Tanks for the Memories
G.I. Joe International Collector's Convention, 2006
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I already ranted and raved about the basic convention set on Page One, but what about those extras? All the little goodies that you get at the Con to go along with the regular set? Like the regular fifteen-figure set the Collectors' Club made some terrific choices with parts and paint applications and gives us some fantastic figures to go along with the others.
As soon as Flash was revealed, the rumors started swirling that we'd be getting Grand Slam as one of the special bonus items. With the Comic Pack releases over the past few years there were a few glaring holes in the cast of the Original 13, including Flash and Grand Slam both, so I'm happy the Club took the ball and ran with it. Not only did they run with it, but they scored a touchdown while they were at it. Flash is pretty much my favorite figure in the regular convention set, and Grand Slam ranks right up there, too as one of the bonus items. This figure kicks all sorts of rear end.
We start off with a relatively obscure head sculpt, the one that was originally used for the Fred VII COBRA Commander in one of the more recent Comic Packs. This head works to perfection, as it isn't used a whole lot outside of the helmet and with the hair color change this really looks like a totally different character. It actually took me some time to figure out just who's head sculpt that was, and as I've said in this review already, any time I don't instantly identify a head sculpt with a character I think it's a viable option for reuse. From the neck down, the figure is identical to Flash in the parts used, which suits me fine. Star Brigade Duke's torso and arms, Downtown's legs...they mesh together almost seamlessly to very nicely recreate the look of the old school figure, while still bringing it to a more modern feel. A nearly perfect update to the original in every way.
But what really makes this figure shine are the paint apps. I can't quite accurately describe just how nice the green and silver colors are that were used for this figure. That deep, dark green base paint is just fantastic. The perfect shade of green. Black gloves match the black trim that the old Silver Pads Grand Slam had, and with that bright, vibrant silver on the chestpad and the shinguards, this figure just "pops". It is awesome. I love how the torso uses a mixture of silver and black for the pads and straps underneath, and the little touch of brown on the knife handle just finishes off this great color pallet. What a great, great looking figure.
From an accessories standpoint, Grand Slam comes with a nice allotment of gear that really harkens back to his older days. He comes with the JUMP jetpack, hose, and laser/control stick. He also comes with a repainted helmet from the Comic Pack Lady Jaye, a grenade launcher (originally from the '91 Mercer), and the flame base that originally came with a Boba Fett figure. Each choice is great and makes a lot of sense for the character (though I'm not necessarily a huge fan of that grenade launcher). All geared up, this looks just as Grand Slam should look. It sould be noted that he does not come with the JUMP jetpack platform (though interestingly enough, he and Starduster both come with the full sticker sheet, most of which is used on the platform itself).
Even though I'm usually a COBRA fan when it comes to these figures, the Collectors' Club has done a fantastic job making me a Joe fan again. They did a great job with pretty much all of these figures, and Grand Slam is very close to the top of the list.
It's funny, though, for every person who was certain that Grand Slam would be included as a bonus figure (and there were a lot of us) absolutely NO one saw this coming. The Collectors' Club is always good at throwing some curve balls at us collectors, even those of us who think we have all the answers. Grand Slam? Absolutely. Starduster? No friggen way. I think Fred from JoeBattleLines was the first person to tell me that one of the new figures in the display case was a Starduster, and even though he was telling me this, I didn't quite buy it until I went to the case myself. I wasn't sure at first just how they would work him in here, but you know what? It makes perfect sense. Working along side Grand Slam (and according to the filecard, actually teaching Grand Slam how to use the JUMP) I can totally see how Starduster could be used here. His look was totally reworked from his original version, but it works so well I'll guarantee you it won't bother you.
Starduster uses Downtown's headsculpt and torso which work surprisingly well. There is absolutely no relation to the original Starduster in the look of this figure, yet it works on all levels. With the '89 Tundra Stalker arms and Downtown's waist and legs, most of this figure is Downtown, but yet with these color alterations it retains absolutely no ties to the Mortar Trooper. In fact, because of the legs being painted the way they are, Starduster is immediately linked to Grand Slam (and Flash to a degree) which works perfectly. It saves the Club some cash by using similar parts and paint applications, yet still works flawlessly. This is a really nice looking figure.
Like Grand Slam, the Collectors' Club goes with a beautiful dark green paint base and silver trim, but a lot more black is worked in here, which is a great decision from a design standpoint. It tones down the green a bit, makes him stand out a little from Grand Slam, and manages to give him his own identity while still keeping him nicely in line with Grand Slam's look. The Club also throws in a swatch of the familiar light blue paint on an undershirt, just to tie him in to the classic version a little bit more, which is a very nice touch as well.
Starduster comes with the same gear that Grand Slam does, and like Grand Slam, it works very well for the character and you get a lot of gear for the money. Head to toe, another great figure in this convention set and a very pleasent surprise.
With a Convention Set name like "Tanks for the Memories" it would only make sense that tanks would be involved. Well, to many folks' dismay, the tanks themselves were not available in Atlanta (they will be shipped at a later date, closer to Thanksgiving) but the tank drivers were there to be taken home. The Club managed to give us some hints on the Convention box art, including a patch signifying an Armored Division, which indicated even more that Steeler might be a part of this set...but I don't think anyone really knew what appearance Steeler would take. Well, I think he looks pretty darn great.
Taking a cue from the rest of the Convention Set, we get the familiar Comic Pack head sculpt, only this time done up in the blonde hair we all remember from the cartoon. Going along with the Comic Pack head, we get Dogfight's body from neck to feet, which is another seldom-seen vehicle driver that works very, VERY well for a nice "Tank Commander" look. What's equally cool is that Steeler's filecard is written as if he's the leader of the Cold Weather operations group, which is an awesome part of Steeler's Officer status that hasn't been seen very often.
Once again, the Club goes above and beyond with the paint applications on this figure as well. As usual, the effect of the tooling choices can be made or broken by what colors are used, and here, we get nearly perfect color choices yet again. Steeler's jacket is a great brown, almost "leather" shade, which looks great. He's got a light tan undershirt and a very nice shade of green pants. The end result is that the figure stands out very well on it's own, but also manages to mesh perfectly with the rest of the Cold Weather figures, accentuating the tan from Sparks, the green from Flash, and the brown from figures like Zap and Rock n Roll. Somehow they have reached a great balance between all of those figures and yet this guy can also exist great on his own as well. Add in great little details like the silver handgun and the two different patches on the figure just add another great element to the figure overall.
From an accessory standpoint, Steeler comes off okay. His helmet and visor look great in the new colors, and work well with the uniform he's wearing. The World War II style machine gun I can take or leave. It's nothing overly impressive, but it's an okay gun and looks fine in Steeler's hands. The uzi he comes with is obviously an homage to the uzi that the classic Steeler came with, but somewhere along the line that weapon got sized up (probably from the days of Sound Attack) and it looks a little bit too big with Steeler, and it's tough for him to hold it well.
Steeler has never been one of my favorite characters, but the Club does him a great justice here and this ends up being a figure I really, really love. They did a great job and he works perfectly with the set altogether.
When this character first appeared in 2000, there were always some little snickers whenever his name was stated...and I think that kind of continues on to this day. But however funny the name sounds, does that impact what kind of figure this is? Not at all...this is probably close to my favorite rendition of the HISS Driver figure that has been released so far.
I've always had mixed feelings about the HISS Driver in general...the figure just never really knocked my socks off. He has a somewhat funky head sculpt that I couldn't quite rationalize in my head, and being an older style figure, some of the sculpted details felt a little bit flat. However, seeing the figure in the light I do with this version gives me an entirely new opinion of it, which is really saying something. This figure, from head to toe is a pure repaint of the vintage HISS Driver, which is actually a nice accomplishment, since the last time we've seen figures like this there was a different waist piece which didn't mesh quite as well. This figure is all HISS Driver and works well in that regard. As I've said, I've never been a huge fan of the HISS Driver figure mold, but that really has changed here. The slim body style works nicely with the chest pad, the wrist straps, and those great thigh-high padded boots. For whatever reason in the red and black or duller blue and black didn't really strike me, but in these colors I find myself really blown away.
The colors help immensely. There is a mostly black base to the uniform with an awesome shade of blue for the boots, belt, and wrist bands. The mask and head trimming are also that same great hue, and it adds an awesome flash to the figure and also matches Lt. Claymoore perfectly. I really, REALLY hope once the COBRA Shredder tank gets shipped, it ends up the same blue color as the trim on this figure, that will be one incredibly cool looking tank. Finishing off the color pallet here is the nice silver COBRA logo and goggles, which top this figure off perfectly. The end result is a fantastic looking rendition of the HISS Driver that has given me a new apprecation for how cool this mold is with the right colors.
As for accessories, Rip It only comes with a shotgun, but it's a great shotgun, and sometimes less is more. Rather than too many extraneous weapons that aren't that great, we get one simple shotgun that works perfectly. Previously I've used the Rip It figures as simple HISS Drivers, and now, simply because these guys are a bit cost prohibitive, this guy will finally be my true "Rip It" and he's a great looking figure to boot.
So that covers the base figures of this excellent set. Nineteen total new o-ring style figures that are in the articulation and sculpting style that I most prefer...I am thrilled that the Collectors' Club continues to support this style and that they do such a great job with it while they're at it. Each and every one of these figures are terrifically painted, with great parts choices and very cool bio's written into their filecards. The story makes sense, the figures match the story, but also manage to exist successfully in their own right as well.
I have heard some scattered tales of construction and paint issues, and have noticed some minor hitches here and there with a few of my figures, but the Collectors' Club is always eager to help with figure-related problems should they arise. I should consider myself lucky I haven't suffered any to this point, and I have to say I am absolutely thrilled with this set. There have been convention sets in the past that left me somewhat mixed, with some good and bad thrown in, but at this point, besides the MARS Attacks set which still remains my absolute favorite, this is a very close second. I do wish some of the accessory choices were better, but from a tooling and paint standpoint, these are excellent, excellent figures. And as I've mentioned throughout this review as well, you can always visit Marauder, Inc. and "Augment the 2007 Convention Set" there.
Of course with every convention set comes the exclusive attende free vehicle. This time around we get a free VAMP. From a vehicle selection standpoint, it makes sense and works well with the Original 13 "25th Anniversary" concept of the overall set itself. The tooling used may rub some folks the wrong way, being the same modified VAMP tooling we got with the Toys "R" Us Exclusive version a couple of years ago, and in fact the colors themselves are pretty similar, too. Upon closer inspection, though, this version of the VAMP is a brighter more vibrant shade of green that matches the color of several of the Convention figures and ends up blending with the set (and Clutch himself) very well.
But, on the other hand, this vehicle does seem sort of like a "rehash"...despite the slightly different color scheme, in essence this vehicle is pretty much the exact one we got from Toys "R" Us a while ago, and really, even for the free vehicle we expect a little bit more out of our convention stuff. I would have loved an AWE Striker, but I know that these are free with purchase, so I guess we shouldn't start expecting too much. ;)
When comparing this VAMP to the Whirlwind that came with the Toys "R" Us Exclusive, you can really tell that the coloring is a lot different, but maybe not different enough to really warrant it. It's a neat enough vehicle, but nothing mind-blowing or anything.
Unfortunately this is the only vehicle we have to review for this year's Convention. Yes, there will be two Maulers (one for G.I. Joe, one for COBRA) that will be getting shipped later this year, and once I get those in hand I will provide detailed reviews of those as well.
As for the rest of what this set came with...
ROWDY RODDY PIPER
Well, you'll have to bear with me on this review, because I don't have the item here in hand to actually do a detailed coverage review on it. I had big plans to buy multiples of this figure, one to keep sealed and one to open, but I got a few requests from friends, and Piper sold out so quick, I only had a chance to get myself a sealed version. Because of this (and the fact I got the card signed) I'll be keeping this figure MOC and won't be able to provide a really detailed review. If anyone has cracked one of these bad boys open and wants to contribute some pics and a review, please drop me a line! It looks like Piper has a new sculpt head, and reused parts from the neck down, which make a lot of sense from an appearance point of view, but I can't vouch for it's functionality without having the figure in hand.
I can say that Piper was a really fun guy to deal with in person, and was definitely a friendly guy...but none of that's really gonna help you with how good or bad this figure is. ;)
I think the figure looks great, very authentic, and he looks cool sitting on my wall, but I'm still hoping that somewhere along the line I'll end up with an opened version as well.
This was the last real exclusive item at the Con...and this is an item I'll do a full review on for my sister site, Sigma 6 Central. Keep your eyes peeled there to see the review of the illustrious Red Ninja! :)
I've been back from Atlanta for one week now...and the fond memories are already solidified in my head. The twenty-fifth anniversary weekend was a blast from start to finish, and I give kudos, as always, to the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club for everything they do in keeping these conventions running year-in and year-out. 8" fans, 3 3/4" fans, movie fans, video game fans, comic fans and cartoon fans all had reasons to celebrate down South and the celebration looks to continue on for several years to come. The 25th Anniversary is continuing full steam ahead and the future looks really bright.
If you like what you see in this review, head over to gijoeclub.com and join the Collectors' Club! In my opinion, it's been infinitely worthwhile, the newsletters are informational (and has a dio-story by yours truly... ;) ) and there are a lot of great things to come. Yo Joe!