Hi fellow Joe collectors! This is the first of a series of retrospective blog posts I plan on writing, looking back over the past 30+ years of A Real American Hero themed figures, vehicles, and etc. Retro-Joe if you will.
So, 2004. This was a really erratic year. We had very cartoon-y disproportionate sculpts, bright colors, humans turning to animals, Venomus Maximus. It's just...it was a really bad year to be a collector back then. Were you "new sculpt" or "ARAH O-Ring" collector? Factions formed. Gangs of wild children roamed the streets at night...well...it wasn't that bad, but still, I fell into the latter category. ARAH O-Rings.
I've always preferred the G.I.Joe of my youth. The O-Ring, a standard buck and stringent engineering guidelines guaranteed a cohesiveness across figures. A wonderful uniformity that made a collection a collection. But, 2002-2006 is commonly called the "New Sculpt" era. A nomenclature I disagree with, but what are you gonna do? Anyway, the figures were defined by those new-sculpt figures, but did you realize that 70 - that's right, 70 - ARAH style figures were released in 2004? Sure, that's throwing in an additional 17 or so from the club, but still, that's a TON of product. Surprisingly, all of it, except for today's topic of comic packs, were retailer exclusives.
Which brings me to comic packs. I first recall seeing these in early '04. Retailers were out soliciting and those solicitation images were leaked quickly onto the web. The first pack was a Cobra Command set of the Commander himself, Baroness and a Cobra Trooper. Here is the solicitation image:
Notice some differences? Yeah, me too. First off, the head on the Baroness is larger than what was produced / released at retail. This was a running theme / complaint in the comic packs. New head sculpts were tiny compared to the bodies. Which was the inverse of the complaint that ARAH era heads were too big. Can't make anyone happy, can we? The small head was paired with over-sized and milky glasses. It made for a very unflattering first appearance version of the Baroness, which was used one final time in 2005's Imperial Procession set. Thankfully, only one last time. Otherwise, this was a mediocre attempt at a Baroness from the comic book.
Cobra Commander fared much better in this set. A great hooded head sculpt, and the use of the 1992 Talking Battle Commanders figure. But they used the same back half of the torso that was used in 2000, the flat back that accommodated the huge talking backpack from '92. Minor gripe, as the 1993 Battle Corps version had a complete torso. But really, this was a perfect version of Cobra Commander and one of my all time favorites.
Now, the Cobra Trooper. There's some controversy here. Originally, the plan was to use the newly sculpted 2004 Toys "R" Us exclusive Cobra Infantry Forces Trooper. But, rumor at the time stated that the tooling for the figure was damaged, destroyed, or otherwise unavailable. Permanently. So, instead, we received the vintage 1983 v1.5 tooling, with different/mish-mash arms. A fair compromise, but now the Trooper's head was too large in comparison to the rest of the assortment. That catch-.22 again.
As for the set, as a whole, it's terrific. The included comic is a beautiful reprint of A Real American Hero #1 from Marvel, but omits part of that issue, the short-story/comic, "Hot Potato" which until recently, could only be found in the original issue #1 from 1982.
Next post, we will take a look at comic pack #2 and the first-ever Kwinn the Eskimo figure!