G.I. Joe International Collector's Convention, 2008
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name: COBRA Headhunters!
Assortment: Convention Exclusive, 2008
Availability: June, 2008
Key Features & Price Points
- 15 Figure
Set w/ Filecards, accessories, and Headhunter Driver - $276.00
- S.W.A.T. 3-Pack w/ Low Light, Longarm, and Shockblast - $65.00
- B.A.T. Mech w/ Hotwire - $45.00
- SWAT RTV w/ Bullhorn - $75.00
- Sky B.A.T. Paradrop Figure - $20.00
- Convention Program w/ Comic - $4.95
- Don't like the weapons that come with this set? Augment them with Marauder, Inc.!
It's been an interesting couple of years for the Collectors' Club. From the whirlwind last minute New Orleans convention troubles thanks to Hurricane Katrina, to the self-proclaimed "Mauler Fiasco" last year in Atlanta, the roller coaster ride of the Flaming MOTH sets, the questions about DTC Wave 4, not to mention concerns about communication with the community. It seems as if everyone was down on the club for various reasons, some of which had some validity, but some of which didn't. Whatever the issues that folks have with the Club, though, hopefully instead of sitting in their office chairs and writing a manifesto on their keyboards, they might actually attend a convention, witness all of the hard work and preparation that goes into it, and maybe offer to help in some way instead of throwing stones. I volunteered for this last Con in Dallas, and it is an eye-opening experience, and I recommend that others do the same. We all want the same things...for G.I. Joe to be a success and for folks to get the product they want, so hopefully we can all figure out how to work together to progress towards that goal, rather than butting heads.
As I said, there are some valid concerns, I think it's the way these concerns are expressed that cause more issues than the concerns themselves. Anyone who has actually talked to Club employees knows that they are open to all constructive criticism and are more than willing to talk (and joke) about whatever limitations they have and how best they can be resolved.
With all of that out of the way, I'm happy to say that the convention in Dallas was one of the smoothest run Cons I have been to. The Embassy Suites hotel was gorgeous and very well-accomodating, the lines moved quickly, and the Club employees were approachable and as willing to converse as always. But I'm sure you're not here to listen to what I loved about the hotel or the experience, you probably want to know about the toys, right?
Well, right off the bat, it almost seems as if the Club and I share a brain sometimes. They seem to know everything that I LOVE about G.I. Joe, and they seem able to capture the spirit of that in some way nearly every year. Obscure, late 80's and 90's tooling? Check. New characters and new mythologies? Check. Iron Grenadiers? Check. The Mega Marines? Check (sort of). The Renegades? Check and double check. And now, quite possibly the crowning achievement of my own twisted mind...
As some folks may remember, back in my dio-story Retaliation I did something a little different. I loved the Headhunters, but their drug ties gave me some limited room to breathe. So I took Headman out of the picture (by having him captured at the end of Concrete Jungle), and unified Gristle with COBRA, with him acting as their Urban Operations Commander. He took his own troops, the Headhunters and the Headhunter Stormtroopers and alligned them with COBRA's normal Urban Assault teams and became the urban shock troops to supplement the Alley-Vipers. Sounds pretty coincidental so far, eh?
Well...in order to combat the Headhunters, I also created a G.I. Joe strike force, code named the U.A.F. (Urban Assault Force). Members of this team included Shockwave, Longarm, and Low Light. Their vehicle of choice was the Brawler (with the missile launcher removed) that was based on the 1990 Hammer.
But that's not all... in the aforementioned Retaliation, I also had Gristle and the Headhunters teaming up with COBRA's B.A.T. squad. All told, a very cool coincidence, I think, and as I said, it's almost as if they can read my mind. Is it any wonder that I tend to really love the Convention exclusives? They always manage to produce something I'm exceptionally interested in. To this point a Dr. Venom figure was probably my biggest "hole" that I wanted to see filled, and from the sounds of things, they're making that happen as well.
So we all know now how much I love the concepts of what the Club does for their con exclusives. So how did these figures end up in the execution?
As anyone knows, I'm all about the "blank slate" characters. One of the many things that G.I. Joe did back in the day was give some serious character to these lifeless chunks of plastic, and while I always had an appreciation for those guys who got their time in the sun, it was the obscure unknown characters that I really took a shine to, just because I could explore them in my own way. You don't get much more obscure than Gristle. He never had a comic appearance, and his one toon appearence looked nothing like the actual action figure, so to me he was an empty book just waiting to be filled, even as a kid.
I was actually a little bummed when Tim Frankovich explored the character so deeply in his immortal dio-stories, because he was someone I really wanted to dive into. But that "bummed" quickly melted away when I saw just how awesome a character Tim made him, and how different he was from what I envisioned. I loved the Gristle/Mercer rivalry, it was really exceptional, and if anything, it only served to motivate me more to give Gristle my own identity.
As for the figure itself, this was yet another case of some great tooling being given some more than questionable colors, which unfortunately relegated it to obscurity. There was some prominent black and red, which is always a nice choice, but the swatches of yellow added a somewhat clownier aspect to the figure overall and knocked it down a few notches in many folks books, though not mine. But if there's anything that the Club specializes in, it's taking those 90's neon monsters and giving them some street cred with more distinguished paint apps, and that is definitely the case here.
Clad mostly in black, Gristle has some very nice muted "arsenic" trim, which is a sort of green/gray color that is extremely appealing! Much darker in tone and duller in color than the "teal" everyone seems to label it as. It's actually a very nice somewhat urban color, and a color you won't see just anywhere. I'm a big fan of giving these guys a unique appearence and the Collectors' Club has done that in spades, starting with Gristle. The darker colors only amplify the absolutely awesome sculpting that this figure got with his rigid collar, leather biker uniform, and right down to the belt buckle of the bat with its wings splayed. Very, very cool detail on the figure only exemplified by the new color choices. Along with the black and gray, we've got gold trim in all the right places and you end up with a very, very cool looking figure and an update worthy of the Gristle character.
As for accessories, Gristle comes with a small but potent collection of guns. His primary weapon is the incredibly cool pistol with knife blade attachment that was originally slated to come with the DTC Wave 4 Munitia. It's extremely cool to see the Club get access to some of these unused tools, and this is a great gun to boot. Complimenting the pistol is the heavy duty shotgun that originally came with the Spy Troops Destro back in the day. One awesome change that the Club made this year as well was to add some color to the weapons which makes a huge difference. Originally we got guns in a pretty generic gray color scheme which identified them as Collectors' Club weapons, but left them a bit on the bland side. Now, for the bad guys anyway, we get multiple paint apps per weapon, giving them a very realistic and bad ass look. I approve.
I'm not sure words can adequately express how happy I was when I saw the Stormtrooper's name on the list of figures to be included with this year's Convention set. I was always an early supporter of the Headhunter Stormtrooper...hell, back when I did vintage figure reviews on my old Angelfire page, he was one of the first ones I did. In fact you can still see that technologically advanced and extremely whitty profile right here still locked down in Angelfire land!
At any rate, this was a classic example of what incredible sculpting and detail there was in the vintage line right up until the end. While most figures excellent sculpting was almost nullified by the over-bright and garrish color schemes, the original Headhunter Stormtrooper actually was released in an amazingly realistic black and gray color pallet that appealed to vintage collectors everywhere. Back in the day, though, he was still a relative unknown, which is how I built my squad of 5 Stormtroopers for reasonable prices. Now he regularly fetches $25-30 loose complete on eBay, so that's not such an easy task. No need to fear, though, the Collectors' Club comes through and gives us a gorgeous update to the original Stormtrooper. While not quite as cool as the classic vintage version, it makes for a decent new rendition that could either supplant or add to a nice Headhunter army.
From the waist up, this figure uses the same parts as the original, with the spiked leather biker suit, skull-themed helmet, and amazingly well detailed straps and knife. And that is a great thing, too, because those features really identified who the Stormtrooper was and were essentially the appeal of the trooper to begin with. I'm not sure what hoops the Club had to jump through to get these parts (as most of them were rumored to be lost in South America) but I'm glad they did what they could do, as this figure is immediately identifiable as the Headhunter Stormtrooper and carries all of the important traits that made the figure cool.
Now for whatever reason the club evidently couldn't track down the legs of the original, so they gave us the Rock-Viper/Metalhead legs, and honestly, they match amazingly well. The padding on the shins and upper feet match the underarms and ribs of the upper half of the figure, and the way they applied the paint makes it an almost seamless motion from upper half to bottom half. The only slight questionable point is the fact that he's got a packet of rockets on his left thigh, but no rocket launcher to shoot them out of, but ultimately I suppose that's a small complaint in the grand scheme of things.
The colors have been a hot button issue this year as well, with all of the talk of "teal" and them being too bright, but in person, I really love them. This Stormtrooper stands out very nicely amongst his older peers, adds an awesome spice of color (that is NOT too bright in the least) and the perfect level of detail. A great figure that suffers a bit due to the near perfection of the original, but is still a good update on it's own merit.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the absolutely kick ass new Headhunter logo the Club came up with as well. The COBRA-themed skull and crossbones (using spears instead of bones) is truly inspired and looks amazing on all of the figures it is shown on.
Like with Gristle, I am really impressed with the paint apps on the weapons as it makes them look a lot more realistic and lot more impactful. The mixture of the wood-brown and the gloss black really adds some strength to the gun assortments, and the Stormtrooper gets some really nice weapons. Even though the submachine gun that originally came with Depth Charge was originally designed as a undersea weapon, it works perfectly as a commando style automatic, and the "Stoner" heavy machine gun is a perfect one for these beasts as well. They round it off with a great COBRA-themed knife and you get a very, very nice weapon assortment for an equally nice figure. No complaints here at all.
Like his Headhunter Stormtrooper cousin, the Headhunter was a figure long since rumored to be missing in action in the Amazon. Again, I'm not sure what strings were pulled or what legwork was done, but David Lane managed to track these figures down and give them to us in a Con set, and I'm thrilled.
While most folks go "gah gah" over the Stormtrooper, there is actually something about the elegant simplicity of the Headhunter himself that appeals to me more than the Stormtrooper. The almost throwback "zoot suit" button up jacket, the single spiked collar, and the elaborate straps across his midsection give him an almost aristocratic look, when underneath he's your typical scumbag drug dealer. It's a really neat conflict and the original Hasbro designers deserve some serious kudos for coming up with this guy. He's one of the great ones.
Like the Stormtrooper as well, it would be very tough to overcome the greatness of the original version of this figure, and to be frank, the Headhunter Guardian really doesn't do it. This figure looks a lot better in the black base uniform with the lighter trim. However, just the fact that we've got this tooling back under our control and we've got some standard Headhunters in this set makes me a happy man. The grayish color scheme doesn't throw me off too much, it's just so tough to outdo the basic black and brown of the original, that there's almost no way it could have been improved. That being said, even though I've seen many complaints about the lack of paint apps on this figure, he still sports a lot more painted detail than the original did, and I love all of the gold buttons, buckles, and even the boot straps. It adds a nice amount of character and life to a figure that might have been a bit bland otherwise. The simplistic helmet and featureless gold mask compliment everything else very well and this is a nice addition to your Headhunter crew, even if he doesn't top the original.
Now here we get a pleasent surprise. When the Headhunter Guardian was first previewed on the GIJoeClub site, he was only shown with two weapons and no backpack. While that was fine, the fact that he actually comes with the awesome Headhunter backpack is a HUGE bonus. There is the slight downside that he does not come with the standard Headhunter shotgun, however. The one he comes with is adequate, but it doesn't fit in his backpack quite as seamlessly as the other one did, so it's not perfect. Overall, though, the guns with their silver and brown paint schemes look very cool and suit the figure well. I'm glad he does have a shotgun, even if it's not the original, and the AK-47 is always a great choice. All in all a nice figure that's not terrific color-wise, but is still pretty cool, and he comes with a decent weapons compliment as well. Not the highlight of all convention figure choices, but I still love the Headhunter tooling, and this guy will definitely find his way into my drug smuggling operation.
Hi, my name is Justin, and I don't like B.A.T.s
Sometimes I feel like one of the only collectors out there who has never really been married to the idea of android troopers. It's not that the figures weren't cool, they definitely were. It's not like the concept isn't cool, it is. It really gave COBRA that technological edge, and I love that the "character" was written in a way that made them more dispensible tools and less like the "terminator" super-robots that some future Joe stories portrayed them as. They basically got kicked out of aircraft and were walking and shooting bags of bolts. Nothing more. I think the B.A.T.s kind of outgrew their original intention and as such became somewhat watered down.
However, this new rendition of the COBRA Battle Android Trooper kind of brings them back to basics. Not just because he once again sports the original head and original gear, but because the concept of them being production line robots sort of retrofitted as disposable android troopers really is more appealing than the concept had grown to be in the main line. I love the idea that the Headhunters have taken these B.A.T.s over and are using them for their own nefarious purposes, especially the fact that the B.A.T.s look like such mashed up concoctions.
The figure uses the version 1 B.A.T. head, the version 2 torso, Overkill's upper arms, version 1 lower arms, and Overkill's legs. All of the parts combine together to give you a really unusual sort of "pre-production" level android trooper that suits the low budget Headhunters really nicely. The silvery gray color scheme on the body gives him an exceptionally metallic look, which is really awesome, in my opinion. It differentiates these versions from the originals quite considerably, which is always cool. The chosen parts only add to this idea and I find myself more and more drawn to the interesting design concepts behind this particular version of the B.A.T.
As a nice little cherry on the sundae, we've also got a brand new lenticular sticker that the Club designed for the figure. It's a big tough to photograph, but essentially it's got a lot of the same internal components, but it also has a very cool Headhunter logo super-imposed over it. An awesome touch.
As far as the accessories are concerned, the Club just left well enough alone, which is great in my book. He comes with the standard version 1 backpack and gear which fit the color scheme perfectly and are without a doubt the best assortment of B.A.T. weapons, bar none. If anything, it would have been cool if they had been able to rig up twin removable attachments (one on each arm) but ultimately that was probably out of their purvue. Even though I'm not a huge fan of the B.A.T. concept, I really love what the Collectors' Club has done with it here, and find myself enjoying this B.A.T. quite a bit.
I'm sure you heard me complaining about wishing the colors were reversed on the Headhunter Guardian, right? Well, here we go. ;)
The Headhunter Driver was this years free "Attende" exclusive which is a bit unusual, considering those are normally vehicles. I'm not sure why we received a figure this time around instead of a vehicle...perhaps there were production problems, I'm not sure, but the fact remains we ended up with this version of a Headhunter (titled a "Headhunter Driver") instead. By all indications, we were supposed to be getting a COBRA Rage vehicle, according to what was said at the GIJCC Seminar, which is backed up by what we saw in the comic book as well. It's distinctly possible that this figure was meant to drive that vehicle, but because of some tooling issues, the Rage fell through and instead of selling the driver as a separate piece (which the Club got somewhat hammered for with the Mauler/Shredder "fiasco") they elected to use that as the attende exclusive. Personally I've always been a figure fan over a vehicle fan, but I think I still would have rather seen a small vehicle here.
That's not to say the figure's not a good one...it's got all the great qualities of the Headhunter, but in a much better paint scheme than the Guardian, much more akin to the paint apps on the original. However, it's also got more elaborate trim work throughout the figure. All in all a pretty nice update.
The driver comes with a bit of a different accessory compliment than the Guardians did. He's got the same shotgun and huge pistol, but instead of the backpack and the AK-47 he has an orange "bomb" that originally was intended to be released with the Sigma 6 Short Fuze (like the bomb disposal robot that Longarm comes with) which is a pretty cool touch. All told, this is a figure that I really like, and might have even preferred getting two of these guys in the standard set over the versions we got, but I'm not sure it was worth the sacrifice of a small vehicle.
As one of the very select few Sigma 6 fans in a 3 3/4" world, I was pretty excited when I heard that the "Sky B.A.T." would be this year's parachute figure. I stand by my opinion that the Sigma 6 figures had absolutely fantastic design elements, and had they been produced in the 3 3/4" scale would have knocked collectors on their collective asses. But because of the change of scale and style a lot of folks were turned off. Personally I'll take any chance I can to get the Sigmaverse figures in a smaller package, though I do have to admit the Sky B.A.T. translates MUCH better as an 8" figure than a 3 3/4" one.
It's pretty evident that what became Sigma 6 started out as the infamous Robot Rebellion 3 3/4" line. From the GIJCC COBRA Commander figure to the rumored product lists, all the way to this version of the B.A.T. it's quite clear that it started out at a smaller scale and evolved from there. I personally hope we can get as many of those unproduced Robot Rebellion figures in our hands as possible, and if they end up colored to resemble the Sigma versions, all the better.
Now as I was saying, as far as the figure itself goes, I absolutely love the 8" Sky B.A.T. design, and in fact I own 20 of them in the 8" scale. However, there are some design issues that the smaller version faces, mostly with somewhat slim and unstable limbs, wonky joints, and just a different feel. Granted this is a robot figure, but it just doesn't come off the same way as your typical 3 3/4" figure does. This version of the Sky B.A.T. also has his arms and cannisters on backwards. I know the club does their research and isn't likely to make a mistake like this, so I can only imagine that it's a counter balance of sorts to make the parachuting work a bit better. Whatever the reason for it, the Sky B.A.T. goes from a bit funky to downright strange with those cannisters on the front of his arms. Thankfully, you can simply pop his arms out of their sockets and pop off the cannisters, then swap them around and everything is looking a lot better.
As far as the colors go, this paint scheme was pulled right from the Sigma 6 cartoon and 8" figure, and I love it. Even with my issues with the overall design and execution of the figure at this smaller scale, I love seeing one of my favorite Sigma 6 figures down in a more managable (and popular... ;) ) scale.
As far as accessories go, the Sky B.A.T. doesn't come with much other than his parachute, backpack, and clear battle stand. I would have loved to have seen the different arms with the guns attached that the DTC B.A.T. came with. But for a potentially free parachute figure, it delivers. Personally I just dig having a 3 3/4" rendition of the Sigma 6 characters and figures, it's all good to me.
Anyone who's been reading my dio-stories, or even just my posts online knows that I'm a huge Headhunters fan and an even bigger fan of the 90's generation in general. This set so far has taken two things that I love about Joe and interjected them both into one fantastic 15-figure set. While the MARS Attacks set still remains by far my favorite, this one comes in second place (just before the Operation: Anaconda set) and I honestly cannot conceive of what the Collectors' Club could possibly do from here on out to impress me. They've literally covered almost every base I've wanted to see covered, but that just makes me excited to see what could be coming next.