Variations on a Theme – Part 4: Mickey Mouse Cobra Commander

Yes, you read that title right. But more on that later.

While I usually jump right into comparing variants in this series of blog entries, to fully understand the differences this time around, a quick lesson about the early history of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is in order.

When the 3¾ inch toyline first appeared in 1982, the action figures featured a then-unprecedented degree of movement. Specifically, when viewed from the front, these points of articulation included:

  • A head that could turn left and right.
  • Shoulder joints capable of rotating in a full circle around the abscissa (horizontal or x-axis) and a little over 90 degrees of rotation around the applicate (z-axis).
  • A waist capable of a full circle rotation.
  • Elbow, hip, and knee joints that could bend up to 90 degrees.

In the years that followed, the amount of articulation actually increased. Since the second wave of figures released in 1983 not only sported elbow joints that could rotate 360 degrees around the ordinate (y-axis) but also featured updated versions of the sixteen original ones that had been modified to include this trait, in order to differentiate them, the first wave figures were retroactively dubbed straight arm versions (due to their comparatively stiff arms) by collectors, while their second wave counterparts were christened swivel arm versions (a name derived from the yellow “Swivel Arm Battle Grip” blurb that appeared in the bottom left front corner of the cardback advertising this new feature).

The “straight arm” (left) and “swivel arm” (right) versions of Cobra Commander.

Two years later, in 1985, the last major change in the articulation department was made when the heads were changed from a pivot joint to a swivel ball. As a result, the fourth wave figures became the first ones in the line’s history that were capable of not only looking left or right but also up or down.

So, did you get all that? I know it’s a lot of information to take in, but if you’ve made it this far, then the upcoming comparison should be extremely straightforward and comprehensible.

As was the case with previous articles in this series, the most common version of today’s figure, the original Cobra Commander, is located on the left while the least common variant is on the right. What’s different this time around, however, is the presence of an intermediate version between the two of them.

“We three kingsss of Cobra-La are…”

The swivel arm version was part of the second wave of releases in 1983, while the straight arm versions were only available in 1982 as either mail-ins or as part of the Cobra Missile Command Headquarters, a Sears department store exclusive playset. But things start getting really interesting if you take a closer look at the Cobra insignias on the chests of the straight arm versions.

Standard Cobra insignia (left) and “Mickey Mouse” Cobra insignia (right).

While the one on the left is the standard logo that appeared on the second edition of Cobra Commander onward, the one on the right was only seen on the first edition. And…well…it looks pretty damn ugly, doesn’t it? In fact, this downright crude, primitive, and overly stylized insignia is where this particular variant got its name: since the snake’s eyes and upper head have been reduced to an inverted crescent with two solid red bumps that resembles nothing so much as a Mickey Mouse Ear Hat, the figure has become known to collectors as Mickey Mouse Cobra Commander. Yet in spite of having been slapped with such a stupid monicker for posterity, its value is nothing to laugh at: while the asking price for an excellent to near mint swivel arm Cobra Commander is between 20 and 40 dollars, a Mickey Mouse Cobra Commander can command sums as high as 90 to 150 dollars or more.

Yes, welcome to the wonderful world of vintage toys collecting, where a reduced level of articulation and a half-assed paint job can actually make you more valuable. Go figure.

As always, special thanks to the Yo Joe! website for bringing this particular variant to my attention.

Oh, and since I’m sure at least some people reading this came here looking for subversive artwork featuring a certain cartoon mouse, I see no reason to let you leave empty handed.

“DISSSNEY!”

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3 Responses to “Variations on a Theme – Part 4: Mickey Mouse Cobra Commander”

  1. Skadi The Slamazon Says:

    Some Barbies are like that too I have found.

  2. Lunar Archivist Says:

    Barbie was a member of Cobra? :O

  3. Skadi The Slamazon Says:

    I ment that the defects are worth more. And of course she is a member of Cobra, how else do you think she has everything.

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