Tuesday, March 31, 2009

G.I. JOE: The Rise Of Cobra Destro In-Hand

Okay, so I never do this, buy figures from China before they're officially released at retail. It's something I've always resisted, but when eBay seller ws_toys listed the movie version Destro figure on eBay, I gave in to temptation. The figure looks enough like the Destro I grew up with to make me want it, and for $15 shipped, I just couldn't pass on the opportunity. I was considering a similar item from another line last week, but when it broke the $100 range, I rediscovered my sense of willpower.

The Rise Of Cobra - DESTRO
When I'm finished, the world will never forget...

The figure itself is topnotch. All the paint is exactly as it should be, and the joints are nice and tight, but none of the articulated pieces stick. The design and constrcution picks up right where the 25th Anniversary line leaves off, with double-jointed knees and articulated ankles, hips, hands, elbows, shoulders, and neck. His shirt and coat collar are a separate piece, which gives Hasbro options if they want to use this body again. The head is not the reflective chrome look of the past, but closer to the metallic gray used in the Cobra five-pack from 2007. His dog tag stand has a Cobra emblem on the bottom, the kind of thing I'm sure I'd have worn around the neighborhood when I was eight years old. Like it or not, collectors, there are going to be kids who love these toys.

The Rise Of Cobra - DESTRO
What did you say your unit was called?

Destro comes with four weapons: A black pistol that fits in his removable shoulder holster, a gray pistol, a modular gray rifle that can be broken down into two parts, and a spring-loaded rocket launcher. I'm sure that last one will get some blood boiling, but the great thing about those weapons is that you can chuck them into the trash if you don't like them. I know that won't stop people from getting online to complain about them, but the option is always there. The gray pistol and rifle have pegs that fit into small holes on the sides of Destro's legs. From what I've seen, most of the movie figures share this design element. I think that would be my only real issue with them, when a holster would have made all the difference in the world.

The Rise Of Cobra - DESTRO
Destro with spring-loaded, rocket launching action...

I'm not expecting anything like The Dark Knight or Watchmen when G.I. JOE: The Rise Of Cobra hits theaters in August, nor would I have ever thought we'd get something like that from G.I. JOE, regardless of who writes, directs, or stars in a live-action version. It might be just fun enough to enjoy seeing some familiar concepts brought to the big screen for a couple of hours, though, especially when the ninjas take the spotlight. I'm not overly optimistic, though. That said, some of these toys that are coming out in the movie line look like a blast, and hopefully Destro here is just the beginning. I'm looking forward to seeing these at retailers this summer and adding a few more characters to my collection. If nothing else, I'm glad to see Hasbro giving movie lines the 3¾" treatment. Between these and the comic series X-Men Origins: Wolverine figures, it's a great year for the scale.

So stop your complaining about what Hasbro and Paramount are doing to your childhood, and just try to have some fun with the toys. Besides, your childhood was asking for it.

G.I. JOE: The Rise Of Cobra Destro In-Hand

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Move Over, G.I. Jane

Although I was puzzled by Hasbro's decision to invest in tooling for a new Lady Jaye figure this year, despite the fact she was already one of only three female characters in the 25th Anniversary line, it provided an opportunity to do something with the new body. This wasn't something I'd have bothered to do with the wave 2 Lady Jaye, since I already used that figure's upper torso for my custom 25th Zarana. It wouldn't have made a lot of sense to have multiple females running around Cobra Island with that same look, but this new body invited an easy repaint.

G.I. JOE 25th Anniversary female Viper Officer
Behind a gun, I'll make my final stand...

The 2009 G.I. JOE five-pack Lady Jaye's green uniform was painted blue, and her boots, gloves, belt, and knees were painted black. She wasn't originally intended to have kneepads, but black paint and the double-jointed knees make for a simple conversion. The removable belt, knife sheath on her chest, and satchel from the five-pack Shipwreck were painted burgandy. Top it off with a head swap from the single carded Viper, and she's ready to lead her guys into a firefight.

Custom 25th Female Viper Officer
Bad Company, till the day I die...

The Female Viper Officer is armed with a Heckler & Koch XM8, available from Marauder "Gun-Runners" as the High-Tech Assault Rifle w/ Removable Ammo clip.

Move Over, G.I. Jane

Friday, March 20, 2009

All In The Family: Conclusion

While I spent more time than I care to admit working on these customs, I'd happily toss them in a box and stuff it in the back of a closet if Hasbro would release a properly updated version of Zarana and finally get around to producing a Zanya figure. I haven't yet decided if I'll attempt to come up with Zartan's brother, Zandar. I have a base body set aside for it, but I'm just not sure I'm up to the challenge. I think some actual sculpting would be required just to make it passable, and I had enough difficulty with the painting. That's what keeps me from trying customs of Monkeywrench (check out this one by Gunslingercbr to see how he should look), Road Pig, and Thrasher, too. My only real hope for those characters is that Hasbro decides to kick out with some more Dreadnok goodness once they decide to explore some classics again after the upcoming Rise Of Cobra film.

G.I. JOE 25th Anniversary Zartan Family
A snapshot in the family album...

Speaking of the movie toys, I have some ideas I want to try with some of those characters. I haven't seen a figure yet that look as though it will work in my display as is (a couple of the vehicles are another story), but I can definitely appropriate some of the new heads. I'm really looking forward to the Heavy Duty figure, and not because I want Heavy Duty, but because I think his body style and uniform have a lot of potential for something completely different. Depending on what Marvel Universe releases in the way of female characters, I'm hoping that I'll be able to come up with a decent recipe for Jinx.

All In The Family: Conclusion

Related entries:
All In The Family: Zartan
All In The Family: Zarana
All In The Family: Zanya

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

All In The Family: Zanya

Once I was nearly finished with Zarana, I still had a desire to continue. I knew I wanted Zartan's daughter, Zanya, to go with my Dreadnoks, but where would I start? There are only three females in the line, and I've already combined parts from Scarlett and Lady Jaye to create Zarana. Baroness is the only remaining female, and she's really not much of a starting point for Zanya. It then occurred to me that I really didn't need the same articulation as what's used on the 25th Anniversary G.I. JOE figures; the most important thing was scale. I ventured into my collection room, started digging through some loose figures, and found my base: the "Arena Escape" Padmé Amidala from Attack Of The Clones. Sure, she's one of those figures that's already posed, but that was more than acceptable for my purposes. She'll eventually be used in a diorama, and she likely would have ended up in a similar pose, anyway. Not a perfect solution, but certainly better than any alternative Hasbro has offered in the modern G.I. JOE line.

I used this Dreadnoks poster and images from the pages of Devil's Due Publishing's Dreadnoks: Declassified for reference. I painted her shirt (including Padmé's sleeveless arm) purple first, and then painted over that with black, intentionally leaving the black coverage thin in some areas to recreate the effect of the colors in the DDP comic series. Her pants were painted with two coats of green, and I removed a little bit of paint from a couple of spots by touching it with my finger to create "holes" in them. I went back over those areas with a flesh color. The boots were painted black, followed by some drybrushing with brown to create the "dirty" look. The belt, holster, hands, and hair were painted black, and then I went over parts of her hair with green after that was dry. Getting the lips and eyebrows right was the most difficult part, but I've since invested in some brushes that will make that sort of thing easier in the future.

G.I. JOE 25th Anniversary Zanya
I've been a bad, bad girl...

Faced with my severe artistic limitations yet again, it was now time to add a DDP Dreadnoks logo to her shirt. What you see is actually my first attempt, and it came out better than I had expected. A découpage solution would have been preferable, but the surface of her chest wasn't smooth enough to accomodate it. I wasn't going for precise detail, but just a recognizable shape, and I think I managed to accomplish that.

Custom 25th Zanya
Feelin' like a criminal...

Zanya's bike is the Fat Ride from Mattel's Hot Wheels 1:18 Moto line, with Cobra decals from ReproLabels.com.

Zanya is armed with an M1911A1 45, available from Marauder "Gun-Runners".

All In The Family: Zanya

Related entries:
All In The Family: Zartan
All In The Family: Zarana
All In The Family: Conclusion

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

All In The Family: Zarana

When Hasbro made it clear that they had no plans to release an updated version of Zartan's sister, Zarana, in the 25th Anniversary G.I. JOE line, I looked back at the photo I took of their custom figure of the character from JoeCon 2007. The parts were easy to identify: Scarlett's head, arms, and legs, and Lady Jaye's torso. That was a good start, but I really didn't like the way Scarlett's arms looked when painted to be sleeveless. I thought Zarana could use a bit of an update, too, so I decided to go with a combination of the original look and the Devil's Due Publishing design. I switched to Lady Jaye's arms and substituted Scarlett's lower torso for Lady Jaye's, which allowed for a crop top. I painted her boots black with a bit of brown drybrushing to give them a "dirty" look. I also added Lady Jaye's removable holster belt and painted the handle of her pistol pink so Zarana could accessorize a little. I originally used Scarlett's head, but since she was one of the few members of the G.I. JOE team I had opened for my display of loose figures, I really wanted a unique head for Zarana. That led me to this head from Alyosha's Broken Arrow Toys. Here's the end result:

G.I. JOE 25th Anniversary Zarana
I know you're a bad, bad woman...

One of the things that distinguished G.I. JOE from other toy lines in the '80s was the diversity of the characters, but that hasn't been reflected as well as it could have been since the 25th Anniversary line was introduced in '07. So far, we have three black males (Roadblock, Stalker, and Alpine), three white females (Scarlett, Lady Jaye, and Baroness), four male characters of Asian ancestry (Storm Shadow [Japanese-American], Quick Kick [Japanese and Korean], Tunnel Rat [Chinese], and the Hard Master [Japanese]), two Native American males (Spirit Iron-Knife & Airborne), and one presumably Polynesian male (Torpedo). That's a total of thirteen characters, ten of whom are males. Compare that to nearly sixty unique white males, not to mention the armies of white Cobra Troopers, Officers, and Vipers in all their various incarnations. Honestly, how hard would it be for Hasbro to thrown in a few black Cobra Troopers here and there? No new tooling is required. Anyway, the line desperately needs more female characters, which was part of my motivation for trying my hand with Zarana and the subject of my next entry, which I'll post in a day or two.

As I mentioned the other day, I truly lack even a hint of artistic ability, so the concept would definitely benefit from having a more skilled painter at the other end of the brush. For my purposes, though, Zarana will suffice, at least until Hasbro finally gets around to releasing an official version. If they don't, though, my display will be fine with this attempt at Zartan's sister.

Custom 25th Zarana
Good enough for me...

Zarana's bike is the Psycholoco from Mattel's Hot Wheels 1:18 Moto line, with Cobra decals from ReproLabels.com.

Zarana is armed with a Heckler & Koch UMP, available as the Tactical Assault Rifle w/ Removable Ammo clip from Marauder "Gun-Runners".

All In The Family: Zarana

Related entries:
All In The Family: Zartan
All In The Family: Zanya
All In The Family: Conclusion

Friday, March 13, 2009

All In The Family: Zartan

My favorite G.I. JOE character since his introduction in 1984, Zartan finally got the figure he deserved in 2007's 25th Anniversary line. While I loved my original as a kid (I detailed the experience of obtaining that figure on my Must-Haves For Collectors page), the older I got, the more annoyed I became with his appearance. The half shirt look is decidedly dated (to be polite about it), but even more ridiculous was the fact that his crop top body armor had short "sleeves" that weren't even connected to the torso piece. It made no sense, and the figure suffers greatly for it. That didn't change my feelings about the character or his story in the Marvel Comic title, but when Devil's Due Publishing got their hands on the G.I. JOE license, they gave Zartan a properly updated costume. Thankfully, and much to the chagrin of fans perpetually stuck in the '80s, it was something very similar to this look that Hasbro chose for Zartan in the 25th Anniversary line. It combines the chest armor with a long-sleeve shirt under it, making it much easier to take this assassin and master of disguise seriously. Hasbro later acquiesced to the kind of collectors who long for the days of Top Gun, Reaganomics, and hair mousse overdoses, releasing a second version last year. In my G.I. JOE universe, though, this is Zartan.

G.I. JOE 25th Anniversary Zartan
Got the two glocks with oowops, the bodies traced in chalk...

Hasbro also released three members of Zartan's gang, the Dreadnoks: Buzzer, Ripper, and Torch. As great as it is to have a modern era display of Zartan & the Dreadnoks, some key members are still missing. Classics like Monkeywrench, Road Pig, and Thrasher still haven't made it into the new line, but even more crucial are Zartan's siblings and offspring, Zarana, Zandar, and Zanya. After Hasbro repeatedly said no to the question of producing these characters, I took it upon myself to add Zartan's sister and daugther to my collection, anyway. Now I've never really done anything with action figure customizing, and I have all the artistic ability of a hyena after a week-long methamphetamine binge. With the combined limits of inexperience and being utterly devoid of talent, I knew this was going to be a challenge, but I gave it a shot. Over the next few days, I'll share the results of my efforts.

Zartan's bike is the Rollin' Thunder from Mattel's Hot Wheels 1:18 Moto line, with Cobra decals from ReproLabels.com.

Zartan is armed with two HK USPs, available as the "Tactical" Automatic Pistol from Marauder "Gun-Runners".

All In The Family: Zartan

Related entries:
All In The Family: Zarana
All In The Family: Zanya
All In The Family: Conclusion

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Manifest Destiny

Expansion across the internet was as inevitable as the sunrise, but it's official: I'm now also blogging over at ActionFigureInsider.com, too. Why? Because they asked, Daniel and Jason are two of the best and most knowledgeable guys in the hobby, and there's a great team of collectors already blogging over there. The group is too good to pass up a chance to join. It's like the Legion of Doom, but with pants. I hope. My initial contribution is a lesson in Geekonomics 101, a bit of advice for collectors in today's economic recession. You'll be able to get to that and all future installments here, but I encourage you to just visit the main Action Figure Insider blog page and check out all the other guys' entries, too. You'll see pictures of customs and collections, be entertained, and learn a thing or two about a thing or two while you're there.