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TOY Fair 2004


Hello, and welcome to the beginning of Mastercollector's Action Figure Zone look at the aftermath of Toy Fair 2004. In previous years, we've brought you detailed scoops on the new toys as soon as we got all the information, but that has caused a few problems, as some of the products that we wrote about wound up never being produced. So this year, we're being more conservative. This week we'll take a quick look at GI Joe, and toss in a few capsule reviews for good measure. Next week, we'll have more of our general wrap-up with a focus on Sideshow Toy, and in the following weeks, as issues of whether or not certain toys will actually find their way to stores becomes more clear, we'll spotlight the most exciting of the new Action Figure concepts. Many of the images on the left are swiped from John Medeiros' fine work covering this year's Toy Fair, which can be found elsewhere here at Mastercollector Online.

GI JOE: THE REASON MOST OF USE ARE HERE

JOELANTA

First up, a late breaking news item: This weekend March 27th and 28th , JoeLanta, one of the best regional GI Joe conventions, will be held in Atlanta Georgia. The dealer's tables are completely sold out and this promises to be one of the most fun GI Joe shows leading up to the International GI Joe Convention this July.
JoeLanta has traditionally been one great tune-up for the big show, with a great organization and a terrific selection of dealers. If you live within driving distance and you're a GI Joe collector, you owe it to yourself to check it out. For more details, go to http://www.joelanta.com . If you don't know about it already, go click over to it now!
If I could get down there, I'd go. And good luck with the show guys, have a GI Joe on me.


THE GI JOE 40TH ANNIVERSARY LINE

The collector's favorite GI JOE 40th ANNIVERSARY line continues into 2004, with more wonderful sets and a few surprises tossed into the mix. While the collector's community gleefully awaits each new wave of figures, Hasbro has decided to sweeten the pot a little. Now, instead of devoting this line to a straight reissue of every item produced in 1964, collector's will be treated to a selection of sets from later years as well. The first of these, coming out in August, will be the 1966 Navy Crash Crew Fireman set, which will take the place of the 1964 Navy Rescue Raft set from 1964. It's no great loss, since that set is nearly identical to the Air Force Rescue Raft, which was already released.
Future waves promise to hold further surprises as Hasbro gives the collectors what they want with this set, which is already like having a Time Machine to go back and get cool GI Joe sets from our youth. We're not getting any further hints, other than the confirmation that more surprises are coming, so let the rampant speculation begin!


DUKE, HE TALKS!

Also coming out later this year is a new incarnation of the talking GI Joe. This time, there's a twist: his mouth opens when he talks. Part of the VALOR VS. VENOM line, the VOICE FX DUKE figure features VOICE FX, an innovative new feature that not only enables the figure to talk and shout commands, but its mouth and facial features realistically come to life at the press of a button. Priced at around fifteen bucks, this could be a lot of fun for kids. Interestingly enough, this is not the first time that a 12" version of Duke has spoken. Over ten years ago, the Hall Of Fame Talking Duke spouted thousands of randomly-assembled phrases, and also made really cheesy gunfire and explosion noises that were obviously just some guy making mouth sounds. This new Taking Duke will be world's beyond that guy (who sold for almost forty bucks). Ah, how the hobby has grown!
The VOICE FX feature will also be featured in the figure based on the G.I. JOE team's new nemesis, VENOMOUS MAXIMUS (Approx. $19.99), and a U.S. Marine Squad Leader (Approx. $19.99) in the realistic military segment.

MORE OF THE BIG GUYS

With 12-inch realistic figures, kids and collectors play out battles with highly detailed and articulated military-themed figures like the shore-bound Marine Liberators of WWII, including a figure of highly quoted Medal of Honor recipient General Douglas MacArthur, and figures of modern Marines forces. Each comes with a detailed replica uniform and has cool gear, action feature weapons, a mission card, historic or background information and each is fully articulated for big action posing. Other Liberator figures include the Pacific Marine and Devil's Brigade, available in February. Modern Marine figures include the ADVANCED WEAPONS TESTER (May), the BATTALION MORTAR and FORCE RECON MARINE (August) and the aforementioned Talking Marine.

We'll be treated to even more G.I. JOE Marine action with the ECHO MARINE assortment of figures that have additional action features, accessories and uniform pieces. Kids will love the underwater action of the modern Marine Dolphin Handler figure, whose mission it is to work along side trained dolphins to disarm hazardous underwater mines, like recent assignments undertaken in the Persian Gulf (available July). Kids can also experience modern Marine action in the city with the MARINE FORCES UAV RECON figure, available in September. This group of highly detailed 12-inch figures also includes the Marine Liberators Normandy Pathfinder (available January), and Medal of Honor recipient, Pharmacist's Mate 1st Class Francis Pierce, a Marine doctor who was cited for his acts of bravery and heroism in WWII battle (available June). Each figure comes with a theme/mission card that ties into the figure's military role.

The G.I. JOE 12-INCH REALISTIC MILITARY line will include an additional 8 carded "Alpha" figures throughout the year, with a list price of fifteen dollars each, and 3 additional "Echo" assortment figures not listed above. In the Realistic line motor pool, we can expect the G.I. JOE 12-INCH REALISTIC MILITARY LIBERATORS JEEP W/DRIVER, which will be available May, with a suggested price of $59.99 and the G.I. JOE 12-INCH REALISTIC MILITARY MODERN MARINES HUMVEE W/DRIVER. This version of last year's impressive, true-scale Humvee will be in a tan color, and will be available in August with a suggested price of $79.99.

Over in the JOE VS. COBRA 12" line, we can expect seven basic figures to be released between January and October, priced under twenty dollars each. And Hasbro is treating us to the G.I. JOE VALOR VS. VENOM 12-INCH SNAKE EYES W/NINJA LIGHTNING BIKE, available in July for under thirty bucks.


DREAMS AND VISIONS

Dreams and Visions continues their line of remarkable DC Edition GI Joes in 2004 with several new offerings and a few less expensive versions of their previous selections.
First up, we have the "High and Tight" versions of GI Joe, featuring Joe's traditional scarred vintage face with a more extreme military haircut. These will be packaged in the manner of the vintage Soldiers Of the World GI Joe deluxe boxes and come equipped with D&V's usual fantastic accessories and Auggie Romeros' legendary tailoring. More information on these guys will be forthcoming at the International GI Joe Convention this July at DisneyWorld.
The Big project from Dreams and Visions this year is THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER. DC Comics' disfigured, one-man undercover agent will be available as a 12" action figure for the first time ever. The Soldier's greatest skill was his ability to disguise himself as almost anyone, playing a range of roles from an American G.I. to a German officer. The Unknown Solider equipment set series come complete with a detailed changeable face mask! As with most of D&V's impressive sets, this collection is offered in limited quantities. The projected release date is October. There will also be a German officer disguise set sold separately:
In exciting news for us cheapskate collectors, Dreams And Visions will be releasing a more affordable version of Mademoiselle Marie with a twist. 1,000 of the new versions of the lady of French Resistance will have long wavy hair, instead of her usually short look. This new version will retail for under $35. We'll also be treated to new vintage-style accessory cards for both Mme Marie, and Sgt. Rock.

A future installment of Action Figure Zone will be devoted to Hasbro's VALOR VS. VENOM 3 ¾" line, with additional news on the upcoming GI Joe movie, the collectible trading card game, and the comic book.


QUICKIE REVIEWS

We're playing catch-up again, but here at Action Figure Zone this time, we're debuting a new format for our "Quickie Reviews". It's going to be REAL quick, with just a flash of opinion, a letter grade, and a list of pros and cons. So buckle up, we're sprinting!

GI JOE: SECRET OF THE SAVAGE SWAMP by Hasbro
A wonderful Adventure Team set that includes a Joe, appropriately attired, and a huge swamp gator. A fine throwback to the glory days of the Adventure Team's animal control antics, without the miniaturization that plagued the original line. A big plus this time is the availability of a female adventurer among the variations.

Pros:
It's the Adventure Team!
With Kung-Fu Grip!
Great storyline on the back of the box.
HUGE Gator. With opening mouth and cool skin.
Loads of play value for kids.
Super-articulated (male) figures.
Loads of headsculpts and a female version, too.

Cons:
Black socks?
No lifelike hair on the female.
GRADE: A

MARVEL LEGENDS SILVER SURFER WITH HOWARD THE DUCK by Toy Biz
Did I miss something (and not being much of a Marvel fan, that's pretty likely)? Why does Howard the Duck come with the Silver Surfer? Aside from that bit of confusion, you get one of Toy Biz's mega-articulated six-inch figures with a cool surfboard and a nice rendition of Howard the Duck, who notably comes minus his Disney-imposed pants. But the sculpting on the Surfer is just weird---I don't recall him ever looking quite like that when he was drawn by Jack Kirby and John Buscema. His face is all smashed up, and for some reason, his face is blue. Why is his face blue? And why the duck?

Pros:
Who ever thought we'd get a decent Howard the Duck figure?
Nice articulation.
Wall display included.

Cons:
Pondering why this set exists made my head hurt.
SILVER Surfer, not BLUE-FACED Surfer
That blue face on the Surfer looks like it was drawn by Erik Larsen imitating Keith Giffen imitating Rich Buckler imitating Chic Stone imitating Jack Kirby…..on a bad day.

GRADE: C (split between a D for the surfer, and an A that they even made the Duck)


MUCHA LUCHA by Jakks Pacific
These are nice little figures with not too much articulation, based on the very entertaining cartoon on the Kid's WB. Their success will depend on how much the cartoon has penetrated into the mainstream. Basic figures are great for fans of the show, but nothing special. Deluxe figures have neat bonus features, but aren't terribly recognizable as the characters from the cartoon. Best of the lot is the ultra-fat version of Ricochet, which is transparent and filled with gooshy liquid-and a toy truck and donut.
Pros:
Nice for fans of the show.
Good sculpts on the basic line.
Based on a fun cartoon, so there might be a demand for the toys.
Decent action features.

Cons:
Limited articulation.
Too many figure are "off-model".
Spotty distribution, thus far.

GRADE: B-minus


Next week we'll look at Sideshow Toy and other cool stuff!

Later, Rudy