Thursday, July 19, 2007

Playin’ in the sandbox: 25th Anniversary GI Joes part 1

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"Teaching you how not to kill yourself since 1982"

To continue with my trend of reviewing figures based on 1980's properties, I decided to cover one of the most sucessful lines ever. So sucessful, that it's survived in some form or another for the past 25 years.

I'm speaking of course of GI Joe: Real American Hero. While the GI Joe license has been around since the 60's, RAH didn't come onto the scene until 1982. Hasbro borrowed heavily from Kenner's monster Star Wars line, by choosing 3 3/4 inch action figures, and appropriately sized vehicles and playsets. But the Joes would need something else to make them stand out among a sea of action figures, and that's where Larry Hama came in.

Hama had been flying under the radar at Marvel Comics as a mid-level writer, and had recently pitched an idea to his superiors about a comic centering around an elite special mission force, only to have it rejected. When Hasbro came knocking, looking to Marvel for a comic to support the toyline, Hama was the guy that drew the short straw, due to the fact that every other writer in the company had turned it down.

Hama used his rejected idea as a backstory for the Joes, and based the characters on people he had met during his tour of duty in Vietnam. Hasbro was so impressed with Hama's work, they asked him to flesh out each character bio on the figure packaging, in the form of dossier cards, which kids could cut out and save. The rest as they say, is history.

With all that in mind, I was more than a little excited when I learned that Hasbro would pay tribute to the line, in special 25th anniversary figures. Now I should preface but saying these aren't re-releases of earlier figures, but rather all new sculpts loosely based on the original figures.

First up, we take a look at one of the more iconic characters not only in the GI Joe universe, but in pop culture itself.

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Good old Double C himself, the raspy voiced comedic foil, Cobra Commander. First thing you'll notice, is that Hasbro pulled out all the stops here, recreating the original packaging down to the smallest detail. In fact the only noticeable difference is a silver tint to the stripes, and the 25th anniversary logo in the right hand corner.

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Accessory-wise, Cobra Commander isn't going to blow you away. He comes with a sidearm, and a base, and yes, the old school cut out dossier card. Not really an issue for me, because the Cobra Commander wasn't known for wielding a ton of weapons. Not only do these differ in appearance from the original line, but the plastic and articulation are also different. If you recall, the original line had a more metallic feel, and a slight heavyness to them. That's no longer the case, as these have a much lighter plastic material. Also, the famous O-ring used to connect the figure at the waist is gone, since the entire torso is now one solid piece.

This is only one version of Cobra Commander. There is another in Cobra five pack, where he's wearing his helmet and faceplate. Depending on your preference, you lean more toward that one.

Up next is one my hands down favorite GI Joe character ever.

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The stealth ninja Snake Eyes was a fan favorite of a lot of boys during the line's peak, and to this day, he has maintained a loyal fan base. Again, like CC, the packaging is virtually unchanged.

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Now while Cobra Commander lacked in accessories, Snake Eyes does a lot better. In an effort to recreate the original figure, Hasbro included his pet wolf Timber, who I have to admit, I know little about, but he is a nice bonus. Snake Eyes also comes with his trademark kitana sword, and uzi, and a hunting knife, in addition to the base and dossier card. Much like the original line, the hands on these guys are pre-sculpted so they should be able to hold their weapons easily.

Again, like Cobra Commander, there is another version of Snake Eyes in a five pack boxed set, in a more familiar look.

So I got Snake Eyes, and you can't have Snake Eyes without this guy:

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Now this version of Storm Shadow features his look when he was a part of GI Joe. Again, like the other two, there is another version of Storm Shadow in a five pack, that version in his Cobra gear.

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Storm Shadow blows the other two figure away in the accessory department, because he has a bunch of them. He comes with two kitana swords, a knife, a bow and arrow, and of course the base and dossier card. If you're up to it, he has a quiver, and duel scabbards on his back that are also removable.

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The back of the packaging hints at future waves with silhouettes, and a cursory glance will tell you we're getting another Snake Eyes, Serpentor, and Ship Wreck at some point. And if I were a betting man, I'd put money on there being some vehicles and playsets on the horizon.

Overall, I'm pleased with these, and I think they're a nice tribute to one of the best toylines of all time. I do have a few complaints, namely the lack of double jointed knees and elbows, and they're more expensive this time around, clocking in at about 5 and a half bucks a piece, they aren't as cheap as they were, but then again, it's not 1987 anymore. If you're a fan of the old show or toyline, I'd recommend picking a couple of them up.

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