REVIEW: G.I. JOE 30th ANNIVERSARY COBRA TROOPER
In 2012, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, celebrates its 30th Anniversary. As such -- so does Cobra. So it seems fitting that one of the new figures introduced into the 30th Anniversary G.I. Joe line, is indeed an all-new version of the backbone of the enemy forces, a new COBRA TROOPER!
The history of how Cobra became part of the G.I. Joe concept is interesting, and by that I don't mean the "in-universe" explanation. According to G.I. Joe lore, Hasbro developed the idea of G.I. Joe becoming a team of specialists with individual character names, rather than being a catch-all name for a 12" action figure with various uniforms and accessories, and approached Marvel Comics with the idea of doing a comic book tie-in. Just one thing was lacking -- who was G.I. Joe going to fight? No enemy concept had been considered.
Reportedly, it was Marvel editor Archie Goodwin who came up with the name "Cobra". It was decided to make the main color of Cobra uniforms dark blue, so as not to confuse them with any actual military force in real life. The initial figures for Cobra, unlike the individual characters of the G.I. Joe team, were very generic, the first "army-builders" of the concept, and included a Cobra Trooper, then simply known as a "Cobra", and a Cobra Officer. Both figures looked very similar differentiated really only by mild uniform details, and the fact that the Cobra Officer had a silver Cobra emblem on his shirt, rather than red.
Cobra Commander, for that first year of G.I. Joe, was available as a mail-order figure, and needless to say, there was no shortage of orders for him. The second year of G.I. Joe saw a few more enemy individuals introduced, including Major Bludd and Destro, but they were not specifically tied in to Cobra initially. Neither had Cobra emblems on their persons or on their file cards. Major Bludd was a Mercenary, and Destro was simply designated as an "Enemy Weapons Supplier". The closest Cobra got to a specialized trooper in the second year was the HISS Driver, who was simply known as -- well -- the HISS Driver, although his mostly bright red uniform certainly made him stand out.
It wasn't until 1984 when more Cobra-specific individuals were introduced, including the Baroness, Firefly, Storm Shadow, and Scrap Iron. And it really wasn't until 1985 when a decent variety of specialized troopers were introduced, although 1984 had seen the introduction of the Tele-Viper. 1985 brought along the Snow Serpents, the Cobra Eels, and of course, the infamous Crimson Guards.
All though this, the Cobra Troopers and Cobra Officers endured, not really being replaced until the Cobra Vipers came along in 1986, as Cobra's new infantry forces. Even then, many collectors still maintained both Vipers and Troopers in their collections, and precisely how they were divided up depended very much on individual imagination. The Officers and Troopers would become, alongside the Vipers, an integral part of 1989's Python Patrol, and all would continue to be popular army builders within the ranks of Cobra to this day.
Newsculpt versions of both Cobra Troopers and Cobra Officers would be available during the 2002-2006 run of the line, and the original-style Troopers and Officers would continue to put in occasional appearances, first in an extremely popular Infantry Set that featured slightly reworked and more realistic-looking figures, and later on in a special set of Night Patrol Cobra Troopers and Officers, whose job it was to keep Cobra Island secure when everyone else was snoozing. Cobra Troopers and Officers, colored more like their early comic book counterparts, also turned up in the comic-based three-packs along the way.
When G.I. Joe commemorated its 25th Anniversary, the figure design was completely reworked, and many of the original, early characters, were remade for this new line. To be perfectly honest, I didn't really go for very many of these. I had the original figures, and I couldn't really see re-purchasing them just because the figure format had changed, something that I considered a debatable move anyway. I didn't ignore the line completely. There were several new characters, such as the Para-Viper, Matt Trakker, and so forth, that I did welcome in to my overall action figure collection.
Of course, there was a new 25th Anniversary Cobra Trooper. And subsequent to his initial release, he turned up recolored in a couple of different ways. One was as the Python Officer. When Python Patrol came out in 1989, the body molds for the Cobra Trooper and Cobra Officer were switched for their respective roles in Python Patrol. With the 2011 Official Collectors' Convention set featuring six Python Troopers, I figured I'd better get an Officer to keep an eye on them.
There was also an interesting set of figures, a new version of the Night Patrol set, which honestly featured an improvement in colors over the original-style set from some years earlier, which featured Cobra Troopers and an Officer. So I was not completely bereft of modern-style Cobra Troopers, even if I hadn't picked up the "basic blue".
The new Cobra Trooper was released on the 30th Anniversary packaging style. Now, before I get involved with the Trooper, I'd like to say a few words about the packaging.
I'm impressed. The past couple of years, with the movie line and then the post-movie line, the packaging just looked a little too "busy", and somehow, not especially Joe-like to me. The new packaging for the 30th Anniversary has taken a somewhat simpler approach, while also maintaining the truly excellent character illustrations that have been the high point of the packages for the past couple of years.
A somewhat redone but still entirely recognizable version of the classic logo is in place. For the Cobra character cards, the backdrop is largely red, and there is a Cobra emblem in the upper right corner. The red eventually gives way in segments, not unlike a stylized version of one of the designs of the original package cards, to white, which gradually becomes gray. It is this portion of the card where the figure is displayed, on the lower right. The left side of the card features a truly superb illustration of the character, in this case, the Cobra Trooper.
The back of the package card is mostly dark red, with the Cobra emblem, and a smaller version of the front illustration, although it does show the entire illustration, whereas the front of the card really only shows it from the waist up. A small grouping of pictures to the other side shows other figures available. The lower part of the card features the character's file card, and I'll discuss that more later on. The upper left of the back of the card shows the 30th Anniversary emblem.
I suspect a lot of fans may be inclined to cut the file card out of the card and discard the rest of the package. I say -- save the whole thing. There's some seriously nice artwork here, and the overall design is very impressive. I'd honestly have to say it's the best I've seen since the days of the original line, really.
So, why did the Cobra Trooper catch my eye? Actually, it was something about his eyes. I had more or less assumed that this figure would be a recolor of the 25th Anniversary Cobra Trooper. But the eyes and eyebrows, really all of the face that you could see, didn't look quite as -- well, maniacal as the 25th Anniversary version. I thought perhaps that this was perhaps just a new head, but there was something about the figure as a whole that just looked more impressive than the first version. I wondered if I was imagining things until a friend of mine who was with me that day pretty much expressed similar sentiments -- and he wasn't even a strong G.I. Joe collector.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive, and in my opinion, a definite improvement over his predecessor in several respects. Now, the 25th Anniversary Cobra Trooper is a very decent modern-style take on the original figure, don't get me wrong. But the 30th Anniversary Cobra Trooper has been reworked in such a way that, honestly, he looks a lot more realistic, and he looks a lot more like a soldier -- admittedly a soldier dressed in dark blue and belonging to a (thankfully fictional) global terrorist organization, but a soldier nevertheless.
The first 25th Anniversary Cobra Trooper had a rather slender build and in some respects a rather tight-fitting uniform. Although the helmet was removable, the head underneath was bald. Some later figures that used the same headsculpt would paint a hairline on the head, making it appear as though the figure had extremely close-cropped hair. The lower face was, of course, covered by a fabric-looking mask, but the eyes tended to have a slightly crazed look to them, due I believe to relatively small pupils compared to the rest of the eye, and rather arched eyebrows, admittedly denoting a certain anger or ferocity, but they still came across as looking somewhat exaggerated, almost cartoonish.
There is nothing exaggerated about the headsculpt of the new 30th Anniversary Cobra Trooper. Once again, the helmet is removable, but the head underneath has a very distinctly sculpted hairline. The figure basically has a neat brown crewcut, very military in style. The eyes and eyebrows give the Cobra Trooper the determined look of a dedicated soldier, but are lacking the exaggeration of the previous version, that made him look a little too maniacal for his own good. In other words, the new headsculpt is entirely realistic and entirely plausible.
To make a very basic comparison, if perhaps stretching the point a bit, the eyes and eyebrows of the 25th Anniversary Cobra Trooper seemed to say, "I'm going to help conquer the world!" followed by some evil laughter. The 30th Anniversary Cobra Trooper's eyes and eyebrows seem to belong more to someone that would say, "I'm part of Cobra, I'm a dedicated soldier, I have a job to do, and God help you if you get in my way." Now, which really sounds scarier?
The rest of the figure has also been completely redone from the previous version, although to what degree this new Cobra Trooper may or may not be using body parts from other G.I. Joe or Cobra figures I honestly don't know. I'm just not expert enough with the modern G.I. Joe line to make that determination. However, whether he does or not, the end result is extremely impressive.
The new Cobra Trooper has a somewhat stockier build than the previous version, and the uniform looks far more military in nature. It has much more sculpted details and "fabric wrinkles" in it, which makes it look that much more realistic. The upper torso is relatively smooth, but this allows for the imprinting of a sizable and impressive red Cobra emblem.
The upper arms have diagonal pockets sculpted into them, very much in keeping with modern military uniform design, and the left sleeve has a second red Cobra emblem on it. There are slightly armored elbow pads on the sleeves, and the sleeves themselves end in cuffs, and the Cobra Trooper is wearing black gloves which themselves have sculpted detail on them.
The trousers are very extensively detailed, and do a good job of matching the design of the original Cobra Trooper, especially with regard to the distinct black armored knee pads, and the two straps on the left leg. However, at this point, the new Cobra Trooper is much more equipped. The original Cobra Trooper, and indeed, the 25th Anniversary counterpart, only had a knife sheath that was attached to the left leg. In the case of the 25th Anniversary version, that knife was removable.
The 30th Anniversary Cobra Trooper has two narrow pouches strapped to his left leg. Strapped to his right leg is a holster for a pistol, with an extra little space for a silencer. Strapped to his lower right leg, near his boot, is the knife sheath, and indeed, he does come with a removable knife.
The boots are black, and excellently detailed with laces on the front, and even full treads on the bottoms. Painted detail on the figure is relatively minimal, mostly some black straps with silver buckles and clasps here and there, but it's all been very neatly done.
As far as I can tell, the only aspect of the 25th Anniversary Cobra Trooper that's been carried over to the 30th Anniversary Cobra Trooper is the harness. It appears to be identical. This includes a belt around the waist, with a silver buckle, and two straps that go over the shoulders and reconnect in the back. Various accessories, including a non-removable pistol in a holster, and a number of small pouches, are part of this harness. It's impressive that it has made the transition from one Cobra Trooper to another so effectively.
Let me make this general comment about the Cobra Trooper, and it's intended as a compliment. There are a few other 4" scale soldier-type action figure lines out there, and I don't mean Lanard's CORPS, that are produced by distinctly smaller toy companies, but which are designed to far more faithfully reproduce the look of actual real-world soldiers, both modern day and historical, than the Real American Hero has ever intended to be. And for what they are, they do an excellent job. This new Cobra Trooper is so "soldier-like" in his overall appearance, that he would not have a hard time fitting in with these more real-world-designed soldier figures.
Now, I would like to address one important aspect of the Cobra Trooper's structure. Ask most modern G.I. Joe collectors what the most annoying part of the modern figure design is, and most of them will say -- the mid-torso articulation point. And I would be inclined to agree with that assessment. On far too many figures, it just doesn't look that good. To me, it's a tricky business anyway. Some figures -- not within G.I. Joe -- can get away with it, because it can be incorporated into the design of the figure. Star Wars Clone Troopers and Stormtroopers can get away with it, because it can be blended in with the armor. DC Universe Classics figures can get away with it because it can be worked into the musculature. But a figure that's wearing a loose-fitting fabric uniform has a bit more trouble with it.
I believe Hasbro is aware of this, and have increasingly given many of their G.I. Joe figures assorted vests, harnesses, and other torso accessories designed to conceal it as best as possible, without limiting its articulation too much.
In the case of the new Cobra Trooper, this was really the visual giveaway that this was indeed a new figure, as much as the new headsculpt. The friend I was with pointed out that it appeared to be positioned much lower than before, and indeed, he was right. This was in part, what allowed for the distinctly larger Cobra emblem to be printed on the shirt. But it's also low enough at this point so that, while not entirely hidden by the belt, and isn't quite at the waist, it's a good bit less obvious than before.
Overall articulation of the figure is, of course, excellent. The Cobra Trooper is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. Many of his articulation points feature a back and forth movement as well as a rotational swivel. About the worst thing I can say about the figure is that he doesn't have the best posture in the world. The neck is angled slightly forward, and he has a little trouble keeping his head up and looking straight forward.
Let's talk accessories. You want weapons? The Cobra Trooper has weapons. He comes with a knife for the leg sheath. He's displayed in package holding a pair of pistols with long silencers. The silencers actually pop off. They're separate pieces! One of these pistols can fit into his leg holster, and there's a separate strap for the silencer. To be honest, I would be pretty reluctant to display this figure with his weapons in their holsters. I nearly lost the knife when I took the figure outdoors to my patio to photograph him, and I didn't even realize it was missing until later. I did recover it, but this sort of incident just reinforces my frequent recommendation of putting these tiny, easily lost accessories in a Ziploc bag and writing the name of their owner on it.
Somewhat less easily lost accessories include a good-sized rifle, and a huge RPG launcher. These items actually have painted trim on them, and have been very nicely done. The Cobra Trooper comes with quite the arsenal!
There's also one more interesting little accessory. I wasn't sure what it was at first, as you almost can't see it from the outside of the package, as it's hidden behind the cardboard nameplate. It looked something like a spring. A curious item, I thought. What's this anyway, a miniature Slinky?
Well, no. It's a length of coiled barbed wire. Now, in and of itself, it's not all that long, but if a collector, who might be inclined to construct a diorama, decided to army-build these Cobra Troopers, he could end up with quite a supply of this stuff. And I, for one, would love to see the mold that this item popped out of, because I can't for the life of me figure out how it was made. It's literally an expandable coil of plastic "barbed wire", that thanks to the properties of plastic, springs back into shape even if you stretch it out a bit.
I want to get back to the package briefly. I'm impressed with the new file cards. Although not as extensively informative as the original file cards, they are most certainly a vast improvement over the highly truncated file cards of the movie and post-movie lines. The cards are nearly the size of the originals, and have been very nicely designed. There is a Cobra emblem in the upper left corner, the Cobra Trooper's name printed in white on a black bar next to the emblem, and the details written below. An illustration of the Cobra Trooper's head is in the lower right corner, and a Cobra "stamp" has been imprinted in this part of the card as well.
The card reads as follows:
Primary Weapon: MR-SCI Precision rifle - standard Cobra issue
Combat Gear: Helmet, assault rifle, tactical knife, pistol, silencer, rocket-propelled grenade launcher, barbed wire.
One of the nameless, faceless legions of the Cobra organization. Each Cobra Trooper is highly skilled in the use of explosives, infantry weapons, sabotage and the martial arts. They swear absolute loyalty to their leader, Cobra Commander. Their goal is to conquer the world for their own evil purposes.
Short, but to the point, and honestly more detailed than the file cards have been for a couple of years now.
So, what's my final word? If you're a collector of the modern-style G.I. Joe figure line, you probably think, "Well, I already have the Cobra Trooper. I got him when the 25th Anniversary line started." Okay, fine and well, and there's nothing wrong with that figure in this format. But really, if you don't have the new 30th Anniversary Cobra Trooper, then you don't have the most impressive Cobra Trooper ever to come out of the modern format, and you really need to track him down. There are many aspects which I definitely regard as superior to the previous version, and on the whole, this is an immensely impressive figure, that really brings the "soldier" into the Cobra Trooper like never before. If you're a fan of G.I. Joe, even from 30 years back, you will be very impressed with this new Cobra Trooper, and will want to welcome him -- possibly multiple times -- into your collection.
Cobra is celebrating THEIR 30th Anniversary, too, and if this guy is any indication, they mean business more than ever!
The G.I. JOE 30th ANNIVERSARY figure of the COBRA TROOPER certainly has my highest recommendation. COBRAAAA!