G.I. Joe Convention 2010 Vacation in the Shadows - Page One
I think most of us as a fandom have been feeling it coming for the past couple of years, and that the o-ring has been destined to be retired. Last year it seemed like the Club had thrown a bit of a curve ball to us, indicating we were going to potentially see the Red Shadows, only to end up with a modernized Crimson Strike Team in the 25th Anniversary format.
Well, we pretty much got confirmation at the 2010 Convention that the days of the o-ring are numbered, and if that is the case, I think we got a pretty damn nice swan song.
Throughout its early days, the G.I. Joe line received lots of support internationally, but for whatever reason none of them captured the spirit of G.I. Joe like the UK "Action Force" series did. Palitoy actually created the Action Force and Red Shadows universe prior to gaining Hasbro licensing rights, and weaved an elaborate universe through a series of comic books, which was only accentuated when they began integrating o-ring styled figures into their overseas world.
With some careful paint alterations, some unique backstories, and a blend of quality writing and character depth, Action Force and the Red Shadows really created a life of their own, and with the wonders of the internet (specifically a fantastic fansite, Blood for the Baron) many American Joe collectors finally got a chance to really see what this universe was all about, which only further fueled their desire for access to the toys.
Unfortunately, though, when it came to the toys, the biggest backbone of the Red Shadows were incompatible with the improved G.I. Joe articulation standard. While characters like Red Laser and Jackyl fit in seamlessly, Baron Ironblood, Black Major, and even the Red Shadows themselves were tooled in very basic Star Wars style articulation.
Well, the Club elected to take full advantage of access to the o-ring tooling for one last hurrah, and produced a Convention Set worthy of the names "Action Force" and "Red Shadows", and finally fans in every country can get a hands-on feel for what a fantastic world Palitoy built nearly three decades ago.
I think most fans knew what to expect when it came to the Black Major. M Bison's head sculpt was a perfect translation of the old school Major's noggin, and was almost too perfect not to use. What I don't think the fans necessarily expected though, was just how awesome the entire package would look in this updated tooling. With a nice mixture of later year parts, including Hardball's torso and the Action Soldier's waist, this figure looks simultaneously sleek, dignified, yet imposing.
The stark black color of his uniform, offset by the red triangle shoulders and the striking Red Shadows skull and crossbones on his chest, immediately gives off the air of command, and is a nearly flawless rendition of the Black Major, pulled from the original Palitoy sculpt. There is no thinking outside the box here, nothing new, unusual, or different, just a very nice selection of parts that calls out to the vintage version, yet creates something new and exciting that fits in with the o-ring universe. Great stuff.
For his accessories, the Club dipped into the Indiana Jones pool, using a whip and pistol. Black Major certainly wasn't well known for toting the heavy hardware, though I'm not entirely sure where this selection of weaponry came from exactly.
There aren't a ton of paint apps, no intricate camouflage schemes, and no reinventing the wheel done here. Just a quality update and a perfect integration of the new Red Shadows leader into the o-ring universe. A great looking figure, typical of the Club's production team.
Anyone who has read my dio-stories knows that I'm a big fan of the Interrogator, and I'd like to think I was a little ahead of the times. Using him as a heavy in my universe before he became a Plague member in the Devils' Due comics, and before the Club brought him into their universe, I was very pleased to see the character get some further exploration.
I will admit, part of me was a bit nervous when the Club brought up the fact that they would reveal the Interrogator's "real identity" when this Convention set was finally released, but thankfully rather than trying to shoehorn him into some other component of the Cobra cadre, he just received a newly tooled head sculpt and even when the face was revealed, he was still just "The Interrogator".
However, some interesting theories have come about in regards to who the Interrogator really may or may not be. Astute 12" collectors have noted that the Interrogator head sculpt is a scaled down version of the "Soldiers of the World" 12 inch figure. Well, it just so happens, that during the same convention this year, there was a 12" exclusive... a MARS Industries "Henchman" figure, which also used a "Soldiers of the World" head sculpt. Coincidence, or is the Club trying to tie the two universes together even further? Either way, it's a pretty cool thought.
Now for this figure, the GIJCC did come up with some new concepts, envisioning him in a wilderness environment. Using the torso from the '91 Snake Eyes as some sort of cold weather jacket works really well, as does the rolled up sleeves as forearm-lengthed gloves. I was really surprised at how effective that look was. Along with the arms, Interrogator has Red Star's legs, too, just adding to the whole international theme, and the combination of parts works really, really well. Even though the Club went with various shades of gray, the colors are done very nicely, and he still ends up looking like the Interrogator, even with a very different uniform.
Of course the most defining aspect of the Interrogator is his helmet, and using the vintage head sculpt as a base, we get a freshly tooled removable helmet, which is a perfect version of the old school look. This creates a very effective Interrogator appearance with the helmet on, somewhat unfortunately, though, it also makes the figure look like a bit of a pinhead.
The rest of Interrogator's accessories involve a pick axe and a cloth-wrapped shotgun which initially came with Recondo, but is used here as a cold-weather weapon, which is a pretty neat shift.
A far cry from the brass knuckle toting, brawling, musclebound Interrogator we've been used to since 1992, this version retains a sense of dignity and upper class. Some interesting elements pulled mostly from the Direct to Consumer version in 2006. These aren't necessarily the parts I would have chosen if it were up to me, but I do think this serves to be a very interesting bridge between the original and the new sculpt renditions of this character, and it makes sense as an evolution. Not only that, but he fits into the European theme fairly well in this look, too, which is a big bonus. As quite possibly the biggest (if not the only) Interrogator fan out there, I approve.
While everyone was awaiting and expecting the arrival of the Red Shadows, I'm not sure anyone saw the Red Torches coming. Dual purposed as a flamethrower and a toxic trooper, the Red Torches are a totally new invention by the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club designed to integrate with the Red Shadow team, yet still bring something new to the table.
Initially I was pretty lukewarm to the idea. I wanted a Red Shadows set so I could enjoy some of the timeless UK characters, not so I could see new characters introduced. But in the end, the Red Torches ended up being a very enjoyable figure.
First and foremost, the use of the Built to Rule Shadow-Viper head was truly inspired. It's a great head sculpt on what was probably one of the coolest BRT figures around, and it suits the Red Shadows perfectly. The use of Flint's Eco Warriors tooling manages to capture the feel of a flamethrower as well as a gas trooper. Being one of the later molds, too, it has a nice bulk and mobility that I always thought was something very underappreciated about those later figures.
The colors are also done quite nicely, with a red and black that perfectly matches the Red Shadow aesthetic. My favorite little touch, though, is the cool Red Shadows logo on his arm that has just a hint of a silver flame roaring behind it. A really nice touch.
Looking at the accessories, I'll be honest, I didn't find them all that exciting for the Red Torch. I know, for a flamethrower and a gas trooper, there are limited selections, but I guess I'm just more of a guns and ammo type of guy. I think the Dreadnok Torch flamethrower was a great choice, and Barbecue's extinguishers worked in their own unique way as well, but when it comes right down to it, I'll take submachine guns and assault rifles over flame and smoke any day.
The figure was somewhat surprising, but the end result was a very interesting and unique addition to the Red Shadows corps. Part of me would have enjoyed having more generic Red Shadows Troopers and fewer Red Torch specialty troops, but all in all, the figure works nicely and fits in very well.
Red Shadows Trooper
Here he is...the backbone of the Red Shadow legion. Previously only seen as barely articulated stick figures in the Palitoy line, finally after over twenty-five years, the Red Shadow gets the o-ring treatment...and it's great.
Granted, the design is a fairly simple, straight-forward one, but the Club took the smart way out and simply emulated the original rather than re-inventing the wheel. Like the Black Major, they elected to pull all the familiar design elements and merely reproduce a classic figure. Normally, this isn't something I'm a big fan of. I'd rather new figures have new elements, rather than try way to hard to make something exactly like it was before. But in the case of the Red Shadows figures, when the originals were sub par from an articulation standpoint, and didn't fit in with the general cast of G.I. Joe characters, I approve totally.
The bulk of the figure is a Red Star base, with the accurate webgear, the intimidating jackboots, and the shoulder decoration, forming a very nice representation of the old school European crimson hued terrorist.
But of course, the head sculpt is the most unique element of the Red Shadows, and the Club reproduced it to a "t", basically taking the original head and tooling it onto a standard Joe neckball. While this does give the Shadow a bit of a long neck, I think the end result is still striking.
Paint apps are pretty close to flawless with a nicely colored shade of red that matches the old school Red Shadows to perfection. The dark gloss black color on the boots and straps, as well as the silver buckles and stark white trim gives us a nicely faithful translation of the familiar red trooper. Excellent execution, all told.
In choosing the accessories, the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club didn't have to go very far back in time, as they pulled the gear from the later year 25th Anniversary releases. The machine gun and pouch both come from the Comic Pack Beachhead, which is a fantastic choice, as it nicely reproduces the vintage style machine gun they toted around in the Palitoy comic book. Zap's bazooka is another terrific addition, since the Red Shadows often ran around with the older rocket launchers throughout the pages of that book as well.
All in all, the weapons make absolute perfect sense, they're nicely designed, and suit the figures very well.
Let's face it, the team was named for the Red Shadows, and the Shadows are the figures that everyone was looking forward to. I don't think the Club let anyone down...these figures are definitely the highlight of the set.
If I have any complaints, I will say that the o-ring is just a tad on the tight side, and it ends up making the figure "lean" just a bit. That's easily resolved with a different o-ring, or I've heard you can even twist it around to straighten the figure.
The Red Shadows are a great trooper figure and a great backbone to this new updated Red Shadow army. They faithfully resemble the vintage characters, yet are in a new enough style to mix with the modern day figures. A fantastic addition to any collection, and the highlight of this set, by far.
There was quite a bit of grumbling out and about the fandom when this figure first appeared in images, and I really didn't understand why then, but I actually kind of do understand it now.
Initial images did feel a bit "washed out" and as the Club routinely says (rightfully so) pictures don't always do the toys justice. Sometimes you just gotta get them in hand. Well, I ended up having an opposite reaction, as I really loved Flint from the images, but ended up somewhat disappointed once the toy was in hand.
First of all, I do think the parts choice is really nice. The Action Soldier tooling is fairly straight forward and basic, but makes for a good military base, with tight sculpting, decent detail, and a nice enough aesthetic. The range of motion is good, the "bulk" of the mold works well, and this really looks like a pretty awesome Flint figure.
But it seems to me they were kind of going for the "Z-Force" feel, but didn't at all match the "Z-Force" colors. And if they weren't going for the "Z-Force" feel, I think that's kind of a lapse in judgement, because I think they probably should have. Action Force's field commander in the Palitoy comic was a guy named "Skip" who had Z-Force colored camouflage and a red beret. Sure, this beret isn't red, but giving him a nice helping of the dark green and black paint scheme would have paid great tribute to the old school Z-Force leader. Instead, Flint's lighter green and black doesn't really match anything at all, not even the other figures in the Convention set, which is really strange, given the fact that the Club usually is very concerned about the cohesiveness of the Convention figures.
The green straps also feel a bit "off". I've seen brown leather, I've seen black leather, but I haven't really seen green leather, and the outcome just feels somewhat fake. Maybe that darker green was supposed to call back to the Z-Force figures, I don't know, but whatever the intention, the end result doesn't quite fit.
The figure isn't bad by any stretch, but I think some different, darker color choices could have improved things one hundred fold.
Flint doesn't have a bunch of accessories, but the ones he comes with make sense. He's got a basic military backpack, the same shotgun that he came with at the end of the 25th Anniversary line, and Outback's machine gun, also from the end of the Anniversary. It's all pretty standard fare for a military guy, but it works well.
Flint is a decent figure, but gets some points deducted for the lighter green color pallet. I love the camo pattern and the parts choices, but would have preferred a more Z-Force like color scheme, and perhaps not quite so much green.
All told, the boxed set was a successful one this year. Flint was a bit iffy, but Black Major and Interrogator were both a blast, the Red Torches were pretty cool, and the Red Shadows totally blew me away. There was a nice assortment of characters versus troopers, the parts were all well chosen, the colors all made sense, and everything gelled nicely.
A ton more images are posted below, and you can also check out the next two pages of reviews:
(Attende Exclusive Figures)
(Vehicles and More Images)
(Attende Exclusive Figures)
(Vehicles and More Images)