SDCC Exclusive Zarana (Regular Release)

As I write this, we're going on about two weeks since the Hasbro Toy Shop fiasco involving this figure, and I've had many requests in public and private to kind of speak my piece about the whole thing. I've been somewhat hesitant to try and get into it so much, just because its been discussed ad nauseum, and I don't really know what I can add to the conversation.

I will say that along with 75% of other Joe fans out there, I was on HasbroToyShop that Tuesday morning trying like hell to get myself a variant Zarana or SDCC Starstriker. I was lucky enough to have my buddy (and GeneralsJoes contributor) Chris hook me up with the regular release Zarana and one Starstriker, but I was trying to help out a friend, and get myself the variant.

Well, I was connected to HasbroToyShop for probably 90 minutes from start to finish, and well... it sucked. It sucked royally. Frequent refreshes alternated from hung sessions, internet browser crashes, and items being forced out of my shopping cart even though I had them added and supposedly secured. Frankly, my HasbroToyShop experience, like most of you, was abysmal, and for a large company like Hasbro to be represented (at least in name) by that experience is terrible from a PR perspective. Yes, I understand that HasbroToyShop is technically a separate entity, but all people see is the name "Hasbro" and when they can't even try to buy what they want, or when they have it added to their cart only to have it ejected and sold to someone else while they're pressing "check out"... well that's totally unacceptible. I seriously believe that Hasbro and HasbroToyShop need to completely rethink their post-sales strategy going forward and find a better way to get this product out there, or just not bother to try at all.

All of that being said, I'm not out there whining and crying about the experience. I don't feel like I'm "entitled" to these items, and just because I didn't get what I wanted on Tuesday morning, I'm not marching down to Pawtucket with a torch and pitchfork. These items, as always, have been marketed and sold as SDCC Exclusives, and frankly people coughing up the big bucks to go to San Diego deserve to have a little perk thrown their way for attending. But if Hasbro promises to have product available on their site after the Convention, they have a very long way to go to keep that promise. Just my own .02.

On to happier things. My aforementioned buddy Chris got my SDCC Exclusives promptly in the mail to be, so I can now do my due dilligence and review. First up, the regular release Zarana.

Now I'm probably one of the few fans out there that actually really wanted the variant Zarana over the standard release. Yes I appreciate the classic vibe that this version gives off, and it feels good to fill this hole in my 1986 collection, but from a pure design and aesthetic perspective, I think the Cold Slither version is completely bad ass. But like many others, I couldn't get the purchase through the system on that Tuesday.

But you know what? I'll suck it up and buy one second hand at some point, if that's what it comes to. It's not like these things are completely unattainable just because they didn't make it to HasbroToyShop, you just have to accept the higher cost and move on. Still a hell of a lot cheaper than booking a flight and hotel to San Diego.

Okay, let me get the obvious out of the way first. Holy crap is this figure amazing.

I've never been a big Zarana fan, honestly. I was always grumbling to myself in those later G.I. Joe Marvel issues when she seemed to hold a higher rank in Cobra than The Baroness or others, and honestly I think a lot of that stemmed from the fact that the figure was kind of horrible. She was short, a little chunky, and her head was blocky and oversized (even with or without the earrings). She just never resonated.

This figure has absolutely none of those issues and is a perfect example of just how far sculpting and technology has brough action figure design in the past 30 years. It is truly astounding.

Thank goodness for technology!

Obviously the figure is taller than the original, working with the 4" scale over the 3 3/4" in the vintage line, and is sculpted much leaner and meaner than her old school sister. The head sculpt manages to look angry, but not ugly, and is an example of how far Hasbro sculpting has come even in the past couple of years. It wasn't that long ago that they had a really hard time with female head and face sculpts, but they sure seem to have come a long way.

I don't think I'm overexaggerating these days when I saw that the majority of Joe fans these days prefer the modern style of construction and articulation, and this figure is a perfect example of the benefits of that style. Using the two part torso, sculpters were able to give Zarana a torn shirt that really looks like it is a separate part of her body, even as a sculpted piece. The detail on the straps is amazing, the subtle musculature of the body itself, the sleek knife with fully functional (yet not obnoxiously large) sheath. Amazing. From head to toe this is one of the singularly most impressively designed Anniversary homage figures I have seen. Where stuff like the PoC Wave 3 Snake Eyes and Wave 4 Low Light were impressive for their over-abundance of intricate detail, Zarana is simply gorgeous in her simplicity, almost perfectly mimmicking the design aesthetics of the 1986 original, yet still managing to make it look current and fit in with more modern figures.

As for paint apps, she is remarkably similar, yet drastically different from her vintage counterpart. Sporting her typical blue jeans, they are colored a much more realistic denim as opposed to the bright blue of the '86 version. Her pink is still obviously hot pink, but more subdued and less "toy like". The perfect amounts of burgandy and brown accentuate the figure even more, and the end result is a darn near perfect modern update to the classic Zarana that belongs in every 25th Anniversary collection.

I know there have been complaints about the multi-colored hair do, but honestly I don't have a problem with it. Yeah, it's different than the original, but I think it adds a very cool modern punk twist to the figure and I really love it. Another perfect little touch is the eye makeup that is subtle, but fantastic.

While the designers elected to forgo Zarana's bizarre backpack, they did give her a newly tooled buzz-saw gun and also equipped her with a version of Ripper's machine gun and the removable knife. I love all of these weapon choices, though I do admit Ripper's weapon does spread her fingers out just a little bit too much. Granted they're rubberized, so they can easily be squeezed back, but I couldn't help but make that observation.

She isn't loaded with gear, but the stuff she comes with is appropriate, and her knife is just awesome.

No, I am not a fan of the 25th Anniversary concept, which traditionally took figures and just re-released them in the modern style. I find it hard to get excited about modern era reproductions to figures I owned three decades ago. I much prefer Hasbro's tactic of updating, revamping, and adding nice intricate details to make the figure more current.

Zarana, though, is such a fantastic figure, I find it very difficult to argue against this strategy. They took everything about the classic and retooled it for 2011, and gave us a great figure that can fight alongside an updated Zartan, yet also slip into your 1986 display and fit right in. Kudos.

Of course I know the fandom has their issues with releasing Zarana in this format, but to an extent, I don't think you can completely blame Hasbro. I know we all doubt the authenticity of the reports, but retail surveys still claim that female figures do not sell, and I think the very notion of having a female punk rocker with a torn shirt and pants, revealing some serious skin, is something that retailers would shy away from. Even with the impressive amount of detail the figure has, her aesthetic is still very 80's, and could be very off-putting to parents buying toys for their kids, and I honestly believe Hasbro would have had an almost impossible time selling this concept to brick and mortar.

Deny it if you want, but I stand by it. Hasbro obviously put a lot of money and effort into this figure, I'm sure they would have much preferred selling 20,000 units to Wal-Mart, Target, and TRU, and not just reserving a fraction of that amount for SDCC.

Regardless, even if you can't find this figure on HasbroToyShop, and you didn't make it to San Diego, she can be had on eBay for pretty reasonable prices, and as I said before, it's still a hell of a lot cheaper than plane fare and a hotel for SDCC, and you don't have to wait in line. She's not nearly as unattainable as some would have you believe.

With that out of the way, anyone who wants one should buy it. She is worth it. A fantastic update to an important classic character who fills a valuable role in the 1986 roster, yet still works as a modern update. Almost flawless in every way... except, I suppose, availability. But that's another story.