Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Minifigures: G.I.Joe - Kopf KF-348 to 355

As some of you may know I used to collect G.I.Joe figures, especially the 25th/30th Anniversary ones. However, a mixture of a lack of space to set them up in, the impending arrival of my daughter and the spike in prices on eBay meant I cleared them all out. These days counterfeit Minifigures are my main source of plastic crack - cheap, small and child-friendly. Most of the ones I collect are of superheroes - after several format attempts here I eventually set up a satellite blog for these called Minifixation - but there are some others out there, including a nascent range of G.I.Joe-themed figures.
Obviously there have never been any official G.I.Joe Lego Minifigures, the Joes being wholly owned by Hasbro, who are not only a broad rival of Lego as a toy company but also tried to push their own competing construction block series with Kreon. These are instead figures originally created by fans - digitally designed on Photoshop or similar, PAD printed onto correctly coloured Lego parts. These are then generally made to order and sold via the internet, either by a customiser's website (usually with no mention of any actual trademarks either of Lego or the properties the figures are based on) or ebay account. Prices for these vary between about £10 and £50 a figure (about £20 seems the median), depending on how much ink and what parts are used - some extravagant examples even use custom-sculpted parts, though these are rare and sometimes it seems like part of the challenge is using extant official Lego pieces; too much sculpting and what's the point?

A second stage has since emerged, with various Chinese and Hong Kong companies having the usual lax attitude to copyright beign magnified by the custom figures being unofficial in the first place. The figures are reproduced (either from digital files or scanning in a physical figure) and then mass-produced and sold for cheap prices. It's hard on the customisers in a way though I suspect few see it as a living. These bootlegs don't use Lego parts but copies, using the same moulds (shorn of any Lego trademarks) and in cheaper plastic. There is some debate as to how much the bootleggers really understand what they're reproducing; I'm very much of the opinion that they do to a certain extent but aren't experts.

The recent release of a batch of G.I.Joe Minifigures released by bootleggers Kopf seems to back this up. Each manufacturer typically releases a 'set' of eight figure (each bearing an identifying code, crucial when poor translation means names are often mangled) like a wave and there's generally some sort of loose theme - anything from specific themed characters from a certain film to just vague ones like all being DC characters. This wave's theme was G.I.Joe and it consisted of Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, Firefly, Serpentor, Mutt, Wild Bill, Snow Job and, uh, Power-Girl. Yeah, Power-Girl. So either they got confused about who Power Girl was or she was thrown in to pad out the 'wave' or possibly it was to keep some interest from the superhero buyers who make up the bulk of the market. The Joe line-up itself is strange - Cobra Commander had already been issued by KL and generally the bootleg companies avoid putting out competing figures, so his omission is no surprise. Odder are the omissions of the likes of Duke, Destro, the Baronness and Scarlett. Either Kopf don't have the figures to copy or they're planning a second wave and spreading out the more famous characters. The original designs were all by the hugely prolific and recently retired Onlinesailin, who did a score more G.I.Joe figures.


Mutt (the joke being that Mutt's the man; Larry Hama is one crazy motherfucker) isn't one of my favourite Joes but I'll begrudgingly acknowledge that he's a moderately well-known midcarder. He works well as a Minifigure as well, with his leather jerkin and kneepads well-painted and a decent helmet with those goggles he kept permanently on top of his head. There's also a reversible head with either his muzzle or his mustachioed face (sadly my example has a paint flub on the neck). While he wasn't always portrayed with the face fungus naturally with Not Lego it's easy enough to switch in another head if it's what you're after. Junkyward meanwhile is a simple dog with a cover. He's actually the wrong shape and colour, the former being due to the lack of the correct breed though the latter is a bit of a pain. 


While some of the choices are little unusual, the inclusion of Firefly had me onside for the set right from the start. The Cobra saboteur had a cool personality, a cool set of skills and largely avoided getting involved in too many detrimental storylines (at least until Harry Llama decided he was a ninja, something largely ignored by anyone else). His two-tone grey camouflage was also a major plus and committed paint applications means this comes across well, the printed patterns covering the front and back of both the legs and torso as well as the arms and around the eyehole in his balaclava. Add in a good choice of backpack and gun parts (there's a considerable market for fan-made realistic military parts) and the result is a winner.


Snow Job is probably the most minor character released in this batch; while he has his fans he never really made much of a splash in either the comics or cartoons, primarily being remembered only due to a surprisingly large role in the cartoon's film spin-off. He makes a simple but effective proposition as a Minifigure, however - the furred hood exists and then it's simply a matter of painted pouches and the correct dark orange beard and white snow visor being added.


One half of the inevitables, Storm Shadow was a major star in the comics first as Cobra's highly dangerous ninja then as a member of GI Joe who mainly caused danger to the reader with the whole plot tumour Harry Llama added to the book. Still, he's an iconic part of the franchise and gets the treatment here. In my opinion however a simple assignment is botched; the torso's fine but the creases painted onto the legs and mask are far too clumsy while the plain arms are incongruous. At least Ninjago means he's well kitted out.


Probably the most surprising inclusion; while officially the successor to Cobra Commander the character of Serpentor never really caught on at the time and is generally outright hated by the franchise's pro-realism anti-science fantasy fandom and to be honest anyone else who remembers him. Still, his Minifigure is well done, with a decent scale pattern on gold plastic. The cream-coloured fabric and plastic used for the headpiece jars a bit, though. I'm guessing the pearly gold plastic was too weak for the Ninjago-sourced part and the cowl was changed to match maybe, as it's odd for such a bad choice to be made compared to the rest of the figure.


Wild Bill might have been a jokey character to viewers of the cartoon but he would later come into his own, notably in Devil's Due's World War 3 storyline, still the finest Joe story ever told by some margin. It's great that he looks as he did in the story as well, with the blue flightsuit and orange life preserver, with his aviator shades, hat and twin old-school six-shooters all in place. Sharp.


What, you thought they'd skipped Snake-Eyes? Well, no, because there's a picture at the top with him in. But really as the franchise's Wolverine he was always going to make the cut. Which is fine - like Wolverine he's a decent character and it's not his fault he's been overexposed, often at the hands of limited writers; it comes with the territory. The incarnation chosen for this figure is my favourite, the mid-eighties update on the original commando before the ninja stuff went overboard. As such there's the grill mask and some details picked out on a largely black Minifigure; details like the Arashkage stripes on the arm and pouches on the legs stop him being too dull and the overall result is solid.

As a set it's a good start, a nice mix of the big guns of the series and some of the rank and file. All of the figures use decent quality plastic for knockoffs and have sharp, thick paint applications. A great little purchase for Joe fans and hopefully just the first instalment of further releases.

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