Posts Tagged ‘variants’

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.


Variations on a Theme – Part 3: Zarana With Earrings


If you read the previous entry in this ongoing series, you’re probably assuming that you have things all figured out this time around. And if that’s the case, then you’re in for a pretty big surprise.

Our contestant today is Zarana, the lone female Dreadnok from the fifth wave of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toyline releases in 1986. Once again, the most frequently seen version is on the left while the more difficult to find and valuable variant is on the right.

Zartan realized that his sister's plastic surgery addiction had gone too far.

As you can see, the earrings are just about the least of the changes that were made to this figure. Shortly after Zarana’s initial release, her rather original large head was replaced with a completely different, smaller sculpt with more feminine, delicate, and petite facial features. The difference is actually rather striking when seen from up close.

Zarana head sculpt comparison (from left to right): front, profile, back, overhead, and three-quarter views.

Exactly why this change was made is anyone’s guess, though I personally consider it an improvement. If nothing else, it bears a much greater resemblance to the character’s depiction in her own cardback art.

There's nothing sexier than a hot chick with power tools.

On a final note, I’ve noticed that Zarana is just one in a long list of action figures in this line that have extremely shoddy gold paint applications. What makes it especially bad in this case is that the variant of the day’s extremely large earrings sometimes end up being completely flesh-colored, making it look like she has stretched earlobes. Either way, she still fetches two or three times the price as her standard counterpart does, so maybe she’s getting the last laugh after all…

Variations on a Theme – Part 2: Dark Green Gloves Copperhead


This entry in the series will be a pretty short one, and, to be honest, the title pretty much says it all.

Our subject today is the Cobra Water Moccasin pilot Copperhead, who was part of the third wave of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toyline releases in 1984. The most commonly found version is on the left and the variant of interest on the right.

A snake in the grass is nothing compared to two snakes on the water.

The initial release of Copperhead had dark green gloves and armbands, while the later one not only had light green gloves and armbands but also paint highlights of the same tone added to the fin and sides of his helmet. Of these variants – which have become unimaginatively (but accurately) christened Dark Green Gloves Copperhead and Light Green Gloves Copperhead, respectively, by collectors – the former is more difficult to find than the latter and goes for around two to three times as much if my past experiences on eBay are any indication.

For more information on Copperhead, please refer to his article on the Yo Joe! website.

Variations on a Theme – Part 1: Fuera de la Ley (Argentinian Destro)


This latest series is dedicated to the wonderful(ly insane) world of toy collecting and will showcase variants: alternate versions of a given toy that differ from one another in ways ranging from subtle (stickers or paint applications) to more profound (materials used, plastic colors, or changes made to molds during production to correct design flaws or for purely aesthetic reasons).

We’ll be kicking things off with Fuera de la Ley by Plastirama Toys, the Argentinian version of Destro from the second wave of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toyline releases in 1983. For reference purposes, your garden variety North American version of the figure is located on the left and the variant of the day on the right in the following picture:

"Nuestras cabezas son buenas y brillantes!"

There’re a couple of key features separating Destro and Fuera de la Ley, which I’ll be covering in order of decreasing obviousness (please note that the following list is not exhaustive):

1. The most prominent difference would be the shades of red used in their costumes: while Destro is giving off more of a ketchup vibe with his, Fuera de la Ley’s deep, dark crimson is reminiscent of the color of blood. Score one for Argentina in the badass department, though even this barely manages to offset the stupidity of the character’s indigenous name (which translates into English as the descriptive-yet-highly-unimaginative “Outside the Law”).

2. Destro’s shoulder rivets have been painted black while Fuera de la Ley’s retain their shiny metallic appearance.

3. In a classic example of blink-and-you’ll-miss it, these figures have different waistpieces. For some unknown reason, a black version of the one used for the 1983 incarnations of Doc and Duke was substituted for the standard Destro waistpiece.

Waistpieces (from left to right): Destro (1983), Fuera de la Ley (1983), Doc (1983), Duke (1983), and Gung-Ho (1983).

Note that the article on Fuera de la Ley on the Yo Joe! website – which is where I first learned about this variant – contains a factual error: while similar in appearance, Gung-Ho‘s waistpiece is not the same as Doc and Duke’s. Though both have belts sporting a cross-hatch pattern, the former has a square buckle and no pouches while the latter has a circular buckle and two front pouches. Also, Gung-Ho’s pants have a single vertical and horizontal crease while Doc and Duke’s have a double vertical crease.

Special thanks to G and the ever-helpful Trina Swank for Spanish language assistance.

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