REVIEW: 2011 OFFICIAL G.I. JOE COLLECTORS' CLUB CONVENTION SET - MISSION BRAZIL II
Each year, the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club holds its Collectors' Convention takes place in a diifferent city around the country. In 2011, they were at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort. The Convention features celebrities from the world of G.I. Joe, assorted events, a massive dealers' room, and of course -- the exclusive Convention Sets. This review will take a look at the 3-3/4" Convention Set, dubbed MISSION BRAZIL II.
This is the second set (2009 being the first), wherein all figures were produced in the modern, 25th-style format. And it's likely to be that way for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, the Collectors' Club was able to create a set that very successfully revisited two established concepts from the original line, creating modern-style figures of many of the characters involved -- MISSION BRAZIL, and Cobra's PYTHON PATROL.
Some mention should be made of the box. In years past, the box art has featured an ornate illustration of the characters involved. This year, the box features a version of the Python Patrol emblem, with the G.I. Joe logo, an outline of the South American continent, and the title of the set, "Mission Brazil II", taking the place on the logo where the words "Python Patrol" would customarily appear. The red and black grid-like pattern of Python Patrol itself comprises the background. For those who think this is some sort of step down from a character illustration, believe me, a modified Python Patrol logo that's sixteen inches across manages to be quite impressive in its own right, thank you.
As I said a paragraph back, this set combines elements of two popular concepts from the original line -- Mission Brazil, and Python Patrol. Mission Brazil was one of the earliest store-exclusive items offered in the original G.I. Joe line. An exclusive to Toys "R" Us, it was released in 1986, and featured recolored versions of four G.I. Joe team members produced for general release that same year -- Leatherneck, Wet-Suit, Mainframe, and Dial-Tone, plus a fifth member, a new character named Claymore, who was cobbled together from recolored versions of assorted body parts from other figures. There was also a story cassette.
The Mission Brazil set retained such a level of popularity over the years that over the course of the comic book run produced by Devil's Due, which included a number of special "Special Missions" titles, they produced a "Special Missions: Brazil" issue, that offered a flashback to the original team, and offered a modern adventure within the then-current continuity established by Devil's Due.
And then we have Python Patrol. Introduced in 1989 as a counterpoint to Tiger Force, a G.I. Joe special team introduced the year before, Python Patrol was the only Cobra-specific special team produced for the original line. It featured Copperhead and five assorted Cobra troopers, in new color schemes, with uniforms that were supposed to be resistant to radar and other forms of electronic detection, as were their vehicles, the ASP, STUN, and Conquest Jet, which featured highly ornate and complex paint schemes.
So popular was Python Patrol, that it was revisited during the Toys "R" Us exclusive multi-packs of traditional-style figures that were produced during the so-called "newsculpt" era. Six entirely different characters, including Major Bludd and five other troopers, were chosen, and their uniforms were given designs that, interestingly enough, matched the vehicle patterns of the original Python Patrol.
Both of these concepts have been worked into the new Convention Set, which not surprisingly, takes place in Brazil. No small amount of irony here, since an additional Cobra character, one previously never introduced in the United States, but certainly known to American collectors, has been worked into the set, as has a distinctly Brazilian G.I. Joe team member. Or perhaps I should use the proper Brazilian name, "Comandos En Acao".
The irony continues, given that the Brazilian version of Python Patrol, in the original toy line, included Python Patrol characters that were based on the molds for two G.I. Joe members, Airborne and Rip Cord. Those two characters found their way into the storyline, as well as additional figures outside of the boxed set. Unfortunately, as of this writing, I have not been able to obtain those. Still, it was cool to see them included in the adventure.
Let's consider the storyline of this set, as outlined in the comic book that was included. A prominent South American Cobra agent, known in South America as "Cobra de Aco", but given the English name of "Steel Cobra" in the story, has captured a G.I. Joe team member, specifically Dial-Tone, and is demanding the presence of the G.I. Joe team member who escaped his fate many years ago.
That individual happens to be Captain Claymore, whom General Hawk calls out of retirement, requesting that he be part of a rescue mission. Claymore agrees, and is accompanied by Mainframe, Leatherneck, and Wet-Suit. Thus, all five members of the original Mission Brazil team accounted for.
The Team travels to Brazil, and meets up with Sparta, the sixth member of the group, and representing the "Comandos Em Acao". From there, the team heads into the jungle to rescue Dial-Tone. Leatherneck and Wet-Suit get separated from the others, and end up going up against the Python Patrol members based on Rip Cord and Airborne, whose names translate as Lightning and Trigger. The others press on towards the Python Patrol compound to rescue Dial-Tone. And -- I don't really want to get into any more detail than that, since I don't want to spoil the story for you.
Obviously there's no shortage of promotion of the Convention items within the story, and not just the characters. We get to see the new Python Stinger, as well as a red version of the Water Moccasin which was originally produced for the South American market way back when. Some nicely camouflaged Armadillo tanks turn up at the end. All of these were available in decidedly limited quantity at the Convention, and one of these days, I hope to be fortunate enough to own them to review them for you. For now, let's focus on the Convention Set, starting with the Mission Brazil Team.
Let me say this at the outset. In the past, when I have reviewed these sets, I've been pretty well able to determine where the original figure molds came from that were used to make whichever new figures are provided in the set. As I am a much more casual collector of the modern-style G.I. Joe figures than I was of the originals, I really can't do that this time. I'm certain that the vast majority of these figures are brought together from existing parts, but as to who was used to make whom -- for the most part, that's not something I can really tell you. So I don't expect to be doing that this time around.
CAPTAIN CLAYMORE - Claymore was the distinctive figure from the original Mission Brazil Set. The original figure used the head of Footloose, the upper body of the Cobra Tele-Viper, and arms and legs that came from Flint and Bazooka. The hair was painted black, rather than Footloose's original brown, and the figure was given a fairly intense yellow-orange uniform with brown spotted camouflage. To what degree this was meant to look like some sort of "giraffe" camouflage, perhaps a nod to Toys "R" Us' long-necked mascot, is a subject that has doubtless been debated over the years. Claymore's outfit was completed with a green vest and boots, and brown gloves.
Now here's where things get interesting. Claymore never appeared in the original comic books or animated series. It took the Devil's Due run of comics to finally introduce the character, and given the grittier edge and more subdued color palette that had taken over the toy line by then, Claymore was given a more subdued wardrobe, including a black T-shirt, and a darker camouflage pattern to his trousers.
Despite the fact that Devil's Due no longer has the contract for the comic books, and their stories have been pretty much "disavowed", especially with the return of the Real American Hero comic book from IDW, picking up the numbering where Marvel left off, the Captain Claymore figure included in this set clearly takes some cues from the Devil's Due incarnation of the character -- especially with regard to the black T-shirt.
Claymore is wearing a green equipment vest, that's a separate piece, and there's a white emblem on the shirt with the words "De Oppresso Liber" printed on it - which is the Latin motto of the U.S. Specail Forces.
Captain Claymore HAS kept his original trousers. They're the same yellow-orange as before, with the speckled brown camouflage. He still has his green boots and brown gloves, as well. Obviously some of the particulars are a little different from the original figure, and there's more painted detail -- something the Club is well-known for -- but the spirit of Claymore is still clearly evident in this figure.
Then there's the headsculpt. This is going to sound like I'm making fun of the figure, but I'm really not. I don't know if this headsculpt has seen use anywhere else in the line. And I'm not even saying it's inappropriate, given the somewhat more rugged look that Claymore had in his comic book appearance. But let me say this -- wherever this headsculpt may have come from, if it wasn't meant to look a whole lot like actor Tom Selleck, from his "Magnum P.I." days, albeit with shorter hair, then it's doing a heck of a good unintentional impression. Seriously, pop this head onto Chuckles' body with that Hawaiian shirt, and then all you need is a fancy red convertible.
I'm not saying it's a bad headsculpt. In fact it's very good, and the paint detail is excellent. But still -- wow!
Claymore's file card reads as follows:
G.I. JOE COVERT OPERATIONS
Captain Claymore enlisted in the U.S. Army and served three hitches as a Special Forces Officer. His work during this period of time is still highly classified. He is respected by all branches of the armed services and his reputation as a soldier is known far and wide. Very few men have ever seen him - but those who have served under Captain Claymore have not forgotten him, and never will. He joined the G.I. Joe team at the insistence of General Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy. His one stipulation was that he be called in on only the most critical covert operations assignments.
Captain Claymore was responsible for organizing the original Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) Team for their first Special Mission: Brazil. During his escape through the South American jungles, he encountered the Steel Cobra (Cobra de Aco), and narrowly escaped the onslaught. It was only his chess-like maneuvers and optimum distribution of the M16A1 Claymore anti-personnel directional mines that saved the day. All these years later, this Cobra Commando wants revenge for the smudge on his perfect record. Now that Dial-Tone is being held hostage, can Captain Claymore same him in time and defeat this maniacal foe once and for all?
"I always keep my front toward the enemy!"
DIAL-TONE - Communications officer for the G.I. Joe team as of 1986 -- no offense to Breaker, of course. Dial-Tone was introduced into the animated series, and was portrayed as... well, a nerd, as far as even most of his G.I. Joe buddies were concerned. At the same time, he had a sound understanding of communications technology, and could certainly be relied upon in the crunch of combat.
The figure doesn't look all that much like his original Mission Brazil incarnation. However, as we read the story in the comic book, this isn't supposed to be a representation of Dial-Tone from the original Mission Brazil. There's a reason the set is called "Mission Brazil II". The Team has been brought back together for a new mission. There's no real reason to assume they'd dress precisely the same as before.
It's worth noting that the original Mission Brazil likenesses are not entirely neglected. As the comic story opens, we see a photo sitting on a table in Captain Claymore's apartment, which shows the team as they originally appeared. It's small, but it's there, and the likenesses are very distinct.
Dial-Tone is nicely done. The head is a good likeness of the character, with a black beret, brown hair, and a relatively thin mustache. Dial-Tone is wearing what looks like a fairly heavy, long-sleeved black iniform. There's an orange Special Forces emblem on the upper left sleeve, matching the one on the original Mission Brazil Dial-Tone's uniform. Dial-Tone appears to be wearing a red shirt underneath the coat, which is a small acknowledgment of the one of the most prominent uniform colors of the original set.
Dial-Tone has brown trousers, and green boots, as well as green gloves, belt, and a small green harness around his arms. His file card reads as follows:
G.I JOE COMMUNICATIONS
Dial-Tone is an Army Ranger qualified Special Forces operator and communications specialist for the G.I. Joe team. He is an expert electronics repairman and holds the U.S. Army record for setting up a mobile satellite transmitter under battlefield conditions in less than three minutes. Not content with just bouncing messages off a tactical multi-channel communications satellite halfway around the globe, Dial-Tone prefers to be in the middle of the action. He got his wish when Captain Claymore requested him for several covert special missions in Brazil.
Dial-Tone is tasked with the reconnaissance and surveillance of enemy forces. However, during one of his regular deployments to South America, his transport plane was shot down. Before a rescue mission could be arranged, a video package was sent to a local news channel showing that the G.I. Joe team member had been captured by the notorious Steel Cobra (Cobra de Aco), daring Captain Claymore to come for him. Although he knows that he's being used as bait, Dial-Tone must dig deep into his Special Forces training to not allow himself to break or reveal any information to his captors.
"Whether calling for assistance or requesting an air strike, I always come through loud and clear."
SGT. MAINFRAME - Mainframe was introduced in 1986, as the G.I. Joe team's computer specialist. The real world was rapidly going high-tech, and it certainly made sense for thm to keep up. The small portable computer that the original Mainframe figure came with would likely be regarded as hopelessly antiquated today, when Mainframe could doubtless accomplish the same thing with a cell phone or, at least, some sort of tablet computer.
The character of Mainframe, especially in the comics, was portrayed as being slightly older than most of the other G.I. Joe team members, a battlefield veteran who had taken up a new specialty in the computer world, and as such remained a useful part of the team. The original headsculpt gave the figure a few more creases in the face than usual to reflect this, but the comic book clearly indicated that he was not at all to be underestimated on the battlefield.
The original Mainframe figure was outfitted in a pale gray uniform, both shirt and trousers, with a black helmet. The original Special Mission Brazil figure altered this considerably, giving Mainframe a tan shirt, but rather bright red trousers and helmet. Not exactly the best wardrobe for a covert team!
The new Mainframe figure, which I suspect is based largely on a 25th-style Mainframe figure that was offered as part of a comic-based two-pack a while back (where Mainframe was briefly required to take on the code name "Dataframe" before deciding to stick his tank in front of his code-name as any number of other G.I. Joes have had to), is outfitted in an entirely tan uniform, with a green helmet, and green equipment strap with holster across the chest. The boots and gloves are black, as is the belt and some other details on the legs.
I'll admit, I sort of miss the red, but I can also see that it doesn't make a lot of military sense, and as stated before, this set isn't necessarily intended to precisely reflect the original uniforms. And an all-tan uniform manages to be a nice nod to the original to a reasonable degree. Mainframe's file card reads as follows:
G.I. JOE COMPUTER SPECIALIST
Sgt. Mainframe enlisted in the Army Airborne at age seventeen and after two tours of duty finished by earning the Combat Infantryman's Badge. He left the Army to get his degree at MIT on the G.I. Bill. After a stint toiling in the antiseptic corridors of Silicon Valley making what they call the "big bucks", he wound up fighting off boredom with a stick, Luckily, the Marines were looking for a few good men with just his combat experience and qualifications. The proper papers were signed, and he was back in uniform - ready for action.
Modern battlefield computers offer tactical applications such as advanced digital information processing, real-time command and control, as well as networking for improved combat support. Sgt. Mainframe created half of the components that make all of that possible. If he didn't have his hands in some part of either the hardware or software's creation, he'd be equally skilled at bypassing firewalls and hacking his way into any computer network. These were all assets that Captain Claymore was looking for when creating his special missions team.
"Just get me to the target and I can crack any system."
It's interesting to note that at least a third of that second paragraph probably wouldn't've even made sense in 1986... Also, Mainframe's dual service in the Army and the Marines is a reflection of some insignias on the original figure, which were indicative of both services. The above subsequent explanation was created.
LEATHERNECK - As rough and tough a Marines as you could ask for, Leatherneck joined the G.I. Joe team in 1986. So did Wet-Suit, as a Navy SEAL, the two have been semi-friendly rivals ever since, each convinced that theirs is the superior (i.e. roughest and toughest) military service there is. They'll gripe at each other all day long, often to the annoyance of their fellow G.I. Joe team members, but just let Cobra try to pop a can of firefight, and they're side by side sending the snakes packing.
The original Leatherneck figure, as he was generally released in 1986, featured a green uniform with brown camouflage, and a tan vest with green trim across the top. The original Special Mission: Brazil figure gave Leatherneck a non-camouflaged tan uniform, with a brown vest.
Oddly enough, a Special Mission-colored Leatherneck figure has already been produced in the 25th-style format, and was available a while back as a vehicle driver with a recolored version of the AWE-Striker. A second Leatherneck was sold with a smaller vehicle, the Tiger Claw ATV, during the course of the movie line. That particular Leatherneck, although certainly using the established Leatherneck molds, had a far darker camouflage uniform than Leatherneck ever possessed.
So what we have here in the Convention Set is a Leatherneck figure that actually is the closest we've come to a 25th-style version of the ORIGINAL Leatherneck, not the Special Mission: Brazil version. It still fits the theme, though, as the camouflage is more than fitting for the jungle.
Leatherneck has black hair, a black mustache, a decided "tough guy" expression, and a jaw you could crack a coconut on and that's second only to Sgt. Slaughter's. He's wearing a light green Marine cap with brown camouflage of a very intricate design.
Most of Leatherneck's uniform follows this color scheme. Virtually the entire uniform is this same shade of light green, with the very intricate brown camouflage. Since the first Leatherneck figure in this style didn't have any camouflage, and the camouflage pattern on the movie-based Leatherneck was different than this, and not as complex, I find myself of the opinion that the camouflage pattern for this Leatherneck figure was created especially for him. And it's very impressive.
Leatherneck is wearing a light tan vest, similar in color to that of the original figure, but lacking the green highlights across the top. The vest is of a different style entirely, however, and I suspect it might not have even been possible. Numerous pouches are sculpted onto the front and back of this vest in great detail, as well as a small holster. There's a second holster on Leatherneck's right leg, which can actually hold a pistol, and other equipment pouches. The figure also has tan knee pads.
Leatherneck's file card reads as follows:
G.I. JOE MARINE
Leatherneck was the hardest Gunnery Sergeant that ever slogged through the mud of Camp Lejeune. Before that, he was the toughest drill instructor on Parris Island. Before that, he was the toughest Tech Sergeant of the 1st Recon Battalion stationed in South East Asia. He's known as a feisty, loud, uncouth, unsophisticated, mean, unforgiving, surly, antagonistic, and overbearing soldier (and those are his good traits!) He's not a man you would like, but one you can trust to get the most impossible job done. As his Battalion says,"A Recon Marine can speak without saying a word and achieve what others can only imagine."
Leatherneck was chosen by Captain Claymore to be the squad's grenadier and protect their hind quarter in the Drag position (the furthest point in the squad's lineup). His job is to make sure that they are not being followed and that the enemy is not on their six o'clock during LZ extraction. His position also keeps him comfortably separated far enough away from his Navy SEAL counterpart, Wet-Suit. This allows them to maintain noise discipline without the usual friendly rivalry - because no mission is taken more seriously than the rescue of a G.I. Joe.
"Never send a squid to do a Marine's job!"
And speaking of "friendly rivals" --
WET-SUIT - Introduced in 1986, Wet-Suit and Leatherneck spent most of the second season of the original animated series yelling at each other and insulting their respective ancestries, military service divisions, and whatever else crossed their minds. I mean, even Shipwreck had to break them up at one point!
The original Wet-Suit figure was dressed -- not surprisingly -- in a wet suit, that was pale green in color, with white trim, and a yellow-orange helmet. While seemingly an odd combination, it probably worked a lot better underwater, where colors are not always as we see them on the surface.
The original Special Mission: Brazil figure recolored Wet-Suit to have an entirely silver uniform, with dark blue trim. Even the helmet was silver. To this day, this remains my favorite incarnation of Wet Suit.
As to the new Special Mission: Brazil figure, I know that Navy SEALs don't spend all of their time in diving suits. "SEAL", after all, stands for "Sea, Air, and Land". These guys are the toughest the Navy has to offer, and they're trained to fight in any environment, just like their name says.
I am aware of the fact that while there is a basic diving uniform set of molds available for modern, 25th-style G.I. Joe figures, I'll grant that it's been a little overused. Cobra Divers, Cobra Eels, Torpedo -- well, you get the idea. Still, I have to admit, I was looking forward to seeing Wet-Suit in his silver Special Mission uniform.
This is not to say that the Wet-Suit figure included with the set is a disappointment. Far from it. It's just not quite what I was expecting. However, in and of itself, it's certainly impressive enough. Arguably the most militarily-authentic figure in the set, Wet-Suit is dressed in a truly superb camouflage uniform, and a thick vest loaded with plenty of pouches, tools, ammo clips, and assorted weaponry. Diving suit or no diving suit, this isn't somebody you'd want to be stupid enough to pick a fight with.
The uniform is molded in a very authentic military green, and has tan, brown, and black camouflage markings on it. The vest is dark green, with black snaps and clasps on the pouches. Wet-Suit also comes with a matching hat, as well as two rifles. His aquatic specialty has not been entirely ignored, however. Among the accessories are a pair of swim fins.
The headsculpt is excellent, and looks a fair bit like Wet-Suit. The original Wet-Suit figure's helmet was not removable, showing only the eyes through the mask's visor. Wet-Suit was shown in the animated series to have light brown, somewhat curly hair. The Wet-Suit figure in the Convention Set has more reddish hair, and it's not quite as curly, but -- yeah, I can see this as Wet-Suit. His file card reads as follows:
G.I. JOE NAVY S.E.A.L.
SEALs are the guys who were too nasty to be Airborne Rangers or Marines. The Navy keeps their SEALs locked up below decks until something bad becomes worse. That's when they all get dumped in the soup on a rubber raft with a knife, a gun, and all the ammo and explosives they can carry. Wet-Suit may just be the roughest one of the bunch. He's wild and unruly - but he's simply the best at what he does.
Wet-Suit was chosen by Captain Claymore to be the Point-man for his squad. This is partly because he trusts the SEAL's navigational skills, but it also keeps him the furthest away from his Marine counterpart, Leatherneck. These two teammates have an uneasy alliance because of their constant verbal jousts over which of their service branches are better at particular combat operations. But, will this SEAL's land-based expertise in clandestine ops be the key to rescuing his captured teammate Dial-Tone?
"Tougher than leather and mean to the bone!"
Finally, for the G.I. Joe side of this set, we come to the one figure who has no direct connection with the original Special Mission: Brazil set, but DOES have a connection with Brazil...
SPARTA - In the Brazilian "Comandos Em Acao" action figure line, Sparta was based on the Cover Girl figure, a character introduced in 1983 as the driver of the Wolverine tank. Offered as a single carded figure in South America, there were, however, no significant differences between Sparta and Cover Girl. Same tan uniform with brown jacket, same red-brown short hair, everything.
The Convention Sets have definitely taken an international turn in recent years. In 2009, 25th-style versions of a number of popular South American G.I. Joe characters, all of them recolored from their American counterparts, just as the originals had been, were offered as additional "outside the box" figures. In 2010, the additional figures featured a number of characters popularized in Europe's Action Force and Action Man concepts. With the distinct international flavor of the 2011 set, and with the ongoing storyline in the comic book clearly establishing a working arrangement between the American G.I. Joe team and its international counterparts, it only makes sense for a Brazilian character such as Sparta to be worked into the set.
To be honest, I have no idea which molds might have been used to make this figure. But I'm certainly impressed with the result. Originally, I thought this figure might look a little plain, as she is wearing a tan jumpsuit, but lacks the tan jacket common to Cover Girl. Well, clearly I need to change my mind about that, because the figure really looks great. There's enough sculpted detail, and enough colored highlights with the green belt and boots, to pretty well overcome any perceived blandness about the uniform.
The headsculpt is truly superb, the paint details are precise and remarkably well done, and then there's the HAIR! Superbly sculpted and looking a little "wind-blown", I've heard reports that it was brought over from the "DTC" rea Cover Girl figure from several years ago, and it's an amazing sculpt.She really looks very impressive, and makes the figure that much more dramatic. The character also has a prominent role in the comic story. Here is her file card:
G.I. JOE SECRET AGENT
Sparta could have been a great actress if she had not become an undercover agent for the South American branch of G.I. Joe. As such, she has been able to infiltrate the network of Cobra bases around the globe. She has an uncanny ability to extract information right out from under their noses. When she carries out these difficult espionage missions, she is always on the verge of being discovered. However, she continues to foil the enemy by playing the part and only showing them a cold-blooded attitude. Her devilishly sharp wit keeps everyone off guard around her.
Sparta must infiltrate the Python Patrol base that is hidden deep in the Brazilian Amazon. She has been tasked with locating Dial-Tone, who is being held as a prisoner of the maniacal Steel Cobra (Cobra de Aco). Once his location is found, she must send a short-burst radio signal to Sgt. Mainframe to provide the coordinates for extraction. But if she is caught, it will be the last curtain call for her and her fellow teammates.
"I'm a tough act to follow."
Yeah, she probably is, so we'll turn from the G.I. Joe side of things at this point, and take a look at the Cobra side of this set, starting with --
STEEL COBRA - Like Sparta, this character is a bit of an outsider to the specific theme of the set. Just as Sparta was not technically a member of the original Mission Brazil, so Steel Cobra is not technically a member of Python Patrol. However, like Sparta, Steel Cobra does have his roots in South America.
Steel Cobra is one of two particularly notable figures that were created entirely in South America, that have become quite popular among American fans and collectors. One of these is known by the name of Cobra Mortal, and essentially amounted to an original Snake-Eyes figure who was recolored in red and chromed silver. This character was actually reissued in an original-style format in a G.I. Joe Convention Set some years ago.
The other character went by the original name of Cobra de Aco, and amounted to a Snake-Eyes head mixed with the body of Flash, the original Laser Trooper of the G.I. Joe team. The head was redone in chrome, and the Flash body was molded in black, with silver trim, and the original red padding on the uniform was redone in bright yellow, with a Cobra emblem placed on the chest. It was a dynamic and unique figure, that is still highly sought after among collectors.
If there is one figure in this entire set more than any other that I wish could have been done in the original format, it is this one. But, the 25th-style version of him is nevertheless extremely impressive.
Certainly the parts exist to make him. Both Snake-Eyes and Flash have been well-inducted into the 25th-style line, and indeed the Flash body parts have seen multiple use on other characters, including Grand Slam, and even several Cobras to one degree or another.
The figure is easily one of the highlights of the set -- a modern version of one of the most sought-after international G.I. Joe figures of all time. Who wouldn't want him? The head has been as well-chromed as you could hope for. He and Destro will have to have a shine-off contest at some point or some such. The body has been molded in black, with silver gloves, silver trim around the padding, silver-gray knee-pads, and bright yellow padding with a red Cobra emblem on the chest.
One thing impresses me is how well the paint job was done. The ridges of the padding look a little obscured., but not severely, and the yellow color is prominent and bright. It has been my experience over the years that one of the hardest things to do paintwise on a toy, regardless of the company or the toy line, is to paint yellow onto black, and have it look decent. I don't know why that is, except from the standpoint of painting a bright color onto a dark one. However, on Steel Cobra, it really came out superbly well.
On the whole, Steel Cobra is a truly amazing and remarkable figure, that any G.I. Joe collector would be happy to have. Here's his file card:
Steel Cobra (Cobra de Aco) is one of the most feared of all Cobra operatives. He is a calculating strategist, but incredibly conceited about his successes. His grating personality has caused considerable friction among his teammates, and most others refuse to work with him. Often clashing with superior officers, he has earned a reputation as a boastful egotist - even in the presence of Cobra Commander himself. As a result, he has been assigned the task of supervising the main Cobra Python Patrol facility in the Brazilian Amazon. Rather than adopt their stealthy attire for his personal use, he continues to wear his unique helmet and notoriously brash colored body armor, ironically the same colors nature has emblazoned on many of the native poisonous amphibians as a warning of their mutual venomous nature.
He is so prideful that he assumes his permanent assignment in Brazil is because he is the only one tough enough to thrive in the unforgiving Amazon, and keep the Python Patrol facility at maximum production. However, he is secretly haunted by his one miscalculation of an adversary many years ago - the resourceful G.I. Joe operative, Captain Claymore. His desire for revenge burns in him hotter than even the sweltering jungle. Nevertheless, will his obsession with evening the score cause him to lose his tactical advantage?
"The man that can stop me has yet to be born!"
Running your mouth around Cobra Commander? That's bad news. He's lucky he just got sent to the Amazon for that. Interesting that his official designation is Cobra Commando, a nod to Snake-Eyes, and that his Primary Military Specialty is Laser Weapons Specialist, a nod to Flash.
PYTHON TELE-VIPER -- Some may ask -- why the Tele-Vipers and Python Troopers for this set? Simple enough -- because every other member of the original Python Patrol has already been made in the 25th-style format. Copperhead turned up in his Python Patrol uniform as the driver of the Sting Raider, the reimagining of his original Water Moccasin (Copperhead turned up in his original colors in a comic set with Shipwreck). The Python Viper was assigned the job of pilot for the reissuing of the previously pilotless Python Conquest, which was offered as a Target exclusive. And the Python Officer and Python Crimson Guard were released as single-carded figures. That left the Python Tele-Viper and the Python Trooper -- lucky for the Convention Set.
The original Tele-Viper was released in 1985, and was the first Cobra trooper specialist to use the suffix "Viper". The original Tele-Viper had a predominantly blue uniform, with a purple vest and shoes, and a helmet with an array of some rather extensive electronic gear, and a wide silver visor that, in the animated series, actually displayed messages in scrolling red letters across it.
The Tele-Viper was inducted into Python Patrol in 1989, the only time the figure was reissued in the original line, although there have been both newsculpt and 25th-style versions of the trooper prior to this, including a newsculpt Python Patrol version with a distinctly different color scheme.
This Python Tele-Viper, like the other 25th-style Python Patrol figures, mirrors the original. He has a yellow helmet with black headphones and electronics, a red visor, a yellow shirt with a gray vest, dark gray trousers with the Python Patrol camouflage pattern imprinted on them, and black boots. He also has a dark red belt and wristband on his left wrist.
Overall, it's an excellent 25th-style version of the Tele-Viper. The vest has the proper ridged padding across the top, and the headgear is impressive. One thing that both the 25th-style and newsculpt Tele-Vipers have over the original is a better chin line. I don't know what it is about the original Tele-Viper, but he looks like someone cut him off at the jaw. Later versions, regardless of format, look a lot better.
About the worst thing I can say about this Python Tele-Viper is that the vest doesn't like to stay clasped, but if this guy is working in the Brazilian Amazon, he might be leaving it open for a little ventilation. Two additions to the figure above the original are a black Cobra emblem on the right sleeve, and a Python Patrol emblem on the left. You get TWO Python Tele-Vipers in this set, and here's their file card:
PYTHON PATROL COMMUNICATIONS
Python Tele-Vipers are the RTO (Radio Telecommunications Operators) of Python Patrol's ground forces. Each specialist is equipped with a modular radio pack that contains the latest, most sophisticated radar jamming devices and smart antennas. They carry digital scramblers/decoders and millimeter-wave band transmitters, enabling Python Patrol personnel to communicate rapidly with other units and support elements. This front-end equipment is essential to keeping assault teams coordinated, because once they activate Python stealth, they are invisible to each other as well as enemy forces. These microburst transmitters are the only way to achieve situational awareness while remaining covert.
Their state of the art technical knowledge and gear makes them the pride of the Python Patrol team, in stark contrast to traditional Tele-Vipers, who are considers "squealers", radioing in every sign of danger rather than taking it on themselves. They are respected not only for being essential to the cohesion of team operations, but also for their expertise in tactical operations. Steel Cobra (Cobra de Aco) has tasked all of his Python Tele-Vipers with being on ultra-high alert to track down the source of an intermittent data pulse that he fears may be tied to a possible rescue attempt of his current prisoner. However, will they pinpoint the source of the data leak before the G.I. Joe team discovers their base of operations?
"One call is all it takes to get you!"
Finally, we come to:
PYTHON TROOPERS - Not surprisingly, when Python Patrol came on the scene, three of the most basic Cobra divisions available -- Vipers, Troopers, and Officers -- were inducted into the team. Curiously, the figures originally used for Officers and Troopers got their identities switched.
Admittedly, the figures were similar in appearance. Both wore blue uniforms, and the only significant differences between the two were that Officers had a raised "V" shape on their helmets, and the details of their chest harnesses were different, and somewhat more complex.
With the advent of the 25th-style line, when Cobra Troopers and Officers were first introduced, they pretty much used the same body mold, with the harness being molded separately. This has been carried over to a number of additional uses for both figure types, including Python Patrol.
A Python Officer was released in the single-carded line some time back, but the poor guy didn't get any Python Troopers to command -- until now. And if any division of Python Patrol has been overdue for inclusion in the 25th-style line, it has to be the Python Troopers!
Interestingly, the Troopers are actually more ornate than the Officers. The Python Officer wore a mostly black uniform, with the Python Patrol details limited to his harness and belt, which were molded in green, with yellow Python patterning. Contrast this with the Python Trooper, who has a green shirt, with yellow Python patterning on it, some of the most extensive of any of the original Python Patrol characters! Add to this, he has black trousers, and light gray boots, gloves, and harness. Additionally, the Python Trooper has a red collar, a black face mask, and a black helmet. Silver details have been painted onto the harness.
The Convention Set has also corrected what I considered to be a horribly glaring omission from the first Python Troopers. Although the Python Officer had a red Cobra emblem in the center of his otherwise plain black shirt, the Python Trooper had no Cobra emblem on him whatsoever! Now, no one was likely to mistake him for one of the good guys, but it still left a pretty noticeable blank space on the shirt, which as originally conceived, was certainly intended to bear the emblem.
The new Python Troopers most definitely have the Cobra emblem, imprinted in black, centered on the shirt right where it should be! In addition, there's a Python Patrol emblem on the upper left sleeve. This is a nice touch that was actually started by the second Python Patrol set that came out as part of the Toys "R" Us multi-packs some years ago.
You get six-count-em SIX Python Troopers in this set, and their file card reads as follows:
PYTHON PATROL INFANTRY
The Python Trooper is the basic infantryman of Python Patrol and is cross-trained in at least two support skills such as computer operator, cook, and ordnance supply specialist. Unlike most armies where specialization is the norm, Python Patrol expects its computer operators to be as proficient with assault rifles as they are with micro-processors. This is a tall enough order, without the native jungle wildlife trying to take them down. Unfortunately, this danger is necessary, as some of the key elements required for the Pythonization process are indigenous to the Brazilian environment. Unlike most Cobra cadres, however, the isolation of the jungle has created a team survival instinct that allows them to continue with little attrition.
For all their stealth and infiltration training, camouflage uniforms and radar defeating equipment, Steel Cobra (Cobra de Aco) has taken no chances and has doubled the patrols around their top secret Brazilian fortress. He wants no interference from any rescue team, save for his one target, Captain Claymore. The rest of the G.I. Joe team members are fodder for his skillful team of Python Troopers, who are itching to take down these targets and go back to hiding in the jungle.
"To our allies, we are everywhere; to our enemies, we are nowhere!"
Interesting file card. One might hope that if some of these guys are trained as cooks, then some are also trained as medics. And I'm not sure cross-training a computer expert in the use of an assault rifle is a good idea. I know how I get when I have a computer glitch. You wouldn't want to hand me an assault rifle...!
On the whole, these are all great figures. Well-designed, well-assembled, and neatly painted, definitely with above-average paint detailing. Articulation is, of course, excellent, and accessories are abundant. The set also comes with a nice pin, displaying the logo of the Convention, as well as the official logo of Walt Disney World! Given the number of Disney pin collectors out there, this one's going to drive them nuts when they find out about it.
So, what's my final word? The Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club Convention has been producing special boxed sets of 3-3/4" figures since 2002. I don't know how they manage to come up with increasingly cooler ideas each year, but the Club Staff always seem to manage it. Combining the popularity of two original-style concepts -- Special Mission Brazil and Python Patrol -- into one set, and enabling that concept to also include two previous Brazilian-only characters in the form of Steel Cobra and Sparta, not to mention completing the original Python Patrol in the modern-style figure format -- is about as many kinds of awesome as one can readily imagine. Any G.I. Joe collector will be truly delighted with this set!
The 2011 OFFICIAL G.I. JOE COLLECTORS' CLUB CONVENTION SET - MISSION BRAZIL II -- most definitely has my highest recommendation!