave 2 Roadblock (Which is a cool figure in itself) and improves almost every aspect. For customizing purposes, RB is a great source of parts to create larger frame figures like Salvo, Bazooka, Leatherneck and even Destro.  Also, with a little sculpting putty, RB’s head can be transformed into an excellent Gung-Ho.

As far as accessories, Ultimate Roadblock has a few that can be really useful for customs. The M-2 is newly sculpted and highly detailed. It can be used to upgrade any number of Joes weapons, like Rock & Roll and Repeater. The SAW is the best rendition of that weapon that Hasbro has ever offered and can be given to a SAW Viper, Mangler or a Roadblock v2 custom.

7 – Joe Colton
Joe Colton was one of my most anticipated figures from the Retaliation line. My main reason was that I wanted a Bruce Willis action figure in my collection. However, I knew that this was a figure that I wanted multiples of as it does have a few useful parts for customs. 

First, the legs are re-used from PoC Duke. These are great ‘’all purpose’’ legs that can be used for a soldier, a civilian or a private military contractor type. Joe’s torso is similarly generic. It is sculpted to resemble a t-shirt with a harness or suspenders. The sculpt is very similar to PoC Recondo’s . However, it has the straight neck, so Joe doesn’t suffer from Recondo’s ‘’can’t-look-up-syndrome’’.  This is a big improvement to the mold.

However, like Mouse, Joe’s best feature is definitely his arms. Modern Era Joes have been lacking for well sculpted short-sleeved arms with bare hands. I have been looking forward to fixing or improving some older 25th anniversary figures like Tele-Vipers, Recondo and others with proper arms. Colton finally gives us the necessary parts.

Lastly, I don’t usually buy fodder figures for accessories, but Colton includes an excellent newly sculpted shotgun that can also be very useful.

6 – Cobra Commander
Cobra Commander is a figure that was not initially well received by the fandom.  Unfortunately, some wave 1 figures had reduced articulation and the good Commander was one of them. However, if we look past the lack of ankle articulation, the figure can actually be quite useful for customs.

The torso is sculpted as a vest over a shirt. It has with pockets and tabs that add some nice detail. I recently used a Cobra Commander torso to make an updated Crimson Guard.

The legs have kneepads adorned with cobra logos. These are a nice detail and can easily be used for a wide range of Cobra characters. Personally, I have used these legs on my Valor vs Venom Vipers. Speaking of which, these Vipers are an example of a possible use of the head as well.

Also, with a few accessory swaps and a new head, we get a very easy Crimson Shadow Guard.
So, all in all, despite the lack of a couple of points of articulation, Cobra Commander offers up some new types of parts that can be useful.

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow!


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and happy Holidays to all GI Joe fans. Enjoy time with your family and friends. This time of year is about good food and good company. It is a time to create new happy memories and relive old ones.

Personally, I always get nostalgic at this time of year. I have fond childhood memories of spending Christmas at my Grandparents every year. Since they lived about 4 hours away, we would make the trip and spend several days at their home during the holiday break. The whole extended family would come over on Christmas eve. For me, it was a chance to see aunts, uncles and cousins that I did not get to see much during the year. Around midnight, we would gather around the tree and fireplace and hand out the presents. Since there were at least 35-40 of us in the family, unwrapping presents was a crazy affair. Wrapping paper, boxes and ribbon flew in all directions. People were laughing and talking and singing and drinking.

After it was all over, we would sit down to a giant supper table and enjoy my Grandmother's cooking. She would cook and bake for days and weeks before Christmas. At midnight on Christmas eve, she would set out the turkey, stuffing, cookies, ham, fudge, sugar pie, meat pie and everything else she had lovingly made for us and we enjoyed our feast. Of course, I would just have a quick bite bite so I could run off and play with whatever toys Santa had brought me that year. I have fond memories of unwrapping a GI Joe Headquarters (from 1983), a Wolverine, a Polar Battle Bear with Snow Job and a few years later, Shipwreck, Barbecue and Alpine.

I remember staring at all these toys (and many more) for hours in the old Sears Wishbook and Consumers Distributing catalog. One of the magical aspects of the internet is being able to find all of these old catalogs online and reliving some memories.

With GI Joe's 50th anniversary coming up soon and the Tribute starting January 1st, I thought it would be fun to post some old catalog scans that may reignite the nostalgia.

Enjoy and be safe for the Holidays!