G.I. Joe Collectors' Club 2008 Membership COBRA Commander

Available NOW at the Collectors' Club Store!

When it rains, it pours…such a cliché but one of truth these days as Fred from JoeBattleLines and I scramble to try and keep up with the influx of product that are out there to review.  Now not only do we have scores of 25th Anniversary products to cover, but the Collectors’ Club has shipped out their 2008 promotional figure, COBRA Commander.  Did that sound like a complaint?  It probably shouldn’t have…  I’m ecstatic.

I’ve seen many posts throughout the online fandom that the new sculpts are basically getting the short end of the stick.  The vintage Real American Hero fans are married to their vintage figures (as they should be), and the 25th Anniversary faithful are hopelessly endeared to this new style.  So what happens to those “in between” figures?  Those “red headed stepchildren” that came out between 2002 and 2005?  Spy Troops?  Valor Vs. Venom? How soon we move on, eh?  I’ve heard many folks selling their new sculpt collections, moving on to the 25th Anniversary.  Most RAH diehards seem to be holding firm to their vintage babies, but many of those folks who swore by the new sculpts are moving on.  Is this opinion deserved?

In some ways, yeah, I think it might be.  Compared to the 25th Anniversary and that familiar style of the Real American Hero, the “new sculpt era” stuff almost seems like an uncomfortable genetic experiment gone wrong between the two.  With the somewhat dated o-ring style (not in this reviewer’s opinion, but in many folks’ opinions), yet the wonkier proportions and the incompatibility with the 25th Anniversary, the “new sculpt era” stuff hasn’t really stood the test of time real well.  But that’s not to say the entire run of new sculpt items should just be cast aside and forgotten.  Far from it!  For every Valor Vs. Venom Alley-Viper, there’s a Spy Troops Barrel Roll.  For every Spy Troops Widescope, there’s a DTC Wave 3 Major Bludd (which many folks agree is better than the 25th Anniversary Bludd we recently received).  And yeah, for every Valor Vs. Venom Duke, there is an Interrogator or Spy Troops Blackout.  Lots of very cool new characters (something we have yet to get with the 25th Anniversary), some great gems amongst the coal, and a very, very cool run of figures.  As seems is always the case, too, just when things seemed to be going down the right track, the rug got yanked out.  We’d heard lots about the fabled “Robot Rebellion” stuff that was slated to hit in 2005, and we got a lot of that stuff worked into the infamous Direct to Consumer line, but ultimately there was a lot of missed potential and missed chances.  Well, by the looks of things, the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club is going to make an effort to pick up where Hasbro left off, and I have to tell you, I am extremely excited to see where this could potentially go!

Fred, do you still share some love with the new sculpt o-ring figures, or are you totally devoted to the vintage stuff or 25th Anniversary?

I regard myself as a bit of an anomaly in the Joe community these days.  While many fans have either rushed out to blindly embrace the new 25A style of construction or utterly rejected anything that wasn’t made before 1994, I’m actually a huge fan of the GvC era.  I realize that the “relaunched” era wasn’t perfect and that there were plenty of figures with “less than ideal” proportions and “retina burning” color schemes under the “GIJoe vs. Cobra” label.  However, there were just as many great new and updated character designs that the whole concept of GIJoe was fresh and exciting again.  While the 25A style of design continues to retread classic character designs, GvC at least tried to do something fresh and exciting with characters that many of us had known for over 20 years.  As Justin stated earlier, the GvC era was “chock full” of some fantastic figures and new characters and that alone really re-ignited my passionate love of the Real American Hero universe.  While many fans are quick to exclaim the 25A era figures as the greatest thing since sliced bread and EZ Cheez, I still argue that the GvC era represented the greatest use of proven figure construction techniques and modern sculpting design.  Plus, I’ll put my GvC era figs up against the 25A figs in terms of durability any day.  By offering “new sculpt” pieces, the GIJoe Collector’s Club pretty much guaranteed my renewal for another year.

Well, if you're an anomoly, then so am I. I have no issues with the current level of figure construction, but a part of me will always love the o-ring, and I am extremely thankful that we have the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club here to continue releasing those figures.  Especially if they’re going to be dipping into tooling that was previously unused.  This is almost a dream come true.

These unreleased COBRA Commander figures started hitting eBay way back when the line was still in production and was going to be released.  While I was lucky enough to get an unpainted version of the figure, getting one fully painted (and accessorized) proved to be a potentially expensive endeavor.  I am thrilled that we now have a dependable way to get this figure into collectors’ hands, because this is one very, VERY cool figure.

I think my love for Sigma 6 is well enough documented that I don’t need to reiterate that here, and I think one of the coolest things about that line were the design concepts.  They managed to take the “style” of many of our favorite characters and faithfully translate them to more modern day stylized looks.  This COBRA Commander essentially IS the Sigma 6 COBRA Commander, only in a smaller scale, and it works perfectly.  The head sculpt is familiar, and was originally used in the Valor Vs. Venom line, but works perfectly here as a generic COBRA Commander head.  A nice touch here is the embossed COBRA logo on the back of the mask, which is a neat detail.

The over-armored robotic look for the figure itself fits the “Robot Rebellion” theme well and is sculpted very nicely.  This version of COBRA Commander is obviously well protected and enhanced in this battle armor, yet the detail work is surprisingly intricate.  With layered outer armor and reinforced “under-armor” there is some very nice sculpting in each nook and cranny.  And unlike many of the new sculpt figures, this rendition of COBRA Commander has very good proportions and fits pretty seamlessly in with the Real American Hero stuff.  He’s a lot shorter than your typical 25th Anniversary figure, but if you’re a vintage style fan, this is a great update to COBRA Commander, and I love the figure.  Fred, what are your thoughts on the tooling used?

At first, I wasn’t entirely sold on this “newer sleeker” Cobra Commander armor.  However, when I was first able to hold a production sample of the design “in hand” at the New Orleans Collector’s Convention, I was sold.  It’s oddly reminiscent of the armor worn by Cobra Commander in issue #151 of the Marvel Comics era as a more form-fitting streamlined version of the classic armor. In other words, it’s everything that the “Battle Armored Cobra Commander” figure wasn’t—sleek and free of extraneous details that just didn’t make practical sense.  (As if the head of the snake-themed international terrorist organization that constantly tried to rule the world makes any sense!)  The folks at Hasbro must have been equally impressed with this design as it was translated quite well into the various Cobra Commander figures released in the Sigma 6 line.   As the “Hawkish One” has already stated, the seemingly simple design if full of some very subtle details—right down to the imprinted Cobra sigil on the back of the Commander’s cowl.  While this figure is a bit shorter than many of his GvC era counterparts I don’t see this as a detriment at all.  In my mind, Cobra Commander has never been physically imposing; his “power” comes from his words, not his physicality.  Honestly, I believe that if this figure had seen release it would have gone over extremely well with fans as a fantastic update to “the most dangerous man alive”.  It’s a solid yet efficient design that proves just how effective a basic design can be.

One thing that’s tough to get wrong when it comes to COBRA Commander is his paint work.  Generally if you go for a dark blue you’re bound to be relatively successful.  And if blue isn’t going to work for whatever reason, go with black.  It would appear here that the Collectors’ Club wanted to separate a bit from the unreleased COBRA Commander (which is a good idea, since folks who paid good money for that figure would not want their investment “de-valued” by a commonly released replica), so they went with a much darker overall paint scheme.  Frankly, I love it.  Most of the figure is done in a solid black, with some dark gray trim on his belt, and just the right amount of red dabbed in here and there on his shoulder trim and his large, proud COBRA logo.  There’s also some great gray trim on that “under armor”, mostly in his arms (and his neck) and it’s an excellent touch.  The parts all work together in color to near perfection.  Very cool.

Not much you can get wrong with a black, red, and gray paint scheme, is that what you say, Fred?

Actually the color scheme is the only area of the figure that I’m not 100% in love with.  Honestly, when Brian Savage debuted the slide of this at the convention in Atlanta I was giddy—simply because the figure looked to be a very dark navy blue.  I’ve always preferred my Cobra figures to be based in the classic blue (especially after reading Spin Doctor’s excellent explanation for this in his dio-story “GIJoe: Beginnings”) and therefore I’m a bit disappointed with the final product.  It’s not that the black is BAD in any way—it’s just that this figure would be so much more COBRA if rendered in blue.  That being said, the rest of the color scheme with the red piping and the large Cobra sigil is just practically perfect.  While I miss the blue I do agree that the black definitely gives this figure a more sinister, albeit stereotypical villain, aspect that proves quite effective.

Finally, we should cover the accessories that this figure comes with…we’ve already seen the staff and knife with Venomous Maximus, but the hood and the draped cape are new to this figure and work exceptionally well.  I especially LOVE that hood.  The sculpting is nearly perfect, and it drapes so perfectly over the Commander’s head that it looks very realistic.  The same can be said for the cape.  In some ways the cape is a bit cumbersome, as it’s sculpted in a rigid rubber material, so he remains somewhat unposeable when it is on.  However, it looks awesome, and it’s removable to boot, so I find it tough to complain.  All told, the accessories are great and compliment the figure fantastically. 

Actually, I’ve found that the GvC black Mindbender cape works well as a great substitute for the included cape, if a less restrictive choice is required.  Fans will recognized most of the accessories so there’s precious little to rehash there.  However, the new hood fits on the head sculpt like a glove, allowing the Commander’s persuasive eyes to be perfectly visible through the slots on the hood.  The cowl is also sculpted with a neutral “hang” meaning that the figure is able to be posed looking in a variety of directions without looking contorted.   There’s not much else to say other than this is one extremely well designed figure.

If I had any complaints it would be that his head does have a tendency to pop off when you try to remove the hood, but it’s easy enough to put back on that it doesn’t cause a major issue.  Beyond that very minor nitpick, though, this figure is aces from head to toe.  A perfect example of what great examples we got throughout the new sculpt era, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the Collectors’ Club can get more access to unproduced tooling to give us stuff like this that we haven’t seen.  I’ve got to give the Collectors’ Club a huge thanks for working to get stuff like this out to fans and collectors…I’m loving this figure!

Any closing thoughts, Fred?

Like Justin, I too had a “Sleepy Hollow” moment with the figure when I first took him out of the mailing envelope.  (It took a try or two to get the head to stay on but now it’s fine.)  I’ll be blatantly honest—there was a moment of complete happiness when I removed this figure from the packaging and examined him for the first time.  I’ve said it before—the GvC era in my opinion represented the best mix of tried and true construction design with modern sculpting techniques.  Receiving this figure in the mail was like stepping back in time just a scant few years to when the GvC era was really hitting its stride.  It’s not that the 25A era figures are bad, per say, but they’re just not as well executed in a practical sense as their predecessors were.  This is not only a well-designed figure but it’s a playable figure as well.  This Cobra  Commander figure could be given to a young child without worries of wrists popping off, “tension pads” wearing out, and fragile gear falling apart at anything more than a casual glance.  However, it’s time to hop off of the soap box and just state the obvious—this is the strongest “renewal figure” that the Collector’s Club has released to date and is certainly one of several reasons to join the Club for the coming year.  My only hope is that more unreleased figures like this and the forthcoming DTC wave 4 will finally be made available to fans everywhere.  I can’t recommend picking up this figure at first opportunity enough! 

One last note - don't worry if you're not a member, or if you didn't join up in time this year. If you want this figure, it is available at the Club store here.