G.I. Joe Convention 2013 - Nocturnal Fire Frag-Viper

G.I. Joe in the 80's... always on the cutting edge. Even though Miami Vice first introduced Jai Alai to the public consciousness in 1984, it still took Hasbro 5 years to get the concept translated to their G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line, and the figure it hit with was Frag-Viper. Developed as a crazed Cobra grenade tosser, the series the Frag-Viper appeared in seemed to represent a resurgence in Cobra specialized troopers. While 1988 brought us the wonders of Hydro-Viper, Star-Viper, Astro-Viper, and Toxo-Viper, 1989 threw us Alley-Vipers, HEAT Vipers, Night Vipers, Track Vipers, and yes... Frag-Vipers. Cobra seemed suddenly unconcerned with color pallets as the Frag-Vipers exploded on the scene with brown and bright blue ceremonial uniforms, draped in sashes and chucking baseball grenades with metal claw devices.

Ah, the 80's.

So the question is, with a fanbase so devoted to years past, how does Hasbro (or the Collectors Club) pay tribute to these wacky concepts? Well, if you're talking about a Convention set, they just jump in with both feet.

Using what looks to be a nice, sharp, newly tooled head based on the look of the vintage figure, Frag-Viper looks like he stepped out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Those large black eyes, the oval shaped head sculpt, and the thin, almost flesh colored body is almost immediately evocative of those familiar aliens, but a closer look shows you this is a really nice and fun update to a flat out crazy 80's Cobra concept.

The tooling for this figure, it would appear from the neck down, is all Ultimate Snake Eyes. The best part about this? That figure isn't even released yet, so essentially the tooling and construction of this figure is all new to us. Sporting a form-fitting body suit, many folks have expressed concern that this figure looks overly skinny and lacks some of the gravitas of the old school Frag-Viper. You know, the dude who wore a bright blue sash. He apparently had gravitas.

In all seriousness, I did share some of those aesthetic issues when I first saw the Frag-Viper, but I think many of those concerns have faded away as time has gone on. Aesthetic appeal is a big part of why I like G.I. Joe figures, but another large component is articulation, movement, and playability, and this dude has all of that in spades. His simple, slender tooling allows for great range of motion, and even with a pretty basic uniform, extra details like seam lines, wrinkled cuffs, and a great looking new forearm mounted dart gun manage to add some spark to what could have been a very standard, unexciting action figure. I think his body is nice and muscular, without looking too scrawny, and even if his arms and legs are a bit skinny, I think it works for a figure who is designed to dart in and out of cover, tossing grenades at the enemy.

I will admit I was a bit surprised that the Collectors Club didn't precisely match the color scheme from the original Frag-Viper. The brown and blue are both a little off, but not so much that it makes a huge difference. In fact, the colors on the new version are a bit darker, which may end up appealing to modern day fans who aren't so much into the bright days of yesteryear. The GIJCC obviously used the Frag-Viper as an inspiration, even if it wasn't a direct translation, but the colors still work very well.


In most cases, the Collectors Club really has to pick and choose what they use new tooling for, and they have to pick the important stuff. In the case of the Frag-Viper, they made the absolute right choice. Tooling a new backpack, grenade launcher, hose, and grenades is absolutely a no brainer. In many cases old school figures were defined by their accessories, and Frag-Viper was a perfect example of this. What would he have been without his crazy grenade launcher? Not just a grenade launcher, but that fantastic grenade launcher with awesomely well detailed mounted machine gun on it. I really dig the look and feel of that thing in all ways.

Even though these look like new tools, they are very close approximations of the original, however the material (especially on the hose) seems a bit more rigid. This can cause some problems with the Frag Viper holding the launcher unfortunately. The rigid nature of the hose material can force the launcher out of his hand, so maintaining a good pose with that launcher is a major challenge. Along with those new accessories, he comes with a sash from the Crimson Twins, which does a great job simulating his old figure, and finishes off with Law's submachine gun, a knife, and a pistol. He is very well equipped, and I love that the Club makes sure all sheaths and holsters are full, something that Hasbro cannot always accomplish themselves.

Many fans out there have been clammoring for more looks backward into the vintage archives for figure inspiration. In some cases, I agree, in many cases I do not. However, I do love the fact that the Collectors Club isn't just going to the traditional wells, they're going into some crazy places, too, and the Frag-Viper is an awesome subject to choose. The figure design is a bit slim, and I can understand why some folks have issues with it, but at the end of the day, the figure is well designed, very nicely articulated, well constructed, has a great homage paint scheme and pretty spectacular accessories.

I can't find a whole lot to complain about here. He looks like a Frag-Viper, throws like a Frag-Viper, and fits the Convention theme this year very well. Nice job on this one.