Each year, the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club offers a distinctive G.I. Joe action figure, either 12" or 3-3/4", depending on the preference of the club member, to all new and renewing club members.
My preference, of course, is the 3-3/4" line. Not to malign the 12" series. If it weren't for those, we'd never have seen the Real American Hero. I have all the respect in the world for the 12" G.I. Joes. I just prefer the 3-3/4" ones for my collection.
This year, the 3-3/4" exclusive figure is the big Double-C himself, the ultimate enemy of the G.I. Joe Team -- COBRA COMMANDER! And indeed, a very special Cobra Commander figure.
Most fans have a decent idea of Cobra Commander's origin, so I won't get too in-depth here. Cobra Commander was a used car salesman who started to go around the bend a bit when he came to the personal realization that the system in place in the country was meant to keep the hard-working little guy down. Around the same time as this, his brother was killed in a traffic accident with the family of an American soldier returning from battle (this was, in fact, Snake-Eyes' family). The fact that his brother was drunk and somewhat crazed himself, and as such was responsible for the accident that killed all parties involved, was irrelevant. It was enough to push the future Cobra Commander over the edge.
He found a very unusual way to start to build an army of assorted malcontents and others who to one degree or another felt the same way that he did -- that the American dream had failed them or passed them by, and that the only solution, was revolution. He actually started Cobra as a pyramid marketing scheme, in a little town called Springfield. This proved ridiculously successful, and paved -- not to mention PAID -- the way for the building of the eventual COBRA terrorist organization.
Cobra continued to grow, building an increasingly specialized army, contracting the services of armaments experts such as Destro and hired help like Zartan and the Dreadnoks, and becoming and increasing presence and threat on the global scene. This ultimately brought them to the attention of the United States military, who put the G.I. Joe Team on their case, and started a legend that has run for over 25 years.
Cobra remains a considerable presence and danger around the world, and has been repeatedly fought by the G.I. Joe Team and assorted allies, such as the Oktober Guard and others, all over the planet.
Cobra Commander has proven himself time and again to be a man totally without scruples, utterly determined to conquer the world, and willing to do anything to accomplish that. In the "World War III" storyline that concluded the Devil's Due run of G.I. Joe comic books, Cobra Commander came as close as he ever has to succeeding in his goal, creating a team of 13 specialists called "The Plague" in an evil nod to the original 13 G.I. Joe team members, killing his own long-estranged son along the way after the young man tried to rid the world of his evil father, and dang near set off a couple of nuclear bombs that were strategically placed to cause an environmental catastrophe of unprecedented levels, a literal "scorched earth".
Which doesn't mean that Cobra Commander hasn't had some impressive action figure incarnations over the years. In fact, the original Cobra Commander was the very first mail-order figure ever offered by Hasbro. They did it to gauge interest in their brand-new Real American Hero line. Would anybody even respond? Multiple massive mailbags of responses later and probably a few unkind words from their local mailman, that particular speculation was put to rest in a hurry.
There have been, no great surprise, a great many Cobra Commander figures over the years, in every conceivable format. There were plenty of traditional-style Cobra Commanders, no shortage of newsculpt Cobra Commanders, there have already been several 25th-style Cobra Commanders, and there have even been a number of 12" Cobra Commanders. He was the first-ever 12" villain in the Hall of Fame line, and there were a couple of him in the later 12" line around 2002-2005. There were, not surprisingly, also a couple of Cobra Commanders in the 8" Sigma Six line. This guy gets around.
So what's so distinctive about the Club's Cobra Commander figure? Well, for starters, it's a completely unique Cobra Commander figure. These body molds have never been used before. That's pretty unusual for a Club figure. But even if that wasn't impressive enough -- which it certainly is -- there's more to the backstory of this figure that makes him even more interesting.
As I understand it, this Cobra Commander was originally planned to be part of a new iteration of newsculpt G.I. Joe figures that would have had as their storyline a concept called "Robot Rebellion", with something of a focus on Cobra's infamous Battle Android Troopers. Precisely what the particulars would have been, I honestly don't know. However, the concept was scrapped when the powers-that-be decided to take G.I. Joe in an entirely new direction with the 8" line of more stylized G.I. Joe figues known as Sigma Six.
That is -- it was ALMOST an entirely new direction. Some elements of the "Robot Rebellion" scenario did make their way into the early days of Sigma Six. Take a look at a B.A.T. v.5 figure from the 3-3/4" B.A.T. Attack six-pack. Now take a look at a Sigma Six Sky B.A.T. Size notwithstanding, there's a fair number of design similarities, especially the look of the head and the chest, the head being especially distinctive compared to previous B.A.T. designs. Then you've got those whatever-they-are canisters hanging off the backs of the arms.
I'm honestly not sure why the carryover happened. I've heard some theories, that the early Sigma Six animation was actually intended to launch "Robot Rebellion", and it couldn't all be scrapped, and the early Sigma Six toys were a little rushed, and the only way to compensate for that was to carry some aspects of it over. I want to stress right here that this is only what I have heard from various sources. I wouldn't report it at all if I hadn't heard it more than once, and from people I trust. But I personally have no direct information. So take it for what it's worth based on that.
Needless to say, with a probable fairly quick switchover between 3-3/4" to Sigma Six, some items that were in various stages of readiness were unfortunately cast aside. This was inevitable given the usual fairly lengthy preparation time that a toy requires. Over the past several years, several photos, and even figures themselves, of an armored Cobra Commander figure bearing a fair resemblance to the Sigma Six Cobra Commander, but in 3-3/4" size and the more realistic proportions, has turned up here and there online.
The figure did not appear to be a prototype. Clearly -- SOMETHING existed, it had just never reached mass production. But that didn't mean that a set of molds didn't exist. And indeed they did. And given that a good, precise set of action figure molds is generally the most expensive part of toy manufacturing, it's nice to see that these have finally been put to use.
So, how impressive is this Cobra Commander figure? Extremely. And let's be honest, there's a lot to compare him to. I realize that this is a newsculpt Cobra Commander, and I have always had a stated preference for the original, traditional-style figures, but with all of the various Cobra Commanders in existence, there have been some high points, and a few -- well, fumbles along the way. Like that 1991 Cobra Commander in the blue and gold uniform with the translucent red face plate. THAT was an odd one. So was the Cobra Commander all in red in the Imperial Procession set. Somehow, CC doesn't look quite right all in red. I'm not criticizing Hasbro, really. You do this many versions of the same character, a crucial character to the concept that you want to make sure stays involved, and yet you want to keep him as fresh and interesting as possible -- there's bound to be an occasional "What the!?"
This -- is a cool Cobra Commander. I may even dare say that this is the most impressive Cobra Commander in several years. This is a Cobra Commander outfitted in an armored battle suit that looks a whole lot better than the one he first wore in 1987, done in a solid black with a VERY limited amount of color trim that on the one hand speaks of distinct evil, and on the other speaks of someone who has outfitted himself very well for battle and isn't likely to be stopped by any conventional means.
The head comes with a removable hood. I don't know that that's ever been done before. There have been a few Cobra Commanders that have had removable helmets, or partially removable helmets, but I don't think there's been a removable hood. However, don't expect to get a good look at Cobra Commander's mug. The head underneath is encased in a protective mask that only leaves the eyes and a bit of skin around the eyes exposed. About all you can see is an arched brow that looks both determined and nasty. There's a sculpted Cobra insignia on the back. One might tend to think that since it's unlikely that the hood offers the same sort of protection as the body armor, that perhaps this second mask is actually a form-fitting helmet of some sort that offers a measure of protection.
The hood is nicely sculpted, and hangs well on the figure. It's not so short that it looks cut off, and not so long that it impedes head movement. And it's molded from a flexible plastic.
The body is very clearly armored. There's no "fabric wrinkles" here. The black chest plate is somewhat angular in appearance. The detailing on all body sections -- chest, back, arms, legs -- is all very nicely done. It's somewhat minimal, but there's enough there to let you know that this is a suit of armor. It's been molded in a fairly high-gloss black plastic.
Cobra Commander is wearing a belt around his waist, with armored "flaps" that come down in the front and sides. However, this is the costume element that most resembles the Sigma Six incarnation of Cobra Commander. His uniform had similar features to it.
There isn't a lot of painted detail on the figure. Nor does it really need much. There are a few areas of grey on the arms, that represent joints in the armor, but even the "undersuit" looks to be pretty protective. The belt is also grey. A large red Cobra insignia is printed on the chest -- very neatly, I might add -- and a decorative braid around his right arm and a couple of medals on his upper left chest have also been painted red, as has a small Cobra insignia on his hood.
The rest -- is black. Dark, gloss, black. And it really works.
The figure's structure is newsculpt, and although I have tended to have my problems with this over the years, this Cobra Commander is proof that the biggest problem I had with that format -- the greater height and unusual body proportions -- had been worked out. The newsculpt line did see a fair amount of "evolution" over its run. The figure is of a good height to work with any previous 3-3/4" G.I. Joe including the traditional-styles, and the one aspect of difference -- slightly longer legs and a shorter torso -- is masked by the belt and "flaps". The arm construction is not the same, and interestingly, the head is mounted on a ball-and-socket design like a Star Wars figure, but I'm prepared to give these differences a pass, since the figure itself is so cool and looks as good as it does.
Accessories for the figure include a large black cape, for starters. This is designed to be draped over the figure, and over one arm. Although it does add a nice ceremonial touch, I personally think the figure looks better without it. But this is strictly my opinion. You may well enjoy a caped Cobra Commander, and the cape is nicely made.
Cobra Commander also comes with a nasty looking knife, and a long and ornate staff that has the Cobra insignia on one end, a nasty-looking snake's head on the other, and twining little snakes running along the length of it. It's really a very impressive piece, and I'm sure that those who enjoy cool accessories will be as glad to see this as the figure.
Cobra Commander also comes with a Club Membership card, which has a file card for Cobra Commander on the reverse. The file card reads as follows:
COBRA SUPREME LEADER
Terrific -- so that armor's not only protective, it makes him stronger, AND gives him a direct link to those walking short-circuits who are already dangerous enough just firing blindly the way they tend to.
I would suspect that this file card would have been the basis for the storyline of the 3-3/4" G.I. Joes had the line continued in that scale and not gone into Sigma Six. It's a sincere shame we'll never fully know how it played out, or what other figures might have come to pass. I think it would've been very interesting.
So, what's my final word here? I'm extremely impressed. I am very pleased that the Club was able to make use of these previously unused molds, and they came up with a color scheme that really works well for the character. The figure is of as good if not better quality than anything presently on the market, and he looks good worked in with other G.I. Joe figures of previously established types.
More to the point, he looks like Cobra Commander, and he looks like
a Cobra Commander who is more prepared and determined than ever to bring
forth his objective of global domination. I've always been pleased to
be a member of the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club, and with perks like this,
it's that much more enjoyable. If you're not a member, you should seriously
consider joining (www.gijoeclub.com),
and of course, this very impressive G.I. JOE COLLECTORS' CLUB: COBRA
COMMANDER has my highest and most enthusiastic recommendation!