With the whirlwind day that yesterday was, I didn’t have time to properly process all of the things that were shown during the presentation or down in the show room. But I woke up very early this morning to dive back into the images from last night and try to wade through and choose my favorite pieces of this initial burst of G.I. Joe: Retaliation toys. I’m going to include stuff we’ve already seen, just based on some new information or new details that were revealed through pictures I’ve taken over the past 18 hours or so.
This will be a basic Top Ten list, and I’ll try to write some snippets from each figure, some of which might be stuff you guys haven’t heard yet that was revealed during Toy Fair. No promises, this is by the seat of my pants!
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I know much of the discussion around the web has revolved around the articulation issues and complaints about Hasbro’s change of direction for the brand. I agree that I do not like the articulation reduction either, in the main single figures, or in the vehicle drivers, but I can understand Hasbro’s perspective as they take a brand that has been struggling at retail for several years (since 2008 by all accounts) and try to revitalize it and push it forward.
I remember many similar complaints from Transformers fans over the years focusing on the vehicle and figure design concepts released for the movie and I still hear many complaints about quality control, but the fact remains, that in spite of fandom outrage, Hasbro made a concerted effort to relaunch the Transformers brand, and it quite simply not only changed the brand, but changed the global landscape of film and toy marketing. Because of what they did with the Transformers movie toys, fans of that brand now have video games, cartoons, Generations based figures (over forty coming in 2013!) and many other reasons to be very, very happy.
Fans of that brand claimed that those cosmetic changes would impact toy sales negatively, too. But they didn’t.
Am I guaranteeing that G.I. Joe: Retaliation will have the same effect? No, not by a long shot. It certainly won’t have the global impact that Transformers did, but I think it does have some potential to revitalize and re-energize a brand that has been somewhat stagnant, at least from a retail perspective. Believe me, I would love nothing more than to have things continue static quo along the same lines as Pursuit of Cobra and 30th Anniversary. Those have been the best Joe toys I’ve seen in many, many years, if not ever. But the fact is, G.I. Joe cannot continue status quo, because it does not preform well enough at retail to carry itself for the next several years without some sort of thematic change. Should that change require a shift in articulation? No, in my opinion it shouldn’t, but I’m willing to give Hasbro the benefit of the doubt, at least for the moment.
Keep in mind that this “Top 10” list is based on several factors. First and foremost, how much I like the toy based on first glimpse, how well it looks like it’s designed, how it fits into the movie property, and just overall coolness. This is “seat of the pants” way too early in the morning, so we’ll see how this goes.
10 – Joe Colton
So who doesn’t love a 3 3/4″ Bruce Willis figure? Who doesn’t love a Bruce Willis figure looking like he could be a pretty basic military guy in a white t-shirt? This head sculpt is eerily lifelike, insanely well done, and I just loving having a potential John McClane figure running around with the Joes. Now, what drops this figure is the fact that he appears as if he might have a PoC Recondo torso, which is a bummer. We’ll see how that goes. Frankly, I thought the Marauder Bull ended up being able to wear that torso fairly well (it was his legs that bugged me) so perhaps it will be a non-issue. Granted, if he had different tooling, he would have been higher on the list.
09 – Unmasked Firefly
I’m a sucker for movie accurate figures, and this is a good one. He looks a lot like the Firefly we see skulking around that mysterious Cobra missile base in the trailer, and I really love the Ray Stevenson head sculpt. The scars sculpted into it are very, very cool. Hasbro also includes an alternate masked head, which is very much appreciated, too, and even in a woodland camouflage paint scheme, I think this Firefly works remarkably well.
According to Hasbro, he can sit on the sled he comes with and grip the handles, which activates a light up feature on the sled itself.
08 – Night Viper
I’ve read some complaints about this figure not being as cool as expected because it more resembles the Direct to Consumer Night-Viper. Personally, I don’t have a huge problem with that. I think the DTC Night Viper had some interesting design elements that translate pretty nicely to the modern style. Now, of course, I would have been much more excited about a Night Viper that better resembled the old ’89 stand by, but as it stands this is a very cool update and a much appreciated addition to the Cobra Viper corps. I’m excited to see Hasbro continue to dip into that well, even during a movie year.
07 – SDCC Exclusive Jinx Figures
Finally, a vintage style Jinx for my crappy vintage style Falcon to mac out on! In all seriousness, I do think Jinx was a big hole in the line up from the 25th Anniversary, and I like that they have found a way to get her into collector hands. On the show room floor, John Warden continued to discuss retailer perception of female figures not selling, so whether the fans like it or not, this is kind of what we’re going to have to deal with going forward. Again, given a choice between getting Jinx as an SDCC Exclusive for extra money or not getting her at all, I’ll happily hand over the forty bones. The figure itself looks amazingly well done, with a mixture of Renegades Storm Shadow parts and newly tooled female accoutrements.
06 – Crimson Guard
Another figure that’s somewhat based on the vintage look, but very nicely updated, in my mind. Hasbro injected some very cool elements from the canceled G.I. Joe: Resolute Crimson Guard and ended up creating an elite soldier that looks a lot more combat ready than some other figures we’ve seen. As cool as the 25th era Crimson Guard was, he had his share of articulation issues, and I think this figure looks like a very neat modern update that I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on.
05 – Zartan
Even with all of these new offerings cropping up throughout Toy Fair, I still fall back to Zartan as being one of my favorites of the line. With his G.I. Joe: Renegades look and feel, some cool light-piping effects, and a very awesome modern renovation, I can’t help but love what I see here. Hasbro has struggled with getting a proper Zartan back into the line for a while, but thanks to John Warden’s affinity for the character (Zartan is one of his favorites!) we’ve gotten a lot of great looking versions of him over the past few years. This one is no different.
04 – Snake Eyes (Ninja Duel)
As I said above, I’m a sucker for movie themed and movie accurate figures, and this version of Snake Eyes is both. We’ve seen Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe: Retaliation in several different forms over the past month or so with the IDW comic, the t-shirt designs, and finally the movie trailers, and by all accounts, this figure perfectly captures that movie aesthetic. Nice, sleek, layered body armor, those great gauntlets, that armored mask, and he’s got the full compliment of articulation to boot. A great looking figure that will be my default G.I. Joe: Retaliation Snake Eyes.
03 – Battle Kata Roadblock
Everything I said above about Snake Eyes can then be attributed to Roadblock. His awesome movie accurate camouflage…that fantastic “Battle Kata” vest with all of those holsters and sheaths. A fantastic Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson likeness in his head sculpt, and loaded with cool looking weapons and gear. It certainly doesn’t hurt that this version of Roadblock has full articulation according to Hasbro designer John Warden. Great looking movie accurate Roadblock figure!
02 – SDCC Exclusive Shockwave HISS
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. You know, I kinda thought the SDCC Starscream was a neat idea, though a bit contrived. The best elements of that exclusive, though, was the plethora of Easter Eggs that Hasbro designers scattered throughout. Well, not only is Shockwave one of my favorite Transformers characters, but holy crap did they load up with those Easter Eggs this time around! According to Hasbro, Shockwave and Destro are brokering a financial arrangement where Destro sells him the designs for his Retaliation HISS Tank in exchange for cash. Well, the first thing Shockwave does is assume the form of that HISS Tank and he looks BAD ASS. That Shockwave-themed cannon on top, the translucent purple weapons…it’s all awesome. But where this figure especially shines are with the tweaked Destro and Constructicon colored B.A.T. figure, both very awesome additions to an already interesting set. Combine that with the terrific miniature Soundwave and the 3 3/4″ scale Energon Cubes? Wow. Great stuff here, and an awesome idea for an SDCC Exclusive. Big thumbs up.
01 – Ghost Hawk II
Yes, for all of the complaining I do about vehicle driver articulation, I still came away from the show the most impressed about one of the vehicles. And that vehicle is the Ghost Hawk II. In person, this thing looks awesome. It’s not huge, but it’s definitely big enough, and I didn’t come away underwhelmed as I often have with recent “large” vehicle offerings. It seems like we’re getting a lot of plastic bang for our buck with this vehicle. I originally thought it was perhaps a single-person quick action fighter at a pretty small scale, but the end result is a vehicle much larger than I thought it would be, with plenty of room for the pilot, and apparently with a “zipline” function that a second figure can ride up into the back. Great wing design, awesome thruster position, and just a really fun, really cool looking jet. While I found myself smiling and nodding approval at most of the stuff at Toy Fair, this thing made me open my eyes and grin from ear to ear. I think this could be a very fun vehicle.
I can’t believe I didn’t even mention the Jinx (in yellow) and all of her great ninja weapons, any Storm Shadow figures, Lady Jaye, or even the awesome Beachhead or combat Snake Eyes from the 3 Packs. I know commenting about the articulation is what most of us are going to do (and deservedly so), but I can’t help but notice there is still a lot to love in this line in 2012, and there are a ton of items I cannot wait to get my hands on.
Don’t forget to check out my other Toy Fair coverage for even more images and details from the Hasbro event this weekend. It was a blast, look forward to being back here again next year. A big thanks to all of the Hasbro PR folks and Hasbro reps who were in attendance for putting up with our badgering and putting out an awesome event as they always do.