1989 Python Officer

My childhood familiarity with Python Patrol was limited.

At 12 years old, I babysat a boy who had a GI Joe collection, including Iron Grenadiers and Python Patrol. But I had left GI Joe after the 1988 figures came out, sometime around GI Joe #84, and there was no looking back anytime soon. I didn’t start collecting figures again until I was 17 years old, and although I also collected most of the original GI Joe comic run, I somehow missed the Python Patrol issues and forgot that sub-team had ever existed in the toyline.

In 2009, I was living in Halifax and trying to write for a living when I found Mark Bellomo’s Ultimate Guide to GI Joe, 1982-1994. I read the first edition from cover to cover, and circled back repeatedly to the Joes of my childhood, the 1982-88 figures and vehicles. Python Patrol’s existence came back to me while perusing the 89s, but my re-entry into the collecting world was meant to be limited to my childhood favourites. The lack of familiarity or emotional attachment, and the hideous yellow that marred the Python Patrol figures to varying degrees, prevented me from tracking down any figures from within the subset.

I did, however, handle some Python Patrol figures directly, a few years later, on one of my early trips to Cherry Bomb Toys, after I moved to Victoria, finding a Python Viper and Tele-Viper in a bin of reasonably priced loose figures. I passed them over, though, sticking to my original goals, while now beginning to appreciate them more in hand than in the book.

Years and years later, at the end of 2017, when I had finished a full run of figures to 1988, and a full run of vehicles to 1986 – less a few rarities, of course – I shifted my goalposts. The Red Laser’s Army figure, Python, was the triangulation of three new worlds for me: factory customs, troopbuilding and post-1988 figures. Python propelled my interest in the original Hasbro Python Officer.

On New Year’s Eve, 2017, Cherry Bomb Toys advertised a 50% off sale on GI Joes.

I had bought a few Cobra Soldiers from the store over the past months, and had been eying other troops, with my discretionary budget being the only constraint. But at 50% off, I couldn’t get to the store fast enough. I bought a complete Rolling Thunder and 15 or so troops, including Cobra Soldiers, Crimson Guards, Eels, Snow Serpents, Tele-Vipers, BATS and Vipers. But the most significant purchase was my first Python Officer, the figure the RLA Python had served as such a faithful homage to.

Hasbro’s Python Officer and Red Laser’s Army’s Python.

Over the years, I had acquired many 1989-94 Joes through large lots off eBay. But I had liquidated every one of those figures as I tightened my collection, convinced that 1988 should be my cut-off forever. (That meant many mistakes, including giving up Alley Vipers, Night Vipers, Sonic Fighters, Eco Warriors and mailaway figures I would eventually want to reacquire.)

With no figures newer than 1988 in my collection, at the time, and having never purchased a figure from 1989-94 individually, buying that Python Officer was significant. And it was a gateway.

Within two months, I would be tracking down 90s versions of Low-Light, Sci-Fi and Shockwave. Within six months, I was buying the whole series of Python Patrol figures from a collector in Newfoundland, including another Python Officer for good measure. And within a year, I started buying any figure from 1982-94 that I didn’t already own.

Cobra Soldier (US) and Python Officer (Cdn)

There were a few reasons I was so jazzed for that first Python Officer.

He was a newer released version of my favourite troop builder, the Cobra Soldier. His look stood out – as all Python Patrol figures do – but wasn’t as gaudy as the Python versions of Copperhead or Crimson Guard. Black, grey and red were relatively subdued, together, and the bright yellow was limited to his gloves and knife strap, the python cross-hatching limited to just his suspenders, belt and knee pads. The combination of colours was an extraordinary study in contrast.

Some collectors have extreme devotion to the early Joes. I understand. After all, that’s where I started. But even the most devoted fans of the lower-nonsense, early years, should see the Python Officer’s merit at a glance. This is a classic mold reimagined in an extremely dynamic way, and possibly the best-looking figure in the original run, or in any subsequent GI Joe series, domestic or foreign.

If GI Joe is art, this is Michaelangelo’s David.

When I eventually found them, the Python Patrol issues of GI Joe were among the most disappointing in the comic run, as the Python vehicles were positioned as cheap and unreliable, distributed in Eastern Europe by Destro’s cousin, some used Lada dealer-slash-monarch in a messed-up costume. Hama had used a similar angle, years earlier, with the Cobra Terror Drome and that was a sin, given the Terror Drome was the most expensive Joe toy in 1986. So devaluing it in the comic book was disrespectful to anyone who had bought it. The slight on Python Patrol wasn’t quite as insulting, but I’d still be pissed if I was a parent who had purchased any of the Python Patrol figures or vehicles, only to see those toys belittled in the Marvel comic.

That was, more-or-less, the era where Mr. Hama could get away with anything in the comics.

There seemed to be a drop-off in the quality of his writing in GI Joe just before he took over Wolverine, and maybe he was getting bored.

Checking my notes…

Apparently, he’s still writing GI Joe comics 30+ years later, so clearly he got a second and third wind along the way.

No disrespect meant, by the way. I could only dream of writing anything near what he was producing at his peak.

From left: Python Trooper, Tele-Viper, Officer, Viper, Crimson Guard, Copperhead.

Being out of Joes when Python Patrol was released, I have no direct experiences playing with them, although I spent some time studying the figures and toys 30+ years ago, when I was babysitting that young Joe fan. Quite often I was called over after kids went to sleep, paid to watch TV and listen for any noises down the hall. And I can remember almost wishing my young charge had been awake while I was there, so I could use entertaining him as an excuse to play with his GI Joes.

If I was a kid using this figure, I’m not sure I would treat him as an officer. The original mold is permanently ingrained as a soldier, and that carries weight when I see this version. And, as a collector, I think the figure is too beautiful to limit troop building him to the quantities of an officer, while instead buying more Python Copperheads, Crimson Guards and Tele-Vipers. I want to see endless columns of this figure.

I want to drown in a sea of the original Cobra Soldier, the original Crimson Guard, the original Snow Serpent, the original Viper and the 89 Python Officer. Those are my top-five troop builders and, with unlimited resources, that would be my core Cobra army.

US MOC.

Apart from being the first vintage, post-1988 Joe I purchased, directly, the Python Officer was also the first post-1988 figure I put on display, and the first post-1988 MOC I ever bought. As usual, he stands at the centre of the Python Patrol crew on my display shelf. I sometimes think about giving him a cushy job, driving one of the Python Patrol vehicles, or as gunner in the Cobra Rage. But I want to be able to see him.

I don’t want any vehicles to obscure my view of Mr. Handsome.

11 replies on “1989 Python Officer”

Like you, ’88 was my last year. And, I was done by the spring, only having purchased Hardball, TF Roadblock and Hit and Run. My brother got most of the other 1988’s. But, we had no ’89’s besides Scoop. I fell in love with the Python Viper in the late ’90’s, though, and he was my gateway to Python Patrol.

My interest in the Officer, though, started when Hasbro released both a Hiss Tank and a Python Officer in the anniversary line. I remember seeing both at a Target and thinking how great it would be to buy all the Hiss Tanks and Python Officers you wanted at retail prices. As vintage Joe was in the dumper then, I found you could get a ton of vintage Python Officers for under $10 each. So, I army built a nice little cadre. I never really used them with the Hiss. But, they go great with the Dreadnok Stingers. So, that’s how they roll today.

That’s a bit of a luxury, an army of Python Officers riding Dreadnok Stingers! You should post some pictures so I can live vicariously.

Python Viper is great too. He’s the other amazing figure they put out in Python Patrol, while the others range from solid to meh. I love the red visor. And it’s really amazing how they used a similar colour pallet and two distinct Python patterns. I could see writing storylines about a rift in the team, with the varying patterns denoting which side each figure is on (Officer, Trooper and Copperhead vs. Viper, Crimson Guard and Tele-Viper).

I sometimes think of using them as self-contained, six man units, which is decent justification for keeping as many Python Officers as the other troopers.

The guys in Brazil really came up with some smoking ideas for how to repaint Joe figures. If I was doing a relaunch the line I would probably try to reach out to some of the designers from Estrela, Funskool and even Palitoy for ideas on how to keep it fresh.

I like the idea of self-contained 6-man units. I’ve seen someone point out that the division between the two color schemes breaks down along swivel-head/ball-head molds. I have them organized that way now. The CG acts as an officer leading a squad of 4 Vipers and one Tele-Viper. And then separately, Copperhead and one officer leads two squads of 4 Troopers ( I have more of the Troopers—they were easier to find cheap at flea markets back in the day, for whatever reason. And I like them a little more than the “Officer.”) To me the swivel-neck team are more light infantry and recon, while the ball-necks are assault troops with higher-tech equipment.

Thanks. I can’t believe I didn’t notice that link before to the swivel-head/ball-head separation. That seems a logical split for your squads. It’s fascinating the permutations and combinations that can come from different people collecting different quantities of the same six figures.

You and RTG both mention finding a lot of the Troopers and that could be a coincidence, or maybe he was produced in a higher quantity. I like him but I find the unbroken green and yellow Python pattern on his chest is just too much for me.

I’ve made myself see the yellow and green as some sort of swamp camo (and I figure the Python pattern is some sort of high-tech dispersion grid or something, so maybe it has to be yellow). It may be that I actually saw just as many Officers at flea markets back in the day, but I just left them behind because they were beaten up–the ones I do have are mostly not great, between discolored helmets, worn noses, rubbed-off sigils, and the easily-chipped light gray boots. Troopers seem to survive better: aside from the boots, they don’t have as much that can go wrong. Their noses aren’t painted, they don’t have sigils, and they don’t have any light gray plastic to discolor.

If you were going to choose a post ’88 figure to start with, it’s definitely not a bad idea to start with a repaint of probably a top 10 all G.I. Joe mold!

You mentioned how the Officer isn’t anywhere near as gaudy Python Guard or Copperhead, and you hit the nail on that one. It gives the Python Officer a little more leash, than the other Python figures. Standing him next to Destro and Major Bludd doesn’t look all that “off”, like a Python Copperhead would.

Funny though, you and I are the opposite on Army Building this figure. I’ve always really liked it, but have never gone about army building him. Though, there was a period of time where every time I bought G.I. Joes on eBay I’d wind up with a Python Patrol Trooper.

I’ve been mostly writing about figures I had personal attachments to but I knew that I’d eventually have to start writing about others that I didn’t. This was my easy way to start delving into the post-88s. Can’t imagine I’ll know where to start when my randomized list tells me I have to write about T’jbang.

He’s certainly the most toned-down of the Python figures, with the Viper and Trooper next. I could see him next to Destro, for sure, or Baroness. They’re all colour coordinated.

It is funny about the gaudiness of those Python Patrol figures. I hate the way Copperhead looks and yet my favourite foreign figure is Gatihlo, who’s wearing the same outfit. Guess one red belt makes all the difference!

I really haven’t gotten very far in troop building him yet. I was so late to the game that I’ve only ever found three or four Officers, but I do like the idea of one day seeing him in bulk.

Wow.

I’d put Python Officer at 3rd or 4th of the original Python Patrol. Viper being #1, Officer #2, Tele-Viper or Officer #3 or 4, Copperhead #5 because of the yellow briefs and Crimson Guard dead last. Officer’s card art is great, but then so is Cobra Trooper’s.

I hated the officer/trooper mix up they did. It’s really not a huge deal, though.

Black Major and RLA never could match that original rich olive green on vintage Python Patrol.

Darklon never had anything to do with Python Patrol in my book.

Also, a red Water Moccasin is NOT Python Patrol.

I just re-read my post in the lens of trying to figure out what “wow” applied to. Maybe too much hyperbole and a bit too long…? I’m going to take it positively, either way.

Despite me seeing the Python Officer as “Michael”, for sure other people will see other figures as better. I mean, you have 2 or 3 figures ahead of him on his own team! Other than where I’d put the Officer, our order is pretty close on that though.

Man, those yellow tights do not work for Copperhead! Superman, he is not.

Sorry for any confusion. The “wow” was my surprise that you like Python Officer that much. It wasn’t meant negatively.

No problem. Like I said, I took it positively but I also use the phrase sarcastically, for example when I’m otherwise speechless after being subjected to a long rant from some raving lunatic. Which might have been appropriate – I really went on about this figure!

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