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By Thomas Wheeler

One of the highlights of any G.I. Joe Convention is, of course, the Convention Set of figures. There is a 12" set and a 3-3/4" set. This year's 3-3/4" set was entitled COBRA HEADHUNTERS, and featured the return of some of the G.I. Joe team's most diabolical enemies, the Headhunters, who started out as drug-runners under the guidance of the HeadMan. In an animated two-parter, G.I. Joe and Cobra even teamed up to deal with these scum.

However, the Headhunters, now under the leadership of former lackey Gristle, have apparently given up their drug-smuggling tendencies in order to become weapons merchants for Cobra! The set included new editions of Gristle, the Headhunter Guards, the Headhunter Stormtroopers, and even half a dozen specialized Headhunter B.A.T.s!

But the boxed set itself is never ALL that's made available at these Conventions. And indeed, with a gathering of villainy like that, you need someone to deal with them. In fact, some of them were even pictured on the box art, even though they were not part of the boxed set.

And while the status of the G.I. Joe Team's Drug Elimination Force, the original enemies of the Headhunters, may be rather vague, there's little doubt that the G.I. JOE S.W.A.T. TEAM can handle whatever these reorganized Headhunters can dish out! The SWAT Team consisted of a three-pack of figures, plus a fourth figure available with a vehicle. Let's start with the threesome.

SHOCKBLAST - The G.I. Joe formerly known as Shockwave, and he's even referred by that name in the comic book that comes with the set. What we have here with the name change, I'm sure, is a simple matter of legal logistics. Hasbro hasn't used the "Shockwave" name on a certain Decepticon in recent years, either, also substituting Shockblast. Hey, whatever, it's a cool figure.

Shockwave was first introduced in 1988 (Happy 20th!) as a SWAT Specialist for the G.I. Joe team. It seems fitting as such that he would now appear on this special SWAT Team. The original Shockwave figure was recolored the following year to participate in Night Force, and then an all-new Shockwave figure was created in 1992 to join up with D.E.F. So let it be said that this is a guy who has experience with the Headhunters.

However, this new figure is, for the most part, derived from the original Shockwave figure, who honestly in my opinion looked more the part of a SWAT Team specialist, anyway.

A common color scheme has been established for this SWAT Team, using mainly the colors of black, and a sort of dark greyish green. Shockblast is wearing a black ridged ski mask over his face, and a cap over the ski mask. He is wearing a heavily ridged, padded black vest, and the sleeves of his uniform are the grey-green color.

It's at this point that we have a difference. Shockblast's legs are not those of the original figure. Technically, they're the same as Low-Light's, who is also part of this assortment. In all honesty, I don't object. These are still good legs, and there was something about the original Shockwave legs that always made him a little hard to stand up. I remember having to slightly file down the knee-tops of both versions of the original Shockwave in order to get his legs to bend forward enough for him to stand properly. I really didn't want to have to do that a third time.

So Low-Light's legs look and work perfectly well on Shockblast. The trousers are the grey-green, with black boots.

As one would expect from a Convention figure, the painted detail is nothing short of outstanding. All of the little buckles, snaps, and whatever else have been painted in silver. Shockblast has a knife on his vest with a brown hilt and a bit of gold detail on it. There is an American flag on his left upper sleeve, very nicely done, and with the requisite number of stars.

There's something about the color scheme that really reflects an intense approach. No bright or neon colors here. I never really objected to some of the color schemes that came along in G.I. Joe, but I have to admit that these more subdued, and in many instances never before seen color schemes, really work just incredibly well on these figures, and certainly the SWAT Team color scheme is one of these, and Shockblast wears it well.

His file card reads as follows:

File Name: Faria, Jason A.
Primary Military Specialty: Special Weapons and Tactics
Secondary Military Specialty: Police Officer (31A)
Birthplace: Dearborn, Michigan

Shockblast was the youngest member of the Detroit Police Department S.W.A.T. Team and the holder of two citations for bravery when he signed up for, and was accepted by, G.I. JOE. Having proven his qualifications through two previous units, he was chosen to be the squad leader for the G.I. JOE SWAT detachment. Every special weapons team needs a "door- kicker". He's the guy who crashes through the barricade first with all weapons blazing to find out how bad the situation really is. This requires an individual who is not only absolutely fearless, but once an entry point is breached he must also be sharp-minded enough to instantly distinguish the enemy from innocent bystanders. Ultimately, he calls the shots, whether to press the attack or retreat - usually in pure darkness and surrounded by smoke, gunfire, and explosions!

Shockblast often uses rappelling devices to drop into the middle of hostile situations. While this does help him avoid booby-trapped doors and windows, he nonetheless is plunging directly into the heart of established enemy territory, with virtually no chance of backing out. But, will his nerves of steel be enough against titanium skin?

"When I find a locked door, it's a tough choice between my shoe leather and a battering ram!"

LOW-LIGHT - Although Low-Light doesn't have any direct experience as a SWAT specialist, his years as the G.I. Joe team's primary "Night Spotter" and one of the team's best snipers has certainly given him the qualifications. His nasty attitude probably isn't too much of a detriment, either. This is probably a guy who'd charge into a firefight for the fun of it. Heck, he was even part of the two-man Dino-Hunters squad. This was a guy willing to take on dinosaurs! You gonna tell him he can't be part of a fight? He also served on the Slaughter's Marauders team. I'll leave it to you to decide whether fighting dinosaurs or serving with the Sarge was the bigger challenge.

Low-Light was first introduced in 1986, and was fairly prominently featured in the second season of the first animated series. Low-Light was generally pictured as an ill-tempered malcontent, the product of a very hostile upbringing. It was mentioned in an early reference to him, I believe in a "Marvel Age" article, that if his childhood had been only slightly worse, or if he'd been just a bit more of a malcontent, he probably would've ended up with Cobra. But he didn't. He went with the Joe team, and while he's not likely the most pleasant person to have around, he's certainly someone you want on the battlefield.

There have been two major Low-Light figures over the years, one introduced in 1986, a second one in 1991, and both have seen their fair share of recolorings. However, the 1986 figure is generally regarded as the more quintessential version of the character, and indeed, it is that figure that we have here as part of the SWAT Team from the Convention.

Low-Light has blonde hair and is wearing a black ski cap. He has goggles over his eyes, and in a very nice bit of painting detail, the lenses are a very bright metallic light blue. I love the look of them, I really do. It's extremely impressive, and just about half a step short of being chromed.

Low-Light's torso has been molded in black, with grey-green sleeves and trousers. He has black padding on his lower arms, and black gloves and boots. As with Shockblast, the various clasps and buckles on his uniform have been painted in silver, as have two pouches on his upper sleeves. Given the dark color of the uniforms, these details stand out that much more, and in some way, make the overall design seem that much more authentic. There's a bit of brown and gold on Low-Light, as well -- a small knife in a holster on his upper right leg.

Although technically Shockblast and Low-Light make use of the same leg molds, the figures otherwise look different enough so that you almost don't even notice. And ultimately, this is an extremely impressive version of Low-Light. His file card reads as follows:

Code-Name: LOW-LIGHT
File Name: MacBride, Cooper G.
Primary Military Specialty: Marksmanship Instructor
Secondary Military Specialty: Infantryman (11B)
Birthplace: Crosby, North Dakota

Following a troubled youth, which rumors say culminated in being abandoned in a junkyard at hight, armed only with a simple .22 rifle, Low-Light not only conquered his fears but embraced them. He became one with the darkness and further turned his abusive past into a drive to right wrongs - permanently. He is an expert in virtually every long-range rifle, from the standard M24 or M40A3, to the vehicle-stopping .50 caliber M107 SASR (Special Applications Scoped Rifle) with a range of over a mile. He is also a master of field craft skills, and is constantly calculating terrain, props, ballistics, distance, and weather effects - even when unarmed. He is also that rare exception to the two-man rule which usually requires both a shooter and a spotter. Low-Light's years of honing his trade eliminated the need for a second man - likely because he also prefers to work alone. His fellow Joes would rib him for having no social life, if they weren't afraid of seeing his laser scope pointed on them.

After many local police agents disappeared investigating a mysterious factory in Eastern Asia, the G.I. Joe CID (Criminal Investigation Division) Commander suspects Cobra involvement and deploys a team of S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) experts. Low-Light gets the call, and packs his gear for the mission. But, what can even the best sharpshooter do when the enemy is bulletproof?

"I seize the day and own the night!"

LONG ARM - You know, one of the things the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club has really done well over the years is taken figures that have really had obnoxious color schemes in their original incarnations, and turned them into something really cool. The very decent potential of the SCULPT is apparent, if only something could be done about the colors.

They turned the nightmarish Mega-Vipers into the far saner Swamp-Vipers. They turned the preposterous orange-and-purple 1994 Cobra Vipers, a design itself that wasn't well-suited to the name "Viper", reassigned them to Destro's Iron Grenadiers, gave them a far more agreeable color scheme, and dubbed them the Iron Anvils.

Now, while they didn't rename Long Arm, they certainly improved his looks. And here we have a figure who has waited roughly fifteen years to be officially involved specifically against the Headhunters. Allow me to explain.

The Drug Elimination Force Team, or DEF, assortment, came along in 1992. This assortment featured new character Bullet-Proof, along with new versions of Shockwave, Cutter, and Mutt (with Junkyard, of course), taking on the HeadMan and his Headhunter troopers. The DEF concept had the blessing and the participation of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Unfortunately, at that point in time, it was common practice to outfit new "special teams" such as DEF with some sort of gadget or gimmick. The figures included, to allow for a higher price point, a "Battle Flash" weapon. This was a large, transparent-colored-plastic weapon of some sort, with a spring-loaded missile, and the weapon would light up for a split second when it fired the missile.

This, likely, as much as anything else, led to DEF's downfall. A second year of DEF was in the works, minus the gimmick weapon, and was even packaged and distributed as such in Australia. However, as far as the main market in the United States was concerned, DEF was retired. But the figures had been produced...!

Ultimately, the intended second series of DEF was repackaged on Battle Corps cards, which was the name for the "standard" figures at the time. Gristle, the Headhunter Stormtrooper, and a recolored Headhunter were worked into Cobra as "urban" agents, with all drug references removed from their file cards, and the intended DEF Joe team members simply became part of G.I. Joe: Battle Corps. This included recolored versions of Bullet-Proof and Mutt, along with new members Law, Mace, Muskrat -- and Long Arm.

Setting aside the fact that at least three of these characters -- Bullet- Proof, Mace, and Long Arm -- technically derived their names from the COPS line of action figures from just a few years prior at that point, it was always nice to see new team members. However, Long Arm, who was officially listed as a "First Strike Specialist", tended to be a little more prominent than some. His uniform, which appeared to be a fairly heavily padded outfit, was also -- a rather agonizingly bright orange. The only painted detail on the figure were black boots and gloves, and a bit of gold on some chest detail.

In later years, when the 12" G.I. Joe line's Classic Collection produced a MOPP Specialist (MOPP standing for Mission Oriented Protective Posture, used to describe protective gear worn in toxic or otherwise hazardous environments), it was noted be some that there was a bit of a structural similarity between the MOPP Gear and Long Arm's uniform -- color most definitely notwithstanding.

So now we come to 2008, and Long Arm finally gets himself a more sensibly colored uniform. His presence on the S.W.A.T. Team makes perfect sense. He sort of missed his chance fifteen years ago, he's certainly qualified, and it's stating the blindingly obvious that the black and grey-green uniform is certainly an improvement.

The molds are entirely the same as before. The bulk of Long Arm's uniform is grey-green, but there's a lot more painted detail than before. The chest padding, leg padding, and the straps thereof are all painted black. His lower arms are black. His helmet, another formerly orange atrocity, has been redone in the grey-green with black trim and a very nice transparent visor. And there's a bit of gloss black on his boots, a very nice touch up against the relative black matte of the rest of the figure's black areas.

Even the silver trim is a little more limited in use on this figure than on the others. It's really only used for a couple of grenades on his chest, and some sort of device near his collar. Here is the only spot where there's really extensive detail, as some of the elements of this device have been painted metallic red, blue, and gold. It does stand out, but not badly, and -- as ironic as it may be to say this about the reworking of a figure whose original color scheme bordered on the alarming, it actually keeps this new Long Arm from appearing almost TOO dull.

Really, I have to say, this is an amazing figure. Long Arm's file card reads as follows:

Code Name: LONG ARM
File Name: Mangiaratti, Thomas P.
Primary Military Specialty: Bomb Disposal Robotic Systems Operator
Secondary Military Specialty: Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist (89D)
Birthplace: Boulder Creek, California

LONG ARM is responsible for the identification and disposal of enemy munitions and explosive devices. Because of the dangers of the job, he always wears a specialized suit of flexible yet protective body armor, consisting of materials resistant to flame, heat, fragmentation, ballistics, over-pressure, and impact, even biological and chemical threats. In short, he wears the most expensive disposable uniform in the G.I. Joe arsenal. He also carries a detection kit with the latest dismantling tools and electronic jammers for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and is well trained in close quarter battle tactics.

Long Arm often employs a bomb disposal robot to protect himself and his teammates. These RCRV, or Remotely Controlled Robotic Vehicles, are outfitted with cameras, microphones, and sensors for detection and avoidance of chemical or biological agents; specialized arms for rapid disablement of IEDs and booby traps; and tactical disrupters to provide minimal risk of collateral damage to innocent civilians as well as the G.I. Joe team. But, can all this high-tech gear protect him from an enemy that IS the explosive device?

"If you see me running... something is about to go BOOM!"

Ohhhhh, that's encouraging.

Almost as impressive as the figures is the incredibly array of accessories this threesome comes with. Along with no less then seven distinctly different firearms, and one knife, there's a really nicely made S.W.A.T. shield (with the word S.W.A.T. on it), a briefcase (non-opening) marked "IED DETECTOR", two nice backpacks plus a third that opens up like a briefcase to reveal a weapon that can be assembled from parts (the case is also stamped S.W.A.T.), and the aforementioned on Long Arm's file card bomb disposal robot!

This robot is really a neat little item, with six rolling wheels, two adjustable antennae, and a moving robotic arm. The overall detail work is really excellent. To be perfectly honest, not being an accessories expert, I haven't the slightest idea where it came from. I certainly don't recall it being included with the original Long Arm. I am going to assume here that it was sold at some point perhaps during the newsculpt line from 2002-2006. Whatever the case, it's a really neat little item to include with this group of figures, who are certainly well-equipped!

Let's turn our attention now to the fourth member of the team, and the vehicle that he comes with. First up, the figure:

BULLHORN - Now, there's a name that nobody's heard from in a while. Bullhorn was first introduced in 1990, and his presence on a SWAT team actually makes a fair amount of sense. He was presented as an "Intervention Specialist". In other words, a negotiator. He wants to talk you out of whatever criminal stupidity you're presently involved in. Of course, failing that, he's more than prepared to open up a can of fire-fight on you, as well.

Bullhorn was never all that prominently featured in either the comic book or the animated series, with one exception. He was part of the one of the unfortunately more ridiculous DIC-produced animated episodes, in which Cobra's Night Creeper Leader got it into his head that he was a reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, and promptly kidnapped Lady Jaye to be his queen. Bullhorn was the Joe who had to try to get her out of this mess. The episode was actually released on videocassette, packed with a figure named Rapid-Fire who didn't have anything to do with the episode, and was in fact a recolored Super Trooper. Bullhorn, for his part, was probably in hiding over the embarrassment of being involved in such a ridiculous storyline.

Well, eighteen years later, they finally dragged him out. Had to promise him -- no Pharaohs this time around. I guess he believed them, because he was even willing to wipe the camo paint off his face.

The 1990 Bullhorn figure had a surprisingly subdued color scheme for the time, mostly various shades of brown, including some camouflage triangles on his face. The new Bullhorn doesn't have those, which honestly makes him look even more like a Native American than the first version did. There's something about the somewhat backswept black hair and the headband that make one really think this guy is a Native American Indian -- but with a name of "Stephen A. Ferreira", that seems a little unlikely.

The head, torso, and arms are definitely from the original Bullhorn. However, the legs aren't. And in a little bit of toy irony, the legs are actually from the Shockwave figure that was made for the original DEF Team!

The different trousers work perfectly well on Bullhorn, and the leg strap even has a ridge pattern similar to the harness on Bullhorn's torso, so it really does work well.

Bullhorn's shirt is the same grey-green as the other team members' uniforms, but the trousers are a somewhat darker green. Still looks, good, though. He still fits in well. The chest harness and pouches have been painted black, as have his knee pads, gloves, and boots. He has some silver detail on him in the form of grenades on his chest, some other items on his right leg, and in the tiny little claps on his collar. THAT's the sort of attention to detail that I really appreciate the Club for carrying out. Bullhorn also has the American flag on his left arm, same as Shockblast.

Bullhorn comes with a revised and renamed version of the HAMMER, which I'll get to in a minute, but I wanted to mention it, otherwise, his file card wouldn't make much sense:

File Name: Ferreira, Stephen A.
Primary Military Specialty: Tactical Intervention Specialist
Secondary Military Specialty: Motor Transport Operator (88M)
Birthplace: Providence, Rhode Island

Bullhorn is the crisis negotiator and tactical intervention specialist for the G.I. Joe Special Weapons and Tactics team. Prior to enlistment, he was a Practical Shooting Champion and hand-to-hand combat instructor at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Although a highly skilled fighter, he is an extremely calm individual, possessing an open and compassionate personality. This makes him exactly the type of person needed to negotiate with psychopaths and fanatics who have an axe to grind with society. Of course, that same steely coolness also comes in handy when he is forced to take decisive action that requires an accurate and lethal delivery of firepower!

Bullhorn's primary function is to resolve high-risk situations with a minimum loss of life, injury, or property damage, by neutralizing threats that are a clear and present danger. He is usually able to defuse a situation through verbal communication, but even with a completely unreasonable target he is often able to finesse them enough to let their guard down - just long enough for a sharpshooter or assault team to disarm the threat, On the flip side, he gets completely wild behind the wheel of his assigned SWAT vehicle, a necessity if he wants to get to the area of operations before the shooting starts. But what good are negotiation skills against an adversary that does not reason, but is programmed?

"They say talk is cheap, but I can make it worth your life!"

S.W.A.T. RTV - In 1990, Hasbro introduced the HAMMER to the G.I. Joe world of vehicles. Based loosely on the recently introduced HUMMER, the HAMMER seemed considerably large for what was essentially a jeep-like vehicle. Vastly larger than any of the previous VAMPs, which had seemed the standard for G.I. Joe vehicles, the HAMMER was notable for being a four-seater vehicle, compared to the VAMP's two available seats. This, at least in part, was a justification for its larger size. The HAMMER proved popular enough to be reissued in recent years, but its renaming and recoloring as the SWAT RTV may be its coolest version yet!

Bearing the same color scheme as the figures themselves, the SWAT RTV has a greyish green body with black hood, roof, and back. The level of recolored and painted detail is astounding. The hood can be lifted to reveal an engine in a couple of different colors. The seats within the vehicle have been given tan cushions -- a first -- with grey restraints. The steering wheel has also been colored grey, as have the radio antenna, side gins, and missile racks. The headlights have been painted silver, and some of the other detailing is also pale grey.

The vehicle has no labels, but it is not devoid of markings. The G.I. Joe logo is present on the hood, as is the word S.W.A.T. in stenciled lettering. This also appears on the sides of the vehicle, and the American flag is also on the hood and the sides.

The SWAT RTV is not a small vehicle. It measures 13 inches long by nearly 7 inches wide and is almost 5 inches in height. The color scheme is superb, and it truly is an amazing vehicle that can hold ALL FOUR members of the G.I. Joe SWAT team. It's a great addition to the collection, and really helps to unify the entire group.

Now, although the Cobra Headhunters comprise the boxed set, that doesn't mean that Cobra was left out of the additional merchandise. They managed to get involved here, as well.

HOTWIRE with B.A.T. MECH - Hotwire is a new character -- sort of. He was initially created for the Collectible Card Game which was created in 2004, but was never released as a figure -- until now.

In the comic book adventure, Hotwire comes across as a mad scientist, a sort of Dr. Frankenstein to the B.A.T.s -- not inappropriate given that he cobbled the Headhunter B.A.T.s together from parts of three previous generations. He is a wild-haired lunatic, fairly conventionally dressed in a white lab coat and Cobra blue trousers and black boots. In the comic story, he has the incredibly annoying habit of constantly referring to himself in the third person.

The figure is -- well, an interesting "frankenstein" in and of himself. It didn't take me too long to figure out where the head had come from. I just couldn't quite believe it, but really, it's something of a master-stroke. The head is actually that of Blanka, one of the characters from the Street Fighter line which Hasbro produced in the mid-1990's, using G.I. Joe molds and based on the popular Capcom video game.

Blanka is something of a wild beast in that concept, and he has rather distinctive skin coloration. He is most often seen with bright green skin, and that's how the basic Blanka figure was presented. A second version, with blue skin, was also manufactured. Both versions had wild, bright red hair.

So you can imagine that taking that head, molding it in traditional flesh tone, giving it brown hair, and actually painting eyebrows on it, something the original Blanka didn't have, would do a lot to set Hotwire apart from his original "ancestor". This is not the first time the Collectors' Club has used one of the heads from either Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat in their Convention Sets. But I believe this may be its most effective and distinctive use.

The torso is that of Hardball, a G.I. Joe character from 1988 who wore a fairly plain shirt. The arms and legs took me a little longer to figure out, but I finally realized that they came from the original Cobra Laser-Viper. They look good and work well, however. Hotwire's "lab coat" look is completed by a white "vest" that fits over his arms, and is a mold that has seen several uses in the world of G.I. Joe in recent years, whenever somebody needs to look like they're wearing an open jacket or coat.

The end result, along with a few stamped-on Cobra insignias, is a very effective and interesting figure that really gives Cobra their first scientist type that really LOOKS like a stereotypical mad scientist, at least in the traditional-style format. There was a newsculpt Dr. Mindbender at one point that had the decency to put a coat on.

Hotwire's file card is an interesting read:

Code Name: HOTWIRE
Primary Military Specialty: Battle Android Trooper Maintenance and Repair
Secondary Military Specialty: Bio-Mechnical Engineer
Birthplace: Lauingen, Baravia, Germany

Hotwire follows in the footsteps of his ancestors, all brilliant but eccentric scientists who ended up siding with the villains in any global conflict, usually because it was the only way they could work without the hindrance of morality or legality. Hotwire initially wanted to break that cycle, and traveled to America to be schooled legitimately at M.I.T. He later made great strides in their Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, but was thrown out when his research involved studying the adverse effects of various mechanical appendages on human victims. This rejection drove him straight into the welcoming arms of COBRA, where he was encouraged to let his deranged mind run wild, optimizing their army of robotic soldiers, the B.A.T.s (Battle Android Troopers). He somehow sees himself as a pure scientist, oblivious to his own insanity, a counterpoint to Dr. Mindbender who knows and relishes how evil he is.

On loan to the newly reformed Headhunters in a secret factory in Southeast Asia, Hotwire has been taking older B.A.T. Mark 1 units and redesigning them to function as assembly line droids. Always paranoid, he holds a master control switch that, at the slightest hint of trouble, converts the workers back into deadly warriors. Unknown to his cohorts, he also has built a giant armored B.A.T. Mech suit, in case he loses control of his robots and needs to escape.

"Dr. Mindbender wants to make B.A.T.s finally recognize friend from foe - but where is the fun in that?

B.A.T. MECH - Okay, a little background on these things. In the 1990's, there was a popular new animated series from MCA/Universal and toy line from Playmates called Exo-Squad. The storyline involved a futuristic squad of soldiers who used "E-Frames" -- humanoid robotic battle suits, essentially -- to combat an enemy force called Neo-Sapiens, who were also similarly equipped. It was a great show and a fantastic toy line.

Hasbro, at the tail end of G.I. Joe, tried to jump on the bandwagon a bit with a couple of items in the Star Brigade line called "Power Fighters". To be perfectly blunt, they weren't terribly impressive. Not compared to the heavily detailed and highly-articulated E-Frames of Exo-Squad, anyway.

Fast-forward to the newsculpt era. Hasbro decided to try again, with the DEFENSE MECHS, a pair of battle suits, one for G.I. Joe, and one for Cobra. This time, they got it right. Better detail, better articulation. I will always be impressed by Exo-Squad. But I was pleased to see that Hasbro made up for the Power Fighters with the Defense Mechs.

For the Convention, the original Cobra Defense Mech has been recolored for Hotwire's use, and redubbed the B.A.T. Mech. This robotic battle suit is a strange customer compared to its more conventional G.I. Joe counterpart. It's much more curved in its overall design, and almost looks alien somehow. The massive right arm has a huge four-pronged claw with moves outward, and a spring-loaded missile in the center of it. The large left arm, arguably the most straightforward looking part of the whole apparatus, has an even larger missile in its barrel, which is also spring-loaded.

The B.A.T. Mech is mostly black, with transparent blue canopy and leg guards, and silver trim. Not that anyone's likely to mistake this thing for one of the good guys' items, but just to be on the safe side there's a Cobra emblem at the top of the left arm.

The B.A.T. Mech is as interesting and bizarre as its owner, really.

Next, we have the non-boxed Convention item that -- well, was sort of designed to be thrown from a very high place.

SKY-B.A.T. - Okay, this is going to take a little explaining. Head back to around the time when the 3-3/4" line was giving way to the 8" Sigma Six. Some 3-3/4" items had been prepared to varying degrees, up to and including molds. Any toy company hates to waste molds. It's the most expensive part of toymaking. One of the later items to come out of the 3-3.4" world was a B.A.T. 6-pack. This included, among other things, three new Battle Androids called B.A.T. v.5.

They really didn't look much like any previous version of the B.A.T.s. They had roundish heads, with two distinct eyes. They had large torsos, but narrow waists, and more robotic look to their arms and legs. Indeed, these B.A.T.s were designed to have interchangeable parts. Weirdest of all were the strange cannisters springing up from the backs of their arms. They were molded in a fairly dark metallic steel blue. They were interesting, if a little bizarre.

Switch over to the Sigma Six line, and one of the early entries in that series was called the SKY B.A.T. And despite the size difference, and the more stylized look, there was one heck of a resemblance. The same head, the same big torso and minimal waist, the same weird whatevers on the backs of the arms. The main difference, other than size and style, was the color scheme. The SKY B.A.T.s were a more straightforward blue, almost the same color as the original Cobra Commander's uniform. Not steel blue, not at all metallic. Still, it was pretty obvious that there was a considerable design relationship between the 3-3/4" B.A.T. v.5, and the Sigma Six SKY B.A.T.

A relationship which has finally been acknowledged. The official figure for the Convention's popular "Parachute Drop" event this year was a SKY B.A.T. -- a recolored B.A.T. v.5, given the same color scheme as the Sigma Six SKY B.A.T.

I love continuity links like this... The SKY B.A.T.s file card, which can be found in the official Convention Comic Book, reads as follows:

Battle Android Trooper

Cobra SKY B.A.T. forces are the robotic infantry of the Cobra organization. With the B.A.T. version 5.0, Overkill has upgraded them to ionic gas cannisters that increase both the strength and speed of his creations. Their interchangeable weapon enhancements include rocket launchers with smart technology to lock onto targets not in line of their optical sensors. Vertical Assault Packs can attach to their backs and interface with their central processors to achieve complex aerial maneuvers. Most dangerous of all, if they are blown apart, their separate parts have the capability to rejoin into monstrous new formations to continue the battle.

Adding the Vertical Assault Packs to his army of Battle Android Troopers is getting expensive. In an attempt to reduce production costs and keep Overkill's creations from outnumbering his human soldiers, Cobra Commander has taken a contingent of Sky B.A.T.s and had parachute packs strapped onto their frame. His plan is to load them onto a Cobra transport and toss them out from the back of the aircraft while over G.I. Joe Headquarters - maybe the chutes will open and maybe they won't!

"B.A.T.s attack!"

You know, that Parachute Drop must have really been something this year
-- all those Sky B.A.T.s plummeting from the sky -- or at least from partway up in the hotel. Wish I'd been there -- at ground level -- with a large net... ;)

Finally, we have one additional figure, that was this year's "freebie".

HEADHUNTER DRIVER - This figure was a chance to get an additional use out of the basic Headhunter molds which were also used for the Headhunter Guards in the boxed set. Perfectly fine with me -- this has always been one of my favorite "basic bad guy" figures anyway. If the Club wants to get a second use out of it, I don't have the least problem with that.

Basically, the figure is a color reversal of the Headhunter Guards. Rather than a mostly dark green uniform with black trim, the Headhunter Driver has a mostly black uniform with dark green trim, especially the shoulder piece. This actually makes the figure look quite a bit like the original Headhunter from 1992, whose uniform was mostly black. However, the two original versions of the Headhunter had either brown or really bright green trim, and lacked the Headhunter emblem on the jacket that this one has.

Despite being a driver, he doesn't come with a vehicle. However, the lack of vehicle for a figure denoted as a driver is explained on the character's file card:

Code Name: Headhunter Driver

File Name: Various
Primary Military Specialty: Armored Vehicle Driver
Secondary Military Specialty: Demolitions

Like their infantry-based compatriots, the Headhunter Drivers are expected to be highly skilled street warriors and personal bodyguards to Gristle. But those selected to be the Crime Boss' chauffeurs are further expected to be experts in whatever civilian or military vehicle they scrounge up from whatever obscure locale they currently infest. They have been known to use discarded Cobra assault vehicles, stolen G.I. Joe transports, or even custom craft they cobbled together themselves. All they really need is a working engine, some armor plating, and the addition of a few big guns to get them on the move.

Headhunter Drivers know they will not just be carrying their illegal materials or transporting their fellow troops. Eventually someone will stumble onto their operation, and those same conveyances have to quickly become escape craft.

"Driving Gristle around is a sweet gig - he always wants something blown up or someone driven over, just for kicks!"

The HeadHunter Driver is a cool figure, with some personal firepower included, including a large orange rectangular item which, according to the Club, is a large explosive device! The figure is nicely detailed and painted, and hey -- if you were there, you can't beat the price! Giving a figure like this out as a freebie is a nice way to keep the original G.I. Joe figures in people's minds, too.

You know, every year I ask the same question -- how the heck is the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club going to surpass, or even match, all the cool stuff they did the year before? Every year -- they manage. This year was no exception. The boxed set was very cool, and certainly the additional merchandise was impressive.

If you missed the Convention, and have any opportunity to obtain any of this year's Convention items, they all most definitely have my highest and most enthusiastic recommendation! Here is where the traditional world of G.I. Joe still lives!

Wonder what they've got planned for next year...?