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By Thomas Wheeler

Since 2002, the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club has issued a special set of 3-3/4" figures at the annual Convention. in 2006, the Club has expanded its repertoire, and is issuing a special series of two-packs throughout the year, under the concept name "Operation: Flaming M.O.T.H.". The backstory for this special series of figures is as follows:

COBRA has knocked the top-secret M.O.T.H. satellite out of orbit. This military satellite was a top-secret laser defense platform that had the potential to disrupt COBRA operations worldwide. Desiring this technology for themselves, COBRA was able to pull the not yet operational M.O.T.H. out of orbit. In order that no one get their hands on this new technology, the satellite was programmed to break into four primary components that would be spread around the globe should it depart from its orbital plane.

And now, of course, it's up to special Cobra teams to round up the parts. The storyline is a tribute in some respects to the "Revenge of Cobra" animated mini-series, which had a similar storyline when Destro's Weather Dominator weapon skyrocketed into orbit and shattered into pieces that landed in various parts of the world.

The Club has four figure sets planned, each representing a different environment. The sets will be carefully boxed with artwork that can be set up to form a complete image. The figures, although Cobra troopers, do represent distinct individuals within those ranks of Cobra specialist troopers, although I'm sure anyone who wants to army-build these figures a bit will be willing to overlook that particular file card detail.

The first set released is entitled JUNGLE THEATER, and it comes with a Jungle Night-Viper, and a Jungle Frag-Viper.


The original Night-Viper was released in 1989, and remains one of my all- time favorite Cobra specialist troopers. I loved the design of the uniform, and the color scheme -- green and black -- looked very cool and worked well for the concept. I've always sort of wanted to see the Night-Viper return, perhaps as part of some special team, such as Python Patrol, or the Cobra Urban Strike Team, or something, but it never happened. Finally, the Night-Viper is back!

The figure is almost as cool as the original. That's not a knock on this new jungle version at all. You're not going to quite top the original. But you can come close, and the Jungle Night Viper certainly does. The figure is wearing a uniform that is a darker shade of green than the original. Most of the black highlights from the original have been redone as a lighter green. There is some black trim, and his belt and boots are brown. Really the number of paint applications on this figure is amazing.

Now, what's been my one major complaint about action figures, especially Hasbro products such as G.I. Joe and Star Wars lately? Hand-painted detailing, which by its very nature is going to end up sloppy. There is virtually NONE of this on the Jungle Night-Viper. It looks like his gloves have been hand-painted -- and very neatly, I might add -- and that's it. Everything else, every other bit of detail, including things like boots, belts, and assorted straps which are generally the first things to be hand painted -- have been painted properly by spray-painting through a stencil mask. The figure even has the rather complicated Night-Viper emblem on his left arm.

In short, this is one incredibly cool figure. His file card reads as follows:


Cobra Night Fighter - Operation Flaming M.O.T.H.

File Name: Davis, Spencer L.

Primary Military Specialty: Squad Leader

Secondary Military Specialty: Night Spotter

Birthplace: United States

The Night-Viper helmet is a miracle of electronic miniaturization. Aside from its Monocular Night Vision Device (MNVD), it includes a wide-angle, third-generation, image intensifier, directional sound amplifier, laser range-finder, and boasts a passive infrared detector that can spot the body heat of a lizard at 100 yards. The Night Viper combat suit, helmet, and weapons are mostly made of synthetic composites that reduce the wearer's own infrared signature and defy most ground radars. He can use either electronically-assisted ranged weapons or vicious CQB (close quarter battle) techniques to accomplish any mission. All these components give him a "see first... eliminate first" advantage in any night fighting scenario.

In his youth, this future Cobra found comfort in perpetual darkness, hating sunlight and those who would revel in it. His criminal exploits in the dark hours of night led him to join Cobra and gradually rise within its ranks. He gained the attention of Cobra high command after leading many successful raids on G.I.Joe outposts. It was Cobra Commander who personally chose this Night Viper squad leader for Operation Flaming M.O.T.H. and teamed him with a Frag-Viper for the satellite recovery mission. Combining their specialized skills and equipment, the jungle duo must creep into the deepest, darkest jungles of South America to locate the first of four components from the sabotaged U.S. military satellite. They must find this crucial piece wherever it may be hidden in the nearly impossible labyrinth of trees and vines before any G.I. Joe troops can intervene.

"Say goodnight, G.I. Joe!"

And yeah, the type on these file cards is really pretty tiny. Worth it, though. That's a heck of a background.


It never fails to amaze me how the Club can take some of the strangest- looking G.I. Joe figures ever created and make something cool out of them. In 2003, they took the Mega-Viper. Cool uniform design, but his 1993 uniform was neon yellow and pinkish purple. But give him more sensible colors -- blue and grey - rename him the Swamp-Viper, and you have a cool figure. Last year they took the 1994 Cobra Viper, a freakish nightmare of purple and orange who didn't look a thing like any previous Cobra Viper, recolored him in black and grey with red and gold trim, and assigned him to the Iron Grenadiers as the Iron Anvil. Result -- another cool figure

Then we have the Frag-Viper. Released in 1989, this oddball Cobra Trooper had a helmet that rather rightly earned him the nickname "Bug- face" among some collectors, and he was dressed in a plain tan uniform with a weird miasma of seemingly loosely-fitting straps that didn't appear to have any particular pattern. One hardly noticed the uniform, though, for that weird silver helmet.

Give the Club a chance, and they can make anybody look cool. And they even managed to make the Frag-Viper look cool. They remolded that bizarre head in black, making it look far more sinister than weird, gave it some gold metallic trim on the side, and painted the eyes a very weird metallic silver blue. This guy looks at you, it's like he's staring right through you. If I saw a head like this emerge from the dense jungles, especially at night if he's hanging around with the Night- Viper, it'd scare the hell out of me.

The Club even made the uniform look better. Although molded in the same dark green as the Night-Viper, it's been painted with a very effective streaked camouflage of lighter green. The straps have been painted in a medium brown, as have the boots and gloves.

Now, this is exactly the sort of figure where I would expect to see a lot of hand-painted detailing, especially on the straps. But that's not the case at all. Either the Club has hired the absolute neatest, most meticulous figure-painters in all of the billion or so people of China
-- which I doubt -- or they actually made darned sure that when these figures were painted, as much of them as possible were properly painted through stencil masks. The only evidence of hand-painting on the Frag- Viper that I can see are the boots, and they're done well enough.

The Frag-Viper's file card reads as follows:


Cobra Grenadier - Operation Flaming M.O.T.H.

File Name: Releehw, David T.

Primary Military Specialty: Grenade Thrower

Secondary Military Specialty: Demolitions

Birthplace: United States

The Frag-Viper is an integral part of the Cobra Viper fire team. They are trained to toss high-explosive fragmentation grenades with all the range and accuracy of an M-79 or M-203 RPGL (Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher), but without the noise from the muzzle blast. The secret lies in the manual hurling basket, based on the cesta used in the Basque sport of Jai Alai. The Frag-Viper cesta is equipped with automatic feed and variable time-fuser with a cable link to the helmet's automatic range-finder. Their insect-like goggles contain electro-optical image- intensifiers that provide both infrared and night vision capabilities to locate targets wherever they may hide.

Originally hailing from an area known for its abundant forest reserves, this disaffected youth ironically grew to hate nature. His yearning to unleash an explosive arsenal on the environment made him perfect fodder for the Cobra army. Eventually, as a Frag-Viper, he racked up Cobra's highest field score ever - though not a count of the most enemies eliminated, but of the least amount of friendly forces neutralized as well as foliage left standing. He has been assigned to a Night-Viper squad leader for Operation Flaming M.O.T.H. - a satellite recovery mission in the treacherous jungles of South America. The Frag-Viper's high-explosive ordnance should prove to be especially effective in clearing jungle undergrowth and flushing out any camouflaged G.I.Joe troops. He will need to clear an area for extraction using any and all weapons at his disposal.

"Every piece of shrapnel counts!"

Now, one thing I need to make note of right here -- the Frag-Viper's real name. You know this character's name - David T. Releehw. Now, while "David" is no part of my name whatsoever, take the middle initial and reverse the letters of the last name. While I originally thought this figure was named after me, I discovered later that the intended honor was to Terry Wheeler. No hard feelings whatsoever on this. Terry is a dedicated collector same as me, and more closely involved with the Club than I am. And it's hardly the first time our names have been mixed. In fact, it was such a mix-up at one of the very first G.I. Joe Conventions way back in 1992 that caused us to meet, and I regard him as a good friend.

You know, I take a look at this set, and I come to an inescapable conclusion -- the future of the vintage style 3-3/4" G.I. Joes is in great hands at the Club. Hasbro's emphasis right now is on Sigma Six. So be it. I have no problem with that, and I actually rather like the 8" figures. But with the exception of Oktober Guard and a very small handful of other figures, Hasbro has basically not done much with this line. And that is OK by long as the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club can bring us such amazingly well-made and impressive figures as this OPERATION: FLAMING M.O.T.H. - JUNGLE THEATER Set! These two Cobras definitely get my highest possible recommendation!