First of all, I have to thank Scott from the JBL Forums for kind of putting this spark in my head. I’ve wanted to do “years in review” for a while now, but just never really got around to it. Decided to finally change that this year.
I’m going to do a rundown of the year in G.I. Joe, and throw some lists up of my “top moments/top toys” of the year. In this particular year, there were a LOT to choose from. Wow.
2008 was a definitive year for the G.I. Joe brand. While the Anniversary line technically launched in 2007, all we were slated for during that year were the initial 10 figures, and then we ended up getting three waves of single packs and a “bonus” wave featuring many of the 5-pack figures, only packed singly. There were construction issues, articulation issues, design issues, and lots of grumbling about the apparent direction this new line was heading towards. Wave 1, 2008 changed all of that.
With a fantastic series consisting of Crimson Guard, Destro, Flash, and Snow Job, I believe that this wave alone sparked an interest in the fandom that ended up only getting fueled further as the Anniversary line made almost unbelievable strides in all directions throughout the year. At the peak of 2008 we got fantastic character choices, articulation that rivaled the original line, and amazing sculpting and design work that once again made the fans feel like the 80’s all over again. The sheer volume of product was almost unheard of (unless you were a fan in 2004 :shifty: ) and there was almost guaranteed to be something that someone could find to love.
However, as the year ended, so did a roller coaster of terrific waves, bizarre distribution, overstuffed revision cases, drastic improvements in articulation and sculpting, yet a glut of the same characters over and over again. All of this led to some wave cancelations and some fears amongst the fandom that the Anniversary line might be petering out early in favor of the Movie stuff.
The fandom started out cautious, but surged to a fever pitch, but now has evened out to cautious optimism and a small level of fear for the future. I’m still exceptionally confident of 2009 (and beyond) from a toy point of view, but that’s for another article. For now, let’s look back at 2008 and give everyone my thoughts of the hits (and misses) for the year.
BEST SINGLE PACK: Wave 9 Battle Android Trooper
Keep in mind that this is coming from someone who has never been a fan of the B.A.T., but this figure is an absolutely amazing looking version of the very popular army builder. It is very reminiscent of the original version from 1986, but has all of the right updates, using more modern sculpting and design aesthetics to improve the figure in pretty much every single possible way. Dramatic, angular sculpting, detailed paint work, and accurate accessories, this was by far the best single pack figure released in 2008.
BEST COMIC PACK: Issue #36.5 w/ Tomax & Xamot
The formula for the Comic Packs before this one was heavy parts re-use, a very few newly tooled parts, some new accessories and that’s about it. Wave 1 of the Comic Packs was honestly pretty poor. Wave 2 was a bit better, though the Dreadnoks and Breaker had their share of design issues, but Wave 3 really made the Comic Packs shine, and they never looked back. Tomax & Xamot used almost all new parts (though they each shared a bunch of parts with each other for obvious reasons), the included comic showcased a pretty neat new story tied closely into the Marvel continuity, and they also came with some cartoon-inspired laser rifles, the first time those weapons had been seen in the Joe line. Add in a number of cool homages (like the Extensive Enterprises belt buckles) and you have a great Comic Two-Pack, and the best one for 2008.
BEST MULTI-PACK: DVD Battle Pack #5 “Best Of the 80’s” (no review online yet)
If you’d told me earlier in the year that I would vote a multipack that had a COBRA Commander, COBRA Trooper, and Duke in it, I would have called you insane. There’s no possible way, right? We’ve been buried in COBRA Commanders, Dukes, and Troopers all year long, what new could they offer to improve them? Well, it turns out there was a lot…not to mention a very cool Alpine thrown in for good measure. There wasn’t even that much that Hasbro improved with each figure. A different head sculpt and helmet for both COBRA Commander and the COBRA Trooper (called the Paratrooper in this set), a different head and the fixed arms for Duke (not to mention VERY cartoon-accurate colors). All of these changes were relatively minor, but they all made drastic, amazing improvements to each character. This COBRA Commander is easily the best one of the entire run. COBRA Trooper is the same. More detail, larger heads, more intricate helmets…it just shows how much the Anniversary line has grown since 2007. While I’m not a huge fan of Duke’s new head, the colors and the fixed arms make him a vast improvement as well. Then there’s Alpine with just the right new tooling, and a great accessory compliment as well. A very, very good set to round off the DVD Battle Packs.
BEST VEHICLE: Wave 4 “Ghost HAWK” (no review online yet)
Hasbro ran the gamut with their vehicle releases in 2008, from straight re-releases like the Conquest and Rattler to vehicles that got a healthy amount of new tooling like the VAMP and RAM. Some vehicles suffered a bit due to lack of new tooling like the SHARC Tooth, while other vehicles shone in spite of that (like the Firebat). But no vehicle got more drastic new tooling than the Ghost HAWK, which was totally souped up and redesigned almost from the ground up. Intricate sculpting and newer, bulkier components gives you an immediately more impressive look to this classic vehicle. Removable engine panels, a glassed in canopy, and very nice added paint details gives you a new vehicle that absolutely blows every other vehicle in 2008 out of the water, and there were some damn nice other vehicles this past year. A great, GREAT improvement over the original, and it really brought new life to the venerable Sky Hawk.
BEST EXCLUSIVE: G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club COBRA Headhunters
During the 2008 year we got a bunch of exclusives from various stores, including Target, Toys “R” Us, and the Collectors’ Club, and maybe it’s my old school mentality, but nothing compared to the amazing 20 figure and vehicle set we got for the 2008 Collectors’ Convention in Dallas. I’m a huge D.E.F., Urban Operations, and Headhunters fan, so this boxed set pretty much hit on all cylinders for me and gave me a set I’ve been waiting for. New characters, great revamps of existing characters, awesome paint schemes, and some vintage o-ring goodness all added up to one of my favorite sets of the year, as it is pretty much every year.
BEST ANNOUNCEMENT: G.I. Joe Resolute
2008 was ripe with announcements, events, and information about the ongoing G.I. Joe brand and how it would progress going forward. From movie announcements including cast, characters, and plotlines, to announcements of Convention exclusives and dates, nothing could possibly match up to that roundtable event at the 2008 Convention. The way the Hasbro reps led up to the 5-minute clip, the way it was presented and the ultimate way the clip came out, this was far and away the announcment of 2008 in my book. This IS G.I. Joe how I’ve always wanted to see it, and I give major kudos to Hasbro for having the guts to do this. I cannot wait to see it! And just for the sake of doing it, here’s the video clip in question:
Now I know that the fandom is pretty much already prepared to write off 2009. As the Anniversary ends and the movie push begins, many fans are just waiting to jump ship and let the movie toys swirl down the drain. I know we’ve seen a few random pictures here and there (that haven’t really impressed) but I’m going to go out on a limb right now and say that fans will be VERY impressed with some of the stuff they will see this year. Whatever your opinion is on the movie, writing off the toyline before it even hits retail (or before people even get a good sampling) is a drastic mistake. Just sit back and look at the quality of the figures we were getting in 2007, and then look at what we were getting in the end of 2008. Sculpting, design, everything has only gotten better as time has gone on, and now we’re getting movie stuff with even more budget, even more quality, and even more time to get the wrinkles ironed out. I think even though the designs don’t make everyone’s mouths water, there will be cool stuff for ALL fans, if people will just give it a shot.
Bring on 2009!