Real American Hero Collection
Series In Review
I figured I didn't want to just throw up my old reviews in a new format, I might as well add some extra content while I was at it...so, I am presenting both "Series in Review" and "Wave in Review" links throughout the archive pages, which will give a look back at these past series and what worked for them and what didn't. It will hopefully bring a new perspective to how these old series are perceived and possibly even explain some of my more bizarre review tendancies back then.
The Real American Hero Collection, I think was one of the most underrated periods in the storied past of G.I. Joe. Almost immediately cast aside as mere repaints, the RAHC began the two-pack tradition and was the first time Joes were available as a non-exclusive mass retail item since 1994. Back when these were released, in late 2000, the internet was not nearly the vast source of information that it is now, and it was always a guessing game as to which figures would be released and what decos might be chosen. It was far simpler times back then, and it was reflected in public opinion on the figures.For the most part, the figure choices were solid and interesting, and we got a nice eclectic mix of the old stand bys and some interesting new characters. Vehicles and vehicle drivers were all new and exciting, and there seemed to be an almost limitless potential for cool things with the line. Using a lot of 90's molds, Hasbro dipped into the wells and it seemed like each wave got better and better, bringing new head sculpts, great new paint jobs of existing molds, and even more cool characters. But there were certain stale parts of the line back then, as Hasbro relied pretty heavily on traditional military colors for the Joes and didn't experiment a whole lot with part swapping and "frankensteining". However during a time when the biggest argument was whether or not you liked paint wipes, looking back, it seems like it was a great time to be a Joe fan. There was a real sense of community and a kinship, even as silly divisions rose up over some trivial matters.Perhaps the Real American Hero Collection just holds a special place in my heart...after all, I was among the first in the country to find them hanging on a peg in my local Toys "R" Us, and in my eagerness to share my joy, this whole thing got started. I had been doing profiles of classic figures up to this point, but these new items that no one had seen yet? How could I turn down sharing the pleasure of owning the first new mass market Joes in over 5 years? The Toys "R" Us Exclusive commemerative packs might have well been an eternity ago, this was now. So, General's Joes reviews were born, and with a terrible Angelfire free webhost and an almost scary table-lidden organization structure, the reviews came to life. I was like a kid in a candy store, very excited about the new stuff, and not embarassed to share in my emotion. Upon retrospect, I was probably a little bit TOO giddy and non-objective about the figures back then, but to this day I still love the Real American Hero Collection stuff, and it will always hold a solid place in my heart.
Wave by Wave Breakdown
The first wave was pretty simple and straight forward, yet interesting at the same time. You had General Hawk and COBRA Commander, the two iconic leaders of each faction, and this COBRA Commander release was among my favorites at the time (and still is among my top two favorite COBRA Commander molds). Immediately bizarre new paint application methods took shape with marblized plastic and deep paint wipes really separating these figures from the classics. Trademark issues reared their ugly heads for the first time as well (at least known to us) as we got Tomahawk instead of Hawk and Chameleon instead of Baroness. Some strange decisions left Joe fans scratching their collective heads (Dial Tone's missing moustache, and bare hand colored paint over some obviously wrinkled gloves) but for the most part fans were glad to see these on the shelves, and eager for more. Even Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were looked upon with pleasure, something that would happen less and less through the years as these characters began making more and more common appearences. Times really were much simpler back then.
However early I found Wave 1 was tempered by how late I discovered Wave 2. I was living in a more urban area at the time, and Target was right on my way to work, so I literally went to Target every single day for probably 2-3 weeks before this wave ever showed up, and I hate to say it, but the wave in it's entirety wasn't all that exciting. The Rock-Vipers were an obvious favorite (naming convention alteration aside), but besides them, the two arctic Joes didn't do much, and Duke was never a super popular choice among the crowd. For whatever reason people didn't like this particular version of him very much either, although I disagree with that personal assessment. Sidetrack was a great figure, and Major Bludd was interesting as well, but essentially, this wave was about the excellent Rock-Vipers and they really stole the show.
This is where things really started picking up steam. We got new sculpt heads! NEW SCULPTS!! This was incredible!! The first time new sculpted items had adorned A Joe figure since the 90's. A cause for celebration. Even if the file name choice for Sure Fire caused immediate disdain, no one really argued that the figure itself was pretty good, and it was but one in a group of figures that really did a nice job capturing the essence of what made G.I. Joe cool. The Laser Viper quickly became everyone's default trooper and Fast Blast Viper took a terrific Heat Viper mold and made it all the better by darkening the colors and giving them a much more captivating history. On the Joe side, the urban themed Low Light and Sure Fire were definite fan favorites while the Roadblock-clone Double Blast seemed to cause the most heartache. COBRA Commander and Destro's near-identical representation from their earlier versions was another source of minor confusion, although I found it surprising that there really weren't that many complaints about it. Crossfire was decent, even if generic and forgettible, but as usual the COBRA Troopers stole the spotlight.
Ahhh...the "Brawler wave"...who can forget? This was another very mediocre wave that seemed to follow a great one (and preceeded probably the best RAHC wave released). With only three 2-Packs, we got Big Brawler, Tripwire, Gung Ho, Leatherneck, Zartan, and Shadow-Viper. Even the COBRA Trooper this time around couldn't really save this wave, as a repainted Astro-Viper provided little to get excited about, and Zartan was just a plain wreck. Pale flesh tones didn't help, and even though I really thought the Big Brawler figure was great (where can you go wrong with Outback's mold?) his file name history and immediate infamy made him a hard character to work into a story seriously. Gung Ho was all right, using the underrated '92 mold, but Leatherneck was another figure gone wrong, with a pretty bland paint scheme (very reminiscent of the Duke that used this mold before him) and a completely non-descript head sculpt. Wave 4 was probably the most forgettible of the RAHC releases.
Here is where things got interesting! On the heels of announcing the mass market release of NEW SCULPT Joes (whooo!!! Or was it?) it was announced that Wave 5 would only see release as an online exclusive. As such, it immediately became pretty hard to find, and most people were buying it by the case. And as Murphy's Law usually goes, the best wave of the run also turned out to be the hardest to find. We got a decent assortment of Joes, with two nicely hued medics (although "Lifeline" really looked nothing like Lifeline, and in fact, did not even have the same file name), two interesting other Joe troopers (Shipwreck and Sidetrack) although again naming conventions served to confuse. We had gotten a bearded Sidetrack back in Wave 2, so who was this new Sidetrack with another different file name? Eh? Tomax and Xamot were cool, although they were almost exactly the same as their original releases. Still, I love those original figures, so having them in a somewhat more durable state (with rubber grip and all) made me happy. Serpentor, while being a figure I couldn't really get excited about actually made for a great figure in black and green, and Shock Viper? Well, Shock Viper was simply the bee's knees. Head to toe it was a pretty successful wave, and of course, spelled the end of the Real American Hero Collection as it went on to bigger and better (?!?) things.
The vehicle assortment throughout the Real American Hero Collection was another source of some confusion, but ultimately proved to be a pretty successful one. In spite of a strangely large number of COBRA submarines (and a lack of COBRA aircraft) all in all, there seemed to be a pretty decent selection. HISS tanks, Wave Crushers, AWE Strikers all provided some nice solid mid-range vehicles, and got topped off with a fantastic Night Ops repaint of the Warthog, and even a new release of the 90's G.I. Joe Headquarters. All shapes and sizes, the vehicles all proved to be pretty fun, and the drivers for the most part were nicely selected later mold figures that all seemed to fit in pretty well. There was some retooling here and there, and lots of repainting, and in the end, it was more or less a success.
Taking it in all at once, I'm pretty happy with how the RAHC ran its course and the end solution was a nice selection of repainted figures and vehicles, picking some cool obscure molds and did some interesting things with them. And the community as a whole was a tight-knit place with a real comeraderie, which unfortunately started to drift apart somewhat with the dreaded "new sculpt/classic sculpt" controversy. It was a nice, simple time in Joeland, with great figures on the shelves, a new comic on the horizon, and a wealth of potential.
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