Confession time: I have not opened a carded O-ring GI Joe or Cobra figure in a very, very long time. I’ve opened four Classified figures, a half-dozen 25th anniversary figures, and even a sealed bag to retrieve an O-ring figure, the mailaway Lifeline. But as far as MOC O-ring figures, the only one I’ve opened in 30 years was a Night Force Beach Head in 2009. And before that, it was the Shadow Ninjas versions of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow in 1994.
Not like I haven’t had the opportunity – I have a number of MOCs – but I’m rarely willing to openly reduce a toy’s value. And also I just love seeing them on the original packaging, recreating the excitement of seeing walls of GI Joe figures on pegs, back when I was a kid. So they just stay sealed, and unfortunately I don’t have room to display everything.
When I finally psyche myself enough to do the deed, I always planned I would open a 1985 Tele-Viper since his O-Ring has given way, a 1987 Knockdown since I have multiples, or some lesser valued, 1990s figure. I even went through a long time trying to convince myself to open a damaged 1982 Zap, since at one point he was the only straight-arm figure I didn’t own loose.
When Hasbro unveiled that they were returning to O-ring figures, and that their first offering would be a two-pack of the 1983, swivel-arm version of Snake Eyes and the 1984 Storm Shadow, that was a dream come true. And as a collector with MOCs they can only look at, and not touch, this represented my opportunity to finally experience what it was like to open the package of an O-ring figure.
I ordered this two-pack during the pre-order frenzy of October 2021, as Hasbro was hitting GI Joe collectors fast and furiously. I wasn’t always lucky when it came to those kinds of limited quantity situations, but my friend Kevin and I were watching out, sending each other head ups as things were unveiled and made available on the Hasbro Pulse site. I was able to order everything Hasbro had to offer. My initial order was for this set, along with three new Classified figures: the Master of Disguise Zartan, Spirit and Storm Shadow. And, later, when the Tiger Force and Python Patrol Classified figures were made available, I was able to snag those and a second set of O-ring figures. So I scored twice that day, and Hasbro made a buttload from me in short order. (Especially considering I pledged the Haslab Skystriker, one week later!)
This set arrived on February 3rd, almost three-and-a-half months later.
The packaging for these figures is nice, with a custom cardboard box around the set. And Hasbro put the custom box within another, larger box and paper to create more crumple zones for protection. Under the custom box, there was the slipcover with classic-style artwork depicting a battle between the two sword brothers. And within that was the MOCs we have all been dreaming about since 1984.
The level of packaging allows collectors to choose their comfort level in opening these up, either leaving the unadorned Hasbro box sealed, or opening it to get to the custom box, or to the slip cover, or opening that and pulling out the MOCs, or even just straight up opening the figures, for those that are so inclined.
I have a hard time considering new toys to be future investments, but some of that might be my ignorance of current supply/demand economics. And considering the frenzy and scalping activities that happened with so many of the early Cobra Island Classified figures, it’s entirely possible that this set might morph into a highly prized, valuable collectible. But my understanding is that these will be available widely at retail, so the level of appreciation (especially in the short-term) shouldn’t be significant.
The slip-jacket box is nice, although I remember feeling underwhelmed when seeing it online. The art is great but orange is such a strange colour that I don’t associate with GI Joe (Alley Viper, notwithstanding). It has a lunch box look because of the border, or maybe like an action figure carrying case… It’s got a little booster in the bottom, a platform that attaches and adds 1.5 inches of height. At first I wondered why this was there, until I realized that it provided so many more display options, including putting the set behind your loose figures, without the figures obscuring the artwork. Also, the bottom serves as a potential platform for displaying the figures themselves, when detached from the top portion. Considering that lens, it’s a logical and somewhat ingenious addition.
The back of the slip cover shows an abbreviated version of the art, along with the necessary warnings and product information in 27 languages.
Inside the lower platform are additional accessories. For Storm Shadow, it’s a figure stand and two sets of nunchuks. (The nunchuks are missing from the MOC’s accessory bubble.) For Snake Eyes, he has a figure stand, an extra OG Uzi, and three pieces of equipment from his 1989 version: backpack, sword and newer Uzi. The plastic itself is softer and duller than vintage accessories, and shouldn’t be mistaken for the originals (assuming someone has an eye for details) but I guarantee there will be unscrupulous sellers trying to pass it all off.
On the carded figures, the artwork appears to be an exact reproduction of the original Hector Garrido painting. (It definitely doesn’t look like the 25th anniversary imitation artwork.) But it does look like it has been reproduced from something other than the original, possibly MOC samples (similar to 3D Joes’ process), because it’s less sharp. For example, the lines for the wrap around Storm Shadow’s feet are less pronounced than on my comparable, 1984 sample. Anything black looks lighter, by eye, including his backpack and shoulder strap. For Snake Eyes, the artwork looks crisper than the 1982 sample I have to compare it to.
Regardless, seeing the original artwork on the packages (vs. the more modern imitation) is amazing.
The Snake Eyes painting has been cropped/zoomed. And Storm Shadow has an homage to the original “With swivel-arm battle grip!” callout, in the lower left corner, but now in five languages. It makes the card a little busier than preferred, but that’s the reality of globalization on toy packaging.
I will say that the cards are different than the originals in a lot of ways. The first thing that stuck out to me was the lack of a border around the outside. It feels unfinished, but more modern, and it was something that we had seen with the retro line. So maybe most of that work was just adapted here. The notes around the outside are different, but they have smartly left off significant writing that might be a distraction (other than the swivel-arm, call-out), and that is not a bad change. Also, amazingly, the bubbles are attached in a waffle pattern, like the originals. The bubbles are deeper too, 1.5 inches, compared to 0.75 inches for my original 1982 Snake Eyes bubble. Presumably, this is for future consistency, as there will be figures like Low-Light or Tunnel Rat that may eventually be released, that need deeper bubbles for their backpacks.
The packaging front includes the well-known tagline, “A Real American Hero”.
One other smart choice is using form-fitted, clear plastic to hold the figures in place. No more drooping heads, or looking left or right. And even if the figure’s O-ring gives, it will still look mint in that sealed package. That’s a chef’s kiss for me.
The back of the packaging is significantly different than what we saw in the good old days. The filecard has been moved to the top, and includes five different languages. I grew up with Canadian cards in English and French, so this is nothing new to me, but again it feels busy. And all the writing at the bottom is wasted space, but necessary, I guess.
The band of packaging art showing other figures filled me with so much happiness. I will buy all three of the two-packs, and I can imagine getting as many of the Cobra Soldier/Officer sets as I can afford. At $39.99 USD per set, it might not be many, unfortunately.
It’ll be interesting, too, to see how these figures age. I won’t be selling off my equivalent vintage figures as more are released in this series. It’s hard to replace the nostalgia of the originals, even with extremely good reproductions.
No flag points, either, so don’t expect to be collecting them to mailaway for Major Bludd, the Manta or Sgt. Slaughter.
Before I open the figures, the most important question to me is the plastic feel and how they would look next to figures of their original vintage. So often with the 2000s Hasbro figures (comic packs, BJ’s set, etc.), or with the recent factory customs, the plastic feels different, and the paint is often too dull or too shiny. I’m not sure if others see this as a pet-peeve, but it is something that Black Major has improved over the years, for example. But few more modern O-rings or customs have quite lived up to the expectations set by the quality of vintage figures.
We were spoiled as Joe collectors in the 1980s, and our standard for quality is monumentally high.
To rip or to cut carefully… the same debate I have at Christmas, though usually that’s a consideration of expedience, or maybe wanting to keep the packaging intact for potential returns. There’s no rush, here, however, I’ve been waiting since 1984…! But I want to keep the packaging in the highest condition possible, because it’s just beautiful to look at.
I got a new pocket knife as a gift from my wife for Christmas… And the deed is done.
Unfortunately, I don’t feel any different.
The figures themselves are clearly Hasbro quality, and feel different than the factory customs we’ve grown so accustomed to. The plastic is softer than the originals, nowhere near as shiny, and not nearly as smooth. There’s a texture that’s different. But it’s not bad in anyway. And potentially it will make them more accessible for photography.
The softness of the accessories is particularly welcome, because it means less concerns about popping off a thumb, even when putting thick-handled equipment in their hands. Every piece that came with them fit correctly in their hands. And the backpacks being softer is particularly valuable, as they stick very well to the figure’s backs. Honestly, haven’t we all had frustrating experiences with rigid, shiny plastic backpacks that don’t stay in the figure’s back holes? That’s the case with my 1985 Flint, 1986 Beach Head and 1987 Lt. Falcon, among others. But this plastic is so soft that you can jam the backpacks in and it feels like it fills the gap to create a tighter grip. Same with weapon handles. And the pieces that are meant to be attached to each other are all perfect fits, something that has been a serious issue for accessories on factory customs. Storm Shadow’s sword and knife fit in his backpack scabbards, and his bow clips on its backpack tab. And the 1989 Snake Eyes sword fits into its slot on his backpack.
Importantly, I have no fear about putting the bow directly in Storm Shadow’s hand. Never would I do that in a million years with my original.
The stand was a bit tight for Snake Eyes, but once I switched to other, thinner stands the issue went away.
Back to the figures… I have few complaints about the quality. Neither of their heads turned particularly well, but their knees, elbows and swivel arms were all smooth. Think about the loose elbows on the certain custom versions of Snake Eyes and you can understand how much a flawed swivel can be a kick in the ass.
It is a nice touch that the rivets have been painted. Storm Shadow features white rivets at his shoulders and skin-coloured rivets at his elbows, and Snake Eyes’ rivets are uniformly black, not metallic. These were things we overlooked as kids but it makes a difference, and it’s just those extra steps that Hasbro took that is so impressive.
The thing I like best about the figures is that they don’t have the battle scratches and chips that crop up on even the least played-with, vintage samples.
Okay, one more note I would make about the quality. The detailing is softer than vintage figures, and that isn’t ideal, but the difference isn’t so significant that you would call these flawed. The original molds are long gone, and Hasbro is making something that is so close to original that I cannot find a reason to complain about that difference.
Storm Shadow sticks out so much more than Snake Eyes now, because his colours create so much contrast. But it also lets us see his flaws a little more obviously than Snake Eyes’s. Stormy’s eyes and eyebrows have a thinner layer of paint than the originals, so he looks a little tired. But, most important with Storm Shadow, the amount of yellowing in his original figure makes the new version so much more vibrant. With my original, which I would refer to as only having mild discolouration on the head, it is difficult to distinguish the difference between mask and skin, whereas the difference with the new version absolutely pops.
Because we’re not getting 500+ reproduced GI Joe and Cobra figures anytime soon, it is important to ask how these figures compare to their vintage contemporaries. Well, I’m happy to say that they fit incredibly well, and make great substitutes for the originals, if you don’t own them, or if they’re flawed in anyway. And you won’t gasp every time you drop one on the floor by mistake. It’s only day one, but no thumbs or crotches have been broken yet!
So there’s a lot to consider with these figures. Opening them didn’t fill me with the excitement that I had as a child, but that’s probably more a by-product of being in my 40s now.
Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are of significantly high quality, come with bonus accessories, and are packaged beautifully. They’re expensive, yes, but cheaper than the originals and absolutely worth it. If you have a few dollars burning a hole in your pocket, I’d recommend you go for it!
Now, more than ever, I can’t wait for the Trooper/Officer two-packs!!!