G.I. Joe Classified Cobra Island Firefly And Cobra Viper

 

G.I. Joe Classified launches in 2021 with the all new Cobra Island wave featuring Firefly and Cobra Viper.

This is a set of figures which were announced during Hasbro Pulsecon 2020, much to everyone's chagrin, as a Target exclusive wave. Naturally, when they went live a few minutes after 4:00 PM EST, they immediately sold out. I was among the many who clicked frantically, but the few who got them into my cart, through the checkout and confirmed as a pre-order.

I was honestly surprised that the estimated delivery date was popping up as January 2021, and all the more shocked when they actually shipped that quickly.

Looking at the boxes for this wave, they coincide with that of wave one from the Cobra Island sub-series, but I'm not sold on the artwork for Firefly. There's too much black on the character design. It looks more like a re-visioning of a Cobra Eel.


The back of the box changes things up slightly from wave one. Yes, that is the same island being shown. However, the pinpointed locations have changed for series two. With so much more map to explore, it disheartens me to think there will be future waves coming to Target.

It's also interesting to note that Firefly is figure 21, and Cobra Viper is figure 22. For those of you keeping up with the series, you know that Profit Director Destro was figure number 15, and Hasbo has only announced four new figures so far for 2021 (in addition to these two) - Flint, Lady Jaye, Zartan and Cobra Infantry. If those are numbered between 16 and 20, there is still one figure missing in that span of numbers. Who will it be? I'm crossing my fingers for a "regular" Storm Shadow.


Popping the toy out of the package, I can immediately tell that Firefly is my least favorite released in the line to date. In fact, to me, this just isn't Firefly. It's a chunky rejected bomb squad member.


I know that Hasbro is trying to pay homage to the original Joe designs, while also updating the figures to bring them into the future, so to speak. However, I think where they miss the mark with this one is that they've lost what made the character so cool back in 1984.

The vintage figure had a simple design, but kept an air of mystery to the character. Yes, Firefly was a bomb expert, but he was also covert, almost ninja like in his mannerisms to stay in the shadows.

This iteration of Firefly isn't sneaking in anywhere with all that gear on. Further, he's not dressed to set bombs. He's decked out to defuse them - Or even full fledged combat.


Sometimes less is more, and this is a perfect example of the opposite spectrum. This is overkill, and the spirit of the figure gets lost in it.

Firefly has a decent amount of accessories, and for me, they only contribute more to the overall miss that this figure is. The backpack is decent, but lacks any real functionality to it. Much like the figure, this isn't designed with setting bombs in mind. This is more so a bug out bag for common use.

I'm also not sold on the little robot thing. What is its purpose? This is where the lack of file cards real starts to show the blemishes in the line. Hasbro packs in all these items with the figures, but then tells you nothing about them.

The pistol, goggles, bomb and handheld device are decent. I honestly feel like these alone would have been sufficient. As I stare at the picture, I guess what it all boils down to is that these accessories feel randomly combined. There doesn't really feel like a rhyme or reason to any of them.


On the bright side, you can deck the figure out with pretty much a place for everything. The only slot I couldn't find was one for the handheld device. I also was not too happy with the slots for the robot at first, as it kept falling out, and I felt like the more I tried to push it into the slots on the pack that the legs would break off. I soon discovered that there is a nice snug fit to it that will hold in place, but you have to wiggle a bit and apply light pressure to do so.

Here he is all decked out.


Ugh...I can't even look at this figure. It just looks like a bulky cluttered mess. Let's move on to the figure that people really want from this wave.


I didn't even have to take this one out of the box to know I was liking it, but here's the box anyway.

Sigh, remember the good old days of toys when the back of the box had a rundown of all the figures coming out that year? Why is the world of action figures so secretive these days? Just tell us what is coming out! Not everything has to be an announcement event. You know, those announcements that most of us miss anyway because we're not watching social media all day every day.




Cobra Viper hits all the right notes. It's a fantastic homage to the original 1986 figure, while also adding just a slight update to bring it in line with the Classified series. I honestly don't know which one I like more - The Cobra Trooper, or this Viper. That's a tough one.




The figure comes with just the right amount of accessories, but I'm still not sure what the deal is with the neckerchief. Why is that even a thing?

Of all the backpacks released in the line, this one, by far, has the most detail. It's a beautiful piece. When I first tried to plug it into the back peg hole I was a bit bummed out. I couldn't get it to stay in place. It wasn't until looking closer that I realized the vest had to be moved slightly to line up the hole in it and the figure's back.

Cobra Viper also comes with two weapons, a pistol and rifle. The rifle has a removable clip, which is a nice touch. However, do note that some collectors have been reporting that their gun is missing the clip, and it is nowhere to be found in the box.

Hasbro also pays a note of homage to the original figure by including a pair of removable goggles. Why a figure with a face mask needs goggles is beyond me, but they've been a thing since the 1986 version. Good on Hasbro for adding this detail, and not only that, but making them removable. Unfortunately, due to the size of the head, I was not able to get them around the helmet to sit atop the head, and I wasn't about to force the matter.

Here's the figure all geared up and ready to go. Man, that neckerchief sticks out like a sore thumb. How much do you want to bet that when Hasbro releases the "retail" version of this figure that this accessory disappears from the box?

Well, there you have it. The two new Target exclusive Cobra Island figures.

I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping this is the last of the Target exclusives, or any store exclusive for that matter, for this line. Finding Classified figures in stores, any of them, has been a real challenge, and not a very fun one either. Fortunately, as of now, Hasbro has made ordering the upcoming retail releases easier by offering them on Hasbro Pulse, which I do have pre-orders in for everything announced so far.

I'm kind of feeling out this line in 2021. If it turns out to be as much of a pain as it was last year, I may tap out and just offload all the ones I have. I do like this line, but not enough to want to pay more than retail for any of them. I also don't want to invest in expensive vehicle packs for exclusive figures. Which is difficult for someone like me who is a completest. This ultimately leads me to my biggest thing I need to be cognizant of. I really don't have much more space to dedicate to toys in my house. Nor at my age do I really have a desire to accumulate much more stuff. We'll see how things pan out.

Top (left to right / front to back): Deluxe Snake Eyes (00)*Roadblock (01)*Snake Eyes (02)*Destro (03) [Circle Head Variant]*Destro (03) [2nd Production Run - No Circle]*Duke (04)*Scarlet (05)Cobra Commander (06)*Cobra Commander (06) [Regal Variant]*Gung Ho (07)*Red Ninja (08)*Snake Supreme Cobra Commander (09)*Beach Head (10) [Brown Eyes Variant]*Beach Head (10) [Blue Eyes Variant]

Bottom (left to right / front to back): Roadblock (11)*Cobra Trooper (12) [Black Collar Variant]*Cobra Trooper (12) [Blue Collar Variant]*Baroness [13]*Arctic Mission Storm Shadow (14)*Profit Director Destro (15)*Firefly (21)*Cobra Viper (22)


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Retro Spins: ABBA - Ring Ring

 

The year was 1973. The day, February 10th. The event, Eurovision. ABBA had been invited to represent Sweden, and after months of work between founding members Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeu and their manager, Stig Anderson, an eventual re-write in English by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody, the group recorded and submitted one of their soon to be most popular songs, Ring Ring. The soon to be international stars, with singing duo Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad, ABBA were poised to be the champions.

They were not. The group came in third, officially leaving them out of the Eurovision contest. However, 1974 was just around the corner, and with it, an all new contest. This time, ABBA came back even stronger, unleashing the song, Waterloo. With it came the first place prize of the contest and a career which launched into orbit!

ABBA were formed in 1972 by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeu, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad, with the name of the group being an acronym for the first name of each member. When they first began, it was well known that the quartet were actually two couples, Fältskog and Ulvaeus, and Lyngstad and Andersson. However, as their careers proceeded, and their lives became more and more public, this weight would unfortunately contribute greatly to both couples eventual divorces. If there's a bright side, this fortunately didn't impact the band as a whole, who continued to perform together through their final album in 1981. Though rumors continue to fly around that an all new album is in the works, to date, there's been no sign of this.

Despite their breakup, ABBA remains one of the most influential and successful groups of all time. Over a decade since disbanding, their 1992 Gold: Greatest Hits compilation album remains one of their highest selling releases of all time. Even today, fans long for the group to conduct a reunion tour. Something I myself would get tickets for, if it ever happened.

Today's Retro Spin takes us to the 1973 debut album, Ring Ring, an album I'm somewhat familiar with. I've definitely heard it before, but since it was so long ago, I had forgotten many of the tracks which didn't get shuffled off to the numerous greatest hits over the years. Most notable from this album are the songs Ring Ring, People Need Love, Love Isn't Easy (But It Sure Is Hard Enough) and Nina, Pretty Ballerina.

As for the rest of the album, it's okay. However, it definitely doesn't pack the punch that their hits do. What it does offer is a glimpse at the foundation that ABBA was about to build upon. They show two song writers that had a vision, and were overlaying tracks in a way that would create their own unique sound. All of this was backed with a due of female singers who contrasted each other greatly, regardless of who was singing lead, sometimes backing Björn who takes the lead on a handful of songs.

Each figure of ABBA brought with them their own talents, which felt unstoppable when combined. Hearing Ring Ring, the album, serves only to excite me all the more to jump into their second, third and beyond records.

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Retro Spins: John Cougar Mellencamp - Uh-Huh



Why Cougar? Why not bunny, or truffle? Well, as I'm sure you would expect, there's a history to this.

Turns out, John Mellencamp was met with an ultimatum by Tony DeFries. Change your name and release your first album for MCA, or hit the road. You're a twenty-five year old nobody, with dreams and ambitions of becoming a rock star. What are you going to do? Nice to meet you Johnny Cougar! 

Turns out, DeFries wasn't correct, and after a flopped first album, a shelved second album and egg on his face, Mellencamp shortened Johnny to John, kept the Cougar, and though it wasn't overnight, went on to make a little history in the world of music for himself.

John Cougar Mellencamp is yet another one of those artists who I have compiled a stack of albums for, eleven out of of twenty-four, but have yet to really dig into. He's one of those people who I said I wanted to broaden my horizons on, but then after buying the albums kind of just let them sit there.

Let me change that, starting with his 1983 entry, Uh-Huh. I selected this one for a couple reasons. 1) Because it was his first album to include the name "Mellencamp" in - all priors being just John Cougar. 2) Track number three - The Authority Song. One of my all time favorites from him.

The first track took me by surprise because while it should have dawned on me, it didn't, that John Mellencamp sang Crumblin' Down. While it's not one of my all time favorites, obviously since I would have known who sang it, it was nice to be reacquainted with this track and to have it in my music collection.

The unexpected didn't stop there as the album's 2nd track began playing. Pink Houses isn't a title I would have guess in a million years, but the song was all too familiar. I would have thought if anything, it would have been titled, "Ain't That America." Either way, it was another pleasant surprise.

What else have I been missing in my life from John Cougar Mellencamp?

The Authority Song, which also happens to be track three was by far the best song on the album. However, nothing really caught my attention, with the exception of how bad Jackie-O was, until track six - Play Guitar. Lyrically, I didn't pay attention to the song. In fact, I all but tuned it out until that killer guitar solo kicked in. This also kept my attention long enough that the following track, Serious Business, also had me nodding my head to the music.

It was when Lovin' Mother Fo Ya that it dawned on me, had it existed,  this album most likely would have had a parental advisory sticker on it. Between the cursing and content, the PMRC would have had a field day with Uh-Huh back in 1983.

Overall, it's a pretty okay album. It doesn't leave me chomping at the bit to hear more from John Cougar Mellencamp, but it was a decent listening session.

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Robocop Versus The Terminator (NECA)



Robocop Versus The Terminator
NECA
2015

Robocop and The Terminator have been slugging it out for years in the comic book scene, all beginning in 1992 with the Dark Horse mini-series of the same name. Since then, they've continued butting heads across various one-shots and limited series, and even in 1993 via their own SNES video game title. It is this particular game in which these figures are loosely based upon.

However, before all of this - Long before all of this, the concept of these two cyborgs going at it were the school yard dreams of many a sci-fi fan. I remember kids on the playground always making up stories of Robocop and The Terminator meeting face to face for the ultimate showdown. It was pure fantasy at its best, and something we never thought would actually happen. Good thing those kids all grew up and started making their own dreams a reality!

Some of those kids even went on to make toys.

NECA is no stranger to dabbling in the 8 and 16 bit world of action figures. Their various larger scale toys have been produced for such franchises as A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Rambo, Gremlins and even Robocop in a single pack. As such, it was no surprise that the company continued plugging away with figure after figure in this design.

Their 2015 entry are today's showcase here at The Toy Box, and well, if you haven't guessed it, it's the Robocop Versus The Terminator line.

It was a relatively small set, confined to four single packs and one Toys R' Us exclusive two pack. Each figure stands approximately seven inches tall, and is showcased in a fantastic looking window box designed too look similarly to the packaging of the original SNES game.


Robocop Flamethrower

A fun aspect to the packaging was that each Robocop and Terminator figure were designed to sit on a shelf side by side. This is why Robocop is showcased on the lower left side of the package, and the Terminator is on the lower right. This way they can stare each other down. Additionally, you'll notice Robocop's packaging only has his name on it, while the Terminator ones finish the name of the line, Versus The Terminator.

 Terminator Plasma Rifle T-800

It was a wasted opportunity for NECA to produce Robocop Rocket Launcher as the exact same figure as seen above, just with flames across its chest. It was kind of lame too. This could have easily been a more desirable figure had it showcased some form of battle damage, or even one without the helmet. More importantly, the flame aspect could have easily just been a pack in with both figures. Action figure laziness at its best, folks.

 Robocop Rocket Launcher

 Endoskeleton Heavy Gunner

With what I said above in mind, repainting the same Endoskeleton figure in two different colors, slapping a higher price tag on it, and making it an exclusive is also kind of lazy. There were so many of these at my local Toys R' Us, pre bankruptcy era, and they all got clearanced out.

Toys R' Us Exclusive
Endoskeleton Assault 2-Pack

There's no denying NECA makes great quality figures. However, the company has definitely been known to taking a lazy route with some of their lines. This one definitely stands out in that regard. It's a fun line, and holds a lot of nostalgia to it. However, at the same time, it just could have been better if NECA put a smidgen more of effort into it.

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Retro Spins: The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones

 

Who would have thought that one of the most influential bands of the sixties and seventies would get there start as a glorified cover band? The Rolling Stones self titled 1964 debut features a slew of classic hits, none of which were written by any of the members. While they contributed one original track, Tell Me (You're Coming Back), this song failed to make any major impression.

The main focal point of the album is very rhythm and blues oriented. A love letter to artists such as, Bobby Troup, Willie Dixon Chuck Berry and Rufus Thomas. It's not terrible by any means, but it's also not the legendary band that would come to be. It wouldn't be until the group's 1966 album, Aftermath, that The Rolling Stones would achieve the breakthrough they were looking for. The album is also notable for being the first where all the tracks were written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

In terms of my listen, I was a bit disappointed. It was nice to hear the early singing and instrumentation of the group. However, it wasn't the powerful punch I was looking for. While I'm trying to stick closely to debut albums for this particular era of Retro Spins, I can't help but think I should have started my Rolling Stones journey with Aftermath. If I were to base my interest in this group solely on this debut album, I honestly wouldn't bother going any further into their catalog.

Again, this is not a bad album. I get what it is. A love letter from a group to an era of rhythm and blues that inspired them to want to be musicians. However, at the end of the day, it's also not the iconic group they would become.

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Retro Spins: Billy Joel - Storm Front



I'm not a big Billy Joel fan, which is ironic, because I own eleven of his thirteen studio albums, one greatest hits and one live album. In my defense, the majority of them were picked up from dollar bins during a phase where I was actively trying to get introduced to popular singers / bands which I overlooked in the 70's and 80's.

When looking into the history of this album, as I often do when listening to a CD, it was interesting to find that for as long as Joel has been recording / releasing music, he only has three number one hits. One of which is We Didn't Start The Fire from Storm Front - A classic, if not slightly confusing, song. As a point of reference, his other two number one hits were, Still Rock and Roll To Me from his 1980 Glass Houses album and Tell Her About It from his 1983 An Innocent Man album.

For being such a highly acclaimed album, I was actually surprised there were only a handful of songs I liked from it. One of them was, of course, We Didn't Start the Fire, as well as, I Go To Extremes. My favorite from the record is by far, Downeaster 'Alexa'. I love the story the latter track tells, and quite frankly, it's a masterpiece as far as I'm concerned.

Despite its minimal appeal to me, I still look forward to actually delving further into the massive collection of Billy Joel albums I own. It's no secret the man has hits. We are, after all, talking about a singer / songwriter / multi-instrumental man who has fifteen compilation discs under his belt to compliment his career. Shoot, when you have more compilations than studio albums, there's got to be something about you people like, right?

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Spider-Man (Marvel Comics)



Spider-Man
Marvel Comics
1990 - 1998

In the early days of my comic book collecting, Marvel Comic's 1990 Spider-Man series was my all time favorite. My first introduction came with issue three, which I found on the newsstand of a local convenience store in Bend, Oregon. This was a place my brother and I regularly rode our bikes to after school, and while he typically got snacks, I opted for the comic books.

As the early 90's proceeded, I continued buying the series on a monthly basis and eventually made my way to a comic shop where I was able to buy an issue number one and two. It was then that I set my sights on a comic that I would drool and pine over for years to come. The coveted platinum edition.

With a price tag of $500.00, this book was far beyond my reach. However, this didn't stop me from promptly creating a money jar at home and setting to task to save up for it. As a kid, this book never made it to my collection. However, as an adult, this was rectified Christmas of 2019 when I bought a copy for myself...Along with every other cover variant of issue number one.

It was doing this which prompted today's post. A look at every issue from the 1990 through 1998 Spider-Man series from Marvel Comics.

With exception of autographed versions, for issue one, there are eleven different versions confirmed to be in existence. These include the four regular versions, or, "green cover".

The first direct release was a purple webbing version, which came polybagged. In the place of the UPC was a facade of Spider-Man's face. This was released in conjunction with a newsstand polybagged version which had a silver webbing and traditional UPC.



The silver webbing version was also released unbagged and came in both a direct and newsstand edition. It's interesting to note that the direct edition silver webbing version, which appears to be the corrected cover of the purple webbing version noted above, never appears to have been released polybagged.


A silver variant cover was released, and this too has its own set of variations. The first one was a polybagged version. The price tag was removed from the version so as not to negate the $2.00 price tag printed on the bag. Below, you can see a bagged and unbagged version of this book. While you can't buy the non-price tag version out of the bag, oddly enough, a loose one is considered to be its own variant.


An unbagged silver cover variant was also available with the $1.75 price tag printed on the book.


This particular version resulted in a very rare print run error before being corrected . There are panels in the issue where the Lizard is blue, as opposed to his regular green color. Because this is a print error, the blue Lizard version is not considered an actual variant. However, it is a holy grail of the series which some collectors will pay upwards of $200.00 for. The result of the error was from the printing press running out of yellow ink.


In August of 2020, it was brought to light that a copper Lizard variant of this issue may exist. This was a result of a ebay seller, doomdoomdoom90, who not only sold one for approximately $15,000.00, but claimed there were only six copies in existence. Skepticism quickly began to surface in October of that same year when the seller once again listed a copper variant, but this time for $10,000.00 less. Considering the blue variant was a result of the printer running out of yellow ink, coupled with the fact that nobody seems to have heard of this variant from a book that is now 30+ years old and sold over two million copies, this makes the validity of the book all the more questionable. It's also extremely sketchy that the one seller who seems to know there are only six in existence would also happen to have two of them (that we know of). I'm not saying that it's unfathomable. I'm just saying buyer beware.

Because of the high demand, the book was reprinted with a gold cover. These too came in a handful of versions, one of which I have never personally seen in the wild, the polybagged direct edition. Despite my endless searching, I have not once seen a gold version sealed in the bag. I only acknowledge its existence because it is confirmed by MyComicShop.com, a reputable online comic seller, despite them not having one in stock currently.

***UPDATE*** I not only found, but now own the polybagged gold version.



A rare version I have seen, and own, is the 10,000 copy print run Walmart edition. The Walmart version can be identified by the traditional newsstand UPC at the bottom left, whereas, the "regular" version is the one with the facade of Spider-Man's face.
 

Last up, in terms of variant covers for issue one, is the holy grail platinum edition. Of the estimated 10,000 copies printed, approximately 7,000 were given to retailers for helping make the book a major success. Though shops were encouraged in the accompanying letter to them to find a special place in their shop to display it or auction it off for charity, most slapped a high price tag on it and waited for a direct, all profit, sale. 


A side note for those of you collecting polybagged books from the 90's, such as this one, X-Force number 1 or the X-Men crossover series, Executioner's Song (to name a few), you may want to take note that these bags are not acid free. While it's nostalgic to have those polybagged books, just keep in mind, in the long run, they may be damaging your comics.

As most comic book collectors know, the series was started off by Todd McFarlane who would helm the series in a combination of both writing and drawing through issue fourteen. Erik Larsen would take over the series from issue fifteen through twenty-three with exceptions. Those being, issue sixteen was drawn by Todd McFarlane and seventeen by Rick Leonardi. Both McFarlane and Larsen would leave Marvel Comics to co-found Image Comics shortly after. From there, the series would see a rotating list of artists throughout the remainder of the series, concluding with issue number ninety-eight.




For me, the series waned in interest around issue number twenty-six. This was one of the many infamous hologram covers. In this series, the overpriced book served no other purpose than to be a retelling of Spider-Man's origin.


Issue thirty-five drew me back in slightly with its Maximum Carnage storyline, but not long enough to keep me around for many issues afterwards. At this point in my comic book years, I was deep into Image Comics, following artists, and not necessarily characters.



In fact, it was around this time that as a "mature" collector, I was losing interest in Spider-Man altogether. It didn't help when concepts such as the Scarlet Spider and Spider Clone got introduced, completely negating everything with Marvel had established in the Spider-Man universe. Basically, things just got too confusing to keep up with the character. Silly too.







The series wrapped up in 1998 with issue 98, which also contained a variant cover. Spider-Man would continue in The Amazing Spider-Man for another fourteen years before concluding, as well as, several other spin-off titles.


For its time, or better stated, for my time in the series, it served as a key era in my comic book collecting life. The artwork of Todd McFarlane sucked me in, shaping my collecting habits of books. Making me more critical of the artwork, and tuning my radar to that of key artists of the day. With it, it introduced me to several comics which I otherwise wouldn't have read as I followed the creators and not the characters.

The unfortunate catch to this was that it also ultimately led to me quitting comics until just recently. As I found myself more and more intrigued with the art, I found myself reading less and less of the stories. Mainly because the majority of them weren't any good. One day I just stopped buying any books and eventually offloaded my entire collection.

These days, my collecting habits more so follows story arcs or one off stories and not necessarily the artists behind them. I've rekindled my joy for collecting comics through reading and discovering great stories in the process. Of course, I've also found some stinkers, and while I'm sad to say it, McFarlane's five part Torment, which started this whole series, isn't really that strong of a story.

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