Among the various individuals in the ranks of Cobra, perhaps none are more under-rated than Copperhead. Which is a real shame, given that the figure also has one of the more dynamic visual appearances.
Copperhead was first introduced into the world of G.I. Joe in 1984. He was sold along with a very popular vehicle called the Cobra Water Moccasin, a medium-sized high-speed watercraft with a hovercraft-like propellor blade in the back. Whereas most Cobra personnel to date had uniform colors in the rather limited color palette of blue, black, and red, Copperhead broke from this very dramatically, with a uniform that was mostly a light turquoise, with black and bright green trim.
The original Copperhead had a molded-on turquoise helmet with a ridged bright green stripe across the top, a turquoise tank top with a gun holster on a strap and a silver Cobra emblem on it, bright green arm straps and gloves, and turquoise trousers with an interior on each leg of ridged bright green. And black boots.
It was easily the most unusual and dynamic appearance for a Cobra character to date in 1984, and it even held up well in later years when brighter color schemes became increasingly prevalent. A cursory look at figures across the entire run of G.I. Joe doesn't show a whole lot of turquoise, let alone combined with bright green. So Copperhead managed to maintain his distinctiveness.
Surprisingly, the character didn't get a lot of time in the media. Perhaps it was because he came one year after some of the characters that would become the best known -- Destro, Baroness, etc. -- or perhaps it was because that he was the designated driver of a vehicle that did seem limited to water and swamp environments -- but ultimately, he just didn't have that many appearances.
Copperhead turned up a bit in the comic book, although I'm personally hard-pressed to think of any truly remarkable appearances. He showed up a few times in the original animated series, but really, his greatest screen time came in the first DIC-produced mini-series, "Operation Dragonfire", and then it was mostly because that mini-series served to introduce the recently produced Python Patrol, of which Copperhead was commanding officer.
Indeed, there was a Python Patrol Copperhead figure, that used the original molds, but also, obviously, recolored them to the Python Patrol color scheme.
And that, essentially, was pretty much it for Copperhead. And I think to this day that more could have been done with him. Certainly the character had a personality profile on his original file card that would have lent itself to some decent stories. Copperhead was reportedly from the Florida Everglades, the same region where the Dreadnoks tended to hang out. And yet his voice, when he appeared in the animated series, sounded vaguely Cajun, as if he might be more from the area that gave us Gung-Ho. Tell me that wouldn't've been an interesting rivalry. In fact Copperhead's original file card has a quote from Gung-Ho on it: "Sure, I know the type. They're all around the Gulf Coast. Trash. Drifters. They can drive a swamp buggy like the devil himself, rebuild a V-8 with a coat hanger and spit, fight all night and raise can until the cock crows. They got a heart fulla gimme and a mouth full o' much obliged." Certainly sounds like someone with some story potential, especially if you throw in the fact that Copperhead's file card also lists him as someone who was likely involved in racing speedboats -- certainly a skill Cobra would be interested with -- in places like Monaco and Japan, and that he joined Cobra as a means of earning the money to pay off his massive gambling debts to his bookies.
Come up with a character like that these days and somebody would probably work a TV mini-series around him.
But despite a dynamic appearance and an interesting background, Copperhead just couldn't catch a break. He would remain in relative obscurity following his Python Patrol appearance, not even making it into the newsculpt line.
At least, not until the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club decided to produce him as their Official Membership Figure for 2007.
Now, I've never been any great fan of the newsculpt figures in general. Most everyone knows this. But there have been some interesting figure designs in this format. However, when the figure was announced, I did find myself wondering if a capable Copperhead could be brought together from pre-existing parts. Granted my knowledge of existing parts was limited, but I was still scratching my head a bit over this one.
Well, the G.I. Joe Club has never let me down yet, and this certainly was no exception. The Collectors' Club Copperhead is one highly impressive figure.
In a way, I think one reason that Copperhead never made it into the newsculpt line that was available at retail was because of his color scheme. Python Patrol notwithstanding, Copperhead's best-known appearance is the original figure, and that means a turquoise and bright green uniform. Over the course of the newsculpt line, Hasbro seemed very wary about straying too far from a fairly limited and generally dark and muted color palette. There were reasons for this. They had taken some criticism from the fan base for some of the rather extreme color schemes that had been part of the later years of the original line, and there was a sense that these new G.I. Joes should try to maintain as much of a semi-realistic military appearance as the modern concept allowed for. And that meant, for one thing, no bright colors.
Which in this case is a darn shame, because I think if this Copperhead had been carded and sent to the stores, he would've been pretty popular.
Technically, the figure uses parts from a number of previous characters, including Salvo, Airborne, and Overkill -- but you'd never know it because it looks so much like Copperhead.
Obviously the colors help. I set this figure next to my original Copperhead, the the turquoise and bright green are absolute exact dead-on matches. And regardless of my reservations regarding the figure format, I'd have to say that the overall design of the figure's uniform is actually something of an improvement over the original, at least in one significant respect.
The original Copperhead was molded to look like he was wearing a turquoise tank top. His arms, and part of his chest and back are bare. While this may make sense from the standpoint of this being a figure who drives an aquatic craft, it doesn't really afford a lot of protection in battle should Copperhead be forced from his vehicle and required to enter close combat.
The Club Copperhead used molds that resulted in what certainly looks to be an armored torso, and short sleeves. Much more protective. The Club Copperhead appears to be wearing a black chestplate, which is placed over a bright green ridged torso, which might itself be armored, short sleeves in turquoise, bright green gloves with black gauntlets, also affording more protection than the original. He also has turquoise trousers with ridged green padding on the outside of the upper legs and inside of the lower legs. And black boots with a bit of green trim.
Unlike the original Copperhead, the helmet is removable, although this isn't really that big of a deal in my opinion, since we never saw Copperhead unmasked in the first place. The helmet, especially given that like the rest of the figure ti came from pre-existing molds, is actually a superb near-match for the original, and has been molded appropriate in turquoise, with a bright green ridged stripe over the top of the head, and across the area that covers the lower face.
The original Copperhead was molded with a sort of black harness across his lower torso, and this has also been duplicated to a suitable degree on the new figure, along with the addition of a belt that has a small holster and some pouches.
And, of course, the new Copperhead has the Cobra emblem, nicely centered on the black upper torso armor. The figure also comes with a rifle, a machete, and a display base.
Since this is also the Membership figure, Copperhead also comes with a G.I. Joe Collectors' Club membership card, which features images of this year's 12" and 3-3/4" exclusives, which is in the latter case a very nice and accurate full-color line illustration of Copperhead. The back of the Membership Card acts as Copperhead's file card, and reads as follows:
Cobra Swamp Fighter
Copperhead is native to or otherwise intimately familiar with the Florida Everglades. He's an expert mechanic and can drive any swamp vehicle or high speed watercraft like the devil himself. However, it's his passion for gambling that gets him in the most trouble. This constant need of fast cash keeps him in the steady employ of Cobra. Besides, they can't let one of their best swamp fighters be taken out by a common bookie.
"Live hard and drive fast!"
An excellent file card, really, obviously based on the original, which is as it should be. Certainly the new character quote works well, too.
On the whole, I am extremely pleased with this Copperhead figure. I cannot have been easy for the Club to go through all of the available -- body parts -- for newsculpt G.I. Joe figures and bring together a combination that would truly make an effective Copperhead figure. Unlike a trooper figure, Copperhead has a very distinctive and well-established look. Endeavoring to match that to a satisfactory degree with parts unrelated to the original figure was no doubt a considerable challenge, but it was one that the Club answered with a truly amazing effectiveness. Regardless of my reservations of the figure format, the end result is an incredibly cool Copperhead that is more than an effective tribute to the original.
If you haven't joined the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club, you definitely
should. And this COPPERHEAD Club Exclusive Figure certainly has my highest